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In the Dresden Files RPG, a character can, under normal circumstances, take one action (attack, maneuver, block, etc.) on their turn in an exchange (YS 199). If the character wants to perform a minor action during the same turn, the GM may adjudicate it as either a supplemental action or a free action (YS 213). Is drinking a potion an action, a supplemental action, or a free action?

I have gone through every instance of "potion" in Your Story, and there doesn't appear to be an explicit rule. Your Story does provide some examples of possible supplemental actions and free actions on page 213, but the distinction seems somewhat arbitrary. Is it really easier to start a car or listen for voices than it is to draw a gun? While it seems to me that drinking a potion should be either a supplemental action or a free action, I know that some systems (like D&D 5e) force you to use a "full" action for balance or other gameplay reasons.

I would prefer an official rule or a Word of God ruling. If an explicit rule does not exist, then please include your table experience with a particular ruling.

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Probably an action but it depends on the effect.

In YS280 it says

Potions are very similar to enchanted items in terms of function (and, in fact, even use enchanted item slots to make), but are both more limited and more flexible.

Since as you said it never describes how to use potions differently than enchanted items they must function like enchanted items do when it comes to using them. So then we look at the rules for enchanted items (YS279) it describes them as:

Enchanted items are intended to hold a single, pre-generated effect that is stored until released,

and further on the same page describes the what the pre-generated effect can be as:

Nearly any effect within the range of thaumaturgy or evocation

and is limited by 2 things:

the effect has a strength equal to your Lore, and it may only be used once per game session

This means to me that you are just creating a limited spell effect and would be subject to using your action when using them.

But if we read on (YS279 + YS280) it describes when and what you might have to do when using an enchanted item:

It’s possible that using an enchanted item will require some kind of skill roll, particularly if it needs to be targeted in some way; discuss this with the GM and follow whatever course seems logical. Defensive items (ones that provide armor or a block, for example) often consume a use at the time of defense and don’t require a separate action to activate

That to me supports that normally it does require an action to use but depending on the effect being generated you and GM might come up with a way for it to come into play at different times.

As an example, I allowed one of my players to use a potion he created to survive in a "hell like" environment as part of a defensive roll against a beam of scorching sunlight. Again, it's really up to the GM, but I liked the visual of him drinking this potion to stay alive while this demigod scorch a circle around him. Faster acting evocations might be harder to justify but if any system lives on the "Rule of Cool" DFRPG/Fate does.

This answer focused a lot on how enchanted items work but when I've run DFRPG that's how I treat potions, basically enchanted items that you have to create each session.

I hope that helps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer. Has a situation ever come up in actual play where someone was allowed to use a potion as a supplemental or free action? How was that decision reached? What about a defensive potion being used "at the time of defense" without an action at all? \$\endgroup\$ – Red Orca Oct 4 '18 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStarnes the closest I've ever seen to using a potion as a 'free action' is with skill replacement potions, where you drink the potion as part of the action you're using the skill replacement for. E. G. maybe you have a potion that buffs your weapons skill ('burst of superior strength and speed potion' or whatever); you use one action for the attack, drinking the potion as part of it. \$\endgroup\$ – RonLugge Oct 4 '18 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStarnes I allowed one player to use a potion he created to survive in hell like environment as part of a defensive roll against a beam of scorching sunlight. Again, it's really up to the GM, but I liked the visual of him drinking this potion to stay alive while this demi god scorch a circle around him. Faster acting evocations might be harder to justify but if any system lives on the "Rule of Cool" DFRPG/Fate does. \$\endgroup\$ – Christian Griffith Oct 5 '18 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you edit that example into your question, I think it'll be the complete package. Your point about the Rule of Cool is also a good one - it's a bit different for me coming from D&D! \$\endgroup\$ – Red Orca Oct 5 '18 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStarnes Example added to answer. :D \$\endgroup\$ – Christian Griffith Oct 5 '18 at 20:12

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