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Heroic Auras for Pathfinder 1st edition

I’m considering running an E6-style campaign for Pathfinder 1st edition in the not-too-distant future. That’s a play mode where character level progression stops at 6th level, and after that characters pick up a feat every few thousand experience points (and some higher-level abilities can be accessed as feats, and higher-level spells are sometimes available as rituals). I find such campaigns can have a very different feel from standard levels-go-normally-to-20th Pathfinder games, and can be great for more “Sword & Sorcery” stories (with typical Pathfinder often going quickly into High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy).

Being me, I am likely to use some houserules for such a campaign, to help produce a specific play experience focused on competent characters with flexible tools to encourage players to find creative ways to overcome situations. So far I have drafted from fodder foe rules, so I can still throw hordes of adversaries at my stuck-at-lower-level PCs, a set of cantrip buffs to make 0-level spells more impactful and give spellcasters a set of options that won’t run out of daily uses, and a set of skill specializations for most nonspellcasters and combat feat bonuses for fighters.

But characters without access to spells and/or a ton of special abilities also need something else to match their Sword and Sorcery heroic counterparts in genre fiction. They need an ability to just be *more* than typical people. Something between force of personality, keen cunning, and indominable will. Their mere presence can change the outcome of an encounter. Yes, this may change the course of combat, but it can also impact negotiations, bolster rookies, and just generally make things easier for their allies.

In short, they need to have Heroic Auras.

Heroic Auras

Heroic auras require affected creature to be aware of your presence. This is always the case if they can see or hear you. It is up to GM discretion under what circumstances a creature might be aware of your presence in other circumstances. You must be conscious and not helpless for your heroic aura to function, unless it says otherwise. Bonuses from different heroic auras do not stack, but they are otherwise untyped bonuses. Heroic auras don’t have prerequisites and do not require an action to activate.

As with skill specializations, the less access to special abilities a character class grants, the more heroic auras it gains.

Least Special Powers (fighter): Heroic aura gained at 2nd, 4th, 6th, and every 4 levels thereafter.

No Spell Access (barbarian, brawler, cavalier, samurai, shifter): Heroic aura gained at 2nd, and every 4 levels thereafter.

Minor Spell-Like or Supernatural Access (gunslinger, monk, ninja, rogue, slayer, swashbuckler, vigilante): Heroic aura gained at 3rd, and every 5 levels thereafter.

1st-4th Level Spell Access (bloodrager, kineticist, medium, paladin, ranger): Heroic aura gained at 4th, and every 5 levels thereafter.

Partial List of Auras: Before this idea would be viable in-play, even for a game limited to 6th level, I’d need a LOT more auras. This is especially true since in most game groups, the players aren’t going to double up on auras, instead preferring each character with access to them to take different heroic auras, maximizing the benefit to the group as a while.

This is just a proof-of-concept starting point.

Aura of Goodwill (Ex): Within 60 feet of you, creatures that are friendly to a creature they interact with instead function as though they were helpful. This does not prevent a friendly creature’s attitude from changing in normal response to actions, nor do they feel pressured for having acted in a helpful manner, even after they are outside your aura.

Aura of Readiness (Ex): Your alertness helps your allies stay alert and aware. Whenever you are not flat-footed, your allies within 60 feet also are not flat-footed.

Beloved (Ex): Your allies are moved to extraordinary acts to aid you. Each ally can, once per day, if you are paralyzed, helpless, bleeding, unconscious, or under the effects of a mind-affecting effect from a foe, take an additional standard action to move towards you, or to aid you (including casting a spell or using an ability that increases your saving throws, grants you a new save, heals you of damage, or removes a condition, penalty or affliction). Additionally, while you are adjacent to an ally that is not unconscious, held, paralyzed, or helpless, your actions do not provoke attacks of opportunity, and you cannot be targeted by a coup de grace. this heroic aura functions even when you are unconscious or helpless.

Call It In (Ex): You can help your allies more accurately land their large-area attacks. Adversaries within 30 feet of you with improved evasion only gain the benefit of normal evasion, and those with just standard evasion do not benefit from it.

Commando (Ex): You can direct a raid with great cunning, ensuring that everyone moves together to mask the movements of the unit as a whole and get to where they need to be. Allies within 60 feet of you have a minimum Climb check bonus equal to your Climb bonus -5, and minimum Stealth check bonus equal to your Stealth bonus -5.

Dire Aura (Ex): Your mere presence bolsters your allies, and turns your adversaries’ blood cold. When an adversary within 60 feet is demoralized from any source, the duration is increased by +1d4 rounds. When an ally within 60 feet is subject to a fear effect, they may make a saving throw against it with a cumulative +1 bonus each round (at the same save DC as the original effect, or a DC of 10 +1/2 source’s level + source’s Cha mod, if it does not normally have a saving throw), and on a successful save the effect ends.

Master of Beasts (Ex): You have an instinctive effect on domestic animals Allies within 60 feet of you have a minimum Handle Animal check bonus equal to your Handle Animal bonus -5, and minimum Ride check bonus equal to your Ride bonus -5.

Set My Will Against You (Ex): Your iron resolve to oppose your enemies literally weakens their ability to reject magical change. Allies within 60 feet of you gain a +4 bonus to caster level checks to overcome spell resistance. You do not gain this bonus.

Streetwise (Ex): As long as you are out and about in a community, once per day you can automatically take 20 on Diplomacy checks to gather information while still just taking the normal time to make the attempt. Allies travelling with you can make separate checks to gather information, and if successful gain any additional related information the GM determines is available.

Subtle Signs (Ex): Allies within 60 feet of you always succeed at Bluff checks to pass simple secret messages to you, and you always succeed at Bluff checks to pass secret messages to allies within 60 feet. The Sense Motive DC for unintended recipients to pick up on such messages is 25 + your level + the highest of your Int, Wis, or Cha modifiers.

Vicious Assault (Ex): Your fighting style not only hits hard and fast, slipping under foe’s defenses, it encourages your allies to do the same. You and allies within 30 feet reduce the DR of foes by 5, to a minimum of DR 0.

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Boosting Noncaster Pathfinder 1e Classes

I’m considering running an E6-style campaign for Pathfinder 1st edition in the not-too-distant future. That’s a play mode where character level progression stops at 6th level, and after that characters pick up a feat every few thousand experience points (and some higher-level abilities can be accessed as feats, and higher-level spells are sometimes available as rituals). I find such campaigns can have a very different feel from standard levels-go-normally-to-20th Pathfinder games, and can be great for more “Sword & Sorcery” stories (with typical Pathfinder often going quickly into High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy).

Being me, I am likely to use some houserules for such a campaign, to help produce a specific play experience focused on competent characters with flexible tools to encourage players to find creative ways to overcome situations. So far I have drafted from fodder foe rules, so I can still throw hordes of adversaries at my stuck-at-lower-level PCs, and a set of cantrip buffs to make 0-level spells more impactful and give spellcasters a set of options that won’t run out of daily uses.

Of course, granting a universal set of buffs to classes with access to cantrips obviously gives characters with those classes an edge. Given that being underpowered it not generally the problem with spellcasting classes, if we are going to give those classes a big boost every other class needs a few things as well. When looking at who has options in a game that wants to challenge players to get creative, classes with access to spells already had an edge, so the fewer spells (and similar abilities) a character class has access to, the more of a boost it needs for our Sword and Sorcery E6 game.

Since we’re not getting those boosts from spells, we need to look at other game elements, specifically, skills and feats.

Skill Specialization

To help them keep up with our super-cantrip spellcasters, classes with more limited spell access gain some bonus skill ranks and early access to Skill Unlocks (as presented in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained). Since the game is designed to cap at 6th level, PCs would normally never get the skill unlocks for having 10 and 15 ranks in a skill. So by granting skill unlocks early, we can give classes with fewer spells a flexible edge that other characters don’t have access to. This special skill boost is referred to as skill specialization.

The less access a class grants to spells and other special powers, the more skill specialization it needs. As convenient break-points, I’ve created major and minor skill specialization (defined below), and a lesser option to access some skill specialization by spending a feat (for classes with a lot of general spellpower, but who don’t get cantrips). These don’t apply to all a characters’ skills, just a few they select from their class skills (which helps encourage spotlight protection of different rolls, without locking any class into one one option).

For purposes of deciding how many skill unlock boosts a class gives you, point-based power pools such as monk’s ki and gunslinger panache are treated as spell-like abilities, due to their flexibility and utility, even though in some cases the powers they grant are all extraordinary and/or supernatural. Similarly some classes (such as kineticist) are placed in categories based on their overall magic power access, even if they don’t gain normal spellcasting. I’ve categorized the official classes by how much skill specialization they gain, with brief descriptions of why in case the system gets mixed with 3pp classes… which, let’s be honest, I have written a ton of.

Least Special Powers (fighter): 2 major skill specializations, 2 minor skill specialization

No Spell Access (barbarian, brawler, cavalier, samurai, shifter): 1 major skill specialization, 2 minor skill specialization

Minor Spell-Like or Supernatural Access (gunslinger, monk, ninja, rogue, slayer, swashbuckler, vigilante): 2 minor skill specializations

1st-4th Level Spell Access (bloodrager, kineticist, medium, paladin, ranger): 1 minor skill specialization

1st-6th Level Spell-Like Access [No cantrips] (alchemist, investigator): 1 minor skill specialization available as a feat choice.

Major Skill Specialization: Select a class skill. You gain a bonus rank in this skill at every class level (not to exceed a number of ranks equal to your character level), and use your total ranks +9 as your effective number of ranks for skill unlocks with that skill.

Minor Skill Specialization: Select a class skill. You gain a bonus rank in this skill at every class level (not to exceed a number of ranks equal to your character level), and use your total ranks +4 as your effective number of ranks for skill unlocks with that skill.

Minor Skill Specialization Feat: You can expend a feat to gain a +4 bonus to the number of effective ranks you have in a class skill of your choice when determining your skill unlocks for that skill. You may only expend a feat for this bonus for a single skill.

Improved Combat Feats For Fighters

The fighter should be a viable, even attractive option for a Sword and Sorcery genre ttRPG. However, the fighter is the least flexible and utilitarian of all the standard PC classes in Pathfinder 1st edition. Not only are fighters often not the best combatants (with barbarians, cavaliers, and all the classes with full attack bonuses and access to up to 4 levels of spells frequently outdoing fighters in pure combat), but they have many fewer special abilities that other classes can’t access somehow. While there are “fighter feats” that were originally fighter-only, many classes (often hybrid classes of the fighter and another class) gain access to fighter feats at some level, and nearly everything else a fighter gets as an exclusive class feature is just a bonus or weakening of a penalty.

So, for our E6/Sword and Sorcery campaign, fighters get Improved Combat Feats, giving them options other characters just don’t have.

Improved Combat Feats: The bonus combat feats gained by a fighter grant the option to automatically apply the benefits of the feat’s combat trick (as normally gained through the Combat Stamina feat) without having to expend stamina points. Combat Stamina is not available for characters to select as a feat–fighter bonuses feats gaining combat tricks automatically for their bonus feats is the only way to access combat tricks in this campaign model.

If a combat trick has a variable stamina point cost up to a specific ability score modifier (such as Agile Maneuvers), the fighter gains the benefit of spending points equal to the maximum. For other variable costs, the fighter gains the benefit of spending stamina points equal to half their class level.

Additionally, a fighter ignores ability score minimums when determining if they meet prerequisites for combat feats gained with the bonus feat class feature. Everyone else may need a 13 Intelligence to take Combat Expertise, but fighters do not.

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Bravery Alternatives for the PF1 Fighter

In Pathfinder 1st ed, fighters get the feature “bravery.” It’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not super-exciting. As I looked at doing a PF1 version of Starfinder’s Soldier class, I was considering how I wanted to handle bravery, and looked into what abilities archetypes give to replace it.

And there are… a lot.

I realized I was considering turning the Soldier’s “gear boost” into a more flexible “combat boost” (which might or might not be gear-based), and that all the things fighters can repalce bravery with might make a great starting point for that.

Then I realized a lot of people playing fighters might like to just be bale to pick things to take as alternate class features in place of bravery.

So, I made those. I’ll look at converting Starfinder soldier gear boosts into PF1 combat boosts later.

Alternate Class Features for Bravery (“Combat Boosts”)

Agility (Ex): You gains a +1 bonus on saving throws made against effects that cause you to become paralyzed, slowed, or entangled. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Ardent (Su): You are difficult to sway from your beliefs. You gain a +1 bonus on Will saves against charm effects. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd. Once per day, if you are forced to take an action that is diametrically opposed to your alignment, beliefs, or values while under the influence of a charm or compulsion effect (as determined by the player), you can immediately attempt a Will save against the effect’s DC to resist acting out that order. Success does not remove the existing charm or compulsion effect, but does allow you to resist betraying that belief.

Armored Vigor (Ex): As a swift action, you can gain 2 temporary hit points that last for 1 minute. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Constitution modifier (minimum 1 per day), but only while wearing armor. At 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the number of temporary hit points the you gain increases by 2.

Bravery (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on Will saves against fear. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Buckler Bash (Ex): You can perform a shield bash with a buckler (use the same damage and critical modifier as for a light shield).

Burst Barrier (Ex): You can use a tower shield to screen yourself from burst spells and effects, gaining a +1 bonus on Reflex saves against them while employing a tower shield. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 2nd.

Deceptive Strike (Ex): When you are wielding a 1-handed melee weapons, and have a hand free (not holding a weapon, shield, or anything else), you gain a +1 bonus to CMB and CMD on disarm checks and on Bluff checks to feint or create a diversion to hide. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 2nd.

Deflective Shield (Ex): You specialize in using your shield to deflect attacks. You gains a +1 bonus to your touch AC, and this bonus increases for every four levels beyond 2nd; however, this bonus cannot exceed the sum of the armor and enhancement bonus to AC provided by the shield you are currently carrying.

Dirty Maneuvers (Ex): You become skilled at deceiving and discomfiting your opponents. You gain a +1 bonus on disarm, dirty trick, and steal combat maneuver checks, and to your CMD against the same maneuvers. These bonuses increase by 1 for every four levels after 2nd.

Duplicitous (Ex): You add Bluff, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth to your list of class skills. You gains 2 bonus skill ranks at each level, which must be allocated among these skills.

Efficient Packer (Ex): You adds a bonus equal to 1/2 your soldier level on Sleight of Hand checks to conceal objects on your body. You also add a bonus equal to 1/2 your class level to your Strength score for the purpose of determining his carrying capacity.

Expertise (Ex): You qualify for feats and other abilities as though you had the Combat Expertise feat. If you are 10th level or higher, you gain Combat Expertise as a bonus feat, even if you would not normally qualify for this feat. If you already have Combat Expertise, you instead gain any one combat feat that includes Combat Expertise as a prerequisite (and for which you otherwise qualify).

Fame (for Performance Combat)(Ex): When you begin a performance combat, you always starts with at least 1 victory point. If you already have victory points, you gain 1 extra victory point. At 10th level, you start out with at least 2 victory points (and if you already have victory points, you gains 2 extra victory points).

Fearful Might (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on Intimidate checks to demoralize a foe. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd.

Fearsome (Ex): You can make an Intimidate check to demoralize an opponent as a move action. At 10th level, she can do so as a swift action. At 18th level, she can demoralize a foe as a free action once per round. You can never do so more than once per round.

Guard (Ex): You add Appraise, Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nobility), and Perception, to your list of class skills. You gains 2 bonus skill ranks at each level, which must be allocated among these skills.

Guarded Senses (Su): You gain a +1 bonus on saves against sonic effects, figments, glamers, patterns, gaze attacks, and scent-based attacks. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd.

Harsh Training (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on saving throws against effects that cause the exhausted, fatigued, or staggered conditions or temporary penalties to ability scores. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 2nd.

Hawkeye (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on Perception checks, and the range increment for any bow you use increases by 5 feet. These bonuses increase by +1 and 5 additional feet for every 4 levels beyond 2nd.

(Art by Work on Color)

Pole Fighting (Ex): As an immediate action, you can shorten the grip on your spear or polearm with reach and use it against adjacent targets. This action results in a –4 penalty on attack rolls with that weapon until you spend another immediate action to return to the normal grip. The penalty is reduced by –1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Reconnaissance Training (Ex): You are trained to operate in heavily trapped or naturally hazardous areas. You gain a +1 bonus on Reflex saving throws to avoid traps, natural hazards, and environmental effects. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd.

Ruin Raider (Ex): You add Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (dungeoneering), Knowledge (religion), and Use Magic Device, to your list of class skills. You gains 2 bonus skill ranks at each level, which must be allocated among these skills.

Shattering Strike (Ex): When using a 2-handed melee weapon, you gain a +1 bonus to CMB and CMD on sunder attempts and on damage rolls made against objects. These bonuses increase by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Spark of Life (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on saving throws made against death effects, energy drains, and necromancy, and to constitution checks to become stable when dying. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Stand Firm (Ex): When you are wielding a shield, you gain a +1 bonus to CMD against bull rush, drag, overrun, and trip attempts. This bonus also applies on saves against trample attacks. The bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Steadfast Mount (Ex): After you have spent 1 hour practicing with a mount, the mount gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC and a +1 morale bonus on saves while you are mounted on it or adjacent to it. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 2nd.

Tactical Awareness (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on initiative checks. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels after 2nd level.

Tactician (Ex): You gain the cavalier’s tactician class feature, treating your soldier level as your cavalier level for the purposes of this ability.

Tenacious Tracker (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on Diplomacy checks to gather information and on Survival checks made to identify or follow tracks. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels the vengeful hunter possesses beyond 2nd.

Tidal Celerity (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on Reflex saves and saving throws against effects that would immobilize or paralyze you. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd.

Unassailable Allegience (Ex): You gain a +1 bonus on Will saves against compulsion spells, spell-like abilities, and effects. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd.

Weapon Guard (Ex): You add the bonuses to attack you gain from Weapon Focus (and Greater Weapon Focus and Mythic Weapon Focus), to your CMD against disarm and sunder attempts while wielding the appropriate weapon. This bonus also applies on saves against any effect that targets that weapon (for example, grease, heat metal, shatter, warp wood).

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Reconsidering the Fighter for PF1

For years I’ve thought about altering the 1st edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game fighter class so it has some kind of extraordinary ability that would augment it the way rangers and paladins have spells and supernatural powers. Something to represent that moment when the heroic warrior pits their will, skill, and determination into overdrive and overcomes obstacles that stymie lesser mortals. Not something too boost

But… that’d be a lot of work.

But… every project starts somewhere.

So, here is a really rough First Draft for Martial Techniques, a new alternate class feature for fighters. This is absolutely not how I would present these in a final format, but it’s something I would playtest to see how well the rough version works, to give me guidance on where to take it in development. These are very much not supposed to boost a fighter’s attack rolls, AC, damage, or threat range, but instead give fighters options when dealing with challenges the class isn’t otherwise well-suited to deal with.

(Art by PatSM)

Martial Techniques

You gain martial techniques in place of bravery (or in place of anything that replaced bravery if you took an archetype that removes bravery). You can use it once per day at 2nd level, and one additional time per day at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter.

You can use only a single martial technique each round. You use a technique as part of a standard, move, full, or swift action, or a reaction. Martial techniques are extraordinary abilities and, much as the flight of a dragon or the existence of elemental entities, often seem magical without counting as spell-like or supernatural.

There are six martial techniques. You can select from the full list each time you use a martial technique.

Breakdown: You may add your base attack bonus to a single Strength ability check.
Heroic Threat: Select one foe that can see and hear you. That foe takes a -4 penalty to all attack rolls the the DCs of its spells and abilities until it has come within 30 feet of you to make an attack against you or force you to make a saving throw. This effect ends if you move away from the foe, are dazed or stunned, take cover or gain concealment, or the foe takes a standard action to regain their composure.
Overcome: A single attack ignores DR, and affects incorporeal and swarm creatures at full effectiveness even if it normally wouldn’t. If you use this a second time on the same target, it applies to all your attacks until the end of the encounter.
Reputation: Your reputation proceeds you. You may add your base attack bonus to a single Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Sense Motive check.
Shake It Off: You ignore one condition for one round. If the condition is one you could have negated with a saving throw, you also gain a bonus save (at the same DC) to end it.
Vault: An amount of movement up to half your normal move rate can be taken in any direction that does not require teleportation, including flight, underwater, or through difficult terrain. This does not give you additional movement, just frees the movement you take through your normal actions from most restrictions. At the end of your turn if you are not at a location that can support you, you suffer the normal consequences for being there (such as falling, or needing to make a Swim check to not sink).

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Advanced Item Mastery Training Feats (Pathfinder)

I am very fond of Item Mastery Feats for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. I think there are lots of interesting places those feats can take characters, especially fighters. I am also a big fan of the Advanced Weapon Training rules that allow fighters to make weapon training do more than just grant flat attack and damage bonuses. The two already combine somewhat (with the item mastery advanced weapon training option), but I think there are yet more interesting ways they can be mixed for fighters, and some other classes.

Arcane Fighter (Combat)
You know magic is a potent weapon, and you study how to fight with magic items.
Prerequisite: Fighter level 1.
Benefit: You are considered trained with Use Magic Device, and can make special UMD checks with a bonus equal to your fighter level + your Constitution bonus +3, rather than your normal skill bonus.

Draught Mastery
When you drink a magic potion, you gain additional benefits.
Prerequisites: One of the following class features: armor training, brew potion, weapon training.
Benefit: Select three item mastery feats for which you meet the prerequisites. Each time you gain a new level, you can change this selection.
Once per day when you drink a potion, you may use the benefit of one of those item mastery feats if the potion would qualify to grant you if it were a permanent magic item. You may use this feat a second time per day when your base attack bonus, caster level, or alchemist level reaches +5 or 5th, and every +5 or 5 levels thereafter.

Extra Weapon Training (Combat)
You are a master of many weapons and weapon fighting techniques.
Prerequisites: Weapon training class feature.
Benefit: You can select another weapon group your weapon training class feature applies its benefits to. Alternatively, you may select another advanced weapon training option for which you meet the prerequisites.

Patreon Exclusive!
The point of the Advanced Item Mastery Training Feats article was to create new ways to use existing Item Mastery Feats and find synergy with advanced weapon training, rather than to present new Item Mastery Feats. However while writing it I thought of one new Item Mastery Feat which fills a gap in what those feats can allow a character to do: Buff Mastery. It is presented at my Patreon, exclusively (for now) for my Patrons!