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If I want to create an efficient grappler, I need to increase my Athletics DC, so Escape is harder.
Unfortunately, I could only find items that improve checks, like Armbands of Athleticism.

Can I buy something, or is increasing proficiency in Athletics my only option?

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2 Answers 2

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Item bonuses work for increasing your skill DCs

The rules for skill dcs are the following: (emphasis mine)

When someone or something tests your skill, they attempt a check against your skill DC, which is equal to 10 plus your skill modifier

And a skill modifier is defined as follows:

Skill modifier = modifier of the skill’s key ability score + proficiency bonus + other bonuses + penalties

Armbands of Athleticism provide an item bonus to AC, which falls under the "other bonuses" category and increases your skill modifier. And because that modifier is included in your Athletics DC, the armbands will increase that DC by 2.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For reference, AoN lists items with a bonus to the skill (sorted into tables based on rarity) on the skill's page. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 16:21
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Your Athletics DC is 10 + your Athletics modifier, so anything that increases your Athletics modifier increases your Athletics DC. Spells like heroism and items like bestial mutagen and armbands of athleticism all give you a bonus to Athletics and therefore increase your Athletics DC. As, of course, does raising Athletics.

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