I've just started Playing D&D and the DM has given me inaccurate information so I need some clarification. My character is a Cleric with Wisdom 19 and follows the Trickster domain. My spellcasting modifier I think is calculated by using my proficiency bonus plus my Wisdom modifier plus the spell level. Which I think means, when casting a level 1 spell, I add +4 to it.

I'm trying to help my friend and he's playing as a wizard. Assuming what is above is accurate, does he just swaps out wisdom for intelligence, and that's how he determines his spellcasting modifier?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're going to cite specific numbers it would be helpful if you also provided some example attributes, level and proficiency to go with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cyberspark
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Where did you read that the spell level is included? That's not part of the rules for the spell save DC, maybe you were reading about a different RPG or past version of D&D where you saw that? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CaptainMan I didn't see the cover of the book but The DM said it was a D&D book. It looked rather old so I'm guessing it was a past version of D&D. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ 5e is the only edition with a spellcasting proficiency bonus that I know of, so I would assume that it was a 5e book, which is the most current edition. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 0:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mooing Duck it could have been a second hand copy and worn out. In any case I bought the players handbook today so I no longer have solely on him or people on this website who I'm sure get tired of awnsering basic questions like this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 7:53

4 Answers 4


In 5th edition D&D, all calculations are basically the same for similar purposes.

Spell casters always use the same calculation with their "spellcasting modifier" being based on the specific attribute that their spells are based on. This is Intelligence for Wizards and Wisdom for Clerics.

The proficiency modifier will start at a +2. Many, if not most, characters will start with a +3 in their spellcasting attribute, though some builds will have a +2.

That said, spell level is not used in these checks (For Clerics, you can look at page 22 of the Basic Rules).

The two relevant calculations are as follows:

  • Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

  • Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

The spell save is the difficulty for others to resist your spells. The spell attack is for rolls to hit the opponent's armor class with your spells.

Wizards are listed on page 30 of the basic rules and state:

  • Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
  • Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

As you can see, they are identical, save your spellcasting ability for the class being different.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP is asking for "spellcasting modifier" which could as easily mean "spellcasting ability modifier", which you don't mention. See my answer for more detail. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ That would be a minor semantic detail to clarify. I used the term "spellcasting modifier" in quotes because it was the OPs terminology, but quoted the Basic Rules directly for their calculations. You can add a line about spellcasting ability modifier vs spellcasting modifier to my answer if you choose. I simply didn't consider the difference significant enough to warrant a comment. I do get your point, though, and pedantically, you are accurate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviose
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 21:30

The cleric and wizard calculate their spellcasting numbers the same way

The way to calculate the cleric and wizard spellcasting ability is defined on pages 58 and 114 of the Player's Handbook respectively. The only difference is that the cleric uses Wisdom and the wizard uses Intelligence.

  • For spells with an attack modifier (e.g. a ray you shoot at a target), the bonus is equal to your proficiency bonus (at level 1, this is +2) plus your Int modifier (for wizard) or Wis modifier (for cleric). You would roll 1d20 plus this modifier to see if you hit.
  • For spells with a save DC (e.g. charm person, the opponent rolls a saving through against your fixed number), the DC is equal to 8 plus your proficiency bonus plus your Int or Wis modifier.

For example, take a 1st level cleric with 15 Wis, so his Wis modifier is +2 and his proficiency bonus is also +2:

  • If he casts inflict wounds, the spell calls for a melee spell attack, for which he rolls 1d20+4 (+2 from proficiency, +2 from Wis).
  • If he casts command, the spell requires the target creature to make a saving throw, which must succeed at a DC of 12 (base 8, +2 proficiency, +2 Wis).

Note that neither the Wis bonus nor proficiency bonus add to anything else (unless the individual spell description says they do); they don't add to spell damage, for example. Nor does the spell level add to the save DC as it did in earlier editions of D&D.

Consult Chapter 10 of the Player's Handbook for the complete rules on spellcasting.


The terminology is a bit confusing. DND5E doesn't have a technical term called "spellcasting modifier". There are three different numbers that you want to keep straight when you're thinking about spellcasting. For example, suppose Alice is a level 1 Cleric with 14 Wisdom, and Bob is a level 1 Wizard with 17 Intelligence.

  • Your spellcasting ability modifier is used for certain specific circumstances (healing with Cure Wounds, the damage bonus for Warlocks doing certain things, etc.) and to calculate the other two. It's just the modifier associated with your spellcasting ability. Alice's is +2 and Bob's is +3.
  • Your spell save DC is used when monsters have to make a saving throw to e.g. dodge one of your fireballs or resist one of your commands. This is 8 + your spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency bonus. For Alice this is 12; for Bob it's 13.
  • Your spell attack modifier is used with spells that require an attack roll, like guiding bolt or ray of frost. It's equal to your spellcasting ability modifier + your proficiency bonus. This works out to +4 for Alice, and +5 for Bob.

The save DC's are calculated the same,

however you are calculating them wrong. A save DC is calculating 8 + proficiency bonus (+2 at level 1) + spellcasting stat modifier (+3 from WIS for a cleric with 16 or 17 wisdom). For a wizard it would be 8 + proficiency + INT modifier.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, the post has been clarified. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 18:00

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