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    Canonfire :: View topic - Poison
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    Poison
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 21, 2013
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    From: Minnesota

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    Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:45 pm  
    Poison

    I have a couple of characters that recovered some poison and have decided to use it.

    The first is a chaotic neutral half-elf fighter/mage/thief. I do not have much concern about his actions so far. He has not actually used it yet, only has it just in case. His motives have not been directly evil.

    The second character is more of the issue. He is a chaotic good elf mage. He has poison covered daggers and uses them more and more often.

    It seems I remember reading the use of poison is, in and of itself, evil. But, I am not sure how I feel exactly on this. The character (elf mage) is using the poison to defeat evil and overcome problems for the greater good. Specifically, he used it against a powerful and evil necromancer in battle. Now he is using it in battle against a small colony of orcs as he and the party raid their lair.

    I have, so far, not penalized the character or considered changing his alignment. I am starting to ponder the issue more now as it appears the use of poison by him may become common, until he runs out of poison.

    Any quick thoughts?
    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    From: LG Dyvers

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    Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:15 am  

    I think that you should allow the player to play his PC's alignment as he sees fit. When you think he is violating the tenets of his declared alignment, begin to introduce consequences hinting at his divergence. This can be a tricky thing for a DM to do well, but I think you'll both have fun when he begins to figure out why his character is beginning to hear demonic voices in his head encouraging him use the poison more often, or he realizes he has begun to suffer penalties on his attempts to charismatically affect the friendliness of NPCs, etc.

    Honestly, right now, it seems that he's doing a fine job of playing a CG PC. He's using whatever means will accomplish the good goal. He's not worried about law, cultural norms, or anything else that is purely (in his mind) a philosophical exercise. He has found a tool that will help him defeat evil, so he uses it. If he begins to use it for purposes other than defeating evil, then you may have a problem.

    SirXaris
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    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Feb 12, 2014
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    From: Maryland, USA

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    Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:52 pm  

    I assume the poison is the slaying or damaging kind? If so, that is definitely an evil act; I don't think that holds for sleep or paralytic poison, although slaying a creature incapacitated by such poison would of course be evil. I think the CN character could get away with it occasionally with no major dangers, so long as it is a "no other way to defeat the foe" type situation, but using it all the time would shift him towards evil. It sounds like the CG character is in serious danger of an alignment shift, however, and you may want to warn the player of that. If they choose to make the shift that's their decision, but I would definitely apply the penalties outlined if they choose to make the change. The question is whether the player is trying to get away with violating their alignment without suffering the penalties of it. Might also be worth reminding the player that the other members might not take his character's alignment shift well (especially paladins or priests of good alignment). Might be worth reminding him how he would feel if a good friend had a radical personality shift.

    Jeff
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 21, 2013
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    Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:04 pm  

    Thank you for the points of view.

    I have been inclined to leave it be for now and see what the character does with his actions. I am guessing the character will continue to use the poison to overcome evil. In such actions, I am letting him slide for now.

    I do agree that if his actions could easily invite some issues. I will continue to monitor.

    Mainly, if he continues to seek out poison when it is gone or if his use of poison becomes deviant.
    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    From: LG Dyvers

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    Thu Nov 05, 2015 1:54 am  

    AuldDragon wrote:
    I assume the poison is the slaying or damaging kind? If so, that is definitely an evil act...


    I have wondered about the reason this was stated in whatever official book I first read it in since I first read it. I concluded that it must be because constant use of such poisons in AD&D was an unbalancing factor. Forcing every opponent to make a saving throw vs. poison or die every time they were hit in battle was a bit much. Imagine if every monster did that to the PCs. They wouldn't last very long.

    However, I couldn't see how poisoning an opponent was inherently more evil than hacking him to death with a sword or shooting him in the back with an arrow. So, I don't follow the stated 'norm' that poison use is inherently an evil act. I consider it a tool, like a sword, bow, or spell, that can be used by good, neutral, or evil individuals. What matters is the individual's end goal. Is it more evil to wield a magical sword that adds 1d6 poison damage on every hit than it is to wield a magical sword that adds 1d6 fire damage on every hit?

    To answer the balance question, I'll say that, first, it is the DM's responsibility to maintain the balance. If he provides a PC with access to poison, it is not fair (in my opinion) to deny the PC the use of it by claiming that they will have to change alignment just to use it. Secondly, later editions of the game have done a much better job of balancing the various types of poison and their uses. There are many more options now than simply 'Save or die'. Smile

    SirXaris
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    Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:38 am  

    The game reason poison is restricted is of course balance. The non-game reason is that you don't have an opportunity to defend yourself against it. There's essentially a value placed that combat where you face your opponent is evil, because the one who triumphs is then assumed to be in the right in a conflict. If you face someone with a poisoned weapon, you're expecting a normal fight, and then just a minor cut, you're dead. It's the same reason killing a held or paralyzed creature is considered an evil act: They can't defend themselves. In addition, most deadly poisons known in the real world cause painful deaths. Death in combat is painful too, but you could always surrender if it is too painful, good opponents have to respect that.

    That's also why I differentiate between deadly/damaging poison and sleep/paralytic poison.

    Jeff
    GreySage

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    Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:11 pm  

    Those are valid points, AuldDragon, and the original rule in the AD&D DM's Guide prohibiting thieves from being of good alignment fits with your definition - backstabbing someone isn't fighting fair.

    Still, I don't apply that logic any more for a number of reasons. If not giving your opponent a fair chance in combat is inherently evil, then any time the PCs gang up on a BBEG two-to-one or more (flanking an opponent), they are evil. Any time they plan an ambush, they are evil. Any time they use magic weapons, armor, spells, or other items to gain an advantage their opponent doesn't have, they are evil.

    I'm not arguing with you, by the way. Smile Your point is valid. I'm just explaining why I don't play it that way.

    SirXaris
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    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:03 pm  

    When I poison pests around the yard, I always whisper a paean to THE DARK GODS, such that the souls of said wee beasties will writhe in ETERNAL TORMENT! MuahahahahaHAHAHAAAA!!! Evil Grin Laughing

    Regardless of what is stated, using poison is not exactly a defining act of evil unless it is used for the purpose of committing MURDER (which it often will be), which is the act that is evil. The context for the poison use is the important bit, in my opinion, and if using poison is supposedly outright evil, what of those who make the stuff?

    Paladin: "Die, you evil poisoner!"
    Apothecary: "Woah, woah, woah! I'm not evil! And I just make poisons. I don't actually kill people with them!"
    Paladin: "Oh. Well, that's not so bad then, somehow, I guess; you're just supplying the death sauce and all. Sorry for confusing you with the other naughty spawn."
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    Last edited by Cebrion on Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:18 am; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Sat Nov 07, 2015 9:10 am  

    Ok, my turn.

    Firstly, I gotta say that I completely agree with SirXaris' stance on this one, and his counterarguments are my own to this question (it's almost like he's got telepathy or somethin'! Happy ).

    I think the main reason why the use of poison is considered "evil" is because of its stigma in that it is traditionally the domain of thieves, assassins, 'cowards', and other shady types. That is why, in 1e, and perhaps 2e, it is considered forbidden to most mainstream PCs and character classes who are of good alignment.

    But poison, in and of itself, like guns and knives and mortars and ballistic missiles, is neither good nor evil. It is a weapon. Granted, it is perhaps not the most 'noble' or 'honorable' weapon. Thusly, I err on the side of when, how often, why, and where, and upon whom it is used that I would determine the 'alignment' of its application, just like any other weapon, as SirXaris has stated. His description of bludgeoning somebody to death or hewing them repeatedly with blade is perfect, for that could result in a far bloodier, and more painful, death than the successful execution of poison against a foe (one might merely slip into a coma and die). After all, there are spells, like Cloudkill, that are inherently poisonous, and yet considered 'fair game' to use against foes. And you cannot convince me that death by Lightning Bolt or Fireball is any more merciful than the use of poison.

    In my opinion, it comes down to the situation. I do think there are certain alignments, and definitely character classes and priestly orders, that would shun the use of poison and consider it a violation. Certain states, nations, and regions may also consider the use of poison to be a form of murder and outright ban it (ex: Veluna, Furyondy).

    I don't think any LG paladin would use poison. Period. I don't think the clergy of Rao, Heironeous, Pholtus, and Pelor would either. At all. Others, however, I doubt would care, especially if the means justified the end (Trithereon, for instance), or if used against their enemies.

    just my thoughts,

    Lanthorn
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:24 am  

    I think the original reason for poison use being deemed inherently evil must be that it is a tool of murderers, and at the very least its use is dishonorable. Therefore, its use falls under the purview of "cheatin' basterds", otherwise known as "villains", which the PCs are not supposed to be. In the end, it depends on how a DM wants to run his/her campaign with regards to heroism and villainy.
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:20 pm  

    Great replies from all, but from my end I have always considered poison to be for evil characters, NPCs, and monsters. However I could see neutral characters using poison to achieve their goals as needed. I also agree with some of the comments saying CG characters could use poison
    (followers of Trithereon for example), but I think they would only use poisons to incapacitate, not kill. Just my two cents.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:47 pm  
    oooo I want in on this one

    Either way you go with the ruling as the DM, I wonder if a practical consequence to consider would be friendly fire. Should the the PC end up accidentally hitting a party member in the fog of war, they may reconsider the use of poison tipped daggers, darts, etc. The use may even then be controverted by the other party members that were unaware to the use of poison and all view points may come out depending on the group. The discussion as to whether or not the use of poison is inherently evil might naturally come up within the party and alignment may be at least superficially disputed by group opinion if not by actual shift via deemed divergence, etc.

    But you know me, I love me some in-fighting Happy

    Plotty stuff and thangz and all
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    Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:31 am  

    I know Sheepdog knows I'm on Canonfire, and that his posts take that into account, so he doesn't give spoilers until long after the fact. I am running said mage...I, too, have been curious about possible alignment change (I have never encountered such a thing, but hear it is no fun). I have not been trying to "cheat" the rules to gain advantage, only to stay alive and fight evil (usually orcs or undead...you know, things elves hate). The necromancer made the poison and, no doubt, would have used it on us, if he had the option..turnabout's fair play? I think, and think Sheepdog thinks also, that there is a lot to be said for context of use. Using poison as a last-ditch effort to save your own skin against an evil creature is fine for a CN mage, but to use it when you picked a fight with the town guard and are getting your butt kicked is not okay, and would be an evil act.

    I appreciate everyone's comments, they have given me different perspectives to think about.

    How about this: In the same adventure (Bone Hill) I had a CN elf cleric cast COMMAND on a bugbear that was about to kill him. While the bugbear was paralyzed the cleric fired two arrows into his chest, killing him. The cleric saw no problem killing the bugbear because in a few moments the bugbear would have been right as rain and tried to kill the elf again. Evil or not?
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:59 pm  

    The bugbear was an imminent threat, so no. It could be argued strongly that a good-aligned character should capture instead of kill when possible, but your character is not bound by moral qualms as strong as those of a good-aligned character. Of course if anyone of any alignment disarms and lets go such a creature, and it comes back to do violence to you again, well, now anyone gets to kill it without any qualms.
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    GreySage

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    Wed Apr 13, 2016 8:54 am  

    GoodyGrabber wrote:
    How about this: In the same adventure (Bone Hill) I had a CN elf cleric cast COMMAND on a bugbear that was about to kill him. While the bugbear was paralyzed the cleric fired two arrows into his chest, killing him. The cleric saw no problem killing the bugbear because in a few moments the bugbear would have been right as rain and tried to kill the elf again. Evil or not?


    Your CN elf cleric was right for many reasons, most specifically because of his alignment. However, I believe that even a LG cleric would have found it perfectly justifiable to act as your cleric did in the heat of battle. As Cebrion said, the bugbear was an imminent threat and it is unlikely that the cleric would have had the time to tie it up properly, even if there weren't other threatening opponents nearby. So, the good and lawful thing to do in that situation is to take out the threat to other goodly folks as efficiently as possible.

    SirXaris
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    Thu May 05, 2016 1:03 pm  

    Using damage/death dealing poison is inherently evil.

    If a CG Mage is using poison daggers he is doing evil. Mostly because he is taking a non-class advantage of poison. What is a mage doing using daggers. Yes allowed weapon but typically mages do not engage in melee or even missile combat. I would have less issue with a CG fighter or rogue using poison.

    You can slay a Tarrasque with the right poison and one hit from a dagger. Catch it sleeping and auto hit. My DMs don't like poisons for just such reasons.

    My CN witch carried a severed head of a Medusa around for days. DM tried everything to get it away from her. Finally just had to have it rot bad enough not to have an effect anymore. Left stone statues of monsters for miles behind her.

    Poison is too easy, I think that is why it is classed as an evil act to use it.
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