5e: What Can You Make with Alchemist Supplies?

Written by Phil

Phil was a world-traveler, writing, playing games, and exploring. Now he lives in Toronto and plays D&D, Root, and Terraforming Mars online. Most recently, he has been exploring the asymmetric games by Leder Games. Links to Other Writing: Persuasive Writing; Coffee Website.

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In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, a player can often choose one set of artisans tools to be proficient with during character creation. It is not always clear to the Dungeon Master (DM) or player what it is that the tools may allow them to do. One such tool is the Alchemist’s Supplies; what can a Player Character (PC) do with Alchemist’s Supplies, and how does one go about crafting a potion?

Proficiency with Alchemist’s Supplies allows a PC to use the tools and instruments needed for crafting potions. Players proficient with Alchemist’s Supplies can also add their proficiency bonus to rolls used to craft alchemical potions, which does not include healing potions.

All potions are magical, so using these supplies fall under the category of crafting magical items, which is always an involved, lengthy, and expensive process. 

For a walkthrough of how to use alchemist’s supplies, read on!

Requirements for crafting a potions

  • Alchemist’s Supplies: Consisting of beakers, decanters, tubes, and burners, this is required in a stable workplace to conduct the work over a period of time. 
  • Recipe: Instructions that explain how to make the potion and what supplies are required.
  • Components: Specific magical ingredients that have the properties you wish to infuse into the potion. For example, a water-breathing potion may require the essence of a Water Weird. These special ingredients are often acquired during adventures.
  • Gold: Extra supplies that have a specific gold cost based on the rarity of the item being crafted.
  • Time: The allotted amount of workweeks required to complete the work, also based on the rarity of the item being crafted.
  • Rolls: Intelligence checks must be passed to successfully craft the item. Proficiency with alchemist’s supplies will allow a player to add their proficiency to these checks.

Determining Cost and Crafting time

Identify the magical rarity of the potion attempting to be crafted and then consult this modified table from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:

Item RarityCreation Cost (gp)Workweeks
Common251/2
Uncommon1001
Rare10005
Very Rare10,00012.5
Legendary50,00025

Required workweeks can be reduced if multiple people are working on the task. Everyone working must have proficiency with Alchemist’s tools. 

To determine the new number of workweeks, divide the original number by the number of proficient workers.

The creation cost is the cost of the raw materials required to craft the potion. The creation cost does not include the cost of the key magical ingredients.


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Determining the Required Magical Ingredients

The DM will determine which magical ingredients are needed or the rarity of a homebrewed magical potion. 

Likewise, if a player finds what they believe to be a magical ingredient, it is up to the DM to determine what they might craft with it.

When determining what challenge rating a creature must be to yield a magical ingredient, the DM should consider the rarity of the potion that the magic item is used to create. Xanathar’s Guide To Everything has a table that can be used as a guide:

Item RarityCR Range
Common1-3
Uncommon4-8
Rare9-12
Very Rare13-18
Legendary19+

Non-magical Ingredients

There are three arguments here:

  1. The required components are assumed available for the player, simply subtract a certain amount of gold each time they decide to use them.
  2. The specific items, such as a 500gp diamond, must have been bought beforehand, but the smaller components are assumed available, subtract gold for them.
  3. All components must be meticulously tracked and purchased or gathered beforehand, or else you can’t make the potion for at all times.

I personally am more in favor of the first two options, as this allows you to play, y’know, a game—not “accounting and stock management simulator”. The third tends to break immersion, despite that often being the stated goal of its fans.

Bottom line: we’re playing a game and would like some level of streamlining. What you do is up to you and your DM, but it should be established well before you find yourself stuck in a dungeon, unable to forage for anything.

Finding A Recipe

The DM can determine how difficult it is to obtain a recipe for a magical potion. 

A player may be able to go to the alchemist in a metropolis and buy the recipe, or perhaps they could simply study a potion they found, assuming that they pass the DC of an associated Intelligence check.

There are no official rules for how difficult potion recipes are to obtain or how to obtain one. 

If a PC wants to make potions, the DM will need to determine the parameters.


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Workweeks

A workweek is a week of downtime where a PC is dedicating the majority of their time each day to working on one specific task. 

As stated above, the number of workweeks required to craft a magic potion can be reduced by having more characters, who are also proficient with alchemist’s supplies, aid in the task. 

There may be a limit to how many people can assist in the task if the workspace itself is not large enough.

For example, only two people may help craft a common potion while using one set of alchemist’s supplies in a rented room above a dingy tavern. 

Or perhaps five alchemists could all work together if each has their own alchemist’s supplies and is working in a dedicated laboratory.

Making the Ability Checks

To determine the success or failure of the potion crafting attempt, the DM will require an Intelligence check, plus proficiency. 

The DC for the task can be related to the rarity of the potion being made, the player’s familiarity with the process, or any number of factors.

The DM should determine whether the player needs to make a series of Intelligence checks for each workweek spent on the task or only once after weeks of work.

Alternative Ability Check Options

I recommend making a check every week, particularly for longer projects, because having a party waste months only to completely fail will not be great for player investment. Instead, allow them to waste the odd week, but overall move toward success.

Perhaps a critical failure adds extra workweeks to the task, and critical success removes workweeks. The DM can also reduce or increase the potency of the potion based on how many successes or failures the player had while crafting the potion.


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Potion Crafting Example

A party recently killed a Troll that was eating travelers along a country road. The party’s artificer is also an alchemist and knows that the heart of a troll has regenerative properties that can be used to craft potions. 

The alchemist now has a magical ingredient from a CR 5 creature and could make an uncommon potion. The party returns to a nearby city, and the alchemist goes to the local guildhall and purchases a recipe from the Alchemical Library for 10 gp.

The DM now needs to homebrew a potion for the alchemist to craft. Looking at other uncommon potions, they decide that this potion can grant 1st or 2nd level spell effects for a period of time longer than the original spell and without needing concentration.

The DM determines that the recipe is for a potion of regeneration that allows the player to regain 1d4 HP at the start of their turn for 1 hour. 

The Alchemist has a week of downtime in the city, so he gets to work. The alchemist buys 100 gp worth of materials, finds a workspace, and sets up their alchemist’s supplies.

At the end of the week, the alchemist makes a DC 15 intelligence check and passes with a 16, having now successfully crafted a potion of regeneration that has a value of 200 gp.  

Had the roll been a failure, they may have required one of the following (still assuming the DC 15):

  • 1: (crit failure) all materials lost
  • 2-10: the troll heart remains, but all other materials must be repurchased
  • 10-14: all ingredients are fine, but time was wasted
  • 20 (crit success): Extra potency or perhaps 2 potions for the effort. If the potion took more than one week, perhaps they simply count this as two weeks.

Perhaps you’re looking for some puzzles, like this potion puzzle.

Summary

Crafting magical potions can seem intimidating and expensive, but requiring your players to seek magical ingredients and take the time and resources to complete the task can be very rewarding. Who knows, maybe the Big Bad Evil Guy of the campaign can only be defeated after crafting a legendary potion?

  • Alchemist’s Supplies, Recipes, Magical and Mundane Components, Time, and Ability Checks are required to make potions.
  • The greater the effect and rarity of the potion, the longer it will take and the more expensive it will be.
  • There are no agreed-upon rules for finding potion recipes
  • Much of the potion dynamics must be determined by the DM
  • Xanathar’s Guide to Everything sheds some light on alchemy, but not much.
  • Ability Checks can be done at the end of every week of work (recommended), or at the end of all weeks of work
  • Penalties for failure can depend on how bad the failure was

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