Feb 9, 2016

About Saving Throws

Much ink has been spilt on Saving Throws. Few core game mechanics have gone through as many changes throughout the history of DnD.

I started to write up a detailed post about Saving Throws, but then remembered this post on Blackrazor that does a much better job than I would have: http://bxblackrazor.blogspot.com/2014/09/saving-throws-eh-who-needs-em.html

The definition of Saving Throw could be boiled down to "Luck". It is essentially a luck stat. It could be destiny, fate, serendipity, happenstance, but calling it Luck is the most succinct description. This is one of the reason I like the simplified ST roll in Swords & Wizardry so much. It boils it down to its essence so that each class has its own Luck stat. But...

As so often happens when things are oversimplified it can lead to situations where it doesn't make much sense. Why should a Fighting Man have the same 'luck' against petrification as against a charm spell?

In Warriors of the Red Planet the solution was to go back to the traditional multiple Saving Throw stats, but customized to the genre: Explosions, Mentalism, Energy, Poison, Falls, and General.

Colonial Troopers and Guardians use a different tact. They use the single ST stat, but then let the ability modifiers adjust it for specific circumstances:

Saving Throws Versus Terrible Events
StrengthCrushing Events, Disarm Events, Knockback Events
IntelligenceMemory Events, Puzzle Events,
WisdomPerception Events, Deception Events, Mental Attack
ConstitutionDeath, Deprivation, Disease, Endurance, Poison,
DexterityEvasion Events, Balance & Coordination Events, Speed Events
CharismaEgo Events, Emotion Events, Fast Talk Events

Which system works best? I'm not sure there is an answer to that, or if there is a perfect Saving Throw system. My experience in many games is that it is a great mechanic that facilitates great tension and excitement in the game.


  1. My actual favorite Saving Throw system? DnD 4E's where a 10+ on a d20 roll is a success. Fast and easy.

  2. I've seen good saving throw systems and bad. They're a game mechanism, and one players appreciate, but they have to be tailored to the game. Like Mark, I think 4E was actually pretty good...certainly better than 3E. But Cascade Failure is an excellent example of an "old school" saving throw system perfectly tailored to fit its setting.

    I will say I'm not a fan of save by ability score.

    1. Colonial Troopers and Guardians don't use save by ability score per se. They do allow the ability modifier to influence the result.