Possibly not the best book to read at lunch, the introduction reminds just how much poisons feature in fantasy gaming. Be it something an assassin might employ, a trap that makes picking locks oh-so-interesting, or a weapon deployed by a monster (natural or otherwise), they are always there but by and large not really developed beyond handing out a bit of damage and maybe calling for a save or two. They could be so much more... and this book sets out to attend to the matter.
It all begins with the 'poison chain' - the way in which the poison on that blade actually gets there. This begins with the source or ingredients of the poison. Plenty of scope for quests to find the stuff in the first place, if you are so inclined or not too fussy when selecting employers. For that matter, how was the poison discovered in the first place? This too can be woven into your plots. What, for example, if it were a healing potion gone disaterously wrong? Once you have the ingredients and know what to do with them, the process must be carried out, and this may well be complex or arduous. Once made, does the person who made it actually want to use it, or is it a work for hire? Or stock for a shop? It might be hazardous to store or transport, too. Finally, how is it administered, what are the effects, and how do you treat victims? There's a wealth of opportunity in this small section alone for making poisons a lot more interesting, and not only if your party wants to use them... they may have to clear up someone else's mess, even if they are not the poisoner's intended target.
There are plenty more ideas for making poison use more of an integral part of your game before we move on to Poisons: A Comprehensive Look. Much of this section supplies the game mechanics you'll need to take poisons to the next level, but there's also a list of poisons, many animal/monster based, complete with distinctive effects, drawn from throughout the published game and indeed, real life. To continue the mechanics, there's a rule for extracting 'poison' glands from venomous monsters, as well as new and modified skills to enable poison use and the like. A collection of wholly-new poisons follows.
This is followed by a section on drugs - the recreational sort that produce desirable (for the user) effects and which are often addictive. There are often undesirable side effects as well. The next section touches on Alchemical Processes and Products... after all, making poisons is part of their regular trade. There are some ideas for substances they can make as well as variations that they can bring about to their poison recipes. Then comes a collection of useful items for the would-be poisoner to enable them to practise their nasty trade at less risk to themselves. Weapons and other delivery systems are also covered here, including traps and magic items.
Finally a collection of feats (including some for modifying monsters), some new poisonous (venmous?) monsters and a collection of apposite spells round off this awful collection, along with a few prestige classes that provide murderous variety for those who don't want to just be assassins. These come complete with suggestions for building entire campaigns around them.
Poisons never need be boring again. Maybe you have a morally-dubious party who want to make use of all this stuff, or perhaps you would like to introduce some of these ideas into your campaign. You have everything you need at your fingertips!
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Reviewed: 3 September 2019