View Full Version : The Problems with Poison

2010-05-19, 11:50 AM
As a GM for a less-than-exalted campaign, the topic of poison has repeatedly arisen. After looking through the poisons in the DMG and Arms & Equipment Guide, I have found poisons to be incredibly useless - worth way too much gold for as effective as they are.
Arsenic is what, a DC 13 Fortitude save? A small viper is a DC 10. IRL, those poisons are often incredibly lethal, but in the game world a human commoner has a 50/50 shot at not being affected by a small viper.

Does anybody have any suggestions on what steps I could take that would make poison and disease actually dangerous and scary?

2010-05-19, 11:51 AM
Why yes I do. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=89314) :smallcool:

2010-05-19, 12:03 PM
This could be useful for you. (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=4854.0)

2010-05-19, 12:41 PM
Thank you very much.

However, I'm thinking the best way to handle it for my particular game is to lower the cost for the poison or maybe pump up the strength of others. I'm thinking a 40% reduction in cost across the board for poison, while increasing the strength of animal toxins. IMO, poisons are supposed to be deadly not something to make a fight more even.

Is the 40% reduction too much?

2010-05-19, 12:46 PM
No. 50% reduction wouldn't be too much. My solution, though? Rewrite the rules. Poison applies in cycles until a save is made and cycle length depends on the individual poison. This, of course, requires rewriting the whole Poison-list, but given you'd need to change the prices anyways (since they're pretty dumb), that's not a real problem.

Having the ability to adjust the speed it works at is very useful indeed; 2 saves 1 minute apart models very few poisons to any reasonable accuracy and indeed, most of the poisons should be lethal and yet cannot even kill a commoner without maximum rolls.

Here's a list of Poisons I'm using in a Low-Magic Game right now, under these rules:
{table=Head]Poison|Price|Save DC|Primary effect|Interval & Effect|Saves Required|Secondary effect|Craft DC
Hellebore Juice|500gp|22 (Ingested)|1 Hour Charm Person|N/A|N/A|N/A|25
Sand Scorpion Poison|150gp|20 (Injury)|10 Minute Stun|10 Minutes, deals secondary, no repeat|N/A|2d4 Hours Stun|20
Unremembrance|175gp|15 (Ingested)|10 Minute Memory Loss|1 Minute, deals secondary, no repeat|N/A|2d6 Days Memory Loss|25
Drow Poison|75gp|13 (Injury)|1 Minute Unconscious|5 Rounds, repeat|3|N/A|15
Goodbye Kiss|350gp|15 (Ingested/Injury)|1 Hour Exhaustion|1 Minute, repeat|2|N/A|15
Medium Spider Venom|50gp|12 (Injury)|1d4 Strength Damage|1 Round, repeat|2|N/A|15
Insanity Mist|600gp|15 (Inhale)|1d4*X Wis Damage (X = interval)|3 Rounds, repeat (with +1d4 damage)|3|N/A|20
Slow Taint|300gp|15 (Contact)|5ft. Speed Loss|2 Rounds, repeat|4|N/A|18
Doc Smoke|150gp|16 (Inhale)|After 5 exposures, 2d6 Con|1 Hour, repeat|5 (1 to avoid exposure)|N/A|22[/table]

Prices are all in "old" GPs (that is, normal D&D GPs, not our altered currency), N/A for intervals means it ends regardless of success on saves, "deals secondary, no repeat" is pretty much how old poisons work, and Doc Smoke does nothing until 5 successful exposures.

2010-05-19, 12:54 PM
Is the 40% reduction too much?
A good way of doing it is to compare it to the cost of a charge of a wand that does the same.

I.e. a wand of ray of enfeeblement does an average of 4.5 damage for 15gp. Other factors that favor the wand are a ranged touch attack and NO SAVE, while it's weaker in that it is temporary damage (rarely matters in-combat), does more damage a minute later (rarely matters in-combat), cannot do additional damage as a weapon strike can, and takes your standard action to use in-combat (instead of move).

Comparing them, it seems relatively fair that a poison that does 1d6-1d8 Strength damage with a DC20 save should cost roughly 20gp. The closest the SRD has is DC18 1d6/1d6 at ten times the price.

EDIT: Of course, this is comparing magic to mundane. Magic being what it is, that needs to be done carefully. I like Eldariel's poisons myself, though they're still either a bit too pricey or a bit too low-save for my taste.

2010-05-19, 12:57 PM
If you are unhappy with the DC, research what the poison does IRL and mix and match how you want. If the players are hardcore let em be hardcore, if they are not, then don't pump up the adrenaline.

2010-05-19, 01:03 PM
EDIT: Of course, this is comparing magic to mundane. Magic being what it is, that needs to be done carefully. I like Eldariel's poisons myself, though they're still either a bit too pricey or a bit too low-save for my taste.

The low DCs are a side-effect of it being a no-magic world and our rules that enable rising the DC by increasing the Craft DC, and the high prices are...well, we didn't bother rewriting them yet :smallbiggrin: But as per CAdv, crafting them is much cheaper than average crafting which helps a lot. That's the "black market" price I guess. Normal game would want much more efficient numbers, especially without heavy (and expected) use of the Craft-rules.

2010-05-19, 01:05 PM
Meh, just never ever buy poisons. They're only really worth it if you make them yourself via Minor/Major Creation. When you can make them for free, 3d6 Con at DC 20 seems a lot less bad.

2010-05-19, 01:06 PM
Meh, just never ever buy poisons. They're only really worth it if you make them yourself via Minor/Major Creation. When you can make them for free, 3d6 Con at DC 20 seems a lot less bad.

There are other free sources like shapeshifting and Psionic powers that venomize some of your weapons, too. All of those are worthwhile (and free). But manufacturing poisons needs a makeover.

2010-05-19, 01:40 PM
Poisons aren't so bad.

As a DM, I make it so that most npcs have npc classes and the average array. Even the ones that are elite pc classes have a strict npc wealth budget to work with, meaning very few are actually immune or highly resistant to poison.

Poisons aren't really great against monsters, but then, thats not really what they're for, is it? They are expensive, but so are potions, and what is a poison but an anti-potion?

If you take the time to mix the right poison with the right enemy, they can really be worth it.

2010-05-19, 01:46 PM
I say use the naturally deadly combos (Dragon's Bile, Pit Fiend Acid, Megapede Poison) and have fun making foes take ****tons of ability score damage

2010-05-19, 02:10 PM
If you're playing a creature with a natural poison attack, you can find ways to increase the DC fairly easily.

Ability Focus, a feat out of the MM1 adds 2 (I believe. It might actually be 3.) to the DC of one of your special abilities. A 2 (or 3) point bump is a bigger deal than you might think. It doesn't stack, but if you have multiple special attacks, you can add it to each one if you take the feat multiple times. It can also apply to an Assassin's Death Attack. (Consider using monster HD as a way of getting into the Assassin PRC.)

Also, most poisons that creatures come naturally equipped with are affected by Constitution. Finding ways to increase your constitution score is hard once the game is in full swing, but during character creation, there are more ways than you can shake a stick at. Templates are AWESOME for this. Plus, the templates that give good Con often give other things on top of that.

In short, playing a monster with a poison ability that seems useless can actually work to your advantage. Most DM's are unused to the idea that poisons can work on enemies in combat due to their close-to-uselessness at low levels. At high levels, poisons like Black Lotus Extract can ruin ANYONE'S day. For mid-level campaigns, nothing is quite so surprising as having your BBEG Str-poisoned into paralysis in the first two rounds of combat.

Akal Saris
2010-05-19, 03:20 PM
Well, as far as cost goes, poisons are only 1/6th the cost if you make them yourself with the materials on hand. So a 1,800g poison becomes 300g, while a 90g poison becomes 15g. That brings the price more in line with something a PC might use on a daily basis.

As for deadly poisons in published books, check out the poisons in Dungeonscape - they are all fairly high DC and deadly. Let the PCs buy them at 1/6th cost and it should serve your purposes well.

As far as house-rules go to make poisons and disease more relevant, everyone has their own opinions. I think a good idea would to make anyone who is poisoned/disease make additional saves over time or become sickened, then nauseated, to reflect how they hit your entire system.

2010-05-20, 06:10 AM
IRL, those poisons are often incredibly lethal
So is being stabbed in the kidney, but in D&D, it's all, "Eh, I still have plenty of hit points left, I'm cool." (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CriticalExistenceFailure) Having your kidney-stabbin's actually handicap your opponents is an ability that Rogues can pick up at tenth level (Crippling Strike), which... c'mon. I'd buff critical hits before I worried about poisons, personally. Apply realistic dangerousness directly to stabbing people with big sharp pieces of metal whether they're coated with any sort of special substance or not, y'know? But, hey, that's me.

(Of course, for all I know, you've already done that, or are using some other sort of damage variant less ludicrous than the core rules.)