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I'm a new GM and am running a game with new players. I'm helping them make first-level characters. One player's bard has a −1 wisdom modifier and proficiency in perception (a wisdom-based skill). At first level, her proficiency bonus is +2. Does she have a +1 perception bonus or should I ignore the negative and give her +2 because she is proficient in that skill?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited the subject and text to clarify that the question is about ability modifiers (which can be negative) and not ability scores (which cannot). A character with a Wisdom score of 8 or 9 has a Wisdom modifier of -1. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Jan 15 '18 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you! your right her wisdom score is 9 so the modifier is -1 \$\endgroup\$ – ZombieUnicorn Jan 15 '18 at 22:09
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Her overall modifier for the Perception skill would be +1.

The way that it works is that you add up:

  1. A d20
  2. Ability score modifier (In your case where you are using perception it is a Wisdom ability check, so you add that -1 Wisdom modifier)
  3. And any other bonuses and penalties (In your case it is Proficiency in the Perception skill where your proficiency is +2).

So in your case it is = d20 - 1 + 2 = d20 + 1

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer could be improved by pointing out that while in this case the total overall modifier is not negative, if it were negative (as described in the original question title), then it would be a penalty as opposed to a bonus and would indeed be subtracted from the character's d20 rolls for the skill in question. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jan 15 '18 at 0:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac does this mean that if you have a Wisdom modifier of -3 with +2 proficiency, you would add a -1 on Perception checks? \$\endgroup\$ – bubbajake00 Apr 23 '18 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @bubbajake00 Yes. Total modifier = Ability modifier + Proficiency bonus (if applicable). (-3) + (+2) = (-1) \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Apr 29 '18 at 9:01

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