Netbook of Feats History

The Netbook of Feats has a history stretching back to November 2000 when it was founded by a gentleman by the name of Bradly Bemis. Earlier that year Wizards of the Coast made Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 available to fans who wanted to write and publish for the game under the Open Gaming License and the d20 license. While you could not use WOTCs trademarks, you could, with their blessing write and publish compatible material.

This was a revolution for many fans and the beginning of a great many small game publishing companies who for the first time could openly write for the legendary fantasy game. While many published for profit, the Netbook of Feats was specifically for fans and made available for free. Many of us were thrilled with the chance to try our game design chops and share our work with the world.

I joined the Netbook in February 2001. Having read the new game rules for D&D 3.0 I was most excited about feats. They were easy to write, a fun mechanic for customizing characters, and were great bite-sized game design exercises. The Netbook of feats looked like exactly the kind of opportunity I was looking for, collaboration, and creativity for the good of the game.

The NBOF was immediately popular and quickly we had a number of volunteers both to work on feats but also other mechanics. Bradley expanded the scope of his efforts and created a blanket organization called the DnD Community Council to facilitate creating teams and publishing their netbooks. Busy with this new effort Bradley passed leadership of the NBOF to me in late 2001.

The overall d20 community grew like gangbusters over the next few years. The DnD Community Council was quickly renamed the Fan Community Council since the d20 license made it clear using the D&D name was not kosher under the terms of the license. Eventually, Bradley moved on to other interests and the FanCC administration fell to others. At one point there were more than a dozen published netbooks under the FanCC banner. The largest collection of them as of this writing can be found here.

In 2003 WOTC released an update to the core rules for D&D dubbed 3.5. It made a good many subtle changes to the game and thus rendered a large number of the NBOF feats obsolete or broken. By this time we had nearly 700 in the netbook. Also by this time, the number of active FanCC netbooks had dropped precipitously and the FanCC itself was struggling with server hosting and leadership. By the end of the year the FanCC shut down and the NBOF went into a kind of hibernation.

Fortunately, a gentleman by the name of Carl Cramer volunteered to do significant work in updating our feats for 3.5 rules while I worked on streamlining the process of running and publishing the netbook. After about a year in the dark, a new version of the NBOF was born and a new team of reviewers was assembled to take it forward. Over the next 5 years, we continued to publish regular updates to the NBOF.

In 2008 Wizards of the coast released D&D 4.0, this time without publishing an Open Gaming version of the rules. The community of third party publishers waited for news but WOTC was opaque for a good long time and when they did speak on the subject they said there would be no OGL for 4e and the d20 license was to be revoked. This ended any plans we had to continue the netbook into the 4e era. We weren’t the only ones, many publishers had had good success with d20 and now they too were left trying to figure out if they could continue and how.

An answer appeared in 2009 as Paizo, the company publishing the D&D magazines during the d20 era announced that they would publish a successor to 3.5 called Pathfinder which would continue the Open Gaming tradition. This effort proved to be an enormous success and Pathfinder became the point around which the surviving OGL publishers rallied. It certainly helped that 4e got a very mixed reception from the existing players who found it too far a departure from D&D of old as to where Pathfinder was very much an evolution from what came before.

One of the OGL publishers that transitioned from D&D to Pathfinder was Wolfgang Baur and his company Kobold Press. He also happened to be a good friend of mine and my wife and I helped him with his company in various ways. With the early success of Pathfinder clear, he asked me if I would consider a partnership to create feat books based on my NBOF work for his company. Having had a nice long break from the netbook and a chance to publish print books for the first time I leaped at the opportunity.

The result was a series of feat books called Advanced Feats. The series revolved around the classes in the Advanced Player’s Guide that Paizo just published. We created one book for each class and eventually a printed compilation called Complete Advanced Feats. While the writing of the books was largely a solo effort on my part, a good number of the feats came from or were inspired by those in the NBOF (and credit was given where due in the books).

In January of 2016, WOTC announced that the new and very successful 5th edition of D&D would return to the world of Open Gaming and they would publish a System Reference Document under the old OGL license. Since at this same time I found myself traveling America and looking for ways to earn a living on the road, I decided it was time to resurrect the Netbook of Feats for the 5th edition era.