Like all the best tabletop roleplaying games, D&D allows for some serious player-led customisation. Even after you’ve created your personality, established your place in the party, and constructed a level one character, there’s still scope for creative experimentation during your adventure. One of the primary opportunities for this is selecting from D&D 5E’s feats.
Optional rules often ignored by new players, but feverishly enjoyed by veterans, feats grant new abilities, and let you step outside of the rigid class and race lines. They’re powerful buffs, that can dramatically alter the aptitude of your character, and make your party all the more reliant on your combat, and/or roleplaying, prowess.
But they can be a tad confusing. There’s many on offer, and a cursory glance through the Player’s Handbook might leave you more confused than informed. We’ll walk you through all the basics, explaining what they are, how to acquire them, how to pick between them, and highlight some of the best options available. You’ll know everything you need
Building the optimal D&D character can be tough, but we’re sure you’ll land on your feat.
What are feats in D&D 5E?
Feats are best thought of as the unique talents and expertise your character acquires during their adventures. These might provide new abilities, enable your character to perform additional actions, increase ability scores, give Advantage on specific rolls, or grant a combination of these. Broad in scope, feats are applicable both in, and outside of combat, often giving your character some fighting advantage, alongside a thematic roleplaying element.
They provide powerful new abilities
They’re also a fantastic means of customising your character, and bestowing attributes usually left out of racial traits, or class features. They let you jump beyond the usual character boundaries, and use special abilities in combinations of your own choosing.
How do you acquire feats in D&D 5E?
Feats aren’t a necessary element of character progression, but can be added as an optional rule. When you level up your character to a level that would unlock an ability score improvement (usually at four, eight, 12, 16, and 19), you can instead choose to forgo the ability enhancement, and pick a feat for your character instead.
Many feats have specific prerequisites, such as a sufficiently high ability score, or an aptitude for spellcasting. You’ll need to pass these prerequisites to claim the feat (there’s no hoarding feats at low levels, and using them later when you pass their requirements), and if you somehow lose a feat’s prerequisites, you’ll also lose access to its benefits.
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However, you can also acquire a feat by picking the Variant Human race during character creation. This optional form of Human grants you one feat at first-level, +1 in two different ability scores of your choice, and proficiency in a skill. A popular choice for players who value customisability above all.
Remember, feats are an optional rule in D&D 5E, so it’s best to check with your DM that they’ll allow you to take one. It would be a shame to get invested, only for it to be denied.
When and how should you choose a feat in D&D 5E?
So when should you choose a feat instead of a standard ability score improvement? In some cases, the choice is obvious. Many feats increase an ability score anyway, as well as providing an additional attribute, giving you the same benefit, plus a little extra.
Many feats increase an ability score and provide an attribute
You might also opt for a feat if you have a particular build in mind when levelling up your character. For example, if you’ll be playing the tank of your party, choosing the Resilient feat – which grants you +1 to Constitution, and proficiency in Con saving throws – is a solid choice. If you’re bumbling your way through the campaign, however, with no delineated character focus, then feats are less likely to be useful. They require a little more thinking and forward-planning on your part, so might be best avoided if you’re playing super-casually.
However, you might also start picking feats at mid- or high levels, once you’ve maxed-out your primary ability score(s). For example, Bards who’ve already racked up 20 Charisma through race bonuses, items, and previous ability score improvements, could be tempted to pick a feat, simply for its interesting abilities, rather than pump up a secondary ability score.
Best D&D 5E feats
Now we know what feats are, and how to use them, let’s look at some of the best D&D 5E feats that you should have in mind when levelling your character. If you see an opportunity to use one of these feats with your existing build, it’s probably a good idea to pick it.
Great Weapon Master
A firm favourite, Great Weapon Master improves the damage-dealing of Heavy Weapon users. Whenever you land a critical hit, or reduce a creature to zero hit points, you can use a bonus action to make another melee attack. That’s pretty powerful in itself, especially when dealing with swarms of low-level enemy minions. But it’s the feat’s second ability that makes it really shine.
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Before you make a melee attack with a Heavy Weapon type in which you’re proficient, you can take a -5 penalty to hit, for a +10 boon to damage. At higher levels, at which your Strength is huge, and enemies’ Armour Class remains relatively low, hitting won’t be so much of an issue. The boosted damage will be a godsend, however, letting you cleave through foes with ease.
This one’s only for spellcasters, but a staple for any battle mage. Granting advantage on Concentration saving throws, and letting you cast somatic spells when your hands are full, War Caster lets you grab a sword and shield, before leaping into the heart of a fight, for simultaneous melee and arcane damage-dealing.
The boost to Concentration checks will let you switch back-and-forth between melee and spell casting, without having to run the risk of a wasted action, or rely on weak cantrips that can be cast in a single turn. The last thing you want to happen is to lose your Concentration, and War Caster is the best proof against that.
For those times when you’re a little bored of your class, fancy some experimentation, or are jealous of another player’s ability, Magic Initiate lets you steal some of the best spells of other classes. The feat allows you to learn two cantrips and one first-level spell from the Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard spell list. And even these early-level picks are brilliant.
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A Paladin could cast Firebolt, or Booming Blade; a Barbarian could use Vicious Mockery; and a Ranger could summon Eldritch Blast. The possibility for non-magic users to add some seriously effective spells to their repertoire is a powerful one. Even spellcasters can benefit from effective low-level spells usually outside of their reach, and Warlocks, especially, will be pleased to have another spell that doesn’t consume their scarce spell slots.
If your character will be wielding any long, two-handed, pole-based weapon, this is practically a must. You gain a second attack with glaives, halberds, and quarterstaffs, dealing 1d4 base damage. Plus, you’ll get an attack of opportunity against any creature that comes within your reach.
Since these weapons have a long reach area, you’ll be able to sit back, wait for a creature to come within ten feet, and smack them around. Combine it with a focused martial build, with lots of attack modifiers, and that second attack becomes pretty scary.
While not possessing the most utility, Actor is undoubtedly one of the more fun-loving feats on offer. Letting you mimic the speech of any person, or the sound of any other creature that your character has heard, it allows for some pretty daring roleplaying escapades. Secretive operations suddenly become a little more feasible when your character has a better chance of talking their way out of the situation, if they’re caught.
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Sure, invisibility might be a more efficient method of infiltration, and blindness a more effective means of ensuring your escape. But with an additional +1 to Cha, and advantage on Deception and Performance checks when trying to pass yourself off as another person, Actor is brilliant for injecting some targeted silliness into the game.
This feat is for everyone. Your character can’t be surprised, so sneak attacks that take off half your hit points in a single hit, and have the DM smiling with sadistic glee, are a thing of the past. Plus, enemies’ advantage on hidden attacks is dismissed, so you can willfully wander into any ambush, free in the knowledge that nothing will get the jump on you.
Add in a +5 to every initiative roll, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic starting position in every fight. Alert is one of those feats that’s great for every character, at every level.
Sometimes labelled a ‘broken’ feat because of its sheer effectiveness, Lucky grants you an Advantage on three attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks after every Long Rest. Don’t like the critical hit that Displacer Beast has just thrown at you? Reroll the save, and laugh as it fails to hit. Think your charm has more potential? Roll again on that Cha check, and bask in your persuasion.
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While you must decide to reroll the die before its outcome is determined, the opportunity to change any attack rolls made against you is extremely powerful, and can prevent your party meeting an unfortunate demise.
A highly specialised feat that, unsurprisingly, is only usable by Elves and Half-Elves, Elven Accuracy is a solid choice for anyone levelling up their character along a particular build specification. Increasing your Dex, Int, Wis, or Cha by +1, and letting you reroll a die whenever you attack with advantage using these ability scores, the feat isn’t flashy, but has massive utility.
If you add the +1 to Dex, and build yourself a sneaky Elf who attacks when unseen, landing a hit will be near-certain every time. Regardless, Elven Accuracy is an obvious substitute for a standard ability score improvement, for every Elven character that has the chance to pick it.