Saving Throws in 2e have largely been based off of your class, with a general dump for save vs Magic to catch all other things that don’t apply to anything specific. When the d20 system rolled around, it deferred to a much simpler system relating to Fort, Will, and Reflex. Of course this is a wonderful area to fiddle around with things to come up with a new solution. There are also tons of little one-off save vs (effect) built into all sorts of items throughout both sets of rules. What I’ve done in my system is dropped out the classic saving throws, and rebuilt them around many of these effect types, along with tying each save to a stat, and having progression based on both Class, Race, and an element of player choice.
This modification represents meaningful choice not only in how you build your character, but also in removing a weakness that spellcasters have had to deal with at high levels, being a fairly strong Save vs Spell factor in their opponents. There is a level of complexity here in that you have more saves to deal with, but also a simplicity, that most effects have some sort of saving throw to be applied to. In my stat blocks each save is described as follows.
- Save vs Snares/Paralysis is the bonus a character receives to shake off the effects of paralysis and movement deterring effects through sheer strength alone.
- Save vs Breath Weapon/Explosion is the bonus a character receives to dodge out of area effects and breath type attacks from various spells and creature abilities
- Save vs Poison/Disease is related to the immune system of the character, one more healthy and strong is going to deal with outside disease and poisons more efficiently, while someone weak and frail would be more susceptible.
- Save vs Illusion is based on the minds ability to determine believability in what it is attempting to perceive. Those who resist notice some inconsistency or inexactness in the illusion or phantasm, allowing them to make better saving throws. Those of weaker mind are more prone to falling victim to the false presentations in front of them
- Save vs Charm/Compulsion adjusts the chance for spells and effects to overcome your better judgement and common sense. Characters with a stronger sense of their own cognitive abilities will naturally be more difficult to manipulate through magical means or otherwise.
- Save vs Fear/Confusion as Charisma is more a measure of bravery, leadership, and personal magnetism, it is also the stat used to shake off unnatural fears and induced states of confusion. Players with high Charisma are clear headed in the face of danger, and rarely sway from their intent.
- Save vs Death is the bonus or penalty for magic specifically designed to cause immediate death, when a character takes massive damage (50% of total hitpoints in a single blow), or when an enemy attempts a coup de grace (appears dead unless further inspected).
- Save vs Gaze allows a character to avert their eyes, or dive out of the way when a creature focuses their attention on them. Several creatures use their eyes as a focus for magical effects, basilisk and medusae can turn creatures to stone, beholders are well known for their multiple eyestalks of various magical effects. Other creatures can entrance a victim with a hypnotizing gaze as well. Spells that require the caster to be looking at an effect also fall under this category.
While every character receives bonuses or penalties to each of these based on their rolled stats, they also receive Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary scaling.
The Primary saving throw scales at a rate of +1 for every 2 levels. This is determined by the highest Pre-requisite stat for your chosen class. Fighters would scale with Strength, which improves their Save vs Paralysis/Snare. Wizards would scale with Intelligence, which improves their Save vs Illusions.
The Secondary saving throw scales at a rate of +1 for every 3 levels. This is determined by the bonus stat you receive from choosing a Race. Dwarves would scale with Constitution, which improves their Save vs Poison/Disease. Wood Elves would scale with Perception, which improves their Save vs Gaze.
The Tertiary saving throw scales at a rate of +1 for every 4 levels. This is chosen by the player at character creation.
In any event that one of these would overlap with another, the next most appropriate saving throw is determined by the DM instead.
The result of this is that everyone becomes slightly more susceptible to magical effects as a whole, but adds a depth to character building. It also means that I’ve had to go through several areas where the original Saving Throws are referred to and make adjustments, these are largely done as we come across them, but it hasn’t been too bad. Dwarves in particular have some pretty hefty bonuses to several stats as their built in CON bonus to the original saving throws are reflected in the new ones. I’ve also had to redesign our character sheets a bit, but now you can easily see each saving throw right in the stat block.