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If you multiclass and the new class grants a feat you already possess can you choose to pick another feat that stacks with the existing one?

For example: you have evasion and multiclass that has evasion as a bonus feat, can you substitute improved evasion? I'm a 5th-level investigator. At 1st and 3rd level I took evasion and unarmed strike. I'm thinking of multiclassing to monk next level, which also gets evasion and unarmed strike. So do I just eat those bonus feats (i.e. I already have them so tough luck), or can I choose a feat that stacks with them (e.g. style feat, improved evasion)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to the site. I’ve added your comments to the question itself—comments are temporary so important information for answering the question has to be in the actual Question. I also added the [pathfinder] tag, since you’re playing that system. Tags are also really important to how this site runs. I suggest you check out the Tour if you haven’t done so yet—your questions won’t be able to get answered unless you include all the details in the question, and use the right tags. I helped you out this time but that won’t always happen. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '18 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the same question in D&D 3.5e, which has the same rules for this (but several options for dealing with it are different between the systems). Related, but I don’t quite think it’s a duplicate. Plus, you have some misconceptions in your question I think answers should address. As such, I’ve voted to reopen this, and hopefully we can get enough votes for that soon. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '18 at 1:12
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First, evasion isn’t a feat

This is pretty important, because you seem to be treating all class features as feats, and they are not. Some class features grant bonus feats, but most are not feats—which means you couldn’t choose to take them on your own outside of the class. That’s important.

Evasion is a class feature, found on a few classes like the monk and rogue that you mention. It’s also granted, for example, by a ring of evasion. But you can’t just hit 3rd level as an investigator and decide you want to take evasion as your 3rd-level feat. So already there is a mistake made with your character. Talk to your GM about fixing that, and then you can get evasion from monk.

Second, Improved Unarmed Strike is a feat

Just so we’re clear, the other “feat” you mention—that you call unarmed strike—is most likely actually a feat, specifically the feat Improved Unarmed Strike (all creatures can make unarmed strikes by default, no feat required; the feat just improves that option). Rogues don’t usually get that as a bonus feat, but all characters are allowed to freely choose a feat at 1st—that is probably what you meant.

Monks do get Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat. Awkwardly, the name of the class feature that gives it to them is just “unarmed strike.” This is different from the default attack option that all creatures can do—it’s a particular class feature that grants the Improved Unarmed Strike feat as a bonus feat, and then some on top of that.

Third, your actual question

If you multiclass and the new class grants a feat you already possess can you choose to pick another feat that stacks with the existing one?

The short answers is “it depends, but not for the examples you chose.”

Generally speaking, you have to look to a particular feat or class feature to see what it does and how it works in conjunction with separate copies of itself. If it doesn’t say anything, then getting it a second time does nothing for you. There’s an FAQ confirming that for class features, and the rules for feats have always been that way (and my preference, d20PFSRD.com, seems to be missing this information, so my thanks to ShadowKras for the PRD link).

But some feats and class features do have particular benefits when you get it twice. For example, compare evasion:

At 2nd level and higher, a rogue can avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility. If she makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, she instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if the rogue is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless rogue does not gain the benefit of evasion.

with uncanny dodge:

Starting at 4th level, a rogue can react to danger before her senses would normally allow her to do so. She cannot be caught flat-footed, nor does she lose her Dex bonus to AC if the attacker is invisible. She still loses her Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized. A rogue with this ability can still lose her Dexterity bonus to AC if an opponent successfully uses the feint action (see Combat) against her.

If a rogue already has uncanny dodge from a different class, she automatically gains improved uncanny dodge (see below) instead.

(emphasis mine)

See how uncanny dodge, unlike evasion, specifically handles the situation where you already have it? It grants improved uncanny dodge instead. Evasion doesn’t do anything like that. So if you did have evasion (and again, as an investigator, you shouldn’t), taking your 2nd-level of monk and gaining evasion again wouldn’t do you any good.

Likewise, when we look at the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, we have this:

You are skilled at fighting while unarmed.

Benefit: You are considered to be armed even when unarmed—you do not provoke attacks of opportunity when you attack foes while unarmed. Your unarmed strikes can deal lethal or nonlethal damage, at your choice.

Normal: Without this feat, you are considered unarmed when attacking with an unarmed strike, and you can deal only nonlethal damage with such an attack.

Compare that to the Weapon Focus feat:

Choose one type of weapon. You can also choose unarmed strike or grapple (or ray, if you are a spellcaster) as your weapon for the purposes of this feat.

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

Benefit: You gain a +1 bonus on all attack rolls you make using 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 type of weapon.

You see that Special section? It says you can select the feat multiple times, and tells you what happens when you do. A feat that doesn’t have that, like Improved Unarmed Strike, cannot be selected again once you have it, and if a class or other effect grants it as a bonus feat, it does you no good.

Fourth, what you can do about it

So do I just eat those bonus feats (i.e. I already have them so tough luck)?

Well, you can just do that. If you don’t do anything to avoid that fate, that is where you would end up. But you have options here.

Houserules

The simplest thing, from a player’s perspective—the GM can change the rules of the game to avoid these class features going to waste. The GM can decide to change evasion to grant improved evasion if you get it twice, the way uncanny dodge does with improved uncanny dodge. The GM can institute a global rule that if you receive a feat you already have as a bonus feat, you get to choose some other feat you qualify for, instead. These kinds of houserules are pretty common, but as a player you can only ask your GM about them, whether or not to actually implement them is up to him or her.

Retraining

Many games allow some form of retraining, that is, changing the choices you made at previous levels. Paizo even published their own optional rules for it, which are used by Pathfinder Society games. Other games may use those rules, or use other rules that allow similar things; ask your GM.

The idea, then, is to retrain feats you are getting elsewhere to another option. This doesn’t help with your doubled evasion—neither monk nor rogue gave you a choice about that so you can’t change anything about it—but it could allow you to choose something other than Improved Unarmed Strike for your 1st-level feat, since monk is giving it to you as a bonus feat anyway.

Archetypes

Every class in Pathfinder also includes a number of archetypes, that is, variations on the class that trade some class features for another. For example, several monk archetypes trade away evasion, so if you already had it (which, again, you shouldn’t as an investigator), you could take one of these archetypes and avoid getting a redundant evasion ability.

  • Monk of the iron mountain gets Toughness as a bonus feat instead of evasion.

  • Sensei gets insightful strike instead of evasion and the 2nd-level bonus feat.

  • Terracotta monk gets trap intuition instead of evasion.

  • Weapon adept gets Weapon Focus, and later Weapon Specialization, as bonus feats instead of evasion.

  • Zen archer also gets Weapon Focus, and later Weapon Specialization, as bonus feats instead of evasion, but must choose a bow for those feats.

Note that each of these also trades away other things, and you can’t pick and choose, so read each carefully.

Unfortunately, no monk archetypes replace Improved Unarmed Strike, so you’ll have to use retraining to change your 1st-level feat if you don’t want to waste that. You also could retrain your existing class to a new archetype, to lose the original evasion, if you had levels in a class that granted evasion (again, you don’t), and that way avoid having to take one of the above monk archetypes or get a redundant evasion ability.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I could be wrong, but he said his other class is investigator (from advanced class guide), not rogue. None of those archetypes are valid for investigators. Also, I hardly nitpick about other users using my references or even parts of my answers, so don't worry about it. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jan 31 '18 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Yup, right you are. I even typed it and still didn’t notice; my mind must have just auto-corrected it to rogue. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '18 at 18:36
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"Tough Luck"

Getting an ability or feat twice will grant you no benefit unless the feat/ability in question says that it stacks or that you can pick something else. Obtaining Improved Unarmed Strike twice won't allow you to pick another faet, and obtaining Evasion twice won't upgrade it to Improved Evasion.

But let me explain why and how you can try to avoid or fix that issue.

Getting an ability twice won't stack or improve it

This has been answered in a FAQ:

Channel Energy: If I have this ability from more than one class, do they stack?

No—unless an ability specifically says it stacks with similar abilities (such as an assassin's sneak attack), or adds in some way based on the character's total class levels (such as improved uncanny dodge), the abilities don't stack and you have to use them separately. Therefore, cleric channeling doesn't stack with paladin channeling, necromancer channeling, oracle of life channeling, and so on.

So, gaining Evasion twice won't actually help your character. Unlike certain abilities, like Sneak Attacks, that can be improved by taking it from multiple different classes, or even Uncanny Dodge, which clearly states that it stacks or improves when you obtain it from a different source:

If a rogue already has uncanny dodge from a different class, she automatically gains improved uncanny dodge (see below) instead.

There may be exceptions for this, though. For instance, the Gunslinger dare Desperate Evasion actually grants another benefit if you already have the evasion class feature:

Desperate Evasion (Ex)

While this dare is active, you gain the evasion class feature. If you already have this class feature, while this dare is active you roll twice when making a Reflex saving throw and take the higher result. You regain 1 grit or panache point when you succeed at two Reflex saving throws while using this dare.

Note that the ability is not evasion, it simply grants evasion or a reroll if you already have evasion.

This is true for pretty much every class feature that don't state that they stack or improves. Like energy resistance, temporary hit points, bonus from the same ability score, or even animal companions, which stack the total class levels instead of granting your another companion.

Basically, this rule didn't change from 3.5e, which Pathfinder is built on originally. And as mentioned on that answer, it is fine to homebrew it if you want to, I just strongly discourage you from upgrading it to improved evasion or you will see scenarios where people get improved evasion as soon as 3rd level by simply multiclassing.

Getting the same feat twice won't help either

As explained under the rules about feats:

Benefit: What the feat enables the character ("you" in the feat description) to do. If a character has the same feat more than once, its benefits do not stack unless indicated otherwise in the description.

Some class features will allow you to pick a new feat naturally, like fighter's bonus feats, once every few levels. Or even pick a different feat if they already have the feat that the ability grants you, like Vigilante's Lethal Grace:

Lethal Grace (Ex): The vigilante combines strength and speed into incredibly deadly attacks. He gains Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat, and if he already has the Weapon Finesse feat, he can immediately swap it for another feat for which he qualified at the level he chose Weapon Finesse.

But, you need an ability saying that you can replace it, as the rules normally don't allow for you to pick a different feat/ability should you obtain it a second time. Which means that you have two options within the rules to fix that problem: Retraining or taking an Archetype.

Retraining

Without those abilities saying that you can replace it or take another ability, you would need to use the (optional, but accepted in PFS) rules of Retraining. These will allow you to change class features that have options to pick from, change feats, skill ranks, etc.

For feats, the rule is simple:

You may change one feat to another through retraining. Retraining a feat takes 5 days with a character who has the feat you want. The old feat can’t be one you used as a prerequisite for a feat, class feature, archetype, prestige class, or other ability. If the old feat is a bonus feat granted by a class feature, you must replace it with a feat that you could choose using that class feature.

(...) Retraining a feat requires you to spend gp, takes time, requires a trainer, and can happen as often as you want.

Retraining normally costs 10 gp per character level per day spent on it. So retraining a feat would cost 50 gp if done at 1st level, 150 gp if done at 3rd, and so on. While only certain class features can be retrained. For Monks, you can retrain the bonus feats only, and they also take 5 days for every bonus feat retrained.

However, you can also retrain archetype abilities, which will allow you to completely change an archetype if you replace all abilities you already learned.

Take an archetype that replaces that class feature

If you take an archetype that replaces that same class feature, you won't have to worry about losing it. For instance, the Weapon Adept monk archetype replaces evasion by Way of the Weapon Master:

Way of the Weapon Master (Ex)

At 2nd level, a weapon adept gains Weapon Focus as a bonus feat with one of his monk weapons. At 6th level, the monk gains Weapon Specialization with the same weapon as a bonus feat, even if he does not meet the prerequisites.

This ability replaces evasion.

There are several monk archetypes that replace evasion.

Of course, archetypes usually replace more than one ability, so its a good idea to see what this kit of abilities can bring to your character before deciding which archetype to take. If you only want to take a few levels into that class, this is usually a very good idea, as you won't go far into it and lose abilities that you wouldn't even get anyway.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question doesn't seem to be asking whether Evasion can stack. In fact, the asker seems quite sure it doesn't and can't. The real question is, if they're given Evasion multiple times, whether they can do anything to get something else that would be useful. See their last sentence: "So do I just eat those bonus feats (i.e. I already have them so tough luck), or can I choose a feat that stacks with them (e.g. style feat, improved evasion)?" \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 31 '18 at 11:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer thus seems like a good answer but to a question that wasn't actually asked. You may want to check if there's a question about Evasion stacking (I think there might be something like that?) to see if this answer would be at home there, or if there isn't, you might want to post a self-answered Q&A about it. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 31 '18 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener despite the title, the quoted faq entry talks about all abilities, in general, not specifically evasion. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jan 31 '18 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok. I suggest you follow that up by saying whether they can pick a new feat (or class feature) to compensate for the duplication, or whether they (as they put it) just "eat it, tough luck". Like I said, they have already concluded getting evasion twice won't do anything -- they want to know if they're forced to get evasion a 2nd time from the new class, or if potentially getting evasion twice might possibly mean they get to pick something new instead. "Does having this thing twice help?" is a different question to "If I'm to get this thing a second time, can I choose something else instead?" \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 31 '18 at 11:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppleganger-yes. That’s my question. If I have a feat already, and I multiclass, and the new class gives me the fear I already possess, can I... A) choose another feat,..B) choose another feat that requires my current one as a precursor,, or C) nothing... tough luck....the example (again) if I already possess EVASION, and the new class has EVASION as a bonus feat, can I then substitute it for IMPROVED EVASION .. \$\endgroup\$ – Maker Feb 1 '18 at 22:43

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