Poison Magic School Reform

Name dcss:brainstorm:magic: alchemy
Summary Conversion of the Poison Magic school into a broader Alchemy school.
Further information n/a
Added by eronarn
Added on 2011-07-02 17:23


  • Poison Magic is powerful early on, but has few high level spells.
  • To cope with poison resistant monsters, there currently have to be poison spells useful on poison-resistant enemies.
  • The Crawl skill system means that you aren't giving up much late-game power by putting early XP into Poison Magic.
  • Some Tmut spells are inappropriate for the school but don't have anywhere better to go right now.
  • There is no appropriate school to put spells dealing with acid, chemicals, etc.
POWDER made an interesting decision to make Poison spells part of … Death school. Of course Necromancy in Crawl doesn't need any new recruits, but some kind of Death/Poison mixup shouldn't be dismissed outright. Think outside the box - Crawl is too scientific at times for a game that has a “medieval” setting. There are books of Chemistry (not Alchemy), book of Zoology, Poison is not a part of Death magic because we (as opposed to people of medieval ages) know it's just a chemical substance. Remember alchemists were the people who thought urine might be used to create gold just because both are yellow.
Poison magic is very good for hybrids, I especially like Poisonous Cloud. Elven Halls become trivial, storm dragons, titans, and lots of other enemies fall easily.
As for Crawl skill system… not only Poison Magic has a problem with that. The advantages are: easy to measure (and calculate boosts from items, gods etc), learning by use is easy(easier) to implement. The downsides - there's a tendency to bend over backwards to make certain fundamentally not interesting skills useful (Slings, Poison Magic).
I think Transmutation school is a good candidate for housing “chemical” spells. I'm okay with that as long as acid doesn't become the new mainstream element. Steadily increasing the number of resistable elements may turn Crawl into Angband. Inertia breathing hounds… how does that harm me again ?
b0rsuk 2011-07-02 17:53
I agree that acid doesn't really fit any current spell school flavor (aside from possibly Earth), but what other “chemical” aspects of spells do you intend to represent? Acid flavor aside, it seems like the Alchemy school is equivalent in theme to Transmutations. You also don't address the issue of Poison Magic lacking high-level spells, I'd really like to see some ideas for high-level Alchemy spells that justify this school being separate from Tmut. — wensleydale 2011-07-02 18:35
I really like the idea of broadening poison out to a general Alchemy school. Poison as a school has always been pretty limited and there is nothing at the high levels. Alchemy fits with the world really well since someone must be making all those potions. I agree with the comment that we don't want to go about adding lots of new elements. Alchemy could be a school that synergizes well with other schools. Over in the New Spells page I just proposed an Oil Splash spell that throws unlit oil on enemies as a replacement for Sticky Flame. It would fit really well into Alchemy. The other obvious thing to add would be a spell that allows you to produce gold using some mechanism. “Chunks to Gold”? I dunno. It might wind up being really scummy. — rosetintedglasses 2011-07-06 22:56
I think Poison Magic's low value in late game is not fault of the school. It's the fault of late game monster diversity. No corpses, poison, most of the time no negative energy. Multiple resists, high AC. What disturbs me is that late game is largely about removing options. In early game I'm interested by any item I find, javelins, nets, a book, a pile of stones. Almost anything I find affects my options. Not so in late game. Partially because in late game I will have learned all I can (e.g. found all Air spells). But largely because monsters are designed to be resistant and immune to most stuff. It works the other way too - player strategy focuses on becoming resistant/immune to what monsters can do to you, rather than working around nasty monster abilities. This promotes inaction over action.b0rsuk 2011-07-02 19:55
Why not just make some useful high level poison magic? Currently poison arrow is the highest level poison spell at a whopping level 6. So it is no wonder that no one trains magic more then they have to. Adding level 7, 8, or 9 spells which can bypass poison resistance to add damage over time effects could be useful without being overpowered. This would also fix all of the problems described here, but would probably be easier to implement. Of course one would then have to explain away why you can poison resistant creatures — lunarharp 2011-07-14
“Just add level 7, 8, or 9 spells” isn't really so easy when you think about it. There's no point just making “bolt of even stronger poison” - it makes Poison more worthwhile but doesn't add anything else interesting or new to the game. Poison is a slightly narrow scope to come up with any new mechanics or effects, whereas Alchemy opens things up to other less resistable effects without having to explain away why we can suddenly poison anything. — mumra 2011-07-15 17:19

Demons do have metabolism, it's just incompatible enough. What about having a spell that produces demon-specific poison? — kilobyte 2011-07-15 17:22

I would say that holy water would be pretty poisonous to demons. — HousePet 2012-03-21 08:26
I think an important thing to do with Alchemy as a school is to work out its theme and role. Do you want to make it centered on potions and their creation and modification? It makes sense that poison belongs to the school so perhaps just poison and potion spells in broad enough. I think the idea of keeping potions as a limiting ammo is a good idea since it helps to differentiate the school. One issue with making it focused on potions would be that corpses are rare later in the game and so potion creation would be more difficult. However, since you can always cook up potions and carry them deeper, that wouldn't be as much of an issue.
Here are some quick ideas for potion based spells. These haven't been though out carefully but could provide a starting point for ideas:
Destabilize Potion Lvl 4: Like Evaporate but converts potions into mines. When enemies walk over them they detonate (or once a fixed time based on alchemy skill passes to prevent abuse). Effects would be enhanced, larger clouds, higher damage. Or replace all the effects with a big spore like explosion. Potions can't be thrown because they are too volatile.
Energize Potion Lvl 5: Increases the length or power of a target potion but also significant causes magical contamination.
Gellification Lvl 8: Converts a thrown potion into a group of high level jellies. Powerful but risky since they will eat useful stuff on creation. Would be useful quite late since acid is a pretty rare immunity.

rosetintedglasses 2011-07-18 19:53
I like the Energize Potion idea. — HousePet 2012-03-21 08:26

Here is an idea for a level 9 acid spell which might be a good addition to the current poison (or alchemy) magic school. It's called acid burst (or something similar) and when this projectile hit a target it bursts and splashes acid in an area (like area effecting spell such as ice storm). When acid splashes to monsters, effected monsters are constantly burn by splashed acid on their body for a long time, similar to the effect of poison. This make it similar to poison magic so I guess it can be put into same school with poison magic.

Just to add my opinion, I hate this idea of replacing the poison school with an 'alchemy' school. Alchemy only has a tenuous link with poison, having more in common with the Transmutation school. Also, I'd rather stick with and modify old schools rather than transforming them into new ones, and I quite like the poison school's focus on withering damage over time instead of direct damage.

I'd rather see a reimagining of poison magic, which instead of just focusing on poisoning living things, let it have a wider focus, which at higher levels “corrupts the essence of being”, in other words it 'poisons' all monsters, (including demons and undead). For example, there is already a potion of degeneration, that I think when ingested by a ghoul, it increases it's rate of rotting, so why not let degeneration be the undead equivalent of poisoning, where the forms skeletons and zombies collapse and crumble away. And as for demons, if they can be struck down by a sword or by conjuations, can't they also be waylaid by powerful poison magics?

So to sum up my thoughts, I personally think the poison magic school just needs a wider focus and a little rethinking, as opposed to the major overhaul suggested here.
TheMulletron 2012-03-27 03:10
I think one of the reasons that shifting the poison school to alchemy is interesting is because it provides a new school could mix damaging spells with utility spells. Most of the elemental schools have utility spells (swiftness, stoneskin, etc) and I can't really think of many interesting utility spells based on poison. Making the school broader would allow more interesting spells which don't fit into existing schoools. I'm just not sure that withering damage is a sufficiently interesting concept to base a whole school around. Also, if the poison school was expanded with more pure damage spells, it would kind of overlap with the fire school, which is the current pure damage school. As it is, all of poisons spells are pretty much copies of existing spells with some withering damage: Poison Cloud:Freezing Cloud, Toxic Radiance:Ozocubu's Refrigeration, Poison Arrow:Every existing bolt spell. All its vaguely unique spells: spider form, intoxication, summon scorpions, are all really spells from other schools that have a slight poison cross over and none of which really require any serious investment in poison as a school.— rosetintedglasses 2012-03-29 07:21


  • Poison Magic becomes Alchemy.
  • Evaporate and Ignite Poison become Alchemy/Fire spells.
  • Fulsome Distillation becomes Alchemy/Necromancy.
  • (Optional) Sublimation of Blood becomes Alchemy/Necromancy.
  • (Optional) Condensation Shield becomes Ice/Alchemy.

Role Changes


Loses Fulsome/Evaporate, and would need new spells to take up the slack. I feel that this would be a good thing: while Evaporate is very powerful, it doesn't feel related to any other Tmut spells. Replacing it would allow the shapechanging nature of the role to be emphasized.

Already done. -Kyrris, 4/3/12


Loses Fulsome/Evaporate, and would need new spells to take up the slack. The justification for Transmuter applies, but in addition, Stalker is meant to be a stealthy class. It simply doesn't make sense for them to have Evaporate, even if it remains in Tmut.

Venom Mage

Can stay the same as right now, with no changes required. They're already an Alchemy/Conj class (like a Conjurer [Alchemy]).


New class, meant to be an Alchemy class like an 'Alchemy Elementalist'. Starts with a high amount of gold, for flavor reasons.

  • L1 Alch/Nec: Fulsome Distillation
  • L1 Alch/Earth/Fire: Lava Bomb
    • Explosion-brands a thrown or slinged stone. Possibly a chance for more effects at higher power.
  • L2 Alch/Fire: Evaporate
  • L4 Alch/Earth: Acid Wall
    • Turns a wall into an acid wall temporarily.
  • L5 Alch/Fire: Ignite Poison

General comments

You seem to be coming from the general assumption that Transmutation should be a school of shapeshifters, because you propose to drop other stuff. I dislike that, I'm in favor of more varied Transmutation school that's not just meant as a weapon/armour replacement. A school where forms have pros and cons and a transmuter switches to currently most applicable form instead of marrying one form (Statue Form, Blade Hands, or Necromutation). Lava Bomb sounds like Bolt of Magma. Whatever it's meant to do, it can be implemented for Bolt of Magma without inventing a new school.

Also, you write an entire section on “Role Changes” yet fail to write a single sentence about what these roles are supposed to be. What function ! If it doesn't differ in function, then it's flavor, not role. A stealthy poisoner is not distinctive enought to call it a role. You could as well create a fighting/summoning hybrid and call it Beastmaster. I think a hierarchical structure like this must have some sort of plan. If you can describe what a school should do in a single sentence, then it's much easier to solve conflicts (does it belong to A or B?). They're easier to expand, too. I would list Translocations, Summoning, Conjurations as examples of well-defined schools. Transmutation could be defined as a school that changes the structure or shape of entities. Enchantments could be changing the way entities work without changing their structure or shape. I have mixed feelings about Necromancy, which is defined by flavor, not by its function. Hexes are also flavor-based, but a change to Enchantments was necessary. Then there are elemental schools, which in my opinion are just colors. So, back to topic - what each of these roles is supposed to do ? — b0rsuk 2011-07-02 18:08

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dcss/brainstorm/magic/schools/alchemy.txt · Last modified: 2012-03-29 07:47 by rosetintedglasses
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