If you haven’t voted in my poll from last week, please do so. It’s extremely important to the underlying math of the game.
Back to the current topic. I have a love/hate relationship with feats. With player customization a major goal of Lost Worlds, I want to have a source of differentiation outside of races and classes. I’ve talked about making classes easy to create and add, but I don’t want to force players to create an entire new class to differentiate.
So, despite the risk of looking like a carbon-copy of D&D, I’m planning on a version of feats for Lost Worlds. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had with players has been creating customized feats for their character that really helped mold the character they are playing into the vision they have. The problem with the feat system is that there were so many, and classes began to lean so heavily on them, that they just turned into another optimization problem for the player to solve.
So here’s my current plan. I’m going to have three types of feats in the game: Character Creation Feats, Distinction Feats, and Achievement Feats.
Character Creation Feats
Character Creation Feats will be available at level one only. They’re going to represent something special about your character from the outset. Some examples of character creation feats:
Arch Nemesis: Upon creating a character, create an arch-nemesis for the character. Detail the arch-nemesis including at least a name, personality, background, and connection to the character. You gain a +1 bonus to all die rolls when pursuing a cause directly related to your arch-nemesis (GM’s discretion). When opposing your arch-nemesis directly, this bonus increases to +2.
Base of Operations: You have a base of operations in the immediate area. Create a description and/or map of your base of operations. The base of operations should be suitable to the background and level (if starting characters higher than level 1) of the character. Examples might include an old tavern, a one or two story house, a hidden camp in the sewers of a city, an abandoned warehouse, etc.
Distinction Feats will be modeled after class powers. A Distinction feat can really be any kind of power: Resource Limited Power (Energy/# of uses), Triggered Power, Static Bonus, Conditional Bonus, etc. They are designed to let a player mold their character into something more individualized than a class can hope to be by itself. A Distinction Feat can also provide non-combat advantages such as bonuses in interactions with certain types of people, an uncanny ability to sense danger, etc. A lot of old 3e D&D feats could fall into this category as well (power attack, whirlwind attack, spring attack, etc) if a player is looking for inspiration or doesn’t have a specific idea in mind for their character. In the end though, I think Distinction Feats are the space for really unique feats that make a character special.
The last kind of feat is an achievement feat. An achievement feat is not something the player selects for their character, rather, it’s something that the GM awards to a character based on play. These feats are meant to be little odes to the in-game achievements of a character over the life of that character. For example, lets say your character was knocked prone, but made an epic attack while on the ground to save the day. The GM might award you with an achievement feat: Prone Combat. Prone Combat might be handled in a number of different ways, but one example might be that it allows the player to expend some resource in order to make attacks from prone at no penalty (after all, they’ve been there before and succeeded!). Achievements could be unlocked for all kinds of things: Meeting new people, training with a legendary trainer, amazing (or terrible!) die rolls in meaningful situations, creative problem solving, memorable quotes, etc.
Achievement feats would be limited to one per 5 character levels, so that no individual character ends up with too many extra feats, and these powers should generally generally not be as significant in impact as the Distinction Feats. They’re meant to allow a character to grow a little bit more organically, be little badges of honor, and to reward players for interesting play. Also, since these are awarded ad-hoc by the GM, there’s not as much concern about them being completely balanced since they aren’t part of the player’s optimization problem anymore. As the GM, I’d need to work to make sure that achievement feats are given out on a relatively equal basis, and I’d certainly be willing to hear player feedback on when something should turn into an achievement feat – but I also don’t have to worry about anyone taking advantage of the game structure using them, since they’re not available for players to choose from. There’s also no need to have hundreds of them defined in advance since they’re really just spur of the moment creations.
I think between these different kind of feats, I hit the customization design goal pretty solidly while still maintaining player balance and avoiding (for the most part) the optimization problem.
- ACKS, Lords & Wizards, and the Problem of Proficiencies (retroroleplaying.com)