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I'm fairly new to the game and just ran a first session with my group.

I know that you typically have to match or beat a DC in order to "save" or "succeed."

When it comes to things like Dispel Magic, is it a straight roll for the DC or do you add anything to it?

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An 'ability check using your spellcasting ability' means making an ability check using the ability (Str/Dex/Con/Int/Wis/Cha) modifier associated with your spellcasting.

As an example of how this works in practice, a cleric who knows dispel magic suspects that one of their allies is afflicted by dominate person, a 5th level spell. They cast dispel magic on their ally to try and remove it.

Since they're using a 3rd level dispel magic against a 5th level spell, they need to make a spellcasting ability (specifically, in the case of a cleric, Wisdom) check (d20 + Wisdom modifier) against DC 15 (DC 10 + 5 (spell level of dominate person)). The cleric makes their roll and happen to get a total of exactly 15, meeting (thus beating) the DC and successfully dispelling dominate person.

Note that unlike ability checks for specific skills, there are very few ways to add your proficiency bonus to 'general' ability checks, so the caster's roll for dispel magic rarely has any proficiency bonus added to it. Features that may allow you to do so are things like the bard's Jack of All Trades, or the Abjuration wizard's Improved Abjuration.

Also, for clarity's sake, the DC the dispel magic caster is attempting to overcome is just a flat number based on the level of the spell being dispelled. There's no opposed roll involved in the dispel attempt/the caster of the 'opposing' spell does not get to make their own roll to prevent the dispel magic from having an effect.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll just note that having a luckstone attuned will also give you a bonus for the ability check. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Jun 14 '19 at 0:25
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The wording of Dispel Magic reads (emphases mine):

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful check, the spell ends.

So you would add your spellcasting ability modifier for the ability check.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I more specifically was asking about the person who has to make the DC save. The person who has to make a save against the caster. \$\endgroup\$ – Derk Jun 13 '19 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Derk I think there may be some confusion here- there is no opposed roll. The dispel magic caster makes a spellcasting ability check against DC 10 + the target spell's level. If they beat that DC, the spell's effect is dispelled. The target gets no further chance to resist, and there is no roll to modify the DC itself. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jun 13 '19 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Derk No one makes a "save" in this instance. Think of it like the target is actually the spell-effect, not the person who created it. So in order for Dispeller to beat the spell-effect, they need to roll 10+spell level or higher \$\endgroup\$ – Sir Cinnamon Jun 13 '19 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ohkay I think I understand now so can you give me an example of how, "make an ability check using your spellcasting ability" would work in game? \$\endgroup\$ – Derk Jun 13 '19 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Derk Sure; a cleric who knows dispel magic suspects that one of their allies is afflicted by dominate person, a 5th level spell. They cast dispel magic on their ally to try and remove it. Since they're using a 3rd level dispel magic against a 5th level spell, they need to make an ability (specifically, in the case of a cleric, Wisdom) check (d20 + wisdom modifier, no proficiency bonus) against DC 15 (DC 10 + 5 (spell level of dominate person)). The cleric makes their roll and happen to get a total of exactly 15, meeting (thus beating) the DC and successfully dispelling the spell. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jun 13 '19 at 16:55

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