So this week, Wizards of the Coast posted a new article in its Unearthed Arcana section, within its contents rested what I would deem as the “Rosetta stone” of D&D creativity. The article in question (found here), dealt with “prestige” classes, or rather a look back at how to implement these classes using the new 5th edition ruleset as a houserule (presently). For me, this was a huge eye-opener in terms of the creative space on customizing characters even further, sure there have been alot of conversions from 3.5 and 4th edition over to 5th edition, but sometimes there are things missing when using the subclass framework. Knowing that prestige classes are a real possibility has loosened those creative restraints us homebrewers have had to contend with since the beginning of this new edition.
As of the writing of this article, I have not seen too much implementations this brand of houserules, but I can sure to bet that in another month (or less) there will be old-school paths and classes from 3.5 and 4th getting their shiny new 5th edition remake stamp. I have already thought about new implementations for prestige classes from my previous articles on Sword Coast classes (Part 1 & Part 2), it should be noted that in those articles I went back to iconic Forgotten Realms prestige classes or paths and tried to give them fit them in to the current 5th edition framework. These houserules are practically begging to say, “those class frameworks too restrictive? that’s ok, bring them back as prestige classes”.
So we know 3.5 will have fewer issues of conversion with this particular houserule set, but what about paragon paths from 4th edition? For me, this seems a bit tougher to implement. Paragon paths were similar in respect to the subclass framework we have adopted into 5th edition, in that edition, you picked a base class and from that class your paragon paths created a narrower niche for your character to exercise. The subclass framework follows that same dynamic, though a bit quicker as most subclasses become available at 2nd or 3rd level respectively (with the exception of the Cleric & Warlock at 1st level).
The Rune Scribe that is detailed in Unearthed Arcana has an interesting take on not only prestige classes for 5th edition, but also design concepts regarding the use of spell slots. Traditionally, any class that offers spell slots typically has spells to give, but the class features are the ones who utilize the spell slots presented. But the class goes on to add an example of casters and the Rune Scribe, stating to follow the mutliclassing rules regarding multiclassed casters. The class overall has some unique abilities for everyone with the current makeup utilizing elemental runes. You can add arcane based runes, any kind of rune really. The neat aspect is that runes provide passive enhancements which are then followed by activated abilities that use the spell slots in turn. For full casters, it gives utility in a pinch, for non-casters or partial casters it opens alot of variety of playstyle.
I decided to test out the prestige class right away, I made a Battlemaster Fighter 6/Rune Scribe 4, focusing on the dueling fighting style. I came up with a character concept reminiscent of the anime, Shakugan no Shana, wherein warriors gifted with magical powers via pacts made with otherworldly entities that were tasked with preserving the world from destruction. But my idea was simpler and I wanted to focus more on the physical aesthetic of a studied warrior who found a master rune and began to unlock the inner mysteries that laid dormant within. Taking the Sage background suggested that he was at one point a non-combatant, but this would-be character was taught the ways to wield a sword through the teachers in the academy he resided. Using maneuvers and the various properties of the master runes really added some fun to combat situations. Now don’t get me wrong, the Rune Scribe is far from perfect but it provides a framework for us within the community to really shake things up in the creative space for 5th edition.
I do have one thing to say negative regarding this article, while I love the idea of prestige classes potentially making a comeback (and granted these are simply houserules presently and therefore are subject to DM approval), I feel that this is a set back as opposed to a step forward in our creativity. I recall being overly hesitant back in 4th edition about paragon paths, but eventually I enjoyed that my Wizard was still heavily a wizard with little changes, wherein previous editions I felt that I needed (or could) make my wizard into the best fighter, rogue, and everything in between. Sometimes you had situations where a character is created and it became useless because of all these different archetypes the player sought to grab. So a narrower focus was not entirely a bad thing, not to mention some balancing really helped.
Now I won’t say any edition was better than the other, each had their pros and cons, but regarding the topic at hand, I always felt that making my Wizard being the wizard with a niche was really the way to go in terms of creating that character identity. That being said, multiclassing offered something special for the players and the characters, a change in perspective or skills recognized the adaptability of real life and to me that was something sort of got lost at some point, one where it was too haphazardly used and one where it did not offer much. So while I can appreciate the idea of prestige classes, it really comes down to a case by case situation, but I wouldn’t mind a few prestige classes, especially since some character concepts are really a mix between two classes or an even narrower focus of an existing archetype.
For now, I would definitely hold these houserules with a side of conservative creativity, by that I mean, let’s get too crazy with them. I don’t mind creating stuff, but let’s not get overboard and assume that this is going to be a permanent framework, let’s just take it as a fresh approach to a growing collection of ideas. I may rework my Red Wizard of Thay concept back into a true prestige class, how? I’m not sure, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Heck now I really want to try to make new character ideas into prestige classes just to see what we can do with it. Let’s burn some that midnight oil and let our creativity flow!
I hope you enjoyed this article, if have questions, concerns, or your own opinions please feel free to comment down below. If you have already worked out some new prestige classes, comment with a link, I would love to see what others have come up. Please also subscribe to this blog and follow us on Facebook & Twitter. Until next time!