Only AFTER I posted this morning's post did I figure out exactly WHY I had been so bold as to say poison doesn't instantly kill you.
It's in the rules.
That's right, but you have to actually get to it in a roundabout way. Neutralize Poison, the clerical spell found in the Expert rules can save a person who's been poisoned, REVIVING them (Cook's words) so long as it is used within 10 rounds of the failed poison save.
So let's break this down:
- Clearly Neutralize Poison, a 4th level spell, does NOT raise someone from the dead; raise dead is a 5th level clerical spell, after all. Ergo, we can infer that the character is NOT deceased.
- And yet it's pretty clear that a person that gets pumped full of giant rattler venom or stuck with a purple worm sting is instantly out of action (unlike a bite from a medusa or a giant spider, both of which take many minutes to take effect). "Dead" is actually the term used in the monster description, but since we've established Neutralize Poison doesn't raise the dead and yet revives a poisoned character within ten rounds, well...I guess it's safe to say the poisoned victim is "dead to the world," at least.
I can't tell you how happy this makes me. First off it justified my earlier poison clarification in the B/X Companion. But second off (and so much more fun!) it means any character that fails a poison save is writhing on the floor, shaking and shivering in agony as poison courses through their veins!
Really...how cool is that?
All you whiners out there who don't like instant death? You've been given a reprieve! Play B/X or BECMI and at least your character has a chance of survival even after failing that D20 roll. Maybe your DM will take mercy on you and allow a fellow player to "suck the poison out" even if your party isn't carrying that O-So-Useful neutralize poison spell.
Oh, and just by the way...one more reason why B/X is the coolest. This little rule? Doesn't apply to AD&D. Neutralize poison can only be used to "de-fang" (so to speak) toxic critters. Hell, being poisoned by a medusa or spider spells instant death as well, per the AD&D Monster Manual, none of this (more realistic in my opinion) waiting on the poison to take effect. You are DEAD, pal.
Of course, what's the use of something like Slow Poison, then? Well, interestingly, this particular spell, a trifle ungracefully I'm afraid, somewhat mimics the B/X version of neutralize poison, basically extending the life of a character that's just been poisoned, possibly in the hopes of neutralizing the venom. Here's the dumb-dumb part (in addition to requiring a double-spell combo to heal a single poisoned wound): instead of giving a person 10 rounds to cast it, slow poison can be case within 1 turn per level of the caster.
How does this even make sense? The toxicity level of the poison is determined by the caster rather than the creature? If I'm a 7th level caster (spell must be cast within 7 turns) it takes 70 minutes for spider bite to finish someone; if I'm 12th level it takes two hours? Ridiculous!
Well, anyway, I'm still happy I'm playing B/X (and triply happy I don't have to keep track of lost attribute points for poisons, thank you very much). As with many things, I think the B/X crew got the poison rules nice and tidy.
[I'll have to check my LBBs later to see if this was 'ported directly from OD&D or not]