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Handling Poisonby Angelo Bertolli
The purpose of this document is to provide the DM with a system for handling poisons that can be as complicated or as simple as he likes. Different ways of handling poisons range from instant death (as found in the Dungeons and Dragons game) and the simple 1 point of damage per round (as found in video games like the Ultima series). These are both very simple, but not realistic ways of handling ALL poisons. Some games have cumbersome (or not so cumbersome) charts that still have their limitations. And even with a chart, poisons shouldn't be completely random. So hopefully this document will help the DM come up with a satisfactory method of handling poisons. This is by no means a scientific analysis of poison or any attempt to imitate reality. This is merely for game play.
Properties of PoisonThe first step is to simplify the whole poison system. The effects of poisons seem to be random at best. But this is not really the case. When you think about it, poisons have 4 or 5 properties at the most. (Numbers 5 and 6 could be considered the same thing.) So here poison is divided into 5 major categories:
Saving ThrowAdjustment to saving throw is generally an indicator of how powerful the poison is, how strong it is. (Suggested range: +4 to -4.)
Incubation PeriodThe time before poison takes effect can also be determined by how powerful you think the poison should be, or how fast it reaches the bloodstream (breathing, ingestion, injection, etc.) (Typical ranges: 1 day to instantaneous)
DurationThis is the time the poison takes to run its course, after the incubation period.
EffectThe effect of the poison can be damage, penalties to rolls, and any other quantifiable modification to game play. Effects should be used with the next optional category "appearance" for the best game play.
AppearanceThis is how the poison affects the non-quantifiable modification to game play. This is somewhat optional, but can include things like sores, vomiting, or anything else which can be part of the story, but doesn't really affect the numbers of game play.
You step on a block that depresses; a dart shoots out of a crack in
the wall and hits you. Make a saving throw vs poison.
I rolled a 10.
You can't feel any effects.
game hours later...
The ogre misses you. Suddenly your arms feel strange and are becoming
numb. All your muscles are getting slower.
Hide in the shadows around the corner in the hallway.
You try to get out as quickly as possible, leaving to the protection of
the corridor. You become paralysed. You hear the ogre coming towards
you and hope that you hid well...
As you can see from this example, the player wasn't sure he had been poisoned, and the effects did not occur until later. This kind of situation could be very interesting and fun with other players to help out, but may be considered somewhat "mean" of the DM if the character is alone. This gives characters a chance to be cautious and makes antidotes and spells like neutralise poison more important.
The DM in this situation can easily create a poison ahead of time, or on the spot. The DM may want to make some charts for quick reference such as the ones below:
This chart is a simple chart that contains weak, moderate, and strong poisons that do damage. This is particularly good for a DM who wants to give the players a chance to use their antidotes once the poison sets in.
1d10 per hour
1d2 per round
1d20 per round
This is a more complex chart for the kind of DM who wants to give poison more "flavour." Yum.
-1 to combat rolls
-1 to hit, +2 to AC
-1 to hit, 1/2 CHA
1/2 STR, +2 AC
-1 hit rolls, saves
1/2 move, no actions
1 dmg per round
1d4 dmg per turn
1d10 dmg per hour
5d20 dmg per round