- What Is Expertise?
- What Classes Can Normally Gain Expertise?
- The Skill Expert Feat
- How Expertise Can Impact Combat
In Dungeons & Dragons, a character's skill proficiencies can define where a character excels outside of combat and can make or break how a character may fair in a given situation. The ability to add a character's proficiency modifier can help a character more reliably succeed at a certain type of check, such as a Ranger with proficiency in Survival being adept at traversing the wilderness.
However, simply being proficient in a skill still leaves room for error. For those looking to be a master of a certain type of skill, there's Expertise. As Expertise is an incredibly useful trait for any character to have, we're going to explore everything you need to know about it, from what it does to how to gain it.
What Is Expertise?
While straightforward, Expertise is an incredibly useful trait that can benefit any character in D&D, especially those players looking to be incredibly skilled within a specific area. Normally, if a character is proficient in a given skill, they simply add their proficiency bonus in addition to the ability score modifier at hand when making a given skill check. For reference, a character has a proficiency bonus determined by their level which can be seen here:
However, if a character gains Expertise in a skill, that character instead adds double their proficiency bonus any time they'd make a skill check of the corresponding type. It's important to note that as Expertise is applied to a given skill, not an ability score, it would only apply to that type of skill check, not all rolls that would use that given ability score. For example, a character with Expertise in Intimidation would be able to add this sizable bonus to Intimidation checks, but not other types of charisma checks like Performance checks.
Expertise can allow even level-five characters with expertise in a given skill to potentially roll a total of a 30 on a given skill check, while higher-level characters with expertise can feasibly exceed a total of 30 with some reliability. For reference, a character with expertise would add the following bonus to applicable skill checks based on their level:
What Classes Can Normally Gain Expertise?
The most accessible way for characters to obtain expertise is by simply playing as certain classes. Currently, there are four classes that can automatically gain Expertise: Artificer, Bard, Ranger, and Rogue. For those looking to gain Expertise as quickly as possible, at level one all Rogues gain Expertise in two skills of their choice.
Similarly, for those playing ranger, choosing the Deft Explorer trait introduced in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything at level one provides Expertise in one skill. For those willing to wait slightly longer, Bards gain Expertise in two skills of their choice at level three. Uniquely, Artificers gain Expertise at level six. However, unlike traditional expertise that is connected to a given skill, Artificers gain expertise with all tools.
As Rangers and Rogues are capable of gaining expertise at level one, even if a character isn't primarily planning on serving as a Rogue or Ranger, a one-level multi-class dip in either of these classes can provide a character with Expertise.
The Skill Expert Feat
For those that don't feel like playing as an Artificer, Bard, Ranger, or Rogue and don't like the idea of multiclassing, the easiest surefire way to gain expertise is through the Skill Expert feat. Introduced in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, this feat is an excellent alternative to simply increasing one's ability scores. Upon being gained, this feat allows one ability score of the player's choice to be increased by one, that character gains proficiency in any one additional skill of that player's choice, and most notably, that character gains Expertise in any one skill!
This means that in addition to still being able to increase one ability score, a character of any class can reliably gain Expertise by level four! Whether a Wizard wants to have access to stellar arcana or history or if the party's fighter wants to significantly improve their athletics, this feat is a safe and reliable option.
How Expertise Can Impact Combat
While the vast majority of skill proficiencies are primarily used outside of combat, Expertise in certain skills can actually help characters aiming to utilize certain skills or abilities.
First and foremost, as the Hide action requires a character to make a Stealth check, expertise in Stealth is a common choice for Rogues looking to make the most out of their Cunning Action feature. Additionally, as a character must make an opposed Athletics check in order to grapple another creature, for those looking to utilize a grapple-focused build, Expertise in Athletics can help a character more reliably ensnare their foes.
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