Your party is infiltrating a dragons lair, the Fighter is low HP, and your yawning Cleric works early in the morning. So when you run into that last lackey, you really need Charm Person to work. Enter the D&D 5e spell save DC!
How do you make sure your spells are harder for foes to evade? A high spell save DC! We’ll cover what spell save DC is in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, and how to calculate and increase it. Casters and spell slingers read on.
What is Spell Save DC?
Essentially, your spell save DC is a number representing how challenging it is for the targets of your spells to avoid them. (Hint: the DC in spell save DC stands for “difficulty class.”)
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Lots of spells allow wiggle room for the target to evade some or all of the intended effects. A spell’s description specifies whether the target gets a saving throw, what ability they use, and what happens for success or failure.
The target rolls their d20 saving throw and compares it to your spell save DC. If they roll the same or higher, the spell will have partial to no effect. If they roll lower, your spell succeeds as intended.
Here’s an example of a spell that requires the target to roll a saving throw vs your spell save DC in order to not be burned by horrible, horrible acid:
You hurl a bubble of acid. Choose one creature within range, or choose two creatures within range that are within 5 feet of each other. A target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 acid damage.Page 211, Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook 5th Edition.
You will find a handy reference spot for your DC on the spells page of your character sheet, and we’ll get to how to calculate it in just a moment.
How to use Spell Save DC in 5e
The best part about your spell save DC as a player is that it’s passive – you don’t have to roll or do mid-fight math! A spell’s description will always tell you when you need to factor in saving throws and DCs. All you need is the number, and the rest is up to your DM and the baddies.
A spell’s description will always tell you when you need to factor in saving throws and spell save DC.
The most common sorts of types of magic you’ll need your spell save DC for are:
- Damage dealing spells
- Mind affecting spells
- Spells that inflict status effects
Damage Dealing Spells
Some spells do direct damage to opponents, like Acid Splash. If a damage-dealing spell prompts a saving throw from the target, most often it asks for a Dexterity save vs your spell save DC.
Ice StormPage 252, Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook 5th Edition.
A hail of rock-hard ice pounds to the ground in a 20-foot-radius, 40-foot-high cylinder centered on a pointwithin range. Each creature in the cylinder must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 2d8 bludgeoning damage and 4d6 cold damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.
Mind Affecting Spells
Other offensive spells can mesmerize, enchant, or trick your target. A mind-affecting spell will usually require a Wisdom or Charisma save.
Charm PersonPage 221, Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook 5th Edition.
You attempt to charm a humanoid you can see within range. It must make a Wisdom saving throw, and does so with advantage if you or your companions are fighting it. If it fails the saving throw, it is charmed by you until the spell ends or until you or your companions do anything harmful to it. The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance. When the spell ends, the creature knows it was charmed by you.
Status Effect Inflicting Spells
Still more spells with offensive use can hamper adversaries with status effects. Many of this type have the target roll against your spell save DC with a Constitution saving throw.
Blindness/DeafnessPage 219, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th Edition
You can blind or deafen a foe. Choose one creature that you can see within range to make a Constitution saving throw. If it fails, the target is either blinded or deafened (your choice) for the duration. At the end of each of its turns, the target can make a Constitution saving throw. On a success, the spell ends.
How do you calculate spell save DC?
Familiar with D&D terminology? Calculating spell save DC will be easy peasy! But even if you’re new we’ll walk ya through it.
The formula for your character’s spell save DC is:
8 + spellcasting ability modifier + proficiency bonus = spell save DC
Spellcasting ability modifier refers to the ability score that your specific class uses to power up their spells – also known as their primary ability. The spellcasting ability for a Druid is Wisdom, so you’d look at their Wisdom score on the first page of your character sheet and fill in their Wisdom modifier there.
For quick reference here’s a table showing the modifier for each base ability score.
Get a more in-depth look at spellcasting ability in our DnD Spellcasting Ability 5e article.
Proficiency bonus is based on your character’s level. A quick reference table is below, but for the full look at proficiency bonus and how it’s used, see our guide!
Spell Save DC Calculation Example
Now that we know how to calculate spell save DC, let’s take an example for a level 1 Wizard.
8 + spellcasting ability modifier + proficiency bonus = spell save DC
Wizards use Intelligence to power their spells. So we look to their Intelligence base ability score on the first page of the character sheet. Our base score for Intelligence is 14, which gives the Wizard a spellcasting ability modifier of +2. They are level 1, so they have a +2 proficiency bonus.
8 + 2 + 2 = 12 Spell Save DC
This means that a bad guy rolling to save against our Wizard’s spells must roll 12 or above to resist them.
Additionally, you may find items that simply boost your spell save DC a certain amount. Score! The section below on increasing your spell save DC goes into more detail.
How to calculate spell save DC for different classes?
Each magic class in D&D has a primary ability that powers their spells – AKA their spellcasting ability.
For calculating spell save DC, the quick reference table below tells you which ability modifier you should plug in. Or, keep scrolling to see a detailed description and formula for your class.
|Class||Primary Ability/Spellcasting Ability|
|Fighter (Eldritch Knight)||Intelligence|
|Monk (Way of the Four Elements)||Wisdom|
|Rogue (Arcane Trickster)||Intelligence|
If a mad scientist and a Wizard had a baby, that’s what you get with Artificers. They love to tinker, invent, and find out how things work. Fittingly, their primary ability is Intelligence.
Artificer spell save DC = 8 + INT modifier + proficiency bonus
Bards are D&D’s quadruple talent: they sing, dance, act, and cast spells to boot. Whatever your specific flavor, Bards power their spells with Charisma. Beauty, grace, and Geas to the face!
Bard spell save DC = 8 + CHA modifier + proficiency bonus
Pious and devout, Clerics are granted magic by a deity. Whether they’re causing harm or blessing, Wisdom is their spellcasting ability.
Cleric spell save DC = 8 + WIS modifier + proficiency bonus
Tree huggers and lighting callers, Druids are the woodland counterpart to the priestly Clerics. Druids channel natural power, with Wisdom as their most important ability.
Druid spell save DC = 8 + WIS modifier + proficiency bonus
Fighter (Eldritch Knight)
Sugar, spice, and everything nice. That’s what Eldritch Knights are made of. Oh, and also highly competent target elimination skills augmented by arcane magics. That too.
Since they study magic like a Wizard, an Eldritch Knight’s spellcasting ability is Intelligence.
Eldritch Knight spell save DC = 8 + INT modifier + proficiency bonus
Monk (Way of the Four Elements)
Another mash-up of melee and magic is one training path for Monks. With elemental magics, it’s almost unfair to call these Monks unarmed fighters! And like a true Avatar, master of all four elements, Wisdom is their key ability score.
Monk spell save DC = 8 + WIS modifier + proficiency bonus
The Paladin came here to kick stuff and Cure Wounds… and she’s all out of spell slots. These divine warriors command magic with the blessing of their diety. Charisma is the spellcasting ability for a Paladin.
Paladin spell save DC = 8 + CHA modifier + proficiency bonus
Survivalists, explorers, and travelers, Rangers are most at home in the wilderness. Like their mystical cousins, the Druids, Ranger spells are powered by Wisdom.
Ranger spell save DC = 8 + WIS modifier + proficiency bonus
Rogue (Arcane Trickster)
What’s worse than a highly skilled sneak with the right tools? One with arcane magic at their fingertips! Like the Wizards she cribbed her notes from, the Arcane Trickster uses Intelligence to cast spells.
Arcane Trickster spell save DC = 8 + INT modifier + proficiency bonus
A Sorcerer is born with magic coursing through his veins, imbuing powerful presence and personality. Whether Draconic, elemental, or Fae, his spells are powered by Charisma.
Sorcerer spell save DC = 8 + CHA modifier + proficiency bonus
Ever considered trading just a teeny tiny piece of your soul to an interstellar being for phenomenal cosmic power? Warlocks have been there, done that, got the Ritual spell slots.
Like a Paladin, they use Charisma for channeling magic… except, less divine grace and more tentacles and madness!
Warlock spell save DC = 8 + CHA modifier + proficiency bonus
The Wizard is D&D’s favorite baddie-kicking bookworm and uses Intelligence to cast spells. That’s right: she’s smart, capable, and studied exactly how much eye of newt it takes to set foes on fire. Be still my beating heart!
Wizard spell save DC = 8 + INT modifier + proficiency bonus
How to increase spell save DC?
Wanna be an unstoppable force of magical havok, controlling minds and setting goons ablaze? You’ll need a high spell save DC.
So let’s get into how to improve your illusions and pep up your Power Word!
Leveling your character up is the most reliable way to up your spell save DC. That’s because as you level, you get ability score increases (ASI) that bump your spellcasting ability modifier higher AND your proficiency bonus goes up.
Every character gets a +1 ASI every four levels (4, 8, 12, 16, and 19). Put that into your spellcasting ability and with every two points the modifier will increase, too.
(Note: Fighters get another +1 ASI at 6 and 14.)
Similarly, your proficiency bonus also increases by 1 point every four levels. Awesome!
Items that Increase Spell Save DC
Luckily, you don’t have to XP grind your way to a competitive spell save DC. Check out all these items and magic items that give you a direct bonus!
|Item||Spell Save DC Bonus||Classes||Sourcebook|
|All-Purpose Tools||+1, +2, or +3||Artificer||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Amulet of the Devout||+1, +2, or +3||Cleric, Paladin||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Arcane Grimoire||+1, +2, or +3||Wizard||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Bloodwell Vial||+1, +2, or +3||Sorcerer||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Moon Sickle||+1, +2, or +3||Druid, Ranger||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Reveler’s Concertina||+2||Bard||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Rhythm Maker’s Drum||+1, +2, or+3||Bard||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything|
|Robe of the Archmagi||+2||Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard||Dungeon Master’s Guide|
|Rod of the Pact Keeper||+1, +2, or +3||Warlock||Dungeon Master’s Guide|
Increase Your Spellcasting Ability
As mentioned above, you can boost your spell save DC by increasing your spellcasting ability modifier. You can level up and use items, but one difference is that you can also choose feats that add to it.
Get the full scoop on which feats and items boost spellcasting ability here: DnD Spellcasting Ability 5e – Find, Calculate Modifier & Increase
What’s the highest possible spell save DC?
By basic rules, the highest possible spell save DC is 30. To achieve this you need:
- To reach max level (20)
- Multiclass as a Warlock/Cleric or Paladin
- Gather a very specific set of items, detailed below
And the math breaks down like this:
- Base +8
- Max Charisma or Wisdom modifier +5
- Max Proficiency bonus +6
- Item: Amulet of the Devout +3 (Clerics or Paladins only)
- Item: Deck of Many Things (Star Card) +1
- Item: Ioun Stone of Insight or Leadership +1
- Item: Robe of the Archmagi +2
- Item: Rod of the Pact Keeper +3 (Warlocks only)
- Item: Tome of Leadership or Understanding +1
Buying/finding multiple Tomes is technically possible… However, they’re very rare and cost 50,000 gold a pop! So, uh, good luck with that strategy.
If you’re playing an epic campaign it can go even higher. Gee willikers!
A note: D&D Spell Save DC 5e
Bursting with zeal to zap your next opponent with giggles from Tasha’s Hideous Laughter? Or maybe you’re working on an Illusionist build to trick and trap baddies?
For any kind of damage dealing or foe-targeting spells you’ll want a high spell save DC to challenge anyone unlucky enough compelled to roll against it. These tips will help you start Charming, Disintegrating, and Fireball-ing in no time!
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