The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Rules Quirks – Multiclassing

There was a great deal of disappointment around the time that 4E came out about the direction that multiclassing rules had taken; everything about the multiclassing in 4E screams “go away, we don’t really want you to do this”. The barriers that have been erected to multiclassing seem very odd to me because 4E, more so than any other edition, is a game that is perfectly built for multiclassing.

Old School – Broken All Over

In AD&D and 2E multiclassing was almost like a consolation prize for being a demi-human. Sorry about the level caps, but here’s a way you can be cooler till you hit the caps. But the way multiclassing was set up was clunky, and it gave mixed results.

If you wanted to play a fighter/thief because you wanted a thief with a bit of muscle, then you were set. On the other hand if you were playing a fighter/thief because you wanted your fighter to be able to sneak around you were going to be disappointed at how much you were giving up (particularly in the hp department)

Actually, I think its fair to say that as long as you weren’t planning on being a front line fighter, most multiclass combinations were broken in the direction of being too powerful. The fact that they would generally be a level behind the rest of the party did little to fix this.

Meanwhile the dual class option was so absurdly limiting that few players actually ever used it; in all the years I played and DMed AD&D and 2E I only once saw anyone use it. (it was me actually, and the circumstances involved were very unusual ones)

3rd Edition – Not For Spellcasters

In 3E a degree of balance and sanity came to multiclassing. Though there were still a few hiccups in the rules, I certainly didn’t see a lot of players abusing those issues. The biggest problem most people had with the multiclassing rules in 3E was that if you were playing a spellcaster you were sacrificing so much to take a level of anything else. I experienced this first hand when my very first 3E character (a sorcerer) picked up a couple of odd ball levels. Suddenly my spell casting ability was two levels behind where it should have been, and for the rest of the campaign that was a huge liability for the group.

This brings us back to 4E. Fourth edition has a very powerful tool that no other edition has ever had – a way to easily compare the powers of different classes. Now we don’t have to wonder how valuable being able to do one thing, and what kind of compensation a character who chooses not to do it should get – its built right into the rules. And yet – multiclassing is all but gone.

The Fix

I don’t think any harm would be done by just telling players to pick a class to get the features, then its open season on powers – they can take powers from any class they like. I think rules wise you would still have a balanced game. I think some players would never be able to make up their minds given so many choices – but I don’t think it would be imbalanced.

Far easier to manage would be a situation where a character chooses two classes from which he get his powers from. This would allow a lot of variety, but not get out of hand. A more open alternative would be to allow a character to take any powers that use the same power source.


October 21, 2010 - Posted by | 4E, RPGs, Rules Quirks | , , ,


  1. you should check out the Hybrid character creation rules they came out with in the Player’s Handbook 3 for 4th edtion, as it is very similar to what your proposing and you can really make any combination of 2 classes you want.

    Comment by middleagedm | October 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. We haven’t been playing 4E in over a year, so I am a little behind the times. I was going to get it anyways because a player wants to use it for our upcoming 4E game, but now you’ve got me more interested.

    Comment by The Red DM | October 22, 2010 | Reply

  3. the rap on Hybrids has been either they are not very effective but great for story/role play/character concept or can be very broken depending on the particualr build.,__SwordmageDefenderlock

    one of my favoites from the character optimization boards, gave me a chuckle

    Comment by middleagedm | October 22, 2010 | Reply

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