D&D 5E: How to use Skill Points?

We found that D&D’s skill proficiency offers simplicity but lacks flexibility. That is why we started using Skill Points. They give greater adaptability and character development depth.

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How skill proficiencies work

Skill proficiency in Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) represents a character’s expertise in a specific area. Proficient characters have a greater chance of success when performing tasks involving that skill. Proficiency is indicated by adding a character’s proficiency bonus to ability checks for the relevant skill. Players choose skill proficiencies during character creation based on their chosen class and background.

As characters gain experience and level up, their proficiency bonus increases, reflecting their growing expertise in their proficient skills, as well as improving their attacks and other class features that rely on the proficiency bonus.

LevelProficiency Bonus

Imagine a character named Lily, a level 1 Rogue with a Dexterity score of 14 (+2 modifier). She’s proficient in the Stealth skill, and her proficiency bonus is +2. When attempting to sneak past a guard, Lily’s player would roll a 20-sided die (d20) and add Lily’s Dexterity modifier (+2) and proficiency bonus (+2), resulting in a total bonus of +4. If the roll plus the bonus meets or exceeds the Difficulty Class (DC) set by the Dungeon Master (DM) for the task, Lily successfully sneaks past the guard.

Why Skill Proficiencies suck

While skill proficiency in D&D is simple and designed to reflect a character’s expertise in specific areas, it has its drawbacks, including a lack of flexibility and diversity:

Rigid choices

Skill proficiencies are often chosen during character creation and remain fixed, limiting opportunities to adapt to new challenges or situations that require different skillsets.

Imbalanced focus

Characters may become overly specialized in a small set of skills, which can make them less effective in situations where their specialized skills are not applicable.

Limited customization

Proficiencies are based on class and background, which may force players to choose between desired skills and a character concept that aligns with their role-playing goals.

Inflexible progression

Proficiency bonuses increase as characters level up, but there are limited opportunities to gain new skill proficiencies or redistribute existing ones, reducing adaptability.

Encourages metagaming

Players may feel pressured to optimize their characters by choosing the “best” skills, resulting in less diverse and creative characters.

So we began looking into a easy system for progressing skills, and we never looked back again.

Using Skill Points

Using Skill Points give the players much more flexibility and increases the depth of characters.

How it works

At Each level, you gain 1 + 1 Skill Point for each 5 Skills, Tool Sets and Saving Throw proficiencies you have (rounding down).

ProficienciesSkill Points per level

Increasing a skill cost 1 Skill Point.

You can increase each skill five times, but only once at each level.

The first time you do it, you gain +2 to the skill. From thereon, you improve the skill by +1 each time.

RanksSkill Bonus

Skill Points together with other rules

Starting Proficiencies

All proficiencies you gain from you background, class and race starts with a number of ranks in it equal to your Proficiency Bonus minus 1.

Proficiencies from feats and classes

As you progress you may gain new proficiencies. When you gain a new proficiency you start with a number of ranks in it equal to your Proficiency Bonus minus 1.


If you have expertise in a skill, you double the bonuses you receive from a skill.


When you use Jack-of-all-Trades (and similar features), you may choose a skill you have skill ranks in. If you do, you do not add your skill ranks to the ability check.

Proficiencies from items

Proficiencies from magic items follow the regular Proficiency Bonus progression. You cannot use Skill Points to improve them.

Reliable Talent

Reliable Talent (and similar features) applies only to skills in which you have a 4 or 5 ranks in.

Optional rules


Each level you may move one skill point from one skill, proficiency or tool set to another. This increase is included in the once per level increase limit.


If you think a level 5 rogue with +6 in Stealth, may be to powerful for you game, you can put a cap on the maximum skill level a PC can gain based on their level..

LevelMax. ranksMax. Skill Bonus

How does Skill Points affect Game Balance

In comparison to how much bonus you gain, the skill point system does not affect the game balance much, but i gives the players more options for improving their characters where they believe they gain the most from it.

If you are running a infiltration campaign, you will experience more players choosing stealth, if it is a survival campaign more players will choose Survival. in my opinion this is not affecting the game balance, but reinforcing the theme of the campaign and that is a good thing.

Most players will increase saving throws, especially Dexterity. This decreases the value of opponents casting area spells. If your group is focused on min-maxing and you are playing a heavy combat campaign, and you might find that the players are maxing out on saves instead of skills and toolsets. In most groups this doesn’t become a problem, but if it does I recommend that you remove proficiencies from the Skill Point system.