Prcs

General Discussion

Somewhere along the line, PrCs lost their prestige. They became band-aids (Eldritch Knight and Mystic Theurge), collections of abilities that can be just as easily done with feats (Assassin and Duelist), or methods of circumventing existing rules (like the Blackguard being an evil paladin - why not just make it a base class and have done with it?). Sadly, even a lot of the ones that ARE prestigious and fill a distinct role are shining examples of lousy game design (the Shadowdancer). Prestige classes, like immunities, should be rare and special. They should either a) focus on, and enhance, a subset of a class' abilities (an elementalist mage, e.g.); b) represent a member of a faction that restricts entry to all but a chosen few (the Purple Dragons of Cormyr, or the Harpers); or c) represent a path toward a goal (transformational PrCs like the Dragon Disciple).

Some of you may notice that I always capitalize PrC names. I do this for a good reason: they're prestigious. They're not common base classes. Also, this grants me a much great range when making abbreviations - if I use only an initial capital letter and two lower-case letters, that gives me 26^3 = 17,576 combinations. If I allow upper- OR lower-case letters in the last two slots, it gives me 26*52*52 = 70,304 combinations. I don't ever plan to come up with that many PrCs, personally, but I like having the ability to create an Mob and an MoB (for example).

I don't believe in PrC "epic progressions". I can see the need for having them for base classes (to a point), but for PrCs, it's kind of pointless - very few of their abilities scale so that you can extend them properly, which means all they get are bonus feats and the occasional +1 or +2 to an ability. Designing them to do so is difficult at best, especially when I'm more concerned about filling the existing 10 levels I've got, not the 10-20+ someone might take later, so I simply don't account for them.





Arcane Archer

The changes to this class came from a couple different sources. Nifft posted an excellent version on ENWorld a few years ago that had scaling Enchant Arrow abilities; I suspect the Pathfinder version borrowed a bit from this. I did too. I changed the spellcasting requirement to better model the class' inherent abilities (spellcasting and archery) and prevent players from taking a 1-level dip into wizard or sorcerer. The enhancement bonus was reduced slightly (but with the new DR rules, it's more powerful), and I added in the ability to enchant an arrow with other stuff, which makes them a lot more interesting.





Arcane Trickster

This is one of those "band-aid" classes I talked about above. It's a bland, boring class that simply grants continuing progressions of magic and rogue abilities, with a couple new things tossed in for variety.

My goal here was to make it more unique - someone with levels in both wizard and rogue is going to develop new tactics and methods, and his class abilities should reflect this. So, I gave him Stealth Casting (borrowed from somewhere; I forget) and arcane sneak attack (adapted from another PrC a friend of mine and I wrote) along with a slower spell and sneak attack progression, and kept ranged legerdemain.






Assassin

The Assassin marks a couple of firsts for me. It was the very first PrC I ever revised, waaay back in 2004; it was the first PrC or class I made with paths (I think I unconsciously borrowed the concept from d20 Modern's talent trees), and it was the first PrC I did with the scaling power abilities (see below). It was inspired by the PrC discussion on the GD boards of ENWorld - several people said that if you removed the Death Attack ability, the assassin would collapse in on itself. I agree, so I sat down and came up with a beefed-up version.

I didn't mess with the prereqs, except to change the "special" - not every assassin should (or would) want to join a guild, and it's stupid to require that they do.

As far as the abilities, I simply made a list of things that assasins specialize in. I co-wrote Crimson Contracts, aka the Big Book of Asssassins, so this was fairly easy: poison, stealth/infiltration/disguise, and the hunter. After that, it was simply a matter of coming up with abilities that were both flavorful and (relatively) balanced and giving them better generic abilities that scaled in power with level (for example, death attack, ranged DA, and death strike). This last became a staple of my design because it made sense - instead of classes and PrCs being a bunch of random, unrelated abilities (see the monk), they become part of a cohesive whole that reflect the character's increasing skill and power as he gains levels. Of course, I don't do it ALL the time, or for ALL abilities - just in cases where it fits.





Dwarven Defender

While I was going over the PrCs, I realized the Dwarven Defender is just really goofy. It's centered around rooting oneself in place and being a rock against which one's attackers dash themselves… but it grants a dodge bonus to AC. Not only that, the bonus is doubled - once from level, and again while in the stance, so a L10 DD has a +8 dodge bonus. AND, the entire class is pretty much a barbarian clone, with defensive stance taking the place of rage - it gets DR, uncanny dodge, and trap sense.

Once again, I started at the top. The prereqs were mostly good, except the Dodge feat - not only does this class require three (count 'em) useless feats, but one of those makes no sense. Unfortunately, I couldn't do much with the class skills, despite this class getting a serious lack thereof - I added Handle Animal and Knowledge, but dwarves aren't known for their ability to use other fighter-type skills like Climb and Swim, and they wouldn't have fit this class in any case.

After fiddling with the abilities a bit, I just cleared the chart and reassigned them to make a bit more sense - trap sense and uncanny dodge got dropped entirely. I changed defensive stance to be 1/encounter instead of uses/day, which makes it more useful overall, but it left me with a bunch of open levels. So, I made two progressions - one for the stance itself and abilities to "power it up", and one for "add-on" abilities for the stance. Thus, I ended up with Bulwark of Defense (the epic feat), Mobile Defense, and Empowered Defense (no longer winded) for the first, and Vigilant Stance (like the psionic feat Hold the Line), Repulse Attack, and Rooted in the Earth for the second.

Damage reduction got scaled better, instead of just being a filler ability to slot in the two blank levels; I made it usable during the stance to take the place of the AC bonus, and also because it makes more sense - it simulates the DD's ability to shrug off damage while he's hunkered down.





Horizon Walker

Where to start… Let's begin at the top - the prereqs. This is a class that centers around adapting to - and surviving in - various terrains, but Survival isn't a prereq? Uh-huh. Endurance kind of made sense, but Self-Sufficient was a better choice based on the class' (and the feat's) flavor. I added in a special prereq that sounded pretty logical, and wouldn't be hard for most PCs who want to take this class, since a lot of them likely spend time in the wilds on their own anyway.

On to skills. Diplomacy and Speak Language got cut. A loner who spends most of his time in the wilderness has little need for Diplomacy, and the only things he'll be speaking to are animals, most times. I added: Craft (because people living off the land should know how to make things), Knowledge (nature) and (the planes) (duh), and Swim (again, a no-brainer).

As for abilities: The class was really, really bland with just terrain mastery and planar terrain mastery as abilities, so I split them up – fewer terrain masteries, but you also get stuff related to movement and travel – trackless step, the ability to avoid hazards, and even transport yourself around the terrain.

Most of the terrain mastery abilities remained unchanged, though I added in a line about having to actually spend time there – as it is, by the letter of the rules, you can choose a terrain (or plane) you've never even seen, let alone been to. I also made it more like favored enemy - you get some extra bonuses to Knowledge (nature) and Survival for that terrain (because you're an expert on it), and the bonuses can increase.

Desert got a tweak where you're immune to fatigue from high heat instead of all fatigue (a bit much, IMO); likewise, mountains grants the ability to withstand cold temperatues (I would have added this to the arctic terrain, but how many PCs go to an area like that?); the darkvision bonus from undergound was toned down to the standard "60 feet or an extra +30 ft."; the resistance to fire and cold was dropped to 10; the ability to dimension door was nerfed to once per day instead of every 1d4 rounds, and the radius for tremorsense was halved to 15 feet.





Shadowdancer

This class had some really good abilities, but they were poorly organized - the Shadowdancer is one of the worst examples of a "1-level dip class" anywhere in D&D, due to its having Hide in Plain Sight at first level. Add in the ability to summon an undead shadow that's not really undead, and getting evasion and uncanny dodge at 3rd level and improved uncanny dodge at 5th, and this thing is a total mess.

The first thing I did here was redefine what the class is about. Most of its abilities revolve around using shadow and being able to evade things, so I kept them. Summon shadow made little sense, so it got dropped. Shadow illusion, while an interesting ability, didn't quite fit either, so it got dropped too. While a lot of the rest are high-level rogue abilities, monks, rangers, and bards make really good Shadowdancers, so I left them in - a rogue taking levels in Shadowdancer could still take bonus feats or other rogue stuff.

Obviously the next step was to space things out evenly, using logical progressions - evasion, uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge, slippery mind, and improved evasion; cloak of shadows, HiPS, shadow blend, and dance of the shadows; and shadow jump. Darkvision was tossed in at first level to enable them to see in the dark.

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