On Feats

When it comes to RPGs, my sympathies generally lay with what’s come to be called ‘old school’ gaming; i.e. earlier incarnations of D&D, or the many retro-clones.  Given my druthers, I’d rather be playing 0e or Swords & Wizardry rather than Pathfinder (though the PF Beginner Box looks promising).  But I figure playing Pathfinder is better than nothing, and besides my current group is a great bunch of guys, even if they don’t like old school D&D. 🙂

Given that, one thing I do like about 3e/Pathfinder is the inclusion of feats.  Just as the introduction of ascending AC was one of the greatest improvements to The Game, I think old school games would also benefit greatly by introducing (simple) feats.  Feats are a straightforward way to introduce mechanical differentiation and specialization between PCs, give players more choice in their character’s development, and in old school games they can help dramatically increase PC survivability right out the gate.

However, my appreciation for feats is conditional.  I really don’t like feats that add new mechanics to the game, feats that are highly situational, or feats that require additional bookkeeping.  I prefer feats that boost or modify something already on the characters sheet or that simplify or remove existing mechanics (which really is a benefit in PF since it has so many moving parts compared to old school games).  That’s one of the things I like about the Beginner Box – it ditches, or simplifies, the more complex feats.

Take Deflect Arrows for example.  Once per round you can deflect a missile attack that would have otherwise hit you.  Simple and quick, no additional roll required, it just happens.  Awesome.

Another good feat is Dodge.  It adds a +1 bonus to AC.  It’s always in effect, so all you need to do is make a simple adjustment to an existing stat on your character sheet and you’re done, as with other feats like Skill Focus, Improved Initiative or all the ‘Extra X’ feats.  Nice.

Toughness is another decent feat, though a little more complicated because you have to remember to adjust hit points every time the character gains a level.  Not too bad though, and very useful to low-level characters.

Mobility is a feat that is more problematic for me.  Mobility grants +4 AC against attacks of opportunity.  First off, this feat is conditional, so you have to remember to apply it.  Secondly, you need to keep track of a separate AC score for Mobility.  I’m already tracking AC, Touch AC, Flat-footed AC and Combat Maneuver Defense…now I have to track an Opportunity Attack AC, too?  Bleh.

Point Blank Shot sounds like a straightforward feat on the surface, but in practice is a pain in the ass.  It gives you a +1 on ranged attacks made within 30 feet.  Sounds simple enough, except now I have to record a separate set of attack bonuses for 30 feet, and I have to keep track of when I’m within 30 feet.  It doesn’t sound that hard, but in practice it’s really easy to forget.  Of course, in a game like Pathfinder, 1 point either way isn’t that big a deal, especially at higher levels.  But then why even have it in the first place (other than as a prerequisite in a feat chain)?

Well, you probably get my point by now, or quit reading a long time ago.

I realize I’m not the first to propose adding some form of feats for old school D&D.  Delta’s houserules includes about a dozen simple feats for fighters, but doesn’t give them to the other classes.  I think a list of about a dozen or so simple, straightforward feats for every class would be a nice addition to The Game…another project for a rainy day.


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