What feats do you consider to be feat taxes?

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Expertise and defense feats aside (because it's been debated to death), what feats do you feel are taxes for certain classes to make up for an oversight in design? For example, I know that many consider Intelligent Blademaster to be a feat tax for swordmages.

I think such a list (subject to opinions, of course) would be useful for DMs who want to hand out bonus feats to underpowered or ill-designed classes.
None - although I understand why Melee Training could make the list.
Expertise
Improved Defenses
Melee Training or Equiv for the Avenger, Battlemind, Swordmage, Chaladin, and a few builds of other classes.
The assassin "move shrouds on target death" feat.

That's about it.  I try to avoid putting good feats in the feat-tax category, so "Painful Oath" doesn't qualify in my mind.

(In my home game, I give out Versatile Expertise, pre-nerf melee training to classes with multiple melee attack powers (stat must match stat of qualifying powers), and the assassing move-shroud one.  That's it.  I also lower the feat cost for heavy armor by one, because that helps patch some class AC issues while not being too generous)

By "the math", Armor specialization qualifies, the one-bad-nad situation, and there's also an initiative slip that's of interest.  But IMHO you shouldn't fix every slip out there.  After all, the PC has feats to spend.  Letting a few numbers slip a few points opens up the ability to get a few other numbers a few points above the baseline.  That's kinda the point of the feat system. (again, IMHO)

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

Depending on how much your DM scales encounters to challenge optimized characters...you may need additional surges to keep up the pace.

Surges/day are another factor in the big scheme of things but often get overlooked because they don't impact a single encounter as much.

 
I'd list Arcane Implement Proficiency or any other implement proficiency grating feat for Bards Warlocks and Artificers (crossbow caster for ranged artificers) or basicly any class that is expected to use a mix of weapons and implements or is a caster that doesn't get staves as an implement. 

Also Versatile Master is all but required for a half elf as that one feat singlehandedly took them from being the worst race in the PHB to the top three. Hell our group has started giving it out for free at level one because we noticed no one was willing to play a half elf unless we were already starting at paragon level.
 
Mighty Challenge (or Blessed Strength for Half-Orcs) for Straladins definitely qualifies. They're just plain not a defender without it.
To me the only Feat Taxes I'm really willing to consider are math fixes.  We know the scaling is "wrong", we know these are there just to fix it.  That's the only reason I see to hand out free feats to cover it. 

Things your character needs to fill certain design gaps don't really qualify imo ~ and you've got enough to cover it.

I give out Versatile Expertise and Improved Defenses at level 5.  If you want the benefits from the new and actually good Expertises then ya gotta pay for it ~ but the free versatile means at least you don't have to pay for multiple weapons/implements. 
To me the only Feat Taxes I'm really willing to consider are math fixes.



That's pretty much the definition of "tax" your DM should go with. Expertise is a tax, especially for classes that don't get baked-in accuracy (i.e., leader class). Defenses is a tax because you don't want your defender or anyone else who takes hits getting hit on 4s at later levels. They are both nice at lower levels, but taxes at higher levels.

I consider a good MBA for a defender to be a "math" fix because part of the defender job is reacting to and punishing enemy tactics, and the numbers just don't add up right for some defenders to be able to actually punish something with their OAs.

Mighty Challenge is a good one to point out. Again, that's a pure numbers issue on their punishment - no enemy will be scared of taking 3 damage.

I honestly can't think of anything else atm.
The thing about Melee Training:  I don't really feel it's there to fix math. 

It seems clear to me they designed the Battlemind to have lots and lots of defendery methods for dealing with things without "needing" one exactly.  Do I think they succeeded with the design... no not fully.  Would I ever play a BM w/o Melee Training?  Heck no!  But I wouldn't play a rogue without it either.

I think I might be generous enough to give Mighty Challenge though if someone asked.
Any feat that results in a character functioning the way that they should have been able to function to begin with is considered a feat tax in my book.

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To me the only Feat Taxes I'm really willing to consider are math fixes and Inexorable Shroud. 



Fixed.
Hahaha.  Okay okay.  We all know that whole class was a math failure. 
The 'an enemy doesn't know you've shrouded it when you're hidden' feat.
Oh Content, where art thou?
Like preeeetty much everyone else I'd have to say Expertise and Improv. Def.

And Melee Training. At least for Martial classes. You spend your whole life training to make your mundane fighting skills SO godlike you can actually compete for a group spot with magicians and people with the power of (the) God(s) on their side. You, a normal man or woman who can kill a dragon with nothing more than a clever swing of a dagger, just you, your muscles and your weapon, can NEVERTHELESS not make proper basic attacks. You can make attacks that by all means are simply basic attacks with a little added mastery, but you can't actually make proper basic attacks. Since they pretty much fixed it in Essentials, I'd have to say give that feat away for free.

And let's face it, the Assassin has 99 glaring problems, but losing it's shrouds upon target death ain't even one of them.
I give out Versatile Expertise and Improved Defenses at level 5.  If you want the benefits from the new and actually good Expertises then ya gotta pay for it ~ but the free versatile means at least you don't have to pay for multiple weapons/implements. 



Do you change it to scale like the other expertise feats? Because the old school expertise feats scale at 1/15/25 instead of 1/11/21, and it's quite painful.

I personaly do not belive in feat taxes...nor would I give bonus feats...I like 4e the way it is...



BUT I am PCing in a monthly game that has the following house rules... he calls them fixes=



We all have epic damage on our at wills

we got 1 bonus feat at 1st, at 3rd and 8th we get   more, and at 11th and 21st... the first 3 have to be from expertise feats, armor or weapon prof, or a nad upper... then at 11th and 21st they can be any feat we want. He then gave everyone 10 extra hp...


so far at level 3 we are walking over 8th and 9th level enemies like they were punks...        

Before posting, ask yourself WWWS: What Would Wrecan Say?


Do you change it to scale like the other expertise feats? Because the old school expertise feats scale at 1/15/25 instead of 1/11/21, and it's quite painful.




Yes.

Do you change it to scale like the other expertise feats? Because the old school expertise feats scale at 1/15/25 instead of 1/11/21, and it's quite painful.




Yes.



I do not.  It gives players that have to have that +1 four levels sooner the option but minimizes the distance between those who take expertise and those who don't.
I feel like feats that make your class features properly scale with tier are kind of annoying.  See Double/Total Aegis and the Rapid X feats for defenders.

(Half of the Assassin feats are these, or even worse are just "make your class feature work correctly at all".)
It seems clear to me they designed the Battlemind to have lots and lots of defendery methods for dealing with things without "needing" one exactly.  Do I think they succeeded with the design... no not fully.  Would I ever play a BM w/o Melee Training?  Heck no!  But I wouldn't play a rogue without it either.

I agree that they tried to circumvent the need for OAs with the Battlemind, but it just doesn't work.  Your mark can just walk away from you.  They really should have learned from the Chaladin that every defender needs an OA.  All the time.  It's not a minor thing - it's a major part of your job.  That's why I see it as a feat tax.


While not really a feat tax in the traditional sense, I'd add chainmail prof. for con shamans as a feat that you pretty much have to take for decent AC... and it costs more than just a feat since you have to put a 13 in str as well.

Warlock is a class that heavily relies on feat support to stay remotely competitive with many other strikers, but I guess WotC did something right there because no one really considers them to be taxes.
Well, there are math fixes, there are class feature shortcomings, and there are ill conceived feats. You can choose to consider any or all of them feat tax or not.

Math fixes, as far as I'm concerned, are the expertise feats and defense feats. I don't think we can do without expertise, though we certainly can do without Spear Expertise, Light Blade Expertise, or Staff Expertise. Even after fixing the math at the core, some of the side benefits still remain worthwhile feats.

Melee Training is a "missing" feature for some classes, and as such I consider it a shortcoming of class features. Battleminds should not be forced into dilettante or hybrid to grab a basic attack, Avengers shouldn't be pigeonholed into following Ioun, Oghma, or Corellon, Swordmages should not be forced to pick up Intelligent Blademaster, etc. Unarmored Agility for a Sorcerer, Painful Oath for an Avenger, and the like, also fall into this category of class feature shortcomings.

Superior weapons and implements, weapon/implement focus, Mindbite Scorn, Killing Curse, Backstabber, and their ilk are ill conceived feats. I think many of these feats could have been either built into the system, or discarded. When I'm DM'ing I'm almost seeing weapon/implement focus as a requirement for my players as they reach paragon, because I just want them all to do more damage to monsters who have loads of hit points.

Also, taxes (whatever you consider them to be) are more frustating at heroic levels than higher levels. You kind of feel like you can't do what your character is supposed to be able to do until you get A, B, C, but that means you have to hold of on the more interesting stuff you want to be able to do with X, Y, Z. Ultimately, for a healthy game, either A, B, C needs to disappear, or if you feel A, B, C, despite feeling like tax, has the nice added value of character progression, the design spaces for A, B, C and X, Y, Z need to be separated.
The only ones I would consider true taxes, are the feats that are absolutely required for a character to function. Generally the big ones, Expertise, Defenses and Melee Training for the non-strength melee classes. If your class just doesn't work without [blah training], it's a tax.


I'm also not a fan of the Feats that are so good you would be a fool to not take them 95% of the time, but I wouldn't put them into the same pool as the actual 'tax' feats. Not taking these will make you a inferior character compared to someone who has, but you can still function as a whole.



I guess I put the difference at being a Crappy character vs. a Broken character.
Expertise feats and Improved Defences seem to be intended for the purpose of re-aligning attack modifiers in later gameplay with early gameplay. Those are most likely feat taxes. Melee Training is a feat tax for Battleminds and Swordmages, the two classes that depend on melee basic attacks (as part of their role, in stickiness) but are not strength-based.

Agile Superiority is a feat tax for any Weaponmaster that doesn't want to use wisdom but does want to use Combat Superiority. Mighty Challenge seems to simultaneously function as a feat tax for Paladins that have low Charisma but aspire to be good defenders regardless (they have a lot of issues involving low stats, actually). Inescapable Hold seems like a lost chunk of the Brawler Style class feature, and is essentially required for your holds to actually be difficult to escape. Painful Oath for Avengers seems like it was designed for this; few other classes get +Wis mod to damage 1/round without jumping through hoops (note: fighters get two ways. Fighters rock, though, so...). Cursed Spells and Mindbite Scorn, as bonus constant damage for a damage-weak striker class that isn't matched for other strikers.

I'm comparing these feats to, say, Pacifist Healer. It gives you a constant bonus to healing with the most common kind of healing type you could use -- but at a steep cost. The above feats give incredible benefits at no steep cost to subclasses or builds that are lacking.
I don't use emoticons, and I'm also pretty pleasant. So if I say something that's rude or insulting, it's probably a joke.
See, I don't know that I consider Agile Superiority and Mighty Challenge feat taxes.  They certainly exist to allow you to make the most of your class abilities when you play with non-standard (at least in terms of the PHB1's perspective) versions of the class.  And, as we've seen in 4e, feat support to improve a sub-optimal choice to sufficient (see Defense, Small Warrior's and Scrappy) is a viable use of feats.

Okay, maybe Mighty Challenge seeing as the PHB1 paladin was borked.  But pre-MP1 there was no such thing as a Str/Dex fighter build supported by fighter class abilities.
Personally, I like to build characters...a lot.  And in making them I've found that there were some feats that I always took or just plain needed to function or make the character easier to play.  The houserule list I made up:

- Any one expertise feat (Versatile is brought to 1, 11, 21 scaling)
- Improved Defenses
- Weapon Proficiency or Superior Implement Proficiency
- Weapon Focus
- Pre-Nerf Melee Training (only if a defender/melee class) - Swordmage gets Intelligent Blademaster
- Armor Spec in Paragon (only if the character has the stat/prof requirements)
- Assassin - Hidden Insight, Inexorable Shroud

Then just a couple that give minor benefits, but are nice to have:
- Ardent - Light Shield Prof
- Fighter - Brutal Brawler (Brawler only)

There are others, but I haven't gone through each class just yet.

Yea, I know I'm basically giving out a ton of stuff for free, but I like characters to get some cool, fun abilities with their feats rather than "I get a numbers/class feature fix...yey?".  Plus if things are too easy, then it's just a matter of the DM/me coming up with harder, more creative encounters to challenge the players with.
In addition to pretty much everything everyone has said here, I see the epic level crit-on-19 feats as taxes, and to make matters worse, a lot of them have ridiculous attribute requirements on them (particularly implement classes).

On a side note, feats with attribute requirements are stupid, and limit character options, often with no intelligent in-game reason.
Well, there are math fixes, there are class feature shortcomings, and there are ill conceived feats. You can choose to consider any or all of them feat tax or not.

Math fixes, as far as I'm concerned, are the expertise feats and defense feats. I don't think we can do without expertise, though we certainly can do without Spear Expertise, Light Blade Expertise, or Staff Expertise. Even after fixing the math at the core, some of the side benefits still remain worthwhile feats.

Melee Training is a "missing" feature for some classes, and as such I consider it a shortcoming of class features. Battleminds should not be forced into dilettante or hybrid to grab a basic attack, Avengers shouldn't be pigeonholed into following Ioun, Oghma, or Corellon, Swordmages should not be forced to pick up Intelligent Blademaster, etc. Unarmored Agility for a Sorcerer, Painful Oath for an Avenger, and the like, also fall into this category of class feature shortcomings.

Superior weapons and implements, weapon/implement focus, Mindbite Scorn, Killing Curse, Backstabber, and their ilk are ill conceived feats. I think many of these feats could have been either built into the system, or discarded. When I'm DM'ing I'm almost seeing weapon/implement focus as a requirement for my players as they reach paragon, because I just want them all to do more damage to monsters who have loads of hit points.

Also, taxes (whatever you consider them to be) are more frustating at heroic levels than higher levels. You kind of feel like you can't do what your character is supposed to be able to do until you get A, B, C, but that means you have to hold of on the more interesting stuff you want to be able to do with X, Y, Z. Ultimately, for a healthy game, either A, B, C needs to disappear, or if you feel A, B, C, despite feeling like tax, has the nice added value of character progression, the design spaces for A, B, C and X, Y, Z need to be separated.



This pretty much matches my view on the subject.  There's something very wrong when I make a character and these are my first four feats:

Weapon proficiency
Expertise
Weapon Focus
Improved Defenses

None of these are interesting, or change my character in any unique way.  But I have to take these or I'm a suboptimal character.  This is not what feats should be for.

By "the math", Armor specialization qualifies, the one-bad-nad situation, and there's also an initiative slip that's of interest.  But IMHO you shouldn't fix every slip out there.  After all, the PC has feats to spend.  Letting a few numbers slip a few points opens up the ability to get a few other numbers a few points above the baseline.  That's kinda the point of the feat system. (again, IMHO)



I appreciate the decision-making that this approach encourages and I don't intend to give away every 'math-fix' feat because of this. I'm hoping to strike a balance between giving players interesting options without bogging down their characters with feats that just make their characters function as a member of their role (eg, striker, defender, etc).

Thanks for all the contributions from everyone so far; It's been really insightful to get all kinds of perspectives from people with more experience with certain characters / campaigns than I have.

Something I've been thinking about is whether or not the power swap feats for multiclassing could be considered excessive, while not strictly a tax. Have any of you made any house rules or adjustments to these feats to make characters who want to multiclass more viable?
Yes.  My current house rule is that the power swap feats are all combined: you take one, at the appropriate levels you get the benefit of the others.

Now, understand, there needs to be a cost for power swapping.  While the intent of the system may have been that powers of an equal level are equally powerful, that intent has never quite been true.  As your easiest example, consider the barbarian, where the "striker feature" is baked into the powers.  A Str/Wis avenger picking up Storm of Blades is doubling up on striker features, basically.  Or the ranger list of powers that are full of multi-attacks and off-actions.  Or the outlier powers like Rain of Blows.

So there should be a cost.  But it should not be a high cost: after all you're also giving up your best in-class power of the appropriate level in addition to the feat.  (Or from another perspective, your 3rd best in-class power for another classes best power)

So I've settled on "one feat, three swaps".  Your milage may vary.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima


Also, taxes (whatever you consider them to be) are more frustating at heroic levels than higher levels. You kind of feel like you can't do what your character is supposed to be able to do until you get A, B, C, but that means you have to hold of on the more interesting stuff you want to be able to do with X, Y, Z. Ultimately, for a healthy game, either A, B, C needs to disappear, or if you feel A, B, C, despite feeling like tax, has the nice added value of character progression, the design spaces for A, B, C and X, Y, Z need to be separated.



I agree with this view and because I want to run a heroic tier campaign, I wanted to either hand out a flat number of bonus feats or give them some standard ones (based on their class) so they can focus on fleshing out their character. It'd be nice if these were built into the system, but I don't mind doing it myself for the time being.


I don't know about those other classes, but most hybrids are not viable without Hybrid Talent. It's a tax for a multiclassing system that's unbalanced by how underpowered it is (IMO). Broken combos in hybrids should be fixed independently, it's not a balancing factor. Making people take feats and still be weaker than a pure class on TOP of that is not good design. There are a number of more interesting feats I'd like to take in heroic, but as it is, I had to spend it all on boring math fixes or basic stuff like "Proficiency : Wearing Pants".



This is an interesting one. I don't think there is any hybrid that wouldn't take Hybrid Talent, but I'm not sure I would group them into a category "needs hybrid talent to function." Then again, it's been awhile since I looked at all of the individual hybrids. Since many hybrid builds are less optimal than their pure class counterparts, it probably wouldn't hurt to give them it as a bonus feat.
I consider expertise feats, improved defenses, and any feat which a character needs to perform his basic job a feat tax.  If a character can't perform his job with a moderate level of compentency without a feat, the feat is a feat tax.  Feats which how a character performs at his job but aren't esential are not feat taxes (i.e.-I would not consider backstabber a feat tax even though just about every rogue player I know takes the feat.).
Yes.  My current house rule is that the power swap feats are all combined: you take one, at the appropriate levels you get the benefit of the others.

Now, understand, there needs to be a cost for power swapping.  While the intent of the system may have been that powers of an equal level are equally powerful, that intent has never quite been true.  As your easiest example, consider the barbarian, where the "striker feature" is baked into the powers.  A Str/Wis avenger picking up Storm of Blades is doubling up on striker features, basically.  Or the ranger list of powers that are full of multi-attacks and off-actions.  Or the outlier powers like Rain of Blows.

So there should be a cost.  But it should not be a high cost: after all you're also giving up your best in-class power of the appropriate level in addition to the feat.  (Or from another perspective, your 3rd best in-class power for another classes best power)

So I've settled on "one feat, three swaps".  Your milage may vary.



I think I'll try this and see how it goes. Like many of the other decisions when it comes to house ruling classes, it seems to be a matter of whether or not making the average builds more viable at the cost of enabling some outliers. I only have one powergamer at my table, but he's quite reasonable, so I think I will tend to err on the side of making more builds viable at the potential risk of unwanted combinations.

By the way, Herid_Fel keeps reminding me that my current feat rebate system ("Versatile expertise, Melee training for melee classes, A freebee for o-assassins") effectively penalizes defenders who still have to take Improved Defenses.

I've heard his arguments, understood them, and chosen to continue going my own way.

Were I to try and create a more complex system, I'd probably do something along these lines:


  • Class specific fixes (assassins get "move shrouds", melee classes get melee training)

  • Feat Tax Rebate:  Depending on your roll, you may pick up one of the listed feats at 5th level.

    • Striker: Any Weapon Expertise feat, Weapon Proficiency, Weapon Focus, Implement Focus

    • Defender: Versatile Expertise, Improved Defenses, Lightning Reflexes, Iron Will, Great Fortitude

    • Controller: Versatile Expertise, Superior Implement Proficiency (Accurate Implement only)

    • Leader: Versatile Expertise, Heck if I know




And that sorta "er?" parts toward the end are why I don't. 

I might be convinced by a persuasive player to give out "one of Lightning Reflexes, Iron Will, or Great Fortitude.  The feat chosen must boost your lowest defense, or one of your lowest defenses if there is a tie" at 11th level.  But by 11th, you've got a bit more feat freedom, and so I see less need.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima


Also, taxes (whatever you consider them to be) are more frustating at heroic levels than higher levels. You kind of feel like you can't do what your character is supposed to be able to do until you get A, B, C, but that means you have to hold of on the more interesting stuff you want to be able to do with X, Y, Z. Ultimately, for a healthy game, either A, B, C needs to disappear, or if you feel A, B, C, despite feeling like tax, has the nice added value of character progression, the design spaces for A, B, C and X, Y, Z need to be separated.



But the rub is the feeling you need them early on, not the reality. Lets face it, Expertise attack bonuses really aren't a big deal until Epic, although they're sweet at Paragon and kind of nice in Heroic but they're really not a big difference at that point. It's the Op Mentality that makes people claim they're "taxes", not the reality. You could not take most of them until around Paragon and probably never really notice the difference at the actual table.

Except the kicker for Staff Expertise. That's totally awesome.
I have to agree with Gunthar. Most of the ones on the tax lists are ones I personally would leave off until I am running out of actually interesting feats to pick. +1 attack? Really? You're picking this instead of something that gives you new options or otherwise changes the way your character plays in a meaningful way? So that 1 time out of every few encounters you'll hit once instead of miss?
Getting into paragon/epic when they get up to +2/+3 and you have a significant number of feats anyways it makes more sense, but early on especially? I usually advise them for people who have no idea what feats exist and don't want to be bothered with researching. 

Personally, I would and have picked useless flavorful feats like Claw Fighter or Butcher's Lure over feat tax feats to get started with, and have absolutely no regrets. Butcher's Lure has been a great RP hook that's provided me for countless fun experiences adventure after adventure. Expertise sometime gets me an extra hit or an extra bit of damage that I completely forget about when the battle's over.
Eh... That's why I said whatever you consider them to be. Some don't think expertise is tax, some do. Some say melee training is tax for certain classes, some don't. I don't much care to impose a right or wrong interpretation there.

But I've never seen a rogue without backstabber or a ranger without weapon focus (or its racial equivalent) by level 4. I've never seen an avenger whose first feat at level 11 wasn't Painful Oath. This is all anecdotal, but I feel there is enough evidence out there that these things would have been better off either baked into the system or contained within their own design space, rather than presented as a feat option, competing with feats like Linguist, Underdark Climber, Long Jumper, Animal Empathy, or Halfling Fast Talk.
Wil took Painful Oath at 12th.  At 11th, Weapon Focus was a hair better.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

Wil took Painful Oath at 12th.  At 11th, Weapon Focus was a hair better.

With Versatile Master Twin Strike, I guess that would be a special case. And really, I would say you took Versatile Master instead of Painful Oath, which is another one of those "will take at level 11" feats...
While not a FEAT tax, I've heard of DM's handing out an item bonus to damage so people have more options in choosing their armbands.
Eh... That's why I said whatever you consider them to be. Some don't think expertise is tax, some do. Some say melee training is tax for certain classes, some don't. I don't much care to impose a right or wrong interpretation there.

But I've never seen a rogue without backstabber or a ranger without weapon focus (or its racial equivalent) by level 4. I've never seen an avenger whose first feat at level 11 wasn't Painful Oath. This is all anecdotal, but I feel there is enough evidence out there that these things would have been better off either baked into the system or contained within their own design space, rather than presented as a feat option, competing with feats like Linguist, Underdark Climber, Long Jumper, Animal Empathy, or Halfling Fast Talk.



There's a number of issues at work here. One is that an at-will damage boost (including accuracy boosts) are so fundamentally, unambiguously, universally good that they are basically the assumed right choice (doubly so in char op circles). Other choices seem like they need to be justified as to why they are good enough to beat them out, especially if we're talking about a striker. 

A piece of this is that they should be balancing like v like, as you allude to. Static damage/accuracy boosts should be strictly in competition with things like +HP, +Defenses, +HS, etc. Learning new skills should be in competion with skill boosts, and maybe openning up other non-combat oriented advantages (like Linguist, or the various Wilderness Knacks). And combat tweaks should be competing with other combat tweaks (by which I mean things that add or modify options, particulary 1/enc type options and such. For example bonuses on Second Wind, gaining a bonus 1/enc power, or boosting a racial power).

Even a system that, say, categorized feats something like the above and then made it so you could only have two more of one category than you have of another, or something, would help. But ideal would be for them to be entirely seperate resource pools.

Edit to add: Beyond that, there's also of course the simple optimization bias, which is different for different people. Some people seem to feel that if they don't have Backstabber they will fail at D&D, where failing at D&D in this case means occasionally an encounter takes one more round and they still win. Others just simply -want- to do more damage, among the various choices they can chose from, so they pick Backstabber as a way to do that. But it's kinda rare to play a rogue that doesn't have damage dealing on their priority list somewhere reasonably high, so a level 30 rogue without backstabber would be a pretty rare sight, I'm sure. 
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