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Appendix K: Describing Magical Substances

Apr 16, 2021 · 1 min read
Appendix K: Describing Magical Substances

Gary Gygax left us many utilities for dungeon dressing.  I’m not ashamed to admit that when it comes to the contents of potion bottles, magical elixirs, and like substances, I struggle at the table to describe the appearances, tastes, and smells.

Here are Mr. Gygax’s tables to assist Dungeon Masters when “winging it.”  I can’t wait to put some of these to work immediately.  The amount of imagination on display is amazing.

Appearance/Consistency (1d10)
  1. Bubbling
  2. Cloudy
  3. Effervescent
  4. Fuming
  5. Oily
  6. Smoky
  7. Syrupy
  8. Vaporous
  9. Viscous
  10. Watery

Transparency (1d10)
  1. Clear (transparent)
  2. Flecked (transparent and other)
  3. Layered (color or transparency)
  4. Luminous (determine transparency)
  5. Opaline (glowing)
  6. Phosphorescent (determine transparency)
  7. Rainbowed (transparent)
  8. Ribboned (determine transparency)
  9. Translucent
  10. Variegated (determine colors)


Taste and/or Odor (1d20+1d10-1)
  1. Acidic
  2. Bilious
  3. Bitter
  4. Burning
  5. Biting
  6. Buttery
  7. Dusty
  8. Earthy
  9. Fiery
  10. Fishy
  11. Greasy
  12. Herbal
  13. Honeyed
  14. Lemony
  15. Meaty
  16. Metallic
  17. Milky
  18. Musty
  19. Oniony
  20. Peppery
  21. Perfumy
  22. Salty
  23. Soothing/Sugary
  24. Sour
  25. Spicy
  26. Sweet
  27. Tart
  28. Vinegary
  29. Watery

Colors - Type (2d6-1)
  1. Red (16)
  2. Orange (5)
  3. Yellow (10)
  4. Green (3)
  5. Blue (6)
  6. Violet (10)
  7. Black (5)
  8. Gray (3)
  9. Brown (6)
  10. White (4)
  11. Metallic (6)

Gary further broke down the individual colors on pg. 222 of the 1st edition AD&D DMG.  There are 74 such individual colors which, to many poor eyes, are likely indistinguishable from the color headings under which they are subsumed. Personally, I like the detail and look forward to telling a PC they have discovered a “saffron” colored potion.  I will not reproduce this table, but you are encouraged to go to your local paint store and get some swatches for inspiration.