D&D 5E Skill Monkey Builds


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I am working on a Skill Monkey build, and I thought it might be nice to gather thoughts on both this build, and any other Skill Monkey builds people come up with.

Here is what I have so far:

Half-Elven Bard (Lore) / Cleric (Knowledge)

Half-Elf: +2 Charisma, +1 to two other abilities, Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, 2 Skill Proficiencies (any), Common and Elven and +1 Language Proficiency (any).

Background: Urchin (Slight of Hand Proficiency, Stealth Proficiency, Thieves Tools proficiency, Disguise Kit proficiency).

Bard 1: Armor: Light Armor; Weapons: Simple Weapons, Hand Crossbow, Longsword, Rapier, Short Sword; Instruments: 3 (any); Saves: Dex and Chr; Skills: 3 (any); Bardic Inspiration (d6); 2 Bard Cantrips; 4 known Bard spells; Spell Slots (full).

Bard 2: Jack of All Trades, Song of Rest (d6), +1 Bard spells known, spell slots

Bard 3: Bard College: Lore; Cutting Words; Skill Expertise: 2 (any); Skill Proficiency: 3 (any); +1 Bard spells known, spell slots

Bard 4: Ability Score Improvement/Feat; +1 Bard Cantrip; +1 Bard spells known, spell slots

Cleric 1 (Knowledge): Armor Proficiency: Medium Armor, Shields; Skill Proficiency: 2 (of Arcana, History, Nature, Religion); Skill Expertise: 2 (of Arcana, History, Nature, Religion); Cleric Cantrips: 3; Cleric Spells Prepared: 1+Wis Bonus + Command + Identify; Ritual Casting; 2 Languages (any); Spell slots

Cleric 2: Channel Divinity (Turn Undead) Channel Divinity (Knowledge of the Ages); +1 Cleric spells prepared; Spell Slots.

Skills Analysis: There are a total of 18 skills in the game. By 4th or 5th level, this PC is proficient in 12 of them (2 Half-Elf, 2 Background, 3 Bard, 3 (Bard Lore College), 2 (Cleric Divine Domain Knowledge)), with expertise in four of them (2 any, and 2 from a list of 4 from Cleric (Knowledge). For the remaining 6 skills you're not proficient in, you still add half your proficiency bonus to them instead of the full proficiency bonus (Jack of All Trades), and you can also expend a Channel Divinity use to become proficient in that skill for 10 minutes, once between every short rest. He also has the Guidance cantrip, which adds 1d4 to any ability check. The Bard spell Enhance Ability can also be used to grant advantage on one type of ability check.

Tool Proficiencies: Thieves Tools (open locks, disarm traps); Disguise Kit (prof bonus to disguise checks); Instruments (3).

AC: Medium Armor and Shield (Breastplate 14 AC, +2 Dex, +2 AC from Shield = 18 AC); various spells, like Shield of Faith, can improve this.

Languages: Common, Elven, +3 more (any)

Spell Slots: Full caster

Advice Needed: I'd like advice on how to arrange the ability scores by Standard Array and alternatively using the buying ability points system. I have the AC above listed with a 14 dex, but that can change. I'd also like advice on skills, expertise choices, a feat and/or ability scores to increase at level 4. And, on spells choices, tactics, and where to go from here, and anything I screwed up.
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Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Or take a couple years off and learn all the skills during your downtime. Whatever seems easier.

No that's just for tools and languages, not skills. Skills are valuable enough that you can even take a feat to gain three of them.


My one worry is that I'm not sure that just getting a prof. bonus will make one a highly skilled character. I mean, a +3 bonus better than everyone else just isn't that much. Now 2x prof. bonuses and getting advantage (in addition to the +3) is a big deal. But with the fairly flat system we've got (which I love for combat) doesn't serve skills very well. It's hard to be a "sage" of arcana as a PC. A fighter will be at +0 (say) and a 20-int 8th level wizard will be at +8. That means the fighter will do better than the best-in-class person 17.75% of the time (if I just did the math right). That seems too high. The odds of me knowing a random sports fact that a sports trivia guy at the bar doesn't know is about 0% if my experience is to be believe.

Net effect--I'm not sure being a skill monkey is _useful_ any more. It wasn't hugely useful in the past, but now? I'd not put much effort into it.


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Bounded accuracy was applied to skill checks. DCs do not increase with level. The task that has a DC of 20 at 1st level, still has a DC of 20 at 20th level. But, your proficiency bonus does go up with levels.

The short of this is, it does matter. It will eventually matter by 30% to 60%, depending on your perspective.


Net effect--I'm not sure being a skill monkey is _useful_ any more. It wasn't hugely useful in the past, but now? I'd not put much effort into it.
I think this is a good thing.

I'd much rather tell the Fighter "go ahead and try, you can still make a difference even if it's unlikely" than "go sit in the corner while we play with skills".

Sacrificing the viability of the skill monkey archetype is a cost I'll gladly pay.

(Do note this isn't a dig at the Rogue class - I believe the 5E designers with Expertise and Reliable Talent have succeeded in keeping its schtick as "best skill user" while giving the class enough fun stuff to do now that skill monkey is less of a thing)

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