No Saving Throw

Hey, that guy is going to Mind Control you or try to fool you with an illusion! Maybe, if you focus and struggle against his power, you can — !


Normally in fiction, powers have some chance of failure, whether through lack of skill, Heroic Willpower on the part of the would-be victim, or some other factor that does not make the power 100% effective. But some powers are such that they work automatically if they hit, regardless of any special defenses, resistances, or countermeasures the person on the receiving end may have. You can't see through the illusion, you can't cure the poison, you can't resist the mind control, people hit by the Disintegrator Ray die instantly 100% of the time no matter how important they are.

The Trope Namer here is Dungeons & Dragons, where normally, harmful effects such as mind-controlling magic, dragon breath, illusions, or other supernatural nastiness allows the character affected to make a saving throw of the dice to negate or minimize the effect. Some spells and effects, unfortunately, such as the Level Drain ability of a wraith, do NOT allow a saving throw to be made against them: if the move hits at all, it hits full effect, end of story. In more modern editions of the game, these effects almost always have a chance to miss instead.

Contrast Always Accurate Attack; attacks with No Saving Throw are often Powerful, but Inaccurate to compensate. Complete opposite of No-Sell. May overlap with Evil Is Not a Toy. Sometimes involves Gameplay and Story Segregation. See also Unblockable Attack. Compelling Voice is a Sub-Trope of this.

Do not confuse with Author's Saving Throw.


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     Anime And Manga  
  • If you see the Star of Death in Fist of the North Star, you're going to die. Period. Rei actually transfers this from Mamiya to himself, but the fact remained that his death was unavoidable.
    • Also, when Rei gets hit with one of Raoh's techniques. Normally it causes excruciating pain for three days followed by a gory death. But Rei's a super-badass secondary character. Surely he has Plot Armor? Nope. Raoh uses Hokuto Shinken just like his brother Kenshiro, and once you're hit with a technique from that style, You Are Already Dead. In fact, the only thing that delayed it further was one of Toki's techniques from the same style, which allowed him to live just a little longer at the cost of a more excruciating death.
  • Code Geass:
    • Geasses in general work like this. The only thing that even has a chance of countering one is another Geass, but that's more of a case of bypassing some aspect of their Geass, like a telepath not being able to read something that the target doesn't know about, or thinking that something is true because their target believes it is. A Code Bearer seems to have some ability, but it's not elaborated on, or Jeremiah's Geass Canceller, which also has no saving throw, but that's like how healing spells don't.
    • In the first season, Euphemia manages to resist for a moment, which Lelouch later deduces was because the command that he accidentally gave was just so completely against every facet of her character.
    • In the second, Nunnally also manages to break out of a geass; her father's artificially-induced blindness, but that took years. There's also that it may be that Charles is dead at this point, and that his ability is not blindness, with that particular one being a side-effect of some sort and said character's never being said to recover from the actual affliction. Specifically, she was traumatized by a false memory and one of the side effects is that she never opened her eyes afterward. Finally overcoming the trauma and opening her eyes doesn't mean that the false memory (the actual direct effect of her father's Geass) went away.
  • Happens in Dragon Ball GT during the Super #17 arc. Regular #17 is being mind controlled by a second version of himself, and attacks #18, his sister. Krillin tries to bring him out, and he nearly goes back to normal before the other #17 enters his mind again and makes him shake off the good influence, at which point he kills Krillin instead.
  • This is the reason Aizen's Zanpukutou in Bleach is considered overpowered. If you've seen his sword, he's hypnotized you and can control all your senses as he pleases. It's essentially permanent, undetectable, and it's not even the final form of his sword. Unless one is touching the blade itself before he activates its shikai.
    • Tsukishima from the Full Bring Arc has a similarly broken power, he inserts himself into the past of anything he cuts. For a person, this could mean anything from, "Tsukishima is my best friend forever and I don't want to fight him," to "Tsukishima has known me for a long time, therefore he knows all my powers and weaknesses." All it takes is a nick, and it's in effect.
      • It still fails against Byakuya because the latter considers his honour-debt to Ichigo more important than anything else. He therefore kills Tsukishima while acknowledging that he was the most important person in his life. His actual method for killing him was something he invented during the battle, after Tsukishima used his ability to learn all of Byakuya's existing techniques.
    • There's also Barragan's deathly aura. As Sui Feng found out the hard way, anything it touches will decay unto dust, and like the Amaterasu example below, the only way to stop it is to cut off the afflicted body part. Indeed, his skill was so far into this trope that it allowed him to be Hoist by His Own Petard when the attack was turned against him.
    • As Nodt has the power to inflict irrational fear of death. It can technically be opposed by willpower, but only in the sense that it takes longer to reach full effect. Once it does, though, the fear keeps building until either you die or the Reishi that he injected into you is purged.
  • The Mangekyo Sharingan's Amaterasu attack in Naruto works like this. Everything in its range catches fire, and there's no way, unless the caster wills it, for the fire to be put out... ever. If it gets on you, the only way to stop it is to sever that limb. It's also possible to use a sealing jutsu to remove the flames, but they're still burning inside whatever they get sealed into, and should the seal be released or broken the fire would spread again.
  • Once your full name is written in the Death Note, you're going to die. The only reason a Death Note would fail to kill someone whose full name has been written is if that person's name had already been written down in another Death Note: no matter what, the victim's death by magical killer notebook is assured. While there are a couple of exceptions in the Death Note's rules, the situations they occur in are so unlikely as to be practically impossiblenote  and never come up in the story.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure is the king of this trope, and also notable because, just because you find yourself having to fight against a Big Bad with this kind of power, or even are affected by it already, doesn't mean you cannot find a way around it.


  • In the first book of The Dresden Files, nothing can protect you from the Big Bad's lightning-powered heart-ripping spell. Except, of course, striking first.
    • The RPG rulebook clarifies that this is the result of the absurd amount of powernote  in the spell, measured in shifts of power. A typical "attack" spell used in combat can have between 3-10, which can kill, but the target has the chance to mitigate it or negate it via his defensive roll and taking consequences instead. The heart-exploding spell generated over 35 shifts, which is enough to simply overwhelm each and every way a character can mitigate damage.
    • The rules for a lethal Entropy Curse are similar, in that to avoid it, you'd have to roll somewhere in the mid 20s to dodge the "attack," with a skill that likely maxes out at 5, and dice that on their best roll will only add a +4.
    • All that said, the RPG book is explicit and insistent in averting this trope inasmuch as you always get a defense roll. Some tactics might effectively reduce or augment the defense roll, and in situations such as the Entropy curse a defense roll might, in fact, be meaningless, but you always get the chance to defend.
  • Most spells in the Harry Potter series seem to allow for no chance to resist if they are properly cast and hit the target. However, there are counterspells. The one spell that there is "no" counterspell for is the Killing Curse. It's a major plot point that Harry Potter himself is the only one to have survived it, and that turns out to be due to circumstances that gave him uniquely strong protection. That said, it is possible to get around this by putting a physical obstacle in the path of the spell's energy. There's also a very evil form of ritual magic that can be used to survive the Killing Curse, but part of you would still die and what's left would be something less than fully human even when (or rather if) you recover your physical form.
  • In The Wheel of Time, balefire is this. Anything it hits- whether that be a physical object, a person, a city- will be instantly and irrevocably erased from existence. The only way to survive is to dodge it or kill the person making it before they let loose. However, in the last book, someone discovers an antithesis, turning a one-sided onslaught into a Beam-O-War.
  • In Xanth, this trope is the reason the Magician Trent is considered so dangerous before his Heel–Face Turn. His Baleful Polymorph powers work on everyone, period. When he tries to use them against Bink, who has permanent Anti-Magic, the only possible counters the antimagic can create are for Trent to miss or to hit something else, and it has to cause increasingly implausible events in order to block Trent's attacks. The transformation magic is that powerful, there's no defense against actually getting hit. Notably, this is the first time Bink's antimagic is ever forced to reveal its own existence in order to protect him from magical harm; for his entire life up to that point it had operated subtly enough that nobody even suspected Bink had a magical ability.
  • Worm, as a part of the setting's take on mental powers (no 'classic' psychics/telepaths), Mind Control powers don't have saving throws because they have a physical basis. The main character telepathically controls all bugs within range automatically with no mental effort. Regent's People Puppets power works by hijacking the victim's nervous system- once he has control, it can't be fought because how do you fight your own nervous system? Cherish's power modifies the chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain to let her manipulate emotions, even to the extent of Psychic-Assisted Suicide. The counters we see to Master effects all involve not getting hit in the first place- Valefor's Hypnotic Eyes are countered by blinding him, Regent can't affect non-human nervous systems, Canary's Compelling Voice doesn't work on someone who can't hear her, etc.

     Live Action Television  
  • Every so often in Power Rangers, like once per team or less, there's a Monster of the Week whose effect on a morphed Ranger is exactly the same as on a hapless civilian. The last Ranger standing had better think fast when dealing with a monster where one hit equals game over!
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Picard in "The Best of Both Worlds" told the Borg hive he would fight them with all his strength. The Borg replied "Strength is irrelevant." In the follow-up episode after the two-parter, Picard tearfully confessed that he was completely helpless.

     Visual Novel  
  • In Tsukihime and Kara no Kyoukai, if someone bearing the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception hits you in your point of death, you die. Doesn't matter if you can reincarnate, you are a gestalt entity of 666 different beasts that ordinarily have to all be killed at the same moment, you can locally reverse time to instantly repair any damage done to you, the world itself actively works to sustain your continued existence, or if you aren't even alive to begin with, you die. Period. At best, you can hold on for about thirty seconds if you've lived for a really long time before this. The only way it can fail is if the target's "concept of death" is too alien for the person with the Eyes to comperehend, in which case the result is instead a No-Sell. The extraterrestrial ORT is by Word of God an example of this.
    • In at least one timeline, Shiki had to fight a creature with no point of death. He still killed it by giving it a point of death.

  • Knights of Buena Vista does a variation. Walter the Game Master is so annoyed with Adriana's Min-Maxing that he doesn't allow her to make a saving throw against a Hypnotize the Princess spell (although he does come up with a reasonable justification).
  • In this strip of Anti HEROES, Aldran defeats a druid who's been constantly dodging his spells by tricking him into swallowing a Delayed Blast Fireball spell that was mixed in with some berries.
    Aldran: And sadly, I don't think you get a reflex save in this kind of situation. So I guess what I'm trying to say here is... Dodge that one, nature-boy.

Actual games and references to games

     Tabletop RPG  
  • Warhammer 40,000 has many weapons that bypass Armor Saves and a few ones that bypass Invulnerable Saves. The wording on one of these attacks simply states that the affected model is "removed from play with no saves of any kind allowed".
  • Warhammer tends not to have outright remove-from-play spells, instead using spells that require rolls against characteristics not typically used for resisting damage (often Initiative); of these the much-maligned Purple Sun of Xereus (stays on the table and moves randomly, everything in its path must save on Initiative or die) is probably the most famous.
    • The Tomb Kings as of Eighth Edition have a unit that can hit a target's Initiative instead of their regular stats. The attack is at Strength 1, but it ignores saves - and if it hits, you turn to sand. No coming back from that. In the Battle Report that introduced them, they took out an entire unit (squad with 20+ members) this way.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • If you are level 4 or below in Rules Cyclopedia Dungeons & Dragons, if someone casts a Sleep spell upon you, you're as good as sleeping, as it doesn't give you a saving throw against it. If you don't have any friends to protect you or wake you up when you're under the spell's influence, you're pretty much at the mercy of whoever cast the spell on you, as anyone can use a bladed weapon to kill you instantly no matter how many HP you have.
    • As mentioned above, the Level Drain attacks of many undead do not allow a saving throw, except for special circumstances.
    • Do not look at a Catoblepas straight in the eyes unless you want to die.
    • Do not touch a Sphere of Annihilation unless you want to be blasted out of existence. Notably, an upgraded and sentient version (the Blackball) released to fight characters of level 38+ (out of a possible 20) was still less scary, since it allowed an (admittedly, very difficult) save.
    • In the 1st edition, a Nightcrawler's sting attack has a 1 in 8 chance of killing a character outright, without a saving throw.
    • The only defense against Holy Word and its sister spells (Dictum, Word of Chaos, and Blasphemy) are being a high enough level, spell resistance (which is not quite the same as a saving throw), and having the right alignment.
    • The Power Word spells' success is based on how many hitpoints the target has. If you're too tough, it's a No-Sell, but if you're not, it's No Saving Throw.
    • In the 3rd edition of Deities and Demigods, there are a handful of divine abilities which simply cause a mortal creature or creatures to die. The end. Justified given the power level of the beings who can use it.
    • 3rd edition contains the spell Cloudkill, which summons a cloud of gas which, on contact, kills everything level 3 or lower, no save required.
    • Forcecage traps a creature inside it with no saving throw or spell resistance, keeping them trapped unless they have magical means of escape.
    • And, of course, the old standby Magic Missile. Automatically hits, bypassing armor and damage reduction, allows no save, hits even incorporeal creatures. The tradeoff is that it doesn't do very much damage. And there are a few spells that can block it (but can't block anything else). However, if you're up against enemies that are insanely specialized into this spell to the point of being able to bypass the protection spells, God help you.
    • According to fourth edition rulebooks, if you touch lava you just die instantly - but the actual adventures avert this, and lava instead deals small or negligible amounts of fire damage each turn.
  • Mutants & Masterminds second edition has No Saving Throw as a extra you can apply to one of your powers. When the power resolves, the target is treated as though they failed their saving throw by one point. For damage effectsnote  this results only in Scratch Damage. But for Save-Or-Lose effects like Mind Control, Transform, or Power Control, this ability becomes a Game-Breaker. It's typically reserved for NPC Villains.
    • A different example from the same game is the Perception range commonly seen on mental powers. While not a literal example (as the target is still allowed a Saving Throw), it automatically hits any target the user can perceive. A Perception Range power with the No Saving Throw modifier is unavoidable and irresistible unless you can find some way to avoid being seen.
  • In GURPS 4e the radiation rules are almost a parody of this. A very large dose of rads still lets you roll to resist but all the results, including a critical success, are death. Success only means you die more slowly.
  • Elder Sign: The goal of the game is to gather enough Elder Signs to prevent the Eldritch Abomination of the day from waking up. Given that the Abominations in question are Elder or Outer Gods of the Cthulhu Mythos, one of them waking up is usually a game over. However, it is possible, though difficult, for the players to defeat an awakened Abomination in a last-ditch fight. Unless the Abomination is Azathoth. If he awakens, it's an instant game over. Absolutely nothing can be done.

  • In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, there's another literal example. Two PC's encounter a death demon, and his compelling fear aura is so powerful they can't roll high enough to resist so the DM assumed that they were compelled. However, the Rules Lawyer says that on a 20 any action is an automatic success, and insists on rolling... a 1. He becomes completely compelled.
  • The most basic magical attacks from the wizard's staves in Dragon Age: Origins can't be run away from, regardless of the target's defences. On the downside, their damage is not that high, and it's impossible to land a Critical Hit with a staff.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, spells with Split Second prevent almost all possible responses from even being attempted, so anything you could normally do to save the target doesn't work. Uncounterable spells could also count, since countering a spell is sometimes the only way of stopping it.
  • In World of Warcraft, certain loss-of-control spells are categorized as "charm" effects, where you lose control of your character in a way that it's as if someone else has taken control of it. These differ from "mind control" effects in that it's impossible to resist them, and impossible to break out of them once they happennote ; the only thing a player can do is wait until the effect finishes or the player is killed. These effects are thankfully rare, and are generally used as a mechanic in a boss fight, either as a periodic nuisance or as a condition resulting from poor play.
  • Master of Magic has Doom Bolt. Which deals massive damage, and unlike every other spell and ability in the entire game, it offers no form of saving throw or resistance roll.
  • E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy's "Gate" psychic powers will bypass any defense. If you can line up your crosshair on an organic enemy and cast the power, it will always work, though it may destroy your sanity in the process.
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have "special infected", zombies with different abilities than the normal ones. Most of these zombies, such as the Hunter, Charger, Smoker, and Jockey will immobilize the player if they can perform their primary attack on them. Until the player is saved by their teammates, the special infected can hit them again and again.
  • Town of Salem:
    • This is the Arsonist's ability. Whoever he set on fire is dead - not even No-Sell abilities like Night Immunity, Bulletproof Vest or Doctor healing can save the victim. Ironically, the only way to avoid this is... to get jailed by the Jailor that night.
    • The Jester takes it even further. If he is lynched, he will haunt a person and cause them to commit suicide that night, and none of the above immunities, not even being sent to jail, will save his target. It is possible for his target to survive if they're transported by the Transporter, in which case the person they're switched with dies instead.
    • It's also flat-out impossible to survive the Jailor's execution. Night Immunity doesn't work, the Doctor and Bodyguard can't save you, and you can't be transported out of it. Even the Jailor dying that night doesn't save you because the execution will go through regardless. The only ways to avoid death are to either persuade the Jailor not to kill you, or for someone else to prevent the execution from occurring. For instance, should the Jailor be roleblocked or made to target someone other than you by a Witch, you're safe. But if the execute goes through, nothing can save you.
    • The Werewolf ignores Night Immunity, meaning that the roles that can normally No-Sell night attacks are not safe. It's possible for an outside force to save the Werewolf's target - such as the Jailor, Doctor or Bodyguard - but that causes the death of the saviour. The Werewolf also kills all visitors to the victim, even if those visitors are Night Immune. This makes the Werewolf the most terrifying role in the game, because if they visit someone, someone is going to die.
    • Pestilence (added in the expansion), however, is completely immune to all of the above. If a Jailor gets him, the Jailor dies and any execution fails. He also can't suicide from a Jester or get burned by an Arsonist. That said, there is one kill in the game that can affect him and any other role without fail — getting lynched.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The final form of the Final Boss has an attack that's not only a One-Hit Kill, it cannot be avoided, blocked, and Death's Door cannot protect from it. When it hits, that character's dead. The only saving grace is that he uses it exactly twice in the fight (once at 2/3 hp, and again at 1/3 hp), and you get to choose which character dies to it. The only possible counter would be to inflict enough damage in a single attack to get the boss from "above the threshold" to "dead". It's been done, but even then it relied on the RNG with only a 1/4 chance of success, in order to deliver a giant Critical Hit that would have utterly destroyed almost every boss in the game outright.
  • Spoony complains about this in his review of Mazes and Monsters, where Jay-Jay makes his character jump into a spike pit and the Game Master just declares him dead on the spot without making any type of roll, be it a Saving Throw, damage dice, or whatever. Of course, this is just one of many things the film gets wrong about tabletop games...