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I've been thinking about the many combat feats available in Pathfinder. It seems that many (especially the "necessary" combat feats) don't give advantages so much as they allow for trade-offs (Power Attack, Combat Expertise), while others are a tax on characters who would like to be competent in battle but didn't put everything into strength (Agile Maneuvers, Weapon Finesse).
I was inspired by the advanced rules for Microlite20 (a super-stripped down d20 ruleset), how they folded options like Two-Weapon Fighting and Weapon Finesse into the weapons themselves (in M20, anyone can weapon finesse a light or finesse-able blade, and anyone can two-weapon fight as if they had the feat - I know that the PF rules allow for anyone to do so, but at such a penalty that I've never seen a player go for it).
Why not, I figure, give these feats as bonus feats so that players don't need to worry about the basics, and can get on with interesting combat?
Under this house rule, the following feats are free to any character who meets the prereqs. If they don't meet the prereqs (in brackets), then they don't gain the feat. They may still gain the feat later if the meet the prereqs, or if they gain the feat as a bonus feat from a class ability (So a monk who discards Int can still take Combat Expertise). If a class ability grants a character one of these bonus feats that they already qualify for, they may instead pick one feat of that type that they qualify for instead.
The Bonus Feat List:
-Agile Maneuvers (n/a)
-Combat Expertise (Int 13)
-Deadly Aim (Dex 13, BAB +1)
-Power Attack (Str 13, BAB +1)
-Two-Weapon Fighting (Dex 15)
-Weapon Finesse (n/a)
I'm considering doing the same for several metamagic feats, mostly those that change the area of the spell. It seems to me that players rarely take them, and sacrificing a higher spell slot is already taxing to a spellcaster:
The Bonus Metamagic Feat List:
-Empower Spell (+1 spell level)
-Enlarge Spell (+1 spell level)
-Extend Spell (+1 spell level)
-Heighten Spell (+X spell level)
-Widen Spell (+3 spell level)
-Should NPCs and Monsters also gain these feats as bonus feats?
-Would this increase the APL of the party, and if so, by how much?
-Do special considerations need to be made for any classes/archetypes?
-Will it matter more or less to a party at higher or lower levels?
-Should I discard the prereqs altogether, and just give the bonus feats to every character? Or add additional prereqs?
-Are there feats I should add, or feats I should remove from the list?
I'm interested in your input/comments/condemnations!
I like the idea on "paper" I have had the same issues with some of these feats as well, and might apply this to a game at some point.
Should NPCs and Monsters also gain these feats as bonus feats? NPCs with npc classes probibly dont need these feats, but anyone with PC classes should have around the same bonuses as a PC gets.
Would this increase the APL of the party, and if so, by how much?
I would consider this similar but less then allowing gestalt characters, I dont know the amount that it would change APL, but I would throw and extra kobold or two in the BG party early on, and adjust as you go along
Should I discard the prereqs altogether, and just give the bonus feats to every character? Or add additional prereqs?
Keep the prereqs, because many of the feats that come after those listed dont have prereqs, or have differnt prereqs
I like it. I was at first worried that this would make the characters completely over powered but after reading it its not so bad. I would give monsters these same feats if they qualify, to even things out a bit. And I would look into giving quick draw, dodge and weapon focus to the "weapon fighters" and giving item creation feats to the "magic users"
Over all I like the idea of getting these feats out of the way so players can focus on taking feats that customize their character more. You are looking at a very powerful group however and you may have to adjust your monster cr to be able to keep that same level of difficulty, I would suggest normally putting your group against a cr of at least 1 to 2 levels higher than they are. This will ofcourse speed play up as they are getting more experience than they normally would but you could play at the slow paced level to even it out or just go with it, I for one love a fast paced game. Please let us know how this thing works out
Being that some of the Feats are base feats for a lot of other options, this would probably make them qualify for other feats sooner. Which in turn might also make them be able to qualify for certain Prestige Classes sooner. I don't have my PF Core Rulebook near by, but that might be something worth looking into.
1. If any NPC has class levels, then I would give these feats to the NPC's as well. But only if the NPC would benefit from them. On the other hand, Players will face more hits then any NPC ever will, so on the other hand, maybe the NPC's don't need them. Unless you are designing a main villain; then yes, give that NPC the extra feats.
2. I would say maybe a +1 to the APL, considering that the party will be slightly more powerful than a character without these feats at the same level. But it would also depend on what the party decides to do for characters. If they all design their characters where these feats really wouldn't matter, then the bonus feats really wont matter, and just keep their APL the same.
3. Yes, Melee classes if designed right will be great tanks, these extra feats if the player builds their character around them, will be better tanks. Just like casters, they are glass cannons, you start giving them extra bonus meta magic feats, you have just increased their punch as well.
4. I think it will matter all the way through, but it depends on how the characters are built. Having extra feats, they don't have to waste the few feats that they do get, because they will be given them for free.
5. Leave the prereqs as is. You are being nice enough to let the players have the bonus feats.
6. I would leave the list as is, you are being more than generous enough as is, you start adding more and more, and eventually every character will have almost all of the basic feats at their disposal.
I like this idea, and I feel like a lot of other people homebrew similar systems. A few notes, half in reply to snowy, half-not.
1. I would consider adding the vital strike feat to that list since those that TWF would get a free feat on their single weapon companions.
2. I would give this same option to all monsters and NPCs. If you do that then everyone is on the same level and you won't need to increase APL. Some monsters may not benefit from these feats and you'll have to give them a little boost (say some sort of bonus feat.)
3. This will generally be a one-time thing. Other feats have a BAB requirement preventing someone from moving up the tree too quickly. In other words power won't accelerate. Also if you give those feats to both NPCs and PCs then it doesn't really matter because everyone will be buffed.
The Bonus Feat List:-Agile Maneuvers (n/a)
Absolutely. At the absolute minimum, I'd fold it into Weapon Finesse, but I'd much rather that both of them be 'free' anyway (along with the option of using Dex in place of Str for Small or smaller creatures).
-Combat Expertise (Int 13)-Deadly Aim (Dex 13, BAB +1)
-Power Attack (Str 13, BAB +1)
-Two-Weapon Fighting (Dex 15)
-Weapon Finesse (n/a)
I agree on Weapon Finesse, and maybe Two-Weapon Fighting.
Power Attack, Combat Expertise and Deadly Aim, I'd make free for Fighters, but anyone else would have to pay for them. Part of the fun of being a Fighter is having a lot of Feats, and it annoys me that your lower level bonus feats are tied up in 'taxes' that everybody has to pay anyway, preventing a low-level Fighter from really getting to stretch out and take some less 'everybody takes this anyway' Feats.
I might go a step further and add Vital Strike (and the ranged version) to the list. I hate iterative attacks, and would much prefer for everybody to get the option to skip them and just add dice to a single massive attack.
The Bonus Metamagic Feat List:-Empower Spell (+1 spell level)
-Enlarge Spell (+1 spell level)
-Extend Spell (+1 spell level)
-Heighten Spell (X)...
Heighten Spell is the only one I'd give for free. Anybody should be able to prep (or cast) a spell using a higher level slot and get the benefit of casting a fireball as a 4th level spell (+1 DC, mostly, barring interaction with globes of invulnerability).
The other metamagic feats, I think I'd rather replace entirely with the Sudden Metamagic feats, or with something like the Unearthed Arcana suggestion of having each metamagic feat taken give a number of levels of metamagic adjustment for free, that can be applied to any metamagic feats you know, mix-and-match.
I've never been a fan of the metamagic mechanic, and, coming from a GURPS background, I found it counter-intuitive that you learned to extend or widen or empower pretty much every spell you knew, instead of learning to improve or modify a single spell. It 'feels' even weirder when the metamagic you just learned is going to apply just as readily to the mage armor you've been casting every day for six years now, as to the unseen servant that you just scribed into your book yesterday and haven't actually cast yet.
But that's something that could only make sense if the D&D/PF magic system was a skill based or ability check based system, and different spells could be mastered to different levels, and modified in range, duration, etc. by penalizing the check appropriately on the fly, and, whatever that would be, it wouldn't be *this* game system. :)
Monsters and NPCs: I think I'd give the bonus feats to some monsters and NPCs with PC class levels. Some monsters, because I wouldn't want to do the work picking new feats for every critter the party encounters, but other "showcase monsters" will get the option. Maybe consider an encounter to have a -1 to CR (or +1 to APL) unless all creatures are given the bonus feats as well?
Prereqs: Absolutely keeping them - I think it will actually encourage players to have a more balanced stat array (I might reconsider dropping Int as a fighter if I knew I was missing out on a free feat). I predict that I'll see a lot more intelligent fighters hoping to go down combat feat trees...
Vital Strike: I've considered replacing iterative attacks with the Vital Strike feats before, although I'm not too bothered by iterative attacks. Still, if I'm going down this route, now might be the time to make the change.
Fighert Club: I'm don't really want to make some feats free for fighters only - I'd like to see more flexibility among all the martial classes (plus, then everyone would be dipping a level of fighter like crazy!). I've actually already opened up fighter-specific feats for other classes (with the prereq of fighter level replaced by BAB).
Heighten Spell: I think this one is a given - I already allow players to prepare lower-level spells in higher-level slots, and I feel bad when they end up having to. Sacrificing a higher-level slot for +1 DC isn't really much of a trade off, and it does improve the viability of lower level combat spells, instead of players loading their spellbooks with whatever the highest evocation blast they can manage this level.
Item Crafting: I was considering adding the Item Creation Feats, but I'm of two minds. On one hand, a player probably isn't going to make many staffs, and charging a feat so they can make a single staff symbolizing their spellcaster seems a bit much - and I think it's far more flavorful for the party to brew their own potions and scribe their own scrolls. On the other hand, Create Wonderful Item is so versatile and Create Arms and Armor so powerful that I hesitate to give them away freely. So, make some item feats free? Or all? I'm not sure! Warblegarble!
EDIT: I have also toyed with the house rule where a spellcaster must make use the Craft or Profession skill related to the item being made, instead of Spellcraft. Maybe that's how to make this work, Spellcasters have all the item creation feats for free, but have to ration their skills for the items they'd like to make.
I had the same thought on Two-Weapon Fighting at first, but I think with the prereqs in place it won't be too much of a problem. Improved TWF requires Dex 17 and BAB +6, and Greater TWF requires Dex 19 and BAB +11.
I do foresee some fighters wanting to take Improved TWF, and then realizing they don't have the stats, and they're already rockin' a belt of giant strength.
Some considerations:-Should NPCs and Monsters also gain these feats as bonus feats?
This very much depends on your justification for giving each feat.
If your justification is, that you want to run a game where the PCs are mighty heroes, who are far, far above the majority population, then you don't need to give these out across the board. It's a GM call in every case, if a given monster or NPC is similarly 'destined', or 'touched by the gods'.
In Greek myth, the heroes didn't hunt races of medusae, or chimerae; they faced The Medusa, The Chimera, etc.
Such monsters were often famous people, cursed for their hubris, or the offspring of the gods, who unlike the heroes, 'went a bit wrong'.
Such iconic individuals should qualify for the free feats, and maybe some that aren't on the list, if they aren't humanoid, or if they use natural weapons. Consider some of the Monstrous feats as being 'innate', rather than needing to be learned.
Using my own handsome self as an example, does a magical, bronze-skinned bull really need to be taught how to Bull Rush?
Fortunately, D&D/PF has a long tradition of including racial skill bonuses, bonus feats, or just flat out inventing abilities for monsters, to allow them to do what they're supposed to do, when the math of the system gets in the way.
If your justification for the free feat, is that you believe it shouldn't even be a feat in the first place, then you are really obliged to take that belief to its logical conclusion.
If you believe 'Weapon Finesse is the normal style any proficient user would wield a finessable weapon', then it stands to reason that every proficient combatant, PC, NPC, BBEG, or goon, who draws a dagger or rapier, should have the option to apply Str or Dex mods to hit, without the requirement to spend a feat.
If you believe that Combat Expertise is simply 'fighting defensively, but under a different name', then either drop the feat from the game, drop its incorrect use as a pre-requisite for so many unrelated maneuvers, or give it out for free to everyone, regardless of INT.
If you believe that Power Attack is simply 'fighting offensively', then why should it require a feat? Why is sacrificing accuracy, for damage, more difficult to pull off than sacrificing accuracy for defence?
If you believe that any of those feats are simply a worthless feat tax, or are general fighting stances which have no business being feats at all, then you owe it to all NPCs and monsters to apply them universally.
"An NPC is simply a PC whose player couldn't make it to the game."