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Alright, we are in a medieval fantasy setting. In this setting, northern warriors (basically vikings or typical fantasy barbarians) have berserkers that use certain potions that make themselves stronger, called tonics. There are three main types.


The first type fills the warrior with incredible rage and strength. Warriors under its effects feel no pain and may be injured, potentially fatally, and not notice or slow down at all until the effects wear off. The typical berserker rage. We will call this one the bear tonic.

Type two focuses the warrior and sharpens their reflexes. To the warrior, its as if time has slown down. They can react to arrows being fired the moment the archer releases the string and can see through any feint or trick in melee combat. The only limitation that a warrior has under this potion's effects is how fast the warrior can move normally. This is more like a focused berserker, one that can perceive pretty much anything around him. We will call this one the raven tonic.

The last one is what im having trouble with. While the bear tonic simply numbed the sensation of pain, it doesnt actually make the warrior's body actually resistant to damage. Injuries taken on that tonic are just as serious and deadly as without the tonic's effects. This last tonic does make it harder to be damaged. A warrior under this tonic's effect can take heavy blows and deadly slashes, and after the battle is done, they only seem to be minor bruises and cuts. Even slashes that are serious stop bleeding very quickly and fighters attacking those under its effect will find that their weapons seem to have more trouble getting their weapons to cut and stab deep, as if there is just more resistance when attempting to do so, like theyre attacking into a piece of wood rather than flesh. We will call this one the boar tonic.


What im having trouble with is how the boar tonic actually does this. With the bear and raven tonic, these are effects that are (sort of) possible. Ive heard stories of people being able to lift vehicles off of trapped people in times of high stress, which would be similar to the bear tonics strengthening effect, and ive also heard of police officers being able to read the headstamps on the bottom of bullet casings as the casings fly past their eyes in intense shootouts, as if time has slowed down, like the raven tonic. These tonics are based of off effects that are at least believable.

But I dont know how anything could turn serious injuries into minor ones apart from dumb luck of people surviving accidents that they really should not have been able to. I thought that maybe it just creates an 'unconscious reflex' where warriors are dodging attacks in such a way that it turns serious injuries into more minor glancing blows and the warrior just isnt consciously processing that, but that sort of bleeds into the effects of the raven tonic, and id like for each of these tonics to be unique in their effects. So for the question:

What does a potion that increases resistance to damage actually do to the body to make that resistance? Is there a real bodily function that we have that helps us become more resistant to impacts and slashes before injury that this tonic can turn up to 11?

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    $\begingroup$ The common stories of people lifting vehicles are greatly exaggerated. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jul 17, 2023 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ If you want it somewhat believable it should probably be a thick substance which you put on your skin rather than drinking something. The substance could stop bleeding, prevent infection and make stabs more likely to slip off to the side and make edges blunt by sticking to them, thus making it harder to cut. $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Jul 17, 2023 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ If this is a fantasy setting then why does it have to be realistic? Because, you know, magic can explain everything. Unless of course your setting is just a fictional world without any magic or anything similar. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2023 at 15:12

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Alternative: Instead of reducing damage taken, it reduces the effect of damage taken. Namely by granting "fast healing". So normal bodily processes of healing and such, but they are supercharged. A sword will slash just as deep, but the wound will stop bleeding and start healing in mere moments and even start to scar over. The downside would be that any blow that would normally kill you instantly still does, you just won't die from bleeding out like you typically might. No "death by a thousand cuts" would be possible under the effects of this tonic.

This could be known as the Lizard Tonic (since lizards are known for their regeneration capability).

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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty certain this is known as nanobots in a few military SF stories $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Jul 18, 2023 at 13:24
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Increased/modified keratin production.

Keratin is the main structural protein that makes up your hair, nail, a rhino's horn etc. It's also present in the outer layer of your skin, making it more resistant to tears and cuts.

I could imagine a potion that would temporarily increase or in some other way change the user's production of keratin, making hair, nails and skin grow quicker and thicker for a limited period. There are plenty of examples of real world naturally sourced chemicals that will stimulate the production of proteins. Hormone therapy using estrogens taken from the urine of pregnant mares is an example that comes to mind. Androgen supplements will affect you hair growth. A topical ointment, or maybe even a bath, could be an alternative to a potion that is ingested, as transdermal delivery of hormones is also a thing.

If you want to take things a little further, I'll just add that spider silk is a form of keratin.

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Something along the lines of giving the person scleroderma all over the body and perhaps on the vital organs for the duration of the tonic.

This hardens and thickens the skin which would mitigate against damage somewhat.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, that's what I'm thinking too: Something that strengthens cell walls and the connections between them. A rapid healing effect (a la Wolverine) wouldn't hurt, either. $\endgroup$
    – Dave Tweed
    Jul 17, 2023 at 11:45
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Going to float three ideas here:

  1. Lowering blood pressure by reducing blood flow to skin. In case of cuts you will bleed less. But the lowered pressure will have side effects that you absolutely don't want in a fight. You might be light-headed and have blurry vision.

  2. That potion is just liquified butter. It doesn't have an immediate effect (other than making you sick, if you're not used to it). The idea is to become a human version of foie gras through prolonged use. Every extra layer of fat helps against damage. You need to develop subcutaneous rather than intraabdominal fat though, so you'd better train like a sumo wrestler.

  3. That's not a quaffable potion. It's a non-newtoniam fluid (such as a corn stsrch solution) applied over the skin. It will reduce the impact of any weapon over the are you apply it over. A bottle will only cover an area such as the neck or buttocks. You would need a fill bathtub and bathe in it to cover the whole body, but then you would also be immobilized for a while.

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    $\begingroup$ gladiators were known to have a bit of a layer of fat, for that exact purpose $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Jul 17, 2023 at 17:16
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Boar tonic is blood coagulant and antibiotic

According to Battlefield_medicine

The most potentially survivable cause of death is hemorrhage from extremity bleeds, however more than 90% of 4596 combat mortalities post September 11, 2001 died of hemorrhage associated injuries.

and according to Medieval_medicine_of_Western_Europe

As remains true on the modern battlefield, hemorrhaging and shock were the number one killers

So to "increase resistance to damage" it would be most helpful to not let your soldiers bleed out. Here is an article on blood coagulation. It lists calcium, phospholipids, vitamin K and many other coagulation factors. Anything increasing blood platelets would be usefull. As was already pointed out low blood pressure also helps because of same reason.

Another issue after battle are wound infections so antibiotics would help with that. While in medieval times antibiotics were unknown, I believe it is not farfetched to use antibiotics. For example "medieval remedy could be potential antibiotic" and Penicilin is from mold and we use molds for food production for a long time

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How about an effect that causes the drinkers musculature to react against intrusions, either bouncing blows away or receding away from blows.

It could also involve the affects from the second potion (focus, sharper reflexes, time slows down), but used purely defensively instead of offensively.

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Potion fills blood with special cells (or nano-machines) with connectors that grab neighboring cells, binding them together. Potion cells could disperse throughout the body but only bind cells in particular locations in response to fear or intense concentration.

I get that this would either require a LOT of these potion cells or they would have to move through the body incredibly fast in order to respond in time, but maybe this will give you a direction.

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