Note: Monster class rules are designed and created by Dreamscarred Press and as such, are “3rd Party Publisher” material.
Some monster abilities can be problematic in a campaign. Incorporeality, telekinesis, and flight are often very difficult to plan around as a GM, and unsatisfying to play around as a fellow player at the table. In most cases these abilities start weak but improve as the race gains levels eventually gaining full versions of the special abilities at a level where other characters can access similarly-powerful abilities.
Another area where some monsters could run into problems is with spell-like abilities. Some monsters have a large variety of at-will abilities, or a small amount of uncharacteristically powerful abilities (such as most fiends’ ability to use greater teleport to move around). These monster classes have the ability to exchange their racial spell-like abilities for limited spellcasting abilities similar to a bard’s, using spell lists that are close, thematically, to their natural powers. Dreamscarred Press recommends that GMs and players use this variant rather than the spell-like abilities normally granted many of these monsters, as it will often create more varied characters and a more fun play environment from both sides of the GM screen.
With that in mind, not all of the monster classes are strictly balanced. Many abilities, such as wings, size, and breath weapons, are simultaneously problematic and iconic, and Dreamscarred Press wanted to provide players with the option to use monsters as they’re meant to be, rather than reducing their power to the point that it makes them unusable.
Some monster classes are stronger than some core classes (such as fighter, cleric, wizard etc.) as a result, and on the opposite end, a few of them are slightly weaker than most core classes (but should still be able to keep up with the other players). When allowing a player to use a monster class, the GM and the group should think carefully about whether or not they want the abilities gained to be in their game.
For example, some monsters, such as the imp and pseudodragon, have the ability to fly from the very start of their adventuring career. This ability, and others like it, can obliterate common obstacles such as pit traps and castle walls if not carefully prepared for. On the higher end of things, classes such as the erinyes, imp, succubus, and true dragon, can be incredibly strong if played well, and will often be more versatile than many classes that don’t have powerful abilities or spells to grant them a similar level of versatility. Dreamscarred Press believes that the changes to some of these monsters should rein in their inherent power, and that all of the classes should make for fun characters at many tables, but GMs should be just as careful about including monster classes as he is about including other strong classes like the cleric, druid, and wizard in their campaigns.
Monster classes do not follow the same guidelines normally used for playing monsters as PCs. Instead, these monster classes work similarly to any other class, with a few key exceptions: To use a monster class, a character must take it as their initial character level. Each monster class has an associated race; instead of selecting a race, the character gains the benefits and drawbacks of the race associated with their chosen monster class. A character normally cannot take levels in more than one monster class.
A character may multiclass freely between their monster class and other classes, and is not required to finish their monster class. A character with relatively few monster levels might be a runt compensating for their relative weakness with training, a freak of nature, or maybe even a magical experiment gone wrong. As usual, a character cannot normally have levels in more than one monster class.
Some monster classes have abilities that have been split across multiple levels or changed to a similar ability that increases in power as the character gains levels.
When a character gains one of these abilities, they are not gaining the same ability as the monster itself. While monster classes are based on monsters from the Bestiary, they are not exact replicas. When a character completes the monster class, most of these abilities should function as the base monster’s ability, but this will not always be the case.
Some monster classes have abilities that reference a character’s Hit Dice. For the purposes of abilities granted by monster classes or feats, a character’s Hit Dice is the sum of their racial hit dice and all class levels.
Some monster classes, such as the erinyes, allow the character to trade their native spell-like abilities for a spellcasting progression. If such a character later gains levels in a spellcasting class of the same type (arcane, divine, or psychic), the character can opt to continue the progression of their monster class, rather than gaining spells from the new class. The character gains new spells per day and an increase in caster level and spells known as if he had also gained a level in their monster class (even if the monster class does not have that many levels).
This replaces the new class’ spellcasting progression in its entirety, including the ability to use spell completion and spell-trigger items as a member of that class. A class that only casts spells at a later level than 1st (such as the ranger) only stacks the levels where it gains spellcasting.
The full Monster Class subscription includes the following products as of 10/20/2016:
- Monster Classes: Astral Deva
- Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
- Monster Classes: Erinyes
- Monster Classes: Fey
- Monster Classes: Giants and Reptiles
- Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
- Monster Classes: Savage Races I (Bugbear, Gnoll, Ogre)
- Monster Classes: Savage Races II
- Monster Classes: True Dragon
- Monster Classes: Undead
Monster Classes, © 2016, Dreamscarred Press