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Answers from official sources are preferred.

Specifically I want to create a potion of Alter Self D&D 5e seems to be a little light on the details for such things.

In the DMG section for Crafting Magic Items, it references the GP cost for consumable items are less than non-consumable items, but I am curious as to what restrictions (if any) there are for the creation of potions.

In Pathfinder, it was possible to create potions for any spell under a certain level and didn't have a range of "personal".

Are there any similar restrictions in D&D 5e?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you the DM or a player? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 31 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm the DM, and I know that handwaving away such details is always a possibility, but I would prefer to keep things grounded in RAW as much as possible. \$\endgroup\$ – A Random Guy Jul 31 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gotcha - just potentialy different answer than providing potential rules for a DM to use vs saying that you'd also need to ask your DM :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 31 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "official" sources? Is The Emporium of Uncanny Magic, licensed by the WoTC, less "official" than, say, the PHB? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 31 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor Good for clarification, but I'm guessing (and hopefully OP confirms) they mean these official rules. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 31 at 20:10
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About Crafting Magic Items

TL;DR: Potion of Alter Self is not an official 5e item. You need to first homebrew it, then you can think about crafting it.

The only known restrictions to crafting are mentioned in the section you cite, although it is delegated to DM's choice.

To start, a character must have a formula that describes the construction of the item. The character must also be a spellcaster with spell slots and must be able to cast any spells that the item can produce.

Additionally,

You can decide that certain items also require special materials or locations to be created. For example, a character might need alchemist's supplies to brew a particular potion [...]

Also,

Normally, a character who undertakes this activity creates a magic item described in chapter 7, "Treasure."

Therefore, an implicit restriction is that the potion exists and is already listed, or it is a potion that you agree to homebrew. Fortunately, the magic items list is in alphabetical order and can be found in pages 187 and 188, starting with Potion of Animal Friendship and finishing with Potion of Water Breathing. In particular, note that potion of alter self is not a possible 5e magic item, therefore, you will not find any written rules on crafting it, as the item does not exist.


Homebrewing a magic item

The guidelines for homebrewing magic items are described in page 284 of the DMG. There are no specific rules for potions, although potions usually fit well in the "Modifying an item" section. You can find a potion with similar power level (2nd level spell) or similar flavor (Gaseous Form, maybe?) and modify it. However, as you mentioned, this is heavily delegated to DM's discretion and little details are given. In fact, homebrewing of magic items is probably the less detailed one, and even the existing magic items do not follow a good Power Level x Rarity correlation.


TL;DR

You can't follow RAW here because RAW the item you want does not exist. Everything in the DMG about creating new magic items (homebrewing) are only suggestions, not rules, and as such, they are (probably intentionally) vague and left to DM's discretion.


Additional rules to crafting magical items are provided in Xanathar's Guide to Everything at page 129. However, none of them are particular to potions. Instead, they expand on the suggestions on ingredients that will allow the players to craft magic items.

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Introducing new potions in 5e game is not "handwaving"

HellSaint's answer is quite solid. I want to add a couple of things, not about the Potion of Alter Self specifically, but about the 5e rules in general.

I know that handwaving away such details is always a possibility, but I would prefer to keep things grounded in RAW as much as possible

In Pathfinder, it was possible to create potions for any spell

Pathfinder shares its paradigm with the 3.5th, not the 5th edition. Unless you're participating in Organized Play, there is little or no value in making your game "RAW as much as possible" in 5e. This edition chooses not to explicitly codify many things — instead, it empowers the DM in ways that 3rd, 3.5, and 4th did not. You bind yourself hand and foot when you choose sticking to the 3.5e values but playing the 5th edition, just because they are not very compatible.

Make your own or use community content

5e provides DMs with guidelines and encourages them to create their own content. The rules are intentionally silent on many corner cases, leaving adjudication to DMs. The lead game designer suggests to go with what's best for your story, calling D&D "infinitely customizable".

Talking about homebrewing and playtesting, a lot of work is already done by numerous 3rd parties. For instance, for more potions you can use a lot of community content from the Dungeon Masters Guild:

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5th Edition doesn't have general rules for making potions out of spells the way it does for Spell Scrolls. There are a few specific potions, oils, and elixirs defined in the DMG or other resources, and that's all there are.

In other words, you can't just brew up a potion of mage armor or potion of alter self; those aren't items in any book. You can work with your DM to figure out how to make such an item, but that's the same as working with your DM to come up with any homebrew magic item. The Dungeon Master's Workshop (chapter 9 of the DMG) has some guidance about making new magic items, but nothing specific to potions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, OP is the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 31 at 20:56

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