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From reading the current preview of the "Basic Rules" it looks like each ability score is now granted the possibility of being connected to a Saving Throw. In fact, certain classes get proficiency with a saves against a given attribute, such as a Fighter getting proficiency in saves for STR and CON. So instead of Reflex/Fort/Will saves, we have a save for each ability score.

At first glance, I really like this idea. A spell should clearly be able to be "defended" by something other than just DEX/CON/WIS.

However, I looked through the existing spell list and all of spells use only DEX/CON/WIS for saves.

What's going on here? Is this on purpose? Is this an oversight?

Why give Fighters proficiency in STR saves and then not print a single spell that uses that stat? (Note that Web appears to allow an STR "check" but not an STR "save" to escape, though this may be a mistake.)


My driver for this question was the oddity of inventing STR saves or INT saves and then not printing a single spell in the Basic set that used them. Based on the answers below, there are spells printed in the "playtest" set that do use these saves. So there is some reference material for what should be a STR save.

However, the answers below have even more and better information.

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Six saving throws instead of three is by design, intended to emphasize the ability scores, and new usages are likely to come up in future expansions.

Why

Associating saving throws with ability scores makes the scores more relevant, or at least come up a lot more often. It has been six saving throws since the first playtest rules.

Quoting the transcript of an early seminar back in 2012:

Monte: We wanted to distill down the essence of D&D. We wanted to make sure that the ability scores and their modifiers had a big influence.
(...)
A couple of days ago I talked a little bit about how we want the core mechanic of the game to be the interaction between the DM and the player. And one of the great tools for that is the ability score.
(...)
Monte: Making a saving throw against something has become something that’s really a part of D&D. So again, what we’ve done is tie those into the ability scores.

It has other benefits, such as less terms to learn or more varied defense. But the main reason to deviate from 3e and 4e, despite the costs, is likely for the reason quoted above.

Where

The playtest had spells that are not included in Basic, and among them you can find uses for the other three saving throws. For example, Gust of Wind requires a Strength save, while Banishment and Holy Word ask for a Charisma save.

Apart from spells, monsters' abilities also call for saving throws. For example, in the playtest the Mind Flayer's Mind Blast calls for an Intelligence saving throw from each victim. Or the Water Elemental, when it pushes you, forces you to make a Strength saving throw.

Monsters are not included in Basic for the moment, but should be in the future.

There are also rumours that Intelligence saving throws will be used for psionics, which Mike Mearls appears to substantiate on Twitter:

The Snark Knight: @mikemearls What would be examples of Strength, Intelligence, or Charisma saving throws?
Mike Mearls: @SnarkKnight1 Strength save - resist a gust of wind or push effect
Mike Mearls: @SnarkKnight1 Int save - psionics when we do it
Mike Mearls: @SnarkKnight1 charisma - possession
Mike Mearls: @SnarkKnight1 I think this is an area where we will see more as designers get more used to the edition

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, did not see playtest version, it's good to know they did print something that used them. \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Jul 23 '14 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ The stats for the wolf in the starter set use a Strength Save against being tripped, if I remember my session this weekend properly. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Jul 28 '14 at 16:10
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This isn't an oversight. Spells aren't the only thing that could possibly cause a saving throw.

Saving throws are written to be generally applicable, so that they can cover every possible situation and future rule. This provided a solid foundation upon which both official rules and home rulings can build, as it provides for making saving throws against any kind of effect imaginable.

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Saving throws are in no way limited to spells or poison. According to the definition, any threat that is not an attack (because that targets AC) could call for a saving throw. For instance: let's say the thief fell into a pit trap and the fighter is grabbing his hand and trying to pull him up. If a tentacle brutally grabs the thief and try to pull down, I would definitely ask the fighter to save with STR or let go.

If the party is navigating a maze and they currently have a general sense of where they are going but suddenly the maze shuffles and the party must keep track of the moving walls and rotating floor tiles to keep a sense of direction: Call for a saving throw with Int or Wis (depending on if they try to keep their direction in sight or figure the puzzle with their brain).

The intention is clearly to make the ability scores matter but also to enable designers with new creative ways to challenge characters. Diversity allows you to be more focused and specific (just like there was Spot and Listen instead of just Perception) and so far in D&D basic, only the Fighter is proficient in Strength and Constitution saving throws. I can easily imagine the Barbarian have identical proficiencies and maybe the Paladin will have Strength and Charisma.

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The “why” is because there are indeed spells which target the other 3 saves.

There are many spells/attacks which target the 3 common saves (each class gets one): Con, Dex, Wis. There are very few spells which target the uncommon saves (each class also gets one of these too): Str, Int, Cha. I put together a list from the PHB and XGtE that I could find. I probably missed a few, but I wanted to share this effort for anyone interested (feel free to add spells to this list - probably better to keep monster attacks unspoiled). Note that some of these spells might have multiple effects. If any of them belonged on the lists, I included the spell.

Strength (push, pull)

  • Gust (XGtE, cantrip)
  • Ensnaring Strike (1)
  • Entangle (1)
  • Earthbind (XGtE, 2)
  • Gust of Wind (2)
  • Maximilian's Earthen Grasp (XGtE, 2)
  • Wind Wall (3)
  • Watery Sphere (XGtE, 4)
  • Wrath of Nature (XGtE, 5)
  • Telekinesis (5)
  • Tsunami (8)

Intelligence (psychic)

  • Phantasmal Force (2)
  • Synaptic Statis (XGtE, 5)
  • Mental Prison (XGtE, 6)
  • Feeblemind (8)
  • Illusory Dragon (XGtE, 8)
  • Psychic Scream (XGtE, 9)

Charisma (personality, appearance, soul, banishment)

  • Bane (1)
  • Zone of Truth (2)
  • Banishment (4)
  • Hallow (5)
  • Planar Binding (5)
  • Seeming (5)
  • Magic Jar (6)
  • Plane Shift (7)
  • Temple of the Gods (XGtE, 7)

Despite Mike Mearls's comment noted in another answer, all of the charm/domination spells appear to target Wisdom. Charisma appears to only be used when something targets the very ego/soul/appearance of a being. I'm not sure why Polymorph would be Wisdom though. There might also be some balancing going on as well that is a more important criteria than the flavor.

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