Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saving Throws: Adding thoughts and tactics back into split second choices

Recently Troll and Flame discussed his dissatisfaction with saving throws. On that he brought up a few points I strongly agree with, and a few changes I'm looking to make.

The big one is to make players request saving throws. A saving throw requires the player declare how his character tries to get out of the way or mitigate the problems.

This is a great mechanic for bringing in the next rule I've been toying with throwing in.

Currently I go with ability checks, altered by ability modifiers. Currently these are listed in the spell or effect. IE, Fireball uses agility checks (saves).

But I want to drastically cut it down in complexity to where the type of action the player declare determines not only the ability score tested, but the chance of it succeeding and the effect of a successful save.

I've broken up the actions taken into three categories. The first option if its a situation you can't fully avoid (barring an epic success)such as an explosion and the second being a "hit or miss" event.

Crazy enough to work(I leap at the lightning bolt and hope it goes under me):
Double or half
Double or nothing

Standard response (duck, dodge, dip, dive or dodge)
Normal or Half
Normal or Nothing

Brilliant defense ("I throw the chest into the path of the fireball to make it explode prematurely!")
Half or Quarter
Half or Nothing

Epic successes always result in no loss,
Epic Failures always result in full.

The check will have a difficulty modifier (from +20 to -20) based on the difficulty in pulling off the action, not in how crazy or brilliant it is. It may be very hard (-10) to hit the fireball with the thrown chest or very easy (+10) to pull some form of crazy stunt.

The issue comes to what type of actions some spells have, I'm thinking the "Half" and "Double" should apply to any numeric modifier, most notably with duration for enchantments.


  1. Make players request saving throws. Is excellent idea. I'm not even going to mention saves from now on. "Take 42 points of flame damage", "Don't I get a save?" "What's a save? What are you doing? How are you attempting to save yourself from the searing flames?" "I dodge." "Hmmm, flames cover hallway, dodge where?" "Ah, I dodge behind the fighter!" "All right than roll against your Dex...."

    I didn't understand this when you posted it as a comment, thanks for clarifying. For me(I fear that I'm not very consistent rulings wise), there's too much DM arbitration in deciding which category some activity falls into. I love the double or nothing option. Might just go with crazy/standard.

    Or, after failed save, taking on the role of The Fates, offer the character another save, double or nothing!

  2. It does rely on a bit DM adjucation, and limiting all saves to "Standard" is a very quick and easy work around.

    Limiting ideas to "Double or Nothing" VS "Full or Half" would be a good mechanic to still allow choice, even if the player is the one deciding the action (ie, they choose if diving behind the fighter is a double or nothing or a full or half event).