[RPG] Creating Poison Cheaply – Potato Tea


It seems that the effectiveness of poisons, both in the core list as well as in homebrew systems for inventing your own, are balanced with and directly proportional to their cost. However, there are many poisons that are craftable in real-life at trivial cost.

One of the greatest examples is the semi-infamous Potato Tea. Potatoes are a form of nightshade, a grouping of plants known for their poisonous qualities, and sure enough, almost all parts of the potato plant are poisonous (including the part we eat if not boiled and much more so prior to modern genetic modification, and most concentrated in the leaves). Boiling a potato and/or it's leaves causes the poisons to seep into the water, and instantly creates a poison that is deadly when ingested.

This example seems to create a logic-bomb when applied to the balancing of poisons. The cost of materials is about 1 to 3 cp, and the crafting difficulty as routine as the ability to boil water. Notably, this is only one example of countless ways to make cheap and easy poison using real-world logic.

There seem to be a number of ways to handle this inconsistency:

  1. Do not allow it at all, banning the very concept.
  2. Make the poison weaker proportional to its gold value regardless of realworld properties.
  3. Make the poison cost more proportional to its strength regardless of realworld properties.
  4. Allow it and ignore the poison rules and their inconsistencies altogether.

What is the way to deal with this strictly by the rules, and is it truly in conflict with real-world logic? What is the most common or reasonable way to deal with this situation if it is considered in conflict with the rules? Are there houserules, homebrews, or a general consensus on the subject? Has anyone tackled this rules inconsistency before?

Best Answer

As BESW said, don't expect the game system to model reality.

That said, if you need to figure out stats for potato tea...

  • It's an ingested poison. As the SRD says,

    Ingested poisons are virtually impossible to utilize in a combat situation. A poisoner could administer a potion to an unconscious creature or attempt to dupe someone into drinking or eating something poisoned. Assassins and other characters tend to use ingested poisons outside of combat.

    So, this really isn't likely to be a major combat advantage. In my view, a cheap and accessible plot-device poison isn't really a big deal. Also, how much exactly do you have to trick the target into drinking? From the sound of it, potato tea isn't nearly as potently concentrated as the expensive fantasy poisons in the game book.

  • What's the save DC? Something that calls for a DC 12 Fortitude save, for example, is still going to mess up a lot of low-level characters, but most powerful people will be pretty much immune to it.

  • What's the actual effect in game-mechanical terms? In the real world, it's pretty lethal, but lethal in the real world doesn't necessarily translate to "save or die." A poison that does 2d12 damage could kill a low-level commoner. Whereas a powerful character is just going to vomit it up but survive pretty much unscathed.

I'm not saying you should block the players by going out of your way to make it weak and useless. But don't make a game action super-powerful just because it could kill someone in reality. People were killed with regular ol' run-of-the-mill arming swords all the time. Yet they still do only 1d8 damage in D&D. Players characters and antagonists in D&D very quickly become more like action-movie heroes (or wuxia/super heroes, even) than real-world people as they attain levels or Hit Dice.

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