L&L 3/05 - Save or Die!

treex

First Post
(I'm not sure if anyone already had similar ideas but here goes...)

In conjunction with 5e's customizable complexity flavour, the save against effect could also proc when

a)PC is reduced to below X hitpoints.
b)PC has taken a total of more than Y damage to hitpoints
c)PC is bloodied
d)PC is reduced to a surges worth of hitpoints (25% HP)
e)the attack deals more than Z damage
f)the attack deals damage more than the PC's surge value (reduce more than 25% of PC HP)
g)two or more of the above

Mix and match to taste.
 

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Banshee16

First Post
I'm not a fan of his idea. If you see a medusa, you turn to stone. I particularly don't like the idea of it being a gradual thing. That would leave the possibility that you lost your save, start suffering detrimental effects, still manage to kill the medusa, then you're stone.

It definitely makes it less scary.

Further.....this is D&D. In most games, bringing the dead back, or bringing characters back from being petrified is a lvl 5 or 6 spell away. A single action.

The idea that a character should only face a lethal "save or die" effect once or twice in a career is silly....given that it's really quite easy to bring them back anyways.

If you want to make save or dies that rare, then make spells that return the dead so rare that they're almost impossible to gain before the end of a campaign. Or better yet, completely get rid of the spells, and leave "bringing the dead back" as something accomplished through a quest.

Thinking of that, in my Planescape campaign, I think the very best instance of resurrection we had was the time (before the characters were high enough level to cast a raise dead spell) when one of the characters died. Instead of just saying "you pay a church to bring you back", I made them go on a quest to travel into the land of the dead (at least, the land that particular character's soul went to) and negotiate with the avatar of the god of the dead for that character's faith, for them to be able to bring him back to the lands of the living.

Sure, it was ripped from Orpheus, but it made both his death, and his resurrection *matter*, and the players remembered it for years. I just got an e-mail the other day from a player from that campaign......I haven't talked with him in *6 years*, and he commented about how memorable that incident and others were from that campaign.

Essentially, if resurrection is easy to come by, then Save or Die is meaningless, and shouldn't be removed or limited.

Banshee
 

Scribble

First Post
I'm not a fan of his idea. If you see a medusa, you turn to stone. I particularly don't like the idea of it being a gradual thing. That would leave the possibility that you lost your save, start suffering detrimental effects, still manage to kill the medusa, then you're stone.

That too me has all the highlights of an epic story.
 


I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
It's odd. He apparently sees players using Save Or Die as "I win" buttons, which doesn't match up with my experience. Sure, they can take the teeth out of an encounter that is meant to be a one-on-one with a big villain (and so such villains should be able to prevent save-or-die effects), but in a 4e-style multi-on-multi combat, the most it does is take out one enemy quickly. Assuming they can't spam such abilities (e.g.: it uses up their daily or encounter slot somehow), such things are not dramatically powerful in the player's hands.

Mearls also has a bias towards a slow ramp-up, which is generally a good instinct, but his focus in this is too narrow. He's looking at the individual monster, rather than at the context it is embedded in. The adventure as a whole can have a ramp-up that consists of encounters of many types, some fast-and-dirty, others strung out like a 4e skirmish. That variation in pacing helps maintain the flow of the game, and if EVERYTHING is going to need a ramp-up in order to overcome, we're just going back to 4e's slogfests.

In fact, that's part of the reason I'm not a fan of his hp threshold as he presented it. I WANT some encounters to be over with quickly, some monsters to fall like wheat before the chaff, some powers to be very, suddenly, binary. Bypassing the HP system is a feature, here, not a bug.
 

pemerton

Legend
I WANT some encounters to be over with quickly, some monsters to fall like wheat before the chaff, some powers to be very, suddenly, binary. Bypassing the HP system is a feature, here, not a bug.
Well, this is what 4e minions are for.

To put it another way, save-or-die effects that bypass hit points are, in effect, a "minionisation" mechanic. The extent to which they are desirable, and the way in which they should be regulated, should be worked out in light of this. So putting it yet another way - if you think it would be bad for the game to give the players the power to minionise certain creatures at their discretion, then you have a reason no to introduce save-or-die mechanics. And vice versa.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
pemerton said:
Well, this is what 4e minions are for.

I've never seen minions used to deliver fast encounters. Functionally, I've seen them used to pad out normal encounters, rather than to be brief encounters in and of themselves. The encounter has an XP budget that must be hit after all, since that determines what is "appropriate," minions just end up being more critters on the field (and thus more actions to resolve, and more DM time used), rather than faster combats.

But minions - and low-level mooks like goblins in previous e's -- certainly help illustrate the point that one-hit-kills are not tremendously problematic for the game mechanically speaking. Mearls might not like them (since he likes build-up), but certainly the game can accomodate them.

pemerton said:
So putting it yet another way - if you think it would be bad for the game to give the players the power to minionise certain creatures at their discretion, then you have a reason no to introduce save-or-die mechanics. And vice versa.

I don't think it's a problem to give certain characters a limited-use ability to turn an enemy into a one-hit kill. I wouldn't even mind reducing the XP award for such a kill, in 4e-speak, though I'm not sure that's strictly necessary (we don't reduce the XP value from a group of goblins killed in a fireball, either).
 

eamon

Explorer
One thing I thought particularly jarring in the article: the notion that, from a designers perspective, having hitpoints as the sole measure of a characters "status" is a good thing. It's not!

It's almost invariably a bad thing when the game reduces to a (literally) one-dimensional grind. It's a good thing when there are several options, particularly if the interaction between is complex enough to make the notion of the "best" choice too complex to precisely determine.

So while having a simple "I win" button might not be ideal, I think tying it to hitpoints can be even worse in some cases.

---

One way of mitigating this might be fiddling with the resurrection rules: In 3e, death magic/disintegrate sometimes made resurrection harder. What if we turn that around: should resurrection of those killed before their time be easier (as they're not ready to move on yet)? Constant resurrection isn't for everyone, but I think most people could live with occasional resurrection merely to revert death spells, particularly when this means normal resurrection can be left at a campaign-appropriate level of difficulty.

I guess in the end a combination of approaches is probably best; some save-or-dies might be gradual, others HP-dependent or surge-dependent, and resurrection could be tweaked to make these kind of abilities less effective.
 

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