[RPG] Are these good rules for throwing a potion of healing


One of my players decided, on the fly, to throw a potion of healing at an ally as they ran past. I had nothing planned so I improvised this rule

A potion of healing has a thrown range of (20/60). If thrown the receiver must use their reaction to make a DC 15 dexterity saving throw to catch the potion. On a failed save the potion shatters on the ground and is unusable, on a critical fail the receiver takes 1d4 slashing damage as the glass shatters in their hand and is unusable.

Should I make the thrower roll a ranged attack roll? What should I do if they threw it at 30 feet? Would I just give the DEX save disadvantage? Also is the DC too high, or too low? Does the 1d4 slashing on a crit fail work?

Just generally is there anything I should change about this or does this work well?

Best Answer

The rule is, apart from some inconsistencies with the existing mechanics, roughly fine. Basically, you're giving your players a new option to use, which is to their advantage - however, the option does have weaknesses that make it rather unattractive for frequent use. Here's some things I'd change:

It should be a free object interaction

You didn't specify whether throwing the potion counts as an action or not. Assuming it is, a word of caution: giving the potion (or any other item) normally (without throwing it) is a free object interaction (listed as an example on Player's Handbook, page 190), and has no risk of failure. Having to spend one's action and the recipient's reaction to throw a potion for those extra 20 feet, and with the additional risk of failure, seems like too steep a cost to me. Consider making the throw a free object interaction.

Neither attack or a saving throw is a perfect fit

Attack rolls are meant for, well, attacking, and don't work at all for situations like this - your party's monk would have a hard time catching the potion with their unarmored AC! Saving throws are meant for resisting harmful effects. Both are poor fits for situations where the two parties (the thrower and the catcher) are collaborating. The difference between a DC 15 ability check and a DC 15 saving throw isn't that big, but maintaining consistency with the core rules makes your house rules easier to remember and understand.

Note that thrown ranges like (20/60) only make sense for attack rolls. Since we're not using those, you'll have to use a different kind of range system.

Be mindful of Goblin Dice

"Goblin Dice" refer to a single die roll determining the outcome of things; sometimes unimportant like the life of a goblin minion, sometimes important to the point where you wouldn't generally want a single die roll to determine them.

The Potion of Healing is likely to be in the category of "too important for a single roll": its primary use in intense situations where one'd like to throw them instead of just handing them over is to serve as an emergency item. A loss of an emergency item, or even a delay in its delivery can be really detrimental to the party. I'd advise not leaving it up to a single die roll, or at very least toning down the effects of failure.

An example of a less painful failure effect is the potion landing safely on the ground, forcing the recipient to use their object interaction to pick it up.

Drop the critical fail

1d4 slashing damage is, in most situations, negligible, and in the situations where it isn't (eg. being down to your last hit point), it's likely to be extremely frustating. It's also worth noting that critical fails are not an official rule in DnD 5e - we're obviously talking about a house rule here, but if you haven't house ruled other saves/ability checks to have critical fails, I don't think the tiny bit of damage is a good place to start.

If you really like having critical fails in your game, consider having the potion breaking be the critical fail case, and landing on the ground intact the normal one. The loss of a potion is a nasty blow against the party's resources and shouldn't be overused, but critical fails are statistically rare enough to not deter using the throwing option too much.