Remember when the other people were flipping through the PHB, oo-ing and ahh-ing at all the overpowered classes contained therein? And you just couldn't seem to get into the role of any of them for some reason
I have the answer. There is one class, much-maligned, which people say can never
succeed. Wizards laugh at you; barbarians kick sand in your face; Monks polymorph into dragons and eat you. I am talking, of course, about the lowly commoner.
In this essay, I intend to demonstrate the advantages and, yes, superiority of the commoner over many other classes, focusing specifically on how commoners can easily beat wizards if the wizards have no items or spells prepared as well as no feats or useful alternate class features or anything else in reserve and are also unconscious. A high bar, admittedly, but I think that it is necessary to take on such a challenge to show the world the commoner's true capabilities.
I can hear you already. "But," you say, "the commoner has no class features!"
This is a lie. A dirty filthy lie. The commoner has lots of class features! Why, just a single level of commoner for your first level nets you four times
their usual skill points, as well as the automatic maximum on their HD roll. As you progress in the commoner class, you will gain points of BAB, bonuses to your saves, and more and more HD -- you even get to add your con to your HD at every level, easily negating any supposed disadvantage their low HD gives them (and, anyway, that's the same HD as a wizard! Nobody calls wizards weak.) And commoners even have other abilities, too, ones that every other class doesn't
automatically get as well!
First, look at their skill list. Commoners get several vital skills, allowing them to contribute as a skill-monkey when necessary. They have the ever-useful climb and jump, allowing them to hit flying creatures when there is a wall nearby or if it is only a few feet off the ground; they have ride and handle animal, which lets them ride or tame a much much stronger creature like a riding dog; they have swim, which can save your life
by keeping you from drowning; they have use rope for kinky things, and they've got spot and listen, which every party needs.
Notice that wizards don't get any
of these skills. Not one. The commoner has won already; we hardly even need to continue. But that's not all -- there's more. Look a bit lower on the commoner's SRD entry, and you'll see something even better:
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
The commoner is proficient with one simple weapon. He is not proficient with any other weapons, nor is he proficient with any type of armor or shields.
That's right. Any simple weapon you want
. And that's not all... go look up the Incantrix, IotSV, or Planar Shephard I dare you. What weapon and armor proficiencies do you see there? That's right. None
. Those are the best caster PRCs out there, and they don't give you a single weapon proficiency at all... while commoner can give you any simple weapon proficiency you want
. WotC must've been asleep at the wheel when they made this one.
Now that we've shown the commoner's superiority to casters, let's focus on the other classes. It's true, of course, that powerful classes like fighters and CW Samurai and soulknives have more BAB, while rogues have more skill points. A commoner, though, can overcome this.
First, for the BAB problem, a Skillful weapon will effectively raise your BAB to 3/4ths -- you've already matched the Soulknife, so you're a third of the way to beating the melee classes with that one purchase!
For the other classes, just look at the commoner's superior skillset -- commoners have Profession (which can grant unlimited gold at no risk!) They have use rope, which can disable enemies completely with a good enough roll. They have the ever-useful listen and spot, meaning that a commoner can make a better warehouse guard than a fighter. Obviously, you don't have any need for those top-tier melee classes when the commoner is around.
Next, rogues. I shouldn't even need to point this out, but commoners have Ride and Handle Animal as class skills -- both are very powerful, and can together net you as many animal servants as you can pay for, while you ride one yourself (something that can easily have more HP than the flimsy rogue!) Clearly, the commoner beats the rogue completely.
Ah, but the game isn't just endless match-ups -- the commoner has other unique advantages too. One of the biggest among them: The commoner gains more than any class, bar none, from being Polymorph
ed. This is indisputable. Once-mighty casters lose all their non-stilled, non-silenced spells (except druids with natural spell, who gain very little because, obviously, they could wild shape already.) Rogues might not be able to apply all their skills, and both rogues and fighter-types lose their weapons and equipment. Monks lose their best class feature -- it's much harder for them to UMD wands and so on in a form with no hands.
Commoners, though! All those minor disadvantages people complain about so much when criticizing the class are completely erased. Why, a commoner polymorphed
into a dragon would have no trouble beating a wizard who was baleful polymorph
ed into a frog, as long as the wizard has no stilled silent spells or contingencies or other useful buffs in effect and also hasn't used gate or planar binding to set up protections in advance. It's almost a guaranteed win!
Commoners also gain tons
from divine power, five whole points more than a cleric or monk at level 20.
When it comes to commoners, there's really only one PRC that you need to talk about
: Survivor. Commoners have easier access to this PRC than any class in core; while other classes have useless saving throw bonuses that keep them out of the sweet, sweet Survivor goodness, commoners can enter as early as their second level. Of course, this means you get less levels to collect those sweet, sweet Commoner class features, so it can be a hard choice to make.
Commoners also multiclass very well; most of their class features are, in fact, advanced by levels in any other class. This makes them extremely versatile; they basically lose nothing for multiclassing, if XP penalties aren't being used (or if you're a race with Commoner as your favored class -- need to do more research on that.) How broken is that?
Many people take one-level dips of commoner to get into Survivor. I recommend against this; Commoner has much more to offer than that. In general, any 3rd level is a possible breakpoint, giving you a bonus to every single save
; alternate levels are good, too, for that lovely, lovely BAB bonus. Of course, Commoner 12 is literally as good as any class can possibly be in terms of BAB / save bonus -- you get +1 bab and
a bonus to every single save, easily beating most levels of any other class in the game. Compare Commoner 12 to oh, say, every odd-numbered fighter level after the first
, and the commoner is a clear winner. It also beats Rogue 20 -- how sad is that? The Rogue capstone
, and Commoners get a better deal 8 levels earlier at level 12.
If I could just take Commoner 12 over and over again, I would. On the other hand, taking commoner all the way for that capstone (+1 BAB ftw!) is another good choice -- it sets you up perfectly to get another attack when you advance into Epic Commoner.
Leadership, leadership, leadership. Nobody else gains as much from Leadership as a commoner. You can have any other class in the game
doing your bidding -- how hot is that? You can have a wizard to cast spells, a cleric to buff, a monk to turn into a dragon for you to ride -- you name it. Or, if you really want to get broken, you can add another commoner
Yes, it's a little cheesy to take a class that's already as good as a commoner and give them Leadership, but that's the way things roll when you're a high-powered class.
One of the commoner's best abilities is their knack at using WBL well -- after all, while wizards have expensive spellbooks to burn money on, and fighters have to buy all that armor for their nasty proficiencies, you can save it up and spend it as you like. Hiring other commoners to do things for you is a big plus. Paying wizards to cast spells on you works even better. At higher levels, you can even pay people to do the whole adventure for you!
Gaining a divine rank is another way to make your commoner much more effective. With the mere addition of Alter Reality
as a salient divine ability, the slender advantages that casters did retain over you instantly disappear -- and that's in addition to all the other advantages that divinity offers. Definitely ask your DM if you can advance a divine rank as soon as possible.
Fred, Commoner 20.
Skill points to max listen and spot.
Focus on Wis and Charisma.
Take Leadership as soon as you can, and get a wizard.
Then, you'll always be the one to take watch. When you spot or hear something, order your wizard to handle it for you.
Use your money to hire many more commoners, who can swarm the enemy in mad lemming rushes to buy your wizard time.
In a pinch, your wizard can Polymorph you -- or your hirelings, even.
Any more suggestions or comments would be appreciated, especially more commoner tricks and commoner builds!