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Potion-Brewing Mechanic

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Needs more Eye of Newt...

Many fantasy video games include consumable Magic Potions, 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 distill 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; compare Spell Crafting. See also Cooking Mechanics. May overlap with Just Add Water when the process isn't detailed and requires fewer items than are logically needed.


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    Card Battle Game 
  • Hearthstone has Kazakus as a collectible Legendary for Mages, Warlocks, and Priests. His effect lets you combine ingredients in order to brew a custom potion, which takes the form of an incredibly overpowered spell that you can cast at any time.

    Eastern RPG 
  • Dragon Quest IX: Alchemy plays a large role, and 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:
    • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Pokémon Emerald, berries are mixed into Pokéblocks, small candies that raise Pokemon Contest stats depending on what berries are put in to the mixture and how thoroughly it is mixed.
    • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and Pokémon Platinum, Poffins are made instead of Pokeblocks, though they have the same effect.

  • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Siege of Sardath, can have you accessing a potion-making machine in order to create your own shape-shifting potion by mixing together a certain set of obtainable ingredients, including a Shapechanger's brain, Eye of Newt, Lizard's tongue, magic fungus and various other items. Be warned: Mixing together the wrong ingredients can severely backfire on you, with the worst being one that turns you permanently into a living mist.

  • 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.
  • Runescape: The Herblore skill allows the player to create potions by cleaning herbs and mixing them with other ingredients. Each potion has a set recipe, consisting of a base liquid in a vial (usually water), a primary ingredient (usually a herb), and a secondary ingredient. Higher Herblore levels allow the player to clean more herbs and create more types of potions.
  • World of Warcraft: Alchemists can mix herbs and other reagents to brew many useful elixirs, potions, and flasks. Higher level alchemists can brew more powerful potions, but are required to gather more out of the way materials.

  • 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.

    Simulation Game 
  • One part of the gameplay of Potionomics is taking ingredients and extracting their essences to brew potions you can put up for sale at your shop. Each recipe has a specific ratio of essences, and the closer you get to the perfect balance for your desired potion, the better chance you have of brewing an improved version of that potion.
  • Potion Craft's primary mechanic. Each ingredient moves the marker on the diagram in a specific relative direction, heating the water at certain spots turns the bottle into the corresponding potion.
  • The core gameplay loop of Potion Permit involves collecting ingredients in the outskirts of Moonbury Town and then mixing them in your cauldron to make curative potions. Each ingredient comes in various block tiles that can't be flipped or rotated, and all the tiles must be arranged in a certain layout within a limited number of moves (which can be upgraded at Hearts and Sparks) to brew the potion. However, some potions restrict the kinds of ingredients you can use, which correspond to the four classical elements. Successfully crafting the potion five times lets you save the ingredients you used in a recipe, which you can instantly use without solving the tile puzzle again.

    Survival Horror 
  • Goosebumps: Night of Scares does this in the follow-up, Dead of Night, where the player character, Twist, must collect different plant samples from Dr. Brewer's gardens and input them into a potion-making machine in order to reverse the transflormation effects they're suffering.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica 4th Edition: Magic Potions are effectively "doses" of a spell that affects only the drinker, so their creation requires only time, the ability to cast the spell in question, and a standard magical laboratory. Any physical ingredients are abstracted.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay:
    • Non-magical "draughts" like Healing Potions can be made by any character with the Apothecary skill and its trade tools. No specific ingredients are required, only a skill test and a few hours of work.
    • Magic Potions require their creator to have both magical ability and an elaborate alchemy lab. Recipes are rare and precious, and each batch requires expensive ingredients that can only be harvested from specific environments. Moreover, failing the Intelligence test to create a batch always causes a Magic Misfire, and the potions themselves can cause other Magic Misfires if they spoil over time.

    Visual Novel 
  • VA-11 HALL-A has drink-mixing as its main mechanic, since you play a bartender who chats with her patrons in-between mixing them drinks. Each available drink can be mixed from five available ingredients, with added steps like ice, aging, and whether it is mixed or blended, and some clients ask for a specific drink by name, while others just name some traits (like "bitter" or "classy") and you have to look for an appropriate recipe in the in-game manual. Furthermore, some drinks can be doubled in size, while others can be mixed with extra alcohol — how much alcohol a patron imbibes can affect their dialogue and later story. Mixing well also results in a larger paycheck, which you can spend on upgrading your in-game apartment.

    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 
  • Baldur's Gate III: The Alchemy tab in the inventory screen lets players craft most of the potions, weapon coatings, elixirs (single-use potions with effects that last until long rest), and grenades found in the game. To do so, one must first obtain a recipe, then combine two components specified in it. Components are obtained by "extracting" them from plants, mushrooms, and monster parts collected during exploration (specifically, three lots of the same material give you one lot of the corresponding alchemical component), but can also be purchased from traders.
  • In Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin II, many of the games' Magic Potions can be created with Item Crafting. Most require an empty vial and one ingredient, but poison and Healing Potions can also be combined or upgraded to more powerful forms. Recipes in the former game have a Crafting score prerequisite, but in the latter, you can even brew recipes you haven't learned in-character.
  • Dragon Age: Potion-making 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.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition mixes the two previous games' approaches in that you once again need to collect individual components for each potion, but not longer need any potion-making skills, as the Inquisitor, like Hawke, orders the potions from the Inqusition's herbalists at Skyhold or the field camps.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Alchemy mechanics have long been an essential part of the series. Though the exact mechanics of the process vary by game, creating potions (or poisons) typically involves harvesting plant, animal, and/or monster parts for raw ingredients, figuring out which four harmful or beneficial magical effects each of them has, and then mixing two or more ingredients with a certain effect to produce a potion of that effect. Your Alchemy Skill Score usually determines the potency of the potion.
    • In 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 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.
  • 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.
  • The Game Boy Color version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone allows you to use your cauldrons to brew the game's potions at any time outside of battle. Each potion can only be brewed in a specific cauldron and the ingredients are found around the Hogwarts grounds. Two potions, the Vitamix and Herbicide Potions, can only be obtained this way.
  • 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.
  • 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 Witcher: Like in the novels, alchemy is an essential part of the 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.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • 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, glowstone or redstone dust to make it stronger or longer-lasting, dragon's breath to make a thrown potion's effect linger in the air, or a fermented spider eye to invert its effects (i.e., make a Potion of Healing into a Potion of Harming or a Potion of Swiftness into a Potion of Slowness; less negatively, a Potion of Night Vision, which lets you see better, turns into a Potion of Invisibility, which makes you unseen). The potion's effect tends to be in some way related to the ingredient that went in — a rabbit's foot, for instance, will make a Potion of Leaping, a magma cream will make a Potion of Fire Resistance, a pufferfish will make a Potion of Water Breathing and a phantom's wing membrane will make a Potion of Slow Falling.
  • Terraria features two types: potions are made in the alchemy station, and grant a temporary buff, while flasks are made in the imbuing station, and grant an additional effect when wielding melee weapons.