I am a bit confused about skills in 5e. It seems to me that there are no more skills, and no more ranks. So for instance you no longer have Acrobatics that you can add points to as you level up.

Can characters really not improve as they level up, except by putting points in the corresponding ability score? Or am I missing something?

  • 17
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you read through the PHB? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2015 at 7:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! (Please take a look at the tour and the help center; they're a useful introduction to the site.) Are you perhaps really asking something more like "How does a PC improve skills?" Right now, this question just sounds like "I'm surprised that this different game is different," and I expect that's not what you meant to say. Unfortunately, it's difficult to know what you meant to ask about without guessing. So we like to ask, so we can know instead. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2015 at 9:02
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I suspect that Jacek was trying to find some familiar territory in the rules of 5e regarding skills, and upon finding something so drastically different from 3.5e it was slightly difficult to understand. I wrote my answer with the assumption in mind that Jacek was basically asking "How do characters develop their skills over time," or "How do characters improve their skills." \$\endgroup\$
    – Javelin
    Jan 11, 2015 at 9:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: How can you gain proficiency in a skill after level 1? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2015 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is exactly right Javelin, it seemed very strange and couldn't find the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 12, 2015 at 5:34

2 Answers 2


Players no longer place skill points in their skills. They do improve over time though, as the relevant ability score increases and the character's proficiency bonus increases over the levels. Because the proficiency bonus grows as well, a character will improve skills with which they are proficient over time. The character growth here is marked by their general increase in proficiency, which is applied to all ability checks for skills, all saves and all attacks with which they are proficient.

I believe the idea behind the proficiency bonus is that while a first level fighter is good at hacking away at something, a wizard is just as good at hitting someone with a spell attack. They are both good at what they do, whatever that might be, and they both improve at the same rate because the proficiency bonus is determined by total character level.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that replacing the BAB (Base Attack Bonus) and Skill Ranks with the Proficiency Bonus both have the same effect which is much less book-keeping compared to 3.5, and reinforces the stream-lined nature of 5E play to cut unneeded complexity from the game. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2015 at 15:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ AHA! Thank you! I must have missed that. Re-read the skill section 4-5 times and never noticed that part. Thank you very much! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 12, 2015 at 5:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I haven't played 5E yet so it is very difficult for me to have any real opinions. However I thus far am liking it. My focus on Skills has to do with a program I am writing to help me DM (I love using Computers to do the silly stuff for me). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 12, 2015 at 5:36

There are skills, but no skill ranks in 5e

An overarching design principle for 5e (as compared to 3e, 3.5 and 4e) was to simplify the game mechanics and reduce the amount of administration to speed up play. This led to simplifications in several areas including skills.

Skills do exist and are listed page 174 of the Player's Handbook. In 5e, skill checks are just ability checks. For example, sneaking up on a foe might call for a Dexterity (Stealth) check; this is a Dexterity check for which a character's proficiency in the Stealth skill is applied.

Instead of allocating individual skill points to your skills, the system is a simple binary one:1 either you are proficient in a skill, or you are not. If you are proficient, you add your proficiency bonus to the roll. The same bonus is used for all skills (and other checks).

You can try to use any skill, a further simplification is that there is no system differentiating between trained or untrained skills.

So how do I improve my skills?

Instead of manually and individually having to increase your selected skills every time you level by allocating skill points, your proficiency bonus gradually increases as you level, going from the initial value of +2 up to a final value of +6. (This progression is listed in the Character Advancement table at the end of Chapter 1 of the PHB/basic rules, as well as in the class table in the description of each class in Chapter 3.)

You also can improve your ability scores and resulting ability modifiers as you level (using the Ability Score Improvement feature), so you will become better at all ability checks (including those that apply a relevant skill proficiency).

Proficiency bonus does not improve every level, nor do you get ability score improvements every level, so there are levels where your skill bonuses do not change at all. Over the course of your career, your skills will not improve as much numerically as they did in 3rd edition. 5e is designed around a concept called bounded accuracy, which aims to keep the bonuses in a more narrow range.

1 There are also special features for skill-oriented classes like Rogues that give them additional improvements to skills – for example, Expertise allows them to double the proficiency bonus on selected skills – so technically there are more than just two levels of proficiency.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited your answer to add some clarifications and rephrase for clarity; feel free to edit/roll back if you feel they're not necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 2, 2022 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast This is wonderful, thank you. And I can learn some cool formatting tricks like footnotes from it, too. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2, 2022 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, Stack Exchange doesn't have any implementation of actual footnote formatting, so superscripted numbers are just sort of a hacky workaround :P \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 2, 2022 at 16:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .