There simply aren’t enough potions in DnD. To rectify this problem as a Dungeon Master, all you need to do is make some of your own. But how do you create potions? This guide will teach you not only how to select potion effects, but also how to turn any spell into a potion in 5e Dungeons and Dragons. This is all homebrew content, and as such may require tweaks and balance to fit in your D&D game. Let’s get to brewing some potions!
Step 1: Selecting a Spell
Almost any spell could be turned into a potion in D&D. You just need to keep an eye on a few things. The number one trait you are looking for in a spell is its targeting. If a spell would have an effect on the player then it’s a good candidate for a potion. If the spell would have an effect on the rest of the world, it’s not a good choice.
For example, Speak with Animals makes a great potion; it targets the consumer and provides an effect. Animal Messenger, on the other hand, is a bad candidate because the target of the spell is not the drinker. Furthermore, it involves the interaction between two individuals: the caster and an animal.
These ideas can be a bit fuzzy, especially when working with damage spells. Would a potion of Fireball cast Fireball on the imbiber if drunk? That seems unfortunate. Would a potion of Arcane Sword give the player the ability to summon an arcane sword, or would it simply not be a candidate for a potion? These are things you’ll want to consider when choosing spells, but ultimately any spell can be a potion as long as you’re willing to consider the use and be sure to have clear rules for your players to understand the outcomes.
To summarize, it is best to select a spell that has clear effects for the imbiber and targets just them.
Step 2: Modify Effects to Fit a Potion
Not every spell is straightforward as a potion. The ones that are easiest require no modification. These are spells that confer a simple ability or effect to the target. The hardest spells to convert to potions are ones that have caster chosen outcomes, multiple steps, conditional effects, or selective outcomes. This is best discussed with examples, so let’s break down each type of modification you could run into.
For potions with multiple effects you can choose from the potion, you should choose only one effect. The cantrip Prestidigitation is a good example of a spell that could be a potion but should have an effect chosen ahead of time. You could make a potion of cleansing that makes the drinker clean, or a potion of soiling that makes the drinker dirty.
Other effects that could apply to the drinker might be the chill, warm, or flavor effects. These are minor sensory effects, but since there is a choice in what they do, that should be chosen by the caster who brewed the potion and not the person who drinks it.
For potions with conditional effects, such as a potion of Raise Dead, you’ll want to follow the “if” statements in the spells rules. You might even want to modify the spell a bit since you’ve turned it into a potion, and could take the condition statements right off the top.
Continuing with our Raise Dead example, if the creature’s soul decides not to return to life, the body might not get the healing effect either. Or you could take that in reverse and say even if the creature’s soul doesn’t want to return the body is still healed and restored, though still dead.
In potions that have caster chosen outcomes, like making a potion of Commune, these outcomes should be determined by the caster. This is similar to the optional outcomes above, but are more specific.
With Commune as an example we will see that the potion could be made from Holy or Unholy water. The drinker likely is imbibing something that is specific to a certain deity and attempting to gain an audience they would not have normally come by. This is a perfect example of ways you can use potions in your game by choosing effects and outcomes for potions that work well with your story or character’s needs.
For potions that have multiple steps and are complicated affairs you need to know how these will play out in your game. Our honest recommendation is that if it’s really complicated it probably shouldn’t be a potion. But homebrews are up to you as the DM so just be sure to consider how each step of the potion works.
As an example let’s look at our homebrew potion for the spell Geas:
This is a two part potion, one for the master and one for the servant. When both are drunk, the master may make a demand of the servant that they must comply with for the next 10 days. If they act counter to that command, they take 5d10 psychic damage (up to once per day).
This potion is complicated, it has two parts, needs to be drunk by multiple people, and could go awry in many ways. However, this is a really good potion to use in mystery or intrigue quests. Just because something is complicated doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means you have to work harder as a dungeon master to ensure that it fits within your game.
Step 3: Balance Potion Effects
Potions are easier to use than spells. While it is true that drinking or administering a potion takes an action, it is also true that they do not consume spell slots, do not require the drinker to be able to cast spells or activate magical items, and have no requirements for use other than that they be drunk. It’s a good idea to reign in the effects a little of almost any homebrew potion because of this.
For example, the transmutation spell Darkvision naturally lasts for 8 hours. A potion version of this seems exceptionally strong considering it requires no spell slot. Reducing the duration to 1 hour makes this more reasonable and pushes the players to consider when they use the potion more carefully.
Some spells come with reductions in power built in. Bless or Aid, for example, both target multiple creatures when used by a caster. In potion form they would only target the consumer. This reduction in scope more than makes up for the advantage of having the spells in potion form.
In rare occasions, the spell does not really need to be adjusted, or reducing the power of the spell in potion form would become difficult. Eyebite is a perfect example of this. The spell grants the ability to attempt to sleep, panic, or sicken a creature you can see within 60ft as an action. The ability lasts for 1 minute (10 rounds) and takes an action to use.
It’s a really good spell, but reducing this to fewer rounds seems to hamstring the effect as it already takes an action to use, can’t retarget anyone who succeeds the saving throw, and can only affect any target once at most. Sure, you could cut this in half, but you’re not really balancing anything at this point, you’re just making the potion less good. This distinction is subtle, and prone to personal tastes, but it’s important that you at least consider these things as a DM bringing homebrew potions into your game.
And that’s it! Once you’ve selected a spell, modified it to fit a potion, and balanced it for game play, you’re done! Easy as that.
Considering Placement and Identification
If you’re going to use homebrew potions, it’s worth considering how they show up in your game. Giving your players a potion from a shop with clear and known effects is very different from giving your players an unknown potion in a dungeon chest.
We recommend giving your players a way to identify potions and be consistent about their appearance and description. In longer games players might make assumptions on potions they find based on their color, translucence, or smell. Offering your players a consistent presentation in your potions gives them reasonable information they require to make decisions about what they will and will not drink on a whim.
Make Any Spell a Potion in 5e
If you’re anything like us, you’ve wanted more potion options in DnD for a long time. While the method we’ve described isn’t a perfect solution for everything, it does a great job of starting to bridge the gap that the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide created. Three steps is all it takes to create a potion from a spell: selection, modification, and balance. So get out there and give your players a reason to drink (potions).