View Full Version : Would this balance Casters?

2008-05-20, 02:19 PM
The Alexandrian (http://www.thealexandrian.net/creations/misc/saveordie.html) has posted an article on Save-or-Die (and Save-or-Lose, BTW) effects. Namely the writer has analyzed the problem and possible solutions, and categorized the different types of Save-or-Die effects:

(1) The effect takes the character out of play, but the character itself can take actions (usually additional saving throws) to put themselves back in play. For example, a hold person spell (which we'll talk about more later) paralyzes the target on a failed save, but allows the target to make a new save each round to recover.

(2) The effect takes the character out of play, but other characters can take trivial actions to put them back into play. For example, a sleep spell works like this -- another character can simply take an action to slap the character and wake them up.

(3) The effect takes the character out of play, but other characters can put them back in play if they have the right resources prepared. For example, any paralysis can be removed if you have a remove paralysis spell available.

(4) The effect kills the character.

It should also be noted that, beyond a certain point, the difference between the third and fourth categories becomes largely academic: A paralysis effect requires remove paralysis; a finger of death requires a resurrection. From a mechanical standpoint, at least, the difference is merely one of degree.

The writer goes on to place the blame at the save-or-die spell's ability to skimp over hit points entirely and reduce fighting with non direct damage spells into a craps game. After dismissing 4th edition's solution to the problem, he presented this:

The problem with save-or-die mechanics is that they bypass the ablative combat mechanics that work so well. So here's my thought: Instead of just watering these effects down, let's change the paradigm entirely and tie them into the ablative damage system.

The simplest solution is to simply have save-or-die effects deal ability score damage. For example, in my house rules all death effects deal 4d6 points of Constitution damage. If the spell has a secondary effect -- such as turning the victim into a pile of dust -- this effect only happens if the victim is killed by the Constitution damage. Similarly, you could have paralysis effects dealing Dexterity damage.

If I was completely overhauling the system, I would -- at the very least -- vary the amount of ability score damage depending on the power of the effect in question. For example, death effects might vary from 2d6 to 4d6 points of Con damage depending on whether you were talking about a 6th-level spell or a 9th-level spell.

But you can also get fancier: For example, if I were redesigning hold person I would make the spell deal 1d6 points of Dexterity damage per round until the victim made a successful save. If the victim is reduced to 0 Dex as a result of the spell, they are paralyzed (as the magical energies of the spell bind their limbs completely)...

...Under this paradigm, there would be no need for a "paralysis" condition -- paralyzed creatures are simply those which have been reduced to 0 Dex. Similarly, a spell like remove paralysis would just be a quick way of healing Dexterity damage.

A sleep spell would be a mental assault, inflicting 1d4 points of Wisdom damage per round until the victim makes a save or drops into a magical coma. When the sleep spell wore off, this Wisdom damage -- like the damage from a ray of enfeeblement -- would be restored.

Sounds interesting, don't you think?

Taking the concepts discussed here, I've made a list of changes, including tying certain abilities to conditions.

Constitution: Disentigration. Ability damage, while quite high, is only dealt once per spell, if that didn't eat all the constitution, nothing happens. But the Constitution damage remains.
Dexterity: Paralyzation and petrification. Each round until save is made.
Charisma: Soul Trapping and Mind-Controlling. Each round until save is made. Charisma damage undone upon successful save.
Wisdom: Those that affect state of awareness like Sleep. Each round until save is made. Wisdom Damage undone upon successful save.

Emotions and the like: As usual, but make a save each round to regain normal emotional state.

Dispel Magic, Dimension Anchor and other anti-caster spells: I don't think these really need to be changed.

Baleful Polymorph: On a failed Fortitude save, Physical Stats start draining (Save each round to slow down, but not stop, the drain) to match the selected animal (the target also might start to grow fur or take on other obvious aspects of the animal), and once reaching those stats, the transformation becomes complete. Also, if the animal and the target's original form are two or more size categories apart, the target shrinks to the median size as soon as the spell is first successfully cast on him. On a failed Will Save, Intelligence starts doing the same thing, turning the target's mind into a beast. If the spell expires before the stat drain is complete, the targets stats and size return to normal. If one the animal's stats are higher than the target's originally were, no change occurs to that stat.

Alter Self: Look, Alter Self should be like a Change self that can't be disbelieved. It shouldn't grant you any real powers.

Beneficial Polymorph spells: Either severely limited or scrapped.

Negative Levels: If we keep them, they are going to need a major nerf. Metamagicked Enervation is just too much.

Forcecage and other No save One shot spells: They need to die.

Kurald Galain
2008-05-20, 02:33 PM
Sounds interesting, don't you think?

Too much bookkeeping for my taste.

Tequila Sunrise
2008-05-20, 02:56 PM
I think this would work much better than the current SoS/SoD spells work, but I think that ability damage per round is too good. Better I think would be to have a single spell deal damage once and if that doesn't do what the caster wants, he can cast it again.


2008-05-20, 03:11 PM
Constitution: Disentigration. Ability damage, while quite high, is only dealt once per spell, if that didn't eat all the constitution, nothing happens. But the Constitution damage remains.

Sooo... you want to turn one of the only thing that owns undead into a spell that doesn't effect them?

Yeah, I see what your going for it. But you have to think of things immune to ability damage.

2008-05-20, 03:26 PM
If that was the original system, it would be good, but it seems far too involved for a houserule.

And Cindy would still be immortal.

2008-05-20, 05:17 PM
Negative Levels: If we keep them, they are going to need a major nerf. Metamagicked Enervation is just too much.The problem there isn't the Enervation; it's whatever you're doing to make all of that metamagic affordable. One house rule that I recommend is that you can only use metamagic cost reducers (everything from metamagic rods to DMM to Incantatrix) if you have high-enough level spell slots to cast the spell with all of the metamagics at full price. The rods etc. are still useful, since you're only using up a low-value spell slot, but it delays when you can do it, and makes the fifteen-metamagic-stacks impossible.

Tempest Fennac
2008-05-21, 01:19 AM
I would have to agree with Chronos. Barring spells which kill targets instantly (which are probably too powerful), would allowing a new saving throw for all save-or-suck spells (eg: Slow) be too underpowered if this system applied to them.

2008-05-21, 01:57 AM
Honestly? From a balance perspective, the real problem isn't SoD effects themselves, the problem is that PCs can optimize their save DCs, while monsters don't usually increase to compensate (unless the DM makes a real effort.)

We all know how the game was tested with the Elite Array. I'll bet they tested it with the assumption that players don't strictly optimize equipment, too -- no +6 int item, no +5 from times, etc, etc. You rarely see such big bonuses on any 'example' character, do you? Those are what WotC considers 'typical' adventurers, so...

Casters just gain so much more from increasing their primary casting stat. Let's say that WotC forgot to take +6 int items and +5 tomes into account when balancing monster saves vs. spell save DCs -- it sounds crazy, but bear with me. They assumed some bonus, but nothing nearly that big. That's a whopping +11 to your roll -- anything that was even slightly likely becomes certain, and many impossible things become quite possible.

It's easy to see how even a small increase above the 'expected' curve could cause problems like this...

Oh. But I have a suggestion for an alternate system: Instead of saving throws, give players three seperate stats for defense against special attacks -- Physical, Mental, Agility. Every time you're hit with a spell of that type, it does 'damage' in one of those categories. When you hit zero, the spell that reduced you to zero (and any further effects that hit that category) automatically succeed.

Instead of one roll to see if you dominate someone or not, you have to wear down their mental defenses with a series of mental attacks. Instead of randomly turning them into a frog or not, you have to wear down their body's natural resistance to shape-changing. Instead of reflex serving as a stupidly unnecessary 'alternative touch attack', it represents how exhausted someone is from dodging, or how close they are to being out of luck, or whatever.

Incidently, these stats all recover very rapidly outside of combat -- as soon as you have a minute to catch your breath and regain your composure, they're all back to where they started.

It's a thought, in any case.

Tempest Fennac
2008-05-21, 02:06 AM
I never knew WotC were that lacsadasical in regards to testing. That is an interesting idea and it makes sense from a realism perspective. Would needing to use more then 1 spell to reduce a certain defence make magic too unrelaible, though?