Scenario; My bard character, a harpy, is proficient with an instrument(voice), and has expertise in performance. How does that roll play out? Does expertise in performance make the instrument proficiency irrelevant?

Also does scenario make a difference here? Examples; simply performing to perform, causing a distraction or charming a person/crowd?

I put forth the logic to my GM that one's voice can be considered an instrument when used to sing and that my harpy was a gifted singer for double proficiency(the same way as for expertise for other skills). As well we agreed any changes in the natural abilities and skills have to have an equal or greater counterbalance in the character. As such my harpy bard does not like to sing due to her racial ability to lace her singing voice with magic that can charm others. The block is entirely mental and ultimately false as she could simply not use the luring song if she tried, but she doesn't believe she has that control and thus refuses to sing, period. Instead she plays the violin. My GM liked the restriction I placed on myself and I am looking forward to role-playing this character through her trauma.


closed as unclear what you're asking by Miniman, kviiri, user17995, Thomas Jacobs, doppelgreener Jun 19 '17 at 12:19

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @lucidbrot Please answer in answers, never in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 18 '17 at 14:14
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ With your edit, I can't tell what you're asking here - is it just about "what's the point of instrument proficiency if I have Performance proficiency/expertise anyway", or is there something less straightforward that you're actually trying to ask? \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jun 19 '17 at 6:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I second Miniman's question. After the comment thread we had under my answer, I feel I'm not 100% clear on whether your question concerns the balance or fairness of this homebrew, or just the rules, or something else entirely. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 19 '17 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman I'm not sure now, if proficiency in an instrument has no purpose other than to simply say one can use it then I don't know if my question has relevance. Will edit the question to elaborate what I wanted for my character when I can figure out the right wording. I've only ever played mage classes before... \$\endgroup\$ – Clarus_Nox Jun 19 '17 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Clarus_Nox The rules don't say that proficiency is required to use an instrument at all. It is rather counterintuitive, but apparently a character proficient in Performance can pick up anything and make an entertaining show of it. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 19 '17 at 21:05

The proficiency bonus should only be added once, per rules on page 173:

Your proficiency bonus can't be added to a single die roll or other number more than once.

Expertise allows you to double your proficiency for the skill being used, but you can't apply the proficiency bonus from the instrument proficiency too at the same time. This does make proficiency with the instruments only relevant for you when playing them for checks other than Performance.

The fact that proficiency bonuses don't stack makes the value of instrument proficiencies somewhat meager, given that they're most often used to pull off Performance checks. The instrument proficiencies only apply when using the instruments to play music, but you might be able to negotiate other checks with your GM. For example, Deception when posing as a harmless member of a traveling band, Intimidation when punctuating the party's approach with daunting music or Animal Handling when trying to lure an animal by mimicking its sound with your flute.

The actual effects of rolling a Performance check are dependent of the GM. Performing to a lowly tavern crowd will probably result in a lower DC than trying to impress nobility or wealthy traders.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you elaborate a bit? I know about the no adding the prof bonus twice to rolls thing, but what I don't understand is how the instrument proficiency applies here. Is what I am getting out of this equivalent to expertise in performance but only when singing? \$\endgroup\$ – Clarus_Nox Jun 18 '17 at 16:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Clarus_Nox The instrument proficiency doesn't come into play at all, since you already have a (doubled) proficiency bonus to all Performance checks. The proficiency would matter for rolls that were otherwise without proficiency bonus. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 18 '17 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I traded a free expertise in performance limited to singing only in exchange for not being able to use it without a good role-played reason, am I correct? \$\endgroup\$ – Clarus_Nox Jun 18 '17 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Clarus_Nox I'm not sure what you mean. If your character has expertise in Performance, you gain your proficiency bonus on all Performance checks you make, regardless of the instrument you're using (or even without using instruments at all). I don't see what tradeoff you mean. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 18 '17 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to make my character, the harpy bard, be more than just above average in her singing ability. But she refuses to sing due to mental stigma. The idea was to get a payoff that is a homebrew ruling when the time that I've role-played her through this stigma for effectively playing a bard that will not sing, making her unable to use counter charm, song of rest or bardic inspiration. \$\endgroup\$ – Clarus_Nox Jun 18 '17 at 18:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.