Thursday, 30 April 2009

Ascending Saves for Labyrinth Lord

With Mexican Coughing Pig Death stalking the streets of England like some ghastly piece of Hodgsonian nightmare fuel, it's time to lock the doors, stoke the fires high, and turn one's mind to merry escapism.

Today's braincustard? Saving throws.

Now, much as we love them, let's be honest; saving throws in Classic (TSR era) D&D are wacky. I mean, there's everything from a 15% to a 60% chance of characters at 1st level saving against a weird-and-wonderful grab-bag of things up to and including bizarrely specific niche stuff such as spells-from-wands (as distinct from all other spell effects). In a word "Huh?"

Now, to some people tinkering with the time hallowed system is heresy, but until someone does for B/X what Sham did for OD&D and explains to me WTH is going on with 5 fixed-number saves I'm quite happy to say "Screw understanding original authorial intent: this is doing my 'ead in!" and tinker.

*hefts screwdriver and wrench, squints at system appraisingly*

Ok, so the essential "higher is better" vs. a DC paradigm of saving throws makes sense. But five different saves, some of which trip one another up, is a bit excessive for an otherwise system-lite game. So, stealing a leaf from Dan Collin's Original Edition Delta mod (hey, I'm just trying to avoid reinventing any more wheels around here), I'm thinking of importing the 3 save schema of 3E to LL. Three saves is just easier to remember and to work with than five, and I like easy.

Here's my current thunks on the matter:

d20 + lvl + stat mod + magic vs. DC 20

So far, so OED. But here's the thing. Looking at the Labyrinth Lord saves you can see that, even at 1st level, saves go from anything to +3 (at worst) to +12 (at best). Now anything over +8 or so is one of those odd outliers thanks to bloated demihuman saves (these can be replicated with flat racial save bonuses). But, for a human character, even a +8 save is a big ask using the unmodified OED system.

My suggestion, weight saves by how good a class is expected to be at various things (the LL saves tables are a big clue here), and award a flat bonus at level 1 accordingly.

ClassPoor Save
(+0 bonus)
Average Save
(+2 bonus)
Good Save
(+4 bonus)
Dwarf * RefWillFort
Elf ** FortRefWill
Halfling * FortWillRef

* Dwarves and Halfings get a flat +4 bonus to all saves
** Elves get a +2 bonus to their saves vs. magic

It's not a perfect fit for Labyrinth Lord as written, but it's close enough that it smells right.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Link to a location I could have found this wheel before reinventing it?


  1. I could never do this. Looking at a character sheet and seeing something that reminds me of 3E would be a constant downer.

    The original saves, on the other hand, have a gonzo nostalgia factor that takes me back to cracking open that that first red Basic rulebook as a kid.

  2. @Will: I can totally see where you're coming from with the nostalgia, but the 5 save schema was a bugbear for me even back in the day.

    "Huh? But this (petrification, polymorph, wands, poison) can *be* a spell effect. How does this make sense?"

    Using a derivative of Dan's OED mechanic keeps the math roughly the same, and saves confusion for those of my players raised on the later editions.


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