AC, saving throws, spell save DCs

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In Star Wars Saga Edition saving throws was replaced with Defense (Will, Fort, Reflex) scores and Defense was put in with Reflex. It only makes sense for the same ability that lets you dodge out of the way of a crossbow to allow you to dodge a fireball. I would like to see this brought over to 4e with AC being melded into Reflex Defense and Damage Reduction being renamed Armor Class. I would also like to see Spell Save DC replaced with either a skill or some other attack score specifically for casters.
I personally wouldn't mind, but thousands of others might.
Greetings,

I dislike Saving throws being transformed into the "defense" mechanic. Resisting something that has successfully hit should remain on the defenders side. I think 3rd edition Saves are simple and make sense--in other words no reason to change. Balancing the math of DCs is the only thing that needs review in my opinion.

Here's an example: A character drinks a poisoned beverage, and needs to determine if it affects him or not. Does it make more sense for him to roll a saving throw or for the poison to make an attack against his fortitude defense? There is no lucky chance that the poison could score against the drinker--it is as potent as it is (represented by a fixed DC), the randomness (the roll) lies with the drinker, who may for any reason have differing resistance to that poison at any given time.

As far as AC...well, it remains essentially the same as 1st edition, which means it is a good candidate for review and possible redesign. It has always been a combination of whether you are struck and whether you take damage. Fact is--it works and has worked for over 30 years.

I personally would prefer that you have a score (Defense Class) that determines if you are hit or not by any given attack, and reflects your ability to get out of the way of a ray, sword, whatever. If you are hit, then Armor, Natural Armor, or other magic (stoneskin) should determine if the damage from the hit is mitigated and to what degree. Again, this would seem to require some rebalancing of the numbers, but that seems simple enough.

KAM
I want to see armour add to a "toughness" saving throw, like in True20. Heck, I'll be happy as long as D&D gives us some nod in the direction of armour actually doing something to reduce the severity of a blow, instead of just making it harder to "hit" you.

If you have to resort to making offensive comments instead of making logical arguments, you deserve to be ignored.

In Star Wars Saga Edition saving throws was replaced with Defense (Will, Fort, Reflex) scores and Defense was put in with Reflex. It only makes sense for the same ability that lets you dodge out of the way of a crossbow to allow you to dodge a fireball. I would like to see this brought over to 4e with AC being melded into Reflex Defense and Damage Reduction being renamed Armor Class. I would also like to see Spell Save DC replaced with either a skill or some other attack score specifically for casters.

I would not mind Defense Scores either. It keeps all the action on the side of the aggressor instead of some things occur with the aggressor and others with the defender. I know in the cases of things like Poison (but not the poison spell) that it seems somewhat counter-intuitive at first but I think that after one plays with the rule for a short while that it will not seem so and that one basic rules mechanic will facilitate adding new players to the game.

In 3.0/3.5 attacks and skills roll a d20 against a target DC but poison, disease, and most spells instead allow a saving throw. This has been a lot harder to teach new and/or less gung-ho pseudo-rules lawyer players than almost any other mechanic.

In regards to AC and Reflex Saves, I also would not mind seeing these two merged and/or refined in some fashion. The knight that raises his shield to deflect some or all of the dragon's breath is an example of something that the 3.0/3.5 rules does not handle well. His AC helps him not at all. Nor does the pure Rogue Reflex save that allows a Rogue to essentially dodge a spherical based area attack in an open room with no cover. Unless curling up into a ball and/or wrapping one self in a water-soaked cloak at just the right moment is an explanation.

As for DR, I have mixed views on that. On the one hand it adds a level of fidelity to the game that can provide some interesting tweaking but on the other it adds complexity that can often be forgotten, especially on the DMs part with lots of NPCs. I actually have been experimenting with a mechanic that gives all mundane armor DR X/magic. So any magical weapon bypasses the DR. Then magical armor would have DR X+Y/magic or DR Y/--. This makes magic weapons and armors have meaning without the +1 through +5 (or even +10) range of bonuses to weapons and armor.
Having seen Saga in action, I have to say that I REALLY like the Save/Defense hybrid mechanic. I really hope they go that way for 4e.
Here's an example: A character drinks a poisoned beverage, and needs to determine if it affects him or not. Does it make more sense for him to roll a saving throw or for the poison to make an attack against his fortitude defense? There is no lucky chance that the poison could score against the drinker--it is as potent as it is (represented by a fixed DC), the randomness (the roll) lies with the drinker, who may for any reason have differing resistance to that poison at any given time.

The attack roll of the potion would not be of the potion itself, but the person which brew the potion, of course.

A 'correct' mechanical system would therefore include both a roll for the attacker and the defender, but this would result in too many rolls at the table.

I think we need to rethink the whole save and defence system, but not in terms of in which case a static score or a roll is appropriate, but who should make the roll. I am of the opinion that the DM should make the least amount of rolls and the players the greatest.
This implies an asymmetric save/defence/attack mechanism, whereby the DM only uses static numbers (speeding up time behind the DM screen) and the players roll everything.

An example.

(1) Barbarian (player) attacks an orc shaman (DM). The player rolls for damage, the DM quickly looks at the static defence score of the orc shaman. The barbarian doesn't hit.

(2a) Orc Shaman attacks barbarian. The player rolls his defence against the Shaman's attack. The DM quickly compares the player's result to the static attack of the Shaman. The barbarian rolled above the static attack and defended
(2b) or... Orc Shaman attacks barbarian. The player rolls a 1 on his defence roll. Critical threat for the Shaman! The player rolls again, trying to avert the critical hit.

(3) Another Orc Shaman casts a fireball spell on the barbarian. The barbarian rolls his reflex save. He succeeds.

(4) The party wizard (other player) attacks one of the Orc Shamans with a fireball spell. He rolls a (caster level + spell level + ability modifier) spell check. The DM quickly compares the result to the static reflex score of the Orc Shaman.

And so on...
Greetings,

I dislike Saving throws being transformed into the "defense" mechanic. Resisting something that has successfully hit should remain on the defenders side. I think 3rd edition Saves are simple and make sense--in other words no reason to change. Balancing the math of DCs is the only thing that needs review in my opinion.

Frankly, it was about time Reflex and AC were folded into one defense as they are the same thing, but applied differently.

As to the other saves becoming defense, I'd like it as it reduces the amount of rolling in the game, and speeds up play. Having one roll is really nice. I hope they follow this trend.
I hope they don't discourage the use of armor or require a talent to be able to wear armor at high levels. Other than that I have no problem with it.
I personally really appreciate the Defense mechanic in my Star Wars game. It requires fewer die rolls as a single attack roll can be checked against each defense. It eliminates the implausibility that can stem from poor saving throws (oh the wise cleric is affected by the suggestion, but the foolish fighter isn't).

I find it easier for me to keep track of player's defenses than player's save modifiers (partly due to fewer conditional modifiers).

It helps keep some mystique in effects that aren't immediately obvious. It's much more subtle and less telling to ask a player what his Will defense is than ask him to make a saving throw. There is no knowledge of whether he did well or poorly, and less metagame knowledge about a particular DC.

That said, I'd like Armor not to apply to Reflex defense. I think Reflex defense is better modeled as a character's ability to get out of the way, while armor helps absorb damage. My ideal mechanic would be an Armor Class compared to the damage dealt. If the damage is less than the Armor Class, the damage taken is halved. That way light hits become less significant, you can power through armor, and it isn't that difficult to hit something the size of house just hard to damage it significantly. I like this better than straight Damage Reduction, because you still always deal damage on hit and it provides a way to completely overcome it (by dealing massive damage).
Anaxander, I like your idea of the players making all the rolls. I just wonder if it would function well in practice when PC-attack-NPC and NPC-attacks-PC work in two different ways. I could see that getting confusing.

Plus, as a DM, I reserve the right to *occasionally* fudge rolls in order to tell the story I want to tell. I need to be making some of those rolls in order to do that. In the end, I think it might be best for the character who's "doing" something (even if it a mindless liquid attacking your body functions) being the one who makes the rolls.

BTW, I also like your screen name and might use it for an evil wizard in my campaign if that's alright. :-)
The only argument in favor of keeping saves is that it makes it possible that not everyone will be affected by a given effect.

For instance, if everyone in the party has a Will Defense of 15 and the attacker gets them all in the area of effect and manages a total of 16 or more, everyone is affected.

But if they have a Will Save of +5 and the DC is 16, it is possible that different characters will save on their own.

HOWEVER, Defenses are as fast as or faster than Saves. That is to say that an effect that targets one creature is just as fast under Save and Defense rules. But an effect that targets more than one creature is faster under Defense rules because the attacker makes one roll.

So that is the risk. If everyone in the party has similar Defenses they will probably all be affected or unaffected. But under Save rules, some might resist and others not.

It is a case of Speed vs Variance.

That said, I like that Defenses in SW Saga are more balanced in relation to levels than Saves. As well as the contra stat to attacks (AC, Defense, and Reflex Defense) being much more dynamic.

In D&D Armor Class is basically static. Yes there are some classes that increase over levels (Monk being an example), but that is the exception, not the rule.
I, for one, welcome our new Saga overlords...

Wait, wrong thread!

I much prefer the Saga way of handling saves. Fixed DC's for saves don't work very well. In theory they are perfect, but in reality, not so much.

Posions are a good example of this. Take drow sleep poison for example. The default DC is 12. A *first* level character has a 40% chance of avoiding it. Unless fortitude saves are favored, then it goes up to 50%. And the chance of avoiding it just keeps getting better. One of the things drow were scary for was their sleep poison. So much for that.

Another example of this is creature abilities. The aboleth mind control DC is 17. By the time a party can encounter one, a 17 is relatively easy to beat due to cloaks of resistance, spells, and prestige classes.

But then, in D&D saving throws modifiers tend to outpace equivelent level DCs. There's an Order of the Stick comic that deals with it in a humorous fashion.
Greetings,

I think we need to rethink the whole save and defence system, but not in terms of in which case a static score or a roll is appropriate, but who should make the roll. I am of the opinion that the DM should make the least amount of rolls and the players the greatest.
This implies an asymmetric save/defence/attack mechanism, whereby the DM only uses static numbers (speeding up time behind the DM screen) and the players roll everything.
And so on...

I tend to agree with you, including the part about minimizing the amount the DM has to roll, but I am not sure I'd want two different (asymmetric) ways of doing the same thing based on the controller.

Frankly, it was about time Reflex and AC were folded into one defense as they are the same thing, but applied differently.

As to the other saves becoming defense, I'd like it as it reduces the amount of rolling in the game, and speeds up play. Having one roll is really nice. I hope they follow this trend.

I agree with you that Reflex and AC (Dodge) are similar and could be combined. I would have to think about Deflection bonus types of things there in relation to area effects.

However, let's take the example of a Wizard using a ray spell on someone--if it is a reflex effect, I suppose it works, because if it misses, then it misses. If it is a fort effect (let's say a disintegrate), then he has to roll to hit (touch by today's system) and then vs the Fort Defense. There are no rolls saved.

In my view this is the wrong (if perhaps simpler) direction. This is making spell effects like AC. If you get hit the effect (in the case of a physical swing--damage) works period. I think the two-roll system makes a lot more sense.
Step 1: The attackers roll determines if you are hit
Step 2: The defenders roll (or trait) determines if or how much he is affected.

As far as simplicity--does anyone actually think that Saving Throws as they stand in 3.5 are too complex. In my view this system is very simple.

KAM
I think D&D AC rating is fine the way it normally is but a protection rating for armour should be included. That way, there's a difference between modifying dexterity, Reflex ST bonuses, and dodge bonus.
Greetings,

I dislike Saving throws being transformed into the "defense" mechanic. Resisting something that has successfully hit should remain on the defenders side. I think 3rd edition Saves are simple and make sense--in other words no reason to change. Balancing the math of DCs is the only thing that needs review in my opinion.

The point being is that you don't know if its successfully hit until you find out if you saved or not.

Here's an example: A character drinks a poisoned beverage, and needs to determine if it affects him or not. Does it make more sense for him to roll a saving throw or for the poison to make an attack against his fortitude defense?

Wouldn't that depend on many things including how much of the poisoned beverage you drank and how your body reacts to it. Makes just as much sense for the poison to make an attack against your fortitude to cripple you as it does for you to randomly resist certain poisons.

Matter of fact, you know why it makes more sense and is simply better for the game overall?

Player 1: I take a drink of of my ale.
DM: Roll Fortitude Save.
Player 1: CRAP!
Player 2: I cast detect poison.

There is no lucky chance that the poison could score against the drinker--it is as potent as it is (represented by a fixed DC), the randomness (the roll) lies with the drinker, who may for any reason have differing resistance to that poison at any given time.

Yes there is. If the poison wasn't mixed into the drink fully and you swallowed more of the actual poison than drink.

It making an attack roll against your Fortitude is no different than you trying to resist it by making a roll. It is both randomized with modifiers on both ends. The only difference is that it puts the roll in the hand of the attacker instead of the defender.

As far as AC...well, it remains essentially the same as 1st edition, which means it is a good candidate for review and possible redesign. It has always been a combination of whether you are struck and whether you take damage. Fact is--it works and has worked for over 30 years.

The vanacian magic system worked, doesn't mean it is or has always been the best or only option.
Yes there is. If the poison wasn't mixed into the drink fully and you swallowed more of the actual poison than drink.

It making an attack roll against your Fortitude is no different than you trying to resist it by making a roll. It is both randomized with modifiers on both ends. The only difference is that it puts the roll in the hand of the attacker instead of the defender.

I would agree that the mechanics aren't terribly different with their being a random element on each end. However, I would argue (at least in the case of posion) that there is no active element that the poison can engage in--it is an inanimate object. The action was taken by the poisoner sometime earlier--he prepared it. The defender on the other hand is active. Perhaps he starts to drink and realizes there is something not right--taste or smell. Perhaps he tries to spit it out, or even throw it up. In my opinion this is better represented by the defender's roll.

In the larger sense, I favor attackers making attacking rolls and defenders making resisting rolls. I don't like the idea of a player having no active role in their defense. Reducing any interaction of the player to his turn or recording damage is not an enhancement to the game.

Making a DM make additional rolls for as many characters they are controlling doesn't seem to speed things up either. That means the DM will have to manage even more. A player has more time in a round to manage their character, whereas a DM has to manage (typically) multiples.

KAM
Since defender to attacker is almost always 1:1 or many:1 I think a single attack roll against multiple defense scores is almost a certainty in 4th edition, given the stated intention to speed up play and the example of Saga edition (which I don't own).

As was already mentioned, while this leaves the outcome of 1:1 situations statistically the same as 3.5, it makes a large difference on mass effects. The large variability of possible outcomes for any given mass effect suddenly becomes much more predictable. More importantly, the relative strength of the defense scores is an indicator that a character will always do better or worse than another character against any given mass effect, rather than assign a probability to it. Even if the game were balanced so that a large number of mass effects occurred every encounter (ensuring a wide variety of outcomes) the correlation of outcomes between individual characters per effect remains static.

I don't think the 4th edition designers are blind to this. What I suspect, based on the prominence of counters so far in the playtest articles as well as in Tome of Battle, is that defensive counters will play a large part of the new system. This puts the player in active control of their defenses (and makes it a managed resource) rather than something that happens automatically. In other words, instead of getting a lucky high roll on a Will save the unwise fighter will have to activate an ability that grants it a bonus to its Will defense score, reflects the attack, allows a disruptive counterattack, or what have you. This allows some of the per effect variability of the saves system without so much overhead fireball after fireball.

If done right, this might also add a *more* significant sense of control to the defender than is current. Consider a vampire's dominating gaze, for example. In the current system we might describe a fighter's saving throw against it in terms of how much willpower he was able to conjure up against it, as determined by a d20. In a counter-based system, however, the same fighter who wishes to avoid the effect might have to actively choose to find those deepest reserves of willpower. And even when he does that he might sometimes fail, which would be pretty dramatic. This also keeps both the defender and attacker active in the fight, if only because the defender needs to make a decision about whether to use a counter or not.

I note that if a character's defenses need to be a bit more managed it is conceivable that this could have a positive effect on players who wander over to the couch when it isn't their turn. A saving throw can be mindless since it is automatic. I think that is less likely with counter-based defenses (or any system that makes a big deal of immediate actions), so hopefully that keeps any given player a bit more involved. People are always discovering ingenious new ways to be lazy, though, so who knows.

Anyway, I agree that it makes sense in many cases for the defender to actively resist an effect. And if it can't be done every time while keeping the flow of the game smooth, make it really good when it happens.
I don't see the problem with making the mechanics consistent by forcing the attacker to conduct all of the rolling necessary. I mean, when dealing with physical combat, the attacker is the one that rolls against a static defense value, while the defender only rolls in specific, rare instances.

Why should a person defending against a fireball have to roll a defense value, while a person defending against a sword attack doesn't?

Inconsistency of mechanics is what gave us the whole "Do I roll high or low?" crap from earlier editions.
However, I would argue (at least in the case of posion) that there is no active element that the poison can engage in--it is an inanimate object.

But by this argument, then a person dodging a sword is not engaging in their defense in an active manner, since they aren't rolling.

Remember, it's just an abstraction.

If the poison's DC is 15, and my Fortitude save is +6, there's no real statistical difference between me rolling and adding a +6 to my roll, or reversing it, and having the other guy roll with a +5 bonus against my DC of 16.
For SAGA, an attack is always rolled against a fixed defense. This mechanic is the same for all things. I prefer this and want it in my 4D&D
I think it would be nice is players could spend Action Points (Force Points in Saga) to increase a defense verse one effect (before a roll is made).

But unfortunately, Action/Force points can only be spent to (positively) modify a single attack roll, skill check, or ability check.

The major drawback of Defenses vs Saves is that when fighting many identical NPCs, you are either going to affect them all with an AoE, partially affect them all, or entirely miss.

But I suppose a GM could fudge it by having a third have -1, -0, and +1 to each defense (different ones). So you could have a -1/+0/+1, a +0/+1/-1, and a +1/-1/+0 mix...
One thing I'd like to add is that in Saga, classes add a set bonus to Defenses and you use the highest. This does a better job at balancing high level play, as the most variance between good and poor saves before ability/magic mods is 6pts (at least in Saga). I really like this feature, and hope they keep it in for 4e.
I prefer the concept of attackers always rolling against fixed defense scores.

When you think about the core mechanic of D&D 3+:

Someone wants to do something so they roll 1d20 and add a modifier to see how well they did it. They match this against a fixed passive DC.

When someone shoots an arrow at an orc, they roll 1d20, add their attack bonus, and match it against a fixed DC of the orc's armor class.

When someone casts a spell against an orc, they should roll a d20 and add a spell penetration bonus and match it against an orc's resistance to that sort of spell. After looking at the mechanic it makes sense that attackers should always roll and defenders should always have static DCs. It would also speed up area spells.
Defense solves stuff but screw other.

I would use a hybrid system, in place of having either reflex,will and fort saves or reflex, will and fort defenses, I would have reflex as a defense and will and fort as saves.

I mean that reflex is an active defense, you try to avoid damage while fort and will are pasive, only comes into play if you have been struck.
But by this argument, then a person dodging a sword is not engaging in their defense in an active manner, since they aren't rolling.

Remember, it's just an abstraction.

If the poison's DC is 15, and my Fortitude save is +6, there's no real statistical difference between me rolling and adding a +6 to my roll, or reversing it, and having the other guy roll with a +5 bonus against my DC of 16.

You make some good points, that I really can't disagree with. I suppose my basic premise is that I prefer an Attacker to roll to see if they Accomplish their goal--which is basically to Strike/Successfully target an opponent, and I like the defender to roll to see the degree of effect.

This also depends on maintaining physical combat and saving throws as two different things (which I also prefer). I don't find any of it to be too complicated, and honestly--I am not sure how anyone who knows D&D 3.5looks at this and laments it being too difficult.

The ability to successfully strike a target seems to me to be wholly different from the targets ability to resist the effect.

KAM
The major drawback of Defenses vs Saves is that when fighting many identical NPCs, you are either going to affect them all with an AoE, partially affect them all, or entirely miss.

This issue cropped up in obscure places in 3.5 as well. The obvious one was turning checks (which is why mine use a Will save instead). The other was in the "rolled defense" variant, which suggested a single defense roll be used for the entire round. Thus, if you rolled poorly against the first attack then everyone would (should) pile on you to exploit your low defense.

Unless you want "all or nothing" effects, any 1:many situation requires that randomisation applies to the many (and preferably not to the 1).