Which save type is the worst to fail?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Failing saves is something we all do at some point in Pathfinder. It sucks, generally.

But one question got me thinking. Knowing nothing about the effect that just hit you, your GM asks you to roll a ______ Saving Throw. You roll a 1. Which type of save do you want to have failed the least?

For me, at least, it has to be will. Effects that require will saves tend to be the "You're not playing the rest of this encounter" effects, and those by far frustrate me the most. But most of them also won't lead to dead characters like Fortitude and Reflex saves often do.

Just sort of curious how people feel in regards to this. Might be an interesting topic of conversation.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.

No your right
Failing Reflex will only hurt you
Failing Fort Can potentially kill you
Failing Will can potentially TPK your team.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Will is almost always the worst kind of save to fail.

Blowing Reflex saves is generally inconvenient but not so bad. You're usually just taking some damage or getting entangled or knocked down by failing one, which means it's really not any different from a brute monster hitting you with attacks.

Fort saves hurt to fail a lot; a lot of ability damage causers require fort saves, and diseases can be pretty nasty if your GM has a mind for it. Most instant kill effects are fort saves, too.

Will saves, however, make you the GM's puppet. Do you abandon the party, completely wrecking the team's strategy? Do you get stun-locked and left wide open to coup de grace attempts until an ally drops what they're doing and goes over to save your butt? Or, worst of all, do you start trying to help the bad guys kill your friends?

Blowing a Reflex save hurts you. Blowing a fort save can kill you. Blowing a will save can kill the entire party.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

depends on a lot of factors, but given my taste for low BAB spellcasters, I'd guess that it might be reflex saves, the sheer deadliness of those effects to a low HP character is a bother...


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Reflex saves typically apply to damage-dealing effects, or at worst effects that might entangle you or limit your motion.

Fortitude saves typically apply to effects that harm or your body or body parts.

Will saves typically apply to effects that involve your mind.

Worst that happens with Reflex or Fortitude is that you're dead. Worst that happens with Will is that you're an enemy of the party. Thus, Will is the worst save to fail, on average.

Silver Crusade

While I agree with the above there are lots of exceptions.

Will saves are often for fairly irrelevant stuff. Get Shaken (Ooh). Negative energy channelling.

Or for things that take you out of combat for awhile but, generally, you're still safe (fear effects quite often).

Things like confusion are often scary but they're also VERY swingy and can have absolutely no effect on the fight.

Reflex tend to be area of effect. One save isn't too bad. But 3 or 4 can be deadly even if you're making the save. And things like Create Pit can take out your entire front line.


pauljathome wrote:

While I agree with the above there are lots of exceptions.

Will saves are often for fairly irrelevant stuff. Get Shaken (Ooh). Negative energy channelling.

Or for things that take you out of combat for awhile but, generally, you're still safe (fear effects quite often).

Things like confusion are often scary but they're also VERY swingy and can have absolutely no effect on the fight.

Reflex tend to be area of effect. One save isn't too bad. But 3 or 4 can be deadly even if you're making the save. And things like Create Pit can take out your entire front line.

Speaking a someone who has had their character dominated and put to sleep on different occasions, I'd disagree. Will saves are by far some of the worst effects. Off the top of my head, we're looking at:

-General debuffs: Shaken, etc.
-Damage: Negative energy
-Getting taken out of the fight: Confusion, Hold Person, Frightened/Panicked, Sleep
-Actively working against the party: Confusion (again), Dominate Person


9th level PCs encounter in the last room of a dungeon in an Adventure Path last night. We have previously been hit with high damage fireballs and ability draining poisonous bites, no big deal. Now we’re facing the boss and his two henchmen.
Bow Magus, Paladin, and my Cleric succed on a will save entering the room and are shaken for 8 rounds. The Fighter and Barbarian fail and are panicked for 8 rounds, unable to participate.
Given our history the three of us probably won’t produce enough damage to win this. Magic circle against evil grants the beatsticks a second save hoping they will both make it but only expecting one to succeed. The fighter saves, we win. The barbarian counts off his panicked rounds, not too grumpy in his boredom. Fight ends before the panic/shaken wears off.
Will effects can range from mildly annoying to player-boredom inducing to party destroying.


Sarvis the Buck wrote:

Failing saves is something we all do at some point in Pathfinder. It sucks, generally.

But one question got me thinking. Knowing nothing about the effect that just hit you, your GM asks you to roll a ______ Saving Throw. You roll a 1. Which type of save do you want to have failed the least?

For me, at least, it has to be will. Effects that require will saves tend to be the "You're not playing the rest of this encounter" effects, and those by far frustrate me the most. But most of them also won't lead to dead characters like Fortitude and Reflex saves often do.

Just sort of curious how people feel in regards to this. Might be an interesting topic of conversation.

It's not really that interesting.

Will Saves are worse than Fortitude simply because there are a lot of ways to shore up or outright negate the need for Fortitude Saves. Even Wizards have good enough Fortitude saves to make such effects not really worthwhile to do unless they're severely debuffed, in which case Will Saves will do the job of nullifying the threat better than a Fortitude Save would.

Even despite that, Will Saves have a tendency to break player immersion a lot more than Fortitude Saves can. Even when a player is sickened, shaken, and so on, they can still effectively contribute to a combat, even in unorthodox manners. Will Saving throws usually result in loss of character control (which means they can't contribute at all) and by relation, player agency, and in some cases result in becoming the very enemy you fight (which means you're now a threat to your party). The latter is technically better, since you still act, and even if it's for the negative, you're still engaged in the encounter, just not the way you want to be engaged (similar to Fortitude Saves).


Malik Gyan Daumantas wrote:

No your right

Failing Reflex will only hurt you
Failing Fort Can potentially kill you
Failing Will can potentially TPK your team.

^This. Except that in the case of a few spells with Reflex Saves (such as Create Pit series spell), failing a Reflex Save could get you killed.


UnArcaneElection wrote:
Malik Gyan Daumantas wrote:

No your right

Failing Reflex will only hurt you
Failing Fort Can potentially kill you
Failing Will can potentially TPK your team.

^This. Except that in the case of a few spells with Reflex Saves (such as Create Pit series spell), failing a Reflex Save could get you killed.

The Create Pit series is probably the worst kind of reflex save unless your GM is the special kind of bastard that throws Dazing Fireballs at you. Although it should be noted that adventurers with alternate mobility methods or just ranks in climb (a grappling hook will do pretty nicely, too sometimes) have a much better chance of escaping those pits than a surprisingly large portion of the bestiary does.

Generally blowing a reflex save won't kill you outright unless you're at pretty low HP, though, whereas fort saves can be called for against a variety of instant death/one-hit KO attacks, which is a real pain in the pattootie.

An additional rider on Will saves which makes them so unpleasant to fail is that not only are they the most likely of the three to get you and your friends killed it will usually do it in a particularly humiliating way.

Getting swallowed up by the earth and crushed or acided to death stinks. Getting ganked by some villain's death attack stinks. But neither of them stink QUITE as badly as your heroic hero getting turned into a pants-wetting coward and abandoning their friends in the final battle, turning into a babbling idiot who is then easily killed by the bad guys once the rest of the party goes down, or getting turned into the bad guy's sock puppet and used to kill the party.

It might've been a blown fort save that got you turned into a hedgehog by that Baleful Polymorph, but it was the blown will save that consigns you to wandering off in search of slugs to eat until someone grabs you to get the curse lifted.


Malik Gyan Daumantas wrote:

No your right

Failing Reflex will only hurt you
Failing Fort Can potentially kill you
Failing Will can potentially TPK your team.

My old gaming group came up with a mantra that was a variation of this all on our own over a decade ago.

"You owe it to the healer to have a good reflex save.
You owe it to yourself to have a good fort save.
You owe it to the whole damn party to have a good will save."


Failing a reflex save gets you greased, fireballed, or down a pit.
Failing a fortitude save gets you disintegrated, struck by a slay living, or turned into a corgi.
Failing a will save gets you held, confused, or dominated.

Fortitude and will are both worse for you than reflex, but both can be pretty bad.


Will save also gets used for weird, high level effects that completely and utterly decimate the character for good.

it is the save for stuff that might destroy your soul. Which would put you out of most rez spells (other than miracles).

UnArcaneElection wrote:
Malik Gyan Daumantas wrote:

No your right

Failing Reflex will only hurt you
Failing Fort Can potentially kill you
Failing Will can potentially TPK your team.

^This. Except that in the case of a few spells with Reflex Saves (such as Create Pit series spell), failing a Reflex Save could get you killed.

Well, grease too. I would generally say reflex is more for general environmental effects, as well as any goo or explody stuff thrown at you.


Have to agree with the majority opinion: failing a Will save can cause the party to turn on each other and that can mean disaster. Even non-optimizers should boost their will saves.


FiddlersGreen wrote:


My old gaming group came up with a mantra that was a variation of this all on our own over a decade ago.

"You owe it to the healer to have a good reflex save.
You owe it to yourself to have a good fort save.
You owe it to the whole damn party to have a good will save."

Play a monk and make everyone happy!


I'd say low levels Will are the worst (sleep, color spray, etc). At mid-levels Reflex gets to be the worst (actually failing, not having to roll since Reflex tends to be one of the highest saves overall since almost no one tanks Dex), because the amount of damage gets to be significant (and hitting the whole party). High levels, Fortitude, for save or die/stone (plus some *really* nasty poisons at high level).


Majuba wrote:
I'd say low levels Will are the worst (sleep, color spray, etc). At mid-levels Reflex gets to be the worst (actually failing, not having to roll since Reflex tends to be one of the highest saves overall since almost no one tanks Dex), because the amount of damage gets to be significant (and hitting the whole party). High levels, Fortitude, for save or die/stone (plus some *really* nasty poisons at high level).

Low level Will Save/Suck effects do exist, but are usually with spellcasters, which are uncommon to deal with in the lower level, and almost don't exist at 1st level due to how crippling failing that save is (and 1st level PCs are already fragile as it is).

For mid levels, I don't see any nasty Reflex saves unless the spellcaster is casting a fully optimized spell. Which would be Arcanists running Orc Bloodline and Blood Havoc (assuming a liberal GM, of course), and having stupid amounts of CL increase (which means you're not expecting to face that stuff at the norm).

While there are some solid Fortitude save/suck spells at the high levels, they aren't selected because they're Fortitude save/suck spells, since everything and their grandma has a good/inflated Constitution score, and buffs/immunities to effects that require Fortitude Saves. It's the reason why non-saving throw spells are selected over them, and also why Poisons aren't really effective at the endgame.


Another vote for Will saves. Dominate and Confusion are prime candidates.


I don't disagree with what you said Darksol (except that Levels 4-7 it can be pretty easy to die from evocations blasting you down), but the question was the worst one to *fail*, not the worst to have to make or the best spells to take. *Assuming* you fail the save, I stand by what I said.


I'm running an AP for the first time, and my players are in the final book. The worst thing that failing a Fort save could have done in this AP was lead to contracting Ghoul Fever. The worst thing that failing a Ref save could have lead to would be a 2000ft fall from a cliff (in a later book when everyone had a means of flight). Will though... even in an early book, failing a Will save would have lead to a character CdGing themself. In a later book it would lead to a character attacking their teammates with an overwhelming drive to kill and eat them.

I think Will gets it.


It's also usually less of an epic death when you fail a will save.

Adric the Paladin unfortunately succumbs to the poison of the Drow's knife.

Adric the Paladin is slowly consumed by dragon fire in his proud, final stand.

Adric the Paladin is stabbed multiple times by the mad cultist because he was compelled to sit still and babble incoherently like a moron.


Will, because even if it's not turning you against the party it's REALLY annoying to sit there doing nothing because you're dazed, confused, or fleeing.

Next I find reflex, because AOE's tend to take off lots of hp from the party at the same time. The divine caster can only heal so much at once.

Fort I haven't played into the high enough levels where it's fort save or die/suck/petrify. The worst that's happened to me on fort saves is repeatedly failing vs a con draining poison because I couldn't roll higher than a 4 for about five turns in a row. I burned through three potions of remove poison during that encounter and failed on all of them too.


will saves cuz no matter what style of game it generally leads to at least one party member dying on a failed one weather it be a dominate person, or a hold person into coup de gras


Fort for me. Ive had characters die to fingers of death, disintegrate, Slay living, Poison from prismatic Spray , Wail of the Banshee, Implosion and more. Ive never lost a character to losing a will save. The worst that happened was that one time my character died because he was the only one who made his fear save.


Will saves typically knock you out of the fight or turn you against your allies, which can result in TPKs.

Fort saves typically can outright kill you or reduce your character's effectiveness. It's disheartening, but not a huge problem.

Reflex saves are usually just about saving for half damage. Typically I don't care if I fail a reflex save, as long as my character is still conscious the damage doesn't matter and it can be healed.

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

+1 to the general consensus.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / Which save type is the worst to fail? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.