Saving throws are automatic dice rolls representing a creature’s attempt to “save” themselves from harm. They are provoked by spells, the hostile actions (other than attacks) of other creatures, or hazards like traps and surfaces. Saves are always associated with a specific ability and are always rolled against a target Difficulty Class (DC), both determined by the triggering effect. When successful, they reduce or prevent harmful effects.
Overview[edit | edit source]
All harmful effects that provoke a saving throw have an associated target number – a Difficulty Class (DC) – and an ability associated with its allowed save – referred to using terms like Strength saving throw or Dexterity save.
When attempting a saving throw, a creature rolls a d20 and adds the save's associated ability score modifier to the result. If they are proficient in saves using that ability, they add their proficiency bonus as well. If the creature is under an effect of a buff or a debuff[note 1], that effect's modifier is being added to the formula.
The result is then compared against the effect's DC, and is considered a success if it equals or exceeds that number.
Game mechanics[edit | edit source]
Saving throws represent a creature’s attempt to “save” themselves from harm. Spells and actions taken by other creatures frequently allow their targets to attempt a save, as do hazards like traps and surfaces. Each save has an associated ability – referred to using terms like Strength saving throw or Dexterity save – and a save DC that creatures attempting to save roll against. When attempting a save, a creature adds an ability score modifier corresponding to that save's associated ability, and if they are proficient in saves made using that ability, they add their proficiency bonus as well.
While the result of an attempted saving throw is always binary – it is either a success or a failure – the exact outcome of a successful save depends on the effect in question. Typically, the damage or conditions inflicted by the associated effect will be reduced in severity, and sometimes negated entirely.
Saving throws do not automatically fail or succeed on natural 1s and 20s, except when made during dialogue.
A number of features affect saving throws, and some races have advantage on certain saves.
Save proficiency[edit source]
All classes give save proficiency with two abilities. Though when multiclassing, only the first class taken gives its save proficiencies. An additional save proficiency can be gained by taking the Resilient feat.
Save DCs[edit source]
The Difficulty Class rolled against when attempting to save is called save DC. A successful save can mean completely avoiding negative effects, reducing the damage received (usually by half), or both. For example, successfully saving against a spike trap could mean that a creature takes no damage at all, because it successfully evaded the spikes. On the other hand, if it's caught in the area of effect of a Fireball, then a successful save will merely halve the damage. Saving against Thunderwave both halves the damage taken, and prevents a creature from being pushed by the spell.
Different mechanics calculate save DC differently:
- Danger save DC
- In scenarios such as traps, the game chooses an appropriate Difficulty Class, depending on how serious the danger is. This includes consumable items such as elemental arrows or throwables.
- Spell save DC
- The Difficulty Class of a spell that can be saved against is determined through the following formula:
- 8 + proficiency bonus + spellcasting ability modifier.
- Certain conditions and equipment worn by the caster can also affect their Spell Save DC.
- Weapon save DC
- Most weapons allow proficient users to perform special "weapon actions", which are typically limited to once per short rest (e.g. Backbreaker). These actions often include the chance to inflict a condition on the target, and these conditions require the target to attempt a Save to avoid them. Each weapon action can grant its own inherent bonus to DC that isn't listed anywhere, but is frequently +2. The Difficulty Class of saves allowed by weapon actions is calculated as follows:
- Certain weapon actions, notably Concussive Smash, instead allow the acting creature to either use their Spell Save DC or weapon action DC with a +2 bonus, whichever is higher.
Other effects[edit source]
In the case of threats that don't originate from a spellcaster, such as a trap or a poisonous apple, the game sets the DC based on how serious the threat is intended to be. For example, a rather ineffective trap might have a DC of just 5, whereas an effective trap could have a DC of 15. A slightly spoiled tart could impose a DC 5 Constitution save when eaten, whereas a potent venom from a snake could impose a DC 15 Constitution save on the victim.
Death saving throws[edit source]
Death saving throws are a special type of saving throw made by playable characters and companions after they have been Downed. Death saves are made once per turn while the character remains Downed, and when the character takes damage while Downed. Three successful saves will let a creature stabilize, no longer needing to make death saves to survive, and three failures will lead to the creature becoming Dead.
Death saving throws are not associated with an ability score and so don't get any modifiers, nor do they benefit from the proficiency bonus. They only benefit from bonuses that apply to all saving throws (such as Bless) or specifically to death saves (such as Family Ring). Death saves are always DC 10. A character dies when three failures are accumulated, or stabilizes when three successes are accumulated, whichever happens first.Death saving throws can be critical failures and critical successes. A natural 1 rolled for a death save will add two failures to a character's death save count, while a natural 20 will immediately stabilize the character regardless of their current death save count.