Our Friday Night Pathfinder gaming group started playing the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path this past fall and things are going great. Everyone is having a good time, and while I am not the greatest DM in the world, the ROTRL modules are very well written, with plenty of options, and the players never know what is going to happen next. All in all, a big thumbs up.
As the players have been leveling up so far they have just been increasing their given class level, with no cross-class level additions. We had discussed the Prestige Classes as an option a few months ago, and with the next level-up at least one of the players is considering adding some basic wizard skills to his fighter. We are all using the HeroLab character tool, so it is relatively easy to plug in a choice and review the results before committing to it.
As the DM I am not running a particular character so I hadn't explored this much myself, but I was curious about the nuts and bolts of building a Prestige Class character. To that end I reviewed the list of options in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and decided to build an Arcane Trickster. Basically, to build a Prestige Class character you need to build a base of skills from the different classes, in this case Rogue and Wizard, before you can avail yourself to the Prestige Class characteristics. The rulebook says you need a specified level of sneak attack, a certain level of mage skills with a specific requirement, and a specified numbers of ranks in skills before Arcane Trickster can even become an option.
Which is all find and dandy, but what they really mean is that at least three levels in Rogue and two levels in Wizard, along with the specified skills is what is required before Arcane Trickster even becomes a choice in the Herolab tool. I suppose if I was more an a Pathfinder expert that would be considered as assumed knowledge, but it just took me a little while to figure it out.
Once I got the basics straightened out, and as I bumped the character up in levels to review my options, it dawned on me that I was likely not the first person to have gone down this path. I started poking around the messageboards on Paizo.com and found several threads where people were discussing character options and optimization for the Arcane Trickster, including a ~20 page document one person had put together detailing all of the Prestige Class plusses and minuses, as well as information on feats, skills, etc. for the Arcane Trickster.
Besides the Prestige Classes presented in the Core Rulebook there have been additional ones presented in other Pathfinder campaign books. To get these included in the Herolob character tool you will have to specify which additional books you want pulled into the character builder toolset. Given this was our first foray into Pathfinder we had stuck with the basics - just data from the Core Rulebook and the ROTRL AP module. Adding some of the additional material is not always free - it is not necessarily expensive, but there may be a cost element involved here.
If you are interested in adding a Prestige Class character in to your Pathfinder game here would be some good general guidelines:
- Discuss your choice with your DM first and make sure it is going to fit within the context of the module they will be running. This may also affect which game material will need to be pulled into the Herolab character tool.
- Ensure you have your intermediate steps mapped out along the way for what levels to add and what skills to add as you level up ... best laid plans and all that. That is where testing your character build with the Herolab tool can be invaluable.
- Make sure your character works within the context of your party as well. An Arcane Trickster is essentially a hybrid thief and magic user. A full time Rogue would have more Rogue skills, but you are devoting some skills to your Wizard abilities, and vice versa. You may not be able to maximize on short term gains because you are betting on a long term benefits, but that is also dependent upon your character actually surviving long enough to reach that point.
I just happened to pick Arcane Trickster to experiment with, but there are plenty of other interesting choice out there, and I can easily assume they get the same discussion and optimization choices in the Pazio.com messageboards.