Specialties feel lackluster

I'm a big fan of backgrounds (am I right that backgrounds and skills became obligatory/non-optional with the latest packet?), as I just love what they do for character creation and gameplay. Specialties, on the other hand, left my group and me flat.

As I understand, feats are optional element at the moment. You can have them, or you can play without feats, yet if someone in the group decides not to use them, it'll just mean that player's character falls a little behind everyone else due to limited options. Without right feats you can't e.g. track or deal with magic traps.

Another problem lies in the presentation. Choosing specialty, I don't know what will be required from my character unless I check each feat listed. Should I fail to meet the prerequisites, I'll be unable to complete the specialty. Arguably that is not a big deal, since I could just choose some other feat as a replacement - but then what's the point in using specialties in the first place, and more than that - listing them on the character sheet? Isn't their function undermined by that fact? Listing some suggestions or actual feat prerequisites along with their descriptions might help.

The reason I find specialties utterly dull is that they simply don't matter at all. They're nothing more than a fancy name attached to a very simple concept: pre-gen thematic/functional sets of feats. Sure, the descriptions suggest something - eg. Survivor is supposed to be tough, and if he or she follows the specialty, it'll be true. But player who chooses to play a Survivor can deviate from the list at any point.

I'd love to see specialties redesigned in the near future. Maybe following a specialty (choosing one and at least one listed feat) provides some benefit or recognition, similar to the backgrounds? And completing the list grants some extra little advantage, so there is at least some incentive to do that?

That might be a bit too much - yet I don't see much reason in keeping specialties in game as they are now, optional game element which sole function is a "secondary background".
I have kinda felt that way since packet 3 (packet 2 didn't give individual feats).  I guess it helps new players pick Feats that (supposedly) mesh together, but after one or two characters, a player should be able to read the Feats and choose for themselves. Considering that Backgrounds actually seems to add something to your character (the Trait) and Specialties don't, I suspect most groups will not use Specialties and just allow players to pick their own Feats.

I think a primary purpose behind specialties originally was to give the DM an option to limit player choices on Feats. I remember an old discussion (early last year?) where they talked about DMs give the players options like "use Backgrounds with 1 change, and Theme (as they were called them) as listed" or "use Backgrounds and Themes with full customization," so that the DM could determine how much flexibility players had. I thought it a neat idea at the time, until I actually saw the Backgrounds and Specialties and realized that those restrictions would REALLY hamper character concepts.

I'm sure most of this idea, however, is DOA. Backgrounds (as of current packet) are fully customizable, and even Specialties allow you a little leeway (such as changing the order of gaining the Feats). Unless they change Specialties to add something other than Feats (like Backgrounds do Skills), then I doubt any of the groups I play with will use them.
One way to add functionality to Speciality is allowing them to by pass feat requirements.
I have to agree. Back when they were Themes, they at least added some story to your character.  Now they're just a few words describing why your feats are such a limited group.  I mean, who really wants to spend all their feats on the same aspect of their character anyway?  Specialties are too... specialized.   And not thematic enough.  

Bring back the theme!
I have to agree. Back when they were Themes, they at least added some story to your character.  Now they're just a few words describing why your feats are such a limited group.  I mean, who really wants to spend all their feats on the same aspect of their character anyway?  Specialties are too... specialized.   And not thematic enough.  

Bring back the theme!



I agree....given the choice, I liked themes better...no one in my gaming group needs help selecting feats. I mean, I guess its nice as a "if you are new to the game" kind of thing...and I realize all hobbies must keep the new blood flowing...but how many people play D&D for the first time with others who have also never played it before? In any event,  the wide range of themes, contrary to the sparse specialties, really have sparked some fascinating character story arcs, even if they didn't provided much in the way of mechanical crunch/guidance...

Given the design goals of 5E the aggregate of all past PHB classes should be present in the 5E PHB: Barbarian, Ranger, Rogue, Assassin, Monk, Fighter, Warlord, Paladin, Cleric/Priest, Psion, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard/Mage/Illusionist, Bard, and Druid. Add in one or two Gish/variants and call it perfect.

In any event,  the wide range of themes, contrary to the sparse specialties, really have sparked some fascinating character story arcs, even if they didn't provided much in the way of mechanical crunch/guidance...



Exactly! Even if you pick your feats, or swap out one or two, picking a Theme still added something to your character, if only in story ideas.  Picking specialty adds... pretty much nothing. 

I suppose it's possible that they only intend specialties to be a quick way to build a character or for newbies, but I think it's selling the whole concept a bit short.

I have been complaining about this to WotC since they introduced them. There's really no difference between this and the 'suggested feat' entries in 3e/4e character classes. 

Specialties should be more akin to 4e themes and 5e backgrounds, with some flavourful little extra thing that is granted. 

Likewise, feats/specialties should continue through levels 11-20. It's easy to house-rule getting a second specialty at 11th level, but why isn't that just how they work to begin with?  

Themes were one of my favorite additions in 4e and I feel like they've dropped the ball so far in implementing them or their analogue in 5e thus far. 
Specialties/backgrounds are pointless without more meat on their bones. Backgrounds have the "traits" which provide mostly roleplaying advantages that are next-to-useless once players earn a couple gold pieces. I like the idea, but the execution is just bad and too specific.

Besides that, specialties/backgrounds are just bags of skills and feats for new players who don't like reading. Even then, you still have to find the respective feats to learn what they actually do.
The core idea of Specialties, if I've understood the Dev team's discussions on the topic correctly, is to prevent feat bloat and exploitation by only introducing feats that are made to work in-tandem with one another.  The feats are designed as part of a whole, rather than each feat balanced as if it was taken all on its lonesome. 

However, the influx of Martial, Expertise, and Magical feats has thrown a wrench into that design.  I believe these concepts are in flux right now, however.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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I think people are missing the part of the Specialties and Feats document that specifically says you can replace any of the feats in a Specialty with whatever feat you want (as long as you meet the prerequisites). Even if your DM says you have to use Specialties as written, they already allow you to choose your own feats as written.

For the record, it's the same with Backgrounds; it says that you choose a Background, gain the trait, then pick any four skills that you want to. It lists suggested skills, but doesn't require you to choose them.

Choosing your own feats and skills isn't a module or option now, it's right there in the base rules.
@JRutterbush - I know. Then again, what's the point in specialties? I just can't figure out any real function for them. If they're supposed to help in NPC generation, maybe they should be a DM option. For players they are just "suggested (starting) feat" times four, for the entire career.

As I see it, Specialties should be redesigned as story elements, with added traits or similar benefits (not unlike Backgrouds).
The point of Specialties right now is just a set of prepackaged feats, so you don't have to dig through the whole list to build a character.  If you are trying to build an archer fighter, instead of going through the whole feat list to find the couple of applicable feats, you can look at the Archer Specialty and know immediately which feats you should take.

That's it.  They are build suggestions for people who want them.  It also factors into the "basic" version of the game, where character creation is more limited - you make four decisions (race, class, background, specialty) and BAM yer done.

You might prefer to handpick your feats.  Fantastic, feel free to ignore Specialties if you want.  Others will find them helpful, so I don't begrudge a couple of pages in the document dedicated to that.
That's easy to see. Still, it's lacking, with almost no story attached, no mechanical benefits (even something like "you can ignore ability requirements of your specialty feats"), no restrictions ("if you choose to followa a specialty, you can take the feats listed in any order, but no other deviation is allowed").

Besides, the "optional" nature of feats isn't very clear with some core class features made into bonus feats (see Rogue, Monk, Ranger, or Fighter).

Currently specialties are not a "game element" (as they have no effect whatsoever by themselves, they only list some feats the same way a background lists sample skills), but only a sorting method and a character creation tool. A variant of an option which is nevertheless targeted at beginners? Just why?

To have any meaning, specialties needs something that'd differentiate them from bare "suggested feats" lists.
That's easy to see. Still, it's lacking, with almost no story attached, no mechanical benefits (even something like "you can ignore ability requirements of your specialty feats"), no restrictions ("if you choose to followa a specialty, you can take the feats listed in any order, but no other deviation is allowed").

Besides, the "optional" nature of feats isn't very clear with some core class features made into bonus feats (see Rogue, Monk, Ranger, or Fighter).

Currently specialties are not a "game element" (as they have no effect whatsoever by themselves, they only list some feats the same way a background lists sample skills), but only a sorting method and a character creation tool. A variant of an option which is nevertheless targeted at beginners? Just why?

To have any meaning, specialties needs something that'd differentiate them from bare "suggested feats" lists.



I can't disagree more. It's just an organizational principle to make character generation and feat selection easier for beginners, full stop. Why add a whole bunch of fluffy (or mechanical) nonsense to that? Specialities have very simple job to do, they do that job well. If the point is to increase simplicity, only for one particular class of player, what is the point of making that simplicity more complicated?

If specialties had any true mechanical value, their value to players like me, which is that they can be completely ignored, would be lost. 


I can't disagree more. It's just an organizational principle to make character generation and feat selection easier for beginners, full stop. Why add a whole bunch of fluffy (or mechanical) nonsense to that? Specialities have very simple job to do, they do that job well. If the point is to increase simplicity, only for one particular class of player, what is the point of making that simplicity more complicated?

If specialties had any true mechanical value, their value to players like me, which is that they can be completely ignored, would be lost. 



This.  

The only thing that needs to be changed is that the role of Specialties as "example/guideline" should be emphasized more.  As presented it feels like you're supposed to pick one of the examples, while inventing your own (with the help of your DM) is the edge case, for experts.  Specialties are just meant to give some coherency to the choices you make.
"Therefore, you are the crapper, I'm merely the vessel through which you crap." -- akaddk
In which case we really are back to just picking whichever feats we want, with little regard for the story of how they got there.

Too bad, IMO.  I would have used Themes, the way they were in the first packet.

As an aside, on the subject of feats:  How can they claim that feats are optional (to play with at all), if they give classes features that give free feats?
I haven't been remotely happy with specialties since they pulled the feat descriptions out of them. I don't want specialties to simply be a list of suggested feats. I want them to be the choice a character makes, and I want the feats specifically designed to support the specialty.

I liked it much better back when choosing individual feats essentially required building a custom theme, using the others as examples. You had to come up with a story for it.
You had to come up with a story for it.



What's the story behind being a dual-wielder or archer, though? Looking at most of the specialties/themes, the "story" behind them is really nothing more than "my character chose to learn how to do X."
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