So, I started actually making up 13th Age characters the other day, just to get my hands dirty. If nothing else, it’s a pleasantly fast and dirty job. The skills and one unique thing end up being almost necessary though, because the rest of the mechanics are not quite so grippy.
Not saying they’re bad, but stats, class, talents and feats dont’ tell much of a story. Some of that I’m ok with – Stats and class are kind of expected to be blandly interchangeable, and it’s overall a good thing that they are, since they’re kind of foundational.
Jury is still out on talents. I like them mechanically, but I’m not yet sure if they say enough about how my fighter is different from your fights, especially if we can’t otherwise describe that difference in terms of differences in gear.
But feats…man, feats always break my heart. I really want my feat selection tot ell me something unique and interesting about the character, and it doesn’t.
This is not 13th Age’s fault – this is a problem I’ve had with pretty much every incarnation of feats from 3e on. And it’s a problem with two big roots.
First off, there’s something of a historical divide within feats that demands that they can have meaning in the setting or be mechanically potent, but not both. There are a handful of exceptions, but by and large if a feat ties you into the setting, the reward is probably a (non-stackable) +2 to two skills.
There’s a good reason for this. The more mechanically desirable a feat is, the fewer constraints you want to put on it. So many different types of characters are going to want to use two weapon fighting that you don’t want to limit it in any way, so it’s built to be generic.
Second, feats tend to be a little bit too small. Feat _chains_ (usually 2 or 3 feats) often tell a story (even if that story is ‘I’m a two weapon fighter’) but a given feat usually just teases at what it could be. Again, there’s a good reason for this – small rewards can come more frequently which is fun for players.
Intellectually, I acknowledge the good reasons for the way feats are, but they always result in some disappointment on my part. I always want them to be a little bit more.
There are ways to fix this, of course. Lots of different ways. But that’s it’s own post, and one that may wait until we see the 13th Age SRD.
1 – Most exceptions to this are racial, and that’s true in 13th Age as well. That’s a serious bit of D&D legacy which is, I think, almost habitual by now. It’s also a tacit acknowledgment that it’s hard to make races awesome and balanced at the same time, so a lot of racial awesome gets offloaded to feats.