The Poisoned Condition
A poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
Player’s Handbook, page 292
Poison. Venomous stings and the toxic gas of a green dragon’s breath deal poison damage.
Player’s Handbook, page 196
Poisons come in the following four types.
Contact: Contact poison can be smeared on an object and remains potent until it is touched or washed off. A creature that touches contact poison with exposed skin suffers its effects.
Ingested: A creature must swallow an entire dose of ingested poison to suffer its effects. The dose can be delivered in food or a liquid. You may decide that a partial dose has a reduced effect, such as allowing advantage on the saving throw or dealing only half damage on a failed save.
Inhaled: These poisons are powders or gases that take effect when inhaled. Blowing the powder or releasing the gas subjects creatures in a 5-foot cube to its effect. The resulting cloud dissipates immediately afterward. Holding one’s breath is ineffective against inhaled poisons, as they affect nasal membranes, tear ducts, and other parts of the body.
Injury: Injury poison can be applied to weapons, ammunition, trap components, and other objects that deal piercing or slashing damage and remains potent until delivered through a wound or washed off. A creature that takes piercing or slashing damage from an object coated with the poison is exposed to its effects.
Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 257
Poison in DnD 5e
Poison is a broad topic in Dungeons and Dragons. It covers a condition, a damage type, and a class of items. The condition is generally viewed as strong, the damage type as bad, and the item as inconvenient, expensive, and ultimately ineffective.
This article will cover:
How the poisoned condition works in 5e and how to cause it.
Why poison damage is ranked as the worst in the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
The poisons you can harvest, make, and buy, as well as how to use them.
How to end poison effects on your character.
Rules clarifications on everything relating to poison in 5e.
What Is the Poisoned Condition in 5e?
The poisoned condition causes a creature to disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks. This means when a poisoned creature makes an attack roll or ability check, they roll 2d20 and use the lower number.
The poisoned condition has no effect on saving throws.
What Causes the Poisoned Condition in 5e?
The poisoned condition is caused by some creature abilities, poisons, and spells in 5e.
There’s a comprehensive list of creatures who can cause the poisoned condition below, and many poisons cause it as well (but not all of them).
The only two spells that cause the poisoned condition are Ray of Sickness and Contagion:
Ray of Sickness: 1st-level spell that poisons a target who fails a Constitution saving throw.
Contagion: 5th-level spell that poisons the target for several turns, before growing into a more powerful disease effect.
What Is Poison Damage in 5e?
Poison damage is one of 13 damage types in DnD (PHB 196). While damage types have no inherent rules, they do interact with other rules, like damage resistance, vulnerability, and immunity.
Poison damage is viewed as the worst in Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition because it is the most-resisted damage type in the game. Over 25% of the creatures included in DnD 5e’s main sourcebooks are immune to poison damage.
What Causes Poison Damage in 5e?
Sources of poison damage include creature abilities, poisons, and spells. Many of the creatures who cause the poisoned condition also deal poison damage. Additionally, many poisons cause poison damage (but not all of them).
The only four spells that cause poison damage are:
Poison Spray: Cantrip that deals 6.5 average poison damage. Available to Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks, Wizards, and Artificers.
Infestation: Cantrip that deals 3.5 average poison damage and forces a target to move 5 feet in a random direction. Available to Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards.
Ray of Sickness: 1st-level spell that deals 9 average poison damage and can poison the target. Available to Wizards, Sorcerers, and Alchemist Artificers.
Cloudkill: 5th-level spell that deals 22.5 average poison damage. Available to Sorcerers, Wizards, Death Domain Clerics, Circle of the Land: Underdark Druids, Circle of the Spores Druids, The Undead Warlocks, Oath of Conquest Paladins, and Alchemist Artificers.
What Poisons Can You Get in DnD 5e?
You can make, harvest, or acquire many poisons in DnD 5e. The poisons below are those listed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 257):
|Item||Type||Price per Dose|
|Assassin's blood||Ingested||150 gp|
|Burnt othur fumes||Inhaled||500 gp|
|Carron crawler mucus||Contact||200 gp|
|Drow poison||Injury||200 gp|
|Essence of ether||Inhaled||300 gp|
|Midnight tears||Ingested||1,500 gp|
|Oil of taggit||Contact||400 gp|
|Pale tincture||Ingested||250 gp|
|Purple worm poison||Injury||2,000 gp|
|Serpent venom||Injury||200 gp|
|Truth serum||Ingested||150 gp|
|Wyvern poison||Injury||1,200 gp|
Assassin’s Blood (Ingested): DC 10 Con save – on fail, 6.5 average poison damage and poisoned for 24 hours. Half damage and no poisoned condition on success.
Burnt Othur Fumes (Inhaled): DC 13 Con save – on fail, 10.5 average poison damage; repeated save each turn upon failing save – 3.5 average poison damage on subsequent turns. Lasts until creature makes three successful saving throws.
Carrion crawler mucus (Contact): DC 13 Con save – on a fail, poisoned for 1 minute. Poisoned creature is paralyzed, but can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. Must be harvested from a dead or incapacitated carrion crawler.
Drow poison (Injury): DC 13 Cpm save – on a fail, poisoned for 1 hour. If fail by 5+, also unconscious. Wakes if it takes damage or another creature uses an action to shake it awake.
Essence of ether (Inhaled): DC 15 Con save – on a fail, poisoned for 8 hours. Unconscious while poisoned. Wakes if it takes damage or another creature uses an action to shake it awake.
Malice (Inhaled): DC 15 Con save – on a fail, poisoned for 1 hour. Blinded while poisoned.
Midnight tears (Ingested): DC 17 Con save – on a fail, 31.5 average poison damage, half as much on a success. Poison takes no effect until midnight.
Oil of taggit (Contact): DC 13 Con save – on a fail, poisoned for 24 hours. Unconscious while poisoned. Wakes if it takes damage.
Pale tincture (Ingested): DC 16 Con save – on a fail, 3.5 average poison damage and poisoned. Must repeat saving throw every 24 hours. Deals 3.5 average poison damage upon each failed save. Until this poison ends, the damage it causes can’t be healed by any means. After 7 successful saves, the poison ends.
Purple worm poison (Injury): DC 19 Con save – on a fail, 42.5 average poison damage, or half as much on a success. Must be harvested from a dead or incapacitated purple worm.
Serpent venom (Injury): DC 11 Con save – on a fail, 10.5 average poison damage, or half as much on a success. Must be harvested from a dead or incapacitated giant poisonous snake.
Torpor (Ingested): DC 15 Con save – on a fail, poisoned for 4d6 (average 14) hours. Incapacitated while poisoned.
Truth serum (Ingested): DC 11 Con save – on a fail, poisoned for 1 hour. May not knowingly speak a lie.
Wyvern poison (Injury): DC 15 Con save – on a fail, 24.5 average poison damage, or half as much on a success. Must be harvested from a dead or incapacitated wyvern.
Additionally, the Player’s Handbook includes Basic Poison as an item (PHB 153). It costs 100g and does 1d4 poison damage as an Injury poison on a failed DC 10 Constitution saving throw. It remains active for 1 minute after applying it.
Pseudodragon poison is another popular choice. Depending on your DM, the ability to milk a Warlock’s Pact of the Chain Find Familiar (pseudodragon) makes for a reliable and cheap source of poison. It forces a DC 11 Constitution saving throw and knocks the target unconscious if the result of their roll is 6 or lower.
Additionally, the Poisoner feat allows for a player to make potent poison that deals an average of 9 poison damage and poisons the target on a failed DC 14 Con save.
How Do You Get Poisons in DnD 5e?
There are three ways to get poisons in DnD 5e; harvesting them from creatures, making them yourself, and buying them:
Harvesting poisons. Players can harvest poison from a poisonous creature that is incapacitated or dead. To do so, the player makes a DC 20 Nature check. Proficiency with a poisoner’s kit applies to this check if you aren’t proficient in the Nature skill.
On a success, the character harvests a single dose of poison. If the player fails the check by 5 or more, they’re subjected to the effects of the poison.
Making poisons. A character who is proficient with a poisoner’s kit can create a basic poison. If the DM allows it, they can also craft other poisons. This occurs at a rate of 5 gp worth of value per day of downtime spent working on poison-crafting (PHB 187).
For example, a single dose of assassin’s blood poison costs 150 gp, and so would require 30 days to craft.
Buying poisons. While poisons are typically illegal, characters with criminal contacts might be able to find a poison dealer. The Dungeon Master’s Guide table also includes suggested prices for a single dose of each poison.
How to Stop Being Poisoned in 5e
Here are all of the ways to stop being poisoned in 5e:
Pass a saving throw. The poisoned condition is very often applied due to failing a Constitution saving throw. If you do become poisoned, many poison effects also stipulate a chance to re-roll the saving throw at the end of each of your turns.
For both preventing and removing the poisoned condition, having a good Consitution saving throw modifier will go a long way toward avoiding it.
Use a spell. Here are the spells in 5e that can end the poison condition:
Lesser Restoration: 2nd-level spell that cures one of four conditions, including poisoned. Available to Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, Rangers, Artificers, and The Celestial Warlocks.
Protection from Poison: 2nd-level spell that neutralizes one poison afflicting the target. Also provides advantage on saving throws against being poisoned and resistance to poison damage. Available to Clerics, Druids, Paladins, Rangers, and Artificers.
Heroes’ Feast: 6th-level spell that, among other benefits, cures creatures of all poisons and grants immunity to the poisoned condition for 24 hours. Costs 1,000 gp to cast. Available to Clerics and Druids.
Racial features. Here are the racial features in 5e that can help prevent becoming poisoned:
Dwarven Resilience:. Dwarf feature that grants advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance to poison damage.
Stout Resilience: Stout Halfling feature that grants advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance to poison damage.
Infernal Constitution: Optional Tiefling feat that grants advantage on saving throws against being poisoned (condition).
Class/Subclass features. Here are the subclass features in 5e that can help prevent becoming poisoned or cure poison effects:
Nature’s Ward: 10th-level Druid (Circle of the Land) subclass feature that grants immunity to poison (condition and damage).
Purity of Body: 10th-level Monk class feature that grants immunity to poison (condition and damage).
Lay on Hands: 1st-level Paladin class feature that can cure multiple poison effects.
Master Transmuter (Panacea): 14th-level Transmutation Wizard subclass feature that removes all poisons affecting a creature.
Rules Clarifications on DnD Poisons, Poison Damage, and the Poisoned Condition
Here are some rules clarification on how poisons, poison damage, and the poisoned condition work in 5e:
Applying poison to a weapon uses an action. This doesn’t usually matter, since most players and NPCs apply poisons before combat begins. However, an answer from the Sage Advice Compendium confirmed that “administering poison uses the Use an Object action” (SAC 6).
If damage from the source of injury poison is prevented, the poison is also prevented. By definition, injury poisons require dealing piercing or slashing damage to be delivered. If damage is not dealt, the poison is not delivered. Sage Advice confirmation.
Poison damage isn’t included in critical strike damage if a saving throw is how the poison damage is applied/suffered. Because injury poison is happens only after the attack lands, and then forces a saving throw, poison damage cannot be included in the critical damage (meaning you don’t roll double poison damage).
At least, this is the design intent. DMs are free to rule differently, and many do.
Poisons can stack, if they’re different poisons. From DMG errata, we have confirmation that “when two or more game features have the same name, only one of them — the most potent one — apply while the durations of the effects overlap.”
So two poisons of the same name can’t be in effect simultaneously while their durations overlap, but two poisons of different names can be in effect simultaneously while their durations overlap.
Immunity to poison damage doesn’t grant immunity to the poisoned condition. The condition and the damage type are two distinct things. A creature’s stat block will list both “damage immunities” (poison) and “condition immunities” (poisoned).
The Poisoner Feat
The Poisoner feat was introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (pg. 80) and confers the following benefits:
Ignoring poison resistance on enemies.
The ability to apply poison as a bonus action rather than an action.
The ability to make a number of potent poison doses equal to the character’s proficiency bonus in exchange for 50 gp worth of material. It has a DC 14 Constitution saving throw, and deals 2d8 poison damage and poisons the creature for one turn if they fail.
Overall, players dislike this feat because poison resistance isn’t the problem — poison immunity is. Additionally, having to pay 50 gp for between 3-6 doses of poison that deal an average of 9 damage is just plain bad.
And the ability to apply poison in combat is nice, but most DMs allow players to do this anyway, especially if being a poison-based character is their whole shtick.
Many DMs buff this feat and allow it to bypass poison immunity as well as resistance. Another common buff is simply allowing the player to generate poisons at the end of every long rest. Or buffing the damage the poison causes.
You could apply all three buffs, and it still probably wouldn’t be a very competitive feat for most characters.
DM Tips for Poisons
There are a few weaknesses with how poisons work in DnD 5e. Let’s briefly cover what DMs can do about it:
Make poisons cheaper. Poisons are outrageously expensive for what they actually do. If you compare them to the costs of powerful spells with 1,000 gp price tags, they come nowhere close in power level.
I’m not exaggerating when I say dropping poison prices to 10% of their DMG-listed price is a good starting place.
Make poison acquisition the main objective of a side quest. The DMG even notes how “tracking down certain ingredients might form the basis of an entire adventure.” If you have a player who’s keen on stocking up on tons of poison, make it a whole quest.
Then, you can reward players with a large hoard of poison doses that they can apply at the most opportune times.
Speed up poison creation. Players who are proficient with a poisoner’s kit can make one basic poison after 20 days of downtime. 20 days. That’s maybe one poison per session, if your players are resting in town after each and every session.
My way of solving this? Have players get better at crafting certain things. If a character always spends their downtime making poisons, have them improve at it. And I’m not talking about small improvements here — I’m suggesting one basic poison per day as a starting point, improving as the player improves.
Alternatively, you can also…
Make poisons stronger. 100 gp basic poison deals 1d4 poison damage on a failed DC 10 Con save. That’s the damage of a cantrip, and the easy-to-pass DC doesn’t even scale.
I suggest making the damage and DC scale with proficiency level: increase dice size with each step up of damage by 1 and DC by 2 per proficiency increase.
Make poison harvesting easier. A DC 20 Nature check on a dead or incapacitated creature seems pretty harsh to me. Especially for one dose…from a creature you also had to take down. I suggest lowering the check or at least taking away the risk of becoming poisoned on a failure.
I also suggest making characters who are proficient with a poisoner’s kit improve as they level up. You can increase the number of doses they’re able to extract by 1 for each increase in their proficiency modifier. Or make it so that if they fail the check, they only receive 1/2 of the doses they would have gotten from a success.
Creatures Who Cause the Poisoned Condition in 5e
Here are all of the creatures who can cause the poisoned condition in the official 5e monster sourcebooks:
|Grung Elite Warrior||2||VGtM|
|Drow Elite Warrior||5||MM|
|Drow Priestess of Lolth (Ray of Sickness)||8||MM|
|Necromancer (Ray of Sickness)||9||VGtM|
|Drow House Captain||9||MToF|
|Drow Inquisitor (Contagion)||14||MToF|
|Mummy Lord (Contagion)||15||MM|
|Star Spawn Larva Mage||16||MToF|
|Drow Favored Consort||18||MToF|
|Drow Matron Mother (Contagion)||20||MToF|
|Zuggtmoy (Ray of Sickness)||23||MToF|
|Deep Gnome (Svirfneblin)||0.5||MM|
|Orc Nurtured One of Yurtrus||0.5||VGtM|
|Giant Wolf Spider||0.25||MM|