D&D 5e: Getting Skilled at Using Skilled

A skilled Leonin blacksmith crafts a sword.

D&D 5e: Getting Skilled at Using Skilled

SOURCE: Player’s Handbook

Rating the Benefits of Skilled

Skilled has many, many benefits:

Benefit #1 – 

You gain proficiency in any combination of three skills or tools of your choice.

Self-explanatory. Wait, that’s it?

A male dwarven blacksmith puts his skills to use crafting a hammer.

Simple Mechanics… Across Two Books

What do you get?

You gain three proficiencies, which is pretty simple; however, there are some ambiguities and clarifications regarding what you can take.

Skills and tools cover the standard array of skill proficiencies found on most character sheets, but for a list of tools, you’ll have to consult the Player’s Handbook again; there, you can find artisan’s tools such as cook’s utensils, glassblower’s tools, and so on, but also gaming sets and musical instruments are considered to be “tools” as well, so you can take those if needed. Languages are not considered skills or tools, unfortunately.

Proficiency in a tool doesn’t necessarily just apply to the tool’s direct usage; it represents the broad knowledge required to use the tool effectively, so you can use tool proficiencies to add your proficiency bonus to things like teaching someone how to use a tool you’re proficient in or for making an ability check to “use poisons” when you have poisoner’s kit proficiency.

There are also (somewhat optional, but widely accepted) rules in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything that go into additional detail on tool proficiencies, listing added benefits to having them. One of these rules lets you roll a check with advantage if both a skill and tool proficiency apply to it, such as medicine and brewer’s tools proficiency giving you advantage to treat someone’s alcohol poisoning, or carpenter’s tools proficiency and stealth proficiency giving you advantage to sneak across wooden floorboards.

Xanathar’s also lists some sample activities and their DCs, such as DC 20 to pry apart a door or DC 15 to spot forged text, and has some downtime activities that occasionally call upon skills such as gambling and crime.

Finally, nowhere does it say that the tools listed in the PHB and Xanathar are an exhaustive list; you may be able to gain proficiency in some more esoteric tools appropriate for the campaign, with the dungeon master’s permission.

Remember that everything in Xanathar is optional: do what’s most fun for your table when using these rules. But don’t dismiss it out of hand either just because it’s technically optional.

Key Stats

No one skill governs tool use, but expect intelligence and dexterity to play a big part since tool usage often relies on knowledge and precision. Wisdom may also be called upon, and the other ability scores are far rarer but can be more common depending on the tool proficiency.

Ideal Characters for Skilled

Top Classes

WizardWizards have a high intelligence, and since intelligence is often used for tools and knowledge skills, they make natural experts. They also tend not to neglect their dexterity, meaning they can be decent with dexterity-based tools as well. Make sure to pick tools that don’t overlap with what your magic can do; taking thieves’ tools proficiency when you already have Knock is fairly redundant.

ArtificerArtificers are the other intelligence-based class, and they come built-in with some useful skill and tool proficiencies. However, this can be a great way to double down on tools. Any subclass works, although the Battle Smith is powerful enough to get away with using a feat on versatility instead of pure strength.

BarbarianAre you sick of playing a barbarian who just rages and hits things? Take up some hobbies! Learn how to brew alcohol. Learn how to be a blacksmith. Learn how to play Three Dragon Ante and other fantasy card games. Ideally, you’ll pick useful skills and tool proficiencies, but just plain goofy stuff works too. Do keep in mind that if you’re a Berserker, you’ll have disadvantage on all ability checks after using your Frenzy.

Multiclassing Considerations

Don’t take Skilled if you plan on taking enough bard levels to get Jack of All Trades. It’s somewhat redundant with Skilled.

Race or Subrace Choices

If you want to be a skill monkey, play a Kenku. They get a few advantage rolls on ability checks every day.

Combos, Tactics, and Synergies

Complementary Feats

Nothing really, with the notable exception of Linguist and Skill Expert: these help you double down on being a skill monkey sort of character.

Spells that Synergize

Enhance Ability will improve whatever checks are associated with the chosen ability score, so keep that in mind.

Strategies for Maximizing Skilled Effectiveness

I only recommend taking this feat if you found out that certain skills and tool proficiencies were extremely useful after playing in a campaign for a while; maybe casinos were a big element of the campaign and you want deception, insight, and card game proficiency, for example, or trapped dwarven temples are commonplace, so thieves tools, perception, and stonecutter’s tools proficiency are super important.

Final Thoughts on Skilled.

Skilled is not a strong feat, and in fact, it’s quite terrible compared to a lot of the more potent feats out there, but it does what no other feat does; give you just three skill or tool proficiencies of your choice.

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