As a DM, should you allow your players to multiclass?
To Multiclass, or not to Multiclass, that is the question –
Whether ’tis Nobler in the game to suffer
The Outrageous Limitations imposed by a single class,
Or to take on a Second – perhaps a Third or more –
And by so doing, overcome them?
(My apologies to the Bard of Avon.)
My knee-jerk reaction is to not allow characters to multiclass. When I developed my D&D Lite rules, I had to disallow multiclass characters. This was the only way that I could simplify the rules and still use 90% of the standard D&D rules for the 3.5 edition. However, with the fifth edition most of my objections have been addressed.
Objections to Multiclassing
1) It is too complicated.
This was my primary objection to multiclassing in the previous editions of the game. They have done an excellent job simplifying the muticlassing rules in 5e. And besides, if a player wants to multiclass it does nothing to complicate the game for anyone but him, and possibly the DM.
2) It encourages “munchkinism”.
There are players that will use “level-dipping” to grab some features from a class so they can min/max their character. This is the main objection that many Dungeon Masters have with multiclassing. 5e makes this a much less attractive option for players that only see it as a way to create the ultimate PC. You can create almost any character you can think of without the need to multiclass.
I think that I will allow it.
After much thought, I have decided to allow muticlassing in my games. I will discourage its use, but if a player has a character concept in mind that needs muticlassing I will allow it. The only requirement will be that the player must explain, in terms of what is happening in the game, why his character wants to advance in this different class and how his character is getting the initial training or what event has propelled him in this direction. (See the small sidebar in the Player’s Handbook as a good example.)
I will strictly enforce all of the multiclass rules.
You must meet the minimum ability requirements, not only for your new class, but also for any of your current classes.
You only get the proficiencies listed in the multiclass rules for the new class you take. These are severely limited. For instance, you don’t get any ability save proficiencies and you can’t get proficiency in heavy armor.
You don’t get any free equipment. You will have to find, be given, or purchase your spellbook if you want to lake a level of wizard.
If you have levels in more than one class of spellcaster, you must keep track of your spells for each different class separately. The rules are clear as to how many spell slots you get based on your various spell caster levels.
Some other options
If you don’t want to forbid multiclassing, but want to have some reasonable restrictions, here are some suggestions:
1) Require a PC to advance 3 levels in any class they have before multiclassing. This is not unreasonable, and makes for less “level-dipping”. Most of the best features of each class don’t occur until 3rd level anyway.
2) Have some classes only be available at first level. You can only have levels as a Barbarian or Sorcerer, for example, if your background indicates that you have always had this in you. This could also apply to a Druid. You could also restrict Monk, Warlock and even Wizard to this list. The Wizards cantrips are always available because he has been casting these spells for so long they are second-nature to him now, so how could a Fighter simply start being a Wizard with cantrips and all the rest?
3) Don’t allow certain combinations. Some classes are polar opposites of each other. These would include Barbarian/Monk, Sorcerer/Wizard, Cleric/Warlock, and Paladin/Rogue.
I don’t see any problem with any of those multi-class options. Actually, there are no alignment restrictions that would prevent any of those combinations. A rogue/paladin could easily be an assassin for the greater good, steathily smiting enemies that have earned his wrath. A sorcerer wizard could be someone naturally gifted in the ways of magic, but decides to delve even deeper into the magics of the world, far more than one would think of someone with in-born talent: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” It is not essential for a cleric to worship a god. A cleric could just as easily worship some great fiend or ancient power, which would allow him to borrow power much as a warlock would. A barbarian could just as well be a monk. Monks no longer have to be lawful; it is completely possible that a barbarian fights better with his bear hands, using a feral style of martial arts. Barbarians can also hold up great honor and dedicate themselves to fighting with a controlled rage.
Excellent points, all.
This is why I will not be restricting multiclass in my games. Players will always come up with ideas the DM never anticipated. It would be very arrogant for me to think I was smarter than my players. As long as they come up with good reasons (or even slightly-plausible ones) for multiclassing, that’s okay with me. I am all for the player creating the character he wants to play.
Players that only want to use multiclassing to “optimize” their character is all I want to discourage. I understand the desire of some players to spend time between sessions pouring over the Player’s Handbook, looking for ways to “improve” their character. A little of this is good. It helps you pick the best feats, equipment, spells, and such to help your character survive and fine tune your character concept. This can also include advancing in another class when appropriate. What I want to discourage is trying to “beat the system” by creating the ultimate character.
Fortunately, my players haven’t fallen into the second category very often. I can deal with it “in game”, but this can easily fall into a “DM against the players” type of game, that I also don’t like.
You point out how difficult it will be for the DM to allow some multiclassing and not allow any and all possible combinations.
Does anybody have any suggestions on how to encourage players to develop character concepts rather than just “pumping up” their character as much as possible?
You lose a lot when you multiclass anyways in 5e…the lose of Spells in the higher levels, or the class bonuses of higher level. Also if you are going a fighterish and spell caster deal, chances on you want at least 5 levels of fighter class for both your ability up and your extra attack. And that basically prevents 9th level spells. Monk Barbarian combo only allows one other ability mod to affect you AC, so that is taken out the window. So to me multiclassing will be more for character making.
You should not restrict player choices. Those choices have their own consequences. In a magical world is it so hard to imagine many dabblers in the arcane arts? No it is not. Likewise all the rest.
Regarding consequences, any early advantages are balanced by later losses…. if you can survive that long. And whats with the stupid level 20 cap anyways?
Excellent points. I agree with everything you say.
Why there is a stupid level 20 cap is a good topic for its own post. I will have to think about that. I would not be surprised if they come out with rules for higher level characters (over level 20) .
Many players will think that an advantage today is worth a possible disadvantage a year or more from now. As you say, their PC will probably not survive that long anyway.
Sorry this will be my one post here before i move on. I am very much one of those min max style players you don’t enjoy and i can honestly say its because even in the earliest editions where the dungeons where built for the most hardened of players that dnd has a very rewarding puzzle aspect (turns out in 1e and in 2 e the best options was either straight wizard or going 9 levels into fighter for the health bonuses then straight wizard) that is ignored by simply disregarding the desire to optimize you’re own characters build. After all the point of the game is to play an adventurer a hero if you will a warrior of legend like heracles and gilgamesh or a arch mage like gandalf or merlin. If you have noticed in legend warriors where both magical and studious; and wizard could go one to one physically with monsters that any regular knight would fall to without breaking a sweat and honestly if you looked at any of their specializations, magic items, level placements, and stats you would call any one of these characters broken or over powered. Sorry that was just my rant on the general idea of not letting people min max.
Next i must say as a season dnd player any ability beyond level 17 in 5th edition is a waste of a skill and entirely there just to look cool. Sure the paladin can turn into an avatar of nature at level 20 for instance (being the most useful 20 power i have seen) which lets him cast spell as a bonus action, but for instance the bard (combat caster with a full spell list rather than half of one) gets the power to passively attack after casting spells at 14th level. and the bards power never goes away where as the paladins power lasts 10 rounds. other than that it is a decent 100 hp heal over time (meaning its not useful to use during the beginning of combat and so you must waste a action using it instead when you could be healing your allies or striking your opponent for 7d8 instead. An even better example though is the 7th level paladin ability to grant you and your allies resistance to spell damage passively all the time is much better than his own level 20 boon. as for losing spells so long as you keep to the combat casters(cleric, bard,druid etc etc or 6 or fewer levels in paladin, eldritch knight, or arcane trickster) you will still get a 9th level spells just by dipping a level in wizard. As wizards have the ability to learn any spell from a scroll of the wizard group that he has spell slots for and when determining general spell slots so long as your caster level adds up to 17 you gain 9th level spell slots thus allowing your character to pick up 9th level spells from scrolls and other spell books. Not much of a challenge when a archmage is a fairly standard random encounter npc in the books.
To summaries what i am saying is the there is rarely a reason to stick to one class in the game, because the later abilities are trying to balance them self with the earlier abilities the creators already gave that class. The moment people can start looking outside the lines and are allowed to be creative with their own character they will most certainly come up with one that is stronger both earlier and later in the game. But this isn’t a bad thing. Each class only has about 3 or 4 variations before they begin feeling the same anyway and that isn’t counting if you have played an earlier edition in which characters got to have upwards of following all 3 to 4 variations at the same time. I am not saying don’t force players to have to actually pay for their tools if they want to switch or force them to find someone to train them, But a reason an adventurer someone who is already ficcle enough with their life to wander from point a to point b doesn’t have to be very difficult. It could be as simple as hey that guy shot a lightning bolt i wanna learn that, or hey i want to be able to use a shield it stopped that guy from losing his head, or even wow the way he was able to dip into the shadows looked pretty cool i want to learn how to do that. It shouldn’t need to be justifiable everyone who plays the game has their own head canon and it shouldn’t have to match up with the DM’s or there is no reason for them to even control their own character.
p.s. Yes i know the summary is longer and has little to do with what i previously said.
Excellent points. This gives me a lot to think about. By the way, post like this are exactly what I was hoping to get.
To be honest, I haven’t played 5E with high level characters, so I haven’t ran into many of the situations that you mention. As a DM, I really am a bit of a pushover. I typically allow my players to do almost anything the rules allow. As long as everyone is having fun.
I suppose I would suggest to DMs that they talk to their players before starting a game. If the players, like you, enjoy min/maxing their characters – allow it, but encourage the more experienced players to assist the others when making leveling up decisions.
I have been giving this some thought, sad I know, and I think that wild magic could show up in someone in their late teens to mid twenties much like schizophrenia. In this case it would provide an excellent reason for a career change.
I can’t imagine someone wanting to play a schizophrenic, but it would be a great curse! Totally random symptoms (based on a die roll and a table) .
Hearing or seeing something that isn’t there
A constant feeling of being watched
Peculiar or nonsensical way of speaking or writing
Strange body positioning
Feeling indifferent to very important situations
Deterioration of academic or work performance
A change in personal hygiene and appearance
A change in personality
Increasing withdrawal from social situations
Irrational, angry or fearful response to loved ones
Inability to sleep or concentrate
Inappropriate or bizarre behavior
Extreme preoccupation with religion or the occult
More to your point; If someone wanted their character to be affected by wild magic of some kind that caused them to choose a different career path, I say go far it!