In the PHB, when you apply poison on an arrow or a sword, the poison stays effective for 1 minute.

When a Drow hits someone with their crossbow, according to the Monster Manual, that person needs to make a save because of the Drow Poison.

But if you follow that drow for more than 1 minute, will the Drow poison lose its efficacy?


The Drow would still deal poison damage after a minute

Creature statblocks only do what they say they do. In the statblock for a Drow, they are listed as having a crossbow attack that targets must save against or be poisoned. There's no mention of poison needing to be actively applied to maintain this effect, or of the Drow even having a supply of poisons on-hand.

DMs can adjudicate the application of a Drow's poison, as a houserule/rule of fun

Personally, as DM, if I knew a creature's poison attacks were probably caused by a manually applied poison, I'd probably narrate that the poison is applied on either the first round of combat, or in an ambush scenario (which is traditionally where Drow show up in combat) they'd have applied it right before combat began. Alternatively, if the PCs were to get the drop on the Drow, it might be that the Drow have to choose between fighting without poison, or wasting their first turn applying poison.

One thing to note, however, is that the one minute limit on the poison duration only applies to Player Characters; it is not required to apply to NPCs of any kind. And as DM, you're not required to apply any kind of adjudication on this topic at all: if a statblock says the creature deals poison damage, then they deal poison damage, with no requirement to take into consideration other factors like time or circumstances.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A DM can always adjudicate differently, but the stat block just gives the damage (which includes poison) and does not state anywhere the need for the drow to apply it. Adjudicating application seems like a houserule (which is fine, but should be clear that it's not following the monster stat block) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yeah, I've been adding edits to make that a bit clearer. I realized that the original draft was probably a bit too loose in that regard. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jan 22 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, if a DM does create a houserule on this, it may change the CR of the drow. May being the operative word :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 16:04

No, because the drow is counted as an NPC, and therefore, follows different rules than a player character. The drow poison is not specified to be something that the drow must apply to their weaponry; it is an inherent part of the effects of the weaponry used by the drow.


We're looking at two different kinds of poison.

The basic poison described in the PHB deals an extra 1d4 poison damage to an affected creature, and it dries out and becomes useless after a minute.

The drow poison used by the drow in the Monster Manual doesn't deal extra damage: It inflicts the poisoned condition and, sometimes, the unconscious condition.

We know that it's called "drow poison" because it's in the Dungeon Master's Guide (page 256)—where it's described as having the same effects listed in the drow stats. There are bunch of other poisons listed in the same section, including purple worm poison, truth serum, and "burnt othur fumes."

Many of the DMG poisons are quite nasty, and none of them include any caveats about losing their potency after a set period of time. Basic poison, the only poison readily available enough to show up in the Player's Handbook, looks very tame in comparison—but a dose of basic poison costs just 100 gp, and a dose of drow poison is 200 gp.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The drow poison is listed along with other sample poisons in the DM's Basic Rules here, just as it appears in the DMG: dndbeyond.com/compendium/rules/basic-rules/… \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 23 at 1:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not only is there no caveat, in the DMG under poisons under the Injury sub heading (the type of poison drow poison is categorized as) it specifically states that the poison is active until it enters a wound or is washed off. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Jan 23 at 17:55

In your specific case of Drow poison:
Yes, if everyone in your world follows the same laws of nature.
No, if the NPCs use different rules and exceptions than the players.

Chemicals react differently when exposed to air. It's up to the DM to decide how fast your chemicals dissipate. The DM is in control. :)

It's true that NPCs do not have to follow the same rules as the players, but me personally, like the NPCs in my world to follow the same rules as the players. It's great for consistency.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The asker may not be the DM; they don’t suggest so anywhere. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 22 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie "The asker may not be the DM"... Why not edit the answer to cover both cases? e.g It's up to the DM... The DM is in control of setting and NPC's \$\endgroup\$ – Nightwolf Jan 23 at 6:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nightwolf It would need more edits than that, since every paragraph is coloured by either assuming the asker is a DM or by relating the answerer's experience as a DM. It would be very hard to adjust the latter without putting words in the answerer's mouth, so best for the answerer to do it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 23 at 7:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Of course I can make the necessary edits to help clear things up. All you had to do was ask. I thought my response could help, and I don't claim to be an writer. \$\endgroup\$ – drunkenvash Jan 23 at 15:25

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