I almost didn't need content for the post as the title summed up my feelings.
Basically as my class/race list (in the sidebar) and some of my previous posts show, I don't like prestige classes very much.
yes I know they have been around since the early game (the 1e Bard and as Hill Cantons notes BECMI and UA classes) but its not the core idea thats bad so much as the implementation.
Not only are there far too many of the things to be easily managed but the entry mechanism is just bad. I can deal with the bloat by simply banning them but the starting level is a bigger challenge.
Starting a prestige class at 6th or 7th level has the cardinal sin of being boring. Its not something to strive for as much as a "level grind" Taking up to six months (24 sessions, 1 combat per session, 4 hours each, 1 time per week) just to play your concept is just not fun.
I can see (though I don't really like) the name level classes in BECMI, at least those are tied to an end game. The ones in 3x are just there .. Yuck..
Now if I were to redesign them I'd take a note from Hill Cantons (again) and start them at 4th level. And yes if you go and read that post, you'll see I was critical of the idea somewhat. After long thought I have come to the conclusion that its actually a very good idea. Sorry HC...
Anyway starting them at 4th fits the general, 1st thru 3rd are regular Joes, L4 Hero L8 Superhero ethos of D&D very well, allows them to be common enough to have orders and organizations without level bloat and even blends in well the the implied 5th thru 7th are exceptional but not super rare implication of the fighter/nobles on the 1st Edition DMG.
This kind of set up gives a good intro to the game and a new player can play maybe nine to a dozen sessions as a low level guy then be ready to try something more challenging. It just fits.
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