absolution (part four: saving throws) | sermon
(Absolutes in d20)
Part Four: Saving Throws
All or nothing saving throws have the potential to seriously unbalance epic level games. Basically this comes down to Hit Dice/Level and Ability Modifier. If the sum of those two factors eclipses the opponents by 9 then they only have a 1 in 20 chance of making the saving throw.
Lets use the example of Lord Robilar against some of the other NPCs. Now it should be noted that the epic NPCs are, for the most part, very conservative compared to typical PCs of their level.
eg. Lord Robilar 24th-level Fighter (Str 27 with Devastating Critical epic feat) DC 30 (10 + 1/2 Level + Strength Modifier).
That means Robilar has roughly a 55% chance of killing an opponent of similar level with one critical hit. A min/maxed Fighter of similar level could easily have an average of 90% against his peers.
Ability Damage Buffer
A failed saving throw equals ability damage. Simple as that. How much ability damage you ask? Well, spells like Bull's Strength grant +4 to Strength for a 2nd-level spell (Touch required, Duration 1 min./level). So it seems fair to suggest that a 2nd-level spell could force 4 points of ability damage on a failed saving throw, right (again touch required, duration 1 min./level).
Spells that do not viscerally attack any ability score (eg. binding) impose an ability penalty to the ability score used for the spells initial saving throw (Wisdom in the case of Binding).
If you wanted to make the effect random, you could substitute a d4 roll per spell level. This does give a slightly higher average though.
As you can see above this does weaken certain spells (like charm person), although you wonder if perhaps they were too powerful to begin with? I think the solution to this would be to have ability score thresholds depending on the duration/severity of the effect.
eg. You wouldn't need to reduce a target to 0 Wisdom before they would become susceptible to charm, suggestion, etc.
Converting Abilities (like Devastating Critical)
The simplest way would seem to be to have the ability damage equal half the creatures Hit Dice/Level.
eg. Robilar (24th-level Fighter) would deal 12 points of Fortitude damage to anyone who failed their saving throw against his Devastating Critical ability.
New items could either be created to accomodate ability damage resistance or existing items converted.
eg. Cloak of Resistance granting ability damage resistance.
Certain races may have something like a +1 or +2 ability damage resistance against wisdom damage (eg. elves?) or ability score damage (eg. dragons?). Instead of something like "immunity to sleep", "immunity to paralysis/stunning" etc.
Immortals and Ability Damage
The deletion of absolutes means that you must remove an immortals ability damage immunity.
Personally I suggest (under these optional rules) giving immortals ability damage resistance equal to one point per divine rank.
eg. Casting implosion upon Odin (Divine Rank 19*) would have no effect, because it would take a penalty greater than 19 points to affect him even slightly.
*By Deities & Demigods that is (Divine Rank 16 according to my rules)
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