One of the things that made Planescape work, flavor-wise, was the cant. The designers had incorporated the rhyming slang of 19th century old world thievery and made it a part of the way NPCs spoke.
Our friend and kobold rival Wolfgang Baur did something similar in The Book of Roguish Luck, a sourcebook he designed for Malhavoc Press back in 2005. As part of the creation of a new class, the gutter mage, an impromptu street-educated magic user, he gave new names to the standard spells on the class list.
This gutter mage argot added great flavor for any player character who used it. The cantrip bouncing fall became bounce the baby, ray of enfeeblement became palsy and shake, charming lie became trust me, boys, and my all-time favorite, treasure magnet (greater), became into the bag, dammit!
Now, this being the Halloween season and all, and me being on a witch kick after reading Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” I thought of doing something similar for potions.
Any witch worth her salt, after all, is going to have her own monikers for the brews she cooks up in her cauldron.
I mean, you can bet those miniature Dutch fellows that shared their keg with Rip Van Winkle had a special name for the draft that knocked him 20 years sideways, even if Irving didn’t record it.
So, here’s my take on potions (and other edible items), oils, salves (and sympathetic magics) and inhalants that fantasy witches of my homebrew village of Crossroads Hollow might concoct, which you can use to substitute for common potions.
The lists are by the witch item name, followed by the common spell name, and finally descriptor.
A Bitter Pill (stinking cloud)
A Good Sight Smarter (fox’s cunning)
Eyedrops of dew and pixie dust.
Braid the Snake (animate rope)
Small crafted thread wrapped about a cord or rope.
Buck Up (virtue)
Suck on a lozenge.
Ceiling Cling (spider climb)
Powder rubbed into the palms and pads of the bare feet and hands.
Celery Stalk (hide from animals)
Hearty chew on a thickly green celery stalk.
Cheat the Reaper (stabilize)
Oil poured into the ear canal.
Clear Fizzy (invisibility)
Draught of a sparkling soda.
Creamy Goodness (eagle’s splendor)
Additive to cow’s or goat’s milk.
Day Old Bread (purify food and drink)
Spritz or droplets applied to stale, spoiled or soured food and drink.
Devil’s Guiding Hand (guidance)
Draught of fiery distilled liquor.
Down the Rabbit Hole (reduce person)
A taste of sweet nectar from a thimble.
Dutch Oven Pie (remove blindness/deafness)
Sample this sweet dessert.
Eve’s Apple (sleep)
A bite of prepared fruit that looks irresistibly delicious, such as an apple, peach or pear.
Fat Franny’s Fish Food (water breathing)
Flakes of gag-inducing texture that creates gills.
Grandma’s Tarts (goodberry)
Ingest small fruit cakes.
Granny’s Give a Damn (remove curse)
Foul-tasting porridge (may require check to keep it down).
Granny’s Mushroom Surprise (remove disease)
Eat creamy soup made from mushrooms picked under a quarter moon.
Heart of a Lion (heroism)
Chomp down and crack open a red, round hard candy.
High Hopes Honey Cake. (good hope)
Tasty sweet baked at midnight.
Jackrabbit Rum Punch (darkvision)
Gulp down rum and carrot juice concoction.
Jumpin’ Bean (jump)
Eat a small bean.
Katerina’s Kitchen Knife (keen edge)
Oil applied to a bladed weapon.
Kitty’s Nip (cat’s grace)
Just a nip of this distilled liquor.
Leave Nothing Behind (pass without a trace)
Salve or powder rubbed on feet.
Lilly’s Stogie (water walk)
Smoke a cigar wrapped with lily pad leaf.
Lost in the Fog (gaseous form)
Additive to pipe tobacco whose smoke produces a cloud of vapor.
Maenad’s Curse (rage)
Down a cup of stout wine fermented with a strand of satyr fur.
Mighty Oak’s Varnish (shillelagh)
Rag doused with a polish rubbed onto a cudgel or wood club.
Mornin’ Joe (longstrider)
Eat a candy coated roasted coffee bean.
Ne’er Mind the Weather (endure elements)
Scented oil (or sometimes, a thick grease) applied liberally on the body.
Puff o’ Smoke (blur)
Quick drag on a cigarillo obscures character’s outline.
Quicklime Sally (protection from …)
One of a variety of powdered or crumpled chalk tossed at the feet of the caster that instantly imparts a protection spell. Among the forms:
- Fingernails on the blackboard (… energy, sonic). Blackboard chalk.
- Tummy ache (… energy, acid). Crushed antacid tablets of calcium carbonate
- Tailor’s stripe (… energy, cold). Talc used to mark fabric for tailoring.
- Fireproofing (… energy, fire). Slaked lime for building mortar.
- Spark begone (… energy, electricity). Builder’s putty.
- Off the mark (… arrows). Chalk used to absorb perspiration and increase grip.
Raised by the Roost (owl’s wisdom)
Sampling of a prepared sap from a tree that serves as an owl’s nest.
Reap the Whirlwind (haste)
Quaff a tea steeped with ginger, autumn leaf and stirred with haystraw.
Sculptor’s Friend (stone shape)
Grey-green putty applied to stone.
Shoe Leather Jerky (magic fang, greater)
Gnaw on tasteless jerky increases natural armor.
Stranger’s Sour Balls (tongues)
Suck on whiskey sour candies.
Tinker’s Lubricant (magic vestment)
Oil applied to the joints of armor or clothing.
Too Big Fer Yer Britches (enlarge person)
A gulp of bitter brew from an oversized jug.
Toothpick tea (barkskin)
Drain a canteen of tea steeped with wood bark.
Under the New Moon (darkness)
Place this circular wafer on your tongue.
Up Draft (fly)
Swig of a light pilsner ale brewed on a windy day.
Upsy Daisy (levitate)
Spoonful of light syrup.
Up to Snuff (remove fear)
Inhale a snuff concoction.
Voodoo Stroll (hide from undead)
Inhale a bitter incense smoke.
Whipped into Shape (aid)
Ingesting a black licorice whip.
Witch’s Cake (delay poison)
Eat a foul-tasting cake.
Witch’s Cookie (neutralize poison)
Eat a foul-tasting cookie.