L&L 3/05 - Save or Die!


I think it could work. And with some modifications, it could even work for people who do not like it at first blush.

For instance, for gaze attacks, if you are flat-footed, maybe it should be save or die period, because that is the instant it which you are not prepared to not look at the medusa. If you are prepared, that is when the medusa has to wear you down until you make a mistake and then die.

For spells, I think the simple solution would be to have spells like flesh to stone have a duration of two or three rounds. Flavour it as the magic " clinging " to the target.

( Tangentially, this gave me what I think is an interesting idea for an entirely different kind of game: all spells are essentially " living spells " which die when they take sufficient dispelling damage or when they go off. Durations are represented by losing a set number of hit points per unit of time. )

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I don't mind save or die as a rare element that the players are aware of and can make some effort to counter, mitigate or avoid altogether, but if it's just randomly popped into encounters, or if it's used too often, it just makes games frustrating and annoying.

Maybe that's the answer? A save or die mechanic that only comes into play rarely and with warning? Elite or Solo creatures only and even then, only on named creatures like The Medusa of Smelly Swamp who legend tells can kill a man with a single gaze. Plenty of warning there and nice and rare.


First Post
I'm not a huge save or die fan. People talk about them serving some sort of purpose about teaching people some random lesson or what not, but I've hardly ever seen it. The vast majority of times what I've seen is it teaching people that not saving sucks, or that the DM is an A-Hole. :p

That said- I'm not totally against the IDEA of save or die, just the implementation.

The majority of DMs I've seen who use them, use them inappropriately. They basically set the PCs up just for what seems like a cheap gotcha moment. It's not actually something that "smart play" can protect them from. Instead it just feels like a cheap trick. At worst it ends up making it feel like the DM is that bad guy in a movie who walks in and slaughters a bunch of people to "prove he's serious" basically a power trip.

It's not always the DMs fault. The way it's implemented kind of makes it too easy to use it inappropriately. Especially when you're tired or just so busy you forget to give the PCs the various hints you planned to dole out that something save or die like might be ahead.

I've also seen it in the hands of a PC turn every encounter into a cheap boring everyone sit there while the mage casts save or die spells over and over. Instead of smart play they just spam save or die. Gee that's fun. (Even if they put it back into the game for monsters, I don't ever want to see them appear as random spells PCs can just learn whenever they want.)

Like I said above, I like the IDEA of save or die, I just don't like the way it's worked in the past. I think Save or Die should be reserved for DMs to basically house rule in. If the players trust the DM enough to allow him to house rule in something like that when he feels appropriate he's more then likely a good DM who isn't abusing it. And if it's something the DM specifically house ruled in for the purposes of this certain quest or whatever he's also more likely to remember to leave room for "smart play."


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."

"You must spread experience ... "


First Post
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."

Agreed. Medusa should petrify on sight.

But that should be a rare effect, packs of ghouls paralizing and killing is bad for the game...

Whatever it turns out, should be modular. Save or Die for those who like, Save or some consequence for those who don't.

Except for Medusa, she always kills.

Many people on this thread are complaining that this proposed system means that save-or-die effects won't work on anyone unless they're already nearly dead. But I think that's a misreading of the article.

Taking a Medusa for example. Her save-or-be-petrified threshold would be X hit points.

1) Low level characters would have fewer than X hit points even when fully healed. For them, a Medusa is a terrifying "you might be turned to stone by failing a save in a surprise round with nothing you can do to stop it" monster.

2) Mid level characters would have a bit more than X hit points when fully healed. For them, a Medusa is still scary. Sure, they can't be turned to stone in a surprise round if they're fully healed; but if they are surprised while weakend from previous fights or if the medusa (or her allies) hit them a couple of times they're rapidly into save-or-die territory. They're unlikely to be able to fight a medusa without someone dipping into that territory.

3) High level characters would have a lot more than X hit points when fully healed. For them, a Medusa is a simple fight. As experienced adventurers they're unlikely to be turned to stone unless they're very weakened from previous fights. If that's not the case, the medusa is unlikely to be able to weaken them into save-or-die territory unless she's allied with other harder monsters - in which case they're the ones that are scary; not her.

To me, that sounds ideal. Low level characters need to avoid encounters with medusae; mid level characters still need to be wary and scared; and high level characters aren't going to roll a 1 on the first round and be killed by a creature so much weaker than them.

And the beauty is that each type of monsteer with a save-or-die attack will have a different value for "X"; meaning that "low level", "mid level" and "high level" is relative to the monster, not absolute.

It's only characters who are high level compared to the monster who won't get hit by the save-or-dies unless they're nearly dead. Low to mid level characters (again, compared to the monster) will still be in danger from them most or even all of the time.


First Post
Thinking about it more- even though "make it a module" seems to be turning into D&D's version of "We'll fix it in post!" I think this might actually be something that would benefit from being a "module."

I think anyone can admit that SoD have a definite effect on the tone/experience of a campaign.

It would be nice to see a section of SoD that could be added to a campaign, with advice about what exactly they do.

Bobbum Man

Will the limit placed on wizard spells ability to instant kill lead to a lot of metagaming so as to calculate the amount of HPs a monster has left or will there be a gamey mechanic introduced/put in place like 'bloodied' that the DM declares and so the players know this.

Which if the latter was the case, many people (not myself) who dislike the strong game mechanics involved in 4e will surely dislike something like this also. As I am someone who likes good game mechanics, as I like to think of D&D as a game that I play, this wouldn't be an issue for me. But I sense it would be for many who prefer the game mechanics to intrude as little as possible.

Or am I off base?

I think you're offbase on this last point.

It would be a fairly easy thing to include values on the character sheet for "bloodied" (= 1/2 total HP value) and perhaps "wounded" (= 1/4 total HP value). These aren't really mechanics per se, more like descriptors.

I don't think that old schoolers will have aproblem with something that describes a relavent detail of the world/situation.


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 easy enough to keep track of if the thresholds are always multiples of ten.

If not, then it becomes harder for most people.

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