Sometimes characters are intended to be a cohesive group working under the same system with the same bonuses: free archetypes, aftermath feats, deviant powers, and so forth. But sometimes you want an ecletic party of characters with their own backgrounds: has everyone’s characters participated in different adventures from level 1 to 10 and are now coming together in the same party? Or maybe a player joined a campaign later and it made more sense to give them a different set of powers. Or perhaps the same system just doesn’t work to convey the type of character that inspires all your players! Inspired by the Strength of Thousands “Life in the Academy” subsystem and Perram’s legendary snowflake bonus system, I present this extremely rough and untested variant rule: Versatile Bonus Feats!
What Are Cost Adjusted Bonus Feats?
Much like the beloved and lauded Free Archetype system, Cost Adjusted Bonus Feats are feats your character gains above and beyond those you gain through normal character progression. However Cost Adjusted Bonus feats can be any type of feat: Ancestry, Archetype, Class, General, Skill, and more! The system can be used to manage powers ranging from Deviant Abilities to Relics and beyond! The idea behind the system is simply to give your players the versatility to choose what are usually campaign-specific buffs, and give GMs a tool to evaluate the relative power level of bonus features their characters have to try to balance and gauge characters using different abilities. Instead of gaining bonus feats as characters level, characters instead gain Bonus Points (BP) that they can spend on these feats and powers.
How Do Characters Gain Bonus Points?
It is up to the GM how bonus points are awarded, but generally most characters should earn 4 bonus points per level, starting with 4 points at level 1. This is designed to put a character at around the same level of power as a character built using the free archetype system, but the added versatility and potential to gain abilities at odd-levels will mean there are times where some players might have more abilities than others at certain levels. Concerned GMs should feel free to award these points in a way that will keep the party balanced, awarding points over time rather than all at once or in clumps designed to maximize when players can purchase their bonus feats. GMs should feel free to experiment with how many bonus points are awarded each level, perhaps awarding fewer points at future levels or slowing down the progression if the character’s feel too strong, or giving more bonus points for significant campaign milestones and achievements.
So Every Category Costs the Same?
No two feats are the same, and not all feats are as useful for the same characters! Be wary of feats that add additional offensive capabilities to characters from classes that already have built-in features that improve their power, as there are few ways for non-martial characters to “catch-up” to martial characters who can more organically stack the benefits of multiple feats into their “Strike” action. These feats should either be restricted or cost an additional 1-2 BP. Likewise, feats that are taken almost entirely for flavor and provide few synergistic bonuses may be eligible for discounts, especially class feats that on multiple lists that can’t be used at the same time such as metamagic feats and abilities that can be replicated by spending gold, such as lesser relics. If a player wants a feat that you don’t think will come in handy very often, you should warn the player but recommend that the feat be taken at a 2 point discount; This includes situational reactions for players who already have powerful reactions they tend to use every round, such as Fighters and Champions. You should also limit the efficacy of feats such as Resilience that gain bonuses depending on how many feats a character has, as this system will give a character more than the recommended number of feats!
There is no silver-bullet solution for how to budget every feat with every player in every party! Some parties prioritize combat-encounters to the point that you could argue that a bunch of skill feats should cost less. Other parties may hate the idea of a Barbarian or Fighter potentially getting more skill feats than a standard Rogue. The way the system is set up allows for GMs to adjust the points players earn over time and thus scale the campaign appropriately as they test the system over time. Are players too strong at level 2? Try awarding only 1 point over the course of level 3, effectively giving your players 3 points per level. You may even want to award less points at even levels when players already receive class points!
Then How Much Do Bonus Feats Cost?
My personal suggestions for the cost of bonus feats are as follows, but I highly recommend and encourage people to modify it to fit their table. Note that situational feats are those that as a GM you think may only come up once every four or five levels such as a crafting feat in a campaign with very little downtime, and extremely situational feats are those that you don’t plan on ever being useful except in extremely niche situations that the character’s other options already cover, such as a Criminal Connections in a wilderness campaign.
Base Class Feats: 8 Points
Lesser Class Feat: 6-7 Points (Most Level 1 Feats, Situational Feats)
Least Class Feats: 5-6 Points (Level 1 Metamagic Feats, Extremely Situational Feats)
Archetype Dedication Feats: 5 Points
Base Archetype Feats: 6 Points
Lesser Archetype Feats: 5 Points (Situational Feats)
Least Archetype Feats: 4 Points (Extremely Situational Feats)
Additional Archetype Feats: 8 Points (Feats from Base Classes)
Base Ancestry Feats: 5 Points
Lesser Ancestry Feats: 4 Points (Level 1 Ancestry Feats, Situational Feats)
Least Ancestry Feats: 3 Points (Extremely Situational Feats)
Base General Feats: 5 Points (Fleet, Toughness, Improved Initiative)
Lesser General Feats: 4 Points (Situational Feats)
Least General Feats: 3 Points (Extremely Situational Feats)
Base Skill Feats: 4 Points (Intimidate and Athletics feats)
Lesser Skill Feats: 3 Points (Situational Feats, Archetype Skill Feats)
Least Skill Feats: 2 Points (Extremely Situational Feats)
Multi-Class Feats: 6-7 Points (Feats that can be taken by multiple classes)
Deviant Feats: 6 Points
Aftermath Feats: 5 Points
Spell Tricks: 4 Points (See the Sidebar in Grand Bazaar)
So what do you think about this idea? Could it be combined with my other variant rules? Should the numbers be adjusted? I’d love to hear what you have to say over any form of social media, but I most readily respond to twitter and the Know Direction discord server! Please let me know if you use this in your campaign, as I’d love to hear how it goes! And feel free to try to change my mind about the above prices, as I’d love to edit this post with feedback from my fans!