Feats were introduced when D&D 3.0 first came out and have been use in every edition of D&D since. They are a great way to flesh out a character’s capabilities, adding new tricks that cover weaknesses or leverage existing strengths. Some feats in D&D 3.5 were more effective than others. A power attacking great weapon user was, in many cases, more effective than a fencer who relied on grace and finesse.
Perhaps it’s because of this, weapon finesse has been omitted completely from D&D Next, with some weapons being finesse weapons by default. Dexterity bonuses can be added to the damage roll and any weapon finesse related feats in D&D Next will improve finesse fighting instead.
I think this is a good thing. In D&D 3.5, if you wanted to deal respectable damage with a finesse weapon, you would have had to take levels in a prestige class. There is no longer any need to sacrifice power for accuracy and better defence (as was the case with D&D 3.5) when playing characters with high dexterity attributes in D&D Next.
While feats can add to the existing capabilities of your character, they are considered to be an optional part of your character development. Leaving them out should not shortchange your character, but some feats may allow your character to acquire talents accessible only through multiclassing.
Formal Or Non Formal Edumacation?
If you glance through each of the D&D Next classes, you will notice that they will all gain attribute increases, some quicker than others. This involves choosing one attribute out of the six main attributes (strength, dexterity and so on) and increasing that ability by two – or choose two attributes instead and increase each by one.
Character classes without inherent magic abilities of some kind (including the monk’s elemental mastery and the barbarian totem paths) will have the more frequent ability increases to make up for their shortcomings in the magic department.
It makes sense from a narrative point of view, since the fighter would spend a lot of time honing his body and physique in order to do his job well, while a wizard would be more concerned with spending countless hours in his study researching new spells or mastering existing ones.
In any case, you can choose to forfeit an ability increase and take a feat instead. A good way to tie feats into your story is to allow feat selection only when training is available. The ability increases represent a character’s self taught development while feats represent formal training.
No Small Feat
Many of the feats in D&D Next grant additional proficiencies beyond what your character class is normally capable of. For example, a wizard can master archery or even great weapon fighting (Glamdring, anyone?).
By the same token, a character can learn to use magic as a fighter without taking levels in the wizard class. These options will be predictably limited, but it should at least present the fighter with additional options other than swinging his sword.
Each feat grants more than one benefit or option, each of which are tied to the theme of the chosen feat. Great weapon master, for example, allows you to perform maneuvers that are related to fighting with heavy weapons.
While most of the feats are intended to replace attribute score increases, there are a couple of feats that grant minor attribute increases as well as new proficiencies, which might be handy if you are torn between taking a feat or boosting your attributes.
Boast Of Your Own Deeds
So feats pretty much serve the same function as they did in D&D 3.5 (as you would expect), allowing each class to acquire additional skills and abilities that were not part of their regular training. What interests me is that fighters and rogues can learn to use magic without deviating at all from their own field of study.
For the fighter in particular, these feats will allow him to learn to use the magic weapon spell which would probably be very handy in a no magic item, yet high fantasy campaign. In theory, this should add a sense of being able to accomplish things by your own power, instead of relying on the power of magic items all the time.
If you have played with the feats in D&D Next, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below. Do the feats add anything to your game? Do they add interesting options or do they complicate the mechanics of what should be a relatively simple game?
Finally, do you feel that D&D Next has improved over the previous editions in terms of the way feats are handled?