... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Save Or Die Must Die!

I've heard through the grapevine that someone, somewhere, is complaining about "save or die" again. Woo hoo! Just what we need! The argument in this particular case is that "save or die" takes away player choice and short-circuits stories. But really, it's not "save or die" that's the problem in such cases: it's how saving throws are being used.

Aside from the fact that saving throws weren't meant to be a "workhorse" mechanic, originally, but only for exceptional situations (as explained previously,) a save -- any save -- is used after a player has made a decision that turns out to be bad. Snakes are slithering towards you? If you're not sure whether they're poisonous or not, you might want to block their approach with flaming oil or just run. You don't have to stand and fight. As long as the GM is playing fair (no dick moves,) then players are not being deprived of their choice, and any story in the making is only short-circuited if the players choose to do so.

The other thing to be aware of is that if you choose to play in the heavily pre-plotted style, you should avoid designing (or using) adventures with bottlenecks. If you have a scene that character must go through to complete the plot and you include a non-optional element in that scene that can stop the plot dead, that's a badly-designed scene and it will short-circuit your adventure. This is true for a forced meeting with an NPC who lobs poison gas bombs; it's also true for a "clue" scene where the clue must be found for the plot to advance, or for a room where the characters can get stuck, or for many other kinds of bottlenecks that have nothing to do with "save or die" situations.

Don't use a hammer to polish your china.

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