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WotC's hesitation on tackling the feat tax.

Wednesday Boy

The Nerd WhoFell to Earth
So in today's Rule of Three (Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (Rule-of-Three: 09/12/2011)) R&D discusses feat taxes (feats used to fix math errors). They mention they have no plans for large, universal changes like changing the math of the monsters or giving characters have additional feat slots. And mention that you could houserule to give the feat bonus found in the feat taxes but note that they're "not ready to make that a global rule".

What I would have loved is a brief explanation for their hesitation since it seems like a brilliantly simple fix. I can understand not wanting to muck with the math of monsters all over again. That sounds like an enormous undertaking. And I can understand not wanting to give characters more feat slots because it could make characters more complicated or possibly overpowered. But I can't figure out why not the houserule.

ENWorld, you're smart. Why do you think R&D is hesitant about making their suggested houserule an official global rule?
 

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Riastlin

First Post
Well, off the top of my head I can think of 3 potential reasons (not saying these are absolute truths or that there isn't plenty of room for disagreement, so please just take it as face value and not a flame, etc.).

1. Its simple enough to house rule it anyway if groups decide to.
2. Its still arguable whether or not they're needed. The defense feats in particular were never taken by my players until the Superior feats came out in the essentials books -- suggesting that the added bonuses were what appealed to them rather than the defense boost.
3. Adding the house rule also means updating and/or essentially eliminating a lot of feats.

For instance if you house rule the bonuses, do you make them feat bonuses so they don't stack? Or do you still want to allow the players to take those feats and get all of the benefits (as opposed to just the kickers)? If you allow them to stack then many players will still see them as a feat tax since it would be strictly better to have both than just the house ruled "feat".

From a purely personal standpoint, I always take an expertise feat, but I have yet to take a defense feat (though I've not played a character in paragon or higher so that might change then). The main reason for this is that I can probably count on one hand the number of times my NAD's have been hit exactly (or even within 1) such that taking the feat really wouldn't help me all that much. I expect though that will change when I reach paragon, particularly since the kickers on the Superior feats will be more important then too.
 


Mengu

First Post
"But the fact remains that you're very strongly tempted to spend at least four of your first five or six feats to boost your accuracy and defenses."

I guess they think this is the way it should be. For my sorcerer, my first few feats are superior implement, implement expertise, unarmored agility, multiclass feat, superior will, and implement focus. So they have it right, out of first 5 or 6 feats, 4 boost accuracy and defenses. However, looking at it, if there was a house rule in place for +1 feat bonus to attacks and defenses, I think the only feat I might drop out of that list would be expertise. So really, it makes a difference of 1 feat.

The problem is deeper than that. It's feats sharing design space they shouldn't be sharing. Your thief can have Born of Shadow, Low Light Adaptation, Shadow Strider, and Shadow Mantle, or he can have Light Blade Expertise, Backstabber, Surprising Charge and Nimble Blade. One of these things is not like the other.
 

I'd be reluctant to give all those feats/bonuses for free. The attack and NAD expertise feats seem needed, but the AC-boosting ones only seem to exacerbate a problem that already exists.
 

Wednesday Boy

The Nerd WhoFell to Earth
Well, off the top of my head I can think of 3 potential reasons (not saying these are absolute truths or that there isn't plenty of room for disagreement, so please just take it as face value and not a flame, etc.).

1. Its simple enough to house rule it anyway if groups decide to.
2. Its still arguable whether or not they're needed. The defense feats in particular were never taken by my players until the Superior feats came out in the essentials books -- suggesting that the added bonuses were what appealed to them rather than the defense boost.
3. Adding the house rule also means updating and/or essentially eliminating a lot of feats.

Those are good suggestions (and certainly don't sound like a flame). I think it would have been helpful if they included them as their rationale in the article.

A few quick responses:
1. That's definitely true. But depending on the group, an offical errata decision can make all of the difference.
3. Again that's definitely true. I can't imagine it would take much effort but I have no clue what it would actually entail so it could be a very valid reason.

For instance if you house rule the bonuses, do you make them feat bonuses so they don't stack? Or do you still want to allow the players to take those feats and get all of the benefits (as opposed to just the kickers)? If you allow them to stack then many players will still see them as a feat tax since it would be strictly better to have both than just the house ruled "feat".

Since the expertise feats were created to address the to hit deficit, I wouldn't allow the house rule bonus to stack. But that's just me.

I think they already did a good job explaining themselves. I don't think there's some hidden agenda that they're not sharing with the playerbase.

I don't think that the unspoken rationale to "But we're not ready to make that a global rule." was "...because we've addressed it in 5th Edition which is being released next month." But it would have been nice to give a quick rationale like Riastlin did.
 

KarinsDad

First Post
For instance if you house rule the bonuses, do you make them feat bonuses so they don't stack? Or do you still want to allow the players to take those feats and get all of the benefits (as opposed to just the kickers)? If you allow them to stack then many players will still see them as a feat tax since it would be strictly better to have both than just the house ruled "feat".

For to hit, you make them a non-feat bonus (i.e. stacks with feat bonuses) and you house rule add them (like the original Expertise feats) at levels 5, 15, and 25, and disallow Expertise feats.

For NAD defenses, you create your own feat bonus house rules at levels 5, 15, and 25.

That way, Expertise goes away. Yeah, that drops a few minor boosts, but those were only there to take away some of the pain of the Expertise feat tax in the first place. If WotC wouldn't have the math issues, those wouldn't exist. On the other hand, it re-introduces the use of some other conditional feats to hit boosts, making those worthwhile again. For example, Resonating Covenant.

This automatically gives a 3 boost to all NAD defenses at mid-Epic, but it also allows the players the abilty to take some of the other defense feats for the low NAD issue, for example, Superior Reflexes (only partially helpful, +1 or +2 depending on level) or Epic Reflexes. The low NAD issue then becomes the only NAD feat tax.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
While an issue with the game, I hope they don't change it! It's a simple fix that has big implications that cascade through the system.

To do this kind of change right, they'd need to release a revision, like Essentials, or a new edition. Making this sort of change by errata would be a bad idea, IMO.

I mean, how annoying would it be to purchase this new game you've heard so much about, only to find out they game rules have been significantly changed, and you'd only find out if you hang out on WotC's site or forums like this?

Confusion at D&D: Encounters and Game Days! Madness, I tell you!

For us nerds who live and breathe this stuff, it's simple enough to understand the houserule and how it cascades through the system. For those who play the game more casually, not so much.
 

keterys

First Post
I've run a few games now with a houserule of
You gain a +1 per tier feat bonus to attack, damage, fortitude, reflex, and will

And boy does it free up the feat space for more interesting stuff.

And since MM3 changes, I have no problems threatening PCs so I really do think it could be that simple. I'd love to get an 'inherent bonuses' equivalent checkbox in the character builder to enable bonus to at least attack and FRW.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
For to hit, you make them a non-feat bonus (i.e. stacks with feat bonuses) and you house rule add them (like the original Expertise feats) at levels 5, 15, and 25, and disallow Expertise feats.

For NAD defenses, you create your own feat bonus house rules at levels 5, 15, and 25.

That way, Expertise goes away. Yeah, that drops a few minor boosts, but those were only there to take away some of the pain of the Expertise feat tax in the first place. If WotC wouldn't have the math issues, those wouldn't exist. On the other hand, it re-introduces the use of some other conditional feats to hit boosts, making those worthwhile again. For example, Resonating Covenant.

This automatically gives a 3 boost to all NAD defenses at mid-Epic, but it also allows the players the abilty to take some of the other defense feats for the low NAD issue, for example, Superior Reflexes (only partially helpful, +1 or +2 depending on level) or Epic Reflexes. The low NAD issue then becomes the only NAD feat tax.
This would be my approach as well. I generally dislike the "Hey you get a +1 to x in y circumstance" feats, but there's no way to escape people taking those (as shown by posters above).

What makes me grumpy is that while as a DM this would be my houserule, that doesn't mean much if I want to be a player. Either the DM shares my view on feat taxes, or I'm stuck. Hence why the global houserule would be nice.

Wizards also rarely takes out weak stuff, instead just adding stronger patches and lets the detritus hang on.
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
For me, the biggest disappointment about the "feat taxes" is I'll sometimes be skimming through the feats and find a flavorful one that just makes me go "man, that would be sweet to have on this character" - then I realize I haven't taken Superior Will/X Expertise/Improved Defenses which are the real "Essentials" for characters I make.

It would be kinda neat if feats were designed to be mostly flavor with a bit of mechanics, instead of mostly being the things people take to make their characters as mechanically effective as everyone else.
 

Lord Ernie

First Post
In my home game, I've handed out the expertise feats + the paragon/epic defense feats for free since they were released. If the PC's want to take any other feats (Superior Def feats, Improved Defs), they are free to do so.

I can understand WotC's hesitation in creating a widespread solution for this, even though it's a pity the problem is there in the first place. From the beginning, they've strived to not make existing characters obsolete, at least in the sense that you can not play a character for a few months, come back to it, and not suddenly have the stat choices being illegal, or not have enough feats.

Errata screwed that idea up a good bit, but still... releasing a +1 to all defs/attacks per tier patch would invalidate a lot of characters. Sad, but true.
 

Dice4Hire

First Post
I still do not believe that any of the "Feat Tax" feats are necessary in the game, but WOTC has known about this since PHBII.

Why couldn't they have messed with the monsters back then? That would have been MMIII, DArk SUn and both Monster Vaults. And maybe MMII.

They COULD have made the change. Now, I agree, it is too late.
 

Vael

Hero
I'm quite satisfied with WotC's decision. Revamping the system is a major change, I'm not entirely keen on the confusion it would cause. 4e gets enough flack for having too much errata.
 

GMforPowergamers

First Post
as someone that belives that you can make a vharacter with out any of the 'feat taxes' that also belives the later game is a bit too easy, I would not be happy with errata.

I know that we have LFR players that never look at errata and it already slows game play.

I know encounters is WAY worse then LFr when it comes to no errata looing
 

Klaus

First Post
For me, the biggest disappointment about the "feat taxes" is I'll sometimes be skimming through the feats and find a flavorful one that just makes me go "man, that would be sweet to have on this character" - then I realize I haven't taken Superior Will/X Expertise/Improved Defenses which are the real "Essentials" for characters I make.

It would be kinda neat if feats were designed to be mostly flavor with a bit of mechanics, instead of mostly being the things people take to make their characters as mechanically effective as everyone else.
But if no one in the group takes Expertise/Improved Defenses, isn't everybody as effective as everybody else?
 

Nemesis Destiny

Adventurer
But if no one in the group takes Expertise/Improved Defenses, isn't everybody as effective as everybody else?
This is really the crux of the issue. It's not a feat tax if nobody takes it, but you will often have players of mixed inclinations in the same group - and that's when it becomes a problem.

Various people have suggested and implemented various solutions to this, to varying degrees of success. Granting everyone a free scaling feat bonus to attacks and defences seems like the way to go, from my point of view. That way, folks that want the extra juicy bonuses can still take specific feats, and those who want to go for more flavourful feat choices can still do so without worrying about falling behind, or worse, as in the case of those new to the system and those who aren't mechanics-focused - being left in the dust and not knowing why.
 

I certainly don't disagree but OTOH I feel the issue in these cases is more about overemphasizing mechanical combat prowess. In my game for instance I really try to always provide ways for people to use skills to accomplish things for instance, and almost equal time and weight is given to non-combat aspects of the game. Thus the character who spends his first 5 feats on combat bonuses will find he's rather one-dimensional. No doubt he'll still do OK outside of combat, but now and then he'll feel the loss, just like the guy that takes 5 non-combat feats will still fight OK but will sometimes fall a bit short.

It also goes to the question of how do these various feats really affect the game? As a DM if I find that the PCs are having an easy time in combat (IE they all took all the best combat feats) I'm probably just going to make combats harder.

I admit, because the feats exist they create issues of disparity and temptation. I think personally the answer would be to simply get rid of all expertise feats. The defense feats are a bit different, those are more needed and probably could be just folded into armor/neck slot bonus or something, or just hard coded tier bonuses.

Anyway, I think the answer they gave was pretty clear and makes sense. I suspect they drew a line at 'core numbers' and decided right from the start never to errata the actual core numbers. Once you start down that road of tweaking the whole structure of the game who knows where it ends?
 

Pentius

First Post
But if no one in the group takes Expertise/Improved Defenses, isn't everybody as effective as everybody else?
They're closer to it, anyway.

But in my experience, unless there's a group-wide agreement or DM mandate that no one shall take expertise/improved defense feats, eventually someone is going to notice them and think that they would indeed like to hit more often or get hit less often.

Pretty much since the expertise feats came out, I've been handling it the same way in each game I DM. I give everyone an expertise feat for free. That ensures that everyone has it, thereby nipping in the bud a potential power gap later on. And I've never once had a player complain.
 

keterys

First Post
It's a pretty rare group where no one takes any of them - especially the newer ones. I'll often want Superior Will for the daze/stun protection, the Will is gravy. Ditto something like Staff Expertise.
 

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