Author Topic: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot  (Read 22871 times)

Offline Suzerain

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Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Topic Start: November 24, 2011, 09:46:08 PM »
WORK IN PROGRESS


Now that the forum moved, I thought I might pick up where I left and actually finish something I started.

The rules that govern this resource have evolved over a period of time, with input from many members of this and other boards. In the following, I will try to codify what we worked out so far, and hope to clear up some common confusions that tend to pop up every time this system is mentioned to someone new to the concept.



What are Tiers for? What makes a PrC powerful?

Tiers are a way of comparing different levels of power, in this case among prestige classes.

As to what constitutes power, we've come to a consensus that to be powerful, a PrC must improve the build it is inserted to, and to be weak, a PrC must worsen the build it is inserted into.

Now, there are a million and more ways to construct a build, and we would have a hard time to account for every one of them. But, my postulation is, that's not absolutely necessary. Considering the case where only base classes are taken before the PrC is entered, the relative power of a PrC can be accurately captured by how much it improves the combination of base classes that benefits the most from entering this PrC, compared to taking more base-class levels. We call this the logical entry build. Recent ratings of PrCs always include logical entry, so that we can see what the reference build for the rating is and see how the PrC makes that a better build, and by how much.

We currently ignore the case where multiple PrCs are entered for synergy, for two main reasons. First of all, with so many options, it will not be easy for a rater to find the best possible combination of PrCs, feats, etc. to make it all shine as bright as can be. Even if one poster thinks he's got the best deal possible, there is tremendous room for disagreement. So this point can be summed up as: Logical entries containing PrCs are hard.
Secondly, there is the issue of applicability. For this resource to be useful, it needs to apply to a reasonably wide range of cases. If one specialized build jumps a Tier because of a PrC, that doesn't tell us much about the PrC and more about the build. I think the use case of base class only entries is huge on its own and gives a great approximation of the overall crunch the PrC brings to the table.

There are exceptions to this rule, though. Sometimes, the character needs to be of a certain race, or group of races. In cases where this is an issue (such as Soul Eater, Drow Judicator), the race is an integral part of the prestige class and must be considered part of the prestige class. You would try to pick the race with the lowest ECL possible, unless that cripples the build overmuch, since you want the power rating of a PrC to be as independent of the power of the race as possible (using races that are made of win to rate a PrC just doesn't reflect much on the PrC). Also, most racial HD are not made of win and so the lowest ECL is better anyway (you'd pick lesser drow for drow judicator, for example).
The same goes for classes with specialized SLA requirements, like Fiend of Possession. The ECL of the entry race must be considered in the rating, since there simply is no 'cheaper' way to enter the PrC.
If the sample build for the PrC (including: logical entry, at least 1/2 the levels in the PrC, and the race's ECL adjustments) is above ECL20, it is not a valid build to rate this PrC with. If there is no build of at most ECL20, then the PrC is unplayable/unrateable.

Another issue we must concern ourselves with is how a lot of PrCs have unevenly distributed goodies. Some are front-loaded, some are late-bloomers. 'Dipping' is common practice on these boards for just that reason. So, what gives us a good measure of a PrC as a whole? If you just take one or two levels and then ditch it, is the prestige class really that good? If the last two levels give only shitty abilities, is the class automatically bad? I think not. Therefore, the rule is that any build analyzed to rate a prestige class must contain at least 1/2 the levels in the prestige class, rounded up (in case of fractions). For PrCs that require a race with ECL2+ (see previous paragraph), racial levels do not count for this calculation. For PrCs that are 'too short', all levels must be taken. This 'shortness' limit currently hovers somewhere around the 5 levels mark (use sound judgement).


Terminology, or What does that mean, an "up two" PrC? Is a Tier 4 class with a +2 PrC now Tier 2?

We get those questions a lot whenever someone new to the concept gets introduced to it. The short answer to the latter question is no, a Tier 4 class with a "+2" PrC is not automatically Tier 2.

The more detailed answer:

Perhaps it is best to have a fresh start for the (confusing) terminology in this system. In brief, we have categorized PrCs into five broad categories:
  • Marvelous prestige classes

    These PrCs improve the power of their entry classes dramatically, either by building on strengths or by adding powerful new ones.  Expect characters with these to blow their base-classed peers out of the water. Or to earn FLAC from the DM, because some of these open doors to ridiculous power. To be included in this set, a prestige class must raise the logical entry's tier by one or more (though not every PrC that boosts a logical entry by one tier is a marvelous prestige class). What constitutes a Tier 0 or lower character is subject to board-wide consensus.
    For historical reasons, and for brevity, we call these the "up two" or +2 prestige classes.

  • Good to Great prestige classes

    These PrCs generally improve their entry classes substantially, without affecting game balance quite so abundantly as marvelous prestige classes (they may still gain a tier).
    For historical reasons, and for brevity, we call these the "up one" or +1 prestige classes.

  • Mediocre prestige classes

    These PrCs are roughly on par with their logical entries overall, trading strengths in certain areas for strengths in others, or providing moderate gains for a moderate investment (e.g. required feats or unfavorable multiclassing).  Expect characters with these to stay on very much the same power level.
    For historical reasons, and for brevity, we call these the "even" or +0 prestige classes.

  • Bad to Awful prestige classes

    These PrCs are generally strictly inferior to their logical entries, losing out on important features in order to gain things that are likely not to matter in the long run, without screwing you over quite as much as catastrophic prestige classes (they may still drop a tier).
    For historical reasons, and for brevity, we call these the "down one" or -1 prestige classes.

  • Catastrophic prestige classes

    These PrCs completely fail to do whatever they were trying to do, or make heavy sacrifices for little to no gain.  Expect characters with these to be unplayable without heavy optimization effort, or some cunning trick. In some cases, it is preferable to play a straight Truenamer. Again, to be included in this set, a PrC must lower the logical entry's Tier by one or more (though not every PrC that lowers a logical entry by one tier is a catastrophic prestige class).
    For historical reasons, and for brevity, we call these the "down two" or -2 prestige classes.

Basically, the set of marvelous prestige classes is the treasure chest, the set of catastrophic prestige classes is the poison well. Mediocre prestige classes don't give much, but also don't take much; the logical entry is exactly as well-off or screwed as before. The other two sets are continuums between those three.


How to rate a PrC

A simple 5-step process without unexpected ???s followed by "Profit!":

1. Figure out what the logical entry for this prestige class is.
The logical entry is a build stub detailing a progression of base classes, i.e. Ranger 1/Scout 2/Ranger +2

You should think of the build that, in your opinion, would profit most from entering this prestige class, at the lowest sensible ECL.

It should not use early-entry tricks. Feats/skills/etc. should be picked only if it's a requirement for the PrC.

2. Make an exemplary build
An exemplary build consists of the logical entry and at least 1/2 the levels of the PrC (rounded up). Pick race only if necessary. Must be ECL20 or lower (without LA buy-off).

3. Make a reference build
A reference build is a fairly optimized but reasonable build consisting of the logical entry and more base-class levels at the same ECL as the other build.

4. Compare the two builds
Note: Neither build needs full documentation. You just need them for the following thought experiment.

Compare what one gains over the other.

If the character doesn't learn a new trick and doesn't get significantly better at the things it's already good at, you've got a good +0 candidate right there.

If the gains of the exemplary build significantly exceed the losses, compared to the reference build, it's likely to be +1. If you believe it might be +2, prepare for all-out war with the forum regulars (or say "+1 (might be +2)" ).

If the losses of the exemplary build greatly exceed the gains, compared to the reference build, analyze just *how* crippled it is compared to the reference build. If it's near unplayable (one million miles away from being an appropriate challenge for the reference build), then it's probably a -2. All other cases are likely to be -1.

5. Post your results (including logical entry)
People will agree or disagree with you; either way, we'll all have a much better understanding of the prestige class, thanks to you. Yay you!



About this resource

Books included so far and average tier:
(click to show/hide)

Books that are missing are mostly my fault for being lazy. Most of them have been rated. When I've caught up with the current feedback, I will add more books to the lists and I will post a (thankfully short) list of books which are still unrated.

Older versions of this thread and related material
Why Down Two PrC are Down Two Tiers. by Gr1lledcheese
Why up 2 tier prcs are up 2 tiers by HCL

Tier System for PrCs - Your help needed - the predecessor thread
[GitP] Zeal's (in-progress) Tier System for PrCs - Zeal's GitP post
[BG] Zeal's (in-progress) Tier System for PrCs - Zeal's original thread

The spreadsheet with all the collected information:
spreadsheet in *.ods (OpenOffice) format
spreadsheet in *.xls (Excel) format (zipped)

The scripts I use to convert information from the spreadsheet into BBCode for this forum:
Generate Lists by Tier or by Book @ Rapidshare
Generate List of Books with Average Tier @ Rapidshare

They are written in javascript and come in the form of small, self-contained html files. They have been tested in the newest versions of Chromium, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera (the functionality should survive even older browsers, though the styling may not). I've recently cleaned them up and made them easier to understand and thus, easier to modify.

If anyone wants a file host other than rapidshare, tell me and I'll try to upload it there (if it's free). It's just that as of today (2011-11-25), RS is and has been for a few months, the only hoster that's fast, ads-free and doesn't make you wait.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2012, 09:27:56 PM by Suzerain »

Offline Suzerain

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Tier System for PrCs - PrCs By Tier
« Reply #1: November 24, 2011, 09:46:44 PM »
Marvelous Tier prestige classes (+2)
(click to show/hide)


Good to Great Tier prestige classes (+1)
(click to show/hide)


Mediocre Tier prestige classes (+0)
(click to show/hide)


Bad to Awful Tier prestige classes (-1)
(click to show/hide)


Catastrophic Tier prestige classes (-2)
(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 09:56:32 PM by Suzerain »

Offline Suzerain

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Tier System for PrCs - PrCs By Book
« Reply #2: November 24, 2011, 09:48:07 PM »
Book of Exalted Deeds
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Book of Vile Darkness
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Champions of Ruin
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Champions of Valor
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Cityscape
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Complete Adventurer
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Complete Arcane
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Complete Divine
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Complete Mage
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Complete Psionics
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Complete Scoundrel
(click to show/hide)

Complete Warrior
(click to show/hide)

Draconomicon
(click to show/hide)

Drow of the Underdark
(click to show/hide)

Dungeon Master's Guide
(click to show/hide)

Eberron Campaign Setting
(click to show/hide)

Expanded Psionics Handbook
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Expedition to the Demonweb Pits
(click to show/hide)

Faiths and Pantheons
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Faiths of Eberron
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Frostburn
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Heroes of Battle
(click to show/hide)

Heroes of Horror
(click to show/hide)

Libris Mortis
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Lords of Madness
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Lost Empires of Faerűn
(click to show/hide)

Magic of Incarnum
(click to show/hide)

Miniatures Handbook
(click to show/hide)

Planar Handbook
(click to show/hide)

Player's Guide to Faerűn
(click to show/hide)

Races of Destiny
(click to show/hide)

Races of Eberron
(click to show/hide)

Races of Faerűn
(click to show/hide)

Races of Stone
(click to show/hide)

Races of the Dragon
(click to show/hide)

Races of the Wild
(click to show/hide)

Sandstorm
(click to show/hide)

Serpent Kingdoms
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Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde
(click to show/hide)

Shining South
(click to show/hide)

Stormwrack
(click to show/hide)

Tome of Battle
(click to show/hide)

Tome of Magic
(click to show/hide)

Unapproachable East
(click to show/hide)

Underdark
(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 09:56:59 PM by Suzerain »

Offline Suzerain

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #3: November 24, 2011, 09:49:47 PM »
Reserved Post #1

This and the next post are reserved for by-prc information.

Offline Suzerain

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #4: November 24, 2011, 09:50:22 PM »
Reserved Post #2

This is the last post to be reserved.

Offline Sinfire Titan

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #5: November 24, 2011, 10:19:20 PM »
Quick question: Would you mind it if we restarted the "Why each class is in it's tier" threads as a sticky in the main Minmax section?
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Offline Suzerain

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #6: November 24, 2011, 10:56:32 PM »
Quick question: Would you mind it if we restarted the "Why each class is in it's tier" threads as a sticky in the main Minmax section?

I don't understand. Do you mean the "Why Down Two PrCs are Down Two Tiers" etc. threads for PrCs? There's only two I could find of those. More would be better!

Or do you mean this thread should somehow be subsumed in a new thread? That would be fine, too, but I would appreciate it if you told me before I do more work on this thread.

If this is just about JaronK's Tiers, you have the wrong guy.



edit: Either way, I don't mind. If someone wants to take over from here, I'd actually be grateful.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 11:06:16 PM by Suzerain »

Offline Sinfire Titan

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #7: November 24, 2011, 11:17:03 PM »
I don't understand. Do you mean the "Why Down Two PrCs are Down Two Tiers" etc. threads for PrCs? There's only two I could find of those. More would be better!

That's exactly what I meant.

Now I just need to figure out how many posts we need in the thread itself before I can let people post.
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Offline Suzerain

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #8: November 24, 2011, 11:37:14 PM »
I don't understand. Do you mean the "Why Down Two PrCs are Down Two Tiers" etc. threads for PrCs? There's only two I could find of those. More would be better!

That's exactly what I meant.

Now I just need to figure out how many posts we need in the thread itself before I can let people post.

There's ~500 PrCs in my index, and that excludes most Eberron stuff. Character limit on this forum is 40,000. My suggestion is you reserve around 8-10 posts.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 11:40:53 PM by Suzerain »

Offline Sinfire Titan

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #9: November 24, 2011, 11:47:40 PM »
I don't understand. Do you mean the "Why Down Two PrCs are Down Two Tiers" etc. threads for PrCs? There's only two I could find of those. More would be better!

That's exactly what I meant.

Now I just need to figure out how many posts we need in the thread itself before I can let people post.

There's ~500 PrCs in my index, and that excludes most Eberron stuff. Character limit on this forum is 40,000. My suggestion is you reserve around 8-10 posts.

Point taken. Probably going to limit myself to just 3.5 then (cuts out a small amount, but every little bit helps).
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Offline deuxhero

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #10: November 29, 2011, 12:53:51 PM »
Given its a core class and thus logical entry is core ranger, possibly with Barbarian levels, with no ACF or good spells. I'd say Horizon Walker should be bumped up to +0, it's pretty even in comparison, rather than a noticeable drop. The +4 bonuses are a little iffy, but compared to straight ranger or Ranger/barbarian.

lose (pure ranger)
-favored enemy (can't get fifth)
- Camouflage (early enough to get eventually)
- Fighting style mastery (Archery you should qualify for on your own if you really need it, 2 weapon fighting was alreddy pretty iffy, if you are non-TWF/Archery that's effectively no loss)
- spells (In core you have no neat ranger spells)
- 2 skill points
- Reflex save
- Wild Empathy

Possible loses from barbarian levels
Extra rages
DR,
Trap Sense
Improved Uncanny Dodge

Gain
- Pesudo favored enemy for habbitats (weak, but there)
- Fatigue immunity (for a multiclassed Barbarian that's a great ability, no withdrawal, even without it is isn't terrible)
- Darkvision
- +4 on various rolls (Preception duo and sneak duo are among the options)
- +2 fortitude save (fort is considered the more important save)
- Teleporation every 1d4 rounds (remember you can take the party and they aren't effected by action loss, plus AoO aren't an action.)
- Immunity to spells that target alignment (That's Blasphemy and equivalents, some of the bigger threats in core at the point you get it, Smite as well)
- Tremorsense 30 feet
- Fire and or Ice resist 20

Optimal build is likely horizon tripper, which changes it to a noticeable improvement over the two entry classes.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2011, 09:48:37 PM by deuxhero »

Offline Empirate

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #11: December 02, 2011, 10:59:26 AM »
Repost from BG, since it was never taken up:

Your Cityscape writeup seems to be missing a couple of PrCs.

Ebonmar Infiltrator: +0

Reasoning based on a Rogue 5 entry (other possible entries would be anything that can manage the steep skill reqs and has two feats to burn):

Pro: Continues your role as a skillmonkey and most other roguey stuff, including Sneak Attack (+3d6 over eight levels, sadly no progression for levels 9 and 10). Provides small bonuses to focus you on your infiltrator role, including welcome bonuses to Initiative and AC. Hide in Plain Sight (Ranger variant). Blindsense (5' only, though). The real seller is that you get your own - narrowly focused but useful - spell list.

Con: Takes two very very crappy feats to qualify for, in an already (very likely) feat-strapped build. Only 6+Int skillpoints/lvl, no Use Magic Device. Assassin has a strictly better spell list, if only because it is supported in many 3.5 books. No real signature ability (you can read War&Peace in a little over an hour though  :twitch).

General note: The Ebonmar Infiltrator does what a PrC is supposed to do: sharpen (and narrow) the focus of what your character can do. Excellent design in this regard. Sadly, it's a bit lacking in giving you additional Oomph! in your chosen area of expertise.


Crimson Scourge: +1

Reasoning based on an entry combining some martial classes (Urban Ranger, Fighter, Barbarian, Hexblade...):

Pro: Full BAB, 2 good saves (Fort and Ref), 6+Int skillpoints (good list), d10 HP, easy requirements except for 8 rks in Handle Animal (wtf?!). The first few levels are nothing special otherwise: Kid Gloves (deal nonlethal damage or lethal damage without penalty), Swift Tracker (applies only to Urban Tracking), Painful Strike (highly circumstantial, unimpressive damage bonus), Immovable Heart (small bonus vs. Enchantment and Fear) - all a bit lackluster. At 5th level, you get Improved Disarm, but if you want to disarm people, you should take that feat a little earlier, I'd say. But hey, it's a free feat.
Only at 7th level (Threaten ability) does the Crimson Scourge get something really worthwhile: Not only do you get a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks to demoralize an opponent (kthx), you can also do so as a move action (yay!), and the opponent stays demoralized for 1 round per point of your Str bonus (YAY!). Now this leads to some nice and easy fear stacking, and with the right build, you can do that all by yourself. This awesome ability is worth 7 levels of a PrC with lackluster abilities, but resting on a strong chassis.
Immunity to pain and nonlethal damage (gained at 8th) and Smell of Blood (Scent ability and +3 Initiative, gained at 10th) round the PrC off nicely.

Con: The class is built on a Ranger chassis, but does not get Ranger goodies, most of all no spellcasting, but also no Fighting Style, no Favored Enemy etc. All these are replaced by merely OK abilities, of which only one really shines. Even the Threaten ability needs a certain amount of optimization to function properly. Some class abilities are so situational as not to warrant the ink they're printed with. Build might be feat strapped (lack of Bonus feats except for surprising and largely useless Improved Disarm).

General note: The Crimson Scourge is very good at what it does (bringing small-time criminals and offenders back alive). Unfortunately, this is usually not needed in an adventuring party. However, the Threaten ability is quite glorious in its own right, and works well with many many things. Do not enter from Ranger 5, or you'll be disappointed. Optimize it, and it will become better than your fundament.

Offline Sinfire Titan

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #12: December 08, 2011, 10:13:39 PM »
Attention Handbook Writers! If you wish to openly discuss your handbook in an easily-accessible location, please start a thread in this section (Do not do so in the Handbooks section), and then reply to this thread. Doing so is not required, but handbooks exist for the purpose of compiling useful information regarding the 3.X system. Such handbooks would do well to have a discussion thread.
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Offline Endarire

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #13: October 24, 2012, 02:25:26 AM »
Faiths of Eberron should list the Escalation Mage (page 52) as +1 compared to a Wizard or Sorcerer.

Just be sure to take the feat Arcane Mastery (Complete Arcane Errata) to reliably make those caster level checks!

Offline Azrael

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Re: Tier System for PrCs - Reboot
« Reply #14: May 02, 2014, 04:25:17 PM »
Sorry for dredging this thread out but I was using it as a reference for finding prestige class names quickly and I noticed that metamind was in the -2 category. While I agree that without capstone abuse it is indeed one of the worst prestige classes to take, can we add an entry for Metamind in the +2 with capstone abuse. Assuming you use temporal reiteration you effectively gain unlimited pp and unlimited duration for all spells/abilities/effects affecting you which is so beyond broken when used in this manner it easily vies for one of the most powerful PrCs in the game (especially when combined with thrallherd/fusion cheese (see spoiler at the bottom) and/or initiate of the seven fold veil). I would even put it in a tier above the +2 and place a few other classes like planar shepard and SCM in there with it.


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