Not sure how better to phrase the title. Let me explain.
I recently migrated a 5e campaign across to PF2e. One player has been resistant to this move. As an example, he asked how a character might perform a Feint-like action, but making the target flat-footed to an ally, rather than themselves. I referred him to Distracting Performance, which he said wasn’t what he meant, but we reached a point in the conversation where he made the following claim:
For every feat that says "you can do this thing", that inherently means "if you don’t have this feat, you can’t".
In other words, the breadth of character choices is actually restrictive.
So for instance, a character without Distracting Performance in principle has no way by which to get an enemy’s attention. This appears to be his main gripe with PF2e as a system, as he sees 5e as flexible enough that a DM can ‘just sorta make it up on the spot as necessary’.
I don’t believe that a system is superior because it’s easier to fill in gaps in the system ad-hoc. I know there’s creating actions, as a route for DMs to create new actions on the fly, but this is different to a character attempting something that’s already outlined, but behind a feat wall, so to speak. I understand his point – a character shouldn’t be blocked entirely from trying to grab a creature’s attention, just because they haven’t taken the feat.
So I think the root of my question is how to handle a character attempting an action or set of actions that’s facilitated by a particular feat (such as in the case of Distracting Performance), without having that feat, but also without drastically devaluing the feat.
RAW, is it a straight "no, the character cannot do that until they have the feat"? Or is there leeway in the system for "a character can attempt it, but the DC is then modified to hard / very hard (+2 / +5)?"