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.