Whilst building a Dex-based Fighter (an Arcane Archer), I decided to pick the Resilient feat at level 4 so that I could have proficiency in Dexterity saving throws, which makes sense given that they are a Dex-based character. Then I thought about how odd it was that they had proficiency in Strength saving throws just because they're a Fighter even though they're not a Str-based character. Sure, it makes sense for a lot of Fighters, but not all of them.

Therefore, I'm considering introducing a new homebrew rule for whenever I'm running a game and a player of mine wants to make a Dex-based Fighter:

Saving Throws: Strength or Dexterity (your choice), Constitution

The "choice" would be made at level 1 (I don't plan on allowing them to switch it back and forth).


Given that this class is the only one listed under the Multiclassing section in the PHB (pg. 163) has having an "or" in their requirements ("Strength 13 or Dexterity 13"), this seems to fit the intent that Fighters aren't tied to Strength.

The Battlemaster archetype (PHB, pg. 73) also allows either for the saving throw for some maneuvers, again implying that Fighters are supposed to be flexible regarding using Strength or Dexterity:

Maneuver save DC: 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice)"


Would there be any problems with this? They would still be outclassed in Dexterity saving throws by Rogues and Monks once they get Evasion, so I don't see this stepping on their toes too much (at least not at higher levels), but on the other hand no class RAW allows a choice in saving throw proficiency like this, so would there be any other problems I'm overlooking?

  • A non-homebrew option would be to have the player take the Resilient Feat for Dexterity. Human variants could take the feat at level 1. – Rykara Nov 13 at 22:17
up vote 48 down vote accepted

Yes, it would be unbalanced. Dex, Con, and Wis are the major saving throw types, of which each class has one. Str, Int, and Cha are minor saving throws, which don't come up as often.

Str saving throws are needed for only 21 of the spells in 5e, mainly to avoid forced movement, falling prone or be restrained. Such spells include Dust Devil, Earthbind, and Control Winds. On the other hand, Dex saves are needed for 64 spells, mainly to avoid damage, such as Fireball, Lightning Bolt, and Disintegrate.

If you want to switch one out, I would suggest Dex for Con.

  • 8
    That's a good point; I just reviewed all the classes and they all have one from the "major" list and one from the "minor" list. I still don't know about Dex for Con, since the point of my suggestion was that Str didn't make as much sense for a Dex-based character; then again, Monks and Rangers both have Str saving throws despite being frequently considered Dex-based character (Monks definitely, Rangers often) so perhaps I'm overthinking this... – NathanS Nov 13 at 15:42
  • @NathanS You could have a STR based monk, you just wouldn't benefit a lot from unarmored defense in that case; If you somehow got armor and shield proficiencies it'd even be reasonable (although you'd probably have to multiclass for that) – Cubic Nov 13 at 17:24
  • Well, you probably are overthinking it, but maybe just look at what Str saving throws are abstracting differently. Diagetically, they're usually pretty different from Str ability checks. Like @bvstuart said, they're mostly about avoiding forced movement -- as in, keeping your footing and keeping your balance. This is often more technique than sheer muscle mass. Does caber tossing prepare you for sudden, forced shifts to you footing better than fencing or aikido? It isn't immediately clear to me that that's the case at all. – theCrazing Nov 13 at 18:03
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    While this answer is pretty good, I think it's unfinished. Getting the player Dex is only half the problem; getting him off Str (which makes no sense for him), is the other half. Since you're looking at one major, one minor, how do Dex and either Int or Cha proficiency sound, OP? – Michael W. Nov 13 at 18:39
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    @Michael Dex and Int would make sense for an Arcane Archer, now that you mention it; however, at this point, it's almost like suggesting that a Fighter can pick whatever they like (with the restriction of one major, one minor), which I think would be unbalanced, so I'm happy with this answer pointing out the balance issues I didn't originally see. – NathanS Nov 13 at 20:54

It is unbalanced to trade STR saves for DEX saves.

The three common saving throws are DEX, CON, and WIS. The three uncommon saving throws are STR, INT, and CHA. Every character class gets proficiency in one of the three common saves and one of the three uncommon saves. For example, the Fighter gets CON as its common save and STR as its uncommon save.

If you allowed the Fighter to replace STR with DEX, they would then have DEX and CON saves, which are both common saves, making them far better at saving throws than other characters. This would overpower the Fighter relative to other characters.

However, you can swap in a pair of saves from another class.

The following are the saving throw proficiencies for each class, grouped by those classes with the same proficiencies. What you can do is allow your Fighter to take both proficiencies from another class with a DEX save instead of those from the Fighter class.

  • Barbarian & Fighter: STR, CON
  • Bard: DEX, CHA
  • Cleric, Paladin, & Warlock: WIS, CHA
  • Druid & Wizard: INT, WIS
  • Monk & Ranger: STR, DEX
  • Rogue: DEX, INT
  • Sorcerer: CON, CHA

In your case, you could allow the Fighter to take DEX and CHA saves (like a Bard), STR and DEX saves (like a Monk or Ranger), or DEX and INT saves (like a Rogue) without breaking anything in the game. Even though you're giving them DEX saves, you're taking away CON saves and replacing them with something less beneficial (CHA, STR, or INT).

Whichever pair you choose from the options described above, the Fighter still only has one common save and one uncommon save. Moreover, although DEX, CON, and WIS saves don't have the same frequency in the game, the game is balanced in such a way that each of those saves is more or less as useful as each other. (In other words, after swapping saves in the way I've described, you shouldn't have to worry that the Fighter is significantly more or less powerful than any other Fighter, just different. If you sat down and crunched the numbers, you might find that the Fighter has become slightly more or less powerful, but not in a way that would be problematic at the table.)

Note that the pair of CON and INT and the pair of STR and WIS shouldn't be problematic, either, but no class in the core game uses either of those pairs (although some Unearthed Arcana supplements have done so). It really shouldn't matter what pair you pick as long as it includes one common and one uncommon save. The reason I listed all the existing pairs in the game above is that it's easier to get a feel for the theme behind each pair when there's already a class that goes with it, whereas coming up with a pair on your own requires you to ascertain that feel for yourself.

I don't understand why you think that STR save proficiency doesn't make sense for a DEX based character or why a DEX save proficiency makes sense.

Compare with a wizard: they get INT and WIS, even if they are INT based and likely to dump WIS.

In other words, the source of proficiency is your class, not your ability scores; you spent time working on a specific discipline and therefore are able to handle the situations covered by those saves better than most.

Neither is having proficiency in a main save necessarily a good thing; you become better at it, and for a major save it's of course nice, but, one the other hand, you might want a save in an unused score to round up your weaknesses.

bvstuart mentioned why it would be unbalanced, but also consider the potential for multiclassing; a level 1 dip in fighter is already attractive for armour, second wind, and the CON save (plus fighting style); adding a DEX save makes it even better.

Nevertheless, I'd approach it this way:

  1. 1 ASI + proficiency in DEX is worth 2 ASI (Resilient feat), therefore the proficiency is worth 1 ASI.
  2. The STR prof is worth less than the DEX prof.
  3. Skilled gives you prof to 3 skills

Therefore, gain prof in DEX (1 ASI) in exchange for prof in one skill + STR (0.6 ASI + <1 ASI). Perhaps a bit steep but we also haven't considered that it's a choice the character can make and flexibility is worth something as well.

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    The trade you propose is not "steep"; it's a trade almost any character would make with a great deal of enthusiasm. – Miniman Nov 13 at 21:08
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    If I remember correctly (I don't have the rulebook on hand), multiclassing in 5e does not grant you the class's saving throw proficiencies. – BBeast Nov 14 at 4:25
  • @BBeast indeed, but you can effectively pick the saving throws of any of your classes by having your first level in that one. – falsedot Nov 14 at 17:22

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