For some reason I looked at the video below/overleaf on Youtube, it’s about D&D character classes and multi-classing and this is my response. Not sure how useful it is as most of the words relate to rules no longer used. I conclude with the words, “in summary, if playing in a balanced party, given the current (v5e) broad choice of initial classes, their enhancement via prestige classes, the nature of the XP scale (it’s no longer exponential), power games should stick to pure classes, and real power players will play human wizards.”

I have played PnP with the 1st edition rules and on the computer for the 2nd edition and version 3.5.

Under ADD 1st edition, demi-humans had permitted multi-class combinations, experience points were allocated to each class and class progressions were allocated for each class. There were limits on the class levels. Humans could dual class, they could switch class but lost the abilities of the original class until their 2nd class had caught up. The xp/level tables were exponential which meant that for humans, they basically gave one level away for the 2nd class. E.g. Fighter/Thief at 7/7 required the same XP as an 8th level fighter although at lower levels it was still quite dangerous, in the case of our 7/7 fighter thief, as their comrades become 8th level, they are 7/1 (effectively 1/1) and probably useless as the DM will have monsters & traps suitable for 8th level parties. Unless starting at higher levels, possibly the optimum strategy was to take one level of a class then dual to another in order to get innate class abilities such as a wizard’s “use wands & rods”, or a fighter’s weapon choices for use with a wizard or cleric. It should be noted that the original class choices were quite limited; there were basically four which is one reason why multi/dual classing might be seen as attractive. However, the limitations with one exception, made the option of switching a human early, or using demi-humans the best way to get a flexible character class and we should always remember that a character can only do one thing at a time.

It seems the rules were pretty similar in 2e which I experienced playing Baldur’s Gate (1 & 2). I played a Bard although I believe the Bard song (Luck) was broken and Charm Person not so useful in this story but the Bard’s use magic item allowed the use of the plentiful wands and less plentiful rods. The sub-classes were much more varied and the Paladin and Barbarian had become classes. Classes still had their own xp tables, which while not exponential  and the distinction between demi-human multi-classing and human dual classing was still in place (see also my article on Jaheria). My experimental instincts were attracted to some of the sub-classes. I looked at the Berserker, which like the Druid had a shape shifter ability at higher levels. Apart from the offering of more classes, these were still pretty focused (apart from the new Bard) and so the strategies remain the same, multi-class a demi-human or switch early via dual classing rules.

Version 3.5 which I played using NWN/NWN2 made more changes. The most dramatic was that the xp scales belonged to the character and became more linear. The choice of class for the next level was the player’s and one could thus return to another level of a class which had been interrupted. When one switched class, the next level-up happened at the character’s next progression point, so for each additional class level one takes, one gives away the same number of levels from the original class i.e. a Fighter/Thief 7/7 is equivalent to i.e. requires the same XP as a 14th level character. This is really not good for thieves and other expertise users; abilities like “find/remove traps”, Bardic song and even “use magic items” all test the character’s ability measured by their “feat” points against the item’s threshold. I ran a fighter/thief through Shadow of Udrentide and got very cross about his inability to deal with traps, although perhaps I should have taken one level of wizard to get the pixie familiar. Another feature of 3,5e is the so-called prestige classes. These were sub-classes which various classes could evolve into. Also there were 15 base classes. This choice allowed the selection of much more flexible classes and in many ways reduced the need to dual class although a lot of imagination and effort was spent on designing multi-class combinations and we should note that in NWN1, one only got one companion so creating a balanced party is/was trickier than it might be unless one created a flexible player character. However, with my much interrupted run thorough NWN2, I indulged my need to play a Barbarian/Druid.

I should also add that having a pure play fighter is a more boring option, there’s only one thing that can be done, “buff & bash”.

Another point made in the video is that many/most PnP games do not take levels into the high teens or beyond and so the massive advantages for pure class spell casters do not accrue to the chosen player character; it might be a good idea to take a level or two of something that allows some non-magical self defence if magical self defence is too hard to get. So, perhaps one should see what levels one is really seeking to be best at. In 5e, 1st & 3rd level increment power substantially. A fair amount of thought has gone into combining classes that share the same prime stat., so Paladin/Warlock/Sorcerer combos are seen as potentially attractive.

In summary, if playing in a balanced party, given the current (v5e) broad choice of initial classes, their enhancement via prestige classes, the nature of the XP scale (it’s no longer exponential and is attributed to the character not the class), power games should stick to pure classes, and real power players will play human wizards.

3 Replies

  1. My first AD+D character was an Elf, Fighter/Magic User and an archer. This was done under V1.0 rules. It would seem this is no longer considered sensible; the price paid in lost wizard spells and given the choices one has to make when taking an action, which mean that you will always choose the spell makes this seem sub-optimal to many. Perhaps I’ll recreate him as a Bladesinger which is also sniffed at, but not by Treantmonk, who also recommends a warlock/bard as the ultimate fighter mage.

    It reminds me of the frustration with Aerie from Baldurs Gate; she had the most incredible spell choices but could only cast one at a time. Racking through her spell pallet was equally a pain in the bum.

  2. Changing your mind is the sign of a mature decision making process. While what I write above isn’t too bad, I have changed from watching Nerdarchy to watching Treantmonk’s Temple. He has produced a number of videos on playing wizards and latterly on making a gish, which I want to do, and also on dipping a class for wizards. His advice is mainly to stick to a wizard, but bard or sorcerer with a warlock dip are good ways of making a gish, if bladesinger is not enough for you or me.

    In my article on Monks and the Bad Habits, I talk about good and bad practice on playing a 5e Sorcerer and also mention Treantmonk’s deprecation of blasting spells.

    Do we give too much away by multi-classing? I know that skill proficiency has changed and seems to be an attribute check so maybe it’s not so damaging, although the need to grow one’s prime attributes and secondary attributes is a weakness of [some] multi-class combos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.