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I homebrew a lot of a prestige classes and occasionally have felt like it made sense to have them require certain attributes. For example, a certain class might have Dex 15 as a prerequisite. However, I looked through Pathfinder's existing prestige classes and noticed that none of them appear to have any attribute-based prerequisites. They mostly require skill ranks, feats, BAB, and/or spellcasting ability.

Are there any official prestige classes that can only be taken if certain attribute requirements are met? If not, does it make sense to avoid doing this for homebrew classes? Obviously since the system does not set a rule against it, I can set whatever prerequisites I want, but I try to avoid breaking established patterns (e.g. feats using odd numbers for attribute prereqs).

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No, there aren’t. Can’t prove a negative, but I did go through all of the prestige classes listed on d20PFSRD.com and didn’t see any (there are a lot, though, so I was going kind of quickly).

Moreover, I can also say with some certainty that this was not a done thing in D&D 3.5e, which Pathfinder is based on, and which had much, much greater emphasis on prestige classes than Pathfinder does. It would be nigh-impossible to speak categorically about the prestige classes in that system (there were literally thousands), but as someone who has been a prolific 3.5e and Pathfinder homebrewer, as well as occasional freelance third-party author, and who wrote a “book” on designing prestige classes, I come from a pretty strong place to characterize the general trend: ability score requirements for prestige classes was not done there, either.

What is done instead is feat requirements, where feats can have ability score requirements. This follows a general trend of prestige classes not having “hard” requirements, but “soft” requirements (e.g. the game rarely says “Xth level” is instead requires a certain amount of BAB or skill ranks you can’t get before that level). In the particular case of ability scores, using a feat instead of a hard requirement in the prestige class opens up the possibility of another class granting that feat as a bonus feat—without meeting the prerequisites, including the ability score requirement. This is consistent with the system as a whole, which allows a wide variety of different ways to accomplish things, and is a feature well beloved by many fans.

Finally, I want to part with an insight I’ve gleaned over the years: prerequisites are... not super great design in the first place. They serve three general roles:

  1. They indicate the sort of person who enters this class, on a fluff level. This is good, up to a point.

  2. They balance out the prestige class, with onerous requirements opening up greater power. This is pretty poor design from a balance perspective, as well as from a gameplay perspective—the more those requirements lock in certain decisions, the more two members of that prestige class are forced to look the same. This is bad.

  3. They allow the author of the class to dictate how the class is to be played. This is awful.

There are myriad better ways to accomplish these goals: the descriptions and mechanics of the class itself should be accomplishing all three on their own. So overall, I favor prestige class designs that are internally balanced, rather than relying on prerequisites to balance them out, and that therefore have light, flexible requirements that open things up to player customization and concepts.

Ability score requirements would fly in the face of that, hard. Ability scores are not easily obtained at all in Pathfinder—whether it be low odds on the rolls, accelerating point buy costs, or punitive prices attached to ability score enhancements, Pathfinder is a game that only supports characters who can focus on at most two to three ability scores. An ability score requirement says anyone who isn’t focusing on the ability you require can’t play—or worse, it doesn’t explicitly say that, and invites players to step into the trap that is trying to pump too many ability scores.

Any given design is going to be different, and I don’t know what you’re ’brewing. Generalizations can easily have exceptions, and I’m not in a place to say yours isn’t one of them. But I can say that I would give that requirement, a long, hard, critical look, and it would be very much up to you to convince me that my generalization doesn’t apply in your case; it would be an uphill battle.

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If you wish to follow the design decisions of existing prestige classes, no.

Generally speaking, Pathfinder does not have hard stat prerequisites for classes, even when it would make sense to do so. For example, you can take class levels in wizard even if you have an 8 in intelligence and are thus completely incapable of casting spells. However, prestige classes do often have "soft" stat prerequisites, by requiring certain feats which do require a certain ability score. For example, becoming a Duelist requires Dodge and Mobility, which both have a prerequisite of Dex 13. Admittedly, in most cases the distinction is moot, but there are edge cases where someone can qualify for the feat without meeting the stat requirement, such as the bonus feats granted by Ranger combat styles. If you would like to have a high dexterity requirement for the prestige class in question I would suggest selecting a prerequisite feat that makes sense for the class and requires a dexterity score of 15.

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