How to use poisons

I’m wondering how people are using poison? In an intrigue, it seems appropriate to have it be used to kill an NPC. However, in a combat, either skirmish or duel, most of the poisons in Dune fiction are deadly, or equate to deadly (i.e. making the opponent helpless). Do you just increase the Quality of a weapon if it is poisoned, and on a successful test that doesn’t defeat the opposition simply say they didn’t quite poison the target until their conflict track is filled?

It is a tricky one, as you say they are usually deadly.
So this comes under the category of using as asset, but with deadly consequences.
(although we put a use of poison used in a simple way in Desertfall for this very reason).

The use of poison would be an espionage conflict, with the effects of the poison being what happens if you are defeated. The conflict then represents the poisoner trying to find a way past the victim’s security and delivering the poison effectively.
Zones might represent people to get past or rooms to get through to get to your target.
Using the poison in their zone is delivering the poison.
If you fail, its not that the poison didn’t work, its that you failed to get it to them.

On a failure, as part of the narrative you might decide the victim has detected the poison and knows someone is after them, or they just decided not to drink their tea and are none the wiser. Maybe their pet monkey tried the poisoned figs first and died before the victim tried one themselves.

In this case quality is the virulence of the poison and how well it gets past defenses or how concealable it is. All these things add to the extended test, the roll to actually to poison the victim, making the poison much easier to administer and do its work.

I would see the use of poison in a duel as being a trait applied to an asset or to the enemy after a successful strike. For example, you get an attack on the enemy personal zone, inflicting damage. The target is now “poisoned” and that can have detrimental effects as the fight continues. You and the players need to decide what makes sense in that case and based on what the poison does.

If the outcome of said duel was not “death”, and one party decided to use a deadly poison, then this may require spending momentum/ threat to change those parameters and make the situation deadly. I would opt to allow the opposing party to “detect” poison on a blade by using momentum to learn more about the scene, or make it obvious if a poison asset is revealed.

At the Architect level, most houses have access to poison snoopers, so I’d say in an espionage your spy asset may need to eliminate that defensive security measure to even make poisoning possible. Then, they need to administer the poison to the target. If this is by way of a knife wielding assassin, I recommend you go into a duel or skirmish conflict to play out that scene. If it is by way of your Spy poisoning the food and bypassing the snoopers, then there is some difficulty that may be encountered if the target is a major NPC. For example, their talents may hinder that administration and increase the challenge. You would also likely be doing an extended test vs the victim’s (or their Spymaster’s) Understand value. This is where the Quality of the poison or spy assets will come into play.

Let us know how it goes, I am interested to learn how you/ your group goes about it!

1 Like

Yup, that also works. Certainly non-deadly poison works well as an additional trait/complication in a conflict. Its how we do it for Desertfall.

Poison snoopers are ubiquitous, so the art of poisoning in architect play is getting the victim and the poison together where there are no detectors.
It is very hard, but Yueh was able to use his position to poison/sedate Paul and Jessica and Leto’s poison tooth also evaded the Baron’s people’s detectors.

Thank you for the replies. What about a deadly poison in a duel or skirmish. Most rpgs that use poison have something like a poisoned condition where you have some penalty, or maybe take poison damage to hit points. That doesn’t work here either mechanically or thematically. I think a deadly poison is the most consistent with the Dune presented in the source material…i.e. even a tiny nick with a poisoned blade would be nearly instantly fatal or instantly paralyze, allowing a fatal follow-up attack. Thoughts on how to run that kind of poison in a duel or skirmish (of note, I don’t feel like that kind of poison is particularly rare, and would be quite acceptable in a lot of dueling situations).

1 Like

In the Duel case I’d say simply if the character is defeated they die. You could make it a very high quality asset, meaning it inflicts damage equal to 2+quality to the target if it is a living being. Effectively, it is the same as any other asset. Or, give it the trait “deadly poison”, that gives the victim the “dead in 2 seconds” permanent trait. As I understand it, you want this to kill whomever it wounds immediately, so, just say that’s what it does.

This is risky, as it makes the fight a 1 hit kill scenario, but is on brand with Dune. Remember though, there is always a risk of having PCs use this against your NPCs. What if a character spends momentum to take the asset? They could reasonably do a disarm as a subtle move and then spend momentum to create an asset (enemy’s blade) to have it in their grasp. They could also “recover” the enemy’s “lost” weapon after a disarm I suppose. Rules are unclear on that but it’s how I would run it I guess.

Feyd Rautha Approves!

Happy PC Killing lol.

1 Like

Makes sense. I would probably favor just increasing the quality. Fictionally, I successful attack that doesn’t win the contest simply represents how dangerous the weapon is.

You’ve got two options here for poison virulence.

As the effect of the poison sets the defeat condition, that is one way to have it as ‘deadly’ or just ‘knocks you out’
Then quality is closer to how fast acting and how little of it you need.

So a quality 0 poison that is deadly would kill a defeated target but take more work to use. It might need a larger dose, go off quickly or only be administered in a particular way.

A quality 4 poison whose effect is to give you a bad stomach is exceptionally fast acting, and only needs a smallest amount, as well as being administrable in any way you like. But when you defeat the victim they just spend a lot of time on the toilet (missing the crucial negotiation).