In D&D 5e, there are a number of poisons listed in the Dungeon Master's Guide page 258. Most of these poisons deal poison damage or inflict conditions. I know that in Pathfinder there are many poisons which reduce ability scores, but I notice an absence of such poisons in this DMG list for D&D 5e. As a DM I'm considering introducing a wider variety of poisons, which also means considering a wider variety of effects.

Are there any examples of poisons in other D&D 5e materials which reduce ability scores? I'll count poisons of any sort, be they purchasable items or only appearing in a monster's stat block or something else.

  • \$\begingroup\$ is creature poison an option as well? Aka it might not be listed anywhere as a purchasable poison, but if you get bit or stung by it creature, that would be the effect. (I don't know if there's any creature poison with an ability-reducing effect, but if it's not an option, I don't have to bother checking) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I bothered anyway, and neither the MM, VGtM or MToF have a creature that reduces ability scores with a poison-like effect (source: I CTRL+F'd through the books, searching for mentions of "score"). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster I do count creature-based poisons. Thanks for checking. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 0:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that ability score damage in general is rare in 5e. It was annoying in 3e because it meant recalculating your stats mid-combat. It bypasses the defensive ability of hit points, which is also rare in 5e. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @QuadraticWizard I hadn't considered the hassle of re-calculating all the stats. That and your other mentioned reason is probably a good reason to use such effects sparingly if at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 23:07

1 Answer 1


None in the official rules.

The only source books other than DMG that include poisons are in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (poisoned needle trap and poisoned tempest), and the Players Handbook (Basic Poison Vial, and Poisoner's Kit).

It should be easy enough to homebrew, however.

The Shadow's Strength Drain is a melee weapon attack, with no save. The Intellect Devourer's Devour Intellect is a saving throw, followed by a roll contested by the players intelligence, and completely reduces there intelligence to zero on a failure. I don't think either of these are good templates to follow for a poison.
Some questions to ask:

  1. How readily available is this poison? Can it be purchased at the capital city magic shop only? or can it be picked up in any local adventuring store? How likely are the players opponents to have these poisons?
  2. Is the poison something your players can create themselves, same as a magic item? In that case, what "rarity" would you consider the poison in terms of how long it will take the play to create the item? does it require some special ingredient, such as "condensed Shadow" or "Intellect Devourer claws?"
  3. Is the poison stacking? Say you reduce by 1d6 on a successful hit, can you deal another 1d6 if applied again? in this case, what happens if the ability score is reduced to zero?
  4. How is the poison applied? Remember the list from the DMG includes poisons applied by ingestion, inhalation, injury, or contact, what would work best for this?
  5. How long does the poison last, and how is it cured?

With these questions in mind, you shouldn't have too much difficulty creating something your players can work with or against.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Funnily enough, guidance for homebrewing was a follow-up question I was considering asking, and you've pre-empted it perfectly. (Not sure if I would have actually asked that question, considering how vague the objective is at this stage, but I considered it.) \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think worth adding some reference to why 5E dropped most temporary stats changes. I am sure I have read somewhere this was a deliberate design decision to simplify the game, because of all the secondary abilities (mainly skills) that are impacted by stats changing \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 14:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Maurezhi (MToF, p. 133) also has an ability-score-reducing action, but it doesn't have a save either and is similar to the shade. You could also compare a homebrewed poison to Bestow Curse or Ray of Enfeeblement, both of which have effects that are similar to those of reduced scores. The only spell that I'm aware of which actually reduces ability scores, however, is Feeblemind. You definitely shouldn't make a poison that strong, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Those spells are good templates. I'll keep them in mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater if you can find that evidence I’d be happy to include it, no luck on my part. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 16:31

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