Potion Color System


Homebrew and House Rules


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I've developed a cosmetic system to illustrate a potion’s appearance using 3 basic characteristics: 1) Color, 2) Transparency, 3) Light Intensity. The system requires the 3 things we know about any given spell when converting it into a potion: 1) Arcane School, 2) Spell Level, 3) Caster Level.

Creating a potion is a magical feat drawing from a specific arcane power outside of chemistry. Even the Alchemist Class is "infusing these substances with magic siphoned from his aura". Therefore, a potion’s base color should depend on the Arcane School from which the spell comes from. Each of the Classic Arcane Schools of Magic are assigned a primary or secondary color by the GM (including White and Black).

*See Potion Color Theory at the end.

1) Color = Spell School:

Additive Colors (using light from energy) are assigned to each of the Classic Arcane Schools of Magic. The assignments I used are based on Magic the Gathering's mana color theory (with the exception of Magenta and Yellow), but it’s up to the GM to arrange the colors as he or she sees fit.

  • Abjuration = White
  • Conjuration = Green
  • Divination = Blue
  • Enchantment = Magenta
  • Evocation = Red
  • Illusion = Cyan
  • Necromancy = Black
  • Transmutation = Yellow

2) Transparency = Spell Level:

The Spell Level illustrates liquid density and how well you can seen through the liquid. This could imply texture if you desired.

  • Spell Level 0 = Near Clear (appears watered down)
  • Spell Level 1 = Transparent (as colored water, like apple juice)
  • Spell Level 2 = Translucent (a clouded liquid, like lemonade)
  • Spell Level 3 = Opaque (cannot see through it, like milk)

3) Light Intensity = Caster Level

Potions hold a charge of energy. Regardless of their glow, the arcane light of the imbued liquid does not provide sufficient illumination to improve visibility. This cosmetic feature is not meant to be used as a light source, though you could locate a potion in the dark if line of sight is not obscured.

  • Caster Level 1 = Dim
  • Caster Level 5 = Soft
  • Caster Level 10 = Glowing
  • Caster Level 15 = Bright
  • Caster Level 20 = Brilliant

Issue: Identifying Potions the Wrong Way

This visual system is not meant to replace Detect Magic when identifying potions, but simply to add more depth for those who appreciate the Craft. The Alchemist Class does not require Detect Magic to identify potions, but he would take note of the physical characteristics in his Skill Check.

A character without the proper Alchemical or Arcane Knowledge would not be able to discern the meaning of the various physical properties of a potion. If it becomes an issue for the players, the GM should ignore the physical description until the potion can be properly identified as the game intended.

Potions aren't normally labeled, but every player knows how to distinguish their own stock due to its physical features. This system just helps to illustrate it.

Potion Color Theory: Additive Colors of Light

The Color Wheel has its foundation in 3 Primary Colors: Red, Yellow, Blue. From these, the Secondary Colors can be created: Orange, Green, Violet. The Wheel is used for mixing pigments, but it is not effective for mixing light.

The Additive Color scheme exists for mixing colors made of light. This is appropriate for illustrating arcane energy since light is a type of energy. Additive Colors use a different set of Primary Colors: Red, Green, Blue (RGB). From these, the Secondary Colors can be created: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow (CMY).

When the 3 Primary Colors (RGB) are combined, they create the appearance of White. When the 3 Secondary Colors (CMY) are combined, they subtract light, creating the appearance of Black. This is different from the classic Color Wheel because White and Black are naturally created by light, while those colors must be manually added to the Wheel.


+1

I like this idea, it adds an easily discerned element that takes away some of the nebulousness of spellcraft when trying to identify potions.


I absolutely love this system dude this is amazing *yoink* that was the sound of me stealing this for my next game


I use something similar, although not quite as in depth to include caster level. Definitely well thought out.


Thank you.

To expand variety, spells from each color category could have their own unique Tints, Tones and Shades under the umbrella of the base color (like shopping for paint). This way spells from the same school wouldn't look alike. But I could not create a universal template for that.

Flavors and other sensory impressions of food depend on spell components - the chemistry side of Crafting. Here again, there isn't enough consistent info to create a universal template.


I like this, because it could make poisons that much more dangerous to the untrained.

"This is a potion made from the white dragon bush, which is a delicious and powerful healing potion. That, or it's the white jade bush, which is poisonous."


Firstly, adding the light secondary colours still creates White, since they're in equal proportion.

Secondly, have you considered marking subschools? For example, Conjuration (Calling) could be lighter green (since the binding spess include abjuration and enchemntment elements), (healing) could be darker green (closer to necromancy), stuff like that.


The Sideromancer wrote:
Firstly, adding the light secondary colours still creates White, since they're in equal proportion.

Yes, you're right. I wish it would let me edit to add in the "Subtractive" color system, but there it is.

The Sideromancer wrote:
Secondly, have you considered marking subschools? For example, Conjuration (Calling) could be lighter green (since the binding spess include abjuration and enchemntment elements), (healing) could be darker green (closer to necromancy), stuff like that.

That's a good suggestion. Per my follow up posted, rather than the GM assigning each spell with its own Tints, Tones and Shades, a universal template for subschools would be a helpful system. Great idea.


This is great! I'm going to borrow this as well. Also +3 for properly using the words transparent and translucent.


Kaelan Ashenveil wrote:

I like this, because it could make poisons that much more dangerous to the untrained.

"This is a potion made from the white dragon bush, which is a delicious and powerful healing potion. That, or it's the white jade bush, which is poisonous."

You just quoted Uncle Iroh while talking about potions in Pathfinder.. You sir have my vote.

@Victor Crow: this is great, I am going to be using this from now on. Thank you!

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