Hey all, and welcome to today’s post, DnD 5e Poison Damage Explained. In this post, we’re going to have look at sources of poison damage, from both creatures and spells, and ways to describe poison damage when it shows up in your game.
In our previous post, DnD 5e Damage Types Explained, we discussed the different types of damage that show up in a typical D&D world. We also mentioned sources of the different types of damage, be it either from spells or from creatures.
So let’s crack into poison damage.
What causes Poison Damage?
In 5e, there are plenty of sources of poison damage. Most of the sources come from creatures, rather than spells, there aren’t many spells that can inflict this type of damage.
Poison damage comes from noxious gases or harmful liquids/substances. So for natural sources of this damage type think along the lines of say as sulfur vent near a volcano, if the gasses from that were to hit you they contain very toxic materials which would quickly lead to death. Of course, you also have poisonous plants, from which potent and deadly poisons can be extracted, as well as creatures that naturally produce poisons.
When it comes to magical sources, there aren’t that many spells that inflict poison damage, at least primarily. Since there is a bunch of ways for it to show up in the game, I’ve tried to pick some examples that show off the different ways that it can be inflicted.
Poison Damage Monster Examples
As mentioned above, most poison damage comes from creatures, I’ve tried to pick some specifics that apply it in different ways.
The Carrion Crawler, is a scavenger type of creature, it hunts for dead bodies. They are worm or centipede type creatures; they are also considered large creatures. They tend to set up ambushes in areas where they can hide and patiently wait for would-be victims, so think caves or the Underdark.
The carrion crawler has naturally occurring poison. I figure their tentacles secrete a toxic liquid which when they make contact with a creature the poison either gets into wounds or is absorbed through the targets skin. This attack does 1d4 poison damage, and the target must succeed a Con save or be considered poisoned, the poison also inflicts paralysis on the target.
As always, it wouldn’t be an elemental damage source without a dragon entry, so here is the poison-related dragon
Green Dragons can be pretty cunning; they have the highest intelligence of all of the chromatic dragons. Which can allow them to be powerful spellcasters as well as having all the powers of powerful dragons.
However, what we’re concerned with at the moment is their affinity with poison. When they bite their targets, they can deal up to 2d10 piercing damage, plus 3d6 poison damage. Their breath attack is a 90-foot-cone which causes any targets caught in it to make a Con save which on a fail, the target takes up to 22d6 Poison damage.
We also have creatures that cause poison damage upon death.
The Gas Spore is one such creature. They are interesting little creatures, they look like beholders, their background info states that they formed from spores growing on dead beholders. These spores became infected with the beholder’s aberrant magic and then grow to become these creatures.
These creatures are very weak, but they exist to spread. When they die, they explode and creatures caught within 20 feet of the explosion must make a Con save, and on a fail they take 3d6 poison damage and become inflicted with the Death Burst disease. The spores from the creature take host in the bodies of the targets and after 1d12 hours the target dies and spawns 2d4 smaller gas spores from their body.
Poison Damage Spell Examples
In 5e there aren’t many spells that primarily cause Poison damage. So I’ve tried to pick ones which showcase the different ways it can show up.
Cloudkill is a spell which creates a 20-foot-sphere of poisonous gas. A creature that enters the gas or starts their turn there must make a Con save, and on a fail they take 5d8 poison damage. Interestingly the gas moves as the spell states that it’s heavier than air, so it rolls along the ground, assuming the area its cast on isn’t a perfectly flat area. It also mentions that strong which can disperse the spell.
One of the few cantrips that actually inflict direct damage is actually a poison damage spell.
That spell being Poison Spray. This cantrip basically shoots out a stream of poison gas towards the target. They must make a Con save, and if they fail they take 1d12 poison damage. I always like to think of this spell kind of like the flower the Joker from batman wears on his lapel, which tends to shoot a poison or acid from it as a deadly “prank”.
Funnily enough, not all the sources of poison damage inflict the poisoned condition on a creature. But there is one such spell that does both.
The Ray of Sickness spell is a simple spell, a beam of sickly green energy shoots out towards the target and they must make a con save, if they fail they are considered to have the poisoned condition, and they take 2d8 poison damage.
What Does Poison Damage Look Like?
So when poison damage shows up in my games I first figure out the source of the damage. Is it a gas? Is it a liquid? Is it from a creature’s natural attack? These are things to consider. Normally it would be from a creature.
Say a player was to be attacked by a Yuan-Ti Abomination, the snake people in DnD. This is how I would describe it to highlight the poisons damage from their bite attack.
As the Abomination rapidly slithers towards you, you can see it baring its fangs. As it reaches you, it lunges forward and you can see its fangs dripping with a viscous green liquid. It snaps forward and bites directly into your exposed skin as you feel a burning in your veins as the poison courses through you. You take 7 piercing damage plus 10 poison damage.
As always I hoped this post helped you understand this damage type and how it may show up in your games. I also hope that I’ve given you some decent descriptions on how you can add some flavor to your own descriptions when this damage does show up. So thanks for taking the time to have a read through this post and until next time, may your day be a critical success!