This is an all-too frequent hazard faced by player characters. Bites, stings,
deadly potions, drugged wines, and bad food all await characters at the hands
of malevolent wizards, evil assassins, hideous monsters, and incompetent
innkeepers. Spiders, snakes, centipedes, scorpions, wyverns, and certain giant frogs
all have poisons deadly to characters. Wise PCs quickly learn to respect and
fear such creatures.
The strength of different poisons varies wildly and is frequently
overestimated. The bite of the greatly feared black widow spider kills a victim in the
United States only once every other year. Only about 2% of all rattlesnake bites
At the other extreme, there are natural poisons of intense lethality.
Fortunately, such poisons tend to be exotic and rare--the golden arrow-poison frog, the
western taipan snake, and the stonefish all produce highly deadly poisons.
Furthermore, the effect of a poison depends on how it is delivered. Most
frequently, it must be injected into the bloodstream by bite or sting. Other poisons
are only effective if swallowed; assassins favor these for doctoring food. By
far the most deadly variety, however, is contact poison, which need only touch
the skin to be effective.
Paralytic poisons leave the character unable to move for 2d6 hours. His body
is limp, making it difficult for others to move him. The character suffers no
other ill effects from the poison, but his condition can lead to quite a few
problems for his companions.
Debilitating poisons weaken the character for 1d3 days. All of the character's
ability scores are reduced by half during this time. All appropriate
adjustments to attack rolls, damage, Armor Class, etc., from the lowered ability scores
are applied during the course of the illness. Furthermore, the character moves
at one-half his normal movement rate. Finally, the character cannot heal by
normal or magical means until the poison is neutralized or the duration of the
debilitation is elapsed.
Treating Poison Victims
Fortunately, there are many ways a character can be treated for poison.
Several spells exist that either slow the onset time, enabling the character the
chance to get further treatment, or negate the poison entirely. However, cure
spells (including heal) do not negate the progress of a poison, and neutralize poison doesn't recover hit points already lost to the effects of poison. In
addition, characters with herbalism proficiency can take steps to reduce the danger
poison presents to player characters.
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