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Back in the second edition of AD&D, potions of Youth and Longevity were valuable, both to GMs as plot devices, and as a useful way for players to compensate for the variety of supernatural effects that caused aging. However, when Third Edition was released, unnatural aging was largely removed as a gameplay mechanic, having been replaced, for the most part, by experience point costs and negative levels. Potions of youth and longevity were removed at the same time, presumably as being no longer needed as a way of balancing powerful spells. (Also, third edition and 3.5 both moved potions away from having effects not covered by spell effects, and Pathfinder both removed the concept of experience point costs and made negative levels much easier to deal with. These aren't obviously relevant to my question, but I mention them here in case they're relevant to someone's answer in a way I can't predict.)

I'm looking to return the flavourful potions of Youth and Longevity to my Pathfinder game... But I'm worried that I might unbalance the game, or severely weaken the vermilisitude of a setting if I make eternal youth too cheap and easy to obtain.

Compounding this is the fact that I've got no actual play experience with second edition, so it's easy for me to misjudge the effect these potions had on the game.

Has anyone attempted to adapt potions of youth and longevity for Pathfinder before? For that matter, are there any published rules for it? What pitfalls should I look out for? How should I go about adapting second edition's Youth and Longevity potions to the Pathfinder rules?

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When introducing a new item/effect into a system I've found it's best to drip feed it and/or make such things exceedingly rare until the implications of this new item/effect can be understood. Rare components (unicorn tears, etc) or large expense can help this, but your world system could be rocked if aging powerful npcs hear word of what this is, a whole war could be sparked off over a single potion... –  Rob Mar 29 '12 at 7:57
@Rob Thanks for pointing that out. I'm actually planning to take the "Oh, youth potions were part of the setting the whole time. You didn't notice?" route, so I'm less concerned about the changes the items will make to the setting than the changes the items should have made to the setting retroactively. –  GMJoe Mar 30 '12 at 5:01
@user867 The game lets you play Elans, an immortal race, at LA +0. You could also become undead or Deathless (BoED) at any point in the game. No, immortality is not really unbalanced. –  Yandros Mar 30 '12 at 12:57
@Yandros I'm not concerned about immortality, itself, being the unbalancing factor, so much as I am about the possibility of players sinking vast fortunes into potions of youth and having little left ot spend on other magical items. I could compensate for that by giving them extra cash, of course, but I'd prefer not to. –  GMJoe Apr 4 '12 at 7:00
Instead of converting something from a past edition that may unbalance the game, just give your PC immortality as a plot device or reward. If he saves a god's life, tell him "You're immortal now". But personally, making a character immortal (from the GM's point of view) makes me want to try to kill him/her. –  Maxwell Gory Jan 19 at 16:04
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3 Answers

20th Level Alchemists in Pathfinder have the option of taking eternal youth as the Grand Discovery capstone ability.

Eternal Youth: The alchemist has discovered a cure for aging, and from this point forward he takes no penalty to his physical ability scores from advanced age. If the alchemist is already taking such penalties, they are removed at this time. (from the Advanced Players Guide, page 31)

Likewise, 20th level Wizards can take the Immortality Arcane Discovery in place of their 20th Level bonus feat

Immortality (Ex): You discover a cure for aging, and from this point forward you take no penalty to your physical ability scores from advanced age. If you are already taking such penalties, they are removed at this time. You must be at least a 20th-level wizard to select this discovery. (Ultimate Magic, Page 86).

Most games do not span over decades so these sorts of rules are more for flavour. I don't think it would be game breaking to bring in homebrew rules to allow characters to achieve this earlier, like at 10th level.

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Death from unlucky dice rolls is far more common than death from advanced age. –  okeefe Mar 29 '12 at 12:38
Heh, I've never had a character around long enough to get the "old penalties". They always either die or reach a high level and retire before they're out of their young years. –  BBlake Mar 29 '12 at 14:07
Interesting... While this doesn't specifically refer to the potions, it kinda-sorta-definitely implies that such potions should only be created by relatively powerful magic-users. Come to think of it, in second edition, potions could only be made by characters of ninth level and higher. That kind of requirement could definitely help keep the in-setting rarity high. –  GMJoe Mar 30 '12 at 4:56
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The Pathfinder Campaign setting has the Sun Orchid Elixir, which functionally reverts the imbiber to a random starting age for their class. It's a minor artifact, and the sale of it is heavily controlled by Thuvia, but I think this fits the bill for what you're wanting.

It's on page 301 of The Inner Sea World Guide.

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Immortality already exists in your campaign. Only it's not in the form of potions and Eternal Youth, but in other forms, that have their cost:

The Price of Immortality

What I mean is that there are already several concepts which are equivalent to immortality. There are Liches, for instance, which are the result of evil wizards seeking for immortality - and achieving it. There are constructs which are used to house the souls of their makers. You can probably think of quite a few other options involving other sources of power (Gods? Outer planes? You name it!) which can give a character eternal youth and which are already a part of the standard Pathfinder campaign worlds.

What's in common to all these solutions? The same thing that prevents them from having dire social consequences to your campaign setting - they come with a cost. Most of them involve giving up your humanity in order to achieve immortality, which precludes you from being a part of human society, which prevent immortality from unbalancing it. Liches are hated undead. Constructs are, well, constructs. The knight who guards the Holy Grail is immortal, but only as long as he dedicates his life to guarding it.

Immortality in the Campaign

So what's your purpose in introducing immortality and eternal youth to your campaign?

If it's a goal for the PCs to achieve, do they intend to keep on playing those PCs afterwards? Is there really a point to just carrying on as before, only immortal, seeing as many of their goals, as characters, will be made moot by immortality?

You can make it interesting by making the cost of immortality the central focus of the quest for the Fountain of Youth. Either you have the characters have to choose between eternal life and their humanity (or elvenity, or dwarfinity, or whatever), leading to the choice being the crowning moment for the PC's life. Or, alternately, you can have them get their immortality, but only then learn of the cost, and continue their story in dealing with the cost, and perhaps a quest to return to their former condition.

If you're not worried about the PCs, what wondering if immortal NPCs will unbalance the game world, then the prices mentioned above should keep those instances to a manageable minimum. There's a natural balance between wizards selling their souls to demons for immortality and adventurers who come around and kill them. Deep in the jungle there's a whole bunch of immortal guardians of the Fountain who feel ripped off because they can never leave its side. And those pesky immortal Avatars of the Gods who walk around as deus ex machinas? Well, how many of them are there, anyway?

Immortality is everywhere in fantasy settings. The trick to not have it ruin your setting is to balance it out with a price.

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You, ah... You make some interesting points, here with regards to how immortality is usually balanced within a setting. Could you perhaps expand on this so as to apply it specifically to the part of my question that's in bold? –  GMJoe Jan 21 at 3:15
My main point is that there isn't any adapting necessary. Any social problems present in 2e are still relevant to PF - there are magical aging effects, true, but how do they change what potions of longevity do to people who weren't magically aged? Just like in 2e, these potions either have limited usage, are prohibitively expensive, or have a chance of catastrophic failure - those are the costs. –  lisardggY Jan 22 at 5:05
The similarities between the games are easy to deal with; It's the differences that cause me trouble. For example, in 2nd edition, access to specific magic items was gated by GM discretion and random item drops, items had no actual prices listed, and indeed, the rules assumed that magic items were not, under normal circumstances, for sale. By contrast, 3rd edition is known for its "magic item mart" philosophy of assigning a price tag to everything, assuming that players generally have access to magic items that they can afford, and controlling wealth as a form of game balance. –  GMJoe Jan 22 at 5:18
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