Antagonists of the Summerlands: Quaggoths and Poison

Antagonists of the Summerlands is a continuation of the world I built for the June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM.


If the grippli are the defenders of the Summerlands’ wild places, quaggoths are their opposite number. In the Summerlands, quaggoths live in small communities where water is easily accessible (in swamps, along rivers, and on coasts, in particular). Because quaggoths can survive (and even thrive) in polluted areas, they often make an effort to foul the area around their villages, to make them less hospitable for other races.

Unlike the quaggoths in the Monster Manual, Summerlands quaggoths are reasonably intelligent and form societies, but tend towards evil alignments. Quaggoth societies are always kratocracies, with control of the tribe or village going to the quaggoth who is cunning and strong enough to take it. Quaggoths are always hunters, and frequently hunt other intelligent creatures.

Like grippli, quaggoths frequently use poison when they hunt other creatures, and often use blowguns and arrows to deliver their poisons. They never need to worry about introducing too much poison into a creature before consuming it, or about poisoning themselves with their own weapons.

The grippli often gather war parties to disperse quaggoth villages that grow too large, but can never eradicate them completely. When routed, quaggoths simply hide in dark places and wait for their foes to disperse.

Poison in 5E

There is a problem with poison in 5th Edition: it’s boring. In earlier editions, poisons pretty much all had the same general effect: ability damage. The flavor could be very different, however. A poison that does 1d3 Dex damage is going to feel different in play from a poison that does 1d4 Wisdom damage, and it’s easy for a GM to make that difference clear to the players.

In 5E, poison doesn’t do much, at all. In the DMG, there are fourteen poisons listed, in addition to the one poison listed in the PHB for players to buy.

Poisons grant the poisoned condition, which causes disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks, for various amounts of time (from rounds to days). Many of them also do damage or have other rider effects. Eight of these poisons do damage. Two cause unconsciousness. One causes blindness. One causes incapacitation. One causes paralysis. One causes the target to speak the truth. One effectively reduces the hit point total. This makes sense, from a game standpoint, as those conditions cover a decent number of the available game conditions. It would be relatively easy to write poisons that incorporate others that make sense: a poison that deafens, one that frightens, one that petrifies, one that stuns, etc.

The existing poison poison save DCs and effect summaries look like this:

DC 10 or 11: 4 (3 damage, 1 speak truth)

DC 13: 4 (1 damage, 2 unconscious, 1 paralyzed)

DC 15: 4 (1 each: unconscious, blinded, incapacitated, damage)

DC 16 or 17: 2 (1 damage, 1 damage that can’t be healed)

DC 19: 1 (damage)

How Poison Works

The problem is, that’s not how poisons work.

There are five basic ways for a poison to enter the body: swallowing/ ingesting, absorbing, inhaling, splashing in the eye, and injecting. 5E gives four ways that poisons can be applied: ingesting, contact, inhaling, and injury, which mostly correlate.

“Splashing in the eye” always results in pain, and can result in blindness. The only 5E poison that simulates this is “malice,” which is “inhaled.” That sort of makes sense, as “sticks face in a cloud” pretty well simulates inhaling and splashing in the eye.

Swallowing, or ingesting (in 5E terms), can nausea, abdominal pain, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and impaired consciousness.

Absorbing, or skin contact, can cause pain, swelling, rash, redness, and itching.

Inhaling can cause difficulty breathing, hypoxia, and cyanosis (change in skin pallor).

Injecting/ injury can cause pain and swelling at injection site (when have we ever seen this simulated in D&D?), blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, seizures, impaired consciousness, anaphylactic shock.

None of these effects are “paralysis” or “unconsciousness that ends when you save against the poison or someone shakes you.” Those aren’t bad game effects, but poisons could be so much more interesting. Part of the problem is the disadvantage mechanic. Sure, it’s easy to implement, but since all the poisons make the target “poisoned,” they all feel kind of the same, and they can all be effectively counteracted by a firm pep talk from the Bard.

I want poisons, particularly in a place like the Summerlands, where at least three of the major races use them frequently, to feel significant and unique.

Five Poisons of the Summerlands

Item Type Price per dose
Grippli spit Injury 200 gp
Everdark Contact 600 gp
Marsh blood Injury 450 gp
The Stillness Inhaled/ Injury 1200 gp
Swamp Gas Inhaled 200 gp

   Grippli spit (Injury). This poison is produced naturally in the mouths of grippli. Usually, grippli apply it to their weapons or use it as part of their digestion, but it can also be harvested from their corpses, though doing so is considered desecration by the grippli. A creature subjected to this poison must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw, becoming poisoned on a failed save. The poison effect lasts for one minute, although the poisoned creature may save again at the end of each round.

     Everdark (Contact). Typically delivered as a powder, this poison can be thrown with a range of 10 feet, blown onto an adjacent creature, or placed in glass beads that can be used as ammunition for a blowgun. A creature subjected to this poison must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the poisoned creature’s vision is reduced to 10 feet, beyond which is total darkness, for 1 minute. On a successful save, the poison has no effect. A poisoned creature must make an additional DC 15 Constitution saving throw after one round. On a failed save, it is blinded for 1 minute. This poison has no effect on creatures with darkvision.

   Marsh Blood (Injury). A creature subjected to this poison must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw, taking 10 (3d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. A creature that fails its save is poisoned for 1d4 rounds, during which time it is affected by the spell confusion.

     The Stillness (Injury/ Inhaled). One of the most feared poisons in the Summerlands, The Stillness slowly turns its victims to stone. This poison can be applied to a piercing or slashing weapon or ammunition, as well blowgun ammunition. A creature subjected to this poison must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw each round for 4 rounds. On the first failed save, the creature takes 14 (4d6) damage and is poisoned. On the second failed save, the poisoned creature’s speed is reduced to 10 feet. On the third failed save, the poisoned creature cannot make attacks or ability checks. On the fourth failed save, the creature is petrified. Effects of failed saves are permanent, unless removed by magic (such as greater restoration).

Swamp Gas (Inhaled). A common danger in swamps, pockets of this gas explode on contact, spraying nearby creatures. In addition, the gas can be collected into glass beads, which can be used as ammunition for blowguns. A creature subjected to this poison must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw each round for 1 minute, or take 3 (1d6) damage, become poisoned, and be affected by the spell confusion. The effects end after a successful save.

Two Useful Poison Links

A really nice write-up of poisons in 5E.

A nice graphic about poisons.


One response to “Antagonists of the Summerlands: Quaggoths and Poison

  1. Pingback: Summerlands Recap and New Directions | Dungeon Hacking

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