Posted by : David Guyll March 02, 2010
I'm a fan of 4E's iteration of multiclassing because its very simple to do, makes it impossible to completely cripple your character, and is much gentler for the game narrative. If your concept calls for more than "dabbling" in another class, 4E also offers a way to combine two classes from the get-go, in a sort of homage to 2nd Edition's own multiclassing style/3rd Edition's gestalt characters via hybrid classes. I wanted to try out these rules, but they lost traction with me because I didnt have a character that demanded a half-and-half ratio until now.
Its been quite awhile since I last blogged about hybrids and multiclassing, and hopefully no one was holding their breath on this: in short, I like multiclassing better in-most-cases. Here's the thing. Hybrid classes claim to let you take the features of two classes and combine them, but when I initially sat down to do just that, I discovered that the result was less than the sum of its parts. Normally I wouldnt mind this much as I'm a bigger fan of executing an interesting concept over character optimization, but in this particular case the sum was a lot less.
My foray into hybrids started with Tuska. As it stands, he is perfectly viable mechanically (moreso because of his racial bonus to Strength) and mostly fits the concept I'd envisioned with the only caveat being that Josh let me swap out a warlord at-will for magic weapon because it fit the concept. I decided to give hybrid classes a shot so that I could try and create Tuska "legally", merging the warlord and artificer, which would let me take magic weapon and not have that irritating yellow flag glaring at me. Judging me.
Hell, they're both leader classes, what could go wrong?
Both the artificer and warlord get dick for class features. Artificers get to heal once per encounter (yawn), and warlords are in the same boat except they still dole out free Initiative bonuses (stifled yawn). Okay...thats all well and good, only not. I mean, artificers normally get to fiddle with magic item daily powers and get free rituals, while warlords can (again, normally) constantly mod action points.
You dont get any of that shit in any capacity.
When you tally it all up, you can heal twice per encounter (like a normal leader) but get fuck-all else. It sucks ass. Sure, you can burn a feat on Hybrid Talent, but its about an effective patch as Pathfinder was for 3rd Edition. Warlords can pick up Commanding Presence and mod one action point per encounter, while artificers can choose from either item-daily-fiddly-feature. You dont get rituals, but you can always burn yet another feat to take Ritual Casting (and then buy your own damned rituals, moocher).
What if I dont want to burn a feat on Hybrid Talent so I can still be less effective than a single-classed character? In that case I'm stuck with leather armor, no shields, three skills, and the ability to give my allies an Init boost. In the end, I found that it would take about five feats just to get almost back up to where I was, when before it took a single feat and DM permission to snag a thematic power to get the character I was going for. Another feat and I could freely swap one one category of powers as I please. Hell, at the cost of four feats I could do what hybrids set out to do, just more effectively (and efficiently).
I know that Wizards came out and said that, yeah, its not always going to work. Thats fine. I totally understand. I dont expect all MC combos to work either. Frankly the major problem here isnt the hybrid rules or the warlord, but the artificer. I went through and checked the other leaders, and they all get their healing power plus something extra, even if its something shitty like Skill Versatility. Throw it a freakin' bone here, people.
In other news, I did a quick-and-dirty ranger/shaman hybrid, which seemed to be much more mechanically viable. Ultimately, I would say that hybrid characters can have a place, its just a pain in the ass that it can take quite a bit longer to determine whats sound and whats shit. In the case of traditional multiclassing its pretty damned easy to figure out whats a good MC for another class by checking their attack stats. Also, if you dont like it, you can always train the feat out later (you cant trade out hybrid classes or "unhybrid").