[Think Tank] Save or Die in 3.P


General Discussion (Prerelease)

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Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

I thought I’d start a Think Tank thread on Save or Die spells in 3.P. While some work has been done on the specifically “save or die” spells (I’m looking at you finger of death), others such as flesh to stone and dominate person are still hanging around.

To start us off, I thought I’d bring a little analysis to the table (Danger! Contains math!). Conclusion: Save or Die overpowered.

Spoiler:

Introduction
This analysis shows that at some point along the saving throw failure % spectrum that “save-or-disable/die” tactics are equivalent to “damage” tactics. By finding this point and comparing it to the current saving throw success % we can perhaps find ways to balance the two tactics.

I’ve listed as many of my assumptions as I could think of. Feel free to pick them apart and we can re-calibrate again.

Definitions
“Save-or-disable/die” refers to spells that either kill that target outright or remove them from the fight so effectively that they will play no further part in the battle. Examples include: 3.5 finger of death, confusion, charm, dominate, 3.5 wail of the banshee etc. This tactic can also include the use of mundane poisons or vorpal weapons.
“Damage” tactics can refer to both physical attacks from melee or ranged combat, as well as direct damage spells.
“Save failure %” is the chance of the target failing the saving throw. Eg. A +17 Will save on a DC 23 dominate person would have a save failure of 25%.

Assumptions:
* “Damage” combat should be equivalent in power to “Save-Or-Disable” combat
* One single target vs 4 PCs
* The party will concentrate on one tactic as the two tactical options are not mutually beneficial (SoD does not deal damage, Damage is irrelevant to saves)
* The expected mean half-life [50% death rate] of monster(s) under attack from damaging attacks from all 4 party members = 3 rounds
* Therefore the expected mean half-life of monster(s) under attack from save or die from all 4 party members should = 3 rounds = 12 attacks [# of attacks]
* Spell resistance, when applicable is overcome 75% of the time [SR]
* The existing save failure % is around 75% for targeting a bad save and 40% for targeting a good save.

Calculations
Let’s calculate the point at which the save fail % gives an equivalent Death Rate to damage combat:

Death RateSOD = (1-SR*Save fail %)^(# of attacks)
0.50 =(1-0.75*Save fail %)^12
Save fail % = (1 – 0.50^(1/12)) / 0.75 = 7.5%

Meaning that in order for “damage” combat to be equivalent to “Save” combat with the assumptions above, the success rate of any individual spell should be 7.5%. That is, the monster should only fail on a roll of 2 half the time. This came as a bit of shock to me the first time I read it as well. Then I realised in the old days of previous editions (BECMI comes to mind) the flat saving throw of 2+ at high levels was actually balanced.

Sensitivity
If we do a quick sensitivity analysis on our assumptions we find that if we change the half-life of combat to 1 round for really efficient damage dealers (4 SOD attacks), the save fail rate of any individual spell should be ~21% (about half the success rate of targeting a good save). That is, if the monster only fails on 4 or less, half the time it will be mopped up in one round by a full SOD party. This is hardly the ¼ resources model that we are looking for.

If we change the assumption that only one member of the party is using SOD, and an expected combat duration of 3 rounds, the expected save fail % is 28%. This means that a single SOD tactician is equivalent to a 4 member party that consists entirely of damage dealers when the enemy saves on a roll of 6 or better.

Rectification ideas
Let’s try some ways to redress this imbalance (in no particular order of preference – just throwing ideas around):

SOD spells are only effective if the target rolls a 1 or 2 on their save.
A party of four in a fight against the BBEG will kill him more than half the time in three rounds or less in this scenario. Each party member uses up three of their spells, which (at a stretch) can equate to ¼ resources.

Pros:
Mathematically balanced (..ish)
Simple
Old-school D&D

Cons:
SOD becomes unsexy and more reliant on dumb luck.
No-one will take flavourful spells / abilities like flesh to stone
A 9th level spell has the same impact and success rate as a 2nd level spell
Not backward compatible to 3.5

Increase saves
Perhaps a change to Great Fortitude / Iron Will / Lightning Reflexes such as:

GF / IW / LR
Benefit: This feat turns a poor saving throw progression into a good saving throw progression for one of your classes. If this save is already using the good progression, add a +2 bonus to the save.

Pros:
Scales upwards with level, keeping pace with caster increases in spell DC
Mostly backwards compatible (+2 at first level for everyone)
Encourages single-classing (which seems to be a bit of a design goal)
Uses an existing mechanic (good saves)
Can easily be added to monsters / NPCs to effectively shore up their defences
Gives fighters something to do with their extra feats

Cons:
Not completely backwards compatible (changes to monster book + published NPCs)
Not completely balanced (SoD still is much more effective, just less so against the creatures with these feats)
May make it easier to access some prestige classes with a base save pre-requisite (Although I can’t think of one right now)

SoD use multiple slots
SoD spells actually use multiple spell slots to prepare as noted in the spell description. This limits the number of these that can be used and makes resource management more pressing. For example, wail of the banshee would use up 2 9th-level slots to prepare etc.

Pros:
One additional “multi-slot” mechanic no other changes
Limits total # of SOD available

Cons:
Introduces a new mechanic (backwards compatibility)
Someone has to go through as put an extra line in every spell description that says “Multi-slot: Yes / No”
Balance is still the same, but causes a shorter time between “nova blasts” – It’s now a 7.5 minute-adventuring day for those who already have that problem

SoD does damage instead
Partially what has been done with spells like finger of death and wail of the banshee under 3.P. This idea is extended further to all the SoD spells, and includes options to cause ability damage in lieu of HP damage for spells such as flesh to stone (dex dam?), finger of death (con dam?), dominate person (cha dam?) etc.

Pros:
Changes all tactics to “damage” tactics and stacks with other party member’s efforts
Balance is good

Cons:
Spell mechanics start getting a bit the same (both fireball and wail of the banshee do only damage)
Some people like instant debilitation spells
Have to change all appropriate spells
Recalculating after ability damage is a pain in the arse (although not as much of a pain as rolling up a new character)

Edit:
Leave them alone! I like them how they are.
Is also a valid option.


There's a lot of stuff here, so I'll take it one point at a time. Some of what I've written replicates stuff from other threads; I've put those in spoilers so that those who've already been following those discussions don't have to read it again (and because this post is very long).

On your assumptions:

1) Why is SR overcome 75% of the time? I thought it was typically set at 50% for the monster's CR (MM, p.300). Are you assuming feats/ class features/ items which increase caster level vs SR?

2) Why is 3 rounds the average fight length? Is this based on calculation, in-game experience, or both?

Leaving those aside, I think your general conclusion - that SoD spells as written should not succeed too often or they are overpowered - is correct, mostly because of the "SoD spells vs bad saves" issue (I'll return to this later).

Now, onto solutions:

1) "SOD spells are only effective if the target rolls a 1 or 2 on their save". I don't like SoD spells having a separate save mechanism from all other spells. Also, it affects the balance of SoD spells against each other, since their current levels are based on the assumption that they will have different save DCs. And it can actually increase their deadliness vs a target with a very high save. And it's not very backwards-compatible, as you say. So I'd say no to this one.

2) "Increase saves". I've already been involved in a discussion about this on this thread (which concerns the "save-or-die vs bad saves" issue I alluded to earlier). To summarise,

Spoiler:
I don't like changing base saves, as some propose, because if you're playing a specialist, you should have weaknesses; it takes too much away from generalist classes like the Monk if no-one has truly bad saves. Also, it has lots of knock-on effects on game balance and so essentially zero backwards-compatibility. Others have also suggested increasing the power of the save-boosting feats, as you have done, but they always end up adding +5 or +6 to a bad save, which is far too powerful for a single no-prerequisite feat (the epic versions only give +4, for heaven's sake!). So to my mind, the best thing to do here is introduce additional save-boosting feats. My current favourite version is:

Superior Fortitude
Prerequisites: Character level 11, Great Fortitude
Benefit: You gain a +3 bonus to Fortitude saves. This stacks with the bonus from Great Fortitude.

(With equivalent versions for Iron Will and Lightning Reflexes, obviously).

This works well because:
a) It gives players the option to bring their bad saves only 1 point lower than their good saves, at the cost of 2 feats (which considering the 3 extra feats they get in PF doesn't seem unfair)
b) It's balanced
c) It's half-way between the basic and epic versions
d) It requires no rule-changes and so is 100% backwards-compatible
e) Since it requires 2 feats per save, characters are unlikely to take it for all 3 saves (what I call the "magic-proof Monk problem", which occurs with some versions, although not yours, Dementrius).

Since 2 of PF's 3 stated goals are "add options" and "backwards compatibility", this seems to fit nicely. In fact, I'd suggest adding these to PF whether or not any other changes are adopted.

3) "SoD use multiple slots". Again, I don't like adding a new mechanic when an old one will do. If you're going down the "increase costs for SoD spells" route, why not just increase material component costs? Or the casting time? Or add a percentage chance of something bad happening to the caster?

4) "SoD does damage instead". Again, I've already been discussing this issue in another thread. To summarise:

Spoiler:

- SoD spells doing HP damage is boring, unflavourful, not powerful enough or scary enough
- The preferred solution is to replace automatic death with Constitution drain, which is scary, deadly, and flavourful
- The current favourite seems to be 3d6 + 1/2 caster level points of Con drain, although 1d6 + caster level and 2d6 + 1/2 caster level have their advocates
- There should be level caps to the effect, based on the level caps for direct-damage spells
- On a successful save, either the points of Con drain should be converted into HP damage (3d6 + 1/2 caster level HPs lost), or the target should take 1d4 or 1d6 points of Con damage.

This works well because [mostly quoted from previous posts];

1) An average person will be lucky to survive, even at low levels
2) At high levels, an average person will certainly die; even someone very tough will need to be lucky (well, unless they're a high-level Dwarf with a completely maxed-out Con or something)
3) Even if the person survives the effect, they'll be greatly weakened
4) Like death, it can't be quickly undone (note that Restoration takes 1 minute to cast in PF)
5) That amount of Con drain is much more deadly to most high Con creatures than 10/ caster level HP damage, which is PF's current solution
6) The minimum-level spell which can undo actual death is 5th; the minimum for ability drain is 4th compared to 1st for HP damage and 2nd for ability damage

1) and 2) seem to me to fit the flavour of death effects as presented in books, films etc. The BBEG points his finger at a guard, dark energy briefly surrounds the unfortunate man, and he drops instantly dead. But when he does the same thing to the hero, the hero half-collapses in agony, but manages the muster enough strength for one last blow...

3) to 5) preserve the deadliness of the effect. Most other damage types can be instantly cured with Heal and the character straight back in the battle, but a Con-drained character is a sitting duck - low maximum HPs, low Fortitude save, maybe loss or severe weakening of other abilities (such as Rage). They basically have a choice to go on fighting at great risk of death, or run for their life.

6) means that, like death, it can't be undone by just anybody.

As for ability drain being "a pain in the arse", I agree that it is for most ability scores, but for Con usually the only things affected are your HPs and your Fortitude save, so it's not really a problem.

I think Con drain works well for all the "classic" SoD spells (Slay Living, Finger of Death, Implosion, Wail of the Banshee, Destruction). I also think it could also be introduced without changes to the "2-saves-or-die" spells (Phantasmal Killer, Weird). And by changing the Con drain to Dex drain, to the spell Stone to Flesh. A very similar system would also work well for Insanity, Symbol of Insanity and Feeblemind, but using Wis damage and Int damage (the change to damage is necessitated in these cases by the spell Heal, which undoes both of them. Heal can also cure ability damage but not drain, so to remain consistent, they need to do damage).

As I noted on the other thread, these spells all work well as ability damage/ drain because like death, they have instantaneous duration (ie they're permanent and non-dispellable) and they're totally debilitating on a failed save. I think that different solutions need to be found for the other "save-or-be-out-of-the-battle" spells and effects, if they are needed. I personally don't think the Charm series needs any changes; certainly not in the same way as SoD spells do, anyway. As for the others (eg Dominate series, Forcecage, Baleful Polymorph) I haven't seen any good modifications of them, but this might just indicate that most people think they're OK as they are. I'd be interested to hear others' opinions on this.

One last thing; there are 3 ways I can think of to nerf the Vorpal effect if you find it overpowered:

1) Allow a save to negate the effect. I'd suggest Fortitude, DC23, but I can also see an argument for making it Reflex.
2) Change it so it increases the critical multiplier by a large amount (+3 and +5 have been suggested) and anyone reduced to 0 HPs or less by this much damage is decapitated (although there might be copyright issues with this one as The Immortals Handbook uses a version of it).
3) Increase the enhancement bonus cost (I'd suggest +8) so that true Vorpal effects become epic-only or artefact-only. This can be combined with 1) or 2) to produce lesser and greater Vorpal effects.

Well, I think I've said enough (and then some...). What does everyone else think?

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Biggus wrote:

...

On your assumptions:

1) Why is SR overcome 75% of the time? I thought it was typically set at 50% for the monster's CR (MM, p.300). Are you assuming feats/ class features/ items which increase caster level vs SR?

It's a combination of some monsters not having any at all, the 50% base SR chance and then the added spell penetration / caster level boosts. It will of course vary by creature and specific caster.

Biggus wrote:


2) Why is 3 rounds the average fight length? Is this based on calculation, in-game experience, or both?

This is an in-game experience point, which can be subject to much conjecture. Which is why I did a quick sensitivity on the results if the expected duration was one round.

BTW, you raised lots of good points!


Just realised there's an extra difficulty with using damage or drain for Feeblemind/ Insanity/ Symbol of Insanity; they're permanent, and ability damage goes away on its own over time, which suggests they should be drain, which is permanent. But as I noted above, Heal cures Insanity and Feeblemindedness, and can cure damage but not drain, which suggests they should be damage. So whether damage or drain were used, an exception would have to be made either way.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Biggus wrote:
Just realised there's an extra difficulty with using damage or drain for Feeblemind/ Insanity/ Symbol of Insanity; they're permanent, and ability damage goes away on its own over time, which suggests they should be drain, which is permanent. But as I noted above, Heal cures Insanity and Feeblemindedness, and can cure damage but not drain, which suggests they should be damage. So whether damage or drain were used, an exception would have to be made either way.

As a further side-effect of the above, you can naturally heal ability damage over time without any magic (unlike the spells as written). Does the natural healing of the ability damage, say for flesh to stone, mean that a character can become de-petrified naturally after a few days of bed-rest? Or is the transition 'permanent' once the ability score reaches zero? Does restoration or similar non-heal magic that fixes up ability damage have any effect on these spells above or below 0 in an ability score?


First, before I say anything else, am I reading that right? Is it 'fights typically last 3 rounds' or 'typical half life is 3 rounds, aka enemies are half dead by then'?


I got a proposition for SoD:
Make them kill the target in couple of rounds (4) by dealing 1/4 of max HP per round for 4 rounds if the save is failed. This way creature will still die. But other party members can do something in the fight, and the creature has 3 rounds to do something (like cast Death Ward or Dispel Magic). Also this damage cannot be healed during this rounds by any spells but Heal, Limited Wish or Wish.

What do you say about this?


My PFRPG campaign has had little/no problem with SoD's. In my experience, a player character feels the need to complain when his character is killed not because of what killed him, but because he's feeling down that his guy just died.

If you reduce the power of all spells and spell like abilities to the point where nobody dies in one spell (or two, or three, where to draw the line, really, not to mention that any first level player character can stab a peasant to death in one hit and you don't see the peasants complaining about broken adventurers or g&!@$%n unbalanced longswords) then on top of that insist in adding meta game "buy yourself out of this situation" hero points, you're definitely, absolutely going to end up with players still complaining because the troll barbarian killed their barbarian in a sword fight. It's not the spells, it's the lack of ability for your average person in our culture to effectively deal with loss.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
The Authority wrote:

My PFRPG campaign has had little/no problem with SoD's. In my experience, a player character feels the need to complain when his character is killed not because of what killed him, but because he's feeling down that his guy just died.

If you reduce the power of all spells and spell like abilities to the point where nobody dies in one spell (or two, or three, where to draw the line, really, not to mention that any first level player character can stab a peasant to death in one hit and you don't see the peasants complaining about broken adventurers or g!#+$!n unbalanced longswords) then on top of that insist in adding meta game "buy yourself out of this situation" hero points, you're definitely, absolutely going to end up with players still complaining because the troll barbarian killed their barbarian in a sword fight. It's not the spells, it's the lack of ability for your average person in our culture to effectively deal with loss.

I actually don't have a problem with my character getting killed by a SoD, well no more than any other method, what I do have a problem with is players with SoD affects becoming dominant, so that the rest of the party are at risk of becoming the side kicks. I like my characters, enjoy playing them, and like to give them personalities and flaws, which can be some serious work. But they do vey dangerous things for a living, and past a certain point, when they have more material wealth than they would ever need, it must be for kicks. So if they die they die, if they are overshadowed to the point of being a sidekick, thats what annoys me.


Rob Godfrey wrote:
what I do have a problem with is players with SoD affects becoming dominant, so that the rest of the party are at risk of becoming the side kicks.

Pardon my asking, but has this actually happened to you in game?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
The Authority wrote:
Rob Godfrey wrote:
what I do have a problem with is players with SoD affects becoming dominant, so that the rest of the party are at risk of becoming the side kicks.
Pardon my asking, but has this actually happened to you in game?

Yes, it has, the spell slots necessry for the caster to 'spam' SoD had become available, and more especailly the 'save or suck' spells had become so common as to be standard. To the extent that the mage only had defensive spells, blocking spells (including summon whatever to stand in the way) and SoS or SoD memorised. No direct damage spells at all.


Rob, that just means he's smart. Since most spells allow a save anyways, and the save is always the same DC based on spell level with the only difference being the effects, and the save targeted which would you prefer?

Deal minor to moderate damage, save for half.

Kill an enemy, or they save and take minor to moderate damage (about the same as a DD spell on a failed save).

Effectively kill an enemy, (blinded for 1 round/level is as good as dead for example) or nothing happens.

A better example would be if you illustrated the mage using SoD spells, SoS spells, and crowd control to win the fight on round 1. Which I have seen happen on multiple occasions such as a nice Fog spell taking both golems out of the fight on round 1. (and yes, I just illustrated a mage not caring one iota about one of the most commonly advocated anti mage enemies) There were also two dread wraiths, which the rest of the party combined dealt with on round 1. In other words, wizard in a party of 6 PCs and 2 cohorts did half the work by himself with one spell. Net result of that fight? Dread Wraiths tried to hit me, Greater Mirror Image gave them the two finger salute. Instead they harassed one of the melee PCs, and did trivial physical damage and 11 Con Drain. And that was about it.

Sure, after a few rounds they made it out of the fog and came after us. By then, we had already dealt with the other distractions, destroyed the BBEG and minions, destroyed the uber creature who in standard literary trope we were a little to late to stop, and dismantling the golems was merely a matter of course.


Crusader of Logic wrote:
Rob, that just means he's smart.

Hear, hear. A Wizard who focuses on damage spells is most often a bad Wizard.

The original poster's experiences with save-or-die are of course on one end of a spectrum and far from absolute. I will add that in my own D&D experiences, save-or-dies work around levels 9-12, then stop working after that, as saves scale much, much faster than DCs do. Just look at the number of save-increasing items and buff spells... then look at the number of DC-increasing ones.

Also, take a look at the monster advancement rules in the Monster Manual, particularly page 294.

Notice how quickly HD and class levels scale compared to CR. With each HD or class level increase, that monster's base saves (and ability scores) are going up, enough that for each CR increase, a monster's saves can go up by +1 each or more. Save DCs, on the other hand, go up by +1 per 2 levels, which is how often a character gains a new level of spells. Thus, each time a PC's save DCs go up by 1, the monsters' saves have gone up by more than 1.

Between items, buff spells, ability score increases, class levels, and HD increases, save modifiers go up way faster than DCs do, thus making save-or-dies less and less viable with every level progressed.

And at a gaming table where they are viable, the DM must, at the very least, be using multiple-monster encounters. Which means that the original poster's baseline encounter of four party members vs. one monster is entirely invalid.

-Matt


The relevant casting stat also improves. After all, it starts around 16-18, and is going to be about double that by level 20. You do get level up points, enhancement items, and inherent bonuses after all.

With that said, the nastiest effects tend to be the save or sucks if for no other reasons than they sometimes forget the save part, and they're less likely to have common tags such as [Death], [Fear], and [Mind-Affecting] which means you encounter immunities at least somewhat often.

Certain types of enemies (mages, outsiders, dragons) do have respectable saves across the board. It isn't unbeatable, but it does scale a little faster than DCs.

Also, you shouldn't use single monsters regardless. Even against a party of four Fighters who think the Weapon Focus line is the best thing ever. Heavy action advantage = easy win. Not to mention since it pretty much has to be several CRs higher to be relevant, it will likely randomly pop off one or more PCs who cannot yet deal with its abilities.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Crusader of Logic wrote:
First, before I say anything else, am I reading that right? Is it 'fights typically last 3 rounds' or 'typical half life is 3 rounds, aka enemies are half dead by then'?

After 3 rounds there is a 50% chance the fight will be over.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Mattastrophic wrote:


Hear, hear. A Wizard who focuses on damage spells is most often a bad Wizard.

What I'm saying here is that a wizard should be a good wizard regardless of whether he chooses damage or save-or-?. Obviously at the moment this is not the case.

Mattastrophic wrote:


The original poster's experiences with save-or-die are of course on one end of a spectrum and far from absolute. I will add that in my own D&D experiences, save-or-dies work around levels 9-12, then stop working after that, as saves scale much, much faster than DCs do. Just look at the number of save-increasing items and buff spells... then look at the number of DC-increasing ones...

Certainly the effectiveness is variable by level, but the SOD user only needs to be in the 20%-25% success range to be equivalent to all the other party members combined.

Mattastrophic wrote:


And at a gaming table where they are viable, the DM must, at the very least, be using multiple-monster encounters. Which means that the original poster's baseline encounter of four party members vs. one monster is entirely invalid.

-Matt

I chose the single monster scenario as this is the baseline assumption of 3rd ed. I agree that multiple monster encounters are a good way to counter single target save or die attacks, but necessarily these multiple monsters are weaker in terms of saves than the single big monster, making them more susceptible to area SOD effects.


Dementrius wrote:
Crusader of Logic wrote:
First, before I say anything else, am I reading that right? Is it 'fights typically last 3 rounds' or 'typical half life is 3 rounds, aka enemies are half dead by then'?
After 3 rounds there is a 50% chance the fight will be over.

3.5 RAW combat takes an average of two rounds. Low end 1 high end 3. I've never actually seen a combat take longer than three rounds except because the PCs used delaying+summoning tactics and those were the cleanest fights I've ever watched.

So, half life should be closer to two rounds. Probably 1.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

ubernoob wrote:
Dementrius wrote:
Crusader of Logic wrote:
First, before I say anything else, am I reading that right? Is it 'fights typically last 3 rounds' or 'typical half life is 3 rounds, aka enemies are half dead by then'?
After 3 rounds there is a 50% chance the fight will be over.

3.5 RAW combat takes an average of two rounds. Low end 1 high end 3. I've never actually seen a combat take longer than three rounds except because the PCs used delaying+summoning tactics and those were the cleanest fights I've ever watched.

So, half life should be closer to two rounds. Probably 1.

Sorry I should have clarified - the 3 round half-life assumes the entire party is only using "damage" tactics with no save or ?.


Mattastrophic wrote:


The original poster's experiences with save-or-die are of course on one end of a spectrum and far from absolute. I will add that in my own D&D experiences, save-or-dies work around levels 9-12, then stop working after that, as saves scale much, much faster than DCs do. Just look at the number of save-increasing items and buff spells... then look at the number of DC-increasing ones.

Also, take a look at the monster advancement rules in the Monster Manual, particularly page 294.

Notice how quickly HD and class levels scale compared to CR. With each HD or class level increase, that monster's base saves (and ability scores) are going up, enough that for each CR increase, a monster's saves can go up by +1 each or more. Save DCs, on the other hand, go up by +1 per 2 levels, which is how often a character gains a new level of spells. Thus, each time a PC's save DCs go up by 1, the monsters' saves have gone up by more than 1.

Between items, buff spells, ability score increases, class levels, and HD increases, save modifiers go up way faster than DCs do, thus making save-or-dies less and less viable with every level progressed.

And at a gaming table where they are viable, the DM must, at the very least, be using multiple-monster encounters. Which means that the original poster's baseline encounter of four party members vs. one monster is entirely invalid.

-Matt

Sorry, but this ignores, for example, the casters' ability score.

If you look at the saving throws of creatures with moderate to high Hit Dice and all-good Saving Throw progression. A CR 10 red dragon has a +12 Will save... which is nice and all, but he's still got a 40-50% chance of failing a save vs. a caster's high-level spells.

Meanwhile, an animal or a giant or whatever can have as many hit dice as he likes, and it still won't make his poor save (like Will) any good.

Liberty's Edge

My personal finding is that save or die is a problem when the chance of failure is around 25-40%. While the odds of surviving are good, the chance of failing is still high. A single poor roll of the dice will do in an opponent.

Since an opponent in D&D doesn't suffer any ill effects for damage, the most 'useless' thing is when a party does significant damage to an opponent while the wizard tries several save or die attacks. Eventually the creature succumbs making the damage it has already taken 'irrelevant'.

I think the Pathfinder changes (making it damage) make it more signficant in that situation, since it is quite likely the save-or-die contributed to the defeat of the opponent, and didn't complete it all on its own. However, I agree that in terms of flavor it is somewhat dissatisfying.

Regarding dealing Con Drain on a failed save and Con damage on a passed save, I don't think that would work very well. Essentially, the opponent passes the first save, and they are extremely vulnerable to any new castings (and may still die outright). I'd prefer to see the base model along the lines of Con Damage with HP damage equal to the Con Damage on a successful save.

I don't think that the Con Damage versus Drain should be considered a major change. Since the point is that the SoD are more 'survivable', it doesn't matter that Con Damage is not an effect that a character would suffer under SoD now (since they'd be dead otherwise). Effects that are 'permanent' are generally unncessary - there is a lot to be said for an effect that 'wears off' over time. So some abilities (like a medusa's gaze) could be 'permanent' (meaning that they are a 'living statue' - incapable of taking actions, but if the spell is dispelled they're still alive) and others could be instantaneous (meaning they will wear off over time).


Ok, none commented on my suggestion which I feel is better then 3.5e or Con damage. So let me repeat:

Make SoD kill the target in couple of rounds (4) by dealing 1/4 of max HP per round for 4 rounds if the save is failed. This way creature will still die, but other party members can do something in that fight, and the creature has 3 rounds to do something (like cast Death Ward or Dispel Magic to stop the effect). Also this damage cannot be healed during this rounds by any spells but Heal (or maybe Greater Restoration), Limited Wish or Wish; these spells do not stop the effect of the SoD just heal the damage done up until that point.

So there would be two possible ways to survive this even on a failed save (one stops the effects but keeps the damage received, and the other heals the damage but does not stop the effect).


If the party is doing nothing but damage, the half life for a fight should be about 1.75 rounds (as in 12.5% of fights will finish in 1 round, 37.5% in 2, 50% in 3). And this is assuming their damage abilities aren't the best. Think Fireballs, Orbs of x, and Flame Strikes here... against high level enemies. 3rd and 4th level spells aren't that great when 6th, 7th, and 8th level are available and are the main staples. Non casters doing 60 damage a round or thereabouts (also low for the level). By the way, this was the BBEG and minions. We won in 3 rounds. The first round was just to move around the corner and into the room so we could attack.

Now I suppose if you define doing damage as things like the bard stabbing things with a rapier, or perhaps people still using one handed weapons as a means of doing damage... well, it will still be fast. Because the enemies kill you in 3 rounds, not because you won in that time frame.

If we look at optimized damage parties, that half life is more like 1.25. And start throwing in the save or lose effects and it becomes fractional.


Dementrius:

First, I think Flesh to Stone is fine as ability drain, because it can't be cured by Heal, only by Break Enchantment or Stone to Flesh, so the "Heal can only cure ability damage" thing doesn't affect it.

Second, there are two ways I can see to handle Insanity/ Symbol of Insanity/ Feeblemind;

1) They do drain, and a line is added to Heal specifying that it can cure ability drain if it is from an insanity or feeblemindedness effect only.

2) They do damage, but if the ability score reaches zero it is permanent (although it can still be undone with Heal like normal ability drain). This means that if only partial damage is done, the person will eventually recover on their own as you say.

I think the first solution is probably better, but neither of them are ideal. If anyone else has any suggestions...?

Archangel:

The problem with your system as I understand it is that if the character has 3 rounds until they die, and the HP loss can be stopped by Death Ward or Dispel Magic, very few people will ever actually die from it. I think this weakens SoD spells even more than using 10 per caster level HP damage does, whereas Con drain (or even damage) is very deadly indeed, but not necessarily certain death.

Also, I don't think dying over 4 rounds rather than instantly fits the flavour of the spells very well.

DeadDMWalking:

DeadDMWalking wrote:
Regarding dealing Con Drain on a failed save and Con damage on a passed save, I don't think that would work very well. Essentially, the opponent passes the first save, and they are extremely vulnerable to any new castings (and may still die outright).

Are you talking about doing the same amount of Con damage on a failed save as you would do Con drain on a successful save? If so, you're right, that would be crazy, but I don't think anyone's proposing that, are they? The idea I quoted was d4 or d6 Con damage on a failed save, which would only give an average penalty of 1.25 or 1.75 on the next save. This would build up over several castings, but it could be removed with Heal at any point. So it wouldn't be much more deadly than HP damage.

Having said that, I think I slightly prefer the HP damage option, but I know there are others who like the Con damage.

Crusader of Logic:

Crusader of Logic wrote:
If the party is doing nothing but damage, the half life for a fight should be about 1.75 rounds (as in 12.5% of fights will finish in 1 round, 37.5% in 2, 50% in 3)

I am confused by this. Surely if 50% of fights are finished in 3 rounds, the half-life is 3 rounds? Where does 1.75 rounds come from?


I read half life of 3 rounds as half of fights are finished in 3 rounds or less, half take more than 3 rounds. When used in the original context, half life means half decayed after all or half done, in other words.


-Archangel- wrote:

Ok, none commented on my suggestion which I feel is better then 3.5e or Con damage. So let me repeat:

Make SoD kill the target in couple of rounds (4) by dealing 1/4 of max HP per round for 4 rounds if the save is failed. This way creature will still die, but other party members can do something in that fight, and the creature has 3 rounds to do something (like cast Death Ward or Dispel Magic to stop the effect). Also this damage cannot be healed during this rounds by any spells but Heal (or maybe Greater Restoration), Limited Wish or Wish; these spells do not stop the effect of the SoD just heal the damage done up until that point.

So there would be two possible ways to survive this even on a failed save (one stops the effects but keeps the damage received, and the other heals the damage but does not stop the effect).

Damage over time, in my opinion doesnt carry the theme of Death effects very well. I think there is a place in D&D for Damage Over Time effect. Dark Curses that drain life, Soulflames that slowly consume the target, etc...but not as a replacement for Death Effects. Any change to Death Effects needs to still leave this scene possible.

"The evil wizard raises his and and points one finger at the prince. He speaks a word that echoes through the chamber and the prince's lifeless body falls to the floor."

If this is not possible with a Death Effect then I would say no to the change.

Liberty's Edge

I think even a 'bit' of Con Damage on a passed save is bad - since if a caster is spamming the Con Damage makes them more susceptible to the upcoming Con Drain.

I'd rather see the death effect deal Con Drain when a save is failed, and deal HP damage when a save is passed. This means that if you pass the save you're not more susceptible to another death effect, but you are still 'damaged'. Your life force has been 'reduced' even though you made your save.

Regarding ability damage 'fading away' - I think that there might be a useful change to consider that might have some 'far ranging effects', but could make the game better. What if ability damage does not heal at '1 point per day'? What if it heals at 1 point per day if you pass a save at the original DC? Thus, if you're affected by a touch of idiocy and you are reduced to 1 Int, the next day you might gain back 1 point of Int if you make a save at the original DC of the spell. Over time you're likely to recover, but depending on your save modifier it might actually take months of in game time. From a story telling perspective I like it. And since it won't impact PCs too much (they usually get magical healing rather than wait for two weeks to gain back ability damage so as to return to adventuring) it becomes a flavorful description for magical effects in the world.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

One thing I want to see in the various death spells is a bigger difference between spells of different levels. Phantasmal killer does a good job of being a weaker death spell at 4th level by requiring two saves (one Fort and one Will.) However, after that, you have slay living, death spell, finger of death, destruction, and now that death spells are doing 10hp/level, even harm is basically a death spell (except it can't quite kill you).

Sure, destruction makes it harder to raise you from the dead than some of the others, but I'd like to see a mechanism for having an 8th level death spell be more powerful than a 5th level one, etc. (aside from the DC).

I've suggested in the past that if the death spells reverted to save or die, instead of 10hp/level, then slay living could reduce a target to -1 hp and dying, while finger of death could take a target to -9 and dying (or one less hp than death for characters with high constitution), and other spells could fall inbetween.

Also, if the death spells DO stay at 10hp/level, then harm needs updating, since it's worse than most of the other spells, needing both a touch attack and a save for half damage, and it can only reduce a creature to 1 hp. I'd suggest applying a negative condition to the target, something that heal could cure, since harm is basically the opposite of a heal spell.


JoelF847 wrote:
Also, if the death spells DO stay at 10hp/level, then harm needs updating, since it's worse than most of the other spells, needing both a touch attack and a save for half damage, and it can only reduce a creature to 1 hp.

I'm not defending the current Pathfinder "death" spells, but the only 5th level "death" spell is Slay Living which only does 12d6 damage. So a 6th level "death" spell like Harm is strictly better than a 5th level one like Slay Living, and is worse than a 7th level (ranged) one like Destruction. It's at least consistent (aside from the "not less than 1 hp" clause, which they could probably ditch).

Note also that Harm does more damage than most "death" spells on a successful save.


JoelF847 wrote:

One thing I want to see in the various death spells is a bigger difference between spells of different levels. Phantasmal killer does a good job of being a weaker death spell at 4th level by requiring two saves (one Fort and one Will.) However, after that, you have slay living, death spell, finger of death, destruction, and now that death spells are doing 10hp/level, even harm is basically a death spell (except it can't quite kill you).

Sure, destruction makes it harder to raise you from the dead than some of the others, but I'd like to see a mechanism for having an 8th level death spell be more powerful than a 5th level one, etc. (aside from the DC).

I think the death spells are already fairly well balanced against each other:

Level 4: Phantasmal Killer. Single target, 2 saves.
Level 5: Slay Living. Single target, melee touch attack, 1 save.
Level 7: Destruction: Single target, 1 save.
Level 7: Finger of Death: Single target, 1 save.
Level 9: Implosion. Multiple target (limited by level), 1 save.
Level 9: Wail of the Banshee. Multiple target (limited by level), 1 save.
Level 9: Weird. Multiple target (limited only by area), extra partial effects, 2 saves.

The spells are much better as you go up the levels, I don't think they need differentiating any more.

JoelF847 wrote:


I've suggested in the past that if the death spells reverted to save or die, instead of 10hp/level, then slay living could reduce a target to -1 hp and dying, while finger of death could take a target to -9 and dying (or one less hp than death for characters with high constitution), and other spells could fall inbetween.

Also, if the death spells DO stay at 10hp/level, then harm needs updating, since it's worse than most of the other spells, needing both a touch attack and a save for half damage, and it can only reduce a creature to 1 hp. I'd suggest applying a negative condition to the target, something that heal could cure, since harm is basically the opposite of a heal spell.

Harm is worse than the other SoD spells because it requires a save for half damage? The most damage any SoD spell can do on a passed save is 3d6 + 20, or 30.5 on average, and that's at level 20. Harm on the other hand does a maximum of 75 damage on a passed save, and that's at level 15. In 3.5, Slay Living (which is level 5 and causes death rather than damage on a failed save) is lower level than Harm (level 6, max 150 damage on failed save), which has virtually identical mechanics otherwise, precisely because it's so much more deadly on a passed save. If you have a decent attack bonus for your touch attacks, Harm remains a very deadly spell against many opponents right up to level 20.

So as you can see, I don't agree that Harm needs upgrading.


LogicNinja wrote:


Sorry, but this ignores, for example, the casters' ability score.
If you look at the saving throws of creatures with moderate to high Hit Dice and all-good Saving Throw progression. A CR 10 red dragon has a +12 Will save... which is nice and all, but he's still got a 40-50% chance of failing a save vs. a caster's high-level spells.

Meanwhile, an animal or a giant or whatever can have as many hit dice as he likes, and it still won't make his poor save (like Will) any good.

It sounds like an example is necessary here. Let's start by advancing a basic Monster Manual critter. How about a CR 4 Otyugh?

-As a 6HD Aberration, with good Will and poor Fort and Ref, its base saves are +2 Fort, +2 Reflex, +5 Will. (MM 290) Since it's non-elite-array stats include Con 13, Dex 10, and Wis 12, (MM 204) it's save values are +3/+2/+6.

Now let's advance it by a nice round number... to 18 Hit Dice. Since Aberrations advance at 4HD/CR, (MM 294) and we're advancing it by 12HD, this means our 18HD Otyugh will be CR 7, or +3.

-Its base saves increase to +6 Fort, +6 Reflex, and +11 Will. That's an increase of +4/+4/+6.
-As it goes from 6HD to 18HD, it gains three additional stat increases, each one equating to +1/2 to a save. Let's keep things simple and put them into Con, increasing it's Con to 16.
-Our Otyugh also grows, from size Large to size Huge. (MM 204) This means that it gains, among other things, +4 to Con, but -2 to Dex. (MM 291)
-Our Otyugh gains feats, four of them; one at 9HD, one at 12HD, and more at 15 and 18HD. Since we're dealing with core feats, let's give it Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, and Iron Will, with a feat to spare that we are not concerned with today.

So now our Otyugh has base saves of +6/+6/+11, with Con 20, Dex 8, and Wis 12. Its saves are now +13/+7/+14, an increase of +10/+5/+8 over its original form. It's CR, however, is increased by +3.

Meanwhile, our level-appropriate Wizard4 has gained three class levels, and is now a Wizard7. He has gained:

-One feat at 6th (two under Pathfinder Beta, at 5th and 7th), and a bonus feat at 5th. Let's assume he wants to max out his DCs, so he takes Spell Focus (and Greater Spell Focus, under Pathfinder Beta).
-Two levels of spells, from 2nd to 4th.

Thus, his highest-level spell DCs have increased by +3 (or +4). Paltry compared to our Otyugh's increase of +10/+5/+8 to its saves. And that's only for one of his schools; the DC of the others have increased by a mere +2. The only thing our Wizard has going for him is the ability to start with a base Intelligence of more than 10. For another +1 to CR, our Otyugh could gain the elite array, increasing his stats from bases of 10 and 11 to bases of 15/14/13/12/10/8, leading to up to another +2 to two saves and +1 to the third.

"But Mattastrophic, what about equipment? Certainly, a wizard would have a Headband of Intellect by now!" Ah yes, equipment. To be put simply... monsters can have equipment, too. Notice the lack of a Cloak of Resistance for our Otyugh. Also notice the lack of, say, a Potion of Heroism. The rules are incredibly sparse regarding equipping monsters, but needless to say, there are plenty more save-boosters than DC-boosters.

So there you have it. Monster saves increase faster than the PC's DCs do. And that's just advancing by Hit Dice; I haven't even touched non-associated multiclass save-stacking or elite arrays (which add +0 to CR when combined with advancing by character class [MM 294], by the way) Thus, save-or-dies, or anything involving saves, are very fragile spells to rely upon as one climbs the levels.

-Matt


Well this is a good example but it is taken out of context (so to say).
You need to do this will all types of monsters (those that advance 1 CR per +1 HD, per +2 HD, and per +3 HD) for it to be correct.
You also gave all the monsters abilities and numbers that help against spells.
This just shows that a DM CAN improve monsters to be more resistant to spellcaster but nothing else.

This monster will just be weaker against any melee/archer characters. You gave him 0 increase to his AC or fighting skills. He will be a weak enemy (all he has for him is good HP) that will get killed by empowered Scorching Ray and some swordplay.

Scarab Sages

LogicNinja wrote:


Sorry, but this ignores, for example, the casters' ability score.
If you look at the saving throws of creatures with moderate to high Hit Dice and all-good Saving Throw progression. A CR 10 red dragon has a +12 Will save... which is nice and all, but he's still got a 40-50% chance of failing a save vs. a caster's high-level spells.

Meanwhile, an animal or a giant or whatever can have as many hit dice as he likes, and it still won't make his poor save (like Will) any good.

Sorry, but you also ignore the 17,400gp in treasure that a CR 10 Red Dragon will possess. That should include some nice defensive items, since the dragon doesn't need much help on offense. Say a cloak of resistance +2 and a amulet of wisdom +2. That's only 8,000gp, and already a +3 to Will saves. That a 55% against a very generous DC of 24.

That's a pretty big gamble for a character to rely on to live.


-Archangel- wrote:

Well this is a good example but it is taken out of context (so to say).

You need to do this will all types of monsters (those that advance 1 CR per +1 HD, per +2 HD, and per +3 HD) for it to be correct.
You also gave all the monsters abilities and numbers that help against spells.
This just shows that a DM CAN improve monsters to be more resistant to spellcaster but nothing else.

This monster will just be weaker against any melee/archer characters. You gave him 0 increase to his AC or fighting skills. He will be a weak enemy (all he has for him is good HP) that will get killed by empowered Scorching Ray and some swordplay.

The monsters getting killed in D&D?

Must mean something's broken! I'll find out what it is, I SWEAR TO YOU ON MY LIFE.

Jal Dorak wrote:
That's a pretty big gamble for a character to rely on to live.

Dragons don't use equipment silly, they run the hell out of their cave when they see adventurers because a dragon "would have to have 1 intelligence to fight someone in melee."

I can't believe you'd even suggest an intelligent creature prepare itself for fights and then fight.


Ignoring the troll here... yes, that's how advancement rules work Matt. You can get some pretty messed up stuff out of that such as Huge Assassin Vines (CR 4), and 20 HD zombies (such as a 10 headed Hydra) for CR 6.

To put this into perspective, I used one of those Hydras, along with some other undead that did nothing basically as the minions for an NPC necromancer 3 levels lower than the party, then had him attack a level 15 (singular). The necromancer did nothing all combat because he was chain stunned (and the one attack he did get off missed widely). He had another guy with him, who also got stun locked but did one thing useful.

That singular Hydra nearly killed someone. Seriously. CR 6 vs level 15.

Point of all that is to show just how little CR actually means. After all, a Fighter 2/Rogue 2/Sorcerer 2 is CR 6 as well.


Crusader of Logic wrote:
The necromancer did nothing all combat because he was chain stunned (and the one attack he did get off missed widely). He had another guy with him, who also got stun locked but did one thing useful.

Just a small comment for the ongoing discussion: are people still using the old Contingency trick? I cannot see a self-respecting spellcasting high-level Big Bad not using that resource as a means to prevent instant incapacitating/killing attacks from heroes. When one has the right magic and resources (as most high level villains do), SoDs lose effectiveness when used against them. It is also a rather big bet, as if the villain (even contingency-less) may save, a whole round is wasted and retaliation can be fatal.

So in high level play, as per my experience at least, they become the party's choice against more "modest" minions. The same minions who would probably fall almost as fast to an Empowered 3rd or 4th level attack spell.

Another factor to consider is the tactical option of some opponents readying Counterspell and Dispel Magic actions while minions keep the party busy (and away), thus burning the party's offensive spellpower. This factor clearly surpasses previous incarnations of the game, where Counterspelling and readied actions were not available.


Power Word Stun has no save. It took 3 to stun juggle them both. (low duration rolls) This is where staves are useful.

The necro did have Spell Resistance (and about 10 other spells) active. The check was passed both times. The third stun was on the other guy. If a SR check was failed, the character would have known to swift action Assay next round, which is 1d20+23 vs SR 24 (12th level cleric). In other words, it doesn't matter anymore, and only one round gets wasted.

Counterspelling is a trap, unless you can do it as an Immediate action. Waste your action, for a chance of making an enemy waste their action. Does not compute. Maybe if you had a bunch of low level caster mooks with Dispel Magic wands... but then the first area spell negates them all, and they might be pushed off the random number generator entirely. To do it as an Immediate action, you need certain non core items that are fairly expensive by NPC standards, and are only 1/day. So let's say he did have a Ring of Spell Battle instead of some AC and stat stuff. He gets to roll 1d20+10 vs DC 23 (PW Stun Staff, Artificer crafted). Regardless of if it works or not, he can't try again. Not very effective.

I used a weaker version of this encounter against the psychic warrior. He was at -9 HP in 2 rounds. By weaker, I mean the minions weren't Hasted, the two big guys weren't Heroismed... in fact, they lacked arcane support entirely, and the big guy had fewer buffs up. This was mostly bad luck (in the first encounter, enemies were hitting half the time despite 25% odds, in the second the hydra hit 8/10 due to a very large number of 14+s).


Crusader of Logic wrote:
Point of all that is to show just how little CR actually means. After all, a Fighter 2/Rogue 2/Sorcerer 2 is CR 6 as well.

Since we've got a lull in the discussion...

I've just shown how the phrase:

Dementrius wrote:
Conclusion: Save or Die overpowered.

...is an untrue statement. If your DM touches the monster advancement rules, then their effectiveness dwindles quite quickly.

Pathfinder needs to dig deeper into the workings of the game, not just look at the problems on the surface. First, the busted monster advancement rules need to change; once we've fixed the insane amount of differential in save bonuses among monsters of equal CR, then we can look at save-requiring spells.

-Matt


Monster Advancement rules often gives a creature that is underpriced. In other words, it's actually higher CR than it says. Of course stuff works less. What is your point? I'm not seeing it.


-Archangel- wrote:

I got a proposition for SoD:

Make them kill the target in couple of rounds (4) by dealing 1/4 of max HP per round for 4 rounds if the save is failed. This way creature will still die. But other party members can do something in the fight, and the creature has 3 rounds to do something (like cast Death Ward or Dispel Magic). Also this damage cannot be healed during this rounds by any spells but Heal, Limited Wish or Wish.

What do you say about this?

I'm partial to that line of thinking. Although, we haven't much trouble with "Save or Die" as much as "Save or Out of the Game" spells. They are pretty similar in meta-game effect - it leads to a player sitting doing nothing.

So I'm working for my personal game, to retool most of the "Save or Die" spells into "Save or Dying" spells where the effects come over 3-4 rounds. Most would probably have serious secondary effects than just hit point damage that would increase over the duration as well. But it just feels like it would be more dramatic to fail a save and know that you have 3 rounds before you die, with your PC withering away for their last moment of glory (until being healed or raised). There's not nearly the drawn out drama in "fail a save, you're out". But having Phalbizz disintegrate 1/3 of his body each round while he decides whether to save himself or try to deal a killing blow to his enemy sounds like fun to me. :)


The answer is simple for spells that kill instantly.

The spell deals a certain amount of damage plus possible debilitating effects such as being slowed. THEN the spell deals ongoing damage NOT dependent on the target's HP but rather the caster level of the caster.

For example, 1d6 per caster level (maximum 9d6) + 1d6 per three caster levels (maximum 3d6) each round for X rounds. Save for half damage on initial hit and save each round to negate damage.

This way weak characters will die instantly and strong characters will at least linger for a bit before biting the bullet.

As for "save and removed from the game", I ALWAYS have my players have a back-up character ready to come in for some reason or another (ex. another character's quest coinciding with the party's quest) if their main character is incapacitated. I would even let a player control an NPC participating in the current encounter if all that player's characters are unable to take actions.

I have found that this is much better than sitting around doing nothing while everyoneelse finishes out the combat.


3 rounds means there is a 1, possibly 2 round allowance to heal after the combat is done. Um, I suppose if you want to make them never work...


I agree with crusader of Logic, as I said earlier in the thread. 3 rounds to die is just too long; if there's a Cleric in the party, death from SoD is likely to be extremely rare. I prefer instant-effect solutions, but if you're dead-set on an effect over time, I think losing half your HPs immediately and half next round would be quite slow enough. At least that way you've only got to keep the Cleric from healing them for one round for someone to actually die of it.


The biggest problem with SoD's is that they simply bypass the hit point system, allowing an instawin regardless how tough the opponent may be. If the SoD's could be routed back through the hit point system, they become no more attractive or abusable than damage-dealing spells or attacks.

For example, Flesh to Stone could be reworded that it deals direct HP damage (say 1d6/level). If the target is reduced to 0 hp or less, then the spell turns them to stone, otherwise it just sends them closer to death.

You could add in minor effect to differentiate them from straight attack spells; perhaps someone who fails the save vs. Flesh to Stone is slowed as well as taking damage.


See, here's the thing. Options that are not valid might as well not exist because they are not good enough to use, ergo their sole reason for existing is to act as traps to those who do not yet know this.

Direct damage is such an option. And there is plenty of direct damage out there.

Making save or dies more direct damage is making them useless as well as redundant, defeating their purpose for existing.


Crusader of Logic wrote:

See, here's the thing. Options that are not valid might as well not exist because they are not good enough to use, ergo their sole reason for existing is to act as traps to those who do not yet know this.

Direct damage is such an option. And there is plenty of direct damage out there.

Making save or dies more direct damage is making them useless as well as redundant, defeating their purpose for existing.

That is why making them reduce 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 of max hp per round is a better choice (and instantly kill x levels lower opponents in a similar manner that Cloudkill does).

That way SoD does not remove enemies in one round (which is considered a problem) while still contributing a lot damage wise to the encounter.
It also allows the fighter to do something in the fight.

The most unfun encounter for me was when in 3.0e we encountered a CR 14 Hydra with 15 heads and some of the other Pyro or whatever templates, and after the DM was describing it for 1 minute our Red Wizard (specialized in Necromancy) goes first and casts Finger of Death.
Now if that Hydra was dying for 3 rounds now, other party members would still get their fun, while the wizard would still know that Hydra will die in the end no matter what.
This would have also opened a opportunity for a choice whether to run and wait for 3 rounds or try to finish the encounter earlier.
The way it played out was not fun for anyone except maybe that wizard (although I think he would get bored as well after a few encounters like that).

The point of D&D is not to finish the encounters as fast as possible, but to have fun while doing it.


While I take your point (that removing the "instant" part of instant-kill effects could work just as well mechanically as removing the "kill" part), I have to point out that the 3.0 Red Wizard was way overpowered. A 15th-level character with DC36 save-or-dies? Anything near their CR without a Death Ward up would need to be very lucky to survive. Thankfully, nothing that extreme exists in 3.5 or PF (AFAIK).


quest-master wrote:

The answer is simple for spells that kill instantly.

The spell deals a certain amount of damage plus possible debilitating effects such as being slowed. THEN the spell deals ongoing damage NOT dependent on the target's HP but rather the caster level of the caster.

For example, 1d6 per caster level (maximum 9d6) + 1d6 per three caster levels (maximum 3d6) each round for X rounds. Save for half damage on initial hit and save each round to negate damage.

This way weak characters will die instantly and strong characters will at least linger for a bit before biting the bullet.

As for "save and removed from the game", I ALWAYS have my players have a back-up character ready to come in for some reason or another (ex. another character's quest coinciding with the party's quest) if their main character is incapacitated. I would even let a player control an NPC participating in the current encounter if all that player's characters are unable to take actions.

I have found that this is much better than sitting around doing nothing while everyoneelse finishes out the combat.

I dislike this idea. What if Im turning the target to stone not to defeat them but to protect them.

Example
The princes is poison and the cleric is 10 days away. There is no way to save her life. Wait I will turn her to stone until the cleric arrives and then change her back.

Or say...

Im an evil sorcerer that has betrayed my party. They are about to kill an ally of mine so I turn him to stone so that he is "defeated" I know that the evil cult I belong to can easily fix him and he can be back a work in a few days.

Changing flesh to stone to hitpoint damage to me totally ruins the tone and feel of the spell. Its not thematically appropriate. I would rather they just remove it from the game than turn it into something that isnt really turning someone to stone.

However Flesh to Stone slowly turning someone to stone over the course of a round or two fits with the theme and could very easily work. Make Flesh to Stone do Dex damage each round until the target turns to stone or the effect is removed. Once dex hits zero pooof statue.


-Archangel- wrote:
Crusader of Logic wrote:

See, here's the thing. Options that are not valid might as well not exist because they are not good enough to use, ergo their sole reason for existing is to act as traps to those who do not yet know this.

Direct damage is such an option. And there is plenty of direct damage out there.

Making save or dies more direct damage is making them useless as well as redundant, defeating their purpose for existing.

That is why making them reduce 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 of max hp per round is a better choice (and instantly kill x levels lower opponents in a similar manner that Cloudkill does).

That way SoD does not remove enemies in one round (which is considered a problem) while still contributing a lot damage wise to the encounter.
It also allows the fighter to do something in the fight.

The most unfun encounter for me was when in 3.0e we encountered a CR 14 Hydra with 15 heads and some of the other Pyro or whatever templates, and after the DM was describing it for 1 minute our Red Wizard (specialized in Necromancy) goes first and casts Finger of Death.
Now if that Hydra was dying for 3 rounds now, other party members would still get their fun, while the wizard would still know that Hydra will die in the end no matter what.
This would have also opened a opportunity for a choice whether to run and wait for 3 rounds or try to finish the encounter earlier.
The way it played out was not fun for anyone except maybe that wizard (although I think he would get bored as well after a few encounters like that).

The point of D&D is not to finish the encounters as fast as possible, but to have fun while doing it.

Damage over time is a perfectly good game mechanic for damage over time effects. Like acid, dark curses, etc...But finger of death (and the like need to retain the possiblilty of killing the target outright. That is the whole point of those spells. If they are not going to kill the subject out right and just cause damage over time then just remove them and replace them with "Rotting Curse" or "Life Shredder"

I think it should be possible for a wizard to point his finger at someone and kill them outright. Even it you had to slap a Hit die limit on it (Only targets of fewer Hit dice than the caster, for example). I dont want to sacrifice story and theme when there are easier and more thematically appropriate options.

The penalty for using Save or Die (disabled, etc..) effects should be an "all or nothing result" (or "all or less than other options result") For example Finger of Death should kill instantly or do a very small amount of damage when resisted, much less than other 7th level spells that deal straight damage should do on a successful save. This way the trade off is "I could kill it or I could end up doing very little to it" or "I could have a chance to do a sizable amount of damage or a good amount of damage if it resists" (but stilll more damage than the resisted Finger of Death deals.)

Either way straight hitpoint damage from save or die effects is just not the way to go. I mean if finger of death does 10 hps per level in damage then what kind of damage should 7th level Lightning strike spell do for example? I would have to do more damage than 10hps per level just to compete with Finger of Death.


-Archangel- wrote:
Stuff about SoDs.

You're thinking in damage terms, and you're assuming the Fighter still can do something in the meantime. That mindset is what made 4.0 fall flat on its face. Why would it work better in 3.5, or a minor modification thereof? Also, seeing as the hydra would be dead in 3 rounds max if the wizard did nothing at all... Hmmm...


Crusader of Logic wrote:
-Archangel- wrote:
Stuff about SoDs.
You're thinking in damage terms, and you're assuming the Fighter still can do something in the meantime. That mindset is what made 4.0 fall flat on its face. Why would it work better in 3.5, or a minor modification thereof? Also, seeing as the hydra would be dead in 3 rounds max if the wizard did nothing at all... Hmmm...

I do not see your point. There is none in fact.

My solution gives OTHER party member a way to contribute to the combat and actually have FUN!

And 4e has done it completely different.

And 3 rounds of combat/fun is better then until wizard gets his initiative in round 1.

Kalyth wrote:
Damage over time is a perfectly good game mechanic for damage over time effects. Like acid, dark curses, etc...But finger of death (and the like need to retain the possiblilty of killing the target outright. That is the whole point of those spells. If they are not going to kill the subject out right and just cause damage over time then just...

I do not understand why do you think Save of Die should work instantly.

Even in the movies the whole thing lasts longer for dramatic effect.
"Puf, you are dead!" is just not fun.
And no, the whole point of the spells is to remove HP of the enemy from the equation. My solution also does that, but need a few rounds more.

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