I'm trying to understand how saves work and are used. I'm reading the Basic Rules and this is what I have so far:

  • Your spell save is 8 + (proficiency bonus) + (ability modifier).
  • Your saving throw is d20 + (prof bonus) + (ability mod)
  • Both spell saves and saving throws are compared against a DC judged by the DM: 10 (for easy), 15 (moderate), 20 (hard), etc.

So is it correct to say that there are two types of saves: Saving Throws (BR, p. 4) and Spell Saves (BR, p. 22)?

So for example, if a Warlock attacks a Barbarian (Int +0, Cha +0), the Barbarian calculates his spell save against the Warlock's attack as 8 + 0 (no proficiency with Wisdom or Charisma saves) + 0 (no Int or Cha bonus) = 8 total. Then this is compared to the DC set by the DM.

Then, when the Barbarian (Str +1, Dex +1) attacks the Warlock back, the Warlock's saving throw is d20 + 0 (no prof bonus) + 1 (Str bonus) = d20 + 1 total. Then this is compared to the DC set by the DM.

This isn't making any sense to me though. How are spell saves and saving throws supposed to work?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What exactly is the problem you're having? Are you trying to find out what the difference is between a spell save and a saving throw? What are all these equations and where are you pulling them from? Are they even really necessary? As Doppelgreener stated, we're a Q&A site not a forum. We tend to work best when there's one comprehensible problem/question that we can solve. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2015 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I gave this an edit based on 1) the larger version that was posted as an answer (and is now deleted), 2) a close reading of the body, especially the provided examples. I suspect that most of what made it hard to read is that the question is based on a significant misunderstanding of the rules, making the flawed paraphrasing of the rules almost unrecognisable. I think we can help with that, though. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2015 at 4:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks very much for trying your hand at that edit. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2015 at 4:50

1 Answer 1


You are misunderstanding a vital element of the rules. There are not two different kind of saves.

What you're reading as "Spell Save" is actually "Spell Save DC". It is used to calculate the save difficulty of spells casts by your character. Spell save difficulties are not set by the DM.

When you cast a spell that calls for the target to make a saving throw, the DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency modifier + the appropriate ability modifier. The target of the spell then makes a saving throw against that DC.

For example, a level one Wizard with 16 intelligence casts Burning Hands at a target. This would have a spell save DC of 8 + 2 (proficiency) + 3 (ability modifier) = 13. Therefore, the target must make a dexterity saving throw against a DC of 13 or take the full effects of the spell.

All saving throws are made by rolling d20 + the appropriate ability modifier, versus a DC. If the target has proficiency in the appropriate save, they also add their proficiency bonus. So, in this case, if the target were a level one Rogue with 16 dexterity and proficiency in dexterity saves, they would roll d20 + 2 (proficiency) + 3 (ability modifier). If the results of that roll equal or exceed the DC of 13, the save succeeds.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you this is so clear. Somehow the Using Ability Scores > Saving Throws section of the PHB doesn't manage this level of clarity. It could really use some examples, especially in the D&D Beyond version where space is no issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – jerclarke
    Nov 15, 2019 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll also add something that tripped me up, in case it helps others: If you look at a spell on D&D Beyond in the spells database it will list it's save attribute like Attack/Save: Con save, but if you look at it on your character sheet, it will show your current save (8+proficiency+mod). I was really confused why some spells were Wis 13 and others were Wis save and thought there were different calculations, but it was just that some were pre-calculated for my current character. \$\endgroup\$
    – jerclarke
    Nov 15, 2019 at 0:06

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