In Curse of Strahd, in Amber Temple,

the player characters can interact with amber sarcophagi and make deals with the vestiges trapped within them to gain dark gifts. Some of these dark gifts allow you to cast spells (only those in the X33 areas, found on pp. 191-193; the dark gifts gained from area X42 are different in nature and are not relevant to this question).

The descriptions of these dark gifts do not make any mention of a spell save DC, should the dark gift allow the casting of a spell. For a player who has a spellcasting class, I guess you can just use their class's spell save DC (that's what I ruled when this came up the other day, although if they had different spell save DCs if they were multiclassed, which one?), but for non-spellcasting classes, clearly they have no spell save DC from their class.

For some of these spells, clearly a spell save DC isn't relevant, such as:

mind blank (X33b; North Sarcophagus) or raise dead (X33a; East Sarcophagus)

but for others, it is, such as:

lightning bolt (X33a; South Sarcophagus) or suggestion (X33b; South Sarcophagus)

but it doesn't seem to mention anything about a spell save DC for these spells anywhere, either in each specific dark gift's description nor in the general information about dark gifts in the sidebar on p. 191.

Am I missing something, or is there another way to determine what these spell save DCs should be?


1 Answer 1



From Curse of Strahd:

A dark gift functions like a charm (see “Supernatural Gifts” in chapter 7, “Treasure,” of the Dungeon Master’s Guide).

OK so looking at the DMG about Charms:

If a charm lets you cast a spell, you are able to do so without spending a spell slot or providing any components (verbal, somatic, or material). In any case, a charm can’t be used in the area created by an antimagic field or a similar effect, and a charm’s effects are susceptible to dispel magic and the like. But the charm itself can’t be removed from a creature by anything short of divine intervention or the wish spell.

Neat they don't need components, but doesn't help us.

Below I will give suggestions and their reasoning.

Use Any Existing Spellcasting Ability

I would fall back on the default magic item rule: Pick any of your existing spellcasting ability scores. This interpretation, while originally meant for specific magical items grants the player agency in its use. And means it should effective and easy to use.

A magic item, such as certain staffs, may require you to use your own spellcasting ability when you cast a spell from the item. If you have more than one spellcasting ability, you choose which one to use with the item. If you don't have a spellcasting ability - perhaps you're a rogue with the Use Magic Device feature - your spellcasting ability modifier is +0 for the item, and your proficiency bonus does apply.

Use Spell Scroll DC

Looking at charms in general, they often grant temporary or permanent access to a magic item, without the physical item. As such it would be logical to assume charms granting access to spells could be considered access to spell scrolls and the ability to use them

So it would be sensible to use the spell scroll DC for scroll that would allow access to that spell. It is also easy to use as you can just effectively give the player a number of spell scrolls of the ability (with the knowledge they are charms instead of physical scrolls).

Use Charisma Spellcasting Ability

Charisma is involved with the gifts already by their saves. It is also a statistic commonly associated with innate spellcasting. Further, its also used by warlocks, which channel powers gifted by other (non-divine) beings.

Use Constitution Spellcasting Ability

If you envision the gifts granted as enabling the PC to power the gifts through their own life force or energy, Constitution is also a valid ability score to associate with it, as it also is sometimes used with innate spellcasting.

Use No Spellcasting Ability

Very technically, this is likely the "correct" answer. If you are granted the ability to cast a spell, but not granted a spellcasting ability for that spell, the game actually has a method of resolving that situation in the DMG, already quoted, but here again in brief

If you don't have a spellcasting ability - perhaps you're a rogue with the Use Magic Device feature - your spellcasting ability modifier is +0 for the item, and your proficiency bonus does apply.

I cannot suggest this method as it decreases the effectiveness (and fun) of the gift, and is unlikely to be the intended effectiveness of the gift. But it is likely the "As Written" solution.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Charisma is the saving throw you make when getting the gifts. It is also the spellcasting ability associated with direct channelling of other powers (Warlocks). The Con is if you decide that the spellcasting is a gift granted innately to the person and is powered by their own essence/lifeforce. Charisma and Con are common innate spellcasting abilities. Int is usually associated with practiced spell casting, while wisdom is associated with divine spellcasting, neither of those make sense with a gifted source of magic (from a non-divine source). \$\endgroup\$
    – Daveman
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't really go into them because the reasoning is really soft-lore vs hard rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daveman
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's fair enough, was just curious to see your reasoning. \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 12:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ RAW, the answer is likely you treat it like a rogue using a magic item, you have a +0 spell casting ability bonus. But that is like the antithesis of fun and obviously an oversight so I would never suggest it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daveman
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 12:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I reformatted the answer to give each suggestion its own section, as well as included the option of granting no spellcasting ability \$\endgroup\$
    – Daveman
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 13:46

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