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Old Screeds

An Analysis of a Fighter-Based PrC [23 May 07] Including the Wing Child PrC

A month or so ago I ran across this this message board post that detailed a fighter-oriented PrC. [May 2014 - the link is dead now, alas, and the Wayback Machine is no help.] There was much there I disagreed with, and I think it provides a good example of what not to do in PrC design, but I liked the concept, and ended up revamping it in my own image. First, my critique, then my suggestion for an improved version.

The original homebrew Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 prestige class is here in blue; my comments are interspersed in italics.

Servant of Sylph

Master of the chilly northern winds. Mistress of the sylvan glade. Stormrider of the wind torn seas. Bastion of faith in the grim stone halls. These are all descriptions of where Sylph's guidance may take her servants. These servants are dedicated individuals that typically rely on themselves and only themselves. They sacrifice some of the spell power to gain this ability however.

The DMG PrCs all follow a standard style for PrC flavor text. The first paragraph is theme. The second is how you qualify and who takes it. The third talks about how NPCs with this PrC act. This needs a rewrite. And what does the sylvan glade and grim stone halls have to do with this PrC? On the other hand, I like "Stormrider" and "Windmaster" -- we can use those.

Hit Die: d8

Race: Human, Elf, Half-elf
Spellcasting: Ability to cast 5th level druid spells

The DMG says that when you design a PrC, you should not require certain class levels. But "fifth level druid spells" does that. Instead, I suggest a different requirement. How about "Must be able to cast Commune With Nature." That way you open the PrC up to Rangers, who can cast Commune With Nature at level 14, and Animal Domain clerics, who can cast it at level 9, like druids.

Skills: Knowledge-Nature (13 ranks)

In keeping with that base 9th level requirement, I would change the required ranks of Know Nature to 12, or even 10.

Class Skills
The Servant of Sylph has the same set of class skills as the druid class.

This is just lazy ... let's actually list them -- and see if we want to tweak them.

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Class Features

Sylph's Vengeance - This ability may be used once per day at 2nd level, increasing to twice per day at 6th level, and thrice per day at 9th level. This ability allows the druid to exact Sylph's justice upon her foes, dealing extra damage with a bonus to hit. The bonus to hit is the Servant's wisdom bonus and does additional divine damage equal to the Servant of Sylph class level of the character.

First, we should list class abilities under the table. Second, although I like this Smite Evil analog, I would make it work even more like Smite Evil -- including only working against certain foes or in particular situations. Also note the irregular progression: level 2, 6, and 9. Regular progression is always better as it extends into epic levels more smoothly: 2, 6, 10 or 3, 6, 9 would be an improvement.

Table 1-1: The Servant of Sylph
.1....+1....+2....+3....+0....+1 divine caster level
.2....+2....+3....+3....+0....Sylph's Vengeance (1x/day)
.3....+3....+3....+3....+1....Bonus Feat (Fighter list)
.5....+5....+4....+4....+1....+1 divine caster level
.6....+6....+5....+5....+2....Sylph's Vengeance (2x/day)
.7....+7....+5....+5....+2....Bonus Feat (Fighter list)
.9....+9....+6....+6....+3....Sylph's Vengeance (3x/day)
10...+10....+7....+7....+3....+1 divine caster level

Ugh! The Reflex save progression is nonstandard. Saves must be either "good" (like Fortitude for fighters or Will for mages) or "poor" (like Reflex for clerics). Maybe the +3 Reflex at level 1 is a typo? It should be +2.

And as I have ranted about before, I think a well-designed fighter-oriented PrC should either have two good saves and two skill ranks per level, or one good save and four ranks per level. Frankly, with the connotation of wind and air being agile and swift, I would tend to make it Reflex alone. Which is a nice complement to the standard divine saves that would be typical of most adoptees of this PrC. And fits the four ranks per level.

Note that some universals are absent. Weapon profs, armor, spells.

I like the idea of a special ability at every level -- the blank spots at level 4 and 8 above seem lame. I also like it when the themes given in the flavor text are reflected in the PrC mechanics -- there's nothing like that now.

The addition of "Bonus Feat (Fighter list)" is also lazy. Is it so hard to come up with a more tailored list of bonus feats?

All that said, here is a new version of the prestige class that answers my comments:

Wing Child

Rider of Storms and Mistress of the East Wind. Hero of Fliers and Master of the Air. The Wing Children are devoted champions of creatures that fly. In tune with nature, they serve as knights dedicated to the service of the powers of the air.

All Wing Children are deeply aligned with the forces of nature. They are usually druids, high-level rangers, and clerics with the animal domain. They are friends to all winged animals, fey, and magical beasts. Some rare races of humanoid fliers take to this prestige class most naturally and easily of all.

As NPCs, Wing Children are champions, often sworn to serve gods of the atmosphere, princes of elemental air, or certain immortal fey powers in league with sylphs and sprites. Other Wing Children serve nature, worshipping the wind, stars, sun, and moon. A few selfish or evil Wing Children serve only themselves, but those may be the most dedicated of all.

Hit Die: d8

Skills: Knowledge (Nature) 10 ranks [or Fly 7 ranks for Pathfinder games]
Special: Fly speed, gained through possession of at least one of the following:
-- (1) The ability to fly as a permanent form of movement, with an actual fly speed. -- (2) A bound flying mount, perhaps an animal companion that can fly, or a loyal creature gained via Leadership. -- (3) The ability to change shape (as through wildshape) to assume the form of a creature with a fly speed or to grow functional wings for at least an hour at a time. -- (4) The ability to cast a long-duration spell (at least an hour) that grants flight or something similar. The Overland Flight or Air Walk spells will suffice, for example.

Class Skills
Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Jump (Str), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Spellcraft (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Use Rope (Dex).
[For Pathfinder games, Acrobatics (Dex), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), and Survival (Wis).]
Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Table: Wing Child
.1....+1....+0....+2....+0....Smite Earthbound 1/day
.2....+2....+0....+3....+0....Wind Master
.3....+3....+1....+3....+1....Smite Earthbound 2/day
.4....+4....+1....+4....+1....Bonus Feat
.5....+5....+1....+4....+1....Smite Earthbound 3/day
.6....+6....+2....+5....+2....Air Mastery
.7....+7....+2....+5....+2....Smite Earthbound 4/day
.8....+8....+2....+6....+2....Bonus Feat
.9....+9....+3....+6....+3....Smite Earthbound 5/day
10...+10....+3....+7....+3....Storm Rider

Class Features

Weapon and Armor Proficiency -- A Wing Child is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, as well as Bolas and Shuriken. Wing Children gain no proficiency with any armor.

Spells and Caster Level -- Levels in the Wing Child prestige class, even though they do not advance spell progression in the characterís base class, still stack with the characterís base spellcasting levels to determine caster level.

Smite Earthbound -- Once per day, while in the air, a Wing Child may use a melee attack to smite a creature that is standing on the ground. He adds his Charisma bonus (if any) to his attack roll and deals 1 extra point of damage per Wing Child level. If the Wing Child accidentally smites a creature that is not earthbound, the smite has no effect, but the ability is still used up for that day.

Wind Master - The Wing Child becomes the Master (or Mistress) of one of the four winds. Choose one from these options:
  • Master of the North Wind (requires wildshape class ability) -- The Wing Child's wildshape duration (in hours) and number of changes per day is increased by level divided by two when taking the shape of any air elemental or animal with a fly speed.
  • Master of South Wind (requires flight speed) -- The Wing Child's maneuverability class increases by one step, and move speed doubles.
  • Master of the East Wind (requires animal companion class ability) -- The Wing Child can call a hippogriff as a fourth level animal companion, or a pegasus as a seventh level companion, or a griffon as a tenth level companion, or a roc as a 13th level companion. Wing Child levels stack with levels of any other classes that are entitled to an animal companion with a fly speed for the purpose of determining the companionís abilities and the alternative lists available to the character.
  • Master of the West Wind (no requirement) -- The Wing Child gains a special mount, exactly as a paladin three levels higher than the Wing Child, but the mount must be a giant eagle or a giant owl. The special mount has the same alignment as the Wing Child, and is celestial if the Child is good; fiendish if evil; and one or the other as desired if the Child is neutral. The Wing Child also gains Heal Mount as a fourth level spell. If the Wing Child has paladin levels, they stack in determining the special mount's abilities.
Bonus Feat - Pick a feat for which the Wing Child qualifies from this list: Animal Affinity, Dodge, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Armor, Improved Natural Attack, Mobility, Mounted Archery, Mounted Combat, Natural Spell, Weapon Focus, Wingover.

Air Mastery -- Airborne creatures take a -2 penalty on attack rolls, damage, and saving throws made against the Wing Child.

Storm Rider - The Wing Child is immune to all effects of normal wind and weather, as well as all harmful results of magical effects with the words "wind" or "storm" in the name, including Gust of Wind, Storm of Vengeance, and Sleet Storm. In addition, the Wing Child gains wings (choice of bird-like, bat-like, or butterfly-like) and a move speed double his land speed, as well as maneuverability class B and the ability to hover. If the Wing Child already has flight, then his maneuverability class increases by one step, and move speed doubles -- this stacks with Master of the South Wind, but note that a doubled double is a triple.

Design Notes:

1) The original PrC was devoted to a being called "Sylph," but I wanted to make this more generic and easily adaptable to any campaign. I also fleshed out the flavor text with the same reasoning in mind. Certainly, my version is more "inspired by" and "from an idea by" than a straight fix of the original. One of my most significant additions is the theme of "creature meets air" -- I thought to myself, what is the intersection of air and wind with wildshape, animal domain, animal companion, and flesh and blood? To me, the answer is flight and wings. That's how I got the idea for the name Wing Child, the idea of a flying mount or becoming a better flier, and getting wings as the ultimate ability. And that's why I added the option of fliers taking this PrC without the arduous requirement of casting 5th level druid spells, as per the original -- being able to fly is itself the best way to commune with nature, I suppose I am saying.

2) I removed the race restriction (elf, half-elf, human) from the requirements. I could not justify it, and as I want other fliers to be able to take the PrC, it made no sense.

3) The original PrC offered a paltry +3 caster levels, which hardly seemed worth it. Besides, you have to be quite the spellcaster to cast 5th level druid spells (in the original). Moreover, this is a fighter-oriented PrC, so why advance spell casting at all? On the other hand, since you ARE most likely a caster, I wanted to offer some reward, caster-wise. So I took a page from the Hierophant and boosted caster level only. I think that's a sweet compromise that softens the blow of no spell progression.

4) The choice of four options with Wind Master is designed to satisfy the different ways that one can enter this PrC: as a druid (boosting wildshape), a ranger or druid (boosting animal companion), a flier (boosting flight), or as anyone else (flying special mount).

Update [24 May 07] Fixed a bad edit -- thanks to Robert for setting me straight!
Update [1 May 14] Made tweaks and clarifications.

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