A poison is a substance that interferes with the natural functions of a living creature's body, causing injury or death, typically requiring only a very small amount. The target of a poison may resist with a successful saving throw. Poisons can be delayed or cured with spells such as delay poison and neutralize poison.
Broadly speaking, when someone fails a saving throw against any poison, the poison deals some amount of lethal or non-lethal damage that ignores the target's defenses (DR or ER). Most poisons also inflict a status condition, in addition to the damage they deal. The most common status condition inflicted by poison is ability damage (Ability Dilution, Ability Damage, or Ability Drain). Creatures that succeed on a saving throw against poison are usually completely unaffected by it, ignoring both the damage and any secondary effects.
There are a number of important terms related to how poisons work, which should be understood before looking at specific poisons.
- Afflictions, such as diseases and poisons, are all defined by the following characteristics, which detail how they affect a creature which fails a saving throw against them: Name, Vector, Intensity, Save, Frequency, Effect, and Fruition.
- Name: This is the name of the disease or poison.
- Vector: This is the means by which the disease or poison must be introduced to a subject: contact, ingested, inhaled, injury.
- Contact: delivered the moment a creature touches them with their bare skin.
- Ingested: delivered when a creature eats or drinks them.
- Inhaled: delivered the moment a creature enters an area containing them. A creature can hold its breath while inside the area, by voluntarily gaining the Gagging condition, to avoid inhaling the toxin. If a creature is voluntarily asphyxiating and fails its save, rather than dying, it begins to breathe normally again (and is affected by the inhaled affliction if it is still present).
- Injury: These poisons are primarily delivered through the attacks of certain creatures and through weapons coated in the toxin. Injury poisons do not usually have an onset time and have a frequency of 1 round.
- Note that vectors are not interchangeable — a disease or poison with an injury vector won't harm a target that ingests it, unless it also has an ingest vector listed.
- Save: This is the saving throw type (Fort, Refl, Will) and DC for the disease or poison. A creature subjected to a disease or poison makes a saving throw immediately upon its introduction to their system, and one saving throw for the second and third intervals of the disease or poison's frequency. The save DC is always the same for all of these saves. A creature which fails a saving throw against the disease or poison will always take one interval worth of effects from it as a result. If the saving throw is successful, the disease or poison is shrugged off, and deals no further effects to the target.
- Frequency: Many poisons act immediately upon their introduction to a target, but some poisons are designed to be slower to act. By contrast, most diseases take a day to cause effects on the target. The frequency determines how often the disease or poison will attempt to inflict its effects on the victim, and when its first effects are felt. There are three frequencies: "1/round for 3 rounds", "1/hour for 3 hours", and "1/day for 3 days". Diseases and poisons never have more than 3 intervals of their frequency. The first interval's effects are triggered by the failure of the initial saving throw, but may not occur until the first interval has passed, as detailed below:
- "1/round for 3 rounds": Diseases and poisons with a frequency of "rounds" inflict their first interval of effects as soon as it is introduced into the system of its victim. (E.g. a drow blademaster stabs the fighter, inflicting melee damage, and forcing the fighter to save against the drow's languishroot poison. If the save is failed, the fighter immediately takes the first interval of effects of the poison.) The target of a disease or poison with a frequency of "rounds" takes the second interval of effects at the start of their next turn, if they fail a second save. The round after that, at the start of the target's second turn after being diseased or poisoned, they make their third (and final) save. If this save is also failed, the third interval of effects are inflicted, as is the disease's or poison's fruition (if it has one). The strongest diseases and poisons only allow a saving throw when it is first inflicted, and no saving throws for the second or third intervals. In this case, the effects of the second and third intervals just occur as though their respective saving throws were failed.
- "1/hour for 3 hours": Slower diseases or poisons, such as ingested poisons or fast-acting diseases, may act with a frequency of "1/hour for 3 hours". In this case, the target creature makes their first saving throw as soon as the disease or poison is introduced, but they take no effect until the first interval (1 hour later) occurs. The victim doesn't get a second saving throw until the second interval (2 hours after the disease or poison's introduction). If they fail the second save, they take a second interval of effects. At the start of the 3rd hour, the third (and final) save is made. If this save is also failed, the third interval of effects are inflicted, and the disease or poison's fruition is inflicted (if it has one). The strongest diseases and poisons only allow a saving throw when it is first inflicted, and no saving throws for the second or third intervals. In this case, the effects of the second and third intervals just occur as though their respective saving throws were failed.
- "1/day for 3 days": This frequency is extremely rare for poisons, but extremely common for diseases. Much like a disease or poison with a frequency of "hours", the target creature makes their first saving throw as soon as it is introduced, but they take no effect from it until the first interval occurs, at the beginning of the next day. The victim doesn't get a second saving throw until the second interval (2 days after the disease or poison's introduction). If they fail the second save, they take a second interval of effects. At the start of the 3rd day, the third (and final) save is made. If this save is also failed, the third interval of effects are inflicted, and the disease or poison's fruition is inflicted (if it has one). The strongest diseases and poisons only allow a saving throw when it is first inflicted, and no saving throws for the second or third intervals. In this case, the effects of the second and third intervals just occur as though their respective saving throws were failed.
- Effect: This is what the disease or poison does to the target creature at each interval of its frequency, if the saving throw was unsuccessful. Poisons typically inflict a combination of ability damage (or ability drain) and Non-Lethal Damage, although poison effects can vary wildly. Diseases usually inflict just ability damage to one or more ability scores, though status conditions are also possible. Note that lethal and non-lethal damage inflicted by the effect (or fruition) of a disease or a poison is considered bludgeoning damage, but it cannot be mitigated with DR, unless the DR explicitly states it can be used to mitigate damage caused by disease or poison (such as the Endurance (Feat)).
- Fruition: This is the effect inflicted if the disease or poison's third tick of its frequency is allowed to occur before a successful saving throw is made. Fruitions always list a duration after which the effect(s) expire on their own. This can be some number of hours, days, or even permanent. Note that a fruition can only occur after 3 failed saving throws.
- Multiple Doses: If a creature is subjected to multiple doses of a disease or poison with a frequency of "rounds", the most recent disease or poison overwrites the older one, though any effects already inflicted by the older disease or poison linger and must be cured as described below. Of course, if a creature is subjected to different kinds of diseases or poisons, their effects stack.
Monster and NPC Poisons
Monsters and NPC's use different rules for poisons than players do, since monsters and NPC's aren't heroes. In most cases, monster-based poisons are injury poisons which grant one or more saving throws. They have an immediate onset, and a frequency of 1 round for 3 rounds (though the initial immediate effect counts as the first round). Poisoned creatures get a saving throw to resist the immediate effect, and (usually) another saving throw at the start of each of their turns. Each time the saving throw is failed, the creature takes the effect of the poison, until the 3rd failed save, at which point, the creature takes both the 3rd 'dose' of the effect, as well as the fruition of the poison.
Poison effects, as mentioned above, are usually some form of damage (lethal or non-lethal) and a status effect. Poison fruitions can vary wildly, from a severe status effect to death. They can also include a huge variety of non-combat effects, such as compelling the poisoned creature to speak only the truth for the next hour, and to always answer any question asked of it without prevaricating.
If a creature (usually a PC) succeeds on any saving throw against the monster's poison, the poison is fully resisted and no longer affects the creature (unless they get poisoned again). All poisons, no matter how nasty, are cured with a single successful saving throw, as long as that successful saving throw comes sometime before the fruition is inflicted on the victim. Once the fruition occurs, no further effects of the poison occur, but usually the fruition is so nasty, additional effects aren't necessary.
Note that the strongest poisons disallow saving throws after the initial exposure (unless a save is granted to the victim by a spell or ability). See Blighted for details.
Some monsters are capable of emitting poisons that are harmful if inhaled, rather than requiring the creature to successfully hit the target first. Such poisons are usually belched out in a cloud of some kind, which is (somewhat) avoidable, if those within the affected area are aware of it and are not surprised. Such creatures may attempt to hold their breath. Those creatures which are surprised by the effect, or unable to initiate holding their breath voluntarily breathe the poison in, and must save against it normally.
Some poisons act upon contact with the exposed flesh of a creature, rather than needing to be inhaled, ingested, or inserted via an injury into the creature's bloodstream. Contact poisons are exceedingly rare, but are typically applied via a touch attack. In all other ways, they behave exactly like an injury-based poison.
Some poisons cannot be used on weapons, and are better suited to use outside of combat. The most common example of this would be ingested poisons, which take effect when a creature eats or drinks the poison. Often these poisons are mixed with food or drink to mask their taste. These poisons usually have an onset time of 10 minutes, and a frequency of 1 minute. Like all other poisons, they inflict their effect up to 3 times, and then the fruition is resolved, if no successful saves against the poison occur before then.
Ingested poisons are often more role-playing based, story-driven types of poisons. As such, the rules and effects of these poisons can vary widely, as the story requires. It is also much harder to catch an assassin who plants a poison that doesn't affect its target until 10 minutes after they eat or drink something. The assassin may not be anywhere near where the food/drink is ingested, and could have planted it long before the food/drink were even served.
Players can purchase poisons to apply to their weapons, or for whatever other crazy idea fills their psychopathic little heads. Player poisons are a simplified version of monster poisons. Like monster poisons, they are nearly always injury poisons that grant a saving throw to the target after a successful hit with the poisoned weapon. If the target fails the save, however, instead of a frequency, onset, or fruition, the poison simply deals bonus damage equal to the potency level of the poison, and inflicts a status condition (usually lasting only until the start of the poisoner's next turn).
Bonus damage inflicted by poison is not multiplied on a critical hit. Creatures immune to poison are not subject to the poison's damage or status condition (hopefully, this is obvious).
Player characters wishing to apply poison to a weapon or a single piece of ammunition must expend a standard action to perform a Sleight of Hand check, versus a Challenging DC, based on the potency level of the poison being applied. This can be reduced to a move action by adding +5 to the DC, or a swift action by adding +10. Characters must declare they are attempting to apply the poison with a lesser action prior to making the skill check.
If a character fails the Sleight of Hand check by less than 4, or they roll a natural 1, they are unable to apply the poison to the weapon or piece of ammunition. Both the action to apply the poison, as well as the dose of poison itself, are wasted. If a character fails the sleight of hand check by 5 or more, the character accidentally afflicts the poison's effects on themselves. They must make a save against the poison or suffer its effects. Whether this save succeeds or fails, the dose of poison and the action used to apply it are wasted.
Once a dose of poison is applied to a weapon, it persists until the first time the weapon successfully hits a target. At that time, in addition to the normal damage from the weapon's hit, the struck creature must also make a saving throw against the poison or suffer its effects. Regardless of whether the creature succeeds or fails this saving throw, the dose of poison is expended. The poison will wear off of the weapon naturally by the end of the next encounter, or when the character takes a full night's rest (whichever comes first). If the poison is applied during an encounter, and isn't used up by striking a target, it wears off at the end of the current encounter.
If a dose of poison is applied to a piece of ammunition, the poison persists as described above, except that it is expended whether the attack using that piece of ammunition hits or misses (or at the end of the encounter or a full night's rest, whichever comes first).
To buy a poison, players must first decide which kind of poison they want (distinguished by which status condition it inflicts), and then choose the potency level of the poison. The type of poison modifies the cost by a fixed amount, which is added to the base price of the poison, based on its potency level.
- All secondary effects of a poison (anything the poison does in addition to its bonus damage) lasts only until the start of the poisoner's next turn, unless stated otherwise.
- Poison effects cannot stack with themselves, even if multiple poisons are used. Once a target is poisoned, any new poison merely overwrites the secondary effects of the old poison.
- All player poisons are available in either non-lethal or lethal damage versions. This is determined at the time the poison is purchased, and cannot be changed.
|Poison Name||Notes||Base Price Per Dose|
|Simple Venom||Bonus damage only; no secondary effect.||0 gp|
|Ardorbind||The target suffers 1 point of Essence Suppression each time it is successfully afflicted with this poison. This effect stacks with itself, and persists until the end of the encounter.||4,000 gp|
|Bloodspine||Inflicts a Bleed on the target until healed. Severity of the bleed equal to 1 + (potency / 5, drop fractions).||500 gp|
|Bunion Leaf||The target treats all squares of movement as difficult terrain, regardless of movement type (except for Teleport), for 1 round.||3,500 gp|
|Clangor Toxin||The target is unable to make attacks of opportunity for 1 round.||300 gp|
|Dawdle Water||All of the target's movement speeds except for Walk and Teleport are reduced for 1 round, by an amount equal to 10 feet + 5 feet per (potency / 5, drop fractions).||1,000 gp|
|Elf Juice||Target becomes vulnerable to Cold Iron weapons for 1 round, taking 50% additional damage from hits with weapons made from this material.||200 gp|
|Flutterlure||The target is unable to make a full attack action for 1 round. The target may still use its standard, swift, and move actions, it just cannot make a full attack action.||1,500 gp|
|Fool Oil||Inflicts a penalty to the target's saving throws for 1 round. Penalty equal to 1 + (potency / 10, drop fractions).||400 gp|
|Golem Dust||Target becomes vulnerable to Adamantine weapons for 1 round (including dolemetal, truemetal, and paramount alloy), taking 50% additional damage from hits with weapons made from this material.||1,000 gp|
|Heartsore Ash||The target suffers a penalty to its Maneuver Offense and Maneuver Defense for 1 round. Penalty equal to 1 + (potency / 10, drop fractions).||400 gp|
|Hobbleroot||Target's Walk speed is reduced for 1 round, by an amount equal to 10 feet + 5 feet per (potency / 5, drop fractions). This has no effect on other movement types the target may possess.||500 gp|
|Jannek Sap||Bonus damage only; no secondary effect. Poison lasts for 2 hits, instead of 1.||1,000 gp|
|Lackwit Milk||Inflicts a penalty to all skill checks (including Perception) made by the target for 1 round. Skill penalty equal to 1 + (potency / 8, drop fractions).||200 gp|
|Laskermar Bark||Target is Bruised for 1 round, causing any healing to merely remove the bruised condition, instead of healing.||200 gp|
|Lurch Gristle||Inflicts a penalty to the target's Concentration checks for 1 round. Penalty equal to 1 + (potency / 8, drop fractions).||400 gp|
|Magebane||The target is unable to speak or cast spells or spell-like abilities for 1 round.||1,000 gp|
|Morindi Seed||Reduces damage inflicted by all of the target's attacks and abilities for 1 round. Damage reduced by 1 + (potency / 5, drop fractions).||500 gp|
|Morpheous||Target becomes vulnerable to Silver weapons (including bladesilver and bloodsilver) for 1 round, taking 50% additional damage from hits with weapons made from these materials.||700 gp|
|Plunge||The target is unable to take 5-foot steps for 1 round.||2,000 gp|
|Shiverweed||Target behaves as though flanked for 1 round, allowing sneak attacks, and granting melee attackers a +2 flanking bonus to hit. This is a fear effect.||1,000 gp|
|Tumbledown||Inflicts a penalty to the target's AC, flat-footed AC, and Touch AC for 1 round. AC penalty equal to 1 + (potency / 10, drop fractions).||1,000 gp|
|Potency Level||Save DC||Bonus Damage||Price Per Dose||Potency Level||Save DC||Bonus Damage||Price Per Dose|
|1||14||+1||+15 gp||21||33||+21||+2,305 gp|
|2||15||+2||+40 gp||22||33||+22||+2,520 gp|
|3||16||+3||+65 gp||23||34||+23||+2,745 gp|
|4||17||+4||+100 gp||24||35||+24||+2,980 gp|
|5||18||+5||+145 gp||25||36||+25||+3,225 gp|
|6||19||+6||+200 gp||26||36||+26||+3,480 gp|
|7||20||+7||+265 gp||27||37||+27||+3,745 gp|
|8||21||+8||+340 gp||28||38||+28||+4,020 gp|
|9||22||+9||+425 gp||29||39||+29||+4,305 gp|
|10||23||+10||+520 gp||30||40||+30||+4,600 gp|
|11||24||+11||+655 gp||31||41||+31||+5,305 gp|
|12||25||+12||+770 gp||32||42||+32||+5,620 gp|
|13||26||+13||+895 gp||33||43||+33||+5,945 gp|
|14||27||+14||+1,030 gp||34||44||+34||+6,280 gp|
|15||28||+15||+1,175 gp||35||45||+35||+6,625 gp|
|16||29||+16||+1,330 gp||36||46||+36||+6,980 gp|
|17||30||+17||+1,495 gp||37||47||+37||+7,345 gp|
|18||31||+18||+1,670 gp||38||48||+38||+7,720 gp|
|19||31||+19||+1,855 gp||39||49||+39||+8,105 gp|
|20||32||+20||+2,050 gp||40||50||+40||+8,500 gp|
Calculating Cost Per Dose
The total cost per dose of a poison is the cost of the base poison type + its potency. For example, a single dose of Golem Dust (base cost 1,000 gp), at potency level 10 (cost 520 gp) is 1,520 gp.
Alcohol behaves somewhat differently from other ingested poisons. While it has the normal onset time of 10 minutes, it has a special frequency of "once per drink ingested". It is assumed that most characters who drink alcohol are deliberately failing the saving throw.
Unlike other poisons, if the initial saving throw is failed, there are no further saves for that particular drink. Its effects persist until the alcohol's duration expires. The duration of alcohol is 4 hours, which is reset to 4 hours each time an additional drink is ingested (assuming the Fort save is failed). While this might suggest that a character can stay permanently intoxicated, the effects of alcohol increase significantly as more drinks are consumed, eventually rendering the character unable to drink more.
A standard drink of alcohol is often much larger than a normal dose of poison. A beer, for example, is a pint (16 oz), which is assumed to have roughly the same efficacy as a glass of wine (5 oz), or a shot of spirits (1 oz).
- Special — Drunk: If a character drinks a total of drinks equal to his CON score/4 (not modifier; drop fractions) before the alcohol's duration expires, he becomes Drunk. In addition to the other effects, the character gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Cha-based skill checks and gains the Sluggish condition (replaces Drowsy).
- Special — Stupor: If a character drinks a total of drinks equal to his CON score/2 (not modifier; round down) before the alcohol's duration expires, he enters a Stupor. In addition to the other effects, he gains the Rattled status condition until the alcohol's effects expire.
- Special — Unconscious: If a character drinks a total of drinks equal to at least triple his CON score/4 (not modifier; drop fractions) before the alcohol's duration expires, in addition to the other effects, he gains the Asleep condition. If the character is awakened before the duration of the alcohol has expired, he is instead Nauseated until the end of the alcohol's duration.
- Cost: varies; see Food and Drink for details.