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I was ruminating over a book I owned a while ago, TSR's Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd ed. Since I no longer have the copy I used to own I found a new (to me) one to read through it.

I remembered there were fighting techniques in this book, but what I was surprised to relearn was that these techniques are labeled as feats (see Heroic Feats on page 28)! They cost proficiencies (weapon and non-weapon) instead of substituting for ASIs like in 5th edition, and they largely seem to be very specific techniques (such as catching and throwing a spear, or running along the yoke-pole on a horse-drawn chariot while it's in motion). While I didn't have every 2nd edition book, I had quite a few, and can't remember feats in any other resource I owned, though that may just be my (lack of) memory.

What are some of the first examples of feats in any edition of D&D? Is this campaign book one of the first times we see feats? Were there other 2nd edition books with feats? Did feats come even earlier in D&Ds history?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ TSR's Celt Campaign Sourcebook from... 1992? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 23 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Good question! Yes, 1992. \$\endgroup\$
    – mkdir
    Oct 23 at 16:05
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The Celts Campaign Sourcebook was published in 1992 for AD&D 2nd Edition, and as our OP found, it had some sort of feat system. So it must have been invented before then. Since Dragonlance acted as some kind of testbed for TSR in some regards, I am looking at these adventure rules for evidence that can pin it down.

DLA2 - Dragon Knight (TSR #9285) was printed 1990 and has "Special Skills" for characters that follow the Dragon Knight class on page 59, granting (bonus) proficiencies, special maneuvers, and immunities:

Level 1:

• Dragon riding proficiency at no cost.

• Uses a lance while on dragon-back with no flight to-hit penalty.

• Immune to dragon awe.

DL13 - Dragons of Despair (TSR #9176) was printed 1986, and its Appendix does not refer to anything akin to feats. However, the bestiary does describe things that nowadays would be handled under a feat keyword, for example, page 33 says (in plaintext!):

The first three types of draconians have wings, but only the Sivaks can truly fly. The three movement rates given are for walking, running while flapping wings, and gliding.

As a result, the first precursors of feats must have entered D&D between 1986 and 1990.

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