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Racial Paragon ClassesEdit
In most d20 campaigns, the ideas of class and race are separate concepts. But with racial paragon classes, the line between the two becomes blurred. Racial paragons are, as their name suggests, nearly ideal examples of the strengths and abilities of the character’s race. Unlike members of other classes, however, racial paragons are more than merely powerful individuals. They are strong in all the ways that their race is strong, while still vulnerable in the ways that their race is vulnerable. Beyond that, they possess powers or capabilities that supersede those of normal members of their race. While any elf might rise in power, prestige, and (in d20 terms) level, most do so by gaining levels in the standard character classes described in the d20 System Reference Document—only a few are so much in tune with their heritage and racial abilities that they become racial paragons.
Racial paragons rarely undergo the rigorous training or study that members of other classes commonly undertake between levels. Their experience, wisdom, and heroic abilities simply manifest in the form of superior innate racial abilities. Despite this strong association with race, racial paragons need not have specific views or special dedication to their race’s beliefs or typical attitudes (although many do).
Obviously, a character can only take levels in the racial paragon class associated with his race. A human cannot take levels in dwarf paragon—only dwarves are capable of reflecting the highest virtues of dwarfhood by gaining levels in the dwarf paragon class. (Half-elves and half-orcs are an exception; see the Half-Elf Paragon and Half-Orc Paragon sections below.)
Like the fighter, the wizard, and the other standard character classes, the racial paragon classes have no prerequisites (other than being a member of the appropriate race). Paragon class levels can be taken any time a character gains a new level, even at 1st level (in which case they receive four times the normal number of skill points gained at each succeeding level). A character can multiclass freely between standard character classes, prestige classes for which he or she qualifies, and the character’s appropriate racial paragon class.
It’s possible for a powerful magic effect such as shapechange, reincarnate, or wish to change a character’s race. If a character has already taken racial paragon levels in his original race, he can never become a paragon of another race. However, such shapechanging and form-altering magics also cause no loss of a paragon’s class abilities—the class abilities gained from racial paragon levels are affected no more or less drastically than benefits gained from having levels in any other class.
Levels in racial paragon classes never result in XP penalties for multiclass characters.
Subraces And Paragon ClassesEdit
As a general rule, a member of a subrace can take levels in the standard race’s paragon class unless a specific paragon class exists for the subrace. For example, aquatic elves, gray elves, wild elves, and wood elves may all advance as elf paragons, but drow elves may not, because drow have a separate paragon class. If you wanted to further differentiate the elven subraces by creating a paragon class for one or more of the subraces, those subraces could not then take levels of elf paragon.
When deciding whether to create new paragon classes for subraces in your game, consider how different the subrace is from the main race. For instance, the gray elf is very similar to the standard (high) elf, but both the wild elf and wood elf receive a penalty to Intelligence, suggesting that the elf paragon’s Intelligence increase at 3rd level might not be appropriate for those races. The forest gnome is very similar to the standard (rock) gnome, but the svirfneblin is so different (including a +3 level adjustment) that it probably deserves its own paragon class.
Paragon Classes In Your GameEdit
Like many of the variants rules, racial paragons can be a powerful tool for shaping a campaign world or play experience. Including racial paragons in a campaign is as easy as allowing players to advance in the classes or designing NPCs with class levels from the appropriate paragon class. However, this variant can be more than just another long list of possible classes. By allowing different subsets of the racial paragon classes to be present in your game, you can shape which races are the most influential or numerous in the campaign.
For example, in a setting in which elves and dwarves have all but died out, the traditions of their racial paragon classes might have been lost. In the same campaign, however, humans, half-orcs, and halflings all thrive, and powerful NPCs of these races might frequently have a level or two in the appropriate paragon class.
Furthermore, the prevalence of racial paragons can reflect the importance of racial issues. In campaigns where tensions run high between the civilized races, each race is more likely to have a large number of racial paragons among its members. As the cause of expanding humanity’s borders into the wilderness becomes more and more important to the race, more human paragons come to the fore—while halflings in the same campaign, content and secure with their lot in life, turn to other classes and pursuits less tied to the goals of their race.
You might choose to create your own racial paragon classes. When creating a racial paragon class for a race with a level adjustment of +1 or higher (such as drow or half-dragon), it’s acceptable for the class to be a little better than a paragon class for a race with a level adjustment of +0. In general, the benefits of a race with a level adjustment tend to decrease in value as the character gains levels, and an above-average paragon class can help that race maintain its edge.