The Artificer marches confidently ahead, their keen mind working rapidly. They swerve suddenly to avoid a tree, following their internal compass telling them which way north is. Glancing back at the rest of the weary party, they remind everyone that there are only three hours left before sunset, and they should get a move on before they set up camp for the evening.
You might think that the Artificer above is some kind of survivalist, but actually, they just took the keen mind feat when they reached level 8. We delve into the specifics of it below.
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How Does It Work?
The text from the Player’s handbook says: You have a mind that can track time, direction, and detail with uncanny precision. You gain the following benefits.
- Increase your Intelligence score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- You always know which way is north.
- You always know the number of hours left before the next sunrise or sunset.
- You can accurately recall anything you have seen or heard within the past month.
Is Keen Mind a Good Feat?
Whenever you weigh how good a feat is, there are a few things to keep in mind: the cost of taking it instead of an Ability Score Increase, how often you can benefit from the feat, and whether it is appropriate to your preferred style of play.
The cost is represented by weighing taking +2 to an Ability Score versus the feat. In this case, you also get +1 to your Intelligence score, which reduces the cost of the feat. If you have an odd number for your Intelligence score, taking a feat like keen mind increases it to an even number (and therefore increases your modifier) while also providing other interesting benefits.
As we explain below, keen mind is a permanent alteration to your character, so you can benefit from it as many times as you want each day. However, the number of times you benefit from it depends heavily on the type of campaign you’re in and your style of play.
Other planes of existence beyond the Material Plane may or may not have sunrises and sunsets. The Feywild, for instance, is in a state of perpetual twilight. North always exists, but if your campaign takes place on a plane where time doesn’t move in the ways we’re used to, that could negate one of the features altogether.
When To Use It
Keen mind is a feat that is always in use. You don’t need to consciously decide to use it. However, there are times when it will come in handy more than others.
Keen mind is a utility/exploration feat and mainly helps characters who spend a lot of time wandering around unfamiliar areas on the Material Plane. Knowing the time and how to find north are handy skills for players focusing on the Exploration pillar of the game, and accurately remembering everything you’ve witnessed is excellent for campaigns that are heavy with intrigue and social encounters.
You can poke fun at both your DM and the group’s notetaker by constantly saying, ‘oh, I’d remember this because of keen mind’ and forcing the DM to read back their notes to you if you ever forget anything. It works as a long-running gag and lets your character avoid the consequences of you (the player) occasionally zoning out or playing around on your phone when someone dropped some serious exposition.
However, if you are playing for combat (think a dungeon crawl), going into a mini-campaign of four sessions or less, or aren’t planning to go exploring, this feat likely isn’t for you.
Keen mind isn’t a bad feat for Wizards, Artificers, and other players who want to increase their Intelligence scores to an even number. However, the other benefits may not be worth the cost if you aren’t playing the type of campaign where you need to remember intricate details or navigate through unknown areas and remind everyone what time it is.