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(This question is edited to incorporate corrections and clarifications based on feedback from answers)

The vanilla Shadowdancer prestige class has great flavor. I love the concept and would love to play it, but I am coming to the conclusion that the vanilla class is terribly underpowered if pursued for more than a dip. These are the major issues I see:

  • The class does little for your combat potential, leaving you wholly reliant on your previous class, which languishes the more Shadowdancer levels you take.
  • It gains some SLAs, but they are all late compared to any non-specialized caster.
  • The class seems to have no clear idea of what it is supposed to do besides hiding.
  • One of its signature features: Shadow Jump uses your standard action and ends your turn, making it nearly useless in combat, it's good for entering places you could get into anyway and for escaping.
  • Its prerequisites are high.
  • Besides Stealth 5, none of the prerequisites matter to the class.
  • Despite having -dancer in the name, there is nothing in the class that ties into dancing.
  • It's features are not worth 10 full levels.
  • The capstone is good but boring.
  • The real capstone, Hide in Plain Sight and Summon shadow are gained at level 1 & 3.
  • Some levels, particularly 4-9 are very weak.
  • Summon shadow becomes a liability late game as more things can hurt it, and you gain a negative level if you can't keep it safe.
  • Summon Shadow, as an incorporeal pet, can be game breaking early on. Most AP encounters lack means of handling incorporeal opponents.
  • Although it gives rogue talents, it does not function well with a Rogue base, delaying access to advanced talents and talents that require a certain level of Rogue to access.
  • Although its theme appeals mainly to Rogues, it overlaps with some Rogue features.
  • It is very dependent on lighting conditions, which is appropriate, but it also lacks means to control lighting and has next to nothing going for it when the lighting is wrong.
  • Hide in Plain Sight has problematic wording in PF 1E, as evidenced by multiple forum discussions, stemming from confusing stealth rules about entering and maintaining stealth.
  • Its features don’t interact with each other and are therefore less interesting than they could be.

So I have been looking for a good homebrew that solves these issues, and I have found a few quick-fix solutions, such as adding the dimensional agility feat-line for free, which I feel is enough to salvage one of its many problems. Another made a rework that focused on the Spell-Like Abilities, making it into a caster, as well as adding intimidation and terror as themes, themes that I'm not interested in.

I have been working on a homebrew version of my own that seeks to solve those problems.

Some additional considerations:

  • It must remain reasonably balanced. It needs a buff but care must be taken not to go too far.
  • Artful is a keyword, it is not about fighting dirty such as tripping or poisons.
  • Stay true to the original concept as much as possible.

Unchained Shadowdancer

Requirements To qualify to become a shadowdancer, a character must fulfill all the following criteria. Feats: Improved Reposition, Dodge, Mobility. Skills: Stealth 5 ranks, Perform (dance) 5 ranks. Special: At least one of the following must be true

  • Have visited the Shadow plane
  • Danced with a shadowdancer
  • Been subject to the cold damage of a Shae
  • Be a Fetchling (who are already touched by Shae via their heritage)
  • Be a Wayang (who are native to the shadow plane)
Lvl BAB Fort Ref Will Features
1 +0 +0 +1 +0 The Threshold I, Darkvision, Rogue Talent (Uncanny Dodge), Shadow Jump I (Dimension Door, 20ft), Artful dancer, Dancing Shadows I (10ft, 1 rnd)
2 +1 +1 +1 +1 Rogue Talent (Evasion), Shadow Jump II (Move action, 40ft), Shadowcraft I (Silent Image), Hide in The Boundary I (Maintain), Summon Shadow I (+0, 1d2)
3 +2 +1 +2 +1 Threshold II, Rogue Talent (Dance of Disorienting Shadows), Summon Shadow II (+1, 1d4), Sneak Attack (1d6)
4 +3 +1 +2 +1 Rogue Talent (See in Darkness), Shadow Jump III (Dimensional Agility, 80ft), Dancing Shadows II (15ft, 2 rnd, +1), Shadowcraft II (Shadow Conjuration 1/day)
5 +3 +2 +3 +2 Rogue Talent (Improved Uncanny Dodge), Hide in The Boundary II (Initiate), Summon Shadow III (+2, 1d6)
6 +4 +2 +3 +2 Rogue Talent (Fascinate), Shadow Jump IV (Dimension Assault, 160ft), Shadowcraft III (Shadow Evocation 2/day), Sneak Attack (2d6)
7 +5 +2 +4 +2 Rogue Talent (Slippery Mind), Dancing Shadows III (20ft, 3 rnd, +2, 20%), Summon Shadow IV (+3, Free Action)
8 +6 +3 +4 +3 Rogue Talent (Ledge Walker), Shadow Jump V (Swift action, 320ft), Shadowcraft IV (Greater Shadow Conjuration 3/day), Hide in The Boundary III (Concealment)
9 +6 +3 +5 +3 Rogue Talent (Improved Evasion), Summon Shadow V (+4), Sneak Attack (3d6)
10 +7 +3 +5 +3 Rogue Talent (Defensive Roll), Shadow Jump VI (Dimensional Dervish, 640ft), Dancing Shadows IV (25ft, 4 rnd, +3, 50%), Shadowcraft V (Greater Shadow Evocation 4/day), Shadow Master

Class Features All of the following are features of the shadowdancer prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies Club, chakram, crossbow (hand, light, or heavy), dagger (any), dart, mace, morningstar, quarterstaff, rapier, sap, shortbow (normal and composite), and short sword. Light armor but not shields.

The Threshold I-II (Su) You and your shadow bleed across the boundary. Your complexion loses some of its color, but you can now see the boundary plainly.

You are now considered to be an Outsider with the Native subtype in addition to your other types. You may treat areas of normal light as being in dim-light if they are within 10 ft of an area of dim light or darkness for the purposes of your abilities. At 3rd level, small size mirrors or larger count as areas of dim-light for the purposes of your abilities.

Darkvision (Ex) You gain darkvision 60ft, or add 30 feet if you already have darkvision.

Rogue Talents Shadowdancer levels stack with Rogue to determine when you gain access to advanced talents, for prerequisites and effects of talents and features. You learn the following rogue talents or features.

1st: Uncanny Dodge (Ex) (If you already have it then you gain improved uncanny dodge instead.) 2nd: Evasion (Ex) 3rd: Dance of Disorienting Shadows (Ex) 4th: See in Darkness (Su) 5th: Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex) 6th: Fascinate (Su) (This is a third party talent) 7th: Slippery Mind 8th: Ledge Walker (Ex) 9th: Improved Evasion 10th: Defensive Roll (Ex)

Shadow Jump I-VI (Su) All shadows lead into the boundary, they are all connected, shortcuts to one such as you.

You are able to travel between shadows as if by a dimension door spell, however, you must be in- and the jump must end in an area of dim-light. Your jumps are limited by a total distance per day, you can divide this distance as you please but each jump uses at least 10 ft. (Note: Su = Standard action & does not provoke, DD = No further actions same turn). The distance per day starts at 20 ft / day but doubles every even level. 2nd: You gain the Flexible Shadow Jump feat and you can now Jump as a move action. 4th: You gain the Dimensional Agility feat. 6th: You gain the Dimensional Assault feat. 8th: You can jump as a Swift action. 10th: You gain the Dimensional Dervish feat.

Artful dancer (Ex) You add 1/2 your shadowdancer level (rounded up) to Perform (Dance) and Stealth checks and you can use Perform (Dance) in place of Acrobatics to avoid AoO provoked by movement.

Dancing Shadows I-IV (Su) Like reflections, channeling shadowy forces.

Once per round, as a free action before moving, select a willing partner within 30 ft., they must not have acted yet this round and be next to act after you, they skip their next turn.

Until end of turn, when you take an action (including this move), your partner may take the same action and resolve it during your turn. If you have Spring Attack your partner has it too. The dance ends without benefit if during your turn:

  • Your partner doesn’t take an action you did or takes any action that you did not.
  • Your partner did not move the same distance and in the opposite direction.
  • You enter a square that you left this turn.
  • You end up over 30 ft apart.
  • Either of you are hit by an AoO. The only combat maneuver allowed is Reposition.

At the end of the first move, if you moved at least 15 ft. you create an area with a radius of 10 ft in which you raise or lower illumination one step towards dim light, this applies after any other effects that influence illumination, the area is centered between the two of you and lasts until your next turn.

Every three levels after 1st the radius increases by 5 ft and the duration is extended by 1 round, starting at 4th level the flanking bonus you gain from each other increases by +1, this increases to +2 at 7th level and +3 at 10th.

Shadowcraft I-V (Sp) You can craft things from material drawn from the shadow plane.

You learn the following magical tricks. CL equals your shadowdancer levels +5, DCs are Charisma-based. 2nd: Silent Image at will but the illusions must involve shadows or reflections cast on surfaces. At 4th this becomes Minor Image instead and is no longer limited to surfaces. 4th: Shadow Conjuration, 1/day for every 2 levels beyond 2nd, all subsequent SLAs share uses/day. 6th: Shadow Evocation. 8th: Greater Shadow Conjuration. 10th: Greater Shadow Evocation.

Hide in The Boundary I-III (Su) Most cannot see the boundary or the space near it. A perfect hiding spot!

At 2nd level you can maintain your stealth without cover or concealment if you are in dim-light.

At 5th level you can enter Stealth even while being observed as long as you are in dim-light.

At 8th level you benefit from concealment in dim-light even against creatures with Darkvision or low-light vision.

These abilities don’t work against Outsiders tied to the Shadow Plane or creatures with See in Darkness.

Summon Shadow I-V (Su) You twist your reflection out of the mirror, it joins you on this side of the glass!

At 2nd level, as a move action your shadow (henceforth “Ka”) becomes a separate entity. The Ka is based on a Shadow (the undead creature). Unlike a normal Shadow, its alignment matches yours, it cannot create spawn, gets +4 to Will saves against channeled energy, cannot be turned or commanded, can communicate with you, its max hit points equals half of yours, uses your BAB, base save bonuses, Dex, dodge bonus to AC, size and your skill ranks, it has your Combat Maneuver Feats and Rogue Talents, The Threshold and Hide in The Boundary. (It does not have your sneak attack!) It is staggered on the round it is summoned and has the same initiative as you. While it is active you don’t cast a shadow and don’t have a reflection.

The Ka can be dismissed as a free action, while dismissed it heals for the same amount whenever you are healed. The Ka must stay within 5 ft of you per shadowdancer level you have. If the Ka is outside this range at any time it is dismissed and you both take 1d6 force damage.

If the Ka is destroyed you take a permanent negative level, if you make a DC 15 Fort save it is a temporary negative level instead. While the negative level persists you have no shadow or reflection and cannot summon a new Ka. If you die the Ka is dismissed.

The Ka starts out weakened. It has no Deflection bonus to AC and it’s incorporeal touch attack deals only 1d2 STR damage. At 3rd level it gains a Deflection bonus of 1 and the incorporeal touch now deals 1d4 STR damage. At 5th level it has its regular Deflection bonus of 2 and the STR damage is 1d6. At 7th level the deflection bonus becomes 3 and you can summon the Ka as a free action, it is no longer staggered. At 9th level the deflection bonus becomes 4.

Sneak Attack I-III (Ex) At 3rd level you gain Sneak Attack 1d6 as the Unchained Rogue feature. At 6th level the damage increases to 2d6. At 9th level the damage increases to 3d6.

Shadow Master (Su) At 10th level, whenever you are in dim light, you gain DR 10/— and a +2 luck bonus on all saving throws. Also, when you make a successful critical hit against a foe in dim light, that foe is blinded for 1d6 rounds.

I think this homebrew addresses most of the problems listed earlier

  • The class does little for your combat potential, leaving you wholly reliant on your previous class, which languishes the more Shadowdancer levels you take. The class now gives you Sneak attack at a reduced pace compared to Rogue, to help keep your damage relevant over the ten levels in which you aren't taking Rogue. Shadow Jump is now useful during combat.
  • It gains some SLAs, but they are all late compared to any non-specialized caster. This is still the case, they stayed in mostly for flavor and utility, but I believe the class can now function without them. Also, now you don't need to track as many different uses/day as they share a pool.
  • The class seems to have no clear idea of what it is supposed to do besides hiding. The class can now pursue different gameplans besides hiding, it reinforces flanking with your pet or an ally, as well as using reposition.
  • One of its signature features: Shadow Jump uses your standard action and ends your turn, making it nearly useless in combat, it's good for entering places you could get into anyway and for escaping. Shadow Jump is now usable during combat as it no longer eats your standard action nor ends your turn past the first few levels.
  • Its prerequisites are high. Prerequisites are still high, hopefully the new version earns its keep.
  • Besides Stealth 5, none of the prerequisites matter to the class. The other prerequisites are now relevant to what the class is doing as the class has features that uses Perform (Dance) and Improved Reposition.
  • Despite having -dancer in the name, there is nothing in the class that ties into dancing. Perform (Dance) now matters a little, for avoiding AoOs and for Reposition. The new Dancing Shadows feature literally has you dancing with an ally (or with your own shadow).
  • It's features are not worth 10 full levels. With added features and more scaling features, I now believe it is worth continuing in the class.
  • The capstone is good but boring. The old capstone is still in there, still good but boring, but now you also get Dimensional Dervish to cap of the Shadow Jump, making the last level more exciting.
  • The real capstone, Hide in Plain Sight and Summon shadow are gained at level 1 & 3. Hide in Plain Sight is renamed, delayed and split up to be given out in pieces, making it less of an early power spike. Summon shadow starts out weaker and grows in power as you do.
  • Some levels, particularly 4-9 are very weak. Strong features are split up and given in increments, all features are redistributed so that no level is a dud.
  • Summon shadow becomes a liability late game as more things can hurt it, and you gain a negative level if you can't keep it safe. Summon shadow is now less of a liability as it can be dismissed without penalty.
  • Summon Shadow, as an incorporeal pet, can be game breaking early on. Most AP encounters lack means of handling incorporeal opponents. Summon Shadow is now on a short leash to the PC so that it cannot run ahead and solo encounters without the PC coming along.
  • Although it gives rogue talents, it does not function well with a Rogue base, delaying access to advanced talents and talents that require a certain level of Rogue to access. It now stacks with rogue levels for the purpose of qualifying for talents.
  • Although its theme appeals mainly to Rogues, it overlaps with some Rogue features. This is still true, speaking of Evasion, Improved Evasion and Improved Uncanny Dodge. They have to stay in there for non-rogues.
  • It is very dependent on lighting conditions, which is appropriate, but it also lacks means to control lighting and has next to nothing going for it when the lighting is wrong. The class now has a limited means of affecting lighting conditions starting early on, bright light is still an intended weakness which should not easily counter, but a mundane torch is no longer enough to shut it down completely. It now also has a gameplan for when there is no dim light as Summon Shadow, Reposition and Dancing Shadows can still be used.
  • Hide in Plain Sight has problematic wording in PF 1E, as evidenced by multiple forum discussions, stemming from confusing stealth rules about entering and maintaining stealth as well as Darkvision. Hide in Plain Sight is renamed and reworded, hopefully it is clearer.
  • Its features don’t interact with each other and are therefore less interesting than they could be. Several features can now play into each other. For example Summon Shadow is the ideal partner for Dancing Shadows. Once you get Dimensional Agility, Shadow jump no longer ends your turn and it can be used to set up Dancing Shadows or Reposition.

I'm hoping to submit this this to my GM, but I would like feedback before I do, to maximize chances of it being approved. It is written to be general, but the home game it is intended for is the Iron Gods AP, for a Fetchling Unchained Rogue PC. The game employs Elephant in the Room Feat Taxes but otherwise no 3rd party content and minimum homebrew.

Question: Is this homebrew reasonably balanced for a PF 1E prestige class?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please see How can I ask a good homebrew review question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Oct 24, 2021 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ The bit you are missing here is your own analysis on why you think it is balanced and what problems you think it may have. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 24, 2021 at 12:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Synapse From that meta discussion: “ As you share your homebrew, tell us: What it should accomplish, or what your aims for it are. If it's an item or class, what kind of power level you're going for, if such a concept applies to your game. If you're sharing a monster or challenge or obstacle, include who is supposed to be challenged by it, which might mean briefly informing us about the player characters if you're a GM. (Feel free to be specific to your situation.)” \$\endgroup\$ Oct 24, 2021 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri That Meta is a discussion of how to ask the best possible homebrew-review question, not a list of minimum requirements to ask one at all. Homebrew-review can happen without the querent’s own analysis; it is possible to write answers to such a question. Including such things may help you get better answers—that’s why the meta recommends it—but if someone doesn't want to, it’s only a problem if it’s a problem, i.e. for some reason the question cannot be answered as-is. See this Meta discussion. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 24, 2021 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yes, I’ve retracted my close vote. I was just pointing out in my comment the portion of the guidance that seemed to have been missed. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 24, 2021 at 14:09

1 Answer 1

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It's hard to talk about balance without a baseline to compare it to. PF1e official material varies wildly in power. As such, I'm mostly going to be focusing on mechanical oddities.

Missing Content

Unchained versions of classes can change some of the base stats, so it would be useful to include a table that details the BAB and save progression in addition to listing the features individually.

Prerequisites

Most prestige classes in PF1e that don't hybridize two different mechanics are designed to be entered when the character is at least level 6 (i.e. the prerequisites can be fulfilled by a level 5 character). It's then important to note that a character cannot qualify for this class until after level 7 if they do not get access to any bonus feats. Improved Reposition requires Combat Expertise or Dirty Fighting, so you would generally need four feats to qualify for this prestige class. You stated in you're writeup that the prerequisites are equivalent to the original, but this is incorrect.

The Threshold

Technically, PF1e does not support multiple creature types, so it would be more consistent with official sources if the wording was along the lines of "treated as an Outsider with the Native subtype in addition to their previous type"

With that out of the way, this part of the effect does very little mechanically. Not many effects target Outsiders (Native) specifically, and the most important distinction for PCs that are fully Outsiders is that they are not affected by anything that only targets Humanoids, of which there are several common effects (other important distinctions from the Outsider type are removed by the Native subtype). Theoretically, it would give Darkvision 60' since that's a base ability of all Outsiders, but that's provided by a separate ability here.

Rogue Talents

"Fascinate" is not a Rogue Talent, nor is it a general rogue class feature. The only rogue talent that applies a Fascinated effect is Demon Lantern, and it requires being able to cast Dancing Lights to function which this Shadowdancer does not provide.

Dancing Shadows

This will never be used. The list of conditions that break it is simply too high. You aren't getting any bonus to your actions performed (since it uses up the ally's entire turn), and any benefits are too situational to be useful since they rely on very specific position of both you, your partner, and your enemies before you activate it. If it was a free or swift action it might see use just to increase the flanking bonus, but I'm not seeing the rest of the ability working at all.

The initial radius of the dim light generated is also not defined, only that it increases at the stated levels.

Hide In Plain Sight

This term has consistently referred to the ability to use Stealth while still being observed. Only the second of the listed abilities do that. It would be more consistent if the other ones were renamed. It also doesn't fix the rules issues, since those mostly rely on "being observed" being poorly defined

Summon Shadow

Sharing combat feats is no joke. Combined with the additional feat required for accessing the class, this heavily encourages the base class of a prospective Shadowdancer to be a class that provides a lot of combat feats like Fighter over the clearly intended choice of Rogue.

Sneak attack

It is important to state whether you're using the Rogue or Unchained Rogue for your sneak attack. Only the latter is capable of dealing extra damage to targets with concealment without an extra feat.

Reposition and flanking

The class leans heavily into the Reposition combat maneuver. However, the class otherwise relies on flanking for a good amount of combat advantage. Flanking is a static structure, and once it is set up, benefits from there being less movement rather than more (flanking-based combat maneuver builds often choose Trip as their primary maneuver for this reason). This Shadowdancer is not short ways to set up flanking, with both a teleport and an incorporeal companion. As such, I'm not sure that Reposition is actually going to be used that much.

I would lean towards having them use Perform (dance) instead of Bluff to feint instead of much of the Reposition focus since it doesn't add extra movement to disrupt flanking and provides an incentive to have sneak attack specifically over any other form of damage increase (since there's a way to get it without flanking).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the sort of useful feedback I was after. Thank you! I will incorporate this in the next version of the writeup. However, I feel that this did not answer the question of whether this is reasonably balanced compared to a PF 1E prestige class, would you say that it is possible to answer that question with the way the question is currently formed? \$\endgroup\$
    – Synapse
    Oct 24, 2021 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Synapse it's hard to judge balance when we know some features don't work yet. How to guess their power after they are changed? Assessment of balance now would be both hard and imprecise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Oct 24, 2021 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Very well. Undated the writeup to the current version that incorporates the feedback from sideromancer \$\endgroup\$
    – Synapse
    Oct 24, 2021 at 21:40

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