December 21, 2011

A second look at Table 5: Saves

This table surprised me by being the one I spent the most time on.  Saves are weird.  I spent a long time trying to find the best way to quantify and compare them all.  Eventually, I felt that I got the cost ratios balanced to reflect the effectiveness of each save table.  I was happy.  A few days later I decided to revamp my weapons, armor, saves, and hit progression tables all at once.  The ratios inside each table were fine, but the costs for the weapons and armor were really high compared to the low costs in the saves and hit progression tables, so I knew I had to even it all out.  As a result my precious save cost ratios got screwed up.  I meant to go back and fix it later, but that is a very tangled web to weave.  Maybe I'll have one last go at it.

Here's how it looks right now...

Table 5: Saves
Normal Man - +0%
Magic User +10%
Thief - +10%
Cleric - +20%
Fighter - +30%
Elf - +35%
Dwarf/Halfling - +60%
Not to shabby.  The cost of the Cleric saves bothers me a little, but I can live with it.  I should probably explain how I went about comparing all these save tables.

At first I was going to have poison and spell saves be more valuable than the other types, but I changed my mind.  I imagine that poison and spell saves get rolled more often than the other types, but it really just depends on the individual DM and the enemies and challenges they place into the setting.  If Blue DM likes to use venomous creatures, and Green DM is running a Hogwarts campaign where everyone is using wands, while Red DM uses a lot of area effect traps that require Dragon Breath saves, then it gets really hard to quantify how much better save vs. poison is compared to save vs. wands, if at all.  I gave it all up and decided to just assume that all save types were created equal.  I doubt it's true, but it does make comparing the save tables easier.

Assuming that all save types are equal also makes it easier to create new customized save tables.  You could take numbers from one type of save and spread them into the other types in the same row.  So long as the totals are equal, then the new save table costs the same as the original.  Keep it within reason though.  I'd suggest not letting any save category drop more than one per character level.  Like, fighter saves drop every three levels, so I wouldn't reduce any save by more than three each time.  I don't advise fiddling with the Dwarf saves, they're crazy enough already.

In the end, I weighed all the save tables against each other simply by adding the five saves in each row together.  Then I compared all the first level totals against each other, second level totals against each other, and so on.  Low score wins.  Here's the summary of how that worked out.

  • Normal Man saves start awful and never improve at all.  Cost = 0%  
  • Magic User saves cost 10%.  That gap will leave room for a "worse than MU" custom save table used by some new and accident prone class.
  • Magic User and Thief save totals are usually even or very close.  Thieves have better saves at levels 5, 9, and 10, but magic users have an edge at 6,7,8, and are way better off at levels 11 and 12.  I think it's a tie, so I made their costs equal.
  • The gap between Thief saves and Cleric saves is far greater than the tiny gap between Cleric and Fighter save totals.  Like around three times greater.  Cleric saves seem to start off better and progress at a faster pace than any of the others.  I'm guessing that they get some kind of bonus for being buddies with a deity.
  • Elf saves are the same as fighter saves, except that elves are a bit more resistant to spells and petrification.  Cost = (Fighter save cost +5%).
  • Dwarf/Halfling saves are equal to fighter saves if you skip the first two tiers, except Dragon Breath which just skips one tier.  On average Dwarf saves are about one and a half times better than Fighter saves for any given level, but considering that their saves at first level are ridiculous good; I'd put the cost somewhere around 1.75 times the cost of Fighter saves.

So, what I really want to do is raise the cleric saves by 5% and lower Dwarf/Halfling saves by 5%.  That would put a 15% gap between the Thief and Cleric saves, 5% between Cleric and Fighter saves, and a 10% gap between Cleric and Elf saves.  It would also put Dwarf/Halfling saves close to 1.85 times the cost of Fighter saves.  Yeah, that all lines up with the ratios nicely.

The trouble is finding different costs to lower without messing up the other tables.  The whole reason I started doing this was to get the final xp totals at the end to match the B/X books, so for every 5% I add to a class I need to lower 5% somewhere else.  Since a lot of the abilities are shared by multiple classes, changing any cost can start a kind of chain reaction.  Oh, and it'd be nice if all the ability costs looked reasonably balanced once I'm finished.

I'm just rambling now because I'm not quite sure how to pull this off.

I'd always meant to rework the weapons table a bit.  Also, I had an idea yesterday to lower the cost of some of the armor types.  I know that some people prefer to play with ascending AC and allow PCs to use Dex as AC if unarmored.  I think I can get these armor costs to look good whether you play that way or not.  If I can just get all these changes to line up so that the costs all balance...

*Days Later*

OK, got it.  This is probably my last revision.  I managed to fix (almost) every cost that bothered me.  I even got Climb Walls and Backstab back at 10% each, which is where I secretly preferred them.  Here's the rundown of all the changes.

Cleric saves 20%, now 25%
Dwarf/Halfling saves 60%, now 55%
Short Bow 5% and Long Bows 5%, now Bows 10%
Short Swords 5% and Long Swords 5%, now Swords 15%
Massive Blunt 5% and Massive Sharp 10%, now Heavy Weapons 10%
Choppers 5%, now Choppers 10%
Pole Arms 10%, now Pole Arms 15%
Scale and Hide Armor 10%, now 5%
Banded and Splint Armor 15%, now 10%
Climb Walls 15%, now 10%
Backstab 15%, now 10%

Now I'm off to edit the original post.

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