Edit: Would it be absurd to consider 6d10 of force damage, originating in the gut of a PC, as described below from the PHB to be immediately fatal? As-written it does a fair amount of damage (avg. 33) in a (ten foot radius?) area around the point of mixture.

I'm reading through the DMG in preparation for a meeting tomorrow with my group and, seeing as they are all newly minted level 4 "heroes", I've decided it is time for some magic items to enter the fray. The BBEG they are likely going to enter service with is going to allow them access to a portion of his armory and there will undoubtedly be scrolls and potions involved.

Reading the Variant: Mixing Potions got me worried, as a 01 roll of a d100 results in:

01: The mixture creates a magical explosion, dealing 6d10 force damage to the mixer and 1d10 force damage to each creature within 5 feet of the mixer.

This is all well and good, but there is this line above the table:

A character might drink one potion while still under the effects of another,

So if a PC decides to drink two potions, and you roll a 01 on the miscibility roll, wouldn't that effectively kill the PC? I don't care if you have the intestinal fortitude of an igneous rock, really, a forceful explosion (unless the damage roll is extremely low?) will wreck your internal organs wouldn't it?

Obviously the chances of this sort of thing happening are minute at best, but I can't imagine something exploding inside your chest cavity as anything but catastrophic, even with a low roll...

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you clarify exactly what you're asking? Are you expecting that there would be additional effects beyond the 6d10 damage? (6d10 averages to 33 damage, which will only automatically kill a fully-healed character with 16 or fewer maximum hit points; even a 4th-level wizard will have more than that). \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I grasp the average damage and instant-death mechanics, apologies for not clarifying that. I suppose my question, more specifically, is this: would this explosion originating in a player's stomach not carry much graver consequences? A firecracker blew up on a table in front of you versus exploding in your gullet, one is much more grievous than the other, no? Or am I misinterpreting the abstraction of "force" damage here? But a 33 avg. damage explosive force in the gut seems...deadly, no? This force has enough outward power to do minor damage to creatures over five feet away after all. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sanman
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 22:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, so is your question "Does rolling a 01 on the potion mixing table have any effects beyond inflicting damage"? If so, can you edit your question to make that clear? \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 22:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Typically we wait a bit longer before accepting answers. Allowing a bit of time to pass allows the question to potentially pull in additional answers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 0:40

3 Answers 3


HP are an Abstraction

First, remember that HP are not just a pure measure of how much physical injury a creature can take before being reduced to chunky salsa. It is an abstraction of the creature's ability to avoid death. If a Fighter hits a Goblin for 20% of its total HP, that doesn't mean the Goblin's left leg was cut off or disabled. It means the Goblin twisted out of the way, taking a light cut to its arm and tweaking its leg. It is hurt and distracted, but not sufficiently injured to impede its ability to fight.

Similarly, the 6d10 force damage for a botched potion mix does not necessarily equate sitting on a brick of C4 as it goes off. Even though the damage is typed 'force' for the purposes of resistances and weakness, some of the actual 'damage' might be the headache, fuzzy vision, and ringing ears from the explosion. So the reason taking the explosion inside still does the same damage is because the abstraction shifts. Even though the PC is hurt more by the explosion inside, they don't see or hear the explosion so no fuzzy vision or ringing ears.

Does it even Work?

Arguably, mixing two potions in your stomach would not even cause this. It is not just the mixing of the ingredients that causes this, but the magic they contain. When you drink a potion, the magic is immediately imparted on you. You do not have to digest the potion first. So the magic is gone and you are left with a non-poisonous beverage. So by the time you drink the second potion, the two magics aren't mixing and there is no more harm than having any two or three or seven buff spells cast on you at the same time.

You might counter, what if the person drinks both potions at the same time? RAW says they can't. Even if a class ability or feat allows them to drink two potions in a single action, presumably they are still being chugged quickly but separately. In fact, if the class ability/feat does not specifically say this is an option, that would tend to be a strong indicator it is not.

What's good for the goose...

If you decide to rule that drinking two potions together results in a mixing scenario, and that the 6d10 damage result is instant death for the imbiber, be ready for the players to use it against you. Watch as they pour dozens of potions down a sleeping dragon's throat until one pair mixes badly, instantly killing it. Marvel as they slip potions into a wine tasting event to gorily kill the king and his court.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "So the magic is gone and you are left with a non-poisonous beverage." -- Well... Usually... There's no reason it has to be non-poisonous. I've seen a number of older modules where some portion of the potions found in ancient ruins had gone "off" over the centuries and, while still effective, did occasionally have deleterious side-effects on the character's digestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Perkins
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ "RAW says they can't." -- What if a friend readies an action to administer a potion while you drink a potion? \$\endgroup\$
    – ZarHakkar
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 6:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ZarHakkar They still happen in order, not at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 19:17

It depends on how many hit points the character has. If a PC has 35 hp, and the magical explosion does 33 points of damage, the character still has 2 points. That's the mechanics of how it works.

If you're asking, how is that realistic? Well, realism is relative. Keep in mind that characters aren't Joe Blow walking down the street, they are mighty heroes. Conan the Barbarian. Or Cohan the Barbarian. Gandalf. Elric. I mean, all of those guys were low-level at some point, right?

And yeah, it definitely wrecks the PC's internal organs. Assuming a slightly comic game, I can easily imagine a character with 35 hp taking those 33 points of damage and saying, "Thatsa SPICY meatball!" followed with "is there a cleric in the house?"

On the other hand, a PC with 16 max hit points will be killed dead instantly by that same 33 points of damage. And a PC with a max HP of 200 in full health would barely notice.

And to answer your first question, it would not be absurd to consider such an explosion to be immediately fatal. You're the GM, after all. So it's a question of how you want it to work. You can certainly make a house rule that internal explosions are immediately fatal regardless of hit points. With a save or without. But immediately fatal is not how it is written. And very few things in the game are by definition immediately fatal, outside of the damage that is done.

A helpful question might be, in your game, which is more fun? That depends on the game, the GM, and the players.


As far as I know there are no rules for the damage of explosions inside of a creature. That leaves it open for a DM or table ruling.

The DM is key. Many unexpected things can happen in a D&D campaign, and no set of rules could reasonably account for every contingency. If the rules tried to do so, the game would become unplayable. - PHILOSOPHY BEHIND RULES AND RULINGS Jeremy Crawford

If you think it makes sense, you could have it be instant death, but that wouldn't seem to be in keeping with the style of 5e. At most an instant drop to 0 hp.

You could decide that internal explosion causes double damage, or normal damage. But whatever the case, if you feel that this situation behaves differently than the stated rules, make a ruling.


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