In both Pathfinder and D&D 3.5e that it’s based on, abilities are often tagged as extraordinary (Ex), supernatural (Su), or spell-like (Sp). There are a few other categories (e.g. psi-like abilities, marked Ps), and some things that either go unlabeled or have their own category (e.g. spells).

Both games also have feats, special abilities that can be selected once every few levels by those who meet their requirements.

In 3.5, there is a lot of precedence suggesting that feats are extraordinary (Ex) unless the feat description and/or the description of its explicitly says otherwise. Book of Exalted Deeds suggests it by specifying that Exalted feats are supernatural, unlike other feats. Complete Champion does likewise with a number of its Domain feats. In fact, I could swear I remember reading an explicit statement to this effect.

In Pathfinder, things seem vaguer, and I cannot find any statement about the default category of feats (though, I also cannot find any such statement in 3.5e).

Does anyone know if there are any explicit statements in the published rules for these systems that feats are extraordinary unless otherwise specified? An acceptable answer must address both systems, and must either cite a quotation from an authoritative source or else indicate how sure we can be that there is no such default for each system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a specific reason why it's necessary to know what kind ability the feat provides? (I'm good with No, by the way.) Also, is there a specific feat you have in mind? (This is more pressing; being able to address your specific examples will make for better answers.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan The reason is for the purposes of my freelance third-party work in these systems; I need to understand the baseline and know if, for example, it is necessary to specify that a Pathfinder feat is extraordinary if I want to interact with things that interact with extraordinary abilities. There is no specific case in mind; the purpose of the question is specifically to find the default or baseline. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is also a fourth quasi-category of "Natural Ability" (Na), in addition to (Ex), (Sp), and (Su), if I recall correctly. I seem to recall reading it specifically called out as an additional ability type somewhere, but since I can't recall where exactly, I'll leave it at this. Rather frustrating that they left some abilities effectively "untyped", in any case. Good luck on your freelance work! \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you still interested in this question? Not if I have realy straight and clear answer, but I can extrapolate from what I know if it would be usefull. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 9:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ The explicit statement you may be remembering could be from the Book of Exalted Deeds itself that says that exalted feats "are thus supernatural in nature (rather than being extraordinary abilities, as most feats are)" (39). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, Feats are given a default special ability type in 3.5 only indirectly, in the sources you mention. The FAQ (on page 37) also directly claims that all feats are extraordinary until stated otherwise, but it is not a credible source. This perhaps unintentional omission on the part of the Core Rules has carried over into Pathfinder, which lacks a 'Book of Exalted Deeds' or similar to even implicitly state that the feats are by default extraordinary. This seems like it would be a good topic for a Pathfinder FAQ, but the relevant official forum thread is... unhelpful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the FAQ generally not being credible, the FAQ entry in question only explicitly claims that feats are generally (ex) in the question (which is referencing the line from BoED); the answer then goes on to answer the other part of the question (about Exalted feats) without mentioning the bit about most feats being (ex). So even less clear than most FAQ rulings. \$\endgroup\$
    – A_S00
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 23:51

There isn't a strict definition to each category (Ex, Su, Sp) for features that come from feats or otherwise. There is a clear precedent on how these categories are applied, though.

Personally, I ask the following questions:

Does the feat or feature grant the ability to evoke the effects of a published spell? If yes, then it is Spell-like.

Does the feat or feature grant something that could be accomplished in the real world without breaking the known laws of our universe. If yes, then it is Extraordinary.

If no to both questions, then it is Supernatural.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you back up your claim that there isn’t a strict default definition for feats, i.e. where have you looked for such a definition and/or how you know there isn’t one? Your own personal preferences are useless to me, what I need to know is the published rules or lack thereof. Also, they’re explicitly wrong, since extraordinary abilities can and do break the laws of physics. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan, Sorry, I cannot provide evidence that no such definition exists across all Pathfinder publications. Only in the Core Rules are the categories broadly defined, and there are no statements within the Core Rules that define how they should be applied to feats in particular. \$\endgroup\$
    – AndruC
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you have actually searched the entirety of the core rules and can state definitively that no such statement exists anywhere within them, then you should add that to your answer. That would be a significant improvement, and useful information for me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ My apologies, I didn’t notice you were new; this was a rather poor welcome to the site. Ultimately, we are pretty strict about requiring our answers to be good, authoritative answers to the question, and in particular I am looking for this information for a very particular purpose (publishing my own OGL content based on these rulesets, not simply running a game). Still, sorry for being brusque. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:34

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