Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Save or Die

Welcome to my blog… it’s Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day!

Thirty years ago, I moved from Fighting Fantasy solo gameplay books to playing Dungeons and Dragons. A Fighting Fantasy character had three main statistics; Skill, Stamina and Luck (which is also a prime attribute in Tunnels & Trolls but I’ll save that for another post). Dungeons and Dragons had a few more, though the thing that always struck me was the Saving Throws; Spell or Magic Staff, Magic Wand, Death Ray or Poison, Turned To Stone, and finally, Dragon Breath (ouch). Classes had their own set of saving throw numbers and as the character advanced in levels of experience, the saving throws became easier to make. Not only that, equipment is assumed to survive if the character survives. In the case of death by fire ball, normal equipment was destroyed and magical equipment was permitted a saving throw.

If you were asked to make a saving throw versus something for your character, odds are you’d just overlooked the obvious, failed dismally at some risky task or were relying on dumb luck to save your ass. Or another way to look at it, totally succeeded at being in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. Save or Die!

So what has all this got to do with Swords & Wizardry? The rules give each class a saving throw. Just one. It’s called Saving Throw. You make a saving throw when a spell or some other kind of hazard threatens your character. Well, that’s just like Luck from Fighting Fantasy ain’t it? I suspect there may have been a legal reason for this adaption judging by the note in the side-bar that shows the original (Dungeons & Dragons) saving throw categories and numbers with the following in small print.
Legal Note: The information in this sidebar is provided for purposes of comparison, and is not to be construed as an indication respecting compatibility with any trademark.
Well done! I appreciate the effort made to keep that in the book. You see, I like the original saving throws. They’re cool. Having them on a character sheet lets you know that exploring the dungeons (and wilderness) is dangerous. Saving throws are an indication of how deadly the world is and what you will come up against. A save versus Death Ray is just what your character needs to avoid instant disintegration (or large hole in the chest area) from a Black Ray Pistol, Ring of Red Ruin or Balor’s Evil Eye spell. In Dragon Warriors or GURPS your character would make Dodge roll. Boring. When the evil sorcerer points his bejewelled finger at the party, you know it’s time to duck for cover! Save vs. Death Ray! Save or Die!

It’s also not a stretch of the imagination to come up with more saving throws. Save versus Lycanthropy. Save versus Mummy Rot. Save versus Cthulhu (sanity check).

I encourage you to buy the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook. It’s a finely wrought tome of wonders and a superb tribute to the original role-playing game by Gary Gygax (1938-2008) and Dave Arneson (1947-2009). I also encourage you to write the original saving throws down on your character sheet and come up with at least one new one for your game.

Also, what’s good for the players is good for the monsters. I’m thinking my arch villain Vampire Lord needs a saving throw versus holy symbol…

FrogGod Games has discounted their entire line of Swords & Wizardry products for 1 day only in celebration of Swords & Wizardry appreciation day (April 17th 2013). The discount is good for 25% off S&W Products but you must use coupon* code SWApprDay on April 17th 2013 at check out.

*The coupon excludes items less than $1, S&W Cards, Pre-Orders, and Subscriptions.

D20PFSRD store is also running a sale on Swords& Wizardry PDFs. Use the provided link and use coupon code: SWAD252013

(feel free to make sure your fellow gamers know about these sales and the codes)

These blogs can also be found on the blogroll over at


  1. The S&W saving throw system was one of the reasons I came to like the game.

    My Swords & Wizardry posts, The S&W Witch and The Ördög

  2. I also like the weird saving throws from the older editions of D&D. There's something mysterious and cool about a wand, rod, and staff saving throw than just a single catch-all save.