Saving throws and multiclassing in DnD 5e

How do saving throws and multiclassing work in 5th edition? And can you use multiclassing to gain a saving throw proficiency?

A close-up photo of a Dungeons & Dragons character sheet with the name "Kithri High-hill" handwritten in the character name field. Various polyhedral dice, essential for gameplay, are scattered across the sheet, including a twenty-sided die (d20) and others with numerals visibly showing 5, 9, and 13, among others. A checkbox for "Inspiration" is marked, and a "+2" is noted under "Proficiency Bonus." The image captures elements of a typical D&D gaming session, featuring the tools used by players to navigate their imaginative adventures.


What is a saving throw?

A saving throw is any attempt by a playable character to resist spells, poison, potions, traps or other threats. It’s not an action that a character would opt to make and is not taken lightly. Rather it is a last-ditch attempt in which you are you are forced to make one because your character is about to come to serious harm.

How do you make a saving throw?

Roll a d20 and add your relevant ability modifier. For example, if avoiding a trap, you might use a Dexterity modifier to avoid certain death, or avoid falling down a trapdoor onto a gelatinous cube which will absorb you painfully and slowly as your party looks on, unable to help.

A saving throw can also have an advantage (or disadvantage!) arising from a bonus or a penalty. Though this depends on the situation at hand and how benevolent your DM is!

Each class gives proficiency in at least two saving throws. The wizard, for example, is proficient in Intelligence saves. As with skill proficiencies, proficiency in a saving throw lets a character add his or her proficiency bonus to saving throws made using a particular ability score. Some monsters have saving throw proficiencies as well. The Player’s Handbook (2014), Page 179.

A successful saving throw saves your character (or monster/creature) from harm whether from an effect or physical damage.

What is multiclassing?

Multiclassing is exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to gain levels in multiple classes.

By doing so, you can mix and match the abilities of each of those classes to bring to life a new character concept which falls outside of the traditional or standard class options. There are lots of options for multiclassing. For example, you can gain a level in a new class, instead of doing so in your current class.

How does multiclassing work in 5th edition?

Your levels in all your classes add together to form your multiclass character level. So if you’re a level 3 Fighter and have two levels in the Barbarian class, you’re a 5th-level character.

Of course, The Player’s Handbook goes into further detail:

As you advance in levels, you might primarily remain a member of your original class with just a few levels in another class, or you might change course entirely, never looking back at the class you left behind. You might even start progressing in a third or fourth class. Compared to a single-class character of the same level, you’ll sacrifice some focus in exchange for versatility. – The Player’s Handbook (2014), Page 163

Do you gain non-combat based proficiencies if you multiclass?

The answer lies on page 163-4 of The Player’s Handbook:

Your proficiency bonus is always based on your total character level, as shown in the Character Advancement table in chapter 1, not your level in a particular class. For example, if you are a fighter 3/rogue 2, you have the proficiency bonus of a 5th-level character, which is +3.  – The Player’s Handbook (2014), Page 163-4.

There are multiple examples of classes that possess non combat based proficiencies (i.e. outside of armour and weapon proficiencies). For example, a Bard would have a skill or tool proficiency. Though this does not include saving throws.

Do you gain saving throw proficiencies via multiclassing?

This is not referenced in detail anywhere on any of the character class entries in 5th edition, so the answer is “no”.

It’s likely that this decision is intentional due to the highly specific nature of the ones listed.

Class-based proficiencies are available, but in terms of multiclassing, these do not grant saving throw proficiencies. See again pg. 164 of the PHB:

When you gain a level in a class other than your first, you gain only some of that class’s starting proficiencies, as shown in the Multiclassing Proficiencies table. – The Player’s Handbook (2014), Page 164.

Multiclassing proficiency table

Class Proficiencies gained
Barbarian Shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Bard Light armor, one skill of your choice, one musical instrument of your choice
Cleric Light armor, medium armor, shields
Druid Light armor, medium armor, shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)
Fighter Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Monk Simple weapons, shortswords
Paladin Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Ranger Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons, one skill from the class’s skill list
Rogue Light armor, one skill from the class’s skill list, thieves’ tools
Warlock Light armor, simple weapons

Reason why there’s no saving throw proficiency if you multiclass

Personally, I imagine it’s intentional, given the fact that it’s not overtly referenced. There are benefits to multiclassing, but saving throws isn’t one of them. All classes at level 1 get two saving throw proficiencies (with some feats or abilities as the exception). This in itself stops players from min-maxing attempts which seems to be something 5e isn’t fond of and tries to discourage.

Plus for several combinations, nothing would be gained. For instance, if you had a multiclass Barbarian Fighter.

How can you acquire a new saving throw proficiency?

There are a couple of ways. The first way is via a feat, though DnD 5e makes this relatively difficult to achieve. The second is specific to Monks. At level 14, as long as you meet the prerequisites, you’ll have access to the Monk ability, Diamond Soul.

Beginning at 14th level, your mastery of ki grants you proficiency in all saving throws. Additionally, whenever you make a saving throw and fail, you can spend 1 ki point to reroll it and take the second result. – Diamond Soul, The Players Handbook (2014), Page 79.

You might also enjoy:  Multiclass in Baldur’s Gate 3

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EJ is a big fan of gaming in all its forms, including DnD (of course!) and between sessions, can usually be found eternally side questing in video games, filmmaking, or reading obscure Japanese fiction or sci-fi and fantasy novels. Current game: Strixhaven. Alignment: Somewhere between Lawful/Chaotic Good.