For quite a while now there has been a bit of confusion on how poison is applied in the Pathfinder RPG. While the application of a single dose is simple enough, the rules allow for the stacking of poisons that causes them to combine into a more powerful effect. There are, unfortunately, some timing issues with these rules that can make poisons a bit tricky to adjudicate during play. Since this issue is a bit more complex than your average FAQ issue, the design team thought it would be a good idea to take a more in depth look at the issue here.
Poisons fall under the category of afflictions. They each have a save, a frequency, an effect, and a cure. At the most simple level, this means that when a character comes into contact with the poison, she gets a save. If the save succeeds, the poison has no effect, regardless of the cure entry. If the saving throw is failed, the character takes the effect and must continue to makes saves, dictated by the frequency, or continue to take the effect with each failed save. The only way to be free of the poison at this point is to meet the conditions of the cure entry, usually one or more successful saving throws (usually consecutively if more than one).
When a character is subject to more than 1 dose of the same poison, things get interesting. Each dose increases the DC by +2 and increases the total duration listed in the frequency by half of the original duration. Due to timing, however, this can make for a rather confusing situation. When does the DC increase apply? When are the saving throws made? When is the duration increased? To keep things simple, use the following guidelines.
- 1. Whenever a character is exposed to a poison (regardless of method), that character gets a saving throw to negate the poison.
- 2. The saving throw DC is increased by +2 for every active dose currently affecting the character. Poisons that were cured, have run through their entire frequency, or were negated with a successful initial saving throw do not increase the DC.
- 3. The character must make a saving throw against every poison affecting him on his turn, but may make the saving throw at any point during his turn. If a poisoned character delays his turn, he must immediately make these saving throws. They are not delayed.
- 4. Unless the poison has an onset time, the character takes the effect of the poison every time he fails a saving throw against the poison, even when additional doses are inflicted.
- 5. The total duration of the poison listed in the frequency only increases by half the original duration and only when the initial saving throw against a dose is failed. If the initial saving throw is made, the duration is not increased.
- 6. If a character is exposed to multiple doses of inhaled and ingested poisons simultaneously, only one save is made at the higher DC. If the save fails, the character is subject to all of the doses, but still only takes the effect once for the failed saving throw. If the save succeeds, the character avoids all of the doses.
- 7. Finally, if the character is exposed to a poison that is similar, but not the same, such as having a slightly different frequency or DC, it is treated as a different affliction that is tracked separately, even if it has the same name or other identical entries.
So, keeping these rules in mind, let's take a look at a few scenarios using poison and how they are resolved. In all cases, the character is exposed to greenblood oil, an injury poison, with a DC of 13, a frequency of 1/round for 4 rounds, an effect of 1 Con damage, and a cure entry of 1 save.
- Scenario A: Valeros is hit by an arrow coated in greenblood oil. He fails the DC 13 Fort save and takes 1 point of Con damage. At the end of his turn, he fails a saving throw against the poison and takes 1 more point of Con damage. Before his second turn, he gets hit again and must attempt a DC 15 Fort save (because 1 dose is already affecting him). He fails this save as well, which deals another point of Con damage, increases the save DC he must make each round to 15, and extends the total duration by 2 rounds.
- Scenario B: Valeros is hit by a pair of arrows coated in greenblood oil, during the turn of one enemy archer. He fails the first DC 13 Fort save and takes 1 point of Con damage. He then must make a DC 15 Fort save for the second arrow. He makes this save and suffers no ill effect. On his turn, he must make a DC 13 For save (since only 1 dose of the poison is in effect). He makes this save and takes no damage, as the poison ends. If he is hit again on the next turn, his save would reset to DC 13.
- Scenario C: Valeros is hit by a pair of arrows coated in greenblood oil. He fails the DC 13 Fort save and takes 1 point of Con damage. He then must make a DC 15 Fort save for the second arrow. He fails this save and takes 1 point of Con damage. On his turn, he must make another DC 15 Fort save, which he fails, causing him to take yet another point of Con damage. On the next turn, the archer fires an arrow coated in special greenblood oil poison, with a DC of 20. It hits poor Valeros, who fails the save and now must track the two poisons separately (since they are not identical). To add to his misery, another arrow coated in ordinary greenblood oil poison hits him as well, forcing him to make a DC 17 Fortitude save, which he also fails, increasing the total duration to 8 rounds (1 of which has passed). Valeros is in trouble.
As you can see, poison is a deadly business. Monsters that can use injury poison, such as spiders and centipedes, should not be taken lightly. Best to stock up on a scroll or two of neutralize poison, or better yet, a wand.
Jason Bulmahn Lead Designer
Note: This requote isn't designed as an infringement. It's copied here because it contains a valuable clarification for our players and DMs, who may need it for more immediate reference. The original sourcefile is here.