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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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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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    \$\begingroup\$ D&D Beyond, official rules source has now shown you recalculate multiple values. You may want to review your opinion on the topic \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Aug 26 at 19:30
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You recalculate all STR, DEX, and CON abilities/saves, as well as any skill or save listed in the beast's stat block.

As the rules say

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

So, you get the beast's STR, DEX, and CON scores, and keep your INT, WIS, and CHA scores. You also keep your level-based proficiency bonus.

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

So you now are proficient with abilities and saves that either shape was proficient with. You calculate the ability bonus as usual, by summing the ability score with your proficiency bonus.

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.

In the case where both are proficient at something, and your newly recalculated bonus is worse than the bonus the creature originally had, you instead use the creature's bonus.

The idea is simple, and let's break it down step by step.

  • You get new STR, DEX, and CON scores, so when shapeshifted you use the beast's scores for those, and the Druid's scores for INT, WIS and CHA.

  • Because you are still a Druid and keep your proficiency bonus, you now add the Druid's PB to any abilities that you or the beast were proficient with. This does not include the beast's natural attacks.

  • Finally, you check abilities that both Druid and beast were proficient in. If the beast had a higher bonus than your newly recalculated one, you use that bonus instead.

You can now officially verify this on D&D Beyond. After building a character, on the right-side, choosing Extras.


Let's give some examples.

  • Beast is proficient, Druid is not. Level 20 Druid with +6 proficiency bonus, wildshapes into an Ape. The Druid now has +3 STR, and +9 athletics bonus.

enter image description here

  • Druid is proficient, Beast is not. Very similar. Level 20 Druid with +6 proficiency bonus, wildshapes into an Badger. The Druid now has +3 STR, and +3 athletics bonus. Because it shifted into something weaker, Druid now has a worse Athletics score than before. Intimidation, on the other hand, was unaffected, since it was based on WIS.

enter image description here

For this next example, I've removed the beast limitation from Wildshape, I couldn't find adequate examples otherwise.

  • Beast and Druid are both proficient. Level 20 Druid with +6 proficiency bonus, wildshapes into an Adult Gold Dragon. Druid originally had +8 Perception, Dragon had +14. The new form maintains +2 WIS from Druid, so following the same formulae, the new form should maintain +8 Perception. However, because both are proficient, you use the highest bonus, the one from the Dragon.

enter image description here

All of the above calculations should be applicable to the Shapechange spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 : Follows strictly RAW as developed here, and the DnD Beyond argument ensures a much better review than any of Mearl's or Crawford's tweets. \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Aug 26 at 19:23
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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 (Designer tweets previously convinced me that you kept the "best available proficiency bonus"). 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} \\ \text{DnD Beyond} & \text{best!} & \text{bad} & \text{bad} \\ \hline \end{array} \$

All in all - I'm sure this is not a definitive answer to the Wild Shape enigma (this is probably the correct one), but it looks like an interesting option if you favor designer's feedbacks.

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