In addition to the forums and “Dragon Magazine” blogs like the Legends & Lore column, WotC also has a D&D Next group where they have been posting ideas and getting feedback. Mike Mearls recently had a another piece there on save or die following up on his Legends & Lore article. There’s not much new in the Mearls piece itself, but there was this interesting comment from some guy named eberg:
Here’s an idea, make save or die stuff not be instantaneous. The save and the death occur at the end of the player’s next turn. That gives everyone (including the player) a chance to do something before it happens. So, you are bitten by a giant spider and poisoned, but can chug a potion of anti-venom to give a bonus to the save at the end of your turn. It still happens quickly, so there is the sense of immediate danger, but it still gives a short time for help to prevent (or mitigate) it. Also, the image of a person rapidly turning to stone or feeling the poison spread through their body as everyone rushes to save them is incredibly dramatic.
There is actually some precedent for effects like save or die poison to not be instantaneous. I think this “end of next turn” interpretation is not bad, and one could even push it to the end of the encounter (i.e., make the effect take one ten minute game turn to complete). This also makes damage-based save effects (such as dragon breath or fireballs) actually more deadly in some ways, as their damage happens all at once.
Yeah, that’s not bad, so long as anti-venom widgets are not so common as to always remove the sting of death.
I actually really like this idea. It keeps “save or die” still relevant and nasty, but not unforgiving. Paul makes a good point, that anti-venom should not always win out…this is done by the “widget” of whatever nature should only give a slight bonus to the save.
I’m going to seriously consider this as a house rule.
If you use it, let me know how it works out. In a previous post, I figured the cost of an antidote based on the magic research rules. It works out to 2500 GP for a magical antidote that would presumably work for any poison. I might allow weaker or more specific mundane antidotes to be purchased for less.
Here is the excerpt:
Clerical spells are available as scrolls, so Neutralize Poison could also be “bottled” in that way, though a cleric would still be required to use the scroll, unlike an antidote. Scroll creation also offers pricing guidelines; by the magical research rules on page X51, an antidote (really, a Potion of Neutralize Poison) costs 2000 gp and takes 4 weeks to produce. Market price should be higher than that, to allow for profit margin, so I would probably allow PCs to buy antidotes for 2500 gp.
Making antidotes available would also be a nice way of rewarding PC planning and player engagement with the setting. Say they ask around a town about what known dangers are present in a cave (or whatever). If they learn that giant spiders live there, and think to ask if antidotes are for sale, why not give them the option? In this case, I would make the items specific to the particular breed of giant spider, probably.