Paths of Prestige ... some baffling capstone abilities


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Very cool product and one I was looking forward to purchasing. The two prestige classes that intrigued me most were the Aldori Swordlord and the Arclord of Nex ...

Yet each earns, from my present perspective, weak capstone abilities.

First, the Aldori Swordlord's 10th level ability "Confounding Duelist". It involves a successful critical or combat maneuver, then a successful intimidate check, then the opponent's morale/competence/insight bonuses are suppressed.

Good lord that feels a little clunky and none too smooth. So a character's capstone reward at 15th+ overall level is an ability that maybe works every other rainy Tuesday during a lunar equinox?? And when it DOES work, it suppresses bonuses that the opponent may or may not have? Hey, I'm probably missing something, but how is it fair that a PRC capstone ability doesn't just "work"? One has to jump through 2-3 hoops FOR it to work?

Second, the Arclord of Nex ... By the time a character reaches 10th level in the PRC they are roughly 15th-16th level overall. The capstone Greater Third Eye allows the use of greater arcane sight (7th level spell) or true seeing (6th level spell) ... but ONLY until the beginning of your next turn! Each spell normally has a duration of 1 minute per level ... AND the character could just CHOOSE either or both of those spells as part of his daily usage instead of wasting hand of the apprentice uses for an ability that again ... lasts ONLY a single turn! How does this make sense?? What am I missing??

Strong product with great flavor, but I'm completely underwhelmed with what a high level character in these classes earns after so much hard work. Any insight is appreciated.

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Derron42 wrote:

Very cool product and one I was looking forward to purchasing. The two prestige classes that intrigued me most were the Aldori Swordlord and the Arclord of Nex ...

Yet each earns, from my present perspective, weak capstone abilities.

First, the Aldori Swordlord's 10th level ability "Confounding Duelist". It involves a successful critical or combat maneuver, then a successful intimidate check, then the opponent's morale/competence/insight bonuses are suppressed.

Good lord that feels a little clunky and none too smooth. So a character's capstone reward at 15th+ overall level is an ability that maybe works every other rainy Tuesday during a lunar equinox?? And when it DOES work, it suppresses bonuses that the opponent may or may not have? Hey, I'm probably missing something, but how is it fair that a PRC capstone ability doesn't just "work"? One has to jump through 2-3 hoops FOR it to work?

Second, the Arclord of Nex ... By the time a character reaches 10th level in the PRC they are roughly 15th-16th level overall. The capstone Greater Third Eye allows the use of greater arcane sight (7th level spell) or true seeing (6th level spell) ... but ONLY until the beginning of your next turn! Each spell normally has a duration of 1 minute per level ... AND the character could just CHOOSE either or both of those spells as part of his daily usage instead of wasting hand of the apprentice uses for an ability that again ... lasts ONLY a single turn! How does this make sense?? What am I missing??

Strong product with great flavor, but I'm completely underwhelmed with what a high level character in these classes earns after so much hard work. Any insight is appreciated.

Suppressing morale bonuses is better than you'd think. Consider that you have a raging barbarian in front of you. You use Confounding Duelist. If successful, you've just killed his rage completely, since his Str and Con bonuses are morale bonuses. This will also remove a bunch of his HP instantly (from losing Con bonus).

As for the Arclord, you're ignoring the other benefits of the Third Eye ability. You can now use the aid another action to grant a fellow Wizard a bunch of bonuses (including +1 caster level!), and it only costs you a SWIFT action to start using the eye, so you could swift open the eye, use aid another AND still have a move action left for the round. On top of all that, you can gain true seeing for a round without having to use a spell slot on it, so that can be VERY useful. Don't forget that the Arclord isn't really a damage-centric character, but meant to aid his allies during battles and craft some awesome stuff.


Thanks for the thoughts cartmanbaeck ...

The Arclord explanation makes more sense, but still ... I feel like capstone abilities should "work" and not require 2+ "hoop jumps" to function.


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In the case of Arclord, I feel like a full-casting wizard PrC doesn't really need a capstone. You give up very little to become an Arclord and get a pile of utility abilities in return - it's not like there would be some huge boost that a straight wizard would be getting at 15.

(Well, technically there is, in the form of 8th-level spells, but the Arclord gets those too. Maybe you can think of those as the Arclord's capstone.)


cartmanbeck wrote:
Suppressing morale bonuses is better than you'd think. Consider that you have a raging barbarian in front of you. You use Confounding Duelist. If successful, you've just killed his rage completely, since his Str and Con bonuses are morale bonuses. This will also remove a bunch of his HP instantly (from losing Con bonus).

That's great - but now, what happens in the 98% of your battles that aren't against barbarians? Or what happens if you don't happen to crit when a barbarian does show up?


I just wanted say from what I have seen so far (half the book) this must be one of the best crunch books paizo ever made.
The prestige classes are balanced, have interesting fluff and mechanics that create a different play experience.

That said this is my first impression and without seeing any of the content in actual play, so I might change my mind later.

Aldori sword master seems a well rounded prestige class. I dont understand why a prestige class or even a class must have a good capstone ability. For me the first level of the prestige is the capstone (dex to damage).


The Aldori prestige class has quite a few requirements, and the fluff is a bit too specific for my liking.


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Icyshadow wrote:
The Aldori prestige class has quite a few requirements, and the fluff is a bit too specific for my liking.

Fluffwise, you could pretty trivially make it non-setting-specific by removing the EWP requirement, replacing all mentions of the Aldori dueling sword with the rapier, and renaming it "Daring Fencer" or something.


A little off topic but related to the Aldori Swordlord. They get the Aldori Dueling Master feat as bonus feat but that feat requires the Quick Draw feat but the Prestige Class doesn't require that. So what happens if you don't have Quick Draw?

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voska66 wrote:
A little off topic but related to the Aldori Swordlord. They get the Aldori Dueling Master feat as bonus feat but that feat requires the Quick Draw feat but the Prestige Class doesn't require that. So what happens if you don't have Quick Draw?

...Huh. That's probably an error. Either they should get the feat without needing to meet its prerequisites, or Quick Draw should be a requirement for the class. I'll make an editor's note on the d20pfsrd site mentioning that.

Paizo Employee Developer

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voska66 wrote:
A little off topic but related to the Aldori Swordlord. They get the Aldori Dueling Master feat as bonus feat but that feat requires the Quick Draw feat but the Prestige Class doesn't require that. So what happens if you don't have Quick Draw?

Good eye! Thanks to Aldori Dueling Mastery, you gain the Aldori Dueling Master feat as a bonus feat, even if you do not meet the prerequisites.

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Patrick Renie wrote:
voska66 wrote:
A little off topic but related to the Aldori Swordlord. They get the Aldori Dueling Master feat as bonus feat but that feat requires the Quick Draw feat but the Prestige Class doesn't require that. So what happens if you don't have Quick Draw?
Good eye! Thanks to Aldori Dueling Mastery, you gain the Aldori Dueling Master feat as a bonus feat, even if you do not meet the prerequisites.

Thank you Patrick, I have updated my Editor's note on the Aldori Swordlord with a link to this clarification. Also a big thank-you to voska for noticing that! Link


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Icyshadow wrote:
and the fluff is a bit too specific for my liking.

That's kind of the entire points of Prestige Classes, isn't it? Unless I'm mistaken, Prestige Classes in Pathfinder are supposed to be representative of you being in a specific organization or whatever, and have a specific purpose and/or function.

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Harrison wrote:
Icyshadow wrote:
and the fluff is a bit too specific for my liking.
That's kind of the entire points of Prestige Classes, isn't it? Unless I'm mistaken, Prestige Classes in Pathfinder are supposed to be representative of you being in a specific organization or whatever, and have a specific purpose and/or function.

Correct. That's why Prestige classes for the most part are in non-core books (Player Companions, Campaign Settings, etc). They're meant to be tied to the Golarion world more than the base rules are.


^ And most of the ones in the core books are minimal fluff "dual advancement" class (though they suck pretty bad)

Paths of Prestige is a book that I feel really shows that each class was written largely independently by multiple authors.

On one hand, there's a class that gets the ability to... cast Arcane Lock OR Hold Portal once a day and then latter gets the awesome ability too... do it twice a day (Though it says "cast" not "Spell Like Ability" which I am sure a better optimizer than me can break easily) with their main scaling ability, first gained at level 4/ECL 9 is improved Awesome Blow, which is alreddy done better by Punishing Kick (BAB 8 or Hungry Ghost 1)

On the other, there is Magaambyan Arcanist which in exchange for losing advancement on school abilities (the majority of which gain the important parts of their scaling from Int over Wizard level and are very dipable anyways) and requiring two slots to prepare (note that word, its very easy to work around) [evil] spells (All the Wizard ones are a: Low level or b: Of use only out of combat) you gain the one thing Wizards do NOT need: More flexability.

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deuxhero wrote:

^ And most of the ones in the core books are minimal fluff "dual advancement" class (though they suck pretty bad)

Paths of Prestige is a book that I feel really shows that each class was written largely independently by multiple authors.

On one hand, there's a class that gets the ability to... cast Arcane Lock OR Hold Portal once a day and then latter gets the awesome ability too... do it twice a day (Though it says "cast" not "Spell Like Ability" which I am sure a better optimizer than me can break easily) with their main scaling ability, first gained at level 4/ECL 9 is improved Awesome Blow, which is alreddy done better by Punishing Kick (BAB 8 or Hungry Ghost 1)

On the other, there is Magaambyan Arcanist which in exchange for losing advancement on school abilities (the majority of which gain the important parts of their scaling from Int over Wizard level and are very dipable anyways) and requiring two slots to prepare (note that word, its very easy to work around) [evil] spells (All the Wizard ones are a: Low level or b: Of use only out of combat) you gain the one thing Wizards do NOT need: More flexability.

If you're looking for optimization, Prestige classes generally aren't the way to go. They're meant to take a concept and run with it, not to be better than base classes. For optimization, look to archetypes.


It's not optimization I'm talking about, it's "vastly different power levels and class design principles" (are you honestly going to tell me "cast Arcane Lock once a day" is a worthwhile class ability?).

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deuxhero wrote:
It's not optimization I'm talking about, it's "vastly different power levels and class design principles" (are you honestly going to tell me "cast Arcane Lock once a day" is a worthwhile class ability?).

For a non-caster, gaining any type of spell-like ability can be situationally useful. It would be a horrible power for a wizard-based PrC, but for a monk-based one that is called "Brother of the Seal" and whose job it is to guard a hidden treasure trove of arcane artifacts, it's actually very nice. Look at these in the context of their fluff, and you'll see that the abilities make sense.


cartmanbeck wrote:
Look at these in the context of their fluff, and you'll see that the abilities make sense.

I don't think that is mutually exclusive with "vastly different power levels and class design principles." PoP has some classes that are just Class+ (Hellknight Signifier, Magaambyan Arcanist, Veiled Illusionist) and others that give up a lot for, well, Arcane Lock once a day. Both are flavorful, but some are requiring a much bigger sacrifice for that flavor than others.

Sure, it makes sense that a Brother of the Seal might have stuff to do with doors and portals. But why these specific spells, and why once or twice a day? Why not much more often? And why not add in something like Knock, which is more generally useful and also fitting with the class and flavor? You can still have flavor and tie things to Golarion while making the different choices at least vaguely on the same level.

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Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
cartmanbeck wrote:
Look at these in the context of their fluff, and you'll see that the abilities make sense.

I don't think that is mutually exclusive with "vastly different power levels and class design principles." PoP has some classes that are just Class+ (Hellknight Signifier, Magaambyan Arcanist, Veiled Illusionist) and others that give up a lot for, well, Arcane Lock once a day. Both are flavorful, but some are requiring a much bigger sacrifice for that flavor than others.

Sure, it makes sense that a Brother of the Seal might have stuff to do with doors and portals. But why these specific spells, and why once or twice a day? Why not much more often? And why not add in something like Knock, which is more generally useful and also fitting with the class and flavor? You can still have flavor and tie things to Golarion while making the different choices at least vaguely on the same level.

I'm not saying you don't make a point here, I just don't think it's a big deal. Some classes are going to be less powerful than others, period. Look at the Pathfinder Delver. Compared to, say, the Shadowdancer, it's extremely "underpowered", but it makes sense for what it's supposed to be.

Anyway, I think overall, Paths of Prestige is some of the best rules-writing to come out of Paizo in a good while. Maybe there are a few missteps, but it's so good overall I don't care about those in the least.


cartmanbeck wrote:
I'm not saying you don't make a point here, I just don't think it's a big deal. Some classes are going to be less powerful than others, period. Look at the Pathfinder Delver. Compared to, say, the Shadowdancer, it's extremely "underpowered", but it makes sense for what it's supposed to be.

But... why? Why do some prestige classes need to be straight weaker than others, instead of just more niche? Flavor doesn't need to prevent useful mechanics. Good mechanics can, in fact, enhance the flavor. If abilities are so specific as to almost never come up in gameplay, the fact that you belong to the class on paper isn't going to be memorable or interesting. Likewise, if your niche abilities still aren't very good when they come up, the whole thing is going to be less interesting and memorable.

cartmanbeck wrote:
Anyway, I think overall, Paths of Prestige is some of the best rules-writing to come out of Paizo in a good while. Maybe there are a few missteps, but it's so good overall I don't care about those in the least.

While I might not go so far as saying "the best," I totally agree Paths of Prestige is a good book overall. There are a great many lessons Paizo has learned well from the 3.X days, like less front-loaded abilities, and they have certainly reduced the number of class+ options they put out. As with many complaints, it is more of a case of "this can be better" rather than "this is just bad."


Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
cartmanbeck wrote:
I'm not saying you don't make a point here, I just don't think it's a big deal. Some classes are going to be less powerful than others, period. Look at the Pathfinder Delver. Compared to, say, the Shadowdancer, it's extremely "underpowered", but it makes sense for what it's supposed to be.
But... why? Why do some prestige classes need to be straight weaker than others, instead of just more niche?

In a game awarding specialization, being "more niche" can be a very, very powerful thing.

I'm not saying "less versatility" isn't a drawback, just that it should be used with care as a balancing factor. Especially if it's versatility in character building rather than versatility in-game.


Specialization is only rewarded if the specialist can do more in her own specialized field than a generalist can in that field (and several others). A lot of prestige classes don't meet that basic test of usefulness.


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Roberta Yang wrote:
Specialization is only rewarded if the specialist can do more in her own specialized field than a generalist can in that field (and several others). A lot of prestige classes don't meet that basic test of usefulness.

Exactly this. If the Aldori Swordlord isn't the lord of the Aldori sword, the Riftwarden isn't the best at warding rifts, or the Mammoth Rider can't ride mammoths better than another class (which can do these activities and more) there is an issue.

I think the Riftwarden is a good example: compared to a straight caster, it gives up quite a lot. However, it is extremely good at its niche. Their ability to mess with outsiders and teleportation is extremely good, but the large loss in versatility from lost caster levels makes up for it. It won't trivialize encounters even in its realm of specialization or be terrible outside of it, but rather makes an even trade between versatility and niche power.

On the other side, you have something like the Storm Kindler, whose main ability is turning into a whirlwind or vortex. However, it is arguably worse at it than a Druid using wildshape to turn into an elemental, or even another caster using elemental body. It also loses versatility because of fewer spell levels and no advancement of abilities. A straight Druid (especially a Tempest Druid) can do more in general and be equal or better in the niche, and is thus a better kindler of storms overall. There is thus little reason to use the class, even if the concept interests you. I find this to a problem.


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Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
On the other side, you have something like the Storm Kindler, whose main ability is turning into a whirlwind or vortex. However, it is arguably worse at it than a Druid using wildshape to turn into an elemental, or even another caster using elemental body. It also loses versatility because of fewer spell levels and no advancement of abilities. A straight Druid (especially a Tempest Druid) can do more in general and be equal or better in the niche, and is thus a better kindler of storms overall. There is thus little reason to use the class, even if the concept interests you. I find this to a problem.

For what it's worth, a max level Storm Kindler can make a larger whirlwind than elemental body IV (or by extension wild shape) allows. The problem with Storm Kindler in my opinion is that it gets an unnecessary restriction on allowable size categories that the normal whirlwind ability doesn't; the regular Whirlwind is only restricted by "as many creatures trapped inside at one time as will fit inside the whirlwind’s volume", such that even a Small air elemental can pick up and trap Large creatures in whirlwind form. Since the 3.5 whirlwind ability did have a size restriction, I suspect that the Storm Kindler fell victim to a writer who was unfamiliar with the rules changes. If not for that, it would be a fairly credible PrC for storm-themed clerics and rangers.

Edit: This is what I get for relying on d20pfsrd. Checking the PRD, PF Whirlwind does indeed have a size category restriction on creatures affected by it. The Storm Kindler therefore does keep up with a vanilla (non-archetype) druid in terms of whirlwind effectiveness and exceeds the druid's maximum whirlwind effectiveness starting at PrC level 8 (character level 14, assuming earliest entry).


The Aldori Swordlord and Winter Witch are both intended to mix with the archetypes of the same name, not necessarily 50-50 between the base and prestige classes. The swordlord specifically gets a useful Counterattack ability at level 11, so you might only want to take 9 levels of the prestige class.


I'd say those sort of design decisions get made because not every class/prc needs to be on the power level of a PC. Some organizations that a PC may or may not want to join might have a focused enough skill set that a prc to represent it (like Brother of the Seal) works. Every single prc/class/feat/item needs to be written with an optimized character build in mind. Some are going to be role playing choices, some are setting backdrops, and when it all comes down to it, just like in life, all career choices aren't equal, nor should they be.

Something else to think about to, Brother of the Seal, the prc you have issues with, has a pretty spiffy capstone power. By expending a stunning fist use, he can try and dispel any magic barrier, even those such as prismatic wall or sphere that are normally immune to such attempts, and if successful, avoid all damage. I mean, your focusing on one ability, that they get at 1st level, and complaining that its not awe inspiring. Not many prc's have awe inspiring 1st level abilities, and if they do, they need retooled IMO because the good stuff shouldn't be a 1 level dip in. And if there is better down the road for the prc, it might be a little overpowered, and again, need retooled.


Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
Roberta Yang wrote:
Specialization is only rewarded if the specialist can do more in her own specialized field than a generalist can in that field (and several others). A lot of prestige classes don't meet that basic test of usefulness.
Exactly this. If the Aldori Swordlord isn't the lord of the Aldori sword, the Riftwarden isn't the best at warding rifts, or the Mammoth Rider can't ride mammoths better than another class (which can do these activities and more) there is an issue.

However, if Aldori swords are already among the top choices for fighting characters, someone who's better than other at aldori swords are better than others at fighting. If mammoths are already the best thing you can ride the mammoth rider will be the best mounted class. That's what I meant.

I agree that riftwarden is a well-designed class, due to the nature of it's versatility loss - it gives up actual, in game power. Now, the Aldori Swordlord is probably worse at dealing damage with an aldori sword than a fighter is - but since weapon focusing is something that's more about versatility on character design, there WOULD be an issue if the aldori swordlord was better than everyone else with an aldori sword - because that would mean they where basically better than everyone else with a sword or similar weapon, as aldori swords are quite good.

What I'm saying is that this is a feat where the reduction in effectiveness is an actual hinder:
Oath of the Cudgel
Benefit: When using a club or mace, you gain +2 on attack rolls. However, if you ever use a ranged weapon or make a ranged attack roll, you lose this bonus until at least one year has passed and you have atoned. During this period, you also take a -2 penalty on will saves.

You lose in-game options because you'll be lacking when you need ranged attacks. In contrast:
Oath of the Cudgel
Benefit: When using a club or mace, you gain +2 on attack rolls. However, if you ever use an axe or sword weapon, you lose this bonus until at least one year has passed and you have atoned. During this period, you also take a -2 penalty on will saves.

this does not hinder you noticebly, since a character focused on maces will only very, very rarely be hindered by a lack of axe usage, since this decision is more made when building the character.

I'm just saying the "losing options" drawback can often be smaller than you think it is. I saw an example on the homebrew section of a summoner which gained 1/2 an evolution point extra but did not gain summon monster sla's. The "loss of options", the person said, was enough to make up for it.


stringburka wrote:
However, if Aldori swords are already among the top choices for fighting characters, someone who's better than other at aldori swords are better than others at fighting. If mammoths are already the best thing you can ride the mammoth rider will be the best mounted class. That's what I meant.

So then, in order to not be better, they must be both less versatile AND equal or worse in their niche? I like your example with the clubs, and it is does a great job of illustrating a pitfall to be avoided. My point, however, is that one must not go too far the other way and fall into the pitfall of "prestige class is worse at its concept than someone who stayed in a base class." When reducing versatility is not an option (or not enough), a class can still be balanced through abilities that are different (but not necessarily worse) than a core class counterpart. You cannot balance by making the new classes just worse, as that is not "balance" but purposefully unbalancing the new class towards "too weak" to avoid possible power creep.

Taking the example of the Aldori Swordlord, the class is substantially worse at fighting with Aldori swords than a straight Fighter or the Aldori Swordlord archetype. No Weapon Training, no Greater Weapon Focus/Specialization, missing out on piles of bonus feats. In exchange they get a variety of abilities that range somewhat to extremely situational, and none of which make you particularly amazing at fighting (be it monsters or duels). Someone who skipped the archetype for Fighter levels and the Crane Style feats would be much better off, perhaps dipping one level of the PrC to add DEX to damage if they were so inclined. This is bothersome not only in mechanics, but flavor. These Aldori Swordlords train in special techniques... that make them worse than some random Fighter who picks up their favored weapon? Seems like a poor school of dueling, and makes it a bit odd that it would become as renowned and powerful as it is supposed to be.

Benly wrote:
Whirlwind and whatnot

"Keeps up with a vanilla Druid" is sort of the problem. I mean, they are losing spell levels, abilities, and all the other wildshape options to do just "keep up" with a really specific thing. It is actually surprising how close you can get to the abilities of the Prestige Class with a Storm or Tempest Druid, even for someone splitting 5/10 with another class. Even a Cleric with Air and Water domains is most of the way there. It might see some use with tactics based heavily around Aura of Calm, but in the vast majority of cases is going to be a worse kindler of storms than someone who took a different mechanical approach.

The Exchange

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Benly wrote:
Edit: This is what I get for relying on d20pfsrd. Checking the PRD, PF Whirlwind does indeed have a size category restriction on creatures affected by it. The Storm Kindler therefore does keep up with a vanilla (non-archetype) druid in terms of whirlwind effectiveness and exceeds the druid's maximum whirlwind effectiveness starting at PrC level 8 (character level 14, assuming earliest entry).

As it happens, d20pfsrd.com has a policy of replacing older rules with newer versions of the same rules, whereas Paizo keeps several different versions and you get to pick the one you like. In this particular case the whirlwind ability did in fact have the size category restriction in Bestiary 1, but if you check Bestiary 3 (or at least the version of it in the PRD right now) you will note that the text of whirlwind does not include the size category restriction and that is the version we have as well.

Bestiary 3 in PRD: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/bestiary3/universalMonsterRules.html#whi rlwind

(screenshot)

Bestiary 1 in PRD: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/monsters/universalMonsterRules.html

So, the problem here lies in the fact that we assumed the latest rule is the correct rule. Note also that I checked all bestiary errata update PDFs and this was not included, or at least not that I could locate.

Edit: So my question to Paizo would be, which is correct?


STEALTH ERRATA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*ahem*, nothing to see here, nothing to see.


Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
"Keeps up with a vanilla Druid" is sort of the problem. I mean, they are losing spell levels, abilities, and all the other wildshape options to do just "keep up" with a really specific thing. It is actually surprising how close you can get to the abilities of the Prestige Class with a Storm or Tempest Druid, even for someone splitting 5/10 with another class. Even a Cleric with Air and Water domains is most of the way there. It might see some use with tactics based heavily around Aura of Calm, but in the vast majority of cases is going to be a worse kindler of storms than someone who took a different mechanical approach.

Well, a druid should absolutely never enter this class, to begin with. If it's a choice between the two, the druid's version is close enough given the lost caster levels. On the other hand, the aforementioned air/water cleric isn't going to be getting tornado shape at all without this class - at least, not until Elemental Body IV, and then only once per day and generally worse than the equivalent Storm Kindler, so if you wanted the cleric spell list rather than the druid list this would be a way to go. I still think the ranger build is an interesting idea, too, but I don't have time to sort out the details for it right now.

One thing to note is that the Storm Kindler's whirlwind does exceed a vanilla druid's eventually - it just takes far too long to do so. (Its damage is better starting at character level 12; its size affected is better starting at character level 14.) If you wanted a quick fix for this, you could reduce the Knowledge skill requirements from 6 to 5, which would put its whirlwind progression consistently one level ahead of a druid's - theoretically early access to the ability, but in practice you're giving up enough caster levels for it that who cares.

Edit: Thanks for the explanation of how that got onto the d20pfsrd. I'm going to go forward assuming air elementals are still stuck with the old, size-limited whirlwind; if not, wild shape and elemental body have a nearly-insurmountable advantage over the storm kindler.


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Fact is ... no base class or PrC should earn a crap capstone ability. Aldori - cool history, cool concept, cool weapon, cool base calass archetype, pretty cool PrC ... some terrible high level abilities.


There needs to be something that makes me actually consider continuing to take the last level of a class. If the last few levels of a class provide nothing of value and nobody would ever consider taking them, then why are they there? It's just a waste.

Also, odd how much overlap I'm seeing between people who are fine with a prestige class sucking if it's flavorful and people who cry "Stormwind Fallacy!" the moment anyone suggests that there might be a nonzero tradeoff between good roleplaying and build optimization. Seems like a bit of a contradiction to me.


Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
"prestige class is worse at its concept than someone who stayed in a base class." When reducing versatility is not an option (or not enough), a class can still be balanced through abilities that are different (but not necessarily worse) than a core class counterpart.

Agreed, which is why I think "master of aldori swords" is a bad concept to begin with if it's the only concept - look at the monk (which has issues, but let's ignore that for now). It's not only designed as "master of unarmed combat" but has many other flavors as well. It's the same issue as the old Archemage class had - too wide a focus.

If Aldori swords had something special about them - like, they where always made of a magic volcanic rock that was hot to the touch - a "best at aldori swords" class would work as it could be the best at dealing melee fire damage while still not being the best at dealing melee damage. Likewhise, a Whipmaster prestige class might work since it's not going to step on the toes of other classes that much.

Now, there are many ways one can be a master of weapons, and if the Aldori Swordmaster was for example an expert of using Aldori swords for vaarious combat maneuvers while still being outdamaged by a fighter with an aldori sword - much like I suspect the design _goal_ of the monk was compared to unarmed fighters, or being the best aldori sword damage dealer but having other limits such as getting a lousy base attack bonus when not using those swords or only getting light armor or whatever - that might work.

As I said, it's not like "reduced versatility" isn't a drawback - but one must be careful not to overvalue it.


Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:

Sure, it makes sense that a Brother of the Seal might have stuff to do with doors and portals. But why these specific spells, and why once or twice a day? Why not much more often? And why not add in something like Knock, which is more generally useful and also fitting with the class and flavor?

First, let's be realistic here. Would you ever actually need to cast Arcane Lock or Hold Portal more than once a day for something?

Second, the whole story behind the Brothers of the Seal is that their whole purpose is to keep one very specific seal closed. Within the context of Golarion and the entire purpose of the Brothers of the Seal, what use is Knock to someone who is supposed to make sure something stays shut?


Harrison wrote:
First, let's be realistic here. Would you ever actually need to cast Arcane Lock or Hold Portal more than once a day for something?

You are setting up defenses and need to keep more than 1-3 doors or windows sealed. You want to lock the guards in the guardhouse, but it has several entrances. You had to block a thief's escape in the morning and seal a door to slow down a Minotaur in the afternoon. These may not come up all that often, but then again, Arcane Lock and Hold Portal don't come up that often to begin with. Allowing more uses, allowing both spells, or adding another thematically appropriate spell to the list wouldn't make them super powerful, but would help to carve out a slightly bigger niche for this niche power. And bigger niche means more likelihood that the flavor of your really specific class will actually come through at the table, and not just sit on your sheet.

Besides, the whole point was that just because an ability matches the flavor, it doesn't mean it has to be that exact ability. I don't really care about the Brother of the Seal or this ability in particular, I was responding to the idea that making thematic sense somehow prevented being (or at least made it unimportant to be) mechanically good.

Harrison wrote:
Second, the whole story behind the Brothers of the Seal is that their whole purpose is to keep one very specific seal closed. Within the context of Golarion and the entire purpose of the Brothers of the Seal, what use is Knock to someone who is supposed to make sure something stays shut?

Take a look at the rest of their abilities. Ignoring object hardness, disarming magical traps, dispelling defensive wards... all stuff that helps with bypassing defenses. Knock would seem to fit right in (besides being useful, whether adventuring or when Brother Bo decides to play a practical joke and Arcane Locks the latrine). But again... don't particularly care about the Brother of the Seal, just opposed to the philosophy that flavor excuses weak mechanics.


Harrison wrote:
First, let's be realistic here. Would you ever actually need to cast Arcane Lock or Hold Portal more than once a day for something?

So the class's ability having a very narrow limit of uses per day doesn't make the class underpowered because... the ability is already so weak that you won't even want to use it anyhow?

You were trying to make an argument that the class is not underpowered, right?


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The Golux wrote:
The Aldori Swordlord and Winter Witch are both intended to mix with the archetypes of the same name, not necessarily 50-50 between the base and prestige classes. The swordlord specifically gets a useful Counterattack ability at level 11, so you might only want to take 9 levels of the prestige class.

My main complain with the Aldori Swordlord is that the best Aldori Swordlord is:

  • 7 Aldori Swordlord (Archetype)
  • 1 Aldori Swordlord (PrC)
  • 2 Master of Many Styles
  • 10 Duelist

Yawar


YawarFiesta wrote:
The Golux wrote:
The Aldori Swordlord and Winter Witch are both intended to mix with the archetypes of the same name, not necessarily 50-50 between the base and prestige classes. The swordlord specifically gets a useful Counterattack ability at level 11, so you might only want to take 9 levels of the prestige class.

My main complain with the Aldori Swordlord is that the best Aldori Swordlord is:

  • 7 Aldori Swordlord (Archetype)
  • 1 Aldori Swordlord (PrC)
  • 2 Master of Many Styles
  • 10 Duelist

Yawar

Has there ever been a more ironic name for an archetype than "master of Many Styles".

Its only ever taken for 2 levels. "Entry into Two Styles (for cheesing purposes)" would be a far more acurate title.

Liberty's Edge

I took that Archetype and have enjoyed it greatly.


Roberta Yang wrote:
Harrison wrote:
First, let's be realistic here. Would you ever actually need to cast Arcane Lock or Hold Portal more than once a day for something?

So the class's ability having a very narrow limit of uses per day doesn't make the class underpowered because... the ability is already so weak that you won't even want to use it anyhow?

You were trying to make an argument that the class is not underpowered, right?

No, my point was that, if you're going to use Arcane Lock or Hold Portal, I don't really think you'd need access to it more than once or twice a day. Of course you can create a scenario where you need to constantly lock doors or shut portals or what have you, but on the average, you probably only need it once or twice and that's really it. Having more uses of it, be it more static uses or changing it to "At Will" would be nice, constant access to any spell like that always is, but it kinda feels unnecessary.


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If your main feature is "can keep doors shut" and it's completely shut down by "there are two doors that both need to be kept shut", something has gone horribly wrong.


It's not the class's main feature, though. You can definitely raise issues with how the class's actual main feature (Awesome Blow and derivatives) is implemented, but the Hold Portal thing seemed like a pretty blatant filler feature - nice when it comes up, but mostly there to fill space on the class table.


Benly wrote:
It's not the class's main feature, though. You can definitely raise issues with how the class's actual main feature (Awesome Blow and derivatives) is implemented, but the Hold Portal thing seemed like a pretty blatant filler feature - nice when it comes up, but mostly there to fill space on the class table.

Absolutely true. I think we have all gotten a bit distracted with the Gatekeeper ability, when deuxhero's original use of it was to illustrate (along with the Awesome Blow stuff) the different power levels and design principles given to different classes. While "being stingy with the spell-likes" is part of it, the wildly differing opportunity costs of taking different prestige classes and unnecessary restrictions on certain abilities are really a much more important concern.


My feeling about Brother Of The Seal is that it's not a bad prestige class. It progresses most of what you'd want a monk PrC to progress, with the exception of ki points (which, granted, is significant), it gives some pretty good benefits, and the entry requirements are absolutely trivial. It's not a great PrC, but not a bad one - I can definitely see it working, especially in a dungeoneering adventure. If Champion of Irori hadn't been in the same book, it'd be the best monk PrC Paizo has offered, which is a little sad.

Magaambyan Arcanist, which was also mentioned, is in a weird spot balance-wise. The essential problem wizards pose to PrC design is that all you lose with a full-casting-progression wizard PrC is the 8th-level school ability and some bonus feats. However, I don't think what Magaambyan Archivist offers is worth a lost caster level. Spell list poaching is traditionally considered very powerful, but the level restriction on what the MA steals from the druid list makes it hard to think of especially valuable uses for it. The good-aligned-magic stuff is cool, but again, there's not much of value that it actually does - few spells have the good descriptor and also benefit from the +1 CL, and most of the Good domain is already on the wizard list. That leaves you with the Spell Mastery bonuses, which are nice, but on the whole what you have is a bunch of neat little benefits that aren't worth losing a caster level. The result is that Magaambyan Arcanist is a relatively strong PrC, but the only meaningful nerf you could make would make it underpowered. The feat requirements help a little, but it's a tough spot to balance.


Going back over my last post, while it seems like it's been too long to edit it, I realized it could look like I think Magaambyan Arcanist and Brother Of The Seal are balanced against each other, which isn't the case - Magaambyan Arcanist gives a lot more than BotS does, in part just by the nature of full casting PrCs. Off the top of my head, the easiest quick-fix would be to modify BotS to progress ki pool as well as the other things it progresses; essentially, this would mean you're trading the pile of various "nice to have" bonuses and bonus feats that a monk normally gets for a pile of different, themed, but ultimately not much more powerful bonuses.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

deuxhero wrote:

^ And most of the ones in the core books are minimal fluff "dual advancement" class (though they suck pretty bad)

Paths of Prestige is a book that I feel really shows that each class was written largely independently by multiple authors.

On one hand, there's a class that gets the ability to... cast Arcane Lock OR Hold Portal once a day and then latter gets the awesome ability too... do it twice a day (Though it says "cast" not "Spell Like Ability" which I am sure a better optimizer than me can break easily) with their main scaling ability, first gained at level 4/ECL 9 is improved Awesome Blow, which is alreddy done better by Punishing Kick (BAB 8 or Hungry Ghost 1)

Curious: How is Punishing Kick (which does bull rush 5' OR trip) better than Awesome Blow (pushes 10' AND knocks prone, and circumvents bonuses to CMD against bull rush and trip because it isn't technically either maneuver even though it produces the same net effect)?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Benly wrote:
Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:
On the other side, you have something like the Storm Kindler, whose main ability is turning into a whirlwind or vortex. However, it is arguably worse at it than a Druid using wildshape to turn into an elemental, or even another caster using elemental body. It also loses versatility because of fewer spell levels and no advancement of abilities. A straight Druid (especially a Tempest Druid) can do more in general and be equal or better in the niche, and is thus a better kindler of storms overall. There is thus little reason to use the class, even if the concept interests you. I find this to a problem.

For what it's worth, a max level Storm Kindler can make a larger whirlwind than elemental body IV (or by extension wild shape) allows. The problem with Storm Kindler in my opinion is that it gets an unnecessary restriction on allowable size categories that the normal whirlwind ability doesn't; the regular Whirlwind is only restricted by "as many creatures trapped inside at one time as will fit inside the whirlwind’s volume", such that even a Small air elemental can pick up and trap Large creatures in whirlwind form. Since the 3.5 whirlwind ability did have a size restriction, I suspect that the Storm Kindler fell victim to a writer who was unfamiliar with the rules changes. If not for that, it would be a fairly credible PrC for storm-themed clerics and rangers.

Edit: This is what I get for relying on d20pfsrd. Checking the PRD, PF Whirlwind does indeed have a size category restriction on creatures affected by it. The Storm Kindler therefore does keep up with a vanilla (non-archetype) druid in terms of whirlwind effectiveness and exceeds the druid's maximum whirlwind effectiveness starting at PrC level 8 (character level 14, assuming earliest entry).

These comparisons also forget another thing. The Storm Kindler can be an arcane spellcaster.


Punishing kick has no size restrictions, is automatic (push) or fort saved based (knockdown), which means it can work fairly consistently, and has its own pool of uses.

Awesome Blow has a size requirement (facing something bigger than you gets stupidly common as you progress and is pretty common by the time you get the ability), is CMB based and even if CMD wasn't horribly broken as a system BROTHER OF THE SEAL IS A MEDIUM BAB CLASS and Brother of the Seal doesn't get/stack with Maneuver Training. It also has to eat Stunning Fist uses to function.

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