Do ingested poisons have a taste? Can they be identified as poison at the time of consumption?

I know a Potion of Poison tastes just like a Potion of Healing, but I don't know how to deal with the other poisons listed in the DMG.


2 Answers 2


Not casually.

The rules on poisons are mostly in the DMG in Chapter 8. None of those rules deal with poisons having telltale signs in general. Relatively few poisons operate via ingestion (indicated by the Ingested property).

I'm not aware of any rules which state that a character may become aware of a poison's presence incidentally. At your DM's discretion you should probably be able to make a roll to actively check for poison (like an Investigation check versus Passive Perception), provided that your character would have some basis to know what a poison tastes/smells/feels/looks like. Possibly a very high Passive Perception score might be enough, again at DM discretion.

The saving throws for all of them are CON saves to resist the poison. Those which deal damage immediately might be noticed by inference-- "I drank the mead, but now I'm having violent cramps and burning pains. I feel like I've taken 3d6 damage!".

Others would be useless if they could be detected at the time of consumption, particularly Midnight Tears. That poison has no discernable effect until midnight after ingestion, and being able to casually notice it beforehand would make it useless, more or less.

Broadly speaking, deciding that poisons can be noticed easily leads to a game in which poisons are going to be mostly irrelevant. It will become a reflex to check every drink for poison, much like the cliché "I check for traps" approach to moving into a new room in a dungeon. But if poisons were plot relevant, and a character could specialize in knowledge of them, you might be able to build some intriguing scenarios.

It's also the case that there exist spells which reveal the presence of poisons, and a common guideline in 5e is that characters shouldn't be able to duplicate spell effects "for free", by which I mean without taking spellcasting/such a spell (and therefore giving up other class features and spells in exchange). That also argues against poisons being easily identifiable via mundane, incidental means.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Although identify is mirrored by spending a short rest... \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jan 29, 2020 at 17:39

There's no (RAW) reason to believe it does

5e is better than previous editions at doing only what it states and the writers have gone out of their ways to confirm that there are no "unwritten" rules.

Although it is probably unlikely that all poisons would have no distinct taste due to their assumed composition, no official content states that poisons are identifiable as such once mixed into food or drink.


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