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Primer on Poisons

The game rules recognize four general categories of poison:  ingestive, insinuative, dual vector, and contact.  Only the first two are considered generally available, the latter two being rare in the extreme.  Poison potions are always ingestive, while monster venom is generally dual vector.  The famous multi-part poison is an invention of modern chemistry, possible only in a world of many elements and compounds.  In this world, there really are only the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, and the concept of a multi-part poison is beyond the alchemy of the day.

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Ingestive poisons must be swallowed, usually by inclusion in food or drink.  Insinuative poisons must be applied to open wounds.  Blade venom is insinuative, but there are other insinuative methods.  Dual vector poisons have some effect whether ingested or insinuated.  Contact poisons need only touch skin to begin having effect.

Potency of poison is addressed by poison types A through E.  Each does increasing injury, and other than type E, each is quicker.  Ingested poisons do damage even if a save is made, and are generally more potent.  Only types D and are fatal without reference to victim hit points.  Types A through D all work in under one turn.  Type E, always ingestive, works in under one hour.  Better poison types have worse saving throws and are harder to notice.

The game also recognizes slow-acting poisons which will affect the victim later in the day, and multiple-dose poisons which build up in the victim and kill later in the month.

It is specified that blade venom evaporates within two days, and in any event is useless after two hits.  Monster venom is said to be either fatal or harmless in most cases, working within minutes.  Poison potions are also fast-acting most of the time.

For game purposes (house rules), poisons derived from animals or plants not compounded (e.g., by alchemist or other individual with such training) are unstable, effective only for a few days before breaking down to inert products.  This prevents characters from cutting out the trained professionals or sellers in the use of poison.  Such compounding includes secret herbs which stabilize and preserve the poison, but usually alter it to either ingestive or insinuative only.

Poisons will also be classed by concentration, reflecting the amount needed to have effect.  Although more concentrated poisons are not more costly per dose, in some applications it may be necessary to waste doses to assure that the dose is in the right place--the poison which makes a needle fatal would require many doses to coat an awl pike.  The usual viscosity of the type is given, but poisons of all concentrations may be solid blocks or dry powders down to watery liquids.  The shown viscosity is the common one, and the one most often used in blade venoms of that concentration.

Type Z:  The tiniest amount of this poison will be effective.  It normally comes as gums, pastes, and jellies which do not pour or spill easily.  As blade venom, it is used on the points of such weapons as needles and darts.  It almost always burns if insinuated, and smells or tastes bitter.

Type Y:  Usually clinging and thick as honey, this poison is used on the heads of piercing missile weapons such as quarrels and arrows.  About a teaspoon is enough.

Type X:  Generally an oily substance, an ounce of this is adequate to coat the blades of most hand-held melee weapons, and is effective at that dose.  (For simplicity, an ounce is the recommended dose, but any wound inflicted results in a required save.)

Type W:  Looks like water, unless colored, and coats especially large weapons such as ballista bolts, lances, and large-bladed pole arms.  A cup is effective, but as blade venom there are significant bonuses to the victim's save.

Poisons also have different injurious effects and aftereffects.

Sleep-type poisons have no vector preference.  Depending on potency, they may cause grogginess or faint.  Victim may swoon and collapse, or prefer to lie down.  The poison affects the brain, such that the victim must sleep, and from there fall into deeper unconsciousness, coma, and (if appropriate) death.  Partial effects include a grogginess which causes temporary minor reduction in all ability scores (d4-2 points) lasting not more than a few hours in the extreme case.  Any damage is general.

Paralyzing poisons are more often insinuative than ingestive.  They attack the nervous system, causing muscles to tighten uncontrollably.  If insinuated, the paralysis spreads from the wound site, and kills by paralyzing vital organs.  If ingested, it tends to paralyze from the extremities inward.  Partial effects include reduction of movement (as if one encumbrance greater) due to residual weakness and soreness for up to several days, accompanied by reduced strength and dexterity (d6-2 points) for not more than a few days.  Damage is spread through affected areas.

Systemic poisons are almost always ingested, rarely insinuated.  They attack the digestive system causing severe symptoms, and spread to the respiratory system.  The symptoms are incapacitating and debilitating, until death either by internal hemorrhage or by exhaustion.  Partial and residual effects include loss of con, strength, and dex (d3 points).  Damage is general.

Necrotic poisons are almost always insinuative, almost never ingestive.  Like snake bites, they cause tissue death around the site.  This is severely painful, and may require saves.  Damage tends to be localized.  There may also be long-term reduction in charisma and comeliness, dexterity, and strength (d10-7 point) requiring treatment to recover.

Valdron Inc., publishers of Multiverser
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