D&D General Do Saving throws Change the Fiction?

Shiroiken

Legend
Well, I don't usually narrate the result before the die is rolled, so typically, the saving throw determines the fiction. In occasions where we realize there was an error, and the saving throw result should have been different, if it is very close to the event, I'll retcon it. If the saving throw was a couple rounds back, though, I probably let it stand.
To me...The Saving throw chooses the fiction. It doesn't change the fiction. The Saving throw doesn't revert time unless it is given via time magic or time travelling powers
I think these two sum up my view. I try not to narrate too much before any rolls are made, but the purpose of the roll is to determine the outcome. If the failed result isn't always obvious, sometimes I'll give an indication of if "you feel your muscles begin to siffen, but it passes quickly."

A player character is moving down a hallway and fails to perceive a pit trap that suddenly opens up beneath their feet. As GM, you call for a Dex/Reflex/Wands saving throw. The PC succeeds and you say: just before you step on the tile you see a hint of a wide crack, darkness, below and as it gives way you are able to throw yourself backward to avoid falling in.

That seems like a simple example, and it is, but it still changes the fiction based on the result of the roll. Prior to the result of the roll, the PC had failed their check.
That's a weird way to narrate it. I would have the character feel the ground give way, and then leap back to safety.

Also, weird nitpick, but the default save for AD&D was against "spells," unless they had a specific other save.

As an alternative, imagine the PC is banging there 10 foot pole on the ground in front of them and this is supposed to grant them advantage on the perception roll (or passive perception check, or whatever the mechanism is). They still fail to perceive it but succeed at their saving throw. "The floor suddenly gives way where you thought it was solid, but you are able to wedge your pole between the walls and keep from tumbling into the pit." That wedged pole is a new state that has no origin in the saving throw mechanism, but makes sense in the context of the fiction of what was happening right before the save was called for.
Also a weird narration, but I think it could be an interesting way to allow a different save than the typical one. For 5E, I might allow this as a way to use a Strength save instead of the Dexterity one I had planned.

A more common but less interesting version of this is when the GM tells you what your horrible fate is, and then lets you make a save. "The dragons breathes on you, melting your bones to slag! Make a saving throw." I see it all the time, and in some cases it is more complex and requires back tracking to make sense of a successful save.
That's... horrifying. That description would make it seem like the save is to survive while remaining horribly disfigured/disabled.
 

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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
EDIT:
I know this OP is a little hard to parse. Truth be told I have been stuck home with covid and I don't think my brain was quite translating what I getting at correctly.

I think my actual question, now that I try and parse the mess I wrote, was more along the lines of: how do you use savings throw results to define the fiction and present the new game state. The reason i was focusing on saving throws is because they are a little different than skill checks or attack rolls. First, they are reactive. Second, they usually end up (at least partially) negating the impact of a thing happening in the fiction.
------OP follows

This is spinning out of the gloves thread.

When you are playing and/or running the game, do you use saving throws to change the fiction? That is to say, does the result of the saving throw retcon the outcome of a thing?

Note by the way that I AM NOT asking you what the rules say or what the right way to do it is, or asking for advice. I am asking YOU, at your table, how do you do it.

As a way to explain what i mean, here's an example:

A player character is moving down a hallway and fails to perceive a pit trap that suddenly opens up beneath their feet. As GM, you call for a Dex/Reflex/Wands saving throw. The PC succeeds and you say: just before you step on the tile you see a hint of a wide crack, darkness, below and as it gives way you are able to throw yourself backward to avoid falling in.

That seems like a simple example, and it is, but it still changes the fiction based on the result of the roll. Prior to the result of the roll, the PC had failed their check.

As an alternative, imagine the PC is banging there 10 foot pole on the ground in front of them and this is supposed to grant them advantage on the perception roll (or passive perception check, or whatever the mechanism is). They still fail to perceive it but succeed at their saving throw. "The floor suddenly gives way where you thought it was solid, but you are able to wedge your pole between the walls and keep from tumbling into the pit." That wedged pole is a new state that has no origin in the saving throw mechanism, but makes sense in the context of the fiction of what was happening right before the save was called for.

A more common but less interesting version of this is when the GM tells you what your horrible fate is, and then lets you make a save. "The dragons breathes on you, melting your bones to slag! Make a saving throw." I see it all the time, and in some cases it is more complex and requires back tracking to make sense of a successful save.

I guess what I am asking is, when you run D&D, do you a) treat saving throws as a retconning of the fiction that has been narrated, or b) do you (at least endeavor to) stop the narration at the point of calling for the saving throw.

Now that I have written this all out, I try to do b most of the times but it isn't uncommon for me to get over excited and say to much, then have to backpedal a little. At the same time, I do like to use the results of rolls to modify the game state in ways that aren't inherent in the mechanism itself (the wedged pole above) because I think it makes the process of saving throws (and skill checks etc) more interesting than the generally binary nature of them.
The saving throw determines outcome. That bolded bit isnt wrong, but it's phrased in a way that is problematic because it narrates outcome before outcome is determined. If it were more like "The dragon';s iron smelting flames pour down towards you as it breathes on [gestures at the grid area]" then it would be totally fine. The fact that those flames are capable of smelting iron has little bearing on if they also smelt Bob's bones until Bob makes his save & deducts the damage from his HP. If bob's HP was low it's even possible for a minor flame to do terrible things to him even if he saved.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think these two sum up my view. I try not to narrate too much before any rolls are made, but the purpose of the roll is to determine the outcome. If the failed result isn't always obvious, sometimes I'll give an indication of if "you feel your muscles begin to siffen, but it passes quickly."
What I often do in such cases is give a second roll on a made save, for whether the character realizes what just tried to happen to it.
 

Digdude

Just a dude with a shovel, looking for the past.
At my table, saves are like bullet time from the Matrix. A moment paused where fate hangs in the balance.
 

payn

Legend
I don't narrate the effect until after the save result. So, if the PC blows a perception to see the pit trap and walks over it I move into trigger state. "The floor below you suddenly gives way, roll a reflex save". If they save I tell them they manage not to fall in the pit and let them narrate the action. If they fail the save they go in, take whatever damage, and I let them narrate that happening.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The saving throw determines outcome. That bolded bit isnt wrong, but it's phrased in a way that is problematic because it narrates outcome before outcome is determined. If it were more like "The dragon';s iron smelting flames pour down towards you as it breathes on [gestures at the grid area]" then it would be totally fine. The fact that those flames are capable of smelting iron has little bearing on if they also smelt Bob's bones until Bob makes his save & deducts the damage from his HP. If bob's HP was low it's even possible for a minor flame to do terrible things to him even if he saved.
“The dragon’s fire is hot enough to melt your bones…unless you make a save” instead of “the dragon’s fire melts your bones…save to avoid the thing I just said already happened.”

It strikes me as an odd way to go as well. Why say that something happens, then roll to see if you retcon it? It seems more natural to say what could happen, what might happen, then roll. Or better yet, narrate the action “the dragon breathes fire,” roll save and damage, then narrate the outcome “and you narrowly dodge out of the worst of it just in time, take X fire damage.”
 

When you are playing and/or running the game, do you use saving throws to change the fiction? That is to say, does the result of the saving throw retcon the outcome of a thing?
I do as Dungeon World does: Defy Danger (the closest thing to saving throws) is how you find out what the fiction is when someone is trying to avoid a problem. Monsters never roll (except for damage.) Thus, whether something succeeds or not is always dependent on what players are doing, and the fiction follows a natural process: someone (usually me, the DM) describes the situation, and then I as DM ask, "What do you do?" If it's a threat of a problem, they can respond. If it's a conclusive realized problem, they can't respond directly, but they can do something about it after the fact.
 

I usually start with saving throw and then recount what happens.
In the case of a firebal I just tell that a fireball explodes and tell what happens after the saving throws were made.

I am also hesitant to tell that you throw yourself on the ground to evade the fireball. Instead I Imagine raising your hands/shield/cloak to protect your vital parts.
 

Stalker0

Legend
One of the big things a saving throw does is bring “meta game awareness” to the player that something bad was attempted, which depending on circumstances may be a problem.

One example, I had a scenario where I used a magic jar, and I didn’t want the players to know if one of their people had been possessed, but of course if players start rolling saves they know something will be up.

So I had the players roll a save at the beginning of the session, with no context. I get those saves stored, and so the first player that got in range of the jar I checked their result to see if the swap took place.
 

payn

Legend
One of the big things a saving throw does is bring “meta game awareness” to the player that something bad was attempted, which depending on circumstances may be a problem.

One example, I had a scenario where I used a magic jar, and I didn’t want the players to know if one of their people had been possessed, but of course if players start rolling saves they know something will be up.

So I had the players roll a save at the beginning of the session, with no context. I get those saves stored, and so the first player that got in range of the jar I checked their result to see if the swap took place.
Yeah thats an approach to it. I tend to lean less in the subterfuge and just make it happen and explain that the PCs dont know it yet. I know some folks cant help the urge to metagame but I have taken to pushing them to try harder. I present it as an opportunity to role play the event. Trust is obviously needed that the GM isnt going to wipe the party with unknown circumstances, so its best these things are few and far between. YMMV.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Yeah thats an approach to it. I tend to lean less in the subterfuge and just make it happen and explain that the PCs dont know it yet. I know some folks cant help the urge to metagame but I have taken to pushing them to try harder. I present it as an opportunity to role play the event. Trust is obviously needed that the GM isnt going to wipe the party with unknown circumstances, so its best these things are few and far between. YMMV.
I find these kinds of tools work well with veteran groups, because the simple truth is, years of playing dnd does take some of the wonder away, as you just know a lot about how games generally go.

While players may be good at not metagaming, they still KNOW something is up, and have to compensate for it.

However, moments like this give me the opportunity to sincerely surprise my players, and they love that, because again the more you play the harder it can be to become genuinely surprised.
 

payn

Legend
I find these kinds of tools work well with veteran groups, because the simple truth is, years of playing dnd does take some of the wonder away, as you just know a lot about how games generally go.

While players may be good at not metagaming, they still KNOW something is up, and have to compensate for it.

However, moments like this give me the opportunity to sincerely surprise my players, and they love that, because again the more you play the harder it can be to become genuinely surprised.
For sure. I know younger me would find ways to keep my cards close behind the screen. Older me wants to explore role play more even if that means bad things for my character. I'm more willing to accept that fate and act it out then I might have been able to as a younger man.
 

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