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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pick Your Poison! - On the Quest For the Perfect OSR Game

Poison is a frequently discussed topic in the OSR realms, as it so neatly ties into the whole Save or Die topic.

I usually find myself somewhere between the two extremes of "carebear" and "killer DM". I like the IDEA of save or die. I like the idea that a character, no matter the level, can be brought down by fate. At the same time, the all or nothing of it can annoy me, both as a DM and a player.

I tend to use poison very sparingly as a DM because I don't find it fun to haphazardly cut down my players. I'd rather they die at the end of a spear than a pin prick.

So, I'm toying with an idea to use in place of Save or Die, at least when it comes to poisons. In a way, it can actually be a Save or Die, but as it deals damage and no auto death, it may fit in better with some styles of play and groups.

At the most basic, a poison would get rated by levels. Most traps would be within a level or two of the dungeon level, so most traps in a 3rd level dungeon would be rated at third level.

Most creatures would have poison rated at their HD, so a 5 HP poisonous snake would be rate level 5.

Poison damage would be 5 x Poison Level in HP damage - save for half. So that 5 HD Poisonous snake would do 25 pts of damage, 13 on a save. That will kill many characters outright if they are level appropriate, especially if they have taken previous damage.

I would also rule the damage takes place at a rate of 10 HP per round until it's run it's course. I enjoy the antics my players come up with to try and save their collective asses, and the time limit built in would lead to one hell of a challenge.

Again, brainstorming out loud.


  1. Not bad, but remember some of the tiniest creatures are also some of the deadliest.

  2. For the onset time, maybe make it variable so they don't know how long they've got or how bad it'll be? That might be too much record keeping though.