Posted by : David Guyll March 27, 2012

So it looks like character progression is regressing back to 3rd Edition, which conceptually I actually have no problem with. Conceptually. I prefer the concept and execution of 4th Edition's multiclassing mechanics because it seemed a lot more "realistic" in that you did not spontaneously gain a working knowledge of a multitude of weapons, spellcasting, or heck, even an animal companion. Instead when you multiclassed you basically got a small taste of the class, and could opt to spend more feats later on in order to swap out more things or take other feats to modify the stuff you picked up.

Now In case you have not played 3rd Edition, at the start of the game it operated very much like 4th Edition; pick your class, get class features, spells, hit points, skill points, etc. When you leveled up instead of being locked in your class, you could nab a level from any class that you were not restricted from, as some classes made it so that if you picked something else you could not go back, or had alignment limitations. The main difference between starting as a class and picking it up were not getting four times the usual number of skill points. This was a problem.

Say I start out as a human fighter. I have a working knowledge of all forms of armor, most weapons, I get bonus feats, plenty of hit points, and can basically max out a pair of skills (the 4E equivalent of training in them). Halfway through exploring a ruin I gain a level. In 4th Edition I would be a 2nd-level fighter. In 3rd Edition? Well...why not take a level in wizard? By doing so I get everything that a 1st-level wizard does. Everything. This includes a spellbook with all 0-level spells, a number of 1st-level spells based on my Intelligence, the ability to prepare and cast spells, and I can even summon a familiar. In comparison in 4th Edition I could burn a feat on being a wizard and gain training in Arcana and the ability to cast an at-will spell once per encounter.


Which seems more realistic?

You could argue that "real" role-players would not do this, but instead would make sure that it was known in game that they were studying magic for...who the hell knows. Wizards in 3rd Edition had a pretty hefty age modifier under the assumption that magic was hard to learn. Even still, the fighter goes from having absolutely no talent or magical capabilities to being able to fire off several magic missiles, detect magic, and more per day. Hell, by the next day he could even have his own enchanted pet.

The other problem is scaling modifiers. In 3rd Edition monsters have Challenge Ratings, similar enough to a monster's level in 4th Edition, and like 4th Edition it is intended to let a DM simply eyeball a monster and get a rough idea of just how tough the monster is. The problem is that monsters do not assume multiclassing. A level 2 fighter has a +2 bonus to attack rolls, just from her class, while a level 1 fighter/level 1 wizard only has a +1. Seems like a minor difference, but the higher level the characters get, the bigger the gap becomes. At level 10 the fighter will have a +10 to hit, while the fighter/wizard will be at only a +7, not to mention that the core fighter will have more bonus feats to help further boost her attack and damage modifiers.

Oh yeah, the wizard's spells are also two spell levels behind what they should be at. Spells in 3rd Edition (and past editions) scaled differently than 4th Edition. All spells were grouped into levels--ranging from 1-9--and these levels set a DC that monsters had to beat in order to reduce or eliminate the spell's effect. The multiclassed wizard can drop a 5d6 fireball on her foes, while a core wizard would be doling out 10d6. Of course, she could also opt for a higher level spell that might not even allow a check to reduce the damage, or do something else entirely. Plus she would also be able to cast more spells and have a higher caster level check for overcoming spell resistances.

The monsters might as well all have honey badger templates for all the shits they don't give. CR 10 monsters are assuming level 10 bonuses and modifiers (if you are lucky, the old CR system was very swingy). Your fighter/wizard will have a harder time hitting them, especially without the right spells, feats, and planning. This was the kind of stuff you hear players complaining about, planning their characters levels in advance, sometimes all the way up to 20, or using builds off of CharOp.

Now they are talking about flattening the math, which alleviates some of the issues. If there are less modifiers, then having a half-fighter, half-wizard is not that big of an issue. I am guessing that a core fighter will deal more damage on a hit, or be able to hit more enemies, but if the character can at least land blows then that is a plus. I even like the idea of a wizard being able to cast spells and followup with some "free action" fighter attacks. That sounds pretty damned cool in my mind, especially since as I had mentioned before that a good barometer for 5th Edition would be being able to make a viable fighter/wizard from the get go.

Hopefully they prevent multiclass inflation. I would rather see a character going fighter/wizard gradually pick up new abilities, instead of suddenly learning how to wield most weapons and wear armor, or gaining a gross understanding of magic.

Oh yeah, I guess solo monsters will still be in the game, even if by another name.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. One idea that came up about the "instant knowledge" problem back in the 3.5 days required a person to take a feat "multiclass training" one level and then multiclass at a future level level. After one level they can retrain the feat to any feat they qualify for (includings feat they need the multiclass level for). This means that they are spending however long a level takes studying magic (or fighting, or thievery, etc). It also means they are taking time out of their other studies (which is why the other feat is delayed). It also echoes the AD&D dual-classing rules without completely making the character unplayable.

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  2. In my group the multiclassing narrative issue was largely mitigated by players expressing their desires to do so early on, or building it into their concepts from the start.

    I think were I still running 3rd Edition I would impose training times, possibly having the level they pick up delayed (at least the features) until they spent a period of time learning. So, a fighter going into wizard might gain the wizard Hit Die, save, attack bonus, and even skills, but the spells would come over time.

    I think that in D&D Next with a lower overall starting power that this might not be as much of an issue, even using 3rd Edition-style multiclassing. If a level 1 wizard only gets like, one daily spells and bunch of rituals? Not so bad, especially compared with a crapton of 0-level cantrips and a bunch of 1st-level spells.

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