Friday, 30. July 2010
Blackrazor has reminded me of how much I hate the old school rules of instant death for poison. Yes, the attack damage is often more lethal than the poison particularly to lower level characters. Still, something dosen’t quite sit right with it. While there undoubtedly poisons out there that are lethal, even the ones we do consider “extremely lethal” often take their very sweet time to meet out the ultimate results in death. A few examples below.
Coral Snake- Delay of several hours before the venom takes effect, but the results are potentially neur0muscular paralysis, death occurring when the lungs fail. This may get more hazardous because it is apparently no longer profitable to produce anti venom through the FDA licensing process. Awesome.
Black Widow – Cramping, Abdominal pain, Perspiration, Nausea, etc. Death is rare.
Sea Wasp - This one does kill them as quickly as possible, just to prevent it from tearing up the jellyfish. Death occurs within 4 minutes, assuming you get it badly enough. Excruciating pain, and shock/drowning occurring as well.
King Cobra - Large amounts of toxic venom injected, typically death occurs within 30-45 minutes. Lethality rate on this one is actually pretty high 33-66% depending on treatment.
There is more toxic stuff out there, but from what I can find it’s mostly confined to the ocean and doesn’t really have much data relating to it other than “lethal” or “Feels like afflicted limb should be cut off.” without giving us a tremendous amount of data. The most common factor involved with any of them is a large amount of pain for a long period of time before the effects such as paralysis, with death being the result of the lungs or heart shutting down. I think of all of them, the King cobra is probably a good realistic indicator of large venomous creatures… even with enough venom to take down a full grown elephant it still takes a prolonged period of time to take people down.
Certain plants are also poisonous, the most obnoxious of which perhaps are the ivy’s, sumac’s and oaks producing a prolonged nasty rash. The others vary wildly in effects, but it’s safe to say around 50% are potentially lethal taken in quantity. Poison Hemlock and Mistletoe are most likely among the better
Undoubtedly there is some venom’s in a fantasy realm that are going to kill much quicker. It’s almost always a case of “certain death” versus instant death giving some sort of detoxification time to work. Whether those precautions were taken or not well.. that’s another story, as also to how easily help is available. If you’re out in the wilderness, it can certainly be a death sentence in itself. In that regard, poison is an excellent tool for tension. Having characters scramble about trying to prevent a friend from dying, or having the character try and pull off something productive within the short remaining time they’ll be alive makes for good writing. It’s even better if they survive through some fluke but through their actions put themselves in a position where something else gets them… doubly heroic.
However for everything that is lethal, there are just as many that are not lethal and more fun in my opinion. Certain voles poisons are used to produce paralysis in their victims. This is used to store victims in times of scarcity as dead meat rots, where as living creatures in a comatose state are still fresh and tasty. Likewise in the case of a number of spiders. Limited effects of these would be weakness similar to the strength and dexterity damage caused in Ad&d 3rd Edition. If you were to get more serious about it (and I think that’s something that should be done.) any sort of weakening poison might have effects similar to a level loss or vitality along with the more immediate effects. Also along the lines of more fun is any sort of poison that might be hallucinogenic or other mind altering effects such as varying psychosis, insanities or even phobia’s. While this is primarily the domain of fungus’s there is certainly a lot of room within the realm of fantasy and science fiction to introduce such poisons.
This is mostly meant to be something of a reference and idea base for poison effects. As with anything in gaming, have fun!
Note: I am aware of the differences between poison (ingested) and venom (injected.) For game discussion purposes, it dosen’t matter. In either case it’s a toxic substance which eventually leads to death or long term hinderance of the character.