From a role-playing perspective, there seems to be nothing to prevent spellcasting players from teaching other characters the Magic Initiate feat. The subject of players receiving training in lieu of financial rewards is addressed in the DMG on page 231, under "Marks of Prestige":

A character might be offered special training in lieu of a financial reward. This kind of training isn't widely available and thus is highly desirable. It presumes the existence of a skilled trainer — perhaps a retired adventurer or champion who is willing to serve as a mentor. [...]

A character who agrees to training as a reward must spend downtime with the trainer [...] Possible training benefits include the following:

  • The character gains a feat.

I can see this being objected to from a meta-gaming perspective, but from a role-playing perspective, it seems logical that experienced characters who've adventured together and rely upon each other to stay alive might want to teach each other feats in order to increase their collective chances of survival.

Can player characters teach each other feats?

First things first

This Training sub-section is under the Other Rewards section. Read it carefully:

As much as adventurers desire treasure, they often appreciate other forms of reward. This section presents a variety of ways that gods, monarchs, and other beings of power might recognize the characters' accomplishments, including supernatural gifts that give characters new capabilities; titles, lands, and other marks of prestige; and boons that are available only to adventurers who have reached 20th level.

I.e., this is obviously assumed to be a reward given by the DM, not a player training each other. Using it that way is not intended.

Role-playing wise, the easiest explanation is: PCs aren't that skilled. This might be a hole if you are talking about 11+ level characters, but check the description of the trainers:

The trainer might be a reclusive wizard or haughty sorcerer who owes the queen a favor, the knight-commander of the King's Guard, the leader of a powerful druid circle, a quirky monk who lives in a remote mountaintop pagoda, a barbarian chieftain, a warlock living among nomads as a fortune-teller, or an absentminded bard whose plays and poetry are known throughout the land.

None of these fits a low level character. The bard in a low level party is barely known in the local inn. The Barbarian is now starting to get used to brawls. The Wizard has 10 spells on his one book, not a tower with a library for himself. They are not the high skilled trainer that would be able to train others.


As for the balance

While I see KRyan's point, I don't think training is that problematic, balance-wise, if well handled. Feats are on par with +2 ASI, which is what you get from items like Tomes and Manuals - you may reward a feat when you would reward one of these tomes, instead, for example.

As mentioned by András in the comments, yes, some feats are stronger than simple ASI, but IMO, that's a problem with the feats balance to start with. The players will be getting these feats, you reward them or not, unless you are not allowing feats in your game. Rewarding the feat instead of the tome simply changes the order when they get the feat and the ASIs that they would get as well.


Final note

Also, it's worth noting that this section of the DMG is more of a "inspiration/ideas for you" than actual rules. Note, for example, the lack of how many days it would take to train, how much gold it would cost (if any at all), or anything telling us what would be a good actual reward. What I mean here is: don't take this part too seriously without thinking if your campaign needs it or if it is able to actually support it.

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    @András That's a balancing problem with the feats, not with rewarding feats, IMO. Most characters want to, eventually, get to 20 with at least one AS. Rewarding a tome means they will be getting that feat instead of the ASI when they would be getting the ASI. Rewarding the feat means they will get the feat before and still get the ASI later on. I.e., unless you are not allowing feats in your games, an optimizer will get the stronger feats anyway. – HellSaint Aug 18 at 17:50
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    Also the Tomes are very rare, itself an indicator of possible balance issues. – András Aug 18 at 17:51
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    @András Agreed - and that's why I treat feat rewards, when I do them, as very rare as well - they aren't getting it before 10th level, most likely :P – HellSaint Aug 18 at 17:53

I think the advice offered in the Dungeon Master’s Guide here is, simply, not very good. Feats are big, important things—for one character to have more of them than others would quite simply be a problem. For the whole party to have more feats than their level would otherwise indicate can also be a problem, specifically for you as DM as you try to challenge them and the tools provided to you no longer apply.

Rather, the way I have always handled training—whether with other PCs or with NPCs—is as background roleplaying for why and how they got the feat they were taking anyway. The rules for feats specify that a player is entitled to select one instead of an ability score increase, but they don’t say anything about what the character is doing. Remember always that the rules are trying to represent something—the character doesn’t just hear a “ding!” and find themselves a level higher, with a new feat.

Rather, the character has been working on self-improvement for some time—maybe it was mentioned explicitly at the table, maybe it was in the background and never got mentioned, but we assume it’s been happening, that all the characters are doing things to improve themselves. What they are doing can vary dramatically, and doesn’t even necessarily matter—it can bring the story to life but if you don’t have any good ideas you can just ignore it and assume there was “something.” But regardless of how or why, they now have a new ability.

That is how I would handle this kind of training: it’s foreshadowing the character’s anticipated development, and should they select Magic Initiate with their next feat, this scene explains how they got it.

But I do not allow this to result in early or extra feats.

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    The DMG does say that the training isn't widely available and highly desirable. Seems fine as an alternative reward to me (compare to certain magic items). Also, the question asks about players ability to do training, not whether the concept is balanced. – David Coffron Aug 18 at 17:36
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    "The rules are trying to represent something" is key here. A related use for this kind of downtime training is as a causal mechanism for multiclassing, which otherwise can seem to come out of nowhere. – Mark Wells Aug 18 at 21:02

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