Sunday, March 6, 2011

Save Points in Tabletop RPG's.

It's been a little while since I've mused a bit on RPG's in general, so today I want to discuss the concept of a save point in a tabletop RPG. Save points, for those who don't play video games, are spots in a game specifically set there by the designers so that someone can basically jump back to that point in the game if they either a.) want to stop playing for the time being or b.) die later in the game and can thus avoid having to restart and play through the entire game. There are really two ways to handle saves in video games. Either a player can save a game at any given point or every once in a while a player runs up to... you know... that thing in the corner (see the small flamey thing right) clicks "save" and is good to go. Of course in video games, a lot of the time you'll be playing simply for learning and overcoming the challenge of the actual skill of playing. You play, save, go and die, load your saved game, and try again. With the possible exception of an RPG set-up like D&D 4th Ed. Dungeon Delves where the play really is in overcoming the challenges set before you, usually games focus quite a bit on the story aspect of the game.

So how can we apply this to our own tabletop games? Is it worth applying to tabletop games? To be honest, I'm not sure, but I know you can't know until you give something a try when it comes to tabletop RPG's. Something could sound really terrible and just plain dumb, but without exception (except F.A.T.A.L.), I'll try anything at the table at least once.

There's an inherent flaw in the idea of a Save Point for a tabletop game, at least from my point of the view. One of the best things about the hobby is, as a group, discovering the mystery as put forth by the GM. The flip side of this story-telling emphasis is that I also want my actions to matter in the game. The old cliche that the players are the star of the game and the game's story rings quite true. A save point takes all the consequence out of the game if, after a bad decision, I can just go back and take the left where I mistakenly took the right, then each decision isn't really a decision at all, it's just trial-and-error.

So here's my thought: give the power of the Save Point to the GM for those rare times when the players may be fighting a game-ending enemy or enemies. But there's a couple of caveats.

1. Each GM only gets a set, small number of Save Points per campaign (like 5 or 10 tops).

2. The GM never tells the players when a Save Point has been used, only that there are Save Points out there at the start of the campaign.

3. Save Points cannot be used on bosses. Obviously this will depend on the type of game being played and general genre tropes involved, but the point of this rule is that the emphasis of the Save point is on the fights that don't matter as much to the story. It's basically just a way to do a do-over for a small-time fight that went bad.

So, what do you think? I'm not sure if it's really worth your time to include - it'll definitely depend on your group. For those who need rules to stick to and justify how the game is played, this at least gives you some  justification for not finishing a campaign on a sour note. Oh! I forgot one more rule:

4. No Save Points in Call of Cthulhu. Nothing, not even GM Fiat, can save you from Nyarlathotep.



  1. Time travel. Save points are a form of time travel that is limited in a particular way, and can only be used within certain limits.

  2. Awesome! I love it. It actually gives your characters a reason why they would go a different route as well. Very good, elegant idea.

  3. I really don't like save points for a game. If you die, that's pretty much it. Just make a new character for next game and continue on. As for if the entire group dies, I really don't know.


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