There are a few major differences between 3.5e and 5e as editions of Dungeons and Dragons (and 4e, of course, but we don’t talk about 4e). The complexity of the gaming system for one, but also the way in which classes are built and played. In general, older editions have more customizable classes, wherein you get to make more choices and have more of a say in how your character is actually played.
5e chose a more streamlined approach to both gameplay and character building – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! But they channeled the older specialization when they made Warlocks. And, consequently, Warlocks are one of the most popular classes in 5e.
Clearly, 5e players are eager for customizing options. Luckily, if 5e (or 5.5e, as it’s coming up) already has a few 3.5e prestige classes to adapt if they so choose. Here are a few of the most customizable prestige classes from older editions, and how they might be adapted into 5e.
Coming straight out of the Complete Scoundrel supplemental tome, these classes have access to a list of skill tricks. Similar to feats, skill tricks are specific in-combat maneuvers that make for flashy, tricky battles that confuse and generally out-class your opponents. They’re reliant on skill checks, though, so they tend to be favored by classes that put a lot into skills rather than heavy combat or caster classes.
You can buy a skill trick for a couple of skill points, and get a couple from prestige classes, which makes them a slightly expensive resource. But you get to choose which ones you want, like Warlocks get to choose Invocations, which would exponentially increase the customization in 5e.
As a prestige class, the Uncanny Trickster gets more bonus (unpaid for) tricks than any other, and centers on skill tricks as its sole focus. This is a great prestige/subclass for those who are especially into getting creative with combat.
The Uncanny Trickster is the purest trickster class, and consequently the hardest to convert into a subclass. I’d almost think it belongs as a full class on its own, if not for the fact that it might feel very similar to a Rogue in terms of broader class abilities. As it is, I think a quick rename would make it a workable rogue subclass (just so it doesn’t get confused with Arcane Trickster).
The Battle Trickster is the martial of the trickster prestige classes. They don’t get as many skill tricks, but they also get a fighter feat and a competence bonus to use their skill tricks when in battle. They also get some decent bonuses to Base Attack Bonus and Fortitude Saves.
This is pretty obviously perfect for a Fighter subclass. It’d take some heavy converting (since fighter feats, BAB, and Fort Saves are all gone from 5e) but it’d definitely make for an interesting, engaging subclass for an often-overlooked class in later editions.
This one sounds like it might be the same as Arcane Trickster, but it’s actually something of an inversion of the already-present Rogue subclass. Instead of a trickster who dabbles in magic, Magical Tricksters are more spellcasters who like throwing in the occasional off-putting maneuver.
Since they get a couple of metamagic feats, and require a good number of spells to use, these casters would make for an excellent Sorcerer subclass. Wizards might make a good option, too, but their subclasses tend to revolve around colleges and types of magic rather than styles of wielding it.
Artificers are already slightly more customizable than most other classes, but it can’t hurt to take it a step further!
Combat Trapsmiths are experts in what one might call preemptive combat, littering potential battlefields with a variety of terrifying traps. As you gain more levels in the class, these traps become more complicated and devastating.
This class would be especially fun for a slightly unorthodox campaign - one in which you play as a dungeon builder, or are defending a location instead of going out adventuring. But Artificers are already geared somewhat for strategizing ahead of battles, so it wouldn’t be too out of place among the rest of the available subclasses.
Geomancers aren’t, in fact, casters who specialize in earth magic. Instead, these casters have a unique method of casting magic but creating and working with ley lines – magical connections which harvest power from the earth (unlike druids and ranger, who channel that which is readily available). This blends arcane and divine magic, and twists the caster closer to the environment that they work their ley lines into.
Whenever they take a level in this prestige class, users take on a Drift. Drifts are gradual physical changes into another natural form, such taking on aspects of plants or animals. Taking on a new drift, which can be chosen from a broad list (and occasionally grant some features), allows for customization of both look and playstyle for users.
The prestige class was intended for multiclassing players, so they also get spell versatility, so access to both divine and arcane spells (yes, there is a difference, not just in which classes can cast which!) comes part-in-parcel with it.
This one is definitely best as either a Wizard subclass, or just a whole class on its own. The whole class could lean into the differing casting style, but a wizard subclass could probably manage to incorporate the ley lines as well.
Are there any more customizable classes and prestige classes that you love? How would you like to see them incorporated into 5e? Any predictions for if we ever will? Let us know below!