Love Potion
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OBERON: Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove:
A sweet Athenian lady is in love
With a disdainful youth; anoint his eyes;
But do it when the next thing he espies
May be the lady. Thou shalt know the man
By the Athenian garments he has on.

PUCK: Fear not, my lord, your servant shall do so.

OBERON: Nothing could possibly go wrong…

A Midsummer-Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Basic Information

Of all the varieties of potions, spells and sundry enchantments, perhaps the most dangerous is the Love Potion, (or Philtre). It generally falls into one of three classifications:

  • Dedicated Love Potion: causes the imbiber to fall in love with a specific individual. Usually this requires the potion to contain a genetic sample of that individual (hair, teardrops, fingernail scrapings, spit, Social Security Number, etc.)
  • Love-At-First-Sight Potion: causes the imbiber to fall madly in love with the first person he or she sees. Usually it's the first person of the opposite sex, but not always. Sometimes it's the first creature the imbiber sets eyes on, regardless of species.
  • Lust Potion: ignores the higher emotions and goes right for the hormones; the imbiber doesn't know if it is day or night and then he starts off kissing everything in sight. Also known as an aphrodisiac.

Usually the Love Potion causes the subject to fall in love with somebody else, but in some cases the potion's effect is to make the subject more lovable and cause other people to become attracted to him. Often pheremones are used as a pseudo-scientific justification for this type of thing. If you're as old as this arcanist, you can remember TV ads for a men's cologne called "Hai Karate" that used that theme. If you're younger, you probably think "Axe" invented it. The women's scent "Impulse" was advertised on much the same basis (although "attracts unexpected attention from strangers" may be less of a selling point for women).

Love Potions can be simply drunk straight from the goblet, but frequently they are slipped into something else, usually foods or drinks which already have stimulating or dis-inhibiting qualities, such as wine, chocolate bonbons, beer, etc. Other possible delivery agents include perfumes, incense, and lotions.

Some Love Potions are indiscriminate, affecting not just a single person, but everybody in the immediate area. In that case, you'd better lock the doors because Love Is In the Air

Depending on the necessities of plot, the potion could be permanent, or could wear off after an inconvenient length of time. There might be an antidote. You hope so.

In a serious campaign, the GM (and players) should bear in mind that this is the fantasy equivalent of a date-rape drug … there is a reason that it was traditionally one of the things that people went to a witch for and witch boons never end well.


Game and Story Use

  • PC's generally hate being told how they feel and how they must act. For that reason, dosing a PC with a Love Potion is probably a bad idea.
    • Unless the player is cool with the idea. Even then, it's a good idea to limit the effects of the potion; give it a temporary duration.
    • Some game systems allow a character to "make a saving throw" or otherwise resist the effects of magic. A player is less likely to resent being zapped by Cupid's Arrow if he has at least a chance to get out of it.
  • Have an NPC under the influence of a Love Potion… and have her fall in love with one of the PC's.
    • Does he take advantage of her? Or does he just want to escape?
    • Of course, a love potion may well not alter someone's basic character - you may be expecting easy sex, only to find out that they've asked their family to approach yours and start marriage negotiations … or they become violently jealous and start hunting down and killing perceived rivals, or some other hilarity.
  • An NPC has developed a crush on one of the PC's and with the help of the Old Gypsy on 34th and Vine as procured a potion which she intends to slip into the PC's mead. Can the rest of the PC's find out in time and stop her?
  • An important NPC has fallen under the spell of an evil sorceress' Love Potion and it's up to the PCs to snap him out of it. But he doesn't want to be cured!
  • A powerful queen wishes to facilitate the marriage between her daughter and a neighbouring king and to that end charges the PCs with administering a Love Potion to the girl at just the right moment.
    • If one of the PCs is named Tristan, this could go badly.
  • Make sure you read the instructions - the protagonist of Love Potion #9 (very much a type 3) may not have been meant to drink the stuff himself (although given that it "smelled like turpentine and looked like Indian ink" it's hard to know what else he could have done with it).
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