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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Flaws: Dragon Magazines' Improvements & an idea of how to control them.

How Dragon Magazine fixed Flaws

Unearthed Arcana's flaw system introduced a way to gain bonus feats regardless of your character. This was through choosing, up to two, penalties to specific statistics such as melee or ranged attack rolls, a specific saving throw, initiative or armor class. The problem behind this was these flaw choices could be exploited, allowing a character to suffer in something they weren't going to use (such as a Wizard in melee attack rolls, or a Barbarian in Will saves). Not to mention Murky Eyed making hitting in concealment a bitch provided a DM used it. In exchange for feats, it was nothing but profit.

So in a couple Dragon Magazines they came out with flaws that affected specific characters and even stated suggestions as to which class or race should take the flaw. These flaws were different as most were situational and more flavourful rather than just being a hard hit to a statistic.

Take for example the "Uncontrollable Rage" flaw from Dragon #325. This flaw states that a Barbarian who takes damage or is hit by a spell or special attack has to make a DC 15 Will save or go into a Rage (though they can choose to purposely fail).
This kind of flaw not only has flavour but instead of being a standard penalty gives the DM something to work with specifically. The flaw itself is not going to hurt the Barbarian every day of his adventuring life like stubbing his toe on a climb check but has a combat specific negative. Its trade packs the flavour that the specific character's Barb is a madman who thrives off his own anger, something the player may want for him anyway. There will be times he may not want to be in Rage in a combat (such as trying to employ a strategy to take down a tough foe) but the DM can choose during the fight to keep provoking him and making him suffer for his choice.

As another example using Barbarian, theres "Slow to Anger". This one causes Rage to be a full-round action to get into.
This packs in the flavour that the Barbarian is sensible but still has that anger power, and gives him the penalty of having to take longer to get angry. Again, the flavour is there for the player. The Rage ability may be less worth it now but if the character didn't want to use it he'd swap it out or play another class. These kind of flaws are more likable for both player and DM, and made the mechanic breathe more life into the characters.

These are the kind of flaws I'd let my players pick, and more than likely ban them from picking UA flaws. I hope I've shed some light on the mechanic and made it seem more viable to run. If not, do keep reading.

(Dragon Magazine Issues containing flaws are #324 - #329, & #333.)

How to make Flaws less powerful in your Campaign

If the kind of flaws above aren't enough to warrant them in your game due to the power of one or two extra bonus feats, do take some time to consider that the average character in D&D will only have 6 or 7 feats in their entire character, and thats if you play to pre-epic.
In addition, below is a rule I thought of to help control what kind of feats your players choose. As a note, this rule should apply to the feats given by Flaws AND their 1st level feat (not including any bonus feats from race or class, like Human or Fighter):
Do not allow the player to choose a feat that has another feat as a per-requisite. Allowing the planned Necromancer of the table to go Human and gain two feats after the initial Corpsecrafter feat is going to ramp up the strength of his Undead. Alternatively, I'm sure theres a couple of other Feat trees that could be abused this way.
They should be allowed to choose feats that are entry into Feat trees (Power Attack, Point Blank Shot, Dodge, Combat Expertise etc) and allowed to use a Human Bonus feat to take the next feat in the tree because without flaws its legal for them to do that anyway.
This kind of rule opens doors for players who want to pick minor useful feats like Exotic Weapon Proficiency or Improved Initiative without hurting their characters by missing out on better options. However, this wont guarantee nobody has the ability to powergame because there will be unrelated feats that picked in combination will result in too much power. This is a regular problem in the game anyway, but now the power may be granted too early. As a DM, this is just another part of the powergaming management you'll have to deal with anyway in your campaign.

To conclude, I hope this post has helped with the Flaw system and inspired DMs to give them and/or the rule I proposed a try. If you have any thoughts or suggestions you'd like to pass on, feel free to contact me via Twitter, or Ask.fm. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

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