There are a lot of discussions about the concept of “feat taxes” in Pathfinder. The idea that characters would “have” to have this feat or that to be “functional” and that most classes can’t support the “feat needs” of a their “builds.” Now, we have addressed build guide usage a couple of times, but there are a few other good reasons what “feat taxes” are in place…
Balance in Feat Requisites
Feats are a tricky business. Even in the jump from the ancestral system to Pathfinder Role Playing game, designers recognized that they probably needed to be a more common resource. Before, feats used to be at 1st, 3rd and every three after maxing 7 feats by 20th level. In Pathfinder you get 10 (barring racials etc). At a net gain of three feats, people are still clamoring for more. There are some great optional rules for groups that feel this way out there. Yet there are some very solid reasons for the current feat allocations, lets look at a few of them:
- Fighter Role – Simply put the fighter (who many claim most hurt by them) is biggest reason for feat taxes. The principle power of the class is its 11 (ELEVEN!!) bonus feats granting it more than twice as many feat selections a standard character. Most fighters master multiple feat chains in their careers and they are among the few classes that can easily do so. The prohibitive entry requirements of feats like Power Attack, Point-Blank Shot, and Weapon Finesse help prevent non-fighters from approaching the fighter’s mastery of combat keeping it in place from a metabalance perpective.
- Replay – Designers aren’t looking for a path to creating a best lance charger or dual-wield. They are looking for a system that is going to make it possible for even fighters to be used time and time again by the a player who likes to play the same class. Similarly, non-fighter classes have to commit enough to certain feat paths that it less likely that a player will be content with the exact same mechanics for a new character at a later date.
- Commitment – For high end feat chains and even prestige classes feat “taxes” are also an effort of commitment to the character, ensuring that the character really wanted to gain that option or ability. This results in characters that often exhibit higher player ownership and tend to lead to better over all game experiences.
- Caster Balance – Metamagic feats are a lot like combat feats in that commited paths are likely to result focused power and abilities for wizards. Too many broad feat options for casters can lead to even more versatility for casters increasing complexity of balances already dependent on workday and encounter density.
Solving for Feat Variety
Sometimes a player wants what they want and barring optional rules, the need to dip into feat chains at the drop at of hat is tempting one. If a player wants more variety in a game where the GM isn’t willing to compromise feat balances, consider the following:
- Brawler – The Brawler class from the ACG and its martial flexibility class feature are amazing sources of situational feat selection. Many players see the unarmed strike feature and assume the class is only a fist fighter. It actually gets handaxe, short sword and the entire close weapon group bayonet, brass knuckles, cestus, dan bong, emei piercer, fighting fan, gauntlet, heavy shield, iron brush, katar, light shield, madu, mere club, punching dagger, rope gauntlet, sap, scizore, spiked armor, spiked gauntlet, spiked shield, tekko-kagi, tonfa, unarmed strike, wooden stake, and wushu dart. Of course martial flexibility could even give an exotic weapon to the character for a minute.
- War Domain – Cleric with the war domain eventually unlocks a swift action combat feat selection that can add combat versatility to both clerics and inquisitors.
- Wand of “Paragon Surge” – While it is possible you may be required to make a DC 25 check to emulate a race in addition to using it, this wand can grant you any feat there is as long as it was one you can qualify for. Also a great item for “trying on” options for your progression.
- Third Party Options – Classes like the Taskshaper, Echo or Dilettante all have abilities to gain feats in unusual ways and might fit nicely if a player wants a larger range available.
Feat versatility is great thing, but maintaining the core balance of the game means altering it tricky in the best of situations. Just keep in mind there are a lot of other options for character design that still allow for a lot of flexibility.