I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Dungeons and Dragons 5e has nothing on its previous editions for customization. It’s partly to do with the paring down of skills, removal of their point system, and mass elimination of feats for a more streamlined, easy-to-learn game style. But a huge factor is the switch to subclasses (class paths built in to the levels of their overarching class, that must be chosen almost as soon as you make the character) from prestige classes (extra classes that you have to build your character towards, that stack on top of standard classes, and can’t be taken until you’ve leveled quite a bit).
This isn’t necessarily bad, of course. It has its pros and cons.
But for those of us who want to get really creative with our characters, and like to have the features and rules to back it up (instead of just flavoring the subclasses), looking back at prestige classes is a fantastic way to reintroduce some of that customization to 5e.
We’ve discussed specific types of prestige classes before, here: What, How, and Why are Prestige Classes in D&D? (d20collective.com) , here: 5 Psionic Prestige Classes WotC should adapt into 5e Subclasses (d20collective.com), and here: 5 Highly Customizable 3.5e Prestige Classes We Wish that 5e Would Inco (d20collective.com)
This time, we were drawn to the elven prestige classes – ones that can be taken only by elves and half-elves, for one reason or another.
Champion of Corellon Larethian
To be a Champion of Corellon Larethian is to be an elf among elves, a noble warrior and knight, proficient in not only an elven blade but in all manner of gentility and kindness. Such a knight may serve elven nobility, guard temples to the patron God of Elves, or undertake quests for the protection and advancement of the elven people. And unlike the majority of a standard elven army, these are no archers, but well-armored, mounted melee combatants, who do not shy from direct confrontation.
Essentially, users of this prestige class are the Arthurian Knights of the elves. It takes quite a bit of effort to be able to take this class, since it requires a number of feats, and specialization in armor and weaponry that elves’ ASI don’t really benefit. But the tradeoff is more than worth it, granting you healing, damage bonuses, and even an increase to the maximum DEX bonus while wearing heavy armor.
For 5e, a paladin or a fighter would make an ideal Champion of Corellon Larethian.
Everskan Tomb Guardian
Deep in the wilds of Faerun is the elven city of Everska, a beating heart of elven culture, cut off from the outside world which ages and changes so quickly. The elves there value their heritage, and their dead, burying them with powerful artifacts and riches that draw the greed of looters and adventurers. Tasked with protecting these sacred tombs are Everskan Tomb Guardians, mages and warriors who protect the resting dead, and hunt down any who dare to violate their burial place.
These Guardians, like Champions, require no small amount of martial finesse to become one of their number. They also require some level of magical ability, and a variety of hunting and survival skills. Once you become one, though, you gain powerful tracking and hunting abilities, and more spells to use in the pursuit of looters.
Any number of classes, save perhaps Barbarians, could be an Everska Guardian in 5e. Rangers, Sorcerers, Wizards, Warlocks, and Bards all have a chance to meet the spellcasting and skill requirements eventually, and you can easily multiclass for others.
While Champions of Corellon and Everskan Guardians embrace the more civilized, elegant side of elven societies (often embodied by high elves), there are also aspects of elvendom that reject it in favor of the wild, wood elves chief among them. These Wildrunners embrace untamedness, drawing from the primal forces within them, mimicking the undomesticated beasts.
Wildrunners require a character that leans into the animalistic skills; one who can move quietly, hide, and survive alone in nature. Once you’ve taken the class, you start beginning to slowly become increasingly wild. You move faster, frighten your enemies with a primal scream, stalk, and pounce upon your prey unimpeded by terrain, and eventually leave behind your own nature to become a fey.
Wildrunners are slightly less relevant to 5e than 3e, since elves have been somewhat removed from their original, more inhuman presentation. Instead, a Wildrunner might be an elf who is slowly morphing into an Eladrin, reuniting with their fey roots. As for classes, rangers, druids, and barbarians all go well with the flavor and features of the Wildrunner.
Half Elves, while bearing much of the appearance of their elven lineage, are often somewhat ostracized from elven communities. After all, they live half the lifespan of the average elf, remaining ever children in their eyesight. They do not live to meet the same markers of prestige and influence that normal elves achieve. And as for their other half, well, they long outlive almost every other parent’s community, children long after their neighbors begin to grow old.
Most deal with this struggle by forming their own communities. But others fester in resentment at their lack of entry to either community and turn their skills against humans and elves alike. These Scars, and their Scar Enforcers excel at impersonating and assassinating humans and elves, smiting them with powerful sneak attacks, and eventually losing the lineage bonuses and negatives from either race.
This prestige class was designed for a specific location, wherein elves and humans do not trust each other. Furthermore, elves are much shorter lived in 5e than in older editions, making them much more relatable to human communities, and to their half-elven offspring. This change makes it less likely for there to be a substantial number of Scars in a standard 5e world, but it’s possible. The prestige class (which is best served for a rogue, although warlocks and bards are also good options) is still fantastic for evil campaigns, or villainous NPCs.
Have you ever played with any of these prestige classes? Have you played any similar characters in 5e, without the official rules? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below!