A poison is a substance that interferes with the natural functions of a living creature’s body, causing injury or death, typically requiring only a very small amount. The target of a poison may resist with a successful saving throw. Poisons can be delayed or cured with spells such as delay poison and neutralize poison.
Poisons have four categories, based on how they reach the target: contact, ingested, inhaled, or injury.
Contact: These poisons are delivered the moment a creature touches the poison with its bare skin. Such poisons can be used as injury poisons. Contact poisons usually have an onset time of 1 minute and a frequency of 1 minute.
Ingested: These poisons are delivered when a creature eats or drinks the poison. Ingested poisons usually have an onset time of 10 minutes and a frequency of 1 minute.
Inhaled: These poisons are delivered the moment a creature enters an area containing such poisons and do not usually have an onset time. For most inhaled poisons, 1 dose fills a volume equal to a 10-foot cube. A creature can attempt to hold its breath while inside the area to avoid inhaling the toxin. A creature holding its breath receives a 50% chance of not having to make a Fortitude save each round. See the rules for holding your breath and suffocation. If a creature is holding its breath and fails the constitution check to continue doing so, rather than suffocating it begins to breathe normally again (and is subject to the effects of the inhaled poison if still in the area).
Injury: These poisons are primarily delivered through the attacks of certain creatures and through weapons coated in the toxin. Injury poisons do not usually have an onset time and have a frequency of 1 round.
One dose of poison smeared on a weapon or some other object affects just a single target. A poisoned weapon or object retains its poison until the weapon scores a hit or the object is touched (unless the poison is wiped off before a target comes in contact with it).
Applying poison to a weapon or single piece of ammunition is a standard action. Whenever you apply or ready a poison for use, there is a 5% chance that you expose yourself to the poison and must save against the poison as normal. This does not consume the dose of poison. Whenever you attack with a poisoned weapon, if the attack roll results in a natural 1, you expose yourself to the poison. This poison is consumed when the weapon strikes a creature or is touched by the wielder. If you have the poison use class feature (such as from the assassin prestige class or the alchemist base class), you do not risk accidentally poisoning yourself when applying poison.
Unlike other afflictions, multiple doses of the same poison “stack,” meaning that successive doses combine to increase the poison’s DC and duration.
Making your initial saving throw against a poison means stacking does not occur—the poison did not affect you and any later doses are treated independently. Likewise, if a poison has been cured or run its course (by you either making the saves or outlasting the poison’s duration), stacking does not occur. However, if there is still poison active in you when you are attacked with that type of poison again, and you fail your initial save against the new dose, the doses stack. This has two effects, which last until the poisons run their course.
Increased Duration: Increase the duration of the poison by 1/2 the amount listed in its frequency entry.
Increased DC: Increase the poison’s DC by +2.
These increases are cumulative (a third dose adds another 1/2 of the frequency to the duration and +2 to the DC, and so on). When affected by multiple doses of the same poison, you only make one saving throw at this higher DC when required by the frequency, rather than one saving throw against each dose of the poison.
Multiple doses do not alter the Cure condition of the Poison, and meeting that Cure condition ends all doses of the poison.
Applied contact poisons and injury poisons cannot inflict more than one dose of poison per weapon at a time (because the poison on the weapon only lasts for one successful attack before it wears off). Inhaled and ingested poisons can inflict multiple doses at once.
Doses from different poisons (such as an assassin with greenblood oil on his dagger and Medium spider venom on his short sword) do not stack—the effects of each are tracked separately.
Example: A fighter is facing three Medium spiders (which inject Medium spider venom on a successful bite). Medium spider venom normally has a frequency of 4 rounds and a DC of 14. On the first round, all three spiders bite him and he fails all three saves. The second and third doses each increase the total duration by 2 rounds (half of the 4 round frequency) and the save DC by +2, for a total duration of 8 rounds (4 + 2 + 2) and DC 18 (14 + 2 + 2). Fortunately, Medium spider venom is cured after just one successful save, even though the fighter is battling three doses at once.
Example: This time, the fighter makes two of his initial saves against the spider venom, so he only has one dose active in his body. He fails his save on his turn. On the spiders’s turn, two of them bite him, and he fails both saves, which increases the duration to 8 rounds and the DC to 18, just as if he had failed all three saves in the same round.
You can make poison with the Craft (alchemy) skill. The DC to make a poison is equal to its Fortitude save DC. Rolling a natural 1 on a Craft skill check while making a poison exposes you to the poison. This does not consume the poison. If you have the poison use class feature, you do not risk accidentally poisoning yourself when applying poison.
The sample poisons listed below represent just some of the common poisons available in cities. Of course, most cities have laws against buying, selling, or crafting poison.
|Poison||Type||Fort DC||Onset||Frequency||Effect||Cure||Price (gp)||Source|
|Arsenic||ingested||13||10 min.||1/min. for 4 min.||1d2 Con||1 save||120||PRG:UE|
|Belladonna||ingested||14||10 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d2 Str, see text||1 save||100||PRG:UE|
|Black adder venom||injury||11||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d2 Con||1 save||120||PRG:UE|
|Black lotus extract||contact||20||1 min.||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d6 Con||2 saves||4,500||PRG:UE|
|Bloodpyre||contact||14||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1 Cha, Int, and Wis, 2d6 fire, see text||1 save||1,000 gp||PPC:AoE|
|Bloodroot||injury||12||1 rd.||1/rd. for 4 rds.||1 Con and 1 Wis||1 save||100||PRG:UE|
|Blue whinnis||injury||14||—||1/rd. for 2 rds||1 Con / unconscious 1d3 hrs.||1 save||120||PRG:UE|
|Burnt othur fumes||inhaled||18||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1 Con drain / 1d3 Con||2 saves||2,100||PRG:UE|
|Dark reaver powder||ingested||18||10 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Con and 1 Str||2 saves||800||PRG:UE|
|Deathblade||injury||20||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d3 Con||2 saves||1,800||PRG:UE|
|Dragon bile||contact||26||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d3 Str||—||1,500||PRG:UE|
|Dreaming death||inhaled||16||10 min.||1/10 min. for 1 hr.||Sleep 10 min., see text||1 save||2,500 gp||PPC:AoE|
|Drow poison||injury||13||—||1/min. for 2 min.||unconscious 1 min./2d4 hrs.||1 save||75||PRG:UE|
|Giant wasp poison||injury||18||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d2 Dex||1 save||210||PRG:UE|
|Gray justice||injury||18||—||1/min. for 10 min.||1d2 Wis, see text||2 saves||400 gp||PPC:AoE|
|Greenblood oil||injury||13||—||1/rd. for 4 rds.||1 Con||1 save||100||PRG:UE|
|Green prismatic poison||spell||varies||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||Death/1 Con||2 saves||—||PRG:UE|
|Hemlock||ingested||18||10 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d6 Dex, see text||2 saves||2,500||PRG:UE|
|Id moss||ingested||14||10 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Int||1 save||125||PRG:UE|
|Insanity mist||inhaled||15||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d3 Wis||1 save||1,500||PRG:UE|
|King’s sleep||ingested||19||1 day||1/day||1 Con drain||2 saves||5,000||PRG:UE|
|Large scorpion venom||injury||17||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d2 Str||1 save||200||PRG:UE|
|Lich dust||ingested||17||10 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Str||2 saves||400||PRG:UE|
|Malyass root paste||contact||16||1 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d2 Dex||1 save||250||PRG:UE|
|Medium spider venom||injury||14||—||1/rd. for 4 rds.||1d2 Str||1 save||150||PRG:UE|
|Nightmare vapor||inhaled||20||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1 Wis and confused 1 round||2 saves||1,800||PRG:UE|
|Nitharit||contact||13||1 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Con||1 save||650||PRG:UE|
|Oil of taggit||ingested||15||min.||—||unconscious 1d3 hours||1 save||90||PRG:UE|
|Purple worm poison||injury||24||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d3 Str||2 saves||700||PRG:UE|
|Ragespittle||contact||17||1 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d2 Dex, see text||2 saves||1,000 gp||PPC:AoE|
|Sassone leaf residue||contact||16||1 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||2d12 hp/1 Con||1 save||300||PRG:UE|
|Scholarblight||inhaled||15||—||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Int, see text||1 save||1,500 gp||PPC:AoE|
|Shadow essence||injury||17||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1 Str drain / 1d2 Str||1 save||250||PRG:UE|
|Small centipede poison||injury||11||—||1/rd. for 4 rds.||1 Dex||1 save||90||PRG:UE|
|Striped toadstool||ingested||11||10 min.||1/min. for 4 min.||1d3 Wis and 1 Int||1 save||180||PRG:UE|
|Tears of death||contact||22||1 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d6 Con and paralyzed 1 min.||—||6,500||PRG:UE|
|Terinav root||contact||16||1 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Dex||1 save||400||PRG:UE|
|Ungol dust||inhaled||15||—||1/rd. for 4 rds.||1 Cha drain/1d2 Cha||1 save||1,000||PRG:UE|
|Violet venom||contact||13||—||1/min. for 6 min.||1d2 Str and 1d2 Con||1 save||800||PRG:UE|
|Wasp Swarm Poison||injury||13||—||1/rd. for 4 rds.||1 Dex damage||1 save||—||PRG:UE|
|Widow’s kiss||ingested||24||1d4 days||1/day||1d3 Con, see text||3 saves||7,000 gp||PPC:AoE|
|Wolfsbane||ingested||16||10 min.||1/min. for 6 min.||1d3 Con||1 save||500||PRG:UE|
|Wyvern poison||injury||17||—||1/rd. for 6 rds.||1d4 Con||2 saves||3,000||PRG:UE|
The rules are not very clear on the exact details of how poisons work. This is an attempt to clear up the order of events involving poison. Please keep in mind that this is our best attempt at an comprehensive set of rules based on the published rules, official errata and blog posts, and posts from designers. Please drop us an email if you find similar evidence that contradicts this.
- When you are initially exposed to a poison (whether during your action or someone else’s), you must make a save to avoid being poisoned.
- Success You resist being poisoned. You do not suffer any ill effects and you need not make any further saves.
- Failure You are poisoned and immediately suffer the listed effect. You will need to make further saves to avoid more damage and cure the poison.
- Exception If the poison has an onset period, failing the initial check does NOT cause you to suffer any effects.
- If you are exposed to more of the same poison at any point while you are poisoned, you need to make a new initial save at +2 DC.
- Success You resist the new dose and carry on as if it never happened (this success does not count toward the requisite “consecutive saves” for curing any poison that is already in your system)
- Failure The DC for all subsequent checks are increased by 2 and the duration of the poison is increased by half of the listed value. (eg if you are poisoned with a poison with a DC 11, being exposed again forces you to make a save at DC 13. If you fail this, all your future checks to cure the poison, avoid damage, or resist being poisoned again are at DC 13 – and the duration is increased by half. If you are exposed for a third time, you would need to save at DC 15 against the new dose, etc)
- For the onset period, nothing happens (if there is no onset, the next step happens right away!)
- At the next frequency interval (your next turn for 1/round poisons, 1 minute later for 1/minute, next day for 1/day) you must make a save on your turn (at any point during your turn – you must still make this save if you choose to delay).
- Success You suffer no ill effects and now have a save towards curing the poison.
- If the poison requires only one save to cure, you are cured and no longer need to make saves.
- Failure You suffer the listed effects again.
- Repeat the previous step until you fulfill either score enough consecutive saves to cure the poison or the duration runs out.
Poisons with initial and secondary effects
- For poisons without an onset, failing the initial save causes you to suffer the initial effect of the poison. The subsequent saves are made against the secondary effect.
- For poisons with an onset, failing the initial save causes you to be poisoned but not suffer any ill effect. Failing the first save after the onset causes you suffer the initial effect of the poison. Any subsequent saves are made against the secondary effect.
- Special If you are exposed to multiple doses of a poison with initial and secondary effects, you only suffer the initial effect once. Subsequent exposures cause you to suffer the secondary effect and add duration to secondary effects.
By combining the skill of potioncraft with a poisoner’s art, cunning assassins and herbalists can craft vile supernatural threats. An infused poison combines the effects of an ingested poison and a potion. A creature drinking an infused poison is affected by the poison (and its initial effects or damage) first, after which the infused spell effect triggers and the imbiber must attempt a second saving throw (often of a different type or DC) against its magical effects. Spell resistance applies normally to an infused poison’s magical effects, but offers no protection against the poison, and poison resistance offers no protection against the magical effects of an infused poison. Poison immunity renders a creature immune to an infused poison’s magical effects.
A poison can be infused with a spell of up to 3rd level that has a casting time of less than 1 minute and targets one or more creatures. As with a potion, you cannot create an infused poison without meeting its spell prerequisite. The base price of the infusion is equal to the level of the spell × the creator’s caster level × 25 gp. The cost of the poison to be infused is paid separately. If the spell has a material component cost, it is added to the poison’s base price and cost of creation.
Infused poisons function like spells cast on the imbiber.
A poison’s creator makes all decisions regarding the spell’s effects when it is created—the creature consuming the infused poison has no control over its effects. Unlike with a potion, the imbiber is not considered the caster of the effect. If the spell has an effect related to the caster (as does charm person), the subject treats the first sentient creature it encounters after consuming the poison as the poison’s creator.
A character who attempts to identify an infused poison with a Perception check (as if it were a potion) has a 5% chance of poisoning herself, unless she has the poison use ability. This process doesn’t consume the infused poison.
Infused poisons can be purchased at many black markets.
Price 420 gp; Slot none; CL 3rd; Weight —; Aura faint transmutation
Favored by demon cultists, this malign variant of arsenic causes a wide variety of painful deformations in the victim’s flesh.
Price 150 gp; Slot none; CL 1st; Weight —; Aura faint evocation
Brewed from belladonna and popular among backstabbing nobility, burning heart causes victims to burst into flames at the most embarrassing times.
Type poisoned, ingested; Save Fortitude DC 14 Onset 10 minutes; Frequency 1/minute for 6 minutes Effect 1d2 Str damage, target can attempt one save to cure a lycanthropy affliction contracted in the past hour; Cure 1 save Spell Effect touch of combustion (Reflex DC 11)
Price 1,150 gp; Slot none; CL 5th; Weight —; Aura faint abjuration
This black metallic powder infuses lich dust with magic-destroying energies, tearing down any protective spells its imbiber may have in place. It is especially favored by assassins when they must target wizards, arcanists, or nobles with abundant magical servants.
Price 900 gp; Slot none; CL 5th; Weight —; Aura faint enchantment
Necrotoxins fuse alchemy and necromancy to attack not just the body or the mind, but the very soul of the victim.
Charging necrotoxins with necrotic power requires special rituals, reagents from undead creatures, and the channeling of negative energy during the brewing process. The DCs of Craft (alchemy) check to brew a necrotoxin is 5 higher than the poison’s Fortitude DC due to the temperamental process of its creation.
Price 1,500 gp; Slot none; CL 3rd; Weight —; Aura faint necromancy
This white grit hinders a victim’s divine power.
Type poison, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 18; Frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; Effect 1d2 Cha damage, and for the duration of the poison, victim must succeed at a concentration check vs. the poison’s save DC to channel positive energy or lay on hands; Cure 1 save
Price 6,000 gp; Slot none; CL 13th; Weight —; Aura strong necromancy
This necrotoxin causes a creature to lose corporeal substance.
Type ingested; Save Fortitude DC 20; Onset 1 minute; Frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; Effect 1d3 Str damage, and each round a victim takes damage from this poison, she has a 50% chance of dropping one held item. If a victim’s Strength is reduced to 0 by ghost syrup, the Strength damage becomes Strength drain, and the victim becomes permanently incorporeal. Carried and worn equipment is unaffected and remains corporeal, and the victim can be restored only through a limited wish, miracle, remove curse, or wish spell; Cure 2 consecutive saves
Price 5,400 gp; Slot none; CL 11th; Weight —; Aura moderate necromancy
These dark gray flakes induce ravenous hunger.
Type poison, ingested; Save Fortitude DC 18; Onset 10 minutes; Frequency 1/minute for 8 minutes; Effect 1d2 Con damage, and a humanoid who dies while poisoned rises as an uncontrolled ghoul at the next midnight, retaining none of the abilities it possessed in life; Cure 2 consecutive saves
Price 3,700 gp; Slot none; CL 9th; Weight —; Aura moderate necromancy
Memento mori is a powerful hallucinogen that clouds a victim’s senses with messages of death.
Type inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 19; Onset —; Frequency 1/minute for 6 rounds; Effect 1d3 Wis damage, and as long as any Wisdom damage from the poison remains, the victim can’t distinguish living creatures from undead and can’t understand or read any language—spoken words sound like tearful moans and written words seem faded and tattered. While under this effect, the target takes a –5 penalty on saving throws against fear effects and must attempt to save against all spells cast by others, even harmless or beneficial spells; Cure 2 consecutive saves
Price 450 gp; Slot none; CL 3rd; Weight —; Aura faint necromancy
This smelly toxin causes a victim’s flesh to become gangrenous.
Type poison, injury; Save Fortitude DC 14; Frequency 1/round for 4 rounds; Effect 1d2 Con damage, and until the Con damage is healed, the victim gains the stench universal monster ability. The stench DC is equal to the poison’s DC, and creatures who fail their saves are sickened for 1d6+4 minutes. The poisoned creature is not immune to its own stench; Cure 1 save
Price 1,200 gp; Slot none; CL 5th; Weight —; Aura faint necromancy
These Shadow Plane spores inhibit a victim’s ability to absorb positive energy.
Type poison, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 16; Onset 10 minutes; Frequency 1/hour for 6 hours; Effect 1d2 Dex damage, and until the Dex damage is healed, the victim regains only half the normal amount of hit points from channeled energy and conjuration (healing) spells; Cure 2 consecutive saves