Why even resort to feats?
Character differentiation. In the battle against cookie-cutting, uniqueness is the weapon of choice. I don’t mean the “uniqueness” dictated by builds, the sort that always degenerates in soulless sinergy and the grinding crunch of efficiency, but the uniqueness which only a lottery windfall befalling a poor man can provide: Fortune.
On the useful Feat
As mentioned, I don’t think of feats in terms of an exercise in optimized character aerodynamics, nor do I pay heed to the tiresome paradigm of there’s a feat for that, according to which a character wishing to be an archer in good standing unavoidably beget having the archery feat. I detest and reject the whole “mandatory option by design” school.
Courtney Campbell (of Hack & Slash fame) once wrote a resonating piece on this topic, which in an interesting case of the OSR seeping back into the mainstream ended up being adopted by fifth edition’s design ethos. I plod along much the same lines insomuch as I treat each feat as a self-contained affair instead of a branching sequence of optimization enablers. Unlike the PHB, however, instead of each feat allotting the character a whole career-making suite of expertise abilities, mine are to act more as differentiators that happen to lend a little bit of power. This necessitates that they be both randomly acquired and drawn from a large pool of possibilities.
Stumble at every hurdle
First of all, I’ve cheated. There are not one hundred feats in the table that follows, rather, the table’s design meant that it got nibbled of six entries at each end, for a total just shy of ninety.
These first hundred entries don’t feel terribly inspired. Filling the table felt easy while the first twenty-odd ideas bounced off, the momentum was kept by drawing and quartering the PHB feats and then… stall. Coming up with feats that are both mundane and that don’t simultaneously encroach red-handedly upon the thematic expertise turf of the character classes is somewhat difficult and I’m all for protecting the niches, so the going got slow. Yet, also implied, is that the list is not set in stone: once the ideas do flow, from within or with player input, I’ll gladly update and expand the table to a d300 or further still.
In a continued effort to differentiate the demihuman races I’m up for trying something different: the more overtly magical feats, the kind that would feel a bit too difficult to explain if manifested on a prosaic human, have been pushed to become part of a second table – the second d100 for magical feats. I did concede to have divine interactions seep into this mundane table, as they are implied as a natural and non-inherent kind of supernaturalism.
Accrual of Commitment
Feat acquisition can come both at character generation or later through levelling and other events derived from play. The in-setting explanation for their acquisition (or manifestation) is assumed to fall upon the player, with mediation from the referee.
I ended up artificially constraining myself to have each feat be a blurb, alloting it no more than two lines or roughly 120 characters apiece, dismembering the PHB feats and injecting some of my own brain juice among the cracks. One of the side effects was that the majority of the feats ended up not being worth more than a single mulligan token, which will force me to go back and revise the feat pricing part of the character generation procedure. If the concern for impractical characters bedecked in feats like christmas trees does come up through play (which I doubt) a feat limit equal to the proficiency modifier for starting characters or something of the sort can later be proposed.
The feats themselves offer between one and three thematically linked things. They often grant proficiency in a skill wherever it makes sense due to the nature of the accompanying ability or if the entry just needed some value shore-up. A number of them are based on affording special dispensation from both the general rules or the hogwash that I’ve been spewing this past year and touch mainly on the pillars of play – combat, exploration and interaction – that ought to be common ground to whichever race or class that ends up taking the feat. If some entries read as vague and underdeveloped, the rationale is that the referee should only expend time with something that has a 1/100th chance of occuring once it actually does. Then it can be appropriately fleshed out mechanically.
- Men and Half-men roll exclusively on the d100 mundane table.
- Elves and Dwarves roll on both tables (d200).
- Gnomes roll exclusively on the d100 supernatural table.
- If a feat grants training on a skill the character is already proficient in, increase the skill’s associated attribute by 1 instead.
- In the unlikely event of an individual feat being rolled twice, fashion an improved version of it (or reroll, if this proves impossible).
|Feat: Improved Table Reading|