Some Thoughts on Saving Throws

Before I dive in, I wanted to address the purpose of this post for those of you that are used to this blog as a place for my short autobiographical fiction. I plan to continue that writing in the future (probably with the same sporadic consistency), but I also want to expand what I’m doing creatively as well. Rather than start a new blog for new stuff, which is what I’ve done in the past and just serves to fragment my creative output, I’m going to start putting everything out under the same banner. So my RPG content (which this post is about) will be put alongside my other content. I may in the future try to separate these into different tabs, but for now I’m just going to tag them “fiction” or “RPG.”

On to the meat: In James Raggi’s recent AMA on reddit he was talking about wanting to change the saving throw system in Lamentations of the Flame Princess to something that would be a flat score and not go up in level, possibly based on attribute scores. His thinking apparently being that poisons should always poison etc. and things that you save against should always be a huge danger to the player. This got me thinking about how I would handle saving throws in that system.

I’ve always admired Lamentations of the Flame Princess for its skill system and it’s take on the thief class, known as a “specialist” in the system. Essentially what Raggi did was convert the basic thieving skills over to the “1 in 6” style d6 roll that was used for things like listening and searching checks in OD&D. I thought this was a great way to integrate thief skills back into the already existing system for checks in classic D&D, doing away with the goofy and out of place percentile checks, and does away with thief skills that increase by level according to a preset table (similar to the way Saving Throws progress). It essentially takes two disparate skill systems and combines them into a more unified mechanic based on the classic “1 in 6” roll from OD&D. He also expanded these abilities to be possible for any class, but gave the thief 2 “skill points” every level that could increase the d6 roll, which gave a lot of player choice and agency in a very straightforward manner.

My house rule for saving throws integrates alongside this skill system. In the same way that the thief skills were taken from a table of automatic progression and their own distinct mechanic, it takes the saving throws off of preset tables and gives them the same level of player choice as the specialist has in its skills.

As of now, I suggest using the same “classic” saving throw categories (Paralyze, Poison, Breath, Device, and Magic), but simply starting each one at a 1 in 6 chance on a d6 of success. Maybe providing class based starting levels, such as starting fighters with a 2 in 6 chance of Poison and Breath saves, to reflect their greater resilience and reaction time. All classes would get a single “Save Point” per level that they could apply to any of the saving throws, moving from a 1 in 6 to a 2 in 6 chance for example. Specialists, on the other hand, would move from getting 2 Skill Points per level to 3 Skill Points per level. The Specialist can use these points on either skills or saving throws. This gives the opportunity, for example, for a specialist that is extremely resilient and dexterous rather than extremely skilled if most points are applied into saving throw categories. Or even a Specialist that is particularly weak in terms of saving throws but is extra skilled compared to others.

This does a few things. First of all, it makes saving throws follow the same mechanic as the rest of the skill system (and fall in line with the “classic” ways of doing checks as d6 rolls). Why shouldn’t a check to see if you don’t fall while climbing work similarly to a check to see if you can dodge out of the way of an attack? It also changes the numbers a bit. In the current system, players start with an average 25% chance to succeed at a saving throw, and by 10th level are somewhere around a 70% chance of success. With my system players start at a 16% chance of success for saving throws, and by 10th level, if they distribute their points evenly, have a 50% chance of success in each category (although this might change depending on the starting values for a class). This increases the risk of saving throws across the board (going along with some of the design goals of Lamentations of the Flame Princess), but also puts a lot of choice in the player’s hands. They could end up at 6th level being almost entirely immune to one saving throw category, but still 16% in the rest.

So what do you think? Does it increase the danger of saving throws too much? Should there be wholly different categories for the saving throws (maybe descriptors like dodge, fortitude etc.)? This is something I’d like to develop out (and playtest) fully and possibly put into a PDF resource, so please offer any thoughts and suggestions you have!