The Rune Scribe prestige class (from Unearthed Arcana: Prestige Classes and Rune Magic) grants the Living Rune feature at 4th level:

At the end of a long rest, you can choose to increase one ability score of your choice by 2 or increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. At the end of each subsequent long rest, you can alter this choice, reducing the scores you previously increased and improving different scores. (If you chose to increase two abilities, you can opt to alter only one of those choices.)

Since this ability is similar to an Ability Score Improvement, can you pick a feat instead?

up vote 20 down vote accepted

That UA Scribe prestige class feature does not mention feats

Granted, this is UA/playtest rather than a finished class or feature, but it's still best to approach the text under the basic assumption of "if it offered that option, it would say so."
Since Living Rune makes no mention of feats, I'd offer that it was not intended to grant a feat change with each long rest.

I'd recommend against, since it only mentions ability scores, but your DM may like to allow a crazy fun option. Here is why I'd recommend against.

Living Rune
At the end of a long rest, you can choose to increase one ability score of your choice by 2 or increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. At the end of each subsequent long rest, you can alter this choice, reducing the scores you previously increased and improving different scores. (If you chose to increase two abilities, you can opt to alter only one of those choices.)

  1. Feats are an optional rule in the PHB. (p. 165) You are already in DM discretion territory as it is.

  2. Feats are an opportunity cost; you only get to select one when an ASI/feat option arises, and then it's locked in.

    Applying this feature as proposed in the question, the PC could have access to each and every feat in the book, with long rest in between. That's not quite balanced with all other characters needing to make a choice and stick with it.

    Example:
    Day 1, you have the Alert feat. You can't be surprised. You then get an idea for where you will be exploring on day 2, so
    Day 2, you take the magic initiate feat, Warlock, choosing eldritch blast, hex and mage hand. You then get an idea for where you will be exploring on day 3, so
    Day 3 you take Weapon Master and have proficiency in Long bow, Long sword, Rapier, and glaive. You then get an idea for where you will be exploring on day 4, so
    Day 4 you take the Lucky feat. You then get an idea for where you will be exploring on day 5, so
    Day 5 you take Dungeon Delver ...

Nobody else has this kind of versatility.

Crazy fun option

Do as you propose, play for a few levels, and then add an answer here about why it was a good idea and why it wasn't. Work with your DM on that. UA is playtest, so why not playtest this and write up a playtest result as an answer? :)

  • 3
    +1 for mentioning why including feats would be unbalanced – Mwr247 Dec 5 at 16:58
  • Ironically, this is similar to a 9th level PF2 playtest Fighter class feature: every day they can pick one fighter feat to know that day. Its largely considered underpowered because your choices are for fighting styles you didn't build for and you can only take things you qualify for (no feat chains). Of course, you can't substitute the feat for a multiclass feat...we think. For similar reasons as this answer, but many builds get more use out of multiclass feats than their own, which is sad (8th level class feat...or 2nd level cross-class? 2nd level wins!?) – Draco18s Dec 5 at 20:51
  • @Draco18s I think that one of the design goals of 5e was to steer away from feat chains ... thanks for the comment, interesting to see how PF2 is working through this. – KorvinStarmast Dec 6 at 2:16
  • @KorvinStarmast Its supposed to be one of the PF2 design goals too, and in some cases it works. Classes like the druid, bard, barbarian, that all pick a "path" (leaf or storm druid, lore or polymath bard, animal or titan barbarian) have their class feats prereqs key off the path rather than one feat. Fighter? Imp Combat Grab (req: Combat Grab). Imp Brutish Shove (Brutish Shove). Dueling Riposte (Dueling Parry). Most of the basic ones are like "are wielding 2 weapons", "have a piercing weapon", "have a free hand", or "two-handed weapon" A fighter will never qualify for 2 different feat "chains" – Draco18s Dec 6 at 2:55

No, you cannot take a feat instead

p. 165 PHB describe the circumstances that allow you to take a feat instead of increasing your ability scores:

At certain levels, your class gives you the Ability Score Improvement feature. [...] [Y]ou can forgo taking that feature to take a feat of your choice instead.

You don't gain the improvements of the living rune ability when you level up, but when you activate it at the end of a rest and it's not the Ability Score Improvement feature, it just happens to have a similar effect.

  • 1
    I like this ruling; concise and on point. +1 – KorvinStarmast Dec 5 at 17:50

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