jack of all trades 5e guide

Jack of All Trades 5e Guide

What is Jack of All Trades? FI- DND JAT character

Jack of All Trades is a Bard class feature that is gained at bard level 2. Since this is one of the main class features, it is achieved regardless of subclass or multiclassing, as long as you take at least two levels of bard. Welcome to a Jack of All Trades 5e Guide.

This feature can be found on page 54 of the Player’s Handbook and tells us that you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check that you do not already add your proficiency bonus. The most obvious use of this feature is adding half your proficiency to all skills that you are not proficient in. 

The earliest this feature can be gained is Level 2, when your proficiency bonus is +2. This means that when you reach this level, you should go through your skill list and immediately add a +1 to all of the skills that you’re not proficient in.

jack of all trades

By the time you reach Bard 3, you will have skills to which you add double your proficiency, skills to which you add your proficiency, and skills to which you add half your proficiency.

This feature functionally makes bards a great scout, the face of the party, and explorer and adds a lot of utility to the class.

At Higher Levels

Your proficiency bonus increases as you reach character levels 5, 9, 13, and 17, increasing to a final bonus of +6. Unfortunately—like most features in D&D—the bonus granted by Jack of All Trades is rounded down. When your proficiency bonus reaches an odd number at levels 5 and 13, your bonus from Jack of All Trades will remain the same. 

However, when you reach levels 9 and 17, your proficiency bonus becomes +4 and +6, respectively. At these levels, the bonus granted by Jack of All Trades increases to +2 and +3. Given that this affects all of your ability checks not already adding proficiency, this still scales well enough to be enjoyed.

Ability Checks in D&D 5e DnD Dice

There are three main types of dice rolls in D&D 5e: attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. The first is perhaps the clearest. When you are attacking something, you roll an attack roll. Ability checks and saving throws can perhaps best be differentiated by considering if you or something else is the instigator of the roll.

rolling dices in dnd

When attempting to achieve something or overcome a challenge about your current ongoing situation, you make an ability check. When an external factor such as an enemy or spell has subjected you to an effect, you are usually asked to make a certain type of saving throw to avoid all of some of the effects.

This isn’t a perfect simplification of the difference. For example, if a creature attempts to grapple you, you don’t make a dexterity saving throw to avoid it; you make a contested check against their Strength (Athletics) check.

You shouldn’t need to memorize this since your DM will tell you what you need to be rolling. However, it is important for the purposes of the Jack of All Trades feature to be aware that this bonus only applies to ability checks. It does not apply to attack rolls or saving throws.

Ability Checks and Skill Checks

There is no such thing as a skill check in D&D 5e. While it’s a commonly used phrase, the PHB tells us that when attempting an action other than an attack, you make an ability check. Sometimes, your training in a certain skill related to the ability check you are making allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the ability check. 

This results in the confusing format that you will see that asks for a “Dexterity (Stealth) check” instead of simply saying “stealth check.” This is because you are making an ability check, the ability that applies is Dexterity, and the skill proficiency that applies is Stealth.

proficiency stealth
Image from Wiki Fandom

While a confusing method of applying skills to the game, it does streamline class features such as Jack of All Trades. Instead of only applying to general checks, Jack of All Trades, therefore, applies to all “skill checks” you make that don’t already add your proficiency bonus since they are ability checks that use a certain skill.

Other Important Ability Checks

Some key ability checks are not related to skills that you need to know if you play a character with the Jack of All Trades feature.


The PHB tells us that when you roll initiative at the start of combat, you make a Dexterity ability check. Therefore, you can add half your proficiency to this ability check as a bard. However, if you are a Harengon, you already add your proficiency bonus to your initiative rolls, negating the Jack of All Trades feature.

Oath of the Sentinel

Suppose you are in the Aura of the Sentinel from an Oath of the Watches paladin, even if that’s you. In that case, the bonuses do stack since the aura grants a bonus equal to proficiency but does not directly add the proficiency bonus. This is similar to a paladin adding their Charisma effectively twice to a Charisma saving throw for being in their own Aura of Protection.

Thieves’ Tools

When you use thieves’ tools to pick a lock, you make a Dexterity check, and if you aren’t proficient with the tools, you can add half your proficiency. This allows you as a bard to fulfill the scout role without needing to get thieves’ tool proficiency out of your way. 

Counterspell and Dispel Magic

Although Counterspell isn’t on the bard’s spell list, both of these spells are available either through Magical Secrets or multiclassing. To challenge spells of higher level, you make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. For a bard, you make a Charisma check to end the spell that you’re targeting. You usually don’t add your proficiency to this check unless you’re an abjuration wizard

End an Effect

While many spells require you to make a saving throw to avoid, some spells call for an ability check to escape. Some spells like Minor Illusion use a specific skill like Investigation, while others like Entangle and Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp call for a straight Strength Check. Most players have no way to add your proficiency to this check. Jack of All Trades, however, can be added to these checks.

General Ability Checkcs

When the DM calls for an ability check to undertake a particular action that does not fall under a skill, you don’t usually add your proficiency bonus since you cannot just be proficient in Strength.

Jack of All Trades and Multiclassing

While some features scale up according to class abilities, Jack of All Trades is bound to your proficiency modifier. This means that the progression of this feature depends not on your bard level but on your character level.

For example, if you are a bard 5/sorcerer 4, you are still a 9th level character, and your proficiency bonus is a +4, making your bonus from Jack of All Trades equal to +2.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Does Jack of All Trades count as proficiency?

Answer: No. Being proficient means that you are trained in a particular area. Jack of All Trades is the ability to try something you’ve never tried before and still be pretty good at it. Features that require you to be proficient cannot be used by having Jack of All Trades.

Question: Does Jack of All Trades apply to spellcasting ability?

Answer: Yes, this feature applies to ability checks made with your spellcasting modifier, such as when casting Counterspell or Dispel Magic. It does not apply to attack rolls or your Spell Save DC.

Question: Does Jack of All Trades apply to AC?

Answer: No. AC is calculated separately and requires no ability check to determine, so Jack of All Trades does not apply.

Question: Does Jack of All Trades Apply to Passive Perception?

Answer: Yes. If you are not proficient in the Perception skill, you will gain a bonus to your Wisdom (Perception) checks equal to half your proficiency bonus. Your passive perception is calculated by adding 10 + all relevant modifiers. Therefore, this would include the relevant bonus from Jack of All Trades. This applies to all passive checks.

Question: Does Jack of All Trades trigger Reliable Talent?

Answer: No. Although the wording of Reliable Talent seems like this could work, it was clarified in a Sage Advice that these two features don’t stack.


Jack of All Trades is a class feature gained at bard level 2. It allows you to add half your proficiency bonus to all ability checks that don’t already add your proficiency bonus. This includes all skills you don’t have proficiency in, initiative rolls, general ability checks that don’t use a skill, and spellcasting ability checks such as when you cast Counterspell or Dispel Magic.

This feature makes your bard or multiclassed character better at everything that they try for the first time. It suggests that your character should be in charge of the social interaction and exploration, being able to serve as a scout and face in most situations.

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