[RPG] How does voluntarily holding one’s breath work


The rules for suffocation read as follows (emphasis mine):


A character who has no air to breathe can hold her breath for 2 rounds
per point of Constitution. […] After this period of time, the
character must make a DC 10 Constitution check in order to continue
holding her breath. The check must be repeated each round, with the DC
increasing by +1 for each previous success.

When the character fails one of these Constitution checks, she begins
to suffocate. In the first round, she falls unconscious (0 hit
points). In the following round, she drops to –1 hit points and is
dying. In the third round, she suffocates.

These rules are clear for when a character simply has no air to breath, such as while being strangled or underwater. But what about a character choosing to hold their breath?

For example, a PC enters a room with an airborne poison and begins to hold his breath. After the number of rounds he can safely hold his breath expires, he begins to make the requisite Constitution checks.

What happens on the character's first failed save? Does he…

  • …fall unconscious and continue to suffocate, not breathing?
  • …fall unconscious and begin to breath, no longer suffocating but inhaling the poison?
  • …remain conscious but breath involuntarily, inhaling the poison?

Best Answer

Fortunately there are rules for this in the inhaled poisons section:

A creature can attempt to hold its breath while inside the area to avoid inhaling the toxin. A creature holding its breath receives a 50% chance of not having to make a Fortitude save each round. See the rules for holding your breath and suffocation. If a creature is holding its breath and fails the constitution check to continue doing so, rather than suffocating it begins to breathe normally again (and is subject to the effects of the inhaled poison if still in the area).

So per RAW, it is option 3 (with the caveat that there is still a 50% chance of being affected by the poison every round).

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