TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
"What a convenient world we live in. One medicine cures everything..."
In Real Life
, there are many types of poisons. Variations exist that will affect nearly any organ or system. Poisoning can manifest itself as nearly any symptom known to man. Different individuals and (especially) species are not affected by poison in the same way; chocolate and caffeine are toxic to dogs and catsnote
, but relatively harmless to most humans. Capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot peppers hot) can seriously irritate human skin and mucous membranes, but is completely unnoticeable to birds. The dosage is also important, if you care whether the victim gets mildly nauseated or dies quickly. As Paracelsus pointed out, even life-sustaining substances become toxic in excessive amounts. Essentially, poison can be any substance that a particular body can't deal with at that particular dosage.
However, in fiction — especially Video Games
— poison is treated as some sort of mysterious mass that saps the life force out of the poisoned one. There's one type of poisoning (not counting stronger versions of the usual), and any antidote will cure it. Usually presented as green, purple, or both, and optionally colors the victim in the same tone
The default traits of poison are:
As a Standard Status Effect:
Poison as an Element:
- There is only one kind of poison in the world. All venomous creatures and poison-elemental spells use this same kind of poison.
- While they come from many different places and are made out of vastly different materials, toxic waste, radioactive waste, chemical waste, sewer waste, heavy-duty pesticides, and even oil all cause the same kind of damage or condition, and usually look the same, being either green, purple, greyish, or brown, complete with a bubbling surface and sickly glow for the more colorful variants, despite the fact waste can assume many colors, textures, viscosities, and thicknesses, and usually is out of the range of Technicolor Science properties.
- Poison is often the same thing as disease or sickness. Venomous creatures, gooey and/or acidic enemies, and poison-elemental spells will inflict the condition on you, but often times, so will attacks from rotting zombies, wild/rabid animals, and filthy creatures.
- This universal poison has only one effect - it will slowly sap the life force out of any living creature inflicted by it, but will not hinder them in any other regard. This damage is caused at a constant rate, often a percentage of the victims total Hit Points, and is completely unaffected by things such as dosage or the body mass of the creature poisoned.
- If there are multiple types of poison, the only difference will be the degree to which they harm the poisoned individual (e.g. reducing their HP by 5% or 10% every round).
- It affects all living creatures equally regardless of physiology — a human, dog, insect or dragon will all suffer the exact same symptoms. If a creature does resist a poison, it will resist all poison. That being said, sometimes things that should logically resist all poison, such as The Undead, golems, and robots, are perfectly susceptable — especially if they just so happen to be Player Characters.
- As there is only one type of poison in the world, there will obviously also be only one type of antidote. This antidote will work instantly when applied, and will usually be commonplace. (Though Cure-Alls will also work most of the time)
- If there are multiple types of poison, there will still only be one type of Antidote.
- There may be areas where the mere act of standing on a specific location will poison a character. In this case, it may inflict the status ailment, or it may deal damage per step or unit time. Often an item will exist to negate this effect.
- Often, poison will not be lethal, despite being quite capable of bringing characters to the brink of death. Usually, it will drop to one hit point and stay there, though the poisoned status will remain.
Both elemental and status effect poison:
- Poison will be classified as an elemental force of nature, on par with fire, water or electricity. If Functional Magic exists, there will often be an entire school of magic devoted to utilizing elemental poison.
- If not used as a proper element, poison will be shoehorned into a miscellaneous damage type.
- Poison is often damaging as an element towards earth, air, water, and/or plants, because it's generally perceived to be associated with decay and pollution of the natural world, even if it comes straight from the natural world itself (i.e. monsters). "Clean" elements such as water, air, and even holiness also tend to be very damaging towards poison elemental forces.
- It is typically liquid or gelatinous in nature, and is usually green, purple, or orange in coloring (See also Technicolor Toxin for a complete list). It might also color any victims in the same tone. Bubbles of the same color may float over the afflicted character's head.
- Acid is often mistakenly classified as a poison. Universal poison will almost always be highly corrosive. Although it is worth noting that the vast majority of acids also happen to be toxic, and in toxicology corrosion is a perfectly legitimate mechanism of action for a poison (bee venom, for example, is a type of poison that is acidic while wasp venom is a strong base). So there is some truth to this, just not to the extent normally portrayed.
- In fiction, poison also tends to be highly corrosive when spilled (because it's wonderfully dramatic for the Big Damn Heroes to knock the poisoned goblet from the victim's hand in the nick of time and watch as the poisoned wine eats a hole through the banquet table.)
- If Regen Hurts Zombie, poison does the opposite.
Sometimes a bottle or vial of the above substance is used as a trick powerup
with negative, instead of positive, effects.
An Acceptable Break From Reality
, as most players would not want to have dozens of remedies to sort through to handle the specific type of poison that one monster might inflict, especially if there are many other Standard Status Effects
to carry cures for.
open/close all folders
- The Basilisk venom in Harry Potter. Poison from the Basilisk's fangs was a corrosive substance capable of destroying any magical or not magical object, including dissolving Horcruxes. It even destroys the items beyond all hope of recovery; inanimate objects normally can be repaired with a quick spell, but not after they have Basilisk venom on them.
- There lives a certain species of sea slug which bypasses this trope completely. It packs somewhere around a hundred different toxins and uses them all simultaneously, essentially making sure that no matter what it's attacking, it's going to die. This also practically ensures that none of its preferred choices of prey, nor any of its potential predators, ever develops a resistance to its venom.
- Almost any substance is dangerous with (in)appropriate dosage. On the other hand, almost any substance is in some way beneficial (or at least harmless) with appropriate dosage.
- This extends all the way to the most lethal poison known to man: Botulinum toxin. Not only is it marketed as Botox, but it has a number of other oddball medical uses involving paralyzing muscle tissue. In extremely low doses, obviously, since nanograms of the stuff can kill you.
- Infinitesimal dose of infamous mustard gas serves as an ingredient in some chemotherapies.
- Chlorine gas...sort of. It's not technically poisonous, it "merely" reacts with water to form hydrochloric acid. Any creature which has moisture somewhere on its body will find it becoming acidic when exposed to chlorine gas.
- Cyanide is probably the closest thing to a universal toxin, as it imitates the shape of oxygen and sticks permanently to the protein turbine in mitochondria that processes oxygen to water, blocking it up. In other words, cyanide is deadly to every organism that respires using oxygen.
- Likewise arsenic, which interferes with the ADP/ATP aspect of many chemical cycles in nearly every metabolic organism in existence. Recent discovery of a bacterium that could not only withstand high doses of the stuff, but even appeared to actually use it in its DNA (in place of its chemical cousin, phosphorous) rocked the scientific world.
- Carbon monoxide is very similar to cyanide, and likewise poisonous to everything that uses oxygen.
- Radiation- it doesn't matter what it is you're targeting, enough radiation will kill it. Of course, tolerance for radiation varies considerably among different organisms- small insects can withstand doses a hundred times greater than humans. While radiation is something all organisms must deal with (together with oxygen it causes more DNA lesions in a day to the average human than there are grains of sand in the world), a large enough dose will overwhelm an organism's capacity to regenerate.
- Bleach, which is why it's so widely used as a cleaning agent.