The Proficiency Bonus (PB) in D&D 5e is one of the key elements you have to take into consideration while you are playing, but it is certainly also an enigmatic bonus when you approach the Game for the first time, especially if you are coming from other different tabletop games.
In this small guide we will try to guide you on where do you have to use it and how can you calculate it
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WHAT IS THE PROFICIENCY BONUS (PB) IN DnD 5E?
The Proficiency Bonus (PB) is the bonus (the fixed number) that you have to add to all the checks that your character is proficient in; it is used to create a baseline that expresses the level of expertise of a D&D character, according to its level, its class, and its race.
These checks are:
- Skills checks (Acrobatics, Athletics, etc.)
- Saves Throws (Strenght, Constitution, Wisdom, etc.)
- Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons, and Spell attacks
- Defensive Class (DC) for spells and skills.
As mentioned before, the Proficiency Bonus is always linked to your total character level and shown in a specific Table, called the Character Advancement Table.
The total character level is different from the level in a particular class. This aspect is very important in case you are creating a multiclass character, which combines different classes with different levels. For example, if your character is multiclass between a Fighter Level 3 and a Barbarian Level 2, your total character level is 5 (3 +2 = 5) and your proficiency bonus is +3.
This particular type of bonus starts at a value of +2 and increases every 4 levels to a maximum value of +6 for the player (+9 for monsters, which have their own proficiency bonus determined by their Challenge Rating).
WHEN DO YOU USE IT?
As mentioned before, you have to add this bonus on most of the checks that involve a level of expertise in your character. According to the class you have selected for your PC, you will have different levels of proficiencies, both in the use of tools and in your physical/intellectual abilities.
This means that your character has either trained during his/her life on a certain set of skills or has a natural talent for those (or a combination of both).
The logic behind the PB is that characters have developed different abilities in their life, which are reflected both in their classes (with the proficiencies you select in the PC’s creation), and in their level (with an increase in the PB modifier).
Let’s take into consideration this example, to see how we apply this bonus to a normal game.
You have a Level 3 Human Barbarian, with a Strenght of 18 (which equals a modifier of 4), who has just made a roll of 10 of an Athletic Check.
Let’s suppose that when you have created the PC you have selected, among the various possibilities, the proficiency in Athletics.
In this case, the result of your check will be the following:
10 (base roll) + 4 (strength modifier) + 2 (proficiency bonus modifier) = 16
Take into consideration that for every throw you have to apply the Proficiency Bonus only ones, even if your character has multiple proficiencies that might help him/her in this situation.
The only exception to this rule is when your PC is “expert“: in this case, you have to make the same calculation as before, but double the Proficiency Bonus modifier.
HOW DO YOU CALCULATE THE PROFICIENCY BONUS (PB)?
Characters in Dungeons and Dragons can have their knowledge and abilities be classified in 3 groups, depending on how frequent they are:
- Most of them: your character will know them on a base level, or sometimes even might have some difficulties with them
- A selected group: between all of them, you have a small group that you are able to do pretty well (it is told that your character is “proficient” in these abilities)
- The most uncommon: rarely, your character is really good at these (your character is an “expert” in these).
In all these cases, the proficiency bonus has an impact larger than you can imagine at a first glance.
Since your character can not have Ability scores that go beyond the +5 (since your characteristics can not cross level 20), the Proficiency Bonus in DnD 5e (usually) makes the highest impact on the bonus you will add on every throws that involves your characteristics, especially on higher levels.
The formula you have to follow to calculate the Proficiency Bonus in DnD 5e is the following:
[2 + (Total level of character -1)/4] (rounded down)
1 + (total level of character)/4 (rounded up)
In both cases you will end up with the same results, so you can choose the one you prefer.
However, as mentioned before, you will not have to use these formulas unless you are planning of Homebrewing a class beyond Level 20. In all the other cases, you will simply need to use the character advancement table, which you can find right below.
CHARACTER ADVANCEMENT TABLE
Quick note: the proficiency bonus for Monsters and Creatures has been pre-added pre-added to all the rolls that use it until Tasha’s Caldron of Everything,
IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE ON THE PROFICIENCY BONUS?
It is called Proficiency Dice: it is used in the same way as the standard Proficiency Bonus, but instead of using fixed numbers, it uses dice rolls. Its progression increases in the same way as the PB and starts with a 1D4 and then gradually increases to a 1D6, then 1D8, 1D10, and finally to a 1D12.
Even though it adds more unpredictability to your game (if you decide to use your system, your saving throws can be really hard or really easy), it can often lead to chaos and time expenses.
You can still try to use it if you are playing to a Virtual Table Top: in these cases, it might be easier to do all these rolls.