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Enlightened Grognard: Poisons

amnuxoll

First Post
So, I'm considering the mechanics for poison in D&D 3.5. The current approach requires that players remember the secondary effects that kick in a minute later and, in my experience, this is often forgotten. The 4e approach of just making poison another type of damage seems weak to me and doesn't convey the insidious threat that poison can be.

Is there a third, better option?
 

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Celebrim

Legend
So, I'm considering the mechanics for poison in D&D 3.5. The current approach requires that players remember the secondary effects that kick in a minute later and, in my experience, this is often forgotten. The 4e approach of just making poison another type of damage seems weak to me and doesn't convey the insidious threat that poison can be.

Is there a third, better option?

Depends on what you want.

If you can't remember a reoccuring or delayed effect, you are going to have a great deal of difficulty being a DM. My guess is that the players are 'forgetting' because it is very conveinent for them to do so. I think you'll find that these same players are wizards when it comes to remembering all the possible modifiers that go into thier attack bonus.

I suggest better organization. Legal pads and colored 3x5 note cards are your friends. When a character is poisoned, hand them a 3x5 note card (preferably in green or purple so that you can tell what you are looking at across the table) with 'Poison' written on it in friendly easy to read letters, much as you would visually track a poisoned condition in a video game. Have them put their conditions by their character sheet. Putting a dice on a condition and having it 'run down' can help you remember when a condition goes away. With something like poison, if the character wants to give it back to you, then you are going to remember "Hey, when did you do your saving throw on this?" If that saving throw comes in a minute or in 10, your aren't that bad off. Exact time tracking is not necessary except in combat. The important things is that things that are supposed to happen before the next night's sleep, actually do happen.

In my game, DC's tend to be a bit lower than default 3.X but conditions are often more serious. Poison doesn't just go away. It has a reoccurance time depending on how fast acting the poison is. Say 1 minute for cyanide or krait venom, or maybe 6 hours for arsenic or a poisonous toadstool. You make a save or take damage every interval. You have to make two successful saves in a row to recover from a poison. This ensures that poison is an insidious threat.

As for a middle way, there is nothing particularly wrong about having a poison be reoccuring ordinary damage if you find tracking ability damage complicated or inappropriate/wonky given the effects of the poison you envision.
 

Sadrik

First Post
Here is just an idea for a poison toolkit. Pick the four variables you like and then apply the specific name that you want. Works like disease make two successful saves and you rid yourself of it.

Delivery
Contact--->
Merely touching this type of poison necessitates a saving throw. It can be actively delivered via a weapon or a touch attack. Even if a creature has sufficient damage reduction to avoid taking any damage from the attack, the poison can still affect it. A chest or other object can be smeared with contact poison as part of a trap.
Ingested-->
Ingested poisons are virtually impossible to utilize in a combat situation. A poisoner could administer a potion to an unconscious creature or attempt to dupe someone into drinking or eating something poisoned. Assassins and other characters tend to use ingested poisons outside of combat.
Inhaled--->
Inhaled poisons are usually contained in fragile vials or eggshells. They can be thrown as a ranged attack with a range increment of 10 feet. When it strikes a hard surface (or is struck hard), the container releases its poison. One dose spreads to fill the volume of a 10-foot cube. Each creature within the area must make a saving throw. (Holding one’s breath is ineffective against inhaled poisons; they affect the nasal membranes, tear ducts, and other parts of the body.)
Injury----->
This poison must be delivered through a wound. If a creature has sufficient damage reduction to avoid taking any damage from the attack, the poison does not affect it. Traps that cause damage from weapons, needles, and the like sometimes contain injury poisons.

Type
Death----> 1d6 CON (at zero dead)
Paralytic-> 1d6 STR and DEX (at zero paralyzed)
Mind-----> 1d6 WIS and CHA (1 minimum)

DC
Mild------> DC 10
Average--> DC 15
Deadly---> DC 20
High dose> DC +2
Low dose> DC -2

Severity
per Hour
per 10 minutes
per minute
per round
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
I like the Pathfinder rules, which have multiple saves closer together (somewhat easier to remember), of an amount and frequency determined by the poison but still deal ability damage. I rewrote the poison system based on this idea, but incorporating a few more status effects and things.
 

amnuxoll

First Post
If you can't remember a reoccuring or delayed effect, you are going to have a great deal of difficulty being a DM.

Having been a DM for 25+ years who has little trouble finding players I fervently disagree with this. ;) Also, I've forgotten this as often as a player as as a DM. Also, I've heard this complaint about poisons from several others. It's not just me.

You suggestion, better organization, could work but I view it as treating the symptom and not the underlying problem. I'm looking to step back and see if there's a better approach.
 

amnuxoll

First Post
I like the Pathfinder rules, which have multiple saves closer together (somewhat easier to remember), of an amount and frequency determined by the poison but still deal ability damage. I rewrote the poison system based on this idea, but incorporating a few more status effects and things.

Would you be willing to post more of the details of your approach? Perhaps a per-round effect instead of a per-minute effect is an appropriate compromise.
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
Sure. Here's my basic rules and sample poisons. The whole poison list (and similar disease approach) is towards the end of my houserule thread.

Most injury or contact poisons are per round or every other round; I have ingestible poisons act slower. I also made it so the poisons' damage is never random; the saves are the only random element. I also nerfed magic poison curing and added in some fun status effects and things.

Poisons have the following entries.

Type: Means of exposure; functions the same as the core rules.
Save DC: Self-explanatory.
Frequency/Duration: How often the target must make saves (if the initial save to resist the poson is failed) and how many total saves the target must make. The frequency is typically once per round, once every 2 rounds, or once per minute; the duration is typically measured in rounds or minutes. Some poisons have a short latency period before taking effect.
Effect: Typically the effect is 1 point of damage to one or more ability scores for each failed save. Some poisons have different effects. In some cases, failing multiple consecutive saves may cause more severe effects; if these effects replace the poison’s normal effects upon a failed save.
Cure: Typically, a poison is cured by 3 consecutive successful saves; the target does not need to make any more saves and suffers no further ill effects. If this entry is absent, this is assumed to be the case. Some poisons may have different cures, and others may have none (meaning that the target always has to make all the saves noted in the frequency entry unless the target is magically cured or dies).
---
Multiple Doses
If a character receives a second dose of a poison while the first is still in effect, the two doses do not stack. Instead, increase the save DC to resist the poison by +2 and use only the frequency and duration of the most recent dose (however, do not reset any wait period, only the duration during which the target must make saves). Multiple doses continue to increase the DC and reset the duration. Concurrent doses of two or more different poisons act normally.

Heal
During any round in which a target character must save against a poison, one other character who is giving the target first aid may use his Heal check to aid the fortitude save.

Magic
The Neutralize Poison spell allows the caster to substitute a caster level check for each of the affected character’s fortitude saves against poison. The target may use his fortitude save result or the caster level check result for each save, whichever is better. The poison’s cure entry continues to apply; a caster level check counts as a save for this purpose.

Core Poisons

Arsenic; Ingested; DC 13; Once per minute for 9 minutes; Damage: 1 Con; Cure: Make 4 consecutive saves.
Black Adder Venom; Injury; DC 11; Once per round for 12 rounds; Damage: 1 Con; Cure: 4 consecutive successful saves.
Black Lotus Extract; Contact; DC 20; Once per round for 12 rounds; Damage: 3 Con and stunned for 1 round; Cure: 4 consecutive successful saves.
Bloodroot; Injury, DC 12; Wait 1 minute, then once every 2 rounds for 14 rounds; Damage: Alternates between 1 Con and 1 Wis; Cure: 2 consecutive successful saves.
Blue Whinnis; Injury; DC 14; Once every 2 rounds for 1 minute; Damage: Target fatigued; If target already fatigued, target exhausted; If target already exhausted, target falls asleep for 1 hour; If target fails 3 or more consecutive saves, 1 Con in addition to above effects.
Burnt Othur Fumes; Inhaled; DC 18; Once every 2 rounds for 12 rounds; Damage: 3 Con and nauseated for 1 round, then sickened for 1 round; If 3 or more consecutive saves failed, 2 Con + 1 Con drain instead and nauseated for 2 rounds.
Dark Reaver Powder; DC 18; Once every 2 rounds for 12 rounds; Damage: 2 Con and sickened for 1 round; If 2 consecutive saves failed, 3 Con + 1 Str instead and nauseated for 1 round, then sickened for 1 round; Cure: 4 consecutive successful saves.
Deathblade; Injury; DC 20; Once per round for 12 rounds; Damage: 1 Con; If 2 or more consecutive saves failed, 2 Con instead and sickened for 1 round; Cure: 4 consecutive successful saves.
Dragon Bile; Contact; DC 26; Once per round for 6 rounds; Damage: 3 Dex and nauseated for 1 round; Cure: This poison is not cured by consecutive saves, so a character must make all 6 saves unless cured by magic.
Drow Poison; Injury; DC 13; Once every 2 rounds for 1 minute; Damage: Target fatigued; If target already fatigued, target exhausted; If target already exhausted, target falls asleep for 1 hour.
 

Kerrick

First Post
I thought I'd just toss out my system as well. It's similar to Ahnenhois', but a little more detailed - poisons have different onset and check times, and varying number of saves depending on strength (and they're not consecutive saves; the chance of making successive consecutive saves goes down exponentially with each added save).
 

amnuxoll

First Post
Thanks everyone, particularly Kerrick and Ahnehnois, for your suggestions. Here's what I came up with:

[sblock]
Poisons

All poisons have a primary and secondary effect. For example:

Arsenic
Ingested; Heal DC 13
Primary effect: 1 Constitution damage
Secondary effect: 1d4 Constitution damage

Once per round a poisoned creature suffers both the primary and
secondary effect of the poison unless it uses a swift action to
make a successful Fortitude saving throw. A successful save means the
creature only suffers the primary effect.

Unlike many effects, a creature can not remove itself from the
poisoned condition with a saving throw. A saving throw can only be
used to avoid the secondary effect of a poison as described above.

Multiple doses of the same poison do not stack.

Poison can be treated with magic (e.g., a neutralize poison
spell) or with the Heal skill. To treat someone with the Heal skill
requires 1 minute. The healer must reach the DC that is listed in the
poison description. A healer can attempt to treat poison as
a standard action, but this applies a large penalty (usually -10) to
the skill check.

It is possible to treat yourself for poison.

Applying poison to a weapon or a piece of ammunition requires 2 rounds
(about 12 seconds) of time without distraction. Alternatively, poison
can be applied as a standard action with a DC 15 Sleight of Hand
check. On a failure, you accidentally poison yourself. When poison
is applied to a weapon it remains potent for 1 hour or until you
successfully strike a creature with the weapon. A creature struck
with a poisoned weapons suffers the effects of the poison.
[/sblock]

I think this is the best compromise. It still requires you to remember the poison but it's every round instead of every 10 rounds as was suggested by the other posters. Also, it's a simple mechanic that still does a great job of making poison the scary, urgent insidious thing that I want it to be.
 

ValhallaGH

First Post
it's a simple mechanic that still does a great job of making poison the scary, urgent insidious thing that I want it to be.


... Whoa ....


Damn, that's scary.
A single dose of arsenic will kill an average-health person in less time than it takes to attempt to treat them.
Treating them fast enough to (maybe) save their life is a DC 23 Heal check. Which makes it impossible for the untrained (barring extreme luck and talent).
Survivors will be debilitated for a number of days equal to the rounds they were affected (plus 1d4 days for failed saves).

Pit Fiend poison is almost-certain death (DC 27 Fort; 1d6 CON, Death) unless the character has made themselves magically immune to poisons.


If you want poisons to be better than most magic spells then you've succeeded.
Good luck.
 

amnuxoll

First Post
These are fair points, if a bit exaggerated. How about this as a softer version:

Poison can be treated with magic (e.g., a neutralize poison spell) or with the Heal skill. Treating someone with the Heal skill is a standard action that draws an attack of opportunity. If you are treating someone in combat, this applies a penalty to the skill check
(usually -5).
 

ValhallaGH

First Post
if a bit exaggerated.
Really? I thought I nailed it exactly. I'd appreciate clarification on what I did exaggerate. (I hate doing things by accident, and always try to learn what happened so that I can avoid doing them again on accident.)

How about this as a softer version:

Poison can be treated with magic (e.g., a neutralize poison spell) or with the Heal skill. Treating someone with the Heal skill is a standard action that draws an attack of opportunity. If you are treating someone in combat, this applies a penalty to the skill check (usually -5).

So, AoO and a -5 to your check.
Yeah, that's a lot more survivable, and still leaves room for Delay Poison to be useful (i.e. don't have neutralize yet, but can delay till the end of combat, when the check gets easier).

I'd have to say that I like that softer version a lot better, for playability. It makes poison a serious threat but less of a death sentence. It's a good and powerful option, that can have serious long-term effects, but isn't an I Win button for the wielder.
 

Kerrick

First Post
I agree - when I read that, I said "Whoa!". 1 Con damage/round will kill your average person inside of a minute (maybe 2-3 rounds, depending on his luck). That would be fine for the higher-end poisons like death blade, but arsenic is supposed to be a "mild" poison.

Treating poison with the Heal skill is already in the rules - every time the tended person makes a check, he uses the other person's Heal check or his save, whichever is higher (and there's no penalty listed). I'd much prefer that version, personally. Also, there should be a way to shake off the effects of poison on your own - otherwise paralytics and sleep poisons become far too powerful, because no one ever recovers from them. Does a single Heal check cure the poison?
 

amnuxoll

First Post
Also good points. How about this: If a victim is able to endure the effects of the poison for a full minute then the effects cease.

Saving throws work differently than normal in my game so a Heal skill check can't substitute for a saving throw. But I think it'd be fine to do that.
 

Kerrick

First Post
That could work. But why a full minute across the board? Maybe have some (weaker) poisons go faster, and some stick around longer? In that case, I'd drop the "average" time to 5 rounds; something weak like giant wasp poison could last for 2-4 rounds, while black lotus would affect the victim for a full minute (making it very deadly).
 

amnuxoll

First Post
It's only my opinion, of course, but I think that adds too much complexity to the design for little gain. If you go back to my original post you'll recall I'm looking to make things easier to do and remember. The DM should not have to remember how long the poison has been in effect.

More generally it's my opinion that anything that requires you to keep track of a duration is a weakness of the rules. The only reason I'm ok with a 1 minute limit on poisons is because 99% of the time it won't matter since the PCs will treat it before the time limit ends.

These revised poison rules accomplish what I want:
1. They make poison a real threat rather than something that can be safely ignored.
2. They don't require accounting. Poisoned simply becomes a condition like dazed or prone that either is or is not.
3. They aren't that different from the original 3.5 rules. This is an improvement, not an abandonment.
 


ValhallaGH

First Post
Also good points. How about this: If a victim is able to endure the effects of the poison for a full minute then the effects cease.

That's probably a nice compromise. A rare occurrence*, but a solid compromise.

[sblock=* How Rare?]
Assume a Dwarf Fighter 5, with a 16 Con. Fort Save is +7 / +9 vs. Poison. Hit with Arsenic, always rolls a 9 on his save. DC 13.
Round 1, make his save, lose one Con (15). Save now +8 v Poison.
Round 2, make his save, lose one Con (14).
Round 3, make his save, lose one Con (13). Save now +7 v Poison.
Round 4, make his save, lose one Con (12).
Round 5, make his save, lose one Con (11). Save now +5 v Poison.
Round 6, make his save, lose one Con (10).
Round 7, make his save, lose one Con (9). Save now +4 v Poison.
Round 8, make his save, lose one Con (8).
Round 9, make his save, lose one Con (7). Save now +3 v Poison.
Round 10, fail his save, lose 1d4+1 Con (5 to 2). Save now +2 or +1 v Poison. Poison ends.

Assume a Human Fighter 5, with same base stats. 14 Con, +6 vs. Poison. Hit with Arsenic, always rolls a 9 on his save. DC 13.
Round 1, make his save, lose one Con (13). Save now +5 v Poison.
Round 2, make his save, lose one Con (12).
Round 3, make his save, lose one Con (11). Save now +4 v Poison.
Round 4, make his save, lose one Con (10).
Round 5, make his save, lose one Con (9). Save now +3 v Poison.
Round 6, fail his save, lose 1d4+1 Con (7 to 4). Save now +2 to +1 v Poison.
Round 7, fail his save, lose 1d4+1 Con (5 to -). Save now +1 v Poison, or Dead.
Round 8, fail his save, lose 1d4+1 Con (3 to -). Save now +0 v Poison, or Dead.
Round 9, fail his save, lose 1d4+1 Con (1 to -). Save now -1 v Poison, or Dead.
Round 10, fail his save, lose 1d4+1 Con (-). Dead

The Dwarf is a "best realistic case", the Human is a baseline hero case. The Dwarf barely survived (hooray racial bonus against poisons), and will need 11 to 14 days to recover (or up to 7 Lesser Restoration spells). The human died as early as round 7 (without rolling an early failure), and was guaranteed to die by round 10.

Congratulations, by standard saving throw rules, you've got a very deadly set of poison rules. I hope it works out well for you and yours. Good luck.[/sblock]
 

amnuxoll

First Post
Congratulations, by standard saving throw rules, you've got a very deadly set of poison rules. I hope it works out well for you and yours. Good luck.

Thanks for the math. This feels about right to me. Arsenic may be relatively weak, but it is still a poison and should be potentially deadly.

:AMN:
 


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