Most common mistakes you see in prestige class design


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Most common mistake I see in prestige class design:

Class specific spell selection.

Either give them +1 caster level, or let them pull from a base class list.
Otherwise, if you want them to have just these 8 spells a few times a day, make them spell like abilities.


I hate it when someone tries to "balance" amazing class abilities with some BS skill or feat prerequisite.

"What do you mean +2d6 damage with all attacks from one weapon is too powerful??? It's only one weapon! And look! You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)! This is totally balanced!"

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

Loopy wrote:
"What do you mean +2d6 damage with all attacks from one weapon is too powerful??? It's only one weapon! And look! You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)! This is totally balanced!"

Well, if the bonus only applies to attacks made with knitting needles which otherwise deal 1 point of damage plus no Strength bonus, then it probably is balanced. :P

(Now I'm tempted to write up a Hellknit prestige class.)


Loopy wrote:

I hate it when someone tries to "balance" amazing class abilities with some BS skill or feat prerequisite.

"What do you mean +2d6 damage with all attacks from one weapon is too powerful??? It's only one weapon! And look! You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)! This is totally balanced!"

Only 5 ranks in Profession (knitting)?

I had to burn a feat on Skill Focus Craft (macrame)!

Liberty's Edge

Loopy wrote:
You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)! This is totally balanced!"

<opens can of worms>

Bah, Knitting is a craft.

</opens can of worms>


XD


Hydro wrote:
Some prestige class powers (certainly not all, but some) should be based on character level instead of PrC level.

Agreed. I've seen a lot of PrCs that all I had to do was read the ability and thought, that's completely worthless. It's never scale fast enough to be useful.


Randall Jhen wrote:
Personally, I would disagree with your starting point: that the sailor is a fighter. I'd be more inclined to say he was a warrior, and that becoming a Navy SEAL makes him a fighter. Thus, he gets all the benefits of being a warrior (high Fort, HP, and BAB), plus he gets fighter feats. Seems to model what you're saying very well.

I'll concede that. The fighter progresses at the same BAB and ends up with the same saves and gains the bonus feats. The fighter is prestigious for the warrior.

My contention is that by that logic (in a fantasy game, I know) a prestige class for a fighter should grant the prestige class features without sacrificing the fighter bonus feats.

But they should also be hella hard to qualify for. This, however, is due to a sense of entitlement by players and DM's being soft.

PLAYER: Hey, I have all the requirements for "Bladesinger," so I'll take a level of that now.
DM: Ummmm, okay.

When it should be more like:
At character creation the DM found out what PrC players were interested in taking so they could introduce trainers/members/mentors etc. early in the game before the player was even remotely close to joining so that the PrC is more like an affiliation (PHB 2 style) than just a set of pre-requisites so the DM's response is more akin to:

DM: Well, yes, you have spent several weeks hacking orcs (tm) to bits in a dreary dungeon, but you don't have the finesse to just start bladesinging all of a sudden. You do, however, think that you now have the credentials to have a sit-down with El'Broth and see if you can get admitted to the Bladesinger Troupe.


Mykull wrote:
Randall Jhen wrote:
Personally, I would disagree with your starting point: that the sailor is a fighter. I'd be more inclined to say he was a warrior, and that becoming a Navy SEAL makes him a fighter. Thus, he gets all the benefits of being a warrior (high Fort, HP, and BAB), plus he gets fighter feats. Seems to model what you're saying very well.

I'll concede that. The fighter progresses at the same BAB and ends up with the same saves and gains the bonus feats. The fighter is prestigious for the warrior.

My contention is that by that logic (in a fantasy game, I know) a prestige class for a fighter should grant the prestige class features without sacrificing the fighter bonus feats.

Here is where we run into a balance problem: A human fighter9 is CR 9. A human warrior9 is CR 8. Should, then, a human fighter6/PrC3 be CR 10? If yes, then that is to say that prestige classes should be more powerful than base classes; if no, then there's no way to handle a PrC granting a base class' abilities in addition to its own unique abilities.

Unless, of course, you use gestalt rules. They model what you envision PrCs to be quite nicely: a progression that enables you to maintain the fighter's abilities, and then grants the PrC abilities in addition. On the other hand, with gestalt, you then face the problem that when you start down the prestige class line, you stop gaining the benefits of one of the two classes you started with, which just brings us back to the initial point.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Epic Meepo wrote:
Loopy wrote:
"What do you mean +2d6 damage with all attacks from one weapon is too powerful??? It's only one weapon! And look! You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)! This is totally balanced!"

Well, if the bonus only applies to attacks made with knitting needles which otherwise deal 1 point of damage plus no Strength bonus, then it probably is balanced. :P

(Now I'm tempted to write up a Hellknit prestige class.)

That will happen in the Council of Thieves adventure Path.

In any case, all this talk about "prestige classes" makes me long for the "kits" of 2nd Edition. (... Not that they did not have their own balance problems.) Still, it seems that "mechanically" kits worked better.


Randall Jhen,

Yeah, I'd definitely bump the CR.

I mean, if it's prestigious then it should be better than the class from which it started, hence the higher CR.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Giving powers on top of everything the base class has. Abjurant Champion, Radiant Servant, and especially the Ultimate Prestige Classes' Scion class. (Go look it up, it will blow your mind out the back of your skull.)

When you get everything the base class does and then more abilities, you're wrong.


Again, Abjurant Champion and Radiant Servant do NOT get all the abilities of the base class.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Close enough to count in my book. Scion is the real definitive example. And I don't see what Radiant Servant gives up. Explain? And the AbCh too?


Mongoose Publishing is famous for producing extremely poor-quality d20 supplements, almost always being either dramatically overpowered or dramatically underpowered. I would never allow one of their books at my table. It doesn't surprise me in the least that there's a super-unbalanced PrC in one of their books.

However, we're not talking about some random diarrhea-of-the-pen publisher, we're talking about WotC's and Paizo's prestige classes.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Actually no, we're talking prestige class design mistakes. No one limited it to WotC and Paizo so far as I can tell. Hence bringing up Mongoose's mistakes is fair and actually a very good example.


TriOmegaZero wrote:

Giving powers on top of everything the base class has. Abjurant Champion, Radiant Servant, and especially the Ultimate Prestige Classes' Scion class. (Go look it up, it will blow your mind out the back of your skull.)

When you get everything the base class does and then more abilities, you're wrong.

If you gain the PrC just because you hit the pre-reqs.

The DM should actually make the player earn the prestige of the prestige class.

Mykull wrote:
. . . a prestige class for a fighter should grant the prestige class features without sacrificing the fighter bonus feats.

And TriOmegaZero is quite right and I am very wrong.

Unless you read the next line:

Mykull wrote:
But they should also be hella hard to qualify for.

I hope that speaks for itself because anything else I might type (for instance, that I'm well versed in the abilities of a Radiant Servant because I've played one into Epic levels and, no, they don't gain them all and I'll quote it for you

Complete Divine p. 52 wrote:
He does not, however, gain any other benefits a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of controlling or rebuking undead, wild shape ability, and so on).

might just come off as snarky.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Mykull wrote:

If you gain the PrC just because you hit the pre-reqs.

The DM should actually make the player earn the prestige of the prestige class.

Not arguing against that. But if no DM in his right mind would allow you to enter the class, it's obviously bad design.

Mykull wrote:
But they should also be hella hard to qualify for.

Hard to qualify makes the class for specific base classes. It does nothing to for balance except that you may need to make your character useless for awhile before you can get it. (3.5 Mystic Theurge and Arcane Trickster)

Mykull wrote:

I hope that speaks for itself because anything else I might type (for instance, that I'm well versed in the abilities of a Radiant Servant because I've played one into Epic levels and, no, they don't gain them all and I'll quote it for you

Complete Divine p. 52 wrote:
He does not, however, gain any other benefits a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of controlling or rebuking undead, wild shape ability, and so on).
might just come off as snarky.

So a druid won't get his wild shape. Color me unimpressed. He has to have some cleric anyway for the Sun domain as I recall. And if you're going into this, you probably don't rebuke undead. Y'know, that worship of Pelor thing.

And yes, it did come off snarky. And passive agressive. Very mature. Sorry if my posts did too.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Giving powers on top of everything {emphasis added} the base class has.

Webster's defines "everything" as all that exists, all that relates to a subject, all that is important. You're not impressed with a druid giving up wildshape or a cleric giving up rebuking, but that doesn't mean it wasn't sacrificed for the PrC. If you meant "giving powers on top of what I, TriOmegaZero, consider to be worthwhile base class abilities," then you should have written it.

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Hard to qualify makes the class for specific base classes. It does nothing to for balance except that you may need to make your character useless for awhile before you can get it. (3.5 Mystic Theurge and Arcane Trickster)
Mykull wrote:
The "requirements" are the minimums for admission, they in no way guarantee acceptance. In fact, in my game, if you apply when all you've got is the minimum, you're going to fail more than two-thirds of the time.

When I talk about "hard to qualify" I'm talking about the DM creating an adventure just to gain the PrC in addition to whatever the PrC pre-reqs are. I am not talking about just needing more ranks in this or that feat or a higher BAB. And it should be something that, if all the PC has is the base pre-reqs, they'll stand a very excellent chance of failing/dying.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Mykull wrote:
Webster's defines "everything" as all that exists, all that relates to a subject, all that is important. You're not impressed with a druid giving up wildshape or a cleric giving up rebuking, but that doesn't mean it wasn't sacrificed for the PrC. If you meant "giving powers on top of what I, TriOmegaZero, consider to be worthwhile base class abilities," then you should have written it.

A sacrifice that does not have any effect is not a sacrifice. Radiant Servant is highly restrictive, to make it ONLY for clerics of Pelor. They are not going to be rebukers, and the class increases their turning. The fact that it doesn't increase a druid's wild shape when the class is specifically for clerics is not a balancing factor. It's no different than it not increasing a paladins smite evil damage.

Mykull wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Hard to qualify makes the class for specific base classes. It does nothing to for balance except that you may need to make your character useless for awhile before you can get it. (3.5 Mystic Theurge and Arcane Trickster)
Mykull wrote:
The "requirements" are the minimums for admission, they in no way guarantee acceptance. In fact, in my game, if you apply when all you've got is the minimum, you're going to fail more than two-thirds of the time.
When I talk about "hard to qualify" I'm talking about the DM creating an adventure just to gain the PrC in addition to whatever the PrC pre-reqs are. I am not talking about just needing more ranks in this or that feat or a higher BAB. And it should be something that, if all the PC has is the base pre-reqs, they'll stand a very excellent chance of failing/dying.

In-game disadvantages do not balance mechanical advantages. The same as using the paladin's code as a balancing factor to the class doesn't work. Making the PC do jump through hoops to access the class is a facade for "I don't want you to have this class until I say so." I'd rather it just be out in the open.


TriOmegaZero wrote:


A sacrifice that does not have any effect is not a sacrifice. Radiant Servant is highly restrictive, to make it ONLY for clerics of Pelor. They are not going to be rebukers, and the class increases their turning. The fact that it doesn't increase a druid's wild shape when the class is specifically for clerics is not a balancing factor. It's no different than it not increasing a paladins smite evil damage.

Yes, it is different. You can have a LN cleric of Pelor, and clerics who are N or E on the Good/Evil axis can choose to rebuke undead instead of turning them. Thus, it's quite possible to have a cleric of Pelor who rebukes undead.

Furthermore, Radiant Servant does not advance domain abilities that are dependent on level (there are prestige classes that do, so the distinction matters), and every single domain in Pathfinder has abilities that are dependent on level.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Zurai wrote:

Yes, it is different. You can have a LN cleric of Pelor, and clerics who are N or E on the Good/Evil axis can choose to rebuke undead instead of turning them. Thus, it's quite possible to have a cleric of Pelor who rebukes undead.

Furthermore, Radiant Servant does not advance domain abilities that are dependent on level (there are prestige classes that do, so the distinction matters), and every single domain in Pathfinder has abilities that are dependent on level.

How do you have a LN cleric of a NG god?

And yes, Pathfinder domains are one thing they don't get. I'm sorry I used 'everything' as a blanket statement.


Sorry, I forgot Pelor was NG. You can have a TN one, though, so my point stands.


Zurai wrote:
Sorry, I forgot Pelor was NG. You can have a TN one, though, so my point stands.

Hate to do this to you Zurai, but it doesn't. Neutral clerics of good gods Turn Undead/Channel Positive energy. The only clerics with a choice are neutral clerics of morally neutral gods.


Ah, jeeze, you're right. Point retracted.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

So yes, the Radiant Servant doesn't get everything, but it is close enough to count in horseshoes. Abjurant Champion has the same now with wizard school powers/ sorceror bloodlines, and the feat requirements. (Could be negated if elven proficiences count as martial in your game. I should look up the PF changes on that.) I would still count these classes as broken, or unbalanced if you prefer.


Yeah, it's unfortunate so few caster prestige classes were done well. Most are either crap, screwing the casting and not giving much in return, or unbalanced, giving you full casting and tons of benefits ontop of it.

My idea on the hallmarks of full caster prestige class balance? Malconvoker, and Archmage. Each of them costs you something valuable (A caster level from malconvoker and with abilities focused on enhancing a weaker option, summoning to bring it to a competetive edge, and spell slots for the Archmage.)

(Pst: TriOmega, could you email me the TOMES link? I lost it with my old PC)

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

Lord Fyre wrote:
Epic Meepo wrote:
Loopy wrote:
You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)!
(Now I'm tempted to write up a Hellknit prestige class.)
That will happen in the Council of Thieves adventure Path.

I guess I rolled a "1" on my Perform (comedy) check.

Note that I was responding to a post about knitting, and that "Hellknit" was not a typo.


Epic Meepo wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Epic Meepo wrote:
Loopy wrote:
You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)!
(Now I'm tempted to write up a Hellknit prestige class.)
That will happen in the Council of Thieves adventure Path.

I guess I rolled a "1" on my Perform (comedy) check.

Note that I was responding to a post about knitting, and that "Hellknit" was not a typo.

I got your joke, my Heavily Armored Cleric.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Epic Meepo wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Epic Meepo wrote:
Loopy wrote:
You had to take 5 ranks of Profession (knitting)!
(Now I'm tempted to write up a Hellknit prestige class.)
That will happen in the Council of Thieves adventure Path.

I guess I rolled a "1" on my Perform (comedy) check.

Note that I was responding to a post about knitting, and that "Hellknit" was not a typo.

Either that, or I rolled poorly on my perception check.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
In-game disadvantages do not balance mechanical advantages. The same as using the paladin's code as a balancing factor to the class doesn't work. Making the PC do jump through hoops to access the class is a facade for "I don't want you to have this class until I say so." I'd rather it just be out in the open.

What you call an in-game disadvantage I call a story-driven reward. What you call jumping through hoops I call good character development. These differences seem to be the crux of our disagreement.

The powers of a prestigious affiliation, imo, should be earned, not just given away because you meet the entry requirements. That's like saying, "Okay, I've been accepted to Harvard, now give me my degree." You still have to "jump through hoops," as you put it, to get the degree. You don't get the degree until someone else says so; until you've earned it.

You'd rather it just be out in the open. I don't hide my DM'ing style concerning PrC from my players. I am very up front about this at character generation.


Mykull wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
In-game disadvantages do not balance mechanical advantages. The same as using the paladin's code as a balancing factor to the class doesn't work. Making the PC do jump through hoops to access the class is a facade for "I don't want you to have this class until I say so." I'd rather it just be out in the open.

What you call an in-game disadvantage I call a story-driven reward. What you call jumping through hoops I call good character development. These differences seem to be the crux of our disagreement.

The powers of a prestigious affiliation, imo, should be earned, not just given away because you meet the entry requirements. That's like saying, "Okay, I've been accepted to Harvard, now give me my degree." You still have to "jump through hoops," as you put it, to get the degree. You don't get the degree until someone else says so; until you've earned it.

You'd rather it just be out in the open. I don't hide my DM'ing style concerning PrC from my players. I am very up front about this at character generation.

Agreed.

There is no way I would allow a player to just turn up at the table and say "Oh I qualify for *insert PrC here* I'm going to be one" especially if there hasn't even been a whisper about it prior. That isn't the way I run the game or would play it myself.
The only PrC which comes close to it is the Assassin which I do hope DMs just don't gloss over but actually have the PC work through. That should be the standard not the exception.
In my game there is a player with a warmage who wishes to change to DD. When the PC hits the correct qualifiers for the Artifical Game Mechanic then he plans to take his PC back to his warmage college and undertake a quest/challange to EARN the PrC which is making the best use of MGF (Maximum Game Fun).
The lazy "you qualify under AGM so yea take it" attitude cheapens PrC IMO. However thats my game with my players who are all happy I do it that way.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Mykull wrote:

What you call an in-game disadvantage I call a story-driven reward. What you call jumping through hoops I call good character development. These differences seem to be the crux of our disagreement.

The powers of a prestigious affiliation, imo, should be earned, not just given away because you meet the entry requirements. That's like saying, "Okay, I've been accepted to Harvard, now give me my degree." You still have to "jump through hoops," as you put it, to get the degree. You don't get the degree until someone else says so; until you've earned it.

You'd rather it just be out in the open. I don't hide my DM'ing style concerning PrC from my players. I am very up front about this at character generation.

I apologize, I knew I wasn't explaining myself very well. We agree completely on joining the organization being a roleplaying challenge. My point is that you cannot use that challenge as the balancing factor for the class. The Scion prestige class, to use an example.

The requirements are Knowledge Religion 10 ranks, 4th level divine spells, and the attention of a deity. For this, you get average BAB and d8, all good saves. Full spellcasting progression. Permanent sanctuary and divine favor. Once per day choose the result of any die roll. +2 Inherent bonus to two abilities. At will Bless touch. Spontaneous domain casting. All domains related to his diety. DR. Once per day add Cha bonus to save DC. True Resurrection (self only) at will for 2 Con. Half-celestial/fiend template.

A sidebar mentions that this class is for high-level high-power play and the DM should be aware. I would not ever allow this class to be used. This is poor design.

A prestige class should have mechanical benefits and mechanical drawbacks so as give a player a real choice. If the player will go to any lengths to get access to the class, there is a problem. Making a difficult and complex in-game requirement doesn't fix that problem.

I fully agree with you on being entirely open about how your players can access the class. And I fully agree that it should be prestigious. All I am suggesting is that too many people write unbalanced classes with in-game requirements that average players don't use.


Wait, I may have missed something... we aren't qualifying an ALIGNMENT choice as a balancing factor for a prestige class, are we? <- you are welcome to read this as if I were giving you an incredulous stare


Loopy wrote:
Wait, I may have missed something... we aren't qualifying an ALIGNMENT choice as a balancing factor for a prestige class, are we? <- you are welcome to read this as if I were giving you an incredulous stare

+1 to the increadulous stare scene

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