Poisoner PC ?!?


We were talking about the possibilities of a poisoner PC. He said it would fit great with the background theme of the campaign his group is getting ready to start. However, he's not really sure if it will work well enough to actually focus on poisons. He can go one of a few ways with the concept.
He can have a PC that gets some basic poison use as a class ability. Then just just write it into his back story, integrate it into his personality, and talk about it in character. Or...
He can make a character that really focuses on trying to make poisons as useful and effective as possible.

- There is a wide variety of poisons with varying effects.
- Sounds vicious and tends to worry players all out of proportion to the game effects. That makes if fit the theme even better.
- Different than any other character he's run before.

- Although it worries players, enemies with poisons rarely seem to actually have all that much effect (other than at low levels).
- Most poisons seem to have effects based on lowering the physical ability scores. Meaning they would be most desirable to have those effects placed on martial characters. However, those are usually the ones with the best saves vs. poisons.
- Most poisons do their work over some duration of time. Yet most groups/players focus on ending an encounter as fast as possible. Will the poisons have enough working time to be worthwhile?
- Most poisons seem to have pretty low level save DC's. Might be of some threat to mooks, but they can usually be taken out fast enough to not need the poison effects. Can the save DC's be pushed high enough to have a realistic chance on the high level threats?

What do you folks think? Have you seen it work well? What is the best build for a poisoner? Best delivery method?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Aiming for poisoning the martial is an amateur mistake. You aim for the mages. It may not seem like it's doing much, until you ask the magic question "what's his encumbrance?". That being said, I don't recommend it, poison is a low level game, a lot of mid to high tier enemies are straight up immune

I've seen people try to make a poisoner, but it's usually a side gig.

First, PCs are usually meant to take on enemies in one go and the game rewards you for defeating them quickly, so poison - which requires time to ramp up - is generally not seen as a good option. While you're busy poisoning the enemy, the barbarian can just cleave them in two - which takes them out of the game a lot faster. Second, it costs money to make or buy (in most cases), which eats into the party's gear budget, unlike magic such as cloudkill or the poison spell.

I'd probably suggest the alchemist, either the core/vivisectionist for a capable utility guy/gal with some poison knowledge, or the eldritch poisoner or toxicant archetypes for a poison specialist. The Toxin Codexer investigator is also fairly good imo, not as strong as the alchemist in a fight but better in social or investigative situations. However, in either case I'd treat poisons as a backup option, like maybe lobbing a grenade at that reedy git in the back that talks funny, rather than your main combat contribution.

Poisons have really high costs for their effects. The cheap poisons have low DCs and the high DC poisons are expensive.

It's probably easier to reskin debuffing spells as "poisons," such as the alchemist's stink bomb.

You want a means of getting a poison for cheap or nothing, or poisons will be a major drain on your cash. If you have the time then mundane crafting can do it but that's a lot of time. You can improve that with a feat (master alchemist), or you can go for something with a racial poison (grippli, nagaji or vishkanya), or there are class options under druid (mantella, toxicologist or urushiol archetypes), rogue (knockout queen talent), ninja (ki venom trick) or alchemist (eldritch poisoner or toxicant archetypes).

Alchemist discoveries help a lot with making poisons effective. Besides actual alchemists classes which get such include the poison darter ranger and (only from L10) an underground chemist rogue.

BTW there are guides, on Zenith's guide to the guides I found this and this.

I've made actual "pain combat is poison" characters. I've made them a lot over the last decade.

I can tell you, if its a PC. Do NOT try to use the normal poisons. They're just too expensive. or the DCs are just too low (and often both). You can kind of get away with certain ones via that magic vest that gives free poisons under a gold limit per day. But that is a heavy cost investment.

here are a few brief options. (Ooh I'd never seen those guides before. I'll have to read them)


Toxicant Alchemist is absolutely the best "poisoner" in the game. It replaces mutagens (and nothing else). You get a fair number of free poison per day. and while I assume it was meant to last only 1day. It in fact lasts forever (or however long a normal dose of poison lasts anyway) So you can stockpile them (but as a player I refuse to stock pile too much, nor do specific tricks i'll mention later).
You can apply it as a swift, you're immune to it. It works with all the Alchemist (and rogue) specific poisons boosts.

it is however different than normal poisons. No abilty damage
It does INT damage, and debuffs. Fact is its the most hampering debuff if it gets off. It shuts things down if it procs. The Dc is usually better than anything you can buy (and absolutely better than anything reasonably cost).
You can pick up various poison discovery to boost the DC, make it work on things normally it can't effect. Change the delivery method. etc.
There is a discovery to apply a dose of poison to a bomb when you throw it. Which makes application a lot easier.
In fact you can combine said discovery with GunChemist's ordience I believe (i'd have to recheck) as they are treated as bombs for discoveries. Which bypasses the need for pitted bullets.

On top of all that you can lower the enemy saves via intimidates, or other things. and if you get the poison to work, if you chose the right debuffs, it gets even harder to save. My go to combo (for my not gunner version) has been to Shaken wit enforcer (nonlethal=intimidate check) to shaken them, which lowers their save. Then if they fail their save they're also sickened (and later dazed). Which makes them have an even harder time. This worked hilariousuly on a Caster once to knock the mout. could also dirty trick for sickened first if you wanted a different debuff. But its hard to scale DT.
On my Gunchemist. I haven't figured out a method to proc debuffs first. I'm sure there is some way other than a stadnard action intimidate.

Some tricks: You can increase the DC via Ability Focus (if GM allows) There is a rogue talent that adds +2 to the DC of a poison (taking 2 lvs of rogue removes 1 dc from the poison, So net +1). (If your alchemist wants Grenadier archetype, snag 2 lvs of Underground Chemist to get said talent and ability to quick draw alchemical items to use with Alchemical Weapon).
There is a alch discovery that adds a lot of DC if you tailor make the poison. This won't help your stock pile (unless you stock pile for every race I guess). But you can concentrate and apply the poison mid fight, which should count as creation and you can tailor it (Because you make the poison when you concentrate it).

If you wanna be insane about it.
Human, take the racial hertiage feat thingy so you can take Nagani bloodline, so you can take their Favored Class Bonus. this gives you +craft alch and +poison DC (1 per 3 lvs I believe).

now this is the one I refuse to do-because it feels extra cheesy. Stock pile like 20 doses, convert all to inhaled, stack them all together. When you dose someone with it it would add a huge DC boost. (search the Drow Poison trick if you need a better explaination)
it isn't exactly something you could do often--unless there was like a month of downtime. But it still is a way to almost positively push a dose through. Though it does add the risk of it floating into an ally or something. So relatively cheese but also takes effort (discoveries that you probably wouldn't use for anything else, and actions in combat) and time.


I forget the name of this archetype actually as I only found it semi recnetly. It however can use Extracts to gain free poisons (specific ones from the book. Not a gil conversaion) that uses the spell DC.
Unlike Toxicant, because it uses standard poisons, it does indeed target abilities. Does damage (I think the highest might have a drain one). Also has a few that target something other than Fort. Toxicant can only ever target fort.

I haven't reasearched that many combos in it yet. Not many exist persay. ability Focus doesn't work because those are extracts not an ability. Its kind of hard to push the DC up past normal caster DC. I'm also pretty sure normal caster DC buffs won't work as it isn't spells making poisons persay? GM Rulling there.
Investiagor does have a few poison boosts via studied combat however. So that helps.

This poison user would need to focus on debuffing saves rather htan pumping DC. Using studied combat to cause shaken, sickened and the like (intimidate+whipis nice way of doing things)

Short note on Eldrithc POisoner Alchemist.:

it looks cool but the action economy and time limit pretty much prevent this from working well. NONE of the normal Alch discoveries work. Only the specific listed in the archetype. At the fastest its a move action to apply a poison. And as far as I remember, there is no way to make it last for multiple hit--Well using a rogue talent can net you 2. So you could take a 2 dip into a rogue archetype and pick up that talent, and spend a feat to get extra rogue talent to get hte +2 DC talent. That would probably be worth a 2 dip.
So move action then attack with standard. Must be used within 1 min. Its pretty rough.
If you were doing this. You'd probably want to use a Reach weapon (whip), Thrown weapon +startoss, or most likely a Xbow.
I'd opt for the Xbow. Move action to apply the poison to a bolt. Then vital Strike with it. You won't get he sneak attack bonus/DC boost very often though. So a whipe+whip mastery might suit your player better. but I'd probably play the sharpshooter myself.

If GM allows sipping jacket + Extract (mine always do). Invisibility extract + sipping jacket.
Swift action invisi. Move action apply poison. 5ft step. Vital Strike w/in 30ft. Usually tagetted at speedy or casters.

The other build I haven't done yet. But I think I will soon is a Startoss build. There is a magic dagger that buffs poison. Or enchantments (mentioned later). With the Rogue talent that makes it last an extra hit. and the BAB on an Alch, using astandard action to hit 2 enemies and apply the poison to them both using StarToss Style isn't a horrible idea. Might use Blowgun just for flare. An actual thrown melee weapon is more likely though)

Toxic fumes can be potentially useful. Depends on GM ruling on careful injections' DC boost. If that would boost the Fumes' DC if the enemy was flat footed. you are't rolling sneak attack dice. So probably not. If not the DC-4 is just super rough. Works on mooks though.
Contact Toxic: Not a bad choice. ranged touch attack attempt. only -2DC. Offset if you'd done the rogue dip. better for the melee folks.

There are a couple of specific magic weapons (dagger. a few swords) that add DC to the poisons used with it.
Virulent and Toxic weapon enchantments work as well. The latter adds straight DC and gives a chance for poison to last longer (nice for melee ElPoi--particularly startoss ones)).

edit: note on alchemist. You can use the discovery to pick up spells. You can use that to get Pernacious poison and VMC Magus for spell strick. Can use that and spell strike to push poison through. And use the VMC's arcane weapon to boosts Enhancments to combo with Virulent. Or to offset the detriment of Toxic/virulents bonus costs (+2 for toxic +1 virulent I think).
And pick up Pool Strike magus arcana for some extra damage as well. (there might be a better choice though)

Reminded by something else in the guide. but Robe of Needles nets you ranged touch attack that does damage and 1bleed.
So you could poison those and do a ranged touch with it+bleed.
honestly pretty nifty on that caster.

Sovereign Court

I second the Vishkanya (with sleep venom feat) poison darter. Essentially it starts off as a save or get coup de graced. Sticky poison to increase your uses per day. When you have downtime poison a bunch of daggers because the Vishkanya poison doesn't expire.

Alternatively, an Undine with the breath weapon alternate trait and the feat noxious bite gives kind of the same feel, but fairly low investment cost.

Sipping jacket does not work with (the standard) invisibility. For the jacket to work the potion must have a duration of instantaneous or rounds/level. Invisibility is min/level. You could use Vanish instead, but it has a max of 5 rounds.


I would actually reccomend the eldritch poisoner under one condition.

Get a buddy and both play Ratfolk. Virulent is a racial weapon enhancement so now you don't need any excuses to take it. Plus int and dex and some racial options are going to make this the ultimate choice.

Take the traits Scamper (racial) and vessel between. Now you ignore difficult terrain and move faster when you get the jump on someone and with your rat buddy always get +1 attack.

Add in a few levels of unchained rogue (enough to get dex to damage and free finesse)

You can easily hit 27 DC by level 7. Within a couple levels of that hit mid 30s. Always sneak attacking and always having a friend with you as a flank buddy. If your friend gets the enhancement to boost flanks (and they should you'll want toxic and virulent) between that and the trait youll offset a lot of penalties.

1 al 1: Alchemy, brew potion.  Feat: poison focus 1d6 sneak
2 ro 1:  Weapon finesse. 2d6 sneak
3 al 2: weapon focus feat.  Discovery: envenom move action. 
4 ro 2:  talent: poison x2 evasion
5 ro 3: add dex damage 3d6 sneak feat feat: master alchemist
6 al 3: 1d3 poison
7 al 4: 4d6.  Feat: precise strike NO DISCOVERY

Some rough notes but basically you'll be doing a poison that can hit 2x before wearing off, last a few rounds and do d3 damage to dex. I like toxic enhancement later on because with the rogue ability you get 2 chances to proc it not just one.

I will say this, if you take signature poison feat I would have it apply to one type of ability damage poison you mix over generic " arcanotoxins." Wording seems to make them separate types. So pick the one you like best.

If you cant hit 35dc by 12th you may be going it wrong. Best part is the cost of all of this poison is free.

Find a way to share some teamwork feats too! Spells for that and whatever. So long as your friend plays a Ratfolk he could be any class he wants. You just need a flank friend.

Pretty sure "Poison Focus" doesn't work with Eldritch Poisoner's poison.
"The save DC of any poison you craft with Craft (alchemy) and any spells "
That poison is neither spell, nor craft alchemy.

take a nagaji (or human with racial heritage) and go with the spit venom feat tree (all 5). get to spit blinding+acidic+bleeding+entangling+area of effect a few times per day (with all 5 feats its 5+ 1/3 levels)
-and with the aoe you can't miss since they start their round in the cloud effect area, so they get the acid and entangle with no save. and need to save vs blind\bleed effects.

and if the full round action to spit is too much look into venomblade fighter who make it a lot faster.

Shadow Lodge

You can make a poisoner, it might function, you might have an occasional moments of awesome, most of the time your poison will have a negligible effect.

At low levels you will do a minor amount of ability damage, then the martial will one shot the guy you just poisoned rendering your action completely irrelevant. I played an eldritch poisoner alchemist to level 3 in pfs. I think once did her poison ever actually make any difference.

It won't be until higher levels that ability damage could matter, at which point you need some very specialized builds or very expensive poisons to have high enough dcs for enemies not to pass on a 2, and a lot of enemies are flat out immune.

Consider using the alternate rules on poison from unchained.

Either play an alchemist because crafting poisons is faster or ask your gm if you can craft poisons at the same speed as magic item crafting otherwise its not worth it.

As for the comments above on low DCs and such, you can always look up how to stack poisons. Off the top of my head each successive dose of the same poison adds an extra 1/2 duration and +2 DC. That said you'll want one of the archetypes/features which lets you convert poison types.

You'll also want a person, you or another party member, to be able to debuff saves to make the poisons more likely to succeed.

Sovereign Court

Its each dose that they have failed increases the DC.

Add in Demoralize/Sicken for an easy -4 to their save. Cornugon Smash + Cruel Weapon will do the trick, though it adds more feat taxes.

Why bother with ability scores at all, Sleep Venom is a save or die if they fail the initial poison on your turn and the secondary on their turn. If they only fail the initial, they can't take full rounds anymore anyway. Poison Darter-> Sticky Poison to allow each of your poisons to last Wis mod hits, dual wield light picks(for the x4 crit on the coup de grace) and Hi-C them a bunch. At level 11, we're talking up to 7 attacks (w/greater two-weapon and haste) that will all trigger a save or be staggered. Even if they have a +40 to their save, that is 7 chances to roll a 1. Multiple failures increase the DC on the save or go unconscious.

This player companion came out recent-ish and makes poisons a far more interesting and valid option than they were for most of Pathfinder's lifespan. Of particular note is the Investigator options - the Toxin Codexer is quite good, and you can get a talent that allows you to make a poison that works against poison immune enemies.

Thx guys, you have given him some things to think about. I will let you know if he decides to build a poisoner. Then we will probably come back to the boards for more detailed build advice.

Zwordsman wrote:

Pretty sure "Poison Focus" doesn't work with Eldritch Poisoner's poison.

"The save DC of any poison you craft with Craft (alchemy) and any spells "
That poison is neither spell, nor craft alchemy.

I never said it did. Sometimes you want to make a poison, hence that and master alchemist. The other abilities will still work with made poisons too. It wont match the DC of your class abilities but it can turn a 13 DC into something a lot better.

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