Ability Scores and Saving Throws

Is there any particular reason that Wisdom is the only ability score that affects your saving throws? Or is it because of legacy rules?

I’d say Dexterity should affect Petrification & Paralysis, with Constitution affecting Poison & Death.

In B/X, Wisdom gave a bonus to “magic-based” saves. Nothing else gave a bonus to saves of any sort. Rules Cyclopedia narrowed even that down to just “spell” saves.

So it’s just legacy mechanics, which is what I figured. As a native 3E player, I find it far more intuitive to do something like what Kiero is suggesting. Would that completely cock up the game?

Without having done an especially thorough investigation, I suspect it would cause a variety of shifts It would (in general) make characters better at resisting non-magical effects. For non-WIS types, it would nonnegatively boost everyone’s saves. For WIS types, it would presumably be a slight power-down. In general, Wisdom would no longer be as important an ability score.

It would have effects. Whether that is “cocking up the game” largely depends on the Judge’s opinion of those effects :-).

That I know of, these would be the effects:

  1. Wisdom is already a pretty weak ability. This weakens it further.

  2. Average saves will still be the same. It will boost some characters’ saves, and hurt other characters’ saves, depending on whether they had a bonus or penalty in that ability or not. If you use one of the methods other than straight 3d6 in order, it will have a positive overall effect on saves, but that will be for the PCs, not the campaign world as a whole. Saves will be more variable, however, and you’ll have more calculations to do when figuring out someone’s saving throw. If you do what I do, which is mass-generate NPCs with 3d6-in-order, that’s one additional pain in the tracking.

  3. Any bonus from STR or CHA will give those scores even more power than before. CON isn’t quite as bad. DEX and WIS are both pretty safe.

To be honest, I only use three saves, I converted them to the 3.x saves/4e defenses, Fort/Ref/Will.

  • Petrification & Paralysis becomes Reflex. In certain circumstances, apply your Dexterity bonus/penalty to the roll.
  • Poison & Death becomes Fortitude. In certain circumstances, apply your Constitution bonus/penalty to the roll.
  • Staffs & Wands becomes Will. In certain circumstances, apply your Wisdom bonus/penalty to the roll.

I think you would have to give something back to Wisdom if you did this. It currently does nothing but modify saves.

As stated it would both help and hurt characters to have saves based on different attributes (an optional rule in the RC).

I would probably also look hard at magic items that effect saves in such a system and probably disallow them unless using 3d6 straight.

Wisdom adds to magic item/spell saves; seeing through disguises; Tampering with Mortality rolls; surviving lamia attacks; arguing with intelligent swords; and resisting some charming effects in Player’s Companion. There are also a handful of table rolls (Mortality, failed experimental research) that can result in WIS loss, but the odds of that mattering are pretty slim.

For divine casters, it also increases the number of ritual spells known and affects the Righteous Turning proficiency.

I think this is part of a larger question of “how much should ability scores matter”. In ACKS, we took a middle ground between OD&D (they hardly matter at all) and D&D 3.5 (they apply to everything).

But there are certainly places where a valid argument could be made for ability score modifiers applying:

  • WIS modifier to Hear Noise, Find Traps, or Detect Secret Doors
  • DEX modifier to Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Remove Traps, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows
  • STR or DEX modifier to Climb Walls
  • STR modifier to number of stones that can be carried at each encumbrance level (5/7/10)
  • STR, DEX, CON modifiers to various saving throws

Most of these have been brought up as discussion points in the past. All of them share the following elements:

  • They make high ability scores more important and cripple low ability scores
  • They make some character classes “hard to not suck at”, e.g. adding ability scores to thief rolls makes STR, DEX, and WIS much more important for thieves

Should you use them? I think you might consider ability score modifiers in two types of games.

  1. “Super Gritty” games with sharp demarcations between the “haves” and the “have nots”, with the PCs in the “have nots”. Rolled with straight 3d6, PCs will treasure their few rare stats.
  2. “Super Heroic” games where the PCs have average stats of 14+ and are meant to be a cut-above.

Just on Encumbrance, I really like the lower of your Str/Con modifier applying to carrying limits.

Ooh, that makes me think of the middle-of-three stat system that 13th Age uses for some throws in the game (e.g., your Physical Def/AC is determined by the middle-stat of, say, Dex/Con/Int) to discourage dumpstats and weaken “heroic” scores in one or two areas. It’s one of the more elegant solutions to the problem I’ve seen that still alows “superheroic” characters (since other things DO key off of single ability stats, like weapon damage and Strength).

Of course, that’s a pretty far cry from the base intent of the ACKS design and its somewhat more realistic take on the prevalence of either disastrously low or superhumanly high statistics anyway. I almost wonder if you decide to go whole-hog if you shouldn’t just roll with it rather than trying to tamper the effects of higher scores in your particular game.

It’s not exactly the first thing I’ve tinkered with in my game; we didn’t use 3d6 in order for the PCs stats. So it’s merely one of many things that’s been altered.