A Saving Throw is a rule mechanic for avoiding, negating or lessening a harmful effect by making a throw (roll) of the die. The nature at what can be "saved" against varies by edition-to-edition.

Saving Throws by Edition[edit | edit source]

Original Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

Even before Dungeons & Dragons was a published product, saving throws was an essential element of the game, and was even used in place of Armor Class: A Save vs Normal Attacks. With the introduction of the Chainmail medieval-fantasy wargame for combat resolution, that save was discontinued. Saving throws listed specific effects as "save vs [type of attack]". The original edition of Dungeons & Dragons had the following saves:

  • Death Ray or Poison
  • All Wands - Including Polymorph or Paralization
  • Stone
  • Dragon Breath
  • Staves & Spells

Where most of the saves will totally avoid or negate the effects on a successful save, any Save vs Dragon Breath will only negate half-damage. "Stone" is basically petrification — although the wording has caused some confusion with some players, assuming it meant "Save vs (falling) Stone".

Basic Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

The "Basic" line of Dungeons & Dragons followed the same array of attack types.

The first "Basic" Dungeons & Dragons (by J. Eric Holmes), used the following saves:

  • Spell or Magical Staff
  • Magic Wand
  • Death Ray or Poison
  • Turned to Stone
  • Dragon Breath

The second "Basic" Dungeons & Dragons (by Tom Moldvay) used the following list, which became standard with subsequent "Basic" rules:

  • Death Ray or Poison
  • Magic Wands
  • Paralysis or Turned to Stone
  • Dragon Breath
  • Rods, Staves or Spells

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, being more detailed-oriented, used the following:

  • Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic
  • Petrification or Polymorph (excluding polymorph wand attacks)
  • Rod, Staff or Wand
  • Breath Weapon (excluding those which cause petrification or polymorph)
  • Spell (excluding those for which another saving throw type is specified, such as death, petrification, polymorph, etc.)

The second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons broaden the categories of what each saving throw could cover in the Dungeon Master Guide, but left the categories intact.

Ravenloft: Realm of Terror[edit | edit source]

In the gothic horror campaign setting, Ravenloft presented rules for Fear and Terror. Fear and Terror are both Saves vs Paralyzation, with Wisdom adjustments only effecting Terror checks.

A Fear check is made when confronted with any direct threat that is of "overwhelming power or strength", like being chased by a werewolf or being surrounded by zombies. A failed check results in a character becoming fearstruck.

A Terror check is made when confronted with a disturbing scene or situation that is not a direct threat to the character, like walking into a gruesome crime scene or seeing a ghost. Effects are more long-term than fear. A failed check results in a random reaction, like revulsion, blind rage, shock, panic, etc.

They can also be made together, like seeing someone you care about dead on the floor (terror), only for the body to come to life with a taste for blood (fear), with the effects of terror outlasting the effects of fear.

Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

Much like everything else about the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the saving throw system was subject to a major paradigm shift. Instead of specific categories of attack, saving throws became three broad categories:

  • Fortitude (Fort) deals with anything the effects the body, like disease and poisons.
  • Reflexes (Ref) is used to quickly avoid attacks and hazards, like pit traps and breath weapons.
  • Willpower (Will) is one's resistance to mind-altering or mind-controlling effects, like the sleep spell or the intimidate skill.

Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

The fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons uses the same save as third edition, but introduces the Death Save. A Death Save is a special multi-roll save to negate death.

Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons[edit | edit source]

Saving throws in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons is a simple ability check roll with a proficiency bonus, if the save falls into a class's favored save ability.

With this, characters can turn "bend bars/life heavy gates" rolls from past editions into saving throws by their own right. Likewise, Charisma saves serve as a savoir-faire against social faux pas. This approach makes saves open-ended and easier to work with.

Classes have two favored save abilities:

Class Saving Throw Proficiencies
Barbarian Strength & Constitution
Bard Dexterity & Charisma
Cleric Wisdom & Charisma
Druid Intelligence & Wisdom
Fighter Strength & Constitution
Monk Strength & Dexterity
Paladin Wisdom & Charisma
Ranger Strength & Dexterity
Rogue Dexterity & Intelligence
Sorcerer Constitution & Charisma
Warlock Wisdom & Charisma
Wizard Intelligence & Wisdom
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