You can typically tell how effective a medicine is by how awful it is going down. I know Listerine kills the most germs because it tastes like piss-flavored battery acid. When I was a kid, my favorite cough medicine was Dimetapp. I swear on Ysmir’s pubes that grape-flavored honey was better than any soda I’d ever tasted, but alas, it did nothing for my cough.
And it makes sense. Strong medicine is supposed to taste bad because it’s designed to be toxic. It doesn’t make you better so much as it annihilates whatever was making you worse. Listerine began as a surgical antiseptic, a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea before someone decided to gargle with it and survive. If poisonous things were pleasing to the palate, we wouldn’t have made it past the Stone Age regardless of how many dinosaurs Jesus killed.
I don’t know if the same concept applies to your average health potion, given how much they accelerate the healing process. Still, I’ve picked enough virtual pockets to know people don’t drink them for fun. This may be primarily a product of cost, but I imagine part of the reason is because health potions taste fucking horrible.
In 1992, Listerine introduced a Cool Mint followed by a Fresh Citrus mouthwash. It wasn’t as effective as the original. On the other hand, it didn’t taste like floor cleaner. It had struck an acceptable compromise.
The potions of Clario Moorsley are loosely based on this idea. Health potions don’t have to taste like shit. While their effectiveness is limited, Clario’s potions aren’t designed for severed limbs and gonorrhea of the mouth. Just like you don’t wipe your floors with mouthwash, Clario’s potions are for minor scrapes and wounds, and meant to be pleasing to the palate. The average health potion is designed to be drank. Clario’s potions are meant to be tasted.
Which, in essence, makes them one of a kind.
There are limits to a game world, rules if you will. Weapons are weapons, medicine is medicine, food is food, and rarely do the lines cross. You can extrapolate this further to anything you wish. In real life, we make homes out of coke bottles, music out of kitchen appliances, eat chicken with waffles, and sometimes drink beer out of a boot. We don’t always do things according to the instructions. In the world of video games, items are mostly limited to their natural function.
Yet when I think about a fantasy world with alchemy and magic, I think about their utility beyond killing hordes of bandits. I picture a chef who uses fire salts to boil a hotter broth. Tavern cups enchanted to resist heat, and dinner plates enchanted to resist cold. I imagine agricultural mages putting ice spikes in the ground during a drought. An alteration mage casting courage before he proposes to his love. Sellswords drinking ale out of their boots.
The vanilla game explores this as well. In Riften alone you find a woman using ice wraith teeth to preserve meat, and exotic drinks that experiment with alchemy ingredients. That is to say, there is a world of people like Clario Moorsley who exist in the lore of the game, if not in the gameplay itself. And that little bit of creativity is enough to make the world a more interesting place.
And if the people of Skyrim are anything like us, I imagine one of these days it’s going to happen. Some crazy son of a bitch is going to buy a cure disease potion and use it to disinfect his floors, and when he’s done, maybe even rinse his mouth.