Unearthed Arcana: Feats for Skills Analysis

This week the D&D team introduces 18 new feats.

Each feat is meant to make you better at one of the 18 skills of 5th Edition. Their structure is pretty similar, providing three benefits. The first one is an ability score increase. The second one is proficiency to the skill this feat is meant to boost. In case you already have proficiency to it, then you double your proficiency.

Acrobat (Acrobatics)

Spending your bonus action and succeeding a DC 15 Acrobatics check, difficult terrain doesn’t cost you extra movement. This is a very specific bonus. However, you’ll probably be able to benefit from it almost every time you need it. The DC can be easily reached, considering that the feat increases your Dexterity and possibly doubles your proficiency.

Animal Handler (Animal Handling)

This one lets you control a beast during combat, more or less giving you one of the Beast Master’s abilities without being one. The downside is that the beast won’t scale with you and you will have to befriend it in order to use this feat’s benefit.

Arcanist (Arcana)

You learn the spells Prestidigitation and Detect Magic. Also, you can cast Detect Magic without spending a spell slot once per long rest. Personally, I’d pick this feat for the ability score increase and the proficiency bonus. The Magic Initiate feat does a better job in terms of acquiring spells, in my opinion.

Brawny (Athletics)

That’s pretty much the first half of the Powerful Build racial trait of the Goliath. I don’t think carrying capacity plays a big role in many groups. However, the Athletics bonus can be quite helpful, especially since it’s used in grappling.

Diplomat (Persuasion)

This one lets you charm someone without using magic. That’s very important because it lets you take advantage of various situations, in which magic would create problems for you. Of course, you can’t be fighting the target and also you’ll have to talk to them for a minute before forcing them to roll their opposing Insight check. But this feat’s usefulness surpasses all the requirements. To be honest, it could lead to breaking the game in terms of story.

Empathic (Insight)

If this feat is used in combat, it pretty much acts like the True Strike spell, which isn’t that great in my opinion. If it’s used outside of combat, for example in social encounters, it can be quite useful. Advantage is always a great bonus.

Historian (History)

When you use the Help action you make a DC 15 History check. On a success, the character you are helping gains a bonus to their roll equal to your proficiency. I like the flavor of this feat. However, I don’t understand if this bonus is on top of the advantage the Help action grants or completely replaces it.

Investigator (Investigation)

This one lets you take the Search action as a bonus action. It’s not one of the strong ones, since Investigation is usually overshadowed by Perception.

Medic (Medicine)

Well, the Healer feat is hands down much better. As long as you have a healer’s kit, the amount of healing you can do is greater than the one the Medic feat allows you to do.

Menacing (Intimidation)

You can turn one of your attacks into a chance to frighten the target. I really like this feat. It gives more combat options to melee classes and also a reason for them to invest in Charisma.

Naturalist (Nature)

This is like the Arcanist feat but you learn the spells Druidcraft and Detect Poison and Disease. I don’t think that Druidcraft is something everyone who is expert in Nature can cast. The name of the spell dictates that it’s something Druids know. A Fighter who is expert in Nature shouldn’t really be able to cast it. And again, Magic Initiate is a much better option when it comes to acquiring spells.

Perceptive (Perception)

This is one of the most useful of the feats presented here because it increases the bonus to Perception. As for the third benefit, it lets you ignore the disadvantage imposed in lightly obscured areas. It’s not that important, in my opinion, but as I said above this feat’s value lies in the double proficiency in Perception.

Performer (Performance)

Your performance mesmerises the target and makes them roll with disadvantage on their Perception and Investigation checks for the duration of your performance. I really like the flavor of this feat and also its benefit.

Quick-Fingered (Sleight of Hand)

I guess this lets you use Sleight of Hand during combat, as a bonus action. That’s how I understand it anyway. Unless a player decided to abuse that in some way, I don’t think there would be many situations that would require taking a peek at your opponents’ pockets during combat.

Silver-Tongued (Deception)

This is similar to the Menacing feat but much more powerful. You exchange one attack with the chance of having a target not make opportunity attacks against you and also you having advantage on your attacks against them. Isn’t this a bit too powerful?

Stealthy (Stealth)

I believe that the bonus you get from the second benefit is more useful than the third one. It lets you move a small distance without getting revealed. If you use this wisely, then you can move from cover to cover more easily. But, as I said, I believe just the bonus to Stealth is more useful.

Survivalist (Survival)

Survivalist follows the same template with the Arcanist and the Naturalist. I don’t like them. The only one of the three that is worth it is the Arcanist one, and that’s because it boosts the Arcana skill.

Theologian (Religion)

Again, the same with the one above. Also, let’s say a Barbarian takes this feat. This means that they have studied theology to the point of getting cleric powers from it. Does that really make any sense?

Designing feats is hard. Designing good feats is a feat by itself. This week’s Unearthed Arcana was a hit and miss. The good skills get boosted just because of the bonus proficiency, while the not so good ones don’t do that well.

Another important thing I’d like to mention is that the whole double proficiency part may break the bounded accuracy mechanic of 5th Edition. We’ve seen various things in previous Unearthed Arcanas that try to break it but I believe this is the first installment that does such a good job at it.

Also, feats don’t have to provide combat benefits, and forcing this to happen may create more possibly broken things, like the Silver-Tongued feat.

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. And don’t forget, the survey about last week’s Unearthed Arcana downtime activities can be found here.

8 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Feats for Skills Analysis

  1. Thanks for your review Kind GM. You made some great points and observations because there are truly some things that wouldn’t be visible immediately.
    On a general note, I think many of those tools are quite ok in a non-combat setting, or lightly enhancing the possibilities in combat. Although some of the skills seem overpowered, others seem extremely specific, as you mentioned. A hit or miss really. I feel like, it’s heavily focussed on utility and how you would encourage to take these Feats if given the possibility.
    You make a good point with the Naturalist Feat and how Fighters shouldn’t be able to learn druid spells. As I understand it, attunement to nature yields the benefits to nature-magic and not druid-mysticism. So, Druidcraft as a spell becomes more a deck name for something that is just closely related to nature.
    Another point is the Quick-Fingered Feat that allows you to place objects onto the opponent, is in my opinion extremely powerful if you carry poisons, explosives or stolen goods you want to frame your opponent with.

    I get the feel that generally, those feats are more flavour than anything else. More specific ways to add to an existing narrative. What I like about it is, that it takes away from pure combat utility and the need to get the most out of the best spells or combat situations. I would even go that far to say that anything benefitting situational specialisation and out-of-combat-utility adds to the game more than just being strong. Generates more rp-focus if you will, and if the players allow that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some of the feats try to provide combat benefits but it’s not that good because it feels forced. The result is a probably overpowered feat, Silver-Tongued. However, Menacing and Performer are okay-ish.
      The idea of feats that provide utility by giving the character spells is not something I like. And in this installment the only one of those that I consider good is the Arcanist one but because of the bonus to Arcana, one of the most important skills in 5h Edition (in my opinion).
      As for the utility ones, some are too good, for example Diplomat. Historian is nice and I like it both mechanic and flavor wise.
      To be honest, I prefer the previous installment about feats.

      Like

  2. I also really like the idea of taking Feats outside of combat utility, but as much as I want to like this article it just doesn’t sit well with me for some reason. I note many of the same potential problems as you do.

    D.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe the previous Unearthed Arcana installment about feats was better. The weapon feats provided combat benefits that seemed more balanced and the tool feats provided a combination of flavor and utility.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I know this is kind of an old review by now, but I’m baffled by your assessment of some of these feats. What’s wrong with a Barbarian with a tiny bit of Cleric power? Maybe she’s her tribe’s shaman, and the Cleric spells fit better than the Druid ones. It’s not how I would go about it, but who are you or I to gatekeep the kinds of characters people want to build? And certainly outside of explicitly Barbarians there are a ton of kinds of players who might want this.

    And “I don’t think that Druidcraft is something everyone who is expert in Nature can cast.” Uhm… it’s not. It’s *literally not* a spell everyone who is an expert in Nature can cast, it’s a spell everyone who gained their knowledge of nature *through this feat* can cast, which means it represents something else than what you seem to think it’s supposed to. Want the Nature skill without the spell? Cool, there’s a bunch of other ways you can get it.

    The Silver-tongued feat is definitely more powerful than some of the feats on this list, but overpowered in general? You’re getting advantage… but literally giving up an attack to gain it. It’s better than True Strike by a teensy tiny margin [which… let’s face it, True Strike is shit so we should all HOPE it’s better], but only becomes reasonable for high level Fighters who might get multiple attacks with advantage for that tradeoff. It’s still a Wisdom check for a Fighter though, so I hope he’s fighting something without much Charisma. Becoming immune to opportunity attacks from a single target is more what this feat is good for, but again, it’s one target. If you’ve got a single opponent and can consistently out Wisdom-versus-Charisma him, dance in and out of his reach, *and* make multiple but still fewer attacks than usual? Cool, you’ve managed to squeeze the absolute most out of this feat, and I applaud you for that… but I’ve got some serious questions about what you had to give up in order to make all of that work. Any Sentinel / Polearm Master builds blow this thing out of the water.

    Your concern re: Historian is valid. RAW I guess it adds to it since it doesn’t *say* it replaces the bonus, but I couldn’t even begin to guess at RAI. It could be better written… but that’s UA for you.

    Ultimately these feats provide some flavor not necessarily available elsewhere in the game, and not one would show up in an optimization guide if they were published exactly as they were presented.

    Like

    • Hello.
      I believe you are jumping into wrong conclusions. I would never gatekeep a player from playing any character. It was my assessment at the time and that was an example that came to mind. Barbarians are heavily affected by the setting. There are cases where I wouldn’t consider a Barbarian capable of studying divine texts to the point of obtaining clerical powers. However, as I said above, I wouldn’t forbid a player from playing what they like.

      Druidcraft is a cantrip available only to Druids. There are ways you can acquire it but, generally, it’s a Druid cantrip only. However, a previous comment made a very interesting argument that the name is more about something related to nature than the mysticism of druids. I liked that perspective so I ended up not having much of an issue with it.

      As for Silver-Tongued, please note that the effect lasts until the end of your NEXT turn. You may give up an attack this turn but in the next one all of your attacks have advantage. Keep in mind the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack grants them advantage on one attack roll while giving every enemy advantage against them. Also, you got the abilities wrong, even though that’s not an issue. The character uses Charisma versus the enemy’s Wisdom. This opens a lot of opportunities for interesting interactions with various classes, such as the Paladin. Finally, take note that the feat is not limited to weapon attack rolls. While it may have been an error, this version of the feat affects spell attack rolls as well, which adds the Warlocks, Bards, and Sorcerers into the fold.

      I agree with your comment on the Historian and I would like to use it to make this note. I’ve been writing analysis articles for the Unearthed Arcana installments for quite some time now. This Unearthed Arcana gave me the impression that it was hastily written, and that heavily affected the quality of the content as well as its coherency. The D&D team here tried to play with the expertise mechanic. I like the idea of doing something to improve the effectiveness of the skills but that’s not the way. This can be seen because there has been no second version of these feats in any Unearthed Arcana installment, if I remember correctly. Finally, expertise doesn’t have to mean that you gain spells. That was something I found quite annoying in this installment. There can be other interesting mechanics instead of granting spells.

      Liked by 1 person

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