Monday, May 2, 2011

AD&D saves and ability checks

One of my commentators on yesterday's post mentioned something I find interesting, and suggests something about the relationship between abilities and saves that I had also been thinking on.

The first time I was DM for B/X, I instinctively asked for a d20 against a stat when a situation came up which I had no other mechanic for. The game I had been running before that had been D&D 3rd ed. and as far as I know, that mechanic is not specified there. Rolling against a stat seem to be a long standing way to resolve things like that, though.

In 3rd ed. the relationship between saves and stats are quite clear. You get a bonus on all saves from higher than usual stats and they have tidied up the zoo of saves into three general cases. If you compare this to how Call of Cthulhu, or other BRP games, handle it you can see that the Idea and Luck rolls etc. are all mapped to one stat each. In the new big Yellow Tome of BRP, I think they have expanded it to one such roll for each stat. Is this a way worth taking with D&D?

I like the idea of saves, but if you should have more than one, or not just a LUCK score, maybe it could be interesting to tie them to the stats. Inspired by the neat Target20 system, maybe you could roll a d20 trying to beat 20, and getting a bonus from the stat the DM decide or you talk him to accepting, getting a bonus according to whatever bonus scheme you like. Say, +1 per 2 above 13 or just +2 if above 15. You choose.

Looking at the different saves in AD&D I do find it slightly odd to Save versus Petrification when avoiding a rockslide, and I'd argue a bonus for high DEX any time. The system above sounds flexible enough to me.

Then I guess you could just say the DM asks for a Save vs. Rocks and invent some shit on the spot...


  1. Originally, there was Strength, Brains, Cunning, Health, Appearance and optionaly Ego. Yes, Virginia, these were used primarily as Saving Throw categories (2d6-2, ala AC), but also as markers of the inhherent nature of the character.

    There was no "Dexterity" that's a Gygaxianism along with the other name changes.

    I don't know, but I believe that what Gygax saw as Dexterity, Arneson viewed as a class, not personal trait, that should improve with progression - hence his creation of the saving throw categories. Gygax kept the saving throw categories concept but added the Dexterity trait (now 3d6) anyway.

  2. Doh! Thanks for reminding me Dan! I apparently haven't yet assimilated D@D. Savings against stats is still T&T for me. It has not yet sunk in that Dave was first.

    What are you saying about the saving throw categories? Was that weird mix of wand, spell, death and breath a Arnesonian invention? Or are you just referring to the stats? I have been a bit curious about how that odd list came about.

  3. Rolling 1d20 against a stat is on page B60 of the Moldvay book under "There's always a chance". Until I 'close read' the manual I didn't remember it being there either.

  4. This is why I love the blogging community, and these games! Thanks Vincent for that pointer.

    Naturally I was running B/X by-the-book, and knew that. Ahem...

  5. Well, I don't know for certan who inveted the Saving Throw categories in D&D, but I think it was probably Arneson, partly because of his lack of a dex score and because he actually had six categories in his playtest draft with death ray and poison being seperate. Also "death Ray" sounds like Arsonian for lasers.

  6. Interesting that DEX should be such a divider.

    One of these days it would be very interesting to see that draft published, if at all possible.

    Come to think of it, "death ray" do sound like lasers, and Arneson!

  7. Dude, that stuff is gold. Gold! Where do you get your information from? Is this in that First Fantasy Campaign book I've heard about?

  8. Andreas: absolutely, the owner wants it made public too but much depends on the various stakeholders. I'm preparing a detailed study of it though, that, given the owners permission, should be okay to put out there.

    Anonymous: Good grief man! Heard about? Get a copy already! Also, come on over to the Blackmoor forums
    Most of the info above is from the privately owned playtest mss. I mentioned but some can be found in the FFC and compared to Adventures in Fantasy.

  9. I look forward to that study, Dan!

  10. Anonymous: You heard the man. If you are a forum man (I am not) head over to that Blackmoor forum!

    I might add that you should get yourself a copy of the excellent "Dragons at Dawn" that Dan Boggs have written, trying to recreate the game from 1970. I have made a series of posts on it in detail.

  11. Originally, there was Strength, Brains, Cunning, Health, Appearance and optionaly Ego. Yes, Virginia, these were used primarily as Saving Throw categories (2d6-2, ala AC), but also as markers of the inhherent nature of the character.


    I have now taken out my copy of D@D, and notice that it does indeed have DEX, and no EGO. How come?

  12. I have to say I like what I know of the 4e way of doing it, no more saves but you have a defense that needs to be beat. From the videos where I've seen it in play it looks great. Not that I'm particularily fond of 4e in general or other aspects.

    This is the way Dragon Warriors did it. Interesting when you think about it, "saves" were static and a defense but the attacker used a different roll to bypass armor.

  13. I have played 4e, and while it might be a neat mechanic, it isn't really a save in the old sense any longer, I felt.

  14. Andreas,
    I'll agree with that. Although an extra roll it's somehting the players get to do.

    As a GM I'd like to not have to roll for the monsters. Perhaps I can dispense with the monster saves and make it a defense....Saves me one roll and puts a beat the defense in player hands.


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