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View Full Version : (3.5ish) Scaling: Reworking Save or X



Kholai
2012-08-30, 11:40 AM
The other thread has descended to ignominity, and due to my excessive rambling was a CR 73 encounter as threads go.

So, in my quest to rework the magic system for E6; Save or Sucks must be reworked.

Issue 1: They're usually binary.

Either the mage is winning harder than Charlie Sheen, or they've wasted a turn and some resources on doing absolutely nothing.

Issue 2: They're incredibly powerful.

When they work, they're the only thing worth doing. You're not fighting the Dragon, you're holding out until the dragon rolls a 1 on its Fort save against Death so the wizard can save the day again.

Issue 3: They break the idea of improvement through levelling.

A level 20 Fighter still has a 5% chance of instantly dying to a Slay Living cast by a level 9 Cleric. A level 40 Dragon ditto.

So in response, the Scaling rule:

(S) Scaling
If the Saving Throw line ends with "(S)," the spell has different effects depending on how far the spell was succeeded or failed by. See the spell's text for details.

{table=head]Save | Effect
Failed by 10 or more | XXX
Failed by 5 or more | XXX
Succeeded by less than 5 | XXX
Succeeded by more than 5 | XXX[/table]

With this, Blindness / Deafness becomes:

You call upon the powers of unlife to assault a target's senses, causing them to be blinded or deafened at your choice for 1 round per caster level unless they make a fortitude save.

{table=head]Save | Effect
Failed by 10 or more | Duration is permanent.
Failed by 5 or more | Duration is 1 minute / level.
Succeeded by less than 5 | Target is dazzled for 1 round / caster level.
Succeeded by more than 5 | Target is dazzled for 1 round.[/table]

Hold Person/Animal/Monster:

The subject becomes pinned in place for 1 round and entangled for 1 round / caster level. It is aware and breathes normally but cannot take any actions, even speech. Whilst effected by this spell, on its turn, the subject may attempt a new saving throw to end the effect (This is a full-round action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity), this second saving throw is not subject to Scaling.
A winged creature who is pinned cannot flap its wings and falls. A swimmer canít swim and may drown.

{table=head]Save | Effect
Failed by 10 or more | Subject is instead paralysed for 1 round / caster level.
Failed by 5 or more | Subject instead pinned for 1 round / caster level.
Succeeded by less than 5 | Target is entangled for 1 round / caster level.
Succeeded by more than 5 | Target is entangled for 1 round.[/table]

And the aforementioned Slay Living would be:

Fortitude Partial (S)

You can attempt to slay any one living creature. You must succeed on a melee touch attack to touch the subject and deal 1D6+1 damage / caster level (to a maximum of 15D6+15).

{table=head]Save | Effect
Failed by 10 or more | Target is killed instantly.
Failed by 5 or more | Target takes an additional +2 damage / caster level.
Succeeded by less than 5 | Target takes only 3D6 damage + 1 / caster level.
Succeeded by more than 5 | Target takes only 1 damage / caster level.[/table]

Scaling could even replace Reflex save for 1/2, if you're feeling saucy:

{table=head]Save | Effect
Failed by 20 or more | This subject takes 1.5 times the maximum possible damage dealt by the spell (so a 10D6 fireball would deal 90 damage to the subject).
Failed by 10 or more | This subject takes an additional 50% damage from the spell.
Succeeded by less than 10 | Target halves the damage taken from the spell.
Succeeded by more than 10 | Target takes no damage from this spell.[/table]

In a system with Scaling, Evasion and Mettle would be changed to improve the scaling effects of the spell by 1 step; whilst Improved Versions thereof would improve always consider the save to have been minimally successful.

A natural 1 means that you automatically fail, but doesn't mean that you automatically take the worst possible effect. Likewise, a natural 20 means that you automatically succeed, but don't necessarily get away scot-free.

Plus side:
- High level players are no longer viably threatened by low level spells, high enough saves mean
- Keep trying until it rolls a 1 is no longer a viable strategy.
- Low level play is moderately more balanced.
- Mages are drastically less swingy.
- More powerful effects remain in the system without dominating it.
- Less powerful effects reward the mage even when their target saves, lowering their median power but upping their mean power.
- Pumping saves and pumping DCs is still a viable mage tactic.

Down side:
- Save bonuses become more important to keep track of.
- The extra mathematics involved may be too much for some.
- Killing the Tarrasque just became that much harder.
- Probably some other stuff I haven't thought of.

Lemmy
2012-08-31, 09:53 PM
I like it. I've never been a fan of SoL spells. I don't want BBEG to be taken out in a single die roll.

That's why both as a Player and as a DM, I usually avoid SoD spells. Insta-Wins are boring and can really ruin an otherwise epic battle.

They're also the reason so many creatures have tons of immunities. If the game removes those options from the table in the most critical encounters, then why have them in the 1st place?

bobthe6th
2012-08-31, 11:08 PM
why not convert SoL spells to damage spells? like sleep just does nonlethal damage, or slay living does some nasty damage type?

makes the SoL casters fall in line with the blasters.

Just to Browse
2012-09-01, 02:33 AM
One of my favorite things about SoL is that you can quickly write stuff up like
Death Punch (Ex): Standard Action melee attack, 1d6/level bludgeoning damage + staggered for 1 round. Fort Save halves damage and negates staggered. Bam, right there is an ability.

Writing everything on a scaling table is a pain, because then no ability is simple and I can no longer hand my player a time bender and say "it's easy, you just force some save to inflict immobilized/slowed/stunned or deal some damage".

The better solution would be to remake a bunch of spells and abilities so that they do scale, but having some abilities that are just one-shots should stay for both simplicity and strategy. If you really want to re-write every gorramn status-inducer, I'd recommend playing with the DCs so you have low-DC killer effects and higher-DC scaling effects.

Also, a failure by 10 is a failure by half the RNG. That seems pretty darn rare...

TuggyNE
2012-09-01, 02:45 AM
why not convert SoL spells to damage spells? like sleep just does nonlethal damage, or slay living does some nasty damage type?

makes the SoL casters fall in line with the blasters.

What damage type does dominate monster do? How about plane shift, or dismissal? Baleful polymorph? Temporal stasis? Imprisonment? Insanity? (That's just a PHB sampling.)

No, making all spells do HP damage is not the correct solution. However, the basic idea of making them progressive rather than binary (or, as here, graduated instead of binary) is a good one. I wrote some preliminary ramblings on this a while back, but haven't revisited the project yet....

Kholai
2012-09-01, 07:05 AM
One of my favorite things about SoL is that you can quickly write stuff up like Bam, right there is an ability.

Writing everything on a scaling table is a pain, because then no ability is simple and I can no longer hand my player a time bender and say "it's easy, you just force some save to inflict immobilized/slowed/stunned or deal some damage".

How's about:


Death Punch (Ex): Standard Action melee attack, living creatures only, 1d6/level bludgeoning damage + staggered for 1 round. Fort Save halves damage and negates staggered. If the target fails their save by 5 or more, they are stunned.

No need for tables, one extra line and you get "if you fail your save by a lot, something worse happens" is a scaling effect.


The better solution would be to remake a bunch of spells and abilities so that they do scale, but having some abilities that are just one-shots should stay for both simplicity and strategy. If you really want to re-write every gorramn status-inducer, I'd recommend playing with the DCs so you have low-DC killer effects and higher-DC scaling effects.

A lot of spells already have a binary "failure = major effect, success = partial effect" and I see no need to change them unless they're save or dies or severe save or sucks (because again, having a 5% chance to instakill anything is not cool).

The universal problem is still present with low DC killer effects however, swinginess just means these low DC effects will be the ones you spam over and over, giving you that 5% chance to kill a deity.


Also, a failure by 10 is a failure by half the RNG. That seems pretty darn rare...

It might be, if saves didn't lag behind DCs by 10+.

At level 20, high saves are 12, low saves are 6.
At level 20, a level 9 spell is a minimum DC 23.

A level 20 character casting a save or die against another level 20 character with a good save has a 1-in-20 chance of outright success and killing them instantly, a better than 50% chance of getting either a good success (5 or more) or just a success (fail by less than 5).

Against a low save they have a 7/20 chance of instadeath.

If that seems too rare, then I would mention that at level 20 the level 20 Fighter is supposed to be about as good at resisting death magic as wizards are at outputting it, and it's a likely case that a mage worth their salt will have plenty of ways to boost their DCs and be able to target all three saves at will, whilst you can really only boost your saves by around 8 or fewer.


They're also the reason so many creatures have tons of immunities. If the game removes those options from the table in the most critical encounters, then why have them in the 1st place?

That's one good part about scaling, you can fairly safely replace immunities with reduced effect by a step or two.


why not convert SoL spells to damage spells? like sleep just does nonlethal damage, or slay living does some nasty damage type?

Partly because it's boring, partly because, as Tuggyne said, it's hard to equate every effect with damage, and partly because, putting a sentry to sleep with a spell does not require you to repeatedly blast them down to low HP for it to work.

theDuskling
2012-09-01, 12:25 PM
just throwing some idea's in:

- rolling natural a one or twenty should just count as a one or a twenty.

- an more easy system balancing spell use a bit would be changing the dc:
f.e. all spells have a base dc equals 5 + casting ability + half class level.
then there should be some tiers:
tier 1:
death effects, domination or as severe.
+ 0 saving dc
tier 2:
stun, sleep, blindness and total disabling spells.
+ 3 saving dc
tier 3:
slow, entangle and other half disables.
+ 5 saving dc

this system would just scale the chances, but f.e. one could built in some issues to heighten the dc by lowering the range to touch, lowering the duration to rounds/lvl.

partial effects could as well be implement a bit more dynamic by using similar conditions.

some examples:

sleep - exhausted - fatigued

die - hp goes down to 1w4 - stun

stun - slow - weaken

but not every spell needs a partial effect in my opinion there should be high risk - high reward things.
and there should not be any effect if the spells dc is beating by 10 or sth.
lvl 1 fighters can't hit epic foes either.

NichG
2012-09-01, 02:05 PM
My solution is take all Save or Die/Lose spells and divide the save DC by 2 compared to other effects. If you fail that lower save, you take the normal spell effect. If your save falls between that DC and the normal DC, you get a status condition instead.

Physical effects: Touched by death. All damage you receive is doubled for a round.

Mental effects: Fugue. All damage you deal is reduced by 50% for a round.

This way the spells can still be useful if they don't knock someone out in one blow, but they don't tend to work fully except against significantly weaker targets than your CR.

zlefin
2012-09-01, 03:48 PM
one thing i'd strongly like to include in a fix for the saves is making saves be affected by how healthy you are.
say full hp = +5 all saves, scaling down to say -5 on saves at 0 hp.
how well you can dodge, tough things out, and resist mind control could certainly be affectyed by how injured you are. This makes it more important to mix things; as it's much harder to save or lose at the start of a fight, but if you can wear them down it becomes much more feasible to trap/disable them.

SinsI
2012-09-01, 04:10 PM
I like it. Never been a fan of binary spells.

Perhaps auto success/fail on 1/20 can be changed as well?
If you rolled 20 and that would've been a fail, you can re-roll with an additional +10 bonus, if that roll is 20 and still fails, you re-roll with total +20, etc...

Kholai
2012-09-02, 10:23 AM
I like it. Never been a fan of binary spells.

Perhaps auto success/fail on 1/20 can be changed as well?
If you rolled 20 and that would've been a fail, you can re-roll with an additional +10 bonus, if that roll is 20 and still fails, you re-roll with total +20, etc...

What about 1 is a 1, 20 is a 20, but:

"If you roll a 1, then your result is one step worse than it normally would be."
"If you roll a 1, then your result is one step better than it normally would be."

So if you have a +0 save, but you roll a 20 against a DC 35 epic spellcaster, you'll still fail by more than 10, but your result will push it up to a failure by 5 or more instead.

If your epic spellcaster with a +25 will save then rolls a 1 against a DC 11 spell, then they still succeeded by more than 10, but go down one step to succeeding by more than 5.


one thing i'd strongly like to include in a fix for the saves is making saves be affected by how healthy you are.
say full hp = +5 all saves, scaling down to say -5 on saves at 0 hp.

If hit points are considered as a measure of how vulnerable and wounded you are, that's a quite separate change. I'd suggest in that case something like the "Stamina/Wound" alternative system with a penalty to saves for being wounded.

Yitzi
2012-09-02, 11:27 AM
Consider looking at my condition levels fix (one of the ones in the link in my sig), as it's very similar to what you're proposing.