A young girl looks at a wall of keyes in a steampunk style cave.

I’ve always been a fan of modularity and characterization in TTRPGs. It’s been the bread and butter of every gaming system I’ve built and is usually an option I try to shoehorn in if there aren’t enough options for my players to make the cool characters they envision. I like point buy systems, but there are always reasons to come back to D&D as a game you are running. Currently, I’m running an issekai FFXIV x DND for my players. We started in the newest BESM but the character advancement options in that game just weren’t clicking with me. After playing around with a revitalized version of an older game I built, I decided it was time to go back to the D&D roots of Final Fantasy and just work with the excellent homebrew that SilentSoren created.

My players know D&D, the FFXIV x DND options were mostly in line with how we envisioned the classes, D&D is very easy to improv with, and there are a ton of resources I can grab when I’m in need of a quick adventure or complete monster that I just need to give a shiny new Final Fantasy coat of paint. All that being said, I wanted just a bit more than was presented. A few more options for cool powers not tied to the classes. A way to say yes to an interesting concept. A way to emulate the unique abilities found in the video game setting. Thinking through how to achieve these things, the answer struck me – open up the feat system a bit. Decouple it from class progression and give it a way to be more modular and open to some custom powers and I felt I had a winner.

A Point Buy Feats System

Being the diligent researcher I am, my first step was to go see if it had been done before. It, of course, had but not in a way that fit quite what I wanted. There are a few forum posts and some OGL supplements that take the concept in a few different directions, but what I wanted was a mix of the ease of picking feats with just a bit more openness and a linear progression of rewards and chance at feats as an extra bonus for every character. So, how does it work?

  • Characters no longer get feats and Ability Score Improvements at certain levels. (I do this for balance but create a new feat that gives the ASI if players would rather have that.)
  • Characters are given 5 points for purchasing feats at character creation. (Season to taste. I like giving characters lots of options.)
  • Every level gain grants a character +1 feat point that they can spend on new feats.
  • All the core feats have been priced at either 2 or 3 points, with most being 3 as a centralizing factor and a few being just a bit cheaper.
  • I also tend to remove racial or class limitations on feats, allowing players to pick interesting options and coming up with justifications for them in the narrative they spin.

My list of costs for feats

    • Actor – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Alert – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Athlete – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Bountiful Luck – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Charger – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Chef – 3 Points
      (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)
    • Crossbow Expert – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Defensive Duelist – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Dragon Fear – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Dragon Hide – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Drow High Magic – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Dual Wielder – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Dungeon Delver – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Durable – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Dwarf Fortitude – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Elemental Adept – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Elven Accuracy – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Fade away – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Fey Teleportation – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Fighting Initiate – 3 Points
      (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)
    • Flames of Phlegethos – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Grappler – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Great Weapon Master – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Healer – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Heavily Armored – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Heavy Armor Master – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Infernal Constitution – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Inspiring Leader – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Keen Mind – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Lightly Armored – 2 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Linguist – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Lucky – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Mage Slayer – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Magic Initiate – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Martial Adept – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Medium Armor Master – 2 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Mobile – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Moderately Armored – 2 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Mounted Combatant – 2 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Observant – 4 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Orcish Fury – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Polearm Master – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Prodigy – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Resilient – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Ritual Caster – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Savage Attacker – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Second Chance – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Sentinel – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Sharpshooter – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Shield Master – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Skilled – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Skulker – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Spell Sniper – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Squat Nimbleness – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
    • Tavern Brawler – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Tough – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • War Caster – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Weapon Master – 3 Points
      (Player’s Handbook)
    • Wood Elf Magic – 3 Points
      (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)

Not many of the options are under 3 points, but a few that I wanted to make more available or enticing to my players are priced a bit lower. That being said, with the framework for the point buy system in place it’s time to get to what this is really about – new character options! For my FFXIV game, I wrote up a few setting specific feats, a few interesting options to modify characters, and a few very kitchen sink feats that let me expand wherever I want. I might have written these up as just regular feat options, but then I wouldn’t have gotten the ability to make some of these very cheap and enticing to add in with extra points.

My List Of Custom Feats

  • Class Feature  (2 – 6+ points)
    You have one class feature from another class. The cost of this depends on the strength and level of the feature. You must be at the level where you could unlock the feature if you were playing that class. Spellcasting as a class feature can not be acquired with this.
    – A class feature 4 or below starts at 2 points.
    – A class feature 5 – 8 always starts at 3 points.
    – A class feature 9 – 12 always starts at 4 points.Depending on the power or utility of the class feature, the GM may determine it is +1 or +2 points. For example, the Extra Attack feature may be considered very powerful in your game. The GM determines it costs 4 points instead of 3. If a class feature would level up, the GM may determine it is only available at the lowest level or that adding the level up feature would raise the cost. For example, the Rogue’s sneak attack feature might cost 2 points if it is only available at the lowest level and 4 points if it progresses in power. The GM may also decide it is capped at 4d6 additional to keep it balanced, or may require it to be 6 points if it levels up all the way.
  • Attunement Master  (2 points)
    You can attune to one extra item.
  • Dual Spell Focus  (3 points)
    You can maintain one additional concentration spell.
  • Expertise  (2 points)
    Choose one ability you have proficiency in. You gain expertise in it.
  • Extra Hit Points  (2 points)
    Your hit die is one higher (max d10).
  • Extra Spell Points  (3 points)
    Your spell points maximum increases by an amount equal to twice your level when you gain this feat. Whenever you gain a level thereafter, your manna maximum increases by an additional 2 spell points.
  • Resistance  (2 points)
    You gain resistance to one type of damage.
  • Strong Will  (2 points)
    You have advantage against attempts to charm or temper your will through magic or other extranormal means.
  • Trait  (1 point)
    You have a “trait”, some capacity that makes you better at certain actions in some way. Whenever this trait is relevant you gain +2 on the roll. Only one trait can ever be active at a time.Traits can also act as narrative devices, providing mechanical justification for a primarily narrative benefit. Example: A trait of Iron Stomach would help when a character would have to roll to resist very hot food or prevent being sick from overindulgence in alcohol, but the Game Master may allow the character to not even make the roll because of their trait.
  • Unique Ability  (2 – 6+ points)
    You have some unique spell-like ability or power that is written up in a custom way. This could be casting a particular spell once per long rest, it could be a spell as a permanently on power, it could be a monster’s ability that is added to your sheet. The GM will determine the cost.

Some FFXIV setting specific feats I wrote up for my game as an example of what setting or game specific feats you might have.

  • Jobstone Affinity (1 Point Each Option)
    Jobstones enable people to learn and attune to abilities by connecting with the stored memories and resonances of a person who once used the stone. Some people can attune even better than others.
    Instant Jobstone Switch – You can switch out jobstones nearly instantly, rather than with a long rest.
    Apprentice Jobstone Creation – Once per month you can “clone” a jobstone you are attuned to and create a new version of it to give to someone else.
    Jobstone Memories – If a jobstone is comprised of memories from another person, it is more easy to resonate with them. Some even have “conversations” with the personas comprised of the memories in their jobstones.
  • FFXIV Traits (1 Point)
    These traits follow standard trait rules but also provide some benefits outside that system.
     – Aetheryte Traveler – Travel under 1,00 malms and suffer no teleport sickness so long as you only travel within “long distance” once per long rest.

    • This one is very specific to rules I have around a modification on teleportation circles, but it shows where you can easily tag onto other systems or rules you might have with custom feats that are “cheaper” than normal feats that do multiple things. 

And with that, you’ve got a setup for players to be character class plus. Something that emulates a bit of the old gestalt classes from 3.5 or allows some of the benefits of multi-classing. You’ve also got a system you can add onto with custom things for your setting. Want a dragon friendship option? No need to homebrew a whole new sub-system, just add an appropriately priced feat. Want to give anyone a familiar or steed? Simple 1 or 2 point feat that grants them access to that spell with any limitations you may need to add.

A few of my favorite custom feats are:

  • Trait allows a bit of mechanical justification for something narrative. The +1 to a roll is a very minor benefit, but the chance to add a bit of the character into the narrative and showcase why THEY are special is phenomenal for the players.
  • Class Feature that lets someone grab an interesting ability from another class and allows the GM to set the cost of the option. This has to be carefully considered, but letting my one player grab a dragoon jump alongside their red mage or the gunbreaker get a version of sneak attack that is tied to spending spell points is a great bit of extra bonus for the players.
  • Unique Ability is also great, but in a very different way. I can just write up a feat to fit something I want, but having Unique Ability as an option on the list a player can pick from is a small way to “give permission” for them to pitch an idea to me.

Isn’t this broken?

Absolutely. If you let it be. I’ve never really believed in game balance as a major component of fun. It has to be at least somewhat balanced to  feel fair, but if the balance tips in the favor of the players (through a system like this or other playstyle options) you can always rubber band it back through changing the CR of enemies, upgrading the next fight or dungeon, or letting the players have some satisfying wins that make their character choices feel justified. This system isn’t really for purists, but few homebrew options are. This system brings in more character options and a chance to create unique and personal versions outside of the class limitations. If you’re not playing a very old school style game, this sort of system can be just the sort of thing you need to unlock a few more clever ideas and moments of player satisfaction. If you need to though, you can bring balance to a large hack like this with a couple of different tactics.

  • Limit what you allow – If you want a more traditional D&D experience but a few options opened up, set some rules on what people can take. Don’t include the class feature feat or require some things to always be at the high end of expensive.
  • Create more limited or expensive custom feats – If you have a very specific type of game setting that you want to have just a few more options into, create a solid feat list that only fits that tone and power level. Maybe your setting has a power granting / vampire-adjacent disease that would grant some extra abilities. You could add Darkvision as a 1 point option and a “Polymorph into wolf 3/day” as a 2 point option as viable additions that aren’t quite a full feat’s cost.
  • Limit points – Limit the number of points a character would get. My system grants one every level and 5 at character creation, but you could grant a point every 2 levels so that progression is slower. You could also just give 3 points whenever a person might get a feat but still have the feats be point based to allow cheaper options or to make some modifications. The ratios I’ve written up will provide an extra feat or two for players but will also enable the cheaper custom feats to become accessible alongside the more expensive options.
  • Only use this when you need to rebalance – My current game has 3 players, so characters that are a bit more powerful is just fine. I actually, usually prefer a 3 player party as it is easier to form party bonds and move the spotlight around. Situations like this, or ones where you want to run more brutal can use a point buy feat system to rebalance up to the new power level.

Final Thoughts

This sort of system won’t be for everyone and that’s fine. That’s why we have different game systems and different gameplay styles. But why not play a different game then? Coming back to D&D for games has a lot of benefits. It’s a system made to do a specific thing though, and doing some homebrew like this opens it up just a bit more to achieve some different choices. Point buy systems also create a feeling of more agency among the players. Picking 1 feat or knowing you have 3 points left to spend may effectively be the same, but they feel different psychologically. I hope you found this useful and can find some space for it in your game.