I need a venom for my world that can be applied to a blade, preferable a small dart, but that will not instantly kill the person. If it can be used to temporarily knock someone out or paralyze them, even better.

Edit: The character is isn't trying to kill the person. Just make them temporarily useless.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking for a real world example of how one would work? What's your question? $\endgroup$ – Hans Z Feb 12 '18 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ I found this: survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=149538 $\endgroup$ – Jerry Jeremiah Feb 12 '18 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ why would assassins need a venom that doesn't kill? $\endgroup$ – SilverCookies Feb 13 '18 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @SilverCookies Maybe they are part of the solemn order of vegan assassins. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Feb 14 '18 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ Please note that you are asking how to build a real, working weapon that leads to terrible pain. I've flagged the question for that reason. Often what you do in fiction when portraying a crime is use something that wouldn't work but say it does. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 14 '18 at 14:02


Curare was used on the poisoned darts of the South American natives., It paralyzes but does not cause unconsciousness. People poisoned might die when they get too weak to breathe, though. A sublethal dose would leave you too weak to do much except barely breathe, but you would be awake.

Neuromuscular blocking drugs: discovery and development

Curare was used for centuries by South American Indians to hunt game, and its evolution into the designer drugs of today began when tales of the mysterious ‘flying death’ were brought home to the Old World by Spanish conquistadors. Peter Martyr d'Anghera, a chronicler in the Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, first wrote of the poisoned arrows in his book De Orbe Novo, a collection of letters written in 1516.

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    $\begingroup$ But there is a problem with dose level, as there will be some percent of the population that will be more affected by it and die, abs some who will be less effected and might be able to call out. A lethal does is much easier to calculate $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Feb 13 '18 at 16:31

This does not exist in a reliable fashion for the general case if you want something from the real world.

In the real world, truly non-lethal weaponry does not exist. Rubber bullets have killed people, pepper spray has caused reactions which have killed people, tasers have caused cardiac arrest. Weapons that are meant to incapacitate are generally referred to as "less-lethal" because something that is reliably "non-lethal" does not exist.

But you can come close when you know a lot about your target

Zoos for instance can sedate large predators at a distance relatively reliably, but for that they have to know their target's approximate weight and health history. They then use a dart gun that delivers the proper dose. Even then it can take a substantial amount of time to properly sedate the target.

Also, this is not applied to the blade but used in a syringe-like dart.

There are poisons that are applied to a blade, or more often an arrow, successfully in the real world, but they are precisely that, a poison which has a solid chance of killing the target. They do not reliably knock someone out or paralyze them temporarily.

This is an incredibly common trope in fiction so for world-building purposes you don't need much

Most people over-estimate how easy this would be in the real world so if you are doing this for fiction virtually all readers will accept it if you hand-wave it.

If you want to acknowledge how hard it is but do it anyway in a sci-fi setting you can have nano-machines control the dosage and thus become reliable through precise application of advanced tech. In a fantasy setting, your poison can be magical. In a realistic pre-modern or even modern setting, you are probably down to either handwaving or saying your character is just that good and so was able to calculate the dose and deliver it accurately.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think if you have nonomachines you don't need poison $\endgroup$ – Andrey Feb 12 '18 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrey Possibly, it depends on what you expect your nano-machines to do. I think nano-machines that control the rate of release of a drug would be simpler and thus easier to believe than nano-machines that directly disable the target reliably. $\endgroup$ – TimothyAWiseman Feb 12 '18 at 22:51


Adrenaline can be very dangerous when overdosed.
According to the National Institute of Health, adrenaline overdose can cause

  • Chest pain
  • Fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat
  • Heavy sweating, nausea, vomiting
  • Pain, redness, or warmth at the injection site
  • Tremors, shakiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Pale skin

Another paper from NIH mentions adverse effects of adrenaline overdose, including

"ventricular arrhythmias, hypertensive crises, pulmonary edema, and associated mortality."

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