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Last time a played D&D it was 3.0, and I remember thinking the Weapon Focus feat is kind of dull, but it's sometimes a prerequisite for more advanced feats.

So I would like to rewrite it something like so:

Prerequisites: Proficiency with selected weapon, base attack bonus +1.

Benefit: You gain a +2 to hit and +1 damage on all attack rolls you make using the selected weapon. You also get +1 to hit on all attack rolls you make with a weapon of the same type as the selected weapon.

Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new weapon.

The weapon type groups would be something like: Knives, Swords, Axes, Bow, Spears, etc. with some exceptions like rapiers (which shouldn't be lumped together with great swords).

This alternative version is a bit more powerful:

Prerequisites: Proficiency with selected weapon, base attack bonus +1.

Benefit: You gain a to-hit bonus of (2 + Level/4) and damage bonus of (1 + Level/4) on all attack rolls you make using the selected weapon. You also get a to-hit bonus of (1 + Level/4) on all attack rolls you make with a weapon of the same type as the selected weapon.

Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Its effects do not stack. Each time you take the feat, it applies to a new weapon.

Would these be balanced? What could be done to make this feat better?

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your categories seems to broad: great swords and rapiers should not share a weapon category. –  Colin D Jan 11 '13 at 18:58
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"You gain a +2 bonus on attack rolls with the selected weapon, as well as a +1 bonus on damage rolls with the selected weapon. These bonuses increase by one at level four, and again every four levels thereafter." –  Lord_Gareth Jan 11 '13 at 19:36
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Do you mean these weapon groups? d20srd.org/srd/variant/buildingCharacters/weaponGroupFeats.htm –  LitheOhm Jan 11 '13 at 20:25
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Also see the Pathfinder weapon groups: d20pfsrd.com/classes/core-classes/fighter –  mxyzplk Jan 11 '13 at 22:13
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Thankfully Weapon Mastery is a horrifically sub-par feat that really needs to stop existing in its current incarnation. Most of the special Fighter feats are similar - aggressively poor to the point of being insulting. –  Lord_Gareth Jan 14 '13 at 3:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Weapon Focus is absolutely a bad feat. In fact, it’s even possible that this was intentional on the part of the system’s designers. It is frequently used as a “tax” for stronger feats or prestige classes.

This is pretty atrocious design, and I can state unequivocally that 99% of those taxed options do not deserve such a tax.

Also, for reference, the entire “chain” of weapon specialization feats are similarly poor. Actually, most of them are a lot worse, requiring Fighter levels and not often being used for prerequisites. The exception is Weapon Supremacy in Player’s Handbook II, which is fairly powerful, but comes way too late and requires way too many things (including Fighter 18).

Your Initial Suggestion

It’s clearly better, but I’m not convinced that makes it good. Ideally, feats should be better than just a straight numerical bonus. The +1 damage is almost meaningless, and +2 to attack is fairly minor as well.

So while better, this isn’t good.

Your Second Suggestion

Better, in that the scaling bonus matters a lot more. Problematic, in that it fundamentally throws off a lot of calculations – attack bonuses already scale much faster than AC, now they’re scaling much faster than they used to. You almost have the flip-side of the problem now: for a lot of builds, Weapon Focus becomes required, because as boring as it is, being without that huge bonus to attack is putting you on a different playing field. That bonus is larger than the difference between medium and full BAB at any given level.

My Suggestion

First of all, I don’t care for the entire concept of Weapon Focus; few characters are going to care very much about the type of weapon they are using most of the time. Most will use weapons all of the same type because they chose that weapon for a reason. And all this accomplishes is giving them extra trouble with damage-type-based DR (e.g. DR 5/Piercing or whatever) that forces them away from their favored weapon.

So my personal preference is to simply eliminate the entire line of feats altogether. Anything that required them in the past, simply loses that requirement. I can imagine that there are cases where I’d want to tax the player, in which case some other feat would take its place.

But if you insist on going this route, I’ want to add features that are actually useful. Not just bonuses, but the ability to use new features of the weapon. This also avoids giving too much of the simple attack bonus, which throws off a lot of calculations.

So something like this:

Weapon Focus

Choose a weapon group from the list below

Prerequisites:

Proficiency in at least one weapon from chosen group, BAB +1

Benefits:

You gain a +1 bonus to your attacks made with weapons from the chosen group that you are proficient with. In addition, each group has its own benefits, listed below. These benefits only apply to attacks made with weapons from the group that you are proficient with.

  • Axes: You gain the Cleave feat. If you already have it, you gain the Greater Cleave feat. If you already have both, you gain the Whirlwind Attack feat. (Handaxe, Throwing Axe, Battleaxe, Dwarven Waraxe, Dwarven Urgrosh, Orc Double Axe)

  • Blunt Force Trauma: On a critical hit, your target is Staggered. (Club, Light Mace, Heavy Mace, Morningstar, Light Hammer, Flail, Warhammer, Greatclub, Heavy Flail, Gnome Hooked Hammer)

  • Bows: You add your Dexterity bonus to your damage. This does not stack with your Strength modifier, if it would otherwise apply: choose the highest of the two. (Light Crossbow, Heavy Crossbow, Sling, Longbow, Shortbow, Composite Longbow, Composite Shortbow, Hand Crossbow, Repeating Light Crossbow, Repeating Heavy Crossbow)

  • Crossbows: You gain the Rapid Reload feat. (Light Crossbow, Heavy Crossbow, Hand Crossbow)

  • Double Weapons: You gain the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, but only for these weapons. You may ignore the Dexterity requirements on feats that require Two-Weapon Fighting, but if you do not meet them they function only for weapons in this group. You may apply the enhancements from one end of your weapon to the attacks made with the other end, replacing any enhancements that may have been on that end. (Quarterstaff, Orc Double Axe, Dire Flail, Gnome Hooked Hammer, Two-bladed Sword, Dwarven Urgrosh)

  • Expert Weapons: You gain the Combat Expertise feat. You may ignore the Intelligence requirements on any feat that requires Combat Expertise. (Unarmed Strike, Sickle, Flail, Heavy Flail, Halberd, Guisarme, Ranseur, Scythe, Kama, Nunchaku, Sai, Bolas, Dire Flail, Gnome Hooked Hammer, Whip)

  • Flexibility: You ignore Shield bonuses to AC on your attacks. (Flail, Heavy Flail, Whip, Spiked Chain)

  • Graceful Blades: You may score critical hits even against those creatures that are usually immune to them. (Rapier, Scimitar, Falchion)

  • Grim Reapers: You may execute a coup de grâce as a Standard Action. (Light Pick, Heavy Pick, Scythe)

  • Knockout Weapons: An unaware opponent struck with these weapons during a Surprise Round must make a Fortitude save, DC equal to 10 plus the damage dealt by the blow, or be knocked unconscious for 1d4 hours. (Unarmed Strike, Dart, Sap)

  • Fists of Steel: You may add your Unarmed Strike damage to your attacks made with Gauntlets or Spiked Gauntlets. Any modifiers that apply to both Gauntlet and Unarmed Strike damage (e.g. your Strength modifier) do not stack. (Gauntlet, Spiked Gauntlet, Punching Dagger)

  • Pallisade: You may set against a charge as an Immediate Action. (Spear, Longspear, Halberd, Trident, Dwarven Urgrosh)

  • Reach: Your reach with these weapons is continuous out to their farthest extent; you do not have a minimum reach. (Longspear, Glaive, Guisarme, Lance, Ranseur)

  • Shields: You gain the Improved Shield Bash feat. (Light Shield, Heavy Shield, Light Spiked Shield, Heavy Spiked Shield)

  • Sicarii: Against flat-footed opponents, you deal additional damage equal to your level. This stacks with Sneak Attack and similar. (Dagger, Punching Dagger, Kukri, Hand Crossbow, Sai, Shuriken)

  • Spears: On a critical hit, you may choose to leave your spear lodged in your foe’s body. Doing so leaves him entangled, unable to maneuver unless he pulls it out as a Standard Action. Removing the spear without a DC 15 Heal check as a full-round action causes it to deal twice the damage it normally if you’d attacked him with it. (Javelin, Shortspear, Spear, Trident, Siangham)

  • Spiked Armor: You gain Constrict damage equal to the damage dealt by the Spiked Armor you wear. (Spiked Armor)

  • Swordsmanship: You gain a +2 bonus to AC, and your bonus to attack from this feat is also +2 instead of +1. If you have Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard Sword), these bonuses increase to +4 each while using one. The AC bonuses do not stack if you use two (or more) of these weapons. (Short Sword, Longsword, Greatsword, Bastard Sword, Two-bladed Sword)

  • Tactics: A creature tripped by your bolas or entangled in your net are treated as flat-footed against your attacks until they have stood up or disentangled themselves. (Bolas, Net)

  • Thrown Weapons: You gain the Quick Draw feat. (Club, Dagger, Shortspear, Spear, Light Hammer, Throwing Axe, Trident, Sai)

  • Unarmed Strike: Your Unarmed Strikes deal damage as if a size category larger, and may be enhanced as if they were a manufactured weapon. You need to be physically present while the enhancements are being worked on, but you do not need to do them yourself. The effective size increase stacks with other effects that increase your size or effective size for the purposes of Unarmed Strikes. (Unarmed Strike)

  • Viper’s Kiss: You may threaten the area within your reach, and make attacks of opportunity with, whips and whip-daggers. (Whip, Whip Dagger)

Special:

Some of these benefits grant feats: these feats, and any feats that have them as prerequisites, may only be used while wielding one of the weapons from the group that you are proficient in. Any such feats that add bonuses to attacks apply only to attacks made with these weapons; penalties, however, apply to all attacks.

Special:

You may select this feat multiple times, but each time must choose a different weapon group. If a weapon is in two weapon groups, the benefits of both groups apply to its attacks. The bonus to attack rolls do not stack for overlapping weapons.

Special:

A Monk who selects the Fists of Steel group may apply its benefits to any Monk weapon he wields. As an exception, Unarmed Strikes instead deal damage as if his Monk level were four higher than it is. This stacks with other effects (such as a Monk’s Belt) that increases his effective Monk level.

Special:

A Fighter may select this feat as one of his Bonus Feats.

Special:

A Cleric with the War Domain gains this feat for any one weapon group that includes his deity’s favored weapon. For a favored weapon that is in multiple groups, the Cleric may choose which group when he gains the War Domain; he cannot change this choice thereafter.

Analysis

This feat is designed to improve the basic power level of melee in the game. Weapon Focus is a Core feat; lots of other feats and prestige classes require it. Now, it’s a feat most melee probably wants: the bonuses for using a weapon from these groups is pretty significant. I’ve tried to favor the weapons that are inherently weaker with stronger Weapon Focus benefits, but that’s tricky.

Granting a feat as a part of a feat is a weird thing to do, but what this basically ends up doing is providing different requirements for those feats that were previously also very tax-y. Pay two taxes with one bill, I suppose. Things like Rapid Reload (necessary to use crossbows seriously) and Combat Expertise (requirement for several of the Improved combat maneuver feats) are necessary but not that good (crossbow+Rapid Reload still is not as good as a bow, Combat Expertise is a terrible feat on its own). Cleave is the exception; Cleave is a pretty weak feat, but usually it just gets ignored, rather than becoming a tax. On the flip side, axes and swords are the best non-reach weapons, so that balances out (sort of).

A note on Knockout, and the Sicarii: flat-footed is not the same as denied-Dex, and unaware in a surprise round is even more difficult to get. Knockout will, at best, drop one target per encounter, and most encounters you won’t really have that opportunity. Sicarii works a bit more often, but you have to work at it more than Sneak Attack: no simply flanking an enemy and going to town.

A Side Note

In discussing this suggestion in the comments, I was reminded that Legend does similar things with its weapon feats. I do recommend looking to Legend for ideas in that regard: for the purposes of feats, anyway, Legend material can be ported back to 3.5 relatively easily.

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I've created a chat room for this discussion. –  KRyan Jan 14 '13 at 16:16
    
Good answer. I like your Weapon Focus alternative feat as well. –  Cypher Jan 14 '13 at 23:38
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This version of the feat is similar to the "[Weapon Group] Expertise" collection of feats from 4e's Heroes of the Fallen Lands: Feat bonus to attack rolls with the weapon group, plus a weapon group-specific benefit. While there are many differences between 3.5 and 4e, it seems in this case Wizards might agree with you to some extent. :) –  Brian S Aug 18 at 18:29

Not Unbalanced, but worded wrong

This goes a little bit of the distance to make Weapon Focus less sub-par, yes. It's not really, y'know, great (Power Attack is still 100% superior at all levels of choice) but it's at least no longer aggressively insulting. However, the second sentence is obscure and needs clarification on what you mean. Is weapons of the same type meaning Simple, Martial, or Exotic? Does it mean Melee, Reach, Ranged? Piercing, Slashing, Bludgeoning? Mundane, Masterwork, Magical? Clean up the wording and it'll be fine.

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See the groups in the question, swords, axes, etc.. –  RMalke Jan 11 '13 at 19:33
    
3.5 does not recognize those as weapon groups, and neither does Pathfinder, which is the trouble. I would suggest organizing it based on damage type, myself. –  Lord_Gareth Jan 11 '13 at 19:35

Player's Handbook II has many more feats, and several that relate directly to fighters. There is also Melee Weapon Mastery, which makes these bonuses apply to all weapons of a given damage type (piercing, slashing, bludgeoning) as well as being a prerequisite for other feats relating to those kinds of weapons. This might solve the need for a modification.

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