Adding Feats to 5e Backgrounds

Spelljammer is already on printing two. That’s because they need to make some changes to the Hadozee for reasons of insensitivity. They’re good changes and Wizards of the Coast is changing the processes that allowed the culturally insensitive material to appear first too. This new printing has other errata too.

The one that sticks out is the addition of Feats to every Background.

“These backgrounds each give a feat. If a character takes a background from elsewhere and doesn’t get a feat from that background, the character gains one of the following feats of the player’s choice: Magic Initiate, Skilled, or Tough.”

Dragonlance will have something similar. For Dragonlance this was because these are characters in a war. They must be stronger, tougher, etc. In Spelljammer it kind of makes sense. Normal people aren’t space halflings and asteroid dwarves.

Similar to the Dragonlance decision my world has an additional feat at first level. In the case of the World of the Everflow these choices are;

  • Kin get a Bonded Companion.
  • Ken get a feat that grants a cantrip.
  • Kon get Artificer Initiate and the Rock Gnome’s tinker ability.

Similar to the Dragonlance decision to add Feats this was done to add flavor, speaking to the types of powers that people from various continents have.

With One D&D’s playtest we know there’s a chance at adding Feats for everyone at 1st level.

What if the One D&D system of 1st Level Feats was added to 5e now?

You could add Feats to any character in the current game with a minor, but not overwhelming, increase in power with a few simple guidelines.

  1. Only allow Feats that don’t have a +1 to an attribute.
  2. Don’t allow the +5/-10 Feats.
  3. Don’t allow Lucky.
  4. Don’t allow Polearm Master

That’s it.

Now you can have flavorful feats in your 5e game at 1st level.

Instead, attach Feats to Backgrounds

Now, my current world attaches Feats to racial choices, but one could choose to go the path of Dragonlance, Spelljammer, and Strixhaven. Each of those books assigns their unique Backgrounds specific Feats for flavor.

A more flexible system would be to attach Feats on a small curve. Those Feats would be selected to emphasize specific stories typically told regarding that Background.

Using my most popular original Background, the Tinker, as an example. We’ll include the three default Feats from the errata — Magic Initiate, Skilled, Tough. Then only selecting Feats from the Player’s Handbook, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything since those are a core book and the two rules expansions.

Actor reminds me of Paden Fain. Artificer Initiate seems obvious. Linguist fits the wandering mold. Ritual Caster makes sense to capture the one who picks up hedge magic.

Putting those on a chart with a curve using two dice can influence the commonality of the Feats.

Roll 2d4 or choose your favorite.

2. Magic Initiate
3. Tough
4. Linguist
5. Actor
6. Skilled
7. Ritual Caster
8. Artificer Initiate

Since it looks likely that Before We Were Heroes won’t be ready before the 2024 edition, I’m thinking of adding that Feat guidance to each listed Background.

Have another Background you’d like a Feat Chart for, ask in comments.

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