Roleplaying Resources

D&D 5: Masters of Skills

By the DM, 2017-10-18

Skills were one of my favorite parts of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. They remain one of my favorite parts of D&D 5. Like in every edition of D&D, rogues and bards are the skill masters, but who is better?

The Rogue gets four proficiencies, four Expertise skills, and a huge bonus at level 11, where rolls below 10 are automatically pushed up to 10. Lore Bards get six proficiencies, two Expertise skills, and at 14th level, can add a Bardic Inspiration die to skill checks after seeing the result of the roll. Bards also get bonuses to skills they are not proficient with.

Here's a level-by-level analysis of the skill masters:

Rogue Bard
Level prof1) non-prof rolls2) prof rolls3) avg4) prof non-prof rolls prof rolls avg
1 4(2) 0-19 10-29 10.5-19.5 3(0) 0-19 10-25 10.5-17.5
2 4(2) 0-19 10-29 10.5-19.5 3(0) 1-20 10-25 10.5-17.5
3-4 4(2) 0-19 10-29 10.5-19.5 6(2) 1-20 10-29 11-19.5
5-9 4(2) 0-19 12-31 10.5-21.5 6(2) 1-20 12-31 11-21.5
10 4(4) 0-19 14-33 10.5-23.5 6(4) 2-22 14-33 11.5-23.5
11-12 4(4) 0-19 23-335) 10.5-25.75 6(4) 2-22 14-33 11.5-23.5
13 4(4) 0-19 25-35 10.5-27.75 6(4) 2-22 16-35 11.5-25.5
14 4(4) 0-19 25-35 10.5-27.75 6(4) 3-32 17-456) 17-31
15-16 4(4) 0-19 25-35 10.5-27.75 6(4) 3-34 17-47 18-32
17-20 4(4) 0-19 27-37 10.5-29.75 6(4) 4-35 19-49 18.5-33

While Rogue has more reliable skill checks than Bard starting at level 11, and doesn't have to use up a limited resource (Bardic Inspiration), I think Bard is the clear winner here starting at level 14. No other class can get close to a 49 on a skill check.

The Most Skills

Want a ridiculous build to get the most skill proficiencies possible? Try this one:

* Background: Any that comes with two proficiencies. * Race: Half-elf, for two bonus skills. * Feats: Skilled, obviously. Thats 3 more. * Rogue 1 - This gives you four proficiencies and two expertise. * Knowledge Cleric 1 - Proficiency and expertise in two skills. * Lore Bard 3 - Four more proficiencies, expertise and jack of all trades. * Warlock 2 - Take the Beguiling Influence invocation, for proficiency in Deception and Persuasion. * Ranger 1 - One more proficiency. * 10 more levels of rogue for reliable talent. * 2 levels of whatever you want.

By level 8, you have proficiency in all 18 skills, and double proficiency in 6 of them. Yay. By level 18, you have 8 double proficiencies, and you can't roll lower than a 10 on any skill check.

1)
proficiencies and expertise
2)
range of rolls for a non-proficient skill with an ability penalty of -1
3)
range of rolls for a proficient or expertise skill with an ability bonus of +5
4)
average rolls for a non-proficient skill with an ability penalty of -1, vs a proficient or expertise skill with an ability bonus of +5
5)
Reliable Talent
6)
Bardic Inspiration