Healing potions are likely the single most used consumable item in DnD 5e. Players can be found guzzling these things freely in almost any session. This makes sense given DnD’s combat-centric nature. With the rapid consumption of healing potions in any party, it’s natural for players to ask the question: Can I make my own healing potions?
Let’s take a look at the official rules for crafting healing potions, break down some strengths and weaknesses of the system, and offer an alternative method for creating healing potions that isn’t so cumbersome.
Crafting Healing Potions for 5e by the Book
Healing potions are magical items according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, The Player’s Handbook, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. As such, we will be using standard crafting rules for magical items from the DMG, noting that the item is consumable, and then also look at modifications from Xanathar’s.
Because Dungeons and Dragons gets additional books, updates, and content tweaks from time to time, healing potions have different crafting requirements based on the scope of books you’re using. Before we get to the specifics, let’s look at what a Potion of Healing actually is.
What We Are Crafting: Potion of Healing
You regain 2d4+2 Hit Points when you drink this potion. Whatever its potency, the potion’s red liquid glimmers when agitated.5e SRD
The description for healing potions does not give you much information. It is canonically red and in its weakest form heals 2d4+2 Hit Points. There are also stronger versions of the potion labeled as Greater, Superior, and Supreme Potions of Healing. These grant 4d4+4, 8d4+8, and 10d4+20 HP, respectively. Now that we know what healing potions are and what their strengths are, let’s look at what it takes to craft a basic Potion of Healing.
Crafting a Healing Potion from the DMG
If you want to craft a Potion of Healing in 5e you must have the following:
- Access to the healing spell Cure Wounds
- The knowledge of how to create a potion (a formula or schematic)
- 50gp worth of materials
- 2 days worth of uninterrupted crafting time
- Be at least level 3
If you have all these things, congratulations, you can create a Potion of Healing! As magical item creation rules state, a magic item’s crafting time and cost are dependent on its rarity. Since we know a Potion of Healing is a common item, it would cost 100gp and take 4 days to craft. But the DMG specifies on pg. 135 that consumable items should typically be 1/2 the cost of permanent magic items. With this discount the cost drops to 50gp and the days to craft reduce to 2.
There are no details or rules on the process for crafting a potion of healing. What goes on behind the scenes is a completely open narrative choice for the players and the DM. Presumably there is a specific process for imbuing a liquid with magical properties, but that’s not something we could find covered anywhere in the core rule books.
If you want to craft the Greater, Superior, or Supreme versions of these potions, the rarity increase for each to uncommon, rare, and very rare, respectively. Each in turn would take 10, 100, and 1,000 days to craft, and they would cost 250, 2,500, and 25,000 gp each. With these kinds of numbers making anything other than a simple Potion of Healing becomes extremely unlikely. Even if you players are wealthy, I doubt many games can accommodate a 100 day time skip for 1 potion.
Xanathar’s Guide Considerations
In Xanathar’s Guide to Everything Potions of Healing get even murkier. Xanathar, the esteemed beholder that he is, believes that healing potions are so common and crafted so often that they should actually be even easier to obtain. The updated costs, times, and player level minimums for crafting the potions are as follows:
- Potion of Healing – 25gp, 1 day to craft, Player Level Minimum 3rd, Heals 2d4+2 HP
- Greater Potion of Healing – 100gp, 1 week to craft, Player Level Minimum 3rd, Heals 4d4+4 HP
- Superior Potion of Healing – 1,000gp, 3 weeks to craft, Player Level Minimum 6th, Heals 8d4+8 HP
- Supreme Potion of Healing – 10,000gp, 4 weeks to craft, Player Level Minimum 11th, Heals 10d4+20 HP
These modifications are very kind from a time sense. The Supreme Potion of Healing, under standard DMG rules using the half cost considerations, would take 1000 days to craft! That’s just under 3 years! With Xanathar’s rule set we can expect a supreme healing potion in a month, which makes an amazing item somewhat obtainable for long term campaigns with decent sized time skips.
Even still, the current rules for potion crafting are largely inefficient since players rarely have a lot of downtime in their adventure when potions would be most useful. While downtime varies from game to game, we’ve very rarely had a month long time skip in our average campaigns. And even when we do, players don’t tend to have the foresight to spend that time crafting a very limited number of consumables. Most other downtime options they tend to have are focused on preparing themselves for their next adventure.
The Problem With Crafting Healing Potions
Healing potions are a very useful item. They’re common and players come across them fairly frequently in most games. They’re even slightly better than Cure Wounds, which heals 1d8 plus spell casting modifier since the Potion of Healing heals 2d4 + 2, which at low levels tends to have a higher minimum and average.
With all of these positives for healing potions they are still laughably unattainable for standard players. This is due to time gating. Crafting items in DnD is clunky and difficult because it takes such a ridiculously long time to make anything. Sure, it makes sense that a legendary item is likely someone’s life’s work. But it feels really bad to have consumables that you can easily find in a shop be unobtainable in the average game since there typically isn’t enough break in the story to stop and prepare them.
Crafting as a slow and laborious system is a design choice, but it’s one that centers on pushing it out of the game. It might have even been better for crafting to be completely unrestricted rather than have such rigid rules that are incompatible with everyday gameplay. In most cases fun crafting systems need to be useful, attached to other normal game mechanics, and provide players with decisions on how to most effectively use their crafting time.
The system in DnD 5e currently takes the final decision on how to spend time to the extreme by saying you can go on adventurers and encounter many rare and wondrous items, or you can spend 2,000 days crafting a single very rare item. Sure, there’s some sense to the time scale, but it deliberately halts crafting for most games.
Homebrew: Alternative Brewing System for Potions of Healing
If you want to make healing potions more craftable for your game, you simply need to change the part of the crafting process that keeps players from utilizing it. In our case, this is the time commitment. The following homebrew rules work for potion crafting by switching the limiting factor from time to material components.
Potions of Healing can be brewed by anyone so long as they meet the following requirements:
- The knowledge of how to brew a Potion of Healing or a recipe
- A safe and suitable space for brewing (as defined by a reasonable DM)
- The ability to cast Cure Wounds or a Cure Wounds spell scroll to cast when brewing the potion
- An available spell slot for the spell cast in brewing the potion
- An Alchemist’s Supplies or Herbalist’s Kit
- A specific material component for the potion, we’ll call it Heal Root
- A proper vessel to contain the potion
- An uninterrupted long rest
Once the player has these things they are able to declare that they will be making a Potion of Healing during a long rest. This is a suitable long rest activity because a long rest is not just sleeping, it’s doing non-strenuous activities for about 2 hours during that time also. This is the time that wizards prepare spells anyway, so it makes sense that they could use the same time to prepare consumable Potions of Healing.
The main difference between these rules and the rules provided by the DMG is that the potions can be created much more easily in a much shorter period of time. However, these homebrew rules do require specific material components. The one made up for this potion is a simple item called Heal Root. Players may come across this while adventuring; it could be found growing in the wild or bought from shops. 25gp worth is enough to make one Potion of Healing.
The important thing here is that it specificity allows the DM to control how much the players have at any given time. A Heal Root item is something players may seek out, but because it is a named key item you can push your players to use survival checks in the wild to find it or charisma checks to haggle down the price from local herbalists. In the case that they have too much and are crafting too many potions, you can simply cut back on the availability of the item in your world.
With these rules potion crafting is still time gated, but instead of being days or weeks to create a healing potion it’s a couple hours during a well established routine in game. Every group takes long rests. Once you pair the crafting of consumables to long rests, players will have more options of what to do with that rest. More choices are typically more fun and a player who is saved because they decided to craft one extra potion will feel that their choice made a difference.
If you want to go one step further and make the crafting a bit more challenging you can ask your players to roll for success when crafting a Potion of Healing. A basic Potion of Healing could have a brew DC 11 (which comes from a base of 10, plus the level of the spell) against a D20 roll + the player’s spell casting ability modifier. On a failure the potion does not brew properly and some material components are wasted.
While this homebrew rule set may not be extensively comprehensive, it provides a great framework for your party to make healing potions more easily while still giving the DM plenty of control over how much healing any party has access to.
Make Healing Potions More Craftable
Healing potions are such a basic part of DnD game play that it really feels bad to have them be so hard to achieve through player directed means. No matter how you go about it, the rules presented here will give you plenty of options on how to let your players craft Potions of Healing for your game. As a DM you have plenty of say here, so don’t just settle for any crafting rule set, choose the system that will be the most fun for you DnD game.