Mastery of the Rules, pt 1: Building a Character

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One of the designers had a good point- there is too much of a gap between knowing how to play and mastering the rules. This is true in terms of both building characters and the more obscure points of in-game play.

We've had some discussion of complex and relatively obscure things like the grapple rules, turn undead, etc, as well as simpler things that are often misunderstood like exactly what a diplomacy check or Summon Monster can do.

I've seen some mention of the process of building a character, but I'd like to go further into that here. This has been touched upon in other threads in the context of separate issues, but here we can talk about building a character in general.

Is it more complicated than it needs to be? Either in terms of building a basic character to begin with, or making an optimized build?

I think it is. We wind up having to plan our builds 1-20, even if we're just building a 1st level character. We make tradeoffs, with less power now to get more power later, or vice versa. We have to pick just the right feats, because we only get a few. Skill points are tedious. Prerequisites for feats and prestige classes must be carefully managed.

This all becomes more apparent upon visiting the Character Optimization boards. There you will see characters with two levels each in seven different classes, with material drawn from 20 different books, and progressions meticulously planned to squeeze out every last bit of advantage. Often, certain builds are widely acknowledged as superior.

I don't mean to offend those players. They are advanced players who are very good with the system and understand it on a level that others don't. Their skill is valuable in the making of a new edition.

But in a way, that's part of the problem. The gap between just knowing how to play and that level of mastery is too wide. It's too easy to make a weak character and too hard to make a strong one. Two characters of the same level (even of the same or similar classes) wind up having different degrees of power.

There will always be min/maxing in any system, and that's fine. It's a good thing, really. Many players enjoy that aspect of the game. I do somewhat. Also, not all spells and feats for example, are created equal. It's okay if Power Attack is generally better than Defensive Strike, as long as the latter is not so bad that it hampers the characters who take it. If it's never worth space on a character sheet, then it's not worth space in a book.

I think what it comes down to is this:

Building a good (as in mechanically sound) character should be intuitive. The choices that seem to fit should fit. You want a Fighter with a greatsword? Okay, take Power Attack, Cleave, and greatsword maneuvers. Feats with names like "Crushing Attack" and "Meat Cleaver" should be good choices.

If a player decides that he want his Sorcerer to have Skill Focus in Initiative and Perception, well that makes enough sense that it shouldn't suck.

Building a bad character should be counterintuitive. If you ask the player of a poorly built character what he was thinking, expect to hear "I just grabbed stuff at random. I don't really care." (And yes, some players are like that.) If instead his answer is "Well, I thought that ability would be useful for this character." then maybe it's not his fault.
I agree with you sir. That's why I advocate the removal of useless feats, talents, spells, ect because some people will evidently choose them. If you show pictures of fireballs, mages using fireballs, ect. make sure that fireball is a great spell!

If you're going to make a core prestige class, and refer to it in future books, be sure that it's actually good and worth taking.

If you have really good fluff for that feat you just made, be sure that the mechanics back up that cool description and picture!

But by seeing Saga, I think that Wizards is trying to make every class more useful, and by having so many options and choices, no one character should be able to fill every role or solve every problem.

I've got high hopes
I really agree with the turn undead point. I think it should be classified as a divine spell. Period. Grapple should be an opposed dex/str check. Period. Diplomacy could be either a base or opposed charisma check. Summon monster should be an arcane spell that summons a monster of a certain level/power depending on spell level or character level.

I know I'm being too direct, as I know you're not asking for specific solutions, but you get the point, no? If not, the point is that while we may have complex/quirky rules, they can typically be pretty easily solved.

I suppose it just comes down to how simple you want the system to be. For me, for ease and rhythm/flow of play, it should be as simple as possible while allowing the most possible flexibility. Thankfully, simplicity and ease of use go hand in hand. The rules are meant to be a guide, right? Then let the rules be the guide, not nitpicky, strict, and confusing. Make the greatest use of common sense possible while still maintaining a standard to allow conflict-free play.

My $0.02.
How do you define bad? I mean - even a fighter who spent all his feats on toughness and weapon focus feat tree can still whack with a sword.

My only idea is that they may tone down the challenges somewhat so that even unoptimized builds would stand a fair chance of overcoming them (I suspect this was the case with the 3.5 MM). Meaning that optimized builds will have no trouble bulldozing right through them.
Absolutely cerberuspuppy. I'm glad to hear the designers are aware of this. I was more than a little bothered that dodge was still in saga (and with improved defenses- that's so irritating!) considering that is supposed to be a sort-of preview of 4e. Do you have a link?
Building a good (as in mechanically sound) character should be intuitive. The choices that seem to fit should fit. You want a Fighter with a greatsword? Okay, take Power Attack, Cleave, and greatsword maneuvers. Feats with names like "Crushing Attack" and "Meat Cleaver" should be good choices.

If a player decides that he want his Sorcerer to have Skill Focus in Initiative and Perception, well that makes enough sense that it shouldn't suck.

Building a bad character should be counterintuitive. If you ask the player of a poorly built character what he was thinking, expect to hear "I just grabbed stuff at random. I don't really care." (And yes, some players are like that.) If instead his answer is "Well, I thought that ability would be useful for this character." then maybe it's not his fault.

I agree with this point. There should be room for people to build 'better at doing x niche' characters, but any player playing a class should be able to see a fairly clear variety of choices that are all useful. There shouldn't be useless fluff, and there shouldn't be horribly obscure bits and pieces that somehow accomplish the impossible and turn you into Superman.

I would also like to see feats become more balanced. I understand some will remain more powerful than others, but I would like to see that degree of difference reduced. Feats should scale with levels as appropriate, or based on your ability scores. Power Attack already scales based on your Base Attack Bonus. I'd like to see other feats scale to reduce the disparity of usefulness that exists.
Excellent post.

I'm from the CO boards, and for a long time when I couldn't find actual games to play, I just crunched builds and became extremely familiar with the rules and the splatbook synergies. But when I started playing again, I found that nobody else was like me. I kept trying to help out people I played with with character decisions. "Oh by the way, if that's your vision for your dude's combat style, you might want to..."

When people make bad decisions, they ought to be punished for it, to encourage good decision-making. That's the premise of rules. The problem in 3.5E, as you said, is that you don't know what the hell you're doing if you haven't spent a year nerding it up on the CO board. That's bad game design, and the players shouldn't be at fault for having lives outside of this game.

Part of the problem is power creep:

1. Loremaster is a decent option in Core. But once you add in Complete Arcane, Complete Mage, PHBII, the Loremaster is crap.

2. Dodge/Mobility/Spring Attack was like the default dextrous-meleer-feat-tree in Core. (What else was there? Nothing.) But once you throw in all the cool feats in splatbooks, those three look pretty darn silly.

But part of it is the inherent structure of prerequisites in 3.5E:

Skills and feats were originally bought to be used. But add in prestige classes, and now you have to plan your character in Excel a week before the game even starts, because you gotta make sure you buy enough ranks in the right skills and the right feats in time so you can get into the prestige class you want. This is really unfortunate. Feats and skills were meant to be used, not wasted to purchase a prestige class.

I think prestige class prereqs should stop involving so many *******ed feats and so many awkward combinations of skill points just to set a level limit. That was really a retarded thing. Instead of requiring a character to be level 5 before entering, they would always require "Hide 8 ranks" or some crap. Come on, just require a certain level, two feats/class features max, maybe a roleplaying requirement, and be done with it!
Well, power creep is part of it, but the sheer volume of material to cover is another. You can of course make an effective character with only a few books, and that keeps it more manageable, but then you get things like Arcane Strike being in Complete Warrior. I wound up photocopying that page so I would have one less book to carry around for my gish.

On that subject, I could never have built my Knight Phantom without input from the CO boards. He's a far cry from uber-optimized, but there are so many ways that I could have screwed up that build if I had attempted it on my own, and like I said, I've been playing 3E from day one.

I think it's telling that we have here a player with my experience (and frankly, intelligence) still having trouble with builds, and especially telling to hear a CharOp veteran saying the learning curve is too high.

That is a good point about the prereqs for PRC being a problem in themselves; I hadn't really considered that.
One of the problems I have is that published adventures seem to expect you to have an optimized character. I understand what an optimized character is. I understand how to build one. I don't always do so. I like some of the less optimized feats/spells. I thought my dark swordsman taking intimidating strike was cool. I like the fireball spell from a rp standpoint so I use them. I understand I could use more "effective" choices I just choose not too. I don't see my character as "gimped" or the like. I see him as a "normal" power-level character. The game seems to run on high octane being normal and everything else is weak. That rubs me wrong.
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I had a fairly long gaming break between 2e Player's Option & 3.5 due to work issues. When I came back into playing I hadn't a clue how to optomize my character and only the three basic books to work from.

I chose a human wizard and took as feats Toughness (to survive low levels) and a martial proficiency for Roleplaying more than anything. The next available Feat was No Material Components. Then I took an Empower Spell Feat (or something like that). Then I took Leadership.

After this I discovered that I was never in melee and didn't need a martial proficiency (cause I wasn't going to be able to make magic weapons like I thought I would) or the toughness. My DM didn't check on Material Components ever so I didn't need that feat at all. Leadership didn't allow multiple cohorts so that Feat was down the tubes for both Role Playing and effectiveness. Then I was surprised by a Fiendish Behir and swallowed and realized that there was a thing called "Spell resistance" that had Feats that better enabled a caster to survive these type creatures.

When an effective newbie can pick that bad on his first five feats on his first character and not come anywhere close to the original character he has envisioned the Rules are probably too complex.

What really ticked me off, though, was that it was effectively impossible to salvage the character. Wasted feats are gone forever and can't be corrected through better choices at later levels. My character was broke at level 7 (actually at level 2, I just didn't know it then). A (relatively) new player should not need to understand game play at higher levels to make good choices at character creation.
I agree 1,456.72% with the original post. Thank you for putting my main gripe much better than I ever could have! If 4th Edition manages to pull this off, then Wizards will have earned themselves a life customer.
Just to play devil´s advocate:

How do you propose to make building a character "intuitive" without radically cutting down options?
Sure, there are countless feats (and spells) you´ll never need (unless your DM specifically designs adventures/campaigns to make them useful...). But if all the "useless" or "bad choice" feats are culled, how many feats will still be there? And will we even be able to agree which feats are "useful"?

Prerequisites for PrCs should be dropped? Ok, no problem. But how do you want to prevent people from abusing this new "freedom"? If just having 5 levels in any core class allows me to take levels in "Superman/-elf", how many uber-"characters" will show up on the OP-boards 5 min after the rules are out? We all know that optimized characters CAN break the game...

Salvaging characters is another problem. Of course, allowing players to "correct" bad choices they made (be it because of incomplete knowledge of options or because of misconceptions about the DM´s plans) seems to be a good idea. But what´s the point of building a fighter if I can just "polymorph" him into a wizard when I´m bored with swinging a sword? And where´s the continuity if all the PCs change appearance and abilities everytime they get together?

While I agree with the above posts, I don´t think we should forget that nearly everytime you solve one problem, two new show up...
I think that most of the difficulties in building a poor character are fixed by the inclusion of the retraining rules in the PHB II. Hopefully, they will have some variation on those rules available in 4E.

I also agree, however, that clearly suboptimal choices should be removed in favor of a larger number of solid options. It is annoying to see space wasted on skills and feats that no one takes.
One problem I have with the "counter intuitive" aspects of 3.X character building is the use of different feats to get the same idea.
Shadow Dancer requires dodge and mobility while another "agile melee" build requires combat expertise.
Combat reflexes sounds like something that would give a dodge bonus, but instead allows for additional attacks of opportunity.

Dump dodge, combat reflexes, and combat expertise.
Make "agile fighter" into a dodge bonus vs all enemies built along the same lines as power attack, one for one bonus with no cap. Roll all dodge dependent feats/abilities/PrCs over to agile fighter.

Make it so that someone working on a PrC build doesn't rip up the character sheet when the DM says "I'm not allowing that PrC, but you can take this other one" or when a better PrC for the same concept comes out needing 3 different feats.

I do understand the x ranks skill pre-requisites in some cases, making it X level of class Y would not guarantee the skills needed. But sometimes the feats required for a PrC appear to have been plucked from the book at random.
The thing that scares me is the rumor on the skills table going away.( tumble , bluff and ect.) That is where your character gets defined. That is my main concern I hope they keep it. It what makes the game fun for me.
The problem is that feats that seem like "poor choices" or "stupid choices" for some characters are extremely useful and smart choices for other characters.


A good example of that would be the various feats which give +2 to various skills and the skill focus feat. For many characters, those aren't very good feats. However, my bard character benefits from those feats a lot because a lot of my abilities rely on my perform checks -which would normally be limited to the max amount of ranks I could purchase without those feats. So how to place a value on a feat or skill? It may not benefit you, but it probably benefits someone else.



I also see a lot of people saying that 3rd edition is overly complicated. I'm not a 4th Edition naysayer, and I sincerely do look forward to 4th edition, but I've never considered 3rd edition to be overly complicated. Everything is based on the same mechanice: 1D20 + relevant modifiers


The only rules that I ever have a hard time remembering are the turn undead rules because they follow a different sort of mechanics; also because I usually don't play clerics.

One of my big concerns is that the game is going to become too simple. I understand the idea behind making the game easier to learn; however, I'm the type of player who likes to be able to dive deeper into things if I want to. I like having the ability to modify and manipulate parts of the game on a more complex scale if I choose to. One of the reasons I play D&D is because it excercises my mind; some of the 4th edition discussions make me a little afraid that the game might become too simple. A lot of people say that it will still be the same game, but it doesn't sound as though I'll be able to do all of the things I can do with the game now.
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Just to play devil´s advocate:

No problem. That can often be useful.

How do you propose to make building a character "intuitive" without radically cutting down options?
Sure, there are countless feats (and spells) you´ll never need (unless your DM specifically designs adventures/campaigns to make them useful...). But if all the "useless" or "bad choice" feats are culled, how many feats will still be there? And will we even be able to agree which feats are "useful"?

I do think options should be culled down somewhat. Partly this will be taken care of by the new approach. IIRC, they will be doing "PHB 2, PHB 3", etc. instead of the 3E "Races of X" and "Complete X" books. Not only would that reduce the number of books to buy, but it would also make for a more concentrated page count and provide incentive to make every feat and spell more worthwhile.

The other part of that equation is making good choices stand out better. Mentar mentioned the names of feats, and the fact that some niches in feats don't seem to be as solidly filled as they could be, while others are not what they should be. Dodge, for example, should just be +1 AC all the time, period. (well, unless you're flat footed of course)

I should also be clear that I don't mean they should type in the description "This is a good feat for Sorcerers." What I mean is that the fluff should fit the crunch well enough to help new players and hard core roleplayers pick feats. It's clear that Power Attack and Cleave are excellent choices for a Fighter with a greatsword. So follow that example.

Nor do I mean that they should tell people how to build their characters, though blurbs of advice might be a good idea.

And to return to my example of the quick and keen eyed Sorcerer (which I'm actually adapting from an old 3E game) it made sense to that player to take Skill Focus in Perception and Initiative. He wanted to be able to spot targets and act first, to blast them quickly or maybe get a buff up before the arrows started flying. That choice shouldn't suck. Nor should Skill Focus in Persuasion or Deception; Sorcerers have high Charisma, and should be able to be the face of the party.

This player is being logical in his selections and he's not metagaming, so let's throw him a bone. It's not like he's trying to turn his Sorcerer into a tank. He's just trying to diversify his skills a little, and as long as he's willing to make that investment, his more well rounded character should not be flat out inferior to a dedicated blaster.

In a way, this is similar to making it so a player can use his favorite weapons with a Fighter and still build a strong one.

By contrast, look at how counter-intuitive many optimized builds are. Not just complicated and convoluted, but to the point where no one would ever think this stuff up without months of studying hundreds of combinations of classes, races, spells, and feats from a dozen different books. Especially if you try to view it from a roleplaying angle. (Why am I a Dragonslayer again?" "What's this Ur-Priest... oh, that sounds nasty..." "Do I go with the Whisper Gnome, or the 900 Block of Spooner Street in Waterdeep Halfling subrace?")

Prerequisites for PrCs should be dropped? Ok, no problem. But how do you want to prevent people from abusing this new "freedom"? If just having 5 levels in any core class allows me to take levels in "Superman/-elf", how many uber-"characters" will show up on the OP-boards 5 min after the rules are out? We all know that optimized characters CAN break the game...

No, not dropped, just streamlined. PRC requirements should make sense.

It's okay if a PRC requires a skill, if that skill is central to the class. Of course Cavalier should require Ride. Archmage require Spellcraft and/or Knowledge Arcana. That's fine; it makes sense and it's something that such a character will actually be using.

Using skill ranks just to force a minimum level or a specific combination of classes, though, was annoying.

Same with feats. If the class is built upon it, then it should be required. That way you can make the PRC reference that feat and build upon it. To continue with the Cavalier example, yeah they should be required to have Mounted Combat.

But making you dump a feat on something that really isn't useful is just trying to make the class "cost more", as if that makes use of weak feats.

(FWIW, in 4E we will most likely have more, but weaker feats; the threshold for a good one will be lower.)

I can understand if a PRC has tough requirements, or can only be achieved after a certain level, but why not just be more forthright about it? Why not just say "character level 6" in the requirements? Cut to the chase and CYA in case some crazy thing happens later to circumvent your other requirements. Leadership has that exact same prerequisite, and it's just a feat.

More specific requirements are needed of course, but that's where feats, skills, and role playing requirements come in. (Remember the Dragonslayer PRC? That doesn't require you to... slay a dragon? ) Say there's a Berserker PRC; that should require Power Attack, Cleave, and Rage (feat? talent?) as well as maybe Survival.

Again, to be clear, I'm not saying PRC should be easier to manipulate. I think prestige classes need to be reigned in ALOT, but that's another thread.

Salvaging characters is another problem. Of course, allowing players to "correct" bad choices they made (be it because of incomplete knowledge of options or because of misconceptions about the DM´s plans) seems to be a good idea. But what´s the point of building a fighter if I can just "polymorph" him into a wizard when I´m bored with swinging a sword? And where´s the continuity if all the PCs change appearance and abilities everytime they get together?

There will be retraining rules in the 4E PHB. I'm 90% sure that has been confirmed.
Yes, of course some feats are excellent for one character, but terrible for another. That's natural and good. That helps characters distinguish themselves.

It's just a question of how often a feat will be useful to players as a whole. Like I've said, if it's never worth space on a character sheet, then it's probably not worth space in a book.
I agree with the base intent of the original posting.

Here are some of my thoughts that I do not believe have been discussed thus far.

(1) Multi-classing should work regardless of order one acquires level in the base classes. You should not get a much better character if you start 1st level as a rogue and at 2nd level take a level in fighter than if you do things the other way around. This particular issue is due to the 1st character level front-loading of skill points.

If one argues that 1st character level should include "more than one levels worth" of gains because one has already lived 15-25 years when you start at first level than make other aspects of classes apply only at 1st character level to provide some sort of balance.

For instance, if one starts as a rogue, one gains a boost to skill points, but if one starts as a fighter, all the weapons (except exotic), armor, and shield feats are granted. If one switches to fighter, one then would not gain all the feats automatically.

Of course this creates difficult balancing options and makes things more difficult to create higher level characters (especially NPCs) as order still matters, it is just not clearly in favor one direction or the other.

The better option would be to remove front-loading at 1st character level entirely. One house-rule I have used built characters at 0th level (3xbase skill points, etc.) before you apply the first class level. I'm sure there are other better and more creative options for handling this.

(2) Multi-classes should provide support for character concepts minimizing the need for prestige classes and should not allow for overly easy min-maxing. The current 3.0/3.5 XP penalties system is a poor way to prevent min-maxing.

For instance, anyone who takes one level of fighter gains access to all armors, all shields, and all martial weapons, plus gains a fighter feat, and a +2 bump to Fortitude saves.

The problem with most of the classes is that there is a great deal of front-loading of classes such that one gains a lot from taking one level (1st level) of the class. It is a small hit for someone to take a level of fighter to greatly expand his weapon choices, get a bump to a poor save, and get a fighting feat to boot. Or for one to take a level of rogue and max out one skill that was not available to them otherwise.

(3) Feat trees should be shortened and have cleaner prereqs. This would reduce the level of planning ahead needed.

For instance most of the ranged feats require point blank shot as a prereq. This is an unnecessary initial feat prereq.

Is the minimum BABs really needed for many combat feats? Could one not clean it up by stating minimum character level required?

If it is balanced for a fighter to take at 6th level (BAB +6), how does it become unbalanced for a rogue to take it at the same level? The only feats this would introduce some peculiarities with is two-weapon fighting as it is designed to mirror the primary iterative attack progression. But hopefully 4th Ed will be cleaning up iterative attacks such that two-weapon attacks can also be cleaned up as well.

Do feats really need minimum ability requirements, especially those that increase by 2 per additional step in the feat tree? What is the benefit from a game balance perspective in preventing (or minimizing the chance for) the character to have combat expertise (INT), power attack (STR), and two-weapon fighting (DEX)? You have created a multi-purpose melee combatant rather than a specialist. However, to do so with the min ability requirements would reduce the chance of someone playing that style character.

By cleaning up the feats, one could develop characters as one advanced rather than pre-planning everything ahead.

That's all for now.
Deleted because somehow double-posted.
I'm pretty sure that feat trees are gone altogether. Feats will have probably have requirements more in line with minimum class level or a trained skill/skill rank then requiring other feats.

This will make feat selection at least slightly more intuitive because you won't have to go down a chain of feats to get the one you actually want.

A lot of current feats that represent combat functions will probably be rolled into base combat functions or class abilities. DnD characters in 3.5 are suprisingly inept without an array of feats, particularly the fighter.
My biggest concern with 4ed is skills. My sincere hope is the take a look at skills with fresh eyes. They claim their going to make things count from level 1 on. Skills and ability scores should go hand in hand. One of my bigger frustrations was my cleric with a Charisma score of 16 was never really the face of the party because my Intellience was too low to afford the skill points in Diplomacy compared to the Wizard with the 12 Charisma and the points extra to "dump" in diplomacy. With the Skill tricks being split into Interaction, Movement and Manipulation in 3.5, perhaps they will make a larger jump in 4.0 to tie types of skills and points with their requisite ability score. For example, Social skills like diplomacy and gather information based off of Charisma... Intuitive skills like survival, spot and listen based off of wisdom, Intellectual skills based off of Int. Ect.
I would also like to see feats become more balanced. I understand some will remain more powerful than others, but I would like to see that degree of difference reduced. Feats should scale with levels as appropriate, or based on your ability scores. Power Attack already scales based on your Base Attack Bonus. I'd like to see other feats scale to reduce the disparity of usefulness that exists.

Except that Power Attack doesn't scale with level. You're almost always statistically better off never power attacking for more than a -3 penalty (barring wraithstrike or Shock Trooper), because the return to investment ratio never changes. If the feat scaled, then one would expect that higher penalties might actually be beneficial. A character with a +20 BAB and Power Attack should want to take a big penalty.

For that to happen, the ratio must scale with level to compensate for increased ACs of enemies and the increased base damage modifiers that come at higher levels.

For example, Power Attack might be 1:1/1:2 when you first get it. Once your BAB hits +6, however, it might increase to 1:2/1:4. At +11 it becomes 1:3/1:6, and at +16 it becomes 1:4/1:8. Now, I'm just pulling these numbers out of my posterior, of course, but you get the idea. I chose +6/+11/+16 because they're the critical BAB points.

Even better, you might have the ratio increase not with your character's BAB, but with the penalty that you take. For instance, the ratios are 1:1/1:2 for penalties <=5, and then 1:2/1:4 for penalties <=10, and so on. That would reward people for taking larger penalties, which is something we want.

Honestly, I'm in agreement with the assessment of feats in the "Races of War" thread (here)

[size=5]The Failure of Feats[/size]
"How about instead of being able to travel anywhere in the multiverse, transform yourself into anything you can think of, stop time, and slay everyone you can see, we just give a nice +1 to hit with your secondary weapon? Deal?"

Feats were an interesting idea when they were ported to 3rd edition D&D. But let's face it; they don't go nearly far enough. Feats were made extremely conservative in their effects on the game because the authors didn't want to offend people with too radical a change. Well, now we've had third edition for 6 years, and we're offended. Feats are an interesting and tangible way to get unique abilities onto a character, but they have fallen prey to two key fallacies that has ended up turning the entire concept to ashes in our mouths. The first is the idea that if you think of something kind of cool for a character to do, you should make it a feat. That sounds compelling, but you only get 7 feats in your whole life. If you have to spend a feat for every cool thing you ever do, you're not going to do very many cool things in the approximately 260 encounters you'll have on your way from 1st to 20th level. The second is the idea that a feat should be equivalent to a cantrip or two. This one is even less excusable and just makes us cry. A +1 bonus is something that you seriously might forget that you even have. Having one more +1 bonus doesn't make your character unique, it makes you a sucker for spending one of the half dozen feats you'll ever see on a bonus the other players won't even mention when discussing your character.

We all understand this problem, what do we do about it? Well, for starters, Feats have to do more things. Many characters are 5th level or so, and they only have 2 feats. Those feats should describe their character in a much more salient way than "I'm no worse shooting into melee than I am shooting at people with cover who aren't my friends." This was begun with the tactical feats, but it didn't go far enough. It's not enough to add additional feats that do something halfway interesting for high level characters to have – we actually have to replace the stupid one dimensional feats in the PHB with feats that rational people would care about in any way. Spending a single feat should be enough to make you a "sniper character," because for a substantial portion of your life you only get one feat. Secondly, we have to clear away feats that don't provide numeric bonuses large enough to care about. The minimum bonus you'll ever notice is +3, because that's actually larger than the difference between having rolled well and having rolled poorly on your starting stats. Numeric bonuses smaller than that are actually insulting and need to be removed from the feats altogether. 3.5 Skill Focus was a nice start, but that's all it was – a start.

Furthermore, the fundamental structure of feats has been a disaster. The system of prerequisites often ensures that characters won't get an ability before it would be level appropriate for them to do so, but actually does nothing to ensure that such characters are in fact getting level appropriate abilities. Indeed, if 12th level characters decide that they want to pursue a career in shooting people in the face, they have to start all over gaining an ability that is supposed to be level appropriate for a 1st level character. Meanwhile, when a wizard of 12th level decides to pursue some new direction in spellcasting – he learns a new 6th level spell right off – and gets an ability that's level appropriate for a 12th level character.

I'm pretty sure that feat trees are gone altogether. Feats will have probably have requirements more in line with minimum class level or a trained skill/skill rank then requiring other feats.

This will make feat selection at least slightly more intuitive because you won't have to go down a chain of feats to get the one you actually want.

A lot of current feats that represent combat functions will probably be rolled into base combat functions or class abilities. DnD characters in 3.5 are suprisingly inept without an array of feats, particularly the fighter.

Link? Quote?
For example, Power Attack might be 1:1/1:2 when you first get it. Once your BAB hits +6, however, it might increase to 1:2/1:4. At +11 it becomes 1:3/1:6, and at +16 it becomes 1:4/1:8. Now, I'm just pulling these numbers out of my posterior, of course, but you get the idea. I chose +6/+11/+16 because they're the critical BAB points.

Even better, you might have the ratio increase not with your character's BAB, but with the penalty that you take. For instance, the ratios are 1:1/1:2 for penalties <=5, and then 1:2/1:4 for penalties <=10, and so on. That would reward people for taking larger penalties, which is something we want.

That seems little complex, though. I also want smooth gameplay. Considering the racial and class abilities we'll be given, I don't see Power Attack as something that needs to be that powerful anyway. Not to mention, it's usually just used to open the door to other feats. I'd recommend just changing the feat so that the character can sacrifice as much of their BAB as they want without going below zero. If the player sacrifices 3 BAB, they get 3 damage. If they sacrifice 20 BAB (assuming they have it), they get 20 damage.
This is the way I'd personally handle it. It keeps gameplay flowing, it's simple, and it gives Fighter-types that extra kick (just not to the degree you thought up).
Considering the racial and class abilities we'll be given, I don't see Power Attack as something that needs to be that powerful anyway. Not to mention, it's usually just used to open the door to other feats.

And that's the problem. Most characters only get 7 feats over their entire 20 levels, so they'd better have significant effects. A feat that is only a prereq (Toughness, I'm looking at you) might as well be an empty space on the character's sheet.

I'd recommend just changing the feat so that the character can sacrifice as much of their BAB as they want without going below zero. If the player sacrifices 3 BAB, they get 3 damage. If they sacrifice 20 BAB (assuming they have it), they get 20 damage.

Um, that's how the feat already works.

My way's not really significantly more complicated than the normal feat. Most importantly, the playeris rewarded for taking larger penalties, which, since all BAB does is allow one to take larger penalties, is the only way the feat can be considered to scale with BAB
Except that Power Attack doesn't scale with level. You're almost always statistically better off never power attacking for more than a -3 penalty (barring wraithstrike or Shock Trooper), because the return to investment ratio never changes. If the feat scaled, then one would expect that higher penalties might actually be beneficial. A character with a +20 BAB and Power Attack should want to take a big penalty.

Just because the ratio doesn't scale doesn't mean the feat doesn't scale.

Dodge is always going to be +1.

Power attack grows with your levels in power and flexibility because your base attack bonus increases(and if you're taking Power Attack you will most likely have full base attack bonus). I'm not sure why you can exclude feats, even if they are powerful, from being legitimate points. Many people do take Shock Trooper, so saying that somehow doesn't count is ridiculous.
I was excluding additional feats because those feats only prove my point. Leap Attack improves the penalty:damage ratio, allowing a higher level character to get some statistical benefit from Power Attacking for more of his BAB than 3. Shock Trooper and wraithstrike essentially do the same thing. Shock Trooper does this by making the penalty:damage ratio 0:X, where X is twice your BAB. Those feats are doing precisely that which I propose. I'm just saying that Shock Trooper and Leap Attack shouldn't exist - Power Attack should just scale in and of itself.

For the feat to scale with BAB, the character actually has to benefit from pouring that higher BAB into the feat. However, statistical analysis shows that without an improving ratio there is hardly ever a situation where taking more than a -3 penalty is beneficial.

Seriously, the feat doesn't scale past +3 BAB, because that's the most you'll ever actually use without using something else to modify the feat. And that's crappy, because a player shouldn't have to keep taking feats to create some sort of ad hoc scaling. If a first level character has Power Attack and full BAB, then that character should be able to take full advantage of that feat at level 20, regardless of his other feat choices.
I'm pretty sure that feat trees are gone altogether.

Less feat trees, easier for characters to swap out abilities much easier and try different things out. Each level from 1 – 30 each character will have interesting character development options to choose.

Less, not none.
We will probably be getting many more feats total, much like SAGA. That will help alot right there.
How about a Fighter talent that improves Power Attack?

Improved Power Attack
If you use the Power Attack feat to take a penalty of at least -5 on your attacks, then you gain 2 points of damage per -1 of the penalty. If you are wielding a two-handed weapon, this bonus increases to 3 points of damage for each -1 of the penalty.
One of my own concerns is that most characters just don't have enough feats. Having more also means that each one can be a little less powerful.

I like feats in general. They were one of my favorite parts of 3E when I was first learning the new system. But I can understand the criticisms now that I've seen them spelled out. I think that post from "Races of War" has some good points.
Less, not none.

Ah, well, still a step in the right direction.
One of my own concerns is that most characters just don't have enough feats. Having more also means that each one can be a little less powerful.

Maybe in a theoretical sense, but one still runs into the issue of feats that aren't worth the paper on which they're printed. No matter how you slice it, WotC's concept of balance sucks. Just look at classes like the Acolyte of the Skin in Complete Mage. Srsly.

You also run into the issue of someone who takes all "good" feats in the same party with someone who takes all "crap" feats. As the number of such feats taken increases, so will the disparity between the two characters.

No, number of feats isn't important. What's important is quantifying and standardizing the impact of feats and other abilities.
How about a Fighter talent that improves Power Attack?

Improved Power Attack
If you use the Power Attack feat to take a penalty of at least -5 on your attacks, then you gain 2 points of damage per -1 of the penalty. If you are wielding a two-handed weapon, this bonus increases to 3 points of damage for each -1 of the penalty.

As I said, though, that should be a property of the feat itself. A feat shouldn't need something else in order to make it work acceptably. That way it, ya know, scales, and being a Fighter actually matters significantly, because you get a metric crap-ton of abilities, aka feats, that scale to your level.

Sort of like, ya know, spellcasting.
No, number of feats isn't important. What's important is quantifying and standardizing the impact of feats and other abilities.

It's not statistically important. But it is important for the players, or most of them at least.

Even if the feats have to be less powerful, it's more pleasant to gain 1 feat per level than 1 feat every three levels. The latter usually forces you to plan ahead, and allows for less combination and variation. The former not only allows for more choices, but also for more combinations and personalization.

In the end, the power level (if well made) should be same, but you'll have many more options.
The latter usually forces you to plan ahead, and allows for less combination and variation.

That's kind of the point of scaling feats, though: elimination of the necessity of build plans. If simply taking the "Shoot Things In The Face" feat makes the character a great archer throughout all levels, then there is no need to plan a series of level dips in order to gain the abilities that make you a great archer - your feat does that already.

Considering that reduction of complexity and chance for user error is the point of the thread, then ...
A (relatively) new player should not need to understand game play at higher levels to make good choices at character creation.
TomProffitt

You think you had a problem?! My poor 14 year old daughter almost had an aneurism trying to understand us while the rest of the group was trying to comprehend Master of Many Forms because she said she wanted to play a druid specialized in shape changing. Heck, I think I nearly stroked out trying to wrap my brain around it. It was about that time (3 hours in) that we realized that class was soooo broken it would be crazy game imbalancing.

If WotC wants to attract new players they've got to make the process a newbie has to go through to make a character they're going to be happy with a lot easier than it is in 3.5 right now.
I agree with the general consensus and I think that many of the observations in this thread are among the most insightful on the forums. However, I have alternate ideas for some solutions. I think when I have to make up my own rules to make a feat helpful or functional, then I'm using an incomplete product to begin with. I don't want to kill off core feats and skills that are underpowered, because a lot of them were included for good reasons. Instead, they should get pumped up and re-incorporated with propper support.

Conceptually, I love Leadership, but functionally it is disapointing. I don't want a classed monster flunky and a bunch of useless conscripts who are 6 levels lower than me, and I certainly don't want to roll them all up. I want to play a charasmatic leader of men, who trains a unit of followers to fight as one. And I want to know what kinds of cool things my followers should be doing for me outside of combat. Why isn't this all spelled out for me in the books?

Look at dodge. Improving that feat would be ridiculously easy. Make it a + 3 bonus, OR make it a general + 2 armor bonus to every atack you take instead of isolating it to a single attacker, OR make it +1 + your positive dex mod (Okay, that last one might be a little broken, but you get the idea.)

The knowledge and social skills just need to be better implemented. Whenever they explain a new kind of situation in a book, they should give thought to applications of various core skills and what benefits they can yield. The monster manual writers should LOOK for oppurtunities for characters to use diplomacy and knowledge skills. If they thought it was universal enough to stick it in the core to begin with, then instead of simplifying the problem by amputation, they should try to cure the patient with hard work and good design. Sorry sometimes I slip off into (often mixed) metaphors.

If they gave appraise a fundamental function in the finding and selling of treasure, that was designed well enough to be frequently used, maybe even that silly little skill could become worth a few of my skill points. Too often though, because of deadlines or whatever other corporate excuse they want me to care about, they simply print a seemingly-cool character option, and then never think of it again as they build the rest of the system.
Conceptually, I love Leadership, but functionally it is disapointing. I don't want a classed monster flunky and a bunch of useless conscripts who are 6 levels lower than me, and I certainly don't want to roll them all up. I want to play a charasmatic leader of men, who trains a unit of followers to fight as one. And I want to know what kinds of cool things my followers should be doing for me outside of combat. Why isn't this all spelled out for me in the books?

I'm all for re-balancing feats and all so that we don't end up with ones that are only used to qualify for classes, but I have to say Leadership should be toned down if anything. Maybe they could give more detail as to what they could do, but Leadership is the basis for some pretty crazy shenanigans since you get so many people(circle magic!, etc.).
As I said, though, that should be a property of the feat itself. A feat shouldn't need something else in order to make it work acceptably. That way it, ya know, scales, and being a Fighter actually matters significantly, because you get a metric crap-ton of abilities, aka feats, that scale to your level.

Sort of like, ya know, spellcasting.

And this is where things like the ToB came from. I didn't want my fighter to have slotted abilities that expened. I still don't. But that makes them more like spellcasters. Sigh.

That's kind of the point of scaling feats, though: elimination of the necessity of build plans. If simply taking the "Shoot Things In The Face" feat makes the character a great archer throughout all levels, then there is no need to plan a series of level dips in order to gain the abilities that make you a great archer - your feat does that already.

Excellent! Now characters can be even more cookie cutter! If all I need is one feat to be good at something then I hope characters get like 3 feats in their careers. Otherwise I will always see combatants with "Shoot things in the face", "Two handed masacre", "hot saves a poppin" and "Dodge like a mother". Spellcasters will just have to get by with "my spell-fu is better than yours".

Seriously, I like to pick a wide variety of feats to make my fighters different from others. many feats do scale in a way. Weapon focus scales, if you continue to spend resources on it to get greater weapon focus, weapon mastery, specialization, etc. Just like two weapon fighting scales if you spend more feats to be better at it. luckily the fighter can afford it. I know the individual feats don't scale but the concept scales. just my 2 cents.
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