IMPORTANT NOTICE: Although this crafting system leverages many existing mechanics published under the 5e SRD and OGL, the final product is completely home-brewed. The finer details of this system are still being revised, and those changes will slowly be introduced into this document. However, the system as a whole is totally functional and ready to be used in any campaign. Furthermore, the rules and concepts discussed are intended to work in-tandem with the expanded artisan's tools rules found in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. If nothing else I hope this document and its siblings can be used as a source of guidance and inspiration for whatever crafting system you decide to go with.
The Alchemist’s Supplies At A Glance
RAW Cost: 50 GP
RAW Weight: 8 lbs
*Example Items: Moor’s Head, Alembic, Retort, Mortar and Pestle, Stirring Rod, Flask
Crafting Restrictions: Requires access to heat.
Mundane Item Crafting: Acid, Alchemist’s Fire, Antitoxin, Candle, Ink, Oil, Perfume, Sealing Wax, Soap
Magic Item Crafting: Potions and a handful of metallic products
Artwork Creation: Creative but harmless potions meant to entertain instead of enhance.
QA Artwork Bonus: None
Structure Building: N/A
Adventuring Utility: Proficiency bonus added to attacks made from alchemy items, and benefits when interacting with potions and other substances.
* These items are specific to the Questionable Arcana system. Other similar crafting systems may utilitize a different list of items.
Now that we’ve finally finished going through some of the more obscure toolkits, it is time to wrap this series up by going through some of the greatest hits.
When it comes to fantastical story telling, I am hard pressed to find a more universally accepted craft than alchemy. Potions have been an integral part of literature since before the Tragedy of Macbeth. They are famed to have the ability to cure any ailment or give the imbiber super-human strength. The process of creating these potions is typically referred to as alchemy.
The full definition of alchemy actually involves more than creating potions. According to the Cambridge Dictionary alchemy has the following definition:
- A type of chemistry, especially in the Middle Ages, that dealt with trying to find a way to change ordinary metals into gold and with trying to find a medicine that would cure any disease.
However, before we jump into talking about how to create the philospher’s stone in your campaign, I want to step back a minute and discuss the history of alchemy.
Gold Foil and Snake Oil – A History of Alchemy
Although alchemy hit its peak during the middle ages, there is evidence of alchemy in ancient Chinese and Egyptian documents. Unfortunately much of this documentation was destroyed as rulers rose and fell through the region, but the ones that survived reference the fabled “elixir of life”. This trend continued on into the middle ages when many European alchemical texts were destroyed during the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition.
Starting around the 12th century there were several famed alchemists that allegedly could create potions to extend life, or turn metal to gold. These alchemical forefathers were purported to have acquired great wealth practicing their craft, however around the fourteenth century the science of alchemy fell into disrepute. All manner of tricksters and charlatans posed as alchemists promising riches to the desperate the greedy alike, only to disappear into the night with the up-front payments they demanded for their work.
By the time the 16th century rolled around the alchemist’s in Europe had separated into two groups. The first group switched their focus over to the discovery of new compounds and their reactions, eventually leading to the modern science of chemistry. However the second group continued their search for fabled works such as the Elixir of Life and The Philosopher’s Stone.
Fortunately for us we are operating in a fantasy world, so we don’t need to worry about petty things like scientific accuracy. What this means mechanically is that we should allow an alchemist to do all manner of transmutations, potion making, and scientific work.
Questionable Arcana Item Crafting Rules At A Glance
Overview: The Questionable Arcana Crafting System is a homebrew set of rules that builds on the RAW crafting system. The goal of the system is to increase the rate that items are crafted while introducing an element of variability(aka dice rolling).
- A Lead Artisan - An artisan with the appropriate tool who can lead the crafting process.
- Crafting Materials - Materials to craft with. The items should be valued at 50% market value for mundane items and 100% market value for magical items.
- Means of Production - Any special equipment or location requirements such as a forge for blacksmiths.
- Instructions - Memorized instructions for mundane items or a written blueprint for magical items.
- Labor - Time and energy measured in 8 hour increments and proficiency dice rolls!
Crafting Capabilities Definitions
- LEAD - You can serve as the lead artisan when creating this item.
- ASSIST - You can work under a lead artisan to create this item.
- OPTIONAL - You could potentially create a non-RAW version of this item at the DM's discretion.
- N/A - You cannot use this toolkit to contribute to the creation of this item.
- SPECIAL - Special cases defined on a case by case basis.
Crafting GP Progression Formula
[PROGRESS IN GP] = 5 + (Proficiency_Dice_Roll * 5)
Using this triple dipped definition a player with alchemist’s supplies proficiency can craft the following pieces of adventuring gear:
|Adventuring Gear Crafting List|
|Acid (vial)||25 gp||1 lb.||LEAD|
|Alchemist’s Fire (flask)||50 gp||1 lb.||LEAD|
|Antitoxin (vial)||50 gp||—||LEAD|
|Chalk (1 piece)||1 cp||—||OPTIONAL|
|Ink (1 ounce bottle)||10 gp||—||LEAD|
|Lamp||5 sp||1 lb.||ASSIST|
|Lantern, Bullseye||10 gp||2 lb.||ASSIST|
|Lantern, Hooded||5 gp||2 lb.||ASSIST|
|Oil (flask)||1 sp||1 lb.||LEAD|
|Perfume (vial)||5 gp||—||LEAD|
|Poison, Basic (vial)||100 gp||—||ASSIST|
|Potion of Healing||50 gp||½ lb.||LEAD|
|Sealing Wax||4 sp||—||LEAD|
|Torch||1 cp||1 lb.||LEAD|
You may have noticed that I omitted the potion of healing from the list above. This is because according to sage advice(and page 153 of the PHB) a potion of healing is considered a magical item.
Speaking of magical items, the alchemist’s supplies is one of the strongest kits in the game when it comes to creating them. This is because much like the calligrapher’s supplies, there is already a RAW precedent set in the rules around the creation of potions.
This is important because this means that most DMs have at least been introduced to the concept of potion crafting, making it much more likely they will allow a player to craft them in their campaign. Beyond potions an alchemist could also create a number of items that involve either the creation of chemicals, or the transmutation of metals or minerals.
|Magic Item Crafting List|
|Bead of Force||Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Bowl of Commanding Water Elementals||Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Brazier of Commanding Fire Elementals||Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Candle of Invocation||Very Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Censer of Controlling Air Elementals||Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Cube of Force||Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Cubic Gate||Legendary||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Dust of Disappearance||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Dust of Dryness||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Dust of Sneezing and Choking||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Efreeti Bottle||Very Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Elemental Gem||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Eversmoking Bottle||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Feather Token – Tree||Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Gem of Brightness||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||ASSIST|
|Gem of Seeing||Rare||Wondrous Item||ASSIST|
|Instant Fortress||Rare||Wondrous Item||ASSIST|
|Lantern of Revealing||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||ASSIST|
|Oil of Etherealness||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Oil of Sharpness||Very Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Oil of Slipperiness||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Pearl of Power||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Philter of Love||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Animal Friendship||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Clairvoyance||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Climbing||Common||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Diminution||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Flying||Very Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Gaseous Form||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Hill Giant Strength||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Frost Giant Strength||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Stone Giant Strength||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Fire Giant Strength||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Cloud Giant Strength||Very Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Storm Giant Strength||Legendary||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Growth||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Healing||Common||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Greater Healing||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Superior Healing||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Supreme Healing||Very Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Heroism||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Invisibility||Very Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Mind Reading||Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Poison||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Resistance||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Speed||Very Rare||Potion||LEAD|
|Potion of Water Breathing||Uncommon||Potion||LEAD|
|Restorative Ointment||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Sovereign Glue||Legendary||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Sphere of Annihilation||Legendary||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Universal Solvent||Legendary||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
The rule of thumb used here is that if the item was made of a metal or mineral, and didn’t require much further assembly, it could hypothetically be crafted or transmuted by an alchemist.
The most difficult task for DMs when it comes to alchemy will be to determine which ingredients are needed to create an item. For common potions of healing you can probably just allow the player to craft them without special ingredients. In some cases such as the Potion of Hill Giant’s Strength the materials needed are implied in the item description.
EXAMPLE HOME-BREW: POTION OF HILL GIANT’S STRENGTH
Recipe: Potion of Hill Giant’s Strength
Item Rarity: Uncommon
Total Material Cost: 500 GP
Item Type: Potion
Item Origin: SRD
Materials Required: Hill Giant’s Toenail(475 GP), Standard Potion Making Supplies(25 GP)
Item Description: When you drink this potion, your Strength score changes to 21 for 1 hour. The potion has no effect on you if your Strength is equal to or greater than that score. This potion’s transparent liquid has floating in it a sliver of a hill giant’s fingernail.
Crafting Instructions: Set up your equipment as if you were making a regular potion. Grind up the hill giant’s fingernail until nothing but a small sliver is remaining. Slowly work in the ground up fingernail into the potion base until the potion stops boiling. Drop the sliver of fingernail into the potion and cool.
However in most cases there are not obvious examples of what materials are needed to create the potion. In those instances you will have to put your home-brew hat on and get a little creative.
EXAMPLE HOME-BREW: POTION OF ACID RESISTANCE
Recipe: Potion of Acid Resistance
Item Rarity: Uncommon
Total Material Cost: 500 GP
Item Type: Potion
Item Origin: SRD
Materials Required: Black Dragon Scales(425 GP), Standard Potion Making Supplies(25 GP), Materials for a Potion of Healing(50 GP)
Item Description: When you drink this potion, you gain resistance to acid damage for 1 hour.
Crafting Instructions: Set up your equipment as if you were making a regular potion. Place the dragon scale in direct heat over a pot containing basic potion crafting ingredients and a completed potion of healing. The scale will slowly melt over time and drip into the concoction below. The potion of healing will neutralize the scales acidic properties, but retain its acid deterring properties. Once the entire scale has melted cool and transfer to a flask.
One straight-forward way to determine which ingredient is needed is to find a monster of an appropriate difficulty who has a property that is similar to the potions effect. Once the monster is killed the party can roll a DC 20 Nature check(much like how poisons are extracted) to harvest the relevant body part.
This concept can be applied to create brand new potions as well. If flipping through pages isn’t your thing then I recommend using the D&D Beyond Monster List Utility to quickly find a creature with the desired effect and challenge rating.
Below are a handful of examples pulled from the monster list utility:
|Creature||Trait||Example Potion Effect||Example Creature Part Required|
|Behir||Lightning Breath||Potion granting its imbiber the ability to use their bonus action to breath a 20ft long by 5 ft wide line of lightning that deals 6d10 lightning damage. This effect ends after one hour, or 3 uses of the breath attack.||Lightning Sac|
|Ghost||Etherealness||Potion granting its imbiber the ability to use their bonus action move to and from the ethereal plane. This effect ends after one minute.||Ectoplasm|
|Pit Fiend||Legendary Charisma(24)||Potion that grants its imbiber the legendary charisma of a Pit Fiend. The imbiber’s charisma score is set to 24 for 1 hour. If the user already has a charisma score of 24 or higher than this potion has no effect.||Pit Fiend Tongue|
|Salamander||Heated Body||Potion that heats its imbiber’s skin. Whenever a creature touches the imbiber or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it they take 2d6 fire damage. This effect lasts for 1 minute.||Salamander Skin|
|Shambling Mound||Lightning Absorption||Potion that grants its imbiber lightning absorption. Whenever the imbiber is subjected to lightning damage, they take no damage and regain a number of hit points equal to the lightning damage dealth. This effect lasts for 1 minute.||Living Root Stem|
|Troll||Regeneration||Potion that grants its imbiber regeneration. The imbiber regains 1 HP per turn for 1 minute. Should the imbiber be knocked unconscious while regenerating they will wake up on their next turn with no negative side effects. If the user is hit by acid damage, fire damage, or is knocked unconscious by and attack that deals more than half of their max HP in damage in a single turn, the regenerating effect ends.||Troll Brain|
If you don’t want to go the monster route, then you can make it any manner of home-brewed plants or substances that fit the bill. At the end of the day the important thing is to make sure that you choose a substance that is both a challenge to acquire, and too scarce to easily mass produced.
The Takeway: The Alchemist’s Supplies are able to create a decent number of relevant adventuring gear items. They can also craft a strong list of magic items composed of metals and minerals that do not require any type of expert assembly. Last but not least they can create all manner of potions using both material and creature-based components at the DM’s discretion.
Anybody who has ever read a Harry Potter book knows that potions don’t always have to be serious. If magic is commonplace in your campaign, then I think it is completely valid to allow for the creation of “artistic” potions.
An artistic potion can be any potion that creates a (relatively) harmless, but interesting effect. For example a potion that allows a non-magic user to cast a form of prestidigitation for an hour, or makes someone’s flatulence smell like cinnamon could be considered artistic.
If you decide to allow for this type of item in your campaign, I recommend using our Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting System or similar to assign a value to the potion.
Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting Rules At A Glance
Overview: The Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting System is a homebrew set of rules that allows your players to create potentially valuable artwork. The goal of the system is to allow for crafting options beyond the defined RAW items. This is especially important for artistic toolkits such as the painter's supplies where RAW crafting options are limited.
- Obtain Means of Production - Obtain any special equipment or set up in a location that allows you to use the artisan's tools. This step does not apply to all kits. For example a smith needs a forge to create art, but a painter can create artwork anywhere.
- Roll Artisan's Tool Ability Check - A skill check that involves using the artisan's tool to create a piece of artwork. If you succeed the check add Crafting Progress Roll value to the estimated value of the artwork. If you fail the check no progress is made. If you fail the check by 5 or more you subtract the Crafting Progress Roll value from the estimated value of the artwork.
- GP Progression Roll - Roll your proficiency dice to determine how much value is added or subtracted to the estimated GP value of the artwork being created.
Artisan's Tool Ability Check Formula
[Ability Check DC]* = [Target Item's Current Estimated Value]** / 10
* Values are rounded down and the Max DC is 20
** Does not include the value of materials used to create the artwork. For example the value of any gemstones installed using a jeweler's tools are not used to calculate the ability check DC.
Crafting Progress Roll
[Target Item's Estimated Value] = [Target Item's Current Estimated Value] +/- ([Proficiency Dice Roll] x 5)
Important Disclaimer: The Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting Rules and lists are not official material. The concepts and ideas provided by this write-up are simply suggestions. I happen to think they are good suggestions, but ultimately your table's DM has the final say when it comes to any and all artwork crafting rulings.
Typically in our system I assign a bonus to most kits, but in the case of potions I am going to recommend you stick to the basic crafting rules. This is because depending on how scarce magic is in any given world, the DM could potentially restrict this activity.
The Takeaway: Campaigns where magic is commonplace could allow for the creation of “artistic” potions. Artistic potions are relatively harmless potions with interesting effects that are intended to entertain as opposed to enhance.
Beyond crafting potions alchemist’s supplies proficiency grants a number of benefits.
The first is the ability to apply their vast knowledge of potions and their ingredients to a number of situations. An obvious example of this is being able to quickly identify potions found while adventuring. I would recommend allowing the player to add their alchemist’s supplies proficiency to any check made when identifying a potion.
Another more straight-forward bonus is the ability to add your proficiency bonus when attacking with alchemical adventuring gear. Typically when a player uses an item such as alchemist’s fire it is treated as an improvised weapon. I would argue that someone who intimately familiar with how the substance is created and contained would be more effective when attacking with it.
Lastly any time a player is in a situation where alchemy was obviously involved they should be able to add their proficiency bonus to any checks involved in uncovering that information. For example if the party finds a pile of raw gold in an alchemy lab, the player can add their alchemist’s supplies proficiency to any check used to determine whether or not the gold was magically transmuted.
The Takeaway: Player’s with alchemist’s supplies proficiency can add their proficiency bonus to all manner of checks centered around potions or alchemical materials. Further-more they can add their proficiency bonus when attacking with an alchemical adventuring gear such as acid or alchemist’s fire.
It is not terribly surprising that the alchemist’s supplies are an extremely strong artisan’s toolkit. Alchemy is a concept that has been utilized in role playing games for ages, and most Dungeon Masters will put in the extra effort required to make it useful.
If you are starting a campaign, it would be silly to not have at least one character with alchemist’s supplies proficiency. Crafting aside, the adventuring utility around identifying potions is worth the price of admission. If nothing else the ability to turn GP into HP via healing potions is something that every party can benefit from as well.
I walked into this article expecting the alchemist’s supplies to be one of the strongest kits in the game, and walked out of it with the same opinion
This kit is great, pick it up.
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