Concentration Skill vs. Poison Damage

Back to home

After watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon this weekend, I wanted to come up with a way to explain in d20 terms how Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat's character) was able to hold out so long against Jade Fox's purple yin poison, which is supposed to go straight to the heart. Clearly at the end of the film he was in a meditative trance, which to me means he was concentrating deeply on resisting or delaying the effects of the poison. So here's a variant rule for the Concentration skill allowing you to do just that.

Delay Poison Effects:
   You may delay making a saving throw against secondary poison effects* by making a Concentration check against to the DC of the poison. Each success delays the saving throw for one minute. Each delay increases the DC by +1, so a DC 11 poison would require a DC 12 check after a one-minute delay, DC 13 after two minutes, and so on. The delay does not increase the DC of the actual poison saving throw, just the difficulty of Concentration check. Failing the Concentration check means the poison takes effect immediately.**
   You cannot delay a poison's primary damage. To delay its secondary damage you must begin concentrating by the round previous to the round the secondary damage would normally occur, otherwise your concentration has no effect. This use of the skill is difficult if you are distracted or performing other physical activity, and your attempts to delay the poison are penalized in these circumstances. Light activity such as speaking, eating, walking, or riding a horse gives a -5 penalty to your next check, while moderate or greater activity such as climbing, swimming, running, or attacking gives a -10 penalty to your next check. If you try to delay the secondary damage additional times, failing to maintain concentration for the entire minute between each check gives a -20 penalty to the next check. These penalties takes effect even if it only occurs for one round during the concentration interval.
   You may concentrate to delay more than one poison dose. Make separate rolls for each dose. The DCs do not affect each other.
   Example: Jin-Yi is a monk with a good Concentration skill bonus but (due to unfortunate circumstances) currently a very low Constitution score and Fortitude saving throw bonus. While visiting a city with her adventuring party she is poisoned by an assassin's arrow; the primary damage nearly kills her, and the secondary damage almost certainly will. After she and her allies defeat the assassin, she stops to rest and concentrate while her allies run to find a cleric who can negate the poison. The initial poison DC is 13; one minute after the primary damage occurs she makes a Concentration check (DC 13) to delay the secondary poison damage by one minute, and succeeds. One minute later she makes another check (DC 14) and succeeds again. After this second check her friends return, explaining they found a cleric but Jin-Yi has to come to his temple. Together they walk to the temple, at which point she rests again and waits for the cleric to come to the door. The time for the third check comes up before the cleric arrives (DC 15, and her roll is at a -5 penalty because she was walking at some point during this time). She succeeds, the cleric finally arrives, and he casts neutralize poison on her. If she had failed any of these rolls, she would immediately have to attempt a Fortitude saving throw or take the secondary poison damage.

* If you use the rules for continuing poison damage, you can use this skill to delay those effects as well. Each successful Concentration check delays the poison's continuing effects (both the upcoming hour's effect and all remaining hours' effects) by one hour. If you manage to delay the secondary effects long enough that they overlap the times when continuing damage would occurr, you must make separate checks for each.
** If you use the rules for continuing poison damage, failing one of these checks causes the next Concentration DC to drop to the base level (the original DC of the poison). In effect, delaying one portion of the poison doesn't make delaying other parts of it any more difficult.