WORMSKIN

1/07/2014

Flexing the Five-Fold Saving Throw System


Three-point-Oh transformed the traditional array of saves seen in the image above into a three-fold system -- namely Fortitude, Reflex and Will. These are fine in their way, but I prefer the original for one major reason: The five saves describe external forces in terms of the character's resistance to them. The three-fold model turns the focus inward -- rather than what the character might be exposed to, they describe him physically in a manner akin to Ability Scores.

The five-fold model has been modified and adjusted superficially as time has passed, both between TSR editions of D&D and between the retro-clones and quasi-clones of those versions of the game. The common thread is threats -- particularly magical -- that emanate from the campaign environment.

Like many other beautiful articulations of the Rules (whatever form they take in the adjudication of a role-playing adventure), saving throws are flexible elements that yield to the Referee's interpretation when needed or desired. For example, we can say that Spells or Magic Staff covers magical radiation in general, while Dragon Breath could cover the entire milieu of energy weapons available to large monsters. Which leads me to my Big Questions for ye Readers:

How do you flex the Saving Throws at your table? Are there any additional, non-traditional uses for Saves that you've explored in your games?

8 comments:

  1. Not exactly what you're asking for, but I flexed the three-fold model to create at least seven different categories that felt a little more like the old system: there's your standard Fortitude, Reflex and Will, as well as one for quick thinking, save vs. enchantments, vs. illusions, vs. mental attacks; there were enough specific modifiers that save vs. poison was effectively its own category. Worked pretty well and was dead simple to boot

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  2. I am getting to the point where I can't remember if I am using RAW or houserules. Case in point is that we let whatever one attribute bonus the player can justify modify the save. A thief character might want to apply Dex bonus, while a fighter hiding behind a shield could use Str. Players feel they have some say and that the character's differences are advantages.

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  3. When a crone, hag, gypsy, witch or other similar troublemaker is slain, she might be able to invoke one final horrible power before she dies. (Or hell—this is applicable to any old magic-user if you want.) She picks one applicable* saving throw category (power, really) and rolls the save.

    If she succeeds, the horrible, vengeful power manifests—probably against her slayer, or at least somebody nearby. And then she dies anyway.

    *She must have a wand or staff in her possession to try to invoke it; or a memorized spell to cast it. Poison could be delivered by bite or spittle; death ray by stare; (permanent) paralysis by rake; stone by touch; etc. Dragon's breath probably requires a pact made in advance with an extra-planar entity.

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  4. I've started using "save vs magic modified by wisdom modifier" to see if a character has a breakdown when exposed to something horrible.

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  5. Fortitude, Reflex and Will saves are just ability checks for Constitution, Dexterity and Wisdom.

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  6. I've just rolled with that fact and gone to a sixfold model, ala Fantastic Heroes and Witchery

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  7. Swords & Spells, the first official wargame for use with D&D (other than Chainmail), uses the Death Ray or Poison category for saves vs. Ballista, Catapult and Trebuchet.

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  8. Poison/death is also used for radiation. Wands is also used for lasers. Dragon breath is also used as a general luck save. Paralysis is rolled on to see if the pc can grab the edge of a pit before falling in. Spells is also used for saving against psionic effects.

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