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The SRD on Ex-Paladins says

Like a member of any other class, a paladin may be a multiclass character, but multiclass paladins face a special restriction. A paladin who gains a level in any class other than paladin may never again raise her paladin level, though she retains all her paladin abilities.

My understanding is that, for example, a character that's a level 7 paladin who advances to level 8 and takes a level of rogue (so that he's a paladin 7/rogue 1) retains his paladin abilities but won't ever be able to become a level 8 paladin.

But how does that affect prestige classes? My understanding is that taking levels of a prestige class is different from multiclassing: taking a level in a prestige class is like a specializing in what the character already does, but taking a level in a base class—actual multiclassing—is like embracing a completely different and new path, position, or profession.

So some prestige classes are set up for paladins, like anointed knight (Book of Exalted Deeds 49-51), but does anything prevent a paladin from taking levels in a prestige class not directly related to paladins for which the character qualifies? I mean, can a paladin take levels in, for example, tempest (Complete Adventurer 81-2)?

So far as I can tell, nothing prevents a character with levels in paladin from taking a prestige class the character qualifies for, but one of my players says that if the prestige class doesn't specifically say a paladin can take levels in the prestige class, a paladin can't take levels in the prestige class.

So my question is this: Does anything in the rules stop a paladin from taking any prestige class for which he meets the requirements?

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Prestige Classes are just like any other Classes, except where specific rule says something else.

From OGL content*:

Prestige classes offer a new form of multiclassing. Unlike the basic classes, characters must meet Requirements before they can take their first level of a prestige class. The rules for level advancement apply to this system, meaning the first step of advancement is always choosing a class. If a character does not meet the Requirements for a prestige class before that first step, that character cannot take the first level of that prestige class. Taking a prestige class does not incur the experience point penalties normally associated with multiclassing.

Emphasis mine. So if Paladin takes a levels if PrC, he is multiclassing all right.

Now, your player is wrong. Paladin can take any PrC he meets requirements for. The only issue is - he cannot ever take a level of Paladin again, unless PrC says he can. If prestige class has a rule that says that character can get levels of Paladin later, then she can, because specific beats general.

Example of such class (courtesy of Charlie) is Knight of the Chalice (Complete Warrior, p. 53):

Multiclass Note: A paladin who becomes a knight of the Chalice may continue advancing as a paladin.

So this class is an explicit exception. Some classes in Defenders of the Faith are exceptions, too. Probably few more scattered across sourcebooks. And that's all to it.


* Note that part about no XP penalty never made it to 3.5 DMG. It was in 3.5 OGL SRD, in 3.0 DMG and in 3.5 Complete Warrior. And 3.5 FAQ but, surprisingly, not errata. And bit different wording in each place. In this answer, I took wording from SRD, because that's where OP got Paladin class from, so this makes most sense to me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As a side note - if anyone knows a PrC that allows paladins to go back, please share. I vaguely remember there was one, but can't recall it now, ant it would be useful to show it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jan 26 '17 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might be thinking about "knight of the Chalice" Prc. \$\endgroup\$ – Charlie Jan 26 '17 at 13:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Charlie and Mołot, there are others, but yeah, knight of the chalice is one. That said, I would like to see this answer include the statement in the DMG about PrCs and XP penalties. PrCs don’t count for XP penalties, and depending how that was worded it might apply to monk/paladin restrictions. Also, this answer would be greatly improved if it included a note that 1. very few people actually enforce that multiclass restriction on monks or paladins, and 2. absolutely no one ever should. It’s a horrid rule and just an extra shafting to some of the weakest classes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '17 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also found Knight of the Middle Circle that would fit. I suspect that there could me more from the book Defenders of the Faith: A Guidebook to Clerics and Paladins but one should note that this is 3.0 content \$\endgroup\$ – Charlie Jan 26 '17 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, IIRC, the 3e authors said that they originally didn’t have the multiclass restriction on paladins or monks but that playtesters suggested it. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Fisher Jan 26 '17 at 15:28
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There are specific prestige classes that don't affect this rule. This is explicitly mentioned in the prestige class's description (such as the indicated Knight of the Chalice). Unless explicitly allowed, the paladin will lose the ability to level up in the Paladin class if taking a prestige class.

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If you are a Paladin, unless the class says something along the lines of "You may freely take this class if you have paladin levels", you can never take another Paladin level afterwards.

There are 2 caveats to this:

"The DM says otherwise" and the "Knight's Training" Feat. The Knight's Training Feat is a Paladin only Feat, when you take it, you select one other class (for example Fighter, Wizard, or Samurai) and you can freely take levels in that class without sacrificing your ability to level up as a Paladin. This also applies if to if you start out as say a Ranger, and become a Paladin because story reason, you cannot take Ranger levels again until you take the Knight's Training Feat.

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