Saving Throw Rules


House rules on saving throws. I decided to throw out the standard AD&D rules regarding saving throws because I could not figure out how the heck they came up with such a bizarre system which apparently has no basis on the characters abilities. The distribution of numbers made no sense, and the categories were truly bizarre and archaic. I have replaced it with a more intuitive system which I found on the internet. Saves are based on a simple formula which reflects class strengths properly and increases at a reasonable rate. The following house rules for saving throws were posted on the USENET newsgroup on the 18th of Nov 1997, 00:48:24 GMT by: Michael Scott Brown <mikeyb_AT_euler_DOT_Berkeley_DOT_EDU> (Note: I have made some minor changes to this system. But the system itself remains Michael's)

Saving Throws, Michael's way.

All saves are adjudicated based on how an attack effects the character - not 'what it came from'. There are 7 categories of effect (detailed below). I've also tossed the saving throw tables entirely - saves are all based on a simple formula which reflects class strengths properly and increases at a reasonable rate.

Saving Throw Categories

[Save] Control
[Ability] Wis/Willpower
[Is good for] Mental attacks which could be resisted by sheer force of will. Control saves are invoked when an effect uses brute force to command the hero against his conscious desires, such as would be the case with Command, magical or psionic Domination, Geas, or Quest. Control is also used to resist mental invasions such as ESP, Mindread, psionic Contact, Id Insinuation, as well as to defend against actual damage to the mind from effects like Feeblemind.

[Save] Heart
[Ability] Cha/Leadership
[Is good for] Effects which attempt to change how a character feels about himself or others. This includes the generation of false emotions - Friends, Charm Person, Enthrall, Enrage, Fear, Emotion, Antipathy, psionic Ego Whip. Heart is also invoked to protect a character from fundamental changes to his personality and nature; such as might be caused by a curse of Alignment Change.

[Save] Perception
[Ability] Int/Reason
[Is good for] Deceptions and subtle manipulations, and other effects which can be overcome with clarity of thought. Manipulative spells such as Hypnotism, Fire Charm, and Suggestion, use this save, as do directly confusing effects such as Confusion. Of course, this save is also used to pierce the veils of sensory Illusions.

[Save] Death
[Ability] Con/Health
[Is good for] The save against Death is incurred by attacks against the character's health or spirit, and is also used in cases where the body is subjected to effects so lethal as to cause instantaneous death. Examples include Poison, Disease, Energy Drain, Death Spell, Finger of Death, critical injuries, death from massive damage checks.

[Save] Endurance
[Ability] Str/Stamina
[Is good for] Attacks that require endurance and physical stamina to overcome. This includes effects which physically overwhelm or change the body - Disintigration, Paralysis, Petrification, Polymorph, Ray of Enfeeblement, pain, environmental extremes. Endurance would also be used if the hero were immersed in a damaging effect, such as the 'permanent' frostbite damage from Chill Metal. Magical armor provides bonuses to Endurance saves and little else.

[Save] Reflex
[Ability] Dex/Balance
This save describes quick, reflexive actions which help reduce the brunt of an attack - covering one's face before an Acid Bolt strikes, ducking and covering as a Meteor Swarm impacts. Reflex is used to reduce damage from Breath Weapons, Fireballs, and other blast attacks. It is also used to avoid traps or dodge the thin beams of wands.

[Save] Magic
[Ability] None
[Is good for] Generic magical effects are saved against with Magic. This should be used when none of a hero's characteristics can contribute to defense. For instance, Fumble or Sleep are not effects where exceptional strength, agility, health, wisdom, personality, or intelligence would have any relevant impact.

Saving Throw Scores:

All saves have a "base value" of 15 - (level/2) [round down]. This base value is modified by
(a) the relevant abiltiy score: +1 per point > 14, -1 per point under 7 (max +/- 4 regardless of ability score)
(b) class archetype
(c) Bonuses due to magic (spells or items)

(Apply these modifier to your die roll)

          Control   Heart  Perception Death  Endurance  Reflex   Magic
Warrior     -1       -1       -3       +2       +3       +2       -2
Wizard      +2       +1       +3       -1       -3       -2       +3
Priest      +0       +2       -1       +3       +1       -3       +2
Rogue       -2       -2       +2       -1       -1       +3       0
Psionic     +3       +3       +1       -1       0        -1       -3

A player must roll the number indicated or higher on a d20 in order to make the save. The modifiers listed above are applied to the die roll. (Or if you prefer you may reverse the modifiers and apply them to the number needed based on level.)


The resulting system is quite easy to use - just mark the character's net modifiers for each category c/h/p/d/e/r/m and adjust the base saving throw number with the hero's level. Simple and intuitive. If the character can dodge an effect, Reflex save. If it's trying to command his mind - Control save. Trick him? Perception. Hurt him? Endure. Scare him? Heart. Poison? Death. Can't decide? Use Magic. If more than one save might apply (a rogue might want to dodge a "Wand of Pain" while a warrior might figure he'll grit his teeth and get on with it), then let the player choose which defense his hero uses. After all, different classes will prefer to defend themselves different ways.

(Note that all racial saving throw bonuses still apply to saving throws. For example Dwarves may still receive a saving throw bonus against poisons and magic. Elves may still have resistance versus charm and sleep spells. This saving throw system in no way eliminates these types of saving throw bonuses.)

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Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail: robert robsworld org
Last Updated: Fri, Sep 8, 2000 10:21 AM

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