In Xanathar's Guide to Everything near the bottom of the first column on page 82 is a table for Herbalism Kit Activities. One of the Activities is "Identify poison", but I suspect it may be a typo, and that the Activity was intended to be "Identify potion". Please forgive any oversight on my behalf if there exists an updated errata list that I was unable to find.

Question: In XGE on the table mentioned above on page 82, is the Activity "Identify poison" a typo?

There are few reasons for my suspicion:

  1. Under the Herbalism Kit description for Arcana it is stated that "Your knowledge of the nature and uses of herbs can add insight to your magical studies that deal with plants and your attempts to identify potions." (Bolding my emphasis)
  2. There is no reference to poison related knowledge in the Herbalism Kit description preceding the table on page 82.
  3. Under the Poisoner's Tools description for Nature, Survival it is stated that "Working with poisons enables you to acquire lore about which plants and animals are poisonous."
  4. The words "potion" and "poison" only differ by two letters, so the chance of a typo occurring and autocorrect replacing the input with the incorrect word would not be extremely unlikely.
  5. The Activity "Identify poison" has no context as to whether the poison you can identify is already prepared, from a plant, from an animal, or upon inspecting the discoloration of a wound.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack Kronecker, take the tour when you have a moment. This is a really great question! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


It's likely that this is not a typo. The DMG says:

Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.

And while it's not clear if tasting a poison actually poisons you, the consensus on this site is that you might get poisoned. So there's clear utility in being able to detect if a random liquid in a flask is a poison without having to taste it, and there's little utility in making you perform a check to identify something you know is a potion since a little taste is enough to do the trick.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! That quote from page 136 in the DMG really does decimates the purpose of the Herbalism Kit with respect to "attempts to identify potions". It seems unreasonable to me (as a dm) for any character to inherently be able to discern a potion by its taste, even if they have never previously been exposed to the potion, poison, or even the spell/lore behind it. I suppose that is why on the same page of the DMG there is "Variant: More Difficult Identification" for dms who want to create a sense of mystery when interacting with magical items. Thanks for the reference! \$\endgroup\$
    – Kronecker
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 22:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kronecker Compared to some other editions, or perhaps your intuition, item identification in 5e is easy by default (although as you note the DM has the option to make it more difficult). Potions have a characteristic look to them. Thus the expectation is that PC's should be able to identify any potion they have experienced before just by seeing it. If they have not encountered it before, they can identify its function by tasting it. See also my answer here \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt Thanks for the reference, 5E potion identify mechanics make sense to me now. I'm still puzzled regarding the Herbalism Kit Activity "Identify poison". I am starting to think the Activity was intended to be "Identify potion of poison". Seems too open-ended to be poison from any source. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kronecker
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 21:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kronecker Imagine if (in game) a player found a knife with some kind of sticky substance on it. Would you expect that player to be able to tell whether that substance was poison or something else? How else do players figure out if something was poison without the opportunity to make a check? Or do you have something else in mind? \$\endgroup\$
    – mkdir
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 4:03

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