What happens if you feed a potion to a dead (not unconscious) creature?

Specifically, could you shrink a corpse by force feeding it a Potion of Dimunition?

My gut says there's a reason potions actually need to be ingested (as opposed to showered in/applied topically). Since a corpse lacks the capacity to digest, I feel like the magic wouldn't work. But I don't have anything to back this up.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Is a dead creature's body considered an "object"? \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 14:23
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 Definitely not a duplicate: that doesn’t even mention potions, let alone is a question about them. That could be cited in an answer though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2018 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie it does, however, mention corpses and things that target creatures... like potions. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


Some “potions” are applied topically. Actually, these “potions” are called oils, and refer to things like oil of sharpness which, when poured over a piercing or slashing weapon, makes it magically sharper. All of the oils are like that: they are effects for items, not for creatures, and they are applied to the item by pouring or dunking or whatever, rather than ingested.

Potions, on the other hand, use the term “imbibed.” That’s a fancy word for drinking. And drinking means more than just pouring it down a throat, it means swallowing and digestion and the substance making its way into the body. And besides, potions affect creatures, rather than objects the way oils do, and corpses are considered objects.

So pouring a potion down a corpse’s throat accomplishes about the same as pouring the same potion on the ground: nothing. If you specifically wanted a potion-like thing that could be applied to a corpse, that would be, for example, an oil of gentle repose, and that would be applied topically.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that if potions affect creatures and not objects and if corpses are objects, potions don't affect corpses. But I don't know if I buy that it's because of digestion. How quickly does a shrinking potion take effect? If it's almost immediately, then that's probably faster than it could reach your liver or be absorbed into the bloodstream. Basically if it is faster than you would feel the effects of taking a shot of whiskey, then something else is going on besides digestion. Are potions generally considered magical? Or more herbal/alchemical? \$\endgroup\$
    – Anthony
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nvm. Just saw the other answer's quote : "Potions are consumable magic items". But again, I say that means it's not digestion but some sort of "life force" dependent magic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anthony
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 0:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Anthony Ultimately, potions are magic—and magic can differentiate between “drinking” and “being poured down a tube of dead flesh” just by being magic. You’re right that digestion per se probably isn’t really involved. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 0:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh. Google has typeahead for potion of resurrection 5e before being given the r. Only real result is called out as a homebrew. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joshua
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Part of the reason we (in real life) consume medicine (tylenol, etc.) is that it's easier to absorb into the body via digestion. I'm not a doctor, but you could probably make a topical salve of mushed up tylenol and achieve a similar pain-killing effect... but I imagine you would need a lot more of the active ingredient. So maybe the same logic applies to potions? By imbibing/digesting them, less of the "active ingredient" is required... when a potion is concocted, its effect is calibrated based on the assumption that it's going to be absorbed easily into the blood. \$\endgroup\$
    – convoke
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 15:39

Nothing Happens

From the DMG

Potions are consumable magic items. Drinking a potion or administering a potion to another character requires an action.

Emphasis mine. According to this a corpse is considered an object, not a character or creature. Objects cannot use potions. Otherwise, the bottle/container the potion is in would experience the effect of the potion.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That DMG quote on its own doesn't rule out administering a potion to a corpse. It does tell you it will take longer than 1 action, if it were possible. (It's the rest of your answer, and @KRyan's, which tells us that it's not possible at all.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2018 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes No, the first is enough as it says administering a potion requires an action. There is no other way to do it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2018 at 21:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2: We also need to know that there's no other text anywhere else covering the unusual case of using potions on non-character objects like corpses. It seems that is the case, but this answer doesn't say so. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15, 2018 at 2:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that DMG quote is absence of evidence, not evidence of absence. It doesn't say whether hurling a potion at a wall takes an action... does that mean it's impossible to hurl a potion at a wall? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 9:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sneftel I interpreted the quote as saying "These are the only ways to use the potion while gaining the effects of the potion". True, it doesn't say that, but the lack of any reference (that I know of) regarding potion-object interactions indicates that there is no such interaction, because objects cannot be affected by potions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saladani
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 15:44

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