The Player's Handbook II on the feat retraining Process says that upon gaining a new level

You can exchange one of the feats you previously selected for another feat. If the new feat has prerequisites, not only must your character meet them in his current state, but you must also be able to show that he met them at the time you chose the previous feat. (193)

Rather than allowing easy access to the power psychic reformation or the Dark Chaos Feat Shuffle, I am considering implementing this slightly more conservative rule in an upcoming campaign. However, I'm concerned that it's technically exploitable by knowledgeable enough player. For example…

  • The feats Cool Head (Complete Scoundrel 75-6) et al. cause the creature to "immediately learn up to two… skill tricks at no cost, and [the creature's] limit on skill tricks known increases by one." Yet once a skill trick's learned, it can't be unleared (much like having spent the skill points to gain it, below; note that a skill trick can be rendered useless if prerequisites aren't met, though). I think a creature would keep accumulated skill tricks gained this way but lose the increased capacity. (Conveniently, this eventuality is addressed by the Dragon #357 Sage Advice column “Official Answers to Your Questions” (82).)
  • The feat Martial Study (Tome of Battle 31-2) may allow a martial adept to add to his maneuvers known, although this is less clear. However, given the stinginess of martial maneuvers, this exploit doesn't really bother me.
  • The feat Open Minded (Complete Adventurer 111) grants the creature that takes it 5 skill points which must be spent immediately. Because most characters don't get enough skill points anyway, this exploit doesn't really bother me, either.
  • The feat Shape Soulmeld (Magic of Incarnm 40) grants that creature the ability to shape one soulmeld. After the soulmeld's shaped, however, the creature need not ever unshape it, making the soulmeld a largely permanent fixture. (Although a handful of effects can forcibly unshape a soulmeld–potentially undoing several levels worth of work–, these are rare enough that the risk is likely worth the reward.) (This use of the rule raises some concerns; I'm not entirely comfortable with the entire party running around with a blink shirt (Magic of Incarnum 60-1), for instance, although that could happen anyway.)

Have I assessed the feats above accurately in light of this trade-one-feat-for-another-per-level rule? Besides trading away unwanted feats needed to meet the requirements of some prestige classes—which, unlike some, I see as an advantage to such rules—, are there other feats or exploits that by implementing this rule raise balance concerns?

  • \$\begingroup\$ A bit of a frame challenge here: given that level loss removes benefits such as most of those you've mentioned, what rule says that loss of a feat ignores the granted benefits of that feat? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 19, 2016 at 23:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus I'm not sure I understand. Are you asking for a rule that says that a creature can't use, for example, the feat Power Attack unless the feat Power Attack is on the creature's character sheet? That is, are you asking me to prove that a creature can't use feats the creature doesn't have? If so, I don't really know what to do with that. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2016 at 1:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I'm saying is that if you lose a feat, you lose the benefit of the feat. Level loss is very much like losing a feat that grants the benefits you mentioned in your question; so why wouldn't it be treated in the same way? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 20, 2016 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus I think--if we're on the same page--the loss of the listed feats would be as if they were lost via energy drain, but I'm not sure why that's important. The central premise is that the feats I listed would continue providing some effects despite being lost. Is how the feats are lost somehow important? (As an aside, the FAQ disallows gaming level loss via, for example, restoration (114).) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2016 at 2:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll try once more: these feats grant benefits that are usually granted upon gaining a level. When the abilities are granted by a level, they are lost if the level is lost. Why should the same abilities granted via feats be treated differently upon loss of the granting feat? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 20, 2016 at 2:50

1 Answer 1


Frame challenge

I find no rules that delineate what happens when you lose a feat, even when a feat is removed due to level loss or retraining. However, if you don't have a feat, you can't use its benefits.

The resources provided by a feat don't disappear when they're spent; they are recorded on the character's sheet, just like all other resources. The resources are linked with the feat that provided them.

It is the responsibility of the player to have a rules-legal character. He might be given a pass by the DM, but that is one of the player's only real responsibilities. If your character's abilities change, you are obliged to do your best to adjust your character's sheet to accurately reflect the changes.

When you're retraining, or using psychic reformation or DCFS, you're essentially 'Selling' your feat and buying another one. You have to actually 'sell' the whole thing to the best of your ability, in order to be actually meeting your responsibility of having a rules-legal character. Otherwise, you're selling mounts to your DM and the other players, and then walking away.

If a feat directly grants a resource, effect, ability, or item, then that is lost when the feat is lost. If the feat allows you to spend other resources to produce a particular effect or item, then the effect should persist after the feat is lost. If the effect of a feat is ephemeral, such as adjustments to damage already dealt, there is no change from the loss of the feat (or ability).

  • Say there were a feat that granted you 3,000 gp, and you lost the feat, you'd have -3,000 gp to pay off. If a feat directly granted a magic item (Shape Soulmeld is very close to this), or made a mundane item magical with no other costs, you'd lose the item granted, or it would go back to being mundane, upon losing the feat.

What happens when retraining the listed feats

The sidebar on Magic of Incarnum, p52 regarding negative levels says that if an incarnum user has a negative level:

He loses the ability to shape one soulmeld. If he currently has the maximum number of soulmelds shaped, one of his soulmelds (determined randomly) unshapes.

Extrapolating that slightly to losing the benefit of Shape Soulmeld (Magic of Incarnum, p40) you lose the ability to shape one soulmeld, which is the maximum number of soulmelds that you can shape due to the feat, and the list of soulmelds that randomly unshapes is 1 soulmeld long.

Open Minded grants 5 skill points, which you recorded onto your sheet. If you lose the feat, try to recall which skills you spent it on and remove the ranks, otherwise choose randomly among your highest ranked skills.

You can retrain Skill Tricks, much like you can retrain skill points spent on ranks (Complete Scoundrel, p83). That shows that they too are continually recorded on your character sheet and can be adjusted as easily as skill ranks. You lose a skill trick via losing the ability that grants it.

Possible 'exploits'

Examples of retained effects would be items created via Item Creation feats, the Ancestral Relic feat (Book of Exalted Deeds, p39, 41), which is essentially an item creation feat, and the Item Familiar feat, which lets you do much the same, but more so.

Now with the loss of the Item Familiar feat, you'd essentially be in the same spot as one who inherited the item familar, but doesn't have the feat; you can use a few abilities, but can't access the invested resources. And you don't get the spent resources back.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If the creature has paid a price for the feat, is that price likewise refunded? For instance, does trading out the feat Ancestral Relic (BE 39) get the creature back all the funds invested in the relic? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2016 at 5:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Fixed in the text, and to answer here, if you rebuild a wizard to fighter, you still spent resources on your spellbook and on scrolls; you don't get that back either. But you can sell what you have. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 20, 2016 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I await an alternative that doesn't challenge the frame, using this interpretation how would losing a feat that enabled a wizard to add one or more spells to the wizard's spellbook be handled? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2016 at 16:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Retraining Collegiate wizard, for example, the wizard would lose the extra spells. If he had persisting castings of those spells, they'd continue, as he used spell slots and components to cast them (resources other than the feat, in other words) \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 20, 2016 at 16:54

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