Level Up (A5E) The future of A5e Prestige Classes

xiphumor

Adventurer
Prestige classes already exist in A5e thanks to Zeitgeist, where they function as a way to tie a character more deeply into a theme. They’re general pattern is to require a particular feat tied to said theme, one/two proficiencies, 7th level, and a narrative fact about the character. Each prestige class grants 3 levels.

My question is whether we as a community want to see more of these, especially in non-setting specific contexts, and how they should be done. I.e. under what circumstances does a prestige class answer better to a given character design than an archetype? What does it take to keep prestige classes from becoming a design trap for players?
 

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Gnome Rager

Villager
I think PrCs are a great bit of design space, provided they don't take over. I think 3 levels gives about the right balance for this.

Using them to tie to a theme that could be present in a number of classes feels like the best use. I had thought about a guild idea where patronage could offer useful benefits to different classes at the same time as giving measurable, mechanical benefits to affiliation. With the guild idea I was also going to use prestige level as a requirement for gaining prestige class levels.

In terms of power balance, I want to make sure spell casters aren't losing too many spell casting levels whilst also not giving too many additional benefits.

I'm yet to try and fit any of this into my early sketches for my first ever DMing. To be honest I'm wondering if I should think smaller scale and world build as I go along. Prestige classes might be for a different, later project when I have more experience
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
We've done two on EN5ider (the spellshaper and paradigm) but they didn't seem to stick with folks. I think they are great and would love to see them come back, but in Level Up that design space (sacrificing class potency for specialized role features) is pretty well filled up by synergy feats. 🤞 🤞 that there are more in the future but I wouldn't put a wager on it.

A prestige class is the answer when it's a character role that could apply to more than one class and the main drive of that role doesn't lend itself to a specific class. The two examples above are good ones in that respect I reckon—it would be redundant to make a class archetype for every spellcasting class to shape magic like the spellshaper does (they are kind of like magic batteries) and no one class really posits itself as the elf/orc/human/halfling class (paradigm which is about being the elfiest elf, or halflingest halfling, etc).

The answer to your other question is good design. ;)
 

Gnome Rager

Villager
We've done two on EN5ider (the spellshaper and paradigm) but they didn't seem to stick with folks. I think they are great and would love to see them come back, but in Level Up that design space (sacrificing class potency for specialized role features) is pretty well filled up by synergy feats. 🤞 🤞 that there are more in the future but I wouldn't put a wager on it.

A prestige class is the answer when it's a character role that could apply to more than one class and the main drive of that role doesn't lend itself to a specific class.
This is really interesting, because to me they serve quite different roles. The PrC, as you say, allows multiple characters of different classes/archetypes to be tied together through thematic elements. For me though, the synergy feat is different. It ties together elements of two different classes in the same character to meet a multi skilled path that would otherwise be tricky to realise. In my mind this would be a difficult design space to realise with a three level PrC.
 

I'd love to see prestige classes designed around getting some of the benefits of a base class without needing to multiclass into a specific class just for 1 class feature. Like a metamagic-based prestige class, a brutal critical prestige class, or various spell school specialization prestige classes, for examples. Though some may be too close to stepping on a given class' toes.
 

Corinnguard

Adventurer
In Pathfinder 2nd edition, multi-class archetypes and archetypes are basically a collection of feats. To pick up an archetype in that RPG, all you need to do is pick up a dedication feat and whatever archetype feats you would like your character to have. A5e has something similar now thanks to the synergy feat trees. So all you would need to do is convert a PrC into something similar, and all without needing to multiclass into that PrC.

Another thing about the Pathfinder 2nd edition archetypes, they aren't locked to a specific class. I am sure the same thing can be done in A5e.
 

zen_cat

Explorer
To me, prestige classes are an overcomplication. They work rules-wise, but in a complex system, I think it is better to remove any rules that incrementally increase character types instead of exponentially increasing them. I have never come across a character concept that I can't create using 1-2 standard classes, plus background and flavour.

What I would like to see, for things that might get a prestige class, is instead a couple of manuvers, equipment, spells and feats, all thematically linked to the topic being covered, so that I can select things that make my character more like the topic, without it overriding aspects of core classes. So if I'm making an adventuring entomologist or whatever, then maybe I can get some bug-catching equipment, a feat that gives me +1 to a stat and a range of bug-related abilities, and a locate bug spell, or a maneuver that allows swiping tiny sized creatures from the air and into a cage.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
What I would like to see, for things that might get a prestige class, is instead a couple of manuvers, equipment, spells and feats, all thematically linked to the topic being covered, so that I can select things that make my character more like the topic, without it overriding aspects of core classes. So if I'm making an adventuring entomologist or whatever, then maybe I can get some bug-catching equipment, a feat that gives me +1 to a stat and a range of bug-related abilities, and a locate bug spell, or a maneuver that allows swiping tiny sized creatures from the air and into a cage.
I mean, a class is basically that but prepackaged for you.
 

zen_cat

Explorer
I mean, a class is basically that but prepackaged for you.
True, but it's still an extension to the rules, when existing mechanics could be used. Perhaps I'm just burnt out from 3.5 and it's focus on so many character classes going into a single build.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I've never liked Prestige classes. Not because they're a bad design space, but they almost invariably require multiclassing, which is a thing I've never -really- enjoyed.

Don't get me wrong, I dual and triple-classed back in 2e when I was younger, but the tradeoff in power for variety never really sat well with me. The feeling of being levels behind the rest of the party in effectiveness kind of sucks. I could cast weaker spells than my contemporaries or swing my weapons less effectively than other contemporaries... there never felt like there was a solid time for the trade-off.

And sure, modern D&D and Level Up in particular front-load classes with features that don't have to scale to be effective, like a Barbarian's rage, for example, or a Warlock's Eldritch Blast scaling based on character level rather than class level. But then there's stuff like Bardic Inspiration, Spell Slots, and Sneak Attack which do need to scale to keep up with the world around the character.

There's also the baked-in delay. If I wanna play a Shadowdancer I've gotta wait 'til 5th or 6th level (so I can get 2 levels of Rogue and 3 of Wizard) before I can play the character I wanted to play at level 1.

It's the same discomfiture I have with A5e's Synergy Feats in that regard. Multiclassing required and mechanically delayed narrative just doesn't appeal to me.

You know what -might- work in that sort of way to create a distinct identity without those mechanical constraints?

Mini-Classes.

Instead of making a 20 level class or a 10 level prestige class that requires you to have X Rogue and Y Wizard levels, how about an 8 level character class designed for short campaigns and multiclassing. You start out as the Shadowdancer, you get some spellcasting and sneak attack early on to make sure you're as effective as your allies at low level, but after 8th level you have to start choosing whether to progress your Spellcasting or your Sneak Attack by taking Wizard/Sorcerer/Bard/Warlock/Cleric/Druid levels or Rogue levels... or if you wanna go in a wholly different direction and snap up some Herald levels to add some Divine Smiting to your Sneak Attacks.

Mini-Classes is a terrible name, though. Prestige Class is taken... Gestalt? Sure, 3e had a leveling setup for gestalt characters, but Gestalt Classes could be a fairly nice name. Concept Class would also work. Maybe Motif Classes? Slap on a restriction that you can't take 'em after 8th level and can only take 1 and let 'er rip.

Anyway... that's always been my personal grievance with 'em.
 

dave2008

Legend
What I would like to see, for things that might get a prestige class, is instead a couple of manuvers, equipment, spells and feats, all thematically linked to the topic being covered, so that I can select things that make my character more like the topic, without it overriding aspects of core classes. So if I'm making an adventuring entomologist or whatever, then maybe I can get some bug-catching equipment, a feat that gives me +1 to a stat and a range of bug-related abilities, and a locate bug spell, or a maneuver that allows swiping tiny sized creatures from the air and into a cage.
I like this idea as well. It reminds me of themes from 4e.
 


To me, prestige classes are an overcomplication. They work rules-wise, but in a complex system, I think it is better to remove any rules that incrementally increase character types instead of exponentially increasing them. I have never come across a character concept that I can't create using 1-2 standard classes, plus background and flavour.

What I would like to see, for things that might get a prestige class, is instead a couple of manuvers, equipment, spells and feats, all thematically linked to the topic being covered, so that I can select things that make my character more like the topic, without it overriding aspects of core classes. So if I'm making an adventuring entomologist or whatever, then maybe I can get some bug-catching equipment, a feat that gives me +1 to a stat and a range of bug-related abilities, and a locate bug spell, or a maneuver that allows swiping tiny sized creatures from the air and into a cage.
To toot my own horn a little bit here: have you seen the Thematic Toolkit releases I put out every month? You've virtually described the product line with that paragraph, though I tend to do it with thematically-compatible archetypes and synergy feat chains. Link to my company page on DTRPG; Thematic Toolkit releases are the ones with B&W art. Pay particular attention to Venomous Shadow; that has a whole new combat tradition tied to its theme (and the stand-alone Confidence Mage and Arcane Sniper releases also plug into that nicely; Arcane Sniper is almost exactly what you described; an archetype, a bunch of supporting spells, and a few useful items).
 

zen_cat

Explorer
To toot my own horn a little bit here: have you seen the Thematic Toolkit releases I put out every month? You've virtually described the product line with that paragraph, though I tend to do it with thematically-compatible archetypes and synergy feat chains. Link to my company page on DTRPG; Thematic Toolkit releases are the ones with B&W art. Pay particular attention to Venomous Shadow; that has a whole new combat tradition tied to its theme (and the stand-alone Confidence Mage and Arcane Sniper releases also plug into that nicely; Arcane Sniper is almost exactly what you described; an archetype, a bunch of supporting spells, and a few useful items).
I'll take a look.
 

Mechanically delayed narrative
This is a fair point. Multiclassing into a synergy feat does have a certain rocky feel to it, probably because you're already sacrificing class abilities before you've even spent a feat. I was really interested in synergy feats when i first saw them, but now that I'm running a campaign that starts at level one and one of my players decided to tri-class warlock adept rogue.

It's been interesting, especially in seeing the early-level redundancies that turn some of his levels into dead ones. He's the most competent character creator in the party though and by that grace he hasn't fallen behind the others in terms of power, at least in terms of the efficiency He's been getting out of going Calculated Retribution into Arcane Riposte as a third levdl warlock. I look forward to level 10 when he finally takes level 4 in a class and gets his first feat, and whether or not he can keep the character ahead of the others throughout
 

Eubani

Hero
How about using a prestige class to extend an existing sub class. This enables to focus the character more on the sub class which is what some have been asking for.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
How about using a prestige class to extend an existing sub class. This enables to focus the character more on the sub class which is what some have been asking for.
I -think- every Archetype reaches at least level 14 for its final ability which would mean a 6 level prestige class for levels 15-20...

But using Archetypes as a basis for prestige classes could be nifty, if a bit limiting. As it stands, Prestige Classes are for characters who achieve X level in Y class and W level in Z class or gains X, Y, Z class abilities.

That tends to be fairly limiting to character availability, but narrowing it down further to "You must be X class and Y Archetype to qualify for this prestige class" narrows it's function down even more dramatically.
 

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