D&D General Do We Really Need Multiclassing?

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
To me, it sounds like you want it where a swordmage can perform magical combat maneuvers. The swordmage makes an attack with their sword, and something magical happens at the same time.
That's within the ballpark, yes.

Perhaps, to help the explanation, it would be good to note that I would prefer that Paladins, Rangers, Psions (or whatever we call them), and (possibly) Shaman not cast spells. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have supernatural abilities, mind. Just that their supernatural power should not be the narrow, highly specific thematic-mechanical structure that is "spellcasting." So I would likewise want Swordmages to definitely use magic (it's right there in the name, "mage"!) but NOT cast spells in the sense of having a set of slots, preparations, etc., etc., instead having something like magical maneuvers that are skill and supernatural combined.

I should also clarify, I would not want the Swordmage to be incapable of bringing non-combat utility. I would just want that utility to be rooted in the same source as their skillful utility. E.g., perhaps an intermediate (e.g. level 5-9?) combat technique could be "Ethereal Lunge," allowing the Swordmage to leap through solid obstacles to attack an opponent on the other side. Outside of combat, one could use this as a limited form of teleportation, with the distance you can teleport defined by your movement speed or some multiple of your Acrobatics bonus (whichever is higher), and the number of people you can pull along with you defined by (say) half of your total Athletics skill bonus.* (A supernatural effect, yes, but it requires physical skill to use effectively.) By making these things techniques and not spells, they cannot be poached by other classes (similar to Channel Divinity), and they don't have to do a bunch of convoluted design to make them play nice with other spellcasting options.

*This is pure spitballing and would require plenty of testing. Please don't let "actually that specific design is horrible flaming rotten garbage" criticisms bleed into the more fundamental point of a class that requires both supernatural power and physical/material/mundane skill to be effective.
 

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To me, it sounds like you want it where a swordmage can perform magical combat maneuvers. The swordmage makes an attack with their sword, and something magical happens at the same time.
For me, it's exactly that. The bulk of your combat options should be like booming blade or greenflame blade in that there's both a weapon attack and a magical effect. But, like, using spells slots of all levels (to 5 or so).

Once you bake that in to the core class chasis, it's easy to expand upon without needing to stretch the game too much: you could make it work with any weapon and any kind of magic.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I don't particularly like or need it, but I don't have a problem allowing for it. Fortunately I have cultivated a playerbase for whom the game mechanics always come second to characterization. And when you have that... the only reason to multiclass is when the character evolves in such a way that the flavor of a different class makes sense to be layered on top of it and that layering will be occurring for many, many levels.

Someone wants to multiclass into Warlock simply because they want to make their attack rolls using CHA? Uh... no. If that purely game mechanic reason is the only reason you want to multiclass... I'll work with you to get you the mechanic as part of your normal leveling of your primary class. I don't mind doing occasional feature swaps if there's a baseline mechanic that makes sense for your character to have (like for instance a War Cleric whose deity's featured weapon is dual-wielded and they would like to have access to the Two-Weapon Fighting fighting style-- back before you could get fighting styles via feats.) I'll be happy to let you swap out a class feature for a non-class feature and have it just "become" a class feature for you. Better that then have you take an entire level's worth of mechanics that you don't want-- plus a whole bunch of class story and fluff you aren't going to roleplay-- just for that one mechanic.

But... if you've been playing a rogue in the campaign the entire time and the campaign's story just happened to take you to a place where you could and did make a pact with some extra-dimensional being-- and you want to see that shift in your character continue-- then sure, multiclassing into Warlock and just leveling as Warlock from now on would be fine and cool. Or you are a fighter that at some point got exposed to an inordinate amount of magical energy for some reason and you want to continue that story by going all-in on that mutation/evolution and thus multiclassing into Wild Mage Sorcerer, that's fine too. Your story advances in a new direction and we use multiclassing to further symbolize it. That's usually a-okay with me.

And I agree with the others who have said that was the issue with prestige classes in 3E. Prestige classes were almost all about new character story. New fluff. Just like all the 5E subclasses have story being their primary focus and game mechanics get layered into them to symbolize that narrative... prestige classes were meant to be that story beat change for your character. You join an organization... and now you take a prestige class to represent that mechanically. You learn a combat specialization and style... and take a prestige class to represent that as well. But these are things that are not typically planned from level 1, and thus all the requirements and pre-requisites were blocking characters for no real reason and stopping characters from taking them even if the story of the game made sense for the PC to have it. They were "required game mechanics" just because it felt like someone of this prestige class should have these mechanics. But rather than start handing them out once you gained the class, 3E made you take them all beforehand. It was kind of backwards.

And that's the nice thing about 5E subclasses... in that you can take your flavorful advancement and evolution of your base class without having to choose it until just the point you level and select it. You don't HAVE to decide if you are an Open Hand or Shadow monk until the moment arrives when you reach 3rd level. Now of course a lot of people DO decide earlier, because you can choose your character's story whenever you want (including from the very beginning) even without a unique game mechanic to symbolize it. (And which is why I myself don't have any issues with holding off on the first subclass selection being at 3rd level across the board in 5E24). I can roleplay my druid being a fey creature or having ties to the fey realm even though I won't see my first Circle of Dreams game mechanic until 3rd level. The mechanic does not the fey realm make. It's how you choose to roleplay it.

So if multiclassing is just the handing out of different game mechanics to play... if that's really what floats someone's boat... then so be it. Personally I think that's focusing on the wrong thing that makes RPGs what they are... but hey, people can do what they do. And I'm not going to stop them even if I don't care about it.
 

Perhaps, to help the explanation, it would be good to note that I would prefer that Paladins, Rangers, Psions (or whatever we call them), and (possibly) Shaman not cast spells. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have supernatural abilities, mind. Just that their supernatural power should not be the narrow, highly specific thematic-mechanical structure that is "spellcasting." So I would likewise want Swordmages to definitely use magic (it's right there in the name, "mage"!) but NOT cast spells in the sense of having a set of slots, preparations, etc., etc., instead having something like magical maneuvers that are skill and supernatural combined
Well there is the Arcane Knight combat tradition from Gate Pass Gazette #9 and the Eldritch Blackguard combat tradition from Gate Pass Gazette #11.

Here is an example of a maneuver from the Arcane Knight combat tradition. It appears to combine a melee attack with the Lightning Lure cantrip. It costs about 2 Exertion points to perform.

GRASP OF THE STORM​

(2 points)
1st degree Arcane Knight action
Make a single melee weapon attack against a creature within 15 feet. The range of this attack increases to 15 feet and deals lightning damage, The target must then make a Strength saving throw , whether you dealt damage or not, or be pulled up to 10 feet closer to you.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Well there is the Arcane Knight combat tradition from Gate Pass Gazette #9 and the Eldritch Blackguard combat tradition from Gate Pass Gazette #11.

Here is an example of a maneuver from the Arcane Knight combat tradition. It appears to combine a melee attack with the Lightning Lure cantrip. It costs about 2 Exertion points to perform.

GRASP OF THE STORM​

(2 points)
1st degree Arcane Knight action
Make a single melee weapon attack against a creature within 15 feet. The range of this attack increases to 15 feet and deals lightning damage, The target must then make a Strength saving throw , whether you dealt damage or not, or be pulled up to 10 feet closer to you.
I get what you're going for but the fact that it is so transparently "attack and also cast a cantrip" is... pretty not-great, not gonna lie.
 


delericho

Legend
5e certainly doesn't need multiclassing - I've never allowed it, and after several campaigns have never noticed a lack.

That said, I'm generally not in favour of removing options. In theory, there should be better ways to handle such hybrid classes (add a few more classes to fill in some gaps, then make sure there are plenty of cross-class subclasses like the Eldritch Knight, and then use feats to allow "mini-dips"). But in the absence of them doing that, multiclassing is probably the least-worst option.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
... a playerbase for whom the game mechanics always come second to characterization. ...
I think that it's easy to sympathize with a historically unarmoured spellcaster who's got so tired of their lack of protection and resilience that they take training as a fighter for the armour and the hit points.
It's less easy to sympathize if the reason for the fighter training is for being able to surge through with an extra spellcasting action.

Later levels of advancement should give the more significant buffs.
1686581690784.png
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It's cool. If you had designed Grasp of the Storm, what would it look like?
Perhaps something like the following (provisionally), a Basal Technique (something you can take at an early level.)

Grasp of the Storm
Range: 30'
Target: One creature
Action: Attack (can replace one attack in the Attack action)
Combat: Make a spell attack against a creature you can see within range. On a hit, deal your weapon's damage as lightning damage, and pull the target adjacent to you. You have advantage on this attack roll if the target is unable to move under its own power. If the target is physically fixed in place and cannot move, it instead takes an additional 1d8 bashing damage, and does not move.
Utility: Outside of combat, you may use this technique to pull willing creatures or objects across gaps or hazards, and with enough skill, do so without any harm done to them. Instead of an attack roll, make an Arcana check against a DC equal to the target's weight in pounds divided by 10 (minimum 5.) On a successs, the target is pulled up to 30 feet to a space adjacent to you. If the roll fails by less than 5 points, you still pull the target to you, but it takes lightning damage equal to your weapon damage. If the roll fails by 5 or more, the target does not move but also does not take damage, and is immune to this technique for one hour due to static electric buildup.

This provides niche but useful utility outside of combat, while still capturing the core essence of the effect. It notably does not use a saving throw; hitting with the attack is enough. Dealing weapon damage as lightning damage also means that a Swordmage with beefier weapons has scarier attacks, which seems reasonable to me.

Edit: this is so weird, apparently it ate the edit I added. TL;DR was, I would like to see subclasses that do interesting things with the Techniques, like a "Sword of the Storm" (very provisional name) that gives bonuses to thunder based Techniques if used after lightning ones. Or a "Illusive Blade" subclass that (say) creates after-images when you teleport or allows you to "actually" be all of your illusory copies until they get attacked or whatever. Stuff like that. Similar to spells in some cases, but doing things rather differently. Ideally, every Technique would have both combat and non-combat uses, even if potentially niche ones on either front.
 
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