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

Would you play or allow PrCs in 5e?


  • Total voters
    77
  • Poll closed .

Hussar

Legend
Honestly, I don't see the problem. Most PrC's were fine. The problem came in when WotC felt that they had to pad every single book (and everyone else did too) with more and more of them. I think by the tail end of 3e, there were what, 1700 PrC's in print. :wow:

That's a bit extreme. :p

OTOH, PrC's that are directly tied to settings make a lot of sense. Dragonlance and their Knights of Solamnia, for example, work best as a PrC.

"Generic" prestige classes are probably best handled by the subclass system. There's no reason that a loremaster needs a PrC, IMO. Or a Cavalier. Or any of the bajillion other PrC's that were largely forgettable. But, the setting specific ones can really add a lot to a given setting.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
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.
You can play a Wizard with Int 9, a Sorcerer with Cha 9.

There is no reason why a Vampire would need to be more than Cha 9.

Of course, multiclassing into a Vampire class might require Cha 13. Just like multiclassing into a Wizard class requires Int 13.

In other words. Normal multiclassing works normally.
 
Then, no. It's a terrible idea.

Firstly, 3rd edition got into a mess over balancing "role playing" prerequisites (e.g. to be a guild thief you had do join a thieves guild) against "hard" prerequisites.

Secondly, as soon as you add "hard" prerequisites, you narrow down the possible build. Your "vampire" charisma requirement for example. Why can't I create a non-charismatic vampire? You might as well just make it a sorcerer subclass! Your werewolf PrC needing strength - just make it a barbarian subclass (or blood hunter lycan which already exists).
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
OTOH, PrC's that are directly tied to settings make a lot of sense. Dragonlance and their Knights of Solamnia, for example, work best as a PrC.

"Generic" prestige classes are probably best handled by the subclass system. There's no reason that a loremaster needs a PrC, IMO. Or a Cavalier. Or any of the bajillion other PrC's that were largely forgettable. But, the setting specific ones can really add a lot to a given setting.
The specific PrC that got me thinking about all this was the silver pyromancer, from Eberron. They had to be arcane--not divine--casters, and got certain neat benefits as a result of their ability to meld religious practice into their arcane magic. I don't think such a class absolutely must be tied to the Church of the Silver Flame only, in that I think it can be adapted to other appropriate things (a build guide that used it suggested an order of dragon-blooded sorcerers dedicated to Bahamut, using platinum fire to burn the minions of Tiamat, for example). The player-made feats and subclass (wizard-only; sucks to be you if you wanted to be a silver pyromancer as a sorcerer!) were extremely underwhelming, so it made me wonder.

You can play a Wizard with Int 9, a Sorcerer with Cha 9.

There is no reason why a Vampire would need to be more than Cha 9.

Of course, multiclassing into a Vampire class might require Cha 13.
So...why is the multiclass requirement okay, but a prestige class--which, under this framework, literally is just a short-run class with requirements--can't have such a thing? I included such things literally BECAUSE 5e multiclassing includes attribute requirements, thus it would make sense that 5e PrCs would too. They're multiclassing, just with potentially slightly more required than just ability scores. (The rune scribe example did this, incidentally; it required 13 Dexterity and Intelligence, as well as 5th level.)

Then, no. It's a terrible idea.

Firstly, 3rd edition got into a mess over balancing "role playing" prerequisites (e.g. to be a guild thief you had do join a thieves guild) against "hard" prerequisites.
Certainly, I've already said repeatedly that poor handling of prerequisites is a problem. Prerequisites should never be used as a balancing mechanism--just as they aren't for multiclassing. They're there to communicate something about the class, or to lay a reasonable expected minimum. Like how the UA rune scribe requires that you be 5th level or higher. It also requires you to complete a special task, to justify why your character would even be able to learn rune magic in the first place, but that requirement has nothing to do with "lock these powerful features behind onerous burdens." Roleplay prerequisites for roleplay effects (making sure your character has a reason to be doing what they're doing).

As I've been so frequently told about all the other ways 5e preserved 3e-isms: Just because it was done badly before doesn't mean it's inherently bad. It means we have to learn from the mistakes. "Don't use roleplay requirements to balance powerful advantages" is a pretty clear lesson to learn.

Secondly, as soon as you add "hard" prerequisites, you narrow down the possible build. Your "vampire" charisma requirement for example. Why can't I create a non-charismatic vampire? You might as well just make it a sorcerer subclass! Your werewolf PrC needing strength - just make it a barbarian subclass (or blood hunter lycan which already exists).
So only Sorcerers can become vampires, and it always happens at exactly the same point in their lives? Only Barbarians can become werewolves, and it always happens exactly as they hit level 3? That makes no sense to me whatsoever. If anything, your way is artificially narrowing things down--now only specific classes get to be vampires at all!

I absolutely think that the only people who could tap into their vampire curse, to draw out the power in it and really use it to the fullest, would need a little Charisma--particularly if they're intending to do so quickly, rather than taking the years and years it normally takes to become a powerful vampire. I absolutely think that a character infected with lycanthropy wouldn't be able to really make use of the transformation, mechanically, unless their physical body is strong enough to support it...if they don't want to simply wait for the curse to change their "normal" form enough. Again, I'm not inventing anything weird here. This is 5e multiclassing. Becoming a multiclass Paladin requires 13 Str and Cha, even though it's perfectly feasible to play a Paladin with 8 Str who uses finesse weapons (I'd even call it thematic for Ancients). Why is it so weird that PrC rules should do the same thing for the same reasons (ones that are explicitly spelled out in the PHB, even)?
 
Certainly, I've already said repeatedly that poor handling of prerequisites is a problem.
And you are repeatedly wrong. The EXISTANCE of prerequisites is the problem. There is no way to "handle" prerequisites that doesn't limit options.


So only Sorcerers can become vampires, and it always happens at exactly the same point in their lives?
Well, under current rules, anyone can become a vampire. You are the one who wants to impose a "only charismatic people can become vampires" rule.

But under current rules you can multiclass into sorcerer. You could create a "vampire blood" sorcerer subclass and it would give you what you want without needing any new rules.

Only Barbarians can become werewolves, and it always happens exactly as they hit level 3? That makes no sense to me whatsoever.
Again, you can multiclass into barbarian. We can assume that the level in which they choose their subclass is the level at which they start to gain control over their transformation.

But under current rules, ANYONE can become a werewolf. You are the one who wants to turn it into a class.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
So...why is the multiclass requirement okay, but a prestige class--which, under this framework, literally is just a short-run class with requirements--can't have such a thing? I included such things literally BECAUSE 5e multiclassing includes attribute requirements, thus it would make sense that 5e PrCs would too. They're multiclassing, just with potentially slightly more required than just ability scores. (The rune scribe example did this, incidentally; it required 13 Dexterity and Intelligence, as well as 5th level.)
It is possible we are in agreement.

I am saying, the miniclass is exactly like a normal class (except for the number of levels).

Just like a normal class has a key ability, the miniclass normally would too.



What a miniclass class must avoid is weird requirements (like proficiency in a specific skill, or so on).

Keep the miniclass a normal class, and balance it like a normal class, and it works fine.
 
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.
They certainly would need to be prestige classes. There's two word in prestige class, and both are important :)

A prestige class is meant to be a class because there is a progression inside it. This is where it is fundamentally different than a feat, although there used to be feat chains that also were a good idea (and just as well as PrCl, they got a bad implementation).

But then it is meant to be prestige exactly because it's something that should come up only later in the game, but even more importantly because it should not be available to everyone. The 3e prestige classes could generally be taken at 5th level or later, and even that is a bit too low to call "prestige", but we have to understand that this was probably chosen because (a) players were not always supposed to plan ahead and gather requirements to qualify as soon as possible, and (b) most games don't reach 10th level and making prestige classes too high in level means few players will ever get them.

As I said, personally I am pretty confident that people hate 3e PrCls because both the designers and the players largely abused them, not because the concept or mechanic is bad.

The players abused prestige classes by stacking lots of them, cherrypicking a few levels from each because some prestige classes were front-loaded, and regularly disregarded the narrative nature of them: this is pretty much because of the widespread competitive culture of 3e games and the "character builds" sub-hobby, but hopefully both those are not nearly as strong in 5e as they were in 3e. Despite sometimes having costly requirements, 3e PrCl did not feel prestigious because most DMs were making them available to everyone, and players demanded that if they had spent money on a book then they must be given the right to use whatever was in it.

Designers also abused the idea because gamers were asking for more and more PrCls at each new book, so obviously it became a milk cow... which meant that designers were constantly trying to come up with new, extremely narrow character ideas, and make a PrCl out of each... but then, because class design is hard work, they often ended up with 10 levels which really contained 2-3 new abilities at most (and often re-hashed mechanics, slightly modified). There were even examples of truly bad PrCls that had literally zero unique features, and were only "+1 spellcasting level" and a few bonus feats. Finally, they even exploited the PrCls mechanics for "fixing" what was regarded as a bug in the core rule i.e. multiclassing spellcasters yielding insufficient spells abilities.

All this crap doesn't have to happen in 5e.

I would argue that neither "Archmage" or "Guildmaster" are prestigious and specific enough to be prestige classes however. They are too generic to be forced into a single class.

Instead, it might be better to consider the prestige class approach to represent a character concept that has the following properties:

  • it represents very restricted knowledge: it's either only available to members of a closed group, or to a "chosen" of a certain kind
  • it's absolutely unique in terms of abilities acquired (I would avoid ANY non-unique features in a prestige class progression)
  • those abilities should be capable of standing on their own, not "boosts" base class abilities, so that the prestige class is potentially a good thing for every character, but then the prestige class works just like multiclassing and therefore a PC can always choose to level up in the original class
  • it's a fairly long path, no less than 5 levels worth of abilities but the longer the better, so there is no way to fit this into feats or feat chains (I don't think it's a good idea to have feat chains longer than 3 feats, given the 5e feats acquisition rate)
  • it's a path that can be taken potentially at any time during a PC's life (not at a specific time like subclasses or backgrounds), because you should not be able to plan it*
  • better to have narrative requirements only for the previous reasons: to be accepted into the closed group you need to prove yourself through actions, not to produce a CV of feats and skills...

*of course the player and DM can plan it, but the PC should not be able to think of it like planned education, because in order to be really prestige it has be something by invitation-only, and possibly even secret, so a PC wouldn't even know that the option exists until invited or chosen

For example, the original Shadowdancer prestige class could be a good candidate, because the character concept is "all about shadows", but doesn't necessarily gravitate towards fighting, exploring or spellcasting. It can include abilities of stealth, magical movement or teleportation through shadowy areas, creating illusions with shadows, summoning shadow companions for help or even combat aid... all of which can be useful to everyone, in combat or other pillars. And all of which can have a progression, so it makes sense to spread them into levels.

I think a good test for a character concept could be: if the whole party would gain this prestige class, would it be good for everyone? (note that this doesn't mean everyone should stop levelling up in their base class).
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Instead of the term ‘prestige’, it might be more useful to link it by tier.

• Levels 1-4: Basic class.
• Levels 5-8: Expert class.
• Levels 9-12: Master class.
• Levels 13-16: Leader class.
• Levels 17-20: Legend class.

(Levels 21+: Epic class).

Hypothetically, for the sake of an example. A Vampire miniclass might only have levels for the Expert tier and the Master tier. Any basic vampires might be ineffectual drones, perhaps even perpetually Charmed, while only higher level vampires become autonomous and powerful. The expert miniclass would supply the more potent Vampire abilities, while the master miniclass would supply the high-level Dracula-esque abilities.

The Shadowdancer might be a basic miniclass, with the essentials of shadow magic that any character can take at low levels.


Note, the master tier is when the character becomes the head of some institution: a guild, wizard tower, military fortress, or so on. The leader tier is when they become movers-and-shakers within national politics. The legend tier is when they impact the affairs of the world or plane.

It makes sense if certain miniclasses are pertinent to these specific magnitudes of political influence.
 
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TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
My next campaign is going to be a modified 5e, based on prestige classes unlocked as play rewards, so I certainly think the idea is workable. Honestly, I think using 3e-5e style multiclassing is a little silly if the only class options available run 1-20.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I'd call them Prestige Themes

Ex:
Prestige Theme: Vampire
Prerequisites: Being afflicted by the curse of vampirism, minimum level 5
1: Drain blood: As a bonus action deal 1d4+level extra piercing damage when attacking with Advantage, recuperate the same HP amount. once per short rest
2: Child of the Night: Regen 1 Hp/round when under 1/2 HP, lose it if in direct sunlight or hit by fire or radiant damage.
3: Forms of the Predator: Take the shape of a Direwolf or Swarm of Bats for 10 minutes, once per short rest.
4: Resilient Obfuscation: Double prof in stealth, can hide in dim light, resistance to all damage but fire and radiant when in complete darkness.
5: Undying Vitality: Requires 4 death save to kill.
 

Gradine

Archivist
I could see 4E style Themes making a comeback, replacing the ASI slots as sort of a multilevel Feat.
I came here to post exactly this, though I'm not sure how I'd implement it. In 4e it was a straight-up add-on, though I'm not sure how well that would fly in 5e
 

Parmandur

Legend
I came here to post exactly this, though I'm not sure how I'd implement it. In 4e it was a straight-up add-on, though I'm not sure how well that would fly in 5e
Essentially, what I'm thinking of is a 5-step Feat chain (all PCs get at least 5 ASI/Feat slots).
 

Vael

Adventurer
I'm not a fan of Prestige classes, but then, I'm also not a fan of level-based Multiclassing in general. Conceptually, I like the idea of another ... thing for PCs, which allows narrower concepts that are too big for a feat, too small for a full class and don't fit as a subclass.

Essentially, what I'm thinking of is a 5-step Feat chain (all PCs get at least 5 ASI/Feat slots).
Not a fan of that implementation, I dislike feat chains, and fighters do have a different Feat/ASI progression. Also, I'm becoming a fan of awarding feats as downtime rewards, like crafting magic items.

I came here to post exactly this, though I'm not sure how I'd implement it. In 4e it was a straight-up add-on, though I'm not sure how well that would fly in 5e
Just make it a straight addition to characters, as an option for a higher power level campaign. Like Gestalt rules from 3.5, the DM only allows it if they want a more powerful party.

Say, for example, you just get a Theme at 5th level (though I hate this name, it's better than Prestige Class or Paragon Path, so for now, Theme it is). Some may have prerequisites and all require DM approval. This'll allow things like transformative options like Vampire or Lycanthrope, unearthing hidden heritage like Demi-God, or niche casting like Rune Magic. I'd also consider this another way to do Multiclassing, offer Dual-classing as a theme. So that Wizard can add Rogue as a Theme/Dual Class without surrendering any caster levels. (Obviously, Dual-Classing and the current multiclassing rules will have to be mutually exclusive, and there's some funkiness with certain subclasses, I wouldn't allow an Arcane Trickster Rogue to dual class).

This means you can have a level progression, I'd guess themes only run from level 5 and finish at level 15.
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
It is possible we are in agreement.<snip>
What a miniclass class must avoid is weird requirements (like proficiency in a specific skill, or so on).

Keep the miniclass a normal class, and balance it like a normal class, and it works fine.
It looks like we...almost agree. It depends on what you consider "weird" requirements. Going back to my silver pyromancer example above: this is a PrC specifically for arcane (and only arcane, not divine and not warlock) casters who are vetted by, and then inducted into, a religious institution that teaches them special applications of their arcane casting. Given the explicit vetting process, I don't consider "you have to be trained in Religion" to be a weird requirement in this context. From both personal experience and knowing several others who have initiated into lay-faithful organizations, I would in fact think it weird to not have such a requirement for this specific example. Likewise, a prestige class that deepened the options available for wild shape might require proficiency in Nature--you need that baseline.

However, I am absolutely in agreement that shitty things like requiring Channel Divinity and Bardic Inspiration or Superiority Dice and Smite Evil (etc.) would be completely inappropriate. Every prestige class should be viable for most characters with, at most, picking up a trained skill at the start, or taking a feat at level 4 in order to qualify (Skilled, specifically). You should never need careful build planning, because that is bad design and we have the entire crumbling edifice of 3rd edition to demonstrate it.

The reason I say "most" characters is I do think some PrCs warrant the ability to cast spells. That does, technically, cut off a portion of classes...but not a particularly big portion, depending on the details. (Heck, a five-level PrC that requires 3rd level spells would still fit into an arcane trickster or eldritch knight, to say nothing of Paladins and Rangers.)

Instead of the term ‘prestige’, it might be more useful to link it by tier.

• Levels 1-4: Basic class.
• Levels 5-8: Expert class.
• Levels 9-12: Master class.
• Levels 13-16: Leader class.
• Levels 17-20: Legend class.
(Levels 21+: Epic class).

Hypothetically, for the sake of an example. A Vampire miniclass might only have levels for the Expert tier and the Master tier. Any basic vampires might be ineffectual drones, perhaps even perpetually Charmed, while only higher level vampires become autonomous and powerful. The expert miniclass would supply the more potent Vampire abilities, while the master miniclass would supply the high-level Dracula-esque abilities.

The Shadowdancer might be a basic miniclass, with the essentials of shadow magic that any character can take at low levels.

Note, the master tier is when the character becomes the head of some institution: a guild, wizard tower, military fortress, or so on. The leader tier is when they become movers-and-shakers within national politics. The legend tier is when they impact the affairs of the world or plane.

It makes sense if certain miniclasses are pertinent to these specific magnitudes of political influence.
All of this sounds perfectly cromulent to me. A silver pyromancer, by being someone who started off with arcane spellcasting and then got some religious training atop it, would make sense as an expert (leaning into master) class: by the time you finish it, you very much are an expert in the field of fighting evil outsiders and undead, and potentially have risen to a position of influence (dare I say mastery) within the non-cleric church hierarchy.

I'd call them Prestige Themes

Ex: Prestige Theme: Vampire
Prerequisites: Being afflicted by the curse of vampirism, minimum level 5
1: Drain blood: As a bonus action deal 1d4+level extra piercing damage when attacking with Advantage, recuperate the same HP amount. once per short rest
2: Child of the Night: Regen 1 Hp/round when under 1/2 HP, lose it if in direct sunlight or hit by fire or radiant damage.
3: Forms of the Predator: Take the shape of a Direwolf or Swarm of Bats for 10 minutes, once per short rest.
4: Resilient Obfuscation: Double prof in stealth, can hide in dim light, resistance to all damage but fire and radiant when in complete darkness.
5: Undying Vitality: Requires 4 death save to kill.
Is this a feat chain, or a class? As a class this sounds alright, though I'd want some design passes (it feels a little weak, but definitely on-theme.) I am completely opposed to making any kind of "feat chain" that sucks up all your feat opportunities. That's an incredibly punitive cost, and would almost certainly never be worth it--we should be encouraging flavorful choices, not locking them behind a cost almost no one would willingly pay.

I came here to post exactly this, though I'm not sure how I'd implement it. In 4e it was a straight-up add-on, though I'm not sure how well that would fly in 5e
Making something that just sucks up all your ASIs seems an excessively punitive cost, given that "you might lose 1-2 ASIs" is seen as an appropriate balance point for getting to multiclass.
Essentially, what I'm thinking of is a 5-step Feat chain (all PCs get at least 5 ASI/Feat slots).
See above. The primary result of this would be that no one would take them unless they're okay with being dramatically weaker than everyone else, and that's Pretty Bad. Unless...I guess you could have the 5-step-feat-chain grant stat bonuses to the chain's core stat(s). But then you're looking at them really being "half-feats," and a chain full of half-feats is probably going to be extremely lackluster. This is the problem I kept running into while looking at homebrew silver pyro stuff. On the one hand, anything that sticks to the power curve and exclusively uses feats either ends up bland, fails to capture the core concept, or both. Anything that breaks from the power curve in order to exclusively stick to feats and retain flavor/core concept...well, it breaks from the power curve, being either weak enough that it feels like a punishment for doing something flavorful, or powerful enough that you'd be foolish not to pursue it even if it doesn't fit the character.

That's a big part of why I started thinking: is this the place for "whatever PrCs should have been"? (Because apparently the term 'prestige class' is so poisoned by its 3.5e version that it's become anathema, to invoke the name is to summon its awfulness.) The space of things that:
  • several different classes (and perhaps all classes) should have access to
  • are too strong to be squeezed into a single feat
  • would force players to choose between effectiveness and flavor if it cost multiple feats
That space seems to have fertile ground, to me. Subclasses can't cover it, because subclasses are too specific. To make up a (likely faulty) example, consider something that anyone who can Extra Attack can learn to do. It would require subclasses for Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin, Monk, and Ranger--and it would fall down with the Valor Bard, because that's a subclass feature. Or, instead of writing five different subclasses, you could write one (ahem) "expert class" that covers the relevant stuff. Plenty of things shouldn't try to squeeze into this space. As a player or designer, one should usually first ask whether the other kinds of customization (feats, subclasses, a full class, a list of spells, etc.) are able to fill in the gaps.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Is this a feat chain, or a class? As a class this sounds alright, though I'd want some design passes (it feels a little weak, but definitely on-theme.) I am completely opposed to making any kind of "feat chain" that sucks up all your feat opportunities. That's an incredibly punitive cost, and would almost certainly never be worth it--we should be encouraging flavorful choices, not locking them behind a cost almost no one would willingly pay.
Its a Prestige Theme! :p
Seriously, its a class you multi-class in if you meet the roleplay requirement.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
4e style themes might be kind of cool in 5e, I had thought about something like that for expanded backgrounds but dropped it after a while.

Themes that have small powers assigned to a theme feat might work quite well, I'd probably want each ability to be a half feat so that the player can add +1 to any stat along with an ability. I could see some being a specific stat.

I have put together a themed class for genasi where they grow their elemental power, it works with my reworked genasi that gain an elemental power at 3rd level like the aasimar gain their ability. They take up to 5 levels and gain additional elemental powers as well as spell slots for elemental spells.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
It looks like we...almost agree. It depends on what you consider "weird" requirements. Going back to my silver pyromancer example above: this is a PrC specifically for arcane (and only arcane, not divine and not warlock) casters who are vetted by, and then inducted into, a religious institution that teaches them special applications of their arcane casting. Given the explicit vetting process, I don't consider "you have to be trained in Religion" to be a weird requirement in this context. From both personal experience and knowing several others who have initiated into lay-faithful organizations, I would in fact think it weird to not have such a requirement for this specific example. Likewise, a prestige class that deepened the options available for wild shape might require proficiency in Nature--you need that baseline.

However, I am absolutely in agreement that shitty things like requiring Channel Divinity and Bardic Inspiration or Superiority Dice and Smite Evil (etc.) would be completely inappropriate. Every prestige class should be viable for most characters with, at most, picking up a trained skill at the start, or taking a feat at level 4 in order to qualify (Skilled, specifically). You should never need careful build planning, because that is bad design and we have the entire crumbling edifice of 3rd edition to demonstrate it.
If a normal class requires some mechanic for its character concept, it GIVES it to the character. For example, the Wizard class GIVES the character the Arcana skill and a spellbook.

Same goes for a miniclass.

For example, I would look at the Silver Pyromancer this way. It is an arcane magic class that specializes in fire. It gives you the Arcana skill or a choice of any skill if you already have Arcana. (This is how a Background works. If you already have the skill that Background grants, you can pick any skill you want instead. So it is useful to pick a Background that gives you skills you already have.) So, any character can start off as a Silver Pyromancer, or later multiclass into it. The class contains all the mechanics that are necessary to be a Silver Pyromancer.



The setting is something separate. For example, the DM can emphasize how the different schools of wizardry are literally different schools. The Eladrin elves might teach enchantment magic from one of their campuses in the Feywild. Meanwhile, a certain enclave of Genasi teach elemental magic. A certain Human wizard tower near a certain city specializes in transmutation magic. And so on. The DM could require players to be familiar with these institutions and their mentors, having gained the relevant knowledge from these places. Some of these mentors might be difficult with specific ideologies, and only friendly under certain circumstances.

Likewise, the spiritual organization that the Cleric belongs to might matter in the setting.

The order that the Paladin or Ranger belongs too. Whether a Rogue is affiliated with a ‘guild’ or not. The Druid circle. The Barbarian clan. Etcetera.

All of this is part of the setting description. For flavor, the Silver Pyromancer might refer to the institution, might while remaining mechanically neutral. Baking a flavor into the mechanics, creates problems, including reducing the usefulness of the class in other settings.

For every reason, a miniclass works best as a normal class.



... Actually, the Silver Pyromancer can include a writeup in two separate design spaces. One is the normal class itself. The other is a Background whose special asset (in addition to skills or tools) relates to the Silver Pyromancer institution.



If a miniclass is too specific, such as ‘Wizards only!’, then it no longer makes sense for a miniclass. It works better as a Wizard subclass.

The point of a miniclass is being a mechanic that any class can take.
 
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PrCs were used too often in 3.x as kludges. Bundles of mechanics meant to elevate a dismal class or class combination to viability - or, layer system-mastery rewards upon already OP options. Not that 5e couldn't use a kludge here or there, but the real potential of PrCs is as a way of connecting the player & setting through the character.
Certain sub-classes - the Cormyr-specific PDK stands out this way, IMHO - are pretty poor as sub-classes, but would make ideal PrCs.

It'd be nice if WotC could investigate the desirability of PrCs as the latter, separate from any stigma they acquired for being the former in the 3e RAW-uber-alles system-mastery era.

The key to seeing that potential develop would be not just in making them optional (MCing is already optional, so it's a given), but it keeping them a DM opt-in, setting-based tool. A PrC should tie into local color - to history, organizations, unique setting considerations of whatever kind. DMs should get PrC design tools in a more generic supplement, as well as a selection of setting-specific PrC in world books & APs.


Edit: To put it another way: a PrC could be something like a background you acquire in play. It needn't give you unique mechanical benefits, though it might give you a unique combination of such, it probably /should/ give you social/interaction and plot benefits, in ways that tie in to it's place in the setting and acquisition - from membership in a group, reputation, secret knowledge, etc...
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I don't really understand the objection to them. I like the idea of classes that you need to to gain prerequisities for.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip

The key to seeing that potential develop would be not just in making them optional (MCing is already optional, so it's a given), but it keeping them a DM opt-in, setting-based tool. A PrC should tie into local color - to history, organizations, unique setting considerations of whatever kind. DMs should get PrC design tools in a more generic supplement, as well as a selection of setting-specific PrC in world books & APs.
This I totally agree with. A lot of the design space, back in the 3e days, was in reaction to the 2e "setting requirements" for balancing. So many elements back in 2e were meant to have "role playing" balances in return for mechanical advantages and, while it's not a bad idea, many groups simply ignored the role playing elements and went for the mechanical advantages resulting in very over powered options.

So, the pendulum swung way back the other way and the idea was that PrC's would be mechanically balanced (for a given value of balance, the rate of success varied wildly) without referencing "flavor" elements. Which resulted in very bland, mostly pointless PrC's which were just bags of bonus mechanics.

I think in 5e though, you can swing things back a bit the other way and make it very clear that the flavor limitations are there for a VERY good reason. If you want to use this PrC, you really should adhere to those in game world limitations, or the result will be unbalanced.

IOW, just be very clear and explicit with why things are the way they are and then trust that the DM's out there will keep a lid on abuses.
 

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