Poison: For the Adventurer Who Has Everything

IT IS MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION to try and post more to the blog. It is beneficial to my writing skills, and it is something that I enjoy. The posts probably won't be as long, but the updates should be more frequent then what you were used to. We'll just see how it goes for a couple of weeks. I may not like what I write.

Today I want to talk about one of the most misunderstood mechanics of the game, handling poisons.

Now, Dr. Jones, You will give me the Diamond.

Every different system seems to handle poison differently. In many games, the poisoned victim takes damage every round, another method is making another save vs. poison the next day. In 2E Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the effects of poison is much harsher, the victim is unable to heal, even by magic, until the poison has been neutralized.

Why, for the poison that you just drank, of course.

It is up to the DM to determine if a Saving Throw determines actual poisoning or not. If a character drinks a poison cocktail, and makes his saving throw, he may or may not be poisoned, depending on how you interprite the rules. If you judge that the character touched the poisoned drink to his lips, and detected the poison, he may avoid the effects of the poison, however if you see it more as his constitution kicked in and his liver absorbed the poison, but he still drank it all! Then he is still poisoned, regardless of a successful saving throw.

Injected Poisones are much harsher, a poison needle that successfully hits its mark, poisons its victim. They will have to neutralize the poison before they can be healed by any means.

Contact poison is up to the DM's call as well. A successful saving throw could mean that contact with the poison item was avoided.

Of course, the rule of thumb is that if a poison still effects those who pass the saving throw, the victim is still poisoned.

Warning Signs: The tool of a Good Dungeon Master

Depending on the poison, we must pay attention to the onset. Different poison types are also of different strengths. Role up the Onset as shown in the DMG, but we don't need to tell the player that they are poisoned. Just remind them that they don't feel well and increase the intensity until the end of the onset at which time they lose the points. Characters may or may not be poisoned to the point of excepting benifits of magical healing depending on the Dungeon Master's judgement call.


Aiding a player who has been poisoned can be done by magic. Spells in the Players Handbook such as Slow Poison and Neutralize Poison are, of course, the most helpful. A natural remedy may be helpful, players with Herbalism and healing Non-Weapon Prof. may be able to slow down the poison, or even neutralize it naturally depending on how well a character rolls and how the Dungeon Master defines what is happening. Parties without a cleric may require a little leniency on the part of the DM, or maybe they don't?

Depending on how the poison has been created, was it extracted by a professional, or is it a natural poison? If it was manufactured, there should be an antidote nearby. If the poison comes from a natural problem, there could be an antidote available on the market. Antidotes only work for a specific kind of poison, and will only neutralize that specific poison, even if it is of the same type as another poison.

A leech (as in a Doctor) can effectively suck out the poison as long as the victim can be taken to him (or him to the victim) within the onset time. Once the damage is taken, and the onset is over, it is now in the bloodstream and will take a lot more work to neutralize naturally.

If a poison causes the death of a character, before the player or NPC can be raised from the dead, the poison must be neutralized, if this isn't done, then the character will immediately die again.


We must be a nit picker once the poisoning has happened, The Combat Round takes 1 minute, remind magic users who attempt to cast spells that take longer to cast then a round, as this will typically stop movement and action of other players until the spell has been cast.

Effects of Poison

Most poisons take hit points, however 2 types (type O & P) causes a different reaction.

  • Paralytic: This causes a character to be unable to move for 2d6 hours. The onset time is quite long, however at the end of it, the characters may be effectively captured. A thief who decides to use his Hide In Shadows skill before the drug takes effect may remain undetected. Characters who are effected by this poison do not gain spells, or any other benefit of sleep, as they aren't asleep, they are paralyzed. Once the poison has expired, it will not effect natural healing, it is gone from the system.
  • Debilitative: This poison causes all of a characters stats to be cut in half for 1d3 days. Players must use their new stats until the offset time has expired, neither can Players gain new spells. Once the time has expired, the poison leaves the system and the player returns to normal, including the ability to heal both magically and naturally.


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