In the 5e PHB, the Variant: Skills with Different Abilities topic confuses the hell out of me.

Your DM might call for a Constitution Check... Your DM might allow you to apply your proficiency in Atheletic and ask for a Constitution (Athletics) check... so you apply your proficiency bonus to the Constitution check just as you would normally do for a Strength (Athletics) check.

So does that mean that if I had +4 in Stength, +1 in Constitution and +2 proficiency bonus, then my Atheltics would be +6 with proficiency. If I made a Constituion (Athletics) check, would it be a 1d20 +1(Constituion) +2(Proficiency bonus)?

If so, if I had a +4 Strength, + 1 Charisma and +2 proficiency bonus, then my Intimidation would be +3 with proficency. Does that mean If I made a Strength (Intimidation) check, I would roll 1d20 +4(Strength) +2(Proficency bonus)?

This variant rule confuses me. I know I don't need to use it but I want to understand it in case I do want use it in the future.

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    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related/useful: Skills with different abilities: How to adjudicate what combination to use? \$\endgroup\$
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    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does my answer solve your problem well enough for a green check? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


If I made a Strength (Intimidation) check, I would roll 1d20 +4(Strength) +2(Proficency bonus)?

This is correct.

The skill and attribute combinations printed on the character sheet are the most common applications of skills that turn up in the game. 99% of the checks you make will use those combinations. But the rules are the same for different combinations.

Here are the two relevant rules:

  • To make an ability check, roll a d20 and add the relevant ability modifier.
  • Sometimes, the DM might ask for an ability check using a specific skill — for example, “Make a Wisdom (Perception) check.” At other times, a player might ask the DM if proficiency in a particular skill applies to a check. In either case, proficiency in a skill means an individual can add his or her proficiency bonus to ability checks that involve that skill.

The formula is always the same. When you are proficient in the skill the DM calls for, the formula is:

1d20 + Ability + Proficency

In this question about hiding a body, I suggest a few alternative skill checks. Maybe seeing other examples can clear things up: What are the mechanics for hiding something that is not yourself?:

In situations where sleight of hand maybe does not fit, such as trying to hide something while not being observed, a DM could consider an Intelligence (Stealth) check:

Intelligence Checks

An Intelligence check comes into play when you need to draw on logic, education, memory, or deductive reasoning. The Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion skills reflect aptitude in certain kinds of Intelligence checks.

If we have some time to ourselves to hide something like a large object in a room, I would rule that such a task requires logic and deduction to determine what makes a good hiding spot for the object. I would call for an Intelligence based stealth check, Intelligence (Stealth), since logic and deduction, as well as knowledge of stealth, come into play.


First off, remember that…

There is no such thing as a skill check; there are only ability checks

Skill or tool proficiency simply allows you to add your proficiency bonus to an ability check.


If your character is trying to lift a heavy rock, the DM might call for a Strength check. If you have proficiency in Athletics, this will help, since lifting heavy things is part of athletics. You would roll 1d20 +4 (Strength) +2 (Proficiency). We call this a "STR (Athletics) check".

If your character is swimming a long way, the DM might call for a Constitution check and say that proficiency in Athletics (normally a Strength proficiency) will help, since swimming is part of athletics. You would roll 1d20 +1 (Constitution) +2 (Proficiency). This would be a "CON (Athletics) check".

If your character is looming over an NPC, trying to physically intimidate them into doing something, the DM might call for a Strength check with Intimidation (normally a Charisma proficiency). You would roll 1d20 +4 (Strength) +2 (Proficiency), a "STR (Intimidation) check".

Summary of the variant rule

The GM determines the ability score and considers all the proficiencies to see if one or more might apply to this check.


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