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When I Wild Shape, I take a beast's STR, DEX, and CON scores. I keep my proficiency bonus and my INT, WIS, and CHA scores. I will focus this question on the assumption I'm proficient in Athletics, and I'm turning into a beast also proficient with Athletics.

  • I have +0 STR and +3 Proficiency, so +3 in Athletics
  • Beast has +2 STR and a +4 bonus in Athletics

What is my Athletics bonus now?

On one hand, I keep my +3 proficiency bonus (so if I calculated things from scratch, I should have Athletics = +2 STR + 3 Prof = +5). On the other, tweets like this claim I should just use the beast's modifier, a +4, since it is higher than my Druid's +3.

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

But in this case, I'm now a creature with +2 STR, +3 Prof, and a +4 in an Athletics skill I'm proficient with. Can anyone confirm if I do or do not recalculate proficiency bonuses when I Wild Shape (or Shapeshift)? The rules are not explicit, and the way I've interpreted them is that you take the new STR, DEX, CON scores, and recalculate modifiers for your skills. After this, if the Beast had a better bonus than you now have, you then take its bonus.


Similar question, but it mostly refers to interactions with Expertise and other edge-cases. I'm looking for an (preferably backed-up by RAW or official comment) answer on whether I should recalculate my stats to accommodation my Proficiency Bonus with my new STR, DEX, or CON modifiers.

Also keep in mind, from this question, it seems a reasonable opinion that we should recalculate bonuses when scores change. But if you don't recalculate any proficiencies, how would this be affected? You could be cursed to negative STR and keep a massive athletic bonus.

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For your specific example, you add a total of +5 to your dice roll when you do a Strength (Athletics) check.

For skills and saves: do the math.

Rules don't ask for calculation untill dice are rolled. From the ability checks rules:

To make an ability check, roll a d20 and add the relevant ability modifier. [...] Proficiency in a skill means an individual can add his or her proficiency bonus to ability checks that involve that skill. [...]

For example, if a character attempts to climb up a dangerous cliff, the DM might ask for a Strength (Athletics) check. If the character is proficient in Athletics, the character's proficiency bonus is added to the Strength check. If the character lacks that proficiency, he or she just makes a Strength check.

From the saving throws rules:

To make a saving throw, roll a d20 and add the appropriate ability modifier. For example, you use your Dexterity modifier for a Dexterity saving throw. [...] As with skill proficiencies, proficiency in a saving throw lets a character add his or her proficiency bonus to saving throws made using a particular ability score.

Whatever changes your ability modifier or your proficiency bonus before that roll, changes the numbers you add.

Wild shape affects both ability modifiers and proficiency bonuses.

From the description of the Wild Shape class feature:

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your 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.

Regarding abilities:
You now use the creature's strength, dexterity and constitution scores (and thus modifiers), but keep your own intelligence, wisdom and charisma scores (and thus modifiers).

Regarding proficiencies, designers have clarified you gain and retain proficiency bonuses (and keep the best one):

Mike Mearls on Twitter :
You lose weapon proficiencies but keep skills. Use the higher of your or the creature's proficiency bonus

Jeremy Crawford on Dragon Talk at 13:10, about a character who has proficiency:
You get to use your proficiency bonus. But you do use the creature's dexterity modifier. This is where it gets tricky. Use your proficiency bonus for anything where you're both proficient, but only if yours is higher, but you use the physical stats of the beast.

All in all, skill checks and saving throws are resolved the same:
D20 + ability modifier + best applicable proficiency bonus
considering your character's proficiency bonus is applicable whenever the character has proficiency, and the creature's proficiency bonus is applicable whenever the creature has proficiency.

How do I get the creature's proficiency bonus? It's nowhere in the stat block!

You use the creature's stat block skill/save value, and substract it's ability modifier.
You have to do this separately for each skill, as it may vary: some creature's skills benefit from a doubled proficiency bonus, when compared to the proficiency bonus per challenge rating table.

You may end up better than both your character and the creature!

  1. If the creature has better physical abilities, and you have a better applicable proficiency (e.g you have athletics proficiency, and turn into a polar bear).
  2. If you have better mental abilities, and the creature has a better applicable proficiency (e.g druid lacking perception proficiency with good wisdom, turning into a Giant Octopus).

For attacks: use the stat block

From the combat rules :

To make an attack roll, roll a d20 and add the appropriate modifiers. [...] the two most common modifiers to the roll are an ability modifier and the character's proficiency bonus. When a monster makes an attack roll, it uses whatever modifier is provided in its stat block.
[...]
You add your proficiency bonus to your attack roll when you attack using a weapon with which you have proficiency.

When asked about attack rolls, designers point to the same rule:

Jeremy Crawford on Twitter:
The intent is that the druid uses the bonus in the beast's stat block for any proficiency the druid lacks.

As you are using the creature's physical stats, and the creature's proficiency, the above formula matches most of the time - but flying snake's bite lacks the "finesse" property to keep it consistent.
I'd avoid recalculating attack scores entirely, even though it may sound tempting to druid/monks using unarmed combat in wild shape, or when shapeshifting in weapon-wielding forms. Let's keep these for a separate question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer agrees with this, +1 \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 24 at 11:17
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You don't recalculate anything

You simply read the numbers for the bonuses off the beast and PC "character" sheets for skills you and the beast are proficient in and take the higher number.

The relevant rule for your question is:

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.

Importantly it does not say you retain your "proficiency bonus" (which is the relevant game keyword), but instead says you retain your skill and saving throw proficiencies.

i.e. you retain the modifier for skills and saving throws you are proficient in, unless the beast has a better innate proficiency in the skill.

From the Ability Scores section of the Players Handbook we have the following rule:

A skill represents a specific aspect of an ability score, and an individual's proficiency in a skill demonstrates a focus on that aspect. (A character's starting skill proficiencies are determined at character creation, and a monster's skill proficiencies appear in the monster's stat block.)

Thus the bonus referred to in this rule is the number listed under "skills" in the relevant beasts stat block.

Proficient Skills & Saving Throws

Taking the Ape as an example, it has the following skills listed in its stat block:

Skills Athletics +5, Perception +3

If your Athletics skill on your character sheet is +3, then in your wild shaped form you take the +5 from the Ape.

You would also gain the +3 in Perception from the Ape if your characters Perception skill was less than +3.

Conversely, if you are proficient in Acrobatics and your skill bonus is +3 (assuming a 10 in DEX) while the Beasts is +2 (due to its +2 DEX modifier) then you take your characters +3.

The same holds true for the saving throws you are proficient in.

Other Stats

For every other number on the two character sheets you

  • take yours if it's related to CHA, INT or WIS
  • take the beasts if it's related to CON, DEX or STR
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 9 at 20:08
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Skills and Saving Throw subtotals change with ability modifier updates, and new proficiencies

Let's review the relevant part of the Wild Shape class feature, step by step:

  1. Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.

Among the numerous game statistics, what matters first are the ability scores. Assuming you start with a blank character sheet, you use your character's Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores and modifiers, and the creature's Strength, Dexterity and Constitution scores and modifiers.

  1. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature.

You now have proficiency in any skill and saving throw that either your character, or the creature had : you can now add your own proficiency bonus on top on your (updated) ability modifier to any applicable ability check or saving throw.

On most character sheets, you'll be calculating subtotals for each skill or saving throw.

  1. 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.

The trick is: you gained all the creature's proficiencies in step 2, so this is true for any skill bonus / saving throw bonus displayed in the creature's stat block. Whenever you roll for an ability check or saving throw the creature has proficiency in, if the "total bonus" from the creature's stat block is better than the subtotal you calculated on step 2, you can use it instead.

Made short: starting with your character sheet

  1. Update your Strength, Dexterity and Constitution scores and modifiers.
  2. Recalculate any skill and saving throw "subtotal" if your relevant ability modifier changed (likely for STR, DEX, CON), or if you gained proficiency
  3. You can always use the "skill bonus" displayed in the creature's stat block instead, if it is better.

Reconciling RAW and RAI?

I had long been convinced that there were incompatible answers on this subject, should you favor Rules As Written (see this excellent answer, Shapechange and Wild Shape sharing the same mechanics) or Rules As Intended (my "best guess" here). I feel this method is close to a middle ground:

  • It is very close to the quoted RAW answer - the interpretation only differing at step 3, while remaining (arguably) valid.
  • It speeds up play by keeping calculations to a reasonable level (you don't have to extrapolate the creature's proficiency bonus for each skill)
  • Always considering the creature's stat block takes it one step closer to the designer's feedbacks:

A. Mike Mearls on Twitter:
You lose weapon proficiencies but keep skills. Use the higher of your or the creature's proficiency bonus

B. Jeremy Crawford on Sage Advice segment of Dragon Talk at 13:10:
You get to use your proficiency bonus. But you do use the creature's dexterity modifier. This is where it gets tricky. Use your proficiency bonus for anything where you're both proficient, but only if yours is higher, but you use the physical stats of the beast.

C. Jeremy Crawford on Twitter
The Wild Shape feature does not let you add your proficiency bonus to the proficiency bonus of your beast form. The first bullet of the class feature details which proficiency bonus you use (PH, 67). #DnD

D. Jeremy Crawford on Twitter
The intent is that the druid uses the bonus in the beast's stat block for any proficiency the druid lacks.

E. Jeremy Crawford on Twitter, about Shapechange (thanks Illustro!)
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

The fact is that picking the best available proficiency bonus (as in quotes A, B and C, and indirectly D) does give the same results as picking the best available skill bonus (as in quote E) for Strength & Dexterity ability checks. I'll call this "mostly good", it matches most of the time - the main (but rare) exception being druids gaining perception proficiency through wild shape.

What matters is that with the "traditional" RAW interpretation, you don't consider the creature's skill bonus, and thus proficiency bonus, if you don't have proficiency in the first place - which contradicts directly quote D, and indirectly quote A.

Let's recap in a table the compatibility of each method with the various sources:

\$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|c|} \hline \textbf{Source} & \textbf{Bluemoon's RAW interpretation} & \textbf{My own RAI attempt} & \textbf{This proposal} \\ \hline \text{Quote A} & \text{bad} & \text{good} & \text{mostly good} \\ \text{Quote B} & \text{good} & \text{good} & \text{good} \\ \text{Quote C} & \text{n/a} & \text{good} & \text{n/a} \\ \text{Quote D} & \text{bad} & \text{mostly good} & \text{bad} \\ \text{Quote E} & \text{good} & \text{mostly good} & \text{good} \\ \text{Rules} & \text{best!} & \text{bad} & \text{good} \\ \hline \end{array} \$

All in all - I'm sure this is not a definitive answer to the Wild Shape enigma, but it looks like an interesting middle ground. Constructive criticism more than welcome!

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