Dungeons & Dragons: How To Use Poisons

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Dungeons & Dragons: How To Use Poisons

Whether coating them on your swords for an advantage in combat or slipping them in an adversary’s drink, poisons in Dungeons & Dragons come in various forms and uses. More often used by the Rogue class to assist in stealth and assassinations, poisons are a handy tool on anyone’s belt.

Some poisons also require expensive materials to create to be granted their potent effect. This could cause the Dungeon Master to send their party on a side quest to obtain said materials. But once you have a deadly vial in hand, how you use it can make a difference in the tides of battle.

Types Of Poisons In D&D

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Use Poisons

The Dungeon Master’s Guide has a table dedicated to the common poisons available to the world. You will also learn that each poison has different methods of application.

There are four poison types within D&D:

  • Contact: To be used on an object or surface for a victim to touch. I.e., coating a pillow for a victim to place their head on.
  • Ingested: To be drunk by a victim to get the full effect. I.e., slipping poison in a victim’s tea.
  • Inhaled: To be inhaled by a victim(s). I.e., a Rogue blowing a poisonous powder into a guard’s face to knock them unconscious.
  • Injury: To be coated on a weapon to deal extra damage in combat. I.e., coating a longsword with poison that infects a victim on a successful hit.

Knowing the different poison types allows you to get creative and expand your arsenal with different ways of inflicting poison on your intended target.

While having a powerful poison that you can coat on a sword is great, having multiple types will give you more versatility.

The official Dungeons & Dragons source material contains fourteen different poisons. Depending on the type, they all cost between a couple of hundred gold and a few thousand.

Poison (Average Cost)


Effect Summary (Failed Save)

Assassin’s Blood (150gp)


1d12 Poison Damage. Poisoned Condition for 24 Hours.

Burnt Othur Fumes (500gp)


3d6 Poison Damage. Lingering 1d6 Poison Damage.

Carrion Crawler Mucus (200gp)


Poisoned Condition for 1 Minute. Paralyzed while Poisoned.

Drow Poison (200gp)


Poisoned Condition for 1 Hour. Unconscious if failed save by 5 or more.

Essence Of Ether (300gp)


Poisoned Condition for 8 Hours. Unconscious while Poisoned.

Malice (250gp)


Poisoned Condition for 1 Hour. Blinded while Poisoned.

Midnight Tears (1,500gp)


9d6 Poison Damage at Midnight.

Oil Of Taggit (400gp)


Poisoned Condition for 24 Hours. Unconscious while Poisoned.

Pale Tincture (250gp)


1d6 Poison Damage every 24 Hours. Can’t be healed until succeeding 7 Saving Throws.

Purple Worm Poison (2,000gp)


12d6 Poison Damage.

Serpent Venom (200gp)


3d6 Poison Damage.

Torpor (600gp)


Poisoned Condition for 4d6 Hours. Incapacitated while Poisoned.

Truth Serum (150gp)


Poisoned Condition for 1 Hour. Under conditions of the “Zone of Truth” spell while Poisoned.

Wyvern Poison (1,200gp)


7d6 Poison Damage.

Injury Poisons will have their effect wear off after a successful hit. They must also be applied/intentionally wiped off to use or remove it.

Incorporating Poisons In A Campaign

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Use Poisons

From a player’s point of view, poisons can be a bit of a gamble. Since the full effect of poisons is inflicted after a failed save from the target, it can be tough to justify the time and cost of getting poisons on your own.

If you intend on building a character around poisons, you can also consider using the Poisoner feat to give yourself an edge on poison-based warfare. The Poisoner’s feat, from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, allows you to do the following:

  • When you make a damage roll that deals Poison Damage, ignore a target’s resistance to Poison Damage.
  • Can apply poisons to weapons or ammunition as a bonus action (it is normally an action).
  • Gain proficiency with the Poisoner’s Kit if you aren’t already.
  • You can spend 1 hour and 50gp of materials to create a number of poison doses equal to your Proficiency Bonus. This poison deals 2d8 Poison Damage and applies the Poisoned Condition to your target.

Besides making your poisons, consider working with your DM to buy them from a source. There are plenty of ways to acquire rarer poisons, either from a black market, making a deal with an Assassin, or hunting the raw materials so someone could make it for you.

For poisons like Purple Worm Poison or Carrion Crawler Mucus , there isn’t much stopping you from tracking those creatures and siphoning their venom with a successful Nature check .

Dungeon Masters enjoy using poisons as story elements. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different ways poisons can add twists to a story or plot.

  • A witch hires the party to track a monster and extract its venom for poison.
  • A noble mysteriously dies with bulging veins shooting up his neck and no external wounds.
  • A party member continuously gets sicker, and the rest of the party desperately searches for a cure before it’s too late.
  • After a royal gathering, noises are heard from the king’s chambers, with the king being found dead just after the stroke of midnight.
  • The party comes across a vial filled with unknown liquid and is tasked with discovering what it is.

Using Poisons During Gameplay

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Use Poisons

When the time comes that you can use poisons for yourself, remember to keep track of what type of poison you have.

The most common type of poison is Injury-based (coating a weapon with poison). Remember to wait until you need it to apply the poison. Otherwise, it will lose effect after a minute or be wiped away.

For Contact or Ingested poisons, think thoroughly about where and when your target will be during your window of opportunity. Discuss with your party and get any details you can from your Dungeon Master to give yourself the best chance at success.

Ingested poisonsare the hardest to use since you need to slip them into a drink or food without anyone looking and have the correct target drink or food to eat them. However, Ingested poisons often have the strongest effects, so the payoff is worth it.

Contact poisons are the least used type, but they can be an incredibly versatile tool when you think outside the box. Some examples include:

  • Coating a door handle of a victim’s home.
  • Applying contact poison in a person’s helmet when they aren’t looking.
  • Covering a mug’s handle with Contact poison (avoids them detecting any poison from the drink itself).
  • Coat the handle of an alarm bell while you are infiltrating a stronghold.

As for Inhaled poisons, it is best to use them either as a last resort escape or to get an advantage on someone quickly. If you are being detected by a guard, blowing a bit of Malice in their face is a nice way to escape.

The key takeaway to using poisons, especially before entering combat, is to be creative and use them to slow down enemy progression. Ultimately, if you can use poisons in a way that will allow you never even to enter combat in the first place (i.e., making enemies unconscious before they can get up from the bar table to strike a punch), you will be able to complete the most difficult of tasks.

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