I'm a new GM to D&D 4e, and today this situation happened during our game: a player was hit by a Beholder Eye Tyrant, and started taking 2d20 ongoing damage (save ends). The player however changed the damage type of the ongoing damage to be radiant, whilst wearing a customised robe which makes him immune to radiant damage and instead restores half the radiant damage as HP. So far OK, but on his turn he wanted to skip the 'save ends' roll.

I wasn't sure how to handle this. I decided the player had to roll the save ends, and according to What happens if I decide to skip saving? they have no choice but to attempt a save.

I'm wondering, however, if the player should be able to have given up the save ends. If a player's taking 1d6 ongoing fire damage, shouldn't he have the freedom to choose if he wants to put the fire out? Normally that'd be harmful, but in the above example, the character/player knows they'd actually benefit from not saving against the ongoing damage.

So, I understand that according to the rules the saving throw has to happen, but I'm interested to know: What are the repercussions of allowing players to skip saving throws for the Save Ends on effects? What are the repercussions for players, the GM, etc?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm kind of curious what game effects exactly are at play here, would be cool if you enumerated this. Thanks \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 23:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a possible house rule, you could reverse the situation: for a save ends effect that was turned beneficial, you could change it to "save sustains," i.e. the effect goes away on a FAILED saving throw. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


There are 3 effects right off hand that break down completely when you allow players (and monsters) to stop saving.

  1. Escalation effects are worthless. Lots of monsters (especially as you go later), have effects that get bad (and then very bad) on failed saving throws. Skipping a saving throw in this case must be counted as a failure and the PCs might feel rather shorted.

  2. Death mechanics are borked. If a PC can simply skip a death saving throw then it breaks the mechanics. Again making a skip a failure would be OK here.

  3. Ripe for abuse. In this case you've identified a case where skip/auto-failure can lead to abuse. I'd be OK with this in my game, but it's worth keeping a weather eye to make sure it's not imbalanced.

I will note that there are several powers that work like this that allow you to skip/auto-fail the save and keep the damage/healing loop going, so you might want to take a look at those and see what they have that the current structure you're looking at doesn't.

All told, allowing the skipping of saves could be OP, but if you make a skip a failure it probably alleviates most of it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, even in the original example, skipping the save would be an auto-failure. So isn't the only issue your third case? \$\endgroup\$
    – Wlerin
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 21:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would be unbalanced be able to save against harmful effects but keep the beneficial ones indefinitely. If a player finds this he will proudly abuse it. \$\endgroup\$
    – pet
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wlerin sort of? There could be an argument made that forgetting to save is not actually a failure. It's a poor argument and breaks down quickly, but an argument could be made. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 23:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pet The number of beneficial effects a save can end are few and far between, and the one power I can immediately think of that has a saving throw for a beneficial effect (a cleric power that deals damage to the cleric but heals his buddies), explicitly allows skipping the save. In general, I support forcing a save every turn, but the number of combos that provide beneficial effects for hanging onto a save ends condition are few, and the amount of investment it takes to get them is usually pretty substantial. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 23:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wax eagle: yes indeed the number of beneficial effects are outnumbered by the harmful ones, but in the upper example any ongoing damage could be changed to be a beneficial. It is very likely that the player can catch some ongoing damage during an encounter and just convert it to a new HP income source. \$\endgroup\$
    – pet
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 3:07

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