If your first thought on the 5E athletics feat is “Why in the world would any player ever take this?” then congratulations, you are standing with the majority of 5E players who have been through even one campaign and took a real hard look at all the feats in the original Player’s Handbook. If you’re thinking “Wait a minute, isn’t it the Athletics feat ?” Then you stumbled onto maybe the biggest accidental argument proving the feat is one of the worst.
It is the 5E Athlete feat, not “The Athletics” feat. Ouch.
Athlete is an optional feat in 5E giving multiple movement mechanic benefits and a small stat boost of either STR or DEX. While not worthless because of the stat boost, the Athlete feat is widely considered by many players and DM to be one of the weakest feats in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
Even so, this wouldn’t be a full in-depth feat guide without taking a deep look to see the pros, the cons, and the “why is this a thing” moments for this feat.
Breaking Down the Athlete Feat
Let’s take a deep diving into seeing what Athlete has to offer in 5E as a feat and what it doesn’t.
Directly from the 5th Ed Player’s Handbook:
You have undergone extensive physical training to gain the following benefits:
Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
When you are prone, standing up uses only 5 feet of your movement.
Climbing doesn’t cost you extra movement.
You can make a running long jump or a running high jump after moving only 5 feet on foot, rather than 10 feet.5th Edition PHB p.165
That gives us
one four benefits to breakdown and look at more closely.
Benefit #1: Increase your Strength of Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
This is by far and away the best aspect of the Athlete feat, which is a bad sign. Even if your STR or DEX was on an odd number, a normal ability check can give a player that +1…as well as another +1. Or a +2 to a different stat that is in more dire need of a boost, depending on the character build.
This isn’t bad. The plus one stat feats are interesting, but they can’t stand on that ability score boost alone for obvious reasons. I’m willing to say a single stat boost is at least something but as a friend pointed out, since you’re replacing 2 stat boosts with 1, you could argue that makes these the worst feats of all if they don’t bring something else to the table.
While a +1 STR or +1 DEX is solid, especially if you’re on an odd number, replacing 2 with a 1 just isn’t a long-term winning proposition.
Benefit #2: When you are prone, standing up only uses 5 feet of movement.
This is better than half speed (15 feet for most, more for the monk or barbarian at higher levels), but when have you ever had this come up in a game? We haven’t in four and half years of playing 5E and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, either. Just doesn’t add anything to the feat.
Benefit #3: Climbing doesn’t cost you extra movement.
I could see some very niche campaigns where this might actually come into play, but there aren’t many. It’s at least something, and thematically it fits, but once again you can go years of playing without this ever coming up a single time.
Benefit #4: You can make a running long jump or a running high jump after moving only 5 feet on foot, rather than 10 feet.
Look I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t even know there were running jump rules. Even the rules lawyer in our group had no clue that was a thing so…yeah we’re just going to mark this “benefit” as utterly worthless.
5E Classes That Should ALWAYS Take the Athlete Feat
None. There is not a single class in 5th Edition D&D that should have the Athlete feat as a high priority. Not the mobile classes like monks or barbarians, not the stealthy classes like rangers and rogues, none.
This feat doesn’t bring enough to the table to be considered a must take.
5E Classes That Should Consider the Athlete Feat
I’m honestly not sure there are any. If there is an Olympics style game coming up that the monk is going to compete in (yeah, I know, ridiculously or stupidly specific) then maybe? But even then it’s just not bringing a lot to the table.
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Athlete Feat
All of them? I would say all joking aside but honestly, unless running a very specific super niche, super specialized campaign that really grinds out the survival details (like maybe this intense survival campaign Zee Bashew mentions on his YouTube channel) I don’t know that there’s any reason to ever take this feat.
I won’t give it an F because it does give a +1 attribute of either STR or DEX…and I just can’t give an F to any feat that gives an ability boost but still…yeah there’s not much here for 99.9% of campaigns.
If you have an example of a time this feat made sense, hit us up on YouTube or Facebook and tell me because despite talking to dozens of player and DMs with thousands of hours of gaming experience…I couldn’t find a single example of one.
Final Grade for Athlete Feat 5E
Athlete Feat Grade: F
Athlete just doesn’t bring anything to the table. The +1 for DEX/STR realistically is the ONLY one of the four features that brings anything to the table in your average 5th edition campaign. Which is a problem since you are giving up a +1 to two stats or a +2 to one stat to get it. While there are other feats that do this, and can round out an odd number, many of those bring something at least situationally.
Athlete just fails. It doesn’t give a big boost to weaker characters looking for a boost to checks for athletic checks and it doesn’t further boost already mobile and strong characters looking for that next level of elite.
Because I don’t believe in giving F’s to any feat that give an ability score boost Athlete will squeak by, but it’s not a good feat and chances are if you’re looking at it seriously you’ve managed to talk yourself into it via faulty logic.
UPDATE: Changed my mind. This deserves an F. What good is a +1 stat if the rest is useless? In that case all you did was give up a second stat boost. Not worth it.
Common 5E Athlete Feat Questions
Is Athlete the worst feat in 5th edition D&D?
If it’s not, then Athlete certainly is up there as one of the worst feats in 5E. There are virtually no situations where it makes sense to pick it up as a feat and I suspect any place it actually has proven useful are super specific feats with a Pathfinder-like group that really focuses on every single mechanic.
Nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing, but it’s not a normal 5E campaign by any measurement and that means this feat will not be helpful the overwhelming majority of the time. Compared to ability score boosts, or compared to other feats, it just is one of the worst.
Why take the Athlete feat in 5E?
Honestly, no clue. Maybe if you just need 1 more Strength or Dex to max out at 20, have no other needs at all, and all other stats are even numbers? For the just in case value in that case?
Unlike Alert, the first 5E feat we did a deep dive into that is one of the absolute best in the game, it’s safe to say that for many it’s easy to view Athlete as one of the worst. There just isn’t much here to like – it’s one of the losers of the feat group.
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years.