Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Saving Throws in BTPbD

There are 5 Saving throw categories in D&D from the 3lbb's to 2nd edition AD&D.  They are

Death Ray or Poison
Wands (all)
Dragon Breath
Staves and Spells

Beyond This Point Be Dragons has 6 categories.  However that is because Death Ray, and Poison are seperate.

Champions of ZED has 6 categories.  They are Type I through Type VI.

Now you might well ask, if CoZ aims at always being true to designers Gygax and Arneson, what is up with the "Type" business.  First, the Saving throw category names are intellectual property and not OGL material, so the exact labels could not be used in CoZ.  I could have come up with clever similar names, probably, and maybe (or maybe not) done so within the bounds of the copyright restrictions, but those sort of hoops aren't necessary.  I used Types because the Saving Throw categories were always intended to be flexible tools for the DM to use when and as needed.  Each Type is described as being related to certain kinds of things and based upon a certain quality a character may posses at that particular moment, such as limberness or blind luck. 

Now there are some who might protest, under the conviction that each saving throw category is specific and not meant for anything else; that Dragon Breath is only for dragon breath and should characters be attacked by a mad bomber or exploding gas or some such, none of the given saving throw categories apply.  Consider this statement regarding saving throws from Gygax in the Dungeon Masters Guide p 80:

"Yet because the player character is all-important, he or she must always - or nearly always - have a chance, no matter how small, a chance of somehow escaping what otherwise would be inevitable destruction."

Since player characters must nearly always be given a chance, and since the 5 (or 6) named categories can't possibly cover every type of "inevitable destruction", the given categories must be stretched to include "things like" poison and  "things like" dragon breath and so on. 

Gygax goes on to write:

"Imagine that the figure, at the last moment of course, manages to drop beneath the licking flames or finds a crevice in which to shield his or her body, or finds a way to be free of the fetters.  Why not?  The mechanics of combat or the details of the injury caused by some horific weapon are not the key to heroic fantasy and adventure games.  It is the character, how he or she becomes involved in the combat and how he or she escapes - or fails to escape - the mortal threat..." 

So saying a saving throw category is a "Type" tied to a quality of the character at the moment of the threat is precisely in line with Gygax's explanation.  Allowing a Save vs. Dragon Breath (a Type V in CoZ) in a field of exploding gas is entirely within the intent of the and spirit of the rules.

For reference, I've characterized the Type V saving throw in CoZ as involving situational awareness, the ability, at that last second to see the danger and a way out (into the crevice, beneath the licking flames or out of the fetters).

1 comment:

  1. The old saves are something I've found ridiculous since day one. Those quirky applications, separating wands from staffs, have always seemed so much like on the spot invented rulings that just happened to become canonized. I always felt that was unfortunate.

    Saves based on stats, or general cases of actions of evasion makes more sense to me. I'd also say they have a historical backing, and that a more general framework invites GM and player creativity in a way the oddly delineated categories of classic D&D doesn't.

    Considering both T&T and the earliest Arnesonian games mainly used stats as bases for saves, and all of them was on the spot rulings I find it interesting and peculiar that such a codification of saves happened. An odd quirk of history in our hobby, and sadly a limit to creativity until 3rd ed and 5th ed came around.

    It makes me wonder when BRP, the Chaosium house system, started to generate percentiles off the stats like the KNOW, IDEA and LUCK rolls of Call of Cthulhu fame. Were they in the first RQ as well? I only ever read RQ3 and later games. I note they are not around in the earliest edition of Stormbringer I own, and those abilities could be considered stat based saves.