How, exactly, do Prestige Classes advance in level?
I'll be looking at the Shadowcaster from the Tome of Magic and will use that class as an example. The example they give of a potent Master of Shadow (Prestige Class) is Shadowcaster 6/Master of Shadow 10.
(6th level Shadowcaster is necessary to gain the skill set needed to acquire the Prestige Class Master of Shadow)
Now, in this class, 10th level is as far as the Prestige Class advances, meaning that at 10th level they gain Immunity to Cold and that's where the Advancement Chart ends. The book assigns no "special" power, or ability past 10th level.
This example equates with a 16th Magic User. Is this as far as the person advances? If they continue to advance (gain xp) do they become a Master of Shadow level 11, or a Shadowcaster level 7? Do they continue to gain Fundamentals and Mysteries? I'm assuming so.
This passage on page 117 of the Tome of Magic is confusing me somewhat:
Prestige Class Casting Advancements
"When a shadowcaster gains new casting class levels from advancement within a prestige class, this includes the knowledge of new fundamentals, and the transformation of lower-level path mysteries into spell-like or supernatural abilities. It does not include gaining bonus feats for learning new paths or any other shadowcaster class features."
So, does the Prestige Class continue to gain spells, but can no longer gain Feats, ever?
As you all know, 3.5 is not my system, so a little help would be appreciated. I'm sure that I'm forgetting to ask something, but I"m confident that, as the discussion progresses, you guys/gals will add whatever it is I may be forgetting to ask.
There are 2 types of Prestige Classes, those that cap out at 10th level and those that cap out at less than 10th. For all prestige classes once you advance to the highest level you can no longer advance in that class. If you are using a prestige class that has 10 levels you may advance beyond 10th level once you become a epic level character and then it follows the rules for epic level characters.
Note that in 3.5ed, since all classes require the exact same amount of xp to advance to each new level, any PC may choose to take a level in any base class any time that PC earns enough experience points to advance another level. Thus, a PC fighter that earns enough xp to advance to 2nd level may choose to become a 2nd level fighter or a 1st level fighter and a 1st level shadowcaster (or any other base class). Once that PC earns enough xp to become 3rd level, s/he may choose to take another level in fighter, or shadowcaster, or any other base class.
So, using your example, if a 6th level shadowcaster meets the requirements to become a Master of Shadow, when s/he earns enough xp to become 7th level, s/he may instead take a level of Master of Shadow, becoming a Shadowcaster 6th/Master of Shadow 1st. This may contine until the PC has earned all possible 10 levels of Master of Shadow, being a Shadowcaster 6th/Master of Shadow 10th - the equivalent of a 16th level PC. If the PC then earns enough xp to be 17th level, s/he must choose to take another level in Shadowcaster, a level in another base PC class, or a level in another prestige class which s/he qualifies for as 10th level is the highest advancement possible in the Master of Shadow prestige class.
Note that, in my opinion, taking levels in multiple classes is very beneficial at low levels because the PC basically gets all the feats that the 1st level PCs of each class automatically begin with. However, at higher levels, such PCs (spellcasters, especially) are seriously hindered in maintaining a level of power equal to PCs who stuck with a single class.
For example, a 3rd/3rd/3rd level Cleric/Wizard/Druid may cast spells as high as 2nd level while a 9th level PC of any of those classes (having the exact same amount of xp) will be able to cast as many spells (depending upon Wis/Int), but his spells will be of a maximum of 5th level.
So, in the example set in the book, the Master of Shadow who is Shadowcaster 6/Master of Shadow 10 will advance by becoming a Shadowcaster 7/Master of Shadow 10, then Shadowcaster 8/Master of Shadow 10, etc.
Or, Shadowcaster 6/Master of Shadow10/Thief 1st, etc.
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