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I read somewhere that in D&D 5e, the Saving Throw distribution for spells was biased towards DEX, CON and WIS. In other words, if you had proficiency in those attributes, you would benefit a lot more than having proficiency in other attributes.

What is the distribution of Saving Throws across attributes for spells in D&D 5e?

I'm looking for a percentage of each attribute for all the spells available (one would expect this to be uniform). Bonus points if this is also calculated for only spells that can be cast by RAW monsters (MM and VMG).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that every PC has proficiency with one of Dex, Con, and Wis and one of the remaining three, so "if you had proficiency in those attributes, you would benefit a lot more than having proficiency in other attributes" may be a redundant motivation for the question. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bloodcinder I think it's intended to say that if you have proficiency in more than one of those listed you would benefit more than not having it, but then even that's a tautologism. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I've opened a Meta discussion here: Is asking about the distribution of saving throws across all books too broad for this site? \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    Apr 15, 2017 at 6:40

2 Answers 2

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In a similar format to the previous answer, here's an updated count of spells with saving throws available on D&D Beyond. I've updated it again - it's now current as of 12 January 2024.

I am aware of two spells which don't list a primary save, but which can provoke a number of different saves:

  • Symbol (from the PHB and Basic Rules; thanks mdrichey in the comments for this one) has eight possible effects, each provoking a save, and the caster can choose which they want. I've effectively counted it as eight different spells, adding three Constitution and Wisdom saves, and one Intelligence and Charisma save.
  • Nathair's mischief from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons has one of four randomly determined effects, with a 50% chance of forcing a Wisdom save and 25% chance of a Dexterity save. (The other effect does not allow a saving throw.) I have just counted it once for each save.

Because of those two spells, the total spell count here seems slightly lower than it ought to be. There may be other such spells which have a saving throw involved other than a single primary one, but there is no easy way to search for them. I believe this list is still pretty indicative of the frequency of saving throws in spells.

Saving Throw Official % Official Partnered All % All
Strength 17 7.87% 2 19 8.19%
Dexterity 66 30.56% 1 67 28.88%
Constitution 52 24.07% 14 66 28.45%
Intelligence 10 4.63% 1 11 4.74%
Wisdom 56 25.93% 2 58 25.00%
Charisma 15 6.95% 0 11 4.74%
Total spells 208 20 228

Note that some spells previously included as official are now noted as "partnered content" on D&D Beyond, specifically those from the two Critical Role books published by Wizards of the Coast. I'll also note that filtering for spells with any kind of save comes up with more spells than the method I used of filtering for each save separately, a discrepancy I've not yet solved. I also need to check if some spells are being counted twice where the Basic Rules version uses a different name (e.g. Tasha’s hideous laughter and hideous laughter). But I think above stats are still pretty representative.

For a list of official sources for spells, and how to find them on D&D Beyond, see this question: What official books contain spells? (The list in the accepted answer is out of date, but the method for finding official books still works.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ BTW, here's a question specifically covering the topic of what books have spells: What official books contain spells? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 30, 2019 at 5:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast it includes both Tasha’s and Xanathar’s; the UA spells mentioned are those which ended up in Fizban’s, I think without significant alteration, but there are a handful of spells in Strichaven which are not included. I’ll do an update. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2022 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Symbol contains multiple different saving throws, depending on the effect selected. \$\endgroup\$
    – mdrichey
    Nov 22, 2023 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great resource. Question about the new update: "I've updated it again - it's now current as of 12/01/2024." Is that European date format? If so, perhaps better listed with words as "January 12th", so we yanks don't read it as December 1st. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jan 13 at 1:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GuybrushMcKenzie Yes, I am aware - but "European format" seemed quicker than "most places but US, Canada, Belize, China, Japan, Korea, Iran." I will admit that I assumed that 'McKenzie' was European - but I now see Melbourne in your profile. My mistake. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jan 14 at 0:23
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According to D&D Beyond, the number of spells in the SRD that require saves on each attribute is:

Attribute # spells
Strength 4
Dexterity 32
Constitution 24
Intelligence 2
Wisdom 34
Charisma 12

But saving throws are required for many things that aren't spells, including non-spell monster abilities (a medusa's Petrifying Gaze, for example), traps, poisons, and environmental hazards. So I don't think optimizing based on spells alone is ideal.

Furthermore, spells don't appear with equal frequency, so just counting the number of spells that call for a given attribute's save is probably not going to yield much useful information.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Of note, almost all of the illusion spells require an Intelligence (Investigation) check to reveal the illusion, and they aren't counted on this list (most likely because they're not an automatic save, but rather an active check.) Still, might be worth adding to your answer if you see fit. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2017 at 0:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli those aren't saving throws (which is what the question was about), and I was limiting my answer to information easily provided by the D&D Beyond beta spell search tool. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Apr 16, 2017 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand, and I agree with your answer. That's why I added the last sentence, since it would be extra information that is tangentially connected. Like, if this was my answers, I'd simply add a sentence that says, "And in addition to the automatic saves above, there are many spells and effects which also have active checks against attributes in order to end their ongoing effects. For example: A grapple requires an active strength check, or illusion spells which usually require an active Intelligence check." - But again, add it if you see fit, it's your answer, and a good one at that. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2017 at 4:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Marq, you may want to update this now that Xanathar's Guide To Everything has been released: quite a few more Int save spells now. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2018 at 19:19

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