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The Fumes ability for the Acic Elemental reads;

The fumes from an acid quasi-elemental's body act as an inhaled poison. Creatures within 5 ft. of an acid quasi-elemental must make succeed on a DC 20 Fortitude save or take 1 point of Constitution damage each round. This poison does not have a frequency; a creature is safe as soon as it moves more than 5 ft. away from the acid quasi-elemental.

I see three possible interpretations:

A - When a character enters the area within 5ft of the elemental, he makes a Fortitude save. If he fails, he starts taking 1pt of Constitution damage per round.

B - As long as a character is within 5ft of the elemental, he has to make a Fortitude save each round. If he fails, he immediately takes 1pt of Constitution damage.

C - As long as a character is within 5ft of the elemental, he has to make a Fortitude save each round. If he fails, he starts taking 1pt of Constitution damage per round.

C seems unlikely, but A and B both seems equally right to me. Which is the correct interpretation?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree; A and B seem equally-reasonable to me. Sigh. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 20 '14 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yeah, that each round phrase is totally in the wrong place. It should be be at the sentence's beginning not ending. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 21 '14 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ [rant]Everything about this ability is badly written. The authors say "it's a poison", then remove all the poison-related rules, rather than just appending "This is a poison effect." at the end. Even then, why would that even be a poison effect rather than acid?[/rant] \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Oct 21 '14 at 9:52
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It Probably Should Be B

The acid quasi-elemental's extraordinary ability fumes says that

The fumes from an acid quasi-elemental's body act as an inhaled poison. Creatures within 5 ft. of an acid quasi-elemental must make succeed [sic] on a DC 10 Fortitude save or take 1 point of Constitution damage each round. This poison does not have a frequency; a creature is safe as soon as it moves more than 5 ft. away from the acid quasi-elemental.

(This is what it says.)

It's pretty clear this could've used another editorial pass. Were I the editor of the Tome of Horrors Complete, I might've good-naturedly pointed out to the author that what's written says that

A creature that is within 5 ft. of an acid quasi-elemental must make a Fortitude save (DC 10). Failure means the creature suffers 1 point of Constitution damage each round forever and ever and even after that. The creature failed a Fort save! That creature sucks fumes and dies for eternity, the loser.

(This is what that means.)

Then I'd point out that the ability seems a bit much for a CR 1 Small acid quasi-elemental and recommend that perhaps a better way to put this would be that

A creature ending its turn adjacent to an acid quasi-elemental makes a Fortitude save versus poison (DC 10). Failure means that creature suffers 1 point of Constitution damage.

(This is probably what it should say.)

Luckily, the special ability fumes provides enough information that we can almost get to the revision I propose when it says there's no frequency, and, without the ability saying this is ongoing damage, this damage is a one-time effect but occurring each time a creature is within 5 ft. of an acid quasi-elemental.

The ability is contingent upon the other creature not the acid quasi-elemental, so this ability is checked when the other creature moves or stays within 5 ft. of the quasi-elemental (the DM chooses whether to have the creature make the saving throw at the ending or the beginning of the creature's turn; I suggest the ending) not when the quasi-elemental gets within 5 ft. of another creature.

Were the Constitution damage ongoing (i.e. as per your options A and C, with the character starting to take Constitution damage), the lack of a method for ending the ongoing Constitution damage would make even a single Small acid quasi-elemental an eventual deathtrap for the vast majority of creatures, making it far more dangerous than its CR 1 would suggest.

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Important to note: You can hold your breath against an inhaled poison. One of the few reasons archetypes like Internal Alchemist are awesome.

How inhaled poisons work:

Inhaled: These poisons are delivered the moment a creature enters an area containing such poisons and do not usually have an onset time. For most inhaled poisons, 1 dose fills a volume equal to a 10-foot cube. A creature can attempt to hold its breath while inside the area to avoid inhaling the toxin. A creature holding its breath receives a 50% chance of not having to make a Fortitude save each round. See the rules for holding your breath and suffocation. If a creature is holding its breath and fails the constitution check to continue doing so, rather than suffocating it begins to breathe normally again (and is subject to the effects of the inhaled poison if still in the area). Source

So how it would play out would be:

B - As long as a character is within 5ft of the elemental, he has to make a Fortitude save each round provided they arent holding their breath. If they are, there is only a 50% chance that they have to make a fortitude save. If he fails the fortitude save, he immediately takes 1pt of Constitution damage.

Also, poison immunity and the monster ability No breath would ignore the fortitude checks as well, for obvious reasons.

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