Classic Dungeons and Dragons and Old School Gaming

D&D etc.

"Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of rust: to rituals' footprints ankle-deep in stone."

-Mervyn Peake

"...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped."

-Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Saturday, September 22, 2012

People's Republic of Saving Throws II

Brendan's unrelenting tinkering is inspiring.  because of a recent post, he's got me thinking again about the Peoples Republic of Saving Throws and how to improve it. As a kid I almost never bothered to write down saving throws on my character sheet.  and we rarely looked up tables in game, so like a lot of gamers, we instead often defaulted to save vs. ability score.  But now, I like the idea of saving throws, I like how they improve with level and I especially like the old school saving throws with their evocative names... "save vs interesting way that your character might die in this game."  fort/ref/will is boring in comparison.  But I still don't want to have to write all that extra stuff down on my character sheet (that's valuable real estate that would be better used writing down all the cool loot I get or drawing a sweet character illustration) especially when the character might die in 5 minutes.

So.... Here's what I'm thinking:

All saves are made by rolling 15 or above on a D20.
When a save need to be rolled the DM presents these choices:

 1.Acquire a new Save based on the current situation, write it down on your character sheet and get a bonus to your roll.  The save is always written as save vs. ______.  It is a save against a particular kind of hazard, attack, or situation.
2. Make a saving throw with no bonuses.
3. Use a Save that you already have on your character sheet if it applies.

The bonus, if you have a Save written down, works like this:

Level Bonus
1 +4
2 +4
3 +4
4 +4
5 +5
6 +6
7 +7
8 +8
9 +9
10 +10
11 +10
12 +10

Each player can have a maximum of 5 types of Saves.  They can't be swapped, removed or changed.  Only one type of save may be gained per adventure.  Existing Saves that PCs have acquired may be used in similar situations in the same way that the by-the-book saving throws in the original game could be (or kinda had to be) for example, if a character is being attacked by entangling vines he might make a save vs. paralysis because the vines are attempting to restrict his movement.  Using this system, players could ask the DM if an existing Save that their character has could be used in other situations (that's what option 3 is above)  For example, a character who is struck by a trap that releases a cloud of poison gas acquires "save vs. poison" and makes the save.  Later, while staying at the castle of the Duke of Badlandia, and with the DM's approval the PC attempts to out drink the Duke and rolls to save vs. poison to do so.

Here's what I like about this:  I'm into the style of play where a character's story is built in game, and having the name of the save tailored to the situations that the character has survived is a nifty way to embed that character's personal story into the mechanics of the game.

So one character might have:
Save vs. Pit Traps 
Save vs. Mind Control
Save vs. Fire

and another character might have:
Save vs. Slime
Save vs. Invisibility
Save vs. Zombi Disease

This would be a good mechanic to use if you like building a character as you go and if your comfortable with the possibility of a little negotiation between the DM and Players.

This would be a bad mechanic to use if you prefer to have things clearly laid out in advance, and are less fond of making up character traits in game and justifying why they might or might not apply in a certain situation.


  1. I'm not entirely sold on the way the bonuses work, but I like the way the save cathories are built as needed. I might have to steal that!

  2. My goal with the way the bonuses work was to rather than directly mimic the probabilities of the original, sort of average them out because after 5 adventures you have 5 different situations where the PC has a better chance at success/survival than in the rules as written, but that is offset by the fact that there will presumably be other situations where they will not get a bonus. I'd certainly be interested in seeing your take on it!

  3. I also like the situationally improvised categories. I wonder though if a mechanism could be devised for modifying the categories. Like maybe every level one of the categories goes away? Otherwise once you have all five set, it might feel a bit static. On the other hand, I like the list as being sort of a history of what the character has experienced.

  4. So does save vs Illusions work as save vs invisibility? That's the biggest problem i see with this, interrelation of attacks aren't built into a save category as you adventure system.

  5. Maybe, depends on the DM's interpretation. Of course the players are likely to say that one translates to the other if they have one and not the other. I think to make this work the DM or the player has to narrate how a successful save is made, then that narration will inform how it translates. Was that save vs. illusions made because of keen senses or some kind of mystical awareness? You could have vs. illusions work as vs. invisibility in one situation and not another. Translating one save to another and weird overlaps is the weakness to this system, but it's also part of what makes it fun.