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I just started a game in 5e with a new human greatsword-wielding fighter, and rolled stats pretty well (I have a Strength score of 17). I chose the Brawny feat (from UA: Feats for Skills) and basically gave myself expertise in Athletics.

Is there a way (e.g. feat, weapon, or magic item) to use my Athletics modifier as either my attack roll or damage roll modifier?

My DM is pretty cool with homebrew stuff, but likes to see similar existing stuff to help figure out balance. Are there any examples of skill checks affecting attack rolls?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking specifically about whether Athletics can be used with attack rolls or any skill check at all? The title and final sentence don't agree on that \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 May 20 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome, Steven, to RPGSE. The tour, How to Ask and How to Answer provide some guidance on how to use the site. If you don't have the players handbook, you can get the free basic rules at WoTC's site. Chapter 9 covers combat, and would be good to review before your next session. WHo knows, it may raise additional questions. Happy Gaming. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 20 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 More of a sub-question, but I changed my title to reflect that. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – Steven Sebastianelli May 20 at 17:07
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Grappling and shoving are the only RAW ways to "attack with" a skill

The Grappling rules state:

When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you're able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check instead of an attack roll: a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition. The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).

Escaping a Grapple. A grappled creature can use its action to escape. To do so, it must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check.

Moving a Grappled Creature. When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you.

The rules on shoving a creature immediately follow the grappling rules:

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you're able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

The target must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Instead of making an attack roll, you make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you succeed, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.

Using grappling and shoving, you can make use of your Athletics skill in combat to prevent an enemy from moving and/or knock it prone to grant advantage to attacks from within 5 feet. However, there are no other ways, by RAW, to "attack with" a skill (whether Athletics or any other skill); all other attacks involve an attack roll instead of an ability check.

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Ability checks rarely deal damage or enhance attack and damage rolls; when they do, they do so indirectly

  • The Hide action indirectly benefits your attack rolls:

    When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide, following the rules for hiding. If you succeed, you gain certain benefits, as described in the "Unseen Attackers and Targets" section later in this section.

    And the corresponding "Unseen Attackers and Targets" section states:

    [...] When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. [...]

    Thus anything that involves becoming hidden or enhancing your Stealth rolls will help your attack rolls by giving them advantage.


  • Features that benefit hiding thereby even more indirectly benefit your attack rolls

    These include things like the Rogue's Cunning Action and the Ranger's Vanish which allow you to take the Hide action as a bonus action. Or the multitude of features that can add to the result of an ability check (such as Bardic Inspiration) which makes your Hide action more likely to succeed.


  • The Rogue's Sneak Attack feature benefits from Hiding:

    [...] Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon.

    Thus any method of gaining advantage (including being hidden) benefits a Rogue's damage rolls.


  • Grapples and Shoves are their own special case:

    When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you're able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

    The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check instead of an attack roll: a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition. The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).

    Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you're able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

    The target must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Instead of making an attack roll, you make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you succeed, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.

    Grapples and Shoves are both considered attacks though they do not actually involve attack rolls but instead use Athletics checks. The latter can also impose the Prone condition:

    [...] An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.

    Thus, a bit indirectly, a Shove can also aid/benefit attack rolls.


  • The Battlerager Barbarian's Battlerager Armor feature allows a grapple to deal damage:

    One of the benefits of this feature is that when you successfully grapple a creature they take 3 piercing damage.


  • The Arcane Hand / Bigby's Hand has an effect similar to Shove:

    [...] The hand is an object that has AC 20 and hit points equal to your hit point maximum. If it drops to 0 hit points, the spell ends. It has a Strength of 26 (+8) and a Dexterity of 10 (+0). [...]

    [...] Forceful Hand. The hand attempts to push a creature within 5 feet of it in a direction you choose. Make a check with the hand's Strength contested by the Strength (Athletics) check of the target. If the target is Medium or smaller, you have advantage on the check. If you succeed, the hand pushes the target up to 5 feet plus a number of feet equal to five times your spellcasting ability modifier. The hand moves with the target to remain within 5 feet of it. [...]

    This isn't an attack nor does it involve damage but it is an example of an ability check being used to a significant effect (pushing a creature 5-30 feet).


Note that these example are indirect benefits to your attack and damage rolls; none of them are made at the same time as an attack or damage roll except for the Rogue's Sneak Attack which is not itself an ability check but instead merely benefits from an ability check.

The only even somewhat direct benefit is the Battlerager Armor which allows an ability check to deal a quite small amount of damage and is not a feature of the ability check itself. That all said though...


Ability checks can cause damage indirectly depending on the GM:

When an ability check is called for is left up to the GM, but it is certainly possible for an ability check to somehow indirectly cause damage or facilitate an attack roll.

Perhaps you're trying to conceal a weapon for later use (Stealth or Sleight of Hand), or terrify your enemy to gain advantage (Intimidation), or shove a boulder so it squashes your foe (Strength). Maybe even you can deal damage directly with a mind-breaking paradox (Intelligence).

All of these are times where the GM would have to make a ruling on what happens, what the DC is, how much damage you can deal, and other sorts of things and are not laid out specifically in the rules themselves.

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