Save Versus Poison or DIE!



On special occasions, I’ll revisit old adventures and run them for players who have never experienced them. One such adventure was the D&D Adventure “The Isle of Dread”.

It’s fun exploring an old adventure with new friends, but also reliving what made gaming so much fun when I was a kid. And sometimes what didn’t.

Role-playing games were so OPEN when I first start rolling dice in the 70’s. They were mostly games created to play with friends and interpret the rules together. When we didn’t like a rule, we would change it.

“Save vs. Poison or Die!”

“Really??? My character dies??? from one little Giant Spider bite??? That doesn’t seem right!?!”

– And I’m sure with my 7th grade understanding it didn’t.

However while running “The Isle of Dread”, I read this one little paragraph in the Basic rules under Poison:

Poison is the bane of all characters. If a character is hit with a poisoned attack and misses his or her saving throw vs. Poison, the character will usually die. (Note: In the D&D Expert rules, there is a magical way to cure a poisoned creature).

Hmm..”Usually Die”…is a whole lot different from just “DIE!”

So what is the magical way mentioned in the Expert Rules? In the D&D Expert Rules, under Cleric Spells (4th Level) is the spell Neutralize Poison: This spell will cancel the effects of poison and revive a poisoned character if cast within ten rounds.

Wow…wait a minute…REVIVE a poisoned character?

So…in typical basic D&D fashion the rules read more narratively than literally.

When a character ‘DIES’ in combat, there’s still a chance that they can be ‘REVIVED‘ by another character with a Neutralize Poison spell!

This little revelation changes a LOT of things about how I view Basic/Export D&D…and maybe my own little house rule (Heroes never die, so as long as someone is still alive after combat, they can rescue a downed character), isn’t too far off the mark!

In reading a few other ‘optional‘ rules in the Rules Cyclopedia (A combination of the Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters and Immortals rules), there is even more guidance on how to make use of Save vs. Death to avoid actually dying when a character is reduced to 0 hit points.

Considering how Death Saving throws are now a thing in 4E and 5E, I’m now totally convinced, that it was always intended as a tool for a DM to use to help save a character.

With this in mind I now treat poison this way: After a character fails a Poison Saving throw, AND there isn’t a cleric handy with a Neutralize Poison spell, a poisoned character must pass a Save vs. Death roll each day until they can cure the poison.

So, they’re really just ‘mostly dead’!

Can’t wait until my next BX game now!

Bring on the Giant Spiders!

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