Last Updated on June 15, 2023
Character customization is a huge part of Dungeons & Dragons 5e, from choosing your lineage and class to picking out a background for yourself. If you’re looking to further augment and tweak your character’s abilities, one of the best options available to you is a feat.
Feats are an optional rule in D&D 5e. Whenever you reach a level where your character receives an Ability Score Increase, you can instead choose a feat — a special extra ability that can boost your damage, help you better control the battlefield, improve your initiative rolls, remember everything you’ve seen for the last month, learn new spells, and even perfectly mimic the speech of people you talk to.
Most of the time, if you’re looking to inject some extra depth into your character build, a feat is the way to go, and there are plenty to choose from with more than 70 official feats available throughout the Player’s Handbook, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and other D&D 5e sourcebooks.
But what if you want to create your own feats? Well, as there are no official rules for creating your own character feats in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, we’ll be stepping into the wonderful world of homebrewing — making your own D&D content.
Whether you’re a player or dungeon master, keep reading for our guide to making interesting, well-rounded feats that feel powerful but balanced.
Making a Feat for DnD 5e
The process of making a feat for D&D 5e is similar to the process of making other homebrew rules. Whether you’re making a new character class, background, or monster, I’ve had good results sticking with the same basic principle:
- Narrative Concept
Narrative Concepts for Feats
Basically, you start by coming up with how you’d imagine your new feat working in a movie or video game — think about it cinematically. Do you want a feat that lets you throw your opponents around the battlefield? Learn secrets from the dead? Always have a backup knife?
If you’re stuck, think of cool stuff you’ve seen your favorite characters do on screen or read about in a book (if you’re a nerd), and then think about whether something similar already exists as a feat, class feature, or spell. If it doesn’t (or you want to put your own spin on it), then you’ve got the basis of a new feat.
Example Feat Narrative Concept: Skull Talker
Inspired partially by the story of Odysseus getting hammered and asking ghosts about the future (the Odyssey is the oldest-known example of necromancy in fiction) and partly by the scene with the severed head in Wild Wild West, I want a feat that’s narratively similar to Fey Touched but lets someone talk to the dead.
I think I want something that lets a character wake up a (relatively) fresh corpse and either ask it questions or see what it saw before it died.
Then, it’s time to make mechanics.
WARNING: It can be very tempting to make a new feat outrageously powerful or completely out of step with every existing feat in D&D, as evidenced in this excellent video by XP to Level 3.
Types of Feats
Mechanically, there are two broad categories of Feats:
Full Feats: These feats give you a noticeable mechanical edge or a powerful new ability (including spells), or they boost your mobility, survivability, etc. Full feats also usually have more than one element or benefit. Examples include Alert, Grappler, Great Weapon Master.
Demi-Feats: These feats split the difference between an Ability Score Increase and a Feat by giving you a +1 in an ability score relevant to the feat (some let you choose between several), alongside a less-impactful feat. Examples include Fey Touched, Athlete, and Chef.
Demi-Feats are also sometimes less focused on combat, like the Observant feat, which is almost completely focused on roleplaying and exploration.
When coming up with mechanics to support the core narrative concept behind your feat, it’s important to decide if your feat is powerful enough to warrant being a full feat (is the thing it lets you do especially powerful, or is there more than one bonus that it grants?) or if it’s a half-feat.
You don’t have to be certain to start with; we’ll be balancing what we come up with later, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution as something as small as an extra 10 feet of movement or a +1 to damage can still make a huge difference.
Mechanics for Feats
This is where you write out the rules for your feat in a format that matches ones from the Player’s Handbook.
Example Feat Mechanics: Skull Talker
You’ve been trained to briefly see through the eyes and hear through the ears of those long dead. You can touch the skull of a humanoid that did not die of natural causes and has been dead no longer than 100 years and choose:
- See the noiseless image of the last thing the creature saw before it died.
- Hear everything the creature heard in the 1 minute leading up to its death.
You can do this 3 times per day.
As you develop the mechanics for your feat, make sure you’re staying true to the core concept. Sometimes, it can feel as though the mechanics of a feat and its concept are fighting one another, and if you can’t seem to get it right (but like the concept and the mechanics), there’s no harm in splitting them into two separate feats and designing a new concept the fit the mechanics and vice versa.
Once you have some rules that you’re satisfied with, reflect the original concept for the feat, and you think sound cool, it’s time for the final step.
D&D 5e is a complex game with a lot of moving parts, and the options that end up in the official game (for feats, magic items, classes — you name it) undergo months of extensive testing by professional designers. So, if your first-draft feat ends up feeling overpowered, underpowered, or just like it doesn’t fit, that’s perfectly fine.
The best thing you can do to figure out what works about your feat and what might need changing is to use it. If your DM is okay with it, they might let you try out your feat in their game, or you could even run a short game of solo D&D as an experiment (remember to take notes).
Then, come back to your homebrew feat, and make changes until you’re satisfied.
I really like the thematics of the Skull Talker feat, but it’s both a bit too situational and a bit too powerful when it’s relevant. I also found the 3/day rules arbitrary as I wanted something a little more narrative. So, after some reflection and testing, here’s my modified draft.
Example Modified Feat: Skull Projectionist
You have learned the esoteric arts of forcing the dead to surrender their secrets. You gain the following benefits:
- Increase your Intelligence or Wisdom score by 1 to a maximum of 20.
- By placing a candle carved with mystical runes inside the empty skull of a creature that did not die of natural causes, you cause it to project a crude shadow play depicting its final moments on a nearby flat surface. The process destroys the candle. Carving the necessary runes on a new candle takes 1 hour.
- By placing a conch or other hollow, conical object carved with esoteric runes into the open mouth of a creature that has been dead for no more than a number of years equal to your character level, you cause it to repeat its last words. The process destroys the conical object. Carving runes on a new, suitably shaped object takes 1 hour.
And that’s my example feat, along with our guide to homebrewing your own. What cool feats have you come up with in the past? What feats do you want to design for your game in the future? Post your coolest homebrew feats in the comments below.
Until next time, Happy Adventuring!
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.