I've been running a pathfinder campaign for a few sessions and one of the players is a powergamer type that discovered you can choose not to get a feat and rather get two traits as an equivelant.

Now, what he took from that is 'I can do the opposite and take drawbacks to get additional feats' although the trouble is, he's done it on a one for one basis, so he thinks he can get one drawback and then get one feat, so his character now has five feats (he's a level 2 goblin rogue)

Plus he has a positive trait as well

If I argue against this and say it needs to be changed he says I'm trying to nerf him or brings up GM fiat.

(For context as well, I don't design my campaigns to be horribly difficult to prompt, I try to maintain balance)

What do I tell him?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. This is an excellent first question with multiple layers. Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22, 2018 at 13:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ When you say "brings up GM fiat", do you have a more detailed explanation? My understanding of "GM fiat" supports your ability to make him change his build rather than arguing against it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22, 2018 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


There is no rule that allows you to take a Drawback to gain a Feat.

It's not a nerf if the rules don't support it and you don't allow it.

Drawbacks are very clear:

Drawbacks are traits in reverse. Instead of granting you a boon, they grant you a negative effect, typically in particular circumstances. If you choose to take a drawback, you can take a third trait that you have access to. You are not required to take a drawback.

A couple things to note include

  • that it does not mention Feats, anywhere
  • you can only do this once, for a third trait

Furthermore, Traits are valued at two traits being roughly equivalent to one Feat. This isn't exactly true, but that's the valuation based on the Additional Traits feat. You'll also note, that you cannot take the Feat more than once. By this logic, if you allowed it (which is not supported by any rules), a player could take 2 Drawbacks for 1 Feat.

Side Note: Major Drawbacks are an option from 3rd party producer Rogue Genius Games. You are under no obligation to include these rules in your game. It makes no mention of doing this more than once on a character.

GM Fiat isn't a bad thing.

Don't let your problem player try to throw this in your face. The Gamemaster's primary responsibility is

arbitrate... the rules of the game

If you're Gamemastering, you get to pick which rules and non-rules apply to your game. No player gets to pick your rules. If they don't like it, then there needs to be an open discussion where you explain that 'no, you cannot give yourself bonus feats; I don't want to have to manage that many Drawbacks to actually make you pay for them, and there's no rule that says you could anyway'. If they're worried that you're trying to manage their power level... tell them yes. Yes you are, because it's your job and 1st/2nd level characters aren't supposed to have 5 Feats.

  • \$\begingroup\$ you switched these: Traits are valued at one trait being roughly equivalent to two Feats. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Mar 22, 2018 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ "It's not a nerf if the rules don't support it and you don't allow it. " I gave you a +1 just for this. This observation is really important - if a built character is just plain wrong regarding the rules, it is more than fair for the GM to ask for the player to make the PC rules-compliant. It is really not a nerf, not even GM fiat, just plain old game mastering. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Mar 23, 2018 at 11:36

Talking from a rules point of view it depends on what kind of drawbacks this player is taking, only major drawbacks graint feats at character generation [1], and taking a minor drawback only grants you an extra trait [2]. Even then the expectation is that the GM ultimately decides how many traits and drawbacks are appropriate for a character to have, and if this isn't character generation if the player is even allowed to take them (unless the player is taking the additional traits feat [3]

[1] - http://www.d20pfsrd.com/traits/3rd-party-drawbacks/rogue-genius-games/major-drawbacks/

[2] - http://www.d20pfsrd.com/traits/drawbacks/

[3] - https://www.d20pfsrd.com/feats/general-feats/additional-traits/


GM fiat is not a bad thing. You are there to make the rules.

It can be bad in specific circumstances. If you disrupt the story flow by preventing an in-game character action without a solid in-game rationale, that is bad storytelling and thus bad GMing.

When it comes to metagaming and character construction, GM fiat is basically expected and normal--provided you deal with the players fairly and consistently, of course.

You write the rules of the universe, and the characters should be free to explore within the confines of those rules. You can outright tell him he's powergaming, and that's not the kind of game you're prepared to run.

No one likes rules lawyers except maybe other rules lawyers. If the other players aren't doing the same thing, you can probably expect their concurrence.

  • \$\begingroup\$ My rules lawyering tends to be well received because I state the rules with backgrounds of 'why' and accept if the GM says they're doing it a different way... so saying no one likes rules lawyers is a little harsh. Different people have different preferences (although noone likes it when play stops for rule lawyering) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 22, 2018 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ That might be a language difference then. We only call someone a "rules lawyer" if they are disrupting play with their incessant pleading. \$\endgroup\$
    – DoubleD
    Mar 23, 2018 at 14:05

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