I have a lot of sympathy for game designers. They start by spotting a hole in an existing play experience, then go about trying to patch it. Repercussions ripple out from there. The progression makes a sort of sense, but that doesn’t make it any less silly:
  1. “What if the healer goes down in combat? There should be an easy first aid option!”
  2. “Cool,” says 3.5 D&D. “Let’s make it so that a character can ‘carefully administer’ a potion to an unconscious creature. We’ll call that a full-round action as our hypothetical first responder ‘trickles the liquid down the creature’s throat.'”
  3. “Good fix! Actually, you might be onto something. People really seem to like using potions in combat now. Is there any way we can expand that design space?”
  4. “Hell yeah!” says Pathfinder 1e. “Let’s give them magical beer helmets and make frat boy chugging a feat!”
  5. “Erm… I guess? That might be too much of good thing though.”
  6. “I agree,” says 5e D&D. “Away with all this rules bloat and inelegant complexity! Let’s just make it a standard action to potion yourself or your buddy.”

Cue Oracle and her pal Mr. Heal Plane. Gifs of Jakie Chan’s Drunken Master notwithstanding, I think we can agree that it doesn’t make much sense that characters can slop heal juice into their buddies’ mouths mid-sword fight. If you’ve ever missed your own mouth trying to sip-and-walk (and gods know I have), you can imagine how hard it would be holding a bottle up to your flanking partner. WHARRGARBL is all I have to say to that.

Still, people love doing this biz. There’s even a popular 5e house rule to make it easier, requiring only a bonus action to potion your pals. It adds a bit of versatility to the ol’ stand-and-swing of grindy combat, which I’m very much here for. I only wish that we could invent a different narrative device for “consumable items we use in combat.” Perhaps one with a less silly visual attached.

Therefore, for today’s discussion question, I turn to you denizens of Handbook-World for aid. If we were to rebrand “potions” thematically, what would they look like? Little ninja smoke bombs we smash on the ground? Colorful thrown powders à la Holi? Is there a system that does consumables best? Sound off with all your most magical single-serving items down in the comments!


EVENT: The Handbook is heading out for Free Comic Book Day! We’ll have our table set up at the Mini Comic Convention in Lawrenceville, GA! Both the writer & illustrator of this here Handbook of Heroes will be there on Saturday, May 7th from 10 AM – 4 PM. We’re always down to talk shop in person, and we’d love to meet any and all of you guys out in meat space.


GET YOUR SCHWAG ON! Want a piece of Handbook-World to hang on you wall? Then you’ll want to check out the “Hero” reward tier on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Each monthly treasure haul will bring you prints, decals, buttons, bookmarks and more! There’s even talk of a few Handbook-themed mini-dungeons on the horizon. So hit the link, open up that treasure chest, and see what loot awaits!