5E PrCs: Anathema, or just lack of interest? (Pick two!)

Would you play or allow PrCs in 5e?


  • Total voters
    77
  • Poll closed .

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
I'm curious. The developers only released the one, and never talked about it again (much like a number of things from 5e's development history...) So it seems an open question: Was the response just lukewarm, or was it hostile? How do YOU feel about prestige classes in 5e? You may select up to TWO responses, but you are NOT allowed to change your vote, so choose wisely!
 

Parmandur

Legend
They did discuss the survey results:

Rune magic and our inaugural prestige class, the rune scribe, met with mostly positive results. We have some room to improve the runic magic items and how they interact with the prestige class. However, the really interesting piece comes down to the overall reaction to prestige classes.

We’re definitely seeing mixed responses to the concept. Of those of you who played third edition D&D, nearly 90% of you used prestige classes. However, overall support for them fell short of those marks. Just short of 60% of players want to use them in fifth edition. It’s interesting to see that while prestige classes saw a lot of use, many players didn’t particularly like the concept. It’s definitely something for us to consider as we examine the concept for fifth edition.
The Rune magic rules were published in Storm King's Thunder as magic items, and Prestige Classes are not a thing in 5E, probably never will be.

 
The main thing I could see Prestige Classes being used for in 5e is if a player wanted to be something like a Vampire or a Lycanthrope and start off as one early on.

Beyond that I don't see a use for them really. Prestige Classes kinda got replaced by Subclasses.
 
I'm curious. The developers only released the one, and never talked about it again (much like a number of things from 5e's development history...) So it seems an open question: Was the response just lukewarm, or was it hostile? How do YOU feel about prestige classes in 5e? You may select up to TWO responses, but you are NOT allowed to change your vote, so choose wisely!
I think that the PrCl mechanics would fit in 5e without a problem, and could be useful to represent some special archetypes that make sense across multiple (not necessarily all, but also) classes.

PrCls arent a thing in 5e only because they were largely abused in 3e and people are afraid the same thing would happen again in 5e. But it's not happening with subclasses (not within official material), so it probably also won't happen with PrCls. All that WotC would need to do is keep the publishing pace slow, and add a simple rule that limits PrCls to 1 per character, or limit them somehow by tier. Either way the problem has never been PrCl mechanics but rather having hundreds of them available and letting players go PrCl-shopping and stack multiple of them just to reap their benefits with zero regard to their narrative.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Never liked them. Never saw a need for them. And, if it matters (doesn't to me), but they are a relatively "recent" invention in the history of D&D.

Don't see a need for them now. And, besides being abused, all I can see is for them to detract from the game rather than add to it.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I voted ‘other’.



The idea of a minor class with only a few levels that a character can multiclass into, seems solid.

Certain character concepts seem bigger than a feat, but smaller than a 20-level class. For example, race features as levels, getting a ‘pet’, maybe wildshape. or so on seem worthwhile as a class that has upto 5 or ten levels.

These mini classes could even work by tier. Some classes might be available at levels 1 to 4. Other mini classes might only become available at higher levels, like 5 to 10, or whatever.

In any case, a particular concept that more than one class might be good at, might work better as a mini class, rather than rewriting a separate subclass for each class, each one doing the same thing.

In hindsight, ‘healer’ could have been a miniclass. Then the Cleric, Bard, Druid, Paladin, Sorcerer and others could have taken some levels in it, if they wanted their character concept to access the very same healing spells.
 
The subclass system takes away any need. You want a Rune Scribe? Make a subclass for it.

The prerequisite system made them rather restrictive in 3rd edition. Want to Play as X? Then you need to pick A, B, C and D. Whist some of the individual PrCs where interesting, the hoops you had to jump through to qualify for them where not.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
I think they'd have a good niche within the game. The rune scribe example in UA was great because it was a single path for using runes that any class can take. Much easier than creating a fighter rune warrior, a cleric rune domain, and a wizard rune tradition.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I never really cared much for PrCl, as they initially appeared as an interesting RP expansion to a character, but were really just extra mechanical crunch for characters. In addition, the requirements to get into a PrCl often meant that you had to "build" your character to get into the PrCl, removing a lot of other options you could have otherwise taken.

My group discussed this when 5E first came out. In general, most PrCl concepts could be easily replicated with a background, sub-class, or feat. Anything that was more style than mechanics would be a background. Anything that was specific for a class would be a sub-class (e.g. Eldritch Knight). Anything that would work for a multitude of classes would be best done as a feat (although we agreed that some might need a level requirement, especially due to the Variant Human). Obviously that last part won't work in games without feats, but I doubt a game that plays without feats will really feel the loss of PrCl.
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
The subclass system takes away any need. You want a Rune Scribe? Make a subclass for it.
Well, there is at least one thing subclasses can't cover: something that, logically, should give every character identical benefits. Like the above suggestion for "vampire" or "werewolf." It seems reasonable that someone could, rather than doing everything to cleanse their curse, instead run with that curse. But why should a Rogue Vampire get different abilities from a Fighter Vampire...and why would different classes pick up their Vampirism only at specific levels? Etc.

I agree that past implementations of PrCs aren't necessary and don't work. But the idea of (as said above) a "mini-class" that gives you the same benefits no matter who you are, seems reasonable because of rather than despite subclasses.

The prerequisite system made them rather restrictive in 3rd edition. Want to Play as X? Then you need to pick A, B, C and D. Whist some of the individual PrCs where interesting, the hoops you had to jump through to qualify for them where not.
Surely this is an implementation issue and not fundamental? That is, don't make PrCs that have ridiculous requirements. Keep them simple, just as 5e keeps basically everything simple.

I think they'd have a good niche within the game. The rune scribe example in UA was great because it was a single path for using runes that any class can take. Much easier than creating a fighter rune warrior, a cleric rune domain, and a wizard rune tradition.
Yes, exactly this. Instead of creating a runic tradition, and a rune-fighter, and a circle of the standing stones, and a rune domain, and a college of runes, etc., you make it a one-stop shop; if people want runes, they can have them, and if they don't, it's as simple as "no rune scribes."

In case people think this is overly specific, you could also have shadow-magic users (a prominent Faerun feature), church inquisitor types, alienists (in the archaic sense of "psychiatrists"), or legendary-legacy type stuff, in addition to the aforementioned vampire/werewolf/etc. Anything where it's too much to squeeze into a feat, but doesn't make sense to distribute out as a ton of individual subclasses for every class. Heck, bring back the oozing-with-flavor playtest Sorcerer, the one that transformed as it used up its spell slots, call it a Metamorphosist or the like.

5E first came out. In general, most PrCl concepts could be easily replicated with a background, sub-class, or feat. Anything that was more style than mechanics would be a background. Anything that was specific for a class would be a sub-class (e.g. Eldritch Knight). Anything that would work for a multitude of classes would be best done as a feat (although we agreed that some might need a level requirement, especially due to the Variant Human).
What about things that can't be squeezed into a single feat? 5e feats are chunky, but granting all the powers of a Vampire with one--even with a level requirement--sounds like too much.
 
Well, there is at least one thing subclasses can't cover: something that, logically, should give every character identical benefits. Like the above suggestion for "vampire" or "werewolf." It seems reasonable that someone could, rather than doing everything to cleanse their curse, instead run with that curse. But why should a Rogue Vampire get different abilities from a Fighter Vampire...and why would different classes pick up their Vampirism only at specific levels? Etc.

I agree that past implementations of PrCs aren't necessary and don't work. But the idea of (as said above) a "mini-class" that gives you the same benefits no matter who you are, seems reasonable because of rather than despite subclasses.


Surely this is an implementation issue and not fundamental? That is, don't make PrCs that have ridiculous requirements. Keep them simple, just as 5e keeps basically everything simple.
I would say that what you are talking about is VERY different to PrCs as found in 3rd edition/Pathfinder. To the extent that by using the name you are causing confusion.

Perhaps you should approach it as "I have a completely new idea called Miniclasses".
 

aco175

Adventurer
I can see them having a place. Do we need to do away with the 3rd level paths to make room for them or can they be another layer without much power attached to them and are more a story benefit. Maybe the factions can be expanded to give some benefits.

I find that they may be better for NPCs and monster design. If they are introduced in tier2 then most may not get used if most games do not last much past that tier. I can have a 12th level bad guy fighting a group of 7th level PCs and he could have some cool stuff from a PrC, but maybe giving more stuff to the PCs is not needed.
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
I would say that what you are talking about is VERY different to PrCs as found in 3rd edition/Pathfinder. To the extent that by using the name you are causing confusion.

Perhaps you should approach it as "I have a completely new idea called Miniclasses".
Well, part of the reason I ask is that there are some actual PrCs that I think are worth porting into 5e. I've seen efforts to do so that tried to make one as some feats (severely lackluster ones compared to the inspiration and other 5e feats) and a subclass for a single class and have found it...disappointing, to say the least.

As for "mini-class," I'm not sure I entirely agree. Do you really think no one would draw a comparison to PrC rules? It's a small class with possible qualifications (just simple, straightforward ones, not "rigorously prepare everything you do to qualify" ones) that gives up some levels if your main class for focused flavor and alternate benefits. IMO, whatever label we give it, it's doing the same overall thing. It's just cautiously done, keeping very aware of the faults and limitations of prestige classes as they appeared in 3.5e.

As an example of one I think could work great: Archmage. It's cool and thematic to give up spell slots in order to get powerful effects, like permanently memorizing two copies of a spell in exchange for two appropriate slots. The original is only 5 levels, and the translated requirements would basically just be "proficiency in Arcana and ability to cast 7th level spells as a bard, wizard, or sorcerer." That's nice and simple, easy to qualify for, and allows someone to pursue a different take on ultimate control of magic (emphasizing how all arcane magic is really the same no matter how you access it...if you learn enough.) Further, because it would only kick in at level 14+, you can definitely balance its features against capstones and high-level single-class features, giving some freedom to be creative and interesting.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
For me, the thing that would make a Prestige Class worthwhile is if it were truly Prestigious. Like, the Archmage example is good, because you can't just be an Archmage at 1st level. Similarly, things like High Priest, Guildmaster, Grand Champion, and cough Warlord seem like they should be reserved for higher levels.

However, for all of these, the question is: Do you need the full mechanical weight of a class or do existing mechanics cover it? Like, what's the difference between an Archmage and a high-level wizard? Or between a Warlord and a high-level fighter? Could you become a Guildmaster just by, you know, being the master of a guild, in-game? etc.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
The main difference between a miniclass and a prestige class is, a miniclass lacks prerequisites.

So a level 1 character can START as the miniclass. Later, when the levels of the miniclass run out, the character can multiclass normally to an other class.

Alternatively, the character can start off with a standard 20-level base class, and multiclass normally into the miniclass.


Note, a high-tier miniclass would become available at higher levels, for example, levels 12 to 16 for things at a scale relevant to regional leadership. But the idea remains the same. A miniclass is a normal class.
 
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EzekielRaiden

Explorer
For me, the thing that would make a Prestige Class worthwhile is if it were truly Prestigious. Like, the Archmage example is good, because you can't just be an Archmage at 1st level. Similarly, things like High Priest, Guildmaster, Grand Champion, and cough Warlord seem like they should be reserved for higher levels.
WRT Warlord--let's not go down that road. People have extremely entrenched feelings. I am 110% in the "Warlord deserves to exist at level 1" and that's not going to change over the course of this thread. I am willing to respect that you and others don't feel that way, let's not utterly derail yet another thread with that.

I can see this as a good thing, but I also feel like there's another place it can fit in--that is, the path to Prestige. AKA 4e's idea of both Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies, which are more about a destination than a starting point. Prestige Classes might require you to start off prestigious, or they might be about concretely demonstrating the process of achieving Prestige.

However, for all of these, the question is: Do you need the full mechanical weight of a class or do existing mechanics cover it? Like, what's the difference between an Archmage and a high-level wizard? Or between a Warlord and a high-level fighter? Could you become a Guildmaster just by, you know, being the master of a guild, in-game? etc.
Do we "need" anything in mechanics? It's a question of satisfactory implementation of stuff. I certainly grant that it's possible to do things as you say with zero mechanics. I also think that would be boring and samey.

I haven't written up any actual mechanics for these, so it's a little unfair to ask for me to give on-the-spot mechanical writeups for several PrCs at once. If their existence is to be justified at all, those mechanics should have care and thought put into them, not simply throwing something together off-the-cuff. However, if I had to make something up with literally zero prior work, it would be:
Archmage = Unlocking universal rules of magic (e.g. stuff that crosses class boundaries) by exchanging a portion of what they already know.
High Priest = Expanded domain access. Deities rarely have a single domain; a high priest ought to represent multiple facets of their deity.
Guildmaster = Assuming this is specifically a thieves' guild thing, Contacts. An eyes-and-ears network can by itself be a defining feature...for the right campaign.
Grand Champion = No idea, the title is so generic I'm suffering from Tyranny of the Empty Page.

The main difference between a miniclass and a prestige class is, a miniclass lacks prerequisites.
Then no, I'm not talking about "miniclasses" in this sense. I am explicitly talking about things with reasonable, appropriate requirements that develop your skills in a different direction than they would be if you stuck with your normal class.

So, the Vampire PrC might require a minimum Charisma (vampire magic is akin to sorcerer's, being ah..."in the blood" so to speak!), having been bitten by a vampire and not been treated, and undergoing a ritual to focus and empower the transformation. The Werewolf PrC might require minimum Strength, proficiency with Nature (to reflect tapping into your 'wild side'), and a moonlight vigil. Again, simple and straightforward things. Stuff that requires at most two feats, or investing Background or class skill picks into relevant things.

No feats. No complicated build paths. Anything like that SHOULD be implemented as a subclass, because it's the weaving together of specific mechanics. Instead, it's a short list of reasonable, achievable requirements that reflect in some sense the foundation onto which you build the PrC's features.
 
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