Save Ends

Warning: D&D 4E blather ahead. Not a gamer or a fan? Probably not for you.

As many of you already know, the purpose of the saving throw mechanic changed in 4E. It’s no longer to avoid a given effect; that’s what the array of defenses are for. Rather, it’s a (normally) fixed difficulty to shake off an effect. Its purpose, on the meta-level, is to take the place of duration-tracking. You no longer have to keep track of whether it’s been three rounds or four since the effect began; you just roll each round to see if it ends.

And that’s fine, as far as it goes. It definitely runs more smoothly in that respect.

Unfortunately, the ease and smoothness break down when you get to powers that aren’t "save ends." Powers or effects with durations like:

  • Until the start of your next turn.
  • Until the end of your next turn.
  • Until the start of the target’s next turn.
  • Until the end of the target’s next turn.

I find that those often become something of a headache to track. Oh, it can be done–it can be done fairly smoothly by a well-prepared DM–but it still gets tedious, at times.

As I may be running a game in the near future–for the first time in a few years, I must admit–I’ve been contemplating this. And I’ve come up with a house rule that I’d like to test, but I’m interested in what other gamers think.

In essence, I would eliminate every one of the aforementioned durations. Every power with an ongoing effect is "save ends." But

There are now two levels of saving throw. Every power that is currently a "save ends" power gets a "hard save," which is 10+, as the game currently stands. Every power that currently has an "until X" duration gets an "easy save," which is 6+.

The practical effects of this are that, most of the time, such powers will only last until the end of the creature’s next turn. (And with solos, they’ll automatically end, since the +5 save bonus means even a 1 makes the 6 DC, and saves aren’t included in the "auto-hit/auto-miss" rules that apply to attack rolls.) But on occasion, they’ll squeak out an extra round or two.

Now, I recognize that this isn’t 100% analogous to the old system. There are subtle but important differences between "until the end of the creature’s next turn" and "until the end of your next turn." In the latter case, you yourself get to take advantage of whatever effect you put on the creature, during your next attack; in the former, you don’t. My system loses that level of granularity–or rather, makes it less predictable.

But I think it’ll average out to close enough for most powers. And for those powers that really seem nerfed by the change, we can house rule the power as well to tweak it back to equality with others.

So rather than having to keep track of whose turn effect X ends on, or whether it’s at the start or the end of the turn, all the DM has to do when someone suffers an ongoing effect is to mark H or E next to the description, and roll accordingly. No tracking, no real bookkeeping; just a few die rolls at the end of the turn.

Thoughts, opinions, and any implications you don’t think I’m seeing are all welcome.