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5E Skill Monkey Builds

Mistwell

Legend
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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brehobit

Explorer
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.
 

Mistwell

Legend
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.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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)
 

Mandragola

First Post
Agreed. I think it's really good that skills are now spread around the party. The background packages mean that classes pop up where you might not expect, so a warlock might disarm traps or a cleric be a good tracker - or they might do something completely different. Everyone gets to do skills.

At the same time of course, everyone also gets to fight. So instead of making a guy who does skills and then hides in a box during combat, everyone is doing something all of the time, so everyone is playing.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
A few things:

1. If you start with Cleric, then you can multi class to Bard and get one more skill. That also gives you proficiency on the Wisdom save (rather than Dex).

2. Stats with standard array:
Str 8
Dex 14
Con 12
Int 10
Wis 13 --> 14
Cha 15 --> 17

3. m/c into rogue for another skill, and more expertise.

4. or start with variant human, take "skilled feat"; for 4 total skills from race. (16 cha, not 17)

5. Suggested skills:
Insight, Perception, Survival, Acrobatics, Athletics (which also offsets low strength)
one of Deception or Persuasion (depending on alignment)
Performance if your music is more than just magic
Cleric knowledge skills: I'd pick history and arcana
Animal Handling if you want to ride

(I like skill monkeys too!)
 


Mistwell

Legend
It was pointed out to me that two levels of Warlock gives you (via Beguiling Influence invocation) Deception and Persuasion.

Also, I wonder how many expertise you could grab?

1st Lev Rogue: any two skills

3rd level Bard: any two skills

1st level Cleric (Knowledge): two skills chosen from Arcana, History, Nature, and Religion

6th level rogue: any two skills

10th level bard: any two skills

1st level ranger: When making an Intelligence and Wisdom check in a proficient skill, expertise if it relates to your favored terrain

1st level Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline): expertise on Charisma checks when interacting with dragons
 
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Mistwell

Legend
Just to see what one can do with skills, I built an expert mountain climber with this concept as the skeleton I built off from:

Sir George Mallory, with assistance from his trusty climbing partner Sir Andrew Irvine, and their awakened shirpa gorrilla, Coco (who has a climb speed).



Sir Mallory is the last of the Renaissance Men! He is proficient in all 18 skills (and many tools), has expertise in 10 of those 18 skills, and has further expertise in Intelligence or Wisdom checks relating to Mountains. He's also a Jack of All Trades, adding half his proficiency bonus (+3) to any ability checks he's not already proficient in, including tools, initiative, and general checks not associated with a skill. He also is a fine spellcaster (13th level spell slots, 4 spells from any list through Magical Secrets). He's strong as an ox, but not too wise (because mountain climber ).



Sir George Mallory (Bard 10, Rogue 8, Ranger 1, Cleric 1, 20th level total)

Str 20, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 8, Chr 12

Half-Elf (2 Skills: Medicine, Acrobatics)

Background: Mountaineer; Skills: Athletics, Survival; Tools: Climber's Kit, Herbalis Kit

Rogue 8 (4 skills: Perception, Insight, Stealth, Investigation)(Expertise 4 skills: Perception, Insight, Stealth, Investigation)(2 Ability Boosts, both to Str, to bring it to 20)

Ranger 1 (1 skills: Animal Handling)(Natural Explorer: Mountains; Expertise when making an Intelligence and Wisdom check in a proficient skill, expertise if it relates to your favored terrain)

Cleric 1 (2 Skills: History, Nature)(Expertise: History, Nature)(Guidance Cantrip)

Bard 10 (1 Skill:Arcana) (Lore: 3 skills: Slieght of Hand, Intimidation, Performance)(Expertise 4 skills: Athletics, Survival, Acrobatics, Animal Handling)(Magical Secrets 4 spells from any other list) (1 Ability Boost, 2 Feats)

Feat 1 = Skilled (3 skills or tools: Religion, Thieves Tools, Disguise Kit)

Feat 2 = Athelete (Dex/Str +1, Climbing doesn't halve your speed, better at jumping and standing from prone)

Expertise: Athletics, Acrobatics, Stealth, History, Investigation, Nature, Animal Handling, Insight, Perception, Survival (he could actually switch this to just Str, Dex, and Charisma skills, so that when he is on the mountain he uses his Ranger natural explorer ability to apply expertise on all those Intelligence and Wisdom checks which relate to the Mountain and therefore have expertise on all skills, but that seems excessive).



Now Sir George could of course cast Spider Climb, and just climb up the mountain wih a climb speed. But that would not be sporting! He's going to do it the old fashioned way.



He's not, perhaps, above some minor spellcasting to help him out, however. So he is willing to have Guidance cast on him sometimes by his partner (+1d4 to skill check), and he will cast Enhance Ability on himself (Bull's Strength = Advantage on Strength Checks, doubles carrying capacity).



He climbs mount Neverest at full speed (thanks to the Athelete feat), easily jumping over obsticles, climbing over them, swimming them, squeezing through them, hanging from them, etc..

He makes his Climb Check at advantage (Bull's Strength) with a bonus of +17 (5 Strength, 6 proficiency, 6 expertise (Athletics)) +1D4 (guidance) for an average climb check of 29.5 (plus advantage, so really more like 34.5). Any time he makes an intelligence or wisdom check relating to the mountain, he does it with expertise as well, even if it's a skill he didn't previously have expertise in.



There are of course a number of magic items he could use to aid in this quest. Gloves of Swimming and Climbing would add an additional +5 to the climb checks, for instance. And if anyone would have such an item, uncommon though it may be, you'd think it would be our Sir Mallory. So his climb checks are more likely to be 34.5 (or with advantage an average of 39.5).



A Nearly Impossible skill check is a 30. He should be fine.
 


Minsc

First Post
A few things:

1. If you start with Cleric, then you can multi class to Bard and get one more skill. That also gives you proficiency on the Wisdom save (rather than Dex).

2. Stats with standard array:
Str 8
Dex 14
Con 12
Int 10
Wis 13 --> 14
Cha 15 --> 17

3. m/c into rogue for another skill, and more expertise.

4. or start with variant human, take "skilled feat"; for 4 total skills from race. (16 cha, not 17)

5. Suggested skills:
Insight, Perception, Survival, Acrobatics, Athletics (which also offsets low strength)
one of Deception or Persuasion (depending on alignment)
Performance if your music is more than just magic
Cleric knowledge skills: I'd pick history and arcana
Animal Handling if you want to ride

(I like skill monkeys too!)

Wow, very nice!

Personally, I'd prefer a higher STR, just so I could wear heavy armor. I'd also suggest a Life Cleric, because the bonus applies to Bard cure spells too.

If you don't want to boost STR too much, being a Dwarf is a great option so you can just stick with medium armor and the higher DEX. They don't slow down in armor.
 

Minsc

First Post
I know this is an old bump, but the skill monkey is pretty darn cool. Plus, my I didn't know as much about the game was the last time I posted in this thread. Since some of the skills must be chosen from certain lists, it's important to plan out your skills. The Warlock bonus skills are chosen for you, and the skills from the Knowledge Cleric levels are limited. With just a little bit of planning, you shouldn't have an issue, because all 4 bonus Bard skills can be of your choosing.

I'd make the character a Variant Human. They have a feat (take Skilled), plus a bonus skill.

I'd start with one level of Rogue. This gives you the most skills to start with. That's a total of 10 skills to start (4 Rogue, 1 race, 2 background, 3 feat).

Level 2 and 3 are in Warlock. When you take the Beguiling Influence Eldritch Invocation, you get two more skills (12 skills). You can also take Agonizing Blast so you'll be pretty good in combat. (Deception, Persuasion)

Level 4 goes to Cleric of Knowledge, which gets you two languages and two more skills (14 total). (Arcana, History, Nature, Religion are your only choices)

Level 5 goes to Bard (15 total).

Level 6 and 7 go to Bard. When you choose the College of Lore (character level 7), you become proficient in three more skills. That's all of them (18 total).

You're also an 7th level character who hasn't chosen a feat yet (other than Skilled), and can't do much in combat other than fire off Eldritch Blasts. At least it's based on CHA and you can do a lot of damage with Hex and Agonizing Blast!

You have total freedom on character direction after this. Your stats are good enough to multiclass into many different combos. I'd probably just recommend continuing on as a Bard for the best utility spell casting you can do, since you have 3 levels invested already.

Here's the stat array I'd use in point buy (keep in mind a minimum of 13's in DEX, WIS, and CHA):

12/14/12/12/13/14

There are no dump stats with a skill monkey. The only stat that has no skills is CON, and good luck dropping that one.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I have a skill monkey build in my Bard guide and you are most of the way there.

The Skill Monkey
The idea of this build is to be proficient in every single skill in the game and to have expertise in 6 of them. Echoes of 3E here but.
Half Elf Rogue1/Warlock 2/Cleric (knowledge)1, Lore Bard 3+, skilled feat, Requires Dex, Cha, Wis scores 13+


I think you end up proficient in everything, expertise in 6 skills and you won't suck at ranged combat.
 


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