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Racial Paragon Classes are detailed in Unearthed Arcana. These extremely short classes offer a way to expand your racial abilities and make your character feel more "elf-like" or more "dwarf-like". I really like the idea behind the classes and I'm toying with the idea of using them in my next game.

My thought would be that the players would start the game as the racial paragon class and, when they leveled up, they would either choose to continue in the paragon class, or select a new class. (Sort of like starting as a common person, then leveling into a standard class.)

Ability-wise, how do racial paragon classes (RPC) stack up to the actual classes? I'd assume that a party of 1st level RPC characters is going to be weaker (due to lack of specialization) than a normal 1st level party, but I'm not sure how much. Is it possible to say something like "A 2nd level Racial Paragon Class character is roughly equivalent to a 'real' 1st level character?" Could they handle the same encounters a 'regular' party could?

(Let's just consider the RPCs for LA +0 races; I'm sure that the Drow and Half-Dragon RPCs would throw things off.)

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Classes are typically about class features, and Racial Paragon classes don’t get those. They have some nice stuff, but not that much nice stuff. I’d make Paragon-ness just a matter of story; you do not need the paragon class.

Mostly, a Racial Paragon is getting middle-of-the-road everything, but that means they’re not really good at anything. A warrior wants full BAB (most paragons don’t get that), a spellcaster wants full spellcasting (and no paragon gets that), and neither’s usually interested in a little of the other guy’s stuff to warrant losing out on their own specialty.

True, quality middle-of-the-road classes, like Bard, Factotum, and Rogue, get special class features rather than just “a bit less all around.” This is the same reason why Paladins and Rangers suffer in comparison to these classes.

An exception should be made, though, for the Half-orc Paragon: it grants Rage, as the Barbarian feature, and does not require being non-lawful (even though they do “tend toward a chaotic outlook”). If you play with strict, mechanical alignment (which I personally recommend against), this allows a Lawful character to get Rage, which is otherwise very difficult. Unfortunately, you have to be a half-orc to get it, and those are... not good.

A better “elf paragon” class, by the way, can be found in Races of the Wild in the Ruathar. It’s a little harder to get into (mostly requires being level 6), but it gives better stuff (mostly, it gives full spellcasting).

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I think the OP knows that these are inferior to regular classes, but wants an estimate of whether this will affect what CRs the party can take on. –  starwed Jun 14 '13 at 20:47
    
@starwed You seem to be right. OK, I'm going to revisit this later then and try to address that more specifically. –  KRyan Jun 14 '13 at 20:58
    
@starwed You hit it right on the nose. We know they are worse, but is there some way to quantify it or some measure we can put on it? –  Discord Jun 15 '13 at 12:22

Honestly, the Paragon classes don't seem very good. The attribute bonus at 3rd level is nice, but the other abilities gained seem sub-par. Especially when you consider the 'Spells Per Day' gained by the various classes don't actually grant spellcasting powers (some of them read as if they won't stack with classes gained later, to boot).

From BAB, skills, and saves, the classes are on par with other classes, but they are strictly dominated by other classes in ability gains.

Also, consider this from a thematic direction: How could an elf be the most elfy elf EVER if he can't even cast Prestidigitation? The Paragon classes are designed for the most outstanding examples of a race, you don't get that right out of your apprenticeship to a dwarven stonecarver.

These classes are designed for people who have been playing a race's favored class, have been hitting the truth behind the race's stereotypes, and seek to strengthen their connection to their people.

You could start people out in these classes, but your 1st level party would be feat-light on your combat types, skill-light on your skill monkeys (enjoy trying to pick a lock or disable a trap as a Halfling Paragon), and your casters would be just as squishy with none of the boom. Unless, of course, you have a gnome. Enjoy dancing lights and discussing your important quest with moles.

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