An email thread gave rise to an interesting idea that I’m surprised hadn’t come up before. I was commenting about how I disliked rolling dice at the game table while the option of granting attacks and whatnot to allies (whose bonuses and damage were likely much higher than mine) was open to me, and I pointed to Third Edition saves.

See, in Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons, spellcasters often didn’t roll their own dice (lol, “roll your own”) and would instead force saving throws from their targets in lieu of making direct attack rolls. They might roll damage from time to time, and even the occasion attack spell, but their spell effects were generally more passive.

Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons did away with this method of effect delivery almost entirely. Saving Throws exist almost entirely to remove effects, not avoid them (except when saves are allowed to avoid effects like getting knocked prone, or falling off a cliff…), and it seems like they abandoned the saving throw “design space.”

If Fourth Edition had effects that allowed a saving throw in place of an attack roll, they would certainly have to conform to the new standards for effect design. It would be unlikely for the “DC” (Difficulty Class) of an effect to ever increase, but the target might suffer some penalty to their saving throw (these already exist to an extent).

Hypothetically, I can also see save-against effects being limited to ongoing-effect types. Rather than dealing damage or applying some other instantaneous effect like forced movement (which both scream “attack roll,” as far as I’m concerned), it would seem to me that resisting ongoing effects would be more reactive.

I don’t really like rolling dice that much, so it occurred to me that perhaps there was something missing from the game. There aren’t a whole lot of options available for people like me, who don’t really like rolling dice as much as other people, who’d rather keep monitor and track other things, and guide the action from afar.

Third Edition messed with Arcane Spell Failure, Spell Components, Concentration and Distractions, Spell Resistance, Saving Throws, Energy Resistance, Magical Immunity, Thematics, Counterspells, Schools and Subschools, and all sorts of other things, most of which disappeared with the advent of Fourth Edition.

While I agree with most of the changes, I don’t know that I agree with all of them. Looking back on it now, there were more things lost than I think were accounted for – some good things that weren’t as inherently flawed as oh, I don’t know, bonus hit points and skill points from Constitution and Intelligence.

What to do, what to do…