Posts Tagged ‘feats’

Flattening Trees

Posted: 12 June 2012 in House Rules
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So in general  like the idea of feats, I think that they’re implemented poorly in D&D 3.X and Pathfinder — especially as you go into the later splatbooks and such, feats become worse and worse in my perspective, both in terms of power creep and in terms of carving off things anyone should be able to do and making it a feat. In general, I think there are three things that a feat should be allowed to do: take away a penalty (as with Precise Shot and shooting in to Melee), give a bonus (as with Point-Blank Shot and targets within 30ft), or allow an action that’s normally impossible (such as Versatile Channeling). A feat that adds an effect to an action (like Stand Still) is effectively giving a bonus, and a feat that lets you perform certain complex actions (such as Bounding Hammer) is probably just removing a penalty (ie, you could attempt to bounce hammers off foes without the feat but at a high penalty). I intend to eliminate or greatly alter feats that I feel simply allow an action that anyone should be able to take (I’m thinking especially of Power Attack and I suspect there are others).

Aside from pruning the trees, I also intend to flatten them.  There are a number of feats that are chained together with prerequisites that don’t necessarily matter, and this needlessly prevents effective use of Feats to specialize and customize characters.  Why should you have to learn how to shoot accurately at close range before firing at extreme range?  And why does a character have to be 7th Level before they can gather followers? I’m not sure that last should even be a Feat (especially when it seems that it was rather fundamental in older versions of D&D).

In order to decouple chains and flatten trees in a meaningful way, though, we need to understand what the current requirements are, what those requirements represent, and whether that’s a meaningful requirement to have.  A lot of this relies on my understanding of the intent of the 3.X system (which Pathfinder is based on). (more…)

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So before the hex crawl that I did this weekend, I started working on a few of projects that should become posts when they’re done.  Turns out that there’s a bit more effort involved than I expected, especially since I didn’t touch any of it over the long weekend.

The first bit I’m working on is trying to address the issue of feats.  So far I’ve gone through the Pathfinder SRD and binned the feats into Tiers based on how many feat prerequisites they have — this roughly translates to “what is the earliest level this feat could be taken,” but not entirely (I haven’t accounted for Base Attack Bonus or Level requirements, for example).  even at that, easily half of the feats are simply unavailable to a 1st level character, and a good chunk are unavailable before 4th level.

The second bit is a review of the 5th Edition playtest materials that got released.  Other people are already going over their first impressions — The Alexandrian made a couple of comments that hadn’t occurred to me, such as “how much of an improvement on 3rd Edition can we expect” and the possibility of an infestation of disassociated mechanics.  I’ve only gone over the “How to Play” packet and skimmed the others; my initial thoughts are positive, but there are a few things I’m unsure about.  I may get my players to try to run through the playtest adventure with me this weekend and maybe that’ll help inform my opinion.

Finally, I’ve been toying with the idea of reducing character creation to a high-density blurb. It’s not a final solution and doesn’t produce a completed character but I think it should distill the necessary choices a player needs to make, and that will hopefully speed up character creation.  I think as it is it might only work for 1st level characters, and even at that some of my players have pointed out that I may have blind spots where my own expertise with the system makes things more intuitive for me than they are for others.

Massaging Feats

Posted: 19 May 2012 in GM Advice
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I’m going to go ahead and say that I’ve never really liked feats.People talk about how they’re good because they give players a way of setting their character apart from other characters with the same race and class, but I’ve never felt that sat right.

Papers and Pencils has an article up about the problem with feats, and it gives words to the issues I have with feats that I wasn’t able to express: namely, many feats ‘let’ characters do things that they should be able to do anyways.  Now, I’m not sure I buy his complaint about Willful Deformity — he’s right that anyone can take a knife to their face, but is that really enough to warrant a mechanical benefit for it?  And that’s kind of been my line for a while: sure you can do that in the fiction, but if you want a mechanical benefit you need the feat/trait/background/whatever.

I can’t find the article (or remember who’s blog it was on), but I read something recently that changed my mind on that a little bit. The article talked about how heroes in action movies — the guys we want our players to emulate — take crazy chances to get the job done; but players almost invariably take a more-cautious approach, choosing the tried-and-true tactics rather than trying anything fancy or risky.  And the point they made was that this happens because there’s no benefit for players to offset their risk.  If we want to encourage certain actions we need to have some mechanical benefit to offer players.

So when we have a feat that ‘lets’ a character do something they should be able to do anyways, it HAS to steal the mechanical benefits of that action in order to be meaningful.  Take Power Attack.  It ‘lets’ a character swing wildly, with the full force of their strength behind the blow.  They sacrifice accuracy for damage.  But why does this need to be a feat?  Can’t anyone sacrifice accuracy for damage?  That’s a bad feat.

Contrast it to a good feat, like Point-Blank Shot: you get a bonus to hit targets within a certain range.  It makes doing something anyone can do easier if you have the feat. P&P propose the existence of Feats that let a character do something that isn’t available to everyone, but I can’t think of anything like that off the top of my head.

I think there’s also a problem with a lot of the prerequisites, the way feats fall into tiers, but that has more to do with what level those feats effectively become available and what that means (which is another topic).

Properly understood, feats should be special talents and knacks that a character has that makes them more capable that untalented peers. Feats that don’t accurately represent that, or worse steal ability that should be generally available, should be removed.