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I'm a DM and have a player who likes the Observant feat (PHB, p. 168):

  • Increase your Intelligence or Wisdom score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • If you can see a creature's mouth while it is speaking a language you understand, you can interpret what it's saying by reading its lips.
  • You have a +5 bonus to your passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation) scores.

However, the player is concerned that it might be hard to remember when to apply the bonus and that the bonuses may be too situational (Only affects passives, references "passive Investigation" which I've never seen used).

To try to simplify things, I wrote a homebrew version of the Observant feat, using the Perceptive feat (from Unearthed Arcana: Skill Feats) as a guideline:

  • Increase your Intelligence or Wisdom score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency in the Perception skill. If you are already proficient in the skill, you add double your proficiency bonus to checks you make with it.
  • You gain proficiency in the Investigation skill. If you are already proficient in the skill, you add double your proficiency bonus to checks you make with it.

(Basically, it just grants proficiency/expertise for all Perception and Investigation checks rather than a single bonus for passive scores).

Is this feat effectively balanced with the original?

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Your player’s concerns are unfounded, so you don’t need to homebrew a feat.

The bonuses aren't situational, so they will be hard to forget.

  • For passive Perception, you just add it right to the passive Perception score recorded on the sheet. Then, when you as DM need a Perception test without the players knowing there’s something to perceive, you use the passive Perception score instead of asking for a roll that would alert the players. That kind of secret check is what passive skill scores are for.

  • For Investigation, you just add it straight to the passive score on the sheet, too. (There isn't an reserved spot on the official character sheet, but your player can note it somewhere, and you can note it in your DM notes on the PCs.) Then just like with passive Perception, you the DM note this down, and use it every time you need a “secret” Investigation check, the way passive checks are normally made. I'm personally unclear on when passive Investigation would be used — you'd think that Investigation is hard to do anything but actively — but my lack of imagination doesn't make it harder to keep track of.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I completely misread the investigation part, that makes it way better! Thanks for the answer and, you're right, there's no need for an alternate feat :) \$\endgroup\$ – zashu Dec 27 '18 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are mistaken about Investigation. The bonus is to your scores and the bonus to a skill check is not a score. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Dec 27 '18 at 23:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how rpg.se stands to dndbeyond as official source, but Observant's third bullet is worded differently there: “You have a +5 bonus to your passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation) scores.” I could not find an errata to support this discrepancy. \$\endgroup\$ – Thyzer Dec 28 '18 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zashu Oogh, that would explain the discrepancy. Since feats aren't Open Content they're not supposed to be free online anywhere, so it's usually good to distrust any such sources. (Though, still, I can't understand how all these sites keep failing to accurately copy & paste the text that they're pirating…) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 28 '18 at 0:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Ah, do they… 🤦‍♀️ \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 28 '18 at 1:16

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