dnd 5e healing potion rules and homebrew

DnD 5e Healing Potion – Official Rules and Useful Homebrew

Potion of Healing, generally known in dnd 5e as a healing potion, is arguably the most useful and commonly used item in the game. Therefore it is not a surprise, that there are as many iteration of official and homebrew rules as there are games out there. In my own experience I went through several different setups to finally settle down on something that is useful, easy to apply and porvides tactical value for players.

Here is a complete guide for Dungeon and Dragons 5e Potion of Healing rules you will ever need in your games. Feel free to skip to the most interesting part right away.

Official DnD 5e Rules on Healing Potions

The official dnd 5e healing potion rules are straightforward and simple. In Player’s Handbook on page 150, we can read:

Potion of Healing. A character who drinks the magical red fluid in this vial regains 2d4 + 2 hit points. Drinking or administering a potion takes an action.

There is some additional piece of information in Dungeon Master’s Guide and rules about brewing potions in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Below I break down all the core mechanics and information, so you don’t have to browse all of the books.

You regain hit points when you drink this potion. The number of hit points depends on the potion’s rarity, as shown in the Potions of Healing table. Whatever its potency, the potion’s red liquid glimmers when agitated. 

Potion ofRarityHP RegainedPrice
HealingCommon2d4 + 250 gp
Greater healingUncommon4d4 + 4100 gp
Superior healingRare8d4 + 8500 gp
Supreme healingVery rare10d4 +201350 gp
Potion of Healing Rarity, HP and Price

Alternatively, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything gives a formula to roll and count the price of healing potion. It goes like this:

  • Potion of Greater Healing = [1d6 x 50] gp
  • Potion of Superior Healing = [2d10 x 500] gp
  • Potion of Supreme Healing = [1d4+1 x 50000] gp

The differences in price here can be quite significant, as you can see. Nontheless, it shows us how big of a range the rarity, price and significance the potions of healing can have.

Using the Potions

Although the rules state that drinking a potion is an action, there are many alternative rules and ways people approach it at their tables. It seems only natural that using a healing potion would be a full action, nevertheless the issue of using potions often comes up during play.

Is it the same action to drink a potion of healing yourself? Is it more or less complicated to feed your fallen friend with a potion?

There are several way to approach it.

  • Using a potion of healing on yourself or other willing creature is considered an action. [Action – Action]
  • Using a potion of healing on yourself is considered a bonus action and using it on other willing creature is considered an action. [Bonus action – Action]
  • Using a potion of healing on yourself or other willing creature is considered a bonus action. [Bonus action – Bonus action]

This slight change can be dramatic in the outcome, because it is strongly embedded in combat economics. There are a few elements I recommend to consider before ruling on this matter in your game. For most DMs the option number one would be the ‘canon’ and the closest to the rules.

  1. Dynamics. Dynamics of your adventure and how much fights you put into them. If players face more than two encounters between short-rest, the ability to use a healing potion in the right moment can be a game changer.
  2. Team composition. Obviously it would be great if every group had a cleric or a druid with healing powers, but sometimes it’s just not the case. Healing potion and rest could be the only way for them to recover from whatever you make them face.
  3. Numer of PCs. It is much easier to use an action to heal when there is 7-8 characters running around the map vs 2-3 PC, where every single moment counts and falling unconscious is much more lethal.
  4. Rarity. When potion of healing can be purchased everywhere and players are getting some traction with money, it is easy for them to stock on supplies. However, if using a potion is an expensive act within the combat economy, buying PoH just doesn’t make much sense.

So let’s consider the Bonus Action – Action model and Bonus action – Bonus Action.

Bonus Action – Action, where a PC can consume a PoH in addition to taking an action is the most forgiving and balance out there. With a proper rarity balance and stretched period between short-rests, this rule elevates the role of healing potion and adds to its tactical value.

Similarly Bonus action – Bonus Action model is valid, however lacks a certain dramatic aspect, when feeding someone a potion. Since usually it means keeping someone alive and/or bringing back to fight, making it significant with Action, seems more appropriate for narrative reasons.

Hardcore mode

If you want your game to be really hard and demanding for players, consider using potions only as a part of short rests. In that case a short rest can be taken only if PC consume a potion to heal themselves.

Additional rules

There is plenty of homebrew rules on how to use potion of healing, so definitely find something that works best for you. I’ve tried many things and I even started to build a whole book with ingredients and plants for potions. As fun as it was, it works way better in video games like Witcher than with pen & paper.

Some cool links to check for yourself:

Dnd 5e Healing Potion Rarity

In dnd 5e, each magical item has a rarity level that usually clarifies the power and costs of the given item. Nevertheless, the rarity doesn’t always have to mean how common the certain item is in the game world. Even a ‘common magical item’ can be rare in the world, depending on the setting and your approach to magic in it.

Healing potions are not an exception. Perhaps healing potions in your world could be purchased in every store, available for the populous or maybe they’re brewed only by the powerful wizards and those with a gift of magic use them. This choice is entirely yours, but be aware of the consequences.

A good way to balance healing potion scarcity is making it available at certain points but in limited amounts. The smaller the city, the less potions you can purchase and sometimes it may also influence the price. Bigger cities with more magic users will make the potions much more available.

There is a great article about Worldbuilding touching on this topic by James Haeck on DNDBeyond.

Monsters with Healing Potions

Because we often use a word ‘monster’ to describe an opponent our party have to face, we instinctually reject the idea of it having any kind of possession. That can be the case in many instances but majority of the ‘monsters’ in the books are sentient and intelligent beings and thus it would be rather odd for them not to use any tools at all.

Same thing goes for healing potions. A goblin chief, a drow elite warrior or even a devil could without a doubt be in possession of a healing potion. That way, even if the party is away from any kind of city, they can still get their hand on some healing from time to time.

Oh and don’t forget! Those [monsters] who own potion of healing, will definitely use them when in need! Don’t make your foes stack on them and not use them when in dire situation.

Crafting Potion of Healing

There is a plethora choices from an official rules to variety of homebrew rulesets on how to craft a healing potion. Personally, I’ve used more than five different rules in my campaigns, but every time is was either too complex, too random or too simplistic to use on regular basis. Eventually I came up with a rather simple, but fun to role-play system, that one of my players uses. Her druid character can brew potions based on herbalist kit, as stated in the book (both PHB and XGtE).

Here is the gist of it.

In order to create a potion of healing, a character needs a Herbalism Kit and proficiency with it. This item allows you to gather ingredients and brew them into healing potion.

Each potion has a Time of Brewing and a Cost of Production. I’ve seen some confusion, so let me clarify that. In order to make a certain potion you have to spend the right amount of time and the right amount of gold in order to prep it. Those two resources are not interchangeable…

… to a point. In my homebrew I also use a way to gather ingredients, in order to lower the costs.

Homebrew Potion of Healing Crafting Matrix
Potion of Healing Crafting Matrix

In other words, you can either spend 25 gp and 1 day to brew a Potion of Healing, or spend 1 day of downtime to gather ingredients and spend less gold. To calculate how much you can reduce the cost, I use a simple formula.

Cost of Production – (Proficiency Bonus x10%) x Cost of Production

The far right row is an already calculated amount for my player, so I can update it each level. If you want to use this table, feel free to copy it and use on your own drive.

In the file you can find some additional elements like homebrew gems mechanics, that I will gladly cover later.

As you can see I’ve reduced rolls and complex mechanics to the minimum. Some of you might think it’s a very reductive, but it guarantees a smooth game and very transparent rules for all the players at the table. If you think about adding some randomness, to make sure the players don’t break your balancing of the world’s economy, add a Herbalism Kit check to it.

Herbalism Kit check = d20 + Proficiency Bonus* + Wisdom** modifier
* – if proficient with Herbalism Kit
** – alternatively it could be Intelligence.

For fluff and storytelling, the herbalist kit in my campaign came with additional tome based on real XVI century herbarium. The full scan is here. Give it a look. I think however in the part is involved in brewing potions, would love such a book.

If you find this post useful please share it with others and/or let me know!

Don’t forget to check out my warlock subclasses here!

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