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I just took over as DM for our group. The previous DM allowed our ranger to purchase a significant amount of Wyvern poison at the end of the last adventure to dip his arrows in. With this poison, the ranger is doing 7d6 poison damage when he hits.

Our characters are all level 5 and 6 so this is obviously a significant amount of damage for this level. I'm worried by simply upping the AC of NPCs, no one else will be able to hit. It feels a little cheap to give the majority of NPCs poison resistance.

Any tips on how to combat this issue?

What I'm considering: Our barbarian has an evil, sentient sword. My thought was while the group is traveling and asleep, the evil sword has become jealous of the amount of damage the range is dealing so the sword mind controls the barbarian to get up and dump most of the poison out the back of the caravan they'll be traveling in.

Is this too brutal to do to the ranger??

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wyvern poison costs 1200 gp per dose. Typical wealth for a level 6 character in 5e is 4500 gp, enough for almost 4 doses. Exactly how many doses are we talking about? \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Feb 20 '17 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the previous GM in contact? Can you ask him/her what their intention with the Poison was? maybe it was fake/watered down (i.e real poison costs so much more, you only paid 1/4 that, obviously its not legit) or was hot goods (someone is now following the group).. also, can the players confirm with that GM, maybe ask that GM to reconsider the deal and come up with a more plausible balance. \$\endgroup\$ – BaneStar007 Feb 21 '17 at 2:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answer in answers please. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Feb 22 '17 at 3:54
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I'm not sure this is a problem if you're actually reading and applying the rules for poisons in 5e.

Poison is bought in single doses. How much were they allowed to buy? And how much did they buy them for? Wyvern poison is supposed to cost 1200gp for a single dose. It's only 50gp a pop if you extract and make it yourself which takes a whole bunch of time, and runs the risk of poisoning yourself in the process. And a single dose is only enough to coat 1 weapon or 3 ammunition and it only lasts for 1 minute. And applying the dose takes an action on it's own. So, if your ranger is 5th level with 2 attacks and is using poison on every shot, he's using up a dose of poison every 2 rounds, and every other round has to spend an action to apply more poison to more arrows.

And 7d6 every time he hits? You know there's a 15 CON DC saving throw for half damage, right? And he still use up 1/3 of a dose every time he hits or misses.

And how many doses was he actually able to buy? If he was able to buy more than 10, where the heck did your level 5 party come across more than 12000gp? If the previous gm mistakenly thought that they only cost 50gp, I'd just ret-con it and give the ranger two options:

Option 1: You didn't actually buy that much, you now have (however much money he spent)/1200gp doses left.

Option 2: You get a partial refund, you now have (however much money he spent)/2 gold pieces back.

https://olddungeonmaster.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/dd-5e-poisons/

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    \$\begingroup\$ Take into account also the time required to craft the poison. I don't have the books, but crafting something worth 1200gp should take a long time \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Feb 21 '17 at 1:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mindwin or a dead/incapacitated wyvern, 1d6 minutes, and a successful dc 20 nature check. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Feb 21 '17 at 23:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually there are no rules for how wyvern venom is applied to weapons and how long each dose lasts, only for the basic poison in the PHB. See this sage advice: sageadvice.eu/2017/01/22/…. So the DM free to rule that applying wyvern poison takes more than one action, or that it only stays on the weapon for one turn, or that a single dose can't be divided between multiple pieces of ammunition. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 22 '17 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkCogan The DM is always free to rule whatever they like at any time regardless of the rules. But if you're like most people, you generally prefer to apply the most similar rules available where applicable. Which in this case would be applying the rules for basic poison to the other poisons since no other explicit rules for them are given, and there's no reason we should expect them to work any differently. \$\endgroup\$ – Shufflepants Feb 22 '17 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Shufflepants Sure, I agree that this is a reasonable default way to handle poisons. However, your answer mentions the "rules for poisons", but both the RAW and Sage Advice state that they are just the rules for a specific poison. Your answer could be improved by clarifying that the "rules" you cite are an extrapolation rather than explicit universal rules for all poisons. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 22 '17 at 20:15
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First of all, talk to the ranger's player. Point out that this is kind of disruptive to the game as a game, and taking countermeasures via opponent design would be unfair to the other characters.

Also, if he has a lot of this stuff and word gets around, NPCs will be motivated to acquire it. They might steal it, or coerce him into selling or giving it to them. They won't be fool enough to do this somewhere he has space for moving and shooting arrows, either.

Instead, suggest that he keeps the poison for situations where the party are in bad trouble. This could be because they've gone somewhere too dangerous for them, or because the DM has made a mistake.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Social answers to problems are always good. Someone with a reputation as a poisoner is welcome in few places. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Feb 20 '17 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth mentioning that applying social pressure is exactly how Gary Gygax recommended DMs deal with PCs that (ab)use the absurdly powerful poisons available in AD&D 1e. Reprimanding PCs in-universe for their poisoning habits has a long history in D&D. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardonic Feb 22 '17 at 4:14
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That's a perfectly acceptable solution.

Other solutions include:

  1. Having the poison spoil due to improper storage (does your Ranger have a fridge?)
  2. Having the poison attract actual Wyvern's (he'll be really popular with the group!)
  3. Having enemies focus fire the ranger as he starts mowing them down (Ranger's love tanking.)
  4. Make it so that only the first bit he used was actual Wyvern poison, and the rest was a scam. (How much Wyvern poison can you REALLY milk all at once?)
  5. Simply talking to the player to discuss how overpowered it is

Ultimately the problem is that the player is unbalanced with the rest of the party. Discuss it with your player, and let him know that it can't continue because it's skewing the game. If the player is stubborn, you can implement any options you see fit as DM to level the playing field.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wyvern venom scent attracts other wyverns? Yes please. \$\endgroup\$ – Kzqai Feb 22 '17 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a variation of 2.. The poison is expensive so if the ranger has a lot of it, word might get out and the party could be targeted by bandits. New point: A duke was killed by an arrow tipped in the poison, now the ranger is the prime suspect. \$\endgroup\$ – Korusef Mar 1 '17 at 15:46
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I think you're going to get some very frustrated players if you "cheat" to take away their toys...doubly so if you hijack another party member to do it. Finding clever solutions to problems within the ruleset is part of the fun, and from that perspective your Ranger is winning the game. You should be looking for ways to build on that while keeping the game fun, rather than trying to remove the complication.

Ideally, The poison should be saved for a "moment of glory", rather than providing a flat DPS increase. Keep it interesting.

One way to make that happen by reducing the number of poison vulnerable targets, while making sure there are a few that draw fire. For example, a necromancer with powerful undead guards - the Ranger is in a position to drop the caster, but needs the rest of the party for protection from the Skeletal Rhinos. High-Con enemies might be able to shake it off, or stay in the fight long enough to cause problems. Spirits, Elementals, Aberrations, anything that doesn't have a proper biology might change the game.

Another way to raise the value of the Poison is through attrition. Keep track of how many doses remain, and put the Ranger in a position to waste them on packs of bandits or raiders. Once they realize they could run dry, the problem solves itself - the Ranger will save the remaining Poison for boss fights.

Finally, use the Poison as an opportunity to advance your story and build your world. What if your characters enter a large city, only to find out that someone important was just assassinated with Wyvern Poison? The local authorities are desperate to find someone to pin it on, and if the PCs slip up & get caught with the poison things could get very dicey. The revelation that the VIP was killed with Wyvern Poison has made it a very hot commodity, and the local crimelords and nobles are all trying to score some for themselves, so you could make a tidy profit in coin or favors...or get double-crossed. Plus, behind all of this drama and scheming, somewhere there is the real assassin, and who knows what their next move might be.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Love the ideas in your last paragraph. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Lee Feb 22 '17 at 20:07
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Rather than raising AC, which as you mentioned runs the risk of making it impossible for the other PCs to land a hit, there are plenty of ways to simply make ranged attacks difficult.

  • Give the ranger disadvantage on his bow attacks:
    • Wind (natural or magical)
    • A melee combatant threatening the ranger
    • Blindness
    • Exhaustion
  • Have the enemies use cover
  • Narrow corridors
  • Throw in an NPC with Deflect Arrows or even Snatch Arrows

You can intersperse the above situations with some undead and other things that are immune to poison, as long as you make sure to also include plenty of combats in which no enemies have any particular defense against the poison arrows (lest the ranger's player feel like you're trying to deliberately undermine their character).

Another option, especially in a larger battle, is to give the Big BadTM one or more effective counters to the poison arrows, but not his lackeys. This will have the dual benefits of (1) giving the ranger an obvious role to play in the encounter - "You guys deal with him, I'll keep the rest of them off of you!" and (2) burning through the supply of poison - give the lackeys 5d6 HP, and they'll almost always fall to one 7d6 poison arrow, but they'll be beefy enough that one normal arrow won't stop them.

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I appreciate all the feedback from everyone. Had a good talk with the guy playing the ranger. I pointed out the core rules that a dose could be applied to 3 arrows. Turns out he and the previous GM didn't look that up and settled on 10 arrows per dose. We decide to compromise at 6 per dose (which only gives him 9 more arrows). He also didn't realize the poison only lasted for a minute and required a full action to apply. We worked it all out. we made a few other house rules until he runs out of what he's got so it won't feel like he's been totally nerfed.

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Some options:

1> Run a few adventures with creatures with a high level of poison resist (but don't tell the ranger player they have high resist, it could be an enchantment rather than a innate ability, particularly if they have heard of the party), till he runs out. Wyvern poison doesn't work too well against Wyverns for example :)

2> Have him make a roll when trying to poison arrow tips in combat. On a critical failure...... whoops! :) As poison doesn't last two long on arrow-tips, that should encourage him to keep a max of 1-2 arrows poisoned prior to each fight rather than poisoning every arrow.

3> Have some local NPCs die of poisoning, a local lord's son/wife are good candidates. Suddenly everyone with any type of poison that produces similar effects are under suspicion, if its a well loved ruler then it might be more so. After a few encounters where the ranger is having to plead his innocence, it might be more trouble than it's worth to keep the poison.

4> Move them to an a kingdom where poisons are banned. Maybe there was a spate of poisonings, perhaps it only applies to certain types of particularly powerful poisons that had been used in assassinations. Either way having to constantly hide it from the law, more so if they are having to deal with royalty may again make it more hassle than it is worth.

5> Put them in an enviroment where the poison isn't going to survive. How long in the desert before it dries up completely? Put them in the arctic... when he goes to poison his arrow, point out the poison has frozen solid. Him trying to defrost it in a hurry could be interesting ;)

6> If he has THAT much poison, how is he storing is? Could it spring a leak? (perhaps very weakly poisoning the lake they are next to, for comedy value giving everyone sudden case of the runs :) )

7> How much is that much Wyvern poison worth? Perhaps he could be persuaded to sell it or trade it for something all the party can use. Perhaps a scroll of group immunity to personification before they go fight as basilisk or similar.

8> Is there an antidote? Is it expensive? If not then again, if his enemies have heard of him and might suspect he is coming then they would probably invest in a few doses of this each! Or at least for their biggest guards/minions.

9> Effects from prolonged exposure. He might be using it 'safely' but hes firing the poison at high speed. The poison could be accumulating in his system so each time he uses it he has to make an increasing difficulty con check or start suffering side affects (shaking, sickness, fever).

Hope one of those help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, and welcome back to RPG.SE! While we appreciate your contribution, this answer appears to just be a list of off-the-cuff suggestions. While RPG.SE allows more subjectivity than most other SE sites, we still expect answers to be backed up - either relating the experience of how your solution worked after using it, or with quotations of that kind of information from a third party who has done it. Untried or unsupported suggestions may be deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Henderson Feb 22 '17 at 17:01

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