Yearly Archives: 2008

Recalibrating Saving Throws

For some time I’ve seen comments that the separation between good saving throws and poor saving throws is too big, and that it is difficult to find challenges appropriate to higher-level characters with different saving throw progressions.

Mathematically, I can see the argument for this. A high-level spell from a moderately optimized spellcaster will likely have a save DC in the high 20s. A Wiz17 with Int 28 (18 base, +4 from level bumps, +6 from an item; I have found in the last few years that this should be expected) casting a ninth-level spell will have a save DC of 28.

A good base save progression would give +10 at this point (17/2 = 8, +2); if the target has +9 for related ability score (cleric with Wis 28, rogue with Dex 28), +5 more for a cloak of resistance +5 — a total of +22 — he’ll need to roll 6 or better on d20 to make the save. +2 more for the appropriate feat (Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, Iron Will) and he’s down to 4+ to make the save. Pretty good chances, but he’s pretty well tuned to make this save (good base save, topped out ability score, good saving throw item, and a precious feat). The guy who doesn’t tune to this extent (say, a bog-standard Ftr17 with Wis 12) has a total of +6 to his Will save. He’ll save on a… 22+, on d20 (ignoring the auto-20 rule). This drops to 17+ on d20 if he too has a cloak of resistance +5 — but shouldn’t these be uncommon, rather than standard equipment?

The spellcasters are a specific example, and one that I’ve seen as a problem. However, monster natural abilities usually have their save DCs based on ‘HD/2′ as well, and monster HD often is markedly higher than their CR (a CR17 creature can have 30 HD, for example, though those ones tend to be ‘mostly meat’ with few abilities that require saves to be made). Again, the character made to resist them will have a decent to pretty good chance, but everyone else is likely to suffer.

Considering how many of these abilities and attacks can be ‘save or die’, things can suck for the low-save guy.


Gods and Alignment

Something I’m considering for my next campaign is largely divorcing gods and the like from alignments altogether. Basically, the more powerful the god, the less the god is aligned.

The idea here is that to gain full power over something, the god must encompass all aspects of it. This would preclude having an alignment. If you want to become supreme god of magic, you have to accept the good and the evil, the lawful and the chaotic, of all of it. Trying to reject part of it precludes true mastery.

Lesser gods might have greater interest in the mortal realm, and considerations of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. They may still have strong alignments, and tend to be fairly meddlesome. This is why demigods and the like are ‘as powerful’ in the mortal realm as the greater gods — they actually get involved, and care about particular results.

As they gain in power (lesser gods) they tend to lose some of their attachment. This may be ennui, in an effort to embrace more of the portfolios, or a side effect of doing so. By the time they become intermediate gods they’ve lost more specific interest.

This setting would assume that elemental and primal forces are greater than alignment, of course. The gods of magic, war, and death are not good, not evil, not lawful, not chaotic. They just are.


Bastard Weapons

I’ve never been entirely happy with how bastard weapons were handled in 3.x. I’ve had characters use them where it was a good fit for the character concept (okay, one PC that I played, and some NPCs), but most of the time it’s grossly inefficient. If you want more damage with a one-handed weapon, take Weapon Specialization; if you want more damage overall give up the shield (or second weapon) and go straight to the two-handed weapon (greatsword, greataxe, etc.).

Weapon familiarity in 3.5 helped, but only for racial weapons. The dwarf got to use his dwarven waraxe one-handed as a martial weapon, but the human got nothing (again). Anyone else had to take the Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat to see the ability to use the weapon the same way.

Incidentally, I never liked how bastard weapon use was worded. In my campaign I early on changed bastard weapons to martial two-handed weapons, usable one-handed at a -4 penalty that was removed by taking an Exotic Weapon Proficiency-type feat. Same net effect, much clearer rules.

I think I’ve got a simpler way to handle this overall that both makes it simpler to adjudicate and more reasonable to get them into play.