I am the DM for a campaign and play with the following house rules:

  1. When gaining proficiency in any skill (during character creation, taking the Skilled feat, etc.), you may choose a skill more than once. Your proficiency bonus for that skill is the number of times that skill has been chosen times your base proficiency bonus.

  2. When you gain proficiency in multiple skills at the same time, the skills chosen must all be distinct.

  3. Any feat that allows a player to "double" their proficiency bonus for a skill instead allows the player to mark one additional level of proficiency in the given skill (e.g. Expertise).

Example of stacking proficiencies

Create a very sneaky and acrobatic Kenku Rogue.

Through Kenku Training, choose to gain proficiency in Acrobatics and Stealth. Rule (2) prevents me from choosing Acrobatics and Acrobatics. Through the Rogue features, choose to gain proficiency in Acrobatics and Stealth (and any two others) and Expertise in Acrobatics and Stealth. From the Criminal background, gain proficiency in Stealth.

At level 1, the character's base proficiency bonus is +2. The player has selected Acrobatics three times, and stealth four times. The new proficiency bonus to Acrobatics is +6 and to stealth is +8.


In RPG.SE questions such as this or this, it is clear that stacking proficiency bonuses should be avoided and is "insanely OP."
I see a trade-off here where a character could be (unreasonably) skilled at one or two things, but isn't very good at anything else.

Why is allowing players to stack their skill proficiency bonus considered to be overpowered?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't down-vote the question, but in the beginning you say you're the DM, but then you're talking about character creation, it's not completely clear if you're talking from a DM's or a player's POV. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you are the DM and have been a running campaign with players using this system, I'd very much suggest that you put up an answer with how it's worked for you. At the moment, you are the best person to say if it's balanced because you're using it :) And self-answering questions, especially with table experience, is accepted and encouraged. You can then compare your real-world results with the other answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 19:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch you don't have to try everything to see if it is broken. Playtest is for the not obviously broken things. I am pretty sure WotC did not playtest Wizards with Heavy Armor and d12 for HD. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Thanks for the feedback. I'm coming up on my third session using this system, so I may answer this question with my observations once as there are some of substance. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ First I downvoted, the houserule was so very stupidly broken. However, asking why and how it is broken is a valid question, so I finally upvoted it. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 7:09

2 Answers 2


It leads to "All or Nothing" skill development

This is going to cause exactly the problem that the 'bounded accuracy' philosophy of 5th edition was designed to address: All skill checks become either trivially easy for experts, or impossible for everyone else.

That is to say, the DM either sets skill DCs low enough for everyone to have a fair shot at making it, in which case the expert almost can't fail (and in that case, why would the non-experts even try?), or the DM sets the DCs high enough for the expert to be challenged, in which case everyone else can't possibly do it (so again, why even roll?).

This leads inevitably to a situation where there isn't much point to basic proficiency; everyone wants to dump all their advancement into a few skills in order to be "the one" for those specific skills, and everyone else avoids those skills like the plague because they know they can't be good at it.

Yes, your idea would allow characters to become more highly specialized -- but that actually isn't a desirable outcome. It isn't fun for one character to be the God Of Investigation while everyone else has to just wait for that one character to handle all the Investigation rolls. Maybe that one guy gets a moment of power-fantasy gloating -- "Ha, nothing escapes my eye!" -- but the rest of the table is effectively being told, "You cannot contribute in this situation." And that's not fun at all.

As a side problem, your concept virtually removes the role of ability scores in being good at a skill. At some point (probably around level 10), the value of the trained skill bonus completely overshadows the ability score's contribution, to the point that it almost doesn't matter if your character is agile or not, charismatic or not, all that matters is what skills you trained up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And skills are no equally useful. Perception comes up in every session, but I have yet to roll for Animal Handling, after more than a 100 sessions \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András Well, a DM could easily jack up the difficulty of Intimidate and Perception while leaving Handle Animal checks relatively easy, since nobody is going to bother going all-in on that one. But yes, the highly variable value of skills does play into it somewhat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can't +1 this answer enough. Not only is it OP to stack proficiencies so much, it is contrary to the core design tenet of D&D5e! \$\endgroup\$
    – R. Barrett
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 20:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CaptainMan: Virtually everyone who played DnD 3.5 would disagree with you. Especially with respect to 'Hide'. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CaptainMan: And that's exactly why I mentioned it. 3.5 didn't design around bounded accuracy, and skill stacking was still a huge problem, for the reasons mentioned in this post. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 16:59

Stealing thunder from classes who get expertise

Gaining expertise is a class feature for some - to give that out for 'free' to others reduces that value of that feature and it may be un-fun for those who chose them.

Whether or not it's OP is going to be very table dependent, but the bigger concern for me is taking away a feature given only to some and making it available to all.

Opposed Skill Contests become unbalanced

An area where this may become a legitimate balance concern is with regard to the opposed skill contest. In these cases, the classes (see above) that wouldn't ordinarily have expertise all of a sudden become a lot more powerful in these cases (grapples, etc.) - especially considering monsters don't have an explanation of how they chose their ability proficiencies or an opportunity to create expertise when they normally don't have it like the PCs would.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Bounded accuracy also makes skill challenges more trivial. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth Depending on how the DM set the DC. But yeah, opposed skill checks become easier against NPCs...i'll add that. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ related question: Are people's competencies in 5e really as flat...? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch a number of monsters do have doubled proficiency bonus \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I was wondering about that after I typed it. I tried to search, but failed :(. I've edited. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:39

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