3E/3.5 Multiclassing in D&D 3rd Edition

My best friend Rob Heinsoo was the lead designer on 4th Ed, and one of his jobs was to fix things that 3rd Ed hadn’t fixed. Multiclassing was on that list of systems that needed work. At one point when playing 3rd Ed, Rob was running a 3rd level barbarian-fighter-ranger. Given the way multiclassing worked, why not?

3ephp.jpg

Meanwhile, the barbarian-cleric I ran in the RPGA never gained a 2nd level in barbarian. Giving up cleric spells would have been too high a price to pay, and in fact the one level of barbarian that I had given this character was a nod to style and a tactical mistake. (Arguably playing anything other than a full-on cleric in 3rd Ed RPGA games was a mistake.) The Third Ed version of multiclassing “worked” in that you could mix and match as you pleased, but it didn’t really work in that most combinations were a mess. Multiclassing rules are a bitch.

When we started design on 3rd Ed, we knew that multiclassing would be an issue. The earliest takes were basically classes that combined the traits of two base classes, with a slightly steeper XP curve for leveling up. Theoretically, this system is like the Elf class in Red Box. The approach was solid in that it would have let us balance each “multiclasses” like we balanced the base classes. But this system seemed too limited for our purposes. Third Ed was about busting open limits, and combo class system seemed to make multiclassing more restricted than before. Today, after seeing the “mix-and-match” system in play for 20 years, I wonder whether we might have done better by developing that original system.

As it is, we got pretty far in the design process without solving the multiclass problem. In the end, I proposed more or less the current system, with levels from different classes stacking benefits on top of each other. The best thing about the system, I figure, was the concept of prestige classes. They were basically “multiclass only” classes. The prestige class concept was pretty exciting and made all sorts of interesting designs possible. And the beauty of the “libertarian” approach is that it required almost no work to balance. It wasn’t balanced.

One of the guiding tenets of the 3rd Ed design was “consequence, not restrictions.” It meant that we wouldn’t tell you that you can’t play a halforc paladin. Now halforcs have a Charisma penalty, so there will be consequences, but you can do what you want. This approach can be something of a disaster when it comes to making permanent choices about your character. And with the “anything goes” rules for multiclassing, there were more ways to build a weak character than to build a strong one.

On some level, balanced, anything-goes multiclassing rules are systemically impossible, and here’s a thought experiment to help you see what I mean. Suppose that the game designers hand-balance the base classes so that they play well next to each other. These base classes have the right power level and that right number of options: not too many or too few. That’s where you want the classes to be. Now imagine that you add on an algorithmic system for taking any two of those classes and combining them in any combination of levels. Maybe throw in a couple extra classes, up to as many classes as you have levels. What sort of “class” are you going to end up with when you combine different classes into one? The ideal result is that the character has more options balanced against less overall power. In addition, the increase in the number of options has to be modest enough that the player doesn’t get burdened by having too many. If you hit that ideal sweet spot that balances power with options, you’re lucky. Most combinations, especially with spellcasters, come with too harsh a penalty for the benefit. For others, like the fighter-ranger-barbarians, there was an increase not only versatility but also in effectiveness.

The multiclass rules are a dramatic example of how treating things the same is a mistake if those things are different. The rules allow players to mix and match classes in virtually any combination, as if the Nth level of any class is the equivalent of the 1st level (or Nth level) of any other class, even when combined. With this “wild west” or “libertarian” approach to multiclassing, combinations are bound to vary from weaker to stronger depending on how well the classes line up. Two classes that rely on Strength and Dexterity, like fighter and ranger combo up pretty well. But what about a Strength-based, heavily armored class with an Intelligence-based class with spellcaster that’s penalized for wearing armor? Any system that makes the fighter-ranger OK is going to be hard going for the fighter-wizard. If the game designers balance the system to makes the fighter-wizard OK, then the fighter-ranger is too strong. Those two combinations are quite different, so using the same rules for both of them leads to imbalance somewhere in the system.

To complicate things further, there were countless ways to combine two classes. If the fighter-1/wizard-9 is balanced, can the fighter-5/wizard-5 be balanced, and the fighter-9/wizard-1? Not really. There are so many multiclass options that inevitably most of them are going to be too strong or, more likely, too weak.

One problem with multiclassing is that classes came front-loaded with lots of great stuff at 1st level. If you’re a barbarian, the reasoning went, you want to be able to rage at 1st level. We toyed with the idea of giving each class a special feature that only single-class characters would get, but it was a new idea and it would have taken lots of work to get right, and we passed.

For 4th Edition, an overarching goal was to prevent players from making choices that led to them being disappointed. They headed off the problem of multiclass characters by not allowing regular multiclassing. A fighter could pick up some bits from the wizard class, and you could play a class built from scratch to be an arcane spellcasting warrior, but you couldn’t give yourself a bad experience by building a fighter-5/wizard-5.

For 13th Age, Rob and I forced a solution. For one thing, the rules support only an even split between two classes, reducing the complexity by at least two-thirds. The rules ended up somewhat resembling the AD&D multiclass rules, combining reduced-power versions of two classes. We also force every class/class combination to care equally about two different abilities. That way there’s no natural advantage for a combination of two classes with the same main ability, such as the bard-sorcerer, who needs Dex as much as Cha. Each class-class combination also got hand-balanced with power possibly adjusted up or down and special rules provided when necessary.

Fifth edition gets a lot of things right. It has some forms of “multiclassing” built into the classes, such as the fighter’s eldritch knight option, which is a nice touch and easy to balance. Fifth Ed also returns to the mix-and-match system, but they plug a lot of holes when they do. Many rules contribute to a smoother multiclassing system: ability minimums, limited proficiencies, more generous spellcasting, classes getting cool stuff at 2nd level, and the universal proficiency bonus. These concise, useful rules obviously come from people who played the hell out of 3rd Ed and knew exactly what was wrong with multiclassing. Even so, the various combinations all are going to work more or less well, and only some of those combinations can be balanced right. Spellcasters still lose out on their most powerful spellcasting levels, making it painful to multiclass with a non-casting class. Multiclass rules are a pain to design.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Jonathan Tweet

Comments

PMárk

Explorer
That is not multi-classing, it is a class-less system. Which I would like to see in 6th edition, but I think it is unlikely.
Well, in my eyes, the current end point of 3e's evolution which is PF1, IMO, became a nearly class-less system over time. There's just so many class archetypes, alternative class features, feats, hybrid classes and so on, that, with throwing in multiclassing too, the line between classes blurred to almost nonexistent. The classes are much more like starting packages, than strict classes. Honestly, I like that, because I like classless systems, but it still makes class-specific iconic abilities possible.

Also, yes, I want that Barb3/Bard3/somethingbonkersprestigeclass4 character to be possible to make, if it represents my character concept the best both in flavor and mechanics.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There were people who complained about AD&D multiclassing and looked at it with disdain. They usually considered it overpowered because a two-class demi-human was, thanks to the XP tables, usually only about 1 level behind their single-classed peers. That meant their flexibility was actually quite powerful.
Right, but that was supposed to be "balanced" (there's that word again) by how they were locked out of the higher levels of most classes, and even when they hit the cap in one class had to keep dividing their XP proportionally. The "balance" was over the course of the campaign, favoring demihumans earlier on and humans at the higher levels.

To go off on a tangent, I know a lot of people hated demihuman level limits, but I always saw them differently than how most other people seemed to. The conventional take on them was usually some variant of "humans are the baseline of what's possible, and everyone else is terrible compared to them." But from an in-character standpoint, if you accepted that humans were the newest race on the proverbial block, then it seemed more like it'd be "these limits were the normal ceiling of what was possible, until humans came along and casually upended conventional wisdom with their insane competence."

In other words, humans are the saiyans of the campaign world.

Now, you might argue that there's no particular reason for humans to be so much better at everything than demihumans. The problem there is that the game doesn't really speak to the why's and wherefore's of racial differences at all. Elves get a Dexterity bonus and live for several centuries simply because they do. Dwarves have infravision simply because they do. Humans have the ability to surpass what other races can accomplish in terms of martial prowess and wielding magic simply because they do. Presumably the answer is some combination of genetics, magical aptitude, and divine meddling, but there's no real attempt to address that under the game rules. Humans are what they are: better than other races.

Of course, there was also the complaint that most campaigns never got to the higher levels anyway, so those "balancing" aspects never came to the fore. But that's not an issue with the game as it is with play-style, similar to how a lot of people didn't like the various limitations that wizards operated under (needing hours or even days to regain all of their spells, losing them if their casting was interrupted, only being able to learn so many spells of a given spell level, etc.). Third Edition removed those, and we subsequently got a slew of complaints about how overpowered casters were now. Similar thing with demihumans and multiclassing.
 

Saelorn

Hero
This would make for really weird scaling at the low end - worse than the current rules, even. A level 1 character would be close to useless in an adventure, since they'd pretty much be restricted to tiny bonuses overall.
It just means you have linear growth, rather than exponential. However strong a level 20 character is, a level 1 character is 5% of that.

It should mean that low-level characters are significantly stronger than they are now, relative to high-level characters. Whether you accomplish that by raising the floor, or lowering the ceiling, is irrelevant from a balance standpoint.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The difference between 1e-era* and 3e-era multiclassing was that in 1e your classes advanced independently; you'd assign whatever ratio of your earned xp into each class (e.g. 60-Fighter 40-MU) and each would bump when it bumped. The J-curve advancement tables** meant that a typical 50-50 split would usually be about a level lower on each side than a single-class character with the same xp total...depending on which class(es) were being compared.

This played in well with the fact that not all classes advanced at the same rate. It also, if the DM allowed it, gave the player much more flexibility on conceptualization: a 90-10 Fighter-MU, for example, is mostly a Fighter and only uses spells when camped at night to identify items and set alarms, for example.

I think the decision to have all the classes use the same advancement table in 3e kinda boxed them in a bit.

* - we gave demi-human multiclassing to humans and did away with two-classing ages ago.
** - well, J-enough, and easy to smooth out.

I found 3e's additive multiclassing to be an absolute horror show when it came to trying to make a couple of character concepts work, each instance being a mostly-martial, minor-caster character.

Even with that, a simple limit saying a character could never have more than two base classes would have worked wonders; I'd have gone further and said that taking a prestige class replaced your base classes (and subsumed their existing abilities) and that a character could only ever have one of these.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Well, in my eyes, the current end point of 3e's evolution which is PF1, IMO, became a nearly class-less system over time. There's just so many class archetypes, alternative class features, feats, hybrid classes and so on, that, with throwing in multiclassing too, the line between classes blurred to almost nonexistent. The classes are much more like starting packages, than strict classes. Honestly, I like that, because I like classless systems, but it still makes class-specific iconic abilities possible.
My favorite 3E/PF1-compatible product is a modular point-buy character-generation system, one that has standardized (but still flexible) metrics for altering the list of options available. It's rather complicated, but I absolutely love it; I can do so much more with it than I can with character classes.

The major issues incumbent in using it are the necessary changes in mindset. 3E plays heavily on the idea that "the rules create balance" which a lot of people (apparently without fully realizing it) came to the conclusion that whatever characters they created, via cherry-picking across an array of sourcebooks (and often Dragon issues and WotC website articles, to say nothing of third-party books), was acceptable to bring into play. After all, if the rules were responsible for creating balance, then the players didn't need to take responsibility for making their characters fit into the game. It's where a lot of the "primacy of RAW" attitude came from, along with the optimization mindset. (You could optimize an AD&D character, but it wasn't really the same.)

Using a point-buy system, which acknowledges that "balance" is mostly (not completely, but in large part) happens at the table during game-play, means that responsibility is pushed back onto the player. It's not just an issue of "don't be a jerk," but rather that your character needs to fit with the group, the world, the campaign, etc. It also requires some GM adjudication, rather than thinking that PC options are somehow exempt from oversight. Making a "broken" character is possible (the same way it is in 3E/PF), but the goal isn't really to prevent that; it's to give you the tools you need to make the character you want. If you take those tools and use them to smash the game, well...that possibility was always there. At least these rules don't limit what you can do in a vain attempt to prevent that.
 

dave2008

Legend
Well, in my eyes, the current end point of 3e's evolution which is PF1, IMO, became a nearly class-less system over time. There's just so many class archetypes, alternative class features, feats, hybrid classes and so on, that, with throwing in multiclassing too, the line between classes blurred to almost nonexistent. The classes are much more like starting packages, than strict classes. Honestly, I like that, because I like classless systems, but it still makes class-specific iconic abilities possible.

Also, yes, I want that Barb3/Bard3/somethingbonkersprestigeclass4 character to be possible to make, if it represents my character concept the best both in flavor and mechanics.
I've said it before an I will say it again: I would like just two classes: Mundane & Magical. These two classes would then have enough options to build any concept one wants. Pre-created "builds" could be supplied for those who like a more traditional "class," but anything is possible with just these two classes.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Now, you might argue that there's no particular reason for humans to be so much better at everything than demihumans. The problem there is that the game doesn't really speak to the why's and wherefore's of racial differences at all. Elves get a Dexterity bonus and live for several centuries simply because they do.
And right there you've probably hit part of the reason for demi-human level limits: lifespan.

Other than Half-Orcs, all the kindred races live longer than Humans; in some cases crazy longer. And if a Human can get to 10th level in class-x over a few years - maybe even as long as a decade - of adventuring, imagine the stratospheric levels an Elf could achieve over a few centuries (!) of similar activity if there weren't limits in place. Even just at one adventure a year* and one level per two adventures*, give me two centuries and I'll give you a 100th-level Elvish [insert class here].

* - both rather slow by common standards of play particularly more recently.

Take the limits off, as I've mostly done, and one has to then come up with some other rationale to explain why three-digit-level Elves haven't long since taken over the world**.

** - ironically, as fate would have it a large part of my current campaign's backstory is that Elves (backed by things that most certainly are NOT Elves!) are in fact trying to take over the world; and as they're so far doing rather well at it, playing an Elf PC in my game presents certain...challenges. :)
 

Marandahir

Explorer
You know, as much as I harp on the fact that the iconic multiclass combinations-- any proportional combination of Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, and Rogue-- are way, way too weak... there is the flipside that the first 1-3 levels in certain classes can be a massive improvement to almost any other class.

I've said before that it's the ability to stop advancing in a class that bothers me more than the ability to suddenly start advancing in two or three different classes in the middle of a PC's career.

Limiting multiclassing in 3.X makes sense and is probably necessary. Ability score prerequisites, feat prerequisites, limits on the number of classes all make sense... and as much as people keep bringing up enforced class level ratios, I really want to support them, but they won't work without substantial rules changes (or even feat/prc support) to make those characters viable.
Opinion on Gestalt Multiclassing Rules?

IMHO, from a narrative sense, the choice to stop advancement in a class makes sense. You stopped training that path in your life and started focusing on a different path. I don't think it should necessarily look like current MC rules though, since doing so maybe would mean you should be atrophying in your original classes' abilities or maybe not even have access to them until you return to that class or do some sort of Prestige Class that patches them together. Otherwise, you're still honing those abilities.

But being able to reverse direction entirely in your adventuring career should be an option, since it's an option in real life.
 

Worrgrendel

Explorer
I am perfectly aware of what I said. I was sitting right here when I said it.

If you think that your ability to find a counter-example to an (admittedly) overly absolute statement means that the statement is not generally still true in the vast majority of cases, then you're either nowhere as adept at logical reasoning as you'd have us believe, or you're only interested in making yourself look smarter at others' expense rather than contributing meaningfully to the conversation.

Either way, don't bother replying.
And here we finally have it:

The person that just called me stupid (in a very eloquent way I might add; so kudos for that) talks about contributing meaningfully to the conversation and follows it up with the classic "don't bother replying".
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Opinion on Gestalt Multiclassing Rules?

IMHO, from a narrative sense, the choice to stop advancement in a class makes sense. You stopped training that path in your life and started focusing on a different path. I don't think it should necessarily look like current MC rules though, since doing so maybe would mean you should be atrophying in your original classes' abilities or maybe not even have access to them until you return to that class or do some sort of Prestige Class that patches them together. Otherwise, you're still honing those abilities.

But being able to reverse direction entirely in your adventuring career should be an option, since it's an option in real life.
I went a step further and invented a high-level divine spell Renouncement, for situations where someone has had a change of heart (e.g. an Assassin who had become Good-aligned, or a Cleric who had lost faith) and wants to strip away a class completely. The spell harmlessly removes all abilities of that class, leaving you as an unleveled (or 0th level) commoner. You can then start advancing in another class; or keep advancing if you've already got another class on the go (if you've more than one class, Renouncement only removes one).

Very important: the spell will only work if cast on a willing recipient who is in control of his-her own faculties. Sorry, charming or dominating someone into a Renouncement, or dragging them to it while they're asleep or drugged, just ain't happening. :)
 

Weiley31

Adventurer
One of the things that irked me the most about 3.5 Edition was the SHEER amount of math like Multi-Classing that became mind boggling deadening with all the splatbooks/options.

One of the things I like the most bout 5E was how they TRIED to fix that by giving the classes Lvl 20 Capstones for the base classes. YMMV on whether some Capstones are worth it.

HOWEVER: I enjoyed the concept of The Gestalt Multi-Classing rules introduced into the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana splatbooks. Yes, MAD potential was greatly high, but being able to not lose out on valuable class features, was awesome. Oh yeah you have an Eldritch Knight? Well say hello to my Warblade/Wizard or Cleric/Druid Gestalt! Please note the combos are just slapped together just for the hell of it

As for Prestige classes? I did like the notion of 5E Prestige Classes being 5 levels only. Yeah the Runesmith sucks supposedly, but 5 levels seems like a reasonable prestige limit. As long as the 5 levels offered enough mechanics so it's not underpowered.
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
I fixed the dipping with a houserule requirement of staying in a new class for 3 levels before multiclassing into something else. ... As to the main topic, I definitely prefer the AD&D version of multiclassing to the "here are your 20 levels, do what you want with them" version.
I think it was this thread where I posted the link to Overhauling Multiclassing (it was definitely this forum), but for people who don't want to pay two dollars to satisfy an idle curiosity-- people I am utterly jealous of-- the gist of it is like this:

The class you take at 1st level is your primary class. Every time you gain a level, you gain a level in your primary class-- this never changes.

At any time, you can designate one and only one class to be your secondary class. This doesn't do anything on its own, but there's a series of feats:
  • You can improve your BAB progression, by one step per feat, up to the progression of your secondary class.
  • You can improve your Hit Dice, by one die size per feat, up to the progression of your secondary class.
  • You can gain the Good Save progression of your secondary class, if it's different from your primary class.
  • You can get an extra 2 skill points per level, up to your secondary class' skill points.
  • Finally, if you're at least 5th level and you've taken at least two other multiclass feats, you can take the Cross-Training feat, which gives you all of the class features of your secondary class as a character of your level minus four.
Only thing I think it's missing is low-level multiclassing and some kind of penalty to the primary class. And, of course, accommodation for Prestige Classes.
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
Opinion on Gestalt Multiclassing Rules?
I like them, generally, and used them in every 3.5 game I ran from the time Unearthed Arcana came out and the time I stopped playing D&D.

It alleviates a lot of the concerns about traditional multiclass archetypes being underpowered... but also aggravates all of the problems with optimized characters being overpowered. It raises the floor some, but it raises the ceiling by a whole lot more.

There's also the issue that a lot of players don't want to be multiclassed.

IMHO, from a narrative sense, the choice to stop advancement in a class makes sense. You stopped training that path in your life and started focusing on a different path. I don't think it should necessarily look like current MC rules though...
Yeah. I think what you're describing sounds a lot like the retraining rules from Pathfinder.

If you're not advancing in a class anymore, that class should be going away.
 
The 3e prestige class system always have me this hint of a possible future where every class had an effective strength of a core subsystem like arcane spell casting or warrioring or raging or skullduggery. This hint for a future D&D where you could multiclasss freely and stack your effective levels in a subsystem. Then true class features would display the true unique aspects of the class and multiclass for class signature abilities and capstones. And power is dealt with the stacking system.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I started with AD&D, and played up into 4Ed. Multiclassing (and for humans, dual classing) was usually my best/only path to making & playing the characters floating in my head. A conservative estimate would be that 85% of my D&D characters since 1977 have had more than one class. Personally, 3.XEd multiclassing was my favorite take on the mechanic.

And before anyone thinks I was some kind of min/maxing powergamer, let me just say nobody who played that edition with me would EVER make that accusation. In fact, my real name became the nickname for suboptimal PCs in my longest-running group. :D

4Ed’s system just...missed the mark for me. I still USED it, but I was never truly satisfied. It was my least favorite of the mechani’s iterations. I liked some of the ideas, but not the implimentation.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If you're not advancing in a class anymore, that class should be going away.
I absolutely agree with this, after a certain "plateau" period. (without a plateau period class skills would start diminishing during any extended downtime, and I don't think anyone wants this :) )

However, no version of the game has ever had mechanics for how class skills and abilities diminish over time through disuse; and despite waving at it a few times I've yet to come up with any of my own.

The stereotypical innkeeper who used to be an 8th-level Fighter until he took an arrow through the knee - that was ten years ago. How good a Fighter is he now?

More important, have his abilities diminished inversely to how they were gained - i.e. has he simply been slowly dropping off levels - or (and this is ideally what I'd prefer to end up with) have some abilities remained intact while others have diminished some and yet others were forgotten completely e.g. once he was good with bow and sword but now while he's still as good with sword as he ever was his bow skills are those of a peasant, and his resilience (hit points) is but a fraction of its one-time peak.
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
The stereotypical innkeeper who used to be an 8th-level Fighter until he took an arrow through the knee - that was ten years ago. How good a Fighter is he now?
I don't think the game needs believable rules for what are essentially corner cases... as long as they stop allowing/encouraging the current unbelievable behavior.
 

jmartkdr2

Explorer
Opinion on Gestalt Multiclassing Rules?

IMHO, from a narrative sense, the choice to stop advancement in a class makes sense. You stopped training that path in your life and started focusing on a different path. I don't think it should necessarily look like current MC rules though, since doing so maybe would mean you should be atrophying in your original classes' abilities or maybe not even have access to them until you return to that class or do some sort of Prestige Class that patches them together. Otherwise, you're still honing those abilities.

But being able to reverse direction entirely in your adventuring career should be an option, since it's an option in real life.
There's a few narrative reasons to multiclass, and a career change is certainly a common enough one. It's also the one best represented by 3e/5e multiclassing rules. (I'm also okay with not penalizing the old class - I still have most of my sale skills, even though I quit that career 8 years ago. A fighter who gets religion but keeps adventuring might not get much better at stabbing, but would still keep the skill.)

Other reasons for multiclassing are not so well represented. 3e/5e multiclassing does hybrid concepts poorly - 13th Age's system is better for this. Neither of those does dips well. (Dips as in: you're really one class but with a feature/narrative element normally associated with a different class, like a paladin with a patron. This isn't always munchkinry.)

But if we switched back to 4e-style feat-based multiclassing, we'd just change what works well and what works poorly - the only way to make all kinds of multiclassing work would be to have 3+ sets of multiclassing rules depending on what you're trying to achieve narratively.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I never tried it, but I thought the solution to multi-classing in 3e was actually in AD&D. In AD&D, a multiclassed character was generally only one level(ish) behind his fellows for each additional class...so just do that. Take two classes at once, best/average features from each*, and you are -1 level compared to the rest of the party. If you're starting out, you don't level up to second until you hit third level XP (or the rest of your party levels to 3rd, if you're not using XP). A standard 5/5 Ftr/Wiz is crazy weak compared to a Wiz 10, but a merged 9/9 Ftr/Wiz...not so much. I'm particularly unsure of how well that would work at higher levels, but my experiences with 3e at >10th were pretty underwhelming anyway. And for those that wanted just a "splash" of a second class...include some 4e/5e feats that would contain the "damage" we saw from dipping.

It would be a little math-ier/clunkier to do sequential multiclassing this way, but it wouldn't be killer (although it might involve some sketchy-fast advancement in the second class, and the occasionally weird reduction in cumulative stats like HP.)

* or add restrictions like spellcasters and armor, to suit your tastes.
 

Aaron L

Adventurer
I am very thankful for the concept of multiclassing as introduced in 3E, as it allowed characters to be created according to concept, and my brother and I always considered multiclassing in 3E to basically be custom designing our own classes out of bits and pieces of others. We used this to support the character concepts that we wanted to play; not to try to create the most powerful characters... even if we did usually end up with the most powerful PCs, if only because we actually took the time to consider what we were doing and what combinations would be most effective at portraying the character concepts we had in mind. It was always the character roleplaying concept that came first; and any mechanical considerations were used to support that roleplaying concept.

We do the same thing in 5E, although in almost all of the 5E campaigns I have taken part in so far I have actually played single-class characters, which is very unusual for me. I have something of a reputation among my D&D playing friends for being "the Elven Fighter/Mage guy" because Elven Fighter/Magic-Users (or Mages) were my default character type throughout 1E, 2E, and 3E. Because I love Elves, and because I love playing characters who can fight pretty well but can also use magic fairly well. In earlier Editions this had to be done through multi-classing but in 5E, thanks to the subclasses such as the Eldritch Knight and the Arcane Trickster I can do so while remaining a single-classed Fighter. I am currently playing an Elven Knight, a blademaster who will be a straight-classed Fighter his entire adventuring career without taking a single level of Wizard, and yet still be able to eventually cast Fireball and Lightning Bolt, and that is just ideal to me. I am still excited by the idea that my PC can be solely a high-level Fighter, a full blademaster without diluting his combat prowess with any other classes, and yet still be able to hurl Lightning Bolts with full efficiency.

But for my next PC I am heavily considering playing a multi-classed Hexblade Warlock/Light Domain Cleric, to play with the dichotomy of Light and Shadow in a single character with a character who worships a God of Light and yet is also beholden to an entity of Shadow. And also to have a character who can both fight well and be adept at both Witchcraft and Clerical magic (and casts Fireball using Cleric magic!) And I will be able to do all of this thanks, in part, to the concept of cumulative multi-classing as introduced in 3rd Edition.

I've said this several times before, but "game balance" is all about character spotlighting; balancing the amount of time in which any given PC gets to have the spotlight (focus of attention) shining on them. And so because of this, most people seem to believe that any character that does more damage than others necessarily means that that character will have the spotlight on them more than any others. But that isn't necessarily true; any good (or even lousy) DM can shift the spotlight to any PC he chooses to, and the most (combat) powerful PC on paper can feel like the most useless if the DM keeps the spotlight on other characters. "Balance" is achieved through how the DM presents the world and progresses the story and how NPCs react to the PCs.

A good DM will give every PC (and thus, every player) a time in the spotlight game each session, and will have occasional sessions devoted to a single character as "spotlight episodes" like in a TV show. And in a good group the other players will appreciate the specialness of that PC's (and player's) time to shine and cooperate (and have fun!) in playing up the impressiveness of the PC's actions during their spotlighting, knowing that it is their PC's turn the other players will do the same for them. Because the players should be friends, and so enjoy seeing their friends have fun with their turn in the spotlight. And it doesn't matter a bit how much combat power the character has; if a given PC is the center of attention, then they will be the most important character at that time.
 

Advertisement

Latest threads

In Our Store!

Advertisement

Top