I’ve never been a fan of prestige classes but understand the need to distinguish between societies and organizations PCs might join. I’m wondering how others might handle this. As for myself here’s my latest thought about the subject.
While reviewing the trait system and wondering how a person could apply other aspects to a character along a similar vein I came up with the thought of perhaps creating prestige templates. A prestige template would be similar to a monster template in the bestiary but designed to replace a prestige class. How it differs from a regular template is that it is applied in steps determined by the GM. Basically each prestige template would have portions that represent differing levels within the organization.
Here’s my reasoning for a prestige template. Often times members of organizations (in this case prestige classes) still train in their normal professions which I’ve never understood the sudden separation. The person in question is effectively learning two things at once. For example a martial artist who becomes a ninja is still learning martial arts only in addition to it he/she is learning the secrets of being a ninja. Why the need for separation? There isn’t any when a prestige template would allow the character to remain focused on their primary class or class related to it.
The question is how do you design a prestige template to allow it to work effectively? Designing it like a monster template means a change in the character’s CR which could offset the power scheme of the game. Suddenly you have one character more powerful than the others or the party starts cake walking the mods. However I think if one used a form of traits (going with that since they seem balanced at the moment and not sure what to call this aspect) and incorporated other features it might work if designed properly. Here’s a list of possible aspects from regular templates along with other features that might be incorporated into a prestige template.
Stat modifier – The template improves ability scores due to training, technique, or focus taught. Example: +2 Dex or +1 Str
Hit Dice – Whenever taking a class related to the foundation the player may choose to take the higher of the hit dice if there is more than one. Some templates may also assign a set die or indicate a die bump (d8 to d10). If none is listed assume that the higher die of the foundation is chosen.
Expanded list: This one is a new feature I thought of and effectively accounts for things the organization might teach the character. The expanded list might be a list of feats, spells, or weapons the character gains access to. It doesn’t grant them anything on the list necessarily, but only grants access if allowed (class or race restrictions might still apply), thus it doesn’t over power the character.
Bonus trait(s): This aspect, just like regular traits (remember just a place holder name), modifies the character without over powering to an extreme degree. My thoughts would be to keep it in line with regular traits but shift the focus away from that dynamic and create a new subset that works within the range ascribed. An example of my thinking would be that perhaps the organization teaches how to become more effective with slashing weapons so the template grants a bonus attack trait that increases damage dealt by one size category to all slashing weapons the character might use. So the bard wielding a long sword now does a d10 instead of a d8.
Foundation (working term) – This is the balancing factor for the template to keep characters in line if there is a possibility that it could become over powering. The Foundation is the minimum number of classes that can be enhanced by the template. A character may use any combination to achieve the requirements as chosen by the player, but when applying the template only the classes comprising the Foundation may be affected. For this example I’m going to use the eldritch knight as there are a number of combinations that a player might use to gain the prestige class. The base for the eldritch would be two since essentially you only need two classes to achieve it. So if a player decides to take the eldritch knight template and the character is a fighter 1/sorcerer 1/wizard 5 only the fighter and mage count as the foundation since they meet the requirement. If the character has a way of counting other classes toward a requirement the foundation still applies to the minimum number of classes, but those classes may be used to meet the requirements. (This would be for situations where backstabs or other abilities might stack and could be used for the requirements.)
So now let’s look at the eldritch knight as a template since it’s already an existing prestige class from the Player’s Guide that we’re familiar with and I already mentioned it in the base section. Remember I’m working with a concept idea that isn’t fully worked out so it will be rough.
Eldritch Knight Template
Foundation 2 (arcane/martial)
Opposition Templates: None
Tier 1 Template
Requirements (Keeping these the same for now as they make sense)
Weapon Proficiency: Must be proficient with all martial weapons.
Spells: Able to cast 3rd-level arcane spells.
Expanded skill list: The following skills are now class skills for this character if not already. Climb (Str), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Swim (Str).
Diverse Training Trait: The eldritch knight has learned how to combine the abilities from his Foundation into a lethal focus of steel and magic. When determining the character’s base attack all foundation levels add together and count as the martial class before adding any other classes. (Thus the fighter 1/sorcerer 1/mage 5 in the foundation example counts as a fighter 6/sorcerer 1 for the purposes of determining base attack.) The eldritch knight also adds all foundation levels to meet the requirements for gaining a feat related to any of the foundations. (So the six levels may be used as either a fighter 6 or wizard 6 when picking feats.)
Stout Defender Trait: The eldritch knight gains +1 on fortitude saves.
Tier 2 Template
Requirements: At least one level since Tier 1 was gained.
Spell Mastery Trait: Whenever an eldritch knight advances levels in the martial class that met the weapon proficiency requirement for the template it gains an additional level of spellcasting as if it took a level in the arcane class portion of the foundation but gains no other benefits from the arcane class. Also when casting spells all foundation levels count when determining caster level for effects and concentration checks.
Quick and Dirty Trait: The eldritch knight gains +1 to reflex and will saves.
Tier 3 Template
Requirements: At least three levels since Tier 2 was gained.
Stat Bonus: +1 Str
At Home in Combat Trait: The eldritch knight is at home on the battlefield and has learned a few tricks. The character gains a bonus combat feat selected from the foundation’s martial class bonus combat feat list. The eldritch knight may do this twice more as long as the foundation’s martial class level doesn’t offer a bonus feat at that level and it has been at least four levels since the last bonus feat granted by At Home in Combat.
Tier 4 Template
Requirements: At least six levels since Tier 3
Stat Bonus: +1 Int or Cha determined by arcane foundation
Spell Critical Trait: Whenever an eldritch knight successfully confirms a critical hit, he can cast a spell as a swift action. The spell must include the target of the attack as one of its targets or in its area of effect. Casting this spell does not provoke an attack of opportunity. The caster must still meet all of the spell’s components and must roll for arcane spell failure if necessary.
So what are you're thoughts? Notice I added Opposition Templates as a way of stopping the possiblity of combining templates that might really get over powering. I also added requirements for each tier of the template to help control it and keep it in line. I think it might be best to set a limit of maybe two prestige templates.
I had that Idea a couple of years ago: Instead of multiclassing, you specialise. Maybe through addition (i.e. you get the abilities from your base class and the extra stuff to boot), maybe as a chain of feats.
One problem I see is the "multiclass enhancers" Like eldritch knight might not work with that - but you can fix that with reworked multiclassing rules.