D&D 5E Saving Throws as Reactions (+)


Maybe CON saves are when you grit your teeth and fight past the pain like an action movie star, but doing so takes a moment (your reaction). STR saves are the same thing, but using your muscles. With INT and WIS and CHR saves you're just taking a moment to overcome a mental effect in the same way. Thus they might all take a reaction.

log in or register to remove this ad


It's certainly a neat idea, but there are some issues that creep up.

Narrating the story of combat gets cooler.
PCs without many reaction abilities get something new to do.
More choices for players to make, particularly when it's not their turn.
The Shield/Absorb Elements spells come down a peg.

Reactions are highly limited already, and abilities using reactions are balanced as such.
Auto-fail on successive saves would suck.
Inconsistent with not using a reaction for defense vs attacks.
Signature abilities using a reaction get less use.


Note: Please respect I've labeled this a (+) thread. Personally, I have no problem if you do not like this concept and wish to voice your opinion why you don't like it--but beyond that I ask that you honor the intent of the "+" and either offer constructive criticism or bow out of the discussion. Thank you very much.

In thinking about D&D being more simulation than it is, one thing that has bothered me in the narrative often is saving throws. As I see it, saves are made in response to something happening to your PC (or a creature the DM controls, etc.). As such, I wondered if the use of Reactions when making saving throws would make more sense (in a "simulationist" sense, that is).

For example, a creature uses a feature that allows them to try to knock your PC prone so you need to make a Strength saving throw to avoid the affect. You are trying to keep your balance, move with the force of the shove, etc. to stay on your feet-- you might even be grabbing the creature, using them to keep you standing.

To my mind, that sort of response is a "reaction" and making the save use your reaction for the round makes sense-- it is a expenditure of energy in response to a trigger (in the case above, being shoved).

Now, this might also allow certain riders and changes to other features which would make sense IMO. Take evasion for example. How does this mitigate damage, from say, a fireball or breath weapon to 0 when you are still in the area of effect? I mean, are you "evading" or dancing around the flames as they come at you?

For me, it would make more sense (especially in the narrative) if you could use your reaction when you make such a DEX save with evasion to allow you to move out of the area of effect, up to your speed. If you make the save and can move out of the AoE, it would make sense why you can take no damage. If you can move out of the AoE and fail the save, it makes sense why you would only take half damage.

Perhaps you are making a CON save to avoid poison, so you spend your reaction in the process, and the narrative is (depending on the scene of course!) grapping the poisoned area and applying enough pressure to stop the spread of the poison, or sucking it out of the wound and spitting it out?

Making a CHA save might spend your reaction laughing off the effect as your inherent confidence and bravado sustain you against the effect?

Now, I know a lot of features require or are better when you can use your reaction to do something else, but if that action economy is used up -- what is left to make your save with? Imagine the fireball scenario. Earlier in the round an enemy fled, provoking an OA which you used your reaction to make the attack. You're focused on your foe fleeing, so failed to brace/tense yourself when suddenly the fireball erupts all around you.

I don't know. I sort of like the concept, but I am not sure of the proper execution or if too much of the game would otherwise suffer if making a saving throw cost you your reaction...
I think where this would break down is creatures with legendary resistance and/or very high saves.

Take Demogorgon for example. The combination of very high saves, immunity to multiple conditions and legendaries is designed to make you wear him down and beat him by running him out of hps.

This would turn this upside down - a 10th level Monk with an 8 wisdom could come close to winning a 1v1 demogorgon. Demogorgon has a +16 con save, so against a Monk with a 20 wisdom he would automatically save against stunning strike, but if he needs a reaction to try to save, well he gets stunned every time he is hit twice. That is before you add in the rest of the party throwing dissonant whispers, psychic lance, confusion etc. His legendary resistance is irrelevant and his legendary actions would be for the most part not usable.


What is next? Using your reaction to defend with your AC because "realisticly" you can't focus on all these attackers at once?

Not a Fan.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Just to throw out an alternate idea, a homegrown system derived from AD&D I've played in had the idea that either you attempted to resist everything, or you could "drop your saves" for a round.

So healing and buffs had saves. If you dropped your saves for the round you didn't get to roll any of them - beneficial or harmful. If you didn't, you were forced to save against all magic coming to affect you, including beneficial ones. I think there was healing that you could spend a full minute casting that had no save.

Level Up!

An Advertisement