The Potion Factory for Fun Faction Finagling

On theme with this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, here’s an idea for arming your next faction without destroying campaign balance.

We began my Murder Hobos campaign as a playtest of the D&D 5E rules using the adventure Lost Mine of Phandelver included in the Starter Set box.

In the final dungeon there’s a mystical spell forge. About the time the PCs discovered this, they freed three trapped demons who ravaged the area, forcing the party to flee. The demons were homebrew and not part of the official adventure.

The demons seek to bring Orcus to the Realms as a new emperor. So, I had the cunning creatures discover the Spell Forge, which the PCs had just removed all dangers from (thanks guys!).

Next, the demons enslaved commoners from nearby settlements and are making them harvest various components night and day.

Using the components and Spell Forge, the demons are now cranking out potions daily and issuing them to minions to give them an added edge.

Flipping through the potions section of my rulebook, I selected six. I choose that number so I’d have a bit of variety, a bit of recurrence, and a number I could roll a dice against if desired. I ended up choosing these brews:

  1. Potion of Dragon Breath (orange, flickering liquid, smoke pours out)
  2. Potion of Flying (clear liquid with cloudy white impurities)
  3. Potion of Giant Strength (transparent liquid with sliver of giant fingernail)
  4. Potion of Heroism (blue bubbling liquid that steams)
  5. Potion of Invulnerability (syrupy liquid looks like liquified iron)
  6. Potion of Speed (yellow fluid streaked with black swirls)

Here’s why I like this idea:

  • Each potion offers a cool add-on to foes the PCs encounter
  • PCs can puzzle over potions and foe power-ups by potion description before, during, or after encounters
  • One-shot items make it easier to maintain campaign balance
  • Stakes rise as monsters drink the treasure, requiring players to think about how to approach encounters differently than just barging in and rolling initiative
  • There’s a larger plot element here than just the potions: the Spell Forge in enemy hands (which I can turn into one or more Five Room Dungeons reusing the location)

Whether you use this idea as-is or not, I think there’s a cooler meta idea here. And that’s giving the enemy a Factory. A means of producing an edge distributable to many faction agents.

What kind of Faction Factory could you create in your game to get these great benefits and gameplay effects?

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