D&D General Do Saving throws Change the Fiction?

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? ...

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

...

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). ...


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.

Neither of the examples you give seem like they describe a "retcon" in any way that I have used that word before. Your question, as stated, does not make sense to me.
 

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aco175

Legend
I'm mostly in line with the OP in how things get resolved. 5e has many powers and spells that let you backup a second and have a do-over. Even a shield spell changes a hit to a miss now. My problem is when a rogue takes no damage from a DEX save. How does he avoid the fireball and not move to another square. I generally just say he "gets small" and things blow over.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
When you are playing and/or running the game, do you use saving throws to change the fiction?
Yes, always. All rolls should change the fiction.
That is to say, does the result of the saving throw retcon the outcome of a thing?
No, never. I hate retconning things.

Making a save is actively avoiding something nasty. You’re caught flat-footed by the dragon and it breaths a gout of fire at you. Make a DEX save to avoid some of the flames.

It’s not you were already hit by the dragon, now roll to undo some of the damage.

The way I try to frame things is almost all rolls are active. You do something to avoid a negative consequence. Roll stealth to avoid being seen by the guards. Roll STR to lift this iron gate in the next six seconds to avoid being trapped in here with whatever’s coming down the hall. Roll persuasion to avoid paying full price for these supplies.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
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.
No, the saving throws never retcon the game.

In the example you provided, the DEX save would be for the PC moving off of the pit before they fall in. How they move off depends on the PC and narrative (jumping off, grabbing the edge so they don't fall in, etc.).
 

Clint_L

Hero
I'm not sure about saving throws specifically but with regards to retcons in general: sure. If I screw up then I try to recover with something like, "but then, as that horrible fate flashes before your eyes, you throw yourself narrowly to the side and merely suffer a painful, but survivable rash."

I mean, we're only human. Players get it. The worst thing would be to double down on your mistake so that players saw you as screwing them over rather than just admitting you screwed up.
 

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?
Not that I can think of. I've always tended to be like "Make X saving throw" before I start describing stuff, I guess that's just what I was taught. Sometimes people ask why if it's not obvious but I usually make them roll first unless explaining the why will cause them to use a resource or not or something (rarely applicable).

Actually I can think of one example - I made an player saves vs. a sleep spell, then like, 10 seconds later, after being told they'd been sleep'd, they said plaintively but meekly "But I'm an elf!", and I was like balls yes you are, so I made the 90% resist check and they resisted, so yeah they didn't get sleeped.

I also have multiple times made a DM do take-backsies when they said a ghoul paralyzed me because I habitually play Elves/Half-Elves. Particularly confounding in 5E as the fact that Elves/Half-Elves are immune is in ghoul description, like right in the attack block, not in the main rules! It's some "read the small print" stuff!
 

Reynard

Legend
I know the thread 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.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I take the saving throws into account, so generally I don't describe the action until I know how they turned out. So I don't think they change the impact of a thing happening, but rather change what happens. Like, the players weren't dead from the dragon breath and then not dead anymore because they made their save. They always dodged the full effect and got away singed. Does that answer what you are getting at? It's still a bit confusing.
 

mamba

Legend
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.
For me, the outcome has not been fully decided until the throw result is clear.

In your example, there are two checks here

1) passive perception for detecting the trap, that failed
2) Dex check to avoid falling into the trap, this one succeeds, so the char is hanging on to the side of the pit / floor of the room and pulls himself up, manages to jump aside in time before the floor fully collapses, or something else that makes sense

This is not a retroactive thing where somehow the char detects the trap in time to not step on it. That moment passed in 1)
 

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.

Saving throws are a story mechanic. In a challenge game! The incoherence! /s

Chainmail’s rules for spells, magical attacks, and similar hazards led to saving throws in original D&D. The first Dungeon Master’s Guide explained the concept. “Because the player character is all-important, he or she must always—or nearly always—have a chance, no matter how small, of somehow escaping what otherwise be would be inevitable destruction.”

“Someone once criticized the concept of the saving throw as ridiculous,” Gary wrote. “Could a man chained to a rock, they asked, save himself from a blast of red dragon’s breath? Why not? I replied. Imagine that the figure, at the last moment, of course, manages to drop beneath the licking flames, or finds a crevice in which to shield his or her body, or succeeds in finding some way to be free of the fetters. Why not?” Saving throws grant a last chance, but they leave the details of why a save worked to the storytelling of the player and DM. The brilliance of hit points comes from their abstraction, and in original D&D saves are just as abstract as hit points.

 

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