Observant 5e

Published on June 27, 2022, Last modified on July 9th, 2022

If you’re building a Sherlock Holmes-esque character where nothing slips by your keen eye, Observant may be the feat for you.

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What Is Observant 5e?

Not all feats are made equal, and not all D&D characters are suited to combat encounters only. Those who wish to have a more learned character, or perhaps a brilliant detective, may want to spend their feats elsewhere.

Based on your DM’s table, the Observant feat is one of those feats, and with it comes a polarizing opinion on how powerful it is.

How Does Observant Work?

With this feat, you gain three new benefits:

  • You can increase your INT or WIS by one to a max of 20
  • You gain +5 to your passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation).
  • If you can see a creature’s mouth while it speaks a language you know, you can read its lips and interpret what they say.

Is Observant Good?

In our 5e Feats Tier List, Observant was given a B Tier rating, making it a niche feat that can improve some builds in D&D 5e.

Observant provides a fair amount of utility for a half-feat. Being able to read lips is extremely beneficial while sneaking or playing in political campaigns.

The +5 to passive Perception and Investigation is always useful, though the obscure rules around passive skills may prevent this feat from providing as much as a benefit as it should. Adding +1 WIS at the end of all of these utility buffs makes this feat a great pickup for any builds concerned with WIS.

Observant 5e Interactions

It’s important to note that the main benefit of this feat (the bonuses to passive Perception/Investigation) will only be as good as your DM makes them out to be. Not all DMs will use passive scores and that’s not surprising based on how muddy the rules are around them. Before investing in this feat, you should talk to your DM to make sure it will be worth your while.

If you’re a DM and don’t know the rules for passive checks, you should read p.175 of the Player’s Handbook. It’s a good read and can make your games a little smoother.

Which 5e Classes Make the Most of Observant?

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good the Observant 5e feat is for a specific class/subclass.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Observant is one of the more niche, flavorful feats that help you flesh out your character more than anything else. While it’s naturally more suited to those who use INT or WIS as a primary stat, it also works for anyone looking to play Sherlock Holmes or never get surprised by a trap.

While these class rankings may make it seem useless, you can still do what you want and play your character however you’d like.

Artificer: +1 to INT will help here if you take the variant human race at 1st level and have an odd INT score. +5 to passive perception and investigation will help if you're scouting ahead for the party or need to investigate your tinkering.

Barbarian: This is a waste since barbarians don’t care about either of these stats. Plus, with your Danger Sense, you already have good insurance against traps without needing a feat.

Bard: Bards already have a ton of skill bonuses, so this feat can either make them a monster or just more varied overall. However, keep in mind that you don’t need either stat.

Cleric: Extra WIS is useful and can go a long way for clerics that have an odd ability score. More combat-centric domains will skip this to keep their DPS up, but supporting roles will enjoy the utility.

Druid: If you plan to play a spellcasting druid, you will enjoy the extra WIS. However, this does little for those focused on Wild Shape builds, like Circle of the Moon.

Fighter: You don’t get much out of this feat, as you don’t usually have high INT or WIS, to begin with. Eldritch Knights might be able to get away with this if they need the extra boost.

Monk: Oddly enough, this isn’t terrible for monks. You get additional AC with higher WIS through Unarmored Defense, which also factors into your Ki save DC. Plus, it can serve some purpose in social and exploration scenarios.

Paladin: Both of these stats are dump stats for paladins, so you’ll feel extra awful with this feat—there are a ton of feats at your disposal, such as Sentinel or Polearm Master.

Ranger: This feat works excellent for rangers if you want to be a little more flexible and ultra-aware. The extra WIS helps for spellcasting, and the skill bonuses let you be in control of every room you walk into.

Rogue: +5 to passive Perception and Investigation is a solid boost when you're planning on leading the party through dangerous terrain. On top of that, you can read lips which will be useful when on an infiltration mission. Increasing your INT or WIS by 1 isn't the most exciting ASI and holds this back from being a truly excellent feat for rogues. Both the Scout and Arcane Trickster can benefit from this the most, as they either need the stat or the skill buffs.

Sorcerer: Neither of these stats works well for sorcerers, sadly. They don’t benefit from either stat, and they don’t generally lean into a more investigative playstyle.

Warlock: Warlocks simply don’t care for this feat. They don’t need either stat and aren’t usually the ones investigating rooms. This is a pass unless you need it for RP reasons.

Wizard: A +1 to INT and +5 bonuses to passive Perception and Investigation make this a good feat for wizards.

Observant 5e FAQs

How does Passive Perception work?

Unlike making a Perception check by rolling a d20 and adding your bonuses, Passive Perception is a flat number that your character always has. Depending on your DM, they may use this value over a check or may allow you to use either one. In most cases, this is equivalent to using this number instead of rolling. If you choose to make a check, you forego the Passive value, giving you a chance to roll higher or lower.

Is Passive Investigation a thing?

Yes, just like Passive Perception exists, so too does Passive Investigation.

Conclusion

While this feat might not be the most popular one out there, it can be very powerful in some scenarios. If your DM prefers passive scores, you can quickly become a savant for traps and ambushes.

What are your thoughts on the Observant 5e feat? Do you think it’s too hard to deal with? Let us know down below!

Jeff Nabors

Jeff Nabors has been playing D&D ever since he stumbled upon the 3.5E core books in his high school library. When he isn’t running a campaign or designing a game, you can find him on Twitch, writing about game design, or staring off into the endless abyss.

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