D&D 5E Hypothetical Campaign: No ASIs, Only Feats.

Rune

Once A Fool
So, for a while now, I've been considering the ramifications of running a campaign with feats, but no ability score increases gained through leveling (possibly in conjunction with the 3d6-in-order-with-one-switch-allowed generation method). Characters would still get racial adjustments and could still increase ability scores with magic items or feats that grant increases. Also, special class features could, as well (the barbarian capstone, in particular. Hypothetical future classes, too).

I may well be missing some unintended ramification, but here's what I think would happen:

  • High level characters look more different from each other than in standard 5e (not just because the don't max out stats, but also because they'll instead pick up multiple feats through their careers).

  • Half-feats look more attractive. This could possibly take some of the punch out of the (perceived) overpowered feats (GWM and Sharpshooter). Certainly, it will make taking -5 to hit a harder choice.

  • Bounded Accuracy would be more bounded. Even so, the theoretical power increase that feats provide should keep PCs viable.

  • In a funny way, this seems like it would be more of an old-school feel than a featless game would. At least to me, one of the defining characteristics of pre-3e D&D was that the framework of your character, the ability scores that define who s/he is, are almost never going to change. Put another way, each set of stats had its own personality--and kept it.


But I'm sure y'all will see something I'm not. Discuss!
 
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NotActuallyTim

First Post
Other than shaving off a few + 1s and 2s from characters, I don't think this will change much at all.

Except, of course, that everyone will start looking for classes that don't rely much on stats.
 

-5/+10 isn't really a hard choice even with a 16 stat as long as you've still got Archery, Trip Attack, Reckless Attack, OoV, Shield Master, Wolf Totem, bless, etc., in the game. This should not be a surprise, as optimizers will always want to take those feats ASAP in the current environment, before capping their attack stat. If anything, it boosts those abilities that improve hit chance even more.

Makes good save/bad save even more polarized. I suppose Resilient becomes an even stronger pick.

Seems to help classes that depend on damage riders (rogue, paladin) and to hurt classes that depend on multiple attacks (fighter).

You probably see more SAD builds, obviously, and you probably see optimizers try to cap using half-feats.

I'd probably give it a try, if I couldn't persuade you to run a no feats/no ASI game. ;)
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
This is a big nerf to fighters and rogues who get extra ASIs.

It will also further compound what I feel is already a problem - that some feats become standard and are always taken.

I am inclined to go the other way, start with lower stats and limit feats to 1 (2 for fighters and rogues).
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I've never had a player pick an ASI anyway, so this isn't much different from my campaign as it runs. It works OK. And I agree that it makes for more interesting characters.
 


Lehrbuch

First Post
So, for a while now, I've been considering the ramifications of running a campaign with feats, but no ability score increases gained through levelling...

I can't see it causing any serious problems, principally because (in a campaign that allows Feats) the players could simply choose to not take ability score increases and only take feats.

The PCs will look a bit different (on average) as they'll have less high stats, and they'll have some kooky features from the feats. Whether those features all see much use in play is a bit more debatable. It's cool to pick one or two Feats to either give your PC a couple of fun things to do occasionally, or a boost to something that she does all the time. However, when you are looking at high level PCs with 4-5 or more Feats, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick enough Feats that will all see much use in-play. But if you're mostly only playing in the level 1-10 window that won't be a problem that arises.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Other than shaving off a few + 1s and 2s from characters, I don't think this will change much at all.

Except, of course, that everyone will start looking for classes that don't rely much on stats.

Agreed, the OP's stat-generation system is going to have a MUCH bigger impact the game than no stat bumps at level intervals.
 

crashtestdummy

First Post
As ad_hoc indicated, rogues and fighters get more ASIs, but I'm not sure I agree that this is a nerf for them. However, if a fighter gets 7 feats over their career, what would those 7 feats be? How much variation is there going to be in what people pick? You stated you were doing this to try to increase variability, but I think you'll find that particular roles will pick particular feats, as they're the feats best for that role.

Class abilities that are tied to stat bonuses will also be affected (eg. Paladin auras, bardic inspiration die, etc)

The other thing is that this is either making or breaking a character based on their initial rolls. They will have very limited ability to address average rolls, for example. This means that spellcasters will not progress their DC's as quickly (only via their proficiency bonus) and fighting types will not progress their attack bonus as quickly (especially fighters). This may require a minor adjustment to CRs.

It's worth a try, but it would work better if there was a better breadth to the feat list.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I suspect that, without the option to increase ability scores, players will feel even greater pressure to take a race that offers a +2 to their primary stat. So you might see less diverse race/class combinations as a result.

I know some players do that sort of thing anyway, but with ASIs in the game I personally don't feel significant pressure to do so. I'll get that 20 sooner or later, and if later means I get to play a more interesting racial option, I'm good with that. Without ASIs though, I probably would choose the mechanically effective choice over the interesting one.
 



Saeviomagy

Adventurer
I like it. Unfortunately +2 to a stat is simultaneously the best thing to do most of the time you get an ASI and also the most boring thing to do.

I don't see any serious problems with balance: every class wants to have a high primary stat. There's not really any classes that don't require stats unless you're a pure utility spellcaster. But everyone else is being forced to diversify somewhat, so your edge in versatility is slightly eroded.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Some of the feats are half an ASI. You can still get to 20.

Not necessarily, assuming you start with a 16 (after racial modifiers) and that's not all that unlikely if you're generating stats with 3d6. Not all of the ability scores have 4+ half ASI feats. Although I suppose you could work around that by creating a bunch of new half ASI feats...
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I think you'll see a lot less variation in race/class match-ups. Because you can't "make up" stats later, you will need to maximize them from the get-go. Have the stats to playa strength-based frontliner? Mountain dwarf with +2 Str and Con will be very attractive while this half-elf concept you want to try with +1 to two stats and +2 to charisma likely wont cut it.

Also some classes are more reliant on secondary stats, I think MAD classes will be less effective.

There's diminishing return for feats. Think like this, for your second feat choice you can never get anything as good as your first choice, because you already have it. After a couple there's less synergy in a 4th or a 5th as well. Will that encourage characters who can get synergies from lots of feats, like the sentinal, polearm master, great weapon master with heavy armor mastery, vs the monk with mobility and three things that don't feed together?
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
It isn't a choice that will cause any mechanical troubles to form, but it is a choice that would be a deal-breaker for me as a player because feats mean things (special training, particular exceptional aptitude, and so on) and I don't want to be forced to only play characters that have a multitude of those qualities.
 

Kalshane

First Post
I've considered doing a game like this, though I was still going to allow ASIs at 8th and 16th levels. The lack of +1 ASI feats for certain scores (particularly Charisma) has caused me to hold off for now.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I like it. I always dislike the nagging feeling like I should be boosting my attack stat when I want to take a feat instead.

Bonus: Items like gloves of ogre strength become way more valuable.
 

jodyjohnson

Adventurer
I just lower the cap to 18. If folks are aiming to cap, they cap early. And if they don't want to the stat gap is one less.

And we don't do rolling for stats.

If challenging PCs is actually difficult at the higher levels dropping everyone's numbers by 1 or 2 can't hurt (we're not there yet, but I see rumblings).
 

bogmad

First Post
I really like this idea but after reading the posts I do have some concern about the same feats appearing over and over again...

... time to look at what's available in the DMs Guild!

Would a ASI-less game be mitigated by bloat?
 

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