What Do I Know About First Impressions? Unearthed Arcana: Feats (2020)

PHB Special CoverToday saw another Unearthed Arcana drop for the first time in a while, and this time around, it’s all about new feats. I’m going to look at all of them individually, but first, I wanted to list all of the feats that are in the document, and I’m going to put a star next to all of the feats that give you an ability score boost, so I’m not addressing that every time it comes up.

  • Artificer Initiative
  • Chef*
  • Crusher*
  • Eldritch Adept
  • Fey Touched*
  • Fighting Initiate
  • Gunner*
  • Metamagic Adept
  • Piercer*
  • Poisoner
  • Practiced Expert*
  • Shadow Touched*
  • Shield Training*
  • Slasher*
  • Tandem Tactician
  • Tracker*

In addition to the ability score boosts above, Eldritch Adept and Metamagic Adept both require some form of spellcasting as a prerequisite, and Fighting Initiate requires a martial weapon proficiency of some kind.

Artificer Initiate

It’s a little bit more than what Magic Initiate gets, in that it grants a tool proficiency, but that doesn’t feel like a huge problem, especially since tool proficiencies are one of the things you are allowed to pick up with downtime.

Chef

I like the idea of someone being good at cooking, but I wish the effects were broader than extra hit points when recovering and temporary hit points. Some kind of floating “well fed” die that can be used would be something I would like, since that means cooking isn’t only effective at helping the “combat” tier.

Crusher/Piercer/Slasher

I’m looking at these together, because they are structurally similar, with an ability boost, an effect when you hit with something that does the indicated type of damage, and an extra effect that triggers when a critical hit is scored. I like decoupling combat “style” feats from specific weapons and towards damage types, but I’m not sure all of the effects are equal.

I didn’t have a problem with Crusher, but actually, looking at Piercer, I have more of a problem with the differences between these feats. I know rerolling damage is to model Piercing weapons having a more precise ability, but there are already a lot of “reroll damage” feats and abilities. Also, when we look at Slasher in a bit, like Crusher, it seems to have a movement based “kicker.” I almost think instead of rerolling damage, pierced creatures should have a movement rate style effect.

Instead of pushing someone back, this Slasher you reduce their speed, but unlike Crusher, you don’t have a size limit, which feels like this movement base modification is overall more useful. I’m also visualizing the grievous injury portion, only really fits the narrative of something that feels pain. I can understand something hit by something heavy staggering, but this one is a bit more of a fuzzy place for me.

Precision be damned, I think the crit effect for all three should probably be extra damage. I think there either needs to be a size limit for all three, or for none of them. Introducing a save might be more fiddly, but may be better across the board, with the “once per round when you hit” option requiring a save, then either knocking someone prone (bludgeoning), keeping them from moving (piercing), or forcing them back (slashing). But that’s my gut feeling on this one.

Eldritch Adept

I’m not a fan of adding class features from one class to anyone that can take the feat. I think it starts to really muddy the water on the lines between classes and why they get the abilities they get. I don’t think it’s a devastating use of the ability, my concern is more from a flavor perspective.

Fey Touched

Ability boost, grants 1st level spell from enchantment or divination, as well as misty step. These are castable with native spell abilities as well as the normal 1/long rest ability. I think I like the idea of “extra spell” feats based on the “story” of where a character has been and what as influenced them.

Fighting Initiate

Fighting styles aren’t limited to one class, but they are limited to “front line” fighter types, so I think I feel the same way about this feat that I do about the Eldritch Adept feat. Of the “thunder stealing” feats, I’m the least concerned about this one, because it’s already a shared ability and requires some proficiency with some martial weapon. I kind of want to see what this looks like for people that are moved to dabble with it, but I’m on the fence.

Gunner

I like an “official” way for a character to know how to use firearms in the game, and it’s pretty much what I would expect, being very similar to what happens when you are a crossbow expert, so I’m good with this.

Metamagic Adept

So I don’t sound like a broken record, while I have the same problem with this as I do with Eldritch Adept and Fighting Initiate, I think I’m even less a fan of this one than the other two. The most fiddly things I’ve seen done with spellcasters in 5e have been with sorcerer multi-class (or straight class sorcerers), and adding part of the fiddly nature to other spellcasters and giving them the option of when to use or not use their points isn’t one of my favorite things to contemplate.

Poisoner

I don’t know if everyone else has had players like I have over the years, but given that poison is kind of expensive, but maybe effective, it’s nice having a built in “poison specialist” ability for the game, and I’m a fan of this. You can still buy the expensive stuff and take a full round, but if you want to make it your “thing” that you poison people, you have a more instantaneous option with this. It could still get expensive, but not quite as expensive and tedious as looking for the DMG defined poisons.

Practiced Expert

I’m not a fan of class abilities that double proficiency bonus. I understand some of them, I just feel like there shouldn’t be as many of them as there are. So I’m not a fan of this. Part of why is that 5e is built around bounded accuracy. The more ways you have to skew the expected average, the more you start feeling that skill checks are either pointless outside of combat, or that you may need to start going back to 3e era “superlocks” and “ultra-climbs” that require you to boost things past DC 25 to be “really really hard.”

Shadow Touched

This is similar to the Fey Touched feat, except with Darkness and an illusion or necromancy spell. I like the bookends of the Feywild and Shadowfell affecting people that wander too close to them, so I like this one as well.

Shield Training

You get to lose your shield a lot more quickly, which is something that actually came up a few times in games that I have been in, because people remembered the rules for shields. The most noteworthy thing about this is that it means you can have spellcasters that normally aren’t shield wielders using shields for focus objects, like warlocks, wizards, sorcerers, and druids.

Tandem Tactician

This is another one I feel like I would have to see in action, in part because it’s changing the “help” paradigm in multiple directions. It’s increasing the range of help, allowing you to do it with multiple allies, and changing it to a bonus action. Action economy is a tricky thing, and in a way, this thing is messing with that on two axis.

Tracker

I’ll be briefer with this one . . . I feel like taking a ranger trick from the ranger in 5e is just not a good thing to do. Even if you think rangers aren’t underpowered and just need to be deployed effectively, the zeitgeist is really going to turn on rangers if you can pull one of their tricks out of their bag. I would almost rather leave all of the other effects in tack, but instead of allowing someone to use hunter’s mark if they don’t have it, allow hunter’s mark to function without concentration. That makes the feat a lot more limited, but plays into the story of being super focused on tracking.

Summary Thoughts

The last time we got an Unearthed Arcana with a lot of feats in it, my biggest concern was that some of those feats were doing the 3e trick of “backwards constraining” what characters without the feats should be allowed to do. In general, I feel like this batch largely avoids that trap. I’m more concerned about niche protection this time around and probability creep for non-combat skills.

All of that said, I’m kind of interested to see what would happen using some of these instead of allowing for full multi-classing, as the only way of picking up tricks from other classes, in which case, I think these feats work on a different level.

 

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