Haaldaar, my 4th Edition expert, sends me this link from the Wizards site:
My blog literally drips with skepticism regarding 4th Edition “Dungeons and Dragons.” In this case, I have to admit, I am pleased with this new “prestige class” system.
Prestige classes always struck me as odd. The intent was to give your PC some flavor and uniqueness. The price was the normal advancement of your PC. So, to be an assassin, you had to give up the benefits of the rogue class. A class with is basically an assassin without the spells and death attack. The new system allows you to keep your original class’ benefits and add the paragon benefits. This is the critical sentence from the article.
“All the powers and features you gain from your paragon path come in addition to your class powers and features, not instead of them”
Glorious. I think this is the best development from the 4th edition announced so far. You can get some fun “flavor” abilities without sacrificing regular character advancement.
If I read it correctly, the path cannot be abandoned once started. This should cut down the broken prestige class level “cherry picking” builds that exist in 3. 5. You cannot take 3 levels to get the cool power and then go back to your original class. It sounds like you are in for the full 10 levels. I may be wrong on this, but it is certainly implied.
This aspect of 4.0 excites me. I hope there is more coming like this.