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Somewhere in the not-so-far future, my character will be entering the Assassin career. Since Assassins are one of the few careers that get to use poison, I was looking through the Old World Armoury for some poison shenanigans. I noticed that the cost and effectiveness of poisons that can be applied to weapons is all over the chart, varying from a measly extra Wound (Dark Venom), to almost instakilling a character (Manticore Spoor).

The only poisons that seem to mention how long they last on a weapon, are Manticore Spoor and Chimaera Spittle; they only last until the next hit you score with the poisoned weapon.

I was wondering, are there any RAW sources that state how long the other poisons last on poisoned weapons?

Failing to produce RAW sources, what would be a reasonable time for a weapon to stay poisoned?

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Storage duration of weapons when not used
Outside of RAW, there is hardly anything to be found searching the web, but it is clear there are different types of material, such as liquid, sticky and solid (powder). This probably affects how well it can be applied to the surface of a weapon or projectile.

As an attempt to classify the potential duration further, I think looking at the exposure to the air tells us how likely the poison might deteriorate.

Some examples: Spittle is liquid, but presumably constantly exposed to air. Snake venom is liquid, but not constantly exposed to air. Poisonous frogs (their skin) have been used in the past, which I assume is closer to sticky, but exposed to air. Poison made from plant seeds is dry, and also exposed to air.

I would classify this the following way:

  • Spittle: Would last only for a short while on weapons, though it might not deteriorate fast. Short duration, up to 10 minutes.
  • Snake(like) venom: Might last slightly longer on the surface as it's less liquid, might deteriorate faster. Short duration: 15 minutes.
  • Poison from skins: Lasts longer when applied to a surface, well suited to the air. Long duration: I'd say a week is reasonable.
  • Powder is tricky to apply, you'd need some adhesive, but the powder would last a very long time.

Duration of poison when used in combat
Some thoughts on using the weapon after the poison has been applied: I generally agree with thereasonforitall. When you hit the substance is applied and can not be applied again without preparing the weapon. You could claim weapons with a big surface can apply the poison multiple times, for example when a longsword hits only the poison on the part which hits the enemy is transferred, leaving the other part of the blade unaffected. I have no knowledge of how melee weapons work, so I can't really provide any meaningful insights.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I hadn't even considered how long the poison would last on a weapon if you didn't hit something with it. Do you also have some qualification for if you do happen to stab someone with your poisoned dagger? Even 10 minutes is 60 combat rounds, which seems really long and lethal for a small investment. \$\endgroup\$ – DvdZee Dec 7 '15 at 17:13
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WFRP 2e hides details on poisoned weapons on p. 122 in each Poisons details, as noted by the OP. However, WFRP 1e provides some additional material.

The relevant portion of the 1e RAW is presented below, edited for 2e careers and preparation notes. meangreen and thereasonforitall both highlight some of the considerations.

Blade Venom

This is prepared in the normal way (2e Core Rulebook, p122), but must then be distilled down to a resinous paste. This process takes an additional day, and is rather wasteful, requiring two (2) doses of poison to produce one (1) dose of blade venom. At the GM's option, a character who has access to a fully-equipped Gold wizard's alchemy lab (see Realms of Sorcery Lore of Metal) or Apothecary's lab (see Sigmar's Heirs p121) may be able to reduce the waste, producing two (2) doses of blade venom from three (3) of raw poison.

One (1) dose of blade venom can be used to poison one (1) edged or pointed weapon. This must be no larger than a shortsword. When the weapon next wounds a creature, the poison enters his/her/its system. Blade venom is only good for one (1) blow, and becomes useless if it is not used with 1d4 hours of application.

This last note on effectiveness is nice, suggesting that the Assassin has to store the poison in a vial of some sort and plan application. This also provides the GM an opportunity to introduce spoilage, a common Old World problem with Potions (Realms of Sorcery, p. 193)

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I cannot find a RAW ruling for the subject. If you applied a poison to a blade and the test is the same difficulty as that of imbibing it, it only makes sense to me that a poison lasts one successful attack with a blade. The other question is how many doses you get from one purchase. My answer would be one, as it does not specify it is more that one. I agree with MeanGreen's answer on how long something lasts on a blade.

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From a European medieval reenactment perspective:

Weapon capable poison is seldom (~never) useful. So everything that works fine with your world of play is good, as it is unrealistic anyway. Assume a sticky sap, like syrup as the most likely form because everything else won't work. So to test how fast it decays: Use a kitchen knife and some syrup and cut some meat.

After that I need to rant something off:

TL;DR: Realistically an assassin would poison the food or cut the throat. But not poison the slit throat. Weapon poison is totally unrealistic, so looking for reasonable anything in that topic won't work.

Your realistic options by goal:

  1. Goal is to have your opponent dead NOW and you can come to close distance, a blade works better and more reliable then poison ever will. A club or an ax works fine too.
  2. Goal is to stun your opponent without killing him, grapple opponent from behind and hold mouth and nose closed until opponent fades because of the lack of air. Then bind and gag him quickly.
  3. Goal is a dead opponent and you can not come to close distance, a crossbow bolt to the chest is a good solution, it won't really become better with poison. Dip it in feces to make sure the opponent will die eventually if you miss the vitals.
  4. Goal is a dead opponent and you don't want to be attributable: poison his food or wine.

Some background:

In medieval times you hire an assassin because you want to kill someone you can't remove (kill, exile, etc.) yourself. Usually one that you can't go to war with either (for political or financial reasons).

Your first course of action would be to have that person have a hunting accident. For that you bribe his assistant. Or alternatively you invite them for lunch and poison their food. For that you bribe your cook.

Only if both of this actions don't work and waiting is also bad and you have some connections into the criminal scene (which is unlikely for regular people, rulers or the nobility) and you have the money ready and you are comfortable that the criminal won't kill YOU instead to get your money; only then would you go seek an assassin. Alternatively you order one of your soldiers to do the kill, but they won't know proper poison either.

That means, work for assassins is few and far between, usually they are regular criminals not trained killers. Even today, assassins are usually ex-soldiers or regular criminals.

Criminals, on the other hand, have no use for poison because you can just kill the other guy with a knife or a club preferably when hes drunk. Simple, reliable, cheap, no fuss.

To further make my point: Have a look at the List of Poisonings. You will find lots of people who have been poisoned with their food and drinks but next to never with a weapon.

  1. Poison usually kills slowly. If you are in a fight, its of no use that your opponent dies three weeks hence from the poison. You want him dead now.
  2. If you want to kill without attribution, you poison his food. When he dies three weeks hence, no one will suspect that chicken he ate the other day.
  3. If its fine that your opponent dies in a few weeks after the injury, feces work fine and are dirt cheap. This is whats usually applied in medieval warfare to arrows as "poison".
  4. Animal poison needs to be applied in significant amounts, which is incredibly hard when not applied with a specifically designed weapon (like a syringe or snake teeth) that are not(!) useful without the poison.
  5. Most animal poisons that are poisonous enough to seriously effect a human, are stunning poisons. The animal that produces it wants its prey to be alive but not moving.
  6. Even if you did develop weapons that can realistically carry poison and you found a poison that does what you want and you are in a situation where you can apply it and it works out, you can't be certain that you used enough and on the right place etc.

I also recommend this comic panel for further ideas: SMBC

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, poisoned arrows/darts were widely used both in hunting and in war (though not so much in Europe). \$\endgroup\$ – TimLymington Feb 12 '16 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington Please do provide some data for that claim. \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 15 '16 at 8:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Curare was used as a paralyzing poison by South American indigenous people. The prey was shot by arrows or blowgun darts dipped in curare, leading to asphyxiation owing to the inability of the victim's respiratory muscles to contract." (Wikipedia on curare). Research will turn up others. \$\endgroup\$ – TimLymington Feb 15 '16 at 9:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington Not for warfare. There are some poisons that work for hunting (Curare being the most well known) and they only exist in cultures that have no potent bows. An arrow with a proper bow is far more useful then a Curare-dipped dart. Also (from the same wikipedia page on Curare), "The toxicity of curare alkaloids in man hasn't been established." If it were used in warfare that would not have been a question. The Wikipedia page for Arrow Poison lists various occasions in warfare for ancient times but none for any medieval society; I have to read that one book on china though. \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 15 '16 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting discussion on the realism of using poison on weapons and something to consider in world building or game design. However, I don't think it really makes any attempt to answer the rules question and, to be fair, any attempt to apply medieval realism to the WFRP setting is going to find a million other things that are historically inaccurate - I mean, have you seen the average wages and prices of equipment? ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Kaine May 10 '16 at 11:10

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