A feat of integration

In my Basic Fantasy game I’m going to give fighters (and only fighters) feats on the same schedule as fighter bonus feats in Type III. As someone who has played fighters more than all other classes combined (at least, I suspect I have, and human fighters at that) I read with interest the preview article in Dragon 270 that introduced feats.

To make fighters more interesting without sacrificing the simplicity that aids new players, the designers made fighters masters of the feat.

There is a good idea there, but they screwed it up. They gave everyone feats. There is no reason to give everyone feats. Other classes had their own niche skills such as spells or stealth abilities. Yet, they still got combat progression and if magic-users were a tad fraigle for front like fighting clerics certainly weren’t. One way to fix this social imbalance is to prevent the other classes from advancing in combat ability. This is the route taken by Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Game and it has been routinely praised for it.

The other route I’ve seen taken around the OSR is some form of fighter options. Sword & Board, a supplement for BFRPG has them in the form of fighter professions, one taken at creation and another at name level. These range from various bonuses to AC, damage, to hit, and so on depending on circumstance to the ability to use magic user scrolls. Delta’s Original Edition Delta includes a dozen fighter feats to be selected one every fourth level starting at fourth. They are about on par with the weakest of the S&B ones. I even reviewed a product that added them to weapons proficiencies. Clearly, the idea of feats as a form of fighter customization has caught on in the OSR at least a little.

The biggest complaint I hear about feats is “they limit what you can do, why can’t anyone try to cut through an orc so much it carries to the next one.” Looking back at the original conception of feats gives a bit of explanation:

Unlike skills, feats always work because they’re bonuses, not abilities. For example, the Dodge feat lets you designate one opponent against whom your character gains a +1 bonus to Armor class. You don’t have to roll for success; you just add the bonus

Had feats stuck to this system instead of the splatbook business model monster they became I doubt we’d have the “but they limit what you can do argument.” The explanation also gives a clue as to how to avoid that problem. For people with feats the bonus is automatic. Want to try to dodge when you don’t have the feat. Well, my a DEX roll and if you pass you get it but if you fail you lose you action this round as you stumble around. Everyone can try it, but someone who is good at it does it automatically without risk of penalty.

The reason I’m just using out of the box OGL feats is two fold. First, it’s just easy to get a huge selection easily and even free. This means I can add it without much creativity except integrating what players choose. Second, consider it a fig leaf to players of newer editions who try my games. Their fighters will still get a bit of flair and they’ll be exposed to one of the great things about the OSR: you can do what you want with it. I’ll even find ways to use non-combat feats if they want them.

8 thoughts on “A feat of integration

  1. Sounds good. What are your thoughts on eliminating feats from the 3e game except for fighters? And if you were playing 3e what genre of feats would you disallow? Or even better, in your OSR game are there certain types of feats you wont be allowing the fighter to have?

    I ask because I play 3e often and would like to either limit the amount of feats all around, or simply only allow them for fighters. Not quite sure how to go about it though so I've been trying to get some ideas.

  2. i agree with the basic principle here: there's no reason fighters shouldn't be able to do extra things if it's all simple and containable on a PC character sheet.

  3. @Ozreth: I think it would improve 3e to limit feats to fighters. The biggest issue is some class abilities (item creation, for example) became feats to add flexibility to classes (if you didn't want to make items you could take metamagic ones to improve spells). If you simply restore class abilities (perhaps make the wizard the creation class and give the sorcerer metamagic as class abilities) that would be a good balance. As for generally playing 3e I don't have many problems with the feats in the PHB but splatbooks would be on a case by case basis.

    For my game I'm pretty much going to allow any SRD feat that is applicable (Skill Focus is pointless for example). Other than that, it'll be case by case.

    @Zak: thanks…although I've seen what you can do with a character sheet (actually, one you posted with creation rules on it was very cool).

  4. I like this, but there is one quality of the fighter at first level that I think should be maintained if possible: no need to master an advanced corpus. One of the things I really dislike about the feat system in 3E and 4E is that there is a huge list of feats, and you kind of need to be familiar with them no matter the class you choose.

    So, if I were going to go this route with fighter feats, I would either select by rolling on a table (so you only need to read one description) or have them accumulate after first level (maybe you have to find a master to train you in the ability, leading to adventure seeds).

    Also, where is that quote (“Unlike skills, feats always work …”) from? I like that distinction between skills and feats (needs a roll vs. always on).

  5. I like the idea of using a table for Level 1 feats for fighters. It fits the older tradition of “go with what you roll”.

    The quote is from Dragon 270 on page 30.

  6. Hmm. Definitely good insight. Although I fear between taking away feats from everybody but fighters along with using the level based skill system (Unearthed Arcana: Does away with skill points and a class skill is d20+level+modifier and a non class skill is d20+modifier) I might as well be playing 2e AD&D :p

    We'll see what I come up with. Also, I'd like to see this character sheet of Zaks.

  7. Rock on with playing 2e AD&D Ozreth…it's actually now the only version I haven't played (counting BECMI/RC/Black Box as one and all 3.x as one).

    That UA skill system sounds a lot like trained/untrained in 4e.

  8. Don't know much about the 4e system. Played it a few years back but can't recall a lot. To me it's basically just making ability checks for things since all your skills are attached to your stats, you just add your level if it's a skill that makes more sense for your class.

    So you mostly stick with Basic Fantasy? Just downloaded it for the first time and am having a look.

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