D&D 5E A "Fewer" Features Variant!?! (+)

DND_Reborn

Legend
IMAGINE... a Rogue without Sneak Attack? a Monk who doesn't know Martial Arts? a Ranger who never casts hunter's mark? a Paladin without Smites?

Can you...?

I can, and I encourage it! Welcome to the Island of Misfit PCs! :)

Well over a ago I post a thread about a Faster Features Variant here:


The idea was to give characters features at an accelerated pace so you could have more playing time using them. When we had reached level 20, it felt like we didn't have time to really enjoy the newer features.

Well, after playing that way for a long time (using a revised progression for the classes), I pitched to my players this weekend a new idea. FEWER features!

While working on character sheets for a player, and realizing how many features and racial traits his Level 7 Wood Elf Ranger had, I decided maybe going the other way might be a novel idea.

Elf:
  1. ASI +2 DEX
  2. Darkvision
  3. Keen Senses
  4. Fey Ancestry
  5. Trance
Wood-Elf:
  1. ASI +1 WIS
  2. Elf Weapon Training
  3. Fleet of Foot
  4. Mask of the Wild
Sailor Background
  1. Ship's Passage
Ranger (Gloomstalker)
  1. Favored Enemy
  2. Natural Explorer
  3. Fighting Style
  4. Spellcasting (5 known spells)
  5. Gloomstalker Magic
  6. Dread Ambusher
  7. Umbral Sight
  8. Primeval Awareness
  9. Feat
  10. Extra Attack
  11. Favored Enemy improvement
  12. Natural Explorer improvement
  13. Iron Mind
For a grand total of 23 features!!! By level 7... jeez!!! :eek: Is it any wonder a player might have a hard time recalling everything their character can do when PCs are given so much???

So arose the idea for fewer features. Allowing players to focus more on the features they choose (yes, you read that correctly, choose) instead of just being given a buffet of features. Also, by choosing which features you want and when you might gain them, it opens up for very different builds (see the opening of the OP for examples!).

CONCEPT:
Race - you choose ONE racial trait (Ability Score Increase, Age, Alignment, Size, Speed, Languages are "common" and you get them all) that is not shared by all the other races.
Background - you get your background feature.
Class - you choose ONE class feature at 1st level. (For example, a Fighter would choose either a Fighting Style OR Second Wind.)
Subclass - each time you choose your subclass feature, you choose ONE subclass feature (For example, a Battle Master chooses either Combat Superiority or Student of War.)
Prerequisites - you cannot choose a feature if aspects of that feature rely on another feature you don't have!

So, at 1st level you will have only three features (one race, one background, one class or subclass).
With each new level, you can choose to gain a feature for that level, select a feature from a prior level (including prior subclass features), or choose a feature from your race.

Ability Score Increases (DEX +2, WIS +1), Age, Alignment, Size, Speed, Languages don't count as they are common to all races.
  1. Race: Trance
  2. Background: Ship's Passage
  3. Ranger 1: Natural Explorer
  4. Ranger 2: Fighting Style (Archery)
  5. Ranger 3: Umbral Sight (Gloomstalker feature)
  6. Ranger 4: Sharpshooter feat
  7. Ranger 5: Extra Attack
  8. Ranger 6: Dread Ambusher (Gloomstalker feature)
  9. Ranger 7: Iron Mind (Gloomstalker feature)
Only 9 features, not 23. And he never selected spellcasting for her but he is really happy with the build.

Finally, here is the first draft of the homebrew write-up. I have to iron-out the wrinkles, and certainly spellcasters should take spellcasting as their level 1 feature, but nothing says they must. ;)

1642378921075.png


That's it for now. I'll update the thread as I make more progress on this idea, but I think it will become our standard from now on. If you are wondering about this, REALLY think about it, you might find it as intriguing as I do. Cheers!

EDIT: For anyone looking at this in detail, 2 points:
1. Druidic and Thieves' Cant are Languages, so you don't have to choose them as a feature for those classes, you get them for free.
2. I've considered (and not made a decision yet) as to making casters use a feature to gain access to higher level spells. Casters have blank levels without features to choose otherwise, so really aren't loosing anything otherwise...
 
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Is Spellcasting actually broken down into specific features, or is it a single pick that provides many different features and ways of using them as in the current rules?
So do you have to pick Spellcasting as your one feature each level in order to gain additional spell slots? If you do that, do you also get additional spells known?
Or does picking Spellcasting as your level one feature grant the full progression in both spell slots and spells known from then on?
 

Horwath

Hero
You might want to "buff" up every single feature doing this, so every choice has more or less equal value.
I mean; Combat superiority vs Student of War?

Student if war should be (at least) proficiency AND expertise in one artisan tool, History and Insight to even come close to Combat Superiority.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Is Spellcasting actually broken down into specific features, or is it a single pick that provides many different features and ways of using them as in the current rules?
So do you have to pick Spellcasting as your one feature each level in order to gain additional spell slots? If you do that, do you also get additional spells known?
Or does picking Spellcasting as your level one feature grant the full progression in both spell slots and spells known from then on?
We discussed having access to higher level spells as a feature you would have to pick, and we might go that way eventually. There was also the possibility of making Ritual Spellcasting its own thing. But for now (two days into the idea LOL) we are just treating spellcasting as one entity.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
You might want to "buff" up every single feature doing this, so every choice has more or less equal value.
I mean; Combat superiority vs Student of War?

Student if war should be (at least) proficiency AND expertise in one artisan tool, History and Insight to even come close to Combat Superiority.
Maybe. Part of this is also because such features are generally fluff/useless. I can't tell you when anyone has every used Know Your Enemy, for example... We already had about 150 pages of house-rules and homebrew for the MOD, and we are peeling back on a lot of it, so balancing out such features would just add back into the pile. :(

We'll see... But personally I would take Student of War (as is) over Know Your Enemy later on. 🤷‍♂️
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
This is interesting, but it works better for some classes than others. Here's a quick sample of the choices I might make, up to level 10. Some work better than others.

Some lose nothing:
Warlock: Pact Magic, Invocations, Patron-Level 1 feature, ASI, Pact Boon, Patron-Level 6 feature, Expanded Spell list, ASI, (nothing to choose), Patron-Level 10 feature.
--> Warlock gets everything, even extended spell list, and has a slot to spare at level 9.

Wizard: Spellcasting, Tradition ability, Arcane Recovery, ASI, Savant, Tradition, (nothing to choose), ASI, (nothing to choose), Tradition Feature.
--> Wizards get everything, even savant, and has two spare slots. At a minimum, this would suggest that cantrips, spells, and ritual casting should all be separate choices.

Sorcerer: Spellcasting, font, Metamagic, ASI, level 1 origin ability, level 6 origin ability, (nothing to choose), ASI, (nothing to choose), (nothing to choose?)
--> Again, a spellcaster gets everything, and possibly has three dead levels (would the extra metamagic skil copme online automatically since it was chosen at level 3 and is part of the same ability? presumably).

Some lose a lot:
Monk: Martial Arts, Unarmored Defense, Ki, ASI/Feat, Extra Attack, Ki-Empowered Strikes, Evasion, ASI, Stunning Strike, Unarmored Movement (and the improvement it gets at level 9).
--> The monk loses a lot of defining features; Stunning Smite comes online late, but I think Ki-empowered Strikes is just too important to remain viable. No subclass features were even in the running.

Paladin: Lay on Hands, Spellcasting, Divine Smite, ASI, Extra Attack, Aura of Protection, Channel Divinity, ASI, Fighting Style, Aura of Courage.
--> T use divine smite means needing spellcasting first, so there's a big investment early that delays picking up a channel divinity and fighting style. Again, no subclass features selected, though the aura at 7 would be a reasonable possibility (making fighting style not in the running for the first ten levels).

Rogue, Ranger, Fighter, are all losing out on abilities too.
 
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DND_Reborn

Legend
This is interesting, but it works better for some classes than others. Here's a quick sample of the choices I might make, up to level 10. Some work better than others.
The ones that work "better" are casters because due to higher spells they don't gain features. In essence access to higher spell levels IS their feature, which is why we considered imposing it (even the half-casters have blanks at those levels).

If you make full casters spend up to 8 features to gain spell levels 2 - 9, that makes their choices hard as well.

And the two classes that lose a lot (Monks and Paladins) have core classes that are SO strong, they don't even need subclasses IMO, so I am fine with that.

As a favor, if you do more in the future, could you post them as lists, with the level you select the feature? For example:

ROGUE BUILD (No Sneak Attack)
1. Expertise
2. Cunning Action
3. Scout Archetype (Survivalist 3rd)
4. ASI
5. Uncanny Dodge
6. Expertise
7. Evasion
8. ASI
9. Scout Archetype (Superior Mobility 9th)
10. ASI
11. Reliable Talent
12. ASI
13. Scout Archetype (Ambush Master 13th)
14. Blindsense
15. Slippery Mind
16. ASI
17. Scout Archetype (Skirmisher 3rd)
18. Elusive
19. ASI
20. Stroke of Luck

It is easier to follow IMO than:

Rogue: Expertise, Cunning Action, Scout-Level 3 feature, ASI, Uncanny Dodge, Expertise, Evasion, ASI, Scout-Level 9 feature, ASI, ...

Anyway, such a rogue would not be a combat-oriented PC with lacking Sneak Attack, but the only other feature lost would be Scout (Sudden Strike 17th), but that uses Sneak Attack so is nearly worthless anyway. Only two features (albeit SA is a big one for most players!) are lost.

Also, I'll append the OP to note that Druidic and Thieves' Cant are considered Languages, not features, so both those classes get them without having to choose them.
 

We discussed having access to higher level spells as a feature you would have to pick, and we might go that way eventually. There was also the possibility of making Ritual Spellcasting its own thing. But for now (two days into the idea LOL) we are just treating spellcasting as one entity.
I see. Do features like Sneak Attack and Extra Attack count as a single feature each, or does each entry on the level chart count as a separate feature?
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I see. Do features like Sneak Attack and Extra Attack count as a single feature each, or does each entry on the level chart count as a separate feature?
Sneak Attack is one feature.
Extra Attack, Extra Attack (2), and Extra Attack (3) would all be separate features.

One side effect which would require a bit more tracking is if a PC picks up Sneak Attack or Spellcasting at later levels. If you pick up SA at 9th level, for example, instead of taking a subclass feature, it would START at 1d6, not suddenly at 5d6.
 

Horwath

Hero
The ones that work "better" are casters because due to higher spells they don't gain features. In essence access to higher spell levels IS their feature, which is why we considered imposing it (even the half-casters have blanks at those levels).

If you make full casters spend up to 8 features to gain spell levels 2 - 9, that makes their choices hard as well.

And the two classes that lose a lot (Monks and Paladins) have core classes that are SO strong, they don't even need subclasses IMO, so I am fine with that.

As a favor, if you do more in the future, could you post them as lists, with the level you select the feature? For example:

ROGUE BUILD (No Sneak Attack)
1. Expertise
2. Cunning Action
3. Scout Archetype (Survivalist 3rd)
4. ASI
5. Uncanny Dodge
6. Expertise
7. Evasion
8. ASI
9. Scout Archetype (Superior Mobility 9th)
10. ASI
11. Reliable Talent
12. ASI
13. Scout Archetype (Ambush Master 13th)
14. Blindsense
15. Slippery Mind
16. ASI
17. Scout Archetype (Skirmisher 3rd)
18. Elusive
19. ASI
20. Stroke of Luck

It is easier to follow IMO than:

Rogue: Expertise, Cunning Action, Scout-Level 3 feature, ASI, Uncanny Dodge, Expertise, Evasion, ASI, Scout-Level 9 feature, ASI, ...

Anyway, such a rogue would not be a combat-oriented PC with lacking Sneak Attack, but the only other feature lost would be Scout (Sudden Strike 17th), but that uses Sneak Attack so is nearly worthless anyway. Only two features (albeit SA is a big one for most players!) are lost.

Also, I'll append the OP to note that Druidic and Thieves' Cant are considered Languages, not features, so both those classes get them without having to choose them.
combat capability of this class look like a glorified peasant.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
combat capability of this class look like a glorified peasant.
So, it ISN'T supposed to be a combat-oriented character. That was the point. This character would still be a lot of fun to play IMO. You have expertise in 6 skills, not to mention increased speed and mobility. Take the Mobile feat and even more so.

With feats like Sharpshooter, even with only one attack, this character could still contribute to combat as well.
 

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