View Full Version : (3.5) Feat Tree Houserule

Barbarian MD
2010-01-26, 12:57 PM
So, my DM hates feat trees. I hate feat trees. I think everyone hates feat trees. So I have a solution--let's eliminate them.

The basic idea is this: you automatically gain the feats of a feat tree as soon as you are eligible. This can take place in one of two ways--it can be a houserule that applies to everyone, or it can take the form of a feat.

I'll cover the basic concept, and then demonstrate how to make it a feat at the end.

Alternate Rule:
At the DM's discretion, a player may gain the benefits of all the feats in a feat tree over a period of time. The Feat Tree must be pre-approved the the DM, since not all trees are created equal. After a player takes the first pre-requisite of a tree, at the next available time that he may take a feat, he automatically gets the next feat in the tree as a bonus feat. He must be eligible to receive this feat at that time, or the bonus feat is delayed until he becomes eligible.

Alternate, Alternate Rule
If a DM wants to limit the power of this feat, he may put a cap on the number of bonus feats that can be gained via this method. A cap of three would allow TWF, ITWF, and GTWF, at the expense of TWDefense.

Fighter 1: Fighter Bonus Feat: Weapon Focus
Fighter 2: Fighter Bonus Feat
Fighter 3:
Fighter 4: Fighter Bonus Feat, Weapon Specialization
Fighter 5:
Fighter 6: Fighter Bonus Feat
Fighter 7:
Fighter 8: Fighter Bonus Feat, Greater Weapon Focus

Barbarian 1: Level 1 Feat: Power Attack
Barbarian 2:
Barbarian 3: Level 3 Feat, Cleave
Barbarian 4:
Barbarian 5:
Barbarian 6: Level 6 Feat, Great Cleave

So from the examples, one can see that the Fighter had to wait until 4th level to receive his next free feat, because he didn't immediately qualify for Weapon Specialization. On the other hand, while the barbarian immediately qualified for Cleave, he had to wait until Level 3 to receive his Bonus Feat, since that's the level that he normally receives feats at.

Example Feat Trees
These are merely examples. A player should be able to choose what order she takes these feats in, so long as she meets the prerequisites of each.

1) Power Attack
2) Cleave
3) Great Cleave
4) Sunder
5) Bullrush
6) Overrun

1) Weapon Focus
2) Weapon Specialization
3) Greater WF
4) Greater WS
5) Melee Weapon Mastery

1) Combat Expertise
2) Improved Disarm
3) Improved Trip
4) Improved Feint

1) Dodge
2) Mobility
3) Spring Attack

(If both Dodge and Expertise feat trees are exhausted Whirlwind Attack becomes eligible)

1) Endurance
2) Diehard

1) Improved Unarmed Strike
2) Improved Grapple
3) Deflect Arrows
4) Snatch Arrows
5) Stunning First

1) Two-Weapon Fighting
2) Two-Weapon Defense
3) Improved Two-Weapon Fighting
4) Greater Two-Weapon Fighting

The bottom line is that everything within a feat tree may be taken, so long as you're eligible to take it. When there is a choice about what to take next, for instance Improved Grapple vs. Deflect Arrows, either may be taken at player's discretion.

This house rule can be implemented via a feat, rather than being a freebie, at the DM's discretion. Here's my rough draft of the wording:

Automatic Feat Tree Advancement
Prerequisities: Any feat that is part of an approved feat tree.

Benefit: At each opportunity that the player has to gain a feat, she will instead gain that feat, in addition to a bonus feat. This bonus feat must come from a feat tree for which the player already has one feat, and for which she is eligible to take.

Special: If, through the advancement of a feat tree, you gain the use of a feat that you took previously, you may swap that feat out for any that you were eligible for at the time.
This feat may be taken as a Fighter Bonus Feat.

Normal: You only gain one feat every third level.

Level 1: Fighter Bonus Feat: Weapon Focus, Level 1 Feat:Feat Tree Advancement
Level 2: Fighter Bonus Feat
Level 3: Level 3 Feat
Level 4: Fighter Bonus Feat, Feat Tree Feat:Weapon Specialization

Barbarian MD
2010-01-26, 01:05 PM
It's probably obvious, but this is something for high-powered campaigns. I'm very aware that this is pretty overpowered in most campaigns might be overpowered in some campaigns.

DMs would be well within their limits to pick and choose WHICH of the feat trees are eligible. The Weapon Focus tree is probably fine for most campaigns, while the Combat Expertise or Improved Unarmed Strike trees might be pretty obnoxious.

2010-01-26, 01:09 PM
This works ok for core but can run into issues outside it. For example, outside core there are multiple ways that the Combat Reflexes or Improved Unarmed Strike trees can go. The idea is good and might go a long way to solving some of the problems with fighters. I'm not sure however why one shouldn't like feat trees per se: They seem to me to be a natural way of representing progression while allowing character flexibility.

Barbarian MD
2010-01-26, 01:20 PM
You bring up a good point about non-core. I think that's where DM discretion is going to have to come into play, since it would be a big job to compile all the feat trees and sort through them.

The problem with feat trees is that some of them prove to be a waste over the long haul. When you only get something like 9 feats over an entire career, they're an incredibly costly investment.

Take Weapon Focus, for instance. It's nice enough, at first level. You get an extra +1 on your attacks. And then Weapon Specialization: you get +1 on your damage. But look at what happens when you're 10th level--that one extra point is almost meaningless, particularly in a high level game. By the time you've invested 5 or 6 feats, almost your entire career, you have very little to show for it.

Two Weapon Fighting is similar. Sure, a bonus of a couple of points is nice, but it takes four feats to make TWF worthwhile. That just seems a waste.

Now, some trees are extensive and provide for a lot of variety. A DM would have to be think carefully before letting someone get all the benefits of Combat Expertise from just one feat. The same applies to Improved Unarmed Strike. But I think allowing part of those trees to automatically upgrade might be appropriate. But again, that's up to your particular DM, since what's appropriate in one campaign might not be for another.

2010-01-26, 01:25 PM
I disagree with you about this being "overpowered" - in any game that allows full casters, this is hardly so. It does make the Fighter absolutely useless, but that is a good thing to my mind - he was close enough to useless as it was.

I'm sort of ambivalent about you requiring they be getting a feat that level in order to get their feat; it's a pretty clever balancing mechanism, but I'm just not sure it's necessary. I see a lot of characters just dipping Fighter at the appropriate moments in order to get their feats that are coming to them anyway, which is sort of stupid. In some cases (Combat Expertise is a notable example), it's important - otherwise they'd get like four feats for the price of one. For others (Two-Weapon Fighting springs to mind immediately), it just doesn't seem necessary (you just get the next Feat when your BAB gets high enough).

Also, if you have multiple feats coming to you (say Fighter 1, take Combat Expertise, Fighter 2, take Power Attack - do you get Cleave and Improved whatever at Fighter 4? Or do you have to pick one?

For Combat Expertise (and others), where you open up multiple options, the player should be able to choose which they get, rather than assigning them some arbitrary order.

Also, don't include Two-Weapon Defense in the TWF tree if you're making them wait for times when they'd be getting feats anyway. TWD is awful, don't force people to waste feat slots on it.

Barbarian MD
2010-01-26, 01:31 PM
Interesting thoughts. I figured I'd add the mechanic of gaining a bonus feat when you'd normally gain a feat as a concession to those that think it's overpowered. If it's not overpowered, than yeah, it'd make sense to just let them have it when they become eligible for it.

I imagine that, within a single feat tree, we'd need to limit it to one at a time, though. Otherwise, you'd gain the entire combat expertise feat tree at a single jump.

Dragoon, how would you divy it up when someone takes two feat trees? Would you let them advance both feat trees at the same time, or would you put a one bonus feat per level cap on it?

For Combat Expertise (and others), where you open up multiple options, the player should be able to choose which they get, rather than assigning them some arbitrary order.

I agree. That's how I intended it to be read.

Also, if you have multiple feats coming to you (say Fighter 1, take Combat Expertise, Fighter 2, take Power Attack - do you get Cleave and Improved whatever at Fighter 4? Or do you have to pick one?

For simplicity's sake, when I write Bonus, I'm referring to a Feat Tree Bonus Feat, when I write Fighter, I'm referring to a Fighter Bonus Feat, and when I write Regular, I'm meaning the feats all characters get at 1, 3, 6, 9, etc.

Following the mechanic as written, I'd say it would go like this:
Fighter 1: Regular Feat + Fighter: Combat Expertise
Fighter 2: Fighter: Power Attack
Level 3: Regular Feat + Bonus Feat Tree Feat: Cleave
Fighter 4: Fighter Feat + Bonus Feat Tree Feat: Great Cleave
Level 5: nothing
Level 6: Regular Feat + Bonus Feat Tree Feat: Improved Disarm

And that's just an example, the player would have discretion in choosing.

You'll note that Fighters don't become useless, because they're eligible for bonus feats more often than other characters. Other characters would get a bonus feat at 3, 6, 9, while fighters would get a bonus feat on top of their fighter bonus feat, giving them feat tree bonus feats at 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9.

Now, if we eliminate the mechanic that requires you to gain a feat at the same time as a bonus feat, it would look like this:

Fighter 1: Regular + Fighter: Power Attack
Fighter 2: Fighter: Combat Expertise + Bonus: Cleave
Level 3: Regular + Bonus: Great Cleave
Level 4: Fighter + Bonus: Improved Disarm
Level 5: Nothing + Bonus: Improved Sunder
Level 6: Regular + Bonus: Improved Trip

2010-01-26, 01:41 PM
I think that depends a lot on the level of power in the game as it stands. If around Tier 3 or lower, definitely would not let you get two at a time (though maybe I'd allow something like "If you qualify for multiple bonus feats through multiple feat trees, you may only take one per level. However, if you did not take a given feat because you were taking a bonus feat from a different tree one level, you may take the other feat that you did not take on the next level, provided you are not taking some other feat. In this way, you get exactly one bonus feat every level until you've gotten all you have qualified for."

If you have Tier 1 characters (non-healbot Clerics, non-blaster [or optimized blaster] Wizards, a Druid who uses all of his class features) or Tier 2 characters (Psions and Sorcerers built similarly), then I'd definitely say "go ahead, take Combat Expertise, Power Attack, and Weapon Focus at level 1 and get all three of those trees entirely by level 6. You'll need it."

Barbarian MD
2010-01-26, 01:44 PM
Wait, you'd let Tier 1 classes get all of the feat trees quicker than Tier 3 classes? Or did you write that backwards?

I would think you'd want to give melee types on Tier 3 a leg up, rather than the other way around...

Or are you saying that Fighter-types with bullrush and sunder and dodge and everything else would become too powerful, and you'd need to give the wizards a leg up?

EDIT: Just for completeness sake, this is what it would look like to allow a player to stack multiple feat trees at the same time.

Level 1:
Fighter Feat: Combat Expertise
Regular Feat: Power Attack

Level 2:
Fighter Feat: Weapon Focus
Feat Tree Feats: Improved Disarm, Cleave

Level 3:
Regular Feat: Improved Unarmed Strike
Feat Tree Feats: Improved Trip, Great Cleave

Level 4:
Fighter Feat: Point Blank Shot
Feat Tree Feats: Improved Feint, Improved Bullrush, Weapon Specialization, Improved Grapple

That's... That's a lot of feats. I don't think that's going to work.

2010-01-26, 01:45 PM
Tier 1 classes aren't interested in feat trees. They don't have any that are meaningful. So if there are Tier 1 classes in the game, yes, I'd let people get the feat trees faster - because the only people interested in feat trees are Tier 3 or lower, usually.

Barbarian MD
2010-01-26, 01:52 PM
I understand.

I'm not sure if that'd be a good idea or not, though. Casters and such can use certain feat trees pretty effectively, and the Spell Focus and Spell Penetration line are caster-focused. I think we may need to cap everyone to a one per level limit.

2010-01-27, 08:44 AM
Spell Focus, Spell Penetration, etc. are not trees, they have a single version and a greater version. Hell, you could even rule them as such. Or maybe give feats special requirements before you can get them free. Like, "If you take Spell Focus, you can take Greater Spell Focus at any time you are eligible to take a feat, as normal. Otherwise, you must have 13 ranks in Spellcraft before you are eligible to take Greater Spell Focus as a bonus feat". Or something.

2010-01-27, 11:17 AM
I understood what you say here. I think it would just be a case of houseruling some feats together. It's been done a number of times.
Tipical exampels:

Weapon Focus [general]
Choose one type of weapon (***)
Requisites: Proficiency with selected weapon, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls when using the choosen weapon.
Special: A fighter can select Weapon Focus as one of his fighter bonus feat.
Special: If you have 4 levels in the fighter class, you also gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls. (specialization)
Special: If you have 8 levels in the fighter class, you gain an additional +1 bonus to attack rolls. This bonus stacks with the previous bonus. (greater focus)
Special: If you have 12 levels in the fighter class, you gain an additional +2 bonus to damage rolls. This bonus stacks with the previous bonus. (greater specialization)
Special: If you have ?? levels in the fighter class, you gain (***). This bonus stacks with the previous bonus. (mastery)
Special: If you have 18 levels in the fighter class, you gain (***). This bonus stacks with the previous bonus. (mastery)

Two Weapon Fighting [general]
You can fight with a weapon in each hand. You can make one extra attack each round with the second weapon.
Requisite: Dex 15+
Benefit: (***)
Normal: (***)
Special: A 2nd-level ranger (***)
Special: A fighter may (***)
Special: If your base attack bonus is +6 or higher, you get a second attack with your off-hand weapon, albeit at a -5 penalty.
Special: If your base attack bonus is +11 or higher, you get a third attack with your off-hand weapon, albeit at a -10 penalty.

There are others ideas, like letting a character get Dodge, and gain Mobility at 4th level.

(***) means stuff from the books so I don't repeat it all there.

Anyway, just see which feat trees are weak, and put them together.
There are some trees that are not that weak like the Power Attack and Combat Expertise one, where they're more like feats with pre-requisite feats than actual feat trees.

2010-01-28, 11:33 PM
I suggesting looking into expanding the work started by Frank and K in their Tomes.


Or a wiki that has put Frank and Ks stuff on it:


Cause honestly, it works. They scale to BAB, and they also have examples of feats for Skill trees and more.

2010-01-29, 03:24 PM
i have slowly been working on stringing some feats like this together.

one example that i did is the multiweapon fighting feat, replacing the chain of two-weapon and multiweapon feats.

i made the bonus that the dodge feat gives you increase with level; other feats are similar.

i have yet to tackle most of them though. some of them would be pretty easy (string spell focus together with its improved, greater, etc versions).

others would be harder; some feat trees don't really have a clear progression as far as fluff or mechanics are concerned. in those cases, i'd just break the feat apart into progressively better abilities/bonuses.

and yes, f&k feats are pretty cool, though they are generally more powerful than most groups play (in my experience).