D&D 5E Multiclassing

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hejtmane

Explorer
I'm not dco, but I share his viewpoint, so I think I may try to explain it.

Why have classes instead of a freeform system? There are a few good reasons:
  • Classes allow for easy character creation with no system mastery necessary. All choices that need to be made are described in the class and, if it's designed correctly, all combinations of such choices result in a good characters.
  • There are some archetypes important for the game - basing classes on them ensures that PCs will be relevant to the type of stories the game is intended for.
  • Each class can be designed as a whole and, because of that, is much easier to properly balance than a freeform system where all combinations of abilities must be taken into account.

But then, by adding multiclassing, we lose most of these advantages.

The number of possible combinations increases very significantly compared to pure classes, but the entire structure is much more complicated than in a pointbuy or slot-based freeform system, so it is even harder to balance. The archetypes are mixed in a way that often takes meaning from them. And while one can argue that it's still possible to create a simple character by using a single class, the same can be gained in a freeform system by introducing templates for people who want simple chargen.

TL;DR: It's not about classless system being better than one with classes or vice versa. Multiclassing combines disadvantages of both with no significant gain.

Other than history of how the game was designed initially; much harder for an established game to go and totally change the class and multiclass system and not have a fan revolt. If you where starting from scratch of an rpg be much easier and maybe they would prefer that method but as we know you have a core fan expectations based on the game history to deal with. Hence sometimes you have to deal the hand dealt you and that is why I think they stuck with the class and multiclass system history.
 

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ad_hoc

(they/them)
TL;DR: It's not about classless system being better than one with classes or vice versa. Multiclassing combines disadvantages of both with no significant gain.

This is why I don't like multiclassing.

I think subclasses are an elegant way to handle it.
 

You've mentioned that your players like to min-max. Yes, multiclassing gives them more options for that. Are you okay with that, or is that going to negatively impact your (and hence the group's) fun?

Personally, I don't like cheesiness, and I want a certain connection with the world and the class structure. I tend to allow most mechanical options that the game provides, but I tie them to the world. So the Oath of Vengeance paladin subclass is a specific semi-secret order of holy assassins for the Church of the Law-Giver (they aren't as sinister as that sounds--they root out evil cults rather than bothering heretics), cleric domains are connected with specific deities, battle master fighters have a different backstory than champions, etc. And monks are exclusively asian-themed ki-empowered martial artists, who are almost exclusively human, rather than just unarmed warriors you can find training in every nordic, celtic, elven, dwarf, or halfling land.

In order to multiclass, a character needs an in-world explanation (which is generally going to involve role-playing through the situation) and has to spend downtime equivalent to that needed to learn a new language or tool proficiency (250 days baseline, can be reduced under certain situations). I wave this requirement in two situations. If the character is someone whose backstory is that they started in one class and but then changed (like they grew up on the streets and become a rogue, but changed their life direction and took up study of another class), they can take the second class when they level up. It is assumed they are sticking with the second class in this case, and the first class is over and done with. The other situation is if someone wants to be splitting classes pretty evenly--like a warrior mage that isn't well represented by an eldritch knight or bladesinger. In that case they have to take one class at first level and the other at second level, and need an explanation of who is training them in these disparate classes (elves have a variety of warrior-mage traditions, so elves and half-elves find this easier to justify). Then they need to make sure they invest a good number of levels in each class, alternating fairly regularly.

I also straight up tell the players that I hate level dipping. Make a role-playing investment in the new class, or skip it.

All that being said, I don't dislike multiclassing in theory. I'm eagerly hoping we'll get rules for the simultaneous advancement style AD&D/Gestalt/Hybrid multiclassing in a UA article by the end of this year (or hopefully soon so it can make it into the crunch book), because I much prefer that style of multiclassing.
 

Ovarwa

Explorer
Hi, There's very little broken in D&D5, and nothing multiclass. D&D5 multiclass is Good, IMO, and should be encouraged rather than discouraged. (I am using lots of ellipses in case paragraphs don' work, which happens sometimes here :( ) .............. One way to categorize multiclasses: .................. 1) Spellcaster/Non-spellcaster. Even with 5ed nerfs, spellcasting is still the best class feature in the game. Diluting spellcaster progression is *never* a tradeoff that breaks things, because it takes away from the class feature most likely to cause whining (or real problems)............ 1a) Typical spellcaster tradeoff: Lose some spellcaster progression in favor of survivability. Con save proficiency, better armor and a few hit points. Every GM should smile. Of course an adventurer wizard might be more robust than an ordinary wizard, know a thing or two about combat, etc. ....................... 1b) Less typical but unremarkable spellcaster tradeoff: Lose some spellcaster progression in favor of versatility and a trick or two. Maybe a touch of rogue for skills, uncanny and even maybe a third level ability. Or a level of cleric to gain access to a few level 1 spells. Or whatever. Unless this selection takes away someone else's spotlight, which I consider a lot less likely than a *player* consuming attention regardless of what is played, I would think that a GM would be happy to see ponies with more than one trick. ...................... 1c) Rebalanced Gish, very common: Even before the classic Dragon article, "Gandalf was a 15th level Eldritch Knight," :D, players have striven for the perfect warrior/spellcaster. D&D5 offers more versions of this out of the box than any previous edition, yet does not nearly capture all the possible reasonable variations on this theme. Fortunately, we have multiclassing, which lets us create even more. This is a combination of 1a and 1b, with the "new trick or two" being "bash faces." By the very nature of being a Gish, such a character steps on the toes of both spellcasters and warriors. Even so, these should be encouraged: D&D5 has only one warrior class with no spellcasting subclasses and many subclasses that satisfy the basic theme of being a warrior/spellcaster: How will a few more break things? ................ 2) Non-spellcaster/non-spellcaster: These allow different combinations of non-spellcasting abilities. Except in raw, single target DPR contests, spellcasters are generally considered superior in power and in their range of capabilities. Multiclass does not change things, but does allow players to get the combination of abilities they want. Why worry? ......... 3) Spellcaster/spellcaster: Defer spellcaster progression to pick up some spells not on your list or a class ability that you can leverage. Um, yawn? Defer Fireball, Wish, Simulacrum, Guardian Spirits or whatever other awesomeness by one level in favor of adding Charisma to fire damage, or something like that? Ok. ............... But of course, we get (bad) arguments like "It is totally unreasonable for you to suddenly switch from being a Fighter to being a Wizard." But of course it is reasonable: Character classes are used in *our* world to model something that happens in the game world. A first level fighter who then takes a level of wizard might be a warrior with magical talent or a more militant wizard, or whatever. A cleric who goes warlock might be someone who has gone a bit crazy or might be a guy with torn loyalties, or might have been this way from the beginning, taking class levels of one or the other to model a progression that fits him. D&D does not support "I'm taking 1/10th of a level of Fighter now." ......... Oh, but the next argument is that it is totally unrealistic for characters to take combinations that are very good or interesting mechanically. Really? That's what people do in the real world all the time, when they recognize it, because doing anything else is stupid, so stupid, that even the less intelligent among us do it. Granted, most people optimize for laziness or money or sex rather than the ability to kill people and take their stuff. .............................. Multiclass in 5e is good, not bad. ....................... Anyway, Ken
 

I'm not dco, but I share his viewpoint, so I think I may try to explain it.

Why have classes instead of a freeform system? There are a few good reasons:
  • Classes allow for easy character creation with no system mastery necessary. All choices that need to be made are described in the class and, if it's designed correctly, all combinations of such choices result in a good characters.
  • There are some archetypes important for the game - basing classes on them ensures that PCs will be relevant to the type of stories the game is intended for.
  • Each class can be designed as a whole and, because of that, is much easier to properly balance than a freeform system where all combinations of abilities must be taken into account.

But then, by adding multiclassing, we lose most of these advantages.

The number of possible combinations increases very significantly compared to pure classes, but the entire structure is much more complicated than in a pointbuy or slot-based freeform system, so it is even harder to balance. The archetypes are mixed in a way that often takes meaning from them. And while one can argue that it's still possible to create a simple character by using a single class, the same can be gained in a freeform system by introducing templates for people who want simple chargen.

TL;DR: It's not about classless system being better than one with classes or vice versa. Multiclassing combines disadvantages of both with no significant gain.
I have to disagree on all points.

First of all, the number of possible combinations of character features in a multiclass system will always be less than the number in a comparably-sized freeform system. A class is effectively a strict chain of feature dependencies: in order to get Reckless Attack you must have Rage, Unarmored Defense, and Danger Sense. In a freeform system by definition there are going to be fewer if any dependencies. You can get Reckless Attack without all the other barbarian features, and can use that portion of your feature budget in any number of different ways. Look at the math. At every level up under 5E's class system, you have twelve possibilities (fewer if you don't meet the stat requirements). Under a freeform system that still uses levels, the number of possibilities per level... well, that depends on the particular rules you use, but it's going to have to be more than twelve because there are more than twelve available features in the book. And under a point-buy system where every single point is essentially a granular mini-level, the combinations truly explode.

Secondly, the archetypes can also be mixed in a way that adds meaning to them. A barbarian walks the path of the thief. (Conan.) A ranger becomes a leader of men. (Aragorn.) A bard and a wizard's apprentice seek adventure as swashbucklers. (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.) An itinerant singer learns the ways of magic. (Kvothe.) Archetypes don't have to be static. Transitions and juxtapositions between them only enhance their value as tools for character development.

Thirdly, a templated freeform system is a more complicated way to produce a simple character than just saying, "Here's a class", and generally provides less guidance for players when it comes time to advance. Looking at games like Mutants & Masterminds and GURPS, their templates are just a couple of pages in contrast to the chapter after chapter spelling out the freeform option. Contrast with D&D 5E, which does the reverse: the bulk of the rules present the classes, complete with prepackaged advancement paths, with only a couple of pages for multiclassing which you can just ignore if you don't want to do it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking M&M or GURPS at all. They are great systems, and for what they're trying to do their freeform design is far and away better than a class system would be. But simplicity of character creation is not one of their strengths.

So to sum up, multiclassing does not detract from the advantages of the class system, potentially adds more depth to it, and keeps the combination explosion constrained.
 
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dco

Guest
Can you expand on that? Why is it a bad patch? It almost seems like you don't like multiclassing because you don't like single-classing and want freeform character creations. Which is fine, but can you say why it's a bad idea within the framework of the existing rules?
Because the game is too entwined with classes. Yes, I think freeform would be better, but there are other solutions, for example more classes with more variety, a template to make your own classes, etc.

I could ask the same, what is the advantage of multiclassing?
Lots of the classes have a lot of common things with different mechanics, they usually have a very particular background, a lot of abilities come as you level up in the class... and from those things comes the disadvantages of the system.
Most of the times the reason behind multiclassing is that people want some powers from some class, I don't see a reason why a fighter can not be a good thief for example, but if he wants sneak attack, evasion, etc he has to multiclass, at the same time he has to lose access to some skills of his class that perhaps he doesn't want to lose, while keeping other powers he don't want. Multiclass has a very limited range where it works good, the guy that wants a lot of different powers and dips in a lot of classes can end with something really bad and absurd (a magician that had dragon blood and power and was for some time a barbarian till he made a pact with demon...). You don't add extra attacks, till you don't get 4 levels of a class you can not upgrade your stats, etc.
So we are talking that it comes with a lot of compromises, because of this it also doesn't adress the main problem, the lack of flexibility, not long ago I was discussing in a thread about someone that wanted more spells for sorcerers, the only solution is to create your own rules, and in this subforum we will find a lot of custom rules because the multiclass rule is not enough to satisfy what people want of their characters.

Conclusion, I think it works well for some optimized combos and niches, for me that's a bad idea, good for people interested in power combos and maximizing something, in my experience those kind of players are the more prone to ruin your game if you let them free.
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking M&M or GURPS at all. They are great systems, and for what they're trying to do their freeform design is far and away better than a class system would be. But simplicity of character creation is not one of their strengths.

This reads to me like you don't like classes and like multiclassing because it makes the game less of a class based system.

So to sum up, multiclassing does not detract from the advantages of the class system, potentially adds more depth to it, and keeps the combination explosion constrained.

What, in your words, are the advantages to a class based system?

I ask because I believe we see different advantages. Multiclassing does take away from what I enjoy about the class based system of 5e. If you don't like classes in the first place, isn't it better to just play a different game? It just seems like the worst of both worlds. Yes, for people who don't like class based games, multiclassing makes that game less of that so for them it will be better. But why not just make it much better for you by playing something else?

I like having roles and having someone at my table who is a cleric/fighter/wizard takes away from that for me. Then there is the inelegance of it. Each class is a chassis to hang abilities. Further abilities are based off of that chassis. It matters a great deal which order you take your class levels which is a sign of that inelegance.
 


This reads to me like you don't like classes and like multiclassing because it makes the game less of a class based system.
No. Please don't put words in my mouth. GURPS and M&M have different design goals than D&D. GURPS is trying to be the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, and M&M is trying to emulate the superhero genre. For those goals, freeform is better than a class system. Which is what I said. But one size does not fit all, and for a heroic fantasy game like D&D, a class system is an excellent design choice.

What, in your words, are the advantages to a class based system?
I basically agree with [MENTION=23240]steenan[/MENTION]: ease of character creation and advancement and archetypal clarity. I've already explained how multiclassing detracts from neither of those things. To steenan I would add a clear and satisfactory sense of progress over a character's career, which, again, multiclassing does not detract from -- it just means the character has two careers rather than one.

I ask because I believe we see different advantages. Multiclassing does take away from what I enjoy about the class based system of 5e. If you don't like classes in the first place, isn't it better to just play a different game? It just seems like the worst of both worlds. Yes, for people who don't like class based games, multiclassing makes that game less of that so for them it will be better. But why not just make it much better for you by playing something else?
Between the two of us, you're the only one who is expressing dissatisfaction with a part of the D&D rules. If you don't like multiclassing, then why not make it much better for you by playing something else?

I like having roles and having someone at my table who is a cleric/fighter/wizard takes away from that for me.
It doesn't strike you as unreasonable that you're complaining about what someone else is doing with their own character? Would you like it if they complained about what you were doing with yours? So their character upsets you. Your complaining about it upsets them. And given that it's their character, I have no trouble at all determining which party has the more legitimate grievance here.

Then there is the inelegance of it. Each class is a chassis to hang abilities. Further abilities are based off of that chassis. It matters a great deal which order you take your class levels which is a sign of that inelegance.
What inelegance? How is level order (which only matters at 1st level in 5E anyway) a sign of inelegance?
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
I fundamentally disagree with you.

Why have classes instead of a freeform system? There are a few good reasons:
  • Classes allow for easy character creation with no system mastery necessary. All choices that need to be made are described in the class and, if it's designed correctly, all combinations of such choices result in a good characters.
  • There are some archetypes important for the game - basing classes on them ensures that PCs will be relevant to the type of stories the game is intended for.
  • Each class can be designed as a whole and, because of that, is much easier to properly balance than a freeform system where all combinations of abilities must be taken into account.

And here's the other side:-

* Classes may be easier, but 'easier' =/= 'better' for everyone. There are those of us who prefer complex characters, enjoy imagining and creating them, and like to think that the time spent on our hobby (and the resulting system mastery) can be rewarding. Whether our choices result in 'good' characters or not is partly dependent on our skill, and we wouldn't want it any other way

* Classes =/= archetypes; you can have, say, 'tribal warrior', 'mage' or 'scoundrel' manifest in infinite game mechanical ways without losing the archetypes. Plus, I'm not sure how 'important to the game' they really are

* 5E multiclassing is not a freeform system. You cannot get Ftr 5 before you get Ftr 4, for example, and you cannot get Extra Attack without having at least 5 levels in a single class, even if you have 20 levels of pure warrior-type class levels. Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Paladin and Ranger all get Extra Attack at lvl 5, but a 20th level PC with pure warrior classes could be Bar 4/Ftr 4/Mnk 4/Pal 4/Rgr 4, and still wouldn't get Extra Attack. 5E is already balanced because of the execution of its multiclassing rules

But then, by adding multiclassing, we lose most of these advantages.

Not everyone sees them as advantages, or agrees that multiclassing takes them away.

TL;DR: It's not about classless system being better than one with classes or vice versa. Multiclassing combines disadvantages of both with no significant gain.

Significant gains include:-

* Having more viable character choices without nearly as many artificial impediments. "What's that? Your concept is for a fully trained fighter who sells his soul to a devil? Impossible! You can either be a fully trained fighter or sell your soul, but there is no such concept that includes both! I'm glad the rules don't allow it. Well, apart from the rules that do, but I'm disallowing the rules that allow it!"

* Just like any single class has levels 1-20 laid out, and as a PC gains XPs he automatically gains the next level and its associated abilities, a multiclass PC can do exactly the same. If your concept is for an Elven superspy a la James Bond, based on a secret Elven Intelligence group called Lachrymae Shevarash (the Tears of the elven god of vengeance), whose career path starts as a spy, becomes a field agent and graduates to full-blown assassin (gotta get that double-oh rating!), my pre-laid out 20 levels are: criminal/spy background, 1st rogue, 2nd-7th shadow monk, 8th-11th rogue/assassin, after that there are so few that each is unique in terms of what class they take at each level. Do I need to find a monk in-game before I need to gain the level 1 monk abilities? No. No more than the rogue has to find a rogue to gain the 2nd level rogue abilities. "But how do you explain getting monk abilities without instruction?" The same as I'd explain getting the next level of abilities in my original class: how does a rogue learn to assassinate without any meetings with assassins? "Ah, but we assume that a 1st level PC has been given enough training before the game starts that, with experience, he can master those pre-trained abilities such that he can use them in the field." Yep, mine too. All 20 levels were pre-trained and just needed the XPs to manifest, just like every other PC in the game!

* Some people don't like multiclassing. They don't have to. No-one is forcing them to multiclass if they don't want to. But it's not okay to have the attitude of "I don't like it, therefore nobody else can have it!" I don't like playing clerics but I don't forbid anyone else playing one
 

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