D&D Ideas — Poison
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is poison, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of poison if negotiations between a rescue party and the adventuring party turn hostile the woodland forces deploy special poison to diffuse the situation in Albatross. The imperiled infant heir to an elven nation lands in the adventurers’ hands and the chase is on from insectoid pursuers along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
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Delving Dave’s Dungeon
I am really surprised there hasn’t been many new poisons put out by Wizards of the Coast for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. We have done a few throughout our products like the plethora of poisons in Treasures of the Tundra and we have a bunch more coming out in our next Patreon rewards.
Poison is a place where we can get a little weird and have fun with damage types besides poison as well as play with other conditions in 5E D&D. There are 15 conditions and 13 damage types.
We’ve got 2 conditions — grappled and invisible — that feel wonky for a poison unless the effect is something weird like while the character is poisoned any creatures they look at have the invisible condition.
Here’s an example of a poison for 5E D&D incorporating condition causing effects.
Gorgon’s Kiss (Injury)
This toxin is made of distilled gorgon or medusa blood combined with the petrified remains of one of their victims among other ingredients. It can cause it’s victims to begin to become petrified.
A creature subjected to this poison must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save the creature takes 10 (3d6) poison damage is poisoned for 1 minute. On a successful save they take half as much damage and aren’t poisoned. While poisoned this way the creature is restrained. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature is also petrified for 1 hour. If the damage reduces a creature to 0 hit points they are petrified instead of dying for 1 hour.
I gathered up some info on poison from D&D Beyond for our live chat below.
Fun Poison Facts for 5E D&D
- 14 items grant resistance to poison
- 4 items do poison damage
- 14 poisons
- Total Monsters 1893 (Roughly)
- 506 monsters with immunity to poison vs. 128 monsters with immunity to fire
- 74 monsters with resistance to poison vs. 176 monsters with resistance to fire
- 10 poison damage from spells — No 3rd, 4th, or 6th level spells
From Ted’s Head
Dave and Doug covered so many directions on the topic of poison in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons during the live chat and so I was inspired to go in many different directions. Do I make a variety of new poisons covering the areas they talked about? Make a subclass related to poison and venoms? Go in some kind of crazy direction?
Looking at the 5E D&D subclass options I can certainly see a poison themed druid or poison themed ranger. Rogues easily use poison and I could even see a monk subclass related to it. Perhaps a future Patreon reward could allow us to release all of this kind of poison content all at once… (Upcoming rewards for May revisit The Chained One with a batch of poisons inspired by the being of malediction.)
When I look at the things we have made I see a gross shortage of Martial Archetypes for 5E D&D fighters. How hard could it be to make a poison themed fighter? I can easily see a dirty fighter or a sect of Desert Scorpion style warriors.
In our world we have the Sashier Desert. It has sister cities of Sarshier and Satshier, which all follow the same ruler. As with most deserts you have to contend with the environment as well as the monsters who live there. Thus I’ve created the Sashier Scorpion Martial Archetype for 5E D&D fighters. Enjoy.
You are one with the desert. You have learned its ways and have taken them for your own. The desert heat is harsh and ruthless and so are the attacks you rain down upon your foes. The scorpion, most noted killer in the desert sands, uses poison to kill its prey and therefore so do you.
You have felt the sting of the desert scorpion and survived. Its poison flows through you so it can torment your enemies.
One with the desert
At 3rd level you become proficient in survival, if you are not already proficient.
Felt the sting
At 3rd level you also gain proficiency with poisoner’s kit and no longer have a chance to poison yourself when using or applying poison. You gain resistance to poison damage and can coat your weapon with poison that does 2d6 poison damage in addition to its weapon damage. You can do this a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier and must complete a short or long rest before you can do so again.
At 7th level the poison damage you do from Felt the Sting increases to 3d6 and you are now immune to the poisoned condition
At 10th level whenever you make a Wisdom (Survival) checks you add double your proficiency bonus.
At 15th level the poison in your veins has grown thicker. You are now immune to poison damage.
At 18th level you may use your reaction to spray poison. When a creature within 10 feet targets you with a melee attack you can use your reaction to gain the poisoned condition until the start of your next turn. You can do this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. After you do so you must finish a long rest before you can do so again.
Short and sweet. I hope you like it. I hope you are excited to use it in your games and I would love to have some feedback from you.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
As it turns out a video and related post at Nerdarchy the Website got into using poison in 5E D&D from a couple of years ago and there’s some very salient points worth checking out. The post focuses on the ins and outs of characters employing poison and delves into D&D history surrounding these dangerous substances. Some of this tradition remains in 5E D&D, which you can see in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
“Given their insidious and deadly nature, poisons are illegal in most societies but are a favorite tool among assassins, drow, and other evil creatures.” — from the 5E D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide chapter 8: Running the Game
During the live chat where Nerdarchist Dave and I discussed poison from many angles the more useful takeaway for me was the perspective of poison as a versatile tool for Dungeon Masters. Whether through contact, ingestion, inhalation or injury poison can impact characters. Tremendous value lies within these methods.
In our own Dinner Party encounter from Out of the Box adventurers find themselves on the receiving end of just such an occurrence when their otherwise innocuous meal contains Truth Serum. The goal of the encounter is facilitating a memorable roleplaying scenario for the players but the implications reach much further.
During their adventurers characters tend to develop quite a few enemies and who’s to say any one of them might resort to poison use in this manner? Assassin’s blood, midnight tears, pale tincture and torpor are all ingested poisons from the DMG potentially slipped into food or drink any time characters partake. On top of these a variety of inhaled and contact poisons can turn up the danger on any situation.
Thinking of poison in 5E D&D this way provides DMs with a huge number of ways to add dynamic elements to any encounter. Even a simple low level encounter with skeletons becomes much more perilous if, say, a miasma of Burnt Othur Fumes permeates the crypt. Or imagine a chamber coated in carrion crawler mucus or oil of taggit where a shadow lurks — now this already dangerous shade is much more deadly!
Incorporating more poison into a 5E D&D campaign gives players opportunities to utilize more features than just the ones that go boom and make monsters dead too. When’s the last time a character from a game you played cast detect poison and disease or protection from poison? Increasing the frequency of poison and poison users in a game makes these spells much more valuable.
One last thing before signing off this week and it’s a quick and easy adventure idea — the poisoned water supply. This is a classic trope in any genre and a great concept for a DM to keep in their back pocket. Taking up the quest leads a party into a controlled environment — the location of the water supply — and can go in so many directions. The perpetrator could be a relatively mundane villain like an extortionist all the way to any extraplanar entity with an agenda.
If I’ve afflicted you with a new fascination for poison in 5E D&D I think you’ll really enjoy the variety of new poisons we’ve got in Treasures of the Tundra like Nerdarchist Dave mentioned this week and I’ll reiterate how our upcoming May Patreon rewards is all about poison too. We came up with ten new poisons, which all take inspiration from The Chained One — a potent being of malediction with designs on your 5E D&D campaign setting.
*Featured image — Heroes are caught between insect ravagers and forest elves in a tense pursuit with an infant chieftain at stake in Albatross, one of 55 dynamic encounters ready to drop into your game in Out of the Box. [Illustration by Kim Van Deun]