Created By: Koveras on June 27, 2014 Last Edited By: Koveras on February 10, 2015
Troped

Potion Brewing Mechanic

Mechanics associated with brewing potions in video games.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

Launch on Tuesday unless somebody objects until then

Many fantasy video games include consumable items like Health Potions, Mana Potions, etc., and some of them allow the player to mix their own potions (or poisons) of various effects in a process vaguely inspired by real-life Alchemy. Said process generally takes place in a mini-game revolving around mixing proper ingredients in just the right proportions, because Alchemy Is Magic and Magic A Is Magic A. Mixing the wrong ingredients usually wastes them, with several optional mechanics thrown into the mix:

  • Recipes. Most games give the player explicit hints about which ingredients produce which results when mixed together. Sometimes, knowing the recipe is a requirement to make a potion; at other times, players can discover recipes on their own by experimentation.
  • Essences. Instead of requiring specific ingredients for every recipe, many games instead assign one or more "alchemical essences" to each ingredient, allowing for a multitude of interchangeable primary resources without a recipe explosion. Other games cut out the middle man entirely and assign specific effects directly to ingredients, leaving it to the player to distil the latter into the former.
  • Tools. The Player Character may or may not require in-game tools to mix potions. These tools can be stationary level features or inventory items to be carried around, and their quality can influence the quality of the potions produced with them.
  • Order. Sometimes, the ingredients must be mixed in a specific order; in other games, the order is irrelevant.
  • Skill Scores and Perks. In RPGs, the alchemist's stats and skills influence the magnitude and duration of potion effects. Higher skill levels may be a prerequisite for learning more advanced recipes, and perks may allow for irregularities, like combining two effects in a single flask.

What rarely comes into consideration in such mini-games is the issue of timing and time costs in general, so the player can often turn mounds of raw materials into a small drug store worth of potions within seconds of in-game time. Likewise, the idea of the Philosopher's Stone, which was arguably the whole point of real-life alchemy, is rarely associated with it in games.

A subtrope of Item Crafting. May overlap with Just Add Water when the process isn't detailed and requires fewer items than are logically needed.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Eastern RPG 
  • Alchemy plays a large role in Dragon Quest IX, where it is used to produce anything from potions to weapons and armor. Some healing items are only available through this process (i.e. putting two of the basic healing item gets a stronger one, another two gets the strongest of that item line), with the player coming across recipes or finding them by combining the right number of ingredients. Most healing items take the form of Healing Herbs, but there are some potions as well.
  • Pokémon has two examples involving berries, which are collected from plants in game:

     MMORPG 
  • In Mabinogi, potions are made using a hand-held potionmaking kit, using recipes involving various herbs, mushrooms, metal powders, lesser potions and expended mana. A higher-ranked Potion Making skill gives better success rates and unlocks advanced potions.

     Roguelike 
  • Nethack:
    • Potions can be mixed together to create new potions. For example, a potion of healing and a potion of gain energy make a potion of extra healing.
    • The variant UnNethack changes this in an interesting way. As is common in the roguelike genre, Nethack's object descriptions are randomised, so a healing potion might be "a red potion" in one game and "a green potion" in another. In UnNethack, alchemy is based on color instead of effect, so that, for example, a red potion (whatever that is) and a yellow potion (whatever that is) always make an orange potion (whatever that is) - effectively randomising the alchemy recipes.
    • There's another patch that allows you to create potions by dissolving gems in acid.

     Survival Horror 
  • In Penumbra: Black Plague, you have to find several chemicals in the lab which you then pour in a machine (in the correct order, of course) to produces the antidote to The Virus.

     Web Game 
  • In Pottermore, an official Harry Potter companion website that lets people replay the books, the player has to acquire ingredients by carefully scanning story scenes or buying them at Diagon Alley. One also needs a book that contains the recipe for the potion desired. The ingredients must be added in the correct order and quantity, then the cauldron heated to the right temperature for a specific amount of time, then the whole thing is left for an hour or so before completing a couple of extra steps and finally using the wand to complete the concoction.

     Western RPG 
  • In Ultima IV, mixing up alchemical ingredients in just the right order is required to prepare spells, which, much like consumable potions, come in a limited supply and are expended with every use.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Alchemy minigames are an essential part of The Elder Scrolls series and usually revolve around harvesting plants and dead monster parts for ingredients, figuring out which four harmful or beneficial magical effects each of them has, and mixing two or more ingredients with a certain effect to produce a potion of that effect. The Alchemy Skill Score usually determines the potency of the potion.
    • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, you also need alchemical tools (such as pestles, mortars, retorts, etc.) and their quality has impact upon different aspects of the resulting potions (e.g. effects duration and magnitude). Additionally, your Intelligence stat affects the effects of the potions, so many a Game Breaker has been produced by repeatedly mixing and imbibing potions that buff it.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you can no longer mix potions anywhere, because the alchemy labs are now stationary level props. They also don't differ in quality any more, so your Alchemy skill (and the associated perks) is the only factor in the potions' potency.
  • Like in the novels, alchemy is an essential part in The Witcher video game. By harvesting plants and slain monsters, Geralt collects ingredients, and each ingredient contains one specific (Color-Coded for Your Convenience) alchemical essence. Hard-coded into the game are specific combinations of these essences that, if mixed in a specific order, create potions of specific effects. Geralt can learn these recipes from books and NPCs or discover them by experimenting. Some unique ingredients, usually obtained from quests, can even be mixed into mutagenic potions that permanently unlock certain bonuses in a form of Nonstandard Skill Learning. Rarely for a game, crafting potions takes time—at least an hour of meditating in a safe location—and requires a "potion base," an alcoholic beverage whose quality determines how many ingredients in total you can mix.
  • Potion making in Dragon Age usually revolves around discovering recipes for various potions and collecting ingredients for them.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, potion-mixing is tied to the Herbalism skill, which every party member can learn and use. More powerful recipes require higher levels in the skill, and ingredients are found or bought in individual samples that are consumed to produce potions.
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke no longer needs any alchemical skills and instead orders potions and poisons from a friendly herbalist for a small fee. Ingredients are no longer collected in individual samples, but marked as "resources" and can be exploited indefinitely, although more powerful potions require multiple sources of the same ingredient and some unique ingredients like Ambrosia can only be used once.
  • In Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, you can create magical potions by combining various ingredients you found. For example, consuming Herbal Honey gives you knowledge of the true names of all plants and eating Alphabet Soup gave you knowledge of Runes.
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance has alchemy as a crucial (and complex) minigame, which produces potions—pretty much the only type of "magic" in an otherwise magic-less setting.

     Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • In Minecraft, potions are made in brewing stands crafted and placed by the player. You put in 1-3 water bottles, then some nether wart, then an ingredient, then (optionally) gunpowder to make it throwable and glowstone or redstone dust to make it stronger or longer-lasting.

Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • June 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Item Crafting?
  • June 27, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ It's already mentioned that this is a subtrope.
  • June 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Contrast Just Add Water when the process isn't detailed and it just requires fewer items than are logically needed.
  • June 28, 2014
    Arivne
    • Elvira Mistress of the Dark. In this game you could create magical potions by combining various ingredients you found. For example, consuming Herbal Honey gave you knowledge of the true names of all plants and eating Alphabet Soup gave you knowledge of Runes.
  • June 28, 2014
    DAN004
    I remember there's something like this in Harry Potter's Pottermore, but I can't give it enough context :(
  • June 28, 2014
    Chabal2
    Dragon Quest IX replaces the series' casino minigames with this. The vast majority of weapons, armor and acessories are made with alchemy by combining ingredients (store-bought, randomly-dropped, and mined/picked/found). The higher-end gear involves "alchemiracles", a small chance of obtaining a vastly superior weapon, but it can't be redone via Save Scumming (though manipulating the Random Number Generator can ensure the rare gear is made every time).
  • June 29, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ I am not sure if that counts, since it's not potions that are mixed there. What makes it more like alchemy, rather than some other form of Item Crafting, smithy, for instance? I mean, in Skyrim, you can make your own weapons and apparel, but you do so at forges out of ingots of cheaper or more expensive metals, so while it shares the most basic mechanics with alchemy (turn raw materials into usable items), it definitely isn't alchemy.
  • June 30, 2014
    Generality
    Regarding Pottermore: It's a kind of timing/memory based inventory puzzle. The player has to acquire ingredients by carefully scanning story scenes or buying them at Diagon Alley. One also needs a book that contains the recipe for the potion desired. The ingredients must be added in the correct order and quantity, then the cauldron heated to the right temperature for a specific amount of time, then the whole thing is left for an hour or so before completing a couple of extra steps and finally using the wand to complete the concoction.

    • The Legend Of Zelda Skyward Sword has a very simplified version in which Link can buy basic potions, then upgrade them by providing an assortment of insects to the potion-maker. Yum.

    Non-video game example:

    In early The Dresden Files books, Harry would always brew a potion at some point which would inevitably prove essential later on. The potion-making process was described in some detail; in particular, a potion contains eight ingredients: a liquid base, one item for each of the five senses, and two for the mind and soul.
  • June 30, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ What is "Pottermore", exactly?

    I am also not sure that Skyward Sword counts, since it sounds more like "Bring Twenty Bear Asses for an upgrade" than a minigame.
  • June 30, 2014
    robinjohnson
    • In Nethack, potions can be mixed together to create new potions. For example, a potion of healing and a potion of gain energy make a potion of extra healing.
      • The variant UnNethack changes this in an interesting way. As is common in the roguelike genre, Nethack's object descriptions are randomised, so a healing potion might be "a red potion" in one game and "a green potion" in another. In UnNethack, alchemy is based on color instead of effect, so that, for example, a red potion (whatever that is) and a yellow potion (whatever that is) always make an orange potion (whatever that is) - effectively randomising the alchemy recipes.
      • There's another patch that allows you to create potions by dissolving gems in acid.
  • June 30, 2014
    Generality
    ^^ Pottermore is an official Harry Potter based companion website that lets people replay the books as a kind of simple adventure game with minigames like potion brewing and dueling, in an attempt to flog audiobooks and stuff.
  • July 1, 2014
    needsanewhobby
    The Sims expansion pack "Makin' Magic" was this.

    By the way, shouldn't we rename this one? None of the examples given are really minigames, so having "minigame" in the title seems wrong.
  • July 1, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ How are they not minigames?
  • July 1, 2014
    dalek955
    • In Minecraft, potions are made in brewing stands crafted and placed by the player. You put in 1-3 water bottles, then some nether wart, then an ingredient, then (optionally) gunpowder to make it throwable and glowstone or redstone dust to make it stronger or longer-lasting.
    • In Mabinogi, potions are made using a hand-held potionmaking kit, using recipes involving various herbs, mushrooms, metal powders, lesser potions and expended mana. A higher-ranked Potion Making skill gives better success rates and unlocks advanced potions.

    Should probably rename it Potion Making or Potion Brewing or something, since many games have "alchemy" that has nothing to do with potions. For instance, Mabinogi's alchemy is a completely different skill, focusing on elemental attacks and transmuted crafting materials.
  • July 1, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 1, 2014
    Koveras
    @dalek955: You make a good point, I'll update the write-up.
  • July 2, 2014
    Chabal2
    Regarding DQIX: There are some potions, or at least healing items only available through the game's Alchemy process (i.e. putting two of the basic healing item gets a stronger one, another two gets the strongest of that line iof items), with the player coming across recipes or finding them by combining the right number of ingredients. Some literal potions can be made, either as ingredients for more advanced recipes or for use in battle (both offensive and defensive).

  • July 4, 2014
    Koveras
    Bumping for hats/examples.
  • July 8, 2014
    Chernoskill
    Not sure if this counts as it's not part of the main gameplay, but in Ultima VI, during the intro sequence, a gipsy woman asks you a couple of questions and depending on your answers, pours liquid from different-colored test tubes into a glass container, which in the end determines your character stats.
  • July 8, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ That would fit much better under Player Personality Quiz IMO.
  • July 10, 2014
    MorgenReiter
    Not sure if these qualify, but here I go:

  • July 10, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ That counts.
  • July 15, 2014
    hbi2k
    I agree that at least some of these don't really count as "minigames". in Dragon Quest IX, for example, there's no minigame, you just select ingredients in a menu. That's no more a "minigame" than selecting armor to equip in a menu is an "armor-equipping minigame".

    So either the title needs to change, or the examples that aren't minigames need to be removed.
  • July 16, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ Collecting the ingredients with a view to being able to mix the potions you want is a minigame though, surely?
  • July 16, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ That is the question I've been pondering for some time, too. If you view the ingredient collecting as part of the process, then you could view that example as a minigame. But I am also considering a different title. hbi2k, you know the rule: if you demand a better title, you have to suggest one. ;)
  • July 16, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ Not really, just part of the loot system. It's a system, not a minigame. Maybe rename it "Potion-Brewing System".
  • July 17, 2014
    Koveras
    The technical developer term is "subsystem", but Potion Brewing Subsystem would sound confusing... Potion Brewing Interface? Potion Brewing Mechanic? Potion Brewing Ruleset? Customized Consumable Crafting?
  • July 17, 2014
    DAN004
    Dunno if this is just a more specific form of Item Crafting (BUT WITH POTIONS!)
  • July 17, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ This is, indeed, a particularly common form of Item Crafting that is often found in games that otherwise don't feature any Item Crafting at all.
  • July 17, 2014
    robinjohnson
  • July 17, 2014
    hbi2k
  • February 9, 2015
    eroock
    Videogames:
    • In Penumbra: Black Plague, you have to find several chemicals in the lab which you then pour in a machine (in the correct order, of course) to produces the antidote to The Virus.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=rnszh3p15hfhfbwgo4msk08f