D&D 5E What if save proficiencies were based on categories instead of abilities?


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So, ignoring the source (spell, item, creature, etc.) and looking only at the end-result effect. OK, got it...except Enchanted and Cursed Items then stands out like a sore thumb as that's still looking at the source. Maybe change this one to just "Curse"?

That said, I think you either need more categories or to expand those already present, to account for:

Fear or Panic
AoE damage (fireball, lightning, cold, etc.)
Other; including corner cases, save-or-dies, and anything else not covered by an existing category.

And there's still death saves - the ones you make when unconscious and dying - that work differently again. Changing the terminology so these rolls aren't called "saves" would help.

And here the tricky bit becomes looking carefully at the relative power/usefulness/frequency of each category, so as not to nerf or over-boost any one class. For example, a bonus vs IC&P is way more useful (and thus, powerful) than a bonus vs Teleport, not only because IC&P usually comes up far more often in play than does Teleport but because those things are often very effective when they do.

I wouldn't worry about two or more classes ending up with the same set; if it makes sense that they would, let it happen.
Excellent points, all. I think broadening those categories would be the way to go, as I wouldn’t want more than about 6 categories. But if doing that makes the categories so broad as to be nonsensical or arbitrary, maybe it would be better to base them on source rather than end effect… Hmm… 🤔

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Limit Break Dancing
Personally, I'd like to see just one save throw called "Luck." Everyone would be proficient in it, but no ability score would modify it. Whenever you made any save throw for any reason--whether it's a fireball spell or a death save--you would roll to see if you were lucky enough to pull it off.

But this is probably a little too monochromatic for most folks. And that's fine too.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Personally, I'd like to see just one save throw called "Luck." Everyone would be proficient in it, but no ability score would modify it. Whenever you made any save throw for any reason--whether it's a fireball spell or a death save--you would roll to see if you were lucky enough to pull it off.

But this is probably a little too monochromatic for most folks. And that's fine too.
I’d like that if saves were a lot more limited, like in 4e where they were just made to end ongoing effects and everything else was attacks vs static defenses. But with 5e’s model where all kinds of things are saves, I prefer a bit more variability in save types.


The original save categories could work. Everything still has ability modifiers, but classes have some preferred category saves where they add their proficiency bonus. This would require a DM adjudication of whether a category applied to a save or not, which is fairly straightforward for a lot of old school saves, even though a lot of modern things would not generally fall easily into a category (is resisting a grapple analogous to avoiding polymorph?).

Here is something I posted in a different thread on the types of old school saves and how they correlated to classes.

In the 1e DMG you have:
Paralyzation, Poison, Death Magic
Petrification or Polymorph
Rod, Staff, or Wand
Breath Weapon

Looking at 1st level characters
PPM is usually unhoy stuff flip of the die things (ghoul touch, necromancy, life or death poison) that favor of the gods buoys, Clerics are the best here at a 10.
PP is deal with attempts to change your nature, thieves are best here at 12. Also note that this does not include wand zaps but does include gorgon breath.
RSW is magical zaps that you dodge or magically resist. Magic users are best here at 11, but clerics who magically resist and Thieves who dodge are tied for second.
BW does not include paralysis breath. You are dodging or bracing behind a shield or magically resisting. Everyone is pretty terrible here with MUs being best at 15 which is not far from the Fighter's worst of 17.
Spells it is straight up magical resistance and MUs take the crown at 12.
You might want to rethink what fighter types are good against, their AD&D paradigm was to start off regular people who are terrible at everything but to advance quickly to heroic then superheroic people who are good then fantastic at resisting everything.


Just a random thought I had. What if, instead of each class getting proficiency in all saves with two of the six abilities, we brought back the old saving throw categorires: death/poison, rods/wands/staves, breath weapons, pettification/polymorph, and spells, and each class was proficient in all saves against effects in two of those categories? You’d still have saves with each of the six ability scores, but if you were proficient in saves against spells for example, you’d get to add your proficiency bonus to all saves against spells, regardless of what ability score the save was made with.

If one were to implement this as a house rule, I wonder if those traditional six categories would be the best ones to go with, or if it would be better to rejigger them slightly. For example, death/poison could become poison and disease, since there aren’t really a lot of save or die effects left these days. Rods/wands/staves could just be all magic items. Breath weapons and paralysis/polymorph are pretty narrow categories, whereas spells is extremely broad. Maybe those could get redistributed a bit to like areas of effect, transmutation (as in being transformed, not the school of magic), and mind-affecting?
There’s a variant rule for this in the Rules Cyclopedia. You have your usual saving throw categories, but rather than only adding WIS for spells and magical effects, you add a different modifier depending on the effect. To be honest, it feels a little redundant. You add STR for saves versus paralysis and petrification, which overlaps almost 100% with the same category.

However, I don’t think the idea is bad (just the implementation in RC). I do something similar in my homebrew system, which has three types of saving throw (death, mundane effects, and magical effects). Death saving throws come with the bonus baked into the target, so when you save against the other two types, you add an appropriate attribute to the roll (see spoiler section below for what does what). For example, hold person would have you save +INT versus Magical effects (because hold person is mind-affecting) while a basilisk’s breath would be +STR versus Magical effects.

The only issue I can see with having fewer categories like this is the way proficiency works in 5e. It has a uniform progression, everyone starts at the same bonus, and you either get the whole bonus or you don’t. My homebrew system has fast and slow progressions, and some classes/groups start higher or lower than others. I think it would be tough to distinguish classes in 5e if you went with too few categories.

  • Charisma: charms and effects that undermine your sense of self
  • Intelligence: compulsions, illusory patterns, phantasms, and mind-affecting effects
  • Strength: paralysis, petrification, restraints, and forced movement
  • Dexterity: projectiles, area effects
  • Constitution: poisons, all other physical effects
  • Wisdom: all other magical effects

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