Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fifth Edition Feats and the Danger of Straight Conversions

When browsing the 5E storefront on Drive-Thru RPG, I notice that a lot of the material is geared towards crunchier aspects; ones useful to players especially so. This is in contrast to Wizards of the Coast adventure-focused release schedule, so I get the feeling that the PC-friendly material's being left to third party publishers.

5th Edition has feats, but only one of them is OGL. Even including the full array, there wasn't much. Total Party Kill Games came up with a product to address this, with an array of new "core feats." It's extremely popular, regularly in the top 10 5E-Compatible category and already a best silver seller. Two out of the 2 reviews as of this posting are 5 stars.

However, I noticed that over on Amazon a softcover version's available for sale. In contrast the reviews are not so kind. A running theme among them is that many feats are pulled straight from 3rd Edition without the proper rewording of mechanics so as to fit inside the new game's framework. Additionally several are copied directly out of the Player's Handbook for 5th with some slight variations, which is problematic as only Tavern Brawler is OGL. The four and five star reviews on both sites are extremely vague as to why they enjoyed the book in question.

I'd also like to note that this isn't the first instance with Total Party Kill Games. They did a similar book of feats for Pathfinder which I reviewed in-depth, and sold itself on the idea that all of their feats are viable at every level and can effectively replace magic items. Keep in mind that Pathfinder has a wealth-by-level format which makes such a suggestion a tall order. Turns out that most of their feats fell short of the mark, so I'm not surprised to see history repeating itself here.

I do not own the book myself, but I do think it serves as a valuable object lesson for folks doing conversion work. Such a process is like translating a language: you want to make sure you get all the nuances as well. I once asked some questions on things to look out for when jumping into 5th as a 3rd Edition fan on Reddit, and there were quite a few small things which seem similar on the surface but in reality add up to big changes.

What does interest me is that in spite of this, TPK's feat-based sourcebooks are popular sellers all the same. I do worry about quality control, in that this plagued the D20 Boom in the early Aughties and led to a Bust down the road. There's only a few 5E compatible books which grab my eye, and I haven't even bothered with the DM's Guild.

Or maybe it's a case where books are popular in spite of reviews, in that many consumers grab it up all the same without such problems?

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts!