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"Saving throws? Yes or No?" Topic

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03 Jun 2011 7:28 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Comments or corrections?

vojvoda30 Dec 2010 9:58 a.m. PST

Seems simple enough I was reading about a "new" set of rules and about the only thing I can see is there are saving throws.

TMP link

While I have incorporated them at times for convention games and some skirmish games I have written over the years I am not sold on the concept. Many game systems do almost the same thing with morale checks as a result of attacks, IE JRIII morale checks when first hit by artillery.

So what do you think Saving Throws good or bad?

Yes or No.

James Mattes

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Dec 2010 10:11 a.m. PST

Mathematically you can adjust the first attack roll and make them unnecessary. They do add an extra step to the process. They also give the defender something to do and an illusion of control.

When I first did my Alamo rules, I gave the mexicans lots of shots and then gave the Texans in cover a big save. After a few interminable games I simply gave the Mexicans a small number of shots, with no saves. Same outcome, faster play.

Waterloo30 Dec 2010 10:12 a.m. PST

No, I feel that they are a crutch to cover bad design.

cloudcaptain30 Dec 2010 10:13 a.m. PST

Factoring armor and such into the "to hit" roll is certainly a lot faster for resolution. The problem is that the target doesn't always feel like they were able to "defend themselves". Such sentiments are pretty common. My advice, better tactics next time :)

On the flip side…I like them in my scifi games as such settings tend to have widely varying armor qualities. If you include them in the "to hit" rolls, flavor is lost. Large battles tend to work better without saving throws. Skirmish games tend to benefit from them. If you put them into large games you are then included the "buckets of dice" aspect that many people don't like.

I don't think you can make a choice that would apply to all systems well. Scope and setting being the major factors.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2010 10:32 a.m. PST

Without giving it too much thought, I like saving throws for melee but not shooting. In the former case the defender can do something about it but not as much in the latter ..

Angel Barracks30 Dec 2010 10:33 a.m. PST

Only in very rare circumstances, normally not though.
Seems a waste of time rolling to hit and damage and all that only to have it negated..

Factor it in if you can.

Dr Mathias Fezian30 Dec 2010 10:39 a.m. PST

The saving throw, as I see it, is a way for a 'targetted player' to be involved in an outcome rather than see their forces destroyed outright. One could say the targetted player should not have not put their units in harms way, or made better tactical decisions, but in general players like to get a 'response' which in many games is in the form of a save of some sort.

I tend to like games with opposed roll systems, I feel like it keeps players involved even when its not their turn.

DeanMoto30 Dec 2010 10:39 a.m. PST

For skirmish yep; can do without "to Wound" throws though. Just "Hit" & "Saves" – if any, should be fine.

coryfromMissoula30 Dec 2010 10:40 a.m. PST

I have played plenty of skirmish games where saving throws by what ever name have worked well, but in larger games I prefer a simpler mechanic.

elsyrsyn30 Dec 2010 10:42 a.m. PST

I prefer opposed die rolls, but they really do amount to the same thing.


Terrement30 Dec 2010 10:47 a.m. PST


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2010 10:47 a.m. PST

Neutral. It's just a mechanic. If the game is fun and fast, they're fine.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2010 10:48 a.m. PST

I like them as a means of differentiating armour quality. I find they work well in Blood Bowl and in Blitzkrieg Commander.

RudyNelson30 Dec 2010 10:52 a.m. PST

In the SUpreme Warlord:Blood Lust' pre-gunpowder rules, casualties were issued as whole and half casualties.
So you may cause 3 and a half kills on a unit. A simple odd-kill or even-saved.
At that point you would make a saving throw to see if you lost 3 or 4 castings. This was important to determine winner or loser or tie.

The only set that I used saving rolls.

Personal logo Lentulus Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2010 10:52 a.m. PST

There's several questions here; the mechanism can do multiple things, mostly mentioned above:

It extends the range of outcomes, for the cases where a single d6 or even d10 does not give the range required.

I decouples the models for some events for example hitting a target and penetrating its armor. An armor penetration roll is just an armor save rolled by the attacker.

It keeps the defender engaged and gives him a feeling of control.

These are all important things. Is a saving throw the best way to do it. Depends on the object of the design? and the taste of the players. Nothing inherently flawed about it, nor inherently virtuous.

lkmjbc330 Dec 2010 11:08 a.m. PST

Parzival hits the nail on the head…

Just a mechanic… that is all… neither positive nor negative…..

Joe Collins

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian30 Dec 2010 11:11 a.m. PST

I dislike them as they feel like the "take away success". I prefer the DnD 4E version of using them to end an effect, partial success for who ever caused the effect.

Angel Barracks30 Dec 2010 11:23 a.m. PST

Just a mechanic… that is all… neither positive nor negative…

So is using cards instead of dice, that does not mean you can not like or dislike it though..

I quite like gravity and light

WarWizard30 Dec 2010 11:46 a.m. PST

I think they are ok if used very sparingly. Like maybe only for heroes as opposed for every cahracter on the table. Of course other means can be used to "save" heroes as well.

kyoteblue30 Dec 2010 12:13 p.m. PST


John the OFM30 Dec 2010 12:29 p.m. PST

Saving throws or endless tables of modifiers, or modifiers to the saving throws…
What's the difference?

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2010 12:30 p.m. PST

I hate saving throws.


Steve Hazuka30 Dec 2010 12:53 p.m. PST

Saving throws are just defensive modifiers incorporated into an attack roll. If you have an Attacker v Defender roll like in some games you basically have a saving throw system there. But I think if you roll for a hit the only Saving Throw should be Dead or Wounded. Both would make the figure ineffective but could generate victory points.

Top Gun Ace30 Dec 2010 12:59 p.m. PST

I generally dislike them, except possibly for hand to hand combat, or melee battles with weapons, where a saving throw does seem normal to represent a block against an attack.

They do slow the games down.

I don't think they are appropriate for gun, or other weapons fire, since few can see the bullet coming in order to try to dodge it.

They are a crutch to help provide more outcomes to D6 attacks, as mentioned above, where more results are desired.

Personally, I'd just prefer rules designers to choose a more appropriate dicing convention, for finer gradation, e.g. 2D6, 3D6, 1D10, 2D10, 1D12, 1D20, percentile dice, etc.

Some seem to be enslaved to the concept of using only D6 dice.

Spooner630 Dec 2010 1:03 p.m. PST

It depends on the game. If you are using a single d6 to determine outcome then you can't get enough granularity in the hit modifiers to adjust for no saving throw. It would also depend on how many saving throws will occur in a turn. The more rolls the slower the game. I do like the idea of keeping the other side engaged when it isn't their turn so they don't go wondering off.


quidveritas30 Dec 2010 1:12 p.m. PST

As Doug said,

Opposing rolls are really saving throws.

I think these make for a good game as it keeps both players engaged and each has the ability to 'influence the outcome'.


Ledarmy30 Dec 2010 1:37 p.m. PST

The primary reason for a "Recovery Roll" is to determine whether the target combatant, after being hit, is still capable of fighting back.

The second reason is to speed up the battle. By dividing the responsibilities of the opposing players, the mechanics run quicker and smoother.

It is the responsibilty of the ATTACKER to know his unit type/quality and the capabilities of the weapon system (range, penetration, obstructive view etc)

It is the responsibility of the DEFENDER to know his unit type/quality and the unit's cover state/armor.

The third reason, is to keep the defender (or reactive player) focused on the game. As long as he (or she) has a chance to determine the fate of a unit, the player will not stray far from the table.

Ledarmy30 Dec 2010 1:42 p.m. PST

I should also add:

Even if you are not killed by making a saving throw you still have been hit. Those hits add up to supression or morale checks.

I believe rule systems that use saving throws are trying to streamline and speed up the game.

Saving throws or recovery rolls usually eliminates the use of adding up ten different modifiers or the use of charts.
I hate charts, looking for a specific page in a book to find the right chart everytime something happens bores me to death.

21eRegt30 Dec 2010 3:07 p.m. PST

I generally dislike them. Just another step in the process, especially if there are a LOT of them to make at the same time. Lots of dice flying hither and yon when we could just do fewer casualties to begin with and eliminate the step. But, it certainly doesn't keep me from playing games that use them.

Custer7thcav30 Dec 2010 4:12 p.m. PST

In the star wars game I just ran, we had saving rolls in but at turn 2 opted to remove them because they slowed down the game and we modified the to hit number and it flowed better and the players made better tactical decisions knowing that the hit was a kill!

WarDepotDavid30 Dec 2010 8:24 p.m. PST

No. Too gamey!

Lee Brilleaux Fezian30 Dec 2010 10:07 p.m. PST

Yes, I like 'em. In fact, after designing games for 30+ years, I've been using a "I hit/you save" system almost excludively in recent years.

Why? It's interactive, and (if designed sensibly) gives a wider variety of outcomes than a single roll by the attacking player. It should be a two step process.

The Warhammer three step version is possibly the worst version of the mechanism yet created, and sadly the best known. It's slow and feels like victimisation rather than interaction.

Sure, nobody actually 'dodges' a bullet. But veteran troops know when to keep their heads low, and rookies can't spot danger when their more experienced comrades are hitting the dirt.

It means you can avoid a long list of die roll modifiers.

Of course, you can use 2D6 rolls, or D30s, or whatever you like. I just don't think they are as much fun. I never cared for sliderules, either.

Gamey? Sure. It's a game.

Whirlwind31 Dec 2010 12:42 a.m. PST

Opposing rolls are really saving throws.

Surely not? Opposing rules generate a modifier (usually the difference between the totals on two dice), saving rolls usually validate or invalidate the process that preceded the saving roll.


Tom Bryant31 Dec 2010 2:54 a.m. PST

MJS has it. The Games Workshop use of the mechanism is goofy and leaves you feeling cheated. Using the saving throw as an "enhancement" or alternative to a chart or modifier system makes more sense. Using a saving throw against penetration or a kill shot makes sense. In either case a successful "save" can result in the delay or suppression of that figure or unit's activities however the rules dictate.

I've never seen the point of a "hit" saving roll. If someone has "hit" then they've hit. That hit may be of little effect, or completely devastating but it's a hit nonetheless. What the hit does can be determined afterwords. That fact that contact has been made is the important thing.

Martin Rapier31 Dec 2010 4:21 a.m. PST

A 'saving throw' is just another dice roll – to hit/to kill, the 'to kill' bit is just a saving throw, the only question is who throws it.

Plus side – gives the target something to do and stops it feeling like a victim, and it makes a one dice system into a two dice system (or more) which may or may not be a good thing from a probability distribution pov.

Minus side – slows things down.

There are zillions of game systems which use a mechanism which might be described as a saving throw, they just don't call it that. I prefer outcome resolution or similar (like the resolution of wounds in SGII).

Ssendam31 Dec 2010 4:54 a.m. PST

Generally I like simple mechanics and it's more than possible to get the result desired from a single roll. The only reason to add rolls is for game play to involve the opposition player.

The 3 phase GW system is long winded but probably caters to the use of a D6 for everything. Personally I think it should be, Roll One: Did I hit? Roll Two: How badly injured is the target.

Klebert L Hall31 Dec 2010 6:32 a.m. PST

Prefer no.

vojvoda31 Dec 2010 12:20 p.m. PST

Mexican Jack Squint 30 Dec 2010 9:07 p.m. PST wrote:
Yes, I like 'em. In fact, after designing games for 30+ years, I've been using a "I hit/you save" system almost excludively in recent years.

Why? It's interactive, and (if designed sensibly) gives a wider variety of outcomes than a single roll by the attacking player. It should be a two step process.

Yes I have come around to your way of thinking too. I have them in my Star Wars games but I do require the defender and attacker to roll at the same time. I have limited modifiers to one small chart and think I have a good working convention game system that plays fast keeps things moving along.
James Mattes

MarkDeliduka31 Dec 2010 12:27 p.m. PST

I think they are a good idea. Like Frank says, they are great for keeping a defending player occupied out of turn. A saving throw can represent anything; even if hit, what does the 'hit' do/how is the damage done?

Condottiere31 Dec 2010 12:33 p.m. PST

I like 'em because Howard likes 'em.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick31 Dec 2010 8:32 p.m. PST

All good game designers know that the best way to handle saving throws is just to call them something else. Then nobody will have a problem with them.

Toshach Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Dec 2010 9:11 p.m. PST

I like them in skrmish games. I think they actually make the game system simpler and faster. There's no adding or subtracting. They also allow for a wider range of variability with fewer dice. Besides, you only do a defensive roll if the attack roll succeeded--perhaps half the time on average.

Daffy Doug01 Jan 2011 5:33 p.m. PST

No. Saving throws are just redundant dice rolling, i.e. a waste of time….

coopman01 Jan 2011 7:00 p.m. PST

I kind of like them – it makes the game more interactive and more fun, even though it may take a bit longer.

brevior est vita02 Jan 2011 7:23 a.m. PST

Another vote for "neutral." Whether saving throws "work" or not depends on the game context.

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