Monday, December 17, 2012

Old School Feats Revisited

A little less than a year ago, I mused about a way to utilize feats in context of old-school rules. I gave an example of how such a system might work with the magic-user class, but I never went further. Since I have been in the midst of going over all the material I have produced over the years and finishing ideas, I thought it apropos to “finish” this post by providing a full set of feats for all four base classes.

In the original post, I noted that any implementation of the system could (and probably should) be customized for a particular campaign. Thus, what follows makes the following assumptions:

  1. Building upon a post I made on Charisma and Wisdom, Charisma is the Prime Requisite for Clerics, Wisdom has been replaced with Awareness and the latter is the Prime Requisite for Thieves.
  2. The range of bonuses is going to be in the 0e/Holmes/S&W/LL+OEC range of ±1.
  3. The initiative system is individual, specifically a Holmesian variation where Awareness determines initiative order rather than Dexterity.
  4. Characteristics will be rolled with 3d6 in order.
  5. There is a combat bonus associated with each characteristic.

The bonuses for each characteristic are as follows:

  • Strength (S) = to-hit melee
  • Dexterity (D) = to hit ranged
  • Constitution (C) = hit points
  • Intelligence (I) = damage
  • Awareness (A) = initiative
  • Charisma (CH) = armor class

Every class has a Prime Characteristic and characters have an Ancillary Characteristic. If these characteristics are 13-14 they may choose to have a +5% XP bonus (cumulative). If they are 15+ they may choose a 10% bonus (cumulative). This can result in up to a +20% XP bonus. Alternatively, the player may choose to have the feats associated with either or both the Prime Characteristic and Ancillary Characteristic:


S = Improved Turning (Turn at one level higher)
D = Empower Spell (Maximize the variable on one spell per day)
C = Extend Spell (Double the duration of one spell per day)
I = Weapon Proficiency (Choose one weapon not allowed by class at character creation)
A = Divine Protection (+1 on saves vs. spells or spell-like devices)
CH = Bonus Spell (Gain one random 1st level spell per day)


S = Power Attack (Take up to a -3 penalty on a to-hit roll for an equivalent bonus on any damage roll that results)
D = Cleave (When a target is reduced to 0 hp, gain an extra attck)
C = Fortitude (+1 on saves vs. poison and death)
I = Shield Bash (May use a Shield Bash as an attack. The damage is 1d3 and the target automatically drops to the bottom of the initiative order the next round).
A = Weapon Focus (Gain a +1 to hit and damage with one weapon chosen at character creation)
CH = Expertise (Take up to a -3 penalty on a to-hit roll for an equivalent bonus to AC until next attack)

Magic User

S = Armor Proficiency (May wear leather armor without penalty)
D = Empower Spell (Maximize the variable on one spell per day)
C = Extend Spell (Double the duration of one spell per day)
I = Weapon Proficiency (Choose one weapon not allowed by class at character creation)
A = Iron Will (+1 save vs. Petrify or Paralyze)
CH = Store Spell (Store one spell which can be spontaneously cast in place of another prepared spell of equal or greater spell level).


S = Armor Proficiency (May wear Chain Mail without penalty)
D = Weapon Finesse (May use the Dexterity Bonus for melee instead of the Strength Bonus)
C = Toughness (Gain +3 hit points)
I = Sneak Attack (do an extra 1d6 in damage on attack from the rear or from the flank)
A = Lightning Reflexes (+1 save vs. Breath Weapons)
CH = Magical Aptitude (Choose one first level spell that can be cast once per day)

For example:
A player rolls a Strength of 16, an Awareness of 13 and average or below on all other characteristics. She decides to have a fighter (Prime Characteristic = Strength) and chooses Awareness as the Ancillary Characteristic. She may have either a 10% XP bonus or Power Attack from Strength and either a 5% XP bonus or Cleave from Awareness. Therefore she has the following options:

  1. Power Attack and Cleave
  2. Power Attack and 5% XP bonus
  3. 10% XP bonus and Cleave
  4. 15% XP bonus.

There are a few interesting ways to implement this system:

  • So as not to punish players who do not have two characteristics at 13 or more (as in the example above), but still put some limitations on availability, feats can be available for characteristics of 9 or more.
  • For those who don’t like level limits, one can balance out the racial advantages of the various demi-humans by only allowing humans to take advantage of the above system.
  • For those who like being more strict, the feats can be only available at 13+ and unavailable to demi-humans (who function as a means to give cool powers to "hopeless" characters)

There are also some interesting implications about this system (especially if one ignores experience point bonuses). These all basically become class abilities:

  • Cleric = Bonus Spell
  • Fighter = Power Attack
  • Magic User = Weapon Proficiency
  • Thief = Lightening Reflexes

To my mind all of these make some sense. Clerics normally expect bonus spells. Fighters should have a tactical choice for a chance to do more damage. Gandalf can now wield his sword. Thieves should be a little more lucky when trying to get away with a dragon’s treasure.


  1. thses are great and simple - i have beep posting my character classes with my rules with feats, many class abilities and theif skills integrated into a proficiency system - has possibly too much choice though - this is sweet

  2. One reason I like this is that it both offers players choices (almost always a good thing) yet keeps things simple. One question: what's your thinking behind associating Charisma with armor class?

    1. Since Dex traditionally covers ranged combat, initiative and AC, I had to decide which was most appropriate for Dex and where the other two needed to go. Ranged combat has the oldest association so I kept that with Dex. Awareness seemed like a natural fit for initiative (those more aware of their surroundings are less likely to be surprised and therefore act quickly). This left AC for Charisma. I justified this with the original meaning of Charisma (gift). Those with high Charisma are gifted with either luck or a kind of divine protection.