ver the course of the summer, the R&D team had the chance to meet a lot of people at conventions such as Origins, Gen Con, and PAX. The rules for multiclass characters came up a few times in panels or in random conversations, so I thought now would be a good time to give you an overview of our goals for those rules.
First, we expect the multiclass rules to be an optional system. We’ve designed several backgrounds and specialties to allow for a light touch of mixing character classes. Obviously this particular design doesn’t match the depth of mixing several classes, but it’s a handy starting point that can speed up character creation and keep the game relatively simple. I expect that the staggering majority of game groups will allow multiclass characters—and I’m sure that we’ll allow multiclassing as an option in our organized play campaigns—but the system will still serve as an option for DMs to use in their campaigns.
Second, we’re following 3E’s model of multiclass characters. Under this model, whenever you gain a level, you can choose to level up in any class you want (provided that you meet any requirements the class might have). The rules will look different in a couple of ways, though. Keep in mind that work is not yet done on these rules, and it might be a cycle or two before they are ready for playtest, but this is the direction we’re looking at taking.
You can expect that the multiclass rules will break out abilities so that a player cannot take a single level in one or more classes in order to combine a number of signature abilities. In most cases, character classes front-load a number of abilities at low levels to give you all the basic abilities you need to play a class. If multiclassing were to give you everything a class gains at 1st level, you would be able to dip into multiple classes to gain a broad swath of stuff or take a single level here or there to augment your primary class.
Rather than design the classes to account for this sort of character creation behavior, we’re looking at providing alternate advancement tables for each class. Imagine that the multiclass rules would come in their own chapter in the rulebook, and a table and rules for each class would reference the core class descriptions.
The other nice thing about this approach is that we can scale things to account for your level when you decide to enter a new class. At high levels, options such as entering a magic-using class work out poorly because you gain a number of 1st-level spells that might be significantly weaker than what you might gain from taking another level in your primary class. We can build the rules to give you a bit more power to keep that gap reasonable.
Finally, making the multiclass rules optional and using 3E’s model for multiclassing mesh well with the concept of prestige classes. I’d like to bring prestige classes back into the game, though with a greater emphasis on their role as a tool to reflect important organizations, forbidden lore, mystic secrets, or other elements of a campaign setting. They should have a real sense of prestige attached to them, with prerequisites for entering them that include story elements, such as finding an ancient tome, joining a guild, or completing a ritual. You can expect that these will also be an optional rule made available at the DM’s discretion.
So, that’s a quick overview on our direction for multiclass characters. Ideally, we can deliver 3E’s flexibility while keeping characters reasonably balanced to allow you to mix classes based on your character concept or on events that happen in the campaign.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.