Monday, June 16, 2008

PHB - Skills and Feats

I think I've mentioned this before, but I really like the way that some of the skills have been consolidated. Acrobatics and Athletics, Perception and Stealth, these have grouped together many skills that used to go hand-in-hand anyway.

No more ranks - this threw me for a loop. You now pick which skills you're trained in, and that's it - you have training in it, and the only regular increases come from the 1/2-level bonus. Since many people picked the same skills every level-up anyway, this makes things easier, but gets rid of the fun some people had with dabbling here and there in many skills. The loss of synergy bonuses is a consequence of the loss of ranks, but I think the idea of synergy now comes into play during the skill encounters, which can often require various skills working together to get around the obstacle, whether a physical trap or a diplomatic meeting of minds.

I like that Detect Magic is now a skill check, instead of a spell that takes up space. The knowledge checks for various creature types and environments are a continuation of them in the 3.5 rules, which made the esoteric skills of that version useful, and help provide additional usefulness to the reduced skill set.

Unfortunately, two sessions into the first module hasn't had too many skill checks, and no skill encounters yet. It's quite a combat-heavy start, which is good for getting to know the combat system, but I'd like some variation!

The feats are a bit disappointing, coming from a 3rd edition background. They're very light, which makes sense if you consider how many skills you get as you advance. But when you're used to feats defining your character, these piddly things hardly seem worthwhile.

In 3rd edition, you could plan ahead for the feats you wanted/needed, always wishing you had room for one more. I found it difficult to pick something while planning a few levels of my cleric, because they all feel so powerless. The proficiency paths are a good use for the feats, if you need them (as a cleric does if they want armor), but so many of the feats are class- or race-specific, and even then feel like a waste of a choice, even when you're struggling to find anything at all.

The only feats that were interesting at all were the ones for Divinity, which basically give an extra use to your Channel Divinity ability. This reeks of the Dungeons & Dragons Online system where a cleric's turn undead uses could be used for other purposes (short-term regeneration, removal of negative conditions, etc.) Not that I don't like this alternate use of this occasionally-used ability, but it's yet another thing that feels stolen into 4e instead of innovated.

Many of the feats seem at first glance to require outrageous ability scores as a prerequisite, but considering the number of increases that are gained through the levels, it's not really so bad. Those who want to stray from the stereotypical can still have wizards with melee-boosting feats if they so choose.

The multiclass feats, which really sum up the multiclassing ability of 4th edition, take up all of two pages. I'm still not sure about this system, much preferring the openness of 3rd edition, but I suppose I should try walking a character through a multiclassing scenario to see what the end result is like - to see if the character really feels anything like a multiclassed character, or just a character that has no focus in either of the two classes.

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