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So me and a group of friends recently started to play D&D. I became a sorcerer. My question is: can the enemy I am attacking, no matter what spell I use, make a saving throw for half damage or does that only apply for certain spells?

For example, when I use my cantrip fire bolt, does the targeted opponent get to roll a saving throw for half damage against the spell, even though the description doesn't say anything about saving throws?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this a general question, or is your DM asking for these saves? \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Hofer Feb 10 '17 at 13:18
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If a spell requires/allows the target to make a saving throw, it says so.

Firebolt requires the caster to make a "spell attack" which is "1d20 + Spell attack modifier" (See Spellcasting feat) against the target's AC.

Additionally, I want to mention that a saving throw doesn't always mean "half damage". See Sacred Flame, which deals no damage when the target succeeds on its saving throw.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In general an offensive spell will either call for an attack roll or a saving throw, but not both. Some exceptions exist. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Feb 7 '17 at 18:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ The simplest way to put it is that spells require only the rolls that their description says they do. If it says attack roll, you make an attack roll vs. their AC. If it says saving throw, they make a saving throw against your spell DC. Any rolls not mentioned are not made. The exception is if some special circumstance makes your DM feel that an additional roll is required, but this should a) happen rarely and b) make sense why the other roll is called for. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Feb 8 '17 at 10:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Additionally spells like Sleep (in 5e) don't have either a save or an attack, it just effects creatures as specified in the description. \$\endgroup\$ – John Grabanski Feb 14 '17 at 18:00
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If you look at the RAW in the spells section of the PHB, you'll see the spells say whether or not they require a save.

For Fire Bolt:

You hurl a mote of fire at a creature or object within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 fire damage. -PHB 242

As you can see, you just have to make an attack roll against the creature and they do nothing.

If you look at Fireball instead:

Each creature in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. -PHB 241

With this spell, the target(s) have a chance to dodge for half damage, and it is explicitly stated.

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The rule is the spell does exactly what it says in the spell description, no more no less. If there is no mention of a save then there isn't one.

All spell descriptions explicitly state whether the target must make a save and what happens to the target if they fail or make the save. If the description does not explicitly say the target of the spell makes a saving throw then they don't get one, they just take the damage or other effect.

An example of spell where you don't get a save is the Firebolt cantrip. The description does not say the target makes a save, so they don't. They just take the damage if they are hit:

Fire bolt (PHB p.242)

You hurl a mote of fire at a creature or object within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 fire damage. A flammable object hit by this spell ignites if it isn't being worn or carried.

A "similar" spell is Fireball. It automatically "hits" as there is no attack roll specified but the description states that the target does make a save and what the consequences are:

Fireball (PHB p.241)

A bright streak flashes from your pointing finger to a point you choose within range and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame. Each creature in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

An example of a spell where there is no attack roll and no save is Power Word Kill. If the target has 100 hit points or less it just dies:

Power Word Kill (PHB p.266)

You utter a word of power that can compel one creature you can see within range to die instantly. If the creature you choose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies. Otherwise, the spell has no effect.

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