How to Determine Saving Throws in DnD 5e

Dungeons and Dragons’ Saving Throws may seem like a weird mechanic at first.

“Why should I roll to avoid X ? Can’t the dungeon master just tell me what happens?”

I’m sure many players have asked themselves this question before, but the reason that saving throws are there is exactly to give more options and avenues for the player and the DM.

Sure the DM can tell you what happens. But it’s more fun if you decide your own destiny, which is the model that DnD is built upon. So let’s find out what exactly they are.

What are Saving Throws?

In simple terms. Saving Throws are what you have to roll to avoid a certain effect that is about to happen to you.
The strength saving throw, dexterity saving throw, intelligence saves, and constitution saving throw are all part of this mechanic.
The effects that saving throws protect you from most of the time are undesirable to both you and your party – if it were desirable you wouldn’t have to make a saving throw now would you?

Examples of this are when your walk into a trap or an unexpected event happens that shocks your character, or a calamity about to unfold that will get your entire party either incapacitated or killed.

Also, avoid spell dcs. As there are other factors in play with those that we will discuss in their relevant guides.

Page 179 of the Player’s Handbook explains this mechanic best, what we are interested in now are the basic mechanics of it.

But how are They Calculated?

Saving Throws are calculated by rolling a d20 dice. You add your Ability Score modifier and any Proficiency Bonus if they are applicable. In other words. When making your ability check, add any relevant class abilities, dexterity modifier, saving throw modifiers, and or the appropriate ability modifier.

That’s the gist of it at least. Now comes the number-crunching again.

You have to roll against something right? Well, that something is called a DC or Difficulty Class. The Difficulty Class goes from DC 5 which is considered very easy all the way up to DC 30 which is considered practically impossible. Simply put, the higher the Difficulty Class – the less of a chance you have of actually succeeding in your check.

What all this means is that rolling a DC 5 check is a walk in the park, as 25% of the numbers on a d20 are in the range of 1 through 5. It is for this exact same reason that rolling a DC 20 is considered hard. As there’s only a 5% chance of the player actually landing it. This same principle is the reason DC 25 and 30 are considered nearly impossible. As achieving those without modifiers is impossible.

Death Saving Throws.

Sometimes you simply cannot just avoid damage.
Death Saving Throws or death saves, are a special kind of throw that occurs once a character’s hit points reach 0. They then have to make a roll to determine if their character just suffers a knockout or a fatality.

These don’t have Ability Score modifiers on them, so you simply have to get lucky 3 times on your rolls. Achieving 3 rolls higher than 10 is considered successful and you just get incapacitated. Fail 3 rolls and you die, simple as that.
There are no other modifiers that can help you with this – if you get a lower roll, then tough luck.

Examples of Saving Throws

Dungeons and Dragons is very intuitive in regards to this. What stat you will have to roll with is determined entirely by the context of the situation (and how much your DM wants to torture you.)

It’s best to learn with examples, so here is a tiny list.

  • Holding a door from a gang of goblins: A gang of goblins is trying to storm into the room you are in with your party, and they have caught you unarmed. You jump in front of the door and brace upon it to stop them. For this, the DM may ask you to perform a strength check.
  • Avoiding a trap: So you’ve stepped into a trap? Happens to the best of us. The DM might ask you to perform a dexterity save.
  • Resisting poisoned food: You ate something rotten, a constitution check could help you survive.
  • Resisting the effects of certain spells: Don’t want your brains to become scrambled eggs from a feeblemind spell? That’s an intelligence check.
  • Deciphering an ancient scroll: Might require a wisdom check from your DM.
  • Want to seduce a troll?: That’ll be a few charisma saves.

Here are just some examples of situations that may require a saving throw. Of course, those are determined by the whim of your DM; but now at least you know how they work and how to use them.

Barring follow up comments, go out there and abuse them for some fun…

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