Capstone Talents: RSRD Prestige Class Analysis

I may have gotten lucky on my first choice of prestige class to convert.  Arcane Archer actually fit the model well.  Some of the other prestige classes, not so much.

On closer examination it appears that many of the RSRD prestige classes can be better handled in Echelon as common talents or through combinations of common talents, while others are, mechanically, not particularly interesting.

Easy Exclusions

The following prestige classes would not, I think, make particularly good capstone talents.  Each can generally be implemented through other means, most often by using talents that already cover the benefits of the class.

Arcane Trickster

Arcane Trickster can be entered by ninth level.  The primary level-setting prerequisites are the ability to cast third-level arcane spells and sneak attack +2d6.  The skill-based prerequisites are trivially satisfied.

However, looking at the abilities gained, in Echelon terms there’s really nothing unusual there.

Poor Base Attack Bonus, good Reflex saves, good Will saves, full casting progression, and full sneak attack progression.  These are all standard talents, though you might need a cornerstone talent or two to keep everything as high as possible.  The only abilities that don’t fit are ranged legerdemain 1-3 times per day and impromptu sneak attack 1-2 times per day.  If I want to model this class I would probably just create a talent that grants ranged legerdemain +1/day and impromptu sneak attack +1/day at alternating tiers and call it done, or perhaps have each tier grant the use of each ability once per day because they’re so minor.  It looks to me like it would be a boring talent.

Archmage

Archmage can be entered by fourteenth level.  The primary level-setting prerequisite is the ability to cast seventh-level arcane spells.  That you need to know fifth-level spells from at least five schools means broader knowledge, but does not increase required character level.  Similarly, you are required to have high ranks (15+) in two skills you are likely to maximize anyway, and not only are they expected skills you don’t have to have them as high as your level allows.  The feats required are not very interesting (Skill Focus (Spellcraft) and Spell Focus in two schools).

Abilities gained are mostly talents already.  Good Will save and full casting progression.

The only interesting ability gained is High Arcana.  At each of the class’s five levels you can learn a special ability, at the permanent cost of a spells slot.  This has potential, but doesn’t stand up well in Echelon, at least as a capstone talent.

  1. I want to avoid having to make decisions after choosing a talent.
  2. Five levels means five abilities, but likely only a one- or two-tier capstone talent.  How do I make them all fit?
  3. Most of the abilities explicitly gained are already present as talents.

I notice a parallel here in that you are required to have knowledge of fifth-level spells in five schools.  If I go with the Eldritch Threads model (that I’ll put up soon) each thread grants a major power at Master tier — when you gain access to fifth-level spells.  It is not impossible that the ‘high arcana’ described here could be part of the powers that are granted.

That being the case, it looks like ‘Archmage’ would need to be revised to do something interesting that is not already done through other talents.

Blackguard

Blackguard can be entered by seventh level.  The primary level-setting prerequisite is Base Attack Bonus +6 (5 ranks of Hide would require a seventh-level fighter or dipping; oddly, it seems Ranger could be the fastest way in).  The feats guide entry, but don’t restrict level.

The powers, again, are largely talents.  Aura of evil, detect good, dark blessing, smite good, and possibly aura of despair all say to me “Evil Domain” talent.  Good attack bonus, trivially done, as is good Fortitude save, sneak attack, and the minor spell access.  The fiendish servant might be worth something, but I’ve already got plans for companions that can fairly easily incorporate Outsider companions such as the fiendish servant (or animal companion, or paladin’s mount, or familiars, and so on).

Dragon Disciple

Dragon Disciple can be entered by sixth level.  The primary level-setting prerequisite is eight ranks in Knowledge (Arcana).

Yet again, the abilities gained are largely talents.  Medium Base Attack Bonus, Good Fortitude, Good Reflex, natural armor, natural attacks, and even breath weapon are all expected to be talents.  Wings, the ability to fly, will be a talent (not often taken by standard humans, true, but still a talent).  The ability boosts might have had some potential, but without ability scores would again become talents.  Dragon Apotheosis, gaining the half-dragon template, is probably better done with a cornerstone talent.

I had high hopes for Dragon Disciple, but… maybe it won’t come together.

Duelist

Duelist can be entered by eighth level.  Tumble isn’t a class skill for any core martial classes, so it will be necessary to dip to get the eight ranks needed, but that will slow Base Attack Bonus by a level and you need +6.  The feats just guide you to a particular combat style.

Again, the abilities are largely covered.  I won’t go into detail here because most of the abilities are in fact really, really boring, just incremental bonuses to Armor Class, initiative, or Reflex saves.  Precise Strike has some slight possibility, but again it is incremental and ultimately it is tiny (+1d6 at fifth level, +2d6 at tenth).

This prestige class disappoints me.  Almost everything it does can be handled pretty easily with normal talents, and I really don’t like tiny incremental bonuses.  I’d as soon give something +4 that lasts forever than +1 per level to a maximum of +5 (or even +10).

Eldritch Knight

This one is totally unneeded.  Never mind when it becomes available, it really brings nothing to Echelon because the entire thing can be done with simple talents… and probably exceeded.

Full attack bonus, almost full casting level means Warrior Born and Martial Training, plus Steeped in Magic one tier lower and Caster Training.  This leaves four top-tier talents for interesting things, three if you take Great Fortitude.

As written, no need.

Now, if it were remodeled as something more like Arcane Archer, where it integrates magic and combat, that could have some possibility.  Imbuing your weapons and armor with spells directly during combat, unleashing a mix of steel and spells on your enemies, that I would consider as a capstone.  Very happily and with great excitement.

This?  Not so much.

Hierophant

This looks a lot like the clerical and druidic equivalent of Archmage, without the abilities costing spell slots.  Otherwise, the same comments apply.

Horizon Walker

Good Base Attack Bonus, Good Fortitude save, two abilities (Terrain Mastery and Planar Terrain Mastery) that look like they would more reasonably be talents in their own right.

Next.

Loremaster

Lots of little incremental benefits that fit existing talents.  That is, you can already do these things without the capstone, and they’re fiddly decisions to be made after getting the capstone talent.

Lore/Greater Lore/True Lore has some possibility, I suppose, but I think that might be another talent already since it looks rather like the bardic lore ability.

Mystic Theurge

Eldritch Knight for cleric/wizards.  Solved problem, as far as it goes.

Give me something that combines arcane and divine magic (assuming I have a difference in Echelon at all) and I might be interested, but this just lets you cast spells from two different lists, something built into Echelon already.

Thaumaturgist

A very specialized prestige class with a tiny buy-in and focuses on improving the primary ability of the prerequisite, evidently by providing feats.

That suggests that much of the benefit of this class could come from common talents (that admittedly have not been written yet).  I like the idea of a dedicated summoner, but this does not look significant enough to warrant a capstone talent.

Potential Capstone Talents

These prestige classes are better candidates for capstone talents, but perhaps not great ones.  Each may be largely implemented by other talents, but include something that may not be a good fit for a common talent or that perhaps should be restricted in some fashion.

Assassin

Assassin can be entered by sixth level.  The primary level-setting prerequisites are eight ranks in Hide and Move Silently Skills.  In Echelon this might be “Expert Hide” and “Expert Move Silently”.

Abilities gained are almost all already talents.  Good Reflex save, medium attack bonus (which becomes “often has Martial Training or Warrior Born” rather than a required talent), full sneak attack, poison use, uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge, Hide in Plain sight, an improved save against poison,and some minor spell casting… death attack is the only thing gained from this class that isn’t already covered.

This class can be largely modeled by Lightning Reflexes (which includes Uncanny Dodge), Sneak Attack, Hide (which includes Hide in Plain Sight), Great Fortitude (possibly at a lower tier than the others), and some low-tier casting focused on sneaky stuff.  Oh, and I believe I documented a talent from either FantasyCraft or Iron Heroes that provides poison use.

Death Attack could be made a common talent in its own right, but that doesn’t seem right.  This talent alone might be cause to create a capstone talent to model in order to restrict access.  I think it would need to be beefed up and improved in some ways.

I’ll consider this one further later.  It may be that when I raid Iron Heroes for the class abilities the Executioner class can replace this, or the FantasyCraft Assassin class may have something.

Dwarven Defender

I won’t invest a lot of time in this one right now.  David Lamb is planning to take this prestige class on as a capstone talent so I’ll stay out of the way.

In fact, David’s already posted a draft Dwarven Defender capstone.

As with other prestige classes, much of what this prestige class offers can be done through other talents, but I can see Defensive Stance as a good possibility for an ability unique to this class.  A capstone talent that takes a strongly-defensive combat style that, for those who embrace the Heart of Stone, leads to an immovable opponent sounds pretty cool.

Shadowdancer

Shadowdancer can be entered by eighth level.  The primary level-setting prerequisite is 10 ranks in Hide.  Other prerequisites involve speed and mobility and movement.

Abilities gained include some that come from existing talents, but the Shadow Jump ability stands out as a good candidate.  It doesn’t become available until fourth level in the class; I might start this capstone talent at Heroic tier because the first salient ability isn’t available until somewhat higher level than the low class access level might suggest.  Shadow magic (shadow spells) might already be handled through other means (as normal spell casting, in other words) but I would consider special dispensation if the character is not otherwise a spell caster.

Actually, I’ve already written a Shadowdancer capstone.

Closing Comments

I’m a little disappointed, I’d hope to find more good capstone talent candidates in the RSRD.  Four out of fifteen is pretty low.

I think, though, this is largely because the prestige classes in the RSRD are by necessity pretty generic or are mechanical patches to perceived limitations that Echelon doesn’t share, such as multiclassing spell casters.  I don’t really want to see prestige classes (or capstones) that are basically there to let you use two disparate abilities better than the normal multiclassing rules allow, I want to see things that let you integrate the abilities.  The Arcane Archer capstone I drafted, for example, lets you integrate spell casting with archery to let you do things people with just archery or just spell casting can’t.  Eldritch Knight is boring because it just lets you have a better attack bonus and better spell access, but if it let you imbue your weapons and armor with spells and do some other nifty things, that would be much better.  Arcane Trickster tries to come close, but I think does not go far enough.

Overall, I think some of the prestige classes suggest capstones, while their implementation in the RSRD is not needed.  I’d want to go back to first principles with them and start from what they are supposed to represent rather than how they do it.  In the meantime, I have noticed some prestige classes that will better serve as capstones in other sources.

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