Say a character is in agonising pain through torture, and they try to hide it to appear strong to the torturer: what roll should that be?

I was thinking it would be a Will save, but I can't match it to Wisdom in my head. I can match it to a Constitution save, but thinking about it, Con saves are more for body durability. It could just be a roll for Deception, but in agonising pain, I feel Charisma isn't the ability.

So which roll should be made to hide pain so great it would make even the strongest man squirm?


3 Answers 3


A Constitution saving throw is fine

Constitution saving throws are already used when checking if a spellcaster's concentration breaks when hit by an attack, so they can be considered an established option for checking if one's mind stays focused when in pain.

Alternatively, you can use the variant rules on Player's Handbook page 175 and make it a Constitution (Deception) check, which works like a normal deception check except the attribute modifier added is the one of Constitution, not of Charisma.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Especially like the variant of changing the ability score tied to a skill, something i wish i had more opportunity to do. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2017 at 0:13

Painful spell effects require CON or WIS save to negate them:

Turn the Faithless:

You can use your Channel Divinity to utter ancient words that are painful for fey and fiends to hear. As an action, you present your holy symbol, and each fey or fiend within 30 feet of you that can hear you must make a Wisdom saving throw.

Dissonant Whispers:

You whisper a discordant melody that only one creature of your choice within range can hear, wracking it with terrible pain. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw.

Finger of death:

You send negative energy coursing through a creature that you can see within range, causing it searing pain. The target must make a Constitution saving throw.


When a creature enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it is engulfed in ghostly flames that cause searing pain, and it must make a Constitution saving throw.

However, the Blinding Sickness Contagion painful effect imposes disadvantage on Wisdom saving throws:

Pain grips the creature's mind, and its eyes turn milky white. The creature has disadvantage on Wisdom checks and Wisdom saving throws and is blinded

As the result, in case of pure pain I'd say CON saving throw is more appropriate.

According to Philipp's comment, "wisdom saving throws are used against memetic pain effects while constitution saving throws are used against physical pain effects".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Its not about not taking damage though. Its about not showing the pain as it is delivered. \$\endgroup\$
    – Timi
    Jul 2, 2017 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Timi That would still be under the purview of a saving throw. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Jul 2, 2017 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ The pattern here seems to be that wisdom saving throws are used against memetic pain effects while constitution saving throws are used against physical pain effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Jul 3, 2017 at 11:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Did you just ctrl+F the PHB for "pain"? lol \$\endgroup\$
    – Timi
    Jul 3, 2017 at 19:50

So which roll should be made to hide pain so great it would make even the strongest man squirm?

As always, things not covered explicitly by the rules are down to the DM, but here are my thoughts on the matter:

Constitution, measuring endurance (PHB p.171)

A con save would allow a character to resist the torture, from a strength of body point of view, but would not allow them to hide the pain they are feeling which is quite real and will have clear physiological effects. Constitution measures the ability to endure physical hardship, not fool anyone. A con save would allow them not to "break", but not to lie convincingly about what they are feeling.

Wisdom, measuring perception and insight (PHB p.171)

I agree with you that a wis save is not right. It is not a measure of will power. The reason it is used to save against fear and charm effects is having the wisdom, the insight, to see it for the magic it is, or for the folly of panicing in the face of disaster or responding to the feelings of love etc. to someone you didn't moments before. It is not force of will and would not help resist torture.

Charisma, measuring force of personality (PHB p.171)

A cha save, however, would serve to resist the torture, looking at it from a force of personality perspective. It would be down to the DM to decide if a successful save meant that the character showed the pain or not, but I would say not as this is not the purpose of saving throws: they are resistance to adversity not active abilities. The fact that the character needs to make the save means that the pain is quite real real and so great it threatens to "break" them. It is avoiding "breaking" and spilling the beans that they are saving against.

Deception (PHB p.178)

Your Charisma (Deception) check determines whether you can convincingly hide the truth, either verbally or through your actions. This deception can encompass everything from misleading others through ambiguity to telling outright lies.

What would really allow the character to hide the pain, or even fool/tell a lie to satisfy the torturer, would be a cha(deception) roll. If the character has "broken" (failed their save) then they have lost the ability to choose to lie or fool the torturer, but otherwise they can pretend that the torture has no real effect depending on what they are trying to achieve. They could pretend to break and lie about whatever the torturer is asking (if anything).

So I would ask two rolls of the character to do what you ask, one to save against "breaking" and one to deceive their torturer into believing that they feel no pain.

ps. on a side note I have often thought that cha saves often are vastly under-rated for the exact reasons given above. Charisma is the closest to a will power stat that D&D has.


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