Long Term Status Effects

Saving throw? saving throw?  how about that saving throw?  SAVING THROW PLEASE!

Your party just fought a difficult monster.  It drained a good amount of their resources and they knew it was going to be a tough fight so they blew their daily powers.  They weren’t terribly worried, though, because they can just take an extended rest and eradicate any negative effect, entering the next battle completely renewed with all possible available resources.  Of course, this next encounter is against your Monster of the Week and it is designed to be difficult, but not impossible.  With all of their resources they’ll easily dispatch the villain that you’ve spent weeks crafting and preparing.

Of course, you can’t just prevent them from resting as that would be too obvious.  You could throw a random encounter at them to prevent them from resting, but that’s just going to make them want to rest more.  You could have put in some sort of time constraint but nope, you thought you had planned just the right amount of encounters right and didn’t do that ahead of time.

Maybe you aren’t just trying to protect your boss.  Maybe you want it to really stick that this guy is a badass and not to be trifled with.  Perhaps you want to send them fleeing, but not completely defeated.  Maybe you just want something detrimental that lasts longer than 5 minutes.  You need a long-term status effect.


Diseases are the baseline long-term status effects and they’re really, really … boring.  After the fight is over the character makes a saving throw (Author’s note: Why not an endurance check vs the DC?  Are we trying to make endurance completely worthless?) and if they fail they are infected.  At the end of each extended rest they make an endurance check (why now and not before?) against the DC of the disease.  If they pass, it improves and eventually goes away.  If they fail it either worsens or stays the same.  If anyone in the party has a heal skill that value completely obsoletes pretty much any reason to take endurance.

There isn’t really much to change about diseases besides making it an endurance check rather than a saving throw for infection.  The system is fine, even if the 40 listed diseases are mostly just overkill.  Most of them can kill with just two saving throws.  If you’re going to make some custom diseases I recommend a longer track and perhaps modifying the starting point.  A single day of rest should not cure something with a cool name like Chaos Phage.

Save Improves

I decide to take a bit of diseases when I was going over them to see if they were worthwhile.  Each day, the character makes a check against the disease but if they have worsened then it won’t go away in a day.  Why not do the same for certain worsening save effects?

A Save Improves effect can be applied to any Save Ends effect that worsens on a failed saving throw.  When a character has failed one saving throw against the effect their next successful saving throw improves the state of the effect by one tier.

Still waiting for that saving throw...

For example, a character gets bitten by a basilisk.  The venom is coursing through their veins and only hastened by the adrenaline.  They are slowed (save ends) as their body spreads the magical venom.  As the battle continues they attempt to fight off the effect, but it is taking hold.  Their skin begins become callous and their muscles tighten.  They can’t move their legs and they are immobilized.  The cleric rushes over to help knowing their ally’s fate is sealed should they fail to shake off the effects.  They call down divine magic, but luck is against our hero and even the divine blessing fails to aid him against the ailment.  But he will not give up.  He continues to fight and press on as his body fights against the deadly toxin.  As the battle wages on he feels the tide shift and his muscles loosen.  He still feels heavy, but his cleric ally is close at hand.  She prays to her god to help her friend shake this affliction and he does, feeling his strength return and his body feels lighter than ever having escaped the weight.

In this scenario are hero is bitten by a basilisk which causes him to be slowed (save ends).  He fails his first saving throw and becomes immobilized (save improves).  He is granted an out-of-turn saving throw and fails, but additional saves cannot worsen effects.  When his turn come around again he succeeds a saving throw and returns to being slowed (save ends) rather than having the effect completely removed.  He saves again and the effect is removed.

Want to spice it up a bit?  You can make the effect a little bit worse and change the (save ends) to (save improves).  For the basilisk venom shaking the effect can cause him to feel lighter than ever and grant +1 speed (save sustains).  As long as they sustain the effect it stays, but once they fail the entire effect ends.

You should save (save improves) for particularly nasty attacks.  Increase the difficulty of recharging the power by at least 1 and consider making it less detrimental overall.

Skill Saves vs DC

Here is a way to make endurance more worthwhile.  Instead of an effect ending with just a saving throw require a skill check of an appropriate DC in the place of a saving throw.  This shows that certain characters might be able to shake off effects easier than others. Again, if you are using this you’ll likely want to keep the DC in the easy-moderate range and consider adjusting the frequency and strength.


Wounds are something I’ve been toying with but having figured out exactly how I want them to work.  The basic idea is that a wound is the opposite of a temporary hit point.  A wound decreases the characters maximum health value, but on the front end instead of the back-end.  Unlike temporary hit points, wounds would stack.

As an example, the defender conveniently has 100/100 hit points making his bloodied value 50 and healing surge 25.  He gets hit by an attack which wounds him for 10 health.  His health is now 90(-10)/100 meaning he cannot gain health above 90.  His healing surge value and bloodied value are unaffected by the wounds.

The duration of wounds is currently undetermined.  I haven’t instituted them at all yet, but I do think I want to.  I believe I will work off of milestones or extended rests and allow endurance checks to remove them (1 wound per 5 or 10?).  Of course heal would be able to help, but I don’t want it to obsolete the endurance check.  I want endurance to be worthwhile.

If you’re going to use this, use it sparingly.  Wounding attacks should probably be encounter only or require specific conditions to use.  A wounding can deal regular damage as well, but shouldn’t deal more than a few points of wounds, perhaps no more than 5 per tier.


I'll take that saving throw any time now.

Healing surges are a representation of your characters ability to get back up and get into the fray, not necessarily their ability to close wounds.  If your characters are traveling across a large desert or wasteland without proper provisions it isn’t appropriate for them to just rest for a few hours in order to recover themselves completely even if they are losing healing surges from the environment and have to sooner.  As they become more exhausted or suffer from heat stroke they’ll become fatigued much quicker than in ideal conditions.  If they are exhausted, their maximum healing surges are reduced.

Energy Drain

Perhaps the character is fighting a wight or powerful vampire.  Sure, losing a healing surge is going to make them want to rest sooner but it isn’t nearly as menacing as the classic level drain.  There are three choice for dealing energy drain.

  1. The character takes a -1 penalty to all d20 rolls.  save ends, ends with a rest, ends with a skill check, ends with a skill check at a rest, your choice.  This will add up quickly.
  2. The character loses access to an encounter power.  Perhaps for the remainder of the day or encounter or (save ends).  Maybe they cannot use any encounter powers until they save!  There are many possible variants
  3. The character’s healing surge value is decreased.  This won’t have much of an immediate impact, unless you do a heavy amount and give it a short duration, but the effects can be devastating.  With enough penalties to anything your players will likely rethink their strategies.


Michael McElrath

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