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The description of Drow in the SRD states:

An opponent hit by a drow’s poisoned weapon must succeed on a DC 13 Fortitude save or fall unconscious. After 1 minute, the subject must succeed on another DC 13 Fortitude save or remain unconscious for 2d4 hours.

Does the character have to make the second saving throw if they succeeded in the first save? The inclusion of the word "remains" suggests that the character was already unconscious, which suggests that this second saving throw is only required if the first one was failed.

However the rules for poisons suggest that the second saving throw is "usually" required even if the first succeeded. But it talks about additional "damage" which unconsciousness isn't, exactly:

When a character takes damage from an attack with a poisoned weapon, touches an item smeared with contact poison, consumes poisoned food or drink, or is otherwise poisoned, he must make a Fortitude saving throw. If he fails, he takes the poison’s initial damage (usually ability damage). Even if he succeeds, he typically faces more damage 1 minute later, which he can also avoid with a successful Fortitude saving throw


If a character succeeds in their initial saving throw against Drow poison, are they still required to make another save a minute later?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Looking on the poisons table in the Dungeon Master's Guide, page 297, the poisons table lists the Primary effect of Drow Poison as Unconsciousness and the Secondary effect as Unconsciousness for 2d4 hours, with no mention of the ambiguous "remain unconscious" language. So it appears that the answer to your question is Yes, the character must roll both saving throws.

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Is the DMG table considered the "final answer" as compared with the description, in terms of RAW? I would have guessed that the table description might have been shortened for space, even if the intent was really "continued unconsciouness" as implied by the wordier full description. –  PurpleVermont Jul 1 at 14:57
The only reference to Drow Poison in the DMG is on that particular table, alongside several other poisons (like Sassone leaf residue) that don't get a lengthier description anywhere else in any other place, so the only rules reference for those particular poisons is the table. The DMG table is reprinted here (d20srd.org/srd/specialAbilities.htm#poison) for your convenience. This isn't 100% proof that this interpretation is correct, but its pretty strong evidence. –  shatterspike1 Jul 1 at 19:36

Although the word "remain" is confusing here, I would tend to answer that yes, you have to make both saves (unless the poison description states otherwise). In the case of drow knockout poison, the results could be expressed as this:

  • Fail/Fail: It knocked you out cold, right from the get-go.
  • Fail/Pass: It got the drop on you, but you shook it off and got back up.
  • Pass/Fail: You fought the effects hard for a minute or so, but it still got you in the end.
  • Pass/Pass: That dose just plain wasn't strong enough to get you. No effect.

My reasoning here is that since the wording is confusing, it's best to err on the side of whatever would make things the most interesting. The third scenario above is a staple of action storytelling, and it would be good for a ruleset to be able to model it, but you need this particular interpretation in order to do that.

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I agree with the conclusion but less so the reasoning. More to the point, it's how every other poison works. A possible interpretation of one word that can also mean nothing special doesn't overturn that basic mechanic. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 1 at 0:16

Yes, you make each roll independent of the result of the other.

The usage of the term "damage" here is confusing, but is used simply because damage (either in the form of hit point damage or ability damage) is by far the most common effect; you could use the term "effect" instead in order to make it more grammatically accurate. The secondary effect of poison is always rolled if the poison has not been cured by the time the 1 minute is up, regardless of the effect of the first roll. This is universal to poisons under base rules, and drow poison is no exception.

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However, the effect of the second roll is to "stay" unconscious, implying that it requires the victim be unconscious in the first place. –  Axoren Jun 30 at 21:02
@Axoren That's not the only reading available. Someone can go to sleep and be said to "remain" unconscious for hours, without requiring that they were asleep before going to sleep. The word "remain" in English usage can describe just duration; it doesn't need to mean continuation. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 1 at 0:20
I've downvoted this answer because it fails to back up its claims. What makes this interpretation the correct one in the rules text? –  shatterspike1 Jul 1 at 0:22
@shatterspike1 Is "The secondary effect of poison is always rolled…" not sufficient rules justification? –  SevenSidedDie Jul 1 at 0:23
Not really, rolling against an effect that only specifies that someone "remains unconscious" doesn't necessarily imply the character goes unconscious if they weren't already. It's ambiguous wording that should have been fixed, but that means there's more than one interpretation given just this. Given this is a RAW tagged question, I'm guessing the asker wants whichever is the correct interpretation, even if that is "It's ambiguous". –  shatterspike1 Jul 1 at 0:30

I would rule No, simply because of the wording of the second roll.

After 1 minute, the subject must succeed on another DC 13 Fortitude save or remain unconscious for 2d4 hours.

If you're not unconscious, you cannot remain unconscious, because you aren't unconscious in the first place.

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I think it could just as well refer to the duration of 2d4 hours on its own, rather than as a continuation of the previous duration. Regardless, this is a very interesting observation. –  Ernir Jun 30 at 23:28

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