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I will soon be running a D&D 4e campaign set in a homebrewed universe. Races and classes are getting re-skinned into whatever concept the players want, so long as they remain the same mechanically. I was pretty much set on doing the same thing with Paragon Paths and (to a lesser extent) Epic Destinies when the idea hit me that a character concept and what they want out of a Paragon Path or Epic Destiny may not line up with the prerequisites that that Path has mechanically.

So the question is:

Is there any danger, game-balance wise, to allowing any character to have any Paragon Path or Epic Destiny regardless of mechanical prerequisites?

Answers should be based either on experience with doing something similar, or otherwise based on showing with concrete examples how this might drastically unbalance a party- or not!

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I don't think this will be a problem, balance-wise, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily good for your players, either.

Most paragon paths with prerequisites tend to have features or powers which modify or require features that are related to those prerequisites.

Cleric paragon paths modify healing word; Ranger paragon paths modify hunter's quarry; Sainted General modifies Divine Challenge, Inspiring Word, and the F11 requires paladin or warlord powers; Daggermaster only works on rogue powers, Student of Caiphon on warlock powers.

Very few epic destinies have specific features required, and those that do heavily modify that feature, so, without that feature, those epic destinies would be pretty bad. Examples include Sovereign Beast which makes your Wild Shape Large sized, and Beastlord, which provides multiple bonuses specific to beastmaster ranger animal companions.

Deva's racial ED, Soul of the World would have to be disallowed or it would automatically be the best possible choice for almost any character, but most racial destinies offer stat bumps similar to the base racial bonuses, and modify that race's racial power.

In my experience, option paralysis is a more common source of party optimization disparity than munchkinry.

For every Paragon Path like Stormwarden that could be great for any STR/DEX class there's ~10 that have at least one feature or power that would simply do nothing if you lacked the proper class, so for the most part, all this does is increase option bloat.

Additionally, most paragon paths and epic destiny prerequisites can already be met by multiclassing.

If a fighter wants to take Darkstrider or Blade Dancer, all he has to do is take a Ranger MC feat, and then he qualifies. Way less than 10% of all paragon paths have a specific feature required. Some of those are powerful, like Battlefield Archer, but the Archer Ranger is the best Archer archetype striker anyway (and it has both a feature and a power which modify quarry), so who else would want it?

There's a slew of epic destinies with no (or minimal) requirements, and the more requirements they have, the more likely they are to match the specific mechanics of a character likely to meet them. Arcane EDs have implement powers and mental stat boosts, martial EDs have weapon powers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow. A thoroughly good answer that tells me all of the pitfalls, and explains why I would receive few if any benefits. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – sillyputty
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be clear here, I think case-by-case exceptions are badass, and absolutely the way to go, but just globally allowing everything is more overwhelming than it's worth. \$\endgroup\$
    – webbcode
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:29
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Yes, removing paragon path prerequisites could break the game.

This answer is for anyone out there still playing 4e.

Dropping all prerequisites for paragon paths game-wide would allow for many horribly anti-synergistic combinations and a few very, very powerful ones. This is similar to the way hybrids work -- most are notably weaker, but some are amazing.

Imagine a non-dragonborn race taking the Inner Dragon paragon path from Martial Power 1. The level 11 perk says

When you spend an action point to take an extra action while you are bloodied, you can use your dragon breath racial power as a free action, even if you’ve already used it during this encounter.

This obviously wouldn't be helpful if you didn't have the dragon breath racial power to begin with. There are other perks in this path specifically related to dragonborn features, so taking the path would be a waste.

However, there are combinations so powerful they had to be nerfed. The rogue path Daggermaster (Player's Handbook 1) originally said

You can score critical hits with daggers on a roll of 18–20.

Give this to an avenger who rolls twice on every attack against their oath of enmity target and they have a 27.75% chance of a critical hit on every swing. Give this to a ranger and the same percentage applies to twin strike, even without an oath of enmity target. Now give it to a half elf avenger paragon multiclassing as a ranger with twin strike and the Versatile Master feat allowing twin strike to be at-will, and the chance of a critical hit goes to 48%. The errata corrected this critical hit on 18-20 to only apply to rogue attacks for this reason. If you were houseruling that any class could take any path and you removed the errata correction, an at-will 48% crit chance at level 11 would be game-breaking, I would say. Additionally, since sorcerers can use daggers as implements, the original wording would also allow crit-fishing sorcerer builds.

Similarly, the Pit Fighter paragon path (Player's Handbook 1) at level 16 gives you a damage bonus equal to your wisdom modifier when using a weapon. Now make a high-wisdom ranger that can stack an unconditional and untyped +6 at level 16 to every single hit. Permafrost (+5), Called Shot (+5), and Headsman's Chop (+5) are all conditional bonuses, while for comparison Weapon Focus in paragon tier is an unconditional +2. Also consider a high-wisdom avenger -- same problem. This Pit Fighter path was given errata for this reason (limiting the bonus to fighter attacks), so if you're houseruling prereq-free paragon paths, you would want to keep that requirement in there.

A lightning-optimized wizard or sorcerer could go to town with the ranger's Stormwarden paragon path (Player's Handbook 1).

I'm sure there are multiple other possibilities I'm not aware of, but hopefully that gives you an idea for what can happen when paragon path prerequisites are dropped.

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