This is how you calculate a character’s spell save DC in DnD 5e:
What’s my spellcasting ability modifier?
Answers to the other most common spell save DC questions
Relevent rule text from the Player’s Handbook:
(Player’s Handbook, pg. 205)
“Any special modifiers” refers to some magic items, which can be found below.
Spell Save DC 5e
Spell save DC can be a tricky concept for newcomers to Dungeons and Dragons to wrap their heads around. After all, understanding this one mechanic requires a basic understanding of four other mechanics: saving throws, difficulty classes, proficiency bonuses, and spellcasting abilities.
In practice, the spell save DC mechanic is a whole lot simpler than it seems at fist glance. When someone’s targeted by a spell, it’s just the static number they have to roll against to partially or fully avoid the spell’s negative effects.
Let’s go through each piece of the spell save DC puzzle, one step at a time.
Spellcasting Ability by Class in DnD 5e
Each spellcaster class in DnD 5e has a spellcasting ability — Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom:
|Fighter (Eldritch Knight)||Intelligence|
|Rogue (Arcane Trickster)||Intelligence|
|Monk (Way of the Four Elements)||Wisdom|
After you figure out which spellcasting ability modifier to use for your class, look at what your modifier is for that ability on your character sheet:
Note that your ability modifier is the + or – number that ranges from -5 to +5 — it is not your ability score, which ranges from 1 to 20.
If a non-spellcaster somehow casts a spell that forces a saving throw, their spellcasting ability modifier is +0.
Remember: A character’s spell save DC is 8 + their proficiency bonus + their spellcasting ability modifier. The list above tells you which ability to refer to depending on what spellcaster class you’re playing.
Proficiency Bonus by Level in DnD 5e
|Level Range||Proficiency Bonus|
How Do I Increase My Spell Save DC in 5e?
To increase your spell save DC in 5e, increase your spellcasting ability modifier and proficiency bonus — both of which are accomplished by leveling up your character.
Increase your spellcasting ability modifier. You spellcasting abilitity is class-dependent, but every class gets the Ability Score Improvement feature at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. Fighters get additional ASIs at levels 6 and 14, and Rogues get an additional ASI at level 10.
This feature allows you to increase an ability score by +2, or two ability scores by +1 (or pick up a feat, but that’s not what we’re talking about here). For every 2 points you put into an ability score, your ability modifier increases by 1. Here’s a breakdown of the positive bonuses that are normally achievable:
Increase your proficiency bonus. This one’s more straightforward — your proficiency bonus starts at +2 and increases by +1 at levels 5, 9, 13, and 17. Your proficiency bonus caps out at +6.
Here’s a link to the proficiency bonus table from above.
|Ability Score||Ability Modifier|
Under normal circumstances, 20 is an ability score’s maximum value, so your spellcasting ability modifier caps out at +5 (PHB 173).
So once a player reaches level 17 with a spellcasting ability score of 20, they have a spell save DC of 19:
19 = 8 + 5 + 6
If you want to get a higher spell save DC, you’ll need to turn to magic items…
What Magic Items Increase Spell Save DC in 5e?
The Dungeon Master’s Guide only contains two magic items that directly impact your spell save DC, and four items that indirectly do so by boosting your maximum spellcasting ability score. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced an additional seven magic items that directly buff a player’s spell save DC.
Here are all 13 of the official magic items in DnD 5e that can boost your spell save DC beyond 19:
|Magic Item||Affect||Class Restriction|
|Deck of Many Things: Star Card||+2 ASI, up to 24 (+1 spell save DC)||–|
|Tome of Leadership and Influence||+2 Charisma, past the maximum of 20 (+1 spell save DC)||Will only help Bards, Paladins, and Sorcerers, and Warlocks|
|Tome of Clear Thought||+2 Intelligence, past the maximum of 20 (+1 spell save DC)||Will only help Artificers, Wizards, EK Fighters, and AT Rogues|
|Tome of Understanding||+2 Wisdom, past the maximum of 20 (+1 spell save DC)||Will only help Clerics, Druids, Rangers, WotFE Monks|
|Robe of the Archmagi||+2 spell save DC||Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard|
|Rod of the Pact Keeper||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Warlock|
|All Purpose Tool||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Artificer|
|Amulet of the Devout||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Cleric, Paladin|
|Arcane Grimoire||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Wizard|
|Bloodwell Vial||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Sorcerer|
|Moon Sickle||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Druid, Ranger|
|Reveler’s Concertine||+2 spell save DC||Bard|
|Rhythm Maker’s Drum||+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC||Bard|
Note that items listed with “+1, +2, or +3 spell save DC” have a static bonus that’s dependent on the rarity of the specific magic item you find (which, in turn, is up to the DM).
Also, note that the Tome items are extraordinarily rare and/or valuable in most DnD universes. Additionally, the Star card from the Deck of Many Things also has a 1 in 13 or 1 in 22 chance of being drawn, so it’s not exactly something you can plan for.
Finally, note that items like Ioun Stones that increase ability scores cannot go past the ability score maximum of 20, so they’re not a viable route for getting your spell save DC above 19.
Spell Save DC 5e Rules
Here are all the spell DC rules for 5e that aren’t explicitly covered in other sections:
Ties go to the roller. Whenever someone is forced to make a saving throw, they have to meet or exceed the DC to pass the save (PHB 7). In other words, the target of a spell who’s forced to make a spell save has to get a result equal to or greater to the spell save DC to resist the spell.
If a character has no spellcasting ability, their spellcasting ability modifier is +0. As the Dungeon Master’s Guide points out, “if you don’t have a spellcasting ability…your spellcasting ability is +0 for the item, and your proficiency bonus does apply” (DMG 141).
This was also clarified in the specific case of the magic item, Hat of Disguise, in the Sage Advice Compendium (SAC 22). Other non-caster-based spell effects, like Dragonborns’ Breath Weapon trait, will explicitly tell you how to calculate the DC for the saving throw.
If an item doesn’t specify the spell save DC, use your spellcasting ability modifier. Also clarified in the same SAC entry.
A multiclasser can have multiple spell save DCs. Here’s relevant rules text from the Player’s Handbook:Each spell you know and prepare is associated with one of your classes, and you use the spellcasting ability of that class when you cast the spell. (PHB 164)
Here’s how spell save DCs read for each specific class, taking wizards as an example:In addition, you use your Intelligence modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a wizard spell you cast. (PHB 114)
For example, if you’re a level 3 Wizard and a level 2 Sorcerer, you really have two sets of spells — your Wizard spells (four 1st-level and two 2nd-level) and your Sorcerer spells (three 1st-level).
Whenever you cast a Wizard spell, your spellcasting ability modifier is Intelligence; for Sorcerer spells, it’s Charisma. So if your Intelligence modifier is +2 and your Charisma modifier is +1, your Wizard spell save DC will be 1 higher than your Sorcerer spell save DC.
Even though Wizards’ and Sorcerers’ class spell lists share many spells, a character still must declare which class a certain spell belongs to. For instance, upon hitting character level 5 and choosing to become a level 2 Sorcerer, the player would have to choose one new 1st-level spell — that spell is now always a Sorcerer spell for that player.
Note that proficiency bonus increases with character level, regardless of class. So for this example, we have a 5th-level character with a +3 proficiency bonus. Their Wizard spell save DC would be 13, and their Sorcerer spell save DC would be 12.
Your spellcasting ability modifier can be negative. If your spellcasting ability score is 9 or lower, your spellcasting ability modifier will be negative. This can reduce your spell save DC. However, this is highly unlikely, even for a 1st-level player.
There’s a difference between “save-or-suck” spells and partial effect spells. Some spells, like Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, are lovingly referred to as “save-or-suck” spells. If the target passes their saving throw, nothing bad happens to them and the action is effectively wasted.
But some damage-dealing spells, like Fireball, deal half damage even if the affected creature passes its saving throw. Note that not all damaging spells that force saving throws work like this — Toll the Dead, for example, is a damaging “save-or-suck” spell.
Save-or-suck spells tend to be a bit more powerful in the utility they provide as a way of balancing out their all-or-nothing nature.
Sorcerer’s metamagic can affect spell saves. Careful Spell can ensure that allies in range of the Sorcerer’s area-of-effect spells automatically succeed on their spell saves. Heightened Spell can give a spell target disadvantage on their spell save against the spell.
Evocation Wizard’s can protect allies from making spell saves. With the Sculpt Spells feature, Evocation Wizards can ensure that allies within an evocation spell’s area of effect automatically succeed on spell saves and that they take no damage, even if a successful spell save usually results in half damage.
The maximum spell save DC is 19 (without magic items). A level 17+ character has a +6 proficiency bonus. If they also have an ability score of 20 in their spellcasting ability, they’ll have a +5 spellcasting ability modifier. 8 + 6 + 5 = 19.
To get a higher spell save DC than 19, a player needs the help of magic items.
Spell scrolls’ spell save DCs are based on spell level. Here’s a handy table from the DMG (pg. 200):
Spell Level Save DC cantrip-2nd 13 3rd-4th 15 5th-6th 17 7th-8th 18 9th 19
Spell Save DC 5e FAQ
Let’s go through what a spell save DC is by breaking it down, piece by piece:
What is a saving throw?
A saving throw is a d20 roll that players make to “save” themselves from a negative effect. If something bad might happen to a character, they’re making a saving throw. Common saving throws include concentration checks (Constitution saving throws), death saving throws, environmentally-caused saving throws, and saving throws forced by spells.
What is a DC?
A DC (difficulty class) is a numerical value that represents the challenge associated with a task in DnD. In the context of a spell save DC, it represents the difficulty of evading or resisting the effect of the spell.
What is a spell save?
A spell save is just a saving throw made to resist or evade the effects of a spell. The ability score used for a spell saving throw depends on the spell.
Spells that require quickness to evade, like Fireball, usually call for a Dexterity saving throw, while those that warp the mind force a Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma saving throw. Constitution and Strength saving throws usually involve dealing with a real physical or bodily impediment.
What is a spell save DC?
How is spell save DC calculated?
When is a spell save DC used?
You use your spell save DC whenever you cast a spell that forces a saving throw (of any kind). The DC for that saving throw is the spellcaster’s spell save DC.
This will typically be phrased as “the target must succeed on an [Ability] saving throw” for single target spells or “each creature in a [area of effect] must make an [Ability] saving throw” for area of effect spells. The exact wording can vary, but whenever a saving throw is called for, you use the spellcaster’s spell save DC.
For example, let’s say a Bard casts Charm Person, which calls for a Wisdom saving throw. The target needs to know the Bard’s spell save DC in order to know if the result of their d20 roll + their Wisdom modifier is good enough to resist the spell.
If, say, the Bard’s spell save DC is 16, then the target knows that they need a total result of at least 16 to resist the spell’s effect.
A spell save DC is a numerical value that all spellcasters have. Whenever a spellcaster casts a spell that forces a saving throw, the DC that the target(s) must beat is the spellcaster’s spell save DC.
This number changes depending on the spellcaster’s spellcasting modifier and level.
Here’s how a spellcaster’s spell save DC is calculated:
Proficiency bonus scales with level. Spellcasting ability modifier is class-specific, but it’s Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. For example, a 1st-level Wizard uses Intelligence for their spellcasting modifier; let’s say their Intelligence modifier is +3. A 1st-level character’s proficiency bonus is +2. The Wizard’s spell save DC is 13 (8 + 3 + 2).