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While discussing Warlocks and the new Uneartherd Arcana at GiTP forums, we were kicking around the idea of a class only feat (versus the Xanather's race based feats) and I arrived at the following homebrew Arcane Adept feat.

Purpose - support the Warlock design goal of customizability.

I quite frankly find that as I go through the invocation allocation from levels 1-20 that there are too few to support the "no two Warlocks are alike" design theme that choosing invocations offers. Yes, it is important to have to make choices.

What I want to know is if this proposed feat is balanced with respect to PHB feats. (Balance with Xanathar's feats is not of any interest to me).

Secondary Objective: offer one more incentive to play a full-up Warlock, and not "take a dip" in the class for Multiclassing.

Feat: Arcane Adept
Prerequisite: Warlock level 4
1. Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
2. Gain one invocation of choice from those available to the Warlock and for which you qualify. {eg, Pact of the Blade can't take invocations restricted to Pact of the Chain with this feat}
3. Gain one additional cantrip from the Warlock spell list.

Notes:

  1. Why level 4? That's the first time one is eligible, and it prevents the vHuman feat-at-level 1 (which also would not make sense since pact boon is a level 3 featue anyway).

  2. Why add a Cantrip? Because only two features in the feat seemed underpowered. If that is what tips the balance scales, it can be pulled.

Is this balanced vis-a-vis PHB feats?
Repeated for emphasis: feats in any UA, in the recently published Eberron campaign setting, and in Xanathar's Guide to Everything are not considered relevant for this question. (But if after answering the question you want to add a comment, as a coda, in re a Xanathar's feat, then that's fine).


Unhidden Agenda: make a case to my brother, the DM

I will be trying to convince my brother to allow this feat if I can make a sound case that it is balanced - in either January or February - when my cleric retires and my recently created warlock is introduced. If it, as currently presented, is not balanced, then any observations on "what would make this balanced would be {x}" are very welcome.
Note:
I got a suggestion in chat to name it "Eldritch Adept" rather than "Arcane Adept" so a comment on that is welcome.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You mentioned that you're only interested in the balance of this feet as opposed to PHB feats; are you also only considering PHB invocations will be used? \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Dec 6 '19 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheVagrantDog All invocations are eligible, PHB and Xanathar's. The racial XGTE feats are what are not of interest to our table. (And the warlock looks to be celestial/tome as of this version/draft of the PC). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 6 '19 at 20:19
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It Seems Very Strong Compared to Magic Initiate

The closest PHB parallel to this feat would seem to be Magic Initiate, which allows knowing one 1st level spell to be cast once without a spell slot (unless you are certain classes and subclasses taking it for your own class). Invocations are somewhat comparable to knowing spells as many of them involve allowing the casting of spells. But they are generally stronger than one casting of a 1st level spell, in some cases allowing at-will casting of certain spells and in other cases allowing access to high level spells otherwise inaccessible. The designers clearly have tried to severely limit access to higher level spells. Admittedly Magic Initiate has a much wider menu of spell options to choose from whereas the Invocations have been curated to, theoretically, be balanced options for warlocks, but still many seem to generally be stronger options than a single casting of a single level one spell.

Continuing our parallel to Magic Initiate this gives one fewer cantrip, but given the +1 charisma it is effectively a "half feat", which means that getting half as many cantrips as an existing "full feat" has a logical symmetry.

Our question is hence, basically, is another invocation substantially better than half the value of an additional spell from any full caster class once a day. It seems like most would be for most people, so it is hard to see how it is balanced with Magic Initiate.

Also note that, for those Warlocks who qualify, the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation is effectively a more powerful version of the Ritual Caster feat. With this feat you can take it and then get more Charisma and a cantrip to boot.

5e Does Not Have Class Specific Feats so it is Hard to Compare

There are no class specific feats in 5e. One near exception is Martial Adept getting a better die for the Battlemaster along with much better synergy, to the point that it seems quite underpowered for people not in this one particular subclass in specifically builds off of. The other closest exception would probably be, once again, the Magic Initiate feat which only allows Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks choosing their own class to cast the spell with additional spell slots (and is kind enough to not explain that in terms clear to anyone not looking it up in sage advice!). This is important because giving out more warlock abilities to a warlock is different than giving them to members of other classes, which is what most feats that grant class features do. Book of Ancient Secrets is better than the Ritual Caster feat but that is exactly why someone who is already a Pact of the Tome Warlock probably wouldn't take that feat. They would have taken the invocation anyway if they are interested in ritual casting, so this feat just allows them to take one additional other feat.

Therefore, even though if it were a non-Warlock Specific feat I would say it is definitely overpowered, the 4 levels of Warlockery requirement is a major limitation that at least somewhat dampens the balance issues, and simply puts it in the realm where there is not a clear enough PHB parallel to really judge. My gut nevertheless says that, at the very least, it should not also boost Charisma. It could alternatively perhaps be balanced by allowing access to only a curated list of comparatively weak invocations.

Of course it is not as though the PHB feats are perfectly balanced against each other as is. So even if this is overpowered versus Magic Initiate, whether it is overpowered versus much vaunted feats such as Great Weapon Master or Lucky is a whole different, and even harder to answer, question.

Pitch to Your Brother

If you are willing to give up the Charisma Boost and limit it to certain evocations it seems on par with Magic Initiate. Alternatively I would argue that a Warlock getting one extra invocation and one extra cantrip will hardly break the game, and he could make it an option you have to quest after or be rewarded with. I also might argue that Warlocks could really use another strong feat option particularly one that allows for more uniqueness.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast . Sort of, but I wanted to avoid the association with the highest tier of play because that's clearly not what the OP was contemplating. Also I'm thinking in terms of a quest reward being the option to spend an ASI for this feat rather than getting it outright, which would be much more epic boony. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Dec 6 '19 at 19:54
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If you haven't already, I'd recommend taking a look at the Unearthed Arcana that discusses feat-building. I'm not a fan of the feats in that particular article myself, but I do appreciate what it has to say on the design philosophy of feats.

That said, let's tackle your feat from a different perspective. As mentioned, determining balance just by looking at similar feats is difficult, given that there are no other class-specific feats. There are, however, a number of feats that mimic or expand on class features, and vice versa. Since your suggested feat would do something similar, we can limit ourselves to just those feats and features for comparison. Of these, the most directly comparable is the Martial Adept feat, and the feat that invites the most scrutiny is the Ritual Caster feat.

The Martial Adept feat straight up gives you a weaker version of the Battle Master archetype's Combat Superiority feature if you don't already have it, and gives you the equivalent of a level improvement if you do already have it (the abilities gained by Martial Adept are, for a Battle Master, exactly identical to what they would receive at 7th and 15th level). Were your feat trying to do exactly the same thing, we could therefore say that, if it wanted to be balanced with this feat, it would need to lose the prerequisite you've attached. It should instead provide anyone who takes it with the ability to pick up a warlock feature, and if a warlock takes it, it should increase the power of a feature they would already have.

Should that feature be a single invocation? Tough question. Invocations are certainly one of the hallmarks of being a warlock, along with the rapid-recharge spell slots and the "daddy issues" that come from having a patron. More importantly, if you wanted to mimic the Martial Adept feat and grant a weaker version of an archetype feature, you would need to make a feat that grants a patron boon, which creates far more problems than it would solve. The two safest bets to grant from the warlock features is an invocation or a fast-recharge spell slot.

Something else to consider, which has already been pointed out, is that granting even a single invocation can be unbalanced- the more powerful invocations are far nastier than any feat, the weaker ones could be equivalent to less than half a feat, and in between we have invocations such as the Book of Secrets, which is a more powerful version of an already extant feat, Ritual Caster. What should be done about this?

Nothing.

A not insignificant number of feats invite powerful combinations- my personal favorite is combining Eldritch Spear with Spell Sniper to give me an at-will attack with multiple shots, a range of 600 feet and no disadvantage for range or partial cover. Doing so requires that I pick a particular combination of cantrip, invocation and feat, and thus I pay an opportunity cost for it. The same applies to using a feat that provides you with an extra invocation to pick out a stronger version of another feat- in order to do so, the character in question would have to satisfy the prerequisites, meaning that only warlocks with the Pact of the Tome could have it.

SO: To summarize this section, I think that a feat granting an invocation would work, but the prerequisite is unnecessary and, if you're looking to balance your feat against the PHB feats, undesirable.

Next, the other parts of the feat- the +1 bonus to Charisma and the extra cantrip.

I just mentioned Spell Sniper, so let's look at it real quick. It provides one of a limited range of cantrips, and two other features besides, one of which is similar to (and as mentioned, stacks with) an invocation. Would it be reasonable to allow you to have a similar set of features?

I don't think so. A +1 bonus to an ability score is widely considered to be the equivalent of half a feat, and given that we recently established that an invocation is more or less balanced against a single feat (or rather, the imbalance present averages out to a single feat), there's no way to justify adding it here. It would be similar to writing a new feat called "Martial-er Adept," which gives you everything Martial Adept does, plus a +1 bonus to Strength.

What about the cantrip? Again, tough call. I would prefer to split the difference. Feats that limit the options for a cantrip also provide more features, signifying that the lack of choice lowers the value of the cantrip when it comes to feat-building. Considering Magic Initiate and Spell Sniper, we can consider a cantrip to be worth about 1/3 of a feat- and considering that an invocation is basically a feat unto itself, the best bet to keep this feat balanced is to limit the cantrip as much as possible.

My suggestion, then, for your feat would be:

Feat: Eldritch Adept

You learn the eldritch blast cantrip, if you don't already know it. Your spellcasting ability for this cantrip is Charisma. In addition, you learn one eldritch invocation of your choice. If the eldritch invocation has any prerequisites, you must meet them to learn it. You can learn the invocation at the same time that you meet the prerequisites.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 7 '19 at 21:54
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At first look, it look slightly unbalanced...

Looking at strictly PHB feats, all of the "half feats" (Where it's +1 to an ability score and some other boon) consist of the +1 and one other big boost; mostly proficiency of some kind. With the occasional fluff piece.

Examples of the single boost are

  • weapon proficiency
  • added languages
  • added skills
  • added hit points
  • proficient in a new saving throw

With fluff like, "can create ciphers", "standing up doesn't take half movement", and "you can read lips".

Your first bullet point is to grant an invocation. The problem is that invocation are wildly "swingy" in power.

  • At-will spells
  • Access to spells not normally allowed by Warlock
  • Spell enhancements
  • Can see in the dark
  • Proficiencies
  • You can read anything

So while gaining proficiency in two skills it right on par, reading seems kinda low and so a free cantrip would balance it out. But at-will true sight ("Witch Sight") can be a game changer.

To me, I would say no only because the extra invocation is so unpredictable after also getting an ability bonus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So you'd say that an Eldritch Invocation is roughly equal to a cantrip and a 1st level spell (Magic Initiate)? Just making sure, if so, you may wish to explain that a bit more \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 6 '19 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Also that it's a 1st level spell that you can only cast 1/day + a cantrip. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 6 '19 at 18:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch and also one you cannot switch out for another spell (and keep the free casting), unlike the Evocation here \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 6 '19 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 and NautArch, I removed my suggestion for fixing it. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Dec 6 '19 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good food for thought here, I may need to do more than just pull the cantrip. The warlock already gets multiple invocations, so the invocation per se I don't think is the power problem (I could be off on that) while your point on the +1 and invocation being where I need to make the choice. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 6 '19 at 19:46
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The feat needs trimming before playtest

Based on the consensus in the three answers above, the feat will take this form.

Feat: Eldritch Adept
Prerequisite: Warlock level 4
1. Gain one invocation of your choice from those available to the Warlock, and for which you qualify.
2. Gain one additional cantrip from the Warlock spell list.

Note for item 1: a Pact of the Blade warlock can't take invocations restricted to Pact of the Chain warlocks with this feat. That is what the "for which you qualify" means.

It is not balanced (as presented) with +1 Charisma

All three answers provided sound criticisms of the draft feat - it was hard for me to choose the one to accept. Each of them pointed out that a half feats - the +1 Charisma - and an additional invocation or an additional spell is more goodies than a PHB feat would typically offer. Since the PHB (and Xanathar's) do not have class feats it is tricky to fit into that framework.

The response, in terms of votes, favored @BenjaminOlson's answer. It is accepted. The other two answers are each helpful in providing a thought process for evaluation a homebrew feat one is trying to create.

The invocation can stay; it isn't too powerful

Because a Warlock can, on any given level up, change a given invocation for another one, or for "a more powerful" one as levels go up, and because there are only four "15th level prerequisite" invocations (if you are pact of the chain, three otherwise) and Warlocks get 7 invocations by level 15, this feat by itself does not create a power problem with the 15th level invocations. In this trimmed down form it is a good risk for implementation / playtest.

I may update this answer in a year if we are able to (a) keep the campaign going for another year and (b) we get far enough along that my warlock can both choose it and use it. If we get to 15th level within the next year, at the pace that we play, I'll be surprised - thus, for my situation that "power" issue hardly arises.

Trimming a few more hairs from the beard may be needed

There may still be a lingering "balance" concern for adding a cantrip rather than a skill proficiency (such as Arcana) at other tables.

  • Since my brother already passed out a custom (single) cantrip to spell casters at level 1 (our wizard got Vicious Mockery, my cleric got a beer blessing cantrip that improved any keg's beer quality) our table will find this to be within bounds.

    For DM's who may want a tighter rein on cantrips, a play test ready version looks like this.

Feat: Eldritch Adept
Prerequisite: Warlock level 4
1. Gain one invocation of your choice from those available to the Warlock, and for which you qualify.
2. You gain proficiency with Intelligence(Arcana) skill.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the best way to deal with this given the limitations of the system. It's too big/heavy for a comment, but isnt really a new question. (I guess that could be "here's my new version" instantly self-answered with "yes it meets my goals", but that seems silly.) \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Dec 7 '19 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I agree with you, and that's why I did this. I did flesh this out a bit to provide more of the "why" \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 7 '19 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to weigh in and say I agree with posting this as an answer. Your question, after all, did call for observations on what would make the original feat more balanced- using an answer to say how you decided to balance it seems appropriate. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Dec 7 '19 at 19:02

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