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The D&D themed Star Wars fan webcomic Darths & Droids has recently published a footnote about magic flasks and what happens to the flasks that contain the potions:

Imagine a magic potion flask. If the PCs detect magic, of course it gives off an aura of magical power, but then they expect that from the potion inside anyway. Nobody suspects the flask itself.

By the way, what do PCs do with the flasks when they drink a magical potion? Has anyone ever asked this question before? The players usually just cross/erase used potions off their equipment lists. Where do the flasks go? Are all dungeons littered with the empty potion flasks of previous adventuring groups, like discarded cans and bottles by the side of the road?

Anyway, make a point of having the PCs find all their empties when they make camp and take stock of their gear. What are they going to do with these empty flasks? If they're like most adventurers, they might try to sell them, or perhaps they'll fill them with holy water or something. Here's where you have the magic of the flask step in. Maybe it always returns to their pack, no matter how they try to get rid of it. Maybe it converts whatever it contains into the same potion that was originally found in it (once per week, say, so it's not overpowered). Maybe it does something else completely, like attract monsters, or prevent any fires from being lit within 30 feet.

Who would suspect a flask?

Emphasis mine, and it's exactly that which I'd like to ask about: Is there a rule or a dev comment about what happens to the flask of a magical potion?

Since Darths & Droids doesn't specify a system (or rather says they use a homebrew system), assume D&D 5e as the version, since that's the most recent one. However, if D&D 5e does not contain information about this, earlier versions of the game are also acceptable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So you are looking for RAW answers then ? \$\endgroup\$ – Yotus Apr 13 '17 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yotus something like that. I'm wondering if there is a rule in any of the source books, or a comment from one of the people that worked on D&D from a Q&A session or similar. \$\endgroup\$ – Nzall Apr 13 '17 at 10:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought we recycled them and got 5 cents (uh, coppers) each, as we used to when I lived in California. 8^D \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 '17 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast (In D&D 3.5e, each potion vial really does have a resale value of 5 sp.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 13 '17 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan That insidious Left Coast influence crops up in so many places ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 '17 at 17:53
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The flask is saved for when the DM asks you "do you have any glass containers" when you are trying to harvest a blood, poison or venom from vanquished monster.

People then try frantically to calculate how many health potions they have drank recently to convince the DM they have a lot of glassware that can be used to contain the valuable ingredients.

RAW there is no info on that - the bottle does not magically vanish. You end up with an "empty health potion flask" you can do as you wish. If you don't really note it down it can be assumed you just threw it away. If you do - you have put it in your backpack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Glass containers? For a common healing potion? My! You are fancy! More seriously, I always assumed healing potions would be in small earthenware, or gourd, containers - less fragile and cheaper to make than glass. Is it actually specified anywhere? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Aidley Apr 13 '17 at 11:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is not specified if glass containers are used, but a lot of potion illustrations in the 5e DMG show fancy glass bottles, and there is almost always a description about how does the liquid looks like, meaning we can see it somehow. \$\endgroup\$ – Yotus Apr 13 '17 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ when you look at images of alchemists they always have those huge erlenmeyer and florence flasks when, in reality, there's about 2 spoonfuls of liquid in a potion. Just sayin' \$\endgroup\$ – Mouhgouda Apr 13 '17 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a magical liquid, who knows how it reacts with various materials. I'd be afraid that if I poured it into a gourd it would start flowering or sth. \$\endgroup\$ – Gerino Apr 13 '17 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ On my games, if you don't write it down on your sheet, you threw it away. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 13 '17 at 17:09
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There is no mechanical guideline to what happens to the flask/containers of potions

Honestly its a GM decision on the level of grit in the campaign. Most people won't track this sort of thing and it won't be a big issue, but some tables do like to have a very detailed tracking of items in which case, yes save every single one you could always use them for any number of purposes.

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