Ever wondered how your friend could roll so terribly and still end up with a decent score for a skill check? They’re probably relying on Expertise!
What is Expertise?
Expertise is an ability for some character classes in DnD 5e. Not only does it allow certain classes to double their Proficiency Bonuses as a skill, but it also permits them to surpass the traditional 5e bonus cap of +10. In some cases, it really makes sense to multiclass in order to take advantage of the benefits of Expertise!
How to Calculate Expertise 5e
Expertise 5e is calculated by adding your chosen skill’s corresponding Ability Score and double your Proficiency Bonus. This can sound somewhat complicated, but the math is relatively easy.
For example, if your Dexterity Ability Score is 16, you would generally have a +3 for any skill that relies on Dexterity. If you are proficient in a skill, you add your Proficiency Bonus. This means your character has trained in that skill and can be relied upon to perform it reasonably well.
GameCows Tip: Proficiency Bonus is based on a character’s total level. That means if you’re playing a multiclass character with two levels in Rogue and three in Warlock, your Proficiency Bonus is based on being a level 5 character.
Expertise takes that one step further. Your character has trained extensively in this skill, so it is rare for them to fail at it. Using the Dexterity example above, a character with Expertise in the Dexterity (Stealth) skill would add their Proficiency Bonus twice to their existing +3. At level 1, your Proficiency Bonus is +2, giving our example a total of +7 to their Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
Bounded Math in 5e
In theory, the maximum skill bonus a character in Fifth Edition could achieve is +17. That would be at level 20 with a maxed-out Ability Score, Expertise in the given skill, and no magical items. Some magical items can provide flat bonuses to your Proficiency Bonus, certain skills (like Dexterity (Sleight of Hand)), or boost your Ability Score cap. Still, even with those included, it’s nearly impossible to have more than +25 to any particular skill. The creators did this on purpose.
The idea of simplifying the math needed to determine the results of skill checks is relatively recent in D&D history. The creators have been working to make the game more accessible by creating the bounded math idea we discussed above, but it was a significant departure from previous editions.
How to Gain Expertise in 5e
There are a variety of ways to gain Expertise in your skills. We’ll cover those below, but it is essential to remember that you have to walk before you can run. You can’t gain Expertise in a skill unless you are already proficient in it. No matter which way(s) you use to gain Expertise, you can’t jump straight from no training in a skill to Expertise.
We won’t get into how to gain proficiency with a skill here, but you should have plenty of opportunities during character creation to hone the skills your character will need the most during play.
Bards are the magical equivalent of Rogues in that they are also skill monkeys, although they focus more on support in battle than Rogues do. Bards gain Expertise in two skills at levels three and ten.
GameCows Tip: The Bard class’s second-level feature Jack of All Trades, grants half-proficiency to all skills. This feature does not allow you to take Expertise in half-proficient skills. You are still limited to skills you already have proficiency in.
Typically, Rangers don’t receive Expertise. However, in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, an optional Ranger feature (Canny) allows you to take Expertise in one skill at level one. Check with your DM first before taking it.
Skill Expert Feat 5e
The Skill Expert feat comes from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and allows characters of any class to gain proficiency in one skill, Expertise in one skill, and add +1 to an Ability Score of their choice. The way the feat is worded is especially nice because the player chooses the new proficient skill before selecting the Expertise.
Typically, this feat is used to gain proficiency in a new skill and boost a preexisting one, but you could also choose an entirely new skill and go straight from untrained to Expertise with this feat. This is especially handy if you’ve noticed that your character has been rolling a lot of one skill in particular that you didn’t think would be necessary when you started character creation or if there is a skill that no one in your party is equipped to handle.
The Prodigy feat works similarly but is limited to characters based on race.
GameCows Tip: Feats are an optional rule and may not be allowed at every table. Check with your Dungeon Master before taking a feat.
Now that you’re an expert in Expertise, why not impress your friends at the table with your awesome skills?