For every character class in the game, potions should be an integral part of your game play. They provide a variety of useful effects and a few harmful ones, too. For those with low Alchemy skill and lacking the proper equipment, potions can be bought from merchants or picked up as treasure. There are a lot of them floating around — somewhat over 5000, if the numbers in the Construction Set are to be believed, and that's not counting the ones that you can buy from alchemists (the supply is limited only by the size of your wallet). There is even a genuine love potion in there (someone had a sense of humor because it just restores your health, but it's called a Love Potion — go figure) and some very good Eau de Toilet (called "Telvanni Bug Musk" for some strange reason). It's a veritable cornucopia of pharmacological products (don't run for the dictionary -- "lots of things that do stuff to you").
But for those of you who always wanted a career in the pharmaceutical industry, but never had the background to do it, here's your chance (I don't recommend putting "achieved Alchemical skill level of 100 in Morrowind" on your resume, but whatever floats your boat).
Each ingredient in the game has up to four Alchemy effects. The higher your Alchemy skill, the more of them you will be able to see. By the same token, the lower your alchemy skill, the fewer of them you will be able to see. Unknown effects are indicated by a "?" and it's entirely possible to see nothing by question marks when you run your cursor over an ingredient if your Alchemy skill is extremely low (less than 20 or so). If your Alchemy skill is high enough (about 15 or 20), you can gain the benefits of the first effect simply by eating the ingredient. In general, the higher your skill, the more of the effect you will get. The exceptions to this rule are food items (bread, kwama eggs, etc.). These seem to work regardless of your Alchemy skill.
In order to successfully brew up your own potions, you'll need some equipment and some ingredients that have at least one effect in common. As far as the equipment goes, there are four pieces. You must have at least a Mortar and Pestle. The others are optional, but recommended.
- Mortar and Pestle -- determines the initial strength of the potion; the better the quality of the Mortar and Pestle, the stronger the resulting potion.
- Calcinator -- a big coffee urn-looking thing that increases the magnitude and duration of all effects in the potion
- Retort -- increases the magnitude and duration of all positive effects in a potion
- Alembic -- decreases the magnitude and duration of all negative effects in a potion
There are five different quality levels of these devices available. Ranked from poorest to best they are:
- Apprentice's - has a 0.5 multiplier
- Journeyman's - has a 1.0 multiplier
- Master's - has a 1.2 multiplier
- Grandmaster's - has a 1.5 multiplier
- Secret Master's - has a 2.0 multiplier (there are none placed in the game, though you can add it with a plug-in if you wish)
Alternatively, you can substitute a Skooma Pipe for the Alembic, but it only has a 0.15 multiplier, so you're going to get pretty shoddy goods out of it unless you've got an exceptional Alchemy skill.
The next thing you need are the ingredients. You have three choices on getting them.
First, you can find them as treasure throughout the game. Almost any time you open a sack, it's stuffed full of ingredients. Evil Wizards tend to have them just laying around on tables. About 25% of the time, crates have ingredients (about half the time they have armor or weapons and the rest of the time it's just junk).
Secondly, you can gather them yourself. This can involve a bit of hiking as most ingredients are native to particular areas and not naturally occurring in others. Then there is the added complication of animal products. Animals (critters) are not generally willing to fork over pieces of themselves to every adventurer who just walks by ("Excuse me, Mr. Dremora Lord. I'm collecting ingredients for the Dumbledore School for Struggling Spellcasters. Do you have a heart that you can spare?"). So you'll probably have to teach them charity at sword point.
Third, you can buy or steal them from alchemists. Surprisingly enough, alchemists seem to have an inexhaustible supply of ingredients. Buy out the entire stock of Gravedust and the next time you look, they have restocked.
The last thing you need is either a recipe or a good sense of adventure. There are a couple of books that will give you some basic recipes. Additionally, Ajira's Reports give some hints about how to use the eight ingredients she sends you out to collect.
So, let's show you how this works. Let's assume that I have all of the equipment of Grandmaster's quality and I want to make a Restore Magicka potion. Here are all of the ingredients that have Restore Magicka as an effect: Daedra's Heart, Void Salts, Comberry, and Frost Salts. Let's further assume that my Alchemy skill is 52 (because that's where it is in a handy saved game).
If I combine all four of the ingredients, I will get a Restore Magicka potion that will restore 11 points per second for 25 seconds (a total of 275 points). If I combine only the Void Salts and Frost Salts, I will get 7 points per second for 18 seconds with a Master's Mortar and Pestle and Retort, or 8 points per second for 22 seconds with a Grandmaster's Mortar and Pestle and Retort.
If I improve my Alchemy skill to 60% and run all four of them through, I will get 12 points per second for 27 seconds (total of 324 points). Using only the Void Salts and Frost Salts, I will get 9 points per second for 23 seconds with the Master's equipment, and 11 points per second for 29 seconds with the Grandmaster's.
If I improve my Alchemy skill to 75% and run all four of them through, I will get 14 points per second for 32 seconds (total of 448 points).
If I improve my Alchemy skill to 80% and run all four of them through, I will get 14 points per second for 33 seconds (total 462 points). Using only the Void Salts and Frost Salts, I will get 9 points per second for 25 seconds with the Master's equipment and 11 points per second for 31 seconds with the Grandmaster's.
If I improve my Alchemy skill to 90% and run all four of them through, I will get 15 points per second for 37 seconds (total 555 points). Using only the Void Salts and Frost Salts, I will get 10 points per second for 27 seconds with the Master's equipment and 11 points per second for 34 seconds with the Grandmaster's.
If I improve my Alchemy skill to 100% and run all four of them through, I will get 16 points per second for 40 seconds (total 640 points). Using only the Void Salts and Frost Salts, I will get 11 points per second for 30 seconds with the Master's equipment and 13 points per second for 37 seconds with the Grandmaster's.
This is all a rather long-winded way of illustrating the point that better equipment and better skills will result in better potions.
In the example that I used here, I did not have any negative effects show up because none of the ingredients had any negative effects in common (Drain Agility for Daedra Heart, Drain Fatigue for Comberry, Drain Speed for Frost Salts and Paralyze/Drain Endurance for Void Salts). Had there been common negative effects, these would have shown up in the potion. The use of an Alembic would have reduced them somewhat, but they still would have been there.