This page deals with the effects of poisons, as well as their origin, manufacture and creation. Unlike traditional D&D, I do not adhere to the rule that poisons that are not saved against automatically kill - for this reason, I have ruled that poisons cause damage according to their lethality. If the damage exceeds a creature's total hit points, the creature will die - but creatures with an unusual number of hit points per die have a much higher chance of surviving poison. This includes player and non-player characters who have consistently rolled high numbers for hit points when gaining levels.


Poison Damage

Because poison attacks a creature from the inside, the amount of damage that is done is PER hit die or level, meaning that creatures with a high number of hit dice or levels are no safer from poisoning than creatures with less. A 1st level character, therefore, has as much chance of surviving being poisoned as a 10th level creature. This keeps in line with my rules defining biological units (see Hit Points). Most poisons range from a lethality of 1 to 10 points per hit die or level.

For example, a 5th level fighter and a 1st level fighter are each poisoned by a substance with a lethality of 5 hp/HD & Level. Because leveled creatures do possess 1 HD in addition to their levels (see Hit Dice), the 5th level will suffer 6 x 5 hp (30 damage) and 1st level will suffer 2 x 5hp (10 damage). In my game, an average 5th level NPC fighter would have 32 total hit points: a d8 (for mass, counting as the character's 1 HD) + 5d10. The 1st level NPC fighter would receive a d8 + 1d10, for 10 hit points. Each would suffer an amount of damage that would seriously threaten their survival, particularly if either had already suffered damage from other means. Any constitution bonus would greatly increase their chance of survival.

Likewise, we might compare an Indian elephant with 10 hit dice to the above, encountering the same poison. The elephant would suffer 50 total damage - but because the elephant weighs about 5 to 6 tons, it has an average of 9.5 hp/HD, or an average of 95 hit points.


Time of Effect

The damage caused by poison does not affect the victim all at once. To begin with, the poison must have time to enter the bloodstream and spread through the body: this alone will require 1 to 3 rounds, during which time the poison will cause no damage of any time. Once this time has passed, the actual damage caused by the poison is then a random roll from round to round, according the following formula:
  • Divide the total damage caused by the poison in half: this indicates the potential maximum effect (PME) of the poison per round.
  • Each round, roll a die equal to the PME and remove the damage that has been done from the initial total.
  • When the PME is less than the total damage remaining, reduce the PME to equal this remainder for each round that remains.
  • Continue to roll each round until all damage has been suffered.

For example, consider the 5th level fighter described above (we'll call him Ethan). We begin by rolling 1d3 to determine how long it takes the poison to take effect, with a result of 2. This will mean that Ethan begins to suffer damage in the 3rd round. We calculate the PME at half of 30 damage, a total of 15. In the 3rd round we roll 1-15 to see the damage and get the result of 4. This isn't enough to stun Ethan, so although he doesn't feel "well," he is able to continue acting freely.

With the 4th round we roll a 2 and Ethan's free action is still unaffected. In the 5th round, however, we roll an 8 and Ethan is now definitely stunned. He has taken a total of 14 hit points so far, so in the 6th round the PME is unchanged: Ethan takes another 6 damage and is in trouble. Thankfully, however, he is probably past the worst: because he has taken 20 damage so far, the PME is reduced to 10 points. In the 7th round we roll 1-10 and Ethan suffers another 5 damage. We reduce the PME again and in the 8th round, we roll 1-5 and Ethan suffers 4 more damage. This leaves only 1 left, so that in the 9th round he takes this last damage and the poison has run its course.

While this does impose a more complicated procedure where calculating the damage done by poison, it does increase the game's tension where it comes to the character being unsure of how bad the poison really is. There is also time to give aid, allaying the damage caused by the poison with spell, potion or salve while it is happening, casting slow poison or neutralize poison if possible. Therefore, it is possible for a character to suffer more damage than initially possessed at the start of being poisoned. It also means that multiple poisonings (from monster attacks or consuming more than one dose before realizing the poisoning has occurred) could produce multiple PME rolls per round.

Saving throws against poisoning will reduce the total damage of the poison (and the PME as well) by 50%. Recognizing that a substance is poisoned before drinking is not considered part of a saving throw, but is a sage ability in its own right (see Assassin).


Poison Types

Ingestive Poisons2.png
The following is a placeholder for more thorough rules regarding the making and manufacturing of poison, details to be added later.

What follows are a list of poisons that I have so far identified in my world, which cause damage according to the manner in which they are prepared. From the table on the right, the lethality of a poison is not inherent in its nature but in its preparation - a specific poison can be made to be merely annoying ('ailment') or remarkably deadly ('quietus'), depending upon how much poison is added to the recipe that interacts with the victim.

An individual must have skill at the manufacture of poisons in order to transform a poison extract obtained from an apothecary into a workable poison.

Some poisons do have unusual characteristics, however; and some are less detectable, lowering the base saving throw shown on the ingestive poison lethality table. All poisons must be carefully prepared (causing them to be expensive) in order to make them adhere to weapons in combat (insinuative) or be relatively undetectable in food and drink (ingestive).

Much of the content below is expressed in terms that would not be available to inhabitants of a fantasy world - but in order to be clear, it is necessary to use chemical terms here. I'm not interested in being scientifically accurate here, but in establishing a template for different poisons and how they work.

In terms of cost, presume that it requires ½ an ounce of any poison to mix a desired result (more than will actually be applied - count the extra as waste).

Ingestive Poisons

Aliphatic: poisons that derive from the distillation of wood alcohol, naphtha, ethers, acids and so on. Many of these compounds can be obtained from insect venom, such as from the bombadier beetle. In some cases these poisons can be designed to attack the eyes, blinding victims that survive the initial attack, when the poison is sufficient to cause vexatious (vex) results.

Asphyxiants: gaseous poisons that derive from substances that cause unconsciousness or death by suffocation. Some work by simply displacing breathable air, such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen, while others are highly toxic and attack the lungs, such as gaseous cyanide. Hydrogen sulfide attacks the respiratory center of the brain, causing a shut down of the heart and lungs (survivors of this may suffer permanent memory loss). Purchased asphyxiants will be concentrated cyanide or sulfide.

Conium maculatum: also known as hemlock, an extremely poisonous plant from which a deadly brew can be easily created. However, the smell is very off-putting, so that to create a poison that an unsuspecting person would drink without suspicion is difficult. It has been observed that some animals and creatures that are not killed by an early experience with the plant can become addicted to it.

Euphoric: substances that affect a creature's thought processes rather than reducing their hit points. Effects of such poisons can result in confusion, delirium and madness. (no rules for this exist in my game; so this is a placeholder for the present).

Malus domestica: also known as the apple, a source for asphyxiant that can be obtained through diligence. It is relatively inexpensive in regions where apples are common and as such is turned to by lower class poison makers.

Insinuative Poisons

Bikh: a poison that is concentrated from wolfsbane (or monkshead), which can then be applied to a bladed weapon in order to kill an opponent. Once the poison is made (and to the degree of deadliness desired), it must be carefully applied to a weapon for five melee rounds before it can be used. See using poisoned weapons.