View Full Version : [3.5] Save of Die - Revisited

2009-06-06, 05:40 PM
Ok so first I'll say this: I always hated Save or Die spells and I never use them. No, not even on my Wizards or Clerics. It just spoils the fun. One failed save and that's it, no more character (There's Resurection and stuff but, you get the point).

So I tried and made them a bit less effective, but lethal nontheless. The idea is a mix between Pathfinder and a LARP I went to that handled Save or Dies a lot like I will do here.

Let's take Wail of the Banshee:

Wail of the Banshee
Necromancy [Death, Sonic]
Level: Death 9, Sor/Wiz 9
Components: V
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Area: One living creature/level within a 40-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude negates
Spell Resistance: Yes
You emit a terrible scream that kills creatures that hear it (except for yourself). Creatures closest to the point of origin are affected first.

Now instead of simply killing what it does is deal "virtual damage", and if that damage would kill your character, well it dies. I mixed between using the spell's level as the base damage or a straight 10 but I think I like the first idea better. Makes higher level spells better, which they should be. So Wail f the Banshee becomes this:

Wail of the Banshee
Necromancy [Death, Sonic]
Level: Death 9, Sor/Wiz 9
Components: V
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Area: One living creature/level within a 40-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude half
Spell Resistance: Yes
You emit a terrible scream that can kill creatures that hear it (except for yourself). Each affected creatures are dealt 9 damage/caster level of virtual damage. If that number is higher or equal the the targeted creature's current hit point, it dies. A sucessful save reduce the virtual damage by half. Creatures closest to the point of origin are affected first.

To illustrate: Let's say Godrik the Wizard casts Wail of the Banshee in an area and there's Niko a Rogue, Bob the barbarian and Eliot the Bard. Each of them is affected by the spell. Godrik is 18th level, so is Wail of the Banshee does a total of 162 points of virtual damage. The Rogue and the Bard both make their saves but the Barbarian fails. The barbarian will then be "hit" for 162 points of damage, but he has 177 HP so the spell does not kill him and leaves him unharmed. The Rogue, having saved only gets hit for 81 points of damage, but was low on healt before hand and had a meager 32 HP, he dies because of the spell. The Bard however was at full HP so he's unharmed too since is total HP is higher than 81.

The idea is to keep them scary enough to crap your pants when they come out, but I think this way you have a beter chance of survival, even if a bright Wizard will wait until you get beat up a bit before casting it.

Anyways, critics? Comments?

2009-06-06, 06:40 PM
I like it, I like it a lot. Though, it turns Save-Or-Dies into Just Save when they have higher HP, and Just Die at lower (especially annoying to a player since it ignores the buffer of negative HP.). Since the damage is straight damage that's higher than the equivilant direct damage spell, it gives people no chance to survive, or every chance. The idea is very sound, though.

2009-06-06, 08:37 PM
Another alternative is to have all 'save or die' spells instead just drop the 'killed' character to -1 hit points. The character will *probably* die, without immediate healing, and is definitely dropped out of combat, but still has a chance for survival.

2009-06-06, 08:42 PM
Say -1, unconscious, ignores delay death type things, and cannot stabilize on their own?

Foryn Gilnith
2009-06-06, 08:55 PM
I'd love a metamagic feat to change that to negative hp, unconscious, automatically stabilized. Great utility spell.

2009-06-06, 09:36 PM
Hmmm...not sure I like this. These effectively become no-save encounter ending spells. Sure, you need to whittle the target's HP down a little, but almost every Death spell becomes better than Power Word (Kill) now. The one you've suggested deals (at 18th level) 162 damage max, 81 min, against a wide range of targets. Power Word (Kill) is 100 virtual damage against a single target. Note the huge power difference.

Some balancing needs to be done here, but I'm not entirely sure how.

2009-06-06, 09:48 PM
Or, instead of modifying each and every Save or Die spell, you could houserule a cumulative penalty to Fort saves against death effects for levels of HP loss, and a bonus to saves against Death while at higher levels of HP.

So, at 90% HP, characters might have +2 to saves against death, at 75% it would be +0, at 50% they'd take a -2 penalty and, and at 25% or less they take a -4 penalty. This could also be adjusted for scaling, based on HD.

Edit: Perhaps like this.






2009-06-07, 04:54 AM
I don't like this at all. Wail has become Power Scream Kill. As Djinn said, every death spell is a PWK. "Virtual damage" is just a varying death threshold. And if saveorsucks (Hold, Dominate, Maze, etc) work like this they're either good as worthless or virtually unchanged depending on thresholds.

A good idea for saveorxes is dealing ability damage. Never got around to doing the actual work, but theoretically it should work as you want.

2009-06-07, 05:02 AM
I posted my own attempt at trying to improve Save-or-Dies a while ago. Here they are again (still very subject to revision, if anyone wants to comment):

Save or Die Spells
Save or Drop Deads
Finger of Death, Wail of the Banshee, Circle of Death, Slay Living, Weird, Phantasmal Killer, Symbol of Death
The target falls to -5 hp, and automatically fails all subsequent stabilisation checks. Break Enchantment (or a higher-level Cure spell used in the same way, or Remove Curse for spells of a lower level) removes the spell and returns the target to 0hp and unconscious. When the target falls to -10hp, they fall into a coma, are helpless, and take appropriate penalties for starvation and thirst if necessary. A Heal check DC 10 + spell level is necessary to realise the victim is still alive, unless that person knows the spell cast (spellcraft/Knowledge (arcana)). In order to come out of the coma, someone must perform 5 successful consecutive Heal checks (DC = Spell DC), and Break Enchantment cast at the same time.

As “Save or Drop Dead”, but comatose victim dies 1d4 rounds after reaching -10hp if not removed from the cloud.

Flesh to Whatever
Flesh to Stone, Glass strike, etc.
Target takes 1d6 Dex damage per round as their body turns to stone from the inside-out. When the target reaches 0 Dexterity, they are solid stone (or whatever). Cat’s Grace delays the transformation according to the extra Dex granted. Remove Disease slows the transformation by 1 round/3 caster levels. Break Enchantment ends the transformation. Once complete, removal applies as normal.

Baleful Polymorph/other Transformation
Transformation takes 2d4 rounds to complete. The Will save to retain self-awareness occurs the round after completion. If this save succeeds, the target may reattempt the Fortitude save in a number of rounds equal to ½ the caster level, at a new DC of the spell DC + the amount by which the first attempt was failed. If this save fails, the target may try again every 1d4 days + 1/previous attempt, at the new DC + 1 per attempt. A character that failed the initial Will save may retry in the same manner as the Fortitude save, before undergoing the Fortitude attempts.
- Too complicated?

“That Was So Cool” Spells
Power Word Kill?, Implosion, Destruction
The force of these spells has a magical kick-back that blasts the caster. If the target makes their save, the caster takes ¼ of the target’s HD in damage (e.g. 8d12HD = 2d12 damage). If the target fails, the caster takes ½ their HD in damage (Reflex save for half).

A target that fails their Fort save takes 2d4 points of Con damage each round, of which 1 is drain, for a number of rounds equal to Caster Level. Bear’s Endurance slows it, but it can only be stopped before death with Break Enchantment.

Green Beam of Prismatic Spray
Target takes 1d6 Con/round until dead, or Break Enchantment used.

Lord Loss
2009-06-08, 09:49 AM
What if the Pcs that 'died' have a second save. make save: Is left at -8 Hp.

Fails Save: Say goodbye to Kilmo The Monk/Ranger

2009-06-08, 10:24 AM
Another spell system that I like does the same thing... But what about all the near-save-or-die?

Why bother waiting 3 rounds until his hit points have decreased to cast Wail of the Banshee, when you can simply cast Mass Hold Monster instead?

It's understandably bad when a PC dies to a failed save, but the effect is, I believe, mostly psychological. The same thing happens if you fail a save against a spell that does high damage, or a trap, or if the enemy scythe-wielding barbarian scores a critical hit.

PCs live and die by such rolls - save-or-dies aren't that much out of the ordinary.

2009-06-09, 12:50 AM
I dislike them because they're such an anticlimax whether used by PCs or villains. When used by PCs, it's such a let-down to see your BBEG felled by a single bad roll. When used by an enemy, it seems like such a dud way to go.
Put it this way: When determining whether a character is killed by a damage-dealing trap, leaving aside fancy stuff and magical defense, it can go back to:
Class selection (saves, special abilities and qualities, class skills, HD)
Ability rolls and allocation
HP rolls
Armour/equipment selection
The roll for the save
The roll for damage

For save-or-die spells, all that determines it is:\
Class selection (saves, possibly special abilities and qualities (rarely))
Ability rolls and allocation
The roll for the save.
Fair or not, it at least feels as though the player (or enemy) has less control over their fate, like almost no matter what they do, they're doomed from the outset.
Furthermore, it's so sudden. If a player decides that they're going to whip out their Finger of Death at the very start of combat, that could easily be it, the end of the whole encounter. My attempts at reworking the save-or-die spells, at least, are mostly based on drawing-out the effects, so that even if the enemy is doomed then at least they can do some damage before they go down and still be a bit of a challenge (or, at least the PC can do some damage before they go down), and on allowing the possibility of a last-second salvation (preferably still with a significant amount of damage).

2009-06-09, 02:11 AM
Personally, if I was going to rewrite them, I'd change them to doing Constitution damage on a failed save. If you have it do enough, it still give a risk of the target dying but doesn't make it quite so abrupt.

2009-06-09, 02:15 AM
Personally, if I was going to rewrite them, I'd change them to doing Constitution damage on a failed save. If you have it do enough, it still give a risk of the target dying but doesn't make it quite so abrupt.


In addition, petrification attacks are dexterity damage.

2009-06-09, 02:54 AM
That works. Flesh to Stone does Dexterity damage with the addition that a target reduced to 0 turns into stone, just like how Disintegrate turns the people it kills into dust.

2009-06-09, 03:51 AM
So you two like my Flesh to X, Disintegration and green ray of Prismatic Spray, but not the others, then?