I haven't made a post in the "Memorable Mechanics" series in a while, but thought I might share some of my recent ideas regarding Poison in 4e.
In the old days, poisonous creatures were feared and dreaded. In fact, if I was playing, and I knew a creature was poisonous, I would likely yell to the party to run. Why? Well, one bite could mean death. Since that time, the history of poison in D&D has been one slow, gentle retreat from the cruelties of yore. Nowadays, there are only a few points of light in the 4e community and blogosphere that feature anything approaching save or die mechanics.
Now, I do not want to go back to insta-death from poisons, but I do want to bring a healthy fear of poison back to the game. To do that, I first wanted to differentiate between common "poison damage", and capital-letters-run-like-hell Poison. As you know from this blog series, I want to add memorable mechanics to games. Even if it goes badly for your PC, things are a lot easier to take if you died a spectacular or memorable death. I also like 4e conditions a lot; as I have mentioned before, I like the codified nature of them, how they are the same table to table. So, my thought was to come up with a "Poisoned" condition. Something not quite "save or die", but still "run like hell".
As I was thinking about bringing this idea into my 4e Forever project, I realized that if I gave EVERY Giant Snake and Centipede the ability to poison PCs, it would be too much. So I decided to make "poisoning" a daily, perhaps weekly, ability for a creature. Once they have "spent" their poison, it has to have time to build back up. The determination of whether a creature is currently "poisonous" is left to random chance, partly because I am always looking for any excuse to make a random roll. So for example, if a Giant Rattlesnake is encountered, there may be a 2 in 6 chance that it is currently poisonous.
So what is the "Poisoned" condition?
Poisoned (edit): A poisoned creature is weakened, slowed, and grants combat advantage (save ends all). If the creature is not currently bloodied, its hit points also drop to their bloodied value. On each failed saving throw, the creature's hit points drop to zero.
I am really digging this! I hope you like it too! If you have any thoughts, leave a post, and thanks again to everyone for checking out the playtest!