Issues with Expertise Feats

Dunno much about the issue, as I don’t know a THING about monster design, but it seems like the Expertise feats were considered very important by the developers…

I really wasn’t planning on taking one anyways, and I’m certainly not complaining, just looking for some discussion on this whole thing. (This is mostly for Rob, but anyone with some insight, go for it.) -Dan

Robert’s Comments

The following discussion is only on mechanics, because I see very little roleplay aspect to these feats, or the debate surrounding them.

Here is why Expertise feats exist:

  • In advancing from level 1 to level 30, a PC will get a total of +25 to their attack rolls and defenses (+15 level, +6 enhancement, +4 from stat increases). I’m not sure on the precise math of masterwork armor, but it might alleviate this issue for AC only.
  • In advancing from level 1 to level 30, a monster will get a total of +30 to their attack rolls and defenses (formula for monster design: +1 level = +1 to attacks and defenses)
  • Net result: If a level 1 PC needs to roll a 10 to hit a level 1 monster, and vice versa, a level 30 PC needs to roll a 15 to hit a level 30 monster, while that monster only needs to roll a 5 to hit that PC.

So, someone at WotC came up with a solution, and now we have the feats Implement Expertise and Weapon Expertise. But this might raise more problems than it solves.

  • In 3rd Edition, we learned that if every member of a class has to take the same feat to be effective (EG rogues and Weapon Finesse), it should be a class feature. That way, you don’t have to essentially pay a ‘feat tax’, where you lose an opportunity to customize your character. Lo and behold, Complete Warrior comes out, and we have the Swashbuckler, a dexy warrior with Weapon Expertise as a class feature. Are we agreed that a feat everyone takes is bad design? The 4th Edition Expertise feats are effectively a feat tax. Everyone takes it, and probably at 1st level, so everyone has 1 less feat to customize their character with. This is a Bad Thing.
  • But wait, there’s more! If you’re a class that uses more than one type of weapon, typically melee and ranged (ranger, rogue) or a class that uses both weapons and implements (cleric, paladin, avenger, swordmage) or one that can use two types of weapons plus an implement (bard, artificer), you pay even more feat tax. At best, you’re a fighter who always uses his greatsword, or a rogue who could choose light blades and use melee/thrown daggers all the time. At worst, you’re a bard who uses a longsword, longbow, or harp depending on the power. This is a Bad Thing.
    • Note: You can dodge this problem by going with only melee powers or only ranged powers or only implement powers. This sucks away versatility and confines characters more tightly to those example builds, which is a Bad Thing.
    • Read the feat added in the Monk playtest to see WotC’s solution to this problem.
    • Issue: Look at this problem and then look at magic items. It’s easier to get a magic spear, crossbow and wand than it is to spend 3 feats, but you’re not going to be able to keep all 3 up to par without your other body slots suffering. If we find this to be a problem, I have a fix that can be implemented.

So, if we, in our journey from level 9-17 or so, find that the math isn’t working out (monsters are hitting too often and PCs not often enough), there are better ways of fixing it, because Expertise Feats give us problems. Here are a few:

  • PCs get +1 to attack rolls and defenses per tier. Effectively, infinity free Expertise feats for all.
  • Monsters get -1 to attack rolls and defenses per tier. The same as above, but instead of adding another modifier for PCs to remember, we add a modifier for the DM to remember. Not sure which is a better choice.
  • We need to give PCs +5 to attacks and defenses over 30 levels, and are currently giving them +6 from magic items over those same 30 levels. So, double magic item enhancement bonuses. However, this exacerbates the problem for the spear/crossbow/wand user above.
  • Ideally, we would add exactly +5, evenly distributed across 30 levels, and not at levels where you already get an increase to attack rolls and defenses (from the 1/2 level increase). Ideally in a logical mathematical progression that is easy to remember. Damn.
  • Do something like what we have for masterwork armor, but apply it to weapons, implements, and neck-slot items.

In any case, the problem is nonexistent at level 1, and significant and level 30. Not sure if we’ll end up needing a fix, but if we do, we can implement one.

  • If you want another headache, note that you’re increasing two ability scores at levels 4/8/14/18/24/28, but your F/R/W defenses are dependent on three. Over 30 levels, one of your defenses falls behind by another 3 points. This is why in PHBII we see epic-tier feats that give you a flat +4 bonus to one of your F/R/W defenses, the idea being that you take one for your weak defense to fix the math problem. The result being that everyone takes all 3 because, like implement and weapon expertise, they’re just too damn good to pass up, ever.
    • Oh, unless you’re a Wisdom Cleric, Constitution Fighter, Charisma Paladin, Dexterity Wizard, or who knows what from PHBII. Then, because you’re boosting 2 ability scores that go to the same defense, 2 of your defenses are falling behind.

Issues with Expertise Feats

Heritage of Dodec im_robertb