The rules for making skill checks are usually cut and dried. If a character is making a check to see if they can swim against a current, this would usually be a Strength (Athletics) check.

But the rules allow for unique circumstances to require skill checks with atypical abilities.

For example, if you have to swim from an offshore island to the mainland, your DM might call for a Constitution check to see if you have the stamina to make it that far. In this case, your DM might allow you to apply your proficiency in Athletics and ask for a Constitution (Athletics) check.

Certain races afford the character advantage on specific checks. For example: the Loxodon's Keen Smell (Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica pg 18):

Keen Smell. Thanks to your sensitive trunk, you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception), Wisdom (Survival), and Intelligence (Investigation) checks that involve smell.

Or Dwarves' Stonecunning:

Stonecunning. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.

Or Rock Gnomes' Artificer's Lore:

Artificer’s Lore. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magic items, alchemical objects, or technological devices, you can add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply.

Using the Loxodon as an example, I can imagine a situation where a DM might request an Intelligence (Perception) check to see if a character is able to identify which of two glasses of wine is poisoned or a Constitution (Perception) check to see if a character can keep their eyes on something flying very close to the sun without squinting.

In these atypical scenarios, does the creature's racial benefit still apply to the check in spite of the fact that the fundamental ability being used with their skill is not the one explicitly cited in the description of their racial feature?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Skills with different abilities: How to adjudicate what combination to use? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Jun 25, 2020 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you give an example of such a racial trait? 1. the specific wording might be important 2. none comes to mind atm which is specific to a given ability and applies to ability checks \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Jun 25, 2020 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I pulled three such examples from the text. It's interesting to me, in further researching this, that sometimes the racial feature mentions only the skill and other times it mentions both the ability/skill. I don't see a clear pattern around the usage of the two format, either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Jun 26, 2020 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I recommend you do not use "advantage" in your question, as that is a game term, and it seems you mean a "benefit". \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Jun 26, 2020 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I'd originally been asking because I was planning a Loxodon character (so using the term advantage was valid in that circumstance) but, with the addition of the other two racial examples, that created the conflict. Very good catch on that, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Jun 26, 2020 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


By RAW, no - but ruling otherwise is unlikely to be a problem.

Two key ideas:

  1. No hidden rules. Things do exactly what they say they do. And it says Wisdom (Perception), not "any check involving Perception proficiency".
  2. In 5e, skill checks are no longer a thing--ability checks are. Change the ability score being used and you change the check (both mechanically and fictionally). Being able to apply proficiency for the same reason doesn't override this. For example, an Intelligence (Perception) check is about logically reasoning through which cup is poisoned. But the racial trait gives bonuses to perceiving through the senses and the connections to the world which cup is poisoned. Those are two different fictional things.

However, those racial abilities are mostly ribbons anyway (and, in my experience, rarely come up at all), and variant ability checks come up even less, so giving them the benefit of it won't make any significant difference and may make the player happy.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify, when you say those racial abilities are "mostly ribbons" you're using a metaphor to mean they are only of nominal benefit, and don't provide much use in actual play, correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Jun 25, 2020 at 23:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara correct. They have use, but those uses don't come up very often and tend to be only a small advantage (pun intended) when they do. So even doubling their power would still leave it pretty low and unlikely to cause issues. And variant checks come up even less frequently than the base use, at least in my experience. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25, 2020 at 23:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ribbon benefits are basically the cute little bow on top, @Rykara. When you give someone a gift, the ribbon you tied around it is nice, but the important part is what's inside the box. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9, 2021 at 1:27
  1. A "Intelligence (Perception) Check would be "Investigation" IMO - Especially in the situation you mentioned.

  2. If a racial ability give you proficiency or advantage is linked with the logical outcome of the scenario.

If for example a race got "keen senses" to give advantage on perception checks regarding smells. Then i would rule - yes, they can use that advantage on their "investigation" check to see if the drink is poisened. It has to be logical. If they instead got advantage on perception checks regarding "hearing" then - no, they shouldnt get that adv.

I'm always open for and also proactionary call for atypical ability checks. For example the barbarian in our group literally always makes his intimidation checks based on strenght instead of charisma because it is logical for him to flex his muscles, break something and push someone around to intimidate someone. Even our wizard intimidated someone with intelligence once.

It has to be logical.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour when you have time. Can you give examples of situations where you (or someone at your table) have ruled this way? We're not interested in answers based on pure speculation, but an answer based on what you've seen in actual play is often useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Jun 26, 2020 at 16:06

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