Proficiency Bonus 5e
Published on December 7, 2023, Last modified on January 15th, 2024
Learn how to boost skills, attacks, and saves using your proficiency bonus in D&D 5e!
Jason Rainville - Wizards of the Coast - Kari Zev’s Expertise
Table of Contents
- What is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e?
- Proficiency Bonus By Level
- The Different Kinds of Proficiencies in D&D 5e
- Applying Your Proficiency Bonus
- When is Proficiency Bonus Not Applied
- Gaining a Proficiency
- Multiclassing and Proficiency Bonus
- Now You’re Proficient With Proficiency!
What is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e?
Proficiency bonus in D&D 5e is an additional number added to your dice rolls for skills, attack rolls, and saving throws in which your character is proficient. It reflects the training and experience of your character in specific areas. This bonus starts at +2 for a 1st-level character and gradually increases as they gain levels, reaching up to +6 at 17th level.
Proficiency Bonus By Level
Your character’s proficiency bonus is determined by their level, as outlined in the table below. This bonus is the same for every character, regardless of class or background.
The Different Kinds of Proficiencies in D&D 5e
Proficiency can apply to weapons, armor, skills, saving throws, and tools, including musical instruments. Being proficient in each of these areas may have certain niche effects on top of providing a proficiency bonus to checks made with that feature. Let’s explore the proficiency mechanics for each of these areas:
Weapon proficiency in D&D 5e allows a character to effectively use certain types of weapons. When a character is proficient with a weapon, they can add their proficiency bonus to attack rolls made with that weapon. If they are not proficient with the weapon they are attacking with, they do not add their proficiency bonus and are, therefore, less likely to hit.
Armor proficiency determines which types of armor a character can wear effectively. If a character wears armor they are not proficient with, they can’t cast spells, all ability checks have disadvantage, and Dexterity and Strength saving throws are made with disadvantage. Each class has specific armor proficiencies, with heavier armors typically reserved for more combat-focused classes like fighters and paladins.
Skill proficiency shows a character’s training in specific skills, ranging from Stealth to Persuasion. When a character is proficient in a skill, they add their proficiency bonus to ability checks involving that skill.
Bards are rogues are known for having the most skill proficiencies out of any class. They also get Expertise, which doubles their proficiency bonus for certain skills.
Saving throw proficiency indicates a character’s ability to resist certain effects. Characters add their proficiency bonus to saving throws they are proficient in. Each class is proficient in different saving throws, which are typically tied to the class’s core attributes and playstyle. For example, fighters have proficiency in Strength and Constitution saving throws, reflecting their physical resilience.
Tools and Musical Instruments
Tool and musical instrument proficiencies enable characters to use specific tools or instruments effectively. These proficiencies can be important in various scenarios, from picking locks with thieves’ tools to entertaining a crowd with a musical instrument.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything states that if you have proficiency in both a tool and a skill required to make a check, you get advantage on the roll. It also has suggested added benefits that can be applied by having a tool proficiency. These are too numerous to list here, but I’d highly suggest reading over that section because it is, in my opinion, some top-notch D&D content.
Applying Your Proficiency Bonus
Proficiency bonus shows up in a lot of aspects of D&D. Here are some common instances in which you’ll apply the bonus to your roll:
- Skill Checks: When making a skill check in an area where your character is proficient, add your proficiency bonus to the d20 roll.
- Attack Rolls: For weapon attacks with which your character is proficient, the proficiency bonus is added to the attack roll.
- Spell Attacks: Your spell attack modifier is your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting modifier, so you technically apply your proficiency bonus to all your spell attacks (just make sure not to add it twice).
- Spell Save DC: When casting a spell that requires a saving throw, your spell save DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting modifier.
- Saving Throws: If your character is proficient in a specific saving throw, this bonus is added to the saving throw roll.
Other Areas That Use Proficiency Bonus
Since Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything was released in November 2020, classes and subclasses have seen more and more use for proficiency bonus. The more prominent examples are class, subclass, or feat abilities that can be used ” a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.”
When is Proficiency Bonus Not Applied
Some new players (and experienced players, for that matter) struggle to know when they should or shouldn’t apply a proficiency bonus. Here are some common mistakes I see regarding proficiency bonus when playing:
- Damage: Proficiency bonus isn’t applied to typical damage rolls unless you are explicitly told to apply your proficiency bonus, such as in the Baleful Scion’s Grasp of Avarice ability.
- Death Saving Throws: Seeing as death saving throws are their own special saving throw, you can’t get proficiency specifically with these, so your proficiency bonus won’t apply. That said, there are features, like the monk’s 14th-level Diamond Soul, that give them proficiency in all saving throws, which applies to death saving throws.
Gaining a Proficiency
You usually pick up the majority of your proficiencies up during character creation because backgrounds, classes, and races are the primary methods from which proficiencies are gained.
If you’ve already rolled up a character and are looking to pick up proficiency in a skill, saving throw, weapon, or armor, here are some ways to do so:
Many subclasses in D&D 5e offer additional proficiencies not provided by the base class. This can come in the form of skill proficiencies, like the bonus proficiency the Cavalier fighter gets at 3rd level from either Animal Handling, History, Insight, Performance, or Persuasion. It can also come in the form of weapon or armor proficiencies, like the Forge Domain cleric’s heavy armor proficiency.
Some feats provide proficiency in skills, tools, weapons, or armor. For example, the Skilled feat allows a character to gain proficiency in any combination of three skills or tools of their choice. The Weapon Master feat grants proficiency with four weapons of your choice.
In some campaigns, the Dungeon Master may allow characters to gain new proficiencies through training during downtime. This training usually involves finding a teacher and spending a significant amount of time (and sometimes gold) to learn the new skill, tool, weapon, or language.
Multiclassing and Proficiency Bonus
When multiclassing, remember that your proficiency bonus depends on your total character level, not your level in a specific class. For example, if you’re a 4th-level fighter and take a dip into the rogue class, your proficiency bonus is still +3, like any 5th-level character.
Gaining Proficiencies in Multiclassing
When you first take a level in a class that’s different from your starting class, you gain only certain proficiencies from the new class. Here’s a quick overview:
- 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 (but not 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.
- Sorcerer: No additional proficiencies.
- Warlock: Light armor, simple weapons.
- Wizard: No additional proficiencies.
Now You’re Proficient With Proficiency!
And there you have it, you’re now as proficient with the proficiency mechanic as a bard is with a lute or a rogue with a lockpick. So, next time your rogue is in a dungeon debating whether to sneak past the sleeping dragon or to give it a piece of your mind (and dagger), just think of your proficiency bonus as that little voice in your head saying, “Go on, you got this!” (But seriously, maybe just sneak past the dragon.)