Posted by : David Guyll July 18, 2013

I mentioned earlier this week that I am getting to the point where I think that feats should just be dropped from the game, and this week's Questions & Answers column does nothing to dissuade me from this stance. Part of it is that classes will get a variable number of opportunities to boost their already easily "cappable" ability scores, but most of it is the feat philosophy of "you need to only take one feat to be good at a certain thing".

This is similar to an issue I had in 3rd Edition regarding multiclassing, where you could pick up a level in wizard and spontaneously learn every cantrip and a bunch of 1st-level spells, or nab a level in fighter and know how to wear every
form of armor and wield most weapons. What makes it even more bizarre is that
you do not need to know anything about either of these things beforehand.

I get that the pair of example feats have not been "developed or edited", but why does Great Weapon Master require no prior knowledge of how to use any weapons at all? Why does Heavy Armor Master only require that you know how to wear medium armor. According to the article you will need to wait until 4th-level to pick a feat, but does it make any sense at all that a wizard of all classes can become a "master" of big weapons, or a dwarven wizard can be a "master" of heavy armor?

If a player wants to become a master with two-handed weapons and/or armor, then should that not require access to a class that is iconically good with weapons and/or armor? Like, if a wizard wants to get better at weapons she should pick up some fighter levels, which would ideally allow her to pick from a suite of weapon features to more gradually emphasize her training. Same goes for the reverse, where a rogue could dabble in illusions and the like by snagging a few wizard levels.

Of course this approach would require an overhaul of the classes, giving them more options at more levels (or some, as is the case with most of them so far). It would also require spellcasting that remains viable even if you take only a few levels, unlike how it worked in 3rd Edition where in almost every case you had to have full spellcasting. These would both be welcome changes, as I think it would allow for more organic, interesting concepts that editions before 4th made it difficult if not impossible to realize.

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I don't understand why it would be a problem if a wizard wanted to pick Great Weapon Mastery. It is such a suboptimal choice that anyone who does it probably has a really cool character concept and/or build in mind. I say knock yourself out.

    I get it if you don't want the wizard trampling on the fighter's role, but a wizard that can pull out a greatsword is not in the wizard archetype anyway. Part of having more flexible classes is letting people take them in different directions, not just binary skill choices every few levels.

    There is a weird inconsistency with the weapon one having no prereqs and the armor one needing you to build up to it though. Too many prereqs brings us back to the crazy multiclassing gymnastics that players did back in 3.5 to qualify for feats and PRCs.

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  2. On one hand it is the implication of a wizard going from negligible weapon skill to a "master" suddenly, without any granular increase. I had the same problem in 3rd Edition where a fighter would go from absolutely no magical capabilities to suddenly having access to every 0-level spell and a bunch of 1st-level ones. I am not opposed to a wizard learning how to use a greatsword, but I want it to be viable, not just something a player takes just for the heck of it.

    I would much rather a wizard take a level in fighter to start representing increased weapon training, but this would require a departure from 3rd Edition magic, where skipping a beat in your spellcasting levels could severely cramp your style. I think that giving us a combination of 3rd Edition multiclassing mixed with 4th Edition's "choose your thing" distribution model would make for much more customizable, interesting characters.

    This week's Legends & Lore makes mention of building your own subclasses, so maybe it will not be difficult to hack the game to have more organic character progression? Perhaps the "flat" math range of +1 to +6 for attacks will also make it a more useful choice.

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  3. I have to feel that the whole, "Suddenly my wizard is wonderfully adept at swinging great big weapons of doom," could be tackled by the DM and some backstory. As a DM I would not allow a player to take said feat unless they built some semblance of practice, or use of large weapons into their play style prior to taking the feat. It does however seem strange that a player could go from negligible skill to full blown mastery.

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  4. I recall in 3rd Edition how players used to handwaive a character learning magic by stating that it was assumed they were learning it on the side, or being taught by the party wizard...which does not explain why the character is able to gain a spellbook (with all 0-level spells and a bunch of 1st-level spells), and the ability to prepare and cast numerous spells right from the start.

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