Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Saving Throw Experience

Something that has always bothered me, which came to mind during the last session I was running, is the stale quality of saving throws in AD&D.  First and foremost, that they do not improve with each level, but rather improve in stages of three or four levels - and more importantly, that your saving throw versus a fifth level spell is the same as your save versus a first level spell.

It takes gobs of experience to throw a fifth level spell, and how annoying is it when you cast, say, a magic jar against some very low-level character and have it thrown off with the same chance of throwing off a charm person spell.  Shouldn't the spell that takes longer to acquire have more oomph than a spell you have at the start?

What's worse is that by the time a party member is likely to use a magic jar against an enemy, the enemies will be much more powerful and have much lower saving throws than when that mage was first level and using charm person vs. orcs.  Not that I'm saying I want to make higher level spellcasters more powerful, but we're talking a circumstance of diminishing returns for more difficult to acquire spells ... and the effect is to push casters away from spells that require saving throws.

Logically, a higher level spell ought to be tougher to save against than a lower level spell.  Logically, a player ought to improve their saving throw at every level.  So I'm proposing, as a template, a table something like this:

For comparison's sake, if we propose that a first level character's save vs. a particular type of attack (magic, death, paralyzation and so on) is 13 (marked in red), than the additional saving throws decending from that initial number is reflected by the table.

Of course, this would mean a separate table for each class and each type of attack ... but hey, I work on a computer, so I have the space.  Overall, I think this would make a better saving throw 'experience.'


Oddbit said...

One of the features that Third edition implemented that it seems fourth abandoned was something similar to this. Although their system was a bit easier to implement as it was more aligned towards bonuses and penalties. Each level of spell would increase the target number by one.

I for one also agree, if it only becomes less and less likely a spell succeeds as you progress that is undesirable. At the least I would think it should break even.

JDJarvis said...

Scaled saves make some sense but there are few high level AD&D spells that have a save that negates the full effect of the spell.
High level spells may already be written to account for the odds of a successful save by not offering a target a save or using a nonstandard mechanic for resolution of the spell.

Many AD&D spells also scale up with caster level. A fireball cast by a 6th level MU is much more survivable than when cast by a 14th level MU. So there is an improvement going along with MU spells regardless of target that even a saving throw may not entirely mitigate.

Anthony said...

This whole issue is why I like Castles & Crusades so much. Thank goodness for the SIEGE mechanic! In C&C, a spellcaster's level is added to the saving throw difficulty of the target. So, say the target has Intelligence as a prime attribute, and therefore has a base save of 12 against a spell like Charm Person. So a 5th level wizard casting that charm spell would add 5 to the target's base of 12, for a total of 17. The target has to meet or beat that 17. Note that the target gets to add his/her level to the save roll. But if said target is only 1st level, they only get to add 1 to their save roll! Therefore, the target would have to roll a 16 or better to beat that Charm Spell.

It's stuff like this that constantly make me question why I entertain those notions that I should be playing some other rule set!

Alexis said...

I appreciate the other systems that exist - it seems to me, however, that the base numbers for first level saving throws in AD&D are good numbers, familiar and game proven; and I like that there are different kinds of saving throws for different things, each favoring different classes.

Once I've opened them up, I may create additional kinds of saving throw. Don't know yet.

Anthony said...

I see where you're coming from. I put forth, however, that C&C does have roots in 1E, 2E, and 3E D&D. True, it's save mechanic has more in common with 3E, but the rest of the game seems more like 1E/2E. Sorry, it's late and rambling has set in. I guess I see little difference between C&C and D&D, but that's just my insanity ;-)

Danny Peck said...

I like this chart, and the fact that the saving throw number is 13 for any spell level at the level a wizard would be able to cast it makes it feel very "right."

I think it wonderfully solves the problem of high level spells that allow saves being useless the moment you learn them, but there's one problem I worry about that it "creates."

Low level spells could approach obsolescence rather quickly, which is unfortunate to me, so maybe some sort of "overcasting" option could be available. Cast Charm Person as a 3rd level spell? Spell research could also be used, I suppose, to allow a Magic-User to research a higher level variant, if he or she likes Charm Person a lot.

Alexis said...

"the fact that the saving throw number is 13 for any spell level at the level a wizard would be able to cast it makes it feel very 'right.'"

Thank you Danny, I'm glad someone noticed.

Regarding low-level spells, a few things come to mind: 1) that it would cause the mage to center those spells on the high level enemy's minions and not the enemy; 2) that it would help reduce the overall number of spells of the mage, meaning that a certain number of spells would 'go out of service' as the mage got higher, counteracting something someone brought up a few days ago, Quadratic Wizards; 3) and finally, it would really mean that the higher level 'improvement' versions of spells (phantasmal force, invisibility, protection from evil) were honestly improvements, and not just the same spell with a few added features. I could see a whole host of improvement spells researched by players, who simply wanted a taunt spell, say, that had a chance to affect meaner, smarter creatures.

colluphid said...

You're logic here is very solid, Alexis... I've toyed with this idea myself, but I might just steal yours instead!

Regarding your statement on having to create multiple tables; well, for those DMs that may wince at the prospect I offer this: while we DMs should keep the game mechanics simple and sleek enough for fast play, we also spend countless hours dreaming up our own freakin' continents with their own terrain, politics, weather, and so forth. So what's a little more number-crunching and printer paper to us?

Excellent idea, A. I'm going to work this into my new campaign.

Tim said...

I suppose I'm disturbing the dead a little here, but I'm curious to know what made you decide to drop this idea and instead go with what you've got on the wiki now: http://tao-of-dnd.wikispaces.com/Saving+Throws

Alexis Smolensk said...

I would guess I lost interest in the idea and went with a rewrite of what worked. Perhaps, if this idea is good, it will come to the forefront of my mind again.