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A Point Buy Feats System To Open Up Your D&D Games

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 [1] 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 [2] 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?

My list of costs for feats

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

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

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:

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.

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.

 

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2 Comments To "A Point Buy Feats System To Open Up Your D&D Games"

#1 Comment By zeel On August 11, 2022 @ 11:11 am

“You can maintain one additional concentration spell.”

This should be a six point feat. I’m not going to go full “that’s too OP to allow” on this, but it really is brokenly good, as the entire spellcasting system is balanced on the idea that concentration is a singular thing.

This ability should either be extremely costly, or unavailable. A better option might be a feat which allows you to pick a specific concentration spell you know (pick when you gain the feat, maybe you can change it when you gain a level) and you basically do t need to concentrate on that spell anymore. Even this is too strong, but at least more limited in scope – plus as the DM you always know what specifically the player can do, they can’t pull a wild combo out of thin air.

#2 Comment By John Arcadian On August 11, 2022 @ 1:32 pm

Maybe. It’s definitely a season to taste sort of thing. The game I’m currently running with this is based on Final Fantasy 14 and the power level is going to feel a bit higher than an old school dungeon crawl. Anytime you incorporate something third party, you’ll have to adjust to your game’s style. I’m in the camp that “True Balance” is a myth in TTRPGS, but there is balance according to play style. I tend to run higher CR or beefed up combat encounters. My players manage to pull out victory from the jaws of defeat because they have access to more epic options. It’s just one style of play.