Friday, March 23, 2012

Poison By the Book


The only guidance regarding poisons in the original LBBs is on p. 20 of Men & Magic, where it mentions under saving throws that if you make your save versus poison, you suffer only “one-half of the total possible hit damage.” Perhaps this means that, instead of death, you suffer half your current hit points? Nowhere else does it mention the possibility of poison causing hit point damage, all mentions are of death.


“If a hit is scored by a poisoned weapon, a curare tipped blowgun dart, the poisoned sting of a giant scorpion, etc., the victim must make his saving throw against poison or paralysis and also take the number of damage points indicated by the die roll.” p. 19 [“Die roll” here presumably meaning the damage die of the weapon or attack]

Giant Centipede: +4 to save.
Medusa: Bite of the asps on its head is poisonous.
Purple Worm: Poisonous sting.
Spider: All spiders’ bites are poisonous; save at normal, +1, or +2 depending on size.
Yellow Mold: Save versus poison or die.
Potion of Poison: Allows a saving throw versus Poison.


Ant, Giant: Death on a failed saving throw, 1d4 damage on a successful saving throw.
Centipede, Giant: Poison is weak, +4 saving throw or die.
Couatl: Couatl poison apparently is fatal, as no other effect is mentioned.
Demons and Devils are fully susceptible to poisons.
Frog, Poisonous: Poison is weak, +4 saving throw or die.
Imp: Save or die.
Masher: Save or die.
Medusa: Save or die.
Mold, Yellow: Save or die within 24 hours. It apparently kills as quickly as other poisons. However, subsequently, rather than being treated as a poison, it is otherwise treated as a disease, requiring cure disease and resurrection (not raise dead) to raise a victim from the dead.
Naga: All forms of naga poison are save or die, poorly written relation to the bite damage notwithstanding.
Pseudo-Dragon: Poison causes a death-like state of catalepsy lasting 1-6 days, during which the victim has a 25% chance of actually dying.
Purple Worm: Save or die.
Quasit: Poison drains 1 point of Dexterity for 2d6 rounds if save is failed; no effect if save is successful.
Ray, Pungi: Save or die, with a special note that death is instant [so apparently death is not instant for most other poisons]
Ray, Sting: Save or suffer 5d4 points of damage and paralysis for 5d4 turns. No effect if save is successful.
Roper: Its tentacles are described as “poisonous,” though there is no explicit save versus poison to resist the weakening effect (50% of Strength in 1d3 rounds).
Scorpion, Giant: Like the Pungi ray poison, this poison is noted as causing immediate death.
Snake, Giant Amphisbaena: Poison causes instant death.
Snake, Giant Poisonous: Poison causes death, but even with a  successful save, the victim suffers 3d6 points of damage.
Snake, Giant Sea: Save versus poison or die.
Snake, Giant Spitting: Save versus poison or die.
Spider, Giant, Huge, and Large: Giant spider poisons are venomous, saving at 2 to no modifier depending on size (the larger the spider the stronger the venom, unlike the general rule in the real world).
Spider, Phase: Save at -2 or die.
Spider, Giant Water: Save or die.
Sprite: Arrows have a sleeping poison; save versus poison or sleep for 1d6 hours.
Toad, Giant Poisonous: Save or die immediately.
Wasp, Giant: save versus poison or become permanently paralyzed, with death occurring in 1d4+1 days.
Wyvern: Death if save is failed, 1d6 points of damage is saving throw is successful.


Slow Poison (2nd level cleric spell)

“When this spell is placed upon a poisoned individual it greatly slows the effects of any venom, even causing a supposedly dead individual to have life restored if it is cast within a number of turns less than or equal to the level of experience of the cleric after the poisoning was suffered, i.e. a victim poisoned up to 10 turns previously could be temporarily saved by a 10th or higher level cleric who cast slow poison upon the victim.” PHB p. 45

Neutralize Poison (4th level cleric spell described on PHB p. 48) can produce a poison that can kill a creature if it fails a saving throw versus poison.


“Poison Types:
The poison of monsters, regardless of its pluses or minuses to the victim’s saving throw, is an all-or-nothing affair. That is, either they do no damage, or they kill the victim within a minute or so. Poison potions generally do the same, though you may optionally elect to have any given one be slow-acting, so that the victim will notice nothing for 1-10 hours after quaffing it. Monster poisons are all effective by either ingestion or insinuation into the body and blood stream of the victim. Poison potions must be ingested [though see the poison potion description, below]. If you allow poison use by characters in your campaign, users can purchase ingestive or insinuative poisons only, having to obtain dual-use poisons from monsters.” DMG p. 20

Then are listed types A to E ingestive poisons and types A to D insinuative poisons. Note that only ingestive poisons have any damage if the save is made, while there is no damage dealt if the save is made against insinuative poisons (of which all are inferior to monster venom, dealing 15, 25, or 35 hit points of damage, save type D, which deals death). All these poisons save ingestive E give a +1 to +4 chance to save, not being as potent as most monster venoms.

“Assassins use all forms of poison, other than those listed above, at an efficiency which gives the victim a +1 on the saving throw; all other character types use them at an efficiency level which allows the victim +2 on saves (in all cases). Assassins who have studied poisoning have no penalty. (see ASSASSINS’ USE OF POISONS.)” DMG p. 21

RE: Assassins’ use of poisons (DMG p. 20) has a listing of the costs and times involved for a 9th level+ assassin to specifically study certain aspects of poisoning, and the special abilities gained once all studies are complete (requiring 20 to 32 weeks of study at a cost of 64,000 to 256,000 gp).

“For those who wonder why poison does either killing damage (usually) or no harm whatsoever, recall the justification for character hit points. That is, damage is not actually sustained – at least in proportion to the number of hit points marked off in most cases. The so called damage is the expenditure of favor from deities, luck, skill, and perhaps a scratch, and thus the saving throw. If that mere scratch managed to be venomous, then DEATH. If no such wound was delivered, then NO DAMAGE FROM THE POISON. In cases where some partial damage is indicated, this reflects poisons either placed so that they are ingested or used so as to ensure that some small portion does get in the wound or skin of the opponent.” DMG p. 81

“Poison: A poison potion is simply a highly toxic liquid in a potion flask. Typically, poison potions are odorless and of any color. Ingestion, introduction of the poison through a break in the skin, or possibly just skin contact, will cause death. Poison can be weak (+1 to +4 on saving throw), average, or deadly (-1 to -4 or more on the saving throw). Some poison can be such that an neutralize poison spell will simply lower the toxicity level by 40% – say from a -4 to a +4 on saving throw potion. You might wish to allow characters to hurl poison flasks.” DMG p. 127


“If a poisoned attack hits a creature (such as the sting of a killer bee), the victim must save vs. Poison or die.” p. B26

“Poison: Poison is the bane of all characters. If a character is hit with a poisoned attack and misses his or her saving throw vs. Poison, the character will usually die.” p. B29

Centipede, Giant: Save versus poison or be violently ill for 10 days.
Killer Bee: Save or die.
Medusa: Save or die in one turn.
Snake, Spitting Cobra: Venom spit into an eye will cause blindness if the save is failed. A failed saving throw against a bite causes death in 1d10 turns.
Snake, Pit Viper: Save or die.
Snake, Sea: Save or die after 3 to 6 turns; no effect until death, only 25% chance neutralize poison will work.
Snake, Giant Rattlesnake: Save or die in 1d6 turns.
Spider, Giant Crab: Save or die in 1d4 turns.
Spider, Giant Black Widow: Save or die in 1 turn.
Spider, Giant Tarantella: Save or dance a magical dance to exhaustion.
Yellow Mold: In Basic it is a save versus Death Ray, not Poison.


Fish, Giant Rockfish: Save or die.
Purple Worm: Save or die.
Scorpion, Giant: Save or die.
Sea Dragon: Breathe poison, but the save is versus Dragon Breath or die.
Wyvern: Save or die.

1 comment:

  1. Nice comparison. This isn't something I've looked at before, good to see it. I think Holmes' mention of "curare tipped blowgun dart" may reflect his neurophysiology background.