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I'm starting a new character sheet for a noble half-elf cleric (Knowledge Domain), and I'm just wondering about proficiencies and languages.

How many things would I be proficient in, and how many languages would I know? Also, when it comes to the proficiency bonus, is that also applied to the skills I am proficient in?

I'm not super new to the game but character sheets are always where I get confused. This is only the second sheet I've filled out, and I’m double checking to ensure I'm doing things right.

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The instructions for building a character and how proficiency bonuses are applied are detailed in the Player's Handbook, Chapter 1: Step by Step Characters.

The specifics relevant to your particular character are in the sections of the Player's Handbook describing the cleric (p.57), half-elf (p.38), noble background (p.135) and knowledge domain (p. 59) respectively. You may also like to read the section on proficiency bonuses (p.173).

To summarize:

  • Your proficiency bonus (+2 at first level) applies to attacks with weapons you're proficient with, spells, spell DC, saving throws you're proficient in, and ability checks using tools or skills you're proficient in
  • Half-elf gives proficiency in any two skills, and the languages Common, Elvish and any one other
  • Clerics pick two skills (chosen from History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion), and are also proficient in simple weapons and the Wisdom and Charisma saving throws
  • The Knowledge domain gives two more languages of your choice and two more skills (chosen from Arcana, History, Nature or Religion), and your proficiency bonus is specially doubled for those two skills only
  • The Noble background gives proficiency in History and Persuasion, one more language, and proficiency with one type of gaming set

In total, you will have 6 languages and 8 skill proficiencies.

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8 skills and 6 languages

You can get skill proficiencies from your race, class, subclass, and background.

Race

The half-elf race gets the Skill Versatility trait, which lets you choose two skills to be proficient in. (The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide also has half-elf variants that let you replace the Skill Versatility trait with a different trait themed after your elven heritage, but for the purpose of this explanation we'll assume you're not doing that.) In addition, for languages, you start with Common, Elvish, and one additional language of your choice.

Class

All clerics get the following proficiencies:

Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion

So you get 2 skill proficiencies from the list. (The base class rarely gives you additional languages.)

Subclass

Because clerics choose their Divine Domain at 1st level, you gain the corresponding subclass features at the same time. The Knowledge Domain cleric gets the Blessings of Knowledge feature (PHB, p. 59) at 1st level:

At 1st level, you learn two languages of your choice. You also become proficient in your choice of two of the following skills: Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion.

Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those skills.

So you learn 2 additional languages, and also pick 2 skills from the list to be proficient in. Not only that, but you double your proficiency bonus (equivalent to the rogue or bard's Expertise feature) for ability checks you make using the 2 skills you choose from the list.

Background

The Noble background gives you the following proficiencies:

Skill Proficiencies: History, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: One type of gaming set
Languages: One of your choice

So you get 2 specific skill proficiencies, a tool proficiency (in any one type of gaming set, of your choice), and 1 language. However, you can choose to customize this 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. (If you spend coin, you can’t also take the equipment package suggested for your class.) Finally, choose two personality traits, one ideal, one bond, and one flaw. If you can’t find a feature that matches your desired background, work with your DM to create one.

Which, in this case, means you can swap out the given skill proficiencies for any other skills, and choose a total of any two tool proficiencies or languages.

Total

Thus, you have a total of 2 skills from your race, 2 more from your class, 2 more (with double-proficiency, or "expertise") from your subclass, and 2 more from your background - for a total of 8 skill proficiencies (6 with regular proficiency, 2 with a doubled proficiency bonus). If you don't customize your background, the two from your background will be History and Persuasion.

Without customizing your background, you also have 1 tool proficiency from your background - and 3 languages from your race, 2 from your subclass, and 1 from your background, for a total of 6 (Common, Elvish, and 4 of your choice).

But what is "proficiency", anyway?

The basic rules explain what a proficiency bonus is and how it works (emphasis mine):

The table that appears in your class description shows your proficiency bonus, which is +2 for a 1st-level character. Your proficiency bonus applies to many of the numbers you’ll be recording on your character sheet:

  • Attack rolls using weapons you’re proficient with
  • Attack rolls with spells you cast
  • Ability checks using skills you’re proficient in
  • Ability checks using tools you’re proficient with
  • Saving throws you’re proficient in
  • Saving throw DCs for spells you cast (explained in each spellcasting class)

Your class determines your weapon proficiencies, your saving throw proficiencies, and some of your skill and tool proficiencies. (Skills are described in "Using Ability Scores", tools in "Equipment.") Your background gives you additional skill and tool proficiencies, and some races give you more proficiencies. Be sure to note all of these proficiencies, as well as your proficiency bonus, on your character sheet.

Your proficiency bonus can’t be added to a single die roll or other number more than once. Occasionally, your proficiency bonus might be modified (doubled or halved, for example) before you apply it. If a circumstance suggests that your proficiency bonus applies more than once to the same roll or that it should be multiplied more than once, you nevertheless add it only once, multiply it only once, and halve it only once.

In short, basically all the numbers on your character sheet will be related to your ability scores and/or your proficiency bonus. (Languages are unrelated to your proficiency bonus; either you know them or you don't.)

If you have a Wisdom score of 18, your Wisdom modifier is +4; as a level 1 character, your proficiency bonus is +2. If you were not proficient in Wisdom saving throws, your Wisdom saving throw modifier would be +4; because you're a cleric, you are proficient in Wisdom saves, so your Wisdom save modifier is +6 (the total of your Wisdom mod and your proficiency bonus). Wisdom is also the skill associated with the Perception skill, so the same is true for Wisdom (Perception) checks. If you're not proficient, your modifier for those checks is +4, but it's +6 if you are proficient.

The Character Advancement table shows how your proficiency bonus gradually increases as you level up. Your proficiency bonus is based on your overall character level, not your individual class levels (which may be different from one another if you multiclass).

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