I've only played D&D a little once and I'm trying to organise a game. I decided to go with the starter set to help me get into it. I have a question about the attack bonus for characters.

Example: Character has +3 Strength and +2 Proficiency Bonus on Strength so total is +5. That's okay. Now if they make a melee they roll a D20 and add +5 to the result. That's also fine.

Where I get a bit confused is when they attack with a weapon.

Character has a Greataxe and attacks with that. On the sheet it says the attack bonus is a +5 (I'm not sure how this is calculated).

But my question is how does the attack work now? Is it D20 +5 (from strength) +5 (from weapon)? Or is it just D20 + 5 (from weapon)? Also if the character is proficient with that weapon has the proficiency bonus already been added to this +5 or do I need to do that?

Any help would be great!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you check and see if this question and its answer clear things up for you? If so we'll mark this a duplicate of that; if not, happy to compose an answer that uniquely addresses your confusion. Oh, and welcome to the site and to the game! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Dec 6, 2016 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


Great question, after having walked a few first timers through 5e, I can now better understand the confusion.

The simple answer is that the attack roll is always d20 + Ability Modifier + Proficiency (if applicable).

In the case of an attack with a melee weapon, the Ability Modifier is Strength (as opposed to a ranged attack, where it is Dexterity). If the character is proficient in the use of the weapon (Greataxe) or the family of weapons (martial melee in this case), then they may also apply their proficiency bonus.

This is covered in the Combat section of the PH (pp. 189-198; attack rolls specifically at p. 194), or the SRD (p. 94).

So in your case, the +5 includes +3 for Strength and +2 for proficiency. This does not stack with anything else (Unless there are additional magic bonuses involved).

That covers the attack roll (to see if the attack hits). The damage roll (once the attack is successful) is simply the damage for a particular weapon (1d6 for a short sword as an example) plus the Strength modifier (or dexterity modifier for a ranged weapon). You don't add proficiency to the damage roll.


Character has +3 Strength...

This means your character will get a +3 to any roll to which strength applies.

...and +2 Proficiency Bonus...

Also will get +2 to any roll to which proficiency is applied.

...on Strength.

I think this is where a little confusion is creeping in. One cannot be proficient in an ability, so your character isn't "proficient in strength." However, one can be proficient in saving throws which are, perhaps confusingly, named after their ability. So I assume your character is proficient in strength saving throws, and would get a +5 on any of those rolls.

On to weapons:

Your Greataxe is a melee weapon, so you apply your strength modifier (+3) to the roll. (PHB p.194, "Attack Rolls" at "Ability Modifier.")

You're (presumably) proficient with your greataxe, so you apply your proficiency bonus (+2) to an attack roll with it. (Ibid,, at "Proficiency Bonus.")

Thus you have a +5 modifier to attack rolls with your greataxe.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This also greatly explains the whole thing. Thanks for the help, all seems so easy now! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2016 at 11:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Glad it helped. D&D's a great game, but I'm not sure that any of the nine editions could be accused of explaining themselves well! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Dec 7, 2016 at 12:38

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