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On a hit, the Rod of Lordly Might can:

...force the target to make a DC 17 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the target is paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

The paralyzed condition says:

The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.

This seems like a self-fulfilling feedback loop that turns the RoLM paralysis save into a save-or-die effect.

Besides outside intervention, is it possible to end the paralysis effect from the RoLM without waiting out the duration?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ooh, ouch. I know the designers are human and as fallible as anyone, but that is a glaring oversight. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 23 '18 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Might be worth tweeting Crawford about this as well. It could probably use an errata. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 24 '18 at 18:32
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RAW, there's no way to escape

Not without a spell, class or racial feature, magic item, or other effect that allows you to bypass Paralysis. If the effect itself is resisted via STR/DEX, and paralysis causes STR/DEX saves to automatically fail, then the character would fail all their attempts to break the effect.

This feels like a situation where an explicit exception should be made.

Consider the text of Rod of Lordly Might, the section on its Paralysis effect:

Paralyze. When you hit a creature with a melee attack using the rod, you can force the target to make a DC 17 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the target is paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. This property can't be used again until the next dawn.

—DMG, pg 196

Emphasis mine.

The implication is that the item expects that this effect be resistable. Since there are very few ways for a creature to ignore paralysis (short of having the effect dispelled/removed), my gut instinct is that this should be a "Specific Beats General" situation... Except that none of the wording specifically allows that ruling.

So at my table, I'd allow STR/DEX saving throws exclusive to this effect to be performed as normal, without automatically failing, for the duration of the effect. I don't believe that would be a RAW ruling, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ At my table, I'd make it a CON or WIS save instead of STR; hold person uses Wisdom, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Jul 24 '18 at 7:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ It can make sense that a victim paralysed by the rod would automatically fail other strength/dexterity saving throws, but would still be able to put all his effort into breaking out of the rod's affects. This interprets the effect as some kind of physical impediment, like causing the victim's muscles to lock up. I don't see any harm in interpreting the paralysis in some other way though, like mental effect that could use a Wisdom save instead. Otherwise I support Xirema's interpretation of the intent (other strength/dex saves fail, but can still strength save against the rod). \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Jul 24 '18 at 8:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ For evidence for the RAI argument, it's probably worth noting that this item looks like it's a clone of Pathfinder's Rod of Lordly Might which could cast Hold Person, allowing a Will saving throw each round to break the paralysis. \$\endgroup\$ – Nat Jul 24 '18 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nat that would be a weird citation, seeing as it's almost word-for-word identical to the one from 3.5, which is a clone of the one from 3e which is a clone of the one from AD&D 2e, which is a clone of the one from AD&D 1e dmg and it may well go back further \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Jul 25 '18 at 9:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ WotC issued errata for the 10th printing in 2018. They specifically added errata to the Rod of Lordly Might but this was unrelated to this issue. Given that the rule is now several years old and hasn't been errataed, the only conclusion is "RAW, RAI, there's no escape" \$\endgroup\$ – CapnZapp Jan 22 at 13:53
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RAW, you're right. The target is trapped and makes saves which automatically fail.

However,

Rules as Intended, Specific beats general

If the Rod was intended to be a full-minute, no-save paralysis effect barring outside intervention, it would say so.

Instead, it states:

The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

So, in this case, the rod will paralyze the target but will allow them to make saves to overcome its paralyzing forces. Keep in mind that other Strength or Dexterity saves are still automatically failed by the target, as per the Paralysis Condition.

I will add that yes, this does appear to look like developer oversight and is quite ugly, but a case like this still falls under the purview of the Specific Beats General rule, which is designed for cases like this. Most paralyzing save effects are usually caused by abilities other than Strength or Dex.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Disagree. Just because you CAN repeat the saving throw doesn't remove the rule that paralysis makes you automatically fail it. You're still making the save...just auto-failing. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jul 23 '18 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ The target can repeat the saving throw, which automatically fails. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jul 23 '18 at 21:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I second @guildsbounty. I was going to submit the same "specific beats general" answer myself, but it doesn't work out. Paralysis doesn't say you are deprived of opportunities to make saves, such that the rod's more specific description could override it. Paralysis says you do attempt saves but automatically fail. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 23 '18 at 21:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Guildsbounty - The rules explicitly incorporate 'specific beats general', but here's a good rule of thumb they don't explicitly include that I find useful: Any interpretation of a rule or effect which makes significant parts of its text superfluous, irrelevant, or always inapplicable can usually be presumed to be against RAI (absent good evidence to the contrary). Why design and write up complex conditions that, because of a technicality, never mean anything? The game designers have more productive uses of their time. They always have more things to do than time will allow. Why waste it? \$\endgroup\$ – Dayton Williams Jul 24 '18 at 8:15
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Looks like you're right. I can't find any Errata or Dev remarks that would contradict this.

This does appear to be a closed loop that leaves you paralyzed for 1 minute with no chance of saving throw.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to pop a post up on Crawford's Twitter, I'll update this answer if I get a response. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jul 23 '18 at 21:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ WotC issued errata for the 10th printing in 2018. They specifically added errata to the Rod of Lordly Might but this was unrelated to this issue. Given that the rule is now several years old and hasn't been errataed, the only conclusion is "RAW, RAI, there's no escape" \$\endgroup\$ – CapnZapp Jan 22 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ fwiw, I never did get a response from Crawford on that question. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jan 23 at 1:15
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Others have given RAW and RAI answers, based on rules of this item. I will instead turn to the instructions given to DM's in the Adventure's League DM manual, the closest thing (if there is such a thing) to "How a DM should adjudicate".

Always follow this golden rule when you DM for a group: Make decisions and adjudications that enhance the fun of the adventure when possible.

I would posit that being paralyzed for a full minute is not fun for a player, nor is having an easily incapacitated enemy, that has no opportunity to fight back, fun for the party. Therefore, the subsequent saving throws should not automatically fail.

For myself, what makes a game fun is narrative coherence: Things working with a logic that makes sense and can be predicted with absolute and perfect knowledge (noting that few non-DM players have absolute or perfect knowledge, and those that do generally only have it over a limited time and area e.g. from scouting or divination spells).

The issue presented is that the paralyzed condition prevents a character from making STR or DEX saving throws (or more accurately, causes the character to fail them). Narratively, this is because STR and DEX saving throws require action, which paralysis prevents. DEX saves are dodging or turning to evade or minimize getting hit. STR saves are bracing to ward off blows knocking one down or back, and flexing to break bonds and restraints. Since one cannot take these actions when one is paralyzed, one fails.

So, narratively, what is being done by the saving throw? I would say that it is resisting and recovering from the force of the blow of Rod of Lordly Might. Normally, I would say that this should be a CON save, as it is an internal shrugging off of effect, rather than an external action. I suppose that the designers wanted spread out the saves, since the rod already has a CON save, and to give more weight to STR, already a lower classed defensive attribute. Therefore, the STR save should not auto-fail.

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RAI, The saving throw is repeated so is not an automatic fail.

While there is weight to the fact that all Strength and Dexterity saves automatically fail, the wording of the item does say that the saving throw is repeated, not that a new saving throw is made (which would automatically fail).

...force the target to make a DC 17 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the target is paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success...

—DMG, ph 196

This may be a technicality, as there are several items in the DMG that call for a new saving throw each turn, and several items that call to repeat the saving throw. If someone has the time to list some of the items that have each then it may give an idea of whether this is deliberate or not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you clarify how a "new" saving throw is different from a "repeated" one, particularly as it relates to paralysis causing Str/Dex saving throws to automatically fail? Why would a "repeated" saving throw not automatically fail while a "new" one would? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 24 '18 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ To my mind whatever is in effect when a saving throw stays in effect when it's repeated (yes, I'm a developer) - while a new saving throw takes whatever is in effect when it is made (including any advantage / disadvantage / bonus). Because the DMG contains wording for both types I feel there's meant to be a difference between the two. \$\endgroup\$ – Rycochet Jul 24 '18 at 9:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rycochet Does that mean that if someone were to cast Bless on the paralyzed character after they were already paralyzed that they would not get to add 1d4 to their save? Or alternatively, that if Bless had already been cast on them, but the caster stopped concentrating on it, they would still get its benefits? \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Jul 24 '18 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @corvec That's how I would play it at my table - the rolls would be exactly the same as when first used. \$\endgroup\$ – Rycochet Jul 25 '18 at 5:11
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RAW and RAI, there's no way to escape without outside help.

Since the effect itself is resisted via STR/DEX, and paralysis causes STR/DEX saves to automatically fail, then the character would fail all their attempts to break the effect.

Note that WotC has repeatedly issued errata to the DMG but never changed this effect of the Rod. They even errataed this exact item (for another unrelated aspect) in the latest DMG errata (2018).

By this time, it is exceedingly unlikely the team remains unawares of this condition. The only possible conclusion must be that they intend the Rod to work this way, or at least that the extra paralysis power isn't worth fixing. That is why my answer is saying "RAW and RAI..."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Adding the link to the errata and a quote from it directly into your answer would help support this. Comments can be ephemeral :) However, trying to support intent with absence of evidence may not be the best tack to take. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can add a link to the errata. However, there is no quote relevant to the question. As you phrase it "absence of evidence" is hard to quote... As for "trying to support intent with absence of evidence" - what would you call it when after four years they still haven't issued errata, even though they clearly have errataed this exact item (in other areas)? \$\endgroup\$ – CapnZapp Jan 22 at 16:12

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