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The apostle of peace killed an orc. Willinglly. Justify as you wish that said orc is chaotic evil, that he eats newborn elf babies, whatever. They broke the vows.

The vow of peace feat was stripped out without replacement as it should be.

Now what about the class levels and features? Is there such a thing as an ex-apostle of peace?

Can the character ...

  • ... still use the class features and spells?

  • ... still earn exp and advance in levels in the PrC?

  • ... still progress "+level of caster" through other PrC?

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Vow of Non-Violence and Vow of Peace have both been violated and should both be removed.

According to Dungeon Master’s Guide, prestige class requirements must be met only to take the 1st level of a prestige class. After you have taken the 1st level of a prestige class, you not only keep class features if you lose the requirements, you also retain the right to take more levels in that prestige class.

And then on Book of Exalted Deeds page 49, the beginning of the prestige classes chapter, we have

A character who ceases to be of good alignment or who willfully commits an evil act loses all special abilities and spells acquired in this prestige class, and may not gain new levels in that class. She may regain her abilities if she atones for her violations (see Sin and Atonement in Chapter 1).

This suggests that the authors were aware of the Dungeon Master’s Guide rules and knew they needed to provide rules for “falling” from these prestige classes. But they only address alignment—not requirements. If killing this orc was not an evil act—which can easily be the case in Dungeons & Dragons—then by these rules, there is only a violation of the relevant vows, not an act that triggers falling.

The apostle of peace itself makes no mention of ex-apostles, no code like the paladin, etc. The section of chapter 2 on “Waging Peace” discusses only how to handle XP in a game where a player or players are not killing things.

Which basically leaves us with one question: is violating a sacred vow itself a necessarily-evil act? If so, then the apostle of peace has violated the rules on page 49 and loses all class features and cannot take more levels in apostle of peace. As indicated of page 49, the Sins and Atonement section on page 20 addresses this situation, and suggests that along with the atonement spell, a penance is usually appropriate in these situations. However, in the case of intentional violation, Vow of Peace and others say the feat is lost irrevocably. This suggests that no penance is sufficient to atone for this, and that would probably extend to the prestige class.

But nothing explicitly says that breaking your sacred vows is an evil act. I would not ordinarily think it is—a non-good act, certainly, but that falls short of being actively evil. Rather, I would think that the oversight is in the blurb on page 49, which should address vows explicitly in my mind. I would say that the list of transgressions that triggers the falling should be

ceases to be of good alignment, willfully commits an evil act, or violates a sacred vow required to enter the prestige class

Furthermore, nothing explicitly says that the “irrevocable” nature of the loss of prerequisite vows extends to the prestige class; that I would also see as something I’m seeing implicitly and my preference would be to make it explicit.

Ultimately, though, I would consider this a houserule, and would likewise consider a ruling that violating a sacred vow is an evil act to be something that should be brought up before a character takes any sacred vows. And since someone playing an apostle of peace requires a lengthy discussion with the entire group of what that means and whether or not people want to play that kind of game, it really should have been addressed long before there was ever an apostle of peace in the game to kill any orc.

At this point, I think the apostle of peace should lose their powers and not be able to continue progressing the class. If the player protests that they thought they were safe to do so under the rules, you should apologize for not spelling it out ahead of time—but not actually back down, because frankly the spirit of the rules in Book of Exalted Deeds is quite clear on this point. It is an extremely legalistic reading to come to the conclusion that apostle of peace features would remain available after violating the vows, and Book of Exalted Deeds is not a legalistic book. If the player no longer wants to play this character under that reading, then you could easily make the character’s penance something that takes the character away from the adventure and thus easily explain their absence, and look for an opportunity to introduce a new character. Your game will be much improved by not having an apostle of peace in it. If the player instead wishes to ret-con their decision to kill the orc, that could be discussed with the group, but unless it literally just happened, I personally would be strongly opposed—and even if it did just happen, I would be strongly reticent to allow it.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ BoED is marked as "mature content" partly because having a conversation about what Good actually is requires a degree of maturity incompatible with "well, my Exalted class doesn't say that murder takes away my powers." Completely agree that the Apostle should lose his class features alongside the vows. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel Nov 5 '17 at 4:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ "is violating a sacred vow itself a necessarily-evil act?" - An alternative and perhaps more useful framing might be "is knowingly allowing an orc to continue eating elf-babies ever not and evil act?". The quoted text implies that doing what is right/good is more important to the prestige class than a strict adherence to the vow of nonviolence. Which means I tend to object with the conclusion that coming down hard on the player is the right response. An Apostle of Peace who sits idly by while baby elves are being turned into snacks left and right is neither doing good nor bringing peace. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Nov 5 '17 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aroth K, that contradicts... pretty much the entire book. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 5 '17 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Entirely possible. All I've got is the quote provided; never seen the book. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Nov 5 '17 at 14:41
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The Book of Exalted Deeds on Prestige Classes says

The following text applies to every prestige class in this chapter: A character who ceases to be of good alignment or who willfully commits an evil act loses all special abilities and spells acquired in this prestige class, and may not gain new levels in that class. She may regain her abilities if she atones for her violations (see Sin and Atonement in Chapter 1). (ibid.)

So a creature that commits an evil act—and "committing murder for money is a completely evil act" (73)—loses any Book prestige class class abilities until it "makes amends for [the evil] actions, at least trying to repair any damage… caused and offering sincere apologies to those who might still hold [any] resentment" (20) and then is the subject of the 5th-level Clr spell atonement [abjur] (PH 201-2).

Making amends then receiving that atonement spell won't restore the apostle's irrevocably lost Vow feats (typically those can only be restored when such a vow is unintentionally broken), but amends and atonement should enable the creature to use once more its Book prestige class abilities. However, after the creature commits the evil act, it seems that nothing enables the creature to advance once again in a Book prestige class in which the creature already possesses 1 or more levels.

(If the murder wasn't committed for money, the creature still may have committed an evil act. Murder for free doesn't make murder not evil! The Book of Vile Darkness on Evil Acts says, "Murder is the killing of an intelligent creature for a nefarious purpose: theft, personal gain, perverse pleasure, or the like" (7). The DM might have to decide unilaterally the universe's opinion on the reason for the apostle's murder of the orc.)


Note: Because the Book of Exalted Deeds prestige class apostle of peace (51-3) must possess the feat Vow of Nonviolence (47)—that mandates an alignment of exalted good and that fundamentally alters how other players play the game—this DM would be hesitant to permit into his campaign, for example, an inorganic PC (one that enters play at a level higher than 1) that explained in his complicated background that he, before entering play, initially possessed an exalted good alignment then took a level of apostle of peace then changed alignment due to tragedy or convenience then retrained the Vow feats (using the Player's Handbook II rules for feat retraining (193)) and so kept his apostle abilities. While it's possible this might make for an interesting role-playing experience—this DM would surely have the campaign's inhabitants remember the PC prior to his fall and mock him for it!—, such a background could also be construed as just a blatant power-grab. There're easier and much more palatable ways to do that in 3.5e than by playing with these broken, dangerous toys! However, this DM would likely find it acceptable if a player came to this DM and explained that this was his organic PC's arc that he wanted to explore and that the campaign's other players were okay with not fighting for a couple of levels while he explored it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would consider “right to take more levels” as an ability that had been lost. And why wouldn’t they get vows back? The vows themselves suggest that atonement can restore them. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 4 '17 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The quotation says, "A character who ceases to be of good alignment or who willfully commits an evil act… may not gain new levels in that class." Then it says, "She may regain her abilities [n.b.] if she atones for her violations," but it says nothing about being able to advance in the class once more. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 4 '17 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ That’s my point, I would consider that one of the abilities she regains. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 4 '17 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Vow of Nonviolence: "If you intentionally break your vow, you immediately and irrevocably lose the benefit of this feat" (47). Vow of Peace: "If you intentionally break your vow, you immediately and irrevocably lose the benefit of this feat" (48). Vow of Poverty: "If you break your vow, you immediately and irrevocably lose the benefit of this feat" (ibid.). Only if some Vows are unintentionally can atonement restore them. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 4 '17 at 16:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It seems to me—based on the quotation's structure—that the special abilities and advancement are two separate things. We're totally allowed to politely disagree. (I see it much like Complete Arcane that makes the inverse possible: the creature loses all of its prestige class abilities but—if it wants—can still advance in the prestige class, unlike Complete Warrior where losing requirements causes both special ability loss and ends any possibility of further advancement. (I really think they were still fighting about the rules in editorial at this point!)) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 4 '17 at 16:30
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Two separate sentences on page 49 on the Book of Exalted Deeds provides the only relevant clues:

All of the prestige classes share the high moral standards of the paladin (...), and characters risk losing access to their class abilities if they fall short of their high calling.

A character who ceases to be of good alignment or who willfully commits an evil act loses all special abilities and spells acquired in this prestige class, and may not gain new levels in that class.

Compare these with the d20 SRD for paladins:

A paladin who ceases to be lawful good, who willfully commits an evil act, or who grossly violates the code of conduct loses all paladin spells and abilities ... She may not progress any farther in levels as a paladin.

So it would seem like the rules on the BoED are somehow falling short of the definitive wording as compared to the PHB. The first BoED sentence quoted is more story-telling, while the second one is more mechanics. The mechanics ruling appears to be only a weak interpretation of the story-telling one. While to some (most?) GMs (like myself), this would seem like a simple oversight, others could also argue that this lack of more strict rules is intentional. Depending on the context, the GM might rule that loosing the benefits of the two vow feats and not being allowed to progress further in the PrC could be a possibility.

To apply the rule as written we have to make sure whether the character "willfully committed an evil act". Judging the killing of an orc as an evil act is not as simple as it seems, particularly in a game like D&D where paladins regularly slaughter evil creatures. We must understand the character's motivation, which kind-of involves a little GM metagaming as the motivations of the character is hard to separate from the motivations of the player. A player who simply dipped into the PrC for some cool bonuses would imply a lack of conviction for pacifism in the character.

Hence everything depends on the context. What was the motivation for the character to become an apostle of peace in the first place? How did she embrace a pacifist philosophy? Is she a devotee of a deity whose ethos covers forgiveness? When the act of killing the orc happened, was it in self defense or in defense of another being? Did the player roleplay well? Was there compelling reason for character development? Did the character feel remorse afterwards? Did the player feel remorse afterwards? Did the player look at the rules, conclude nothing serious would happen and coldly decided to kill?

My goal in this answer is not to state the obvious. It is to point out that (1) the rules as written curiously lack exactness in what the asker is hoping to hear; (2) this lack leaves space for interpretation (ie. opinion-based); (3) the way the question is phrased seems to give the impression of a GM planning to punish a player; (4) I feel like someone must play the devil's advocate and point out that a direct reading of the rules do not seem to fully address the situation as far as the PrC features as concerned; (5) hence to arrive at a fact-based resolution, one could focus specifically on what the rules explicitly state, such as the question of whether an evil act has been committed or not; (6) but the lack of information makes us unable to judge even on that simple question; as simply breaking a vow is a chaotic act, not necessarily an evil one.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have completely restructured the answer to address what I think the reasons for the downvotes could be. Unfortunately, since the downvoters have not left any feedback, I cannot be sure, I am simply guessing. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 5 '17 at 6:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I downvoted cause I think the answer is fundamentally incorrect inasmuch as it addresses the question at all, which isn't a whole lot, and also fundamentally misguided inasmuch as it addresses alignment, which is most of it. I wouldn't ordinarily leave a comment explaining that, since I don't think your answer is convincing enough that a flaw needs to be pointed out for the benefit of future readers and I don't think that it editing would help. Generally, we avoid commenting with downvote reasons because doing so encourages discussion, which we want to avoid. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 11 '17 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer : thanks for your comment, particularly because you wrote in spite of not believing that it would be useful. It made me revisit the answer and make modifications. While it is not very likely that the changes would change your opinion, I believe it still helped improve the answer for others. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Nov 11 '17 at 12:24

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