A few people have asked me about a couple of the rules under the “House Rules” tab here on my blog. They want to know what’s up with all the free feats. To clue you in: I let all the players take Weapon Expertise, Implement Expertise, and defense bonuses like Iron Will and Great Fortitude for free. You’d think that as an editor on Dungeons and Dragon, I would treat the rules as sacrosanct, but just like any other Dungeon Master, I like to make adjustments in my game—changes that I think improve the fun of all.
In other 4E games I’ve been in, most notably Rodney Thompson’s “The Savage North” Forgotten Realms campaign and Jeremy Crawford’s Oberon campaign, we played strictly by the rules. They both follow the rules of play in order to test the system for the purpose of our job. I can appreciate this effort, but when it comes to my own game, I toss aside work in order to have the best time possible, and that means ditching a few parts of the game that I, as a player, don’t enjoy.
I don’t like taking accuracy and defense feats. A lot of people take issue with game’s math. I’m not here to protest or defend the math. Instead, I’m just saying that feats should be fun. Picking feats is my favorite part of the game—I enjoy feat selection much more than picking powers. If the players in my game aren’t having fun picking feats because they feel like they have to pick certain feats, then I’m going to do something about it. A couple weeks ago, I gathered my players just before one of our sessions and we ran a attack/defense audit. On a large dry erase board, we listed all the PCs’ baseline attacks and defenses versus those of the monsters. I like doing this kind of exercise because it lets a DM see areas he or she needs to shore up. For example, I saw that a few PCs’ Fortitudes were being hit by monsters on 4s and 5s, so I made sure that during that session, those characters received some items that augmented Fortitude. This type of surgical fix can feel a little contrived, but it helps keep the game balanced as characters get higher level.
Keeping an eye on accuracy and defenses is especially important in a game with non-optimizers. Even if you don’t want to give out Weapon Expertise or Paragon Defenses for free, DMs and players are well-advised to help keep an eye toward the character sheets of newer players. I had completely forgotten to start giving out masterwork armor during paragon tier, and the defense audit reminded me to tell players to start automatically upgrading all their armor to masterwork. Newer players might take Expertise and defense-enhancing feats and be perfectly content with that choice. Optimizers might feel more pigeonholed into taking such feats. And still some players might not realize they should take the feats at all. My best recommendation is to promote transparency and communication between players.
In the future, I’ll talk about some of my other House Rules, including my blatant disregard for experience points. What each of these rules ultimately comes down to is as important to “rule zero.” Call it, “rule one” or perhaps, “rule fun.” If you’re going to add, remove, or change a rule of the game, do it to make the game more fun.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how to add bonus feats into the D&D Character Builder, all you have to do is instruct players to add feats at level 3, level 5, or any other level in which they would not normally receive a feat. The D&D Character Builder will mark the character sheet as being “House Ruled,” but then that’s kind of the point. 🙂