One of the most confusing aspects of Dungeons & Dragons 5E is the idea of poisoned. There are plenty of effects in the game that deal poison damage. However, sometimes, one of these effects will also say that the target is “poisoned” for a duration. What? How can you take poison damage and not be “poisoned?” Well, in this Poisoned 5E guide, we’ll explain everything you could want to know about being poisoned.
Poisoned in 5E
When you have the poisoned condition, you have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks… Which is basically everything. Notably, this does not apply disadvantage to saving throws. You roll normally to attempt to save against
The Poisoned condition is 5E is not quite the same as just having some bad blood in your system. When you’re poisoned, your body is rejecting something so vehemently that you’re actually sick. That’s why some effects that aren’t necessarily poison can cause you to become poisoned; it’s basically just becoming sick, but with more intensity.
Because of this, Poisoned is usually a Constitution saving throw. If you’re really desperate to avoid this poisoned condition, you’ll need to have good Constitution.
Poison damage is different from poisoned because of that. This damage is more concentrated and brief. It’s a little similar to acid damage, in that way! Because of that, your body can be taking poison damage, but it burns so briefly that it doesn’t apply the poisoned debuff to you.
In addition, because this type of damage is just a brief splash of pain, you’re much, much more common. So, remember: if you took poison damage, you are not necessarily poisoned.
What Applies the Poisoned Condition?
This might seem a little obvious, but poisons can apply the poisoned condition. Crazy, right? However, you must be extremely specific to find poisons that might apply the poisoned condition. Assassin’s blood, for example, applies the poisoned condition. However, Serpent Venom only deals poison damage, and doesn’t apply the poisoned condition.
There is a single injury poison that applies the poisoned condition: Drow Poison, which costs 200 gp per dose. This poisons a target for 1 hour, but the price point is a bit high. Otherwise, you’ll have to get a little more tricky when applying the poisoned debuff.
Spells are a more reliable way to apply Poisoned. There are 2 spells that apply the Poisoned condition to a character; Contagion and Ray of Sickness.
Ray of Sickness is a 1st level laser that deals 2d8 damage and applies poisoned until the end of your next turn. One turn of poisoned is a great debuff, and the damage is acceptable. This is for Sorcerers and Wizards.
Contagion is a melee touch attack. On a hit, the target is poisoned, and becomes diseased with one of 6 diseases that you choose. The different diseases apply disadvantage on a specific attribute, usually with another effect; for example, Flesh Rot applies disadvantage to Charisma checks, as well as giving vulnerability to all damage. This is actually a fairly unique spell, and lasts 7 days if the target just can’t roll the Constitution save. This is a Cleric and Druid spell.
Poisoned is also fairly hard to use. A lot of creatures, such as Constructs and Undead, are completely immune to the Poisoned condition. Some creatures that are good with poison, such as Drow, might have advantage against this condition. It’s such a pain to get the poisoned condition to all creatures… and that’s on top of being nearly impossible to get access to in the first place!
However, monsters are much more likely to be able to apply poisoned to you. Poisoned is a staple debuff for monsters, since it doesn’t do too much to a player. One of the most common ways to get poisoned from a monster is with “Stench”. Stench is a monster ability where the monster smells so bad, you get physically sick. If a monster seems to be the source of that awful smell in a cave, be careful about approaching them too quickly if you have low Constitution.
Otherwise, you might just get poisoned from just getting hit by a monster. Poisoned is often applied to a weapon attack from specific creatures, just to add a bit of oomph to a hit. This is typically a weapon of the Underdark, where mushrooms and fungi are typically awfully poisonous. When fighting underground creatures, expect to face poison.
You can nullify the poisoned condition using Lesser Restoration or Protection from Poison. Lesser Restoration is more useful in general, but Protection from Poison lasts much longer.
Concluding our Poisoned 5E Guide
The poisoned condition is one of the hardest to apply in the entire game. With only 2 spells and a few items that give you access to it, you won’t be throwing poison effects willy-nilly. It’s a potent debuff, but it seems that Wizards wanted it to be a monster-focused one. That’s fine, but a little sad.
However, in the future, it might be getting easier and easier to apply this light debuff. Some Unearthed Arcana content is pointing to rogues getting a “poisoner” archetype. If that’s the case, perhaps in the same book we’d get more spells or effects that also apply poisoned.
Until then, this is a fairly niche debuff for you, but know how effective it is at shutting down characters that focus on attack rolls! Be very careful if you’re exploring deep caves or sewers. Maybe consider Protection from Poison if you have a lot of weapon-using characters!
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