Sunday, April 12, 2009

Doing Feats Right

Doing Feats Right

I sat down to write about how to fix the problem of chained feats. That is, those that feats with multiple pre-requisites to take. I found that I could not do so without modifying the way that the fighter class works. As I believe any readers playing third edition are unlikely to alter their basic character classes, I had to content myself to tidying up the feats found in the core rulebooks.

If this is a little dry, I apologize, but I think some d&d players will find these suggestions very helpful.

Removing and Fixing the Useless Feats

Remove all the feats whose sole benefit is to give a trivial bonus to two skill checks. This eliminates some fifteen or so feats listed on, including the following: Acrobatic, Agile, Alertness, Animal Affinity, Athletic, Deceitful, Deft Hands, Diligent, Investigator, Magical Aptitude, Negotiator, Nimble Fingers, Persuasive, Self-Suffient, and Stealthy.

While you are at it, you may as well remove the feats that are useless or extremely weak within the context of the core rules, namely: Endurance, Eschew Materials, Extra Turning, Heighten Spell, Improved Counterspell, Improved Overrun, Improved Shield Bash, Improved Turning, Improved Unarmed Strike, Mounted Archery, Quick Draw, Run, Skill Focus, Spell Mastery, Toughness, and Widen Spell. Suggested replacements:

Endurance: You heal fast than other people. Your natural healing and any spell or effect that heals damage heals you an additional +50%, rounding down.

Skill Focus: You enjoy a +4 bonus to a single skill of your choice.

Toughness: You enjoy bonus maximum hit points equal to your level or +4, whichever is greater.

Remove and Fix the Clumsy Feats

Then there are the feats that are so poorly designed that using them slows your game down or requires extra paperwork to use, feats like: Augment Summoning, Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Leadership, Power Attack, and Trample. Of particular note there are Power Attack and Combat Expertise, which exist solely to slow down combat as math-savvy players haw and hem about the optimal penalties to take against a particular foe. Also of note is Improved Sunder, because once you're no longer low-level it becomes incredibly easy to destroy the weapons used by one's enemies. Suggested Replacements:

Combat Expertise: Any time you take a full attack action, you enjoy a +1 bonus to your AC until your next turn.

Combat Reflexes: You enjoy a +4 bonus to your attack rolls when making attacks of opportunity.

Dodge: You enjoy a +1 dodge bonus to your AC.

Improved Sunder: Whenever you threaten a critical hit against an opponent wielding a weapon, he must make a Fortitude saving throw equal to 15 plus your level or his weapon will be broken.

Power Attack: When taking a full attack action, your one-handed melee attacks inflict +2 damage and your two-handed melee attacks inflict +3 damage.

Trample: When you threaten a critical against a target that you have made a mounted charge attack against, you knock the target prone and inflict an additional amount of damage equal to your character level.

Removing and Fixing the Metamagic Feats

You should ignore the metamagic feats in the core rules. Every last one is weak tea or, in the case of Natural Spell, broken. They are completely eclipsed by the metamagic feats given in other supplements, and I'm not even talking about the really unbalanced supplements.

Alas, most of them are also uninspired. I think it better to just replace them wholesale rather than futz around with fixing them. Let me know if you like my suggested replacements.

In the case of metamagic spells where memorization is indicated, free casters may still use the feat and need not choose what spell to use it with in advance, but may still only used the listed feat once per day. As usual, a free caster making use of a metamagic feat casts his spells as a full-round action.

Aeromancy [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single area of effect spell so that it knocks any medium or small bipedal creatures that fail their saving throw against it prone. Spells that do not offer a saving throw cannot be used with this metamagic feat.

Augment Summoning [Metamagic]: Any creatures you conjure via the Summon Monster spells have +2 to their attack rolls and +2 to their AC.

Explosive Magic [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single damaging area of effect spell so that it inflict extra damage of the appropriate type. It inflicts an additional amount of damage equal to twice your level.

Favorite Spell [Metamagic]: Choose a spell. Any time you cast that spell, its DC is increased by +1. When you gain a level, you may reselect the spell to which this feat applies.

Focused Magic [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single damage spell that targets a single creature to deal extra damage of the appropriate type. It inflicts an additional amount of damage equal to thrice your level.

Heighten Spell [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single spell to be especially difficult to resist. The DC of this spell is increased by +2.

Natural Spell [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single spell that you will be able to cast while in an alternate form such as those granted by the wild shape ability. The chosen spell must not be of the very highest level you can cast. For example, if you can cast third level spells, this feat may only be used with a spell of second level or lower.

Off-Hand Spell [Metamagic]: 9th level or higher. Your first level spells may be cast as move actions. You must have two hands free in order to use this feat.

Quicken Spell [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single spell that normally requires a standard action to cast so that it will instead require a move action. The spell that you so choose must not be a spell of the very highest level you can cast. The chosen spell must not be of the very highest level you can cast. For example, if you can cast third level spells, this feat may only be used with a spell of second level or lower.

Reach Spell [Metamagic]: You may memorize a single spell with touch range so that it may instead be cast with short range.

Sacred Spell [Metamagic]: When you cast an offensive spell, you may spend a turning attempt so that undead suffer additional damage from it. This extra damage is equal to your class level.

Scribe Scroll [Metamagic]: Each day, you may choose a single spell that you know and are able to cast. That spell is recorded on a special scroll that may only be cast by you. Their magic fades after the day is over, and so you cannot accumulate more than one at a time.

Good Ideas, Bad Feats

Also, a lot of the feats are good in theory but their implementation is shoddy or they rely on bad rules from the other parts of the game. All of the item creation feats fall into this category, as do Improved Grapple and other attack option feats. Mounted combat doesn't work very well, either, because mounts often have trouble fitting into dungeons, and the extra attacks that mounts can make can slow the game considerably.

I don't care to tackle any of those problems in this post because this is already lengthy and those feats seem to fall outside its scope. But I will tackle the two-weapon fighting feats. Extra attacks are the single worst offender when it comes to slowing down combat to a headache inducing crawl. My suggestion is, firstly, to remove multiple attacks gained from a high base attack bonus and, secondly, to replace the two-weapon fighting feats with these:

Two-Weapon Fighting: You may make a single additional attack that suffers -5 to its attack roll with a light weapon in your off-hand. If this is attempted without the benefit of this feat, both attacks suffer a -5.

Two-Weapon Defense: When you are equipped with a weapon in your off-hand, you enjoy a +1 bonus to AC. When you are equipped with a double weapon, you enjoy a +2 bonus to your AC.

Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting: 3rd level or higher. The weapon in your off-hand need not be light to use two-weapon fighting style feats.

Double Weapon Mastery: 6th level or higher. When using a double weapon to make a whirlwind attack, you inflict an additional +3 damage.

Improved Two-Weapon Fighting: 6th level or higher. The penalty for your off-hand attack is reduced to -2, and you inflict +1 damage with your off-hand weapon.

Greater Two-Weapon Fighting: 11th level or higher. You suffer no penalty with your off-hand attack, and your damage bonus with your off-hand weapon increases to +4.

In Summa

That's over forty feats (or about a third core rules feats) that are either useless or cumbersome. So much for playtesting. I do not assert that my suggested changes are the best possible or that that all of the above feats are useless in every campaign, but I have never regretted changing them in my games.

Here is an optimized feat list with my changes included, in PDF form.

Next: Doing Ability Damage Right

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