I'd like to design a 4E encounter with some monsters using poisoned weapons, but I am a little unsure of how to factor this into the XP budget. The DMG (pg 50) gives the GP cost and level for various poisons - does this mean I should treat a 5th level poison as the XP equivalent of a 5th level monster (200xp)? That seems like a pretty steep price, but I suppose poisons can provide significant tactical advantages... I think the same question goes for magic weapons. I mean, it seems far more dramatic that the party pry the Gauntlets of Gruumsh from the cold dead hands of their foes, rather than find them moldering away in some goblin's closet. Or is there a better way to calculate this?


The DMG anticipated this, and has a mechanic to compensate

It's a little complicated, but DMG 187 introduces a mechanic called the "Magic Threshold." It is designed to let you give an NPC a powerful magic item without imbalancing the PC, by reducing the bonuses the item grants that NPC. If you use this system, it replaces any need for XP adjustment based on NPCs' use of powerful items.

Poisons, being consumable items, can be balanced easily by applying the Magic Threshold penalty. Poisons with powerful non-damage effects may require some additional adjudication depending on how well they support the other mechanics in your encounter (I would use the poison's effect to mimic or replace an existing rider on the NPC's attacks, so it all balances out).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahh, that makes sense for the items! I'm still a little confused on the use of poison (or other consumable/alchemical items) though... The Magic Threshold penalty doesn't seem to directly apply to most poisons, which typically give conditions (immobilized save ends, etc.), rather than a bonus to damage. \$\endgroup\$ – BRZA Jan 1 '13 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am pretty sure many poisons give a damage boost, but yes: consumable poisons weren't introduced until later on in 4e, so the Magic Treshold doesn't take them into account. Thus far I haven't been able to track down a specific mechanic for balancing them. I added my own suggestion to my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jan 1 '13 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahh, thanks! It sounds like consumables are just something you have to play-test a bit to get a feel for... \$\endgroup\$ – BRZA Jan 2 '13 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could always just add a bonus to the save checks rolls for the PCs, e.g. the "immobilized save ends" poison would become "immobilized save ends, add X to your save rolls against this" \$\endgroup\$ – jbabey Jan 3 '13 at 19:14

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