posted Wednesday, March 8th 2006 by
Dungeon Mastering Advice
I don’t think poison should be evil. It’s not lawful, in terms of alignment, and it’s certainly dishonourable, but hitting someone with a poisoned sword isn’t any more evil than hitting them with a magic sword. This is my opinion.
I think the reason that people think of poison as evil is that in real life, weapon poison would probably be lethal and fast-acting in order to kill a person. It’s a pre-meditated, saying in advance, “Whoever it is I fight next, I don’t care who they are or why I’m fighting them, but I want them dead. Not just incapacitated, or defeated, but dead.”
In D&D, most poisons are nonlethal and tend to have a weakening affect instead, perhaps like tear gas. Poisons are not lethal unless they act on Constitution. If Strength damage poison is evil, then Ray of Enfeeblement should be evil too!
I would consider poison use evil only under certain circumstances. One, if it’s a poison which deliberately causes pain. Two, if it causes ability drain, which is permanent and causes undue suffering for the rest of the creature’s life. Three, if it deals Constitution damage, and even then only if it is employed such that it is likely to kill whoever it is used against, regardless of circumstances.
Thus a paladin will avoid the use of poison not because it is evil, but because it is dishonourable, and because certain poisons cause unnecessary suffering.