What Is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e? How It Works & Calculated | Worldbuilder's Junction (2023)

Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop game with many rules that need to be internalized to enjoy the game fully. One of the most basic mechanics of the game, Proficiency Bonuses, is one aspect that needs to be understood to form a solid foundation when you first start out with the game. In this article, let’s learn the what, how, and other questions that surround this mechanic.

Contents

    • 4.1 Attack Rolls For Weapons Your Character is Proficient With
    • 4.2 Attack Rolls For Spells Your Character Cast
    • 4.3 Ability Check For Skills You Are Proficient With
    • 4.4 Ability Check For Tools You Are Proficient With
    • 4.5 Saving Throws For Abilities You Are Proficient In
    • 4.6 Saving Throw DC For Spells You Cast

What Is Proficiency Bonus In D&D 5e?

In Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, Proficiency Bonus is a stat that represents your character’s overall growth and progress. Your overall proficiency bonus increases based on a set value as you level up. The proficiency bonus is used with certain rolls, like attack rolls, ability checks, etc.

What Is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e? How It Works & Calculated | Worldbuilder's Junction (1)

If you’re looking for more beginner guides, I’ll leave an interactive infographic below that can help you or a friend understand the game better. Be sure to check it out!

There are two ways to approach understanding Proficiency Bonuses, the role-playing aspect and the straightforward gaming aspect.

For role-playing, you can picture proficiency bonus as a number that represents how skilled you are. As you go on quests and adventures in your campaign, your character grows. This growth in skill is your proficiency bonus.

As you start at level 1, it makes sense that you aren’t as skilled yet so you have a Proficiency Bonus of +2, and will need some practice to get the hang of stuff. However, at level 20, you will have a +6 proficiency bonus marking your expertise and experience.

For the gaming aspect, it’s a number that increases as you level up. The higher your level, the higher the value, letting you succeed in rolls and checks more often.

An example is something like your passive perception. Click here to find the formula and how to calculate passive perception.

I’ve broken it down to be easier to understand, the article will follow this order:

  • Determining Your Proficiency Bonus
  • What To Add Proficiency Bonus To
  • How Is Proficiency Bonus Calculated
  • Proficiency Bonuses and Multiclassing In D&D 5e
  • Adding Proficiency Bonus To Skills
  • Proficiency Bonuses And Stacking

Feel free to scroll down to what you need.

By the way, I work really hard on my content and it takes a long time to research and write all the information in the site. If you find it useful, please be sure to share and link back to articles for credit!

How To Determine Your Proficiency Bonus In D&D 5e

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Proficiency Bonuses are determined by a table provided on page 15 in the PHB (Player’s Handbook). You do not need to calculate anything for the values. You only need to use the value set for your level.

There is also a tier system where you can determine the character’s strength class. You can use this when judging what level your character can start for different campaigns. Sometimes some campaigns are just really for more experienced players who can start at higher tiers of difficulty.

For the more technical aspect, you CAN calculate your Proficiency Bonus…. But why? Anyway here’s the formula:

X = Proficiency Bonus

X = 2 + (¼ * (Level – 1))

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Round down your answer and there’s your needlessly complicated way of getting the Proficiency Bonus.

FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, here’s a summary of the table:

LevelProficiency BonusTiers
121st
221st
321st
421st
532nd
632nd
732nd
832nd
942nd
1042nd
1143rd
1243rd
1353rd
1453rd
1553rd
1653rd
1764th
1864th
1964th
2064th

You can find all the details on page 15 of the PHB.

What Do You Add Proficiency Bonus To In D&D 5e?

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Proficiency Bonus is used in these scenarios:

  • Attack Rolls For Weapons With Proficiency
  • Attack Rolls For Spells
  • Ability Check For Skills With Proficiency
  • Ability Check For Tools With Proficiency
  • Saving Throws For Proficient Abilities
  • Saving Throw DC For Spells

These are all the scenarios for using your Proficiency Bonus, all which can be found in the Wizards Of The Coast Basic Rules page.

How Is Proficiency Bonus Calculated In D&D 5e?

In DnD 5e, you do not need to compute anything to determine your Proficiency Bonus. Your Proficiency Bonus bonus is already set for your level; however you do need to calculate the different rolls and checks that the Proficiency Bonus bonus applies to.

Here, let’s create a character to act as a hypothetical level 1 character and apply the bonuses to the rolls and checks that it applies to.

Hypothetical Character Stats

What Is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e? How It Works & Calculated | Worldbuilder's Junction (2)
  • Level 1
  • Proficiency Bonus = 2
  • Strength = 15
  • Dexterity = 14
  • Constitution = 13
  • Intelligence = 12
  • Wisdom = 10
  • Charisma = 8

These stats will result in these modifiers:

  • Strength = +2
  • Dexterity = +2
  • Constitution = +1
  • Intelligence = +1
  • Wisdom = 0
  • Charisma = -1

For more on Ability Scores, check out this guide I made. You can find it by clicking here.

Take note of these stats, as these will be the ability score we will be using to compute for each example below:

Attack Rolls For Weapons Your Character is Proficient With

Hypothetical Character with Longsword Proficiency

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier + Proficiency

What Is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e? How It Works & Calculated | Worldbuilder's Junction (3)

= 1d20 + 2 + 2

Hypothetical Character with NO Longsword Proficiency

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier

= 1d20 + 2

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Attack Rolls For Spells Your Character Cast

Hypothetical Character Casting Fire Bolt

= 1d20 + Intelligence Modifier + Proficiency

= 1d20 + 1 + 2

Ability Check For Skills You Are Proficient With

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Strength (Athletics) Check

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier + Proficiency Bonus

= 1d20 + 2 + 2

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Strength (Athletics) Check with NO PROFICIENCY

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier

= 1d20 + 2

Ability Check For Tools You Are Proficient With

Ability checks for tools are mostly up to the DM. For example, in the PHB page 154, the example is that the DM can ask you to roll for Strength or Dexterity when using Woodcarver’s Tools depending on the task.

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Ability Check With Tool Proficiency

= d20 + Ability Modifier Tied To Tool (i.e. Strength) + Proficiency Bonus

= 1d20 + 2 + 2

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Ability Check With No Tool Proficiency

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier Tied To Tool (i.e. Strength)

= 1d20 + 2

Saving Throws For Abilities You Are Proficient In

These are mostly tied to your class saving throw proficiencies. If you need a guide for that, I made a table. You can find it by clicking here.

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Strength Saving Throw WITH PROFICIENCY

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier + Proficiency Bonus

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= 1d20 + 2 + 2

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Strength Saving Throw WITH NO PROFICIENCY

= 1d20 + Ability Modifier

= 1d20 + 2

Saving Throw DC For Spells You Cast

The saving throw DC for the spells you cast is what determines what the target has to roll in order to avoid your spell. You will need to find the spellcasting ability modifier for each class.

As a hypothetical, let’s say the character example is a Wizard, which uses Intelligence as their ability modifier.

Hypothetical Character Rolling For Saving Throw DC

= 8 + Spellcasting Ability Modifier + Proficiency Bonus + Additional Modifiers

= 8 + 1 + 2 + x(depending on which modifier)

Proficiency Bonuses and Multiclassing In D&D 5e

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, to get the proficiency bonus of a multiclass character, you add the levels of all classes and use that as your overall level. Based on your overall level, you can consult the table written on page 15 of the Player’s Handbook to determine your proficiency bonus.

The way it works is that the overall level of the character is still the basis. No matter how many classes you level dip into, you just sum up all their levels and use that as your overall level.

For example:

What Is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e? How It Works & Calculated | Worldbuilder's Junction (4)

Class 1 = Level 3 Fighter

Class 2 = Level 7 Paladin

Class 3 = Level 3 Rogue

= Class 1 + Class 2 +Class 3

= 3 + 7 + 3

= 13

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Proficiency Bonus, based on the table above, is +5.

If you’re interested in level dipping or multiclassing, check out this article where we lay out our 10 best level dip in D&D 5e. You can find it by clicking here.

Do You Add Proficiency Bonus To Skills In D&D 5e?

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, whenever a player or character makes an Ability Check, the standard calculation will be d20 + Ability Score Modifier. Should the player be proficient with the ability it becomes d20 + Ability Score Modifier + Proficiency Bonus.

If you’ll notice with the calculation for each of the scenarios above, they all follow the formula:

Ability Check = d20 + Ability Score Modifier + Proficiency Bonus

This is the standard formula when performing checks and saves, and they are all based mostly on your ability score modifiers.

So if you are proficient with a skill: yes, you do add a proficiency bonus to the corresponding skill. If you are proficient with Athletics, add your proficiency bonus, if you are proficient with Nature, then go ahead and add your proficiency bonus as well.

Do Proficiency Bonuses Stack In D&D 5e?

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Proficiency Bonuses never stack. Whether you have skill and tool proficiencies that overlap or not, you can only apply the proficiency bonus once. Because of this, it is best if you build your character with more variety in this regard.

Skill and tool proficiency doesn’t overlap. For example if your class and background have a similar skill, you cannot take it from both sources and double the effects.

If you take a skill twice from both your class and background, you will only add the proficiency bonus once. So make sure to go for variety instead.

There are caveats, however, as the DM has the prerogative to grant you bonuses or penalties depending on the situation. For example, if the situation calls for it, you can double your proficiency with athletics and jump over a wall that would normally be impossible to jump.

You can use the Rogue Class Feature Expertise to effectively double the proficiency bonus for a given skill, however. As Expertise grants you the option of choosing two skills where your proficiency bonus would be doubled, it is akin to stacking bonuses.

This guide is an unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Here are the infographics I promised. Feel free to swipe left or right!

Here’s an infographic you can share with your friends!

What Is Proficiency Bonus in D&D 5e? How It Works & Calculated | Worldbuilder's Junction (6)

References:

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FAQs

How does 5e calculate proficiency bonus? ›

Your Proficiency bonus is always based on your total character level, as shown in the Character Advancement table, 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.

What is a proficiency bonus DND 5e? ›

Simply put: the proficiency bonus in Dungeons and Dragons is a bonus added to skill checks, saving throws, or attacks for skills that a character is proficient in. At first glance, it might not be obvious how this bonus differs from the ability modifiers a character has.

How do you calculate proficiencies in 5e? ›

Skill modifier = relevant ability modifier + proficiency bonus (if proficient) + other modifiers. relevant ability modifier: each skill usage is associated with an ability; you can find which either in tiny letters next to the skill on a WotC character sheet or in a chart on PHB p. 174.

How does your proficiency bonus increase? ›

As your character grows in levels, your proficiency bonus increases, making you more likely to succeed on skill checks, attack rolls, and saving throws where it applies.

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