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. You can find additional answers to questions in this FAQ.
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.
Multiple Doses of 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, for both resisting new applications and the cure saves made each round.
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’ 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.
While some think of poison as an assassin’s tool, the herbalists and naturalists of the world know that poison carries in it no more inherent evil than fire or water. Indeed, in the wildlands of the world, harvesting poison to give a hunter an edge or to aid in the production of antivenom is a time-honored practice.
While Craft (alchemy) is necessary to brew long-lasting poisons, there are many natural sources of poison in the world, and poison crafters who wish to avoid the expense of purchasing raw ingredients may seek to harvest poison from natural sources instead. The following section presents rules for harvesting poisons from the wild.
Unless a dose of harvested poison is preserved (see Preserving Harvested Poison), it remains potent for 24 hours after it is harvested.
Harvesting from Dead Creatures: Once a venomous creature is slain, its venom sacs can be removed, allowing 1 or more doses of its venom to be harvested for later use. In order to harvest venom, the creature must have been dead for less than 24 hours. Every hour the source creature has been dead reduces the lifespan of the harvested poison by an hour. Removing venom sacs is a messy and time-consuming process, requiring 10 minutes of work, access to surgical tools, and a container to store the venom in. If proper surgical tools are not available, a dagger or other light slashing weapon can be used, although this imposes a –2 penalty on checks to harvest the venom. The harvester must succeed at a Survival check (DC = 15 + the dead creature’s CR) in order to successfully harvest poison. On a success, the harvester acquires a single dose of the creature’s venom, plus 1 additional dose for every 5 by which the result of this check exceeded the DC (to a maximum number of doses equal to the creature’s Constitution modifier, minimum 1). Failing the check causes all of the venom to be lost. Failure by 5 or more exposes the harvester to 1d3 doses of the creature’s venom unless she has the poison use class feature.
Harvesting Poison from Hazards: Some hazards, such as poison oak and spider vines, feature poisons that can be harvested by those who know how to do so. This process requires 1 hour and an alchemist’s lab or alchemy crafting kit. If the harvester succeeds at a Survival check (DC = 15 + the hazard’s CR), she collects 1 dose of poison. Harvesting poison from a hazard in this way requires getting close enough to it to touch it, which may expose the harvester to the hazard’s effects.
Milking Venom: Venom can be harvested from a living creature without harming the creature, although the process is dangerous unless the creature has been trained for that specific purpose (see Milk Venom). For most venomous creatures, this involves stretching a thin canvas over a jar or vial and then coaxing the creature to bite into the canvas before massaging its venom glands, causing the venom to drip from its fangs into the container. Similar methods are used for creatures that deliver venom in other ways, such as with a stinger.
Milking a single dose of poison from a creature takes 10 minutes of work and requires a successful Handle Animal check (DC = 10 + the donor’s Hit Dice + the donor’s Wisdom modifier). Failure by less than 5 indicates that the venom is not collected, but the handler suffers no other ill effect. Failure by 5 or more indicates that the creature bites, stings, or otherwise injects the handler with its venom. It automatically hits the handler with one of its natural attacks that delivers its poison, and it applies the effects of the attack normally. The creature might continue to attack the handler after doing so, possibly initiating combat. Milking venom from a cooperative intelligent creature doesn’t require a Handle Animal check but presents a 5% chance of exposure to the venom.
A creature can produce a number of doses of venom in this way each day equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum 1). A creature that is milked of venom this many times in one day (whether or not the attempts are successful) loses its poison special ability until the next time it rests.
Preserving Harvested Poison: Poison harvested from a creature or hazard remains potent for 24 hours. If a character wishes to preserve harvested poison for a longer period, she must treat it alchemically, as if crafting the poison with Craft (alchemy) but using the poison dose as the raw ingredients normally needed to brew a dose of the poison and thus avoiding the gil cost to craft the poison.
While antitoxin presents a generalized tool for protecting oneself from poison, more specialized antivenoms can provide even greater protection against specific poisons. Creating a dose of antivenom requires a dose of the specific poison that the antivenom is designed to protect against.
Antivenom Effects: A single dose of antivenom automatically neutralizes the first exposure of the specific poison it is made to combat and provides a +8 alchemical bonus on saving throws against additional exposure to that specific poison; this bonus decreases by 1 every hour, until the effect ends after 8 hours.
Crafting Antivenom: To create a dose of antivenom, a living creature must first be exposed to a half dose of the poison in question. The creature suffers the poison’s effects normally, except the saving throw DC to resist the poison is reduced by 2. In order to be able to produce antivenom, the creature must succeed at the necessary saving throws to be cured of the poison. If the poison’s duration expires without the creature being cured, no antivenom can be harvested.
Once the creature has resisted the poison’s effects, a viable sample of the creature’s blood can be extracted with a successful DC 20 Craft (alchemy) or Heal check. This blood must then be refined to extract the natural antibodies that combat the poison in a process that takes 1 hour and requires a successful Craft (alchemy) check (DC = 5 + the poison’s saving throw DC). Success yields 1 dose of antivenom.
Antivenom can also be harvested in the same fashion from a creature that has been afflicted by a full dose of poison, rather than a creature deliberately given a half dose for this purpose. Regardless of how much poison the creature is exposed to, the antibodies in its system can be harvested only for 24 hours after it has recovered from the poison.
Purchasing Antivenom: Antivenom is not particularly expensive, but because it is highly specialized, it can be difficult to find. A dose of antivenom has a market price equal to half the market price of a dose of the poison in question, but it is treated as though its price were five times the market price of the poison for the purposes of determining its availability in any given settlement. Alternatively, if 1 or more doses of the poison in question can be provided, most alchemists will supply as much antivenom as they can produce from the doses for a fee of 10% of the market price of the poison.
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. You may still utilize the poisons found with Pathfinder, within reason to lore and creature availability.
Price: How much it costs to buy the poison. If you harvest the poison you need not pay this. If you buy the ingredients to craft (with Craft (Alchemy)), pay 1/3 the price of the poison.
Weight: How much the dose weighs. Most are negligible or 0.1 lbs.
About: A general description of what the poison looks like and any additional effects it may have.
Details: The most important parts of a poison. Its type, if it’s contact, ingested, inhaled, or injury. Its save type and DC. If there is an onset time for it to first apply. The frequency of when you need to make saves against its effects. And how many saves you need to cure yourself of the poison.
Effect: What the actual effect of the poison is on the target.
Craft: The DC required to craft the poison. Typically the same as the save DC.
Donor: What creature typically grants this poison.
Harvest: The DC to harvest this poison. Typically Survival (15 + CR).
Cost: How much to buy ingredients for the poison on the market.
Price 100 gil; Weight —
Type poison (ingested); Save Fortitude DC 14; Onset 10 minutes; Frequency 1/minute for 6 minutes; Cure 1 save