Poll: Saving Throws and Defences

This is a little addition to the rules I have been considering for a week or so. It isn’t particularly revolutionary, but you may think it to be unnecessary. I am in two minds. Part of me believes this would inject a certain amount of fun and tension into the game; part of me believes this is just unnecessary clutter on the character sheet. I’m in a quandary so you can help me decide.

I propose that HD&D can support both fourth edition style defences, and third edition style saving throws. Do you agree? The poll is at the bottom of this post. Before we get there, I’ll enter into a short explanation of what I’m talking about, and a justification as to why I think it’s a good idea.

The Background

Let’s start with an example. In third edition you might have had a +6 bonus to your Reflex saving throw. If a wizard lobbed a fireball at you, you made a Reflex saving throw to avoid the effect. In this case you’d roll 1d20+6 and look to beat the DC of the wizard’s spell.

Fourth edition completely turned that on its head. Instead of a Reflex saving throw of +6, you had a Reflex defence of 16. And instead of you rolling a saving throw, the wizard rolled to hit you. A wizard casting a fireball in fourth edition would make an attack roll against your Reflex defence, looking to roll a 16 or more.

My Preference

As previously stated, I prefer the fourth edition way of doing things. It really does speed up play. Player’s don’t have to work out what their saving throws are every time something nasty is thrown at them. I just have to make a roll against their Will, Reflex or Fortitude defence and tell them if they’ve been hit. Simpler, neater, quicker.

Nothing in this post changes my opinion that defences are superior to saving throws. If we’re only having one mechanic, then we’re having defences. I’m not entering into that discussion. And yet… I have a soft spot for saving throws. Letting a player roll a save puts the future of the character firmly in the player’s hands. It feels right.

There are times when rolling to hit a defence isn’t appropriate even in fourth edition. Players resist diseases by rolling an Endurance skill check. Logically, you would think that the disease would be rolling to hit their Fortitude Defence; but instead the designers created an entirely new skill for the purpose. Why? Because the character was fighting off the disease. They recognised that this was a roll the player should make, not the GM.

Active versus Passive

There is no Endurance skill in HD&D. It didn’t make sense to me. So when it comes to resisting disease or holding your breath, I would have no choice but to make an attack against your Fortitude defence. Which I think is a bit silly. When you add in all the other silliness – such as icy floors having to make attacks against your Reflex defence, and so on, it begins to sound like something I have to address.

4e introduced active and passive skills. You could roll on your Perception if you wanted to spend a standard action doing so, or you could rely on your passive perception, which was your Perception skill modifier +10 (instead of +1d20). This got me thinking. What is a Defence, if not a passive Saving Throw?

So here’s how it’s going to work: all confrontations have an attacker and a defender. By default, the attacker is considered to be “active” and makes a 1d20 roll; the defender will default to “passive” and rely on his static defence.

So generally in combat, it is the attacker that rolls the dice against the defender’s defence. This is exactly the same as fourth edition, and exactly the same as everything I have already written for HD&D. However, there are going to be times when it is the defender who is “active”, and the attacker that is “passive”.

If the attacker isn’t really a creature, then it’s usually going to be passive. So if the ‘attacker’ is a disease, or a slippery floor, or old age, or poison then it is the defender that rolls the dice. What does he roll? He rolls a saving throw.

I think this would work very well. It gives the GM more flexibility. Rather than having to secretly roll a die and then inform the player that something nasty has happened, he can get the player to roll. It just seems more meaningful that way.

Plus there are also times when both the attacker and defender could roll the dice. The attacker rolls to hit, but rather than a static DC, he is rolling to hit the difficulty set by the defender’s saving throw. Attack Roll and Saving Throw effectively become opposed rolls. Now, this wouldn’t happen very often as it slows the game down, but it occurred to me this could be an interesting way to handle the Total Defence action.

Third and fourth edition gave PCs the option to give up their standard action for the round in return for +4 to their Armour Class. What if instead of doing that, a PC could spend a standard action rolling a saving throw for his defence. We don’t call it Total Defence, we call it “Active Defence”. I think that has some potential.

The Poll

A longer preamble than normal. You have read the above, now cast your vote – and leave any comments below.

3 thoughts on “Poll: Saving Throws and Defences

  1. Well, the mechanics for calculating saving throws will be the same as for defences. If you have a defence of 16, then your saving throw in that defence is +6. Anything that improves your defence (racial traits, feats like Lightning Reflexes) also improves your saving throw.

    If the character sheet is clear enough, I can’t see this being a complication to the game.

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