Feats - What They Should and Should Not Do

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Feats are an awesome idea for the D&D game. However, you have to admit that feats did get a bit too thick in 3E, with every book having a half-dozen of them or more. A good number were plain crummy, while many others were nice ideas, but grossly underpowered.

So What Should a Feat be in 4E?

- Feats should not stack. Like magical bonuses, there should not be feats that overlap. The +2/+2 feats and Skill Focus are examples of feats that overlap. This will also help to trim complexity, because players won't be hunting for a group of feats that end up granting them a +20 bonus to something.

- Feats should scale. While they should never be as powerful as spells, their value to a character should never go down. Dodge, Toughness and Weapon Specialization are three such feats. Any feat that provides a numerical bonus should provide a sliding bonus based on level.

- Feats should not grant abilities, but instead reduce penalties or enhance abilities. For example, everyone can attempt to Sunder. Improved Sunder negates the AoO associated with a Sunder attempt. A player should not be required to have a feat to perform an action - attack or otherwise. But someone with the an associated feat should be able to do it better.

- Feats should not stack abilities through a series. The old Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Greater Two-Weapon Fighting should not exist. All you need is Two-Weapon Fighting feat and the other feats could simply be brought into the scaling of TWF, by granting an extra attack at higher levels (6th and 12th, respectively).
- Feats should not grant abilities, but instead reduce penalties or enhance abilities. For example, everyone can attempt to Sunder. Improved Sunder negates the AoO associated with a Sunder attempt. A player should not be required to have a feat to perform an action - attack or otherwise. But someone with the an associated feat should be able to do it better.

I agree with everything but this.

Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack, Combat Expertise, Quick Draw, Rapid Shot, Track.

Feats should grant new abilities. In fact, that should be their primary reason for existing. Otherwise, it's just another number to remember.
I think what they meant (or at least what I would agree with) was that things like sunder, which people should be able to do anyway, should not require a feat to do. I'm fine with feats granting "special moves" or maybe those will become something like maneuvers depending on weapon style in 4e.
I think what they meant (or at least what I would agree with) was that things like sunder, which people should be able to do anyway, should not require a feat to do.

You can already sunder without a feat, you are just no as good as when you have the improved sunder feat? What's the problem?

Feats should not stack. Like magical bonuses, there should not be feats that overlap. The +2/+2 feats and Skill Focus are examples of feats that overlap. This will also help to trim complexity, because players won't be hunting for a group of feats that end up granting them a +20 bonus to something.

I disagree with this. So long as I am prepared to spend all those precious feat slots, why should I not be allowed to take 6-7 feats which grant me say, a +20 bonus to my spellcraft checks in total? I am not exploiting any loophole, I am giving up precious feat slots, which could have been used for other purposes (just that I chose not to).

In the end, it has cost me something. I certainly did not get it for free.

Feats should scale. While they should never be as powerful as spells, their value to a character should never go down. Dodge, Toughness and Weapon Specialization are three such feats. Any feat that provides a numerical bonus should provide a sliding bonus based on level.

I don't see how a +1AC bonus is any less valuable at 1st lv or 20th lv. It still means the same thing - that the foe is, all other things constant, unable to power attack you for 1 point more than it is normally allowed to.

Toughness should be replaced with improved toughness though, that I concur. But I still feel that this should be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, rather than made a general rule.

Feats should not grant abilities, but instead reduce penalties or enhance abilities. For example, everyone can attempt to Sunder. Improved Sunder negates the AoO associated with a Sunder attempt. A player should not be required to have a feat to perform an action - attack or otherwise. But someone with the an associated feat should be able to do it better.

Not true - the purpose of feats is precisely that - to let you do something you are normally not capable of achieving.

You can say that improved sunder lets you sunder better. But I can twist your words and claim that improved sunder lets you sunder without provoking an AoO, thus allowing you to achieve something you normally could not have achieved.

My purpose of this is to point out that it is nigh impossible to draw a clear line/distinction between "improving something you can already do" and "letting you do something new", since there may be certain "seemingly unrelated abilities" may seem like natural extensions of your current abilities.

Feats should not stack abilities through a series.

Why not? I certainly have no problems with it.
Feats need to be held to a higher standard of balance. Some feats just outright suck (I'm looking at you, Boar's Ferocity), and a Player shouldn't need to pick through the mines to find the daisy.

I'd also like to see fewer feats that grant additional options. Cleave is fine, but I don't like the Improveds, because without them those maneuvers (Sunder, etc) are rarely used, but once someone takes the feat, it becomes their main attack. Ideally, the maneuvers should be on par with normal attacks from the get go, and the Improved feats wouldn't need to exist. With the way it is now, a fighter without Improved Trip almost never Trips, while a Fighter with Improved Trip almost always trips and builds his character around it.
Another example is the really minor feats that give you one, usually subpar, option. The Rogue Sneak Attack feats, for example. Those things are usually worse than the damage you're giving up. It's like having to pay a feat to perform a Trip, and still provoking the AoO. Instead, these abilities should have been rolled into the Sneak Attack progression, so the Rogue automatically expands in options as his skill at Sneak Attacking increases.
Feats are an awesome idea for the D&D game. However, you have to admit that feats did get a bit too thick in 3E, with every book having a half-dozen of them or more. A good number were plain crummy, while many others were nice ideas, but grossly underpowered.

So What Should a Feat be in 4E?

- Feats should not stack. Like magical bonuses, there should not be feats that overlap. The +2/+2 feats and Skill Focus are examples of feats that overlap. This will also help to trim complexity, because players won't be hunting for a group of feats that end up granting them a +20 bonus to something.

- Feats should scale. While they should never be as powerful as spells, their value to a character should never go down. Dodge, Toughness and Weapon Specialization are three such feats. Any feat that provides a numerical bonus should provide a sliding bonus based on level.

- Feats should not grant abilities, but instead reduce penalties or enhance abilities. For example, everyone can attempt to Sunder. Improved Sunder negates the AoO associated with a Sunder attempt. A player should not be required to have a feat to perform an action - attack or otherwise. But someone with the an associated feat should be able to do it better.

- Feats should not stack abilities through a series. The old Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Greater Two-Weapon Fighting should not exist. All you need is Two-Weapon Fighting feat and the other feats could simply be brought into the scaling of TWF, by granting an extra attack at higher levels (6th and 12th, respectively).

Most of what you say is being delt with by the change from feats to talant trees. My understanding is they do grow with you Etc. As for not granting abilities, that's an opinion I don't share.
I think that feats should be as powerful as class features.

Feats are rare, you normally only get 7 and they are made to make a difference between one character and another, so each feat should have dramatic effects in the characters.

Wizards realized that late at 3.5, from the player handbook 2 in advance you will notice how feats became more powerful and useful in general.

And yes, a +1 to AC or +2 to two skills is useful but is not cool.

Ah, of course I agree about not having chains of feats because they usually drain so many feats that the character becomes one trick monkey.
Feats should not be highly situational. Once you've picked one, that's your lot for the next three levels (unless you're a fighter) so you'll be wanting to get some mileage out of it. If your feat is "Gain big bonus vs. elemental outsider with DR/epic", then maybe once you'll be the hero when the party fights an elemental outsider with DR/epic, but the rest of the time, you essentially don't have another feat.
Feats should not be highly situational.

Why not? You have a choice of what feats you want to take, so you should not be worried about being flooded with stinkers, so long as you are able to weed out the good from the bad.
Why not? You have a choice of what feats you want to take, so you should not be worried about being flooded with stinkers, so long as you are able to weed out the good from the bad.

But the prospect of being 'flooded with stinkers' imparts a game-within-the-game, where you have to carefully pick out your feats to avoid gimping your PC. I think the main choice facing players should be "Which feats support my character concept?" rather than "If I take this feat, will it be a stinker?"

In a game like Magic, the fact that some cards are stinkers isn't much of a problem - you can replace the offending cards between games. But picking a bad feat, then realising it afterwards, requires going cap-in-hand to the DM to ask if you can replace it - and the DM may very well say "No, you picked it, you're stuck with it." So feat choice is more crucial than picking cards for a Magic game, and I'd rather there weren't a bunch of hidden booby prizes amongst the feat list.
I agree with everything but this.

Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack, Combat Expertise, Quick Draw, Rapid Shot, Track.

Feats should grant new abilities. In fact, that should be their primary reason for existing. Otherwise, it's just another number to remember.

Out of those, only two of those feats allow you to do something that others cannot. Cleave (Great Cleave)

You can Fight Defensively, which gives you a bonus to AC; Combat Expertise allows you to do this more efficiently

You can Draw a Weapon as part of a Move Action if you have a +1 BAB or better; Quick Draw allows you to do this without wasting an action.

You can shoot an additional arrow at an opponent for each +5 BAB you have. Rapid shot adds another arrow to the mix.

Everyone has a critical range with their weapon of at least 20/x2. Improved Critical simply doubles this.

Cleave/Great Cleave you can't do - and that's somewhat of a shame as fighters in 1E could do something similar to this. There should be some sort of momemtum effect in the game that if you drop an opponent with one hit you can turn and take a crack at a buddy, say at a -5 to hit.

The only problem with feats granting NEW abilities is that many DMs will not let you attempt something new WITHOUT A FEAT. Want to do a flying corkscrew with your sword into your opponent without a feat? Let's see you get that past the DM. This is a hinderance to the game because people won't then try new combat tricks or unusual attacks without the feats saying "I can do this".

As for not allowing feats to stack, its for the same reason stacking limits are put on magic items. Stacking one skill, ability or attack into the stratosphere is a problem. There's nothing wrong with someone being better than an unfocused individual, but when the abilities stack to create a stratsospheric effect that it makes things unfun for one side or the other.
But the prospect of being 'flooded with stinkers' imparts a game-within-the-game, where you have to carefully pick out your feats to avoid gimping your PC. I think the main choice facing players should be "Which feats support my character concept?" rather than "If I take this feat, will it be a stinker?"

But with regards to your situational feat scenario, that too is highly subjective.

I mean, say there is a feat which grants you bonuses when fighting undead. If you play in a undead-populated campaign, you will want said feat (and toss it aside if you do not expect to face much undead). The designers cannot possibly know what sort of game we play. They can only create those feats based on certain assumptions, and put the onus on us to create scenarios where these feats' effectiveness are somehow maximized.

I would say to just not sweat it. If you do screw up, simply treat it as a lesson learnt and not make the same mistake the next time round.
Guys, in dnd 4.0 every base class will get a feat every other level (even levels), in addition to the feats gained at level 3, 6, 9 etc. This is how it is in SAGA, and how it will be in dnd 4.0. On the remaining levels (odd levels) you get a talent.

PRC's on the other hand do not get a feat every other level; they instead get class features on even levels. (and ofcourse, talents on odd levels). These class features are usually quite powerful and unique; but very focused and specialized.
But with regards to your situational feat scenario, that too is highly subjective.

I mean, say there is a feat which grants you bonuses when fighting undead. If you play in a undead-populated campaign, you will want said feat (and toss it aside if you do not expect to face much undead). The designers cannot possibly know what sort of game we play. They can only create those feats based on certain assumptions, and put the onus on us to create scenarios where these feats' effectiveness are somehow maximized.

I would say to just not sweat it. If you do screw up, simply treat it as a lesson learnt and not make the same mistake the next time round.

What you describe would be far better handled with something like skill tricks. Under the current system, they use only two skill points - if they were equivalent to feats, they'd take 3X points (X being the number of points a class gets per level). So, for example, 18 points for a ranger. Two points is a much less crucial investment than 18, so there's more scope for them to be narrowly situational.

Feats are more like a body/mind graft. They're a very limited resource and hard, if not impossible to replace. So you want each one to count. The problem with throwing situational feats along with everything else into one list is that unless the DM specifically says "Take these undead-killing feats, you're gonna need them" or "I never use undead, don't take those" the player is liable to consider them as a live option without knowing how useful they'll really be. I think the ideal feat's usefulness should present itself at face value - if the feat looks good for your character, you should know it's gonna serve you well.
I agree about halfway.

I think there are way too many feats. Some are extremely good, some are barely worth it. I'd like to see the number of feats trimmed down and the average quality brought up.

I agree entirely with scaling feats. That +2 on weapon specialization is great when your'e a 4th level fighter, because an extra 2 damage per round against an ogre mage really helps.
At level 18, it's less useful... 2 more damage per round against a black dragon is much more drop-in-the-bucket ish.

I'm not opposed to feat trees; I have nothing against one feat unlocking another. I think the best idea is this: If a further feat grants an additional numeric bonus or copy of a previous feat (greater weapon specialization, supreme two-weapon fighting), it should be made as a single scaling feat. If it grants a new type of ability (whirlwind attack, summoning feats, etc), leave it as a tree.

I disagree about new ability feats: I think it's fine that some feats make you better at stuff, some feats give you new options. It's a good balance.

Problem: WotC goes for quantity a lot. They put out a lot of different supplements. The feats in the PhB are often not as good as the feats in the supplements that come out. That's to get you to shell out the extra $25. If all you needed was the PhB, they'd have a sales hit.

Good ideas, all!
Guys, in dnd 4.0 every base class will get a feat every other level (even levels), in addition to the feats gained at level 3, 6, 9 etc. This is how it is in SAGA, and how it will be in dnd 4.0. On the remaining levels (odd levels) you get a talent.

PRC's on the other hand do not get a feat every other level; they instead get class features on even levels. (and ofcourse, talents on odd levels). These class features are usually quite powerful and unique; but very focused and specialized.

That is probably true, however, please refrain from the "its in SAGA, therefor its in 4e" statement. When SAGA was being written, Chris Perkins (one of the 4e developers) was passing along design ideas to the Rodney Thompson without telling him about 4e. He didn't find out 4e was even being developed until he was 6 months into production of SAGA. SAGA contains bits and pieces of 4e, but these are mostly in the form of broad ideas and concepts, not completed, polished game rules.

Now, I don't disagree with the statement that classes will get talents at every odd level and bonus feats at every even level, with PrC's getting class features instead. This is how it has been in D20 Modern for years now, and I expected it to be in 4e in the first place.

As I have said before, expect there to be similarities between SAGA and 4e, but don't expect them to be identical.

Anyway, sorry to get off track there. Back onto the topic of the forum.

I have a question for everyone. How many people here have the Dodge Feat? How many took it because it was a prerequisite for other feats? How many even remember to use their Dodge Feat in combat? Yeah, thats what I thought. You see, I think that feats that people get primarily because they are entrance requirements to other feats, and could not stand up on their own, are a wasted feat slot. How many of you who have characters with the Dodge feat would have picked it up if it was not a prerequisite for other feats? Probably not many I imagine. These feats need to either be eliminated, altered, or merged with other feats.

Here is what I think an good improvement on the Dodge feat would be: You gain a static +1 Dodge bonus to both your AC and Reflex Saves. Alternately, you may designate one foe, or one suspected or confirmed trap and increase the dodge bonus to +2, though you lose the static +1 while you are so focused. Additionally, this feat stacks with itself, and you may divide the bonuses provided any number of ways you want. Say for example you picked the feat three times. You are currently in a combat with an evil cleric, 5 skeletal minions, and there is a magic arrow trap that only targets the PCs. You could elect to the bonuses from one feat static, but apply the focused version of the other two to the cleric and the trap. Thus you would have a +3 Dodge bonus to your AC and Reflex saves against both the cleric and the trap, and a +1 Dodge bonus to your AC and Reflex saves against the skeletal minions. And before anyone decries this as being too complex, remember, you have to choose to take this feat multiple times. If you do so, you accept the inherent complexity of the feat. It is no more different than a PC who is playing a spellcaster. He has no right to complain about how complex some of his spells are, he chose to be that kind of character. If he wanted something simple, he should have chosen a fighter.
I disagree with this. So long as I am prepared to spend all those precious feat slots, why should I not be allowed to take 6-7 feats which grant me say, a +20 bonus to my spellcraft checks in total?

Because then you're not even playing the same game as everyone else. Plus you're a boring one trick pony. It's a lot better to hand out abilities rather than tons of numerical bonuses.

I totally agree that feats shouldn't stack. Feats that grant bonuses to stuff should grant a new type of bonus, a "feat" bonus or what not. So you take skill focus and that's it. You can't boost the skill bonus anymore with feats. Instead, you can take feats to let the skill check do additional things, but your roll doesn't get better.

Sooner or later you've got to draw the line as to how good someone can get at something at a certain level. Otherwise having levels is pointless.

I don't see how a +1AC bonus is any less valuable at 1st lv or 20th lv. It still means the same thing - that the foe is, all other things constant, unable to power attack you for 1 point more than it is normally allowed to.

Yeah, bonuses to d20 rolls don't need to scale, they just need to be more significant. The problem isnt' that dodge needs to be bigger at high levels, the problem is that dodge needs to be bigger period. Dodge turns a hit into a miss only one out of 20 times when you use it. That's just not very useful.

Not true - the purpose of feats is precisely that - to let you do something you are normally not capable of achieving.

Yeah. Feats definitely should grant extra abilities.
- Feats should not stack abilities through a series. The old Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Greater Two-Weapon Fighting should not exist. All you need is Two-Weapon Fighting feat and the other feats could simply be brought into the scaling of TWF, by granting an extra attack at higher levels (6th and 12th, respectively).

I disagree with this. What would be the benefit of taking TWF at 1st level instead of at 12th if the end result is the same? By having feats scale by character level, you get the same benefit at the end regardless of when you took it. I like the idea of them scaling, but only to a minor degree such as a +1 bonus per level up to +3. The improved and greater feats, to me, represent additional dedication by the character to that particular activity.
Sooner or later you've got to draw the line as to how good someone can get at something at a certain level. Otherwise having levels is pointless.


Well, maybe levels don't give any meaning at all??!;)
- Feats should not grant abilities, but instead reduce penalties or enhance abilities. For example, everyone can attempt to Sunder. Improved Sunder negates the AoO associated with a Sunder attempt. A player should not be required to have a feat to perform an action - attack or otherwise. But someone with the an associated feat should be able to do it better.

This, and other people seconding thoughts like this... I have to disagree with entirely.

Consider what the word 'feat' means, outside of the game D&D. Here, consider this a reminder:

Main Entry: 1feat
Pronunciation: 'fEt
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English fait, fet, from Anglo-French, from Latin factum, from neuter of factus, past participle of facere to make, do -- more at DO
1 : ACT, DEED
2 a : a deed notable especially for courage b : an act or product of skill, endurance, or ingenuity

It's a special action, something special you can do. To me this screams "New Options!" not "Minor passive bonuses". To me, the Tome of Battle abilities represent what feats should have been from the start, a special ability that a character can use that makes normal people say "Wow, how did he do that?!"

In other words, when I see a feat in 4e, I want to see things more along the lines of Power Attack, Standstill, Robilar's Gambit, new options in combat, as opposed to Weapon Specialization. With the stuff being said about Fighters in 4e I'm fully expecting Weapon Specialization as we know it to be scrapped, in favor of special unique abilities for different weapon types. I'd hope to see ALL feats worked more in this style. Dodge say giving you a chance to have an evasion-style effect against an attack once per encounter (say a reflex save vs DC of damage dealt), Skill Focus feats giving you new uses for skills (and the rogue getting skill focus every so often as a bonus feat). That sort of thing.

Des it take a bit more creativity to make feats? Yes. Does it make characters overall a bit less powerful as their feats no longer provide static bonuses that stack to no end? Maybe, but not really. But does it give all characters, of any class, more options and ability in and out of combat than they had ever dreamed of having in the current system? Hell yes.
Because then you're not even playing the same game as everyone else. Plus you're a boring one trick pony. It's a lot better to hand out abilities rather than tons of numerical bonuses.

I am inclined to think that the problem of creating 1-trick ponies is one to be ironed out in one's own game, rather than being dictated by someone else whom I have probably never seen or even known (no offense to you or anyone else).

Basically, my point is that whether I want to create a well-rounded character or a 1-trick pony with overwhelming specialization in 1 area should be up to me. I mean (and don't take this the wrong way) - if my DM is okay with this, who are you to interfere?

Thus, players should have the option of either boosting many skills, or really boosting a few select skills. The tradeoffs would be obvious - you can either fare quite well overall, or really excel in a few areas and average in the others. I honestly think this is the sort of thing which should be left to the player's discretion regarding how he wishes to flesh out his PC, rather than being enforced by some "invisible hand".
Basically, my point is that whether I want to create a well-rounded character or a 1-trick pony with overwhelming specialization in 1 area should be up to me. I mean (and don't take this the wrong way) - if my DM is okay with this, who are you to interfere?

The problem is that the DM probably isn't okay with this, at least not a DM in the know. There are a couple things that can happen.

a) You've burned all your feats on some ability that breaks the game and you're now tossing caster level 125 holy words, ubercharging people for 1200 damage a round or using a diplomacy skill that's got a +100 modifier and can own the campaign world. Now you can kill things way above your difficulty level in some kind of crazy nuke attack.

b) you've burned all your feats on some ability that sucks, and your claim to fame is now that you have a +100 jump or knowledge check but can't fight level-appropriate enemies at all.

In either case, somebody is going to be unhappy, so why let people do it in the first place?

Now you may be thinking something along the lines of: "What if the DM doesn't care about mechanically unbalanced characters?" But in that case, why bother buying a new rules edition at all? Once you say you don't care about rules imbalance, then you effectively don't even care about rules.

Thus, players should have the option of either boosting many skills, or really boosting a few select skills. The tradeoffs would be obvious - you can either fare quite well overall, or really excel in a few areas and average in the others. I honestly think this is the sort of thing which should be left to the player's discretion regarding how he wishes to flesh out his PC, rather than being enforced by some "invisible hand".

While this seems logical, in a game sense it really doesn't work.

And this is fundamental to the level system. We don't just hand people X amouint of points and say "Spend 'em on whatever, base attack, reflex saves, caster level, skills, just go nuts." The reason we don't do that, is because we want to try to force people to well roundedness of some degree.
Yeah, we're going to get the mage complaining that he'd rather have 0 BaB and just improve his spellcasting ability instead.

This is no different.

Part of the tradeoff of a class system is that it forces well-roundedness. At some point you have to say "okay, you've gotten a big enough numerical bonus there for your level, now improve something else that isn't numerical."

Ideally, you can still get new abilities for your character that stick with his theme, but eventually bonus accumulation has to be reigned in.
That is probably true, however, please refrain from the "its in SAGA, therefor its in 4e" statement. When SAGA was being written, Chris Perkins (one of the 4e developers) was passing along design ideas to the Rodney Thompson without telling him about 4e. He didn't find out 4e was even being developed until he was 6 months into production of SAGA. SAGA contains bits and pieces of 4e, but these are mostly in the form of broad ideas and concepts, not completed, polished game rules.

Now, I don't disagree with the statement that classes will get talents at every odd level and bonus feats at every even level, with PrC's getting class features instead. This is how it has been in D20 Modern for years now, and I expected it to be in 4e in the first place.

Around 70% of SAGA's core system will make up dnd 4.0's system.That is a known fact. Go read the star wars boards if you don't believe me.
The problem is that the DM probably isn't okay with this, at least not a DM in the know. There are a couple things that can happen.

Your points are not without merit, and I admit that I had not considered such extreme scenarios. I was thinking more along the lines of "It is fine so long as it is not broken". Allow stacking insofar as it does not cause any sort of abusive scenarios.

For example, skill focus gives +3 to a skill check. One of those +2 to 2 feats grants another +2, and a familiar may add another +3. +8 to say, spellcraft might be a nice boost to a wizard, but barring some incantatrix madness, it is unlikely to break the game.

I suppose I might have been too naive in my thinking and reasoning...:embarrass
Around 70% of SAGA's core system will make up dnd 4.0's system.That is a known fact. Go read the star wars boards if you don't believe me.

Chris Perkins had this to say:

One of the things I said a lot at GenCon (usually in response to a question about whether Star Wars Saga Edition was a glimpse of things to come) was that we've been working on 4e for two and a half years, and just about everything we've produced in that time has been influenced by that work in its various stages. Tome of Battle reflects the state of 4e design as of last summer, when we didn't have the balance between daily and renewable resources figured out yet. PH2 reflects some of our philosophy on class design. SWSE uses a number of mechanics from a much more recent stage of 4e design and melds them with the prior edition of Star Wars and makes unique twists suited to the Star Wars universe. Secrets of Xen'drik was influenced by an early discussion about traps in 4e.

Unique twists means that the stuff they took from 4e has been modified to fit the Star Wars universe, who can tell how much got twisted? Also which parts in SAGA came from 4e and which did Rodney Thompson and his crew come up with themselves?
Your points are not without merit, and I admit that I had not considered such extreme scenarios. I was thinking more along the lines of "It is fine so long as it is not broken". Allow stacking insofar as it does not cause any sort of abusive scenarios.

Well the problem is that it's not always certain what's going to be abusive. Most of the bonus feats that are created are not broken stand-alone. However, given that D&D is a constantly growing thing that expands everytime new sourcebooks are created, you never know if something else will create more bonuses. And those bonuses may seem fine at first glance.. a +1 here, a +2 there, but eventually, someone goes on a quest to collect them all and break the game. A lot of the CO boards tactics is to find all the little bonuses and add them up.

The easiest thing is simply not to get into the trend of throwing out lots of small bonuses, because sooner or later someone does add up enough of them to do something crazy. It may not happen in the core, it may not happen in the first 3 splatbooks, but eventually... it'll happen.

I suppose I might have been too naive in my thinking and reasoning...:embarrass

Bonus accumulation isn't the most obvious of imbalanced concepts. Mainly because it seems okay at first glance. It took me a while of really thinking about game design before I came to the conclusion that that giving out tons of bonuses is a bad idea.

Probably the best example is to browse some of the Char Op boards and see how their insane numbers come about. Sometimes it's something that grants crazy broken amounts (like polymorph), but a lot of the time it's a lot of little drops in a bucket that eventually turn into an ocean.

The skill system in D&D is also a great example. It goes by the premise that skilled characters get better at a skill via more bonuses and those that don't invest points don't get any better. Use anything that involves an opposed skill check and the problem becomes relatively obvious. Sooner or later, if you don't invest anything in spot, you will never find a hiding rogue, ever, because he keeps adding points and you keep falling behind.

The saga skill system did fix this problem by making all skill bonuses tied to level, along with a few ways you can take to enhance those skills. So the 1st level rogue's bonus over the 1st level fighter probably isn't going to change as they gain levels. The gap remains relatively the same, and that's a good thing.

The more I analyzed it anyway, the more I came to the conclusion that we probably don't need that many bonus granting abilities and would prefer something that actually does something else. Not only is it less likely to break the game, it's also more interesting.
- Feats should not grant abilities, but instead reduce penalties or enhance abilities. For example, everyone can attempt to Sunder. Improved Sunder negates the AoO associated with a Sunder attempt. A player should not be required to have a feat to perform an action - attack or otherwise. But someone with the an associated feat should be able to do it better.

I disagree with this one as well, for reasons mentioned above plus this one: The combat chapter of the PHB should not be weighed down with a thousand rules that the vast majority of players won't even use unless they have the associated feat. When was the last time your wizard tried to sunder? Or halfling rogue tried to bull rush? I sympathize with a desire for "realism", that everyone should be able to do anything, just do it badly, but at the same time we have to realize that this is a game, and the rules should be simple, compact, and useful across ALL character types.

If there had to be a compromise, I would do something like label all the feats such as Disarm, Sunder, Cleave, etc., as "Martial Combat Feats", and then put a rule at the beginning of the feats section that says "A character who does not have a given Martial Combat feat can attempt to emulate it by taking a -5 penalty to his attack roll."
If there had to be a compromise, I would do something like label all the feats such as Disarm, Sunder, Cleave, etc., as "Martial Combat Feats", and then put a rule at the beginning of the feats section that says "A character who does not have a given Martial Combat feat can attempt to emulate it by taking a -5 penalty to his attack roll."

That's a lot like what I'm looking for. A lot of problems with some of the combat feats that come out later supplements add a combat trick that anyone should be able to do, but because they're introduced as a feat in that book, only someone with the feat can use. If a standard disclaimer could be stuck to the end of "anyone can use this, but at a penalty" it would mediate this.

Example: Head Shot, Hamstring and many of the various ambush feats in Complete Scoundrel. Anyone should be able to hit someone else in the head. What effect that would have (and still be balanced) I can't say, but it should be possible...
Bonus accumulation isn't the most obvious of imbalanced concepts. Mainly because it seems okay at first glance. It took me a while of really thinking about game design before I came to the conclusion that that giving out tons of bonuses is a bad idea.

Well, one problem I can think of right now would be the difficulty of arriving at a 1-size-fits-all skill check value. For example, say the dc to cast defensively is 15+ spell lv. A spellcaster who has optimized concentration may end up with a check which is 20+ points higher than another non-optimized spellcaster. How then do you decide on a single, definitive check? One that is too high penalizes the unoptimized build, too low a check means the optimized caster has no trouble succeeding at it.

The saga skill system did fix this problem by making all skill bonuses tied to level, along with a few ways you can take to enhance those skills. So the 1st level rogue's bonus over the 1st level fighter probably isn't going to change as they gain levels. The gap remains relatively the same, and that's a good thing.

But would standardized skill sets lead to cookie-cutter builds? It seems like all rogues of say, lv5 will always have similar skill sets/ranks. Possibly modifiers as well, if stat boosts and skill-boosting eq/feats are harder to come by. How would say, a rogue who specializes in assassination (likely to have more ranks/emphasis in sneak) distinguish himself from a rogue specializing in say, trapfinding (more ranks in search/disable device/open lock/spot, at the expense of more "sneaky" skills)?
That's a lot like what I'm looking for. A lot of problems with some of the combat feats that come out later supplements add a combat trick that anyone should be able to do, but because they're introduced as a feat in that book, only someone with the feat can use. If a standard disclaimer could be stuck to the end of "anyone can use this, but at a penalty" it would mediate this.

Example: Head Shot, Hamstring and many of the various ambush feats in Complete Scoundrel. Anyone should be able to hit someone else in the head. What effect that would have (and still be balanced) I can't say, but it should be possible...

I think there are pros and cons though. On the one hand, it is nice because it makes the game more realistic, and you can do all these different things without being told "no" for no apparent reason. But on the other hand, I can envision someone taking their turn in combat by paging through five different books looking at all the feats he doesn't have trying to find the most useful one for the given situation. They would need to limit the feats you can use "untrained" to a small number, otherwise it would get out of hand. I mean, shouldn't a nimble ranger be able to attempt a sneak attack without being a rogue? Shouldn't an angry half-orc fighter be able to rage without being a barbarian? Shouldn't a highly intelligent elf be able to figure out how to cast a simple cantrip without being a wizard? Sometimes hard limits need to be set just to maintain the simplicity of the rules and help speed up the game. Most of the time characters should be doing what they're best at.
The only feat I've had a problem with is track; my barbarian has enough ranks in survival to feed the whole party without blinking an eye, but he needs to burn a feat to find a Bugbear in the woods.
As for the improved combat feats(bullrush, sunder etc.), there nothing wrong with taking penalties for not having these feats. If everyone could overrun well without taking the feat, why wouldn't you knock down every opponent you came across.
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