Friday, July 30, 2010

Poison - One More Time

I got an email from Grey over at Pen & Sword regarding my recent poison posts. He had some interesting ideas himself on how to handle poison in the D&D game, but once again stated for the record how much he hates the "instant death" aspect of poison.

Okay...let's talk about this for a second.

If a person is killed by poison, it takes only a cleric with the 4th level spell Neutralize Poison and the 5th level spell Raise Dead to bring the poor sap back to life. If you're playing B/X and your cleric can get to the victim within 10 rounds, all you need is the 4th level spell. All clerics have access to all spells, so long as they have the ability to cast a particular level of spell.

So, what about petrification?

It may not be an auto "kill" but it takes your character out of the game just the same if you fail your saving throw. Does this mean you folks that prefer D20 don't use medusae, and gorgons, and basilisks, and cockatrices, etc.?

And the only way to recover someone from being turned to stone? A 6th level spell that your magic-user might or might not have in his/her spell book.

Is petrification somehow more "fair" than poison? It seems like a more dangerous proposition to me, seeing as how it makes a player sit out 'cause their character is stoned (and not in a good way). And as far as I can remember, most characters' saving throws are better against poison than against petrification.

So give me a break. Instant kill from poison is NOT what people are complaining about, really. It's using poison to excess.

Like alcohol, poison should be used in moderation...not "oh no, make a poison save against the locked chest AGAIN." Not every lock has contact poison spread on it. What? You think some castle lord or wizard has time to re-apply that stuff (oh-so-carefully) after every time he opens his chest to admire his loot? Think again.

A few monsters are poisonous...snakes and spiders mostly with a couple others (the aforementioned medusa and the dastardly purple worm) having much larger worries than their poisonous attack. And those snakes and spiders have to hit you first before forcing the effect giving you a double save against poison, where the first save is made using your armor class.

So please folks: leave the poison in. At least don't hold it up on such a pedestal of doom when there are so many other dangers (like a vorpal sword wielding fighter) to cry about.

; )


  1. We're talking about a culture of gamers who think level drain should be dropped because it's worse than death, so people complaining about instant death being worse than petrification is par for the course.

    I'm also of the opinion that poison is overused, at least the instant death version. Having some poisons take a delayed effect makes more stuff happen (people will want to try to save their poisoned comrade.) So, I came up with alternate poison rules that allow more variation without requiring something like the AD&D poison types.

  2. The problem is at the level that you can't deal with it.. that -everything- seemingly has poison. I'm all for offing them, and I'm all about level drain as well for keeping things nice and scary, I just think the arrangement of what they give you without getting creative on creatures can easily put them between a rock and a hard place.~

  3. Well, one can always adjust the rules to fit their tastes, leveling the poison effect as they see fit. Not a big issue, just homebrew these and, wallah!, no more concern.

  4. @ Everyone: Sure there's lots of fixes, but the game can't just be about rolling dice and crunching numbers (how many points from ability scores do you lose as opposed to how many points from hit points). Or rather, you CAN make it just about crunching numbers...but then why not play a computer game?

    Leave toxins in, especially the instant death kind, but use it in moderation. Same with petrification, energy drain, finger of death, polymorphing into toads, etc.
    : )