Save or [insert dramatic effect]

I don't want a back and forth over whether so-called "Save or Die" effects "work" or are "broken". Let us stipulate that, as players for many years successfully played the game with them in there (including myself), they work. Even so, they presume certain things about how the game is set up and how it is played in order for them to work. Missing these pieces, they turn from a dramatic element to either an absent element (because the DM avoids using them) or getting house-ruled out of existence, or a source of tension and frustration.

What do I think these presumptions are?


  • Combat is neither the universal nor always even a viable option to get past every challenge. Straight combat should not always be a good idea. The notion of, say, a basilisk creates important tension, i.e. "The ancient treasure is guarded by a feasome beast, whose very touch, or even the sight of whose eyes, will turn you to stone! Not even the mightiest warrior, however healthy he be, is safe from the monster's gaze. But, it is said that those who turn their eyes aside might stand a chance, and should you trick it into looking at its own gaze with a mirror, it will turn itself to stone." The players may still opt to risk the combat, or they might try other tactics to bypass the monster.

  • Character (and monster) saves improve absolutely, and not only relatively, at higher levels. That is, generally speaking, the poison of an 8 HD monster is no more virulent than that of a 1+1 HD monster. Saving against an 8th-level spell cast by a 16th-level Magic User is no more difficult than saving against a 1st-level spell cast by a 1st-level Magic User. While saves are never a sure thing, this means that higher-level characters are simply less threatened by threats that require a save or take them out, whether temporarily or permanently (i.e. death, turn to stone, paralysis, polymorph, etc.). This is crucial, I think, because it means that a high-level character can take more reasonable risks in facing foes with save or dramatic effect abilities. Likewise, it means that Magic Users, however powerful, are still less likely to take out powerful foes with just one spell. They might do so, but it's a resource management risk (e.g. do I use the Dispel Evil to try to disintegrate the vampire, with no effect if he saves, as is not unlikely, or do I save it to, say, remove a curse?).

  • Players are at the heart of the game, not characters. Here's what may be a more dividing point. The presence of save or dramatic effect abilities, while hardly resulting in a pile of corpses of PCs, will likely lead to a higher incidence of character death than not having them. Even effects like paralysis can be life-threatening to a character, since the remaining party might need to retreat (and thus leave the unfortunate character to be a tasty snack for ghouls, carrion crawlers, or gelatinous cubes). If it is relatively easy to roll up a new character and the set up is not so complicated that it is relatively easy to drop the new PC into the game (say, almost as soon as the new character is rolled up), then this need not be a problem, if the player and not any specific character of his, is at the heart of things.

  • Classic real and fantasy effects mean more or less in the game what they mean in the inspirational sources. Poison from asps is deadly, and in quite a short span of time. The gaze of Medusa could turn even the mightiest hero or monster to stone. Witches can transform princes into toads and adulterous queens their husbands into wolves without first having their henchmen beat them up to get their hit points low enough for the spell to work. Save or dramatic effect abilities reflect this.

  • At least some foes with save or dramatic effect abilities have either an Achilles' heel or compensating weakness. Undead can be turned and are vulnerable to holy water, and some undead have other weaknesses (e.g. a vampire's aversion to garlic and the cross/holy symbol of Law or Good). Several monsters with gaze powers can have their effect avoided by averting one's gaze and at least some of them are vulnerable to their own gaze being reflected back. Some have a limited use of their ability (e.g. the banshee's groan). Magic Users (who have a larger array of save or dramatic effect spells than other classes) are limited in hit points and armor class, so they are fragile, and can, in addition, be rendered ineffective if silenced, gagged, etc.

  • Save or dramatic effect magic presumes a limited array of spells and that these cannot be used repeatedly. In other words, either Vancian magic, or at least all save or dramatic effect spells must be dailies (and for monsters, some might be limited use per day or, if using 4e concepts, only after they "recharge").


There may be others, but this is a start.


I do think that save or dramatic effect abilities are a good idea, but that is in part because I share the logic of the presumptions listed above. Nonetheless, I also think that weaker foes should have relatively weaker effects (not so much death as short-term paralysis or somewhat incapacitating disease, e.g.), which was not always the case (as almost every poison up through 2nd edition caused death on a failed save, and poisonous creatures were hardly uncommon at 1st level).


Are there any other presumptions that would need to be in the game style/rules/presentation to make save or dramatic effect abilities and threats a fun, rather than odious, part of the game?

Let me reduce your perspective to its key point:

If the consequences of events in the game do not matter, then the consequences of events can be randomized.

All your points are results of this assumption, or incidental. This attitude is all well and good if the center of your game is a bunch of half-drunken jokes, but it's the surest way there is to promote detachment from characters and strangle roleplay in the crib.

Now, roleplay --which is by definition a character-centric activity-- is the one asset DnD has relative to competing hobbies. Without roleplay, DnD has nothing going for it, and it will just die off in the face of video games and so on. This means roleplay needs to be a spotlighted portion of the game. This means players need to be invested in their characters. This means random SoDover effects shouldn't exist.
Well part of the problem you run into is magic availiability, certain conditions such as stone, poison, even death, become less threatening depending on how easy it is to access the relevant curative magics. If getting a scroll of stone to flesh is easy then people are more likely to attack the medusa, if it's hard to get one then people break out the mirrors and drive the price of armor polish up in a three kingdom radius every time they pass a place even rumored to have one.

Another big issue was the way these effects were distributed. I mean casters could get loads of save or die effects but warriors didn't, aat least not until they could afford a vorpal weapon and even then they didn't control when it triggered. 

Anyway Monte cook had an interesting idea regarding save or die, make the effect trigger once the PC has been sufficiently weakened. Siilar to the 4e executioner's ability to auto-kill anyone they dropped below a certain threshold of HP. I think this has potential, it feels more fair than OMG I LOOKED AT THE BASILISK! but maintains the threat of the deathglare, in fact you get to enjoy watching the PCs scramble to end the fight before the threshold is past, plus it explains why the town gaurd gets ka-statued instantly while the PCs hold out longer.
I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.

Kalex the Omen 
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Concerning Player Rules Bias
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Concerning "Default" Rules
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The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

I really like what you said here.

I would only add,that the game must assume that there will be plenty of monsters and spells that can counter these effects.   There should be a counter spell or defence against each type of save or X effect.     Protection from X, or Immunity from X spells.        





I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



+1 QFT.   I don't remember anyone not being invested in their character in my campaigns.


Also except at the lowest of levels even death is not permanent.  It has permanent consequences (like level loss or something) but you usually come back.   

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Level loss? [Edited]

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



Oh, I've seen that sort of "investment", and it's prohibitory paranoia and metagaming.


Anyway Monte cook had an interesting idea regarding save or die, make the effect trigger once the PC has been sufficiently weakened. Siilar to the 4e executioner's ability to auto-kill anyone they dropped below a certain threshold of HP. I think this has potential, it feels more fair than OMG I LOOKED AT THE BASILISK! but maintains the threat of the deathglare, in fact you get to enjoy watching the PCs scramble to end the fight before the threshold is past, plus it explains why the town gaurd gets ka-statued instantly while the PCs hold out longer.



I think triggers need to be removed from the game.      Just apply the effect and be done with it. 


Level loss? [Edited]

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



Oh, I've seen that sort of "investment", and it's prohibitory paranoia and metagaming.



I've been playing since 1980.  How about you?  In some editions of D&D, you did lose a level whenever you died and got raised.  I agree that in 4e it did not.  

We were discussing players caring about their characters in the olden days.  

Paranoia - maybe yes.  A good thing realistically if you are going underground to fight monsters.   Metagaming? I never noticed this being driven by fear of death.  The powergamers I saw wanted the best possible character regardless of fear of death.

My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



Indeed! I did a lot of roleplaying and character investment was high when this mechanic was in play. I find the presumption that there couldn't be investment in one's character using rules of this sort to be, quite frankly, odd, and certainly not reflected in my own experience nor in the experience the many people I know who played the game this way.

I really like what you said here.

I would only add,that the game must assume that there will be plenty of monsters and spells that can counter these effects.   There should be a counter spell or defence against each type of save or X effect.     Protection from X, or Immunity from X spells.        



Certainly the DM should, in any event, be judicious in his use of these effects. One of to do so is to provide various "remedies" as you suggest. This need not produce an economy of immunity effects, however, since the counter-measures might not be generic, but specific. That is, careful exploration might reveal a plant whose leaves, if eaten, counter the poison of the spiders in the forest, or a magic rhyme that undoes the polymorph caused by this particular witch. The DM need not fear that his players are permanently warded against all threats of the same kind, and the players can have an incentive to explore (and learn that charging in, cannons blazing, is not always a good idea).

I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



Indeed! I did a lot of roleplaying and character investment was high when this mechanic was in play. I find the presumption that there couldn't be investment in one's character using rules of this sort to be, quite frankly, odd, and certainly not reflected in my own experience nor in the experience the many people I know who played the game this way.



You must, hopefully, understand that this is partially a generational divide between those who have played and enjoyed playing the game the way you see it, and the more modern, possibly even casual gamer playing D&D.  That, plus the complexities in creating a new character, or sitting out an adventure or three until you can be brought back would inspire me, personally, to stop playing the game.  Because the whole reason for me to play the game is to play.  If instead I spend a bulk of my time dead or making new characters, that's counter to what I intend to do with my time.  And it makes me, personally, care less about a character who has a greater chance of dying more often, because why emotionally involve yourself in a character that may or may not die within the first game that character is played?
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
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If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Level loss? Somebody's new to the game.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



Oh, I've seen that sort of "investment", and it's prohibitory paranoia and metagaming.



I don't see this in old school gamers (paranoia, yes; metagaming to avoid the issue, no).  We never had problems getting invested in a character when there was a larger chance of death - in fact, I feel much more attached to a 1e character I'm playing right now (who has had to make several save or dies than I have ever been in my fourth edition character, who never seems to be in threat of  . . . well anything really.  With healing surges you're pretty much at full hp for most encounters, and there are very few things that scare a 4e character.  A save or die mechanic adds that flavor of 'wow, this could be it'. 


It's also a great time to break out your Alien quotes:

GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER!

Laughing     
The threshold system also allows for more mind games as you chip away at their hp, instead of just rolling the dice once and it being over. Especially since you don't have to tell them what the threshold is.

You must, hopefully, understand that this is partially a generational divide between those who have played and enjoyed playing the game the way you see it, and the more modern, possibly even casual gamer playing D&D.  That, plus the complexities in creating a new character, or sitting out an adventure or three until you can be brought back would inspire me, personally, to stop playing the game.  Because the whole reason for me to play the game is to play.  If instead I spend a bulk of my time dead or making new characters, that's counter to what I intend to do with my time.  And it makes me, personally, care less about a character who has a greater chance of dying more often, because why emotionally involve yourself in a character that may or may not die within the first game that character is played?




A sure fire way (IMO) to prove that character creation takes too long in 4e.   D&DNext should remedy that.

A sure fire way (IMO) to prove that character creation takes too long in 4e.   D&DNext should remedy that.



Quick, your 14th level 1E character has died and you need a new one, go!
I think SoD is permissible so long as it takes 3 failed Death Saves (or CON modifier # of failed death saves) to kill a PC.
A sure fire way (IMO) to prove that character creation takes too long in 4e.   D&DNext should remedy that.



Quick, your 14th level 1E character has died and you need a new one, go!



10 minutes, max for non-spellcaster

15-20 max for spellcaster.

Not that hard . . .   
I think SoD is permissible so long as it takes 3 failed Death Saves (or CON modifier # of failed death saves) to kill a PC.



that's not SoD then, that's three SoD's.
I have no problem with save or die as long as it is a pivotal part of the story.  And this is dependant on the DM.

The best example I can think of right now is with a powerful Banshee who's wail can kill people.  The party hears that this Banshee is terrorizing some town and they decide they want to stop it.  The Wizard studies up and finds out that the Banshee's SoD is dependant on the affected hearing it, so he decides to prepare Zone of Silence.  Now when the party goes to fight the wizard casts the spell immediately and renders the Banshee's SoD useless.  It doesn't have to be this exact example but something similar, maybe the clues of what they are fighting aren't as obvious, but they should be there so that the party can be rewarded for exploration and planning ahead.

A bad example is just throwing the monster at them without any warning.  So the party is in a dungeon crawl and suddenly there's a Medusa!  Party now has to decide whether or not they want to fight with their eyes closed.  If they do then they pretty much miss everything and what fun is that.  If they don't its a super scary potential TPK, which also is potentially no fun.

Certainly the DM should, in any event, be judicious in his use of these effects. One of to do so is to provide various "remedies" as you suggest. This need not produce an economy of immunity effects, however, since the counter-measures might not be generic, but specific. That is, careful exploration might reveal a plant whose leaves, if eaten, counter the poison of the spiders in the forest, or a magic rhyme that undoes the polymorph caused by this particular witch. The DM need not fear that his players are permanently warded against all threats of the same kind, and the players can have an incentive to explore (and learn that charging in, cannons blazing, is not always a good idea).



The DM can simply invent a polymorph or poison that is too powerful to be protected by such a spells.    Artifact level or story based effects should trump these kinds of spells anyway. Therefore, the DM need not fear.  

I also think that provided these types of spells don't last all day this isn't a big issue.   The advatage to providing I spells to counter these kinds of effects is that the dm doesn't have to do any work.  He doesn't have to add story device at all.   The system will allow the players to become the engineers of their own doom if they charge in to each room with guns blazing.   

Maybe a new type of spell like a pre-encounter spell that lasts until end of the encounter would be great.    Perhaps a player can only have so many active at a time.   The character could pre-cast the spell and then activate it when the encounter begins.   That way you don't have a players run into the room with an immunity to each element type of spell active. Perhaps he can have at most only one or two active at a time. 

I think knowledge should be half the battle.   It makes divination spells and items extremely important and usefull.  






I have no problem with save or die as long as it is a pivotal part of the story.  And this is dependant on the DM.

The best example I can think of right now is with a powerful Banshee who's wail can kill people.  The party hears that this Banshee is terrorizing some town and they decide they want to stop it.  The Wizard studies up and finds out that the Banshee's SoD is dependant on the affected hearing it, so he decides to prepare Zone of Silence.  Now when the party goes to fight the wizard casts the spell immediately and renders the Banshee's SoD useless.  It doesn't have to be this exact example but something similar, maybe the clues of what they are fighting aren't as obvious, but they should be there so that the party can be rewarded for exploration and planning ahead.

A bad example is just throwing the monster at them without any warning.  So the party is in a dungeon crawl and suddenly there's a Medusa!  Party now has to decide whether or not they want to fight with their eyes closed.  If they do then they pretty much miss everything and what fun is that.  If they don't its a super scary potential TPK, which also is potentially no fun.




I think the important thing to remember is that some people do find this fun. I know I do.

As a DM if the players fail to do any research on the haunted crypt and fail to learn about the banshee they deserve to die for being so stupid and foolish.      That's just my style of game.   

DM's shouldn't always be forced to provide players this information.  At high levels of play I make it clear to my players that if they act stupid and just charge their way through the dungeon they will all end up dead.

Besides what if my vampire witch, with her genius INT, decides to trick the PCs and make them think she is actually a medusa?   oh those poor unprepared PCs   


Having in my 1e days faced Disentigrate etc. I as a Player do not like SoD.  As A DM, I tended to avoid them.


I like the 4e mechanic of cascading effects based on failed saves.



I also like the idea of some effect taking the character to "Dying" and letting Death Saves determine the outcome (and a chance for the rest of the party to assist/rescue the character.


I'm even thnking of the classic 10' cube of granite from the ceiling trap where the character under the middle is Dying until the party can get them out.  Also allow miss effects that are more than bothersome.         

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We ran it like Hospitals and Medical Bills. Lemme explain.

Save or Die existed, but we had Character points. You could take a Flaw to get some, or skip a proficiency, or not use up all your available starting languages. Then you had a handful. Humans could have 10 more if they didn't take any human options.

When you get a bad saving throw, you had the option of Rerolling with a character point. If you failed again, you could blow another character point. This gave players a certain sense of measured control, and resources, sort of like having hit points against instant death/petrification/polymorph effects.

If you did get killed/petrified or whatever, your team mates, should they live through the encounter, could transport your body to a Temple, presumably many miles away. You would be magically restored for obscene amounts of gold, or put into debt - kinda of like hospital bills - and sent out to pay off the debt.

With this system in effect, even saving throws with terrible penalties such as -4 or -8 were acceptable risks, because the players could choose how they would resist or recover from it, should things go south.
Options are Liberating

You must, hopefully, understand that this is partially a generational divide between those who have played and enjoyed playing the game the way you see it, and the more modern, possibly even casual gamer playing D&D.  That, plus the complexities in creating a new character, or sitting out an adventure or three until you can be brought back would inspire me, personally, to stop playing the game.  Because the whole reason for me to play the game is to play.  If instead I spend a bulk of my time dead or making new characters, that's counter to what I intend to do with my time.  And it makes me, personally, care less about a character who has a greater chance of dying more often, because why emotionally involve yourself in a character that may or may not die within the first game that character is played?




A sure fire way (IMO) to prove that character creation takes too long in 4e.   D&DNext should remedy that.



With any less mechanical detail, I'd say the character would be boring to play.  This comes from someone less interested in acting out a character and more interested in using the character's abilities and powers to solve problems within the game world.

I'm not interested in building a character in ten minutes if it means that my choices are lessened for it.  Choices, and specifically more choices is almost always better.
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
fun quotes
58419928 wrote:
You have to do the work first, and show you can do the work, before someone is going to pay you for it.
69216168 wrote:
If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Mearls' solution is clunky IMO. It doesn't really add to dramatism. With this system the monster must now rely on several weak attacks to chip away at player characters' HP only to use an attack that may or may not kill them instantly. This doesn't sound as fun as a fighter having to overcome being turned to stone as the medusa is lashing at the squishier party members. It literally turns every fight with a SoD monster into the same thing: hitting the players with "normal" attacks and then a shot at a SoD.
Now if the effect is available from the very start of the fight, but each one has different properties (slowed vs dazed vs ongoing damage), it makes fighting a beholder significantly different from fighting a medusa.

I won't even touch the spells thing.

Just because something is in the rules from the very first edition, it doesn't mean that it can't be cut.
Mearls' solution takes away most of my concerns with the SoD mechanic. It should still be used sparingly, of course, but with Mearls' solution it is reduced to Save or Lose Many HPs. Which is good and can be balanced.

Of course, I wouldn't dream of introducing it in a moment where a character dying is harmful to the story. That means using these new SoDs at higher levels, where resurrection is possible if not even easy, and using them to intensify the drama of a fight (which they do, in this version, unlike some anticlimaxes of previous editions). I also like these SoDs because they work well in the hands of players, not disrupting the game nor balance, and allowing for some cool effects.

I'm not against having interesting effects keyed off of a save. I'm against having such effects keyed off of a single die roll (which is not the case with Mearls' solution), disrupting game balance (which is not the case with Mearls' solution), bypassing the HP system (which is not the case with Mearls' solution), taking away from the tension of the moment (which is not the case with Mearls' solution), killing a character in a meaningless way (which is still possible with Mearls' solution, but is only avoidable by taking out the mechanic altogether, or DMing in a way to avoid this - and this means I still believe it should be an optional module, rather than in the core rules).
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
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Mearls' solution is clunky IMO. It doesn't really add to dramatism. With this system the monster must now rely on several weak attacks to chip away at player characters' HP only to use an attack that may or may not kill them instantly. This doesn't sound as fun as a fighter having to overcome being turned to stone as the medusa is lashing at the squishier party members. It literally turns every fight with a SoD monster into the same thing: hitting the players with "normal" attacks and then a shot at a SoD.
Now if the effect is available from the very start of the fight, but each one has different properties (slowed vs dazed vs ongoing damage), it makes fighting a beholder significantly different from fighting a medusa.

I won't even touch the spells thing.

Just because something is in the rules from the very first edition, it doesn't mean that it can't be cut.


I don't think there's any reason to cut SoD, or level loss, or what have you.  Just make them optional abilities and figure out the CR or lvl of the creature both with and without the power.  That way those who want them can have them, those who don't want them won't have to spend time modifying a cool monster cuz it has SoD, and both groups will know how to fit the creature into their encounter design.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

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I have no problem with save or die as long as it is a pivotal part of the story.  And this is dependant on the DM.

The best example I can think of right now is with a powerful Banshee who's wail can kill people.  The party hears that this Banshee is terrorizing some town and they decide they want to stop it.  The Wizard studies up and finds out that the Banshee's SoD is dependant on the affected hearing it, so he decides to prepare Zone of Silence.  Now when the party goes to fight the wizard casts the spell immediately and renders the Banshee's SoD useless.  It doesn't have to be this exact example but something similar, maybe the clues of what they are fighting aren't as obvious, but they should be there so that the party can be rewarded for exploration and planning ahead.

A bad example is just throwing the monster at them without any warning.  So the party is in a dungeon crawl and suddenly there's a Medusa!  Party now has to decide whether or not they want to fight with their eyes closed.  If they do then they pretty much miss everything and what fun is that.  If they don't its a super scary potential TPK, which also is potentially no fun.




I think the important thing to remember is that some people do find this fun. I know I do.

As a DM if the players fail to do any research on the haunted crypt and fail to learn about the banshee they deserve to die for being so stupid and foolish.      That's just my style of game.   

DM's shouldn't always be forced to provide players this information.  At high levels of play I make it clear to my players that if they act stupid and just charge their way through the dungeon they will all end up dead.

Besides what if my vampire witch, with her genius INT, decides to trick the PCs and make them think she is actually a medusa?   oh those poor unprepared PCs   




What you seem to be talking about falls within the realm of the first example, which I think is okay, so you're DMing style should be okay. 

The thing I was talking about with the second example was mainly that there is NO way of knowing your going to be facing a certain SoD effect.  A better example might be a party is dungeon crawling, they enter a room, the DM rolls on the random encounter table and, suprise! it's a medusa.  Party had no way of preparing because the DM didn't even know. 

I'd have to think pretty hard about the vampire witch/medusa thing.  If I were to include something like that it would probably be pretty pivotal to the story so if a PC did die or lose levels or something like that it would be tied to the story pretty closely and getting them back would be the next chapter.
First: my bias.  I'm an old school gamer and I like save or die.  As noted in the L&L article, it adds danger and spice to the encounter.  As a DM, my attitude towards such creatures (also including those who drain levels) is that I either (but not necessarily both) heavily foreshadowed the presence of such creatures OR allowed a party wise enough to retreat the option to do so.  I was smart enough not to use them as random screw-the-party encounters. 

Regardless:  I like the idea proposed in the article.  Just as I liked the idea proposed by somone on these forums that save or die effects might only work on a creature that was already bloodied (a more simplistic version of the same idea).

But I think the error is to assume that all save or die effects need to be shoehorned into the same approach.

Perhaps a ghoul's paralysis works in the way Mike (?)describes:  As you fight the ghoul, you can feel the unholy taint from his touch, but your body has no difficulty in shaking it off.  But as you get weaker, eventually you get to the point where you need to start making Constitution saves against it.  Perhaps (although this is a bit nastier even) upon reaching zero you are no longer able to resist its effect.

Perhaps a medusa's gaze gradually turns you to stone.  Each time you catch the medusa's gaze, you must make a saving throw.  The first time you meet the gaze and fail the save, you feel yourself stiffen slightly (you are slowed).  The second time you meet its gaze and fail the save, the petrification progresses a bit further and you start finding it hard to act (you are dazed).  The third time you meet its gaze and fail the save, you become petrified.  For added complexity, maybe it is possible to spontaneously throw off the effect, essentially putting the character on something akin to the disease track, allowing a new save at the end of each round to move one step up the progression (as long as they haven't reached the end state).  

Perhaps a magical spell such as a finger of death requires a 'death save' - but if you fail the save, it doesn't actually kill you - it just uses up one of your death saves for the day.  If you haven't failed any death saves, you are OK (although that much closer to dying should you fall negative).  But if you burned a few death saves earlier in the encounter and have no death saves remaining, you die. Note:  In this case, the spell description (or the game mechanics) would need to deal with the question of how this works on NPCs, since they don't normally have death saves.  Do they still not have death saves, making it much more effective against NPCs or would the mechanism change?)

Perhaps a poison might do damage rather than killing the character outright.  But perhaps poisons do ongoing damage - and perhaps that damage is doubled for each failed save.  So becoming poisoned might well be fatal very quickly (if the character can't make his saves, or the party doesn't have the equivalent of AD&D's slow poison spell).  But it's not literally 'save or die' - it just 'save or potentially massive damage'.  Maybe weakly poisonous creatures (e.g low level spiders and centipedes) start out with low initial damage - say 1 point. It might eventually kill you if you fail enough saves, but the odds are it won't threaten anyone but unlucky low level characters  - while higher level creatures - your Wyverns and the like - start with higher damage values capable worrying a character of much higher level if they fail a save or three.

Etc.

Rather than one mechanism for save or die - look at how the effect operates and what it does (and whether it is at-will or an encounter power and whether it is a passive effect on a normal attack or a special attack)  - and based upon that come up with a mechanism that is interesting and gives the party time to prevent or alleviate the effects.

Carl

I have no problem with save or die as long as it is a pivotal part of the story.  And this is dependant on the DM.

The best example I can think of right now is with a powerful Banshee who's wail can kill people.  The party hears that this Banshee is terrorizing some town and they decide they want to stop it.  The Wizard studies up and finds out that the Banshee's SoD is dependant on the affected hearing it, so he decides to prepare Zone of Silence.  Now when the party goes to fight the wizard casts the spell immediately and renders the Banshee's SoD useless.  It doesn't have to be this exact example but something similar, maybe the clues of what they are fighting aren't as obvious, but they should be there so that the party can be rewarded for exploration and planning ahead.

But if the party can render the SoD useless, what is the point?  You are effectively saying that there will be some monsters specifically designed to punish players who don't learn as much as possible.  And is there a chance that they can fail to learn what they need, even if they try?
Now, I know the Banshee thing was just an example, and you even said that perhaps the clues don't have to be as obvious, but I think my point is still valid.  How much research should the PCs have to do before they feel safe/prepared enough to enter the dungeon?  What if time is also important?  What about all the cases where there is no way for the PCs to be prepared (such as a secret boss)?

The point is that save-or-die is very easy to add, especially if you (as the DM) like to make it a pivotal part of the story.  Story effects don't actually need official mechanics backing them up.  I've used a special monster in 4E that was able to kill with one attack.  So all they need is a sidebar in the DMG talking about Save-or-Die effects.  Then in the MM you could mention it as an option for various monsters, and the PHB would mention it as an option for certain spells.

An additional point regarding SoD (or save or suck) mechanics that is often lost in the discussion (and is often lost on those DMs who don't understand how to use them effectively):


That value of the SoD monster is not in the combat itself - the value is in the added tension.  Once the attack goes off and the player saves or doesn't - it's potential value is lost.

The value is in the tension and fear created in the mind of the player, the knowledge that something  is out there that represents a significant threat to them that can't be just avoided through tons of hit points and fancy armor.  Something  that requires them to be at the top of their game and might even require them to take special measure to defeat it.

Thus a SoD monster dropped on the party without warning is a wasted opportunity and serves no dramatic purpose in the game, while a SoD monster in some remote location through which they must travel matters.  Likewise, a party that stumbles across a nest of SoD monsters and is obliterated is weak DMing as the monsters were ill-used while allowing that same group to escape (now aware of the threat) creates dramatic tension as they now know they must deal with the threat (or the guilt of ignoring it).

It is the anticipation and awareness of the threat that adds the spice - not the actual Save or Die mechanics themselves that make it work.   This is also why mitigating the threat through mechanics such as MM suggested or as suggested above still works:  The risk is there, just less likely to happen 'by chance'.  So the anxiety is still there, just diluted.  Mechanics such as MM suggested or as described above also have the benefit of creating a period of such anxiety within the combat itself:  The players know that the risk is there if they are not careful and that if they are weakened and hit, it is possible that the leader/ cleric will not be able to revive them. 

The drawback to the MM proposal (which some of the above avoid) is the fact that once you are already down to 25% of your hit points you are already feeling some tension and fear of death (ideally) and thus this mechanic doesn't add as significantly to this tension as would a mechanic capable of harming you despite your relative health.  In short - it adds less to the dramatic tension than some other approaches might; arguably the tension becomes too diluted by that mechanic.

Carl
That's not an argument for Save or Die, Carl. (In fact, it's a mild argument against it.) That's an argument for rule-breaking plot-centric monsters.
That's not an argument for Save or Die, Carl. (In fact, it's a mild argument against it.) That's an argument for rule-breaking plot-centric monsters.




"rule-breaking" is jargon/ semantics.  And as such is either meaningless or wrong in this context.

It is an argument for some types of monsters being in the rules and a suggestion how such monsters ought to be used.

It's not 'rule-breaking' if its a monster in the MM.   At least no more so than every single monster  in 4E (the edition whose guiding principle was 'exception based design') is 'rule breaking'.

Carl
I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.


I would agree entirely. Swingy, sudden ends to combat do not inhibit roleplay in any way.
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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

I have never had problems with SoD effects.  As Carl rightly noted such effects should be used by a good DM in a way that makes sense.  Random killing of characters is just poor DMing.  A good DM creates the tension and threat of death and dismemberment but mitigates it with a number of mechanisms.


Using the medusa example.  The players should have plenty of opportunity to be given warnings that the castle ruins are inhabited by such a monster.  They may hear stories in the tavern about a strange woman who lives in the ruins which are surrounded by increasing numbers of realistic looking statues.  If they fail to investigate these stories and fail to prepare themselves accordingly then the battle is going to be harder for them.  I would still mitigate it by having one of the earlier encounters result in a character finding a particularly shiny shield with mirror-like surfaces (conveniently dropped by an early adventurer who did try to prepare for the medusa).  Likewise I might have a scroll with a stone to flesh spell placed in the medusa's treasure that she saved from when she had a human lover (and needed to restore her lover in case of accidently viewing).  She ended up eating the lover but the scroll remained.

My player characters have a fun and dangerous encounter that carries the risk of real consequences.  They see what happens when they either prepare adequately (or fail to do so).  There is no total party kill and even if things go poorly, simple dumb luck manages to see them out safely (and unpetrified).    
I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.


I would agree entirely. Swingy, sudden ends to combat do not inhibit roleplay in any way.



For some people.

You forgot that part.
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quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.


I would agree entirely. Swingy, sudden ends to combat do not inhibit roleplay in any way.



For some people.

You forgot that part.


Swingy sudden ends to combat only inhibit roleplay when they happen to you.
In my preferred RPG, you can be taken out of combat with a status *afraid, which can be rallied backi in the fight* Dying, dead (both of which, you as a PC or archvillian can use a plot ability to ignore the first instance of) and overkilled (which you can burn the same coupon to reduce to just dying).

If you get hit with afraid, you are out of the fight until one of your allies makes a successful leadership, using an action. If you are dying, you've got a long road healing up afterward, even with magical healing available... but it's better than being dead or overkilled. Raise dead exists, but you need to have it cast within MINUTES of death.

There is the constant threat of death, but it hardly ever actually touches PCs. This is the best sort of situation for a game like this.
Investing in characters, by making up interesting backgrounds and relationships and considering there characters history ... yeh, I am sure that nobody should be doing that.

That is the effect of investing in characters.... we just cant have that its just not 1e enough.
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My concern about any Save-or-Die monster is that it instantly becomes the biggest target on the battlefield.  If they're a rare, threatning occurrence they also paint themselves as a huge, "UNLOAD YOUR DAILIES OR AWESOME PREPARED SPELLS RIGHT HERE" target.  Given the nova potential of many characters in 4E, either straight damage or hard control effects, I wonder how effective Save-or-Die inducers might be.

I know, as a player, I have no problem unloading on such a creature if it means avoiding some potentially very unpleasant possibilities for myself or the party.

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This is CharOp. We not only assume block-of-tofu monsters, but also block-of-tofu DMs.
 

Zelink wrote:
You're already refluffing, why not refluff to something that doesn't suck?
I like Mike Mearls' solution in today's L&L.

Players today are too coddled.  We were heavily invested in our characters and role-play at the height of the SoD mechanic.  It is possible to do, even when, gods forbid, everything doesn't go your character's way.



Agreed.

I also think Carl makes a good point. If my players are walking into a save or die situation, I either give them ample warning or allow a retreat. Most of the effects had available countermeasures - neutralize poison, stone to flesh, protection scrolls, magic items...

I thought Mike Mearls' solution was good - the party can slug it out for a few rounds, and if things aren't going well, they can get out before it really gets ugly.



First, I'll note that I do not favor Save of Suck/Die mechanics for a number of reasons, many of which are the same reasons that many people like them.  That said, this point is extremely notable:
Players are at the heart of the game, not characters.
Here's what may be a more dividing point. The presence of save or dramatic effect abilities, while hardly resulting in a pile of corpses of PCs, will likely lead to a higher incidence of character death than not having them. Even effects like paralysis can be life-threatening to a character, since the remaining party might need to retreat (and thus leave the unfortunate character to be a tasty snack for ghouls, carrion crawlers, or gelatinous cubes). If it is relatively easy to roll up a new character and the set up is not so complicated that it is relatively easy to drop the new PC into the game (say, almost as soon as the new character is rolled up), then this need not be a problem, if the player and not any specific character of his, is at the heart of things.



This is a fundamental consideration.  I personally prefer a game where my character, and not myself, is the "heart of the game", so to speak.  I, as the player, am only enabling the successes and failures of my character and not the other way around.

To make an extreme example to illustrate a point:

If the game is focused around me, the player, and not the character I play as, the nature of the character I am playing as doesn't matter, outside of considerations of how I interact with the game environments (do I cast spells, or sneak attack, or heal, etc).  The various characters I play are little more than trappings that I dress myself in as I, the player, enter the game.

This has consequences beyond the prevalance of Save or Suck/Die mechanics.  This ties into the debate between Player Skill vs Character Skill, as well as considerations to how simple or complex of a character creation process the game can tolerate.  It may even extend to how so-called "Roleplaying Skills" (like Crafting and Perform) are viewed.

I'm not claiming one form is more valid than the other, just that I prefer one.  I'm also claiming that this represents how differently some people approach the game on a fundamental level, and gives me no small amount of doubt about a so-called set of "core rules".  If I prefer the character being central, and another player prefers the player being central, what could the core rules possibly look like that they could potentially satisfy both of us (even after we customize the game with relevant modules)?
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