... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saving Throw Hierarchy

Just a quick post to save for later something I posted on RPGNet in answer to a question. It will probably be relevant to Liber Zero as well. It's about the hierarchy or priority of saving throws. You have three main saves in old-school D&D, but not the same ones as 3e: Death, Wands, and Spells. They all apply to magic, or instant death from poison; non-magical effects perhaps didn't get saving throws in the LBBs, just ordinary d6 rolls, like the "save" vs. traps (1 or 2 in 6.) [This is something that bears further thought... ]

Death Magic/Poison is the easiest to survive, Wands the second easiest, Spells the hardest. However, Magic-Users improve faster on their save vs. Spells, until it becomes their easiest save.

There are two extra saves: Polymorph and Breath. These are distinct from the main three because they vary much more between classes. Fighters treat both as if they were less effective spells: +1 to save vs. Breath, +2 to save vs. Polymorph. M-Us treat Polymorph as if it were Death Magic (in other words, the best possible save,) but Clerics treat it as if it were an ordinary Spell; both treat Magical Breath effects as if they were Fighters of the same level resisting Spells (more or less.)

There's thus a hierarchy: use Death for any death magic, Wands for any wand (but not a staff, in OD&D.) For everything else, use Spell, unless something breathes on you or tries to change your form, in which case you use Breath or Polymorph. A Wand of Polymorph thus does not count as Polymorph because all wands use save vs. Wands.


  1. I am sure you have seen Raggi's take:
    When there is a doubt as to which save category to use, start at the left column on the Saving Throw chart and move to the right, using the first category which
    matches the particular effect.

    Paralyze, Poison, Breath Weapon, Magical Device, Magic

    I like his system alot.

  2. Haven't seen Raggi's interpretation, but the description seems to be identical to 2e. It was a discussion of the AD&D saves, after IvanMike's discussion of saves in general, that prompted me to write about the "hierarchy", as it was phrased on RPGNet.

  3. Meh. Broken system.

    This just reinforce my view that the old multiple saves system is a hodgepodge of tacked on detritus from the first campaigns.

    Fortitude, reflex and Will saves actually makes some design sense, covering major areas you want to save against.

    Good thinking, though! One of the best takes I've seen on a broken system.

  4. @Andreas: Personally, I think Fortitude, Reflex and Will is broken, mainly because of the Will save, which shouldn't exist. If you recast Will as Magic... the new system seems to be identical to the old system: three basic saves, some special situations get bonuses or penalties.

    But there's another problem with the new system: mundane actions that you could *automatically* save against before, if you took defensive action first, are bow treated the same as magical attacks, with a reduced chance of success.

  5. Why shouldn't Will exist?

    I see how you could map the old system onto a three legged system. It's the special situations which bug me. I think it would be even better to generalize back onto rolling against stats, like Dave Arneson seems to have done initially.

    But, let's ignore that for now, since I think you might have some interesting twists to the save system which intrigue me.

    So, If Fortitude are the physical troubles which takes pure guts and stamina, and Reflex are the evasive action doesn't it match up that there should be a more mental save as well, like Will?

    Please expand a bit upon those "mundane actions" which you refer to. I might be dense (having read your original post and all), but I'm afraid I don't see what you mean.

  6. I'll prepare a full post on this... I'll need to dig up some raw numbers to provide comparisons.