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Author Topic: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg  (Read 2731 times)

Vic99

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Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« on: September 20, 2021, 05:42:24 PM »
If there is always a roll to hit for weapons, dragon breath, spells, etc., do you think a saving throw is necessary?  I'm wrestling with this idea in my homebrew system.  I'm trying for a more simplified system.  I feel like I'm missing something here because my gut says to hit rolls cover it.  Thanks.

Chris24601

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2021, 06:04:53 PM »
If there is always a roll to hit for weapons, dragon breath, spells, etc., do you think a saving throw is necessary?  I'm wrestling with this idea in my homebrew system.  I'm trying for a more simplified system.  I feel like I'm missing something here because my gut says to hit rolls cover it.  Thanks.
Based on 4E, hit rolls should cover it. Just consider adding some additional defenses beyond AC to cover things that armor realistically wouldn't affect.

4E also has pretty good categories with Reflex for things you need to avoid but which armor is unlikely to help with (ex. lightning bolts), Fortitude for things you can't even avoid and must just physically endure (ex. poison gas, an AoE sonic effect) and Will for things that target your mind (ex. enchantments).

hedgehobbit

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2021, 06:15:41 PM »
If there is always a roll to hit for weapons, dragon breath, spells, etc., do you think a saving throw is necessary?  I'm wrestling with this idea in my homebrew system.  I'm trying for a more simplified system.  I feel like I'm missing something here because my gut says to hit rolls cover it.  Thanks.

Saving throws were originally for things which either didn't have an attack roll (medusa's gaze or dragon's breath) or things where an attack did damage with the possibility of extra effect (spider's poison or ghoul's paralysis). If you are making a home brew, there's no need to have saving throws if there is already some method for character to avoid the specific damage effect. If you are clever with your math, you could even create a system where, for example, a PC wizard make a Spell Roll to affect monsters (who don't, then, get a save) whereas attacks against a PC grant the PC a save against that attack. So, players would roll in both situations.

In the end, though, it wouldn't be simpler as your just moving a roll from one part of the game to another.

Mishihari

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2021, 08:48:07 PM »
Saving throws different than the attack/defense system aren't necessary.  There are a lot of ways to handle it.  In my game, every attack, whether physical, magical, and whatever else works on the same opposed roll system

David Johansen

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2021, 10:36:38 PM »
In D&D 5e you either roll to hit or they get a saving throw.  Area effect stuff is more likely to use the savingthrow.
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Steven Mitchell

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2021, 12:55:53 AM »
The saving throw made less and less sense as WotC changed how it was used.  This pertains to the mechanics of how it works, how it scales, and the severity of the effects.  To make it meaningful and useful, the game would need to hearken back at least partially to the original.

Consider the scaling in earlier D&D versus the WotC versions.  In my opinion, one of the huge mistakes that WotC made was to have the target of the save move systematically with the attacker.  At first, this looks like a clever elaboration of the normal attacks and things like some of the opposed dispel magic ideas.  However, what it leads to is an arms race, but the saves can't keep up.  With attacks, you've got multiple types of attacks and 1 defense (AC).  The variety of the attacks gives options, but they don't change the math all that much.  Whereas, escalating save targets means that there are multiple defenses (different types of saves) and multiple attacks.  However, since most of the attacks are magical, they are easier to vary than the saves.  Saves fall behind.

If you get a +1 at the same time all your difficulties go up by 1, those are phantom improvements in regular play.  Note that the usual thing with WotC is semi-phantom improvements, where the bonuses increase a little more than the difficulties.  In 3E, they really messed up the math, such that what looked like semi-phantom was actually falling steadily behind. 

In the earlier versions, the saves are largely set.  Sure, there are occasional, situational exceptions, such as the standard Hold Person thing where if the caster only targets one individual, that target takes a -2 to their saves.  That's tactically interesting.  However, as the character levels, their saves get slowly better while Hold Person stays the same.  It doesn't get better based on the Int of the caster or the level of the caster.

So yeah, if someone changes saves to work exactly like all other attack/defense, and keeps multiple saves, there is no point in having them.  In fact, they are just causing math problems at that point.  Or you can make them just another defense and build into the system cleanly. 

Me, I specifically wanted a mechanic where the character really does get better as they level against certain effects--i.e. not phantom better but really better exactly as it says on the bonus.  So saves work for me.  Coupled with a different set of attack/defense math, where defense start out generally better but attacks increase faster, this creates a changing dynamic as characters increase in power.  Not coincidentally, it also happens to give casters a little extra oomph when their effects are low-powered and warriors/rogues a little extra oomph when the casters get the impressive spells.

All of the above is completely orthogonal to the question of "Save or Die" or how much you want to dilute effects to avoid "Save or Die", if any.

Eric Diaz

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2021, 11:18:42 AM »
They are not necessary, no. 4e even inverted them in some cases (i.e., the attacker rolled to hit your Dexterity save. or something).

It is a matter of preference. Knave and Shadow of the Demon Lord are good examples on different ways to use that. In my own Dark Fantasy Basic, there are saving throws, but they are basically opposed rolls.

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Ghostmaker

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2021, 11:29:07 AM »
Sort of. IIRC, 4E inverted the saves and turned them into armor class DCs. You had physical AC, and then Reflex, Will, and Fortitude, based on 10 + the better of two attribute modifiers related to it (this cut down on the MAD) plus bonuses.

An enemy would use a power, let's say 'confusion', and he'd roll to hit your Will AC, rather than having you make a saving throw.

Persimmon

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2021, 09:20:57 PM »
Personally I like the Swords & Wizardry option of a single saving throw for everything.  Much simpler than ability checks, conditions, etc. 

Say your save is a 10.  You know what you need in every scenario.

Player: "Do I fall into the lava?"
DM: Roll a save.

Player: "Do I dodge the trap?"
DM: Roll a save.

Player: "Do I resist the poison?"
DM: Roll a save.

Maybe less granular,  but quicker at the table for sure.

The C&C Siege Engine is also pretty simple, but it takes awhile to get used to which ability scores go with which saves.  Plus, you need to account for levels, ability score adjustments etc.  So it can be more steps.

How does "Shadow of the Demon Lord" do it?  I've heard that's pretty rules light, but I've never played it.

Eric Diaz

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2021, 10:01:10 AM »
How does "Shadow of the Demon Lord" do it?  I've heard that's pretty rules light, but I've never played it.

There are so "saves" per se; when needed, you add your modifier to 1d20 and must roll 10 or more. (If you have 15 Strength, your bonus is +5).

So, if you're poisoned, make a Strength check (roll 1d20+5, the DC is 10).

Attacking is the same, basically, but you must meet the target's defense (similar to AC).

OTOH, if two sides are fighting, both would roll 1d20+ bonus.

(If you know "Target 20", this seems somewhat similar)

"Shadow of the Demon Lord" is not exactly rules light, but lighter than D&D. It is a great game; I'm currently running a campaign.
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Zalman

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2021, 10:20:50 AM »
If you get a +1 at the same time all your difficulties go up by 1, those are phantom improvements in regular play.

Hm, except that "all your difficulties" don't go up by one in regular play, unless every creature in the world also levels up with you, since the "difficulty" of affecting an enemy with a spell, etc., is largely level-based. Keeping offensive and defensive bonuses closely aligned as characters level up doesn't negate either -- it just make level a core power metric.
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Persimmon

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2021, 10:26:05 AM »
Thanks! 

I really like the tone & feel of SotDL from what I've seen on youtube videos and I'm also intrigued by the bounded campaign of 10-11 adventures since we don't play that often anyhow.  My main concern is learning and teaching a new game system to my current group, family members who are much more casual gamers only familiar with B/X in OSE form.  No one wants to spend lots of time learning new mechanics.  And while I like the idea of the expert paths and the like, not sure if they'll be into that.  I may grab the core book at least and read through it, create some PCs, and see what I think. 

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2021, 11:41:30 AM »
If you get a +1 at the same time all your difficulties go up by 1, those are phantom improvements in regular play.

Hm, except that "all your difficulties" don't go up by one in regular play, unless every creature in the world also levels up with you, since the "difficulty" of affecting an enemy with a spell, etc., is largely level-based. Keeping offensive and defensive bonuses closely aligned as characters level up doesn't negate either -- it just make level a core power metric.

Yes, I agree.  In that quote, I was thinking more along the lines of how the 3E/4E stuff is based on the assumption that your opponents are scaling with you.  That is, it's true that a 10th level fighter can mow through standard goblins easily, since he has scaled and they have not.  If in practice, however, when the fighter meets goblins, they are scaled up special goblins, then it is a phantom improvement. 

Naturally, how the GM runs it is going to affect things immensely.  Even if the system is rigid, phantom scaling, the GM can still have the party go against weaker creatures sometimes.  I was mainly using the +1 for +1 example for illustration of the extreme.  It would be a pretty poor GM, a glorified video game scaling bot, that followed that exactly in a real game.

It's easier to visualize in attacks and defenses than it is in saves.  If I get +1 to hit, then my chances of hitting a guy in chain mail (and a given set of bonus for other AC, such as Dex, magic, etc.) are better now than they were prior.  If every time I get the +1 to hit, the opponents also get special chain mail that is harder to hit, then phantom improvement in practice. Even though if I got a chance to fight the original guy in chain mail, I'd have a real improvement.

If I were to criticize 5E in this regard, I would say that when they ran the math and designed the system, they were aware of the about 50% to 75% of the scope of the problem.  Bounded accuracy addresses a lot to getting them back to what worked in earlier D&D.  Where they missed out, IMO, is that they tried to hang onto some of the 3E/4E scaling quirks, which compressed the bounded accuracy so tight that it led to new problems.  One example would be the very small increase in attacks through the levels, because there isn't any room left for more improvements without breaking their model.  It's less obvious, but this is the root cause of why 5E saves are better than 3E, different than 4E, but still "off".

Chris24601

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2021, 06:36:54 PM »
If you get a +1 at the same time all your difficulties go up by 1, those are phantom improvements in regular play.

Hm, except that "all your difficulties" don't go up by one in regular play, unless every creature in the world also levels up with you, since the "difficulty" of affecting an enemy with a spell, etc., is largely level-based. Keeping offensive and defensive bonuses closely aligned as characters level up doesn't negate either -- it just make level a core power metric.

Yes, I agree.  In that quote, I was thinking more along the lines of how the 3E/4E stuff is based on the assumption that your opponents are scaling with you.  That is, it's true that a 10th level fighter can mow through standard goblins easily, since he has scaled and they have not.  If in practice, however, when the fighter meets goblins, they are scaled up special goblins, then it is a phantom improvement. 

Naturally, how the GM runs it is going to affect things immensely.  Even if the system is rigid, phantom scaling, the GM can still have the party go against weaker creatures sometimes.  I was mainly using the +1 for +1 example for illustration of the extreme.  It would be a pretty poor GM, a glorified video game scaling bot, that followed that exactly in a real game.

It's easier to visualize in attacks and defenses than it is in saves.  If I get +1 to hit, then my chances of hitting a guy in chain mail (and a given set of bonus for other AC, such as Dex, magic, etc.) are better now than they were prior.  If every time I get the +1 to hit, the opponents also get special chain mail that is harder to hit, then phantom improvement in practice. Even though if I got a chance to fight the original guy in chain mail, I'd have a real improvement.

If I were to criticize 5E in this regard, I would say that when they ran the math and designed the system, they were aware of the about 50% to 75% of the scope of the problem.  Bounded accuracy addresses a lot to getting them back to what worked in earlier D&D.  Where they missed out, IMO, is that they tried to hang onto some of the 3E/4E scaling quirks, which compressed the bounded accuracy so tight that it led to new problems.  One example would be the very small increase in attacks through the levels, because there isn't any room left for more improvements without breaking their model.  It's less obvious, but this is the root cause of why 5E saves are better than 3E, different than 4E, but still "off".
This is why I ended up completely flattening the Attack/Defense axis in my own system (flatter than even bounded accuracy) with only effect/resistance scaling linearly (rather than through iterative attacks that tend to cause spikes).

The big thing that does is ensure that mooks can be threats in sufficient numbers regardless of level, but since it takes ever more of them to be a challenge, the PCs feel like they’re advancing in competence and GMs aren’t required to use ever stronger opponents to keep a treadmill running for PCs to feel threatened (i.e. 5 goblins are a threat at first level, but 25 goblins will still be a threat at 15th level… though 5 groups of 5 one group at a time will be cake to them).

The main advantages of things like dragons are they tend to have large AoE’s that can obliterate waves of mooks in a single action meaning only high level PC’s have the stamina needed to keep up a fight with them for more than a round or two… which is why kingdoms hire adventurers to deal with giant fire breathing lizards unless they have no other choice (a kingdom could kill a dragon by throwing enough bodies at it, but it would be a textbook Pyrrhic victory that would devastate the kingdom for years to come due to a lack of sufficient manpower to plant, harvest and all the other tasks you pulled conscripts from to deal with the dragon… adventurers on the other hand; point them at the dragon and tell them they can keep its horde as a reward and the problem will be solved without even needing to dip into the king’s own purse).
« Last Edit: September 22, 2021, 06:40:40 PM by Chris24601 »

Jaeger

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2021, 08:01:42 PM »
In D&D 5e you either roll to hit or they get a saving throw.  Area effect stuff is more likely to use the savingthrow.

This is always one of those things that bugged me about some saves in 5e.

You don't save against arrows? Why a big deadly blast like Dragon Breath?

So you are standing in the corridor - end of your turn with nowhere to run. Dragon blasts you, but you still get to 'save' to only take half damage!? Really?

Maybe you can only "save" against Dragon Breath for 1/2 dmg if you have a large shield or bigger.

Or maybe in the system if you have a large enough shield you can 'save' to avoid most of the damage?

Or shields are factored into your AC and if the dragon 'misses' with their dragon breath attack it is assumed that you raised your shield / hit the dirt, etc.

IMHO - you really have to define what a save is for and how it fits into your action economy to not have it seem overly arbitrary.

And in systems that subsume active defense into something like AC, is an attack roll a literal roll to hit? Or a roll to 'damage'.



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