Baleful Polymorph and other save vs death / save vs suck / no save


Advice


So in general save vs death effects are kind of lame, mostly when fighting one bigger dude. Either it works and instant win, or it doesn't and there is little reason not to keep trying. There are other spells that are similar, but still have a chance of survival if the save is failed. I'm thinking of harm and disintegrate. Both do a lot of damage, but you can reasonably survive on a failed save.

Example One: fighting a dragon, he gets baleful polymorphed because he rolled bad and encounter over.
Example Two: Dragon gets suffocated over and over and will probably always make the save, but is still staggered and loses a lot of its power as a dragon to do all of its bites, claws, wings, tail, etc.

One thing I thought about would be to house rule that such effects would be delayed, such as baleful polymorph decreasing their size each round until they fully turn into whatever little animal and suffocate staggering them the first round, and then dropping them unconscious, etc.

Another idea is just to self regulate and not cast such spells on obviously powerful monsters, since your character would probably not believe it possible to affect such monsters with spells-like that and instead rely on buffing/debuffing/other spells that would more likely work.

So I was wondering what you all think? and any experiences you have that have been successful.


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Save or die spells are awful, because they escalate things rapidly. PCs sometimes love them, because who doesn't love it when they drop the Big Bad in the first round? But they hate being on the receiving end, and that's inevitably going to happen at some point. PC death is more long lasting and damaging to a narrative than the death of a villain, as well.

It's what makes high level combat so very lopsided. In general, I try to work with a gentleman's agreement to avoid them if the players do.


I don't think it's necessary to regulate such spells. As a player, I never bother with them (unless I'm a Witch - but in such cases, I'm debuffing the enemy for multiple rounds before I throw the polymorph)

Save or die is all or nothing, which is actually quite poor. Keep in mind that the game is rigged in favor of the players in any combat (unless your GM is one of THOSE GM's, in which case you are all dead anyways).

When a party caster chooses not to contribute to the team effort, and either go for all or nothing, it increases the factor of chance in the encounter. Generally, when you have the upper hand, increasing the factor of chance is a terrible tactical decision.


i agree that they do end encounter very qquickly, but if my players started trying to use stuff like that on BBEGs, then i would just make the BBEG immune to death effects
and at some point maybe they will be dealing with BBEGs casting stuff like that, just to show them how much it sucks for stuff like that to happen

id likely wait to make sure they had money to bring people back, but it'd be a lesson that they hopefully understand
when i write big climactic BBEG fights, i plan for them to last for a bit and be more than just " i swing, your turn" "i swing back, your turn"


As a person who almost solely is a player (only DMing a few times) and fairly recently started his first magic user (wizard, played 1-6 so far), I like the idea of save or die spells. However, I also like the idea of interesting battles and not irritating my DM. Thus, even though I haven't gotten a save or die spell yet (I suppose color spray might count...ish), I plan to, but I also plan to only use it occasionally and sparingly.

Scarab Sages

Ma Gi wrote:
So I was wondering what you all think? and any experiences you have that have been successful.

What house rules are you going to implement to stop the 500 DPR fighter, cavalier or barbarian that can one-round the dragon with no saving throw allowed?


Artanthos wrote:
Ma Gi wrote:
So I was wondering what you all think? and any experiences you have that have been successful.
What house rules are you going to implement to stop the 500 DPR fighter, cavalier or barbarian that can one-round the dragon with no saving throw allowed?

I'm not really sure if that is a fair comparison. There's plenty of ways to avoid or mitigate lethal amounts of damage, especially at turn 1. Stuff like displacement, high ac to block secondary attacks, even keeping some terrain or a Mook between you and the martial to prevent a charge helps. Blocking SoD requires no line of sight/effect and generally requires more niche spells to prevent entirely.


im not
if players play hyper optimized, the DM is welcome to do the same
one optimized player isn't hard to get around, but if a party goes full out min-max mode, then your basically starting an arms race with the DM


Artanthos wrote:
Ma Gi wrote:
So I was wondering what you all think? and any experiences you have that have been successful.
What house rules are you going to implement to stop the 500 DPR fighter, cavalier or barbarian that can one-round the dragon with no saving throw allowed?

No house rules are needed for that. That 500 DPR isn't one attack, it's many. So set the dragon's AC high enough that the fighter needs to roll a 15+ to hit, and its DR high enough to ignore whatever the average damage/hit is. Then I wave my hands thusly, and I have a challenging but not overwhelming monster.

Scarab Sages

JoeJ wrote:


No house rules are needed for that. That 500 DPR isn't one attack, it's many. So set the dragon's AC high enough that the fighter needs to roll a 15+ to hit, and its DR high enough to ignore whatever the average damage/hit is. Then I wave my hands thusly, and I have a challenging but not overwhelming monster.

So, your answer is: it does not matter how much the PC's optimize, you're going to change the numbers. Saves and SR are just another set of numbers, if your going to adjust one set, you might as well adjust all the others. Don't forget to adjust the last number, CR, to reflect the new difficulty.


Artanthos wrote:
JoeJ wrote:


No house rules are needed for that. That 500 DPR isn't one attack, it's many. So set the dragon's AC high enough that the fighter needs to roll a 15+ to hit, and its DR high enough to ignore whatever the average damage/hit is. Then I wave my hands thusly, and I have a challenging but not overwhelming monster.
So, your answer is: it does not matter how much the PC's optimize, you're going to change the numbers. Saves and SR are just another set of numbers, if your going to adjust one set, you might as well adjust all the others. Don't forget to adjust the last number, CR, to reflect the new difficulty.

Of course I'm going to change the numbers. In the situation you described, it would be very bad GMing not to. What would be the point of optimizing to that degree if you never get to fight monsters tough enough to need it?

Scarab Sages

JoeJ wrote:

Of course I'm going to change the numbers. In the situation you described, it would be very bad GMing not to. What would be the point of optimizing to that degree if you never get to fight monsters tough enough to need it?

Then you have already answered your own question. Change the numbers and raise the encounter CR to the new, more appropriate level.

Spoiler:
I had a very similar argument with one of those DM's many years ago. The end result, he gave all monsters in the game 95% spell resistance.

I rerolled as a fighter and showed him what broken truly was. Any encounter that could even damage me TPK'd the rest of the group.

After three party wipes (except for my fighter), the house rule on spell resistance was revoked and I was permitted to go back to enjoying my wizard.


I agree with JoeJ
its the GM's job to challenge the players
to make it FUN without it being so easy there's no chance of failure
and i would up the saves and SR as well

its bad DMing to just let the players win because you don't want to up the challenges

if making the cr higher is making the game too hard, then why are there creatures that have a CR higher than 21-24 which for a 20th level party seems like a "reasonable" CR


CR is a pretty blunt instrument, anyway. You can use it to get a ballpark idea of how many creatures to send and how much xp to give out, but it's far too crude for any kind of realistic assessment of how difficult an encounter actually is.


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CR is like using a Fahrenheit thermometer to measure Celsius


I don't use single monster encounters for bosses because even without SoD, the players have so many more actions that the battle tends to be one-sided anyway.

One thing you can do is give the BBEG a healer to remove status affects.

Scarab Sages

AmyGames wrote:

CR is like using a Fahrenheit thermometer to measure Celsius

Which is why I advocated adjusting numbers to the desired level and then adjusting the encounters CR to match the new numbers. CR is only a rough gauge. raw numbers can be fine tune to get exactly what you want.


if the BBEG is a dragon of cr X, but by the time they fight this dragon they have reached power level (via screwing around and finding some side-quest or something) X+1, im not going to turn the dragon into a different creature


Most of those Save vs.__ spells come with two dice rolls; a ray to hit and a save, or two saves, or other restrictions.

And "Sauce for the goose..." you know. Those spells can be used on the players too.

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