L&L 3/05 - Save or Die!

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Monte's Latest Contribution to the Discussion

Didn't we just finish discussing this?

On the one hand, Monte's idea seems OK. But when I imagine how it works, I feel this would mean a Medusa has a gaze field that says "all characters within the gaze have -25 to HP." Not the same "feel".

I'd have the gaze attack/save, as always, with a slowing effect+damage. If you drop below the HP boundary, the gaze petrifies you instead, but it isn't completely irrelevant before then.


First Post
I don't really like the idea he presents. It's not without merit, particularly for certain spells, but if you look at a medusa, you should turn to stone. I'm not thrilled that it has a saving throw and a range (there should at least be an epic medusa that has neither), but I certainly don't want to see all the SoD's restricted in this way. The ghoul thing isn't bad; maybe the ghoul should have to draw blood in order to paralyze someone (and maybe there are better ways of representing that then a flat hp threshold, but that's another topic). But there should be some pure SoD's, and not just from Tiamat.


I think pure SoDs need to be a module, because no-one I know will touch them. And that means there needs to be some other way to represent medusae etc. because those are cool creatures.

Having a mechanic like the low-hp one makes it easy to swap in and out the SoD rules. Any HP threshold power can be replaced with an SoD if you're playing with them.


Just as a quick comment, I think that, despite the credit on the column, this was written not by Monte, but by Mike Mearls.

The author refers to himself as the "Senior Manager for D&D R&D" and about halfway through the first paragraph, he refers to Monte in the third person. I just don't think the web design team has quite caught up yet. Probably it'll be fixed by morning...

One problem with the HP threshold that I can see, is that I tend to track my hp by points of damage taken. I'm sure there are others who do it that way too. The power word spells had something that worked in previous editions with such things, except that it was with no save.

It's no big deal, but they can also have bloodied as well as HP threshold for some effects. Or even have certain conditions like slowed, to qualify one for taking a save or die effect to vary a couple of things. Though not necessarily like 4e's x failed saving throws.


First Post
I like how Mr. Mearls used the column to propose a specific idea, rather than leave things vague and non-committal. Particularly since it is a very interesting idea. It has a lot of good points, though I'm not completely sold on it just yet. As Mr. Mearls admits in a slightly roundabout way, it works a lot better for monster attacks against PCs than PC attacks against monsters. Well, I suppose it works just fine for vorpal swords or some theoretical Fighter at-will with a death effect, but it doesn't work very well for a Wizard's instant death spell. It also does work for effects like disintigrate, which are intended to deal HP damage as much as they are intended to vaporize things. I guess more instant death effects can be primarily non-death effects with a possibility of defeating a weakened foe early.

To be honest, the fact that instant death would only work on almost-dead foes does take some of the point out of it from the player's perspective... It removes the tactical value a bit. Of course, avoiding the problems of 3E where save-or-else effects dominated high level play is important, too. No clear answer presents itself.


I like save-or-die but it should be a rare thing, which is dependent on good Dungeon Mastering. It's easy for me to throw a catoblepas or gorgon or what-have-you at a party on any given Sunday. The hard part comes in keeping them alive! :)

Where I draw the line and say "no, you put that right back mister steeped-in-90s-game-design" is when it's taken out of classic module reprints which are so rare I can count them on one hand and have a finger left over...for the people who removed save-or-die traps from S1: TOMB OF HORRORS :rant: . Really? "DC 25 or take damage from falling into the flames" WTF, man - it's not "tomb of Difficulties" it's not "Tomb of I think there's a little trouble down that next hallway, gents."!

Leave it as an option, caution against its use, don't touch it in reproductions of classic modules.

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