How to Play Dungeons and Dragons 5e – Abilities and Skills

How to Play Dungeons and Dragons 5e – Abilities and Skills

Hi, my name is CJ Leung and welcome to the second how to play Dungeons & Dragons video This time we are going to have a look at players characters abilities and skills and for this we will use Serio to demonstrate our point And for being optimistic Serio, you will be just fine By the way if you plan to have Serio’s character sheet with you while following along you can find it in the description below Download it print it or open in another browser window. It’s up to you. I will also display the character sheet on screen So you wouldn’t miss anything even without it First things first so that you don’t get confused let me clarify that when I say you it means both you and the character you’re playing which in this case is Serio I’ve mentioned in an earlier video if you want to overcome a challenge in Dungeons & Dragons. You roll the 20-sided die or D20 let’s say that one day You are traveling through a forest and you notice that there is a large pit right in front of you Not wanting to waste time going around it You tell the dungeon master that you are just going to jump over it the dungeon master tells you that the difficulty class of that action is 14 So what you need to do to successfully jump over the pit is to roll a D20 and add your relevant bonuses and get a total result of 14 or over The ability related to jumping is your strength, so you get to add your strength modifier to your roll But wait you have a still relevant to the challenge and that is your athletics Instead of three points of bonus from your raw strength you get to use the five points bonus from your athletics So to overcome any challenge determine the relevant ability then the relevant skill. You want to find the relevant skill because if you are proficient in it the bonus will always be better than your raw ability modifier. Usually finding out which skill is relevant is easy because your DM Will usually just tell you, I would say yes: You can try to jump over the pit. Roll with your STRENGTH or ATHLETICS. Now that we have the general idea of how to overcome challenges let’s have a look at the character sheet. In D&D characters are represented by six main abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. An attribute score of 10 or 11 is the average for a commoner. Generally players ability scores range between 1 to 20 points and personally I’d like to think of it in terms of Normal distribution So having 16 points in strength is pretty high up there, and it means that Serio is much stronger than the general population but the important bit is the number here, this is the modifier which represents How much significant difference your attributes gives you. For every 2 full score points above 10 you receive a modifier bonus. This is why Serio has +3 modifier bonus. This is also the number you used for most of your ability checks. However if you have ability score under 10 You would have modifier penalty. Without having to rely on a chart you can use this formula ability score subtracted by 10 divided by 2 and round it down. General rule every calculation in D&D is rounded down unless stated otherwise in the paragraph By the way sorry for the impromptu math. This is the only complex math we are going to do for the series I promise now that we have calculated the modifier. We can use them to start populating the skills column Just next to the alphabetized skill Column you can see the attribute it’s associated with in parentheses So you can just bring the modifier across to the relevant skill. Serio has +2 in dexterity so his Acrobatics Sleight of Hand and Stealth skills receive +2 bonus His Intelligence and Charisma modifiers are zero which means he receives no bonus or penalty for the associated skill But now here comes the interesting part There is a filled circle next to his athletic skill that means he is proficient in that skill. His proficiency could come from his class race or background either way it means that he doesn’t just bring across his modifier He also gets proficiency bonus from his skill. Serio is a level 1 character and his proficiency bonus at that level is +2 so that means he gets to add 2 points to the skills he is proficient in 3 + 2 so that means he has a total of +5 bonus to his Athletics he also has proficiency in animal handling Perception and survival the combination of his wisdom modifier and proficiency gives him 4 points bonus to those skills But he only gets 2 points bonus for other wisdom related skills which particularly makes them the same as his wisdom modifier Now that we have got an idea of how the ability score modifier and skills are related to your character We can start using them to make ability checks. Earlier we saw Serio making a standing jump over a pit. To do so in the game We just tell the dungeon master what you want to do. I am late for my rendezvous with my party members I want to jump over that pit to save time Then the DM Will ask you to make an ability check with a relevant ability or skill if your character has it. In this case it is strength or athletics so you roll a 20-sided dice and add the relevant bonus You roll a nine + Serio’s athletics skill bonus your total result is 14 The difficulty of the task is represented by a difficulty class number or DC You need to match it or get a higher result to succeed Sometimes the task is a contest like how Serio is trying to shove this Orc in the pit. To accomplish this task you need to roll higher than the Orc. Getting a lower result obviously means that you fail but when you both get the same result it becomes a stalemate and the current situation is maintained. So the Orc is still standing by the ledge, but not for long Sometimes certain conditions can assist or hinder you. This is where the advantage and disadvantage mechanics come in. If a certain circumstance aids your completion of a task. Such as there being a trampoline just next to the pit. you get advantage to your roll which means that you get to roll a second D20 die and you can take the best result conversely having Disadvantage like if you are being distracted by a weirdo means you get to roll your 2D20 dice and you Have to use the worst result Advantages and disadvantages counteract each other. When Advantageous and Disadvantageous circumstances exist You revert the roll to a single die roll to keep the game simple the designers have decided that Advantageous and disadvantageous circumstances don’t stack. So in the presence of both circumstances You will just roll a single D20 die. This rule is a major time saver Personally I like it It saves me heaps of time arguing one more thing about dice rolls you often see memes or people on online forums talking about rolling the natural 20 and Getting a critical success letting you accomplish anything even the impossible Rolling the natural one making you fumble and fail So miserably. I have to tell you something those are not part of the official rules. Critical rolls only apply to attack rolls in Combat But many groups use this unofficial rule because it’s absolutely ridiculous and can often be completely hilarious at the same time, but don’t be surprised if some DMs doesn’t use this rule In a well balanced party certain characters usually have better bonuses on certain skills and abilities to cover for others weaknesses In this case you can work together to give the character with the highest bonus and advantage in completing their task. Working together needs to make sense trying to hear a pin drop doesn’t get easier with the help of more listeners in that situation Everyone has to roll individually. also the character have been need to be able to attempt tasks alone too. For example Leraline won’t be able to help Winny open a lock because she doesn’t have proficiency in thieves tools. Different skills aid you in accomplishing different tasks and you can use them when they are relevant to what you are trying to accomplish As you would have realized when we were filling in the skills column, each skills are associated to specific abilities So it gives us a clue as to what those skills do. For example you can use athletics when you want to do physical activities such as running Jumping or swimming, but you can’t use it if you want to break a quarterstaff with your head. In this case You only get to use your strength modifier There is no sport in this or any fantasy world that involves breaking the stick with your head, so you can’t use your athletics skill Next I will summarize the rest of the abilities and skills and their relevant tasks, I will keep it brief But it is going to take a bit, so bear with me. Dexterity means nimbleness Agility and skill in using one’s hands and body So the related abilities are Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand and Stealth. You can use acrobatics if you want to do a somersault, walk on the Rope, land on your feet or other related tasks. Sleight of Hand is when you want to do manual trickery Such as pick pocketing and slipping a hidden card into your hand. Stealth when you want to conceal yourself from your enemies or sneak past sentries You can also make other dexterity checks unrelated to existing skills. Such as steering a wagon around the tight corner or picking a lock While you can use your standard skills to accomplish those tasks there are other proficiencies that can help you For example Serio here at land vehicle proficiency so we can add proficiency to his ability check to control the wagon There are no skills related to Constitution. It is an ability related to your Health Stamina and Vital Force. You use it when you want to go without sleep Survive without food or water hold your breath or chug a ton of ale in one go. Besides that it affects your maximum hit points. We will talk about this in the character creation episode so stay tuned Intelligence is related to your level of knowledge and your abilities for logical reasoning Arcana History Nature and Religion are Related to your knowledge in the respective fields and your ability to recall them. For example if you see a strange magical phenomenon it would Roll Arcana to try to recall whether you have heard or come across it before. History when trying to remember law or ancient kingdoms and famous people. Nature when you want to recall relevant knowledge of flora and fauna, terrain, weather or natural cycles Religion when trying to remember rites,prayers, deities or religious symbols. Unlike the other intelligence based skill Investigation lets you look around for clues Find secret doors or even do amateur forensics such as determining the cause of a wound. Other tasks related to intelligent checks but not limited to what was mentioned are Appraising the worrth of an item forging an document and remembering other laws and trivia Unlike previous editions in 5th edition there is no restriction that prevent those untrained in knowledge skills to attempt to roll The idea here is not to penalize a player too much for not having the right group Composition. If you succeed let’s just say that your character heard it somewhere in a tavern before Your wisdom reflects how intuitive and attune to the world you are it covers a lot of different skills which can at times seems unconnected But it is a very useful ability to have been adventuring. Animal handling lets you calm down a domestic animal, mount or to tame beasts. Insight lets you discern a person’s intention to get a good grasp of their psyche and even to defend against deceit. Medicine lets you diagnose illness and stabilize a dying companion Perception that you use your senses to see objects that are far away hear the sound of a skulking Goblin. or smell the hint of poisonous gas from a safe distance Perception is often confused with investigation to remember the difference Just remind yourself that perception does not involve processing too much information. You just receive it Related to this skill is passive perception. The number is 10 plus your perception skill bonus or penalty This represents or the character can sense when not paying attention? Enemies also have passive perception this is what you roll against when you want to hide from or sneak past enemies Survival is used to track, hunt, and detect natural hazards. Let’s imagine What a scout or hunter would do with his survival skills. Of course there are other wisdom checks you can do that’s not related to your skill. Such as listening to your gut feeling but the existing skills cover a lot of areas already. Last but not least: is Charisma it is a ridiculous ability. That’s very abusable. It represents your charm eloquence and personality. A related skill deception is self-explanatory lies and bluffs Intimidation can be used to scare someone away or threaten him to divulge information Performance is a bit abstract whether through dancing acting Storytelling or other means. You use it to entertain your audience With persuasion you attempt to change somebody’s or a group of people’s mind This is different to Deception because you are generally acting in good faith Unrelated to your existing skills, you can find the best person to talk to for news rumors and gossip, or blend into crowds to get a sense of key topics of conversation Well, that’s pretty much most of what you need to know about ability scores and checks. As new players, some people are overly eager to roll their dice. I often told them: no you don’t have to roll a dice to just speak to a peasant Or to open an unlocked door or to scratch their bums or to breath. Just interact with a narrative naturally as if you are a character who’s living and breathing in the world Your dm will ask you to roll when it’s necessary. The next video will be about combat stay tuned for that one because it constitutes a large chunk of D&D’s gameplay by the way if you like this video please give it a thumbs up subscribe if you want to be notified of future releases and Comment below to tell me what else you would like to see covered. So until next time CJ over and out


  1. Very clear and informative. The animation helps a lot. Thank you for breaking it down into 15 minute segments for each topic. Super helpful video. Thanks!

  2. These videos are a blessing because now I don’t have to explain this all to my friends who are trying to start playing

  3. so i have an old school style character sheet with like a ton of info but i want to update it for the current style how can i transfer all the info

  4. Lol imagine having to roll to be able to breathe. Like, suddenly, you fail a roll and you're like:"I forgot how to breathe" Dead

  5. If you are a DM

    8:25 what would you do if a player starts an argument with you because of them believing “yes it is a sport and yes it is an athletic roll”?

  6. I don't understand WHEN to use the different methods
    – difficulty class
    – enemy rolling against you

    Like WHY do you use difficulty class to jump the hole, but enemy roll against you for pushing him in ?
    Is there anything more concrete than 'when it's a contest' ?

    Thank you very much

  7. Could a task like jumping the pit be considered acrobatics if the character had a higher bonus in that skill and wanted to do an acrobatics check instead?

  8. Oh my gosh, this helped me so much thank you! First time ever DMing this is a live saver I am definitely subscribing to you.

  9. Me and my friends are playing d&d and I’m DMing so I’m trying to soak up all this info as quickly as possible.

  10. But what do you roll against in each of the scenarios you use those skills? Like if I want to use intimidation, what do I roll against?

  11. Hummm, you would think religion would fall under wisdom since clerics are the religious class and wisdom is there main ability.

  12. hi this might sound like a simple question but is it the dm who gives them the initial 1-20 ability numbers or do the players make them up?

  13. Funny you mentioned the critical roll things because my friends were doing a d&d like thing and I grabbed their d20 and said I want to blow up the universe I then rolled a 20 and we all freaked out

  14. The "Don't roll to enter unlocked doors" part reminded me of my first game. Our warrior decided that he didn't want to open a door normally, and instead kick it down. He got a natural 1, and got his leg stuck in the door. He never learnt from this, and would still get nat 1 when busting down a door. I swear he was the most unlucky guy out there.

  15. So wait, you're telling me I DON'T have to roll Fortitude every half hour to make sure I'm still breathing? What a relief! I've been doing that this whole time IRL!

  16. You’re going to help me love being a DM. I was doing a test run with the wife tonight. Watched your video to confirm what I was doing. I was right on her skill check rolls! SUBSCRIBING ❤️

  17. Been watching the vids at times for months…. then finally realizes the Subscribe button was still red. Blushing much red now

  18. wow the work you put into this..why does this not pop up first thing when searching "how to play d and d" this is hands down the best love the skill tree you made for this

  19. I was trying to make a DnD style text rpg and I couldn't figure out the formula for the modifier and I feel so so so dumb right now.

  20. thanks for the videos man, my friend wants me to try d&d and this makes it easier then reading off a screen, start on saterday

  21. I know I'm 2 years late, but I feel the need to mention that depending on the context you might use a skill and ability that don't match. Wanna intimidate someone by smashing a table? Strength (Intimidation). Wanna avoid leaving tracks? Dexterity (Survival). Wanna run/swim for miles? Constitution (Athletics). Wanna play a really difficult song on guitar? Dexterity (Performance). Wanna play through Freebird? Constitution (Performance).

  22. I know it's a video about mechanics, but I just wanted to remind you folks that according to the player's rulebook, a failed roll means either failure or success with a drawback. You and/or the DM can play around this. For instance you can describe how your sword barely crazed that ork's cheek, or the GM can decide you partially succeeded on that jump, but you're barely haning on to the cliff's edge and must perform an Athletics (Strength) check to pull yourself up. Or (a case I had in a homebrew setting) my ranger was running away from a monster and we both had to roll for Athletics and both failed. But since the monster failed "worse" and had the worse roll by a margin, the GM described what occured as me stumbling, falling and immediately picking myself up, bruised, while the monster's multiple legs got entangled and it fell and crashed, buying me time to escape.

  23. What I like to do is half the players roll for their ability scores and I said it at a base of 10 and roll the one die 8 because they are Adventures they should have a little better scores than the commoners

  24. How do you deside what armor class a pit in the ground has? is it just shoose a number or are the rules regarding it? And where can i find the proficiency bonus for a class?

  25. Absolutely love the video but i did notice you said "over and out" at the end. this is incorrect, hollywood made this mistake years ago and it has stayed in use. The military use "over" to communicate to the other person on the line the are done speaking and are requesting further coms. "Out" was used to end the coms. so you are literally saying "talk to me and don't talk to me". If you want to keep using it as you have you can. i just wanted to let the information be known.

  26. I just cant believe that i have finally found THE best tutorial guide for DnD . ( Is the editor feeling ok ? )

  27. What if you pick your skill for the proficiency bonus from your background class and race. Can you still use the other skills that you didn’t pick?

  28. My character has 8 strength but +1 to his strength modifier because of his racial bonus, I'm afraid of him drowning.

  29. This is undoubtedly the best produced, most useful and understandable series about D&D. I just wish I could understand his accent better. 😂
    Besides that, this is perfect, and CJ should be proud!

  30. Yea, one of my friends was a paladin, and rolled a critical success and caught a cannonball during a city siege

  31. Very good video.

    Always had an issue with Medicine being a Wisdom based proficiency. I get they had to make a decision between insight based skills being applied and knowledge based intelligent proficiency, but medicine is such a fine line. Game does not need to be too complicated, but this implies that medicine is Intuitive vs studied. Sure you have to identify the issue, and that is wisdom but best treatment is often from studying or critical thinking of one med is not working and a change needs to be made. Just thinking out loud, your videos are great.

  32. Sleight of hand is also used when an artificer wants to tinker around with an object to make it do something special.

  33. A lot of those skills all fell under one skill in earlier editions of the game, which is why this confused me just a bit.

  34. Very thankful for these helpful videos. As a GM who is just getting started these have been beneficial.

  35. This series is really good at teaching me the rules, because it actually captivates my baby like attention span.

  36. thanks for explaining it! Me and my friends are completely new to this, and even as the DM, I couldn't figure out how skill check bonuses worked, since we had never played before!

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