D&D 5E Boosting your monsters with feats

Li Shenron

Legend
(Useless anecdote first)

I started DMing over 20 years ago with 3.0 edition which first introduced feats to the game. I was immediately on board with the idea of plug-and-play abilities that each individual could choose to skyrocket variety among characters, and the system was super-simple to understand. Or so... one of my friend got distracted when I was explaining them, and when she choose to play a Fighter and I told her "you can then have an extra feat" she stared at me and ask "why the hell would I want an extra feet???" [you must imagine this conversation taking place between non-native English speakers] which eventually sprouted a recurring joke within the group about counting the number of feet of the enemies to understand if they were Fighters... 🙄

Anyway... (end of useless anecdote) I love feats as a player and don't fully understand the hostility against them, but I do understand the hostility against SOME of them which are particularly powerful.

There is however another possible use of feats that even a hostile DM might appreciate: adding a feat (or more) to monsters.

Why would you want to sometimes do that? Quick bunch of possible reasons:

  • because you want more variations on a monster which is widespread in your setting and gets encountered often (ah, more ogres...)
  • because you want to increase an encounter difficulty without just increasing the number of monsters (twenty ogres? I'll go shopping while the DM's finishes her turn) of the monsters' numbers (a 200hp ogre, you've outdone yourself with creativity tonight)
  • because you generally think 5e low-level monsters have too few special abilities to be interesting (the ogre's special ability is... being an ogre)
  • because you want to surprise your players with a monster they think they know 😉

Speaking of the last point, last nite my players' characters approached a gateway guarded by ogres armed with glaives. Often I change a monster's default weapon with or without changing the damage (I didn't in this case), the players remembered that glaives are reach weapons but though it didn't matter and the melee Fighter just charged the ogres. What they didn't know was that I had secretly slapped the Polearm Master onto those ogres, and the Fighter provoked an OA she wasn't expecting. That was a small but lovely wtf? moment when they asked me if perhaps I had forgotten we're playing 5e and not 3e anymore 😄 anyway they know that ogres are mainly dangerous when scoring a crit, and not wanting to give them more crits chances than the minimum, both the moon druid and the swashbuckler changed their tactics to ranged even if it's not their best against big bags of HPs (the fighter did not like ending ganged up alone in melee). So overall it kind of turned a potentially very routine encounter into a small surprise, with almost no effort from me.

I went back to the PHB to ponder what other feats could be added to monsters for interesting effects. Obviously feats that are meant for out-of-combat activities won't help much, but at least I think the following can be easily useful:

- feats which grant a combat trick: Mobile for the hit-and-run tactic, Mage Slayer, even the usually subpar Charger can be a nice addition

- the infamously powerful feats: Great Weapon Fighting and Sharpshooter, maybe if you hate them when your PCs have them, you'll love them on your monsters? I can see some extra appeal here in narrating a monster starting to use the -5/+10 option only after getting significantly wounded (but I probably wouldn't go as far as giving Lucky to monsters)

- feats which enable a general combat option not normally convenient to that specific creature like Dual Wielder or Grappler

- feats that foil a PC tactic: Alert (also known as ambush-immunity)

- the light multiclassing feats, because with Magic Initiate or Martial Adept you'll have a LONG list of small monsters variations opening up

Other ideas? 🙂
 

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Casters can have the Spell Sniper Feat to double their ranges, let them ignore cover AC bonuses, and learn an extra Cantrip requiring an attack roll. It's great when the bad guy hits the PC's at double the normal max range when they're behind cover, and they weren't expecting it.
 

pukunui

Legend
I mostly give a feat or two to named NPCs/monsters in my game but I do sometimes give them to more generic monsters if it seems fitting.

For instance, I give all my dragons the Alert feat.

I’ll usually give NPCs/monsters built around being mounted the Mounted Combatant feat.

I might give a guard captain the Sentinel feat.

I did give a vampire the Lucky feat once.
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
I don't always give monsters feats exactly as written, but I do often use them as inspiration for monster abilities, like giving a NPC paladin advantage on Concentration checks (Warcaster) or a drow chain fighter the ability to reaction attack when their ally was attacked (Sentinel).
 

the Jester

Legend
Yeah, sticking class levels or class abilities on monsters is another cool way to serve the same ends. I loved the looks on my players' faces when the griffon they were fighting hit one for extra damage from Sneak Attack, then used Cunning Action to move away without provoking.
 

pukunui

Legend
I don't always give monsters feats exactly as written, but I do often use them as inspiration for monster abilities, like giving a NPC paladin advantage on Concentration checks (Warcaster) or a drow chain fighter the ability to reaction attack when their ally was attacked (Sentinel).
Yeah, I sometimes give my NPCs and monsters pieces of a feat. I'll also sometimes give them a class feature or two.
 

Don't some of the OOTB NPCs already have feats? Sure, they aren't called that, but is it the Archer that has something akin to sharpshooter already? And all those kobolds with Pact Tactics. To me, this is all just part of NPC creation.
 

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