31 Mar 2011

Feats: Do We Need Them?

Blog 48 Comments

Considering all the improvements 3rd edition brought to Dungeons & Dragons, I still feel feats were the most powerful and exciting innovation. However, I wonder if they’ve outlived their usefulness, if now, feats have become an unnecessary vestige causing more problems than they solve. Gamma World proved we don’t need them to have an entertaining game populated by diverse and interesting characters. So do we really need them for D&D?

Feats have in fact been in the game since the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide. (Edit: Oops. They first appeared in Oriental Adventures.) They weren’t called feats, of course. They were non-weapon proficiencies. Sure, some were a lot like skills, but there were a few, such as Blind-Fighting, that had a mechanical impact on combat. As most of you know, non-weapon proficiencies shifted from a somewhat obscure and scattered option in 1st edition to become a central component in 2nd edition, where they were organized into certain “role” categories such as warrior, rogue, priest, general, and so on. As the game evolved, we gained more nwps, with some feeling very feat-like and others feeling very much like skills.

I wasn’t there for the discussions about feats during 3rd edition design. Wizards of the Coast had not yet recognized my genius (wink, wink). I can imagine the designers saw a weird division in NWPs between skills and some sort of talent, which is very much what happened during Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition design. Skills were a finite list of ways a player might engage the game world with a smattering of exclusive skills that eventually vanished—farewell Alchemy, farewell Scry! Feats, however, were wide open and in many ways functioned as the principal method for character customization (though flexible multiclassing, paragon paths, and, later, alternate class features all offered further customization options).

If you had two fighters in the same group, you would use feats to individuate the characters beyond personality, background, race, and appearance. One fighter could invest in archery feats (Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, and so on) and play very differently from the fighter who favored close combat (Power Attack, Cleave, Great Cleave, and on and on).

Looking at the first batch of feats, I think we can chunk them into two different groups: static feats and power feats. Static feats were feats that provided a constant benefit such as Skill Focus, Deceitful, Weapon Focus, and Toughness. Choose the feat. Make the mechanical adjustment. And forget about it. Power feats were those that expanded your options in the game or at least modified your options. Metamagic feats could change a spell’s level to grant an additional effect. Combat feats such as Power Attack, Combat Expertise, Improved Disarm, and so on let you monkey with accuracy to improve the quality of your hit or defense, or let you use an extant combat option more easily. Item creation feats let you transform gold and experience points into physical objects to gain their powers.

As great as these options were, it didn’t take long to realize some feats were better than others. Why would you ever take Skill Focus when you could take Power Attack, provided, of course, you had a 13 Strength. Why would you ever take Deceitful when you could take Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus, or something else? Skill feats became filler, suboptimal choices (traps, perhaps) chosen only as prerequisites for something else or, rarely, to reinforce a character’s identity. Worse, since a fighter gained a feat every three levels plus a bevy of bonus feats, fighter players were starved for power feats to gain new and interesting class features. And thus, the game gained hundreds, if not thousands, of feats to meet this need. The more feats added, the harder it became to track their interactions until a slew of game-breaking combinations crept into the game.

Power feats, though, were integral to the identity of those classes who did not use spells. They were the mechanical elements that made the characters interesting to play. One could argue that these feats were a lot like spells for non-magical classes. So, even though there were some rough spots that were further compounded as the edition aged, they remained a powerful tool and made the “martial” classes more interesting to play.

So let’s move forward to 4th edition. Feats came forward but without solving the fundamental problems. In fact, I would argue that those problems are even worse now than they ever were before. For starts, the principal method for character customization exists within a class. When you choose a class, you are actually choosing a one group of several smaller menus. You choose your build option, a feature that describes how your character fulfils his or her role obligations. Then, you choose powers at 1st level and gain additional powers as you climb through the tiers. For many classes, powers take over for the power feats in 3rd edition. You want to push guys with your attacks, a fighter can take tide of iron. You want to guarantee damage with every attack, there’s reaping strike. These attacks, despite their additional effects, are more or less basic attacks with added benefits sort of what you’d expect a 3rd edition power feat to grant. We can see the same idea carried forward in the stance powers available to knights and slayers. Better still, these martial powers have about the same mechanical weight as the arcane or divine powers that would have been called spells in a previous edition, so that character contributions are more or less even regardless of class choice.

Turning power feats into powers or rituals (in the case of item creation feats) stripped out a great many feats from the game and what was left were the static feats. Rather than reduce the number of feats a character earns (there’s less need since most characters gain mechanical options at every level), the game actually grants more. With more slots to fill there is a greater need for feats to fill those slots and that’s where we have a problem.

Fourth edition  feats, of which there are way, way too many, have a few broad functions.

Skill Feats: These feats increase skill modifiers, grant access to skills, or change/expand how skills are used. The feats are no more valuable in 4e than they were in 3e. In fact, I would argue they have even less value since the chance for success on a skill check is already rather high for player characters under most circumstances. Players already stake out their skill sets and most situations demand only a single success to move the story forward. Thus, it’s usually not in the players’ best interest to take these feats at all, especially when other feats are so much better.

Math Feats: These feats correct the game’s underlying, shoring up the gaps created when monster defenses and accuracy (which is determined by level) outstrip PC defenses and accuracy (which is determined by half-level). Expertise feats and defenses feats are must-take feats. If every character has to have these feats, why require them at all? Why not build them into the game directly?

Currently, every character should take an accuracy feat, a damage feat, and a defense feat. That’s three feats already gone. Then you have superior weapons/implements. That’s another feat. Tack on an armor feat and you’re now looking at five feats before even looking at other options. This accounts for all the feats you get until you hit 10th level (1 @ 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th).

There are also other hidden costs. As we create more and more feats to bring the numbers in line, there are instances where combinations that overcompensate. The game expects characters to get hit, take damage, and to periodically rest to recoup resources. Defenders get a pile of hit points and healing surges to compensate them for taking hits on the front lines. Selecting feats to boost defenses in order to bring them into line is one thing, optimizing defenses to avoid 70, 80, or even 90% of attacks that target the defense, eliminates risk in combat. For example, Improved Defenses boosts all NADs. Superior Will grants a bigger bonus to Will and also more or less makes the character immune to dazed and stunned. Since Superior Will requires a 15+ Wisdom or Charisma, it boosts the character’s defense to a number that monsters of the character’s level is unlikely to hit anyway. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. As a DM, I find it annoying when my monsters can only hit on an 18+, but if the options are available to players, it behooves them to insulate their characters from attacks so who can blame them. Consider the 6th level laser cleric from the PH. An optimized cleric (say a dwarf) should have a 21 Wisdom by this level granting a +5 bonus. Add half the level for another +3. Add +1 from class and the character has a 19 Will. Now add in the neck slot item, which ought to be another +2 to bring us up to 21. Then add Superior Will and we’re at 23. A typical level 6 monster that can attack will has a +9 bonus, so it’s only going to hit the character on a 14 or better. Now tack on encounter powers, feats, magic items, and other elements that might boost Will through untyped, power, and item bonuses and the 35% success rate becomes vanishingly small to the point that the character is more or less immune to any attack that targets Will.

Again, this might not be a bad thing for you, but it’s something I’m thinking about.

Race and Class Feats: These feats are supposed to upgrade class features and powers and racial traits and powers. On the surface, this doesn’t seem too bad an idea. Unfortunately, their existence causes feat proliferation, requiring a mountain of feats for each class and class feature and often for each race in the game. There might be a feat for Fighter Weapon Talent, and then another FWT feat that also requires half-orc, eladrin, or dwarf and so on. The result is that we have scads of feats that have extremely limited appeal since they are so corner case (say Artificer + Eladrin as prereqs), they simply clutter up the game.

This is why we haven’t seen many feats that modify the new subclasses. Adding 40 fighter feats for the slayer and knight doesn’t do anything for the game and only makes it harder for players to pick a feat. For me, a better option would be to simply build in the upgrades into the class and race entries. For example, the shaman should be able to use call spirit companion as a free action at level X without having to charge a feat for it. Likewise, Arcane Implement Mastery can simply improve within the class. In fact, anything tied to an ability modifier already improves, so we probably don’t need feats for them any way.

Power Feats: These feats add to your powers. Some provide new outlets for Channel Divinity, others grant access to another class’s powers, while others replace powers granted by race or some other nugget. The Skill Power feat gives you access to one skill power. I don’t object to these feats on the surface, but how many folks actually take these feats. A cleric (or other divine character) might pick up a Channel Divinity feat related to a god or the Skill Power feat to gain an extra power, but that’s about it. Generally, these power feats are either way too good for a feat or are so corner case they rarely see play making them sub-optimal choices when compared to math feats.

 

I guess what I’m driving at is that I’m not sure feats are even needed. Character classes already have plenty of customization options from their class. Many feats are automatic choices now and adding more feats to create tension when it comes time to choose only adds more feats to the game.  The major feats folks take could easily be hard-wired into character advancement. Class features and racial traits could scale internally thus eliminating the need for these as well. So what’s left? Feats could offer further customization and I think there’s some value to this. After all, anything that helps make a character unique is good for the game. Is there a solution here? I’m not sure. I could see reducing the number of feats to 3rd edition levels. Then, rather than minor static effects, the feat might offer a meaningful expansion to a character. For example, rather than gaining a +3 bonus to a skill, a skill feat might offer a +2 bonus and grant a red power. Instead of a flat +1 bonus to damage rolls with a specific weapon group, Weapon Focus might also grant a red or even black power triggered by a basic attack or something.

Ah. Well this is all mental masturbation isn’t it? So rather than talk circles around myself, what do you think about feats? Are they integral to the play experience? Or do you find yourself choosing the same sorts of feats over and over again?

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48 Responses to “Feats: Do We Need Them?”

  1. Jason says:

    Actually, the only feats I care about overmuch are the race/class feats, and racial more than class; the only reason they “clutter up” the game is because the game is already cluttered up by a million other useless feats. When I think about the feats my players have, the ones that are actually notable are mostly racial – my party’s Drow Fighter/Rogue’s many feats to enhance his Cloud of Darkness, or the Gnome Mage’s extra illusion heft. These seem like the point of feats to me – specific to character types, indicative of the game world, and useful without being essential for every character. Some of them might seem too specific, like an Eladrin Artificer feat, but to me that’s added incentive to play an Eladrin Artificer, which most people probably wouldn’t think of for your average Eberron campaign.

    If I was designing D&D 4.5e, I would probably eliminate most feats, reduce the number of feats granted, and focus on useful race/class enhancements. They are far more interesting than any of the math-fixing feats, and generally far superior to power feats, which are frankly terrible (with the exception of some Cleric domain feats, which fall under class feats anyway!).

    The main problems with feats is that there are too many of them; the characters get them too often; and most of them aren’t very good. If we can shift from a system where taking Expertise or Improved Defenses is necessary to fix broken PC math, to one where feats are taken to focus on or branch out an aspect of the character, that would be a satisfying system IMO.

  2. Grayson Davis says:

    I am not a big fan of feats. Like you said, many of them feel obligatory (and thus aren’t real choices), many of them are not worth the investment, many of them are hyper-specific (feats that work for one particular power of one particular class with one particular race), etc. In short, there are too many feats, and most of them aren’t very good.

    There are feats I like, however – feats that add meaningful twists or bonuses to existing classes and races. For instance, there have been a variety of interesting drow feats released in books and DDI. There are feats that add a lot of twists to the Cloud of Darkness power, and these feats are both flavorful and mechanically useful – feats that grant the CoD some poison damage, feats that let you shift 2 squares when you cast a CoD, etc. Perhaps these feats are not “optimal,” but they are useful *enough* that you can justify spending that feat on something fun.

    Feats in their current incarnation may in fact be unnecessary given their many problems. However, I think they are still useful in a sort of GURPS-esque “Quirks” sense. Feats provide players ways to distinguish their characters in small but important ways. If I have a drow rogue with a variety of CoD-related feats, then even though my drow rogue is perhaps substantially similar to another drow rogue, *my* drow rogue has that strong “Master of the Cloud of Darkness” flavor.

    I agree that feats should not be used in boring, strictly mechanical ways. “Feat taxes” are terrible, and I want to yawn every time I see a feat that simply grants +1 to some roll, or feats that are incredibly specific to particular character build. I want to see feats that are flavorful and fun to read, that can give me ideas for characters, etc. Maybe feats are not the best way to achieve that “Quirks” effect, but at the same time I think you would lose a fair amount of customization if you dropped feats altogether and I don’t think you could simply roll that customization into the current race/class power structure without making them unwieldy.

  3. Joshua says:

    I have to say that I disagree rather strongly that characters get enough options “within the class” for feats to be irrelevant. Even the 4e classes with solid power sets, like the fighter, tend to have one or two stand out powers per level that are better than everything else, with maybe another that competes but requires a particular build to take advantage of. Feats actually provide a great way to make those suboptimal power choices into really solid contenders — and here I’m thinking of the martial power source’s Style feats, which IMO are one of the best additions to the game.

    However, I do agree with you on skill and math feats. Skill feats indeed are useless, and math feats are nothing but a “tax” that prevents players from having enough room to do interesting things with all those race, class, power, and style feats. What we need is not to eliminate feats in general but to unclutter the field in such a way that feat selection provides meaningful distinctions between character builds rather than being an exercise in spackling over holes in the underlying mechanics.

  4. Occam says:

    NWPs first appeared in Oriental Adventures, published the year before the Survival Guides.

    I’m with you on feats. I always had my doubts about them in 3rd Edition, but saw that some amount of them were necessary given the design. I became less and less accepting as they proliferated. My feelings in 4th Edition have pretty much mirrored those for 3e.

  5. Robert J Schwalb says:

    @Occam: Gah! Fixed.

  6. Adam says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot of the same thoughts. 95+% of the feats in 4e are wasted space. Here’s what I want feats to do:

    -Only add breadth, not depth. That is, don’t add to existing combat stats, but give players a broader array of options. This includes multiclassing.
    –Exception 1: making strictly dominated options playable (i.e., quarterstaff fighters, etc.). Feats should bring quirky choices up to the power curve, but not push you beyond the base power curve.
    –Exception 2: minor bonuses to skills, provided they are coupled with skill powers as you suggest, are good since they don’t throw off game balance.

    -Cover the non-skirmish and other conditional aspects of the game such as wilderness exploration, social benefits, rituals, mass combat, etc.

    -Allow for character development and differentiation past first level. Since multiclass rules don’t do this anymore, characters need a way to organically grow in response to things that happen in their adventuring career.

    If feats existed within these parameters, you could completely omit them for one-shots and con games or if you wanted a really old-school experience. 4e was right about “siloing,” but didn’t get the memo about feats vs. class features vs. powers.

    I would also up their power (e.g., not requiring multiple power swap feats for multiclass characters) and reduce their number greatly. A good progression could be modeled on ability modifiers: 1, 4, 8, 11, 14, 18, 21, 24, 28. That’s more than enough granularity to make a really unique character.

    I think if you combined something like this with Themes (for combat options that should be available to different classes) it could go a long way towards reducing meaningless choice in favor of more significant but less frequent choice.

  7. Grayson Davis says:

    The other benefit of feats is that they flesh out the level progression. There are 5 levels from 1-30 where you only get a feat (and stat boosts).

    This isn’t to say that feats couldn’t be replaced with something else, but in the current system they are considered an important part of the leveling process. “Frequent choice,” along the lines of what Adam said, is not necessarily a bad thing – the 1-30 progression is designed such that you are making choices every time you level up. Feats are a good way to give players relatively small but (in theory) important choices so they aren’t revamping their powers every time they gain a level and/or gaining levels without earning anything meaningful.

  8. MainBrain says:

    Hi,

    methinks the math-fixing feats are a feat tax. WotC should remove them, and errata the math. Defenses should be 11 at Level 1, and weapon proficiency bonuses should start with +3/+4. That would open up fluff feats which I’d love to take instead of fixing up the math issue with my characters.

    I do not play RPGA here in germany, but my players are encouraged to roleplay, not rollplay, thus I hand out opportunities to learn new feats during play. As a reward, our houseruled games are fun, and more of a RPG.

    Answering your question: D&D 4e needs feats, if WotC wants the game played according to the rules. Otherwise it would be D&D 5e.

    I’d encourage every DM to leave the way the game is intended by a company and follow the way the game is intended by the first developers. Always remember, it is that game you make it.

  9. froth says:

    short answer: i love feats, plz dont get rid of them

  10. GeorgeH says:

    My guess is that if you had a campaign which had the converse balance of combat/out-of-combat from the norm — that is, where 80%+ of encounters were non-combat skill challenges, and the DM was working hard to balance the Skill Challenges he used so they posed real challenges and threats to the PCs — you would find the Skill Training feats handily dominating over the combat ones, and players jonesing for ways to use their combat-centric powers out of combat, and people making house ruled feats that expand options for skill use in skill challenges.

    This thought example points out the real problem with the Skill Training feats. The game has a built-in division between Combat and Skill Challenge (yes, it’s possible to mix them but it doesn’t happen much). So when you have a place where it is possible for a player to put Character Power (in the form of a feat choice) in Combat, or Skill Challenges, the more powerful choice depends crucially on the GM’s style. That is not controllable by the game designers, and so whatever balance point is chosen (between combat and non-combat feats) will be wrong for most groups.

    Fixes? Well, you can harden the separation, giving all PCs non-weapon proficiencies with similar amounts of power (if diffierent domains); or you can blur it, so that all feats have both combat *and* non-combat applications. In the extreme, you would get rid of the distinction between combat and non-combat altogether, but then you’re probably playing something other than D&D…

  11. math_geek says:

    In the beginning of 4e (for me), I didn’t like feats. I wasn’t used to the game and they added more complexity. My first character was a Genasi Swordmage and I took Earthshock Mastery, which was actually a lot of fun. So while I didn’t like having to go through all the feats, I did enjoy the one I had selected. The character is 15th level has a mix of math feats, such as Versatile Expertise, Greater Swordmage Warding, Greater Aegis of Shielding, other powerful feats, such as White Lotus Riposte and Double Aegis, and less powerful, flavorful feats including 3 multiclass feats (Wizard with two power swaps) and a Skill Power feat (for Arcane Mutterings). My second character, a 11th level druid (also brought up from level 1, only has one of those feats (if you count staff expertise and versatile expertise as the same). I like feats, and I think they add a lot of value. The only thing is, that right now we’re asking feats to do a lot of things. They are needed to multiclass, fix the math of the game, customize role-playing elements of a character, improve the character in skill challenges, and also allow for new character builds (such as the Net, Blowgun, Garotte paths). I think this is just too much stuff to ask feats to do and feats would open up a lot if you stopped asking them to do so much.

    However, I fail to see the logic in feats being asked to do to much meaning we should get rid of them.

  12. Drew says:

    Though I agree with some points (see math fix feats) there still exists a certain niche for feats to occupy. I disagree that the classes are diverse enough just within the class. Feats should be the principal customization option imho.

    A good example feat would be “Fey charge.” Fey charge is a very good feat that adds considerable power to a charging character. Fey charge also changes how you visualize your character doing battle on the battle field. Now you have a character who “blinks” around making attacks and is quite different from another charger who doesn’t take it.

    Fey charge is also a good example for my second point on feats. They make less optimal race choices better. Eladrin avengers aren’t exactly breaking the power curve. They don’t even get a main stat bump making them worse off than any other race who gets +wis. That said, a single feat (Fey Charge) allows me to make an eladrin avenger and have a reason for doing so.

    My overall point is that feats allow custimization outside of everything else you choose. When you choose your race/class, you are locked into the options the race/class give you. I think you are on the right path in saying feats shouldn’t fix math and shouldn’t be number fixes (see Painful Oath). I do think that feats should exist as options to further differentiate characters, especially characters of the same race/class/build.

  13. Igniz says:

    I think feats are still a good idea but how they’re handled needs to be reined. Themes should be more about flavour than mechanics.

    I don’t agree with the whole maths issue but it’s not something which should be addressed with feats.

  14. Cascadian says:

    I stopped playing D&D when 3.5 came out, and didn’t start again until 4th edition. While it coincided with the rules update and a pause in the campaign to adjust that became an end to the campaign, the big problem wasn’t that update but dissatisfaction with 3rd edition mechanics at higher levels. Feats were a big part of that.

    I love the customization that feats provide, but in the end there were just too many and they became too much of a focus. Powers took some of that focus away in 4th edition but I was disappointed to see feats still in the game, to be honest.

    In an ideal universe, what I’d like to see is canonical classes that have the same class abilities with each level, with most of the common feats folded into the class abilities. I’d like each class to get an interesting class-based ability with each level, the same number for each class. Of the remaining feats, fold most of them into new classes. To get a mix of what are now feats, you have to multiclass for that level to take the ability associated with that class and level. Eliminate all feats that simply bump something up or down. Just keep those that add class flavor.

    As part of this, remake each race as a class. At first level you can either take 1st level as your race or as a traditional class, and you can advance each of them through the end of the progression.

    I think you could also fold powers into this progression. Give people a default power progression within each class, and fold different power paths into diferent classes.

    To provide more customization options, provide a system for swapping out class abilities for each level. This could be a back door to the old feat system but in a way that makes it unnecessary for those who don’t like getting bogged down into too many options. New players, in particular, usually get overwhelmed by the options in 3rd and 4th edition. And as a veteran of many decades of different versions, I find that in my old age I prefer to keep things simple and use the class system instead of all the newer add-in mechanics. And it also gives the DM more authority to say “no” to a customization, as it won’t be seen as the default.

  15. tsuyoshikentsu says:

    Essentially, without math feats you have three options: intangibles, corner cases, and race/class feats. (Skill feats are math feats; just because you haven’t read my Intimidatomancer build or any of the Sage of Ages projects out there doesn’t mean they aren’t.)

    Intangibles are bad for the game because, frankly, unless there’s something you can point to in the rules that says “this is how this works” a DM can take it away at any second — and that just sucks. I’ve spent a tangible resource on something that might or might not happen, and no one wants that risk. For an extreme case, imagine something like this in LFR: you would show up at a table having no idea of whether or not your character’s abilities will function today. Compared to a tangible bonus, who wants that?

    Corner cases are also bad for the game, because they warp it as players try to force those cases to come up. Spending a tangible resource for no return sucks, and if the DM doesn’t make that corner case happen frequently — which, in addition to being more work, means that a corner-case starts to become a math feat — the player feels cheated. Speaking of which: in LFR, since there’s no longer any prohibition against having read a mod before playing it, and the PDFs aren’t exactly hard to come by, a less scrupulous player can just build his character around what mods he plans to play in. To give a current example, some of those ridiculously specialized anti-dragon options start to look real good if you can pick only mods where you fight dragons.

    This leaves me with racial and/or class feats. Do I think there’s a problem with these? As long as they’re also not corner cases — which many of them are — then no, I don’t. It makes the leveling process a lot more interesting to me, because suddenly your class (ESPECIALLY for Essentials) matters a whole lot more. This makes multiclassing a much more interesting proposition, as well as hybriding. I don’t see a lot of downside to doing it that way — as long as the feat taxes are fixed.

  16. Ryven Cedrylle says:

    I think what you’re alluding to here, Robert, is bigger than the Feat structure. Take the “math fix” feats for a moment. The only reason they’re “math fixes” and therefore “taxes” is because they exist. If they had never been written, the community would have simply accepted that your to-hit numbers slip as levels progress because things are simply getting bigger and badder than you faster. I mean really, should you expect the same to-hit value against a kobold at level 1 as you do Orcus at level 30? As it stands, they’re seen as being essential (pardon the pun) to keeping up with the math, when really the math is a matter of perspective and expectation.

    Let’s assume, then, that you throw out all feats to clean things up and rely on class features. Now I’m going to want a billion Fighter builds – a grappling build, and a polearm build, a two-weapon build and so on – to customize my character to do exactly what I want him or her to do. With so many builds and powers available, some are going to be flatly “better” than others, there’s no way around it. You just can’t properly balance that much material. Sooner or later you’re going to run into ‘required’ class builds and powers and features just like you did feats. 3rd Edition may not have had as many feats for example but sweet St. Cuthbert, the Prestige Classes!

    Seems to me the actual question here is “What is the limit of expectations for mechanical customization?” If at any level, it is expected that a specific character tool will provide nearly unlimited customization, that tool will unerringly bloat and crush the system. The way you keep an RPG system tidy is by limiting the expectations of mehcanical customization, not just the method by which that customization is acheived.

    In my experience, 4E handles the bloat issue better than all previous editions and some other entire systems by having whole classes that are effective in and unto themselves without feats. A wizard or ardent with no feats is still viable. Contain the mad expansion in a tool that is merely additive (feats) not fundamental (classes or class features).

  17. Molecule says:

    While I don’t think that getting rid of feats altogether, or getting rid of mechanical feats altogether, is a good idea, I agree with your assessment on a lot of your major points. Skill feats are usually a trap. Weapon focus and superior weapon training don’t add anything to the customization space of a character. Neither do Backstabber or Total Aegis. I think it’s fair to say that all of these are issues with the feat system in 4e.

    There are definitely solutions that don’t involve getting rid of feats altogether, and I think some feats deserve to stay (stuff like Sorcerous Blade Channeling and Unfettered Stride). There are actually a fair number of feats that are moderately interesting and powerful without being gimmes, but they often have trouble competing with Expertise and Improved Defenses, et. al.

  18. Steven says:

    I am entirely pro-feat. The more the merrier. I have two simple reasons for this.

    First, I am that guy who builds umpteen characters he that will never see a game session. I love experimenting with all the potential the game has. Feats provide me with excellent opportunities to take two PCs that start in the same mold and turn them into something unique by the time they have a few levels under their belts. Compared to powers, which all tend to have similar level appropriate effect/damage, a feat actually makes the character different. See the reference to Fey Charge above.

    My second point about Feats is the truly important one to me. The majority of feats apply a PASSIVE bonus. I can’t stress how much I prefer this to the ever growing slew of active decisions powers force me to make. When I level up, I want to improve my character and then get back to the important tasks of having fun and helping my friends look cool. I am not interested in sifting through 17 choices everytime my turn comes up. Feats give me a ‘pick and forget’ option(generally) that I prefer. Sure, I might have to remember to apply a feat to the odd situation, but in the end they require far less active management.

    At the end of the day, my vote would be more feats+less powers equals more fun.

  19. j0nny_5 says:

    I agree on the math feats only. Greg Bilsland gave me the idea to house-rule them. Players in my group get either Focus or Expertise for free.

    Other than that, what’s everyone’s deal with trying to limit player options? Why? A player doesn’t level up so often that choices become an inconvenience. As a DM I put in a couple hours a week of prep. As a player, its about an hour a month. So what if my players have to search for their best option. They don’t have to. They can choose Toughness if they want.

    Have you played lately? Level up to 4, 8, etc and get no choices? Nothing but a math shift? Sounds lame. 4e has taken many pointers from video games, one of which is that players like to have perks at every level.

    And its not about the choices. It’s about synergy. That’s why bonuses stack by source. I had a character once who could run 66 squares in a round. We all laughed about it. We all knew it was ridiculous overkill. But I still did it, and still remember with fondness, that ONE time it came into play.

    Feats are absolutely vital. Choices are even more so. The synergies reward the diligent.

  20. Josh H says:

    Personally, as a fan of Odd Feats at Odd Levels, removing feats or significantly reducing the number of feats would be exactly the wrong way to go for D&D. One of my favorite changes from 3.5 to 4E was that everyone got a feat every other level, so characters (in theory) had more space to differentiate themselves, even within classes. The problems you’ve identified here are mostly specific to how feat design in 4E has worked, which I do agree needs an overhaul.

    “Feat Taxes” as, you’ve correctly pointed out, need to go. +1 to all attacks is so good that it’s flat out stupid not to take it, which just makes characters homogeneous. Adding defense feats to cover the minimum one defensive hole that a character will have is arguably worse; it again reduces choices for those players, and also significantly increases the defenses of characters who are already safe. I think the Superior Fortitude/Reflex/Will feats are a great teaching example; divorce their unique effects from the defensive bonus, and they’re great, unique feats that are worth taking and differentiate your character. Now, the bard with Superior Will isn’t impossible to hit with vs Will attacks, but he’s able to shake off their effects more easily. Let the “number goes up” feats sit in the background for everyone and give players the opportunity to take unique combat feats or even free up room for non-combat feats like Linguist.

    Overly specific feats also need the axe. If the feat list is “cluttered” it’s because there are too many “If you are a dwarf rogue attacking a bloodied medium or smaller creature on a thursday….” feats. In general, I think feats should be specific to, at most, class, race, or keyword (potentially theme if those make it into the general game). This would call back a bit to some of the initial promises of 4E, where a Dwarf Fighter might choose to emphasize their dwarven heritage or their fighter training. Instead, we’ve gotten far too many feats that are specific to race/class that most players will never care.

    Of course, a discussion about how “cluttered” feats are is entirely dependent on what race you’re looking at. Consider the 40-50 per-race general feats that humans and dwarves get, or the 60-80 feats that drow and dragonborn get, often emphasizing critical story elements of those races or their unique racial powers. Now compare that to the 20-30 feats for wilden, gnome, and deva, let alone the 12 mostly-awful feats that changelings get or the four that thri-kreen can take.

    Publication date is generally going to favor older races over newer ones, but this appears to be leading to a rather vicious cycle. PH1 races have a ton of feat support, which makes it more likely that they’ll have GOOD feats, which makes them more attractive than PH2/3 races. So, more players play PH1 races, so they get more support as popular races. A focus on giving races a moderate number of good, varied feats, preferably those emphasizing the race’s unique story hooks and/or racial powers would de-clutter the list, allow emphasis of racial differences across classes, and might even interest players in races beyond the PH1. As Grayson points out, the drow feats around Cloud of Darkness are great for emphasizing the character and generally work across classes, and it’d be nice to see that kind of support across the board. You can, of course, easily substitute quite a lot of that around for older and newer classes (compare Clerics and Runepriests).

    Lastly, the idea to “simply build in the upgrades into the class and race entries. For example, the shaman should be able to use call spirit companion as a free action at level X without having to charge a feat for it.” feels like the wrong way to go about it. Let the shaman choose if they’d rather summon their companion as a free action or shake off status effects more easily. That tells us something about those characters. Homogenizing upgrades into deep class features makes classes boring, and particularly for non-casting Essentials classes, feat choices are one of the few decisions the player has left.

  21. Hunterian7 says:

    I am a big fan of feats except for roleplaying feats (I consider most skills to be roleplaying).
    I’m also not an optimizer with my characters. I pick a miniature and design my character around it. I don’t always pick toughness, durable or weapon focus. Rather, I pick a feat to give a tactical definition to my miniature.

    Example: I pick the Winning Races: Tiefling Bloodlines of Bael Turath, the Broken Mirrors found in Dragon 383. I decide on the Tiefling Blademaster miniature from War Drums; he’s going to be a Fighter with the Tempest Technique build. My first feat is going to be Mantle of Misfortune. My second level feat will be Lucky Misfortune. Both feats are from Dragon 383. Notice that I did not, nor have the desire, to choose Toughness or Weapon Focus.

    Now Rob, your point still stands strong. Instead of having feats determine the abilities my Tiefling Blademaster has above, you would create a subclass build in place of them. Something called the Broken Mirrors of Bael Turath. At first level I would get the Mantle of Misfortune ‘ability’. At second level I’d get the ability Lucky Misfortune. However, will not subclasses then become as convoluted at feats are? This Broken Mirror article is specifically for Tieflings. The subclass would have to be too. A whole subclass would have to ge built up from scratch or from the floor up.

    So, will not subclasses have to be created in droves to do what feats already do now?

  22. Malisteen says:

    Perhaps we wouldn’t need feats to customize our characters if there were other options sufficient to the task. But I’d want to see class, race, and other options expanded considerably before such a move is considered – to the point that there are still meaningful decision points at every level. There are feats in the game right now that enable enjoyable character concepts that otherwise don’t function in this game.

    All that said, entertaining the notion that feats are no longer necessary to customize, personalize, and develop our characters thanks to in class options while at the same time the design philosophy for class content has shifted to one which produces new classes and subclasses largely devoid of those same options is disingenuous to the point of psychotic break with reality – not only chucking the baby out with the bathwater, but also walking to the nursery to fetch the other baby, then carrying it all the way back to the bathroom to chuck it out as well, sans bathwater even, as if to satisfy some devastatingly irrational compulsion towards symmetrical infanticide.

  23. Dale Sheldon-Hess says:

    Seems to be a lot of love for race-specific feats, or at least, what is gained from them.

    So I’m surprised no one has mentioned the racial utility swap options previewed for HoS. If someone were looking to ditch feats from their game, could all the good that is in racial feats be replicated there?

  24. Foobear says:

    Dicussion of this blog on the WOTC CO forums:
    http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/27375733/We_dont_need_no_stinking_feats!

    My take: feats are good when they expand your utility. Being able to shoot a bow in melee combat, and so forth. They’re bad when they’re numeric bonuses. Especially with the math fix feats that everyone ends up taking.

  25. Mark says:

    While you make many good points, please keep in mind that feats continue to give you choices and ways of differentiating characters. Without feats to help, how many different knight builds are there? Maybe 3 (heavy blade, mace, staff). But with feats you can end up optimizing different things. You _need_ to take the expertise feat (now more than ever) pretty quickly. But taking the MC cleric feat early is a pretty good (and interesting) option. Even if you truly believe the first 5 feats are “obvious” the order you take them in isn’t.

    So I agree the math-fix feats suck. And I wish the skill feats were better (I like the idea of getting some kind of interesting “power” from a feat _and_ a skill bonus though). But I really do like the feats as a way of making characters different/interesting. Take that away and all heavy blade knights will be exactly the same…

  26. fjw770 says:

    I am not a big fan of feats, in general. I like 4e feat multiclasing system and I like to be able to do things like add new trained skills (even outside of the class skills) or weapon and armor proficiencies. So a toned down feat-like system would be good.

  27. Charles Ryan says:

    Great article. I love feats in 3rd, where they are the principal means of customizing your character, of making one (for example) fighter distinct from another. But I agree that that happens within the power choices in 4E, and that in 4E feats seem to pile on an extra layer of character creation and play complexity for a much small gain in customization.

    (I don’t grant the premise that static feats are suboptimal or even boring. Depends on what your campaign is about. If fighting is the principal way of “getting stuff done” in your campaign (which is the default assumption in 4E, but wasn’t in 3rd–especially when you look beyond D&D to the d20 realm in general) then you’re right. But if fighting is just one way to accomplish important goals static feats can be quite worthwhile.)

  28. Myth says:

    Feats, Talents, Qualities… whatever you call them, having a customizable way for PCs to gain unique capabilities is, I think, a very good thing.

    The problem with feats these days is that you need to go one of two directions with them, and WotC went for both:

    1) You can either have a handful of generally useful feats, such as we saw in the Essentials books, or with earlier options like Weapon Focus, Expertise, etc.

    2) Or you can have numerous feats that each support very focused builds – thus letting someone’s Drow Monk actually feel unique and different from the Elven Monk, Eladrim Monk, and Halfling Monk in the party.

    But when you have both, however, all those unique and conditional feats tend to get overriden by the general purpose feats. Unless, of course, the conditional feats are powerful enough to compete with them, which tends to create an imbalance all on its own.

    For myself, I think that 4E needs less feats in general, and specifically needs to burn every Expertise feat and similar ‘easy choices’. I think the various conditional feats need to be better balance to be useful and distinct but without making them define the character. I admit that is a very tough balance to walk, but we’re talking ideals here, and that is what I’d like to see.

  29. Seeten says:

    I have a question for you. You have current races, like Tiefling, with dozens of superb racial feats.

    You introduce a new Vampire race in Heroes of Shadow, how do you offset its massive lack of options, in comparison, without giving the new race some feats? How do you deal with that disparity?

    It seems WoTC has decided to err on the “No new classes or races will get any support” but doesn’t that lead players, like myself, to just not buy the new books (Which I do not) DSCS was my last purchase, and cancelled Insider when Insider content stopped adding useful game material, and not to play any of the new options that do not have support like the old options do?

  30. robertjschwalb says:

    First off, I don’t really think we should dump feats altogether. I think feats fill a valuable niche. I’m just thinking about ways to use feats in a way that is generally more satisfying *and* achieves what feats should achieve, which is to grant customization beyond the bounds of class & race.

    When I worked on Psionic Power, I wound up with something like 500 feats, of which a fraction survived. It’s easy to hang feats on racial traits and class features. I mean, why wouldn’t we create a slew of feats that help the fighter’s flavor change to match that suggested by dragonborn, tieflings, humans, and so on. But the problem and one we’re facing very much right now is one of expectation. The Player’s Handbook included how many races and how many classes? Eight each. If each class had only one feature, we’d still need to design 64 feats to modify that feature for each race. Now let’s say class can then modify race. Well, there’s another 64. Right out the gate we have 128 feats without addressing anything else such as class-neutral racial feats and race-neutral class feats. And then we get new races in PH2 and PH3, Heroes of Shadow, and so on. Each time we add to the game, we have to add to the feat options for every class-race combination, each race, and then each class. All these tweaks and add-ons do nothing but raise the bar for entry. Oh sure, one can point to Character Builder’s sorting mechanisms, but do we want a game that actually requires software to create a characters? What do we gain from having these feats anyway? If we have 5,000 feats, how many will you be able to use?

    I can understand why some might feel we aren’t supporting new classes or races. We’re not what we did before. We’re not adding a thousand feats a year to a game already burned by scads and scads of options that often don’t ever see use. We are supporting classes and races, but the aim is to either make the content self-contained so once you get the options, you get the options you need to play the race. And once you get the class, you get enough to run with it with the promise of greater horizontal expansion through various support books. Can we do more for PH3 classes? Sure. Just like we can do more for PH2 and PH1 classes. However, adding another warlord build to the SIX we already have doesn’t make the warlord any more interesting to play. Now if we did another warlord subclass to complement the marshal, I’m certain there would be bits inside a subclass, even one that is a radical departure from the marshal, that would appeal to other warlord players.

    There’s more I’d like to say and maybe I will next week. Thanks for all the comments!

  31. Seeten says:

    I think you are just driving people away from your new material by making it strikingly boring, non-optimizable, and in many cases, mindless. Like Essentials level 16 utilities that you don’t even get to choose from A or B, just get stuck with A and told to like it.

    The Runepriest is a good example of what happens without support. A total lack of build options and feats makes them viable until about level 8, where they promptly fall off the table. By not supporting them, you push knowledgeable players into going with Warlord, or Cleric whenever they want a leader, where support pre-exists.

    New races will forever be unsupported with feats, making me ignore the books you put them in, like Heroes of Shadow, that I wouldn’t even consider purchasing, as I know its “dead” before it even hits the shelves, and where I know none of the options can ever hope to match a fighter or a tiefling that have years of great support to draw on.

    In short, instead of running a new D&D campaign, I chose to go with Mutants and Masterminds, because 4e is stagnant, and we (my group) has already explored the majority of the material you put out up until last August, and nothing new at all has come out since.

    If 5e isn’t coming soon, I am afraid there is an exodus of D&D players heading out your doors. I know the charop forum is practically dead, and the charop irc has lost lots of prominent members due to lack of new material. All the work, theoretical and otherwise is done.

  32. Hunterian7 says:

    Seriously? I’ve been playing non-stop since the release of 4th- an average of four to five nights a week doing dungeon delves. I’ve completed three epic arcs, starting from 1st through 30th, and god knows how many one shot delves. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what has been released for 4th.

    This arguement about how the Str cleric or theRunepriest needs more support is silly to me. There is a lot of support already with what is out there. The Vryloka is going to be very playable even without Vryloka specific feats. If someone ignores a release because there are no race feats in it- that’s fine. But to say the product blows because it lacks something very specific that they demand makes it hard to take someone seriously.

    The number of feats needed to fit all the class/race combinations is staggering. Did you even read what Rob posted about the sheer number of feats required?

  33. GeorgeH says:

    Plus there’s always, you know, rolling your own. Build some feats/powers yourself, if you have an unsupported race/class that you want good options for. There’s no reason (outside of LFR or Encounters) to be limited to the book.

  34. Josh H says:

    @Hunterian Rob’s math really illustrates my thinking with feats. Yes, if you decide you need to create feats to meet a Race/Class (Or worse, Class Feature) list, you very quickly require a ton of content, and meanwhile any individual player can only use a smaller proportion of it. There’s very little reason to require class/race specific feats if you’re giving races and classes unique feats that expand or modify their key traits in a way beyond “number goes up.” There are some places where race and class should interact, but I think virtually all of those work better with keywords. Rather than creating a feat specifically for Gnome Wizards that helps their illusion powers, give all Gnomes a feat that modifies any Illusion power. Works great for the wizard and the warlock, and if another illusion-using class comes along they’ve got support already loaded. “We have to add to the feat options for every class-race combination” is one of the core reasons the feat list is bloated.

  35. Hunterian7 says:

    A few race specific feats are not a bad idea. If they are universally themed for race, no matter the class, then some of the bloat can be avoided. The PHB did this wonderfully. I think the designers are trying to avoid being forced or cornered into designing a block of feats to keep it balanced. It took me a long minute to understand this with Essentials. The design shifted from standard formula to story/creative mechanics.

    Now to integrate feats into class design will actually rid a lot of the bloat. However, unless it’s implemented with a 4.5 release or 5th edition, it will make these feat integrated classes an odd fit. I’d still like to see it done though. Create a feat integrated class that can’t access the older feats but a new group of feats specific to a release; even creating a new power source for the experiment. Far Realm classes with an Insanity power source or a lost Astral Domain.

  36. Will says:

    To me, the larger problem is that the vast majority of powers are class-specific.

    That sucks; it creates a massive amount of redundant options (prime example: two-weapon rangers vs. two-weapon fighters), forces weird mechanics to create certain characters (example: the complex hybrid-class system and weak multi-class system), and overall forces a drill-down approach to character creation rather than a build-up approach.

    So I would be in favor of ditching feats IF some of the game elements (like powers) which are exclusive race and class were made more generic (good example: skill powers).

  37. Joshua says:

    Robert, I see where you’re coming from in that response, but I think you’re misrepresenting your critics just as much as some of them misrepresented your original post as calling for removing feats from D&D entirely.

    For one thing, the sorting problem is more an issue of format than anything. The hypothetical Eladrin Artificer feat could be published most likely alongside the Artificer itself, or else in a Dragon article specifically about “Artifice in the Feywild”. In the former case, the player is going to see it when they’re building their character anyway, in the latter… well, considering how much of Dragon’s content lately is written by you, I don’t think you’re likely to tell us that publishing content in Dragon articles is bad for the game. ;)

    But more importantly, 64 race/class combo feats per book is pretty much random. I love class feats and racial feats, but even I don’t think that every single combo of class and race needs its own feat. Just the ones that either a) expound on an existing synergy (like a Cloud of Darkness enhancement for Drow Rogues) or b) make an off-beat combination viable (like a Darkfire enhancement for Drow Wizards, or something). The feats that do the latter are some of my favourites in the game, precisely because they allow for character combinations that otherwise would be passed over because they’re mechanically weaker than others.

    Personally, while I do like the aforementioned race/class combo feats, if I had to choose a single model for What Feats Should Be, I’d pick the Arena Fighting/Combat Style/White Lotus/Power of X type of feat, because of the way they interact with class powers, making possibly sub-standard powers a more attractive choice by expanding on their utility as compared to the ones that have raw mechanical advantage on their side. As somebody said on the 4e Character Optimisation forum: “Feats should either change the way your character plays, or change the way a power works.” And, more to the point, I don’t think there’s a better way to do that within the power & class feature framework we have than through feats.

  38. S'mon says:

    Re pumping the NADs…. I’m strongly in favour of a player being able to put a lot of resources into one NAD such that they have a very high chance of not being affected by typical monster attacks vs that NAD. Whether it’s the iron-minded Cleric, the greased-lightning Rogue, the tough as nails Fighter, a base 14+ for the monster to hit their strongest defence does not seem at all excessive to me. This will come at the cost of strength in other areas, and it strongly supports PC differentation and heroic archetypes. A difference between being hit on a NAD on a ’6′ or an ’8′ is hardly worth investing anything in, IMO., and if anything that is a more typical situation with 4e NADs, especially at higher levels.

  39. pinkrose says:

    I just want to quote math_geek
    “I think this is just too much stuff to ask feats to do and feats would open up a lot if you stopped asking them to do so much.”
    Split feats into different categories, ie Feats(generic), Quirks(racial/class), Proficiencies(math) (or something similar)
    And then gain feats every 3 levels, and quirks every 4 levels, and Weapon/spell Proficiencies every 5 levels?
    So you know you’ll end up with some combat and some non-combat.
    Similar to Weapon and Non-Weapon Profs from 2e.

  40. Beat Feat « NeoGrognard says:

    [...] on the off chance you haven’t read his blog in the last week, go do so now. If you have, go back and re-read it. In it, Rob questions the need for the existence of feats, and has some great analysis and [...]

  41. Seth says:

    Once the scuttlebutt on monster attacks versus player defenses (and like for like) became accepted, most of the games I’ve played in switched over to treating an expertise feat and a +1 to NADs as parts of each class.

    I had understood that the issue was normalized with the MM3 though, yes?

    As for selecting feats for my own characters, I mostly enjoy feats for the multiclassing options (though I wish it was perhaps slightly less feat-intensive to build an MC character) and using additional feats to dip into that other class for other benefits; for example, MCing into Monk and then boosting my speed.

    I was also impressed with the Psionic slate of feats, and consider many of those to be an intriguing value for the expenditure.

    The prevalence and necessity of superior item feats is something I find troubling, particularly when dwarves have access to such a preferable choice (granting tons of proficiency plus damage). It makes the other weapon feats (Goliath, Eladrin, Tiefling) seem far inferior by comparison. And, while I feel I must be missing something, I don’t see the superior implement feats as being comparatively worthwhile…mostly due to the difficulty in assuring you find them through treasure distribution when they’re not culturally associated with large swathes of NPC (like the Dwarven Waraxe).

    Still, I think that Essentials provides something along the lines of what you describe already; and with that option on the table for some players, I like the loads of customization that feats–with all their dross and detritus–provide a player willing to expend that extra effort.

  42. mr0bunghole says:

    I’m surprised to read so many comments that say feats add a great amount of customization to the game, in all the 4e games I play and DM, I see the same characters and feat choices over and over again. I agree with Ryven Cedrylle’s comments regarding the “math” feats. Sometimes I think players forget that Luck is a huge element of the game – we all roll a d20 when we attack, right? To me, these “math” feats are appropriate for those players that still complain when they miss on a d20 roll of 2.

    As RJS eludes, it’s also my opinion that monsters are the ones that are losing out with these math feats at higher levels. His laser cleric example uses monsters at party level, but more frequenlty encounters use monsters lower than party level to fill the battlegrid. I wonder why monsters continually bring the fight with such odds stacked against them.

    In order for feats to really customize the playable options, then the first step is to throw all the feats out the window. Customization, like that we seen in subclasses (tempest fighter, one-handed, brawler, etc.) should be options added via the feats and made stronger with additional feat choices as the PCs progress. All the frivilous feat crap that exists now should be tacked onto the appropriate powers or dropped entirely.

  43. Language in DnD: Part 4- Revenant Converse! « Ego Poisoning says:

    [...] rather appropriate that I finally get this post up now, given the current discussion about the relevance and onus of feats in recent editions. I recognize that I, as a player, would never take a skill [...]

  44. Myke says:

    My overall assessment of feats? The entire enterprise of feats have become a big headache for me, i.e., has caused me major dissonance, and I haven’t found any satisfactory fixes, i.e., one fix here, creates another problem there. As a a result, I love the crappy feats, and hate the good ones. So I’m like the opposite of almost everyone. As an experiment (I created four groups that I’m going to playtest myself), in “character ops board” terms,” I’m only going to allow the feats that are listed as black, purple, or red. Even though this is going to gimp the characters significantly, then so be it, then I’m just going to lower encounter levels (which from my experience, tend to be much higher than the party’s anyway). If this makes progression slower, then so be it, It seems like my players had more fun at lower levels anyhow (and I can make up for xp losses with things such as Quest xp’s). That said, I do expect to run into problems with my approach., e.g., what will my Swordmage be with Intelligent Blademaster! “Oh No!,” but I’m just going to approach each problem on a case-by-case basis. For example, I just might make Intelligent Blade Master a Class Feature (Swordmages seem a bit gimped to me anyhow). There’s too many feats that are “must haves,” certainly, the “math fix” feats. But that’s not all. An avenger without Painful Oath? (blasphemy), almost anyone who doesn’t crit on a 19-20 at Epic, a la’ Weapon Mastery? (anathema). A Swordmage without Total Aegis? There are countless number of other examples. So yeah, feats can add a lot of variety, in theory, but there are so many feats that are auto picks, or next to auto pics for anyone who takes the game a little more seriously than he (or she) should, that feat selection is totally unexciting (imo). I’d rather be stuck with having to make a choice between two bad feats than having an obvious auto-pic. At least, there is a decision to be made. By no means do I think my idea is going to be some sort of ultimate fix. but like I said, the entire feat debacle has me totally irritated.

  45. Myke says:

    Upon further review, “in character ops board terms,” I’m just not going to allow any gold or sky blue feats, , given that i see plenty of blue ones.

  46. Marandahir says:

    My personal opinion of feats is that they’re either too many choices or too few, and it’s how I feel about power choices in a standard AEDU class as well. I’m torn between too many choices, but I only have a small limit of what I can take. So I have to make my decisions wisely. Unfortunately, the feats I WANT to take fall to the back-burner because the feats I HAVE to take take precedence: I have to have all the bonuses to hit. I have to balance out my defences, etc. If I don’t take Superior Implement Training: Accurate Dagger and Versatile Expertise on my Dagger-Sorcerer, I will only be able hit Ogrémoch when I’m level 30 on a roll of a 17 or higher. That’s not good chances for a Striker. Strikers need to be hitting hard and often, even against a big-baddie.

    Math feats need to die and be worked into character classes. Expertise feats as they are should be the additional feature, while the scaling improvements should be an additional class feature, or have a different category (You have proficiency with this equipment? At this level, your accuracy improves, etc). No feat should be a MUST-take (Gold in Char-Ops).

    However, there are other feats I love. Thematic feats, like Herbalist or Battlewise or Cold Adaptation, or Wasteland Wanderer. These flesh out your character, and while they may add a static bonus (like Wasteland Wanderer’s skill bonuses), they do so in a way that makes sense for a particular type of character.

    I also LOVE Multiclass feats, mostly because there’s no reason not to take an initial feat. The Power-Trading feats are more dubious; I feel like I’m spending both a feat and a power slot to get a power, rather than just getting a power from my own class. But the bonus features or At-will as an Encounter power for the entry feat is always nice, and alternate entry feats are great too. I’ve never seen anybody Paragon Multiclass instead of take a Paragon Path; those feats can fall to the wayside. But as a Bard-player, the MC feats are some of the most fun things to play with.

    I also really like feats like the Familiar Feats, or Tribal or Heritage or Bloodline or Style feats. These all help solidify character and/or party. General feats, as seen in more recent products, seem like they’re going to continue, while class and racial feats, not so much. If only they could rid us of Math feats, too…

  47. Kurmudgeon says:

    I agree that math feats take away slots that could be used for more interesting choices.

    As for skills I’ve always thought that it a bit strange that being trained in a skill gives a +5 bonus. Whereas Skill focus gives only a +3 bonus. Seems to me that if they were flipped you might see more people taking skills. Honestly though, skills should have been a separate system from feats. Combat feats and non-combat feats, that way every character improves off the battlefield as well as on.

  48. Dude, Again? | 4thmaster says:

    [...] Robert Schwalb talks about how these kinds of feats exist to correct gaps in the game’s math. (Scroll down to “Math Feats,” about halfway down his post.) “Currently, every character should take an accuracy feat, a damage feat, and a defense feat.” I don’t think damage is important enough to use ‘should’ with it, but I agree with generally agree with Rob’s sentiment: “If every character has to have these feats, why require them at all? Why not build them into the game directly?” [...]

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