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Like many people who enjoy 3.5, I find that the issue of "feat tax" is incredibly pervasive - which is to say, there are a lot of feats that just feel like dead weight on a character sheet. As a result, classes like the Fighter are held back tremendously because the capstones of their grand feat chains cannot possibly hope to offset the massive amounts of wasted potential needed to get to them.

Rather than directing players towards magic-using classes or to the Tome of Battle, I've been running my recent games with a few adjustments to the problem feats. So far, my low-level parties seem to be doing just fine for themselves; that said, I don't have any big-time powergamers trying to break the system, nor do I have that much time under my belt with these changes.

The goal of these changes is not just to empower these feats, but to make them more interesting. There is also a secondary goal of empowering less-used or weaker combat styles, mainly archery, two-weapon fighting, and defense.

So my question is thus: with these changes, what kind of issues should I expect to run into? Which classes might become unexpected runaway successes with these buffs? How meaningful would these changes be to feat-reliant classes (Fighter, Psychic Warrior, etc.) in the long-term?

Adjusted Feats

All feats retain their usual prerequisites unless specified.

Dodge

You gain a +1 dodge bonus to Armor Class.

You may designate a single creature as your dodge target as a free action on your turn. If you do not designate a dodge target, the first creature that makes an attack against you after your turn becomes your dodge target. This gives no bonus on its own, but it may interact with other feats and abilities.

This feat may be taken multiple times. Each time this feat is taken, the dodge bonuses stack and an extra dodge target may be designated on your turn. Dodge targets beyond the first are not designated automatically against creatures who attack you.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Psionic Dodge

While psionically focused, you gain a +1 dodge bonus to Armor Class. As an immediate action, you may expend your psionic focus to increase this bonus to +4 against the next attack made against you.

This feat no longer requires Dex 13 or the Dodge feat. This feat counts as Dodge for the purposes of meeting prerequisites, and it includes the ability to select dodge targets as the Dodge feat does.

Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes

These feats grant a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves, Will saves, and Reflex saves respectively. Each feat allows you to reroll its respective saving throw once per day, though you must take the new result, even if it is lower.

A fighter may select Great Fortitude, Iron Will, or Lightning Reflexes as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Toughness

You gain +1 hit point per hit die, as if from having a high Constitution score.

You may take this feat multiple times. Its effects stack.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Weapon Focus

Choose one type of weapon. You can also choose unarmed strike or grapple (or ray, if you are a spellcaster) as your weapon for the purposes of this feat. You gain a +1 bonus on all attack rolls made using the selected weapon. Additionally, you may re-roll an attack roll made with the chosen weapon once per combat. You must take the result of the new roll, even if it is lower.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Weapon Specialization

Choose a weapon type that you have applied Weapon Focus to. You gain a bonus equal to one-half your Base Attack Bonus to all damage rolls made with the selected weapon.

This feat no longer requires Fighter levels, just a BAB of +4. Later feats in this line do still require fighter levels, however.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Greater Weapon Focus

Choose a weapon that you have applied Weapon Focus to. Your bonus to attack rolls from Weapon Focus with that weapon increases from +1 to +3. Additionally, any time you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with that weapon, you may re-roll it. You must take the new result, even if it is a 1. This does not count as a use of the re-roll granted by Weapon Focus.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Greater Weapon Specialization

Choose a weapon type that you have applied Greater Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization to. Your bonus to damage rolls from Weapon Specialization with that weapon increases from one-half your BAB to your full BAB. Additionally, you may re-roll a damage roll with your selected weapon once per combat. You must re-roll all dice rolled, and you must take the result of the new roll, even if it is lower.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Mobility

You gain a +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against attacks of opportunity and against attacks made as part of a readied action.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Point Blank Shot

You get a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls with ranged weapons at ranges of up to 30 feet.

Your accuracy allows you to target an opponent's vitals at close range. Before making a ranged weapon attack against an opponent within 30 feet, you may choose to forego your Dexterity bonus (if any) to your attack roll. If the attack hits, you may add your Dexterity bonus to the damage roll. This extra damage is precision damage and is not multiplied on a critical hit.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Precise Shot

You may attack with ranged weapons against an opponent engaged in melee without taking the standard -4 penalty on your attack roll.

Your aim can instead allow you to distract enemies with your shots, creating openings for your allies. If you choose to take the regular -4 penalty, a successful hit against an opponent engaged in melee grants a +2 circumstance bonus to melee attack rolls against that opponent for any creatures currently threatening the opponent in melee. This bonus lasts until the beginning of your next turn.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Minor Changes

Weapon Finesse and Quick Draw lose their Base Attack Bonus prerequisites. This allows Rogues to take these playstyle-defining feats at 1st level.

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Individual Feat Changes

Dodge

You gain a +1 dodge bonus to Armor Class.

You may designate a single creature as your dodge target as a free action on your turn. If you do not designate a dodge target, the first creature that makes an attack against you after your turn becomes your dodge target. This gives no bonus on its own, but it may interact with other feats and abilities.

This feat may be taken multiple times. Each time this feat is taken, the dodge bonuses stack and an extra dodge target may be designated on your turn. Dodge targets beyond the first are not designated automatically against creatures who attack you.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Still a bad feat. A better feat, but still a bad one. AC isn’t that valuable, +1 isn’t much of it, and few things key off of Dodge in this manner that the multi-targeting bit makes much difference—Defensive Throw is the only option that’s actually good, though I suppose if you were already loading up on Dodge feats for that you’d probably take a few others, Elusive Target maybe.

Honestly, you should just remove Dodge (and Mobility) from the game entirely. I have done this and found it much superior. I have never regretted anything being easier to take as a result.

Psionic Dodge

While psionically focused, you gain a +1 dodge bonus to Armor Class. As an immediate action, you may expend your psionic focus to increase this bonus to +4 against the next attack made against you.

This feat no longer requires Dex 13 or the Dodge feat. This feat counts as Dodge for the purposes of meeting prerequisites, and it includes the ability to select dodge targets as the Dodge feat does.

Counting as Dodge is still the most valuable thing here. Still, +4 is a big enough bonus to matter more often, so if I was required to take Dodge, I’d probably want this version. I’d still prefer neither.

Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes

These feats grant a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves, Will saves, and Reflex saves respectively. Each feat allows you to reroll its respective saving throw once per day, though you must take the new result, even if it is lower.

A fighter may select Great Fortitude, Iron Will, or Lightning Reflexes as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Rerolls are nice, that’s not a bad idea. It’s unlikely that I have a feat to spare to take one of these for its own sake, but I won’t mind having one nearly so much with this feature.

For what it’s worth, my preferred fix is to remove the starting +2 from “good” saving throw progressions, and say that every class that has a good saving throw progression gets the corresponding feat for that save. This maintains the same +2 bonus that those saving throw progressions already start with, eliminates the option of stacking multiple of those (since these feats don’t self-stack), and gets most characters out of the stupidest feat taxes.

Toughness

You gain +1 hit point per hit die, as if from having a high Constitution score.

You may take this feat multiple times. Its effects stack.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

This already exists; it’s called Improved Toughness (even though it doesn’t actually require Toughness). Pathfinder also made this change (with the added benefit of making it a minimum of +3, so you still can get that +3 at 1st or 2nd). It’s still not a good feat, though it’s clearly a better one, and neither Improved Toughness nor PF Toughness are recommended on their own merits.

Weapon Focus

Choose one type of weapon. You can also choose unarmed strike or grapple (or ray, if you are a spellcaster) as your weapon for the purposes of this feat. You gain a +1 bonus on all attack rolls made using the selected weapon. Additionally, you may re-roll an attack roll made with the chosen weapon once per combat. You must take the result of the new roll, even if it is lower.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Touch spells should also be an option for spellcasters, in addition to rays. Also, probably shouldn’t really restrict those to spellcasters—just say you can choose touch attacks or rays if you have any ability that allows you to perform such attacks (such as casting a spell, lay on hands, eldritch blast, whatever).

On the actual effect itself, “once per combat” is awkward in 3.5e; you might want to replace that with something like “after you have rerolled an attack with this feat, you cannot do so again for 5 rounds” or something like it—5 rounds would be an incredibly long combat, and if it does last that long, it’s probably fair to let someone reroll again.

Anyway, those quibbles aside, this is solid enough. Again, probably not excited about it, but I’ll remember I have it. I like it better than my old attempt, which I’ve kind of soured on. I think there’s merit to the idea there, but not all of the entries there are well-done.

Weapon Specialization

Choose a weapon type that you have applied Weapon Focus to. You gain a bonus equal to one-half your Base Attack Bonus to all damage rolls made with the selected weapon.

This feat no longer requires Fighter levels, just a BAB of +4. Later feats in this line do still require fighter levels, however.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

This might be pushing the envelope a little, but I think it’s fair. This is the first one where I’m like “yeah, actually, I’d make taking that a priority.”

Greater Weapon Focus

Choose a weapon that you have applied Weapon Focus to. Your bonus to attack rolls from Weapon Focus with that weapon increases from +1 to +3. Additionally, any time you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with that weapon, you may re-roll it. You must take the new result, even if it is a 1. This does not count as a use of the re-roll granted by Weapon Focus.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Respectable. Again, not sure I’d take it on its own—and at this point there isn’t a lot that requires it—but I could see the hypothetical pure fighter doing so.

Greater Weapon Specialization

Choose a weapon type that you have applied Greater Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization to. Your bonus to damage rolls from Weapon Specialization with that weapon increases from one-half your BAB to your full BAB. Additionally, you may re-roll a damage roll with your selected weapon once per combat. You must re-roll all dice rolled, and you must take the result of the new roll, even if it is lower.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Rerolling damage isn’t all that exciting most of the time; unless you’re a rogue or similar, or I guess a spellcaster, most of your damage isn’t in the form of dice in the first place. Doubling the bonus from Weapon Specialization is quite enough here, honestly, though, so as a little bit of gravy it’s fine. I guess it could make a lower-BAB person who rolls more dice more interested.

If you want to amplify that, you could consider allowing a person to pick and choose which dice to reroll. That would be quite good, for those who roll a lot of dice. Though at that point it might be easier to just Empower the roll.

Mobility

You gain a +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against attacks of opportunity and against attacks made as part of a readied action.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Yawn. This is better than stock Mobility but not by much. Still say you should just get rid of it.

Point Blank Shot

You get a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls with ranged weapons at ranges of up to 30 feet.

Your accuracy allows you to target an opponent's vitals at close range. Before making a ranged weapon attack against an opponent within 30 feet, you may choose to forego your Dexterity bonus (if any) to your attack roll. If the attack hits, you may add your Dexterity bonus to the damage roll. This extra damage is precision damage and is not multiplied on a critical hit.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

A weird Power-Attack-but-it’s-Dex-instead-of-BAB feature. Archers like Power-Attack-like effects—see the popularity of Hank’s energy bow—but this is a weird one. Making it precision, making it non-multipliable, those only add to the awkwardness. I’m not sure this would be a popular option.

Also, in case there’s any confusion: precision damage is multiplied on a critical hit. You might just be saying that this precision damage isn’t, which is fine, but in general, it is. The thing that stops sneak attack, sudden strike, etc. from being multiplied isn’t the fact that they’re precision damage, but instead the fact that they’re bonus damage dice. Since this isn’t dice, it would normally be multiplied. “Precision” just means that it doesn’t work against things immune to critical hits or sneak attack.

Finally, on that note, damage is multiplied by more things than just critical hits. If your damage is multiplied for some non-critical-hit reason, does this bonus get multiplied? As written, yes, but that’s very weird—nothing else in the game treats crits differently from other kinds of damage multipliers.

Precise Shot

You may attack with ranged weapons against an opponent engaged in melee without taking the standard -4 penalty on your attack roll.

Your aim can instead allow you to distract enemies with your shots, creating openings for your allies. If you choose to take the regular -4 penalty, a successful hit against an opponent engaged in melee grants a +2 circumstance bonus to melee attack rolls against that opponent for any creatures currently threatening the opponent in melee. This bonus lasts until the beginning of your next turn.

A fighter may select this feat as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Yeah, not gonna use that ever, I don’t think. There’s a lot of set-up involved (it only works for my allies already threatening the target who are going to attack them in the next round), and I’m taking a much larger penalty than the bonus I’m handing out. Precise Shot remains the taxiest of feat taxes.

Just eliminate the whole “into melee” penalty altogether.

Minor Changes

Weapon Finesse and Quick Draw lose their Base Attack Bonus prerequisites. This allows Rogues to take these playstyle-defining feats at 1st level.

Good change; almost every game I’ve ever been in has done this mostly by forgetting those stupid prerequisites exist in the first place, and it has always been an improvement.

Conclusion

The overall effect on the meta is, I think, small. Weapon Focus et al. become much more popular feats, and maybe those being better makes it worth considering fighter long enough that someone actually takes Weapon Supremacy (Player’s Handbook II)—maybe. But I doubt it, because ultimately these just provide numbers—and numbers were never a fighter’s problem. The fighter’s problem is making those numbers count. The fighter’s problem is having unique things to do that aren’t done better by pretty much everyone else.

Personally, my approach is to just remove feat taxes—and accept that this makes the fighter even more redundant than it already was. It’s a 2-level class you only take if you’re absolutely desperate for feats; oh well, it already was. (Dungeoncrasher excepted.) So is barbarian, and everyone loves barbarian just because those 2 levels are so good.

But this approach could be valid in general—you certainly shifted things on the Weapon Focus line. And the saving throw feat changes are pretty good. But the other changes aren’t nearly as meaningful, and don’t solve the problems with those feats.

You haven’t saved the fighter class, either—with Weapon Specialization getting half the bonus and not requiring any fighter levels, I figure most will take that but not take any fighter levels—certainly not 12 of ’em. Sprucing up the other feats more will help, obviously, but the fighter needs more. In particular, once you have whatever feats you need, it’s really hard to justify staying with the class. Every further level of fighter becomes harder and harder to justify because you already have the feats you wanted the most. So it can’t just be a linear class the way it is, or there needs to be more feats that require fighter levels that are good—but that will feel pretty tax-y. Your Weapon Specialization feat is pretty good, but I don’t see a lot of people paying a “12 levels of fighter” tax. If they do, Weapon Supremacy is also a pretty good feat—but I don’t see many paying a “6 more levels of fighter” tax at that point, either. I think fighter as written is just a lost cause.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Totally fair takes, and thanks for the feedback. Certainly gives me the idea to drop the number of fighter levels needed for Greater Weapon Spec, Focus, and Supremacy. Maybe 8th, 10th, and 12th respecively. I will say that I'm not sure if you're accounting for Precise Shot only requiring one attack to grant a +2 bonus on any number of melee attacks. If an enemy charges your front line and you ping him, that's a +2 to hit on your melee's entire attack routine. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 2 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhoenixDuck Yeah... but your frontline probably doesn’t need +2 very much. Though I suppose the cost isn’t terribly great, either, since it’s only the one shot. Fair enough, still not exactly excited about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wasn't aware of precision damage not being multiplied. I'm making a Duelist overhaul and it must be rotting my brain... That said, what effects multiply damage on a ranged weapon attack other than critical hits? The only ones I'm aware of affect charges, and I want to say there's a maneuver that does it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 2 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhoenixDuck Precision damage is multiplied—at least so long as it’s +Z rather than +XdY. Bonus damage dice aren’t multiplied, whether it’s precision or not. A duelist’s precise strike is not multiplied, because it’s +1d6 or +2d6, but if it was +3 or +7, it would be. As for non-crit damage multipliers for ranged attacks, I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but I would be extremely reluctant to say that means there aren’t any. Also, as for duelist overhauls, we have several you may want to look at/steal from. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2 at 20:54

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