Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does Pathfinder mark the end of the age of prestige classes?

Do you think people are just tired of splatbooks after the 3.5 era, after seeing what the never-ending splatbook nuclear arms prestige class race ultimately lead to? Are we thankful for good interesting core classes that can be played to high level, and want to just stick with them? Does the Pathfinder RPG mark the new age of far fewer prestige classes?

Did the interruption of no 3.x splatbooks force us to be a bit introspective, take a look around, and realize "Shit, prestige classes are a pain in the ass.  Who needs them and the kind of game they lead to."

The point of my question is as to prestige classes specifically, not splatbooks in general.  Or are prestige classes so integral to splatbook sales that they can not be left out?

Was Pathfinder the impetus many needed to finally say "No more prestige classes!" ?  A natural break with the past in some ways which justifies putting an end to them in peoples' campaigns?  A way to justify getting off the prestige class treadmill?

Another reason may be we are all older now, we who played through the 3.x era, and can pick and choose what we want a bit more discriminatingly, and are less reliant on splatbooks for game mechanic related things? Ideas are always good to glean, but game mechanic stuff like prestige classes, less so? That seems to be a lot of what I am seeing in a thread on I started on getting older...

Also, maybe just going back to core is scratching that Grognard itch?


  1. Umm, Pathfinder has prestige classes in it... last I checked anyways. Splatbooks in general tend to powercreep, especially as a line ages, with prestige classes being one of the easier ways for it to creep. But personally, I don't have problem with them as a concept.

    For some reason openID won't work...

  2. I certainly don't believe that prestige classes are completely done with. Thing is, Pathfinder's core classes are interesting enough that there's no immediate draw towards a prestige class simply as a relief from bland design.

    I love prestige classes in the 3.x games I play, but almost all games - not just d20-based ones - seem to be moving away from the idea of exclusive specializations based on classes, feats, skills, etc. In a sense, I think character creation has become 'flatter' - less "progress and earn this", more "I'm able to now make the exact character I want to play, up-front". Good and bad points of both methods, of course.

  3. I still like PrCs but I like what they were originally designed for: Representing unique organizations and their members in a world. They should never have been about power but about neat things tied into their background and the campaign setting.

  4. We never did prestige classes at all. we didn't even like the kits in 2e which were the early precoursers to prestige classes. But if we were to do them, we would have limited it to one only, and it had to be an integral part of the character's history and backstory.

  5. I bloody well hope that prestige classes are cut to the barest minimum if present at all beyond the main Pathfinder book.

    My group hated the bloody things from 3.0 core, and even moreso hated the amount of space dedicated to them in almost every bloody book.

  6. Prestige Classes are something my group has never really liked to mess with. We always prefered to have a unique core class to use. The idea of taking a class so far and then switching to another one, even if it is a specialization of the class you already use, just seems annoying. I'd rather have that specialization from Level 1. That's just how my group likes it.

  7. I think that prestige classes and power creep is a conflation of two ideas. By coincidence, as additional 3.5 supplements were released, which happened to contain mostly prestige classes, power creep was observed. But sometimes those supplements contained base classes too, and they were just as power-creepy. Check out Magic of Incarnum, Tome Of Magic, Tome Of Battle for starters. Power creep was also observed with feats, spells, equipment and so on.

    The first ever Prestige Class (to my knowledge) was the good old 1e bard. In fact the first thing I thought when I saw prestige classes in 3e was 'Oh...I see. They've diversified the 1e bard model.'

    Prestige classes haven't hurt our campaign so far. Some players like them, others less so. I keep a weather eye on game balance and if a particular character seems to be getting disproportionately powerful I will intervene and fix whatever needs fixing. So, it needs a little work, but I find it worthwhile. In fact, the players now do most of my work for me - if they spot something that looks too good to be true, they'll point it out and we'll have a discussion as to how it can be moderated. Often these take the form of good ideas on the part of the game designers that have been poorly implemented, and we agree on how to fix it so it still embodies the idea but in a more balanced way.

    The truth is that, prestige classes or no, people who want to powergame will do so. I've yet to see an RPG where this doesn't happen.

  8. As an aside, whenever I visit your blog I always find 'Joe the Lion' by David Bowie playing in my head. :)

    Is 'Joe the Lawyer' a play on this, by any chance?

  9. Pathfinder will probably release prestige classes at a slower rate than Wizards and others did - at least some of the PrC glut has come from other publishers.

    Personally I liked PrCs but wasn't crazy about spending 5-8 levels to get there.

    How many people play to 20th level these days anyway? Why not have a lower boundary set for the PrC and limit level progression - or as Pathfinder did, give core classes some variety (e.g. sorceror).

  10. Looking at how they seems to have been intended, I think they have a lot of potential.

    That being said, they only fulfil that potential if they are strongly tied to a specific world. Most generic splatbooks are thus totally missing the point. 3rd ed always gave me a very "split-brain" appearance. Some good ideas severely mismanaged.

  11. That being said, they only fulfil that potential if they are strongly tied to a specific world.Exactly. Thanks, Andreas.

  12. I could add that I think I remember them working decently in Kingdoms of Kalamar. I haven't read my KoK stuff in a while, though.

  13. Maybe I'm just strange, but there are quite a few books on my shelf that would never actually make it off the shelf if they didn't include prestige classes.

    The late 3.5 era splatbooks (that had fewer PrCs but with page after page of info for each one) were the ones I didn't buy... mainly because they had so few prestige classes.

    Guess I'm just an oddball.

  14. I think PrC's are a neat idea, but a DM needs to keep a firm hand on the bloody things to make sure neither power creep nor book bloat occur.

    (Book bloat is when you find you have to bring a book to the game just because one person in the group is using a spell, feat, or PrC from it.).

    You talk about ditching PrC's altogether for an old-school feel, and that's fine. But might I suggest that if you REALLY want to go old-school, restrict the players to the 4 base classes: Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue.

    I mean, isn't a Paladin essentially a Fighter/Cleric? A Ranger a Fighter/Rogue? A Bard a Rogue/Wizard?

    I'm not trying to troll. I really do believe there is a certain amount of charm and peace of mind to be found in cutting things back to the bone.


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