Steal My Idea: How to Successfully Poison Your Players

Poison rules in D&D 3.X are a bit weird, but also kind of cool. If a poisoningattack (a scorpion’s stinger, a poisoned-coated sword, etc.) beats a creature’s or character’s AC, they have to make a fort save against the poison. If they succeed, they are immune to that kind of poison for twenty-four hours. That’s kind of boss when you think about it, and it makes your character seem like a total badass.

The down side is using poison effectively. You can only use it once against your target, and there is always a chance they’re going to roll a 20 and pass the save no matter what. Usually, the only options are to make the save so high they pretty much have to fail it, killing the suspense, or wasting time and in-game resources to acquire and apply poison with a slim chance that it will work.

I thought this was less than optimal, so I decided to make an effective way to poison my players when they fought a particular NPC without altering the rules. You can do this using different weapons and giving it your own flair, but I’ll explain it the way I did it.

First, you have to make a weapon that is plausible, but not in any book. You need to make a hollow, piercing weapon. Inside the weapon, there is a small device that holds six syringes, each containing a different kind of poison. Each time the weapon hits, the syringe fires out a bit of poison from the tip. After it injects the poison, the device spins, loading a new syringe in the tip. The work is internal and requires no actions by the user. The next attack will deliver a different poison and it will continue to cycle through all six poisons. Thus, if three attacks hit a player, they have to make three saves, one for each kind of poison. My NPC did this by using a giant, hollowed-out snake fang (I gave it the stats of a different exotic weapon).

The idea is to use the player’s knowledge of poison against them. People think that if they make that first save, they’re fine. You want to use those expectations against them and surprise them with this trick.

You can check out  list of poisons for Pathfinder on their website:

I like having a variety of poisons with different DCs and effects, especially ones that do damage to wisdom, intelligence, or charisma. Making a fighter lose 1d6 wisdom isn’t that bad for them mechanically, but realizing the GM has surprised them with multiple things can make them fear what he/she will do next. Having my players fear me is much more satisfying than having them lose 2d6 constitution.

Naturally, you’ll want to choose poisons that have DCs and effects that work for the level of your players.

The down side to this trick is the weapon itself. Since it’s full of six different poisons, those alone can fetch a high price. The weapon is no doubt masterfully crafted, intricate, and unique, meaning it is an exotic weapon that would cost a butt load of gold to make. It and the poisons it carries can sell for a lot if your players manage to get their hands on it. It also should have a decreased hardness since it is hollow and there are intricate mechanical workings inside of it. However, such a powerful weapon needs some flaws, and the coin it will fetch can be a great reward for your players.

If you’re a player, you can also make a weapon like this if you work out the logistics with your GM. However, the price of that much poison in such volume will get costly very quickly. I recommend doing this with a double weapon, making one side piercing and the other side blunt or bladed. That way you can choose to attack without using poison every time.

If you want to use this trick with a ranged weapon, make an NPC with a coat full of thirty shurikens. Have the shurikens in groups of five, each one coated with a different poison. Characters can throw a shuriken with each attack, allowing you to choose which poisons to throw at which players.

So use this trick, and surprise your players! Make them fear you and every NPC you throw at them. Unnerved players make the game better for the GM and helps keep the tension high.

Go forth, and wreck shop!

Jesse Galena

Follow on Twitter: @RexiconJesse


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