I enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons 3x and Pathfinder 1st Edition skills and skill ranks. Of course, people were going to learn how to game the system (pun intended) and min-max the heck out of it. I was—and still am—okay with that. When D&D 5e came out, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the dwindling skills and the base level dependent bonus they brought in with Proficiencies. Even before I had the Dungeon Master’s Guide in my hands, I thought of using the bonuses as step dice (+2 would be d4, +3 a d6, +4 = d8, etc.). I decided to do this with my new home game campaign and it has been a combination of success and failure.
Messing with Rules can Cause Major Swings
As I mentioned in my post regarding restarting a D&D 5e game, I have been scouring the internet for others’ experiences, tips, tricks, and so on when it comes to gaming and, in particular, Dungeons & Dragons. One of the options that came about with D&D 5th Edition Proficiencies was adding the Proficiency bonus to damage. I believe this came from Nerdarchy in a discussion about some of their 5e Homebrew rules.
This, in and of itself, isn’t that bad. However, if you were to couple the dice rolling Proficiency method with adding the bonus to dice—especially at low levels, it can change things up quickly. Here I have a group of level 1 players making their way through an adventure designed for them using RAW and it was over almost as soon as it began.
One of the tips regarding adding the character’s Proficiency to the damage roll was that it helps simplify and speed things up, making it easier for newer players to learn the game. There is a point there. Consider: “I roll it here, here, and here, but not here?” vs. “So, I’m rolling. I’m proficient. I add it. Period.”
The problem I ran into, however, was the additional bonus being added to damage was making creatures drop in one hit rather than 2 or more. So, sure, combat was sped up. The rules were a bit simpler, but the balance was noticeably out of whack to me. The players may not have noticed, but they did admit it seemed way easier than other combats we have run in the past.
Adding Dice can Add Complexity
Upon reflection, I believe the Proficiency dice added a small, albeit noticeable level of complexity. Yeah, it allows for greater variation, but it’s one of those things you need to see in action to really grasp. I have used the Proficiency dice with experienced players before without issue. They roll, they add everything up, they tell me the total.
In the game with relatively novice players, however, I had to repeat numerous times, roll a d20, add a d4, add your bonus. Even rolling the dice together, it’s an extra step. It is a small step many of us who are more experienced can handle. Given time—and not knowing any better—my home group can catch on and learn it quickly. However, it’s an extra step when compared to roll a d20 and add your bonus.
Also, one thing I had to consider as I was helping them fill out their character sheets was their Spell Save DCs. I kept the Proficiency bonus from the base rules to add to the Spell DCs rather than have them roll on spells, especially when they normally wouldn’t roll to use those spells.
Drop the Damage Bonus Weigh the Dice Mechanic
Luckily, my home group is my family. They’re willing to try things out and adapt. I admittedly didn’t realize adding the Proficiency bonus to damage rolls would make as much a difference as it did. I could easily keep it as is and amp up combatants’ Hit Points, but I don’t think I will. We’re just going back to RAW and not adding the Proficiency to damage.
When it comes to whether we will keep the Proficiency dice or not, I have to talk that over with the group. I like the idea of it, but not necessarily the practice. Maybe another session or two and they’ll be rolling like pros and it won’t seem so odd. I don’t see it swinging too wildly as I did when applied to damage.