Excerpts Archive | 4/30/2008
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Excerpts: Multiclassing
4th Edition Player's Handbook

We’ve introduced the Player’s Handbook and one of its classes—the warlord. But what of multiclassing? In today’s preview, we asked Mike Mearls to explain 4th Edition’s design goals for a multiclass system.

His response:


“We'll get to you,” we'd tell it, “but first we have these shiny new classes to finish first. You used to push classes around and tell them how they had to be designed. Well, now the tables have been turned, you bullying jerk.”

This made multiclassing very sad. Even game mechanics hate being called jerks, but deep down it knew it was true. Back in the old days, it was a great tool for building what amounted to your own class. Magic-user/thieves, fighter/clerics, and even the rare but potentially awe-inspiring fighter/magic-user/thief walked the land, like chimeras wrought by strange rites involving Player's Handbooks, an overactive imagination, and a DNA splicer.

3rd Edition gave us a simpler, elegant, and intuitive solution that worked wonderfully… for characters who didn’t cast spells. The system also forced the core classes to delay abilities after 1st level to avoid cherry picking, where “clever” players simply took one level of as many classes as possible (or layered single levels on to a primary class) to reap the benefits of ungodly saving throws and bizarre but ultimately frightening combinations of class abilities that—like chocolate and pickle relish—were never meant to be combined by men and women of good taste.

The 4th Edition design had three primary goals for multiclassing:

  1. Design the classes, make them cool, then force multiclassing to play nice with them.
  2. Institute controls to prevent abusive combinations.
  3. Institute controls to make every combination as playable as possible.

In 4th Edition, we strived to make each character option useful. Since D&D lacks a competitive or deck building element, it's silly to hide bad choices in the rules. Multiclassing had to obey this rule in order to justify its existence.

In the end, we came up with a system of feats that allow you to borrow abilities and powers from other classes. At 11th level, you can choose to forgo your paragon path in order to further specialize in a second class. This approach lacks the intuitive elegance of the 3E system, but it allows us to tone down or boost a class's multiclass options as needed. If everything works as planned, you have the flexibility to mix classes without making your character into a juggernaut or a cripple. Combos like fighter/wizard now work much better, while traditional choices like fighter/rogue still function just fine. Going forward, we'll introduce new feats for new classes, ensuring that all classes play well together.

So, that's multiclassing. Whether you missed playing a cleric/wizard from older editions or liked the flexibility of building a fighter/rogue in 3R, we've got you covered.

Multiclass feats allow you to dabble in the class features and powers of another class. You might be a fighter who dips his toe into wizardry, or a warlock who wants a smattering of rogue abilities. Each class has a class-specific multiclass feat that gives you access to features from that class.

Class-Specific Feats

There are two restrictions on your choice of a class-specific multiclass feat. First, you can’t take a multiclass feat for your own class. Second, once you take a multiclass feat, you can’t take a class-specific feat for a different class. You can dabble in a second class but not a third.

A character who has taken a class-specific multiclass feat counts as a member of that class for the purpose of meeting prerequisites for taking other feats and qualifying for paragon paths. For example, a character who takes Initiate of the Faith counts as a cleric for the purpose of selecting feats that have cleric as a prerequisite. These feats can qualify you for other feats; for example, a warlock who takes Sneak of Shadows can use the rogue’s Sneak Attack class feature, which means that he meets the prerequisite for the Backstabber feat.

Power-Swap Feats

The Novice Power, Acolyte Power, and Adept Power feats give you access to a power from the class for which you took a class-specific multiclass feat. That power replaces a power you would normally have from your primary class. When you take one of these power-swap feats, you give up a power of your choice from your primary class and replace it with a power of the same level or lower from the class you have multiclassed in.

Any time you gain a level, you can alter that decision. Effectively, pretend you’re choosing the power-swap feat for the first time at the new level you’ve just gained. You gain back the power that you gave up originally from your primary class, lose the power that you chose from your second class, and make the trade again. You give up a different power from your primary class and replace it with a new power of the same level from your second class.

You can’t use power-swap feats to replace powers you gain from your paragon path or epic destiny. If you use retraining to replace a power-swap feat with another feat, you lose any power gained from the power-swap feat and regain a power of the same level from your primary class.

Multiclass Feat Table

Name Prerequisites Benefit
Initiate of the Faith Wis 13 Cleric: Religion skill, healing word 1/day
Student of the Sword Str 13 Fighter: skill training, +1 to attack and mark 1/encounter
Soldier of the Faith Str 13, Cha 13 Paladin: skill training, divine challenge 1/encounter
Warrior of the Wild Str 13 or Dex 13 Ranger: skill training, Hunter's Quarry 1/encounter
Sneak of Shadows Dex 13 Rogue: Thievery skill, Sneak Attack 1/encounter
Pact Initiate Cha 13 Warlock: skill training, pact at-will 1/encounter
Student of Battle Str 13 Warlord: skill training, inspiring word 1/day
Arcane Initiate Int 13 Wizard: Arcana skill, wizard power 1/encounter
Novice Power Any class-specific multiclass, 4th level Swap one encounter power with one of multiclass feats
Acolyte Power Any class-specific multiclass, 8th level Swap one utility power with one of multiclass feats
Adept Power Any class-specific multiclass, 10th level Swap one daily power with one of multiclass feats

Be sure to return Friday for a look at racial benefits and a new monster from the Monster Manual!