After killing a cockatrice, a couple of my players cut off its head and mounted it on a javelin. Obviously, they're going to try to use it to petrify something else.

Assuming realistic factors in hitting and doing slight damage with the beak of a dead bird attached to the end of a pole, would the hit creature still be petrified on a failed constitution saving throw like it would if bit by a live cockatrice?

This discussion on using a Medusa head seems to lean towards her petrifying effect being conscious, and thus use of her severed head is debatable. That makes sense to me, but given a cockatrice's intelligence (-4) it's ability seems to be completely unrelated to will or intent, making it more logical that the petrifying effect of its beak might continue even after its death.

Does it or doesn’t it work?

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2 Answers 2


I am not aware of any official rules sources or developer statements that would answer this question definitively. So this answer will necessarily be a bit of synthesis.

The cockatrice of D&D is, of course, based on the mythical creature of the same name, and some legends did have the corpse of one of those continue to petrify creatures. The quintessential rogue-like game Nethack features a great deal of D&D-derived material, and cockatrice corpses in that could be a potent weapon, provided the user was somehow protected from petrifying themselves while wielding it.

Furthermore, the cockatrice’s petrification attack isn’t terribly powerful—you have to fail two Constitution saving throws at DC 11 in a row, which is pretty unlikely for the vast majority of targets. And even when it works, it takes two turns, which matters—it’s not a way to just summarily remove targets from the fight.

Still, I’d be leery about this. Being petrified is as good as being dead, and though it takes two turns to take hold, and is rather unreliable, being able to fling this at some target for just one attack, and potentially have them removed from the fight after two rounds of focusing on other targets, is potentially highly advantageous. My primary concern would be that it just becomes a little too predictable—every fight starts with chucking the cockatrice-javelin. Neat, fun tricks can get old pretty fast if you let them get predictable.

My solution here would be to have the body slowly decay and lose its potency, forcing the characters to eventually abandon it, or at least invest in casting gentle repose on it. Even then, I might say it only has so many shots of petrification left in it. The characters could, I dunno, start a cockatrice farm for this, but at that point I might be comfortable with them maintaining the tactic.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm inclined to let them use it, but I really like your idea of having it decay over time. Given the craziness of how the game has gone so far, an unpredictable weapon like a cockatrice-head-on-a-stick might add another element of hilarity. \$\endgroup\$
    – conan
    Dec 30, 2018 at 23:36

Dmg 258 for poison harvest rules. 20 dc with a poisoners kit. Maybe treat the bite as poison.

In pathfinder it would work like the following. If you dont find a dnd 5e answer . 1~2 days before it ceases to function and may only function for a single hit.

According to the feat harvested parts from monsters hunters handbook pg 24,harvested parts remain usable for 2 days. And thats if they took the feat to harvest monster parts to craft an item.
Poisons harvested from a dead creature last 1 day unless alchemically treated with a dc check equal to the save. Cocatrice spit could be treated the same way as a house rule.theres also a limit of 1 +con mod max dosses. Thats if they have surgical tools and a survival check 15+ cr(3). -2 penalty for only having a sharp knife. Ultimate wilderness

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is any of this for D&D 5e? Sounds like Pathfinder references to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 31, 2018 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your right the post is tagged dnd5e deleting comment \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2018 at 3:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your edit didn’t remove the incorrect information. Also note that you don’t need to explain edits in the post (and shouldn’t): instead put the explanation into the explanation box provided during editing, so that it appears in the history list. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2018 at 3:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes it is better to give a homebrew anwer than one from a different game with different rules. Ideally before either you should preface it with a discussion of what applies for 5e \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Dec 31, 2018 at 4:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s fine to answer however you like. However, the score it receives is based on how useful voters think it is. Nobody is guaranteed a positive score just for trying to help. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2018 at 4:37

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