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Quicksilver Mutagen has the following drawback effect:

You take damage equal to twice your level; you can't recover Hit Points lost in this way by any means while the mutagen lasts. You take a –2 penalty to Fortitude saves

How does the damage portion of this (especially the "can't recover" portion) interact with temporary hit points? I'm not looking for an answer that comes from a simple close reading of the text. I can read and interpret about as well as anyone. I also understand that PF2 asserts that there are times when GM adjudication is called for, and offers advice for when that occurs, and I am not looking for an answer that says only that. I am wondering if there is any other pertinent direct rules text that applies to this matter that I've missed and/or if there have been any errata or other official communication on this matter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I know you aren't looking for how to adjudicate this as an answer, hence why this is a comment, but for GMs looking for a simple way to preserve the intent, just having this damage bypass temp HP and go straight to normal HP -makes this scenario a lot simpler. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jan 27, 2022 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE I think that would be better as a frame challenge answer (with the assumption that you probably won't get the "check" but to preserve it for others coming through) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 27, 2022 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ " I'm not looking for an answer that comes from a simple close reading of the text. I can read and interpret about as well as anyone." I don't feel like this is helpful or constructive. I would instead include your interpretation and references to applicable rules so we know what "other pertinent direct rules text that applies to this matter that [you] missed " \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 27, 2022 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ What else could anyone do than interpret the text? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 1, 2022 at 10:04

2 Answers 2

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Quicksilver Mutagen has no effect on temporary Hit Points

If you take the potion on level 5 when you had 7 tHP, only the 3 usual Hit Points cannot be recovered.

Quicksilver Mutagen does not reduce the tHP you gain next time

Temporary Hit Points are not a subset of Hit Points. If they wanted it that way, it would say so:

Some spells or abilities give you temporary Hit Points. Track these separately from your current and maximum Hit Points; when you take damage, reduce your temporary Hit Points first. Most temporary Hit Points last for a limited duration. You can’t regain lost temporary Hit Points through healing, but you can gain more via other abilities.

The next batch of tHP you gain from even the same source is not "recovering" the previously lost ones in any way. They are different, because you explicitly cannot regain them.

Quicksilver Mutagen does not bypass tHP

If it were meant to reduce the maximum HP, it would say so, compare Drained:

You also lose a number of Hit Points equal to your level (minimum 1) times the drained value, and your maximum Hit Points are reduced by the same amount

The potion explicitly deals damage, that reduces tHP first, as normal.

Balance

It is useful to prepare with tHP before you drink Quicksilver Mutagen, but has its own cost too. It is powerful, but not broken in my opinion.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... and I suppose that if you somehow had appropriate damage resistance that would work as well. Okay. But... how are temporary hit pints not a subset of hit points? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Feb 1, 2022 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why you are quoting a rule about bows, when you should be quoting the rules for temporary hit points. There's sentences there which support your claims that HP and THP are separate, and that you gain more/new THP instead of regaining THP. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Feb 4, 2022 at 20:15
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You Lose Hit Points and Can't Recover Them

Temporary Hit Points are always lost first when taking damage, so this case would be no different. The next stipulation as the mutagen says, "...you can't recover Hit Points lost in this way by any means while the mutagen lasts" is a bit more interesting.

Temporary Hit Points are still Hit Points, so this line definitely applies to those lost from drinking the mutagen.

The rules for temporary Hit Points already prevent regaining them through healing, but allow for swapping out one source for another.

You can’t regain lost temporary Hit Points through healing, but you can gain more via other abilities. You can have temporary Hit Points from only one source at a time. If you gain temporary Hit Points when you already have some, choose whether to keep the amount you already have and their corresponding duration or to gain the new temporary Hit Points and their duration.

As an example, a level 5 barbarian with 18 Constitution could:

  • Enter a rage and gain 9 temporary Hit Points
  • Drink a moderate quicksilver mutagen and take 10 points of damage, losing all 9 temp HP and 1 standard Hit Point
  • Lose one minute as unable to rage

This level 5 barbarian now has ~9 minutes of a +2 item bonus to Acrobatics checks, Stealth checks, Thievery checks, Reflex saves, and Dexterity-based attack rolls, and a bonus to Speed of +10 feet, all for the cost of 12 gp from their expected 270 gp net value and 1 HP off their max.

Allowing that barbarian to rage again and gain a new source of 9 temporary Hit Points seems a lot like recovering those 9 lost temp HP, which would be prevented by the limitation given from the mutagen.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I would call getting THP from an entirely new source "regaining" them. Though I'm not sure I wouldn't call it that either, hmm \$\endgroup\$ Jan 27, 2022 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Temp HP are something that characters possess, getting more after losing some would definitely be "regaining" to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Jan 27, 2022 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Getting them from a different source is not the same as recovering them at all. You can [regain]() hit points from different sources, but temporary hit points cannot be healed, only through new instances of gaining them. They function more like a Condition than actual hit points... \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 27, 2022 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, to rephrase my concern, when you are given another source of temporary HP you have to pick one to keep. You're not refilling what you had, but completely swapping to another effect. To be clear; I think your interpretation is functional (e.g. reduce all temporary HP by the Quicksilver damage taken to it) but don't believe that is the intent or literal interpretation of the rules provided. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 28, 2022 at 12:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, everything in the game is an Effect. And they don't have a maximum, each has a discrete amount completely unrelated (except for being vaguely similar for balance purposes) from each other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 29, 2022 at 15:47

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