I'm currently in a 3.5/pathfinder campaign. (Mostly 3.5, but since it's steampunk we're borrowing liberally from pathfinder as we find the need.) We started as commoners, the idea being that we would gain base classes as we began to act like heroes, and as circumstances warranted. Our fighter killed a wyrmling, gaining his levels. The rogue seems to have acquired his from an artifact of some kind (He's being a bit cagey, but keeps making a point to sneak before beginning a fight.) The rule somebody remembered (and nobody challenged) was that if a commoner advanced to a base class, you replaced all previous levels with levels of your new class. It made more sense than multiclassing, and fit with the notion of warriors becoming fighters and suchlike. I can't find anything in the core book that speaks to the issue, so that's part of my question- what actually happens when a commoner advances to a base class?

But the important part, the previous question being merely a prerequisite, (whatever the ruling, we aren't changing how we do that now) is what happens if a commoner tries to advance straight to a prestige class? I just noticed that Shadowdancer, which would fit my character just fine, just has skill and feat prerequisites. I'm an int based human, that's pretty easy. Can I just jump straight into a prestige class from commoner?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hadn't heard about the commoner->character class before, nice, have to store that one away... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 11:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you lose your commoner levels, do you also lose any flaws that required you to be a commoner? Like, say, Chicken-Infested? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage: Again, houserule territory. The rules don't account for that because normally you can't lose your Commoner levels. The rules for Prestige Classes would say you keep it (unless the PrC came from CWar or CArc), the rules for Feats would say you would keep it but cannot use it, and as far as I am aware, Flaws don't have any such rules at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


Sure you can, as long as you meet the prestige class’s prerequisites. The Commoner class does not have any special rules about its advancement, it’s just a particularly weak base class.

It’s actually the easiest way to enter the Survivor prestige class (Savage Species), which requires that one’s highest base save bonus be lower than one’s character level. In a similar case, the Adept is the easiest way to enter the Hexer prestige class (Masters of the Wild), since it requires lightning bolt as a divine spell, and neither clerics nor druids get it, nor is it found on any Domain (amazingly).

I would comment that a common way to handle games where you start as Commoners is to have you “trade in” Commoner levels for PC-class levels, to avoid you taking pretty serious hits to your abilities relative to your nominal ECL. This is a non-issue if your DM knows how to compensate, but it might be worth mentioning as an idea to your DM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The trade in sounds like what we've been doing- a 3rd level commoner becomes a 4th level fighter, instead of a 3rd commoner/1st fighter, right? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 4:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IgneusJotunn: Yeah, that's basically it. I doubt your DM will allow you to go from a Commoner 7 to a Shadowdancer 8, though, even though a Commoner 7 could qualify for Shadowdancer (nor would I really recommend doing so in any event). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 4:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IgneusJotunn: I should point out that the way you're playing it is entirely in the realm of houserules; the official rules don't support that at all, and you'd just be a Commoner 7/Shadowdancer 1. Which is obviously not a great idea. So ultimately we may not be able to help much since we don't know how your DM is going to houserule things. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 4:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Maybe his DM will use the retraining rules from PHB2? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 14:12

Honestly, it's up to the DM. Trade-in is a house rule (the only class I'm aware of that allows level trading is Blackguard, which allows you to trade paladin levels for blackguard levels 1 for 1 once you qualify for the class, OR you can keep the paladin levels to unlock extra benefits beyond the normal Blackguard abilities, depending on how many levels you had in paladin).

Commoners are just a by-design, horrible class for NPCs who don't justify the use of any other class. If you manage to qualify for a PrC you're free to take it if you want, RAW.


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