Pathfinder Prestige Classes

I hadn’t seriously considered the Pathfinder Prestige classes before programming them in to HeroSheets this week. When I created my Rogue, I briefly glanced at the Assassin, Duelist and Shadowdancer, but concluded the trade-offs weren’t worth the benefits. I hadn’t created my character with a Prestige class in mind, so I abandoned the idea and ultimately multi-classed Ranger. However, after becoming more familiar with the different Prestige classes, their requirements and their benefits, I think a carefully planned character could gain a lot from taking some of them. Let’s explore a couple of them that I think are noteworthy.

Duelist

I immediately rejected the Pathfinder Duelist because of the lack of sneak attack. Reading more carefully into the class features, that might have been a mistake. The duelist makes a real melee, front line force out of a typically squishy rogue. Check out some of these class features:

Canny Defense (Ex): When wearing light or no armor and not using a shield, a duelist adds 1 point of Intelligence bonus (if any) per duelist class level as a dodge bonus to her Armor Class while wielding a melee weapon. If a duelist is caught flat-footed or otherwise denied her Dexterity bonus, she also loses this bonus.

Enhanced Mobility (Ex): Starting at 3rd level, when wearing light or no armor and not using a shield, a duelist gains an additional +4 bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity caused when she moves out of a threatened square. The Duelist certainly trades offensive prowess for defense, but it can completely balance an already high-DPS melee character like a Rogue, making you extremely tough to hit.

Dragon Disciple

The Dragon Disciple synergizes with Sorcerers extremely well. With a few exceptions, you continue to get Sorcerer spells and Bloodline feats as if you had kept leveling in Sorcerer. The trade off for missing 2 Sorcerer levels is a whole host of new features, 1D12 hit die and significant ability score boosts. With 10 levels of Dragon Disciple, you’d have +120hp, +3 Natural Armor, +4STR, +2CON, and +2INT and you can literally transform into a flying dragon! The Dragon Disciple adds survivability and a little bit of melee DPS to the frail Sorcerer while sacrificing little of his offensive spellcasting powers. You get all kinds of neat stuff to augment melee attacks: Dragon Bite (Ex): At 2nd level, whenever the dragon disciple uses his bloodline to grow claws, he also gains a bite attack. This is a primary natural attack that deals 1d6 points of damage (1d4 if the dragon disciple is Small), plus 1–1/2 times the dragon disciple’s Strength modifier. Upon reaching 6th level, this bite also deals 1d6 points of energy damage. The type of damage dealt is determined by the dragon disciple’s bloodline.

Breath Weapon (Su): At 3rd level, a dragon disciple gains the breath weapon bloodline power, even if his level does not yet grant that power. Once his level is high enough to grant this ability through the bloodline, the dragon disciple gains an additional use of his breath weapon each day. The type and shape of the breath weapon depends on the type of dragon selected by the dragon disciple, as detailed under the Draconic sorcerer bloodline description.

I went into this programming challenge thinking Prestige classes had very narrow uses or were mostly gimmicks. However, I think you can eek quite a bit of value out of them if you plan well. Leave me some comments -what Pathfinder Prestige builds have you had success with?

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