I know that when casting a typical spell, unless otherwise specified you would cast the spell and figure its DC as 8 + (class specific) ability modifier + relevant proficiency modifier.

My question is on the target's saving throw roll, do you simply roll a d20 and use that number, or do you add any modifiers to it and if so then which ones? Would it be the same ability modifier as what was used to cast the spell, one useful in dodging/resisting the spell, or always the same specific ability modifier (barring instructions stating otherwise)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to the site. There seems to be a lot of questions here. Have you read page 206 of the PHB or page 81 of the Basic Rules on Saving Throws? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Oct 24 '15 at 8:45

This is answered on page 179 of the PHB:

To make a saving throw, roll a d20 and add the appropriate ability modifier. For example, you use your Dexterity modifier for a Dexterity saving throw. [...] As with skill proficiencies, proficiency in a saving throw lets a character add his or her proficiency bonus to saving throws made using a particular ability score.

So a spell saving throw would be a d20 + the appropriate ability modifier + proficiency bonus, if applicable.

A spell will tell you what ability modifier to use for the saving throw.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To illustrate: The Wizard casts Fireball to hit the Druid and the Ranger, requiring both to make Dex saves. The Druid rolls 1d20 + Dex mod, as normal. The Ranger rolls 1d20 + Dex mod + proficiency bonus because he is proficient in Dexterity saving throws. \$\endgroup\$ – Pitzy Oct 25 '15 at 6:07


  1. If a creature has a "saving throws" line in the Monster Manual, use this value modifier as total bonus (it includes the stat bonus + proficiency bonus) to the die roll.

  2. If a creature has no "saving throws" line, its bonus is based directly on the associated stat bonus (a 12 stat adds +1 to, a 16 stat adds +3 to, a 9 stat subtracts 1 from) the die roll.

A "creature" can be a Player Character or a Monster.

For Creatures = Players

Depending upon the class of the player character, to any ability score bonus or penalty for a save you would add a Proficiency bonus based on the ability score of the player character and in which ability saves the player character has proficiency. This bonus is defined in the class description for each class.

Example: Cleric.

A Cleric has Proficiency for Wisdom and Charisma saves. (Proficiencies explained as helping on p. 7, Basic Rules; the Cleric save Proficiency on p. 21, Basic Rules).

  • Case 1. The 5th level Cleric has to roll a save versus Lightning Bolt, and he has a Dexterity of 12. He gets a +1 to save on that saving throw from his dexterity bonus. (With a Dexterity of 10, he'd get no bonus). He gets no proficiency bonus. Die roll +1 is compared to DC to see if he saves or not. (A roll of 13 would save on a spell DC of 14 or less).

  • Case 2. The Cleric has a Wisdom of 16 and has to roll a save versus the Command spell. He gets +3 for his Wisdom bonus, and another +3 for his proficiency in Wisdom saves. He adds six (+6) to the die roll to see if he succeeds in the save or not.

Consult the PHB section for a given character class to see which saves they have proficiency in.

For Creatures = Monsters

Monsters are handled the same way (Die roll +/- stat bonus + Proficiency) but Proficiency is a bit different.

A saving throw bonus is the sum of a monster’s relevant ability modifier and its proficiency bonus, which is determined by the monster’s challenge rating (as shown in the Proficiency Bonus by Challenge Rating table). (Cite = p.4 Basic Rules(DM); MM p. 8).

Proficiency bonus are added to a monster's saving throw, with values from +2 to +9 based upon the monster/creature's CR, if the "Saving Throws" line is entered in the stat block. Otherwise, you won't use a Proficiency bonus for the save. In any case, consult the stat block for the monster for the ability score being challenged by the spell.

Example: Allosaurus (p. 9, Basic Rules(DM))

  • Case 1. Save versus Lightning Bolt (Dex Save) Add the +1 Dex bonus to the die roll.
  • Case 2. Save versus Shatter. (Con Save) With an Con of 17, add +3 Con to the die roll.

Example: Green Dragon Wyrmling (p. 95 MM(DM))

  • Case 1. Save versus Silent Image. Int Save. +2 for Int adds +2 to the die roll for saving versus the Silent Image conjured to distract the dragon.

  • Case 2. Save versus Shatter. Con save. +1 Con and +2 Proficiency for a total of +3 for a Con save (and this is reflected in the stat block).

(Credit to @GeneralAnders for )help with the TL/DR

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  • \$\begingroup\$ TLDR: if a monster has a "saving throws" line in the monster manual, use this value modifier as total bonus (it includes the stat + proficiency bonus). If a monster has no "saving throws" line, its bonus is based directly on bonus stat (a 12 stat is +1, a 16 stat is +3, etc). \$\endgroup\$ – General Anders May 12 '17 at 2:53

The formula you specified looks like the calculation of the spellcaster DC, which is like this:

DC as 8 + proficiency modifier + spellcasting ability modifier

  • Here the spellcasting ability modifier is the one of the caster, not the target.

It defines the amount the targets affected by the spell have to make on their d20 saving throw to avoid the spell effects (or part of the effects). The target's modifier corresponding to the spell (it varies depending on the spell) is added to the d20 roll and the total must be equal or larger than the DC you calculated for the spellcaster.

You could rewrite the DC calculation as:

DC as 8 + proficiency modifier + spellcasting ability modifier - target ability modifier

This gives you the minimum number they have to roll on their d20 (assuming you have many targets of the same category, like many Goblins). But you generally don't do that—unless you're the DM and have to make many rolls, it is often easier to know the exact number to roll on the d20 instead of adding the modifier for each roll.

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