16 Feats Worth Selecting

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on October 12, 2010

I love building new characters. It doesn’t matter what level, I enjoy the challenge of creating interesting builds. Matching feats and powers to create powerful characters that can withstand anything thrown at them. I enjoy taking those characters and dreaming up a background story for them. Imbuing the raw numbers with life.

Recently I was messing about with Character Builder. My goal was to build as tough a Fighter as I possibly could. I decided on human for my race and I was going to build this character at level 30.

It wasn’t until I got to the feats section that I realized how overwhelming this decision was. At level 30 my human gets 19 feats, however there are 14 human racial feats available by the time you hit Epic level. I selected Combat Superiority as part of my Fighter build and this gave me another 60 class feats throughout my 30 levels.

New feats are released with every new book and every new issue of Dragon magazine. All of this points towards an abundance of choice, which is good. But it can also be a double-edged sword. It’s easy to get lost in all the choices that are available and miss a feat that would complete the vision for your character. Fortunately, you are able to retrain each time your character levels, but let’s be honest you want to get it right the first time.

Of course the other problem is that some feats are almost mandatory. Not taking them leaves your character with a serious disadvantage over other characters. At first glance it might not seem like much, but encounter after encounter the difference begins to show.

We need to be honest, not all feats are created equal. Some feats are clearly superior to others. Some feats provide no tangible in-game benefit but add to the role-playing potential of your character. This means you need to understand the style of game you are playing. If LFR is your D&D outlet, don’t pick feats that add to role-playing. You aren’t going to get the satisfaction you’re looking for and will suffer during combat. While this statement isn’t 100% true, it’s close enough to serve as a warning about role-playing feats and LFR games.

One thing I’m a big believer in is that your feat selections should tell a story about your character. Why does your character speak additional languages, have they travelled extensively? How is it that your character can shrug off the environmental damage from cold environments? Every feat should tell a story and be a part of your characters background.

Feats can be broken down into three categories: Mandatory, Essential and Character Defining.

Mandatory Feats

The feats in this section are must haves. In fact some of the feats listed here are so mandatory that many DMs allow players to take them for free as a house rule. Among these DMs is Greg Bilsland a producer with WotC.

  • Weapon or Implement Expertise – If you aren’t hitting, you aren’t contributing in combat. You can’t overlook the advantages Expertise feats provide. Consider these feats almost mandatory for all classes. The release of Essentials has seen a secondary bonus be included with this series of feats, making them even more than just a +1 to hit.
  • Improved Defenses – Move aside Paragon Defenses and Robust Defenses, this new feat released with Essentials now provides a +1 bonus at Heroic, increasing to +2 and +3 at Paragon and Epic respectively. If you haven’t selected either of the feats listed below, Improved Defenses is a must take.
  • Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Great Fortitude – Avoiding taking damage keeps you alive and these three feats all assist your PC in this area. These feats were revamped with the release of Essentials and they now have a progression built in. They provide increased bonuses as your character advances through Paragon and Epic levels.
  • Superior Fortitude, Superior Reflexes, Superior Will – Similar to the defensive feats listed above, this series of feats provides a bonus to the appropriate defense. However, these feats have a minimum attribute requirement and provide a permanent secondary bonus. Damage resist to ongoing damage, combat advantage over all enemies during the first round, and the ability to save against stun and daze at the beginning of your turn even if the condition isn’t save ends. I expect to see these three feats on a lot of character sheets.

Essential Feats

The feats listed below won’t make or break your character but they certainly will give you an edge and increase your survivability.

  • Cold Adaptation – Gain resist 5 to cold (10 at paragon, 15 at epic) with this new feat. A lot of players used to choose a cloak of survival to gain cold and fire resist, now if they can take this feat they’re free to choose any other neck item.
  • Durable – Low constitution strikers and controllers might want to look at durable or another comparative feat. If you’re out of healing surges and about to go down you aren’t much use to your adventuring party.
  • Heat Adaptation – Works the same as Cold Adaptation listed above.
  • Toughness – 15 extra hit points over your adventuring career is nothing to sneeze at.

Character Defining Feats

Feats listed in this selection are not going to help you on the battlefield. They will however allow you to specialize in a particular area or become a very well rounded and versatile character. These feats are what I call the role-playing feats and if this is the aspect of the game you enjoy then these are feats you’ll want to research.

  • Jack of all Trades – A +2 to all untrained skills gives you an edge and could provide a needed boost during certain challenges.
  • Linguist – Speaking more than common can have it’s uses, just not in every adventure.
  • Skill Focus – This feat will allow you to specialize and become an expert in any given skill.
  • Skill Training – Some classes only receive training in a few skill and the skill training feat can give you an added advantage.

This, like any other list, is going to be subjective. Using the framework I’ve described above, what feats do you consider mandatory, essential and character defining? Do you disagree with any of my mandatory or essential choices? Let the debate begin.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Walker-Bush October 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

An interesting read. I can’t say I’ve ever tackled the task of creating a character at that level, but it’s something I might give a go.

I do miss the real flexibility of 2nd ed for character customization though.

2 Kenneth McNay October 12, 2010 at 10:22 am

I hate the idea that * foucs and * expertise feats are mandatory. As a DM, I have every ability to monitor the + to-hit of each character; I can adapt the challanges for their capabilities.

If I see one player choosing these feats, it indicates that the character has truly dedicated itself to the practice and mastery of that combat style. That is a roleplay choice.

If I see an entire party choose those feats, it represents a group which doesn’t realize I will adapt the opponents to not only stand up against such a bonus but exceed the bonus. The party will find it harder to succeed than previously.

I carry the same opinion of the defense related feats or improved initiative. One PC with such a feat will stand out among peers as a truly special character while a party taking such feats will find themselves dead on a dungeon floor far sooner than they realize.

I can’t argue about toughness, durable, or skill training/focus. I really like jack-of-all-trades as well as bard-of-all-trades.

I also prefer to see feats selected that offer group-wide benefits. A feat I love is that a ranger took Group Quarry. The avenger looks for opportunities to use Divine Guidance. The dragonborn cleric took a feat that gives bonuses to allies caught in his breath.

Those feats indicate a team forming tactics and strategies that help each other and consider the strengths and weaknesses of each party member. It shows that they are being less self-centered in the formation of a character. It builds cohesion as a party to know that the feats of one character can create benefits for others in the party.

3 Tom H. October 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I’ve seen it argued elsewhere that the multiclass feats which give training in a skill you’re looking for are always (mechanically) preferable to plain Skill Training, which has prompted me to start thinking about houserules in that area.

Since I’m thinking about campaigns or episodic play rather than LFR, I’d encourage my characters to avoid everybody taking “the mandatory feats” for the same reasons Kenneth would, if perhaps not so brutally.

4 DungeonMan October 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm

While some of the feats are really good, some of them aren’t.

5 Milly October 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I agree with Kenneth up there. A good DM should be shaping encounters to the party – if everyone has improved defenses, then they’ll just make the challenges harder, and there’s nothing gained overall. Most of my party has weapon expertise though, but the DM is less concerned with that.

6 Wimwick October 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm

@ Chris Walker-Bush
Creating a level 30 character can be daunting, but very rewarding. I usually handle the progression by tier.

@ Kenneth McNay
I used to be of the opinion that only strikers needed the expertise feats. Strikers deal so much damage that they can’t afford to miss. However, as our campaign approaches epic level monster defenses tend to get extreme, especially on solo and elite mobs. The extra to hit is almost needed.

I like that you modify the numbers of your monsters to suite the characters that are being used. However, many people play in LFR and they don’t have the benefit of the DM altering any of the monsters numbers.

@ Tom H.
As a personal choice I always look at multiclass before skill traning. However, the topic of multiclassing is perhaps larger than I had room for in this post. An interesting build is a bard who multiclasses, talk about having every skill in the book. However, when you swap out a bard power for a multiclass alternative you can have literally a hundred powers to sort through. Not an easy task.

@ DungeonMan
To each their own. What feats would you remove and what would you substitute? It’s easy to criticize and not leave an alternate choice.

@ Milly
If you are playing in a home game then the DM can make those alterations, but if you are playing in LFR or some other form of competitive play that option won’t be available to you. I think the big thing to be aware of is how you are playing the game and what you are looking to get out of the experience.

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