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Unearthed Arcana on Bloodline Levels says

A bloodline level grants no increase in base attack bonus or base save bonuses, no hit points or skill points, and no class features. It counts as a normal class level (with no class skills) for the purpose of determining maximum skill ranks. Levels of bloodline never result in XP penalties for multiclass characters.

Include the character’s bloodline level when calculating any character ability based on his class levels (such as caster level for spellcasting characters, or save DCs for characters with special abilities whose DCs are based on class level). The character doesn’t gain any abilities, spells known, or spells per day from the addition of his bloodline levels, though—only the calculations of his level-based abilities are affected.

If a character has levels in two or more classes in addition to his bloodline levels, each class gains the benefit of adding the bloodline levels when calculating abilities. (19)

Emphasis mine. Based on the examples that follow, it's clear how bloodline levels interact with base classes. What's unclear is how bloodline levels interact with some prestige classes that also increase a base class's abilities.

If a creature with effective bloodline levels takes a level in a prestige class that increases the abilities of one or more of the creature's existing classes, does the creature add the effective bloodline levels to both the existing classes and the prestige class for determining its class level for its existing classes?

That is, does a prestige class that grants +1 level to existing class or similar benefit also increase that existing class's effective level again because of the bloodline level's effective level increase?

I know that's complicated. A few examples should clarify.

Examples

  • Does a psion 5/elocator 1/metamind 2/uncarnate 2 with three fey bloodline levels have an effective manifester level of 11, 20, or another amount?1
  • Does a cleric 5/arcane trickster 1/assassin 3/mystic theurge 2/thaumaturgist 1 with three fey bloodline levels have an effective assassin caster level of 9 and an effective cleric caster level of 10 or, respectively, 15 and 17, or another amount?2
  • Does a binder 3/wizard 3/anima mage 3 with three fey bloodline levels have effective soulbinder and arcane caster levels of 9, 12, or another amount?3
  • I didn't know where to begin for an example of effective initiator level a la the Tome of Battle. That said, an outstanding answer also determines the effective caster level and initiator level of, for example, a cleric 2/crusader 4/ruby knight vindicator 5 with three fey bloodline levels.4

I don't think any reading will endorse bloodline levels increasing anything but the creature's caster level (or initiator level or manifester level or soulbinder level). That is, I don't think there's a reading that says bloodline levels increase a creature's spells per day, spells known, power points, maximum vestige level, manuevers and stances known, or manuevers readied.5 Instead, what's at issue is the level the creature casts its existing spells (or whatever it does) because of the bloodline levels.

For instance, in the first example the creature's powers known and power points will still be as a level 8 psion no matter what conclusion is reached about the creature's effective manifester level. However, the hard part is determining that creature's effective manifester level for those powers because of the vague interaction between bloodline levels and prestige class levels that improve existing class features.

I'm aware that this issue is hotly debated and that Internet brawls occasionally erupt over this issue, so I've not linked to existing threads in an attempt to keep this agenda- and violence-free. Also be aware that the suboptimal nature of the example characters isn't the issue; I know they need all the help they can get, but I'm looking for rules.


Notes

1 To further clarify, the result could be 11: 5 levels of the base class +3 effective level from the bloodline +1 level from each prestige class. The result could also be 21: 5 levels of the base class +3 effective level from the bloodline +4 levels from each prestige class.
2 The result could be an effective arcane caster level of 9: 3 levels of assassin +3 effective levels effective levels from the bloodline +2 levels of arcane trickster +2 levels from mystic theurge; alternatively, it could be 15: (3 levels of assassin +3 effective levels effective levels from the bloodline) + (2 levels of arcane trickster +3 effective levels effective levels from the bloodline) + (2 levels from mystic theurge +3 effective levels effective levels from the bloodline). Likewise for the character's effective cleric level.
3 Tome of Magic describes the base class binder (9-16) and the prestige class anima mage (50-4). To further clarify, the result could be 9: 3 levels of each base class +3 effective levels from the bloodline +3 levels from the prestige class. But the result could be instead 12: (3 levels of each base class +3 effective levels from the bloodline) + (3 levels from the prestige class +3 effective levels from the bloodline).
4 My frustration stems from Tome of Battle's prestige classes maybe not saying explicitly that they increase (whether by +1 per level or otherwise) a creature's initiator level, so a Tome's prestige class levels might be halved for determining effective initiator level like a not-a-martial-adept base class. But I don't know.
5 An answer could try, of course. Don't let me discourage you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If I remember correctly, not all Tome of Battle's prestige classes are Martial Adepts; specifically I have doubts about the Bloodstorm Blade which does not grant any maneuver/maneuver readied/stances. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. May 6 '16 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. You're right that the bloodstorm blade doesn't grant any adept-like advancement, but the other prestige classes do. And even the bloodstorm blade's special ability martial throw allows Iron Heart maneuvers at a distance, yet whether a Ftr10/Bloodstorm Blade 10 initiates those maneuvers as a level 20 or a level 15 martial adept is, I think, unmentioned (as is—to rejoin the topic—the character's effective initiator level when the same character has 3 bloodline levels). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 '16 at 13:43
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A bloodline level grants no increase in base attack bonus or base save bonuses, no hit points or skill points, and no class features. It counts as a normal class level (with no class skills) for the purpose of determining maximum skill ranks. Levels of bloodline never result in XP penalties for multiclass characters.

Include the character’s bloodline level when calculating any character ability based on his class levels (such as caster level for spellcasting characters, or save DCs for characters with special abilities whose DCs are based on class level). The character doesn’t gain any abilities, spells known, or spells per day from the addition of his bloodline levels, though—only the calculations of his level-based abilities are affected.

If a character has levels in two or more classes in addition to his bloodline levels, each class gains the benefit of adding the bloodline levels when calculating abilities. (19)

The extra levels/spells the prestige classes provide are class features, so would not proc with the levels of bloodline. As far as In know, only the primary class counts towards the caster level unless the class features of the prestige class explicitly add to it.

Unless I'm missing something...

While bloodline levels grant no class features, the bloodline levels do still exist. This answer would be more useful if added to it were a more detailed explanation as to why a character should not "[i]nclude the character’s bloodline level when calculating... caster level" if the prestige class grants caster levels. (Note that were they to have any impact, the bloodline levels would only improve effective caster (or initiator or manifester or soulbindermanifester or whatever) level, not, for example, spells known or spells per day.) – Hey I Can Chan

Let's say Wizard is your primary spellcasting class. Prestige levels have no effect on your caster level. Some prestige classes have class features that improve your Wizard's caster level and adds some spells, etc. However, since bloodline levels do not grant these features, they do not effect the Wizard's caster level. The bloodline levels would increase the caster level for the Wizard though as the caster level is calculated by the number of levels the character has in Wizard. In any prestige classes in the official rules I can find, it explicitly states a prestige class adds CL. Take Eldritch Knight as an example:

Spells per day: From 2nd level on, when a new eldritch knight level is gained; the character gains new spells per day as if she had also gained a level in whatever arcane spellcasting class she belonged to before she added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (bonus metamagic or item creation feats, bard or assassin abilities, and so on). This essentially means that she adds the level of eldritch knight to the level of whatever other arcane spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per day and caster level accordingly.

(emphasis on the last line mine) The above is a class feature, so would not be affected by bloodlines. Meaning that a level 2 Eldritch knight would only add 1 level of spells and caster levels as the class only has 1 stack of this class feature at level 2 and doesn't gain another stack through bloodlines.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While bloodline levels grant no class features, the bloodline levels do still exist. This answer would be more useful if added to it were a more detailed explanation as to why a character should not "[i]nclude the character’s bloodline level when calculating... caster level" if the prestige class grants caster levels. (Note that were they to have any impact, the bloodline levels would only improve effective caster (or initiator or manifester or soulbindermanifester or whatever) level, not, for example, spells known or spells per day.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 '16 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've updated my answer, it's an awkward thing to explain, but I maintain my stance since bloodline does not effect class features. \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader May 6 '16 at 15:37
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I am afraid that the answer may differ based on the underlying mechanics of the prestige class.

Spellcaster prestige classes

All spellcaster prestige classes that I know have a spellcasting progression which grants +1 level of an existing spellcasting class at some (or all) levels.

Only those levels where which grant an increase of spellcasting in the base class also grant an increase of caster level: a Wizard 6/Swiftblade 2 only has a Caster Level of 7, because the first level of Swiftblade does not increase spellcasting.

I would argue, thus, that this is a class feature, and therefore based on:

A bloodline level grants no increase in base attack bonus or base save bonuses, no hit points or skill points, and no class features.

conclude that the bloodline levels:

  • do NOT increase spellcasting
  • only increase the caster level from the base class, as levels of prestige classes do not directly contribute to caster level.

Initiator prestige classes

All Martial Adepts classes grant an increase in Initiator for every level of the prestige class, regardless whether they grant a new maneuver/maneuver readied/stance at this level. For example, the 2nd level of Jade Phoenix Mage grants no maneuver, no maneuver readied, no stance.

This is spelled out in the Maneuvers section of each prestige class; for example Tome of Battle, p. 97 says for the Bloodclaw Master:

[...] You add your full bloodclaw master level to your initiator level to determine your total initiator level and your highest-level maneuvers known. [...]

This is a class feature, which bloodlines do NOT grant, however this class feature is earned at level 1 and tie the gain of Initiator Level directly to the number of levels in the prestige class.

As a result, it could reasonably be argued that a Swordsage 6/Bloodclaw Master 2 and 2 levels of bloodlines has an Initiator Level of 12, from 8 (6+2) levels of Swordsage and 4 (2+2) levels of Bloodclaw Master.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While bloodline levels grant no class features, the bloodline levels do still exist. This answer would be more useful if added to it were a more detailed explanation as to why a character should not "[i]nclude the character’s bloodline level when calculating... caster level" if the prestige class grants caster levels. (Were they to have an impact, the bloodline levels would only improve effective caster (or initiator or manifester or soulbindermanifester or whatever) level, not, for example, spells known or spells per day.) Also, can you support the Initiator Prestige Classes section? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 '16 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan: I don't have access to my books at the moment, so I can only refer to the SRD and online articles. As for the prestige class itself granting caster levels, this may be a very different beast, which is why I prefaced this answer stating that the situation may differ based on the mechanics of each prestige class. Knowing how exception-prone D&D is, I am pretty sure that we can find a wide variety of mechanics... \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. May 6 '16 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan: I finally found the tidbit that describes progressing Initiator Level with the PrCs. ToB, p. 97, the Class Features section of the BloodClaw Master says under Maneuvers: You add your full bloodclaw master level to your initiator level to determine your total initiator level and your highest-level maneuvers known; this is repeated for the other PrCs at the exception of the Bloodstorm Blade which has no such clause. Which is where it gets weird, I suppose, as progressing the initiator level is both a class feature and only dependent on the levels in the class... \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. May 9 '16 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan: ... and thus I revised the answer because RAW it would appear that in the case of Initiators you can perfectly add your bloodline levels BOTH to the base class and prestige class(es) since it does not require gaining class features. And while it's RAW I find it abusive, especially if piling on prestige classes (like Bloodclaw Master + Master of Nine). I seem to remember it's something that can be exploited to get all 9 9th-level maneuvers with a Master of Nine (although there are alternatives). \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. May 9 '16 at 19:01
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Include the character's bloodline level when calculating any character ability based on his class levels.

Prestige classes increase the basic class's caster/initiator/manifester level, but the prestige class does not provide manifesting/initiating/casting ability itself.

This is why I think, it should not stack.

To give a better example, I will use prestige classes form DM's guide.

Arcane trickster, Archmage, Eldritch Knight, Loremaster, Mystic Theurge and Thaumaturgist do not grant ability of spellcasting, but they do increase the spellcaster level.

On the other hand Assassin and Blackguard do grant ability of spellcasting, and bloodline should affect spellcaster level of those.

Example: ranger 6/blackguard 3/assassin 3 with major bloodline will have ranger spellcaster level of 6[(ranger level/2) + 3] blackguard spellcaster level of 6 and assassin spellcaster level of 6.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 10 '16 at 22:31

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