How do Skills Work in DnD 5e?


Skills sure have come a long way in DnD 5e. I say this in reference to DnD 3.5 which had a whopping 30 distinct skills. 5e streamlines this mechanic into 18 different skills – which all fall under a certain ability score.

But what are skills in the first place?
Well, that’s what we’ll be trying to answer today.

Skills are a mechanic that’s easy to get the hang of once you get a grip on how the mechanic works. The tough part is remembering which skill relates to which ability score. That is why we will be outlining it in a handy list later on – why remember something when you can write it down right?

Let’s get right into it.

What are Skills in DnD 5e?

Skills are certain actions that you can perform during your adventures. Unlike abilities – anyone can use skills. The difference lies in your ability to perform them.
The reason for this is that skills are tied to ability scores, as we previously mentioned.

So, naturally. According to what we’ve previously said – certain classes will be much more proficient in certain skills than other classes.
This is the case so as to make players work together to overcome the challenges faced in front of them.

Now, to answer the most important question of this article. How do they work?
They work by rolling an ability check. We’ve written previously on the system, but let’s recap.
In certain situations, your DM might require you to perform such an ability check. And more often than not, this ability check will be based on the context of the situation – i.e you have to calculate the appropriate skill check stat for it to succeed.

That’s basically how skills work. Let’s now outline them in a handy list – and add a short description, to better understand them.

Skill Checks

Strength Skills

Athletics: This skill determines your readiness to perform certain actions like swimming, claiming, and leaping. In essence – your body’s readiness for rigor.

Dexterity Skills

Acrobatics: The alternative to athletics. What you cannot perform with strength – you may be able to perform with agility. Situations that require speed and precision fall under acrobatics.

Slight of Hand: The skill that defines thieves and tricksters. It defines your ability to be quick with your hands.

Stealth: How good you are at hiding. It’s that simple – although it is a bit silly that it is tied directly to a number. You can have the best circumstances in the world, but if your character is clumsy; then it’s basically useless.

Intelligence Skills

Arcana: Your prowess with manipulating the arcane and magical – and your knowledge of all things related to the field.

History: This is more of a lore skill than a combat skill. It’s your proficiency with the history of the world you inhabit.

Investigation: Your capabilities for subtlety and snooping the truth out.

Nature: This determines your understanding of the nature around you. What’s edible, what it can do and what effects it can create.

Wisdom Skills

Animal Handling: Your knowledge and ability when interacting and handling animals and creatures.

Insight: Have a hunch about something when talking to somebody? An insight check might reveal something extra for you.

Medicine: Your knowledge of different ailments and cures for the body – and which compounds can be useful in that endeavor.

Perception: The most commonly used skill. Your ability to perceive something additional in your surroundings.

Survival: Your knowledge and ability to survive the harshest environments and situations.

Charisma Skills

Deception: Your ability to deceive someone – be it a creature or humanoid. The counter to Insight checks.

Intimidation: Your capability to finesse a situation by your simple presence. Either getting extra information out of someone – or getting out of a fight entirely.

Performance: This skill determines your ability to perform certain actions. Bards need to do a performance check every time they perform with their instruments – and it means they can either nail it or bomb the performance by getting a bad roll.

Persuasion: Your mastery of communication and interaction. This skill determines how good you are at persuading somebody you are interacting with.

Conclusion on Skills in DnD 5e

This basically covers all the skills there are in DnD 5e and how they work. As I said previously, there’s no need to memorize the whole list. Just understand the gist of how the mechanic works and you’ll do alright.

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