Sunday, February 10, 2013

Further Thoughts on "Save or Die" (as I Know I've Discussed This Before)

As I mentioned in an earlier post today, last night's "Game That Almost Wasn't and Wasn't Much" had a Save or Die situation pop up.

In case you don't recall, I like the concept of Save or Die, but I generally dislike it's presentation - it sneaks in on folks unannounced, and that just seems wrong to my sensible sensitivities. Last night worked for me.

The character playing the "Rappan Athuk Slots" knew he could come up with a Save or Die result. He knew he was putting himself in that situation. Sure, he had to roll 1-1-1 on 3d6 (which is one chance in 216 or something like that). Again, he knowingly put himself in that situation.

Which is why I really dislike creatures that have death poison that kills instantaneously or the trap without warning that crushes one to death.

For Save or Die there should be an amount of player choice to the situation - I'm willing to gamble my life for a bigger reward. Yes, that can be a trap, but with a cryptic warning that may not easily allow the players to overcome it, but should also be fairly clear what potential failure has.

Now, I know we don't all share the same views on this, and that's okay. It's one of the many reasons I love this hobby. Ask a dozen gamers the same question, and you'll get 11 different yet very valid answers. Oh, and 1 goofball answer, but that's to be expected.


  1. My feelings on it are relative to the game. If it's a long-term campaign where the players are fully invested into their characters and the greater story, then save or die seems arbitrary and unfair to me.

    If it's a madcap romp through a zany underworld, save or die fits right in. To me, context determines how appropriate it is.

  2. To a certain extent though, at higher levels the consequences are mitigated. The raise dead spell, stone to flesh, neutral poison, etc.

  3. I think everyone probably agrees that monsters which pop out of nowhere by surprise and poison you to death before you can react, or undetectable deathtraps, are lame. My opinion is that, if I decide to enter the web-filled tunnel or attack the giant snake, that's still my choice. I know that opening a mysterious chest without checking it for traps is gambling my life, just as much as using the divine slot machine. And if I make a gamble without considering the consequences, that's my choice as well. I wouldn't much like it if the DM always signposted eveything that might kill me, I want to work that out for myself.

  4. We have an optional rule for poison that kills quickly, rather than instantly, by doing a die of damage every round for some number of rounds (1d10 per round for 6 rounds in the BFRPG Core Rules, but I often vary the number of rounds and/or the die size depending on the kind of poison). Poison is still feared, and still kills, but not so jarring. Also, I'd suggest it's somewhat more realistic.

    1. I've been using something very similar. It's actually fun watching the players hope they can outlast the poison ;)

  5. I'm of two opinions with this. I enjoy traps and tricks in my gaming (such as the Meadow of Death in Etrian Odyssey 1). I also do not like it when traps and tricks are just thrust upon the player without any kind of warning (Most Sierra Games from the early 80s or 90s). I realize that I'm relating this to video games, but no one wants to sit through one of my tabletop tales.

    This pretty much means I agree with you on this. Games should have ways to snuff a player, but the player should know what he's getting into or have a big glowing clue next to the big glowing pot of gold they want. Also, barring glaringly foolish choices, there should be a way to overcome the odds, even if a narrow calculated one.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition