Pathfinder Advice: Seven Boring, But Brilliant, Feats for Your Character

In Pathfinder, feats come in all shapes and sizes. Some give you extra attack options, while others provide better defences or more uses of your class skills. Others are just boring.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


However, boring doesn’t mean bad. A feat doesn’t have to be dead flashy to be a vital addition to your character. In the stampede toward the newest, shiniest new feats we often overlook some cracking feats from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook.

The feats below all have three important characteristics:

  1. Anyone can take them; none of them have prerequisites.
  2. They all provide a mechanical benefit the player works out before play. Once they’ve been factored into the PCs’ stats the player doesn’t have to expend brain power remembering his PC has them.
  3. They don’t slow down the game. They don’t involve any in-game calculations. This is a Good Thing.

So, without further ado, here are the feats:


Fleet increases your base speed by 5 feet (if you are wearing light or no armour). Woo. An extra 5 ft. of movement. Why is this good?

Well—for some reason—players seem to spend a lot of time focusing on their defences—hit points, armour class and so on. That’s obvious and human nature. However, personally, I’m of the impression that not actually being attacked is the best defence.

Fleet (which you can take multiple times) gives you the ability to move further than normal, which gives you extra manoeuvrability in battle. With extra manoeuvrability comes options.

Also, remember your climb speed, swim speed and the distance which you can move while being stealthy without penalty are all based off your base land speed. Thus, depending on the situation, Fleet can increase your other movement rates. It can even give you a bonus to Acrobatics checks made to Jump.

Great Fortitude/Iron Will/Lightning Reflexes

These simple feats merely give a +2 bonus to either Fortitude, Reflex or Will saving throws.

Of the three, Iron Will is the most useful. True, being poisoned isn’t pleasant, but it rarely immediately takes you out of a fight (or kills you outright). Similarly, being good at dodging fireballs (and suchlike) is useful, but a failed saving throw might not kill you outright.

In contrast, a failed Will save is often disastrous. Ending up charmed, dominated, mad, paralysed or fleeing the battle in terror all immediately remove you from useful participation in the fight (at least on the party’s side). That is so far from ideal it’s not funny.

Improved Initiative

This is a brilliant yet simple feat. You get a +4 bonus to initiative rolls. That means, in every fight you act faster and quicker than your enemies. That’s epic. It means you can strike first, move out of harm’s way, shout a warning to your friends, cast a spell quickly and, most importantly, you are flat-footed for less time than normal. Given you act faster than normal you’ll have more chances to make attacks of opportunity.

All in all, epic.

Skill Focus (Perception)

The secret hero of boring feats, Skill Focus (Perception) is a fantastic feat for virtually any character. True, it’s tremendously boring in that it doesn’t give you any cool combat options or anything like that. What it does do, however, is make it much more likely you’ll find the secret door, spot the lurking trap, notice your enemies before they spring their ambush and so on.

That’s rather handy.

Perception is arguably the skill an average character uses the most and it has a huge bearing on a PC’s survivability. It therefore makes sense to be as good at it as possible.


As a player, I like having hit points. They are rather handy to have. I can never have enough! Every PC needs hit points; some concepts need them less than others, but generally speaking the more hit points a character has the more likely they are to survive.

The only downside with Toughness—even though it scales with a PC’s level—is that its effects are less useful as the character levels up. An extra three hit points at 1st-level could be the difference between life and death. An extra eight hit points at 8th-level are less likely to save a character as the damage potential of attacks—particularly those from spell casters—increase rapidly with level.

Bored Yet?

Of course, I’m not suggesting a character would want all of the above feats, but hopefully I’ve shown that there is a place in the game for boring, but brilliant, feats!

Do you regularly take any other boring feats? Let me know what they are in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

9 thoughts on “Pathfinder Advice: Seven Boring, But Brilliant, Feats for Your Character”

  1. Possibly good and useful, but definitely boring. I really dislike game elements that “just add numbers”.

    I’m not disagreeing with you about their utility, but feats like this make me sad.

    1. As with any choice in the game, it’s up to the player to find an in-character reason for having these feats. I created a 1st level fighter who took Toughness because he had grown up in the mountains with his family and had become hardy as a result of his upbringing.

      Likewise, in a 3.5 campaign, I had a paladin who took skill focus: Diplomacy because he worshiped the god of peace and serenity and saw himself as a mediator.

      In both cases, I came up with the in-game justification for these feats – but their value from a player perspective goes beyond mere numerics. These feats are “always-on” and are not circumstantial – thus a player can take them and not ever worry about whether or not the feat applies. In a game where there are metric craploads of situational modifiers that a player and DM need to keep track of – these kinds of feats are worth their weight in gold.

  2. I love feats like this because I generally have bad luck at dice rolling. I know the retort from most people is that it seems that way, but if you asked the other players in the last campaign I played, they would agree with me. I built a character who relied on Armor Class to succeed. He would draw attacks and let everyone else take care of defeating whatever for we faced. I did have both Improved Initiative and Lightning Reflexes (because I often was on point) and if we had been playing Pathfinder instead of 3.5, I might have considered Skill Focus as well (1 feat for Perception is a lot easier to justify than 2 feats for Spot and Listen).

  3. Skill Focus Perception is great for half-elves, they get it free anyways, and they already have a +2 perception check from heightened senses.

  4. Love improved initiative, my medium has it on her list of feats to take; it’s of particular use to her because of her haunt channeler ability and the fact that haunts move at 10. With improved initiative, she’ll only act after them if she critically fails. Useful for battlefield controllers too.

    In some cases steadfast personality is a better one-off feat than iron will. While iron will has feats which build off of it, it only adds +2. For the right character (paladins, swashbucklers, bards; anyone charisma based with low wisdom) steadfast personality adds more, because it adds their charisma modifier in place of any positive wisdom.

  5. Improved Initiative has been one of my first choices for a feat since the early days of 3rd edition. So vital.

  6. this is literally the “how to survive in rappan athuk” check list 😛 the perception and the saves boosters, textbook survival tactics

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