14 November 2009
Why I Dislike 'Feats'
My participation in this thread at the RPGsite prompted me to reflect somewhat on exactly why I dislike 'feats' in 3e and 4e D&D, that is, why I loathe this game mechanic in the more recent versions of 'Ye Olde Game.'
'Feats' in 3e and 4e are an 'exception-based' mechanic. That means that if a PC/NPC/monster (hereinafter simply 'character') has a certain feat, the normal rules do not apply to him/her/it. Instead, other rules apply to the character. Feats provide 'exceptions' to otherwise universally-applied rules.
My dislike of feats has nothing to do with 'fairness.' Indeed, such a concern would be laughably misplaced, given how concerned the designers of 3e and 4e were to ensure overall 'balance' within their systems (i.e., all character classes, races, and so forth, are equally 'powerful' and 'useful' -- sadly defined exclusively in terms of combat ability in 4e).
Feats require one to remember more rules, or at least be willing to look up more rules during the game. The 'more stuff to remember' aspect of feats is irritating. I have to remember too many things in my job ("what is today's lecture on, again?"; "is there a faculty meeting on Friday?"; "what was Kant's argument for the 'Formula of Humanity' again?"; etc.) -- having to remember loads of fiddly rules for my hobby is a burden that I do not care to assume. I'm simply too old and lazy. Ultimately, though, my dislike for 'feats' is primarily that I find the mechanic aesthetically ugly. It is unacceptably 'clunky,' in my opinion, to have a game with the following structure:
(a) here are the rules to govern the actions of characters; and
(b) here are hundreds of fiddly exceptions to those rules (often with their own 'sub-rules').
Blech! In contrast, a system like 'Basic Role-Playing,' which uses skills, is not 'exception-based'. The same rules apply, all the time, without exception. Some characters will be much more skilled at certain things than others, and thus enjoy much greater success rates at those things than others. However, there is no need to provide 'rules-exceptions' for those characters. The overall mechanical structure is far more parsimonious, and intuitive in my opinion, than the feat-based mechanical structure of 3e and 4e. To some extent, the same thing is true of older versions of D&D. Higher-level characters will have a greater chance to hit, make their saving rolls, etc., than lower level characters, but the basic mechanic is the same for all characters. (I'll concede that there are some 'exception-based' rules in older D&D -- namely, class-based abilities -- but they are far, far fewer in number than 'feats' in 3e and 4e. Consequently, they do not really bother me.) So that's it, gentle readers. That's why I hate feats.
Phew! It felt good to get that off my chest.
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