Poison, combat, and glancing blows

Assume, if you will, that you are in combat with...oh, I don't know, a guy using a club dipped in poison, alright?

Now, my initial inclination is that with a club a Light Wound is brusing and bashing, so you aren't actually poisoned unless you are cut open, which is a medium wound.

THe counterargument, of course, is that only a scratch is necessary to get poisoned, and you get scratched in combat even if you take no damage at all: the Wound
levels are for injuries severe enough that they cause mobility and concentration issues (dice modifers) not for every little nick and cut. You are poisoned after a successful Atk roll, prior to rolling Damage.

As a player, if I designed a monster who hit you with a...I don't know...a cricket bat dipped in cyanide, say, at what point would you feel it was fair for the poison to kick in? When it gave you a medium wound, or as an automatic effect of you and it getting into a tangle. What if they were posion dipped gauntlets, rather than a club?

IMO, the answer would really depend on the style of the game. In a "realistic" context, I don't think there are a lot of available poisons that can kill (or harm) with a simple scratch. In a magical context, such things are common enough. I could see a scale of poisons some of which would require a certain wound level (say medium or light depending on the poison) to get into the system but the worst of which requiring only a scratch or even a touch (represented by any successful hit, even if soaked). This in addition to and seperate from the actual stamina roll to resist the poison.

Deadly contact poisons might be highly prized in some circles. I'm suddenly envisioning an entire adventure centered around the possession of a vial of basalisk venom.... the mundane lord wants to it assassinate his rival, the archdeacon wants it to keep it out of "the wrong hands", the faerie knight wants it to slay a monster, the infernalist wants it to fuel some dark rite and the magi, if nothing else, wants the perdo vis.

I'd say if the soak score is exceeded, but not enough to cause a wound penalty.

If the soak score is exceeded, it's at least a Light Wound.

For poisons, I use the simple rule: if attack advantage is higher than 0, there is poison effect.

To only complicate things further, should the level of the wound have a a further affect on the effectiveness of the poison?

I agree with the setting determining how realistic you wanted to get with poisons not to mention how cumbersome would you want the rules to get around such a limited topic. However as I found when looking into poisons for a character, the amount of the poison is quite a determining factor.

So if you manage to bruise with some breaking of the skin, then I would at first think there would be little to no affect. The poison does not find itself entering the person with any potency. At best you get a weakened response.

With a actually cut, you perhaps get the poison to enter the tissue of the victim where the poison will be active in a greater, concentrated amount.

So while I am certain you would not wish to become to complicated with a system on poisoning, (though I personally would love to see someone better equipped to making Ars rules figure out poisons, cause I made a shambles of it with house rules I made, :laughing: ) perhaps you can have a simple two layers of poison possibility.

Every poison has two possibilities, or three if you included ingestion.

A light would give the minute affect of a listed poison
Any wound above a light wound would give a medium affect of the poison
Ingestion would give the full deadly affect of the poison

Examples that I came up with. (I am inclined to say that I am aware that this may be useless for game mechanics, but it is entertaining)

Nightshade: ease factor 9

Minute dose, causes the face to flush and pale in splotched and the eyes to dialate ( light wound, -1 to all actions and -2 to perception)
Medium dose, eyes loose focus, hallucinations, and the body looses muscle control (medium wound -3 to all actions, then heavy wound -5 after a diameter, effectively blind)
Deadly dose, rapid pulse, flushing and burning skin, coma, death (heavy wound -5 first round, heavy wound -5 second round, incapacitated third round, death if not soaked against a ease factor 9. If successful the person will recover in about a day)

Hemlock: ease factor 9

Minute dose, causes a increase in energy and focus, nervousness, euphoria ( a +1 bonus to perceptions and large movements, -1 to fine movements and spell casting)
Medium dose, loss of coordinated movement, numb and cold limbs, vomiting (medium wound -3 to all actions, -6 to actions requiring concentration)
Deadly dose, respiratory failure, violent convulsion, hallucinations, death (immediate incapacitating wound against a ease factor of 12, and a reroll against a ease factor of 9 every hour for a full day, if the person survives then they will recover)

Meadow Saffron (autumn crocus): ease factor 12*

Minute dose**, a few hours after contact, pain and stomach cramps, burst of blood vessels in skin and eyes, paralysis (a incapacitating wound, reroll ease factor of 6 every hour after, causes permanent damage to organs and limbs)
Any dose above the most minute amount is deadly (first round a incapacitating wound, a recovery roll every round after until death)
*with Meadow saffron there is no antidote and the body cannot process it, without immediate magical intervention the person is doomed to die a very painful death.
**even though extremely deadly it has been used for thousands of years to treat gout and rheumatism, would make the Apothecary roll a ease factor of 9 or 12 to successfully use the substance in a beneficial way.

These are only three examples and as you can see I am not great at brevity, simplicity, or even intelligibility at times. I had to create my own guidelines because the character had intended to poison a lot of people and had the Greater Immunity to poison. So while you may not want to get this complex, perhaps there is some small element that might help.

PS. edited to add, Arsenic is particularly interesting and complicated... because it is beneficial in minute doses but harming in the larger, though oddly not commonly deadly. But the most interesting aspect is the long term after effects, hair loss, white lines in nails, and eventually dis-coordination. Perhaps Ars does not deal with the accumulating effects of heavy metals...

First of all, it depends on what poison is used. Most poisons will be greatly affected by how much enters the victims body. And poisons(or their carrier matter) differ greatly in how easily they can enter a body.

Secondly, even the slightest of bruise, barely "opening" the skin CAN be enough even with noncontact poison, but it´s highly unlikely unless hitting a bad place, if for nothing else, because bleeding will get rid of a lot of the poison. And most poisons will only be marginally effective from a minor "dose".

Add to that that you can also have contactpoisons, that are more or less effective through the skin regardless if there are any scratches or injuries at all. Contact poisons tend to be excessively dangerous to handle though(especially in a medieval context), so only maniacs would use it on weapons.

There´s also the isse that some poisons work more or less depending on how it´s delivered.

So, really i think the biggest question has to be, how complex rules do you want to use.

With one sort of poison, even a slight scratch on bare skin is deadly(but only a looney or expert would dare use it, and only an expert would know how to make it), while another will have only minor effects even with fairsized wound.

A lot of the time probably yeah.

I´ll promise you that you´re by far not alone in having made a mess of poison rules.

Generally, i´ve found that it´s easiest to just make up fake, generic poisons, it´s simply too complex to try to simulate real ones. And plenty enough that i´ve read about that i wouldnt ever bring into a game and thereby risk making them better known.


I learned the hard way. Read ever book I could find, broke down how they work and what harm they would do. Transcribed it in notebooks to work within the Ars mythic world, had it resolved to details that were redundant at one point. Then never used a poison, save one time in two or three years of the story.

And I agree... poisons that can be made get really really nasty.

My inclination would be to first decide whether it is a contact poison or an "ingested" poison that needs to enter the bloodstream somehow.

If it is a contact poison, then if there is a positive Attack Advantage, the character has been contacted and you need to check whether the poison takes effect (make a Stamina roll against an Ease Factor to avoid taking a poison Wound).

If the contacted character is "protected" from contact then I would instead require them to take a Wound to count as "contacted". Whether a character is sufficiently protected is something the troupe can decide based on context. Being completely covered in armour or cloth might be good candidates to count as "protected". The point of this is to give characters who take action to "protect" themselves a benefit.

If it is an ingested poison, then if the character takes a Wound, then check whether the poison takes effect (make a Stamina roll against an Ease Factor to avoid taking a poison Wound).

I would give the potentially poisoned character a +3 bonus to the Poison Stamina roll if an ingested poison is delivered via "an inappropriate manner". What counts as an "inappropriate manner" is something that the troupe can decide on context, but trying to deliver a poison into the blood stream via a bashing weapon would seem to be a good candidate for "inappropriate". The point of this is to encourage the character wielding the poisoned weapon to pick a sensible weapon.


However, since the OP is asking, we must assume that it's accepted as possible in that saga.

That's a good point, but it might be too complex. What of piercing weapons vs cutting ones - surely they have an additional advantage in delivering blood poisons, right? But where does it stop?...

Poison is indeed nasty, but imo it shouldn't be guaranteed - specifically because it's so nasty. Just as with magic, there should be an element of doubt to it. So (short of coming up with complex rules), I'd go with +3 over Soak. If the "damage" is equal to soak, or only +1 or +2 over, no poison.


For several reasons...

  1. It's simple. "...Damage must be +3 or better or leave me alone, shut up, sit down", the SG explained.
  2. it gives the victim a chance to avoid the poison even if "just scratched". And yet the victim can still only receive a light wound and be poisoned.
  3. AM likes multiples of +3, so it's easy to remember. It's one "Ease Factor" more difficult than just tagging them with the weapon - it's a "solid hit" of some sort.

If you want, you could also rule that beyond +3, any additional wound level reduces any "resistance roll", since more poison is being delivered, or (somehow) makes the poison more effective - that's more complex, but not very. Add some rule for the number of attacks a poison weapon can make before the poison is wiped off (successful or not!), and you're home.

Have fun stormin' da castle!

There is a rule offered in the Book of Beasts / RoP:M / HoH:MC for the bites and stings of venomous creatures.

Basically, if an attack hits, calculate damage as usual. However, also compare the Attack Advantage against the Protection (not Soak) of the target. If the Attack Advantage is higher, the bite/sting/scratch has bypassed armour, which is enough to envenom the target even if there was no wound. There's an option for added Protection from snakes offered by heavy boots which isn't figured into Soak.


What is the protection?? I didn't know that term.

Protection is the bonus to Soak offered by armour. So it excludes Stamina, the Tough Virtue, and a number of other bonuses.

Basically, if most of your Soak comes from armour, you won't get envenomed unless you are actually wounded. However, if you have no armour, you'll take a dose of venom if the attack hits, even if it doesn't do any damage because of your high Stamina. Most snakes have a low Strength by virtue of their small size; without a rule like this, a snake could never affect anyone with its bite.


We agree for str being weak. That's why I just used "if AA > 0, then poison". That whole protection thing is making things confusing because IIRC, armors are said to give soak, not "protection", and that let opens things as form bonus (protection or soak?) and so on.

But I understand the underlying justification, which seem cool.

That's the sort of thing that I meant by the troupe deciding on context whether the delivery method was appropriate or not. There's no need for complex rules, the troupe just needs to decide as required.

And remember that usually poisons are going to be used by characters that know what they are doing --- so the assumption should generally be that whatever the character is doing is appropriate for the poison they are using. Unless the characters are having to improvise for some reason.

I'd further take into mind the degree of armour and the weapon being used to attack.

While a spear tipped with poison that scores a medium wound should be sufficient to introduce poison into the bloodstream, a mace doing a heavy wound might well not have actually penetrated the mail, and so would not deliver poison.

I assume that any monster or poisoner would use a fitting poison for the task. So poison in combat (from claw, bite, club, stinger, sword etc.) would injure in combat either by some method covered by the very abstract combat rules.

I like to keep it simple and abstract, so my base rule would be this:

  • "Poison effect occurs on wound". Then I would modify by poison level (which would be story-dependent). Stronger poisons would affect the target on positive attack advantage, weaker poisons would need a sum of wound penalties equal to a medium or heavy wound.

(Mind you, a weak poison might very well have a worse/stronger effect than a strong one. I like to differentiate between strength and potency where strength is how easy it is to get poisoned and potency is how bad it is to be affected :slight_smile:

This would feel fair to me as a player, and simple enough to use as a SG. It would always feel more fair if there was a warning about the poison so one could try to prepare in advance.

But to answer very to the point:
As a player I would find it fair for the average poison to kick in on any wound. With stronger poisons kicking in on attack advantage and weaker on accumulated wound penalties.

Note also that "poison" can take many forms in what it does and how long it takes to affect. A komodo dragon has a type of "poison" - it's bite is extremely infectious, and any wound festers over a day or three, allowing any creature to escape an initial attack to be tracked (because the gangrenous limb stinks so!) and eventually caught as they grow slowly more crippled. (Slower acting poisons like this also give magi more time to respond to them, perhaps even seeking out a suspected local vis source to boost a spell, etc etc. - more time for dramatic effect.)

So, it would appear each poison would require 4 stats:

  • Wound level required
  • Potency (ease factor to resist)
  • Latency
  • Damage, with 2 values: if resisted, and if not resisted.

Also the possibility of long term effects. Some poisons are processed by the body and then removed causing no further damage, while a separate category causes long term disability, madness, and death through organ failure years or decades after exposure.

Perhaps a negative to aging rolls?