Groundbreaking – Perry’s Powdered Potions

“Welcome, welcome, what can I help you with today?” the old man behind the counter smiles as he looks up. “The sign outside says ‘powdered potions’ … how does that even work?” asks the traveller curiously. “Well, let me show you!” replies the old man as he grabs a pouch, a vial, and some water. “I am Perry, in case you were wondering … what might I call you?”

Hello again, Randal here with more Groundbreaking. Today we are going to learn a little bit about an herbalist by the name of Perry that lives in the eastern most reaches of the lightly forested area  just on the southern edge of the desert.

GM Note. This idea came to me while chatting on Discord about mixing or overdosing on potions. I had originally wanted to do something related to the desert, but suddenly it popped into my head that carrying water, even in vials is going to be heavier than carrying powder. When you consider the need for water in a desert, it might be worth keeping the potion as a powder so that you can decide if you want water to live or a potion. The loss of breaking a potion vial, desert or not, is quite expensive and so a pouch of powder is safer for transport in that regard.

The Shop. A game trail meanders through this wild, untamed, lightly forested region of the basin at the deserts edge. Wandering along a low hill, travelers can easily see the desert to the north over the trees below. Following a dip in the terrain, the trail turns back on itself into a depression where a large piece of basalt is wedged between two knolls, under which one finds the most out of place sight you are likely to see in the basin (and that says a lot). A masterfully built shop worthy of any of the great metropolitan cities of the world, complete with ornate signage in multiple languages (common, draconic, elven, gnomish) and a cobblestone courtyard with benches surrounding a water fountain that could well belong to a king (Incredible checks identify the famous artisans that crate. The cobblestones surrounding the fountain (which has the statue of a pegasus as the centerpiece) form a dozen evenly spaced circular mosaic patterns.

The shop opens at sun up, closes for an hour at high noon, and locks up an hour after dark. The interior is an amalgamation of an herbalists shop, an alchemists shop, and a deli. While Perry is very open and honest about his herbs and potions, he always cracks a joke about the type of meat he is serving, usually to the tune of “biggest squirrels in the forest live right out back.” All herbs and spell component ingredients are displayed in baskets, drawers, and shelves, none of which are labeled. He will happily identify and ingredient, but he uses the lack of labels to gauge the worthiness of a customer as well as a deterrent for would be pickpockets.

It is easy to notice how out of place this is (Easy Check), but difficult to place the style of architecture (Hard Check), and even harder to identify the artisans that crafted the sign (Incredible Check), statue (Ultimate Check), and fountain (Incredible Check). Somebody well trained in arcana might recognize the cobblestone courtyard as modified summoning/teleportation circle (Ultimate Check), and with that knowledge recognize that the mosaics represent academies from around the world (Incredible Checks). The shop’s front door uses a key lock (3 Hard Checks) while the interior door to the back and the rear entrance have arcane locks (3 Ultimate Checks). Stealing from the shop is possible (Hard Check), and if somebody is distracting Perry (Medium Check) it becomes easier (Medium Check); but there aren’t any items of significant value to make it worth the trip.

The Man. Perry is an aged half-elf with a speech pattern that implies a privileged upbringing (Easy Check) and decades of formal education (Medium Check). The sight, on the other hand, is that of a hedge-witch trying to grow the perfect hybrid radish-carrot. His hair is long and properly tied back, but smudged from running dirty hands through it, just as his outfit is clearly that which a nobleman would put on in the morning only to have crawled around a garden all day in it. When a customer arrives, to the sound of the bell attached to the door, Perry finishes what he is working on before using magic to clean himself up, doing so slow enough to ensure that all guests can appreciate that he cleans himself up for them. In spite of his formal education, he felt his calling as an alchemist first, and a witch second. In fact, if you get him on the subject (Easy Check) and ask nicely (Medium Check) he will happily tell you about trying to summon a familiar at his academy only to meet a ferret that explained to him that being a witch was better than being a wizard; although it wasn’t until after he finished his alchemical training that he decided to take up the ferret’s offer. After graduation, he traveled the world in search of alchemical formulae and the hopes of finding the right companion to teach him the ways of the witch. It was during these travels, in a desert to be specific, that he ran out of water and during a bout of heat stroke he envisioned the thing that would change his life forever, powdered potions.

Although he lives far from civilization, he maintains the air and etiquette of somebody that spends his days in a bustling city. Befriending him is simple (Easy Check) but gaining his trust takes time (3 Hard Checks; once per week). Anybody visiting more than once a week is likely to encounter another customer, and observation can link their outfits to one of the mosaic circles (Hard Check). Anybody with his trust can expect him to request them to help with acquiring ingredients (Medium Check; once per week) or special meats (Hard Check; once per month) or even to take care of some wild life that is threatening him (Hard Check), his shop (Medium Check), or the various gardens (Medium Check) he maintains in the wild. Any attempt to threaten, coerce, blackmail, or attack him is met with resigned a counterattack that includes a water elemental and animated marble pegasus (Incredible Encounter).

The Process. Powdered potions are really quite simple, if extremely hard to master. By adding a special process to the creation of a potion or extract (adding 10% to the creation cost and raising the DC by 5), the water is completely evaporated. The resulting powder can be stored in a vial, pouch, or even folded parchment. The process of rehydrating the potion is as simple as pouring it into an ounce of water. While not very quick when in a battle, it makes carrying multiple potions easier and safer than in vials. A standard vial can hold 3 potions worth of powder, but it must be rehydrated at the correct dosage or the rehydration process fails. Those that have gained his trust, and have helped him out, can learn the process from him (5 Ultimate Checks; 1 per week) with the caveat that they do not operate with his clientele and they keep him apprised of their business dealings.

Encounters and Checks. I have provided Encounters and Checks that have the following ratings: Easy, Medium, Hard, Incredible, Ultimate. Checks are of a skill that the GM decides is appropriate. Encounters really implies a series of activities or encounters, but a single encounter can suffice for a short side quest. If not using DCs scaled to the party, then assume an average party level of 5. For first edition, use the following numbers:
Easy – Check DC 10, APL -1
Medium – Check DC 15, APL +0
Hard – Check DC 20, APL +1
Incredible – Check DC 25, APL +2
Ultimate – Check DC 30, APL +3

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Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him vast amounts of ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, playing with his kids, bowling, or running a PF campaign, Randal is likely writing some new mobile web app (http://halfmugtavern.blog) to enhance the experience of playing Pathfinder!

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