Apr 21, 2023
Let’s break down feat selection to be more comprehensible. There are five types of feats: general, skill, ancestry, class, and archetype...
The most common complaint I hear about Pathfinder 2nd Edition is how overwhelming it can feel to a new player, especially someone coming from D&D 5e and I can see where they’re coming from. Even in Pathfinder 1st Edition and D&D 3.5, feats were usually only selected once every other level (or once every level if you were a fighter) and they were from one pool with categories to help you pick what fit with your character. So, it can be quite jarring when you come to Pathfinder 2nd Edition and come to find out that over 90% of your choices are composed of various types feats with very specific rulings, and this can get even more daunting with casters and alchemists because of their reliance on spells or alchemical items.
To help you get past this wall, let’s break down feat selection to be more comprehensible. There are five types of feats: general, skill, ancestry, class, and archetype.
General Feats and Skill Feats
I want to cover General and Skill feats first as it will make understanding Archetype feats later a lot easier. General Feats in Pathfinder 2nd Edition are very simple compared to other feats. Where a Class Feat might give you a whole new ability, General Feats give you additional proficiencies or a slight bonus to specific rolls or movement speed. For example, Adopted Ancestry allows you to take feats from another Ancestry, while Armour Proficiency will give you the Trained proficiency in an armour you aren’t already proficient in. One complaint I’ve heard from a lot of people is that they have far too many General Feats and not enough General Feat options to use them. This is where their secondary feature comes in.
General Feats can be used as Skill Feats. Skill Feats are feats which are tied to skills, as the name implies. Unlike Pathfinder 1st Edition, Skill Feats will often give you a whole new ability tied to a skill instead of a numerical bonus to it. For example, Lie to Me is a feat that allows you to use Deception in order to Detect Lies, Swift Sneak lets you move at your full speed while sneaking, and Intimidating Glare lets you use Intimidate with a glance and thus lets you bypass the usual restriction with Demoralize being language dependent.
It should be noted that while a General Feat can be used to take a Skill Feat, a Skill Feat cannot be used to take a General Feat.
Ancestry Feats are restricted to the kind of Ancestry that you are or have ties to. Rather than gaining a plethora of racial abilities right out of the gate, Pathfinder 2nd Edition goes for a more customizable approach by allowing players to pick and choose what aspects of their ancestry they want to have displayed. While you do have some things that are universal to your ancestry (size, language choice, senses, etc) feats add the real meat to your ancestry and can even adjust these usually unchanging aspects of your ancestry. This is similar to Alternate Racial Traits in Pathfinder 1st Edition in a sense with how you could completely swap around a race’s abilities to make your halfling or human or elf completely unique to you and your playstyle or background. The difference with Ancestry Feats is that you get an Ancestry Feat at 1st level and every four levels thereafter.
Some Ancestry Feats require a specific heritage in order to gain access to it. Others require other Ancestry Feats from the same ancestry. Ancestry Feats included in the Lost Omens Character Guide require you to be from a specific place. If your table is playing with a custom world make sure to ask your GM about how the Lost Omens set of books work in their setting, if at all, because a lot of the choices in those books are restricted to specific origins and it’s easy enough to house rule a new restriction for them or to even remove the restriction altogether.
The Advanced Player’s Guide also introduced a number of Universal Heritages which come with their own feat selections. Universal Heritages can be selected in place of a standard Heritage and grants access to special feats only available to that Universal Heritage. This effectively adds those feats to your list of Ancestry Feats.
This is where I feel people get stuck and overwhelmed by Pathfinder 2nd Edition. At 1st, 2nd, and every even level thereafter you gain access to a class feat, unless you’re a caster in which case you don’t get a feat at 1st level. Then, each level of feat has a variety of feats to choose from. It’s incredibly customizable, but also incredibly overwhelming.
The best advice I can give to people who are new to Pathfinder 2nd Edition is this: go in with an idea in mind of what you want to make. Not in terms of a build, but in terms of what you want to do. I find that when I look in the rulebooks with an idea in mind—an archer, a shapeshifter, or even more specific things like a ki focused monk, a wielder of the elements, or the avatar of a dragon—I have a much easier time making a character and figuring out a build than when I go in with absolutely nothing in mind. Everything grabs for your attention, so you need that focus—that idea—to help ground you. The nice thing about Pathfinder 2nd Edition is that if you think of an idea, you can probably do it.
Archetype Feats aren’t technically their own kind of feat, but for the sake of simplicity I’m counting them as one. Archetype Feats usually require spending one of the other kinds of feats—specifically Class or Skill feats—in order to access them. Each Archetype has a Dedication Feat which (as of right now) always requires spending a Class Feat to unlock (unless your group is using the Free Archetype rules). Once you invest in a Dedication Feat, most Dedication Feats don’t allow you to take another Dedication Feat—that is to say, enter another archetype—until you have taken two additional Archetype feats tied to that Dedication Feat.
Archetype Feats are what I’d call the bread and butter to advanced player builds because they can really help hone in on a character’s specific strengths, idea, concept, and build. Want to play a Ranger who uses a bow? Take the Archer archetype. Want to be a commanding champion who empowers entire armies? Take the Marshal archetype. Want to make an absolute nerd of a wizard who loves everything arcane? Take the Lore Master and Scroll Trickster archetypes. Want to play an actual dungeon crawler? Take the Archeologist archetype. These examples are admittedly pretty basic, but I hope it inspires you to really think deep into using archetypes.
Archetype Feats are also how Multiclassing works. Each class has a corresponding archetype that has its own Dedication Feat. Requirements are that you’re at least 2nd level and have that class’s primary ability score(s) at a 14 or higher. This gives access to some of that class's abilities, but to a lesser degree. For example, normally a Bard gains Inspire Courage at 1st level, but if you took the Bard Archetype you’d gain access to that ability at 8th level and would need to spend a Class Feat to acquire it. You also gain access to the class’s feats, but at a reduced rate. In order to do this you first need the Dedication Feat, you then need the Basic <Feat Name> Feat which grants you access to the class’s feats of 1st and 2nd levels, then you’d need to take the Advanced version of that feat.
For example, if you were a 10th level Sorcerer who took Bard Dedication you’d first need to take the Bard Dedication Feat at 2nd level or higher, then you’d need to take the Basic Muse’s Whispers which gives you a 1st or 2nd level feat, and then you’d need to take Advanced Muse’s Whispers which lets you take a feat of half your level or lower.