5E Feats instead of Race

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I think maybe you have my proposal and @Charlaquin ’s proposal mixed up. Mine is quite definitely to use the feats in the PHB.
It is an interesting concept, I will give you that.

Like I said earlier, as a general rule it would feel like a lot to just get past the race selection/creation stage, but I'd probably be interested in doing it one time as an experiment. I mean to start with 3 feats... whew!
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
It’s meant to be balanced with any of the PHB race choices. Races actually pack a lot of mechanical power. By my reckoning, a race is worth 3 1/3 feats. I based this option on the standard human, which gets increases to all six ability scores. A feat is worth increases to two scores of middling importance, so that balances out.
A feat is actually worth +2 to your prime stat, which is significantly more than +1 to two secondary stats. If you make a great-weapon fighter choose between +2 to Strength, or Great Weapon Master, then that's actually a tough choice. If the choice is between Great Weapon Master, and +1 to Con and +1 to Dexterity, then that's not really a choice; and it's certainly not a choice, four levels later, when both of those stats have even values.

The variant human is significantly more powerful than the default human, since it effectively has +3 to its primary stat and +1 to a secondary stat. That blows any other race out of the water. It's definitely not balanced against the default human, and you seem to be using the assumption that they are balanced as the basis for your mathematical model. Three feats give equivalent power to +6 in your prime stat, which is a lot more than having +1 to each stat.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I find myself wishing this forum’s members could find another word for “not to my personal preferences.” Claiming a game feature is broken -so fundamentally flawed as to be unplayable in its current state- implies that those of us who use and enjoy such features at our table must be too dumb to play the game properly. That these features would ruin our game if only we were smart enough to understand them.
Fine. Feats irredeemably break the game if you care about balance, even in the slightest. If you're Kevin Siembieda, then that may not be a deal-breaker for you. I won't presume to speak for your standards.

I will say that the inclusion of feats will make the game unplayable to me, because it increases the power disparity between strong builds and weak builds beyond tolerable levels; and that does mean the game is broken, from my perspective, because the un-broken version of the game does not have that problem.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I would certainly be interested. When I was reworking the races with our DM we debated about removing half-elf since you could just be "more elf" or "more human" and what you should get would more likely depend on which culture raised you. And what happened if a half-elf's parent died and it was raised by a dwarf who was their friend in a dwarf city/culture?

So, we began separating cultural features from biological ones and like you wanted to attach some things to backgrounds instead, but other projects made us put it all on the back burner for now.
Like I said, it’s still a work in progress, but here are my races so far:

Dwarf:
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2.
Size. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet, and your speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor.
Darkvision. You can see in darkness within 60 feet of you as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Dwarven Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and resistance to poison damage.
Feat. You gain your choice of one of the following Feats, or a general Feat.

Dwarven Focus
Prerequisite: Dwarf
• Your Wisdom score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• Your hit point maximum increases by an amount equal to your level, and it increases by 1 each time you gain a level.

Dwarven Armor Training
Prerequisite: Dwarf
• Your Strength score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• You gain proficiency in light armor and medium armor.

Duergar Vigilance
Prerequisite: Dwarf
• Your Strength score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• Dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom checks relying on sight.
• You have advantage on saving throws against illusion spells, and against being charmed or paralyzed.

Elf:
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Size. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Low-light vision. Dim light does not impose Disadvantage on your Wisdom checks relying on sight.
Fae Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.
Feat. You gain your choice of one of the following Feats, or a general Feat.

High Elven Education
Prerequisite: Elf
• Your Intelligence score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• You learn one cantrip from the Wizard spell list. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.
• You learn Sylvan or a standard language of your choice.

Mask of the Wild
Prerequisite: Elf
• Your Wisdom score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• Your base walking speed increases by 5 feet.
• You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by heavy rain, falling snow, mist, or other natural phenomena.

Drow Ancestry
Prerequisite: Elf
• Your Charisma score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• You learn the dancing lights cantrip. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.
• You can see in darkness within 60 feet of you as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Halfling
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Size. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Halfling Nimbleness. You can move through the space of creatures that are at least one size larger than you.
Halfling Resolve. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Feat. You gain your choice of one of the following Feats, or a general Feat.

Unassuming
Prerequisite: Halfling
• Your Charisma score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• You can attempt to hide when you have only half cover granted by a creature that is at least one size larger than you.

Stout
Prerequisite: Halfling
• Your Constitution score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• You have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and resistance to poison damage.

Human
Ability Score Increase. Two different ability scores of your choice each increase by 1.
Size. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Feat. You gain your choice of one of the following Feats, or a general Feat.

Well-rounded
Prerequisite: Human
• Each of your ability scores other than the two you chose at character creation each increase by 1, to a maximum of 20.
(Note: I am still undecided on if I want any of these racial Feats to be available after character creation, but even if the rest of them are, I would absolutely not allow this one after character creation. Its only purpose is to make it possible to reproduce the non-variant human features. I also hate the wording on it but I’m not sure how to fix it.)

Elven Ancestry
Prerequisite: Human
• Your Charisma score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
• Dim light does not impose disadvantage on your Wisdom checks relying on sight.
• You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.
(Note: you could probably remove the Human prerequisite from this, if you wanted to open the door for half-elf-half-anything. This one should probably also be character creation only.)

Inherent spellcasting feats:
Duergar Magic
Pretequisite: Dwarf
• You gain the ability to cast the invisibility spell and the enlarge/reduce spell using only the spell’s enlarge option once each, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you cast them in this way, you can only target yourself, and you can not do so when you are in direct sunlight. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Drow Magic
Prerequisite: Elf
• You gain the ability to cast the faerie fire spell and the darkness spell once each, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Cultural Backgrounds
(Note: This is the part currently in its roughest form.)
Dwarf Clansfolk
Tools: One set of Artisan’s tools of your choice
Weapons: Battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer, war hammer
Languages: Common and Dwarvish

Feature: Stonecunning
Whenever you make an Intelligence check to analyze stonework or identify its origin, you can add double your proficiency bonus to the check instead of any other proficiency bonus that might apply.

Elf Commune Member
Skills: Perception
Weapons: Longsword, shortsword, longbow, and shortbow
Languages: Common and Elvish

Feature: Trance
Through years of training, you have mastered the elven meditation technique commonly known as “trance.” By meditating deeply, you can reflexively enter a state of directed dreaming that is more restful than normal sleep. By resting this way for four hours, you gain the same benefits that you would from eight hours of sleep.

Halfling Villager
Skills: Animal Handling
Tools: One instrument and set of Artisan’s tools of your choice.
Weapons: quarterstaff, sickle, net, sling
Languages: Common and Halfling

Feature: Perseverance
When you roll a 1 on the d20 for an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.

Cosmopolitan
Skills: Two of your choice
Languages:Common and two other languages of your choice

Drow Citizen
Skills: Perception
Weapons: Rapier, scimitar, hand crossbow
Languages: Elvish and Undercommon

Feature: Trance
Through years of training, you have mastered the elven meditation technique commonly known as “trance.” By meditating deeply, you can reflexively enter a state of directed dreaming that is more restful than normal sleep. By resting this way for four hours, you gain the same benefits that you would from eight hours of sleep.

The uncommon races are a little rougher than the common ones, but I’ll post what I have for them later. These took me a while to type on my phone 😅
 
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Hriston

Adventurer
A feat is actually worth +2 to your prime stat, which is significantly more than +1 to two secondary stats. If you make a great-weapon fighter choose between +2 to Strength, or Great Weapon Master, then that's actually a tough choice. If the choice is between Great Weapon Master, and +1 to Con and +1 to Dexterity, then that's not really a choice; and it's certainly not a choice, four levels later, when both of those stats have even values.

The variant human is significantly more powerful than the default human, since it effectively has +3 to its primary stat and +1 to a secondary stat. That blows any other race out of the water. It's definitely not balanced against the default human, and you seem to be using the assumption that they are balanced as the basis for your mathematical model. Three feats give equivalent power to +6 in your prime stat, which is a lot more than having +1 to each stat.
I don’t think so. Look at what Savage Attacker gives you. If the weapon you wield does less than 1d8, it’s clearly inferior to raising your attack ability score by 2 because it doesn’t even raise your average damage by 1 point. But let’s say you’re a greataxe wielding martial class character. You can raise your Strength by 2 and get +1 to attack and damage on every attack along with the other benefits of increased Strength, or you can take the feat and get almost 2 points of extra damage, which almost sounds equal excel it’s only on one attack per turn, which after 5th-level, is pretty much half your attacks. It’s clearly not as good as raising your most important score.

It’s always better to maximize your most important scores first. Feats are an even trade with increasing tertiary or even fourth most important scores, which the fighter might be thinking about improving by 14th-level.
 
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Saelorn

Adventurer
I don’t think so. Look at what Savage Attacker gives you.
[...]
It’s always better to maximize your most important scores first. Feats are an even trade with increasing tertiary or even fourth most important scores, which the fighter might be thinking about improving by 14th-level.
Savage Attacker is a weak feat. Nobody is choosing Savage Attacker over +2 to Strength, but plenty of people choose Great Weapon Master over +2 to Strength.

That raises the further issue: namely, that the value of feats are all over the place, even within a given archetype. Spellcasters don't have any feats of that caliber, and one specific type of melee fighter has three feats that are on par with +2 to their prime stat. If you're pricing feats as though they were equivalent to +2 among tertiary stats, then what you're really doing is ranking the pure power of character concepts entirely in order of how many top-tier feats they have to support it.

Polearm-sentinel is already king of the hill, as soon as you add feats to the game in the first place; followed shortly thereafter by crossbow-sharpshooter. By giving everyone three feats at level 1, and taking away the trade-off between those feats and stat bonuses, you're just exacerbating the disparity between feat-heavy power builds and everyone else. I mean, my healer cleric gets basically nothing out of those feats, while the fighter gets (for free) something that they would otherwise have been willing to invest significant resources into.
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
Fine. Feats irredeemably break the game if you care about balance, even in the slightest. If you're Kevin Siembieda, then that may not be a deal-breaker for you. I won't presume to speak for your standards.
Turns out you’re right. I double checked and even though I thought I was playing D&D with my friends, it turns out we were all just having fun instead. We even thought we slightly cared about balance... dang!
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
First off, the feat system in 5E needs to be completely overhauled. It was a nice experiment but it doesn't work.

But that aside, while I'm usually a fan of a la carte customization, I still wouldn't go that route for races. Choosing the race for your character is a very iconic part of D&D character creation. So while it probably would work mechanically, keeping the narrative of race is important.
I agree.

The idea in this thread is similar to what PF2e does...I don't favor it.

Races are iconic to D&D and easier for people to identify with than pick a feat or two for your character's race.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think Feats in 5e work fine. A couple of them are a little overpowered, and a lot of them are a little underpowered, but the degree to which any of them are unbalanced is well within reasonable tolerance. DMs can easily ban specific feats they find to be problematic, or ban them entirely if they don’t want to deal with them at all. I’d say they’re one of the few examples of 5e’s alleged modular design that actually meets that goal.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Savage Attacker is a weak feat. Nobody is choosing Savage Attacker over +2 to Strength, but plenty of people choose Great Weapon Master over +2 to Strength.

That raises the further issue: namely, that the value of feats are all over the place, even within a given archetype. Spellcasters don't have any feats of that caliber, and one specific type of melee fighter has three feats that are on par with +2 to their prime stat. If you're pricing feats as though they were equivalent to +2 among tertiary stats, then what you're really doing is ranking the pure power of character concepts entirely in order of how many top-tier feats they have to support it.

Polearm-sentinel is already king of the hill, as soon as you add feats to the game in the first place; followed shortly thereafter by crossbow-sharpshooter. By giving everyone three feats at level 1, and taking away the trade-off between those feats and stat bonuses, you're just exacerbating the disparity between feat-heavy power builds and everyone else. I mean, my healer cleric gets basically nothing out of those feats, while the fighter gets (for free) something that they would otherwise have been willing to invest significant resources into.
For my purposes in this thread, a feat’s a feat. Whatever value you place on a feat has to take into account the “weak” feats as well as the “strong” ones. Just because people are anecdotally choosing Great Weapons Master instead of improving their Strength bonus doesn’t mean it’s as good or better. For one thing, its benefits are highly conditional.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
For my purposes in this thread, a feat’s a feat. Whatever value you place on a feat has to take into account the “weak” feats as well as the “strong” ones.
Right, which is an inherent limitation to the proposal. Feats are not remotely balanced against each other, or between builds, and granting more feats only exacerbates that imbalance. A comprehensive solution would involve modifying feats so that they were more balanced, and also introducing new feats for archetypes which are currently unsupported.
Just because people are anecdotally choosing Great Weapons Master instead of improving their Strength bonus doesn’t mean it’s as good or better. For one thing, its benefits are highly conditional.
Aren't you getting rid of flat ability score increases, though? It certainly sounded like you weren't going to allow those, at least for the three feats at level one. GWM is comparable to +2 Strength, and a closer analysis reveals that it's often-but-not-always the superior choice for certain builds. If you've removed the option to take +2 Strength, though, then GWM loses its competition; it becomes the obvious-and-only choice for a melee damage-dealer.

In the base game, it's not the choice between GWM and +2 Strength which is unbalanced. It's the fact that, after +2 Strength is no longer an option (because you've capped out), GWM still gives you an equivalent power boost. With GWM/Sentinel/Polearm, you're operating on the power level of someone who has Strength 26, while the poor wizard is actually capped at a power level of Int 20.

I don't know how you're planning to generate ability scores, but if they're capped at 15 to start, then the fighter who takes GWM/Sentinel/Polearm is effectively operating with a 21, while a wizard with the exact combination of Keen Mind / Observant / Linguist is stuck with an 18. And if the wizard takes any other combination of feats, they can't even reach that.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Right, which is an inherent limitation to the proposal. Feats are not remotely balanced against each other, or between builds, and granting more feats only exacerbates that imbalance. A comprehensive solution would involve modifying feats so that they were more balanced, and also introducing new feats for archetypes which are currently unsupported.
The game allows you to choose any feat you want (assuming you satisfy prerequisites) whenever a feat is available, so your issue is with the way feats are implemented, not with my proposal. My proposal isn’t intended to fix the problem you have with feats.

Aren't you getting rid of flat ability score increases, though?
The proposal is as it says in the OP, instead of a race you get the listed elements, so no, there’s no option to increase your ability scores outside of taking a feat. That doesn’t change the value of a feat in the larger game, however. At ASI levels you could optionally make feats available, as normal.
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
Also, just to be clear, I am absolutely open to feedback on these.
1 wizard cantrip and +1 int seems weaker than 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell 1/day from any class.

Stout's poison resistance also seems weak.

Second, the variant human was often considered the strongest option for martial builds. To reproduce the pre-existing races I think you now need the base race, the feat, and a background?
Hriston said:
The game allows you to choose any feat you want (assuming you satisfy prerequisites) whenever a feat is available, so your issue is with the way feats are implemented, not with my proposal. My proposal isn’t intended to fix the problem you have with feats.
So, the problem with feats is bounded due to the difficulty of converting other resources to feats.

You either go variant human or you don't see it until level 4, then level 8. As you are gaining a pile of other abilities over that many levels, the power gap you get from feat-based builds vs non-feat based builds is bounded.

With your option, you permit more feats, which means that the power imbalance grows faster than it does in the base game. Hitting 3 feats at level 8 is already strong, but we are now comparing a spellcaster with polymorph an ally into a trex to an insanely high-damage output fighter (for the level). Getting those 3 feats at level 1 means we are comparing a now insanely high-damage-output fighter (for the level) to someone who can cast burning hands (gained little from the feats, like a +1 to DCs and that's it).

GWM sentinal polearm is getting 3 taps/round at level 1. On a low AC target they are tapping for ~15 damage per tap. It is an insane power up. The only thing that keeps that under control in the base game is the difficulty of getting feats, and how that boost is smeared over many levels.

You are removing that thing that keeps this under control.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
1 wizard cantrip and +1 int seems weaker than 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell 1/day from any class.
Referring to High Elf Education as compared to Magic Initiate, I take it? Yeah, the latter is definitely better. Note, HEE also gives a language, which still leaves it worse than MI, but it’s a small consolation. I think this is a good argument in favor of making the race feats character creation only, so the opportunity cost helps increase their value relative to general feats. Thank you for the input!

Stout's poison resistance also seems weak.
You think so? +1 con, advantage on saves vs a condition and resistance to a damage type seems pretty solid to me. Worth considering if you have an odd number in Con, at least.

Second, the variant human was often considered the strongest option for martial builds. To reproduce the pre-existing races I think you now need the base race, the feat, and a background?
Correct. But note that these racial backgrounds are effectively in addition to a regular custom background. At least in the iteration I posted here, though I’ve had some other thoughts on the matter recently, which I might post in a new thread to avoid detailing this one.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
So, the problem with feats is bounded due to the difficulty of converting other resources to feats.

You either go variant human or you don't see it until level 4, then level 8. As you are gaining a pile of other abilities over that many levels, the power gap you get from feat-based builds vs non-feat based builds is bounded.

With your option, you permit more feats, which means that the power imbalance grows faster than it does in the base game. Hitting 3 feats at level 8 is already strong, but we are now comparing a spellcaster with polymorph an ally into a trex to an insanely high-damage output fighter (for the level). Getting those 3 feats at level 1 means we are comparing a now insanely high-damage-output fighter (for the level) to someone who can cast burning hands (gained little from the feats, like a +1 to DCs and that's it).

GWM sentinal polearm is getting 3 taps/round at level 1. On a low AC target they are tapping for ~15 damage per tap. It is an insane power up. The only thing that keeps that under control in the base game is the difficulty of getting feats, and how that boost is smeared over many levels.

You are removing that thing that keeps this under control.
I’m just using the currency that already exists between ASIs and feats to liquidate races. I don’t think you’re taking into account the power that’s being removed along with race. How many feats would you say a race is worth?
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
I’m just using the currency that already exists between ASIs and feats to liquidate races. I don’t think you’re taking into account the power that’s being removed along with race. How many feats would you say a race is worth?
Sometimes less than 1.

Insofar as many builds would willingly trade having any racial abilities at all for a feat.

Sometimes more than 2. For pure spellcasters, many feats not nearly as important as stat bumps; feat abilities are ribbons. So they will use feats for the +1 to a stat mostly.

Fundamentally, more choice when that choice involves something that isn't orthogonality balanced with the rest of the game, changes game balance. How much?

Well, a full PAM build online at level 1 is pretty ridiculous.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
The proposal is as it says in the OP, instead of a race you get the listed elements, so no, there’s no option to increase your ability scores outside of taking a feat. That doesn’t change the value of a feat in the larger game, however. At ASI levels you could optionally make feats available, as normal.
From a game design standpoint, I strongly disagree with this. The value of any given feat depends entirely on its opportunity cost - what else you could take, instead of that feat. If you hand out three feats at level one, and the opportunity cost for those feats does not include the possibility of an ASI, then that radically changes the relative value of a feat at later levels.

The balancing factor against Sentinel is that you're giving up Strength in exchange. If you aren't making a choice between the two, because Strength is off the table, then there's no longer any semblance of balance.
 

akr71

Explorer
It’s always bothered me that, for example, an elf who grew up an orphan in some human city would somehow naturally know how to use a longbow, shortbow, longsword and shortsword.
Yes! A thousand times yes! This has bothered me for a long time, however it doesn't seem to bother my players much (or at all), so I just left it alone and just gripe about it with like minded individuals on the internet.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yes! A thousand times yes! This has bothered me for a long time, however it doesn't seem to bother my players much (or at all), so I just left it alone and just gripe about it with like minded individuals on the internet.
It’s one of those annoyances that’s probably not worth the effort it would take to “fix.” But I’m trying anyway haha.
 

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