Yes, it carries with it a ton of baggage and problems.
- Creation requires picking from huge lists instead of rolling and going
- It effectively is design by denial; it takes things everyone should be able to do and puts them behind walls. "No Bob, I can't let you do that, because that will invalidate spending a feat on that."
- They show up in splatbooks in great numbers. The quantity causes a lot of them to be stupid.
- The fact that feats are chained (you need x to get y) mean that you have to plan and build your characters out.
I will seriously Paypal you 1$ if you can find anyone who ever bothered to take Multitalented Mastery.
|Multitalented Mastery (Half-Elf)
You are adept at numerous disciplines.
Prerequisites: Character level 5th, half-elf, multi-talented racial trait.
Benefit: All of your classes are considered favored classes. You gain either +1 hit point or +1 skill point whenever you take a level in any class. Apply these bonuses retroactively for all class levels that have not yet gained one of these bonuses.
Normal: Half-elves with the multi-talented racial trait have two favored classes.
Imagine the circumstance this is useful, you have two classes and take a prestige class, right? Then you're getting a few extra skill points (at least 3) and it totally seems useful.
Except prestige classes can never be a favored class.
What a nightmare.
Of course, there are traps by design also. Monte Cook wrote an essay called Ivory Tower Game Design, now erased. But nothing is gone forever, here's the link from the way back machine Justin Alexander notes in his thoughts on the article that it is impossible to have many choices in a game and have those choices all be balanced from one another. Something is going to be better than another thing. But if you don't realize how useless whirlwind attack is, well, you're going to have a bad time.
So, what is it that makes a good feat? What guidelines can we use to create abilities like this in rule light games that avoid all the problems inherent in the current modern system?
Here are the guidelines for old school feats.
- No chains. Possibly prerequisites, such as "Must be level 4" might be allowed, but only in ways that segment whole groups of feats, not little dinky separate and unique prerequisites for each and every feat. "Anything off this page at the start. When you reach level 4, you can pick from both pages".
- The feats must not be something anyone could attempt. This is actually setting design. Is there a roll based chance to discover what a potion is? Or is it something that can only be done with training? It can provide a large bonus on something everyone can do.
- If feats are available at character creation, there should be very few (7) options, or there should be the option to select the feat later (after the first adventure).
- The total number of feats, along with their mechanical descriptions should be very few. Think about narrowing your design space. Will this feat fold into another one? Can you just re-fluff another feat to serve this purpose? Does this feat work better as something a class can just do? Is this a feat that everyone will take? Is there another feat that is superior in all or most ways to this one? If so, eliminate it.
- No feat should be designed to provide something background or character oriented. You can say "I'm a sailor" and you don't need some special "sailor" feat to make it true. That customization should come about from skills (if you use them), ad hoc bonuses, and re-skinning the flavor of feats.
- The benefit must be substantial, which is likely a side effect of flattening the list. +3 hit points and +1 to AC vs. one opponent are right out. You will only get 3-10 of the things anyway.
- Flavor is superior to power
- Feats are useful for providing customization to fighting and thief classes that wizards normally gain through spell selection, so their feat selection options should be greater and more frequent, while wizards should be less.