I have been noticing tweets here and there about Save or Die in the upcoming new edition of D&D.
I don’t mind Save or Die if I can make a character fast and painlessly or take over an NPC as a new character, getting back into the mix quickly and easily. I wonder if having a batch of pre-gens could help with this? Maybe. This reminds me of another Save or Die option, Dark Sun’s character trees, a mechanical sign that the setting is going to be harsh on your character and license for the DM to take the gloves off.
When something has a Save or Die effect, it has to be cool. It doesn’t have to be epic, not every Save or Die effect needs to be Dragon’s Breath but it should be something that we can remember, something descriptive.
I’d like some way to remember the dead, the stacks of dead hirelings and low level characters who paved the way for the survivors who made it to the higher levels. This might be a moment at the beginning or end of each game where we remember dead characters or a little character graveyard, a bunch of folded up index cards with the dead’s names, deeds and how they died, like a little adventurers’ graveyard.
I do mind Save or Die if I have been asked to make a story for the character, or if the character creation is longer than a few minutes or if the character creation asked me to make difficult decisions that left me with a strong attachment to the character.
I’m fine with games where folks venture into dangerous, monster-infested, highly trapped, arcane holes in the ground and perish. I’m fine with playing a character who ends up being a cautionary tale but get me back into the action fast and give the table a way to remember the dead.
In my Basic D&D game, I made sure everyone had this link –
So that making a new character takes literally five seconds. That way, Save vs. Death is still a real thing (and obviously scarier and scarier as you level up) but it doesn’t hinder play.
Save or die’s big effects are at the higher levels, where it contributes to the large shift in play.
1. If resurrection/raise dead is common, then “Save or die” is really “Save or be incapacitated”, and doesn’t have quite the fear factor.
2. If death means starting over from 1st level, it means having lost a lot of playtime put into the game and a long grind back up to higher levels. (granted, inherited magic items and XP appropriate to party average helps speed this, but it means being much less useful for awhile).
Rogue-like video games can do this because a) you are playing by yourself and not wasting any time when you die, b) the real skill of those games is in the player not the character.
3. If death means make a new character at the same level, or near the same level, this might be the only functional method in modern D&D sensibility that keeps play entertaining and fun.
I hadn’t considered how things shake out at higher levels. Huh, good stuff, as usual, Chris.
Although it should also be noted that in pre-3e D&D few saves were modified. On the base chances low-level chars almost always fail, but at high levels it might be down to a 15% fail rate.
My thought is that they should use their hit dice/healing surge mechanic to counter it; loose hit dice or save or die. That way, players who want lethality can just pop the hit dice mechanic out of the game and have people fall over left and right.