Why I find “Save or Die” poor gaming
Posted by docryder
In some of my reading over the past couple of days, I’ve caught a theme that applies to me.
WotC has put up more about ideas they are putting into D&D5e, with the constant return to old ideas with a mix of old and new mechanics. As I’ve stated, I’m just not interested in this direction. And then there is this new article On Gnome Stew:
The author, Walt, discusses how he handles equipment in different settings, whether assumed or purchased, in fantasy versus modern, etc.
As I read this article, something crystalized in my mind, and it’s something I think I’ve always found D&D lacking in, until the H-P-E series WotC released with 4e. D&D has always been published with the assumption that there is no overarching plot line to any DM’s campaign. Few module series have ever been more than a handful of episodes linked together (such as the infamous Giants-Drow-Demonweb series, and a few others), but only the HPE series carried the idea of a campaign from levels one to thirty. Now, note I’m also not counting the adventure paths of Dungeon Magazine when it was published by Paizo. WotC also did the Scales of War adventures, which covered a plotline from levels 1-30. These are, historically, uncommon, though.
But what my friends and I have run is always full campaign arcs, ranging from level 1 to somewhere in the Epic level range. I’m beginning to do some prep on a new campaign, and I can easily foresee a longer campaign, or a series of short campaigns. We run games with persistent characters, not unlike a novel. When characters die, it’s more dramatic than the old style “kill and raise/create” cycle, which always struck me as meaningless.
This is kind of why I find “Save or Die” effects poor gaming. Mearls commented in this in yesterday’s Legends and Lore article (http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20120305), when he discusses why some folks don’t like “save or die” effects.
I and my players want storytelling, not the gamist, antagonistic play that the older editions fostered. While I play adversaries as ruthless killers who are trying to kill the PCs, I am not trying to get that vaunted TPK that some DMs think is necessary to prove to their players that their characters are threatened. In my book, that’s a path to an abusive relationship, and I don’t believe that’s actually conducive to anything more than the dissolution of gaming groups, as players and DMs come to resent each other. I’m building better relationship with my players, I feel, than the killer DMs I’ve met in my 30+ years of gaming. I’m guessing it works, as I’ve been gaming with most of my players since 1993 (and the players I currently haven’t been gaming with that long simply weren’t even born then).
Yeah, I’ll take a more cooperative, storytelling game game that doesn’t rely on micromanaging and TPKs over “Save or Die” any day.