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How can bigger cauldrons be made less effective at brewing elixirs than smaller ones?

Erebus

Troubadour
Elixirs are essentially mana in a bottle, made by witches to produce a variety of magical effects on the individual depending on its contents. Potions are brewed in giant iron pots known as cauldrons that are enchanted to draw in mana particles from the air and condense them into solidified form through a process known as mana desalinization. Cauldrons are specifically designed to contain the magical energies resulting from the condensed magic, as well as the various ingredients added to it. From there, it undergoes a chemical process known as fermentation, in which mana particles are repeatedly broken down to release energy. Once the witch is satisfied with the concoction, the brew is placed in flasks to be sold on the open market. This is a process that has been repeated for centuries by witches who band together to form covens. These organizations operate as small to mid-size businesses that specialize in certain kinds of potions. As such, they retain an indispensable place within society that serve the needs of local communities, whether its for potions that cure diseases or needing something more deadly to poison an enemy. However, making elixirs is an expensive process that require multiple steps and intricate understanding of certain crafts. This can include preparing the right ingredients, having specific knowledge of chemicals and brewing times, forming the right incantations, and so on. This requires much work and dedication, as well as years of study. As such, covens are able to charge high rates for their services. This ideally was to change with the onset of an industrial revolution and the arrival of big business.

By accumulating all the knowledge of witches over hundreds of years and streamlining it into a repeatable process, corporations could now modernize the desalination and fermentation process to produce elixirs on a grander scale. This is done through automation, in which the elixir making process is broken down into individual steps that are done by different individuals. These workers would be trained in one specific task, with each step being added onto at various points and the final product being brought together at the end. Companies would raise capital from various sources to build bigger cauldrons the size of buildings. These vessels can pull in larger amounts of mana particles all at once and process them into different forms. This would allow different kinds of elixirs to be made in bulk and bring costs down for the consumer. The dream was to cut witches out as the middleman, making them redundant while reaping huge profits for investors. However, these grand ambitions didn't turn out as planned. Building massive, enchanted cauldrons to pull in mana particles does not produce more mana than regular smaller ones that traditional witches would use. Even further, it becomes apparent that the bigger these cauldrons were built, the less effective they were at fermentation. As corporate-owned cauldrons fail to produce better and sometimes even worse results than smaller covens, the venture is viewed as unprofitable to most shareholders. Therefore, the space has been left to small business, which remain dominated mostly by the traditional witch covens.

How can updating and modernizing the potion making process actually make it less effective?
 

pmmg

Vala
Perhaps the witches love is missing. It just cant be like Mom used to make.


I think i would go for supply chains. You cant replace the local witch with a corporate behemoth because the half life of a potion is too short and the preservatives ruin the product.
 

BearBear

Inkling
Yes of course, consider mana in a given location like a well. No matter how many pumps or how big the pump, it will necessarily replenish the mana by the same rate. In fact, this may even be that the large witches cauldron is already optimized to draw just the right amount of mana and a small pot may make potions that are too potent.
 

Queshire

Auror
Well it just stands to reason doesn't it? If you want to make a 500 pound hamburger you're going to need more than just a big ass skillet. By time the center is cooked enough to be safe the outer edge would be burnt to a crisp. Industrialization would require more than simply increasing the scale.

That said, the fact that you termed it mana desalination hints at a solution. Desalination is the process of removing salt and other containments from sea water to make it safe to drink, though with the process described it sounds more like mana is the salt and the atmosphere is the seawater. Now if you magically desalinated a chunk of the ocean I imagine it would become salty again right quick, but who's to say that the same applies to mana? So sure, the first batch of potions comes out fine, but then any potions made after that come out piss weak unless you just leave them to sit there wasting mana for not return for weeks? Months? until enough mana flows back into the area to make another batch.
 
From what you describe, the cauldron is an essential part of the process. It's what draws in the mana. In that case I would personally go for the easy answer that changing the cauldron size changes the ratio of the cauldron's surface area to the amount of liquid in the cauldron. As in, if you double a cauldron in size, you quadruple the volume (or something like that).

There is then less cauldron to draw in magic relative to the volume of the potion, which means less mana gets into the potion, which in turn makes it less powerful.

This could actually mean that different types of potions require different cauldron sizes to function. Just something to think about.
 
I don’t know much about cauldron ingredient ratios to cauldron size, but in gardening, in many cases the smaller the growing space, the better the root system - or more rather the right soil to root ratio. Sometimes a large pot for a small plant will just kill the plant. The plant will lose vigour if there too much soil surrounding it, conversely, sometimes plants get pot bound, too many roots to soil ratio - so it’s a fine balance. Perhaps cauldron and mana is similar as it’s a ‘living’ thing?
 
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