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In my game I'm a Rogue with the Entertainer background. Leveled up enough to pick a subclass and decided on Mastermind for the teamwork possibilities. The subclass gives Disguise Kit proficiency, something I already had from my background. If I do the level up in Beyond it insists I pick a new tool proficiency for my background. But I'm not making a new character, I'm leveling up an existing one. How should I handle this?

So far I've been treating it as a glitch with Beyond (it sees characters as 'new' even if they have experience being tallied) and ignoring it's suggestion as anything from levels prior to the current one are effectively set in stone barring DM caveat. Still, would be nice to have a more concrete way of dealing with this than a hand wave.

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As the Background section about Proficiencies (PHB p.125) says,

If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.

I believe the way they've implemented this in Beyond is the new class feature becomes the source for your Disguise Kit proficiency, and the one from your background changes to let you pick a different tool proficiency in lieu of your Disguise Kit.

I think it's working as intended, it just might look a little strange.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 3 '20 at 17:33
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You're only meant to be able to swap out redundant proficiencies from your background

The rule in question that allows changing redundant proficiencies to begin with (which is presumably why DDB has implemented it in any form) is under the "Proficiencies" heading of the "Backgrounds" section of the rules. The rule states:

Each background gives a character proficiency in two skills. [...]

In addition, most backgrounds give a character proficiency with one or more tools. [...]

If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.

(The omitted portions simply indicate other sections of the rules, where skills and tools are listed.)

As noted in my answer to a related question about what skills can be chosen for the Knowledge cleric's Blessings of Knowledge feature - as well as in Medix2's answer to a question specifically about whether the rule applies to proficiencies granted by any source at any level - this rule is meant to apply only to proficiencies granted by your background (which only happens at character creation, at 1st level). It's not a general rule that applies whenever a skill or tool proficiency might be redundant; if it were, it would probably appear in a more general rules section, not specifically in the "Backgrounds" section of the rules.

In addition, there are no mechanics for retraining proficiencies (skill or tool) from your background if you gain the same proficiency again from another source (e.g. a class or subclass feature) after 1st level.


...So D&D Beyond's behavior in this regard is a bug

Given the above, this is an error on D&D Beyond's part. It is likely intended to make it easy for players to create characters following the order in "Chapter 1: Step-By-Step Characters"; the character builder is designed in the same order, so players will be prompted to choose their class (and the skill/tool proficiencies from their class) before they choose their background (and gain the corresponding skill/tool proficiencies from that background).

The bug is presumably a result of DDB's system checking whether such a proficiency is granted by the character's class (in any way - rather than only the character's initially chosen class at 1st level), and then making sure that proficiency can't be chosen for the background. As such, I suspect that if any class feature you gain at a later point grants that proficiency (as in your case), it erroneously forces that tool (or skill) proficiency to be deselected for your background.

In any case, it's seemingly a result of the character manager not being designed to account for the relevant rule only applying to a redundant proficiency from your background at 1st level - basically, D&D Beyond's character builder likely wasn't designed to apply the rule so narrowly, for whatever reason. However...

This bug makes it easy to apply a house-rule that says otherwise

The developers of D&D Beyond likely do not see this as an important enough problem to warrant redesigning the system to restrict the ability to do that, especially when many DMs already house-rule to allow retraining redundant proficiencies from any source anyway.

As such, depending on whether your DM house-rules to allow you to reallocate the redundant proficiency or not, you can either leave the background tool proficiency "unselected" in D&D Beyond's character builder (if your DM sticks to the intended limitation of the rule), or reassign your background tool proficiency to something else (if your DM house-rules to let you can do so).

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The DM may rule that you get a different tool proficiency

In the Backgrounds portion of the rules there is a section on proficiencies that contains the following:

If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.

It is unclear whether this statement only applies when you are choosing a background (since it is in the Backgrounds section), or if it always applies (since the language used is broadly applicable).

The introduction to Chapter 4 of the Player's Handbook and the Basic Rules reads (emphasis mine):

Characters are defined by much more than their race and class. They’re individuals with their own stories, interests, connections, and capabilities beyond those that class and race define. This section expounds on the details that distinguish characters from one another, including the basics of name and physical description, the rules of backgrounds and languages, and the finer points of personality and alignment.

This seems to imply that rules from this section are only meant to apply to background and language selection. The section on proficiencies quoted above is found in this chapter, so it has been interpreted by some that the text is only applicable during background selection.

An unofficial 2018 tweet from rules designer Jeremy Crawford agrees with this interpretation, and he (at least at the time) would rule this way:

The proficiency rule for backgrounds applies when you gain your background at 1st level. It has no relevance outside that context.

Crawford's rulings are not rules, this is just an example of one way the text can be interpreted.

In my opinion the rules text is worded too broadly for that interpretation. If they intended this to only apply to background selection it should explicitly state so, such as "If a character would gain a proficiency from his or her background that has already been gained from another source...". If I was the DM, I personally would say that this rule is worded broadly enough to cover any time new proficiencies are gained, regardless of the section of the rulebook it came from.

Ultimately, this comes down to a ruling from your DM.

How to handle this on D&DBeyond

How you would handle this depends on which interpretation above your DM decides on:

  • If your DM agrees with the first interpretation then you are already handling this correctly by ignoring the change in D&DBeyond.

  • If they prefer to go with the second interpretation, then you would pick a different tool proficiency to learn as part of the level-up to Mastermind. While D&DBeyond may associate the second-chosen proficiency with your background rather than class, you should just note that is not the case in the event that information is ever relevant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 3 '20 at 12:01

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