There are very few class abilities in Dungeons & Dragons that allow you to surpass the (soft) maximum ability score modifier, which is +10. Expertise is one of those. That right there alone makes it incredibly versatile and useful.
But wait, there’s more. You can even multiclass pretty efficiently with this class ability because you can exceed the proficiency cap bound by the character level.
Let’s dive deep into Expertise and discuss every aspect of it. But first, it’s important to remember the fundamentals.
A Little Refresher For Newbies
There are eight races and 12 classes in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Along with those classes comes abilities; there are six of those. And, finally, you have skills that come with those abilities. There are a total of 18 skills, and each of them coincides uniquely with their appropriate abilities.
For example, one class in D&D is Strength. There is only one skill related to strength, and that’s Athletics. Similarly, we have the Dexterity ability, which has three skills tied to it – Acrobatics, Sleight Of Hand, and Stealth.
When you are creating your character at the start of each game, you’ll have to choose your race and class, and that will decide your proficiency bonus.
Proficiency is precisely what it sounds like; it’s a bonus that applies to skills in which your character is proficient – it’s an added modifier to your character’s skills. It gets added to attack rolls, ability checks, saving throws, and other numbers that are crucial to your character.
Proficiency is a static number, and it remains the same for all characters of all classes, races, and backgrounds. There is a predetermined leveling system for Proficiency, and all characters adhere to that.
Level 1 characters start with a +2 bonus. It increases to +3 at level 6, to +4 at level 9, plus +5 at level 13, and finally, at level 17, it maxes out at +6.
This proficiency bonus is added to your ability score modifier in all ability checks, saving throws, attack rolls, and other activities.
Also read: Best Cantrips in D&D 5e
What Exactly Is Expertise?
When you choose your character class, you get Expertise in one skill. When you have Expertise in a skill, you add double your proficiency bonus to the result of the ability checks made with that skill.
For instance, if you choose Perception for one of your Expertise skills, your proficiency bonus is doubled, not the entire Perception bonus. You would get a total of +6 to Wisdom (Perception) checks.
How to Get Expertise in D&D 5E
Expertise is, unfortunately, not available to all classes. It is limited to only Bard and Rogue. That makes sense, considering these two are the jack of all trades kind of classes. Rogues get it at level 1, while Bards have to wait till level 3 to acquire Expertise.
Bards and Rogues have what you can call pure or by-the-book Expertise in which they can get it on any skill they want to double their Proficiency on because they have Expertise as a class feature. Others have to get it via other class features that mimic the same thing that Expertise does.
That makes it implausible for other classes to essentially cherry-pick whatever skill they desire to get Expertise on. Hence, they have to make do with proficiency doubles on predetermined skills.
After Bards and Rogues, next up are level 1 Knowledge Clerics. They get class-based Expertise on the skills they already specialize in, which are Arcane, History, Religion, and Nature. This class feature is known as The Blessing Of Knowledge.
Then, you have the very particular race/class expertise, the Dwarven Stonecunning. This racial trait allows you to get Expertise on history checks that are made regarding stonework. Moreover, if you’re a Draconic Sorcerer, then you will get Expertise in Charisma via the Dragon Ancestor class feature when you talk to the type of dragons that are the exact same as yours.
Furthermore, you also have the Natural Explorer and Royal Envoy class features that give certain levels of Expertise to your character. You also have to keep in mind that these are highly situational and thus specific Expertise, rather than being something to go after eagerly.
Finally, we have the Practiced Expert feat from the Unearthed Arcana playtest manual. This is arguably the most difficult one to obtain.
By now, you have likely realized that Expertise generally works well on Bards and Rogues and further proves the point that Expertise just works better on some characters than others, and that’s something you’ll have to live with.
For both your ease and better understanding, I will focus my efforts on Rogues and Bards so you can learn how to make the most out of Expertise on those classes of characters and when you should be multiclassing if need be.
Not A Bard Or Rogue? Here’s How You Can Still Get Expertise
You are faced with many options here, but multiclassing is the shining light among all those.
While there are ways other than multiclassing that allow you to get Expertise, such as race skills and feats, when compared to the myriad of options Rogue and Bard expertise can get you, it’s not even a fair match.
It has always been a challenge to do multiclassing in Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, it does expand your horizons in the way you can approach and play the game. Simultaneously, it also limits your main character’s level behind; however, many levels you chose to multiclass. So it’s a difficult road to go down for most people.
And to calculate that apparatus of multiclassing being worth it or not, you have to imply the classic saying of “the pros outweigh the cons” but a bit more appropriately. You’ll have to make sure that whatever you’re going to gain from multiclassing is worthwhile enough to sacrifice your character’s level getting left behind.
On top of that, you will be perfectly fine without multiclassing if you do not intend to use Expertise more than, let’s say, 3 or 4 times in a session.
I’m going to go briefly over two multiclass builds that I think harmonize together almost perfectly. Even though these builds are substantial and work great because of their multiclass synergy, I would encourage you guys to say away from multiclassing all of the time.
Firstly, I’ll go over a Rogue build. This one can be done at either level 1, 2, or 3. This is a damage-centric build. Secondly, we have a Bard level 3 build, which is more focused on support.
The first build goes well with melee builds and gives you the option to do a lot more outside of combat and inside of it as well. The second build is ideal for casters, and you can help out your team because of the easily obtainable bonus action way.
» The Rogue Build
I’m going to discuss the Fighter class here, but, really, this will work with any class you want. This multiclass is, in my opinion, better than the next one we are going to discuss afterwards, mainly because you get considerable advantages by just dropping even one level into the Rogue, whereas with the Bard, you have to do three.
You will gain two more skills and get proficient with Thieves Tools. Things are already looking good, but wait, then comes the sneak ability.
“ Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have an advantage on the attack roll. ”
As the name suggests, the intended use of the sneak ability is to perform sneak attacks. But just for clarification, let’s paint a picture.
You are level 3 Fighter multi classed with a Level 1 Rogue (Battle Master subclass), you have an ability score of 16 on strength (+3 modifier). You decide to attack.
Also, You swing your greatsword normally in the first turn doing 2d6+3 damage. But, you use the Feinting Attack ability via your bonus action.
“ Feinting Attack – You can expend one superiority die and use a bonus action on your turn to feint, choosing one creature within 5 feet of you as your target. You have an advantage on your next attack roll against that creature. If that attack hits, add the superiority die to the attack’s damage roll. ”
This way, you’ll have an advantage on your next attack turn, which fills the Sneak Attack ability requirements.
You would deal 2d6+3+8 (superiority die) +d6 (sneak attack) damage as your greatsword cuts through the wind.
You can repeat this manoeuvre for every bonus action you have for as many superiority dice you have. This is not the very best damage that we could do, but in hindsight, of all other strengths that the Battle Master offers, this is pretty darn good.
Possibly the winning factor of this build is the fact that for every level you go into Rogue, you get more Sneak Attack dice and, thus, more ways to utilize them.
And you get better/more superiority dice and more options in head to head combat, At every level, you go into Fighter.
» The Level 3 Bard Build
This build works well with every caster class, really, any class that lacks a respectable bonus actionability. I will use Wizards here for demonstration.
As seasoned players may already know, Wizards are extremely formidable, yet they still go without having a few features that are very useful in certain scenarios. The bonus action options and Proficiency in melee combat, to name the most important. Here, this build makes up for both of those things in pretty remarkable ways.
Firstly, you can take your Bard and subclass it into the School Of Valor; you’ll get the shield, martial weapons, and medium armour proficiency. Sure, you won’t have the best physical stats to go with these, but they’re still instrumental and can prove very handy in various situations.
Secondly, you will acquire the use of a powerful bonus actionability, Inspiration. This means that you can support your team more directly while still throwing fireballs in harm’s way.
Best part? You will gain access to both of these features on top of the expertise ability. So, you would never misread a magical trap again because you can just pump Arcana. You can even outspell the gods by using Insight.
You can see yourself that this is a pretty sweet multiclass but, still, I wouldn’t recommend going for this build until you’re already level 7 on Wizard (or at least 5). Having access to strong mid-level spells is also a good prerequisite here.
Both of these builds are incredibly harmonic, and they work in synergy to create a tremendous multiclass. The Expertise you get is just the cherry on top, even though that’s the main focus of this article.
When You Should Look For Expertise in 5E – Conclusion
It’s no denying that Expertise is an incredibly potent class ability. If your character class is involved in skill checks happening frequently, then Expertise can make that experience much more enjoyable and in tune.
Bards and Rogues are those classes, the ones that utilize Expertise to their maximum potential. Where Rogues, to make full use of their kit, have to pass sneak checks, Bards’ whole playstyle consists of Charisma feats.
Expertise is a nice bonus for other classes who don’t mandatorily need to pass every single one of their ability checks for their class role to get fulfilled. This is also why I encourage you to only multiclass to level 1 (or 2 or 3) Rogue and level 3 Bard if you want to play with a character who is a combination of all these classes.
Let’s say you’re playing as an assassin who’s brave enough to do anything he has to get the bounty that he needs, or if you’re a charismatic and cheery magician, then multiclassing into these classes makes a lot of sense, and you should undoubtedly go for it.
As with everything related to Dungeons & Dragons and because of the nature of the game itself, it really is limited only by your imagination. The possibilities are endless, and while other Player’s Handbook tries to play out many character ideas one may have, it cannot do every single one of them.
So sit down with your friends and start playing, experiment with multiclassing the way you want, let your creativity run wild and summit horizons never seen before.