D&D General "Poison", and spells that change it: Spirit of the rules v letter?

Greenfield

Adventurer
I'm running a game right now. We're using D&D 3.5 rules, but this is an opinion question so it should be independent of versions.

An Assassin is trying to stir up trouble in a mining community, to enflame frictions between the miners and the iron-workers. He snuck into a smithy and added salt to the smithy's quenching tank.

For those unfamiliar with the craft, if salt gets infused into metal it becomes nearly impossible to weld anything to it. That would include pattern-weld used in folded steel, or pressure weld to affix two different metals together. (Think of carbide-tipped chisels, as an example). The smith can see the effect, in that the flames around the affected metal flare green from the sodium.

The effect is called "Poisoning the weld". When metal is heated to red hot, then quickly cooled in the quenching tank to harden it, salt gets infused in the process and the result is called "Poisoned".

Now the question comes up: Would spells like Neutralize Poison do anything? It's not a living thing, and salt isn't normally a "poison", but if magic follows intent more than hard rules of logic and physics...

BTW: I know that not every alloy is subject to salt poisoning. I used this strictly for story purposes rather than strict chemistry, as a neat application of the Assassin's signature move. Not worried about an argument on how badly "poisoned" it would actually get.

So, would the magic follow the spell's normal function, which is to eliminate "poison", or would it fail?

Similar question: Would Neutralize Poison work to detoxify poisoned food or drink?
 

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Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
I don't know that I'd allow Neutralize Poison to fix the material. I would think that Mending or a similar magic would be what you would use for that. Again, the smith would definitely know that something's not right with his forging process which may make combatting the sabotage easier.

I would, however, allow someone maybe to use Purify Drink to 'cleanse' the quenching tank of the saline content quickly.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I don't know that I'd allow Neutralize Poison to fix the material. I would think that Mending or a similar magic would be what you would use for that. Again, the smith would definitely know that something's not right with his forging process which may make combatting the sabotage easier.

I would, however, allow someone maybe to use Purify Drink to 'cleanse' the quenching tank of the saline content.
In D&D 3.5 Mending fixes tears and breaks in small items. This isn't exactly that sort of damage.

But let's look at the Purify idea, since it kind of exemplifies what I'm talking about.

Wine or beer contains alcohol, which is technically a "poison".: Drunkenness is handled with the poisoning rules in many editions.

Some would have Purify turn wine into grape juice. Others might have it improve the blend by removing the Ethyl alcohol from the mix. (Most alcoholic beverages have a bit of both Ethyl and Methyl alcohol in there. One of those makes people blind and/or dead.) Someone else might rule that the spell doesn't do anything unless the wine is intentionally poisoned.

And all of those are right. Rather than acting like physics, always doing the same thing whether you like it or not, magic is flexible, doing what we want most of the time.

Which takes me back to my question: Can you un-poison an inanimate object, such as a plate of food, a pitcher of ale, or a bit of poisoned metal?

PS: Cleansing the tank is easy. Just change the water.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
By fantasy logic my answer is yes.

By D&D logic best to look at the rules for an Iron Golem and see if they are immune to poison. If they cannot be poisoned then metal cannot be poisoned.

For me fantasy logic would trump D&D logic in this case.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Well Golems can't be poisoned, per se. But in this odd instance, raw metal can. Sort of.

But you have to admit, it's kind of neat for an Assassin to find a way to sabotage something with the trademark move of poisoning it. :) (Yeah, I am kind of patting myself on the back there. So sue me. )
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
As a 'well actually' pure molten salt has been used to quench steel for the last 50 or so years. Brine, or salt water, has been used for quenching for 1,000's. It's better for some applications, in fact. The concept of poisoning the weld is one I've never encountered, and I couldn't find anything on it with a google search for that term or any similar construction. Be interested to see where that comes from! Anyway, the general concept here isn't part of our world, but could absolutely be part of a fantasy world. In which case, I think some form of purification would be needed, as poisoning is being used figuratively and not literally.
 

MarkB

Legend
Personally, my answer would be "no". You don't get to treat something as poison just because somebody's used the word in a colloquial phrase. If a person breaks up with their lover because a third party was whispering falsehoods and "poisoning him against her", would Neutralise Poison heal their relationship?
 


Voadam

Legend
In 3.5 I was pretty straightforward on spells as written

Neutralize Poison
Conjuration (Healing)
Level: Brd 4, Clr 4, Drd 3, Pal 4, Rgr 3
Components: V, S, M/DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature or object of up to 1 cu. ft./
level touched

Duration: 10 min./level
Saving Throw:Will negates (harmless,
object)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless, object)
You detoxify any sort of venom in the
creature or object touched. A poisoned
creature suffers no additional effects from
the poison, and any temporary effects are
ended, but the spell does not reverse
instantaneous effects, such as hit point
damage, temporary ability damage, or
effects that don’t go away on their own.
For example, if a poison has dealt 3 points
of Constitution damage to a character and
threatens to deal more damage later, this
spell prevents the future damage but does
not repair the damage already done.
The creature is immune to any poison
it is exposed to during the duration of the
spell. Unlike with delay poison, such effects
aren’t postponed until after the duration—
the creature need not make any
saves against poison effects applied to it
during the length of the spell.
This spell can instead neutralize the
poison in a poisonous
creature or object
for the duration of the spell, at the caster’s
option.

Arcane Material Component: A bit of
charcoal.

So it neutralizes the poison in an object for the duration of the spell.

The big question then would be whether the salt in salt poisoning counts as poison here.

I might allow it, particularly as there is a campaign point of the assassin using poison thematically. So the smith would then have the 10 minutes per caster level to work the metal unpoisoned and then it would be poisoned again so they would have to work with those constraints.

In 4e it would be a fairly straightforward use of the arcana skill to modify the spell for such a sympathetic magic thematic nonstandard use. Arcana skill with something known to draw out poison might even be enough to do so without a spell.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
I do have to wonder what the quantity of salt would need to be to ruin the quenching tank.
I'm googling a bit and people are talking about using a 10% brine solution so like... 5lbs of salt to 5 gallons of water (Salt (Brine) Quench)

Now, of course, maybe he's using an infernal salt of some sort - which is still a really cool idea and very 'trademark' and not easily copied - but if we're talking straight salt... we're back into GM call territory again. But again, kudos on the idea!
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I have to start with "Mea Culpa". Several people have pointed out that conventional salt doesn't "poison" a weld. Well, it does, when dealing with certain copper alloys, but generally not with ferrous blends. So I called it wrong.

Still I'm going to stick to my guns, in that I'm not going to walk back something that happened in game. Apparently the Assassin knows his poisons better than I do, and must have chosen a "salt" that bonds to iron and screws with the weld. Epsom salt perhaps? Any time you mix a caustic metal with something acidic, you get a salt, so there are a lot of salts.

Anyway the question remains.

Now Vodam did my favorite thing: Quoted the actual rules. I'm very much a rules guy. The RAW might not always seem to apply, and there can be any number of arguments with them in any given situation. But right or wrong, they're inarguable: Everyone has equal access to them, and so there's no excuse for not knowing them.

On that subject, there's an oddity in there: As written it neutralizes "venom". So ingested poisons, poison gas, contact poisons etc aren't affected, if we play it exactly as written. Nasty rules hole there, eh?

But the question was supposed to be revision independent. Regardless whether it's a grey area or not, how would you rule?

Consider that chocolate is a poison, when eaten by a dog, but not for people. So is the spell specific to people-toxins, or to any chemical that acts as a poison as it was used? And would that apply to unconventional definitions of "poison", such as the one in my initial example?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I have to start with "Mea Culpa". Several people have pointed out that conventional salt doesn't "poison" a weld. Well, it does, when dealing with certain copper alloys, but generally not with ferrous blends. So I called it wrong.

Still I'm going to stick to my guns, in that I'm not going to walk back something that happened in game. Apparently the Assassin knows his poisons better than I do, and must have chosen a "salt" that bonds to iron and screws with the weld. Epsom salt perhaps? Any time you mix a caustic metal with something acidic, you get a salt, so there are a lot of salts.

Anyway the question remains.

Now Vodam did my favorite thing: Quoted the actual rules. I'm very much a rules guy. The RAW might not always seem to apply, and there can be any number of arguments with them in any given situation. But right or wrong, they're inarguable: Everyone has equal access to them, and so there's no excuse for not knowing them.

On that subject, there's an oddity in there: As written it neutralizes "venom". So ingested poisons, poison gas, contact poisons etc aren't affected, if we play it exactly as written. Nasty rules hole there, eh?

But the question was supposed to be revision independent. Regardless whether it's a grey area or not, how would you rule?

Consider that chocolate is a poison, when eaten by a dog, but not for people. So is the spell specific to people-toxins, or to any chemical that acts as a poison as it was used? And would that apply to unconventional definitions of "poison", such as the one in my initial example?
Not Epsom Salts as small quantities of magnesium are added to white cast iron to improve the strength and malleability of the iron.

afaik most salts in iron smelting (calcium silicates and phosphorus salts) become the slag layer which is skimmed from the surface of the iron.

but yes stick to your guns and declare that in your world Natreen Salt poisons iron and as per Voadams rules quote, objects can be treated for poison too
 

Voadam

Legend
On that subject, there's an oddity in there: As written it neutralizes "venom". So ingested poisons, poison gas, contact poisons etc aren't affected, if we play it exactly as written. Nasty rules hole there, eh?

Yeah, I noticed the venom wording too. Normally venom is a technical term for poisons that animals inject so things like snake bites and insect stings are venomous but the poisons on frogs or toads to protect them from being eaten are not and poisons from plants and such are generally not considered venom.

However venom also has some secondary definitions such as malice and spite (Jack was feeling bitter and full of venom) but also poison in general.

In any case the bolded part at the bottom is an alternate use specifically for poisonous creatures and objects.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Yeah, D&D uses the term far more broadly than common usage would suggest. In 3.5 Druids get a class ability, at a certain level, called "Venom Immunity". It's described as immunity to all forms of poison.

In general, there are more than a few rules that reek of "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!". If played/exploited as written they just wouldn't work. I mean, how many times have we discussed the absolute brokenness of the economy, or how undead spawn rates make them the equivalent of nuclear chain reactions.

Sometimes you have to "go with the spirit, not the letter", otherwise the rule books would read like the Encyclopedia Britannica, and still have holes.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
Now Vodam did my favorite thing: Quoted the actual rules. I'm very much a rules guy. The RAW might not always seem to apply, and there can be any number of arguments with them in any given situation. But right or wrong, they're inarguable: Everyone has equal access to them, and so there's no excuse for not knowing them.
Being a rules guy who appreciates the actual rules being quoted, the 3.5 SRD seems pretty specific on what is a poison. There are four poison types: contact, inhaled, injested, and injury. The specific examples do not track with 'poisoning the weld'.

I love the scenario and the idea, definitely, and I think it's a perfect example that no matter how detailed and specific the rules get (I loved 3.X for that), there will always be cool situations that require a reach past what's written to find what's 'true' to your world or table.

 

Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
Personally, my answer would be "no". You don't get to treat something as poison just because somebody's used the word in a colloquial phrase. If a person breaks up with their lover because a third party was whispering falsehoods and "poisoning him against her", would Neutralise Poison heal their relationship?
There's a word for misusing language in this way, in fact. It's called "Equivocation".
 

Edwidget

Villager
D&D doesn't really embrace "sympathetic magic"- which is kind of how one would come to the idea that salt is a poison in this instance. I would rule it doesn't work, unless I was willing to go to pretty big lengths to make sure other spells were allowed to follow the same conceit. There's really not a "wrong" answer, especially since we don't know your table. Consistency is a good thing so you may be forced to consider this question in a more difficult circumstance later if you allow it. Creative players could make this a "rock and a hard place" situation.

"Revision independent" part aside, 3.5 is very technical sometimes and my players embraced that. Playing fast and loose with wording would usually bite me in the backside. Putting the smackdown on that helped rein in any rules lawyer shenanigans.

Player: "Well, it could mean..."
Me: "Shut up Karl, it means exactly what it says." 😅
Only you know how to handle your players.

I know I'm late to this, but it was a suggested thread so maybe others will find it helpful.
 


Similar question: Would Neutralize Poison work to detoxify poisoned food or drink?
I probably wouldn't but it's such an edge case that I would try and find for an interpretation of a similar spell that would allow it. To me, this use of the word 'poison' is significantly more metaphorical than what I take the spell neutralize poison to be concerned with.

If this was allowed, would you allow neutralize poison to negate dishonest debating tactics during a trial that had 'poisoned the well'?

I think it also bares to say that it seems like the intention/idea behind what a 'poison' is is that it effects a living thing. So, this is why chocolate can poison a dog, but not a human and why salt can't poison metal in the same sense.

tl;dr: what counts as poisoning is specific and it doesn't apply to every metaphorical/allegorical mode of "poisoning" something. Which is just to say "poisoning the weld" is just a turn of phrase, it does not mean that you are literally poisoning the weld in the same sense that you would poison an animal.
 

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