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I want to use Child of the Shadow (Savage Tide Player's Guide, p.12), but the flavor doesn't work.

Altering it to be based on a crowded hobgoblin warren instead, I came up with this:

Child of the Warren[General] You were raised in the hobgoblin warrens and have refined several talents and tricks valuable to survival.

Benefit: Further, in other cities, you have a knack for living in cramped quarters. You gain a +2 bonus on Diplomacy and Move Silently checks made in a confined space. Growing up the tiny quarters of the warren has also gifted you with several tricks you can use to ensure survival. You gain a +2 bonus on Initiative checks while squeezing. You are also adept at fighting in confined areas, such as narrow hallways or crowded common rooms. Enemies cannot gain cover from you if they are in your reach; you can thus attack someone around a corner without penalty. A creature with total cover from you still receives all benefits of his cover.

Recognizing that "balance" is somewhat subjective, is this balanced? Specifically, does it fall in line with the utility of other feats that players would actually take?

I'm especially interested in the initiative bonus. I had in mind that it should apply in tight tunnels or crowds, but I'm not sure squeezing is the right trigger.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know the original feat, but I have a feeling that you not only re-skinned it but also changed mechanical effects? If so, title of your Q is misleading. If not, it must be as balanced as the original, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Aug 11, 2022 at 0:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Somewhat echoing @Mołot, my understanding of the term “reskin” is that it refers to changing the narrative/flavor/presentation of a feature or mechanic without changing its mechanics relative to the game rules. With this understanding, if all you’ve done is reskin, it is as Molot said - as balanced as the original. Perhaps just clarify what you mean by “reskin”. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2022 at 2:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Reskin" was a poor word choice. Thanks to @kryan for the improvement. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Aug 11, 2022 at 3:58

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It’s worse than Child of the Shadow, but most likely no one really cares.

Cramped spaces are not really typical in most adventurers’ lives; dungeons always seem to be conveniently-sized somehow, probably because they were designed to be a game. Squeezing is an unusual maneuver, and comes with pretty hefty penalties—characters will avoid it when they can. A +2 bonus on Initiative checks, as nice as it is, won’t change that.

Contrast that with Child of the Shadow’s Initiative bonus, which applies in urban environments. Also somewhat unusual for adventurers, but not that unusual—and not generally avoided like the plague. In some campaigns, every environment might be urban.

Ultimately, I’d probably just use the same “confined space” trigger that you used for the Diplomacy and Move Silently bonuses, though a Move Silently bonus without a Hide bonus is rather odd, particularly for this fluff.

(For that matter, the fluff confuses me greatly, since hobgoblins don’t live in warrens—Monster Manual says they’re usually lawful evil, highly disciplined and militaristic, and usually live in highly-fortified, naturally-defensible positions. Are you thinking of kobolds?)

Ultimately, Child of the Shadow works far better, I think, for flavor. Diplomacy and Gather Information bonuses relating to finding black markets, Initiative bonus in urban environments, and the ability to ignore cover and concealment less than total cover three separate concepts in a more-or-less appropriate way. The last benefit is probably too large to be tacked on to the other benefits, but whatever, that’s fine—the other benefits are rather minor.

Child of the Warren, on the other hand, is trying to hit the same note three different ways, and it seems weird.

But, and this is the crucial thing, none of that really matters—the draw on Child of the Shadow is almost solely the ability to ignore cover and concealment. That’s a great benefit. The Initiative bonus is nice when you can get it, but it’s conditional enough that no one is going to assign it very much value. The black market thing is niche in the extreme, and just not a very large bonus. So since you didn’t change the one thing about the feat that really matters, you haven’t really affected the balance all that much. I’d still take Child of the Shadow over Child of the Warren, all else being equal, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My hobgoblins are very heavily influenced by the Tomes. See: tgdmb.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=33294 and search “goblin empire” for the original. So silence and diplomacy seems like the right skills for politely living in tiny spaces (and also seemed like those bonuses were flavor anyway). For the rest, I’ll take your advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Aug 12, 2022 at 14:39

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