Modifying Saving Throws

Saving throws can be modified by magical items, specific rules, and special situations. These modifiers can increase or decrease the chance of a successful saving throw.

Modifiers that increase the chance are given as a number preceded by a plus sign. Modifiers that make success more difficult are given as a number preceded by a minus sign (-1, -2, etc.).

Saving throw modifiers affect a character's die roll, not the saving throw number needed. Thus, if Delsenora needed an 11 for a successful saving throw vs. petrification and had a +1 bonus to her save, she would still need to roll an 11 or higher after all adjustments were made (but the +1 bonus would be added to her die roll, so that effectively she needs to roll only a 10 on the die to reach her saving throw number of 11).

High ability scores in Dexterity and Wisdom sometimes give saving throw bonuses. A high Wisdom protects against illusions, charms, and other mental attacks. Dexterity, if high enough, can give a character a slightly higher chance of avoiding the effects of fireballs, lightning bolts, crushing boulders, and other attacks where nimbleness may be a help. (See Tables 2 and 5.)

Magical items like cloaks and rings of protection give bonuses to a character's saving throw (these are listed in the item descriptions in the DMG).

Magical armor allows a saving throw bonus only when the save is made necessary by something physical, whether normal or magical; magical armor never gives a saving throw bonus against gas (which it cannot block), poison (which operates internally), and spells that are mental in nature or that cause no physical damage.

For example, magical armor would not help a character's saving throw against the sting of a giant scorpion, the choking effects of a stinking cloud spell, or the transformation effect of a polymorph others spell. Magical armor does extend its protective power to saving throws against acid sprays or splashes, disintegration, magical and normal fires, spells that cause damage, and falls (if any saving throw is allowed in this case). Other situations must be handled on a case-by-case basis by the DM.

Specific spells and magical items have effects, both good and ill, on a character's saving throws. Often, spells force the victim to save with a penalty, which makes even the most innocuous spell quite dangerous. (Specific information can be found in the spell descriptions, for spells, or in the DMG's Magical Items section, for magical items.)

Minor poisons of verminous creatures such as giant centipedes, while dangerous, are weak and unlikely to bring about death in a healthy man. To recreate this effect in the game, a saving throw bonus is allowed for anyone affected by these poisons. The DM has this information.

Unpredictable situations are sure to crop up. When this happens, the DM must determine whether saving throw modifiers are appropriate. As a guideline, modifiers for situations should range from -4 to +4. An evil cleric attacked in his shrine could very well have a +3 bonus to all his saving throws and a -3 penalty applied to those of his enemies. The powerful evil of the place could warrant the modifier.

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