Thursday, 2 August 2012

Poison, made simple

Don't like save or die, confused by Neutralize Poison rules? 

Then what I have introduced may be helpful.

Poison does damage over time. Roll for damage, roll for time, start the poison. Simple, and it is even realistic.

For example, in my Kids D&D campaign, a poison dart hit the thief and she failed her saving throw. On the fly I said it gave 1d6 damage over 1d6 rounds. I rolled in secret 2 damage, 3 rounds. She had 6 hit points. First round 2 damage. She panicked, took healing. Then 2 more damage. She waited. Then 2 more damage, more healing taken. No more damage.

Player anxiety, time to heal, no save or die. I am going to use this mechanic for all my poisons. Easy to scale up or down depending on strength of poison eg 1d10 damage over 2d6 rounds.

No healing available, time for that farewell speech. Unless one likes, "Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."


  1. That is, quite simply, the BEST POISON RULE I'VE EVER SEEN. I am going to make it standard in my game.

  2. To simplify it even more (maybe too much?) you could always use the same die for duration and damage - 1d4 to 1d20 or even 1d100...

  3. I like it. Different poisons would, of course, have different strengths and durations, enough so that someone who knows their poisons might be able to gauge the relative dangers thereof.

  4. Yes I like it.

    This general idea must be high in the collective unconscious right now, I saw another blog or two with similarish ideas lately, but this is the simplest & I think, best.

    I like the idea of just scaling it with dice. From d3 dmg for d3 rounds on up.

  5. Nice and simple, love it.

  6. Thanks for your enthusiasm.

    If you want to have the player sweating. instead of doing sums, roll the damage dice each round.

    But even with even the rule as I outlined in the post, one could easily envisage players rushing back to the alchemists laboratory in the dungeon and frantically starting brewing. 1hp loss for 96 rounds. What's your movement rate? Wish you'd taken slow poison don't you?

    Tension that still allows for player agency.

  7. I remember a D&D 3.5 game where a character was bitten by a phase spider and failed his save (Fortitude DC 17, initial and secondary damage 1d8 Con.) The character in question was dropped to very low Con, the party had no way to save the poison, so he sat down, composed a death poem, distributed his equipment and pronounced his last wishes (including resurrection instructions). Then he waited. Failed the second save and was gone. It was a pretty cool scene!

  8. I agree Alex, deaths should take time, especially poison deaths.