The general feat Font of Life has as its benefit the following:

Whenever you are struck by an attack that drains energy or bestows negative levels, you gain an immediate saving throw to resist the effect at the standard Difficulty Class of the attack. If this initial save is successful, you avoid any negative levels but you still suffer any other effects of the attack or spell. If this save fails, the attack proceeds as if this roll had never been made (meaning you still receive whatever save to which you’re normally entitled). (Heroes of Horror 122-3)

Emphasis mine, but what does that mean?

Example 1

Abe is slammed by a wight, which has the supernatural ability energy drain:

Living creatures hit by a wight’s slam attack gain one negative level. The DC is 14 for the Fortitude save to remove a negative level. The save DC is Charisma-based. For each such negative level bestowed, the wight gains 5 temporary hit points. (MM 255)

What does the feat Font of Life enable Abe to do?

Example 2

Abe is struck by the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell enervation [necro] (PH 226):

You point your finger and utter the incantation, releasing a black ray of crackling negative energy that suppresses the life force of any living creature it strikes. You must make a ranged touch attack to hit. If the attack succeeds, the subject gains 1d4 negative levels. [...] Assuming the subject survives, it regains lost levels after a number of hours equal to your caster level (maximum 15 hours). Usually, negative levels have a chance of permanently draining the victim’s levels, but the negative levels from enervation don’t last long enough to do so.

If the necromancer rolls a 4, what does the feat Font of Life enable Abe to do?

In Example 1, I assume Abe makes a Fortitude saving throw (DC 14) immediately upon being slammed. Success means he suffers no effects of the energy drain but is still dealt the wight's slam damage. Failure means Abe suffers both the effects of the energy drain and the wight's slam damage. Please, correct me if I'm wrong. However, in Example 2, because of the feat Font of Life, does Abe get a saving throw despite the spell enervation having an entry of Saving Throw: None?

"Who cares? No one ever takes this feat anyway"

My level 8 barbarian (in a party with inconsistent access to the spell death ward) is considering the feat, given the potential commonality of the spell enervation and his inability to defend against it. Although the campaign's wealth by level is average (or even slightly above) the DMG's guidelines, a permanent death ward effect is still a long way off. His massive Fortitude saving throw bonus doesn't help him against negative levels until 24 hours later, which is too long to wait if a vampire's beating the crap out of the party now, and he's a dead barbarian after the second lucky enervation spell from the boss necromancer.


1 Answer 1


1) Yes. Abe would make a Fortitude Save at DC 14 to avoid the negative level via the feat. If he fails, then he takes both the damage and the negative level. If he succeeds, he does not take the negative level, but still takes the damage.

As the Energy Drain of the wraith is (Su), the SRD says this (link):

The saving throw (if any) against a supernatural ability is:

10 + 1/2 the creature’s HD + the creature’s ability modifier (usually Charisma).

2) Yes. As the feat says:

you gain an immediate saving throw to resist the effect at the standard Difficulty Class of the attack

Under Saving Throws (link):


No saving throw is allowed.

Additionally, it also says (link):

Saving Throw Difficulty Class

A saving throw against your spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + your bonus for the relevant ability (Intelligence for a wizard, Charisma for a sorcerer or bard, or Wisdom for a cleric, druid, paladin, or ranger). A spell’s level can vary depending on your class. Always use the spell level applicable to your class.

Even though Enervation does not normally allow a saving throw, it still would have a (standard) DC as set by the above point, which be the DC you would use for Font of Life.

Example - Necromancer casts Enervation:

  • Touch Attack Hits
    • Font of Life activates:
      • Successful Save - Negative levels ignored
      • Failed Save - Negative levels apply as normal (there is no saving throw for Enervation here)
    • Other spell effects applied (there are none for Enervation)
  • Touch Attack Misses
    • No effect
  • \$\begingroup\$ But enervation doesn’t have a standard Difficulty Class. Save-allowing 4th-level spells do, but enervation isn’t one of those, and enervation is the attack that was actually made. The formula for saving throw DC is listed in the Saving Throw section of Spell Descriptions, which does not apply to enervation. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ (or, to be more accurate, the argument above is the one you have to refute; it may be wrong and you may be right, but the burden of proof is on you there – the answer as-is does not refute it) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oooh I see. I somehow missed the "of the attack" part. Now I'm not sure if that even exists since like you said it doesn't have a DC...I'll see if I can find anything about that. \$\endgroup\$
    – firedraco
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Save DCs follow a standard formula, whether for spells or abilities. This is clearly the intent of the feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mbocek
    Oct 16, 2015 at 17:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Standard saving throw for (Su) monster attacks: "10 + ½ the creature’s HD + the creature’s ability modifier (usually Charisma)". (source) \$\endgroup\$
    – Topquark
    Oct 17, 2015 at 4:18

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