5E Cross-classing Subclasses and Multiple subclasses

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Partially inspired by other threads, and also by some ideas I've had, I would like some input (if you care to add your two cents) to a couple ideas:

1. Cross-classing Subclasses

Here is the idea. Certain subclasses "work" under any class to one degree or another. For example, Assassin. You could be playing a Fighter, for instance, and if you could take Assassin as a subclass, it works perfectly (even if you have to adjust when features are awarded) both in flavor and story. A Monk (Assassin) would work as well. And there are others.

Now, of course, most subclasses have to be within the main class because it grants improvements or enhancements to features of that class, so this is not universal by any means.

But, what are your thoughts on this type of cross-classing a subclass? Would you allow it? Does it create anything too good?

2. Multiple Subclasses

I've seen some people mention this and our table has discussed it briefly before. It is a pretty simple idea. When you reach a subclass award level, you take a subclass for your main class. For example, a Fighter begins with Battle Master at 3rd level. At 7th level, instead of learning the next feature of Battle Master, the Figher learns the first feature of Champion. In essence, you sort of track your progression in your subclasses. The same Fighter, at level 10, chooses to return to Battle Master, gaining the second feature. You can't "skip" features, so to say.

I know some people are using this, what has your results been? Is it too good, do players like it, did you abandon it? For people who've never done it, what are your thoughts?

As always, thanks for your time and thoughts.
 
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Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
2. Multiple Subclasses
We do this, and I think I shared my original post on here about it. We call it Multi-pathing.

It works great. My players like the freedom it allows them to roll mold their character with the story. It's definitely not too good. If anything, like is often (though no always) the case with 5e multiclassing, the character ends up slightly behind the potential curve because they sacrifice higher level abilities to get what they want rather than what they're supposed to have.

We haven't abandoned it, it's on the table as an option for people who want to take it, and it gets used sometimes. Slightly less than multiclassing.

It never made sense to me why a "thief" could never learn how to assassinate someone or pick up some magic at higher levels just because they started their rogue career as a thief.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
Partially inspired by other threads, and also by some ideas I've had, I would like some input (if you care to add your two cents) to a couple ideas:

1. Cross-classing Subclasses

Here is the idea. Certain subclasses "work" under any class to one degree or another. For example, Assassin. You could be playing a Fighter, for instance, and if you could take Assassin as a subclass, it works perfectly (even if you have to adjust when features are awarded) both in flavor and story. A Monk (Assassin) would work as well. And there are others.

Now, of course, most subclasses have to be within the main class because it grants improvements or enhancements to features of that class, so this is not universal by any means.

But, what are your thoughts on this type of cross-classing a subclass? Would you allow it? Does it create anything too good?

2. Multiple Subclasses

I've seen some people mention this and our table has discussed it briefly before. It is a pretty simple idea. When you reach a subclass award level, you take a subclass for your main class. For example, a Fighter begins with Battle Master at 3rd level. At 7th level, instead of learning the next feature of Battle Master, the Figher learns the first feature of Champion. In essence, you sort of track your progression in your subclasses. The same Fighter, at level 10, chooses to return to Battle Master, gaining the second feature. You can't "skip" features, so to say.

I know some people are using this, what has your results been? Is it too good, do players like it, did you abandon it? For people who've never done it, what are your thoughts?

As always, thanks for your time and thoughts.
This seems a bit like kits in 2nd ed.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
We do this, and I think I shared my original post on here about it. We call it Multi-pathing.

It works great. My players like the freedom it allows them to roll mold their character with the story. It's definitely not too good. If anything, like is often (though no always) the case with 5e multiclassing, the character ends up slightly behind the potential curve because they sacrifice higher level abilities to get what they want rather than what they're supposed to have.

We haven't abandoned it, it's on the table as an option for people who want to take it, and it gets used sometimes. Slightly less than multiclassing.

It never made sense to me why a "thief" could never learn how to assassinate someone or pick up some magic at higher levels just because they started their rogue career as a thief.
Ah, yes, multi-pathing! I remember that now. I am glad to hear you've had good experiences with it. As I've looked at some subclasses, often times I would rather have the initial features of a new subclass than the second feature of my initial one.

A LOT of 5E never made any sense to me from a flavor/story perspective, so I can only get it was a balance decision or something at some point.

Sounds a bit like a 4e Theme or 3e Prestige Class.
This seems a bit like kits in 2nd ed.
"Kits" I think would be more similar to the idea than Prestige Classes. I don't know how close it mirrors Themes since I never played or looked at 4E.

Like I said, a lot of subclasses are dependent on class features for their benefits so this idea won't work. But, some subclasses could be universal.
 
"Kits" I think would be more similar to the idea than Prestige Classes. I don't know how close it mirrors Themes since I never played or looked at 4E.
Kits were class-specific, but some had close analogs across several classes.

Themes were like expanded backgrounds, they let you swap out class utilities for specific theme utilities, as you leveled, if you wanted. You couldn't do something that simple, in 5e, because progression is not consistent across classes.

PrCs, of course, replace one or more class levels.

So none of them are quite the same.

Starting with a custom Background might make sense, though.
 
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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I've toyed with the idea of allowing every PC to get 2 subclasses. Other than the bookkeeping hassle, I don't think it's a big deal. Letting them take a subclass from another class in an interesting idea, though...I'd have to think about that one more.

Designing generic classes that can also take multiple subclasses and fitting them into the progression is also a pretty interesting idea.
 

GlassJaw

Adventurer
I like this idea a LOT, and I've been working on something very similar myself.

However, my concern is that it will lead to cherry-picking. The subclasses are written with the three pillars in mind. Subglasses usually grant a combat ability first and a social/exploration ability after. If any subclass ability can be selected, you'll end up with every rogue taking Assassinate and every Battlemaster fighter taking Improved Critical.

I've been working on a more a system where subclass abilities are categorized or grouped into tiers. So a Battlemaster can take Improved Critical but he would have to take a social or exploration ability first. Might not necessary but my gut says you will see the same abilities rise to the top very quickly.

These design exercises illustrate how well 5E handles a la carte character customization. You could extrapolate this to the extreme and put most of the subclass abilities across all classes (within reason) into a big bucket and let players go nuts.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
I like this idea a LOT, and I've been working on something very similar myself.

However, my concern is that it will lead to cherry-picking. The subclasses are written with the three pillars in mind. Subglasses usually grant a combat ability first and a social/exploration ability after. If any subclass ability can be selected, you'll end up with every rogue taking Assassinate and every Battlemaster fighter taking Improved Critical.

I've been working on a more a system where subclass abilities are categorized or grouped into tiers. So a Battlemaster can take Improved Critical but he would have to take a social or exploration ability first. Might not necessary but my gut says you will see the same abilities rise to the top very quickly.

These design exercises illustrate how well 5E handles a la carte character customization. You could extrapolate this to the extreme and put most of the subclass abilities across all classes (within reason) into a big bucket and let players go nuts.
The cherry-picking was also a concern of mine. But another issue is that many features for subclasses sort of suck IMO. For instance, I think "Know Your Enemy" (Battle Master feature #2) is just about useless. Now, you do get two more maneuvers at the same time, so I guess Know Your Enemy can't be too good... shrug
 

GlassJaw

Adventurer
The cherry-picking was also a concern of mine. But another issue is that many features for subclasses sort of suck IMO. For instance, I think "Know Your Enemy" (Battle Master feature #2) is just about useless. Now, you do get two more maneuvers at the same time, so I guess Know Your Enemy can't be too good... shrug
Agreed. Subclass abilities (like feats) are nowhere near made equal. That's the trick with introducing a la carte choice to 5E. 5E handles a la carte customization and modularity but the abilities themselves aren't designed and balanced against each other to support it cleanly.
 

Esker

Explorer
Yeah, I like it on customization grounds, but the subclass features tend to be somewhat front-loaded -- or, at least, enough of them are that this poses balance issues.

If I'm a wizard and I can take the level two features from bladesinger, diviner, and war mage, that's a considerably more powerful level 10 character than any one of those subclasses is by itself.

There's also the issue that some subclasses grant benefits in between subclass feature levels, while others don't: arcane trickster, eldritch knight, land druid, etc. all get spells and/or feature scaling, for example, in a way that isn't comparable to what other subclasses of rogue, fighter, and druid get.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've never had a player ask for a subclass that wasn't part of his class, but I would probably allow it on a case-by-case basis. Certain combos wouldn't be an issue, but others might.

I don't think I would go for multiple subclasses, though. I'd prefer they go the multiclassing route, if only for the sake of simplicity.
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
I think players should be allowed to cherry-pick among their class's subclass options at each level. Not sure why players should be forced to take a crappy subclass feature. If all players do this, everyone is equal. As for me as the dungeon master, I can easily adjust the encounters to match the party's power. But players enjoy good stuff.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I don't allow multi-pathing, as subclasses can sometimes be frontloaded. For example, being able to trade off the champion's athletics bonus for battlemaster manuevers is a superior choice.

However, I allow a feat that does allow having two subclasses. It's a bit complicated, but it's been taken once or twice in my games and the player enjoyed it without breaking the game (the one I recall was a Land Druid who picked up some features from Moon I think). I feel that a feat is a fair price, since cherry picking features can certainly be beneficial. I can't recall but I may have used a similar feat from somewhere as the basis for my version.

Prodigy
You are a master of two paths and your ability to think outside the box and innate affinity to your class has allowed you to learn to blend training from more than one subclass of your class. You gain the following benefits:

  • You gain proficiency in one additional skill or tool of your choice from your class list.
  • Choose a second subclass from a class you already have levels in and that has more than one subclass. Doing so grants you the following benefits:
    When you gain a new feature from your subclass after taking this feat, you may choose which of your subclasses to gain features from. (You do not gain the benefits of both.) You are considered to be of that subclass until the next level at which your subclass grants a feature (this pertains to abilities the subclass grants in between feature levels).
For example, a Druid could become both a Land and a Moon druid. At 2nd level, you could choose to gain either the Circle of the Land features (Bonus Cantrip and Natural Recovery) or the Circle of the Moon Features (Combat Wild Shape and the 2nd level benefits of Circle Forms). If you choose Land druid, you also gain Circle Spells at levels 3rd and 5th. At 6th level, you can again choose between Land (Land’s Stride) and Moon (Primal Strike and the 6th level benefits of Circle Forms). If you choose Land at 6th level, you will also gain the 7th and 9th level Circle Spells. At 10th level you can choose between Nature’s Ward and Elemental Wild Shape, and at 14th level you may choose between Nature’s Sanctuary and Thousand Forms.

Let’s assume you are playing a Druid with this feat and select Circle of the Moon at 2nd level. You gain Combat Wild Shape and Circle Forms. Then, at 6th level, you choose Circle of the Land. You gain Land’s Stride and will gain the bonus spells at 7th and 9th level appropriate to the land type you chose. However, you are still limited to CR 1 beast shapes, since you have not reached 6th level as far as your Circle of the Moon features are concerned. At 10th level you take Circle of the Moon again and gain Elemental Wild Shape. Additionally, you can now assume the form of CR 2 beasts since you are effectively 6th level in the Circle of the Moon. At 13th level you gain the ability to become a CR 3 beast. At 14th level, if you choose Circle of the Land you gain Nature’s Sanctuary and your Wild Shape does not increase beyond CR 3. If you choose Circle of the Moon you gain Thousand Forms, and your Wild Shape CR increases to 4 at 16th level and 5 at 19th level.

As another example, a Fighter could choose to be both a Champion and Eldritch Knight. At 3rd level assume you choose Champion, gaining Improved Critical. At 7th level, you choose Eldritch Knight, gaining War Magic and Spellcasting. However, your spellcasting starts as per a 3rd level Eldritch Knight, because you were not an Eldritch Knight from levels 3-6, and therefore did not gain the benefits thereof. At 9th level, you will have the equivalent casting of a 5th level Eldritch Knight. Continuing on, at 10th level you take Champion, gaining Additional Fighting Style. Once again, because you are not an Eldritch Knight during this period, your Spellcasting will not improve from levels 10 to 14. At 15th level, you once again switch to Eldritch Knight, gaining Arcane Charge and improving your Spellcasting to the equivalent of a 6th level Eldritch Knight. At level 17, your Spellcasting will have improved to the equivalent of a level 8th level Eldritch Knight (allowing you to choose one spell from any school of magic, per your Spellcasting feature). If you choose Eldritch Knight at level 18, you gain Improved War Magic, and by 20th level you will be the equivalent of 11th level Eldritch Knight in Spellcasting ability. If you instead choose Champion at 18th level, you gain Survivor and your Spellcasting capabilities will remain the equivalent of an 8th level Eldritch Knight.
 

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