Having a low Spell Save Difficulty Class (DC) sucks. Nearly every enemy you face quickly surpasses your Spell Save DC, making it, so you not only wasted a spell slot, but you didn’t contribute all that much in that round of battle. If you’re like me, being unable to contribute to a fight makes you feel bad.
This makes staying on top of or even raising your Spell Save DC all the more critical. Sure, it’s difficult to keep track of with every level up, but this spell save DC 5e guide will give you what you need to keep track of your Spell Save DC and when it should function in the base game of Dungeons and Dragons 5e.
- Your Spell Save DC is 8 + Your Ability Score Modifier + Your Proficiency Bonus.
- A DC decides how difficult it is for someone to achieve a task or goal.
- There are two ways to raise your Spell Save DC without leveling in the base game of 5e: the Robe of the Archmagi and the Rod of the Pact Keeper.
- Bards, Clerics, and Druids cannot raise their Spell Save DC with items in the base game of 5e.
The Basics and Calculations
There are really only a handful of classes that really need to worry about their Spell Save DC from the get-go. Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, Wizards, and Warlocks all need to know their Spell Save DC from the very beginning as, for the most part, they are heavily dependent on their spells. There are other classes, however, that use spells almost as a backup or as empowerment.
Artificers, Bloodhunters, Eldritch Knight Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, and Arcane Trickster Rogues use spells to imbue themselves or their weapons with magic, enhancing their power, rather than as their primary mode of attack. Trickster Rogues, specifically, are best wielding spells to distract and disguise so they can be the trickiest person in the land.
What is a “DC”?
DC, in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, stands for Difficulty Class. It’s the rating that decides how difficult it will be to overcome. For some, like rogues, Stealth DCs, regardless of how high, aren’t that challenging when they consistently roll in the high twenties and thirties for their Stealth.
When you’re proficient, or even an expert, in something you’re making a roll against for the DC, you have a higher odds of succeeding in that check. From the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 238, different levels of DC dictate how challenging a task will be.
- 0-5 is Very Easy
- 6-10 is Easy
- 11-15 is Moderate
- 16-20 is Hard
- 21-25 is Very Hard
- 26-30 is Nearly Impossible
As a Player, you don’t get to decide what DC things are – your Stats do that for you. As a Dungeon Master, however, you get to decide how easy or difficult it is for your players to pull off their wild stunts. Just keep in mind what your Player’s Stats are. As they level, things will become easier, and they will likely have higher rolls.
Rogues that regularly roll high on their Stealth DC checks might need DCs higher than 30 if they are getting too bold (like trying to slink through the shadows in broad daylight… while under surveillance). Of course, there are ways for players to lower the DCs that you set for them or even raise them.
A DC is not something that has to be permanent, no questions asked, no way to change it. Allow your players to have wiggle room to lower it (or unintentionally make it more difficult to beat).
One of the most important things to know when calculating your Spell Save DC is your Spellcasting Ability Modifier. Your Spellcasting Ability Modifier varies depending on what class you’re playing. Bards, Paladins, Sorcerers, and Warlocks rely on Charisma for their Spellcasting Ability Modifier.
Clerics, Druids, and Rangers rely on their Wisdom to cast spells. Arcane Trickster Rogues, Bloodhunters, Eldritch Knight Fighters, and Wizards rely on Intelligence as their Spellcasting Ability Modifier.
Now that you have the basics of your Ability Modifier, you can figure out what your Spell Save DC will be. The Spell Save DC is always 8 + Your Spellcasting Ability Modifier + Your Proficiency Bonus.
On the rare occasion, you may be able to add a special modifier to this Spell Save DC, though this will usually depend on any magic items that you’re wearing or any weapons that you’re wielding. The description of these items should let you know if it raised your Spell Save DC.
How your Spell Save DC Works
So, you have the number of your Spell Save DC, but you’re not quite sure how it works or when it’s used. If you’re using an Area of Effect spell, your Spell Save DC comes into effect.
Spells like Fireball and Call Lightning require a Dexterity save to minimize the damage taken. For this, your Spell Save DC becomes the target DC they either need to meet or exceed to succeed on their roll.
Meeting the DC
When meeting a DC, also known as matching it, the person who succeeds is usually the “runner,” or whoever has to roll. This is the same rule as meeting an AC, as laid out in the Player’s Handbook in Chapter Nine for the Attack section.
If the AC is met or exceeded, then the attack succeeds. If a DC is met or exceeded, then the Save is successfully made.
The Types of Spells
As previously mentioned, spells that require your enemies to make a saving throw, generally Area of Effect damage spells, will contest your Spell Save DC. However, AoE damage spells are not the only types of spells that require saving throws.
Other spells that affect someone’s mind or how they perceive the world around them require saving throws, and so do spells that inflict a “status” on the target.
Spells like Fireball and Call Lightning are AoE damage spells, requiring physical saving throws – Dexterity or Strength. In the case of those two spells, they both require a Dexterity saving throw against your Spell Save DC.
Other spells, like Charm Person and Major Image, mess with someone’s mind and perception of reality. These spells require mental saving throws like Charisma, Wisdom, and Intelligence. Charm Person specifically requires a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC.
Major Image, on the other hand, requires that the target make an Investigation check, rather than a saving throw, to see through the illusion. This still, however, contests your Spell Save DC.
Status Spells like Blindness/Deafness usually require a Constitution saving throw to overcome the effect. This Constitution saving throw contests your Spell Save DC.
On a success, they completely overcome the effect and are not partially affected by it, like Fireball or Call Lightning would give partial damage.
Can You Raise your DC?
There are many ways to raise your Spell Save DC as you play the game, though some of these methods are more achievable than others.
When it comes to magical items, it’s between you and the DM whether or not you will be able to attain that item. However, what isn’t between the DM and you is leveling up to raise you Spell Save DC.
Regardless of your class, your Spellcasting Ability Modifier changes as you level, depending on your actions as a player. When given the ability to take an Ability Score Modifier upon leveling up, you can take your offered points and put them into the Stat used for your Ability Modifier.
Every increase of two will give a plus one raise to your Ability Score Modifier and thus, raise your Spell Save DC. Plus, as you rise in levels, your Proficiency Modifier will change – this too will make it even harder for your enemies to beat your Spell Save DC.
- 1st-4th level is a +2 Proficency Bonus
- 5th-8th level is a +3 Proficency Bonus
- 9th-12th level is a +4 Proficency Bonus
- 13th-16th level is a +5 Proficency Bonus
- 17th-20th level is a +6 Proficency Bonus
Each time you gain a plus one to your Proficiency Bonus, you raise your Spell Save DC much higher, making your spells harder to minimize the damage from.`
Without Leveling Up
In the base game of Dungeons and Dragons, only two items can increase your Spell Save DC: The Robe of the Archmagi and the Rod of the Pact Keeper. Starting with the Robe of the Archmagi, this item is only available to Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. If you are attuned to the Robe and aren’t wearing armor, your base AC becomes 15 + your Dexterity modifier. You gain advantage on Saving Throws against spells and magical effects.
Finally, the part that matters most to us now, the Robe of the Archmagi, will raise your Spell Save DC and your Attack bonus by two. This is quite a significant increase, considering that it would take a multitude of leveling before you could raise your Spell Save DC by two.
To raise it after a short rest with the help of a magical item certainly makes the Robe of the Archmagi worth it. As for the Rod of the Pact Keeper, this item is only available to Warlocks.
The Rod of the Pact keeper comes in various rarities, starting with +1, which is uncommon. +2 is rare, and +3 is very rare. While holding the Rod of the Pact Keeper, if you are attuned to it, you gain a bonus to your Spell Attack Rolls and the Saving Throw DCs. The bonus depends on the rarity.
If you were to get a Rod of the Pact Keeper +3, you could raise your Spell Save DC by 3. This makes the Rod of the Pact keeper better than the Robe of the Archmagi and more attainable. A Rod of the Pact Keeper +3 only qualifies as a rare item. On the other hand, the Robe of the Archmagi qualifies as a wonderous item, making it harder to find and, depending on your game, very expensive.
Unfortunately, in the base game of Dungeons and Dragons, Bards, Clerics, and Druids get the short end of the stick when it comes to raising their Spell Save DC without leveling up. If those proves unendingly frustrating for you, consider bringing in elements from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything into your game or figure out a homebrew that works for you and your table.
Question: What determines my Spell Save DC?
ANSWER: Your spell save dc is mainly determined by your spell ability modifier. This stat varies depending on what level you are and what class you’re playing. Although mentioned in the article, I will sum it up again here:
• Charisma: bards, paladins, sorcerers, warlocks
• Wisdom: clerics, druids, rangers
• Intelligence: arcane trickster rogues, bloodhunters, eldritch knight fighters, and wizards
QUESTION: Is there a spell save dc calculator?
ANSWER: No, there isn’t. All that is really available to us is the equation – 8 + spell ability modifier + proficiency bonus. If you’re confused about what your proficiency bonus is, consider referring to this chart:
• 1st-4th level is a +2 proficiency bonus
• 5th-8th level is a +3 proficiency bonus
• 9th-12th level is a +4 proficiency bonus
• 13th-16th level is a +5 proficency bonus
• 17th-20th level is a +6 proficency bonus
With that knowledge, just whip out your handy-dandy calculator on your phone and add it all up.
QUESTION: What is the highest possible permanent spell save DC?
ANSWER: If you are a level 17 or higher character and have at least one level in warlock, you can attune to the following magical items:
• The robe of the archmagi (raises your spell save dc by +2)
• The rod of the pact keeper (let’s assume it’s a +3, so it raises you spell save dc by +3)
• Ioun stone of mastery (raises your proficiency bonus to +7)
• The tome of leadership and influence (gives you a +2 for your charisma, the spellcasting ability for warlocks).
With a maxed-out charisma score, at its base a +5 your spell save dc equation would look something like this:
+8 (the base score)
+ 7 (proficiency bonus with the Iounstone)
+ 2 (the robe of the archmagi)
+ 3 (rod the pact keeper)
+ 6 (maxed out charisma plus the tome).
In 5e this would give you a total score of 26. If we refer back to the dc chart from earlier in the article, this gives you a nearly impossible spell save dc to beat.
There you have it – the ins and outs of how the Spell Save DC functions and how you could potentially raise it. As someone who regularly plays a Cleric, it becomes frustrating when I can’t raise my Spell Save DC in the base game – especially at lower levels.
As such, it’s nice to bring homebrew elements into my games or convince my DM to use things from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Amulet of the Devout, introduced through Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, allows me to raise my Spell Save DC by the rarity level, allowing me to play a charismatic character to the fullest.
Raising your Spell Save DC isn’t just important for dealing mass amounts of AoE Damage. It can be important to gain allies, to temporarily convince an enemy that you’re a friend, or to play a pacifist character. Although you don’t see a lot of pacifist Dungeons and Dragons characters, they still exist, and they rely heavily on being able to charm people.
Having a Spell Save DC that’s difficult to beat becomes all the more important. You may be good at rolling to hit armor class, but whether or not you have the skill in wielding your spells to trick even the wisest of characters is an entirely different matter.
In the end, though, the hardest thing about a Spell Save DC is just remembering to do all of the math whenever you level up.
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