Last Updated: September 26, 2021
Adventurers tend to spend a lot of time on the wrong end of dangerous spells. Whether dodging fireballs, resisting mind control, or trying not to turn into a statue, you need to know how to resist spells, or you will find yourself dead very quickly.
Usually a harmful spell allows a target to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect. The saving throw entry in a spell description defines which type of saving throw the spell allows and describes how saving throws against the spell work.
- Negates: The spell has no effect on a subject that makes a successful saving throw.
- Partial: The spell has an effect on its subject. A successful saving throw means that some lesser effect occurs.
- Half: The spell deals damage, and a successful saving throw halves the damage taken (round down).
- None: No saving throw is allowed.
- Disbelief: A successful save lets the subject ignore the spell’s effect.
- (object): The spell can be cast on objects, which receive saving throws only if they are magical or if they are attended (held, worn, grasped, or the like) by a creature resisting the spell, in which case the object uses the creature’s saving throw bonus unless its own bonus is greater. This notation does not mean that a spell can be cast only on objects. Some spells of this sort can be cast on creatures or objects. A magic item’s saving throw bonuses are each equal to 2 + 1/2 the item’s caster level.
- (harmless): The spell is usually beneficial, not harmful, but a targeted creature can attempt a saving throw if it desires.
Succeeding on a Saving Throw
A creature that successfully saves against a spell that has no obvious physical effects feels a hostile force or a tingle, but cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack. Likewise, if a creature’s saving throw succeeds against a targeted spell, you sense that the spell has failed. You do not sense when creatures succeed on saves against effect and area spells.
Automatic Failures and Successes
A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on a saving throw is always a failure, and the spell may cause damage to exposed items (see Items Surviving after a Saving Throw, below). A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a success.
Voluntarily Giving up a Saving Throw
A creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw and willingly accept a spell’s result.
Items Surviving after a Saving Throw
Unless the descriptive text for the spell specifies otherwise, all items carried or worn by a creature are assumed to survive a magical attack. If a creature rolls a natural 1 on its saving throw against the effect, however, an exposed item is harmed (if the attack can harm objects). Refer to the Table below. Determine which four objects carried or worn by the creature are most likely to be affected and roll randomly among them. The randomly determined item must make a saving throw against the attack form and take whatever damage the attack dealt.
|3rd||Magic helmet, hat, or headband|
|4th||Item in hand (including weapon, wand, or the like)|
|6th||Stowed or sheathed weapon|
|9th||Magic jewelry (amulets, circlets, rings, though the order isn’t specified)|
|* In order of most likely to least likely to be affected.|
If the selected item is not carried or worn and is not magical, it does not get a saving throw. It simply is dealt the appropriate damage or effect.
Spell resistance is a special defensive ability. If your spell is being resisted by a creature with spell resistance, you must make a caster level check (1d20 + caster level) at least equal to the creature’s spell resistance for the spell to affect that creature. The defender’s spell resistance is like an Armor Class against magical effects. Include any adjustments to your caster level to this caster level check, including bonuses from things like the Spell Penetration feat.
The Spell Resistance entry and the descriptive text of a spell description tell you whether spell resistance protects creatures from the spell. In many cases, spell resistance applies only when a resistant creature is targeted by the spell, not when a resistant creature encounters a spell that is already in place.
The terms “object” and “harmless” mean the same thing for spell resistance as they do for saving throws. A creature with spell resistance must voluntarily lower the resistance (a standard action) in order to be affected by such spells without forcing the caster to make a caster level check. This makes it difficult to target these creatures in combat with helpful spells like healing or buff spells, so if your allies have spell resistance, be sure to plan ahead.
Spell Resistance is exceptionally rare at low levels, but becomes more common past level 10, so Spell Penetration is highly recommended for most spellcasters.