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I have a player who has chosen to be a Knowledge Cleric.

For class skills, she chose proficiency in History and Insight.

For additional domain skills, she chose proficiency plus expertise in History and Arcana....oops. Now she duplicated History and wasted a skill pick.

She did it this way in order to swap out the regular proficiency History for regular proficiency Perception, and I plan to allow it because that's fun for her, but it provoked the question - what's the RAW/RAI way to handle this?

Is it any different than switching out the skills, tools, or languages from the Background (which is plainly allowed to be customized)? Or should I have required her to limit her Class & Domain skills to the more restrictive Cleric class list?

Note: I have looked at What happens if I get the same skill from both my background and my class? but since it deals with background and class skills, it does not seem to address my concern. As I look at it, Background and Class skills are two different buckets, and the player has freedom to customize the background bucket. Are the Class & Domain skills similarly different buckets? This is an issue not addressed in the other questions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you expound on the manner in which this is an issue? You gain all of those knowledges at 1st level, so why does it matter if at 1st level they re-assign a duplicate skill? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Sep 7 '18 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ In gameplay? No issue at all. I want to know whether I'm following the rules as intended. As I look at it, Background and Class skills are two different buckets, and the player has freedom to customize the background bucket. Are the Class & Domain skills similarly different buckets? If a domain expertise skill is chosen, can they replace a skill from the class restricted list with a skill outside that restrictive list? \$\endgroup\$ – HenryWLee1066 Sep 7 '18 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is not a duplicate, since that question is specific to background, and it's not clear that the answers to that question would address this question; this question is about clashing class skills/features, separate from background. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 7 '18 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to reopen because I think the crash between class-sourced and domain-sourced skills is the fundamental question here, which may be distinct from the usual crashes we see between a background and another source. (I'm also editing mention of the background out of the question, as I think it's a red herring.) But I might be wrong--don't hesitate to chime in! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 7 '18 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not convinced that this question is not a duplicate of one of these two skill-background questions, here1 and here2 If not duplicate, heavily related. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 7 '18 at 15:34
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Allowing your player to take Perception here would probably be against Rules as Intended

RAW your player can choose proficiency in two from five options as a Cleric:

History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion

And as a Knowledge domain cleric also gains proficiency in two of the following four skills:

Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion

Ruling that because they have chosen History from both of these categories they may instead choose proficiency in a skill not normally available to Clerics seems like an unnecessary exploit to me (they can easily get perception elsewhere).

They are not being forced in to taking History twice - they have a number of other legitimate options.

This rule could be argued to RAW suggest it's viable:

If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead. (PHB p.126)

This rule normally applies to duplicated proficiencies that come from both a class feature and a background feature, not both from a class feature (as in this instance) but could be argued to apply here also.

However, as Slagmoth has suggested, this rule applies to proficiencies from two different sources (ie. background, class, race). It could be argued that class and domain proficiencies both come from ultimately just one source - 'class', so this rule would not apply here.

Further, circumstancial evidence against applying that rule in this situation, that you may consider authoritative, can be found on DnD Beyond.

Using the DnD Beyond character builder if you have already received a background proficiency from your class then you are offered a free choice as an alternative to receiving a duplicate (in line with the above rule).

In contrast, if you select History proficiency for your Knowledge domain feature, having already selected History as a general Cleric proficiency, it retrospectively removes History as an option from you Cleric proficiencies and makes you pick again from the remaining Cleric options. The same is true of an attempted double pick of Religion. You are not given a free choice instead as an option.

Finally, and perhaps more conclusively, Jeremy Crawford, 5th edition rules designer, whose twitter rulings many consider to be authoratative, has said that this rule should not be applied in this circumstance (credit V2Blast for finding this):

The proficiency rule for backgrounds applies when you gain your background at 1st level. It has no relevance outside that context.

If your player wants a Cleric with proficiency in perception they can easily get it from background (or elsewhere - I don't intent to list all possibilities here), rather than class features. Either:

  • Take a relevant background that offers Perception.
  • Take a background that offers any proficiency they already have (so that the above rule does now definitely apply to their situation).
  • Create a new background that suits their needs using the rules in the PHB.

How best to respond to your player's double pick of History, with the above in mind, will depend on your table.

Allowing them to take proficiency in Perception, as you have done, is very unlikely to be gamebreaking, considering that they could easily have acquired that proficiency elsewhere. I would suggest you let it replace their 'class-picked' rather than 'domain-picked' proficiency in History. This is because the proficiencies granted by 'domain' are doubled. A double proficiency in Perception is more difficult for a Cleric to replicate through other features (though possible through multiclassing) and definitely more likely to upset game balance than allowing just a single proficiency in Perception.

However, for tables that want to stick closely to RAW I'd advise just asking the player to repick a skill, that they don't already have, from either of the available lists. This should be enforced especially if it's the sort of table where leniently letting one person have a free pick of skills might rankle with the other players.

The player will need to remember that their picks from the domain list grant doubled proficiency - so it will matter mechanically which skills they choose from which list - they aren't completely interchangable.

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Duplicating History to get a free skill proficiency choice? RAI, no; RAW, no

When class and background skills overlap, you can just pick whatever; from the PHB, pg. 126:

If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.

This quote is in the context of backgrounds, so it's uncertain as to whether this reasoning would still hold in this context.

On one hand, even though this quote is in the context of backgrounds, the class and the Domain are still two different sources, and since this is all happening at level 1, a strict out-of-context reading of this rule suggests you can just swap out the duplicate for any other skill.

On the other hand, as suggested by @Theik, "if you follow that line of reasoning, you can do weird stuff like pick perception from your class if you're an elf, and then because you now have perception from two different sources decide to pick any other skill, instead of being able to pick from any other skill from your class list. The backgrounds are flexible, the class skills are not."

However, since this is still during level 1 character creation, just don't pick History from class, then there are no overlaps; otherwise this would essentially be a wasted skill. Since this was an attempt to get a different skill, the player will have to find another way to get that skill (being an elf, half-elf or variant human, taking a feat like Skilled, etc, there are ways without sacrificing her background skill choices).

It at least seems to be against RAI (Rules As Intended) and is likely against RAW as well, given that the quoted rule was presented in the context of background and was likely intended only to apply there.

In fact, Jeremy Crawford has said that this quote is only for backgrounds, which backs up that this is not RAW or RAI (thanks to @V2Blast):

The proficiency rule for backgrounds applies when you gain your background at 1st level. It has no relevance outside that context.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer seems to be implying that you can take "any" skill if you get the same proficiency from different sources, but that's not really true. If you follow that line of reasoning, you can do weird stuff like pick perception from your class if you're an elf, and then because you now have perception from two different sources decide to pick any other skill, instead of being able to pick from any other skill from your class list. The backgrounds are flexible, the class skills are not. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Sep 7 '18 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik do I understand you're contending that the "overlap rule" only works when one of the sources is background, not in all cases of overlap? That's interesting and isn't an interpretation I've run across--I hope you'll write an answer along those lines. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 7 '18 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60: Jeremy Crawford concurs with Theik's interpretation: "The proficiency rule for backgrounds applies when you gain your background at 1st level. It has no relevance outside that context." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 7 '18 at 17:35
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The way you handled this was correct

First off, overlapping skill proficiency can be substituted if an overlap occurs between sources.

If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead. (PHB, p. 126)

Your character picked the same proficiency from two different sources, so picking another proficiency is the right way to go. You had her do that, you were right, the rules support your decision.

Most Clerics only have one source of "cleric" proficiency list; the Knowledge Cleric has two different sources: the special/double proficiency choices (four of them; Arcana, Nature, Religion, History) and then the rest of the "cleric" list of proficiencies (history, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, Religion).

  • In this specific case, because double proficiency (similar to expertise for a Rogue) is limited to four specific skills, it makes sense to pick the domain skills first, and then pick the from the remaining cleric (and background) skills. Have the character first decide which of those four domain skills she wants to be "special" like that, and then go to the generic Cleric list for two more "regular" cleric based proficiencies. That will avoid any overlap. (Nip it in the bud). Most classes don't run into this problem; the Knowledge cleric is a little bit of an outlier.

Secondly, the PHB allows you to customize a background, which includes (usually) two proficiencies (and depending on tools, and the background, sometimes more).

Customizing a Background
You might want to tweak some of the features of a background so it better fits your character or the campaign setting. To customize a background, you can replace one feature with any other one, choose any two skills, and choose a total of two tool proficiencies or languages from the sample backgrounds. You can either use the equipment package from your background or spend coin on gear as described in the Equipment section. (PHB p.125)

This flexibility in the rules as written there indicates a complementary intention that de-conflicting any overlap of skill proficiencies, and the customization of skill proficiencies for a given character, is desirable during character creation.

At Table Experience

The rules book takes character creation in order form one section to the next, and it would be easy to, when following this process in serial form, end up picking the same skill twice.
So do it in parallel form for final skill proficiency choices.
As you discovered, be it from domain or backgrounds, or race (see elves, Perception) there are a variety of ways to end up picking the same skill proficiency if you do it in lock step order in Chapter 1: Race, Class, and then Background(Ch-4). I thus strongly recommend (from our at table experiences) that, as a DM, when people create a character you review the skill choices with them before 'going final' so that you can detect any overlap and then offer the options to choose another skill to avoid duplication. That's good DM technique.

Also, before they start picking skills to be proficient in, give them a heads up that each source ought to offer them different skills so that they know this going in and don't duplicate it in the first place.

We do it that way now for all character creation after our first character creations (in 2014) ran into "what do I do with an overlap in chose skills?" as a question from multiple players new to this edition.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that the player intentionally chose a duplicate skill in this case so they could choose one not on their list originally. I'm not sure if it changes your answer substantially, but your second section does seem to assume that it was done accidentally (which I can definitely see being a likely scenario despite not being the case here). \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 7 '18 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose The issue is that there is no need to pick it twice to get the double proficiency. I added a recommendation to address the "special" skills first, then the rest, as how to avoid this overlap. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 7 '18 at 16:02
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  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Background is part of character creation. You aren't going up a level and getting a new power nor a class ability. It is part of character creation before play starts. This is yet another case where Crawford's tweets are becoming more unreliable as time goes on ... and we've seen him change his mind on numerous occasions, Shield Mastery being but one case. I'll also point out that it is rather bass-ackwards for him to insist that a background "comes after" class selection, since chronologically background would come first. As a gamism, picking class first makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 7 '18 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: The point of the tweet in this context is just to clarify that if you are already proficient in one of the domain skills, you can't then use that as an excuse to gain expertise in a non-domain skill. Since domains are chosen at 1st level, you can usually plan ahead to avoid losing out on a class feature - but if you multiclass into cleric (for instance) and don't plan ahead, you might be in a tough spot. I don't see how Crawford's "unreliability" is really relevant, since the rule itself is stated in the "background" section but nowhere else. The intent seems clear to me. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 7 '18 at 18:39
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Here's my shot at my RAW/RAI interpretation.

It comes down to the proper order of skill selection.

First, a player chooses Class and Domain skill proficiency and, in this case, expertise simultaneously. The domain skills must come from the domain list, and the class skills must come from the class list. Though there is potential (but not necessary) overlap, there is never a case where one must choose to waste a skill, so there is never a case where one may choose outside of those lists.

Second, the player chooses skills from the Background. That is fully customizable, so there will never be overlap.

Third, I would argue that skills chosen after level one rarely overlap. Bard, Rogue, and Ranger MC's all get to choose one of any skill, and Jack of Trades gets to choose any three.

The exception to post level one skills that could force duplication are if someone chose Knowledge Domain or the Beguiling Influence invocation. I would apply the same logic as the customizable Background skills - if one is forced into duplication, one may choose a different skill. But expertise could only be granted to the skills listed in the domain.

But in the case that prompted the question, I did whatever I wanted to. Because it was fun. It is a game, after all.

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