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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More fun with Saving Throws

Hopefully this post will finally get this out of my system and I can move on other things like hirelings and dungeons and traps and whatnot.
Why isn't it more common to change the names of the categories to hew more closely to whatever genre or mood the DM and players are going for?
For example, say you are playing some brutal, dark and weird DnD, then the Saving Throws could be:
Poison and Plague   (for tests of endurance and ability to withstand physical ailments)
Sudden Death   (for situations like dragon breath, or any situation where survival means getting out of the way quick)
Mortal Terror   (fear, undead, tests of willpower)

Cosmic Doom   (used when the players are up against magic, magic devices, or things they don't understand)

or simply Plague, Death, Terror, Doom.

These are essentially the current DnD Saves: Fortitude, Reflex, Willpower plus one.

(After I wrote this I decided to google "mutant future saving throws" because I figured it would have interesting variations on saving throw categories, and I found this.   Clearly I'm on to something here - If it works in the post-apocalypse it must be good.)

I'm surprised Mr. Raggi didn't do something like this with LotFP.  But maybe you don't want to deal with each class having it's own chart (I don't).  So let's make it simpler, but still add some flavor that Fort/Ref/Will does not.

How about a Mental Save, a Physical Save and a Social Save?
At first level and every other level after each character gets +2 to a primary Save or +1 to a secondary.
Spellcaster's primary is mental and Fighter's primary is Physical.  The save is made if the PC rolls over a difficulty set by the DM just like in 3e & 4e.

Ok, maybe that works but let's make it not so boring.  Say you're playing in a Fey infused, Northern Euorpean-esque setting:

Mental:  Save vs. Faeries Glamour
Physical: Save vs. Jaws of Winter
Social: Save vs. King's Law

Or how about an Arabian Nights inspired setting:

Mental:  Save vs. Djinn
Physical: Save vs. Scorpion
Social: Save vs. Caste

But what if we like fort/ref/will? And we don't like the idea of a social save.  Fine. Keep the new school saves but call them:

Save vs. Slow Death   (fort)

Save vs. Quick Death   (ref)

Save vs. Brain Death   (will)

Save vs. Endless Enemy
Save vs. Lightning Strike
Save vs. Invisible Hand

Whatever, now I'm just dressing up the DnD barbie in different clothes.  Let's get back to using Saving Throws to change something about the game, make it feel slightly different to emphasize a certain genre or flavor:

Say in your game wizards are bad-asses and all the other classes are their hirelings.  Maybe you'd do saves like this:

Save vs. Magic
Save vs. SpikePitLawAgeTrick

Its roll-over on a D20.  Magic-Users start with 14 in both, and both go down by one each level till 11th level.  All other classes start with 16 in both, Save vs. Magic never goes down and Save vs. SPLAT goes down one each level till 9th level.

Or say you want Elves to be all Tolkienesque and otherworldly in an annoyingly superior sort of way: They have one Save for all occasions and it starts at 2. (roll-over on D20)  It goes up by one every time they fail, and when they fail the save they don't actually die or necessarily suffer the effect they were saving against.  They might get hurt or inconvenienced, but they won't die.  When they're Save gets to 20 they're out of the game, they end that adventure/session and go get on a boat to the undying lands.

Ok.  I'll be done for now, but clearly fun can be had with saving throws even if your not making them up as you go along like I described in my last post.

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.