One of the things I tell my players before every session (especially when they're new, or we haven't played in a while) is that I'm not going to fudge rolls, that some monsters may be too tough for you, and that you may very well die in the first battle you get in. There are traps in the dungeon that might slay you, and there is a very real possibility that you'll all be ambushed and killed by a band of kobolds. And looking online, it feels like I'm in the minority.
To be entirely honest, the online place I was thinking of was Enworld, which is perhaps not the best source of information, but it is an enormously popular site and the topics that (when they aren't OMG LOOK AT THIS NEW DRECK WOTC IS PUTTING OUT HOW MANY COPIES WILL YOU GET) are at least brain-tickling, even if for the wrong reasons.
One of those brain-ticklers is the debate between save or die, and how apparently they're a horrible, horrible blight on the state of roleplaying. Anecdotes on both sides abound, while my tiny comment goes unnoticed. I said, and I quote:
"Saving throws are your last chance as a player to survive, given to you when you messed up so bad that you deserve to be dead, paralyzed, or worse."
Obviously, the debate went right around me, since people were more interested in point-by-point debating over what amounts to either semantics or preference in playstyle than actually talking about save or die effects, but that's fine. Let the little pedants have their fun because I know what I'm using.
I'm using, and have been using, save or die effects in my games, and I can't think of why I wouldn't. I asked one of my longtime players, the man known on here as T. Hamingston, and he said he liked them for the same reasons I did: They let the player live. They give the player another chance, when they should have been caught by a fireball, or incinerated by dragons' breaths, or horribly disintegrated. And that's something that's overlooked.
Which is sad, because that's pretty much the whole point of them. That's entirely what they're for, and for nothing else. Some of the people on there get upset, saying, "It's just not fair! Players shouldn't be able to die from random monsters, they should be the heroes! Heroes don't die from basilisks!"
|Not even a 20 foot tall basilisk?|
But that's another subject for another day, about why people need to play the world-saving heroes in a system originally designed to simulate tomb-robbing, mercenary rogues. We'll get to that. Today, it's about Saving Throws. Show me the part in any of the player's sections in any game where it says "The players are Heroes and deserve better fates than to be eaten by Otyughs in a nameless dungeon at third level." If there is a part like that, I've been playing it wrong all these years. Silly me! I've been making my players earn their heroism. I wasn't aware that players need to be coddled, protected, and handed big piles of gold and experience or they won't want to play. I must have been confusing my players with adults, who think that things that aren't earned aren't worth anything (to reuse an analogy, picture the award you got from winning a footrace against five-year-old children).
But seriously, what is it with everybody wanting to be an epic, save-the-world-before-breakfast hero these days? Half of the posters on EnWorld expect their players to be on a slow march towards inexorable victory, and view any sort of deviation from the inevitable end-game campaign as some sort of mean-spirited deviation. What? Challenges are unfair? Expecting players to be intelligent is mean? I think I'm going to release a game today: if these whiny 4th edition DMs are any indication, it'll be the most popular game in the world.
If you're the DM, roll 2d6. If you're the player, you can roll whatever you want, because you're going to win anyways. Sit still while the DM tells you how cool it was.
|That's two of them there|
2d6 RESULTS TABLE
2: Tell the players about some cool stuff they did. For example, they descended through the center of the earth, drop-kicked a dragon into a black hole, or talked a king into letting them ride griffons around the world and into the next dimension! Don't forget the Rule of Cool: Everything needs to be awesome, at all times.
3-5: Play a two hour game of watered down Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Make sure the encounter is balanced or the players might lose, and you'll have to contrive a victory out of it anyways!
6-8: Skill challenge time! Roll a d20 at least five times. If you get more odds than evens, they win! If you get more evens than odds, try again.
9-11: Time for some loot! Let your players write the loot from their "Wish List" onto their character sheet, and then have them write a new "Wish List." It can be whatever they want; after all, they've earned it!
12: Uh oh, time to save the world! Roll a d20 behind your DM screen. Whatever it was, tell the players it was a 20, and that they've saved the world! Congratulations!
Wishy-washy DMs look out. I've just rocked your world through subtle sarcasm.