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5E Variant Multiclassing (AD&D/Gygax Style), help with play balance

dmhelp

Villager
Okay, I normally run a no multiclassing game and this is my attempt at bringing back the 1st/2nd edition Fighter/Wizard where you advance in both classes at once instead of the 3rd edition style of the standard multiclassing rules in 5th edition (which is usually underwhelming for 10/10 splits). The downside in the original 1st edition rules was level limits. I've tentatively set the cap at level 16 (suggesting that theoretically a level 16 Fighter/Wizard is equivalent to a level 20 Wizard). You would lose out on the level 19 ASI. But compared to a 10/10 split you would be gaining 6th-8th level spells and the 2 class features at levels 11, 13, 14, and 15 (so potentially 8 features depending on the class). You would still be a level 20 character as far as hp, proficiency, and cantrip damage.

Multiclassing
  • Choose two classes to be advanced in simultaneously (at character level 1 both classes are level 1), starting at character level 2 the class levels will be lower than the character level (e.g. a character level 16 Fighter/Wizard has level 12 Fighter and Wizard classes with corresponding class features)
  • Character level determines hp, proficiency bonus, cantrip damage, and, if a double caster combination (e.g. Sorcerer/Warlock), spell slots per day (based on the most favorable class treating Warlocks as a full caster, see examples at end)
  • Multiclass level determines class features, spells known/prepared, and, if a caster/non caster combination (e.g. Barbarian/Druid), spell slots per day
  • Take the average dice size (rounded down to the closest even sided die) for hit points gained on each character level (e.g. a Fighter/Rogue would receive 1d8 sized hit dice instead of 1d9)
  • Choose one of the classes to determine saving throws (e.g. a Fighter/Wizard could choose Str/Con or Int/Wis)
  • Gain the lower number of skills from between the two classes and then choose from both lists (e.g. a Fighter/Rogue would gain 2 skills chosen from either the Fighter or Rogue lists)
  • Gain the other proficiencies (armor, weapons, and tools) of both classes
  • Barbarian/Monks may use either Unarmored Defense at any time
  • No more than one ASI can be gained per level (i.e. a character level 5 multiclassed level 4 Fighter/Wizard has only acheived one ASI)
  • Channel Divinity and Extra Attack are handled per standard multiclassing rules
  • Warlock double casters treat Mystic Arcanum spells as additional spells known which require spell slots and can be upcast regularly
Double Caster Examples:
A character level 20 Eldritch Knight/Arcane Trickster gains spell slots as a level 20 third caster (Eldritch Knight or Arcane Trickster)
A character level 20 Eldritch Knight/Paladin gains spell slots as a level 20 half caster (Paladin or Ranger)
A character level 20 Cleric/Paladin gains spell slots as a level 20 full caster (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, or Wizard)
A character level 20 Paladin/Warlock gains spell slots as a level 20 full caster (instead of pact magic progression)

Caster/Non Caster Examples:
A character level 20 Eldritch Knight/Assassin gains spell slots as a level 16 third caster
A character level 20 Four Elements Monk/Sorcerer gains spell slots as a level 16 full caster
A character level 20 Barbarian/Warlock gains spell slots as a level 16 Warlock (standard pact magic progression)


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Seems strong at lower levels, but the extra XP cost will cause them to fall behind pretty quickly. Given the HP is based on the half level equivalent, this might have survivability issues once the rest of the party is sitting at level 5-6. While I approve of a true gestalt multi-class concept, I think this needs a bit of work. Maybe give 3/4 XP, so they still fall behind, but not quite as badly.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think that the way forward to get the "feel" of the old 2nd ed multiclassing is careful multiclassing 5e by doubling down on the subclasses. As you say, a level 5 fighter/five wizard is... underwhelming.

What you might want to try is to multiclass unevenly but compensate. For example, you could make a level 7 fighter/3 wizard but have the 7 levels of fighter be eldritch knight, and the 3 levels of wizards be something very useful to you - like a diviner or perhaps an abjurer? (an interesting alternative would be 3 levels of hexblade with the Tome pact). This would be a very strong "gish" build.

Alternatively, you would have a level 7 wizard level 3 fighter. In this case to compensate for the only 3 levels of fighter, makes the 7 levels of wizard a bladesigner, and the 3 levels of fighter be battlemaster. This would also be a vey interesting and strong build.

Fighter mage thief could be achieved by combining arcane trickster with bladesigner. I've seen it done once in a PBP game and the character was super effective.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Sorcerer is a far far more effective combination with fighter than wizard.

The combination of quickened spells and higher caster slots that can be traded in for more sorcerer points is excellent. Quickened mirror image, fly, haste, or a nice fireball is very helpful. Shield, Absorb elements etc come in handy.

Not too mention throwing in two green flame blade attacks as a bonus action at a cost of 3 sorcery points that can easily be recovered.

This is all on top of a fighters normal attack routine, sentinel etc.

Of course ranger / sorcerer is even better. Potentially 3 attacks plus 2 green green flame blades at 8th level in a single round.
 

dmhelp

Villager
I initially had custom progression on the gitp forums but people recommended doing half xp instead.

Initially the level difference starts small. So when the multiclassed hits level 4 the single classed will not have hit 5 yet. But yes, a level 7 multiclassed would be a 9 single classed. But you could do cool things like level 7 assassin with level 7 way of the shadow (I let rogues sneak attack unarmed).

I don’t allow standard multiclassing. Since 3e it has led to batman builds (2 rogue 2 paladin for super saves with evasion). I prefer less of a difference between an optimized character and an unoptimized character. There is already a big difference between how you pick your feats.

I’m missing how the ranger beats out action surge in the sorcerer multiclass. But I think paladin sorc still beats out fighter sorc. I think as soon as you introduce multiclassing you introduce imbalance. There is no way to balance a standard 2 bard/2 sor/2 war/2 wiz with a 2 pal/6 valor bard. But I think there is less of a difference between an unoptimized combo like level 8 fig/wiz and a level 8 fig/sor. One way to lessen the difference would be to require that one of the classes be cle/fig/rog/wiz. In 1e this was a requirement (I guess they did allow druids in some limited combos and assassin for half orcs and illusionist for gnomes).
 


dmhelp

Villager
While there is a bit of overlap with what you a proposing, this person handles some of the mechanics in a slightly different way which you might find helpful:

The HomeBrewery - Gestalt Characters
Thanks for the link, there is significant overlap! I think how they used the lowest hp for level ups is fine since they are not having a level cap. Note that if you really were playing a level 20 game then letting the multiclass character get to level 20 is a disadvantage since the single classed character would gain 12 ASIs (or epic boons) in the time it took the multiclassed character to go from 15 to 20. So the single classed character would get a 30 casting stat and either a 30 dex or a 30 con.... That is why I think the level cap is a better solution.

The Gestalt Character gets to choose any 2 saves so they could choose 2 strong saves (dex, con, wis) and ignore the weak saves. I think it is better to pick one class so you get both a strong and a weak save.

I also don't like how the multiclass Rogue only gets 2 skills (assuming they aren't multiclassing with bard or ranger).

I updated the original post back to my original idea of using a conversion table for the level up rate instead of the half xp to allow for a little faster high level progression. And I increased the level cap to 16.

Do I need to restrict the class selection for game balance purposes (e.g. cleric/fighter/rogue/wizard only or one class must be one of the main four, etc.)?
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
It definitely strikes me as benefiting gish multiclasses over caster multiclasses. Fighter just combines so well with pretty much any caster for a minor level penalty.
For my taste, the penalty is too back loaded; only losing 1 level by level 9 is too little of a cost.
 

aco175

Hero
My campaigns never reach level 20, or 16 for that matter so most of the penalties being held off to later would never affect my players. I also would not give casters that are 4/4 the extra damage with cantrips since a straight class is 5th. This will lead to someone asking for a 2nd attack since everyone else is 5th level and I'm only a 4/4.

Ideally, I would just make new classes that combine powers I'm looking for in a multi-classed PC. This is not a discussion for here though.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
* A 4th level multiclass character counts as character level 5 in regards to cantrip damage.
**A 9th level multiclass character counts as character level 11 in regards to cantrip damage.
***A 14th level multiclass character counts as character level 17 in regards to cantrip damage.


I would keep cantrip damage at the base level. Likewise Proficiency Bonus.

BTW in 1e you used the average HP, not the higher HD.
 

Horwath

Hero
I made a variant that gives 2 class levels at certain character levels(average HP at those levels).
otherwise multiclass as 5e rules, but classes must be within 1 level of each other.

Extra levels are at levels: 5,8,11,14,17,20

that is: level 5 is 3/3 split, level 8 is 5/5, level 11 is 7/7, level 14 is 9/9, level 17 is 11/11 and level 20 goes to 13/13 class levels.
 

Coroc

Hero
If you are not of the absolute power gamer fraction you can easily go 1level at a time, consistent with the MC rules as they are, finishing with a lvl 10/10 fighter mage, and still be quite on par with your group.

Your homebrew has several imbalances, especially when it comes to max spellevel it outshines the normal multiclass by several margins.

Your compensation by making slower progress doesn't alter this much.

E.g. by level 16 aka single class level 20 your char has 16d10 hp average 88 opposed to 10d10 + 10d6. While this seems ok, it has access to lvl 8 spells compared to lvl 5 for the raw 10/10 fighter mage.
 

nevin

Explorer
Seems strong at lower levels, but the extra XP cost will cause them to fall behind pretty quickly. Given the HP is based on the half level equivalent, this might have survivability issues once the rest of the party is sitting at level 5-6. While I approve of a true gestalt multi-class concept, I think this needs a bit of work. Maybe give 3/4 XP, so they still fall behind, but not quite as badly.
I'd think if you were planning on playing from low to higherI'd just give them the highest ht pts, restrict any armor wearing r class to armor one below normal , unless they use a feat, and take away any bonus spells for intellect. Or bonus abilities for any stat. (It might be necessary to reduce them a bit more but that's where I'd start) . Also don't forget the multiclass character is going to have to roll spell failure checks on every spell they cast in armor. That's going to be a big penalty, rogues won't be able to be fully functional in heavier armor either. No one who tries to master two things should ever have all the benefits of both. That should even it out at lower levels. It'll still be more powerful at lower levels and spell casting wise you'll be behind the curve but you'll have more hitpts so I think it would be about right.

Might require a little bit of tweaking after that.
 
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Quartz

Adventurer
Gain the highest number of skills

(Among many examples.)

Can I indulge in a pet peeve? I.e. grammar. You only have two classes so you should use the comparative - higher - and not the superlative. If there were three classes then the superlative would be correct.
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
XP progression isnt a really good balance since a lot of 5e players use Milestone and a lot of DMs dont like the headache of vastly different character levels in a party.
 

cbwjm

Hero
Here are some quick rules I created for 2e style multiclassing:

You can have one, two, or three classes.

XP maximum is still kept the same (355, 000) which is divided between your classes. This means that with 2 classes, you can reach levels 15/15; with three classes you can reach levels 12/12/12.

Hit dice are combined together and divided by the number of classes and rounded down.

A fighter/mage/rogue would have d10+d6+d8 for a total of 24/3 or d8. A fighter cleric would have (10+8)/2 or 9 rounding down to d8.

If you would gain an ability score increase in each of your classes at the same level, you instead gain it only once.

Proficiency bonus* is based on your current level. This means a triple class would top out at +4, dual class at +5 whereas a single class reaches +6.

Spell slots follow the most beneficial progression (An eldritch knight/paladin/wizard has spell slots as a wizard).

Pros
  • You gain a lot of abilities from each of your classes.
  • You have the best spell slots out of all of your classes.
Cons
  • You have a lower maximum level which means:
    • Lower proficiency bonus.
    • Lower overall hit points.
    • Less ASIs (both dual and triple classes miss out on the level 16 and level 19 ASIs, mitigated somewhat with fighter or rogue)
  • You level slower than a single classed PC, this might impact survivability.

*If I ever end up using this, I'm thinking about making the proficiency bonus scale with XP equivalent instead of character level so that a 12th level fighter/mage/rogue still ends up with a +6 proficiency bonus.
 

I tried to make about 3 or 4 different versions of this back early in the edition cycle. You can probably find some of them in old topics I started. Eventually I decided that there are subclasses that can handle pretty much any multiclass concept I wanted to present except a good fighter/wizard. I like Bladesinger, but it wasn't really working for me--too much wizard and not enough fighter, while Eldritch Knight (which I also like) has a more extreme version of the opposite problem. Once I figured that out, I just bit the bullet and homebrewed a warrior-mage class. I made it a full caster class for simplicity (half caster wouldn't be enough). The numerical balance is primarily based on a comparison with Bladesinger, but I also looked at Valor Bard. Swords Bard wasn't out yet for comparison. It seems to be working really well for me.

I can provide some feedback based on my earlier gestalt/hybrid attempts:

-If you use the maximum hit points, you favor classes with a high hit point difference (d12s or d10s with d6s) and completely dis-favor classes with the same HD.
-I strongly recommend against having the actual level and number of HD be lower. That's just a mess. It doesn't make sense in any form of modern game design to have less hit points because you have a double major. Better to have their character level the same, and just have their class features show up on the schedule you like. If you do so, you can easily give them hp/HD that are half way between the two classes.
-There are some potential feature interactions that can be problematic, and you might want to look at them on a case by case basis. The primary thing to consider is that each class has a damage scaling mechanism--it might be Extra Attack, or Sneak Attack, or cantrips that upscale, or Divine Strike, etc. You want to see how these things interact. Not getting your upgrades at appropriate levels will put you behind the party in standard combat contribution, while stacking them from multiple classes can put you ahead of the curve.
-You might also want to just straight up limit the combinations, especially if you are going for a classic feel. That allows you to maintain more control over the potential interactions.
-The way you are doing spell slots (based on the lowered level, rather than what they would have at their XP level) isn't something terribly satisfying. Your cleric/mage is going to feel less magical than a cleric or a mage, and they should feel equally magical. Giving them a normal character level and basing spell slots on character level rather than class feature level could fix that. They still would be limited to knowing spells of the appropriate class levels. So you'd have the same spell slots, but you'd trade higher spell levels for the flexibility of having a larger number of prepared spells each day.
 

dmhelp

Villager
Okay, based on feedback I've done the following:
1. Characters have a character level (that determines hp, proficiency, cantrip damage, and spell slots per day).
2. XP advancement is the same as a single classed character, so milestone advancement works fine.
3. I slowed the multiclass level progression (but right now you still end up as a 16/16 at level 20 instead of a 10/10).
4. Because this makes for a more powerful character I dropped hp and skills known to the lower class instead of the higher (average would make sense but right now it feels like this version of multiclassing may be a little overpowered).

Do I need to drop the 16/16 level 20 equivalence down to a lower level? I would probably switch to the average number of hp and skills if such a change was made.
 

Horwath

Hero
If you are not of the absolute power gamer fraction you can easily go 1level at a time, consistent with the MC rules as they are, finishing with a lvl 10/10 fighter mage, and still be quite on par with your group.

No you are not.

8d6 fireball is very good at 5th level but pretty bad at 10th level. At 10th level it's more of a mook mop-up spell.

Same with extra attack.

Not to mention that you still can't do 2 things at once(except one instance of Action surge). You can either attack or cast a spell.

at 11th level(start of tier 3) every 6/5 split is worse than any single class of 11th level(well, maybe not ranger or monk :p ).
you can maybe make some cheesy 3/8 or 2/9 dip that could go above 11th single class power level, but this suggestion is also to prevent 1-3 level dips.
 

Okay, based on feedback I've done the following:
1. Characters have a character level (that determines hp, proficiency, cantrip damage, and spell slots per day).
2. XP advancement is the same as a single classed character, so milestone advancement works fine.
3. I slowed the multiclass level progression (but right now you still end up as a 16/16 at level 20 instead of a 10/10).
4. Because this makes for a more powerful character I dropped hp and skills known to the lower class instead of the higher (average would make sense but right now it feels like this version of multiclassing may be a little overpowered).

Do I need to drop the 16/16 level 20 equivalence down to a lower level? I would probably switch to the average number of hp and skills if such a change was made.

One issue you'll have is that giving them the hit points from the lowest class creates a similar issue to giving them the hit points from the highest class--it makes the other class in the combination irrelevant. Part of the feature of a barbarian is that it has d12s, etc. You're really best off finding a way that feels satisfying to make the hit points more or less in the middle. You might want to use a chart where it tells you what HD to used based on what the HD of the 2 classes are, if you don't want to end up with things like D7s and D9s. One way you could handle odd averages is to give them the hit points per level from one class's hit die, but the actual HD size (for rolling HD) of the other class. You might say you take the average HD, and if it's an odd number you round down, but then give them one extra hit point per level. So a fighter/wizard just has d8s, while a barbarian/wizard also has d8s, but gains 6 hp per level (9 hp at 1st level) rather than 5 hp per level and 8 hp at 1st level.
 

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