How Saving Throws Work | How to Determine Saving Throws 5E

How to Determine Saving Throws 5E

In Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, saving throws changed from being based on 3 ability scores, to being based on all of them. Spells and traps can target your Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saves. That means your character’s body is naturally trying to defend itself. Whether that means you’re diving out of the way, or trying to fight a disease, or attempting to force something out of your mind, that’s up to the effect. Saving throws are invoked upon something trying to mess with you without you being willing. And they happen a lot. That’s why it’s important to determine what your Saving Throws are. Learn more with our How to Determine Saving Throws 5E Guide.

How to Determine Saving Throws 5E

Your saving throws start, like most skill checks, with your basic Ability modifier. Unlike skill checks, you can’t just choose to be proficient in your Saving Throws. Your class determines what two saving throws you start with proficiency in. For example, Barbarians are proficient in Strength and Constitution saving throws. A level 1 Dwarf Barbarian with 16 Strength has a Strength saving throw of +5 (+3 Strength, +2 Proficiency).

However, if that same Dwarf became a Wizard instead of a Barbarian, they wouldn’t be proficient. Instead, they would have a Strength saving throw of +3 (+3 Strength).

Any Other Modifiers?

At level 6, the Paladin adds their Charisma bonus to any creature making saving throws within their Aura of Protection.

There are extremely few ways (and fewer magic items) that increase your Saving Throw modifier. You can get advantage with saving throws, with magical items such as the Cloak of Resistance (or racial abilities like Gnome Cunning), but this is it.

There are ways to get more proficiencies, so you can have your Proficiency Bonus effect more saves. The Monk becomes proficient in all saving throws at level 14 (and allows you to reroll failed saves). Some classes, like the Samurai Fighter, gain proficiencies through class abilities. The Resilient feat boosts a stat and gives you proficiency in that stat’s saving throw. 

What Saving Throws are Important?

There are three saving throws that matter more than all the others; Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom. Dexterity save is the most common save to avoid damage. Constitution avoids diseases and death-effects. Wisdom avoids mind-control and effects that cause you to lose turns. While Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma are still useful, they save you from far fewer effects than the other three. That’s why every class has one of the first list and one of the second; they give you a good and a bad saving throw.

If you wish to prioritize what saves to get, I personally prioritize;

Intelligence < Charisma = Strength < Dexterity < Constitution = Wisdom

Intelligence has a tiny list of spells that affect it, as does Charisma. Strength has the most, but Charisma’s saves tend to be against more impactful effects. Dexterity has the most spells that target it in the game, but most of the spells deal hitpoint damage and can be healed. Constitution can kill your character through conditions and “you die” effects, while Wisdom is important against Dominate and Charm effects.

See Also: How Many Bonus Actions Per Turn in 5E?

Wrapping Up Saving Throws

Saving Throws can be hard to boost, but you don’t need min-maxed numbers to avoid Spell DCs. The DCs for saves are usually quite easy if you’re Proficient and not at 8 with the ability score.

Please don’t take my list of saving throw priorities as fact. Situations vary, and a character with super high Constitution might not need Constitution save proficiency to be good at it. Make sure your character is effective in combat before you start putting feats into saving throw proficiencies. It’s better to be able to take out the threat before it starts casting, after all!

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