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.
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.
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.