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Potion of Expeditious Retreat:

When you drink this potion, you become fleeing for 1 minute, and you gain a +40-foot status bonus to all your Speeds for the duration as long as you are fleeing.

Fleeing:

You're forced to run away due to fear or some other compulsion. On your turn, you must spend each of your actions trying to escape the source of the fleeing condition as expediently as possible (such as by using move actions to flee, or opening doors barring your escape). The source is usually the effect or caster that gave you the condition, though some effects might define something else as the source. You can't Delay or Ready while fleeing.

The fleeing condition is usually negative, it takes you out of the encounter. But the Potion is the effect, so in which direction are you supposed to be running?

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You are not forced to run in a particular direction, but you must run for the duration.

A strict RAW interpretation of the rules would suggest that you should run away from the source of the effect, the potion. However, not only does that not establish a direction to run in, but it also does not reflect any in-universe reality.

Given the use of the fleeing condition, the intention of the potion of expeditious retreat appears to be to grant you a significant boost of speed at the cost of removing your contribution to the encounter - you can take no actions any longer except to flee for the next minute.

Two potential implementations of this intention were considered in my own group:

  • The current encounter as a whole is the thing you must flee from for the duration - This interpretation works pretty well, but falls apart whenever a character imbibes a potion of expeditious retreat outside of an encounter. Again, we're left without an obvious thing to run from.

  • You are not required to flee in a particular direction, but you cannot take non-movement actions for the duration - This interpretation means that the imbiber is locked out of contributing to an encounter, and if the potion is used outside of an encounter, it still functions in a way that makes sense in-universe.

The second interpretation worked well in our group, letting the potion work for its intended purpose of getting you out of trouble.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Cathartic Mages that choose Fear have a similar ruling to your second interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Nov 27 at 3:52
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Away from the potion

Comically, it seems the potion doesn't specify anything else as the source of the fleeing condition. This means the potion itself would be the source, and that the drinker must flee from the potion.

It would probably make sense for the drinker to drop the potion immediately, then run away from the bottle with the additional speed in whatever direction they think they can best get away.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe this falls outside of the "The source is usually the effect..." line \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Oct 27 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ "..., though some effects might define something else as the source." is the rest of that quote, and nothing else is defined by the item. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Oct 28 at 2:59

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