Feat Design (5e Guideline)
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5e Feat Design Guide
Feats in 5e D&D are an optional rule meant as an alternative to taking an Ability Score Increase. Put simply, whenever you would gain an Ability Score Increase, you could take a feat instead, provided your game is using feats.
The name of a feat should be a simple descriptor of what the feat does in a nutshell. It should also be something that the character might refer to themselves as in-game, an adjective, not an abstract noun. For example, Sharpshooter, not Bow Mastery, or Grappler, not Improved Grappling.
Try using the name of your feat to end the sentence "I am a ..." or "I am ...". If it sounds awkward, the name isn't right. If you can't think of a name that fits, if often means the concept of your feat needs adjusting (perhaps you're focusing on a mechanic rather than narrative behind the feat).
The exception to this is racial feats, feats that expend a particular race's abilities. These can be named like racial traits are, such as "Elven Accuracy" for Elves or "Fade Away" for Gnomes.
A prerequisite for a feat is normally a minimum for a certain ability score or that you be capable of casting spells. These should be used only when truly necessary. For example, the Great Weapon Master implies your character needs great Strength, yet there is no prerequisite. The Grappler feat, however, does because it relies on making Strength (Athletics) checks to grapple opponents. Similarly, Inspiring Leader feat depends on your Charisma modifier.
- Ability Scores
A prerequisite ability score is there to make sure that the feat is useful for the player. It's not a set of goals for the player to achieve to "unlock" the feat. An ability score prerequisite is always 13, because this makes sure you have a minimum of a +1 modifier. (It's odd-numbered per tradition: even numbers give you a modifier increase; odd numbers gives you a prerequisite).
There's probably no need for an ability score increase and a prerequisite for that ability score. Someone taking a feat with an improvement is usually capitalizing on a decent score anyway, making the prerequisite redundant
5e Feats are not 3.5e Feats
In 3.5e, feats usually provided one benefit, often had prerequisites that restricted them to higher levels or certain classes, and often were part of a chain of feats.
In 5e, feats are as inclusive as possible. Anyone should be able to take any feat (except as noted above). While some feats may only provide one benefit, they are often a bundle of themed benefits.
Introduce New Options
Feats should not just be static bonuses or flat increases meant to optimize a character, but should instead offer something new to flesh out characters and make the game more interesting.
Good feats grant players an ability or option that they didn't have before, especially if there's no other way to have that option. Keep in mind how often that new option or ability might come up in a game and how useful it might be. A feat isn't very fun or appealing if the ability is never used, and it's also not very interesting if it's so useful that a player never does anything else.
A good example is Shield Master. One of the benefits allows you to Shove as a bonus action. It grants a new ability that can't be obtained through other means, and it adds a choice and option. By using it, you can't use your bonus action for anything else, so you have to make the call.
Another example is Great Weapon Master, where one of the benefits is to take a penalty to attack rolls to gain a bonus to damage. There's choice and strategy: if the enemy has a high Armor Class, it might be better to make it a normal attack. If you have advantage, taking the penalty to accuracy might be worth the extra damage. If it simply granted a bonus to damage, it would be far less enjoyable and interesting.
- Conditional bonuses are more interesting than flat bonuses.
Having a statistical increase is more flavourful if you only benefit from it in certain circumstances. It also means you can bring an otherwise overpowered benefit into bounds, or bundle several themed benefits together (Dungeon Delver is a good example). This is at the risk of giving the player too much to keep track of (except that, unlike 4e, feats are optional!)
When a feat offers a +1 increase to an ability score as well as some other benefits it is sometimes called a "half feat", since it effectively forgoes half of your Ability Score Increase, usually +2, to get some other benefits.
- Increase your Intelligence score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
While which ability score they should usually relate to the abilities they grant, keep in mind that severely limits the type of characters that might take them. A ranger is unlikely to take a feat that offers a bonus to Intelligence, but if the feat allows the player to choose Intelligence OR Wisdom, it makes it a more viable option.
Feat Template Example
Here is a quick sample of using the 5e Feat template:
|name=Feat Name Goes Here
|prereqs='''Prerequisites.''' If the feat has a prerequisite, it goes right here. Some popular feat prerequities are: The ability to cast at least one spell, (Ability score) 13 or higher, You must be a (race).
|benefit='''''Benefits.''''' Brief flavor description followed by mechanical benefits.
Feat Name Goes Here
Prerequisites: Prerequisites. If the feat has a prerequisite, it goes right here. Some popular feat prerequities are: The ability to cast at least one spell, (Ability score) 13 or higher, You must be a (race).
Benefits. Brief flavor description followed by mechanical benefits.
Complimentary Design Guide
- D&D Beyond: Feat design