Have a sip!

I love potions. I love all one-use magic items, and I dole them out a lot more than I do magical weapons or armor. Why? Because they don’t give a flat, everlasting “bump” to the players’ power level which they soon get used to and bored with, and they encourage thinking and resource management.

Recently, my players asked me to create some rules for making an attempt to identify a potion “on the fly” by using the classical method of simply sampling it. I’ve allowed this in earlier campaigns, but never really codified how it should work, and it was about time!

Basically, the rules allow a character to identify the general purpose of the potion, but at the risk of “suffering” its effects (whether good or bad) or ruining it somehow. I based it on the premise that a potion is a rather disgusting mix och unsavory and unhealthy ingredients that somehow have a magical effect when taken as a whole. Thus, if you accidentally swallow the Eye of Newt swimming in there, you’ve not only made yourself sick, but also turned the remaining potion into nothing but a very disgusting stew…

Sipping a Potion

Potions fall somewhere between mundane items and the more advanced magical items; they usually have a single purpose, and their activation is very simple. Thus, they can be identified “in the field”, especially by someone skilled in the magical arts. The safest method is, still, to take the potion to an Alchemist or other skilled NPC.

To identify a potion in the field, a character must be willing to take a sip from the flask. This carries some risks, but grants the character a roll for the Lore skill to successfully identify the basic effect of the potion, with the amount of details judged by the GM. For a Potion of Flying, the GM might simply say, “you sense that this potion would grant some sort of flight”. The determination of the exact nature and duration of that flight would need an examination by an Alchemist, or that a character is willing to quaff the potion. A bonus of +1 for Deeper Knowledge should be given for this roll to Magic-User characters, but not Elves.

Sipping a potion is a simple action, requiring only one round. There are risks associated with sipping potions, however. If the die rolled for the Lore skill check turns up a 6, the player must make another roll on the table below (note that this might also be a successful identification attempt in some rare circumstances).

D6

Result

1 You Sipped Too Much! The potion takes effect in its entirety upon the sipping character immediately, and is used up.
2-3 You Ruined It! Something in this particular sip was crucial for the function of the potion, and now the entire flask is ruined without any effect.
4-5 Dilution! The potion will now only have half its usual effect. This affects rolled amounts, duration and most other things, susceptible to the DM’s interpretation. If the effect of the potion is very binary, a simple 50 % chance of it taking effect when drunk can instead be used.
6 Barf! This potion was not an appetizing drink to begin with (few potions are, even healing ones), and this particular sip was especially unhealthy. If the potion was dangerous or cursed (such as a poison), you suffer its full effects with a -2 to any Saving Throw. If it was not deadly, you still become violently ill and are stunned for D3 Turns.
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Class revision

During the past year, I’ve really begun to settle into the LotFP ruleset, and I’m feeling very comfortable with it. Both me and my players absolutely love the clean and simple D6 skill system; it simplifies and focuses things and shifts some of the focus away from abilities and bonuses.

I have, however, revised the classes slightly. These are really no major changes, but they incorporate the following broad strokes:

  • Saving Throws improve incrementally; this means they will be somewhat better at most levels beyond first as compared to the normal system, but I find the slight increase in survivability doesn’t unbalance things and it means most levels mean some sort of advancement for most classes.
  • Classes beyond the Specialist receive skill points; a more considerable change. I first implemented this mostly at the request of my players, but I’ve since come to really appreciate it. My new Lore skill, for example, comes in really handy in some of my house rules for experimenting with magical items and now there’s a way for other classes than a specialist to improve it by a point or two. Non-specialists get very few skill points, however, and they are forced to select where to place them based on a list of class skills, whereas the specialist still has access to each and every skill like before.
  • Dwarves and elves may trade in their skill points for increased attack bonus. This lets them improve slightly at combat as they level, although they will max out at +4 (elf) or +5 (dwarf) and then only at level 20.

You can find the details on the revision of each class in this document or in the Library.

New Skills

Adding some skills to the list in LotFP seems to be a popular choice, especially for broadening the scope of the Specialist class. I’ve made some changes myself; I’ve removed one skill, and replaced it with three new ones as well as a loose guideline for adding a secondary skill.

I’ve also made a class revision, which I will present in more detail later, and a part of this revision means that classes other than the specialist get a few skill points as the level (though they have to choose where to spend them based on a restricted class list, while the specialist is still able to increase all skills). These new skills are an attempt to both make specialists able to fill more roles, and to present a couple of skills that can be interesting for other classes.

 

First, the skill that had to go:

Open Doors is, to me, not a skill but a test of strength. You can apply strength bonus to the test, get help and use suitable tools, but I don’t agree with the fact that you can actually spend skill points to learn how to do this better; the task just feels too basic.

Now, for the three new ones:

Lore governs the characters knowledge of most learned subjects, and presents a way for me to introduce some background information into the game. It supplies a lot of flavor, but players can also use it in a number of mechanically relevant ways; it can be used to make rough “identifications” of magical items in the field, such as sipping a potion and testing a weapon. Nothing like an Identify spell, of course, but at least some basics.

Medicine lets a character perform some basic first aid in the field, as well as function as a physician to improve the recovery of fellow characters during downtime.

Riding is for those characters who want their horse (or steed) to be more than a mode of transportation; fighting on horseback, mainly, or riding something other than a horse.

Lastly, characters can take a secondary skill to encompass most anything they want. These are mostly for flavor, however, and must obey two simple rules; they cannot overlap with any of the existing skills, and they must have a narrower scope. Blacksmithing is an excellent secondary skill, “perception” is not.

I’ve created more in-depth rules for these skills, including a closer definition of how and when they are used as well as some lists with situational modifiers – you can find them in this PDF or in the Library.