D&D Chopped! (or a new kind of alchemy challenge)

Hello, cooking fans! Variety is the spice of life (or is that za’atar?). So all you DMs out there looking to change your conflicts, look no further. Here is the Chopped Challenge!

In Join the Party, our heroes have stumbled into an alchemy room. They find Tammy and Taylor, twin dragonborn alchemy apprentices squabbling with each other. In order to calm them down, the two challenge the heroes to an alchemy challenge that they call Chopped. (Shoutout to my new cable subscription that allows me to watch so much Food Network all the time.)

The challenge is pretty simple: Take an ingredient from one cabinet of 20 shelves, and take a modifier ingredient from another shelf. Figure out what it is, brew it in a shared cauldron with fire (they’re brass dragonborn, easy with the burners). And then, plate the potion.

The game mechanics of the challenge are pretty simple as well. Roll a d20, then a d10. It is then up to the players to work with their NPC and make checks or actions that will further this goal. Do you dash and acrobatics your way forward to get the cauldron first? Do you make nature checks to figure out what you’re dealing with? Do you look around for books to improve, or try to steal the other ingredient.

Whoever makes the “best” potion wins! Whatever best means is up to the judge. Maybe a hag needs the most destructive potion possible. Or a bored king needs some entertainment and will choose arbitrarily. Or Alex Guarnaschelli thinks your eldritch root is a LITTLE overdone. (Alex, please come play D&D with me please).

The Chopped challenge solves two problems. First, there’s no easy Alchemy mechanic in D&D 5e. The Unearthed Arcana released by Wizards of the Coast this year introduces some ideas with the Artificer, but it is extremely paltry in comparison to the potion-making in other fantasy games like Skyrim. Second, not every session needs a fight and initiative rolling. Varying challenges is fun and allows players to open up their roleplaying abilities while trying to win something.

The table I used for my game is below! Steal and change as you fit. Just don’t get chopped.


CHOPPED TABLE

Instructions: Roll d20, then a d10. The potion is the ingredient condition changed by the modifier.

INGREDIENT:

  1. Bloodgrass: restores 10 hit points.
  2. Fennel silk: resistance to cold damage for one hour
  3. Hyacinth nectar: removes poison
  4. Arctic creeper: 1d10+3 cold damage poison
  5. Amanita cap: passing out, non-lethal damage
  6. Basilisk breath: slowly paralyzed opponent. Target makes DC 13 CON. Target is slowed (1/2 speed) if passed. Paralyzed if failed.
  7. Cactus juice: target will not notice effect for an hour/5 rounds of damage
  8. Drakus flower: fire or acid damage poison
  9. Frozen seedlings: slow poison
  10. Harada leaf: disadvantage on ability checks
  11. Deep crab shell: can breathe underwater
  12. Ironwood heart: potion of growth (grow one size — Medium to Large)
  13. Arrowroot: +1 attack for one minute
  14. Blue toadshade: potion of gaseous form
  15. Fiend’s ivy: potion of mindreading
  16. Verdant nettle: potion of animal friendship
  17. Voidroot: potion of flying
  18. Moonstone: one hour of lycanthropy
  19. Flashbang: potion of amnesia
  20. Forked tongue: one hour, can talk/read any language

MODIFIER:

  1. Chromus slime: potion does the exact opposite of ingredient
  2. Dried ephedra: increase modifier by 1
  3. Emetic wax: delay by 12 hours
  4. Lavender sprig: won’t blow up in your face if cauldron isn’t cleaned
  5. Milkweed seeds: doubles modifier
  6. Quicksilver lichen: twice as potent, goes away twice as quickly
  7. Spineflower berries: increase dice-type by 1 size
  8. Daisy chain: No modifier
  9. Juniper berry: drowsy. Must make 3 CON saves of 10 over the day to not fall asleep.
  10. Roll the D10 twice more. Add two modifiers.
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