5E Is it fair to cast save-or-suck spells on the players?

Sadras

Explorer
A game doesn't have to be symmetrical to be fair nor is symmetry needed for fun! In fact s&I'd lacks symmetry. I can't play an ancient red dragon for example. So saying an enemy should get the same abilities as players is crazy when players can't get half the abilities that enemies get..
If only that undead archmage githyanki had pulled out his finely-crafted sling+1 instead of casting that horrible spell, Prismatic Spray, then the table would have had soooo much more fun. :erm:
 

Soul Stigma

Villager
Late to the party, but my two cents:

I'm an advocate for fun factor. I am also a realist. Sometimes things may be "unfun" because dice misbehave and need a time out or perhaps the PCs get in over their heads (assuming the fiction has warned them).

I see no issue with the spell selection, particularly if the baddies knew the PCs were coming. With that assumption, were I the spell caster, I would damn sure gear up for onslaught with some defenses as well and perhaps an escape plan.

I will say that any character sent back to the Material should periodically get spotlight time as opposed to just being out of the fight. What kind of spotlight time? Probably their ongoing effort to find a way back to their friends (I by no means recommend having them run into a separate encounter/battle!), perhaps seeking out a powerful NPC who understands the plight.

Yes, timewise the battle will end before the PC finds a way back - but at least they're doing something.

Other than all that - working as intended - they're liches!
 

Hawk Diesel

Explorer
I really try my best to minimize the amount a character in my games gets sidelined. I know in games that I'm in as a player, there is nothing that kills engagement more than knowing I can't do anything because I'm dying or petrified.

That being said, I have a couple of ways I have handled this in my previous games.

1) I increase the number of saving throws. Rather than one save, it becomes two or three. Each failure creates a progressively bad outcome, but does not prevent the player from acting outright. For example, let's take hitting a player with the maze spell. First fail, they would feel dizzy and restricted in their movement as they feel the space around them become like molasses. The magic is beginning to pull them into the maze. Second fail, they have disadvantage on everything as they struggle to maintain their presence in the current world and resist the spell. Third fail, they get pulled through. In this example, the player has three opportunities to not only succeed the save (you may want to make it having them hit a certain number of success before hitting a certain number of failures) but the player can attempt to actively plan and strategize with the party to deal with it. Perhaps a dispel magic or greater restoration can be cast to prevent it or give an auto-success on one on their attempts.

2) Turn it into a mini-game. In the case of maze, give the player an opportunity to get out. Just because they've been bamf'ed to somewhere else, does not mean they don't have anything to do. They may have their own threats to deal with in the maze. One time, for an in-person group, I gave one such player one of those celtic puzzles that you need to figure out a way to break it apart. If she could take it apart, the effect would end. Over internet games are a bit harder to do something similar. But at the very least, I would allow a player to in some way still be able to act and communicate with the team, even if minimally. Another example, perhaps that player that has been dropped and is dying is still able to see and communicate. They can crawl maybe 5' a round, and they can still talk. Maybe because they are watching their friends fight, the downed player can shout warnings, which could be treated as a ranged Help action (only available when dying or down but stable). That way the player still has a reason to engage AND feels like they are contributing.
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
I think it's less a question of "is it fair?" but rather "is it fun?".

Most bad guys will definitely use unfair tactics if they can, but "save or suck" should be used with caution. It's hardly fun if every encounter with the evil cultists starts off with them spamming "Fear" or "Suggestion" because you know half the party has crap Wisdom saves.

On the other hand, you don't want the players to get complacent and expect every single fight to play to their strengths.

It can be hard to find the right balance.
 
D&D should be fun, but it's more than that. The players are inhabiting characters in a story primarily about the PCs. The best stories have triumphs and disasters for the main characters. Some characters are imprisoned, maimed or killed (though often each of those conditions is overcome...).

So suffering from time to time, being taken out of a battle by a save-or-suck, or even being struck down by one, should be appropriate. There are activities a side-lined player can do, too, either in game or to facilitate the action while they're out. So while player fun is a dominant factor for the game, it's not the only one.
 
I'm sure I am in the minority but I have to say Fair isn't FUn...

there is a TMNT cartoon (newer one my 10 year old nephew watches) where the turtles get beat and tell splinter the fight wasn't fair to witch he responds "You want there to be a 50/50 chance of wining and loseing" witch of course isn't true.

Spells (and any special ability really) that take someone out of the adventure should be rare, and 2+ times in an encounter may be fair (good for goose, good for gander) but may impact the reason to play.

I once got told I was being a jerk for leaving a game early... the reason I left was I was imprisoned (per spell) and PCs had no way to get me out. I went and called my girlfriend and we went to the movies... (it was less than 30mins into a 5 hour game) after the movie I called and no one had a way to get me out yet...so I came back the next week with a new character. The DM said it was rude I should have stayed (I did stick around for about 15 mins after I was imprisoned) The thing was I was the only spellcaster, I knew no one could free me.

If I come to game and can't play it isn't fun. If I am DMing and an NPC gets put aside it sucks, but I have 100's of options including just keep running the next encounter, a PC does not.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I have to admit, I am having a little difficulty following this argument.

So, there was a belief that "save or die" was not completely fair, or fun, or what have you. Even though it worked for many tables for a very long time. Without having an opinion on that, I can say that things change, opinions change, and so on. Fair enough.

So now, almost everything is "save or suck." Okay. And the complaint is that ... save or suck is unfair?

It comes down to playstyles. Either challenges are real, in which case players get satisfaction from overcoming the challenges, or they are illusory, in which case the players aren't ever in any real danger. There's nothing wrong with the second, if that's what you enjoy (just like, from a certain perspective, there was nothing wrong with a Monty Haul campaign if that's what the players enjoyed). But what I'm not understanding is the demand that the game be played with illusory challenges.

Yes, having a player removed for part, or all, of a combat is not fun, or ideal. But it's a consequence. And a real-world one. In another thread, there was a long discussion about how time doesn't work well in D&D because it exists solely in the campaign, but not as an actual consequence for players ("So, my character emerges from the void five years later ... LET'S GET IT ON!"). Sometimes, it is the result of bad luck (the dice fall where they may). But the point of playing is to maximize your probabilities. To the extent that consequences don't happen, then why should players bother, knowing that everything will work out because the DM is there to make sure that the player's "fun" is always maximized?

It's rule utilitarinism. For overall optimal fun (feelings of accomplishment), there must be times where there isn't fun.
 

dagger

Explorer
My 14th level Bard was disintegrated by a beholder last month. Was it fair? Yes! Was it cool? Yes! Was it funny? Yes!
 

JonnyP71

Explorer
I once got told I was being a jerk for leaving a game early... the reason I left was I was imprisoned (per spell) and PCs had no way to get me out. I went and called my girlfriend and we went to the movies... (it was less than 30mins into a 5 hour game) after the movie I called and no one had a way to get me out yet...so I came back the next week with a new character. The DM said it was rude I should have stayed
The DM was correct...
 

Hawk Diesel

Explorer
As a personal aside, I hate referencing things while playing. Therefore, I have a general idea of the spells and effects for my bad guys, then make it up on the fly. That way I focus more on the fluff, combat dynamics, and flow of story than mechanics.
 

dagger

Explorer
The players and DM are veterans at our table and expect spells to behave in a certain way since we have been playing religiously since 1e.
 

Sadras

Explorer
I once got told I was being a jerk for leaving a game early... the reason I left was I was imprisoned (per spell) and PCs had no way to get me out. I went and called my girlfriend and we went to the movies... (it was less than 30mins into a 5 hour game) after the movie I called and no one had a way to get me out yet...so I came back the next week with a new character. The DM said it was rude I should have stayed (I did stick around for about 15 mins after I was imprisoned) The thing was I was the only spellcaster, I knew no one could free me.
I agree with @JonnyP71 the DM was correct. You as a player might have no idea what might be planned ahead. Sticking around for only 15 minutes is bad form.
 
I have to admit, I am having a little difficulty following this argument.

So, there was a belief that "save or die" was not completely fair, or fun, or what have you. Even though it worked for many tables for a very long time. Without having an opinion on that, I can say that things change, opinions change, and so on. Fair enough.

So now, almost everything is "save or suck." Okay. And the complaint is that ... save or suck is unfair?
I believe that the part you are missing is "Not being able to engage the game is unfun" Now there is a sliding scale here. I might say "Hey I can play on my phone, go to the bathroom grab a bite to eat and be back in half an hour then sit for 5ish miniutes before I can resume play" and be fine with it 35 minutes sitting out AOK while someone else might say "Look it's been 15minutes I want to play" and others still could sit for 2 hours perfectly fine. It might even depend on the night...


It comes down to playstyles. Either challenges are real, in which case players get satisfaction from overcoming the challenges, or they are illusory, in which case the players aren't ever in any real danger.
I agree like 85% I think that there is a middle ground. SOme challenges are illusory and some are real, as long as the player can't tell the difference most of the time they can enjoy the satisfaction (even if from time to time they see behind the curtain)


There's nothing wrong with the second, if that's what you enjoy (just like, from a certain perspective, there was nothing wrong with a Monty Haul campaign if that's what the players enjoyed). But what I'm not understanding is the demand that the game be played with illusory challenges.
see my problem is the 'sit out' not the 'you loose'. If you banish the fighter who can then not get back to the dungeon it sin't that he lost, it's that now what does he do.


My 14th level Bard was disintegrated by a beholder last month. Was it fair? Yes! Was it cool? Yes! Was it funny? Yes!
yup... I have 100 stories like that fun, funny, badass you name it cool deaths are cool. I also have dozens of BS deaths that annoy me still. However the important difference is fun. If you are having fun your death isn't a big deal.

The DM was correct...
please elaborate... I still have this argument all the time (it was back in 2e). No one has ever given me what I should have done different. I left because the other option was to sit there and do nothing. Now to be fair the DM had a big "No metagaming" rule so I couldn't even out of game interact in any meaningful way... please tell me what the 'correct' option was... I think going to the movies was much better
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I once got told I was being a jerk for leaving a game early... the reason I left was I was imprisoned (per spell) and PCs had no way to get me out. I went and called my girlfriend and we went to the movies... (it was less than 30mins into a 5 hour game) after the movie I called and no one had a way to get me out yet...so I came back the next week with a new character. The DM said it was rude I should have stayed (I did stick around for about 15 mins after I was imprisoned) The thing was I was the only spellcaster, I knew no one could free me.
Ugh.

No one likes getting killed or sidelined. But c'mon, really? If you are a bench player on a sports team, would you go to a movie during a game, and then call the coach afterwards and say, "Hey! Didn't need me during the game, did you?" If you are in a group of friends, and they start talking about something you have no interest in (RomComs?), do you go see a movie instead, and then call them a few hours later and say, "Hey, did you ever change the conversation?"

Yeah, it's rude.

Players get sidelined. There are many things to do if you get sidelined, including, but not limited to, the following:

1. Every time your turn comes up, dramatically re-enact the way in which you are sidelined.

2. With the DM's permission, take control of a monster or NPC and join the combat.

3. If you think your character will be permanently sidelined, start rolling a new one.

4. Work on the party maps, logs, loot sheets, etc.

5. Interact with the rest of the people at the table and enjoy their company. After all, it's a social occasion. You might not be an active participant, but you will still have stories to tell.

The possibilities are limitless. Time with friends is scarce.
 

JonnyP71

Explorer
please elaborate... I still have this argument all the time (it was back in 2e). No one has ever given me what I should have done different. I left because the other option was to sit there and do nothing. Now to be fair the DM had a big "No metagaming" rule so I couldn't even out of game interact in any meaningful way... please tell me what the 'correct' option was... I think going to the movies was much better
Sit and enjoy the story, support your friends, share pizza, plus you never know - the DM *may* have provided a way of getting you out. Simply getting up and leaving smacks of selfishness.

The DM has probably spent 6+ hours getting everything ready for the session, and the moment it goes wrong for you you leave? If I was the DM I'd have been unhappy with you continuing to be part of the group - it's just plain rude and ignorant.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I believe that the part you are missing is "Not being able to engage the game is unfun" Now there is a sliding scale here. I might say "Hey I can play on my phone, go to the bathroom grab a bite to eat and be back in half an hour then sit for 5ish miniutes before I can resume play" and be fine with it 35 minutes sitting out AOK while someone else might say "Look it's been 15minutes I want to play" and others still could sit for 2 hours perfectly fine. It might even depend on the night...


I agree like 85% I think that there is a middle ground. SOme challenges are illusory and some are real, as long as the player can't tell the difference most of the time they can enjoy the satisfaction (even if from time to time they see behind the curtain)
On these two points, the excerpted part you didn't quote answers your first objection-

"It's rule utilitarinism. For overall optimal fun (feelings of accomplishment), there must be times where there isn't fun."

Yes, being sidelined isn't as fun in that moment. But victory is only sweet (fun) knowing that you accomplished something.

Which also, in part, addresses your second comment. It's like a Monty Haul campaign. These can be fine, especially for young players. The reason they have a (IMO, deservedly) bad reputation is that the "winning" is meaningless without the possibility of losing. And not just the illusory possibility. The reason that most Monty Haul campaigns collapse after a while is that most people get tired of a lack of consequences in their games. Illusions cannot persist forever.
 
my thoughts exactly...just for the opposite reason

No one likes getting killed or sidelined. But c'mon, really? If you are a bench player on a sports team, would you go to a movie during a game, and then call the coach afterwards and say, "Hey! Didn't need me during the game, did you?"
I guess that depends, being bench is kinda common, my understanding as an out of shape non sports player is that you sit the bench then get called back up to play again. It's more like sitting out while your character is in another room or waiting your turn in initiative. My play ended... I wasn't benched I was out of the game...

If you are in a group of friends, and they start talking about something you have no interest in (RomComs?), do you go see a movie instead, and then call them a few hours later and say, "Hey, did you ever change the conversation?"
no, I would be quite for a minute or two then try to interject something I am interested it... (by the by love romcoms)

Yeah, it's rude.
I think it would be infinitly more rude to expect a friend to sit through hours of a conversation he has no part in...

all of your examples are "Would you leave game if your character was stunned for 3d6 rounds" not "Would you leave game because your character is stuck with no way out"

Players get sidelined. There are many things to do if you get sidelined, including, but not limited to, the following:
ok...this should be funny

1. Every time your turn comes up, dramatically re-enact the way in which you are sidelined.
since the combat is over when would 'my turn' be...should I every few minutes for HOURs interrupt game to reenact?
2. With the DM's permission, take control of a monster or NPC and join the combat.
there was no combat, it was a trap, and I actually did ask but the DM is very against it

3. If you think your character will be permanently sidelined, start rolling a new one.
Yup... I could have done that...in fact since we meet every week I did that inbetween weeks

4. Work on the party maps, logs, loot sheets, etc.
no one wants me doing any of that

5. Interact with the rest of the people at the table and enjoy their company. After all, it's a social occasion. You might not be an active participant, but you will still have stories to tell.
you mean interrupt game?
The possibilities are limitless. Time with friends is scarce.
since we meet every week for years before and after that I disagree

Sit and enjoy the story, support your friends, share pizza, plus you never know - the DM *may* have provided a way of getting you out. Simply getting up and leaving smacks of selfishness.
well first I did ask if there was a chance of me getting out, and the DM confirmed not, so I left...second yes I was selfishly not wanting to spend hours doing nothing for 1 failed roll (well 2 I had Magic Ressitence 20% and a save)


The DM has probably spent 6+ hours getting everything ready for the session, and the moment it goes wrong for you you leave? If I was the DM I'd have been unhappy with you continuing to be part of the group - it's just plain rude and ignorant.
he spend way more then 6 hours working on the game...but I had no way to play it.

On these two points, the excerpted part you didn't quote answers your first objection-

"It's rule utilitarinism. For overall optimal fun (feelings of accomplishment), there must be times where there isn't fun."
I agree, but the point is that when no fun over rules the fun you need to decide to change something...
Yes, being sidelined isn't as fun in that moment. But victory is only sweet (fun) knowing that you accomplished something.
yes, but some 'fails' hurt the fun more.
Which also, in part, addresses your second comment. It's like a Monty Haul campaign. These can be fine, especially for young players. The reason they have a (IMO, deservedly) bad reputation is that the "winning" is meaningless without the possibility of losing. And not just the illusory possibility. The reason that most Monty Haul campaigns collapse after a while is that most people get tired of a lack of consequences in their games. Illusions cannot persist forever.
on this we agree
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
my thoughts exactly...just for the opposite reason

I guess that depends, being bench is kinda common, my understanding as an out of shape non sports player is that you sit the bench then get called back up to play again. It's more like sitting out while your character is in another room or waiting your turn in initiative. My play ended... I wasn't benched I was out of the game...

no, I would be quite for a minute or two then try to interject something I am interested it... (by the by love romcoms)

I think it would be infinitly more rude to expect a friend to sit through hours of a conversation he has no part in...

all of your examples are "Would you leave game if your character was stunned for 3d6 rounds" not "Would you leave game because your character is stuck with no way out"

ok...this should be funny

since the combat is over when would 'my turn' be...should I every few minutes for HOURs interrupt game to reenact?
there was no combat, it was a trap, and I actually did ask but the DM is very against it

Yup... I could have done that...in fact since we meet every week I did that inbetween weeks

no one wants me doing any of that

you mean interrupt game?
since we meet every week for years before and after that I disagree
So, it's fairly obvious that you haven't really played sports - there are many sports where, if you are a bench player, you will go to games and never enter them. But that doesn't mean you don't show up with your team. But more importantly, I think you missed the entire import of my point. It's about a social compact. You keep focusing on you. If you don't like a conversation, you turn it to something you like. If you are on the bench, it's only so you can play again. But it's not all about you. It's about the group.

And that's important, because in sharing your anecdote, I don't think you've pondered why the DM thought it was "rude," and why the first two responses to you stated that the DM was right. Most people would see instances of rudeness when someone prioritizes their own desires over social conventions. I might be more comfortable chewing with my mouth open, but it would be rude to do so. I might think everyone should talk about what I want, but that's considered rude as well. I might want to take my ball and go home ... well, you get the idea.

If you don't care about these issues, then no worries! But most people, including the DM and the people that have responded to you, would consider that ... rude.

Because by leaving when things didn't work out for you ... well, that was kind of a "take my ball and go home" moment. That was the implicit statement that if your character isn't involved, you can't be bothered. Which is ... rude. IMO. YMMV.

Every table is different. At my table, if a player's reaction to getting sidelined was to walk away, then that player wouldn't be coming back the next session to that game.

(I would add that you seem to indicate that this occurred back in 2e, which, I assume, means you were much younger back then. I did many things back in the day that I'm not proud of now, so I'm curious why you are defending it. Would you still act the same way, or is this residual defensiveness?)
 
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S'mon

Legend
My 14th level Bard was disintegrated by a beholder last month. Was it fair? Yes! Was it cool? Yes! Was it funny? Yes!
Join the club - last month I disintegrated my son's 17th level Wizard - and this was Classic D&D,
he'd been playing several years to get that high! However he had his wizard's Fighter son in the same battle, so he could still participate.
 

Gadget

Explorer
Given the great lengths that 5e has gone to to tone down the "Save or Suck/Die" spells in this edition (Concentration, save every round, etc) and the fact that the PCs are 19th level, I have little sympathy for the complaining player. Every table has their own play style and idiosyncrasies, here is what I can perceive as the "problems", if problems they could be called:

1) The party seems really magic light for a 19th level super deadly fight, having only one full spell caster (cleric). This caused them to have to use unusual tactics to counter-act this disadvantage, such as spreading out to mitigate AoE and employing anti-magic fields. This in turn, prevented or hindered the overlapping support and synergy that high level parties can usually employ to help one another (numerous ways to grant advantage on saves/attacks, auras, help action, etc.). That is the way the cookie crumbled I guess.

2) If there is a flaw in the System (some might see it otherwise), it is that Save or Suck spells really are not that effective when you first get them, the target will likely make the save either right away or very soon; however, when you have a higher proficiency bonus, it becomes very difficult to save against the same spell it it is not a strong save for the target. The corollary to this is that Saves don't really rise all that much unless you are proficient. The upshot being that Save or Suck effects are going to be a lot more of an issue for PCs at high level not only because they are more prevalent in the upper tier, but also because PCs are generally more vulnerable as well, as the discrepancy between the Difficulty of the Save and the PC's Save bonus grows. This can be mitigated by a lot of character abilities, feats, advantage granting, not using spell casting opponents or making them very rare, etc.
 

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