A saving throw, often referred to as a save and abbreviated as ST, represents a creature's attempt to resist a (usually negative) effect (such as blindness or damage from a fireball).  Not all effects permit a saving throw.  When a save is permitted, the target creature rolls a d20 dice.  The save is successful if the resulting roll meets or exceeds the creature's adjusted saving throw score.  The adjusted saving throw score is formed by applying bonuses and penalties from both the creature and the effect to the creature's applicable base score.  The lower the score, the higher the chances of beating it (just like attack rolls and THAC0).  If the save is successful, the creature will either avoid the effect entirely or experience an altered or weakened version of it.

For example, Minsc is currently level 17 and is struck with a fireball.  Fireballs permit a saving throw and Minsc rolls a 3.  His base saving throw score is a 6, but let's say his gear provides a bonus of 4.  The fireball spell offers no additional bonuses or penalties to the save, so the adjusted saving throw score is 6-4=2.  His roll of 3 meets or exceeds the adjusted score (2), so his save attempt is successful and as a result he will only take half damage.

How it works[edit | edit source]

In the context of this article, the term effect refers to status effect conditions (e.g., blinded) and some sources of damage (e.g., a fireball). 

The game has two systems for determining if an attack succeeds: THAC0 and Saving Throws.  From a high level point of view, think of THAC0 as handling physical attacks and ST's as handling magical or unusual attacks.  For example, whether or not a sword succeeds at hitting a creature is handled by THAC0 and whether or not a spell succeeds at affecting a creature is handled by saving throws.  Things can get a bit fuzzy, however, since a magical sword may have a chance of applying additional effects. Whether the magical sword hits is handled by THAC0, but its additional magical effects would be handled using saving throws.

Depending on the nature (or source) of the effect being resisted, one of five different ST scores will be used:

  • Paralysis / Poison / Death
  • Rod / Staff / Wand
  • Petrification / Polymorph
  • Breath Weapon
  • Spell
Note: Enemies rarely use rods or wands, so that ST score is less important for party members. The most commonly used ST score is Spell.

The base values of the ST scores are determined by a character's class and level. For example, a first level fighter has a save vs. death score of 14 and save vs. spell of 17. A first level mage has the same score for death but a 12 for spell. By level 21, the fighter's scores have improved to 3 and 6 and the mage's to 8 and 4, respectively.  Classes in the same group tend to have the same saving throws, but there are some exceptions (e.g., Monks).

A base score can be modified by bonuses and penalties from various sources. Temporary modifiers come from:

  • Equipped gear, such as armor, amulets and weapons. These items typically (but not always) offer bonuses.
  • The special abilities of some items (such as the The Horn of Kazgaroth)
  • Spells and innate abilities, which can apply bonuses to party members or penalties to enemies
  • Potions, which apply bonuses

Permanent modifiers come from:

  • A character's race; Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings receive bonuses based on their Constitution (often called "Shorty" ST bonuses, up to 5 in D/W/S at 18 constitution).
  • A mage's school of specialization will give them a Spell ST bonus (and their enemies a penalty) when saving against spells from their chosen school
  • Some rare quest rewards will offer permanent modifiers to your saving throws (e.g., choosing the good path for the Test of Greed).

A third source of ST modifiers is the effect being saved against. For example, the Chromatic Orb spell gives targets no ST against damage, but gives an ST bonus of 6 when saving against its other effects and the spell Finger of Death imposes an ST penalty of 2 when attempting to resist it.

The character record screen shows a character's saving throw scores. A high level fighter with a base save vs. spell score of 4 might see an entry like this, "Spell: -2 (-6)". The number in parentheses (-6) is the sum of all the fighter's current save vs. spell modifiers. Negative numbers indicate a bonus, and positives a penalty. The first number (2) is the effective score, which is calculated by adding the modifiers to the base (4 + -6 = -2).

From the above example, you might think our warrior's spell saving throws will always succeed (since the worst d20 roll will always be bigger than the target score of -2), but harmful effects often come with ST penalties. For example, our warrior may face a high-level enemy whose attacks require a save vs. spell at a penalty of 10. This increases the warrior's target score to -2 + 10 = 8, reducing his chances of success to 65%.

The game often refers to bonuses as positive numbers and penalties as negatives. For example, the Helm of Balduran mentions "Saving Throws: +1", even though that number is reflected as a negative when looking at the character record. This isn't just true of saving throws. That same helm offers a +1 AC bonus, but the Inventory and Combat Stats screens both show it as a -1 instead. To avoid confusion, just remember that bonuses always lower the target score (or increase the roll) and penalties increase the score (or lower the roll) and ignore the sign.

Unlike attack rolls, it is still possible for a roll of 1 to succeed; there is no such thing as a critical miss when making saving throws. If a character is immune to an effect, no saving throw is needed to avoid the effect (and none will be performed).

An effect can specify one of 3 saving throw designations:

  • None: No saving throw is permitted.
  • Negates: A saving throw is permitted. If the save fails, the effect will be applied. If it succeeds, the main effect will not be applied (i.e., it was successfully resisted), but there may still be damage. For example, Finger of Death offers a "Negates" ST. If the target succeeds, they don't die but they still suffer 2d8+1 points of damage.
  • 1/2: A saving throw is permitted. If the save fails, all of the rolled damage will be used. If the save succeeds, the damage depend on the number of dice thrown.
    • If an even number of dice are normally thrown, then only half that number of dice will be used. For example, Potion of Explosions normally causes 6d6 damage but a successful save will reduce the damage to 3d6 instead.
    • If an odd number of dice are normally thrown, then the number of dice used is the nearest integer larger than half. For example, Oil of Fiery Burning does 5d6 but a successful save will do 3d6 instead (since 3 is the nearest integer larger than 5/2 = 2.5).

Normally, when a saving throw succeeds, the game will display the following feedback:

(creature name): Save vs. (type): (roll number after applying the save modifiers)

For example:

Edwin: Save vs. Spell: 11

There’s one exception however, if the effect being resisted has a saving throw bonus and the target wouldn’t have made the successful save without the bonus, then the message will not be displayed at all. For example, let's say a low level mage with an effective Spell ST of 10 is hit by a level 1 chromatic orb. The chromatic orb has an ST bonus of 6, which means the mage needs to roll a 4 or better.

  • ST Rolls of 1, 2, or 3 will fail. Instead of ST feedback, the user will see a message telling them they've been blinded
  • ST Rolls of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 will succeed but provide no ST feedback. [This behavior appears to have changed in the EE versions.]
  • ST Rolls of 10 or better will succeed and display the ST feedback message

Bonus[edit | edit source]

The term "saving throw bonus" when listed on items or effects is ambiguous. A bonus can be applied in two ways:

  • A roll can be made higher: this translate as 1d20+bonus rolls
  • A saving throw's required value can be made lower: the rolls are 1d20, but compared to value - bonus.

Effectively, this is the same thing. The difference is from a role-playing point of view:

  • A person that is more lucky, will make better rolls
  • A person that is better equipped, depends less on luck

In this wiki, we try to avoid ambiguity in text and explain which mechanism is used. However, it is possible you find ambiguous expressions. In this case a "+1 bonus" will refer to improved rolls, where a "-1 bonus" will refer to lowered saving throw requirements and conversely a "-1 penalty" will refer to worsened rolls and a "+1 penalty" to increased requirements.

ST Modifying Items[edit | edit source]

Amulets[edit | edit source]

Armor[edit | edit source]

Belts[edit | edit source]

Cloaks[edit | edit source]

Shields[edit | edit source]

Helms[edit | edit source]

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Potions[edit | edit source]

Rings[edit | edit source]

Spells[edit | edit source]

Weapons[edit | edit source]

BGWiki writing formats[edit | edit source]

As often seen in-game, for example Ring of the Princes states the ST bonus in the description as Saving Throws: +1 (positive number), but is actually implemented as a -1 (negative number) in order to boost the ST, BGW will list all modifiers which directly modify creature's ST scores as -n bonus or +n penalty. While the save modifiers in game are described as, for example in Silence, 15' Radius, make a Saving Throw vs. Spell with/at a -5 penalty, where the stated number directly modifies the d20 roll number, BGW will list all save modifiers as +n bonus or -n penalty to better synchronize how game works and so that all of the numbers can be directly applied to the minimum roll formula above.

Sources & references[edit | edit source]

  • Special thanks to kjeron, for the amazing knowledge and detailed explanation

See also[edit | edit source]

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