Skill Ranks (5e Variant Rule)
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Players of 3rd edition or its younger cousin Pathfinder will look at the name of this page and immediately recognize what this variant rule entails. This rule replaces 5th edition's stock proficiency bonus-based skill system with a rebalanced variant of 3rd edition's skill system. Not only is it more realistic and versatile, it also encourages players who aren't playing Intelligence-based caster classes to more carefully consider their options before relegating Intelligence to a dump stat.
Skill Ranks, Class Skills, and Cross-Class Skills
Instead of receiving a number of skill and tool proficiencies at 1st level, you receive a number of skill ranks based on your class, background, and Intelligence modifier (as shown on the table below). You receive additional skill ranks at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels. Skill ranks are spent like points on skills and tools, with each skill rank invested in a skill providing a +1 bonus on checks made with that skill. The highest number of skill ranks you can have invested in any one skill is equal to your proficiency bonus. For example, a 1st-level character can have a maximum of 2 skill ranks in any given skill, because a 1st-level character's proficiency bonus is +2. In addition to receiving skill ranks, you also have a list of class skills and tools (once again based on your class and listed below). Any skill or tool that doesn't appear on your class skill list is considered a cross-class skill for you. Cross-class skills represent skills and tools that fall outside of a class's area of expertise. You can invest skill ranks in cross-class skills, but each +1 bonus costs 2 skill ranks instead of 1. If a modifier would reduce the number of skill ranks you receive to 0 or lower (when you level up), you still receive at least 1 skill rank. The one exception to this rule is for skill ranks gained at 1st level, where you receive a minimum of 2 skill ranks. If your Intelligence modifier increases, you receive an amount of skill ranks equal to your level + 1 (per each +1 increase of your Intelligence modifier) that you can spend immediately.
|Class||Skill Ranks at 1st Level||Skill Ranks at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels|
|Barbarian||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Bard||8 + Int + background modifier||4 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Cleric||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Druid||4 + Int + background modifier||3 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Fighter||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Monk||6 + Int + background modifier||3 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Paladin||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Ranger||6 + Int + background modifier||3 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Rogue||10 + Int + background modifier||5 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Sorcerer||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Warlock||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
|Wizard||4 + Int + background modifier||2 + Int + miscellaneous modifiers|
Class Skills by Class
The following are the class skills for each class.
Artificer: Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Sleight of Hand, thieves' tools, and all artisan's tools
Barbarian: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival
Bard: All skills and musical instruments
Cleric: History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
Druid: Arcana, Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, Survival, and herbalism kit
Fighter: Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival
Monk: Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion, Stealth, artisan's tools, and musical instruments
Paladin: Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
Ranger: Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival
Rogue: Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and thieves' tools
Sorcerer: Arcana, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Religion
Warlock: Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion
Wizard: Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion
All backgrounds give you additional class skills (and tools), as well as a bonus to the skill ranks gained at 1st and subsequent levels (all instead of granting skill and tool proficiencies). Backgrounds still grant additional language proficiencies and equipment as normal.
|Background||Class Skills||Bonus Skill Ranks at 1st Level||Bonus Skill Ranks at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th Levels|
|Acolyte||Insight and Religion||+4||+2|
|Charlatan||Deception, Sleight of Hand, disguise kit, and forgery kit||+8||+4|
|Criminal||Deception, Stealth, gaming sets, and thieves' tools||+8||+4|
|Entertainer||Acrobatics, Performance, disguise kit, and musical instruments||+8||+4|
|Folk Hero||Animal Handling, Survival, artisan's tools, and land vehicles||+8||+4|
|Guild Artisan||Insight, Persuasion, and artisan's tools||+6||+3|
|Hermit||Medicine, Religion, and herbalism kit||+6||+3|
|Noble||History, Persuasion, and gaming sets||+6||+3|
|Outlander||Athletics, Survival, and musical instruments||+6||+3|
|Sage||Arcana and History||+4||+2|
|Sailor||Athletics, Perception, navigator's tools, and water vehicles||+8||+4|
|Soldier||Athletics, Intimidation, gaming sets, and land vehicles||+8||+4|
|Urchin||Sleight of Hand, Stealth, disguise kit, and thieves' tools||+8||+4|
Gaining Skill Ranks from Other Sources
If a racial trait, class feature, feat, or other source would grant you a skill or tool proficiency, it instead grants you bonus skill ranks and class skills. You immediately gain skill ranks equal to your proficiency bonus, and the number of ranks you gain at subsequent levels where you naturally gain skill ranks (5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th) is permanently increased by 1. You do not immediately gain the bonus rank if the level where you gained the feature was 5th, 9th, 13th, or 17th. In addition to all of that, you add a new skill or tool to your class skill list. If the feature specifies a certain skill or tool, you add that one to your list, otherwise, you can choose which skill or tool to add. Artisan's tools and musical instruments are treated as a single, overarching class skill. If the feature grants you more than one skill or tool, you gain bonus skill ranks for each one of those skills. As an example, if a bard reaches 3rd level and chooses college of lore for their bardic college, they would normally gain three bonus skill proficiencies. Under this variant rule, they would instead gain 6 skill ranks (their proficiency bonus is +2 and they would normally gain 3 proficiencies), 3 new class skills (for this example, thieves' tools, disguise kit, and poisoner's kit), and at each of 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels, they would gain 3 additional skill ranks.
Doubling Skill Ranks
If a feature calls for you to double your proficiency bonus for an ability check, such as the rogues' expertise, instead double the bonus granted by your skill ranks for that check. If the feature grants you double your proficiency bonus for a specific use of a skill without actually granting you proficiency, such as the dwarves' stonecunning trait, you instead gain a bonus to the check equal to double your proficiency bonus, as per the normal rule. This bonus does not stack with your bonus from skill ranks.
Other Class Features
Instead of doing what it normally does, the bard's jack of all trades class feature grants you a +1 bonus to ability checks, which increases to a +2 bonus at 11th level and does not stack with the bonus provided by skill ranks. The rogue's reliable talent feature allows you to treat d20 rolls of 9 or lower as 10s for skills that you have at least 4 ranks in. The bard's and rogue's expertise class feature restricts you to selecting skills that you have at least 1 rank in. As follows the normal rules for doubling skill ranks (detailed above), expertise doubles the bonus granted by skill ranks (each rank in a class skill becomes a +2 bonus, and each rank in a cross-class skill becomes a +1 bonus).
Multiclassing normally doesn't grant you additional skill ranks or class skills. The skill ranks you gain at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels are tied to the class you chose at 1st level, that is, you use the formula granted by the class you chose at 1st level, even if you select a class that has a better skill rank formula at one of the levels where you gain skill ranks (5th, 9th, 13th, and so on). There are a few exceptions to this: classes whose multiclassing proficiencies include skills and tools from the class's skill list. These are treated like gaining the skill or tool proficiency from a class feature, feat, or racial trait (as detailed above): You instead gain a number of skill ranks equal to your proficiency bonus. At subsequent levels where you gain skill ranks (not the level where you took the feature), you gain a +1 bonus to skill ranks, and the skill that you normally would have gained becomes a class skill for you. All of this is shown on the table below.
|Class||Proficiencies Gained||Skill Rank Bonus||Class Skills Gained|
|Barbarian||Shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons||—||—|
|Bard||Light armor||+2||One skill of your choice and musical instruments|
|Cleric||Light armor, medium armor, and shields||—||—|
|Druid||Light armor, medium armor, and shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)||—||—|
|Fighter||Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons||—||—|
|Monk||Simple weapons, shortswords||—||—|
|Paladin||Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons||—||—|
|Ranger||Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons||+1||One skill from the class's skill list|
|Rogue||Light armor||+2||One skill from the class's skill list and thieves' tools|
|Warlock||Light armor and simple weapons||—||—|
The New Role of Proficiency Bonus
Proficiency bonus is now only used for attack rolls, saving throws, spellcasting, and features that allow you to add your proficiency bonus without being proficient, such as the dwarves' stonecunning trait. (Exception: jack of all trades never allows you to add your proficiency bonus, see above.) The proficiency system is still used for weapons, armor (including shields), and saving throws.
For DMs: Converting the Rules and Building NPCs
To convert any class to this system, simply take the total number of skill and tool proficiencies that class receives, and then use that as the base number that class receives. The skill and tool proficiencies that the class would normally receive become class skills. Some DM discretion should be applied: no class should have more base skill ranks than the rogue. As an example, when blindly applying this system with no discretion, the bard's base number would end up being 6! (3 skill proficiencies + 3 musical instrument proficiencies). On top of receiving their base allotment of skill ranks, every character is also entitled to add their Intelligence and background modifier (as detailed above), and every character receives double their normal skill ranks at 1st level. To convert any background to this system, follow the same procedure for class: take the number of skill and tool proficiencies, tally them together, and then that becomes the background's skill rank bonus. Just as with classes, any proficiencies the background normally grants become bonus class skills.
Building NPCs using this system functions just like building PCs; however, use the NPC's challenge rating as their level when calculating how many skill ranks they should receive.