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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Save or Die: Let it die

A lot of older adventures liked to include save-or-die poisons, traps, or spells. I don't like them. Unless it is very telegraphed, where only a truly stubborn or stupid player would fall for the trap, it is unnecessary. There are plenty of ways to endanger a player party without relying on a saving throw to kill someone off. Many of the traps I see in older games seem to be put there just to fuck over people.

In general, I do not like these types of traps because they are not based on a players skill. Instead, it's just a die roll. Players can invest hours into their character, and to take that away from them, just for a cheap GM thrill, is not cool. If a player is really careful, generally does the smart thing, but doesn't notice the hidden trap that will likely have at least a 50% chance to kill him, I call bullshit on the GM.

I prefer to give my players at least a fighting chance. If they do something really stupid, then yes, they deserve what they get. But at least then it's their own damn fault. Having a hidden trap that kills everyone unless they make a saving throw is just spite on the part of the dungeon designer.

3 comments:

Ian said...

Interesting topic. I wrote some of my own thoughts about save or die rolls on my own blog if you'd like to check it out here.

nextautumn said...

My gut agrees with you but there's so much more to it than that. The truth is, if a player is really investing that much time in character creation, a lucky club swing by a goblin can end it just as unsatisfactorily. Save or dies can definitely suck (and sometimes, you're absolutely right, they're BS), but as a DM who spent years declawing D&D by removing these and similar effects (level draining, etc.), I can tell you that it all comes down to play style and how much risk you want at the table. In old-school, gonzo games where the fighter's name is Bob the Fighter (5 minutes to make) and everybody's dying like flies, these things fit like a glove; in some dragonlance-style story-driven epic they're seriously annoying. Eventually it got to the point where death was too rare in our games, and we've spent the last few years putting SoD type stuff back in because, let's face it, unless the DM's a *&#@, the odds are already in the players' favor, but no one wants a game where the players ALWAYS win - that's some kind of masturbation or something. So, like everything else, I think there's a balance - it's hard to strike precisely but SoD's serve a useful purpose I think.

Akrasia said...

I agree with your overall position.
My own thoughts on the topic: http://akraticwizardry.blogspot.com/2009/08/on-save-or-die-effects-in-swords.html