Learn how the poisoned condition works, how you can take advantage of it and protect yourself from it
Poison is a terrible toxin that harms your body. It can cause pain, sickness and even death. For this reason, it is a favourite tool of assassins, monsters and even plants in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Of course, poisons are varied in their strength and effects and this is reflected in the rules for D&D 5e. The poisoned condition is one that helps to encompass the effects a person might feel if their body racked with poison.
Thankfully, we’ve created this guide so you can understand exactly how the poisoned condition works, what can harm you with it and how to use it yourself (if you’re devious enough that is).
The Player’s Handbook explains the effects of being poisoned, causing the effect below on anyone that is afflicted with this condition.
Player’s Handbook, p292
- A poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
This disadvantage is due to the effects of a poisoned body causing a character to be weaker and sicklier. On the surface, this may seem simple (if very effective at reducing the effectiveness of an enemy), however, there are many poisons in D&D 5e and while the above is what affects all with the poisoned condition, different poisons will have additional rules that affect a character.
How does the poisoned condition work?
The poisoned condition can occur if you are infected with poison (duh!). While poisons can damage you (and there is poison damage that can harm your character), the poisoned condition is a specific condition imposed by some poisonous attacks and effects.
While more simple than many other conditions, it is also fairly brutal! Disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks severely reduces your ability to hit others and accomplish anything that requires an ability check.
It’s important to be aware of the distinction between poison damage and the poisoned condition. Not all poison damage will cause the poisoned condition. Only if the stat block specifically states that it causes the poisoned condition will it do so, otherwise, the poison is only causing damage.
What can cause you to be poisoned?
Thankfully, poisoned isn’t overly common. Unfortunately, it’s more common among monsters and enemies than it is for playable characters meaning you’re more likely to be poisoned than to use it to your advantage. Having said that, there are a few ways to impose the poisoned condition on your enemies.
Poisons that cause the poisoned condition
This may sound daft, but you can use poisons to cause poison damage, but not all poisons cause the poisoned condition (and not all poisons cause poison damage either). This means you’ve got to be careful what poisons you buy as some will just cause some damage while others will just cause the poisoned condition (and sometimes another condition) while other poisons will do both. Different poisons may even have different effects and need to be administered in different ways (such as through inhalation or ingestion).
We’ve outlined the different poisons below and their effects to make it easy to know which ones you’ll want to use:
|Assassin’s blood||Ingested||DC 10 Constitution||1d12 poison damage||Poisoned 24hrs||150gp|
|Burnt othur fumes||Inhaled||DC 13 Constitution||3d6 poison damage||Continued damage||500gp|
|Crawler mucus||Contact||DC 13 Constitution||None||Poisoned and paralyzed for 1 minute||200gp|
|Drow poison||Injury||DC 13 Constitution||None||Poisoned and maybe unconscious for 1 hour||200gp|
|Essence of ether||Inhaled||DC 15 Constitution||None||Poisoned and unconscious for 8hrs||300gp|
|Malice||Inhaled||DC 15 Constitution||None||Poisoned and blinded for 1hr||250gp|
|Midnight tears||Ingested||DC 17 Constitution||9d6 poison damage (half on successful saving throw)||Only takes damage if poison hasn’t been neutralised by midnight||1,500gp|
|Oil of taggit||Contact||DC 13 Constitution||None||Poisoned and unconscious for 24hrs||400gp|
|Pale tincture||Ingested||DC 16 Constitution||1d6 poison damage every 24hrs||Poisoned until 7 successful saving throws (taken once every 24hrs). Damage dealt by this poison can’t be healed until the poison has been neutralised.||250gp|
|Purple worm poison||Injury||DC 19 Constitution||12d6 poison damage (half on successful saving throw)||None||2,000gp|
|Serpent venom||Injury||DC 11 Constitution||3d6 poison damage (half on successful saving throw)||None||200gp|
|Torpor||Ingested||DC 15 Constitution||None||Poisoned and incapacitated for 4d6 hours||600gp|
|Truth serum||Ingested||DC 11 Constitution||None||Poisoned for 1hr and cannot knowingly speak a like as if under the effects of the Zone of Truth spell||150gp|
|Wyvern poison||Injury||DC 15 Constitution||7d6 poison damage (half on successful saving throw)||None||1,200gp|
Administering poison can be done in different ways depending on the type of poison you’re giving your victim. These need doing in the following ways:
Contact – Simply touching these poisons will be enough for them to harm you. You can place it on a surface, including a weapon (and it can be any weapon type, including bludgeoning) and get someone to touch that surface for it to have an effect. Contact poisons are easily the most flexible and easy to use
Ingested – These poisons need to be consumed to have an effect such as through food or drink. Of course, getting someone to ingest poison is difficult and will require significant subterfuge to work such as sneaking it into someone’s wine (or just pouring it down their throat, if you can).
Inhaled – Some poisons simply need inhaling as a noxious gas. They only affect a 5ft square and the poison will disperse upon leaving its container. Inhaled poisons do provide range though as you can throw a bottle or vial of poison and don’t necessarily need an attack roll (though a DM may ask for one). Even better, thieves can throw this kind of poison as a bonus action too.
Injury – Other poisons need to go into the blood of the victim to have an effect and can be used, for instance, to coat weapons to cause additional damage or effects to weapon attacks.
While this does look great at first, and you may wonder why people aren’t constantly adding poison to their weapons, there are some issues with using poison:
- Cost – Poison costs quite a lot for something that is used and disposed of and often doesn’t add a huge amount of damage or effects that may be saved against.
- Action economy – Applying poison to a weapon costs an action so doing so has to be worth more than a single action hit. You can get around this by applying poison to a weapon before combat but this still only gives a boost to one attack in a combat.
- Immunity – A lot of creatures are immune to poison damage like constructs, undead, fiends and elementals so you don’t want to be reliant on it as your primary damage type.
Spells that cause poisoned
There are only 2 spells that directly cause the poisoned condition (contagion and ray of sickness), which isn’t a lot, but, some spells allow you to summon creatures or polymorph into a creature that can cause poisoned. We’ve outlined all these spells below, including conjuring spells to summon creatures that cause the poisoned condition:
|Spell||Level||Casting Time||Range||Saving Throw||Duration||Classes||Description|
|Animal Shapes||8th||1 action||30ft||None||24hrs concentration||Druid||Transform willing creatures in range into a creature of CR 4 or lower including creatures that can inflict poisoned|
|Conjure Animals||3rd||1 action||60ft||None||1 hour concentration||Druid, Ranger||Conjure beasts of up to CR 2 including creatures that can inflict poisoned|
|Conjure Celestial||7th||1 minute||90ft||None||1 hour concentration||Cleric||Conjure a celestial of CR 4 or lower including a couatl which can inflict the poisoned condition|
|Conjure Fey||6th||1 minute||90ft||None||1 hour concentration||Druid, Warlock||Conjure a fey of CR 6 or lower including creatures that can inflict the poisoned condition|
|Conjure Woodland Beings||4th||1 action||60ft||None||1 hour concentration||Druid, Ranger||Conjure woodland creatures up to CR 2 including creatures that can inflict the poisoned condition|
|Contagion||5th||1 action||Touch||Constitution||7 days||Cleric, Druid||Target is poisoned and can become diseased too|
|Create Homunculus||6th||1 hour||Touch||None||Instantaneous||Wizard||Creates a homunculus that can cause the poisoned condition|
|Infernal Calling||5th||1 minute||90ft||None||1 hour concentration||Warlock, Wizard||Summon a devil of up to CR 6 including devils that can inflict the poisoned condition. The devil may or may not follow your requests|
|Mass Polymorph||9th||1 action||120ft||Wisdom||1 hour concentration||Bard, Sorceror, Wizard||Transform up to 10 creatures into another creature including ones that can inflict the poisoned condition|
|Polymorph||4th||1 action||60ft||Wisdom||1 hour concentration||Bard, Druid, Sorceror, Wizard||Transform a creature into another creature including one that can inflict the poisoned condition|
|Ray of Sickness||1st||1 action||60ft||Constitution||Instananeous||Sorceror, Wizard||2d8 poison damage and may be poisoned for a turn|
|Shapechange||9th||1 action||Self||None||1 hour concentration||Druid, Wizard||Assume the form of a creature of equal CR to your level or lower including one that can inflict the poisoned condition|
|Summon Greater Demon||4th||1 action||60ft||Charisma||1 hour concentration||Warlock, Wizard||Summon a demon of up to CR 5 including demons that can inflict the poisoned condition.|
|True Polymorph||9th||1 action||30ft||Wisdom||1 hour concentration||Bard, Warlock, Wizard||Transform a creature into another creature including one that can inflict the poisoned condition|
It’s also worth noting that wild magic surge can cause the poisoned condition too under certain circumstances, though you have little control over this.
Creatures that can cause the poisoned condition
While it is possible to cause the poisoned condition, as you can see above, doing so is actually quite limited for playable characters. There are however, a lot of creatures that naturally produce poisons that inflict the poisoned condition. These make great options for DMs to nullify some characters, at least temporarily. These include:
- Giant Spider
- Poisonous Snake
- Carrion Crawler
- Bearded Devil
- Bone Devil
- Pit Fiend
How do you prevent poisoned?
As you’re more in danger of being poisoned than you are of doing the poisoning, it’s worth being aware of how to prevent or at least cure the poisoned condition. There are a few things you can do to accomplish this:
- High constitution – The poisoned condition is typically resist by a constitution saving throw so having a high constitution will help you pass saving throws against the poisoned condition.
- Resistance – Some playable races have resistance to poison and can receive advantage on saving throws against poison like Dwarves or even complete immunity like Yuan-Ti Purebloods. The playable races with with resilience or immunity against the poisoned condition are; Dwarves, Green Dragonborn, Stout Halflings, Warforged, Yuan-Ti Purebloods
- Spells – Some spells can prevent, cure or give resistance against poison. These include; Aura of Purity (resistance), Heroes Feast (cures), Lesser restoration (cures), Protection from Poison (neutralises and resistance), Purify food and drink (neutralises), Tasha’s otherworldly Guise (Immunity). We’ve detailed these spells in the table below:
Spells that protect against poisoned
|Spell||Level||Casting Time||Range||Saving Throw||Duration||Classes||Description|
|Aura of Purity||4th||1 action||Self (30ft radius)||None||10 minutes concentration||Paladin||Allies in the area receive buffs including advantage on poisoned saving throws|
|Heroes Feast||6th||10 minutes||30ft||None||Instantaneous||Cleric, Druid||Various including cured of disease and poison and poison immunity|
|Lesser Restoration||2nd||1 action||Touch||None||Instantaneous||Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger||End 1 disease or condition including poisoned|
|Protection from Poison||2nd||1 action||Touch||None||1 hour||Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger||Neutralise 1 poison afflicting the target, advantage on saving throws against being poisoned and resistance to poison damage|
|Purify Food and Drink||1st||1 action||10ft (5ft radius sphere)||None||Instantaneous||Cleric, Druid, Paladin||All non-magical food and drink in area rendered free from poison and disease|
|Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise||6th||1 bonus action||Self||None||1 minute concentration||Sorceror, Warlock, Wizard||Various including immunity to poison damage and the poisoned condition|
All condition guides
Conditions are powerful tools or problematic obstacles in D&D 5e. You can learn more about all the conditions of D&D 5e in our guides below: