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Save or die in RPGs refers to the notion that a character can be in a position where their life relies on a single saving throw. This is quite common in 1st Edition D&D (“1e”) but was completely eliminated in 4th Edition D&D (“4e”). Despite my enthusiasm of returning to 1e, I think its demise was a good thing. Much like ordinary swings of a sword, devastating but really cool attacks could be unleased on a character without taking them out of the game immediately.
For example, one of my favorite monsters is the medusa, so I want to use them to their full potential and (relatively) often. In 1e, however, one medusa could take out the entire party before they could say, “The Amazon commercial with Medusa is stupid.” That’s quite a buzzkill, and it can destroy a gaming session. In 4e, however, I had no issues unleashing that petrifying gaze upon the group. On a successful attack roll, those in a close blast 5 were slowed. A failed save on their next turn left them immobilized. Finally, if they failed a second save on the turn after that, they’d be petrified. At any point in that process, a single successful save ended the effect. Poison and other fatal (or effectively fatal) effects manifested similarly. A rare few monsters had abilities with aftereffects, which were brilliant. If at any point you successfully saved, it would end the primary effect but would trigger a secondary effect requiring its own save.
I’m not sure how I’d eliminate save or die in 1e, or even whether I should eliminate it. Messing with something so deeply baked into the game could create issues. Or not. 1e is remarkably adaptable to house rules. To start, though, I’m going to keep it.
So, make sure your henchmen go into each room first.
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