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The shapechange spell question has raised a difference in opinion on whether or not the proficiency bonus is a class feature.

The crux of the issue is that shapechange allows the character to retain their class features in their new form. If the proficiency bonus is a class feature then the character can retain it, if it is not then they cannot. This has potential implications for determining proficiencies of the final form.

The game feature shapechange is most similar to is the druid's Wild Shape feature (they even include the same text block on character stats).

As a result any rules implications for shapechange or vice versa would likely also arise in relation to Wild Shape.

Is a character's proficiency bonus a class feature or not?

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No, but you still keep that bonus for Wild Shape.

Each class has a section called Features, that lists all its class features. These include, for a Barbarian, Rage, Unarmored Defense, Reckless Attack, Danger Sense, etc. The Proficiency Bonus is not listed there.

Chapter 7 of the PHB describes it as

Proficiency Bonus: Characters have a proficiency bonus determined by level, as detailed in chapter 1.

The character advancement table in PHB, pg16, shows your Proficiency Bonus regardless of class.

When your character gains a level, his or her class often grants additional features, as detailed in the class description. In addition, every character’s proficiency bonus increases at certain levels

The Character Advancement table summarizes the XP you need to advance in levels from level 1 through level 20, and the proficiency bonus for a character of that level.

The Multi-Class chapter also lists Proficiency Bonus based on character level, not class levels.

Your proficiency bonus is always based on your total character level, as shown in the Character Advancement table in chapter 1, not your level in a particular class.

It also does not list Proficiency Bonus under special rules for Class Features gained, as Marq points out.

Just for completeness's sake, monsters have Prof Bonuses too, although based on their CR and not Character Level. It is shown in the Monster Manual, pg.8, and on the DMG, pg. 274 (thanks to Slagmoth for the tip).

Keeping the proficiency bonus for Wild Shape

Despite not being a Class Feature, it still carries over on Wild Shape or Shapechange, as confirmed by lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford on Twitter. The ability/spell mentions you take your original proficiencies, and that includes this Proficiency Bonus.

While you're under the effect of the shapechange spell, you use your proficiencies, including your proficiency bonus, except when the stat block of the new form has a modifier (proficiency bonus + other modifiers) that's higher for a proficiency you have. #DnD

@JeremyECrawford

(This also means the Proficiency Bonus doesn't have to be considered a class feature to be kept in Wild Shape.)

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Yes

PROFICIENCY BONUS

The table that appears in your class description shows your proficiency bonus, which is +2 for a 1st-level character.

(PHB pg 12)

It is explicitly part of your class by being included in every class description, in the class summary.

Additionally you can only gain a proficiency bonus or increase it by gaining a level in a class. Thus it is a class feature.

The issue arises from the wording in the Shapechange spell, specifically this section:

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the chosen creature, though you retain your alignment and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus listed in its statistics is higher than yours, use the creature's bonus in place of yours. You can't use any legendary actions or lair actions of the new form.

There is another game feature which has a similar text block, Wild Shape:

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus in its stat block is higher than yours, use the creature's bonus instead of yours. If the creature has any legendary or lair actions, you can't use them.

They are identical except for the change of “beast” to “chosen creature”

Jeremy Crawford has clarified, for Wild Shape, on Twitter (1) (2) that the intention of this wording is:

Tweet 1

A druid in beast form uses his or her proficiencies, except when the beast has the same proficiency with a higher bonus.

Tweet 2

The intent is that the druid uses the bonus in the beast's stat block for any proficiency the druid lacks.

Jeremy Crawford has also clarified how proficiencies are used in Shapechange:

While you're under the effect of the shapechange spell, you use your proficiencies, including your proficiency bonus, except when the stat block of the new form has a modifier (proficiency bonus + other modifiers) that's higher for a proficiency you have. #DnD

As a result we can conclude that the intention is that the proficiency bonus is intended to be a class feature.

As pointed out by Slagmoth in the comments NPCs and Monsters don’t “advance” in the same way as PCs do. For example the Mage listed in the Non-Player Character section of the Monster Manual is a “9th level spellcaster” however its proficiency bonus is +3 compared to the +4 that a Wizard would have at 9th level.

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Yes

Jeremy Crawford confirms the answer is Yes in this tweet, as the only way your proficiency bonus can transfer to your Shapechange form is if it's a class feature.

The other reasons are mentioned in the first answer (including that it's on the class table and listed as increasing as you gain class levels), but it's also worth clarifying that class level is the same as character level in 5e. They only become (possibly) different when using the variant rule 'Multiclassing'. Thus, much of the PHB is written assuming you will not have levels in different classes, and this is why your Proficiency Bonus is listed on the class table.

If Proficiency Bonus (PB for short) is not a class feature, then your PB would become that of any creature you Shapechange (the spell) or Wild Shape into, as neither of these state that your proficiency bonus transfers over.

Therefore:

  • all of your proficient saving throws would be reduced to match having a +2 PB
  • all of the skills you're proficient in would reduced to reflect having only a +2 PB
  • your spell-save DC of any spell you're concentrating while in Wild Shape on would also be reduced to match having a +2 PB

This would apply all the way up to Druid level 15, where the druid can then Wild Shape into forms with +3 PB (and the elemental forms at Moon Druid lv.10), and is obviously not what is intended , and is certainly not how anyone is playing the Moon Druid. Voting 'No' on this question is saying all of these nerfs should happen, and they clearly should not. Your proficiency bonus does carry over when you Wild Shape because it is a class feature, and therefore 'Yes' is the correct response here.

That the answer is Yes has been agreed upon by every answer on this site regarding questions about Wild Shape thus far, such as here, where every answer agrees that the druid (who has a +3 PB naturally) still has a +3 PB while in polar bear form, despite a natural polar bear having a proficiency bonus of +2.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "Agreed upon by everyone". That statement looks like a fallacy and somewhat below the standards I expect from this site. Not saying your answer is wrong because of it, but people could take it less seriously. \$\endgroup\$ – Ling Apr 16 '18 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ling I'm not sure what you're saying. You can browse though all previous questions on this site inquiring about Wild Shape and what your PB is when in that form, and find that none of the answers given suggest figuring out what the beast's PB is and then using that for your saving throws and skills. I would call that 'agreeing', though I could make it more specific. \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Apr 16 '18 at 16:33

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