Some time ago (last October, in fact), I asked if anyone knew what was the significance of the gold bars some people were finding when they bought their land. The answer was: nothing. They had apparently been released by the Emperor, but he didn't know- or hadn't finished- what would actually be done with them. Gold Bars became something of a joke-- something that was totally useless.
All of that changed a few weeks ago. Gold Bars began popping up everywhere. People found them buying land, selling land, completing steps on the Path to Royalty, in gifts they sent to allies, from the Trader, and as prizes at Festivals. At the same time, the moon started turning red.
That is when the alchemist came.
She comes in a brightly covered wagon when the moon turns red. She comes only to people who have gold bars, and to them, she offers the choice of three mysterious potions, which can be bought if you have enough gold bars. Their effects are widely varied, and are not fully documented yet.
So, are these gold bars worth the bother? How much is a gold bar worth, anyway? It's worth as much good as you get out of the potions. It looks like a good rule of thumb is that one gold bar is worth two acres of land- the exact amount varying according to what you get, of course. For example:
Blue Potion (Cost: 1 gold bar):
When the Trader comes next, he will not charge anything for his prize. Since his usual fee is roughly 2.5 acres of land, that's 2.5 acres' worth of gold that your bar saved you. Note that the Trader also gives out five gold bars as his prize. At 2 acres per bar, this makes the prize worth ten acres, one of the better possibilities.
Bubbling Potion (Cost: 1 gold bar):
The report on this one is that it led to a windfall worth roughly three acres- it says that you feel lucky.
Dark Green Potion (Cost: 1 gold bar):
Five years of tax amnesty. This means roughly 150 percent of what your land produces in a year. How many acres that equals depends on acre cost vs acre production and what your tax rate is. In my case, it would be considerably less than one acre, since I have a lot of acres that don't produce much compared to their cost. Unless you have a fairly low number of acres, this may not be a good option.
Draught of Quintain (Cost: 1 gold bar):
When you go to the jousts, you don't have to practice (twice). Since you 'practice' by giving up an acre of land, this potion saves you two acres.
Elixir of Prevention (Cost: 1 gold bar):
Prevents disasters and gives you the amount of citizens that you would have gotten if you had done the second highest option. Considering how much the second best option costs, multiplied by the four times that someone reports it lasted, puts this prize in the one to two acre range.
Essence of Loyalty (Cost: 1 gold bar):
Increases the amount you get for being loyal. The usual loyalty reward is 1/4 of acre price. With this, the prize is twice acre price. Again, just under two acres in land.
Lure of Gold (Cost: 1 gold bar) :
Increases the amount potential subjects are offered when you send bribes. One report is that the amount tripled. Assuming that the amount normally offered is roughly one acre of land for the recipient, this means that they would get two more acres of land from it. (Note that it's said the larger bribe offers keep getting made until someone accepts once.)
Oil of Metagrobology (Cost: 1 gold bar):
Lets you get the prizes for answering correctly to riddles even if you don't answer at all. This one works repeatedly, but it would have to work a lot of times to be worth two acres! One, perhaps. Of course, all it really saves you is the trouble of answering the riddles for yourself... and if you don't pay much attention to the hud, it turns a lost chance riddle into an automatic gold windfall.
There are other potions. Many are not well understood at this point. Many that are understood are only good for particular people. For instance, what good is the ability to not pay an acre to joust if you never choose to joust? What good is being rewarded for loyalty if your liege never rewards your loyalty? And so forth.
My personal experience with the potions was with the generosity one that let me give away land. For a one time gift of three acres, I could just say the name and they got three acres of my land. It's only a convenience, unless the person you're naming is never available, for whatever reason, for you to give them the acres, and you want them to have them.
In the end, it looks like a very mixed bag, some that could be worth a tidy amount, some that are useless, many that are yet unknown. If you have knowledge of more potions and what they do, feel free to add them to the wiki. (It lists more potions that I didn't list in this analysis.)
Until then, count your bars carefully and keep an eye on the moon. It may or may not be "worth it", but it's fun to find out!