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Author Topic: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg  (Read 4004 times)

Jam The MF

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2021, 10:07:46 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.


A SST speeds up the game, for sure.
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Lunamancer

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2021, 10:34:47 PM »
Something I came across that I thought was interesting.

In post-Gygax AD&D (2E), if you take more than 50 damage in one shot, you have to make a save (system shock) or die instantly.

In post-AD&D Gygax (LA), if you take more than 50 harm in one shot, you get a special save (disaster avoidance) to reduce or even avoid all harm entirely.

This seems to suggest that it's not about just making sure there's a die roll associated with any attack. It's about, in the former case, making an attack dangerous that would otherwise not be a threat to someone with triple-digit hit points. Or in the latter case, for an attack that would surely kill a character not at full health (and even some that are), giving the character a fair chance at surviving.

Seems to me saves aren't for the sake of rules symmetry or for internal coherency or anything like that. They are there to keep possibilities in play, whether to imperil even the most powerful characters, or to give a fighting chance to a target against even the most powerful attacks.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2021, 12:36:30 AM »
Seems to me saves aren't for the sake of rules symmetry or for internal coherency or anything like that. They are there to keep possibilities in play, whether to imperil even the most powerful characters, or to give a fighting chance to a target against even the most powerful attacks.

Yes, that's part of the argument for "save or die" effects.  Specifically, the save is not your only shot.  It's your last shot after you, presumably, did something stupid to need to make the save in the first place.  I'm not sure I buy that fully for anything but really old school dungeon crawl, but I'm also not willing to toss it entirely.  Saving throws as chance to get away with it when you say, "Hold my beer.  Watch this!" kind of fits the game I want to run. 

There's also the related thought discussed I don't remember where exactly (maybe Delta's hot spot blog?) that the original saves with their names of "Death", "Paralyzation", etc. are really just colorful names for increasing severity.  Characters generally have a better save against "Death" than they do against "Spells" to give them a little edge against the most severe effects.

However the most important point to me is that as the character levels, their saves definitely get better, and it's bloody obvious to everyone at the table.

Ghostmaker

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2021, 09:47:16 AM »
Something I came across that I thought was interesting.

In post-Gygax AD&D (2E), if you take more than 50 damage in one shot, you have to make a save (system shock) or die instantly.

In post-AD&D Gygax (LA), if you take more than 50 harm in one shot, you get a special save (disaster avoidance) to reduce or even avoid all harm entirely.

This seems to suggest that it's not about just making sure there's a die roll associated with any attack. It's about, in the former case, making an attack dangerous that would otherwise not be a threat to someone with triple-digit hit points. Or in the latter case, for an attack that would surely kill a character not at full health (and even some that are), giving the character a fair chance at surviving.

Seems to me saves aren't for the sake of rules symmetry or for internal coherency or anything like that. They are there to keep possibilities in play, whether to imperil even the most powerful characters, or to give a fighting chance to a target against even the most powerful attacks.
What is 'LA'?

The massive damage rule persisted into 3.5e, pretty much the same as it was in 2E except for being a DC 15 Fortitude save rather than a system shock roll.

Chris24601

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2021, 12:21:23 PM »
What is 'LA'?
Lejendary Adventures; one of Gary’s post TSR game systems that he was associated with from 1999 up until his death.

Basically the poster was showing how Gary didn’t necessarily view saving throws as gotchas so much as a way to avoid gotchas (in LA’s case it was an additional check to avoid being autoganked by massive damage; i.e. even if you only have 25 health and 50 damage comes your way, you still get a roll to miraculously survive).

Similarly, post-Gary D&D seems to have forgotten that as it was only after Gary was out at TSR that the check vs. death by massive damage was added to the system.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2021, 12:23:15 PM by Chris24601 »

deadDMwalking

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #20 on: September 23, 2021, 02:54:46 PM »
There's a psychology to saving throws.

If you roll an attack roll and kill me, it feels like it is completely unfair and I couldn't do anything about it.

If I roll a defense die and I fail, it feels like it's my fault because I could have rolled well and avoided it. 

Obviously having the attacker roll the attack and then applying the effect is faster to resolve, and most players are okay with it MOST OF THE TIME, but most of them also feel like they should get a chance to avoid something (like falling in a pit) even if the act of failing to notice it says you just resolve it.  Ie, if you walk on a section of floor that opens into a pit trap, the most reasonable thing is that 'you fall in the pit'.  If you don't want to fall into a pit, don't step on the pit trap.  AND YET, most people still feel like they should have had a chance to 'leap aside' or 'grab the edge'. 

People are approaching things from the perspective of Action Movie Physics.  If you take out saving throws in all situations, you'll usually end up having players ASKING for them in some situations.  It's probably better just to be clear about when they are appropriate and when they're not and go from there. 

For example: an attack that does level appropriate damage with an attack roll (no save) is by definition appropriate.  An attack that does 2x level appropriate damage but offers a save (50% chance) for no damage works out about the same.  Giving people a saving throw against the more powerful attack will make them feel lucky when they make the save, and gives you another way to distinguish monsters from each other. 
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Persimmon

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2021, 06:14:22 PM »
Something I came across that I thought was interesting.

In post-Gygax AD&D (2E), if you take more than 50 damage in one shot, you have to make a save (system shock) or die instantly.

In post-AD&D Gygax (LA), if you take more than 50 harm in one shot, you get a special save (disaster avoidance) to reduce or even avoid all harm entirely.

This seems to suggest that it's not about just making sure there's a die roll associated with any attack. It's about, in the former case, making an attack dangerous that would otherwise not be a threat to someone with triple-digit hit points. Or in the latter case, for an attack that would surely kill a character not at full health (and even some that are), giving the character a fair chance at surviving.

Seems to me saves aren't for the sake of rules symmetry or for internal coherency or anything like that. They are there to keep possibilities in play, whether to imperil even the most powerful characters, or to give a fighting chance to a target against even the most powerful attacks.

Yeah, I still use that 50 HP of damage rule in my OSR games.  Plus, we have a fairly lethal critical system so even low level foes can pack a punch if they gewt lucky.

Jaeger

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2021, 01:13:31 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.

This is certainly one of the more elegant ways to do a 'save'.

It eliminates an additional die roll at the table, and tracks with how standard AC works for D&D.

4e did have some good ideas, but man did they screw them up in execution and overcomplication.


Then there's this:

There's a psychology to saving throws.

If you roll an attack roll and kill me, it feels like it is completely unfair and I couldn't do anything about it.

If I roll a defense die and I fail, it feels like it's my fault because I could have rolled well and avoided it. 

Obviously having the attacker roll the attack and then applying the effect is faster to resolve, and most players are okay with it MOST OF THE TIME, but most of them also feel like they should get a chance to avoid something (like falling in a pit) even if the act of failing to notice it says you just resolve it.  Ie, if you walk on a section of floor that opens into a pit trap, the most reasonable thing is that 'you fall in the pit'.  If you don't want to fall into a pit, don't step on the pit trap.  AND YET, most people still feel like they should have had a chance to 'leap aside' or 'grab the edge'. 
...

There is a lot to that...

In design terms one would have to really define what they wanted saves to do.
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Vic99

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2021, 08:33:57 AM »

Thanks for all the constructive input.  I can get over the history part that says " . . . because we've always done it this way."


DeadDMwalking said: "There's a psychology to saving throws.

If you roll an attack roll and kill me, it feels like it is completely unfair and I couldn't do anything about it.

If I roll a defense die and I fail, it feels like it's my fault because I could have rolled well and avoided it."


This is part of what I wrestle with.  Part of me wants to be objective and stick with just mechanics, but part of me says the psyche piece is very real. 

I'm looking for fast, efficient, and at least somewhat realistic for combat and danger (I know I'll never get completely there).  I'm not doing a player rolls everything system.  What I'm trying to create is d20, significantly more lethal than 5e, but not OD&D lethal, and hopefully a more streamlined rules lightish system.

Ideally I'd like none, one, or two save categories.  The obvious choices are:

-None: Save is baked into the to hit roll.

-One category: Luck attribute

-Two categories: Will & Fortitude type groups

The other thing I wrestle with is that if I'm going to have saves, what qualifies to get a save? As others have said, D&D  doesn't give a save when you get shot by an arrow, but does if a dragon breathes all over you.  I feel like I'm missing the way to delineate between what makes some dangers qualify for save and others not . . . remember this is a roll to hit, even for spells, system.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2021, 08:52:18 AM »
Vic, I found the article on saves that I referred to above.  You might find it useful, more the thoughts behind it than any direct mechanics.  It's from an OD&D perspective, but comes at the whole question from a different angle.

Saves as Severity
« Last Edit: September 24, 2021, 08:53:49 AM by Steven Mitchell »

deadDMwalking

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #25 on: September 24, 2021, 12:18:45 PM »
The other thing I wrestle with is that if I'm going to have saves, what qualifies to get a save? As others have said, D&D  doesn't give a save when you get shot by an arrow, but does if a dragon breathes all over you.  I feel like I'm missing the way to delineate between what makes some dangers qualify for save and others not . . . remember this is a roll to hit, even for spells, system.

If you want to keep it 'rules light', you give players a pool of 'fate points' that they can use to get a save.  Outside of spending a fate point saves don't exist (and you balance the game around that). 

I walk onto the pit.  The pit opens, I fall in and take damage.  Or I say 'I'm spending a fate point', and I roll a save.  Since I'm spending it, I get to describe my action in a way that justifies it.  If I say 'I grab the edge and hang on for dear life' I make a Strength save.  If I say 'I leap to the solid ground before I fall' I make a Dex save.  Since it's rules-light you don't define it rigidly.  If the wizard player says 'As I step onto the pit trap I notice the seam in the floor growing, indicating movement.  I intelligently step back' let them save via INT.  There's still a chance they fail. 

You can offer 50/50 - full effect or no effect; or you can offer 33/33/33 - full effect, half effect, or no effect.  Or whatever. 
When I say objectively, I mean 'subjectively'.  When I say literally, I mean 'figuratively'.  
And when I say that you are a horse's ass, I mean that the objective truth is that you are a literal horse's ass.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. - Peter Drucker

Mishihari

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #26 on: September 24, 2021, 03:34:01 PM »
There's a psychology to saving throws.

If you roll an attack roll and kill me, it feels like it is completely unfair and I couldn't do anything about it.

If I roll a defense die and I fail, it feels like it's my fault because I could have rolled well and avoided it. 


Very true.  This is why I prefer systems where both the attacked and defender roll, despite the extra bit of work.  That feeling of empowerment makes the game a lot more fun even though I know the math is the same.  (okay, it's not exactly the same - assuming one die for an attack roll, it turns the results into a triangular distribution rather than linear, but whatever - close enough)

Vic99

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #27 on: September 24, 2021, 10:13:46 PM »
Steven Mitchell - good info.  I hadn't thought of saves quite that way.  Thanks.

deadDM - Fate points are an interesting idea.  I'll mull this over.  Have to pick the right number and if/how they would ever increase.  Too many will make the game too heroic, but I like this concept and am currently seeing how it fits in with the design I have.  Saw that Warhammer fantasy rpg has them.  Thanks.

Bren

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2021, 04:19:20 PM »
Vic, I found the article on saves that I referred to above.  You might find it useful, more the thoughts behind it than any direct mechanics.  It's from an OD&D perspective, but comes at the whole question from a different angle.

Saves as Severity
Thanks for the link. That's an interesting analysis. I wish he'd extended the analysis to the other classes (MUs and clerics) to see how they compare as the same inferred rule doesn't hold for those classes. There it seems the case that the designer was considering which classes would be more or less resistant to the various effects. For example, clerics (who, IIR, get the Death Ray spell if they are evil and, I think, have a Neutralize Poison spell) have the best save vs. Death Ray and Poison.
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Thondor

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Re: Saving Throws in fantasy rpg
« Reply #29 on: September 26, 2021, 03:53:17 PM »
Some advice from D.H. Boggs Champions of ZED*: 

You can use saving throws instead of ability checks if you think it is something a more experienced character should be better at.
So let a character roll a save vs dragon's breath to avoid falling into pit trap -- they should get better at this at higher levels.
However, arm-wrestling isn't really about experience, it is more of a pure strength test so roll an ability check for that.

*Champions of Zero-Edition-Dungeoneering is a intriguing book that posits what if Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax worked together a little closer, and their visions were harmonized a little more by a diligent editor. It was painstakingly researched and has some interesting quotes. I highly recommend it.