Coriolis: Poisons & Explosives (oh, and Stuns…)


Ajit Mehr, Legion assassin and sometime member of the Spectral Corsair’s crew, had the poison in his hand and was ready to kill his target.  He crept into the woman’s bedchamber and hid the aerosol containing the deadly poison called Fury, a poison with a strength of 8, the strongest in the Third Horizon.  Once in place the aerosol would slowly release the poison into the air, and the victim would surely die quietly in her sleep… 

Then I got the rules wrong, the poison was rubbish and was never ever going to kill her, so Ajit shot her instead…  Twice.

But that said, even if I’d followed the rules as written the poison couldn’t possibly have killed the target anyway.  Poisons have an attack strength between 1 and 8, with up to 5 being the most common, and that’s the number of dice rolled in a poison attack.

The strength of the poison is tested against a specific stat in an opposed roll (against Strength for something like cyanide, maybe, or Empathy for a psychedelic poison):

  • If the victim resists (i.e., they get equal or more successes) they still suffer -1 die to the attacked stat for 1d6 hours;
  • But if the poison wins the victim takes the full strength of the poison as damage, to either hit points or stress, depending on the stat that’s targeted by the poison in the first place.  But poison has no crit value, so even a maximum hit with the strongest poison will only deliver 8 damage to hit points: the victim might be broken but there’s no way he or she is going to die.

So, either the poisoners of the Third Horizon are chronically crap at mixing up poisons, or the rules need a little shake-up…

I think there might be two ways to sharpen up the potential deadliness of poisons.

The simplest way would be to say that if a victim is Broken by the poison attack they take an immediate crit.  This could work, but the poison would still have to be pretty strong to have a decent chance of breaking the target and then the crit roll is unlikely to kill them. And of course this would only apply to poisons that target a victim’s Strength or Agility.  If a psychedelic drug, targeting Empathy or Wits, broke the target they would be down but not take a critical hit at all.

A second method would be to add a damage and crit value to poisons.  The poison attack would still be resolved by an opposed roll.  The overall number of successes the poison achieves would be equal to the number of 6s the poison rolls minus the number of 6s the victime rolls.  This would work well for poisons that attack the physical attributes but would weaken the efficacy of poisons that target Empathy or Wits.  Even so, you might have to boost the attack strength of a really deadly poison over and above the RAW limit of 8 dice, to make it really deadly.

In addition, the book implies that you can add specific effects to poisons, like paralysis, but there are no rules about how to manage this.  So it’s entirely up to you as GM to add some poison-spice to your games.

I’ve used a paralysis effect in my campaigns:

The Diamondback’s Kiss

The Diamondback’s Kiss is derived from the venom of the Equatorial Diamondback snake found in the deserts of Lubau.  It’s an autonomic suppressant that can be delivered in multiple ways, but in my scenario it was delivered by smoking a hookah:

– the poison has strength of 8, targeted against Agility;
– for every poison success the victim loses 2 points of Agility for 2d6 turns;
– if the victim’s Agility is reduced to zero the victim is paralysed but conscious;
– once the duration of the poison expires the victim recovers 1 point of agility per hour.

The book says that poisons cost between 300 and 3000 Birr per dose, and are listed as Primitive tech.  I’m not convinced about this last point: I mean Novichok is certainly NOT primitive!

Now Explosives:


In Coriolis explosives have a Blast Power (usually either 6 or 9), a Damage rating and a Crit rating.  Most only have an effect at Close Range (remember that’s only up to 2m), but some do reach as far as Short Range (up to 20m).  All those within the blast radius take a hit. You can either roll a separate attack for each target, or roll once for all, depending on how many victims you’ve got packed into the blast radius!

And remember that it’s a Ranged Combat check if you want to lob a grenade or a stick of dynamite…

So that’s all pretty straight forward and I think works well enough on paper (although having run a scenario that had a lot of bombs going off I still think the rules need to be more deadly if you’re really close to a thing that goes BANG).

On top of that some explosives have special effects, either stun (which I’ll come back to in a minute) or Fire.  The Fire effect obviously means that victims start to suffer a fire attack as well as the impact of the explosion, either at 2 or 3 attack dice and a crit of 1, increasing by 1 attack die every turn until you stop, drop and roll, or a mate puts you out.

But Stun…

I have a problem with the stun mechanic as a whole in Coriolis.  Sure, the idea of having a Stress value that can put you out of action is cool, but without an equivalent Stress Critical Hit table it becomes pretty hard to put someone down with stress.

Stun weapons, and that includes stun grenades, simply inflict damage to stress rather than hit points.  Even a lucky attack roll is unlikely to do enough stress damage to put a man down in one go, which seems weak to me.  Surely the idea of a stun weapon is to temporarily incapacitate a victim quickly (and possibly quietly).  Having very little hope of doing this in one blow completely negates the attractiveness of stunning someone, when you’re just as well off hitting for hit points, converting all your successes into hit point damage rather than crits, and achieving the same outcome probably more effectively, by breaking the target on hit points?  I don’t know if anyone has seen a modern-day Flashbang grenade go off, but if you’re close to it you ARE going to be stunned, and your immediate reaction, if you are even able to think at all, is to get away from the noise!

So I think stun grenades and weapons should be managed differently.  They should still inflict their basic damage as hit point damage for the first success that’s rolled (getting shot or blown up by anything is still going to hurt!) but a critical success is the Stun instead of a roll on the critical hit table, and that critical effect should be more than just doing stress damage instead.  It should allow the possibility of putting the target down, if only for a moment.

So if a stun attack crits, thus delivering a Stun effect, the victim must roll to resist the Stun using Empathy dice and needing to score as many successes as 6s rolled in the original stun attack.  If they fail the roll they are stunned for the next round, during which they get another resist roll, with their target number reduced by 1.  At any point if they succeed the resist roll they can operate as normal.


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