Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Get Better At Skills With These Feats

The latest Unearthed Arcana from Jeremy Crawford and again featuring guest writer Robert J. Schwalb introduces a number of feats which make you better at skills. Each increases the skill's primary ability score, doubles your proficiency bonus, and gives you a little bonus ability. "This week we introduce new feats to playtest. Each of these feats makes you better at one of the game’s eighteen skills. We invite you to read them, give them a try in play, and let us know what you think in the survey we release in the next installment of Unearthed Arcana."

The latest Unearthed Arcana from Jeremy Crawford and again featuring guest writer Robert J. Schwalb introduces a number of feats which make you better at skills. Each increases the skill's primary ability score, doubles your proficiency bonus, and gives you a little bonus ability. "This week we introduce new feats to playtest. Each of these feats makes you better at one of the game’s eighteen skills. We invite you to read them, give them a try in play, and let us know what you think in the survey we release in the next installment of Unearthed Arcana."

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Oofta

Legend
Not to say the feat is perfect as, but I didn't want my BBEG to be afraid of anything, I would make them immune to the fear condition.

So cheat to win? Do you really think a mid level character should be able to frighten say [flipping thru the MM] a Balor? Every round? With the Balor having no effective way to counteract it?

A Balor is a level 19 melee brute. The intimidate isn't "magic" so they don't have advantage on the save. They aren't proficient in Insight so it's just a straight +3 to their check. A 10th level character with a good charisma could frighten him every single round and the Balor could do nothing about it.

I find that broken and illogical.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Not to say the feat is perfect as, but I didn't want my BBEG to be afraid of anything, I would make them immune to the fear condition.

This. You BBEG should be immune, or at least really hard to frighten. And if the PCs are outgunned and/or outnumbered, they should be intimidating with disadvantage.

All my BBEGs have an "Elite" or "Leader" template applied to them, if they aren't Legendary. Some have it even though they are also Legendary.

Either case, they have expertise in 2 saves, and proficiency in all saves, and resistance to at least one damage type, two bonus actions, and 1 attack ability that is a bonus action, and one healing/support/command action that is a bonus action.
And they can use 1 bonus action even if stunned.

It makes them stand out, makes it much harder to stun-lock them, and makes boss fights more challenging, and interesting.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Suddenly your BBEG who isn't afraid of anything on heaven or earth is shaking in his boots because the Bard is a +20 to intimidate. The Bader character has a +5 (he is Darth Bader after all), but he's still probably going to fail.
These feats widen the gulf between PCs and NPCs, as you point out. With these feats, PCs are able to do more and achieve much higher numbers than monsters. Even an Ancient Red Dragon's Intimidation is only +6, for crying out loud.

This is power creep, plain and simple. These feats lead to ridiculous scenarios like this, where a low-level character can be 4 times as fearsome as a Pit Fiend. Sure, we can start giving monsters class levels just so they can keep up with PCs, a la 3rd Edition, but we all know how fun THAT was.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Rolling all the feats into one feat and calling it "Specialist" like the above does two things, both of them good. One, it reduces the amount of text, though I'd amend the above description to include Expertise.

Two, it makes it impossible to take the feat more than once. If someone who isn't a Bard or Rogue wants to be really good at something he can. But he can only be really good at that one thing.

I would call the second one a bad thing, in fact, I'd only use that feat with a houserules caveat that you *can* take the feat multiple times, choosing a different skill each time. And of course i would still want it to look more like Athelete, with multiple benefits when using the skill, OR give expertise with the skill, if you are already proficient.

I'm seeing a lot of arguement about whether it is good or bad to have feats that overlap with class specializations. I'm confused. Do the opposed parties object of Magic Initiate? Do you wish multiclassing weren't a thing? Because Magic Initiate is a multiclassing feat, make no mistake. It lets you "dip" into a concept, without dealing with the weirdness of multiclassing. How is that anything but a strictly good thing?
 

bganon

Explorer
Unless Darth Bader is a melee character of course. Then he's SOL. All he can do is cower in the corner because someone he's never even heard of said bad things to him.

As far as why a DM would set up this type of encounter? Seriously? You've never seen a movie, read a book, heard about the trope of the heroes not being able to face down a foe? At least not until later in the story when they've gained strength and experience and finally confront their nemesis.

How many times did Luke and company run from Vader or get their asses handed to them?

If the team can find some clever way of getting the upper hand, if they surprise me with tactics I didn't anticipate, if they do more than just build a broken combo that guarantees auto success then I'm OK with it.

But just saying "I have X, Y and Z so I can always, every time intimidate whatever BBEG you throw at me?" How is that fun? How does the DM challenge someone who can intimidate every NPC they ever encounter?

Saying that something like this always works breaks the game IMHO.

CR 20 melee bruisers are few and far between for a reason (and many of them are immune to fear). But I'm not saying don't set up the encounter! I'm just saying if you don't want unexpected outcomes, then don't allow for unexpected outcomes.

If you don't want the heroes to be able to face down the foe, then don't let them face down the foe. You're the DM. It's OK.

The Star Wars example is rather instructive, really. Luke and co don't directly even face Vader in ANH - the NPC (Obi-Wan) holds him off pretty capably before sacrificing himself, Leia's disarmed before she's ever in his presence, and in the finale Han is quite successful keeping his TIE fighter from interfering with Luke. In ESB Vader ambushes Han and Leia (I believe only Han is armed) and fights Luke (chops off his hand) basically by splitting the party. And in ROTJ I think the only direct confrontation is the final one where Luke ultimately prevails.

So the DM didn't just toss the big bad against the inexperienced party and expect him to win. The first intro encounter was entirely out of PC control and used a DMPC to make him scary, and the next few encounters were ambushes and traps against a split party!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
These feats widen the gulf between PCs and NPCs, as you point out. With these feats, PCs are able to do more and achieve much higher numbers than monsters. Even an Ancient Red Dragon's Intimidation is only +6, for crying out loud.

This is power creep, plain and simple. These feats lead to ridiculous scenarios like this, where a low-level character can be 4 times as fearsome as a Pit Fiend. Sure, we can start giving monsters class levels just so they can keep up with PCs, a la 3rd Edition, but we all know how fun THAT was.

To be power creep, these would have to be more powerful than existing feats.

These feats are entirely within the power level band of the PHB feats.
 

Oofta

Legend
This. You BBEG should be immune, or at least really hard to frighten. And if the PCs are outgunned and/or outnumbered,
I would say it's simply easier to ban the feat that sets up something I don't like than to start modifying every bad guy.

they should be intimidating with disadvantage.

Why? I mean, it's your call put if I just arbitrarily give disadvantage on something like this (especially in a game store/living campaign) the player will cry bloody murder. Perhaps rightfully so.

Let's set up a scenario. I have my PCs sneaking around in a dungeon. It's supposed to be tough and not one of those scenarios where they could reasonably win at this point. I want to set up this place at the headquarters of DOOM Inc. There's a pet Balor blocking the exit and I'm waiting for the group to do something creative and fun.

Instead the player of the party's high charisma rogue yawns and says "I step out and intimidate him. Yada yada boo". Looking at his character sheet he says "The lowest I can get is a 25. Do I need to roll?"

And that's against a creature with a relatively high insight check. Unless I change the rules for the Balor on the fly to nerf the character it is guaranteed to work.

Obviously I can work around it. The point is I shouldn't have to do so, it seems to go against the whole concept of bounded accuracy and the intent of 5E.
 

Oofta

Legend
CR 20 melee bruisers are few and far between for a reason (and many of them are immune to fear).

Like a Balor. Oh wait, he's only level 19. My bad. :hmm:

But I'm not saying don't set up the encounter! I'm just saying if you don't want unexpected outcomes, then don't allow for unexpected outcomes.

If you don't want the heroes to be able to face down the foe, then don't let them face down the foe. You're the DM. It's OK.

I try to avoid cheating. I'm just trying to also avoid "I win" buttons for the PCs.

I can always just ban these feats from my home game or modify them so they don't stack with expertise or other bonuses (like Observant). But that won't work when I'm running a game at a store for the public campaign.

These feats give PCs at a relatively low level the possibility of powers and capabilities that epic level monsters don't have. That seems broken. I'm OK with a level 20 PC being really good at what they do, but these feats give PCs magical abilities that aren't magic, have no limits on the number of times they can be used

So for example, a mid level party can now intimidate a Balor round after round and kill it with ranged attacks while never being threatened.

It was these kind of abilities that killed much of the fun of 4E for me, except they're worse. At least in 4E the abilities were frequently limited to encounter or daily.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I would say it's simply easier to ban the feat that sets up something I don't like than to start modifying every bad guy.



Why? I mean, it's your call put if I just arbitrarily give disadvantage on something like this (especially in a game store/living campaign) the player will cry bloody murder. Perhaps rightfully so.

Why would you even consider that arbitrary? Seriously, why?

I have always, from day 1, given advantage and disadvantage (or their equivalents in other games) due to circumstances. That is part of their *point*.

How would a mid level character *not* be at disadvantage when trying to intimidate a Balor? Or even just an evil Warlord who is not, generally speaking, afraid of anything? Who knows he can curb stomp them at a whim?

As for the first part, this isn't something I am suggesting as a fix to these feats. I've been using those templates/rules since we started playing 5e, with some tweaks along the way.

There is no reason that BBEGs shouldn't be extraordinary examples of their type of creature. Otherwise, why are they The BBEG, in the first place?

Also, applying a template doesn't mean modyfying every enemy. It's a template. You put it on a card or memorize it, whichever works for you, and add it's rules to a creature.
It also lets you have a standout hobgoblin leading that band of goblinoid raiders, etc. it's...really, really, easy, and requires no work whatsoever on a per monster basis. The work is done once, when you write up the template.
 

Oofta

Legend
Why would you even consider that arbitrary? Seriously, why?

I have always, from day 1, given advantage and disadvantage (or their equivalents in other games) due to circumstances. That is part of their *point*.

How would a mid level character *not* be at disadvantage when trying to intimidate a Balor? Or even just an evil Warlord who is not, generally speaking, afraid of anything? Who knows he can curb stomp them at a whim?

As for the first part, this isn't something I am suggesting as a fix to these feats. I've been using those templates/rules since we started playing 5e, with some tweaks along the way.

There is no reason that BBEGs shouldn't be extraordinary examples of their type of creature. Otherwise, why are they The BBEG, in the first place?

Also, applying a template doesn't mean modyfying every enemy. It's a template. You put it on a card or memorize it, whichever works for you, and add it's rules to a creature.
It also lets you have a standout hobgoblin leading that band of goblinoid raiders, etc. it's...really, really, easy, and requires no work whatsoever on a per monster basis. The work is done once, when you write up the template.

If the party knows they can intimidate the Balor, no questions asked, why would they be worried about something they auto succeed?

I just envision every fight with a melee brute going something like "Charming Charlie intimidates the brute [no roll because they auto succeed] and we pepper it with ranged attacks until it's dead. Next encounter." unless you customize every brute. There are spells that do something similar, but the spells are limited by other factors that these feats are not.

Many of the high level 4E games had monsters that basically were immune to all of the PC's cool toys because the toys broke the game. Why have toys/feats if the DM/mod writer just nerfs them? It starts to feel very adversarial.

In any case, we're just going round and round here. I like being able to run monsters straight from the book and not having to start an arms race just to challenge my players. Some of these feats are simply unbalancing as written.

Let's just say we agree to disagree. I wanted to like these feats, but I think they break some core principles of 5E and push it into more "gamist" and adversarial approach.
 

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