Changing the effects of "save or die" spells

SteveC

Villager
Hi everyone!
Here's another rules boogle I have been dealing with: save or "die" effects.
When I write that, I mean effects that take a character completely out of the fight, and leave him open to being quickly killed by enemies: paralysis, sleep and so on. The problem is that normally one die roll is all that's necessary to completely remove a character or opponent from the game: it's an all or nothing affair.

Many people don't see this as a problem, of course, but I've noticed that as you get to higher levels it seems like a character (or monster) has its life hinging more and more on one die roll, which is somewhat counter-intuitive to me. The Hold Person spell was rewritten in 3.5 to give a new save each round a character is affected by it, which to my mind is a good idea. Sadly, it's not consistently applied throughout the rules to other similar effects.

What do I propose? Well, if a campaign uses action points, I'd propose that spending one would let a character continue to act for the rolled number of rounds before they would have to make a new save. At the very least I'd allow characters to take a feat that allowed them to spend action points this way.

In a non action point campaign, it's a little more complicated. What I'm going to suggest is that a character of "heroic stature" can spend hit points to temporarily keep the effects at bay. My suggestion is that the character must spend Spell Level x Character Level in hit points per round. Where Spell Level is the level of the spell cast on them, and Character Level is the level of the character who is being attacked. For example, if a 5th level character had a "hold person" cast on them, they could spend 2 x 5 = 10 hit points each round to resist the effects if they failed their saving throw. I chose to make multiply the spell level by the character's level to keep the effect proportional as a character gains levels.

Some questions to be answered: who can use this effect? I chose to say heroic statured characters could, but what does that mean? To me this would be any character with character levels, or any of the most powerful monsters such as dragons or outsiders.

Second, is hit point damage the right way to model this kind of effect? I view it as using your life force to fight off the effects of a spell, at great cost.

Third, is that damage enough damage to keep from completely nerfing "save or die effects?" What about Caster Level x Character Level for the damage?

What does everyone think...is there a kernal of a good idea here? Have you seen any other similar rules systems for this kind of mechaninc?

Let me know what you think, and have a merry christmas too!

--Steve
 

reanjr

Villager
SteveC said:
Hi everyone!
Here's another rules boogle I have been dealing with: save or "die" effects.
When I write that, I mean effects that take a character completely out of the fight, and leave him open to being quickly killed by enemies: paralysis, sleep and so on. The problem is that normally one die roll is all that's necessary to completely remove a character or opponent from the game: it's an all or nothing affair.

Many people don't see this as a problem, of course, but I've noticed that as you get to higher levels it seems like a character (or monster) has its life hinging more and more on one die roll, which is somewhat counter-intuitive to me. The Hold Person spell was rewritten in 3.5 to give a new save each round a character is affected by it, which to my mind is a good idea. Sadly, it's not consistently applied throughout the rules to other similar effects.

What do I propose? Well, if a campaign uses action points, I'd propose that spending one would let a character continue to act for the rolled number of rounds before they would have to make a new save. At the very least I'd allow characters to take a feat that allowed them to spend action points this way.

In a non action point campaign, it's a little more complicated. What I'm going to suggest is that a character of "heroic stature" can spend hit points to temporarily keep the effects at bay. My suggestion is that the character must spend Spell Level x Character Level in hit points per round. Where Spell Level is the level of the spell cast on them, and Character Level is the level of the character who is being attacked. For example, if a 5th level character had a "hold person" cast on them, they could spend 2 x 5 = 10 hit points each round to resist the effects if they failed their saving throw. I chose to make multiply the spell level by the character's level to keep the effect proportional as a character gains levels.

Some questions to be answered: who can use this effect? I chose to say heroic statured characters could, but what does that mean? To me this would be any character with character levels, or any of the most powerful monsters such as dragons or outsiders.

Second, is hit point damage the right way to model this kind of effect? I view it as using your life force to fight off the effects of a spell, at great cost.

Third, is that damage enough damage to keep from completely nerfing "save or die effects?" What about Caster Level x Character Level for the damage?

What does everyone think...is there a kernal of a good idea here? Have you seen any other similar rules systems for this kind of mechaninc?

Let me know what you think, and have a merry christmas too!

--Steve
So... Barbarians are virtually immune to these effects while wizards have to suffer them like the little bitches they are?
 

Starman

Villager
One variant I have seen proposed is that when the character fails their save, roll 1d10. That is the negative number of hit points they are at. So on a roll of 6, the PC is at -6 hp. It still makes the spells nasty, but gives the other PCs a chance to save their buddy.

I know Piratecat gives the person one round before they die, also giving their comrades a chance to save them.

Starman
 

SteveC

Villager
reanjr said:
So... Barbarians are virtually immune to these effects while wizards have to suffer them like the little bitches they are?
Well, based on the only evidence I have of this sort of thing (Conan versus Thulsa Doom at the end of Conan) I'd have to say "yep, that's about it." :)

Seriously, though: wizards and sorcerers are more likely to make the save in the first place, so they would not be in this situation as much to begin with. At this point I'm using the hit point system to model resistance to this kind of effect, so, yes, characters with more hit points are going to be better able to resist these kinds of spells. I don't necessarily think this is a deal breaker: the image of a powerful character being able to resist the effects of an immobilizing spell for a round or two while a wizard has to simply hope for the best does match the source material. I can see where this is a potential issue, though. Does anyone have any other thoughts on how to address the issue, then?

--Steve
 

Darkness

Hand and Eye of Piratecat [Moderator]
I think hong does something similar but I don't know exactly what.
 
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reanjr

Villager
SteveC said:
Does anyone have any other thoughts on how to address the issue, then?

--Steve
How 'bout Con damage equal to the spell level? It has the benefit of never dropping your hit points into death (unless you are already injured or are dropped to 0 Con), and it probably better represents life force than hp.
 

hong

WotC's bitch
Darkness said:
I think hong does something similar but I don't know exactly what.
All death effects do 4d6 permanent Con drain.

Petrification does 4d6 permanent Dex drain.

If I could do it all over again, I might also have a "9 lives" system. Every time you die, you lose a life: this means you wake up at the end of the fight, severely hurt. You start with a set number of lives, and get more when you level up, or when you do something really cool (add other conditions as deemed relevant). This would also let me do away with resurrection as an in-game mechanic, with all the attendant benefits vis-a-vis verism versimil vesirimil believability.
 

Ulorian

Explorer
reanjr said:
How 'bout Con damage equal to the spell level? It has the benefit of never dropping your hit points into death (unless you are already injured or are dropped to 0 Con), and it probably better represents life force than hp.
That's a good idea.
 

Andre

Villager
hong said:
If I could do it all over again, I might also have a "9 lives" system. Every time you die, you lose a life: this means you wake up at the end of the fight, severely hurt. You start with a set number of lives, and get more when you level up, or when you do something really cool (add other conditions as deemed relevant). This would also let me do away with resurrection as an in-game mechanic, with all the attendant benefits vis-a-vis verism versimil vesirimil believability.
This is an interesting idea. One quick question: how would you handle a TPK using this mechanism?
 

SteveC

Villager
reanjr said:
How 'bout Con damage equal to the spell level? It has the benefit of never dropping your hit points into death (unless you are already injured or are dropped to 0 Con), and it probably better represents life force than hp.
Interesting...I think I like this.

What I'm looking for is a situation where a character at any level has options, but they're tough choices. Con damage like this would make it a tough decision. I like it!
 

hong

WotC's bitch
Andre said:
This is an interesting idea. One quick question: how would you handle a TPK using this mechanism?
Two options come to mind:

- They all wake up, having been left for dead by their enemies.

- They wake up in chains, having been captured.

All the mechanic really means is that instead of dying, the DM finagles things so that you get to keep playing the character. How this translates into in-game events is something under the DM's control.
 
I've been thinking about a system where failing a save against a save or "die" spell means that you take ability damage per round until the score in question reaches 0 - then the effect happens.

Examples:
Finger of death deals 1d6 points of Constitution damage.
Flesh to stone deals 1d6 points of Dexterity damage.
Baleful polymorph deals 1d6 points of Charisma damage.
Disintegrate deals 1d6 points of Strength damage.
Phantasmal killer deals 1d6 points of Wisdom damage.

At any time before your ability score reaches 0, a successful dispel magic, break enchantment or similar magic halts the process but does not repair ability damage.
 

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