Saving throws are one of my least favorite mechanics when it comes to 3.5e. My biggest complaint is that no matter how much effort I put into making a character tough, the wizard can just say “roll that die or die.” That’s horse-shit.
4e utilized Defenses over Saves. This mechanic seems more reasonable and puts the power in the hand of the attacker, where it should be. No gambling on others luck to defeat them.
Your ability to avoid injury and other ill effects is measured by your FOUR Defenses:
- Armor Class
How to convert your Saves into Defenses:
1. Base Defenses: All Defenses (including AC) start with 10 + one-half your level
2. Add the appropriate stat, magic item modifier, etc, as normal.
3. For Reflex, add your shield bonus, if any.
4. Add +2 to any save that your base class has as a ‘Good’ save. Ex: Rogues add +2 to Reflex. Clerics add +2 to Fortitude & Will. Monks add +2 to all three.
Converting auto-attacks into normal attacks
Whenever you make an attack where a character would normally roll a save, you must roll an attack against their save. This can happen in one of two ways…
1. You make an attack against their AC and if you hit, they must roll a save. Instead, under this method, make the attack against the appropriate defense, not AC.
2. You automatically hit and they must make a save, usually due to a spell effect. Dominate Person or Fireball are examples. Instead, make an attack roll, using your appropriate casting stat modifier in place of Strength or Dexterity, as appropriate.
Ongoing effects and saves to end
If suffering from an ongoing effect, you may be entitled to a saving throw to end the effect. If the effect allows a save each round (ongoing fire damage), you may attempt a saving throw each round. If it allows a saving throw under only specific conditions (Dominate Person), you may attempt a saving throw only under that condition.
A saving throw is an unmodified (except by feat or other special ability) d20 roll. On an 11+, you save and end the effect. On a 10 or below, the effect persists. Any conditional racial, magical, or otherwise special modifier is reduced by one-half under this rule. See the example below.
Defense and saving throw example:
Darky the Drow attacks Garbly the Gnome. It is an ambush, and Darky is going to use his poisoned sleep arrow to take out Garbly. He fires an arrow out of his crossbow at the gnome. Since this is a poisoned arrow, instead of attacking AC and making Garbly roll a save, Darky makes his roll vs Garbly’s Fortitude defense.
Oh no! He hit! Darky does damage normally (1d6) and consults the poison table. Drow poison has no initial effect. A few rounds later, the secondary effect kicks in. Garbly gets a saving throw to avoid being knocked unconscious. He rolls 1d20; if he gets 11+, he continues to fight. Otherwise, he drops unconscious and will wake up very butt-hurt.
If Garbly was a dwarf, with their poison resistance, Darbly the Dwarf would roll 1d20+1. So if he rolled a 10+, he would be fine. (Note: Dwarves have +2 to resist poison. Under this rule, it’s +1)