Alt. save system

What would people think of a save system in which:

  1. All characters use the middle value of their current saves for all types of effects
  2. Dex, Con, or Wis are applied as modifiers according to the kind of effect and how the character avoids it (effectively Fort/Ref/Will)
  3. Characters receive a bonus or penalty to the save according to the difference between their HD and the attacker’s HD. Traps etc. are considered to always be equal to the character’s HD.

Mainly the first and second point. I can take or leave the ability mods. Mostly I’m thinking of getting away from the 5 effects system.

Haven’t playtested any of this, just brainstorming.

Such a system will surely work; it does work, after all, in 3.5.

Therefore I can merely explain why I did not use the Fort/Ref/Will save system in ACKS.

I think it made concrete what is necessarily abstract. To me the classic example of a saving throw is the example of a hero fighting a zombie in any George Romero horror movie. Let’s compare two different models.

3.5E: "If the zombie successfully hits its target, the target must make a Fort Save DC 25. If the saving throw fails, the target is infected and will become a zombie in 1d6 hours.
ACKS: "If the zombie successfully hits its target, the target must make a saving throw versus Death. If the saving throw fails, the target is infected and will become a zombie in 1d6 hours.

Note how in the 3.5E model, the zombie infection requires a Fortitude Save. That’s how 3.5E models diseases and poisons: You’ve been exposed, but your toughness and high Constitution might save.

Yet in Romero movies, a hero does not survive the zombie apocalypse by shrugging off the infection (a Fort save); no, anyone who is bitten is inevitably infected. Instead the hero survives the zombie apocalypse by never getting bitten at all! He might not get bitten because…

  • He is very lucky
  • At the last minute the zombie’s teeth bit on his thick leather glove and didn’t break the skin
  • He maneuvered in such a way that the zombie was able to body-slam him but not to bite him
    How the hero avoids getting bitten will depend on the type of hero he is. All of these abstractly factored into “saving throw v. Death”.

(Also note that the hero will still “lose hp” when fighting a zombie - thrown into the wall, knocked sideways, etc. The monster’s attack throw determines whether the hero takes damage; the hero’s saving throw determines whether his skin was broken by the bite.)

Thus, the seemingly arbitrary difference in the game mechanics actually models a totally different in-game reality. In one system, the hero was bit but somehow not infected. In the other system the hero was hit but not bit, for a reason that is defined by the Judge in light of the situation and character.

Perhaps a system of “single save with ability score modifiers” could work if the Judge requires that the player explain how his character is avoiding the threat and then uses the ability score which is most appropriate. (“I try to roll away before it can bite me!”-DEX bonus; “My thick-as-leather Dwarven hide canna be pierced by no girly elf-bite” - CON bonus).

I was considering letting the ability be whatever the player could justify. I remember reading somewhere that Dave Arneson would just yell out HOW DO YOU SAVE YOURSELF and make people roll (or not even get a roll) based on how they reacted.

Anyway thanks a lot for your explanation, Alex. The zombie example specifically makes things really clear.

The zombie example is a really great one. Before 3.x D&D came along I always believed I wanted a more “coherent” save mechanic akin to what 3.x eventually provided. Once I actually played with it, however, I realised that the old system had a lot of positives I hadn’t appreciated until they were gone (the story of my 3.x journey in a nutshell, really). The greater granularity and its impact on class balance, the more abstract nature, and the general lack of ability modifiers all turned out to be positives. Who knew?

Before I studied zen, I thought that mountains were mountains. Then I began to study zen, and saw that mountains were not really mountains. But now I am a zen master, and I know mountains to be mountains.

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I see the reasoning behind the attempt to keep things sufficiently vague so as not to break immersion, but it could just as easily be said that a good fortitude save is skin thick enough not to break, or the ability to hold the zombie’s head away while it slams into you.

For my part, my immersion gets broken a lot when I have people save vs. paralysis for things like avoiding falling or climbing while not a thief, but I didn’t spend a proficiency on System Tinkerer so I tend to avoid mucking with entire subsystems like saving throws when possible.

In defense of some of the old school mechanics (and a possibly derailing topic change): I used to think wandering monster throws were dumb because they implied the monsters appeared from nowhere, but at some point it clicked to me that it’s up to the DM to come up with the story that explains WHERE that monster came from or WHY they’ve been here all along, and that has inspired me to add details to my dungeons on the fly that weren’t there when the party entered.

I’ve long been tempted to write a dungeon that actually has “monster spawn points” that were created by an evil mage who built the dungeon as an arena to train troops.

Red Warrior needs food badly!