D&D 5E Proficiency vs. Ability vs. Expertise

Parmandur

Book-Friend
The fact that the ability modifier can be so much greater than the proficiency bonus, especially at low levels, was one of the first things that seemed really off with this edition. I mean, if someone goes out of their way to become proficient in an obscure skill, then they should definitely be the go-to person for using that skill when it comes up, regardless of natural talent. If the paladin with proficiency in Religion is less-knowledgeable about it than the wizard who isn't, then what was the point in even writing down that proficiency?

In my game, I increased the magnitude of the proficiency bonus by +4 across the board. If you're trained in something, then you're at +6 next to anyone who isn't, and that goes up to +10 by high levels. Expertise just lets you substitute your proficiency bonus in place of your stat modifier, whenever that's better. (Stat bonuses are also increased by +5 across the board, so they go from +4 to +10 instead of going from -1 to +5.)

The RAI for Proficiency is that many skill attempts are best gated by Proficiency (see every published Adventure for 5E).

The Paladin might only have +3 for Intelligence, but the Gnome Wizard with 20 Intelligence lacking Proficiency in Religion cannot even roll to identify the holy symbol in the tomb.
 

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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Again, I come home from work and lots of stuff to catch up on! Love it and thanks to all for contributing.

They won't, though. Suppose you want to build a lightfoot halfling rogue that specializes in talking and noticing things (in particular, focusing on Persuasion, Deception, Insight, and Perception), but also wants to be capable in combat. They've got to invest in DEX and CON to survive and do damage, and they want some WIS and CHA to support their skills. So maybe their starting array after racial bonuses is 9,16,14,8,14,14. Then there's a sorcerer in the party, with persuasion and deception, and a cleric with perception and insight. All of them bump their main stat at levels 4 and 8, so now the sorcerer has 20 CHA and the cleric has 20 WIS.

With a flat +2 for expertise, the rogue is always going to be slightly behind the sorcerer at talking, and slightly behind the cleric at noticing, unless they put ASIs into CHA and WIS (and how often have you seen a character put ASIs into abilities that have no impact on their combat ability?). And that's with a pretty hefty investment into those ability scores on the rogue's part! A more typical case would be having 10s or 12s in tertiary stats. Yes, neither one of those will be as good at all four at the same time as the rogue, but it would be kind of deflating to pick a skill monkey class and not be the best in the party at the skills you choose to specialize in.

The other reason I don't like a flat bonus is that it means that the distinction between non-proficiency and proficiency becomes more meaningful as you level, but the distinction between proficiency and expertise becomes relatively less meaningful. It seems weird to me to say that getting more experience doing the thing you are considered an "expert" in doesn't let you further distinguish yourself from those who are merely trained in that thing.

A flat +2 bonus is equivalent to two ASIs. So, if I start my Rogue with a WIS 14 and your Cleric begins with WIS 16, you already have an edge in that respect. However, until you reach 8th-level (assuming you don't take any feats, which is unlikely IME, at least at our table), the Rogue has a better Perception modifier. Considering that represents half the levels most tables play, I am fine with it. If anything, like I mentioned, I might also add the advantage mechanic to expertise if I kept it a flat bonus. That would offer the Rogue a definite edge over the cleric and sorcerer.

Also, if we used a flat bonus, ability modifiers will likely cap at +4, not +5. So, with the initial investment of 14 in WIS and/or CHA, the Rogue would never be worse than the others.

I would rather they have used the BECMI ability score modifiers that cap at +3, or at least cap ability scores at 18 for +4 if they kept the 3E system. I think that proficiency is just fine, with low level characters being better with natural ability and higher level characters benefiting more from training. I kinda wish that expertise was 1.5 Proficiency modifier, rather than double, but IME it works with the current system. The reality is that the system works as is, and changing it to my liking would require changing a lot of monsters to reflect it.

I agree. I know some people obviously value the three concepts differently, but like many I prefer the idea that ability score is raw talent, proficiency is training, and expertise is specializing. In many ways I prefer the 3E system myself. If you make expertise half proficiency (one of the many options I've toyed with LOL), you get the 1.5 proficiency modifier you want.

The reality as you point out is the biggest challenge, a lot of tinkering with monsters, etc. and that is primarily why I wonder if it would be worth it...
 

Horwath

Hero
I agree that expertise is having inflation effect on modifiers.

But that is a fault of d20 and its non-consistency. With 3d6 expertise would be great at just adding half a modifier extra on to your proficiency modifier not full.
As with 3d6, +1 extra really means a lot.

But if we want to keep d20, maybe we can combine expertise and rogues reliable talent into new mechanics:

Expertise: it would have 3 levels:

Expertise 1; treat d20 roll of skill(one, couple or all - up to debate) as 5 if the roll is lower than 5.


Expertise 2; treat d20 roll of skill(one, couple or all - up to debate) as 10 if the roll is lower than 10.


Expertise 3; treat d20 roll of skill(one, couple or all - up to debate) as 15 if the roll is lower than 15.


This would prevent bonuses to inflate too much, but it would give ability to skill monkey to succeed at "mundane" tasks 100% of the time without going for +20 modifiers to do it.
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I guess I’m not really understanding the motivation for all this? Isn’t the DM involved? Is the DM asking for rolls that skilled/or expert should automatically succeed at? Or is the DM asking for rolls that have little to no consequence?
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I guess I’m not really understanding the motivation for all this? Isn’t the DM involved? Is the DM asking for rolls that skilled/or expert should automatically succeed at? Or is the DM asking for rolls that have little to no consequence?

Yes, the current DM is involved but for our group I will soon be DMing. The issue we originally had RAW is characters with ability scores of +3 or +4 with proficiency at +4 and expertise getting +11 or +12 total. While this might not seem like much, with things like stealth and most creatures having such horrible passive perception, the main rogue in our group was practically undetectable. He would roll an 8, and have a 20. Few monsters have a passive perception of 20! We saw it as game-breaking as the rogue could sneak into and out of places without hardly a risk of being noticed. Yeah, we get it, he is mid-level with a great DEX and expertise, he should be good, but there comes a point where it takes some of the excitement out of the game when you are making hard checks routinely. So...

We've already all agreed to adjust things like proficiency bonus and expertise, and have some house-rules in place for the table under the current DM. And I was wondering what others think of the balance between contributions from the three factors: proficiency bonus, ability score modifier, and expertise. Which should trump which in contribution? Some people have voiced their agreement that expertise, for instance, can add too much, especially at higher levels making difficult checks almost easy.

For me, I feel the +6, +5, +6 is too even. Since proficiency advances automatically with level, I think overall it should warrant the greatest contribution. Yet it barely beats out maximum ability score bonuses and for those who have expertise, they are only equal. My suggestion is a cap of +11 for proficiency, +4 for ability scores, and a flat +2 for expertise (most likely granting advantage as well). This way bounded accuracy isn't affected since the maximum possible bonus is still +17. This might not be the way we go, but it is where I am at now. FWIW, we currently have proficiency max at +8, ability scores are still +5, and expertise ranges from +2 to +4 depending on level.

Obviously I don't want to "take anything away" from Rogues, and expertise is one of their big bang features really. And, of course, such changes would require major tweaking for monsters, etc. and I don't know if it is worth the hassle as much as I would prefer it.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend


Yes, the current DM is involved but for our group I will soon be DMing. The issue we originally had RAW is characters with ability scores of +3 or +4 with proficiency at +4 and expertise getting +11 or +12 total. While this might not seem like much, with things like stealth and most creatures having such horrible passive perception, the main rogue in our group was practically undetectable. He would roll an 8, and have a 20. Few monsters have a passive perception of 20! We saw it as game-breaking as the rogue could sneak into and out of places without hardly a risk of being noticed. Yeah, we get it, he is mid-level with a great DEX and expertise, he should be good, but there comes a point where it takes some of the excitement out of the game when you are making hard checks routinely. So...

We've already all agreed to adjust things like proficiency bonus and expertise, and have some house-rules in place for the table under the current DM. And I was wondering what others think of the balance between contributions from the three factors: proficiency bonus, ability score modifier, and expertise. Which should trump which in contribution? Some people have voiced their agreement that expertise, for instance, can add too much, especially at higher levels making difficult checks almost easy.

For me, I feel the +6, +5, +6 is too even. Since proficiency advances automatically with level, I think overall it should warrant the greatest contribution. Yet it barely beats out maximum ability score bonuses and for those who have expertise, they are only equal. My suggestion is a cap of +11 for proficiency, +4 for ability scores, and a flat +2 for expertise (most likely granting advantage as well). This way bounded accuracy isn't affected since the maximum possible bonus is still +17. This might not be the way we go, but it is where I am at now. FWIW, we currently have proficiency max at +8, ability scores are still +5, and expertise ranges from +2 to +4 depending on level.

Obviously I don't want to "take anything away" from Rogues, and expertise is one of their big bang features really. And, of course, such changes would require major tweaking for monsters, etc. and I don't know if it is worth the hassle as much as I would prefer it.

Changing the numbers can have wonky side effects: I'd suggest looking at the alternative skill rules suggestions in the DMG. If you guys are bored by a Rogue auto-succeeding, use the dice pooling method (instead of +4 in Prod and Expertise, he gets +2d8). No more automatic success, adds some drama to rolls, but is a wash mathematically in the big picture
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Changing the numbers can have wonky side effects: I'd suggest looking at the alternative skill rules suggestions in the DMG. If you guys are bored by a Rogue auto-succeeding, use the dice pooling method (instead of +4 in Prod and Expertise, he gets +2d8). No more automatic success, adds some drama to rolls, but is a wash mathematically in the big picture

The added randomness is nice, true, but it would slow down game play (albeit not a lot...) and could lead to even higher numbers, making even more times when he is unnoticeable.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
The added randomness is nice, true, but it would slow down game play (albeit not a lot...) and could lead to even higher numbers, making even more times when he is unnoticeable.

Not terribly slowed down: and yes, it would be a wash mathematically in the long run, averaging out to the same numbers. However, changing the basic numbers is much more likely to cause problems with the game, by throwing things out of whack all around. Thing is, Rogues are supposed to be able to succeed by huge amounts on a regular basis: may as well ban Rogues rather than break the system so they can't do their thing.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes, the current DM is involved but for our group I will soon be DMing. The issue we originally had RAW is characters with ability scores of +3 or +4 with proficiency at +4 and expertise getting +11 or +12 total. While this might not seem like much, with things like stealth and most creatures having such horrible passive perception, the main rogue in our group was practically undetectable. He would roll an 8, and have a 20. Few monsters have a passive perception of 20! We saw it as game-breaking as the rogue could sneak into and out of places without hardly a risk of being noticed. Yeah, we get it, he is mid-level with a great DEX and expertise, he should be good, but there comes a point where it takes some of the excitement out of the game when you are making hard checks routinely. So...

This is one of the reasons that I dislike passive perception. I already give advantage to the passive perception of groups of creatures that someone is trying to sneak past, since with many sets of eyes, someone will be probably looking at any given direction at any given time. However, I'm thinking about removing passive perception during times of risk and going to opposed rolls.
 



Esker

Hero
Yes, the current DM is involved but for our group I will soon be DMing. The issue we originally had RAW is characters with ability scores of +3 or +4 with proficiency at +4 and expertise getting +11 or +12 total. While this might not seem like much, with things like stealth and most creatures having such horrible passive perception, the main rogue in our group was practically undetectable. He would roll an 8, and have a 20. Few monsters have a passive perception of 20! We saw it as game-breaking as the rogue could sneak into and out of places without hardly a risk of being noticed. Yeah, we get it, he is mid-level with a great DEX and expertise, he should be good, but there comes a point where it takes some of the excitement out of the game when you are making hard checks routinely.

I'm not seeing why succeeding on an 8 on a stealth check is a problem. That's only a 65% chance of success. A cloud giant has a passive perception of 17, so with a +12 you need to roll a 5 or better to sneak around them (and that's assuming you're not sneaking past any guards who are making active checks). So the level 9 rogue specializing in stealth has an 80% chance to sneak around a cloud giant. And that's assuming they're going off by themselves, so that if they fail, they're in a lot of hot water. Why is that a problem?

And that's on a skill that aligns with the rogue's main ability score. It's even less of an issue when you get to skills like investigation, perception, deception, athletics, etc.
 
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Esker

Hero
I actually think that given your stated goals of bringing drama back into situations where rogues are almost guaranteed success, your proposed fix goes in the wrong direction. Reducing the expertise bonus and granting advantage means more near-auto-success on moderate challenges, but a lower ceiling on the level of difficulty that you can overcome with a lucky roll.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
To those who think that rogues shouldn't be better at a field than the best of those who specialize in the field(ie wizards and arcana), what if you gave each class 1 of their class skills and let them apply expertise to it. Include rogues so that their expertise class feature doesn't get gimped. That way a wizard who was an expert in arcana would at worst be tied with a rogue of the same level whose player raised his int to 20 for some reason.

Non-rogue/bard: 1 expertise skill that has to be on their initial list.
Rogue/bard: 5(eventually) expertise skills.
 

Esker

Hero
To those who think that rogues shouldn't be better at a field than the best of those who specialize in the field(ie wizards and arcana), what if you gave each class 1 of their class skills and let them apply expertise to it. Include rogues so that their expertise class feature doesn't get gimped. That way a wizard who was an expert in arcana would at worst be tied with a rogue of the same level whose player raised his int to 20 for some reason.

Non-rogue/bard: 1 expertise skill that has to be on their initial list.
Rogue/bard: 5(eventually) expertise skills.

Nice idea! I wish I'd thought of that...

What would you think about giving every character expertise in one skill from their starting class's skill list? Wizards could have arcana expertise then, rangers could have survival, barbarians could have athletics, clerics could have religion (as it is, it's really hard for clerics to be good at religion checks, which is weird), ... Then rogues (and knowledge clerics) would get to be really good at three things at level 1, but restricted to things on their class list. Then maybe arcane trickster would get arcana proficiency and can choose to use one of their 6th level expertise picks on it; sort of like the scout gets extra expertise in survival and nature (which aren't on the rogue list), except it's not an extra pick, just an extra option.

Oh, huh. :p
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Most Players: The rogue is a tad weak.

This Thread: Let's take one of the only things Rogues do better than others, and nerf it or give it to everyone else!

Rogue Player: [Slams head on table]
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Nice idea! I wish I'd thought of that...

Oh, huh. :p

Hey! I don't read every post. Sue me!! :p

Besides, my idea is a bit more flexible. Rather than just assign a skill to a specific class, they could pick from one of their chosen proficiencies. A wizard could pick history or investigation for example. Also, I'm not restricting rogues to their class list.
 

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