Sunday, January 17, 2016

Marry Your Rules and Story in Pathfinder With Achievement and Story Feats

Story and rules are like a couple that can be perfect, under the right circumstances. Sometimes story gets too wrapped up in itself, and shouts down any complaints or arguments the rules have to make. Other times, the rules are so domineering and inflexible that story just curls up in the corner, trying not to be noticed. When the two of them set aside their differences, and agree to work together, though, the result is something that's bigger than the sum of its parts.

Significantly bigger.
Getting story and rules to blend seamlessly into one, cohesive whole isn't always easy. That goes double for players who find that they're just better at one than they are at the other. If you're playing Pathfinder, and you're looking for a solid way to make your choices feel like they have real effects, you might want to take a look at achievement feats, and story feats.

What The Hell Are Those?

Pathfinder is a very rules-dense game, and as such it's not unusual for things to fall through the cracks. Hell, I have an entire series on rules Pathfinder players keep forgetting, misremembering, or outright overlooking. Achievement feats and story feats, because they're off the beaten path, are things that most players either don't know about, or have never really looked into.

So, I thought I'd highlight them for everyone's benefit.

First, story feats. A story feat is a feat that can only be taken by characters who meet certain story-based requirements. For example, if your parents, childhood friend, or lover were killed by a powerful and challenging NPC (which accounts for roughly 35% of all characters overall, and 86% of first-time characters), then you could take the Vengeance story feat. It grants you a +1 bonus to all saves against a particular enemy, and his minions. If you meet the goal of the feat, which is to thwart that foe, the the benefit changes so you gain a +1 on all saves.

My name is Ernst Fireheart. You killed my father. You know the rest.
You can take as many story feats as you want and qualify for, but you can't have more than one of them whose goal remains unmet. So, if you achieve your Vengeance, you may decide to quest for an Object of Legend. And before you start thinking that story feats are just for heroes, there are story feats like Innocent Blood and Wretched Curator, which are about the murder of innocents and hoarding of evil spells respectively.

Now, moving on to achievement feats. An achievement feat is similar to a story feat in some ways, but achievement feats have much less nebulous prerequisites. The feat Relentless Butcher, for example, requires you to have confirmed 50 critical hits. If you take the feat, then from that point onward any time you confirm a critical hit your opponent has to make a Fortitude save or be stunned for 1 round.

Achievement feats don't have an inherent story attached to them. Someone with the Grave-Risen feat (died and been brought back twice) could be a noble paladin just as easily as a devil-serving assassin. Unlike regular feats, though, you're never quite sure when you'll be able to take achievement feats, short of some serious planning, or heavy-handed event forcing. Still, they're not feats that just any adventurer can write down on his or her sheet, and they're a direct reflection of something you have personally achieved.

Do You Need Them?

Of course not. Neither story or achievement feats are truly necessary for most character concepts. However, they can greatly enhance how much influence you feel your story is having on your mechanics (such as giving your dwarven giant-hunting ranger a bigger bonus than any other kind of ranger via the Giant Vendetta feat), and they can help you get more thoroughly under your character's skin, if that's something you want to do as a player.

And sometimes it's just fun to play with feats that most people never consider bringing to the table.

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  1. I really wish there were more achievement feats. That list is so short!

    1. I've had the privilege to create some for TPK Games in the Feats of Legend series. It's third party, true, but the Celestial Feats has some good stuff in it.