I am reading the 5e rules, and I keep seeing how you can add proficiency bonus to attack rolls checks with weapons you are proficient in and skill checks in skills you are proficient in, but I can't find anything on what this bonus actually is. How do you determine what the numerical actual bonus you add to your roll is? And at what times is it used?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is something the Starter Set fails to explain properly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Avamander
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 18:37

5 Answers 5


Proficiency bonus is noted in your character advancement table (in Character Creation file, or PHB p.15) as "Proficiency Bonus", and that is universal for your character level. For example, according to the table, a 3rd-level character gets +2 for proficiency bonus, because the table says so. For convenience of single-classed characters, you can also look up your proficiency bonus for your level in your class advancement table.

Thus, a 5th-level Fighter with Strength 18 (modifier is +4) wielding his greatsword makes attack roll with 1d20+4 (Strength modifier) + 3 (proficiency bonus at character level 5) = 1d20+7.

  • 29
    \$\begingroup\$ Attack roll, not damage roll. You don't add your proficiency bonus to damage rolls... \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 21:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... unless a feature or effect states so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Drejzer
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 18:47

It can be found at each class' description.

The Proficiency Bonus represents your experience from a roleplaying viewpoint, and your power curve from a game design viewpoint.
You add it to skills, saves, weapon or spell attacks that you are proficient with. It is the same for each class.

Comparison with previous editions

  1. In D&D 3e, for weapon using classes it was your base attack bonus; together with your feat bonus, ability improvement and your magic item it was quite progressive. You gained a level, your attack improved by more than 1.

  2. In D&D 4e, it was half your level for skills and attacks; together with Enhancement bonus, Ability improvement, Feat bonus it gave you a more or less straight line. You gained 1 level, your attack improved by 1.

    This math in editions 3 and 4 meant that the threats you ran away from on level 1 became easily trivial. By level 11 your attack bonus, and your defenses1, were about 10 higher than on level 1. (D&D 4e attack increase: 5 from level, 1 from ability, 3 from item, 2 feat)

D&D 5e bonuses are lower and calculated differently

In D&D 5e your progress is much slower: at level 11 your attack is only 5 higher (2 from prof, 2 from ability, 1 from magic), meaning you "elevate over worldly threats" much slower.

This lower bonus shows a different calculation based on level. In D&D 5e the calculation is so complicated that the numbers are repeated at every class description (see the tables listing your class features for levels 1-20 in the PHB).

What was an easy "half your level rounded down" in D&D 4e is now a bit less catchy, but amounts to "7 plus your level, divided by 4, rounded down."

1) true in 4e, but in 3.x your AC hardly increased

  • \$\begingroup\$ The first paragraph is really the only info relevant to OP's question. The rest could've been omitted without weakening your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – arkon
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 4:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ "7 plus your level, divided by 4, rounded down." - is this really correct? This answer says it's actually level/4 + 1, round up, and that seems to fit the table that I'm seeing in the basic rules. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MartinvonWittich both can be (and are) correct at the same time. Check it, it is basic math. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 5:41
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @András thanks, you're right. I must've done something wrong when I originally tried your formula because I was getting results that were different from the table in the basic rules. I tried it again and you're right, both formulas give exactly the same result :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 19:43

Proficiency is explained in the Basic Rules, free from the Wizards of the Coast web site and in the Player's Handbook. (The way Proficiency works is described the same way in both sources.) The Proficiency Bonus reflects via game mechanics how much better a character is at some things (attacks, saving throws, spell effects) due to the level of experience, and also how much better a character is at certain skills either due to choice, experience, background, class, and/or race.

  • the numerical value of the bonus is shown as a value from +2 to +6 depending upon your character's level of experience. (PHB, p. 15; Basic Rules, p. 10)

  • When to apply the proficiency bonus is in Chapter 1 (PHB, p. 12; Basic Rules p. 7)

    • Attack rolls using weapons you’re proficient with
    • Attack rolls with spells you cast
    • Ability checks using skills you’re proficient in
    • Ability checks using tools you’re proficient with
    • Saving throws you’re proficient in
    • Saving throw DCs for spells you cast (explained in each spellcasting class)

  1. For the example from the merged question (from user @A.Ban) of an Elf's proficiency in Perception:

    When you roll the die to make a Perception check while playing, you will add the Proficiency bonus (for a first level character that is a +2) to whatever you roll on the 20-sided die. If your die roll was 11, your result is a 13 (if you have no other bonuses to the roll).

  2. On your character sheet, if you are a first level character simply fill in s +2 in the space for "Proficiency Bonus." Then check the "Perception" skill and put +2 in the space next to it, to remind you to add that bonus when you make rolls for Perception. Do the same for any saving throw that your class has proficiency in. (I'd use pencil, since your proficiency bonus will go up to +3 when you reach 5th level).

  3. For Saving Throws, the bonus will only be applied to saving throws that you are proficient in, which will be governed by the Class you have chosen to play.

    Example: a Cleric has Save Proficiency in Charisma and Wisdom, so I'd put +2 next to both of those in the Saving Throw box if I were playing a Cleric (PHB, p.57; Basic Rules, p. 21; Proficiencies {Cleric}).

  4. Example in Combat: We will stay with the level 1 Cleric, who has proficiency in Simple Weapons.

    • If he is using a Mace (Simple Weapon, p. 46 Basic Rules, Weapons Table) he would add +2 to an attack roll with the Mace. Roll a 12, result is a 14.
    • If he tries to use a Flail (Martial Weapon, p. 46, Weapons Table) he is not Proficient with Martial Weapons so he does not add +2 to his attack roll. Roll a 12, result is a 12.

Here is how you calculate and use your proficiency bonus from the Basic Edition rules:

Proficiency Bonus

The table that appears in your class description shows your proficiency bonus, which is +2 for a 1st-level character. Your proficiency bonus applies to many of the numbers you’ll be recording on your character sheet:

• Attack rolls using weapons you’re proficient with
• Attack rolls with spells you cast
• Ability checks using skills you’re proficient in
• Ability checks using tools you’re proficient with
• Saving throws you’re proficient in
• Saving throw DCs for spells you cast (explained in each spellcasting class)

Your class determines your weapon proficiencies, your saving throw proficiencies, and some of your skill and tool proficiencies. (Skills are described in chapter 7, tools in chapter 5.) Your background gives you additional skill and tool proficiencies, and some races give you more proficiencies. Be sure to note all of these proficiencies, as well as your proficiency bonus, on your character sheet.

Your proficiency bonus can’t be added to a single die roll or other number more than once. Occasionally, your proficiency bonus might be modified (doubled or halved, for example) before you apply it. If a circumstance suggests that your proficiency bonus applies more than once to the same roll or that it should be multiplied more than once, you nevertheless add it only once, multiply it only once, and halve it only once.

To find out your proficiency bonus, you need to look at the chart at the beginning of your class description in the PHB (regular or basic edition). Currently, they are the same for all classes (and in fact are class-independent), so your proficiency bonus scales like this:

1st +2
2nd +2
3rd +2
4th +2
5th +3
6th +3
7th +3
8th +3
9th +4
10th +4
11th +4
12th +4
13th +5
14th +5
15th +5
16th +5
17th +6
18th +6
19th +6
20th +6

To answer your specific question:

When you have 'proficiency' in a skill, you add your proficiency bonus to that skill. In your example, for perception you take your Wisdom modifier, and you add to that the proficiency bonus in the above table. The bonus is calculated based on your character level, not class level, so it's the same whether or not you multi-class.

If you were a 3rd level Elf with a Wisdom of 16(+3), your final perception score would be:

Wisdom Mod (+3) + Proficiency Bonus (+2) = +5 Perception

In Combat

You add your proficiency bonus to attack rolls with weapons you are proficient in. This is determined by your class, and will be outlined in the class description in the PHB.


The proficiency bonus formula is:

ProfBonus = \$2 + \left(\frac{1}{4} \times (\text{level} - 1)\right)\$ rounded down.

As mentioned, it's found on the class leveling table.

The proficiency bonus is applied to any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll the player is proficient in. A player's class will determine what attacks and saving throws for which they have proficiency and the player chooses from a number of skills to have proficiency. They should have all this on their character sheet.

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    – Someone_Evil
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 21:00

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