The D&D Starter Set says this about Ability Checks:

You might be particularly skilled at a certain kind of task related to an ability check. The character sheets list each character's proficiencies with skills and special tools, and the monster statistics in the adventure book show monsters' proficiencies.

One of the example characters in the Starter Set has these stats:

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I don't understand why some of the stats are with a black dot and some with a White dot? Does this indicate that my character has proficiency in a particular skill? If so, that means I can't add the skills without a black dot in Ability Checks. Why would it even state a value which is greater or lower than 0?


1 Answer 1


In the top block which lists your abilities, the black/white mark in front of the ability shows your bonus (and proficiency) for Saving throws. It says so under the block.

So when you become the target of a spell that requires a Strength Save to defend against, that's where you look up your bonus to the roll. In your case, it's +5. The black mark in front of Strength shows that you have Proficiency in Strength Saving throws, which means the +5 is made up of your proficiency bonus (probably +2) and your Strength (probably +3).

On the other hand, if you had to make a Wisdom Save, you would not add your proficiency, since there is no black mark in front of it. This means you just add your Wisdom modifier to the roll (the +1).

The lower block shows you what you roll when you make Skill checks. These are not defense rolls, but attempts to accomplish something in the game. Each skill is linked to an Ability. If you have proficiency with the skill, you add your Ability Modifier + Proficiency, if you don't have proficiency you just use your Ability Modifier.

See the difference between Performance and Persuasion; both are skills that are based on Charisma (which gives you +2 to the roll), but because you are proficient in making Persuasion checks, you get a +4 total bonus there since you're adding in your Proficiency.

Note that all the totaled numbers in both blocks have already been calculated. If the DM asks for a roll, just look up the number in the correct column/row and add (or substract) it from your D20. You don't need to add or remove anything from these numbers during play.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah so it's always used and characters can gain proficiency in a certain skill half-through the Campaign if the DM decides that he earned it, which adds the proficiency Bonus to the skill? And even without proficiency, the DM can say "Please make a skill check for Acrobatics." and the sum is 1W20 + Dex Modifier (-1) + Acrobatics (-1)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zure
    Jun 9, 2018 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DennisSchröer the numbers listed in the table are the totals. If the DM says "Make a skill check for Acrobatics", you just look up the number and roll 1D20 - 1. But yeah, if you later obtain proficiency in Acrobatics somehow, you would add your proficiency modifier to the -1, and roll with a +1 from that point onward. (Or even more, if you become high enough level to increase your Proficiency bonus) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jun 9, 2018 at 11:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah I think I got it, so the skills don't really represent individual numbers. They can only be one of two possible numbers (either my Attribute value or my Attribute value + proficiency) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zure
    Jun 9, 2018 at 12:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DennisSchröer that's the core of it, yeah. There are some exceptions but you'll learn about them when you run into them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jun 9, 2018 at 12:09

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