I wanted to talk a little about consumables today. I think with judicious use you can help to balance a party and encourage them to try new things.

Consumables are a great way to give out treasure without impacting the game in the long run. An abundance of heal potions too powerful? No problem, stop handing them out and the problem should slowly go away.

Consumables can also be a way for a DM to help shore up party weaknesses. If the party is light on healing, more cure pots are always appreciated. No wizard? Find ways of working in items with utility uses.

I especially like consumables because they can help give an “epic” feel to big fights. If the party has a limited resource pool they don’t often tap, a really tough fight will force them to spend what they have. This makes the fight feel really knock down and drag out, and can allow an epic fight to continue longer than the players without consumables could normally go. They’ll remember that victory against the dragon where they had to pull out all the stops and still barely squeaked by.

What are consumables? They are one-shot or limited use items such as potions, scrolls, and to a lesser extent, charged items. However, I don’t think it should be limited to just this list. Unique and flavorful consumables avoid seeming vanilla like potions (“Okay guys, who wants the lesser resto pot? Resist elements?”). I’ve detailed a few of my ideas below:

Dwarven Charm Bracelet
This bracelet is a collection of metallic dwarven charms engraved with golden runes. There are six of them, and each contains a spell which may be used once as a standard action by any character:   shocking grasp, spider climb, knock, color spray, truestrike, burning hands

This next item my players looted as a church relic:

Shovel of St. Barrow
One day, John Barrow was out in his fields, digging up some vegetables for the local temple of Pelor. He was struck by lightning out of a clear blue sky, and fell to the ground unconscious. He had a revelation, gave up Pelor and became devoted to the Ehlonna.
This item is an ordinary shovel, infused with energy. Anyone within a few inches of it can feel their hair standing on end. As a standard action, the lightning bolt within can be released, firing in the direction the blade is pointing (no use magic device skill necessary). At that point the shovel becomes an ordinary tool.
Note: scale the lightning bolt how you see fit. I used this as a partial get-out-of-jail card and I wanted the bolt to be strong yet variable, so I chose 5d20

I made the following plant the object of a quest for a druid player at the beginning of my campaign:

Mystical Heartwort
The mystical heartwort is a rare plant, found growing only in the most isolated of locations. Sheathed in tightly packed tough leaves is a beating heart.
Prepared properly (I chose a Heal DC 20 check), the heartwort will make one infusion which may bring a creature back to life as per the raise dead spell.

Well, there you go, a range of consumables. What have you created for your game? I’ve already given out these items but I always need inspiration for more!