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I play an artificer who has a bunch of tool proficiency's, but it seems that every one can do the same things with normal skills. So is there a point to even having these tools?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you provide some examples of the sorts of uses for tool proficiencies that you've seen covered by other skills? \$\endgroup\$ – LizWeir May 27 at 8:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean Artisan Tools specifically, or any tool proficiency (like Thieves Tools, etc)? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 27 at 8:44
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It lets you add your proficiency bonus

When you work with tools and the DM asks for a check to determine the results, you add your proficiency bonus to the roll only when you have the proficiency. See the PHB page 154 "Tools":

Proficiency with a tool allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check you make using that tool.

It lets you do things others can not do

The PHB describes only one strict requirement though:

trying to open a lock requires proficiency with thieves' tools

However, a DM is free to rationalize a creature can't do other things when it is not proficient. For instance, it's reasonable to assume you can't play a musical instrument if you have never learned to play it. Or you can't create a poison if you don't know how, even with a Poisoner's Kit.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything has more

XGtE p.78 describes other uses for tools proficiencies (for DM's eyes):

Advantage. If the use of a tool and the use of a skill both apply to a check, and a character is proficient with the tool and the skill, consider allowing the character to make the check with advantage.

Added Benefit. In addition, consider giving characters who have both a relevant skill and a relevant tool proficiency a n added benefit on a successful check. This benefit might be in the form of more detailed information or could simulate the effect of a different sort of successful check.

As usual, ask you DM for more details.

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Tool proficiencies allow you to do things that skill proficiencies do not cover

There are some cases where skill proficiencies and tool proficiencies genuinely overlap - the most obvious case is playing musical instruments, since Performance is its own skill, but other situations are conceivable. Different GMs adjudicate that overlap in different ways - some requiring proficiency with a specific instrument to be allowed to use it as part of a perform check, for instance. Xanathar's Guide to Everything contains some optional rules about how to provide additional benefits to characters in situations where their skill proficiency and tool proficiencies are both applicable, such as granting advantage to the check or giving a character extra information or benefit on a success.

However, by and large tool proficiencies cover the vast landscape of personal skills that are not represented by any of the standard skill proficiencies. For instance, there is no skill proficiency that represents knowing how to sail or operate a ship. That's a tool proficiency, such as granted by the sailor background - proficiency with "vehicles (water)". There is no skill proficiency that represents knowing how to use a forge and craft swords or armour; that's a tool proficiency with "smith's tools" (a specific kind of artisan's tools), which you may know how to use as a result of being an artificer. Most relevantly to a standard D&D campaign, there is no skill proficiency that represents the ability to pick locks; that is a tool proficiency with thieves' tools.

Without tool proficiency, the game has no mechanism to represent a character's competency in any task or subject not covered by the limited set of skills available to characters. Those skills broadly cover most areas of aptitude that are important for adventuring dungeon-delvers, so they come up far more often and therefore any one skill proficiency is usually much more "valuable" than any one tool proficiency in the context of a standard D&D campaign - but tool proficiencies are there to represent anything else a character might be skilled at, which you may or may not find a way to make useful in your games.

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You could ask the same question the other way around

What's even the point of skill proficiencies? You can accomplish the same thing with a tool proficiency, so is there even a point?

All (non-armor) proficiencies in D&D 5e do the exact same thing-- they let you add your proficiency bonus to some sort of roll. Skill and tool proficiencies, in particular, both let you add your proficiency bonus to certain ability checks. For skills, that's anything involving the use of that skill. For tools, that's anything involving the use of those tools.

Because proficiencies in 5e don't stack-- you either add your proficiency modifier or you don't-- having overlapping tool and skill proficiencies is bad. For example, there's practically no benefit to having proficiency with disguise kits and the deception skill-- you can leverage your skill at pulling off disguises pretty much every time you can tell a lie and vice versa.

So, then, broader skills and tools are, obviously, better than specific ones. Tools aren't inherently more or less broad than skills, though. They are just different.

Skills, in the most default RAW context, are tied to specific abilities by being subsets of them. That means Perception proficiency will only ever apply to Wisdom checks in such a context.

Tools, on the other hand, are not tied to any one ability score. Instead, they are tied to the involvement of the tools or parts of the tools in the task. That means that Thieves' Tools proficiency, while typically applied to Dex checks, could also apply to e.g. an Intelligence check to analyze how a defeated construct worked, provided the tools were used to disassemble it as part of the check.

Tools, then, are better when you have several different ability scores involved in what is essentially a single task or family of tasks and want to add your proficiency bonus to all of them, while skills are better when you want to ensure that a single attribute will be exclusively used for a particular kind of activity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "For example, there's practically no benefit to having proficiency with disguise kits and the deception skill" - I disagree. In most cases where you need the disguise kit, you're also going to want to have the skill. Impersonating someone often requires verbal deception as well, in which case the disguise kit won't help (PHB p. 154): "Proficiency with [the diguise kit] lets you add your proficiency bonus to any ability checks you make to create a visual disguise" \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster May 27 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also use a disguise kit on someone else. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 27 at 16:38

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