Making Tools Useful in 5e: Poisoner's Kit
Back doing some more tools in July! This is probably one of the edgier tools I’m ever going to create… though, maybe we can make glassblower’s tools into something only the truest edgelords would take, but that’s for a future discussion, and today… we got some marks to kill!
For those that don’t care about the nitty-gritty:
For best results in GM Binder, use a Chrome Browser
You know what I like about Xanathar’s Guide to Everything? It has some awesome subclasses in it, some cool spells (not talking to you Healing Spirit) and on page 83 it talks about the Poisoner’s Kit:
A poisoner's kit is a favored resource for thieves, assassins, and others who engage in skulduggery. It allows you to apply poisons and create them from various materials. Your knowledge of poisons also helps you treat them.
Components. A poisoner's kit includes glass vials, a mortar and pestle, chemicals, and a glass stirring rod.
History. Your training with poisons can help you when you try to recall facts about infamous poisonings.
Investigation, Perception. Your knowledge of poisons has taught you to handle those substances carefully, giving you an edge when you inspect poisoned objects or try to extract clues from events that involve poison.
Medicine. When you treat the victim of a poison, your knowledge grants you added insight into how to provide the best care to your patient.
Nature, Survival. Working with poisons enables you to acquire lore about which plants and animals are poisonous.
Handle Poison. Your proficiency allows you to handle and apply a poison without risk of exposing yourself to its effects.
It’s somewhat flavorful, but isn’t going to really let you be as edgy as you’d like. If you pick Poisoner’s Kit as your tool proficiency, you aren’t taking it for bonus facts about infamous poisonings or learn lore about some plants. You take that kit so you can create some special poisons to better help you murder that annoying monster.
When you think Poisoner’s Kit, you think murder. You think Poison. You think venom and extracting that venom from some deadly monster so that you can turn that danger onto your future enemies. Let’s get into my design thoughts!
By RAW, you don’t get a journal to record all the poisons you create, but from reading books like the Night Angel Trilogy from Brent Weeks or even the Harry Potter Series from J.K. Rowling a poisoner has a recipe they are working off of, and you need a place to store it. Plus, the GM can offer this as part of a treasure hoard to the party, if someone is really into learning more recipes, this could be worth way more than gold to them!
But, we can’t make it that easy. The creators of poisons are secretive people, and thus have encoded their own journals against others reading their notes. Our would-be poisoner must make a check against the DC of the original journal writer to start figuring out how they wrote their recipes. It wouldn’t do if just anyone could pick up the journal and start making poisons right off the bat.
So how exactly are poisoners supposed to access their favorite poisons? By getting venoms and other materials from out in the world. By defeating monsters, the poisoners need to find certain monsters that have venom and then extract out the venom sacks or poisonous gases. This can help provide side quests for your players, and allows you to bring them up against wyverns, purple worms, green dragons and even the lowly myconids that nobody ever thinks about. Of course, they could be lame poisoners and just buy the raw materials… but where is the fun in that?
When the creature is finally killed, it then comes down to extract the venom. This check is based off how powerful the creature is and is just 10 + half the CR of the monster. This keeps it easy to come up with an extraction DC on the fly when they try to extract venom from a monster not listed in my provided recipes. Of course… once they have the venom… what do they do with it? Unless they have a recipe for it, they can’t really use the venom unless they want to smear it on someone and hope for the best.
Well, they can take that venom and try and create a recipe out of it by a slightly harder DC. By having them research the recipe, it allows them a chance to study the venom and they aren’t reliant on trying to convince an assassin to let them look into their poisoner’s journal. Of course, the downside is they need a living animal… which might even include themselves!
Crafting the Poison
Now, let’s say they know the recipe, they have the venom… they want to finally make the poison! By spending an hour preparing the venom, they can make a Craft check to create the poison. Simple as that. Once they have their poison ready, they can slather it onto weapons, slip it into food or turn it into mists so that creatures breath it in. Each poison has a specific way for it to be delivered, by ignoring that delivery method, you make the poison useless.
So, now that we got our poisons figured out. What do we do for recipes? One of the easiest things we can do is just go through the Monster Manual and wherever a monster deals poison damage, you can make that into a poison. Purple Worm, Wyverns, Poisonous Snakes, the list goes on and on, and I only added a few of those into the recipe examples.
Another place to get poison recipes is to look through the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide, each of them has a few different poisons in them and you can easily modify them to this system, which is what I did for the Pale Tincture, Burnt Othur Fumes and a few others… and lastly, I opened up my trusty 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide and they have several awesome poisons inside their covers!
These poisons do more than just poison a creature, they cause different effects like Slow or paralysis. This is a pretty cool component that you can add into new poisons that I hadn’t thought of before. Just imagine someone being poisoned and slowed, and how cool your assassin would feel pulling that off. Would be pretty awesome… and maybe not too edgelordy!
Now, I didn’t add this into the PDF and its just for you… the dedicated reader that is reading through this. Not every time when you go to extract venom or make a poison that things are going to go nice. Sometimes there might be a catastrophic failure and things might happen to you. But that doesn’t mean that the GM should rush over to this chart every time you fail, this is per the GM’s discretion, but the discretion of a GM should be pretty high on this. These mishaps happen around dangerous components, and it’d suck to kill your characters off cause they failed a Poisoner’s Kit check.
d6 | Mishap
1. The poisons you are working with accidentally explode into a fine mist. Make a Constitution saving throw against the DC of the poison/venom, on a fail you become poisoned for 24 hours.
2. You have a small hole in your thick gloves and the venom has found a way through and has been absorbed into your skin. Make a Constitution saving throw against the DC of the poison/venom, on a fail you take 2d10 poison damage as it begins eating away your skin.
3. You mindlessly wiped your forehead of sweat, and some of the poison/venom has gotten into your eyes. Make a Constitution saving throw against the DC of the poison/venom or become blinded for the next hour as your eyes burns so badly you can’t open them.
4. The venom you were working with has become contaminated and seems to be losing its potency. You must succeed on a DC 15 Poisoner’s Kit check or lose the valuable venom.
5. The recipe for the poison called for you to quickly stir the ingredients together, unfortunately you were a bit too hasty and splashed the poison onto yourself. Make a Constitution saving throw against the poison/venom or take a level of exhaustion as the poison drains you of your strength.
6. You accidentally read off the wrong recipe and the poison you were working on turned to a weird black goop, ruining part of your Poisoner’s Kit.
And that’s what we have for the Poisoner’s Kit! The best tool for the assassin. This tool can create fun side quests to the underdark, out to sea for wyverns or even into those spooky swamps where that one green dragon is supposed to be hiding in. By giving your players a tool to work with, you can help them fulfill their dreams of becoming the badass assassin they always knew they were!
If you like what we are doing here, or want to access all of my tools in one convenient place, check out our Patreon page! You’ll get access to our discord, our Homebrew Hoard, our extras podcast and more!