"Sadi could poison one person at a banquet with a thousand guests."
A Master Poisoner is a character who is an expert in the preparation and administering of poisons. He can tailor a toxin to any situation: to paralyse, to knock out, to kill, or even other, more exotic, effects that others would consider beyond the realms of conventional toxicology.
The whole point is to be able to poison practically any victim (or victims) while not appearing to be the least bit involved, should they be so inclined.
Normally a mundane variation of Poisonous Person
, though the two can overlap if the character is crafty enough.
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Anime & Manga
- In InuYasha there are several, including Sango, Yakorou Dokusen and Mukotsu from the Band of Seven who almost succeeded in killing half the titular character's team.
- Himeko of Get Backers, and also her brother.
- Abe no Kaii in the Lone Wolf and Cub.
- The herbalist Pink, of the Sibling Team of Pink & Link, from Ranma ½. The former specializes in plant-based poisons, the latter, in medicines, but both of them are deadly at their craft. Kodachi Kuno is a lesser example: she uses paralyzing dust quite often, but we never learn if she's the one who makes them.
- Megumi Takani of Rurouni Kenshin could be considered this in her Dark and Troubled Past. She worked as the assistant of a doctor who doubled as a drug dealer under the thumb of Corrupt Corporate Executive Kanryu Takeda, and she ended up being forced to produce opium after said doctor was murdered. She knows all about different poisons, but now cures them (among other roles befitting The Medic).
- Due to his... unusual... hobbies, Earl Cain Hargreaves of Godchild is very knowledgeable in— and collects— poisons. This becomes relevant to the plot surprisingly often.
- Sasori from Naruto. All his weapons are equipped with a very special poison he created himself which makes the victim suffer extreme pain for three days before dying, if he decided not to finish the victim off in the first place.
- He learned this, and his puppetry, from Chiyo. Chiyo's poisons during the 2nd ninja world war were often cured by Tsunade, whose own pupil Shizune is also a poison master.
- Dr. Katsuragi from Sakura Gari made his own drugs and poison, using hemlock and arsenic among other things. He used these to poison Lady Saiki to death and later he began to slowly poison Lord Saiki. Also, he slipped a roofie in Masataka's tea to kidnap, torture and rape him.
- In Gankutsuou, we also have the below mentioned Madame de Vilefort. Subverted: it was the Count who gave her the poison ring she tries to use to kill her husband and stepdaughter.
- Sucy of Little Witch Academia is supposedly a general potions specialist, but all we really see her do is make poisons. And she is very good at it.
- Mathilda Toulonchamp from Honoo No Alpen Rose may be too young to called a full-fledged master poisoner, but she still manages to use it to slowly poison Helene to make her ill, and it's heavily implied that she tries to do the same thing to Jeudi aka Helene's daughter Alicia by poisoning her food, but she doesn't get the job done.
- Mejai from Le Scorpion.
- This was Poison Ivy's original schtick in the Batman comics, before she became a Poisonous Person.
- Another Batman villain, The Joker, was a prodigy at this. In both the 1989 movie and the animated series, he developed "binary compounds" by which he could succeed in murdering victims with the second exposure, thus appearing not to have been directly responsible for their deaths. The man's chemistry skill is such he can create incredibly toxic compounds out of nothing but the contents of a janitor's closet.
- Yet another Batman villain, Scarecrow, concocts fear toxins to give targets nightmarish hallucinations.
- Doctor Poison from Wonder Woman.
- Stinger, a minor foe of Green Arrow and Black Canary.
- In the Angel Gang from Judge Dredd's rogue gallery, this was Fink Angel's specialty skill.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the sequel comic Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search, none other than Prince Zuko's mother, Ursa, is revealed to be this. She knew how to make an odorless, color-less, lethal poison that was next to impossible to detect. She ended up offering a deal to Ozai; she would concoct the poison and give it to him to do as he pleased (the idea being he'd poison his father and then take the throne) and Zuko (who was going to be executed as a punishment to Ozai) would be spared. Ozai accepts.
- The lead character in The Young Poisoners Handbook fits this to a T, due to being based Real Life Serial Killer Graham Young.
- The fact-based Holocaust drama Amen has an unintentional example in Kurt Gerstein, an SS scientist responsible for refining and producing chemicals, including Zyklon B, though he is ignorant of the true purpose of the gas.
- The serial killer protagonist of Hunting Humans reminisces about the time he killed one of his neighbors by inserting a lethal amount of codeine into eggs, which he resealed and gave to her.
Aric: She was dead two mornings later. Cops came, made their rounds, but there was nothing to be found. They knew how she died, but they just assumed it was some psycho who was poisoning eggs. Big egg scare after that, though it was nothing compared to the Tylenol-cyanide thing.
- Thomas Griffiths Wainewright is a master poisoner, according to Oscar Wilde's essay, Pen, Pencil, and Poison.
- Lord Downey, head of the Assassins' Guild in Discworld, is rumoured to be this. There is no record of anyone Lord Downey may have wanted to inhume ever being poisoned, however. Which may just indicate that he's really good at it.
- Sadi of Nyissa in The Malloreon. In fact, most Nyissans, though Sadi is a standout. He's also a master pharmacologist, a drug-dealer, and an all around useful guy, who has weaponised a wide variety of toxins and chemical concoctions, and fights with Poisoned Weapons. Surprisingly, he's one of the protagonists, and one of the rare fictional examples of a truly badass eunuch. By the way, the page quote? Not Hyperbole. He actually does it late in the books, by noting the victim's customary seat and poisoning his spoon.
- In the Belgariad series, Sadi is an antagonist of sorts. Fortunately for the heroes, he's not actually trying to kill any of them, and winds up being grateful to them for turning the queen of his nation into a giant venomous snake, which he regards as a huge improvement, because at least now her desires have become easier to satisfy ... give her a slave to bite now and again, and she's happy.
- The poisoner from Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, Morveer.
- This is a large part of Fitz's training in Assassin's Apprentice, the first book of the Realm of the Elderlings series.
- In Dune poison is almost an accepted science.
- Farran the Poisoner in the Redwall series. He never speaks, never shows any emotion (except at his death) and ends up causing a bit of havoc (being responsible for the deaths of two hares and poisoning the entire food and drink supply of Salamandastron, before being Hoist by His Own Petard when Lord Urthstripe crams all of the various poisons he carries down his throat.
- In The Demon Princes, the planet Sarkovy's Hat is brewing and finding creative ways to administer poisons. The higher ranks of their grand masters can be Poisonous Persons, although in a touch of realism, these people tend to die rapidly themselves. Hero Kirth Gersen spent several instructive years there, to the point of being able to outwit and infect a rival Master Poisoner.
- Durzo Blint, of the The Night Angel Trilogy is a wetboy ("Wetboys are to assassins like a tiger is to a kitten.") who excels at poisoning.
- One of Fu Manchu's numerous nefarious talents.
- Hestera Spikesap from The Edge Chronicles is a master of potions one and potions all, from elixirs that revitalize the body to powerful alcohols, but poisons of all kinds appear to be her greatest talent. She knows how to give disobedient servants bad stomach aches, and ends up poisoning her master Vox to have him all to herself, forever.
- Ouyang Feng, the Old Poison, in Legend of the Condor Heroes.
- Ismae from Grave Mercy is trained to be a Master Poisoner because she is completely immune to all poisons; the most she might feel is a light tingling sensation, and only if the poison is exceptionally strong. It's one of the rarer perks of being a daughter of Mortain. Ironically, it turns out that she is also a cure for any and all poisons. Prolonged skin-on-skin contact will draw poison out of anyone afflicted.
- In Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead, a handful of swallowed cryptberries will kill someone almost instantly. After doing this to one twelve-year-old boy, the better to test his zombification serum, Dr. Evazam injects another with diluted cryptberry, which puts him into a deathlike coma for long enough that he can have a funeral and be Buried Alive.
- In The Count of Monte Cristo, the poisoner Madame de Villefort is frequently compared to Locusta (see Real Life examples below).
- The Reynard Cycle:
- Reynard himself is the best example from the series, though he uses poison exclusively to knock people unconscious.
- Ghul, Chanticleer's primary assassin, is able to poison the entire crew of a ship for weeks without anyone knowing. He doesn't realize that Reynard swapped out his poison for seasoning until it's too late.
- Baron Dendra studied abroad to become one of these. When Persephone is poisoned, his fellow conspirators assume it was his work.
- Barsine, one of Chanticleer's assassins, is this. She is apparently persuasive enough to get her victims to drink mysterious liquids knowingly.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has several examples.
- Maesters of the Citadel, when fully trained, are healers by profession. But, there is a flip-side to that coin: a few indulge in this trope when asked to, when they deem it appropriate to meet their obligations or when euthanasia is required.
- The Faceless Men are professionally trained assassins who naturally use a wide range of drugs, toxins and poisons as a part of their arsenal, many with possibly magical ingredients. They specialize in Make It Look Like an Accident-type assassinations.
- Oberyn Martell is well known to use complex poisons: it even helps supply his moniker of "The Red Viper"... and Tyene, one of his bastard daughters collectively called the Sand Snakes, takes after Daddy, as well. When she briefly touches her uncle's hand after an argument, Prince Doran's maester hurries over to inspect his hand for puncture marks, and expresses concern over poisons that can be absorbed through the skin.
- A surprising number of the plots Littlefinger has had a direct influence on have involved poison in some capacity at some point. There's a reason for that: he supplies it to proxies to use. Or, encourages the use in other ways. For a Lord, he knows more on the topic than the average, even if he may not be in the same league as some on this list — and, is a master at getting away with it completely unsuspected.
- The Crannogmen of the Neck are infamous throughout Westeros (including in the Iron Isles) for using a wide range of weapons poisons, drugs and other tricks delivered either by blades or other, more sneaky means... like arrows, darts, liquids or powders. Many are specifically designed with terror-inducing effects, rather than going for quicker, less attributable deaths. Such as mimicking memorably scary diseases like necrotising fasciitis, typhoid, cholera or ebola: sometimes rolled into one distinctly unpleasant package. Just to make sure people learn to obey the Keep Out suggestion. If they were so inclined, they could probably pull off Make It Look Like an Accident-type of assassinations quite easily, instead.
- Septimus in Stardust, whom the text notes is "one of Nature's poisoners".
Live Action TV
- Livia, and later Agrippina, from I, Claudius. Livia's simple "Don't touch the figs" will send chills up your spine.
- A one-scene wonder has Livia talking shop - by which we mean multiple murder by chemical means - with Martina, another Master Poisoner, played by the same actress who portrayed the cheerfully insane Nursie in Blackadder. The two debate the relative merits of different poisons and their antidotes over dinner, only for Martina to go white with fear at the sudden thought that Livia might have poisoned her. Livia laughs it off, but the viewer expects Martina to drop dead at any moment, and her ultimate fate is left unspecified.
- Locusta in the Doctor Who serial "The Romans".
- Centauri in Babylon 5, in the past, regularly used poisons in their power games among the nobles. The practice apparently holds as of the time of the show, as Londo relies on a practitioner of the art for a poison to kill Emperor Cartagia.
- Claxton in the Ripper Street episode "The King Came Calling", who creates a poison to mimic the effects of cholera by combining antimony and ergot and uses it to contaminate the flour supply in an attempt to become more famous than Jack the Ripper.
- Dexter's Hannah McKay.
- Dungeons & Dragons Assassins in all editions that has them as a class or kit.
- Dragon Magazine #39 has an article titled "The Anti-Paladin NPC". The Anti-Paladin is an aficionado of the art of poisoning, who considers poisoning to be an esthetic pleasure and a means of artistic expression. They have collections of poisons that they use on a regular basis.
- Dark Sun bards are known for such a practice and learn to prepare and use more poisons with the level advancement.
- In the D&D lawyer friendly spinoff Pathfinder, a number of classes such as rogues, assassins and the currently experimental ninjas are proficient poisoners, but it's the Alchemist, which can not only make poisons, but becomes completely immune to them, can refine them into a more deadly, harder to resist form, make them last longer on the weapon and make them in a fraction of the time with reduced material costs.
- The Dark Elves from Warhammer are perhaps the foremost poisoncrafters in the setting, though the Skaven are also very good at it, and the Chaos Gods Nurgle and Slaanesh have several excellent poisoners amongst their followers.
- One of the skills that fits under the Scorpion Clan's hat in Legend of the Five Rings. The Shosuro family in particular kept large gardens full of various plants that could all be turned into some kind of poison.
- In World of Warcraft, one of the abilities of the Rogue class is applying poisons (usually to their own weapons). The Assassination talent tree partly focuses on this particular ability. One of the talents in the tree is literally called Master Poisoner.
- Hunters, meanwhile, poison with certain abilities like Serpent Sting. They can also set a trap with venomous snakes.
- Some bosses definitely qualify. Cataclysm has introduced Vanessa van Cleef, who administers literal Nightmare Fuel to all party at once, and renewed High Priest Venoxis, with extra ham.
- The Elder Scrolls
- King Hlaalu Helseth of Morrowind is rumored to be the most talented and subtle poisoner in the world, although there is no concrete evidence to support the claim. Admittedly, the lack of evidence could simply speak towards his subtlety.
- A Master Alchemist in Oblivion can produce a staggering variety of poisons with Standard Status Effects beyond all those listed in the trope definition. Though poisons in-game aren't as instantly lethal, a full stack of damage-over-time effects make it a foregone conclusion. Replace one of those with fatigue-drainer, and you can safely look your opponent in the eye as it dies.
- From Oblivion onwards, poisoning is a subset of Alchemy skill. In Skyrim, the master trainer of Alchemy is a Dark Brotherhood assassin who is this trope. You also can become this, and the Brotherhood offers you a unique poison ingredient for the assassination of Emperor Titus Mede II (however, it's strong enough to take half HP from the Ebony Warrior).
- Being a max pickpocket in Skyrim also allows you to poison opponents by putting vials in their inventory without them realizing it until they drop dead.
- Command & Conquer: Generals has the notorious Dr. Thrax, one of the GLA's generals. Under his command, almost all of the units that normally use high explosives instead use a biochemical cocktail called Anthrax Beta/Gamma. He got his degree in bacteriology from a mail-order college.
- Jobe from Whateley Academy creates toxins in his lab to carry around just in case somebody attacks him, and injects himself with the corresponding antitoxin to prevent self-poisoning. He creates a new toxin daily so people cannot become immune/create their own antitoxin.
- Lucrezia Borgia is often portrayed as this; see History Marches On for a discussion.
- All of the Borgias had the reputation of poisoners, not just Lucrezia. It was probably untrue of Lucrezia and Rodrigo (AKA Pope Alexander VI), but likely enough in Cesare's case.
- Of course, nowadays powerful Italian families have streamlined their operations somewhat and tend to stick with lead poisoning as their method of choice, generally of the acute variety.
- Locusta, who may have assassinated the Roman Emperor Claudius and several other people. She was rewarded by the infamous Emperor Nero.