L&L 3/05 - Save or Die!


First Post
Well, in Final Fantasy XIII (IIRC), Death actually worked on a few optional bosses and did a lot of damage even if it didn't kill the target outright. So even when bosses were immune to the instant death part, it still carried its weight as a damage dealer.

Banish + Doom worked in most bosses in FF6.

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I'm A Banana

HERE is the thread we had just last week or so talking about this.

I'm not on board with this new proposal, because it violates one of the real reasons for save-or-die IMO in the first place: escalating tension

If a Medusa has to pepper you with arrows before she can try to kill you, that removes a HUGE chunk of the tension involved in fighting, and reduces it to the same axis that everything else exists on: a process of whittling down your enemies until they die.

This is not what is fun about save-or-die. What is fun about save-or-die is that YOU KILL THINGS INSTANTLY.

Now, this doesn't mean that we should bypass the HP system entirely -- like I came around to in the linked thread, I like the idea of "megadamage," and actually balancing that in the game.

Look, especially against PC's, there's lots of different ways to survive after "death" (or 0 hp), or come back from the "dead" (healing magic), or to otherwise overcome this problem. You don't need to turn every combat into the same process of "10 attack rolls 'till you win!" Sometimes, especially at higher levels, it's okay to have it be "every round, there's a chance of someone loosing."


One issue I can see with a Save or Die threshold system is that, depending on how healing and the threshold system work, it could make in-combat healing the best defence against such attacks, making healers more needed.

It tends to encourage two combat styles - a defensive low-death-rate 4e type grind, healing up anyone close to the threshold or an ultra agressive, swingy, higher death rate 3e-type "kill the monsters before they kill you" style. I prefer the low death rate of the former but not the grind, and don't really like the all-or-nothing gamble of the latter.


First Post
Not a fan. I can see this mechanic eliminating save or die spells altogether, at least for players. No spellcaster is going to waste a slot on a "finish him" spell -- they'll just tell the fighter "just whack it one more time".

What might work is some kind of mechanic when players and creatures get a bonus or penalty to the save based on how many HP they have left. That could be fiddly, however. Ultimately, I'm not sure what the best solution is, but this isn't it.


I posted a comment to the article itself that sums up my thoughts:

"To address the general question, though, this is one area I think could be very hard to get right for every taste. I actually think the appropriateness of Save or Die links back to the character generation system; it's a spectrum that D&D over the editions has travelled along:

At one end is essentially random character generation; in AD&D magic users even rolled for what spells they knew (if you went by RAW), all characteristics were rolled and magic items and spells learned were in the DM's gift. There was no character design aspect of play - the challenge was to play whatever the dice gave you to the best of your ability. In such a set-up, random death fits. In early editions, you could play extremely well and still die; that was part of the charm, in a way. As a game, it was like soccer: skill in play was certainly possible, even desirable, but even the best teams lost sometimes because Lady Luck was always in the driving seat.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have character design or "build" systems where the player is to a large extent in control of their character. Character design is part of the strategy of the game. I think random death works poorly for this style of play, not just because the players put so much time into character building, but because the more extreme builds tend to have "blank spots" - levels where they work poorly - and being able to skip these makes extreme builds more useful than they ought to be.

The system suggested would work well, I think, with the first type of game - it allows random death but after a tense bit of "preliminary". For the latter type, though, I would much prefer the 4E medusa approach: multiple saves with a chance for allies to intervene."

Noir le Lotus

First Post
I really don't like the kind of Save-or-die as explained in this article.

I'm not a big fan of SoD but I think that if they are well used, they are something that make players more careful on how they play. There is nothing worse that a high level party who just charges stupidely any mobs they encounter just because they have 200 hp and can't be killed in one round.

Save-or-Die are here to remind your players than their PCs are not immortal and can die.


I don't think it sounds like "-25 hp 15ft radius". I do think it plays into the idea that HP are not physical damage. That is, normally your high HP fighter is plenty on top of things to avoid the medusa's gaze. Until he's under 25 hp, then the energy, luck, skill, etc. that he has left aren't enough. (Although I think I would prefer that a "trap" save like that start causing rolls rather than just work.)

I voted for it. I think it gives lots of ways to dial lethality up or down without eliminating stacks of critters from the MM (which I did in 3e). Its also easily replaced with another system if you don't like this one, with the added bonus of giving you a guideline for the severity/difficulty of whatever save mechanic you want to use instead.


Demon Lord
Not a huge fan of what's in the article. Maybe for some spells and some monsters perhaps, but not across the board. The medusa, for example, your character looks at it, save or turn to stone. Done. Not 'save or you're slowed. Save again or you're slowed even more. Save for the tenth time and you're stone."


First Post
I like save or die in boss or mini boss encounters, or even in traps guarding ultra rare treasure. I also like more expensive resurrections. I don't think the character should be reduced in effectiveness, but rather think the cost up front should be much higher. The problem in old D&D, in my opinion, was the frequency of such situations. Save or die ettercaps or level draining wrights lounging around town in a 2nd level adventure is a little much. This style of play can quickly turn into vicious circles of cheap milieus. That said, I like high stakes and fantastic rewards, and that's an area i think D&D lost me on lately.


The only thing this sort of mechanic (which I really dislike the sound of) will do is ensure that SOMEONE in the party will play a cleric who keeps a ready source of healing during combat at hand. Thus forcing the cleric back into the role of buff-before, heal-during combat - BORING!

No. Adventuring means risk. Risk of death. I play a very low-death campaign, generally. But if I include a death-effect, I want it to be sudden, dramatic, and truly fatal. Not - the monster dinks you down to nearly dead, and then before it can use it's cool death ray, the cleric heals you up... blah blah blah.

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