AD&D to 5E: Saving Throws

11 Jan

The one mechanic in 5E that has been the hardest for me to get through my head is the Saving Throw. I keep wanting to default back to the AD&D method, and it has created some awkward moments in games.

And, to be honest, I might just be remembering AD&D incorrectly.

IIRC, in AD&D, you actually wanted to roll low for saving throws versus an ability. For instance, if you were saving versus CONSTITUTION (CON), you wanted to roll equal to or lower than your CON. Let’s take my example of my wizard casting the Thunderwave spell at the dwarves. They needed to pass a saving throw versus CON, which was 16. Therefore, they would have needed to roll 16 or less to save according to AD&D rules, as I recall them. Simple.

Saving throws are a little different in 5E. When a character makes a save versus an ability, you have a number you need to roll against, and you add your ability modifier to the die roll to save. Let’s take the Thunderwave spell versus dwarves again. The number the dwarves need to roll to save is based upon my wizard’s spell casting ability, which makes sense. The base number for the saving throw is 8 + (spell casting ability) + (proficiency bonus). Since Thunderwave is a wizard spell, the spell casting ability is equal to the casting wizard’s INT modifier. (If it is a cleric spell, he/she would use the WIS modifier.) My wizard’s intelligence was 17, carrying a +3 modifier. The proficiency bonus is usually +2. Spell slingers are going to get this bonus whenever they cast a spell. Spells cast through other means, such as magic items or scrolls used by non-wizards, do not get this bonus. So…when my wizard cast the Thunderwave spell, the base number the dwarves needed to save against was 8+3+2=13. The dwarves had 16 CON with a +3 bonus, so they added +3 to their saving throw. Therefore, they needed to roll a 10 or better to save, instead of the 16 or less that I think they would have needed in AD&D.

Not quite so simple, but not hard, either, and it makes a lot of sense. It also saves confusion from knowing when you need to roll high, and when you need to roll low. You always need high in 5E.

I’m sure my AD&D players will let me know if my memory fails me on this. 🙂

More on Saving Throws next time…


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2 responses to “AD&D to 5E: Saving Throws

  1. smokeater116

    January 13, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Sounds like you’ve got it covered well George, But I don’t remember the old roles we had to make anymore. But I like your comments on 5E. Don’t have my books anymore since the move (I think they got thrown away) So I can’t look up the old rules, But I trust your memory a lot more than mine!

  2. Arnaud Gomes

    May 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Acually you wanted to roll high for saves in AD&D as well. The target number was determined by the class and level of the character (monsters saved as a class given in their description) and the type of damage (poison, spell, dragon breath, petrification or magic wand), maybe with adjustments from race and stats.

    AFAIK “roll low” ability checks were not formally introduced in the rules until the optional nonweapon proficiencies rules in AD&D2, even though some older modules did use them from time to time.


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