A Closer Look at 4th Edition Multi-Classing

I’ve heard over and over again, from various people, that they feel multi-classing in 4th Edition just isn’t worth it.  I even got to the point of asking several of the Wizards staffers if their current games (each staffer seems to be playing in several games of 4e) had any higher level multi-classed characters that they could tell us about.  I didn’t really get solid answers; it seems most of their in-house games are understandably still in the heroic tier.  What I think a lot of people are missing is the bigger picture: how a character develops over time and how multi-classing plays into that.  I believe most of us are simply reacting based on first level characters, and honestly, multi-classing in the very beginning SHOULD suck.

At first level you have to take an Initiate/Student feat which officially makes you a multi-class character, and each one gives you a small portion of the second class’s power.  Typically the class’s at-will power is given to multi-classed characters as an encounter ability, because do we honestly want someone who is only a wizard on the side going around and blasting things as much as a full-time wizard?  I don’t think so!  I think a lot of the disappointment comes from this. At first level you really don’t get a huge feeling that you’re playing a multi-classed character.

The next step for multi-classing is actually swapping out powers from your main class for those of your secondary one as you level, which I don’t think many people have really gotten to use yet.  At first glance, this is quite scary because you feel like you’re losing abilities and becoming weaker in your main class, when instead you’re just becoming more diverse.  The part where the system really becomes interesting is when you look at how these powers are swapped out. You aren’t just gaining powers from a separate class, you’re actually taking a feat at 4th, 8th, or 10th level that THEN allows you to swap out one of your lower level class powers for an equal level power from your secondary class.  This firmly solidifies you in the realm of your primary class. Instead of feeling like you are training in two separate fields, you’re still gaining levels as your primary and simply swapping out powers for some variation in abilities.  This brings us to the next part that really scares people, giving up all those precious feats!

Feats are a definite hangup for people in the transition from 3rd Edition to 4th. In the previous edition, feats were a huge way of customizing your character, so much so that they were the only thing that differentiated fighters from other classes (and from each other).  Most of the “cool moves” that people wanted to do like spring-attack and whirlwind attack were feats.  Mobility and Combat Expertise really allowed the player to change how a character played and acted in combat.  Now with 4th Edition, feats have been reduced (in my opinion rightfully so) to the final layer of customization for each character.  No single feat is going to make or break any character since each one has a limited but useful effect. But what a lot of people gloss over is how many MORE feats a character gets in 4th Edition.  A 10th level character now has 6 feats (7 for humans), a 15th level character has 9, and at 30th level you have a whopping 18 feats!  The typical character in 3rd Edition has only 7 feats by 20th level, compared to the 12 that they would have nowadays. That’s almost a 2-to-1 exchange in feats and their abilities have been adjusted accordingly.  What this means is that a character giving up 4 feats to multi-class is not giving up as much as people think they are, it is simply a trade of that upper layer of customization via feats for…gasp…customization via multi-classing!  A character could take skill focus in thievery to add that little extra flavor, or they can take the Sneak of Shadows feat and automatically gain training in thievery, plus they are granted access at higher levels to rogue abilities and powers.

As I was thinking about all of this, I decided a larger perspective on multi-classing was necessary, so I brainstormed what a higher level multi-class character would be like and what they’d be giving up to do it.

A 10th level character has:

  • 2 at-will powers (3 for a human)
  • 3 encounter
  • 3 daily
  • 3 utility powers
  • 6 feats

That’s a lot of choices for a single classed character, with a good number of feats on top for that extra layer of unique.  Now if they were multi-classed, the character has spent 4 feats on a second class and still has 2 feats to spend on other things.  What they get in exchange is 2 primary class encounter powers and 1 secondary encounter power, 2 primary daily powers and 1 secondary daily power, with 2 primary utility powers and 1 secondary utility power.  In summary, the character has spent 2/3 of their feats to become 1/3 a secondary class.  That sounds like a pretty hefty mix of class to me, but I think there’s always going to be a backlash from some players who really loved being able to be equal parts fighter and equal parts wizard, and equally good at both as any single class character.  I think most of us can agree, while that might be fun every once in a while for players (though it’s always fun for the powergamer), it really just is not enjoyable for everyone at the table. Then again, it appears some people don’t play D&D to enjoy it, and rather enjoy torturing themselves.  Plus, what often ended up happening with the 3rd Edition rules was a player would create a character that was equal parts two separate classes, and sucked at both!

The next step in multi-classing appears to include Paragon Paths or a lack thereof, because you are allowed to take a path from a class even if you’re only multi-classed into it or to skip taking a paragon path at all in order to continue multi-classing.  Some seem entirely restricted, like the Ranger’s paths not allowing multi-classed characters to take them, but I think these oversights will be fixed when the expanded material comes out such as Martial Power in mid-October.  None of our gaming groups have really had much of a chance to play in the Paragon tier, or any chance to try out the Epic tier, so those discussions will have to wait until we’re all a little more familiar.

The second part of this article, A Closer Look at Paragon Multi-Classing, is up now!


  1. Good synthesis of the issues.

    The Warlord in our Drunken D&D game was multiclassed as a Wizard and took paragon wizard feats, making the warlord’s +3 longsword into his wand… that was a very cool concept!

    The Chatty DM’s last post: Kobold Love: Interlude 2, Reflections and the Half-Kobold Template revealed

  2. Well written and good coverage of the process and sticking points. Just to toot my own horn, I also blogged about this a few times last month over at The Core Mechanic; although I took a slightly different approach and suggested that maybe in 4E you don’t even need classes(!?). So, interested readers might stop by over there for more to chew on.

    I think the take home message for the 3E vs. 4E multiclassing debate is pretty much “In for 4E you can dabble in another class.” It’s not really meant to be directly comparable to multiclassing in previous editions of D&D.

    In any case, thanks for the post Bartoneus… gives me more to think about.

    jonathan’s last post: The Dead Queens of Morvena (Part 3)

  3. TheMainEvent says:

    I think the reason why multi class is viable (if not hugely powerful) is its like a faucet you can turn on. You can spend a feat here and there, or you can go whole hog with a bunch of feats and swapping out a paragon path for a ‘true’ multiclass. I think there are good ‘power’ builds for the rogue that include taking Warlock multi feats as soon as second level. Overall, I agree with the thrust of this article: multiclassing is different, not bad.

  4. Actually Jonathan I’m pretty sure I joined in on some of those discussions originally, and they definitely helped form this post. One thing in particular is where you flat out state that multi-classing in 4e is broken.

    This article is the beginnings of my thoughts on why it isn’t broken at all, but can really be a creative way of exploring class interactions and a variety of gameplay experiences.

  5. When i first read about the multi-class feats and options it immediately struck me what it is all about. It’s like Guild Wars in a way. For those of you not familiar, in Guildwars you have a primary class and a secondary class pretty much from the start of the game. You can mix and match skills from mostly all of the second class except for one line of skills which is reserved for the primary class. (Eg. A Ranger/Mesmer uses a bow and mostly ranger skill lines but has a few skills in Mesmer available that seem to mesh really well with the Ranger skills that she relies on)

  6. Multiclassing, or the lack there of, was a major breaking point in my group’s decision not to upgrade to 4E.

    Jonathan’s exactly right — multiclassing in 4E is about dabbling, not in-depth customization. It allows you to pull a few rabbits out of someone else’s hat, but it’s not going to allow become a true gestalt as was the case in 3E.

    That said, in 4E the need to multiclass isn’t as great because players get so many feats. Under 3E, my wizard took a level of fighter in order to show his appreciation for bring brought back from the dead by a cleric of /fighter follower of Kelanen (hero-god of swords in Greyhawk). He did that almost entirely so he could easily gain access to the martial feats he needed to swing a sword.

    Under 4E though, he’d get enough feats that he wouldn’t *need* to pick up fighter. If all you want is to be able to swing a sword somewhat competently, then you don’t need to multiclass.

    It worked for me in terms of experimenting for our playtest, but a good chunk of my group is very into the nitty-gritty customization possible under 3E, and scoffed at what 4E considers multiclassing (and from that perspective, I can’t say I blame them).

    In some ways, I wish 4E had gone with a point buy system (a la Mutants & Masterminds) rather its strongly-classed alternative — it seems like all of the ground work is there, and I think it would have helped satisfy the itch that some folks have to custom build their characters (a common complaint in our group is that it felt like 4E was railroading them into a certain character build).

    Who knows, maybe we’ll get something like that in the 4E version of “Unearthed Arcana”.

    Ken Newquist’s last post: CNN: What the Frak?

  7. Ken: I think there’s a stipulation on the statement “4e multi-classing only lets you dabble” that would read ’4e Heroic tier multi-classing’. I’m currently looking more into the higher levels of multi-classing and it really looks like with more training you can become a more evenly balanced multi-classed character.

    Obviously without any actual play experience this is tough to analyze, but I definitely like the concept that it takes time and dedication to really become good at a second class.

    You also have to remember that this is early 4E, and it’s not much different from early 3E in the sense that there were very few prestige classes, and less choice all around. I imagine once the power source books are out a lot of your player’s complaints about limitations will be gone.

    At its core I don’t believe D&D is a game like Mutants & Masterminds where point buy makes more sense, D&D has become a game based on classes and that’s a very strong defining feature of it. You can always hack the rules to provide more freedom, but if they designed with that kind of customization then it would really start to feel like a different game.

  8. Heh. See the reason why 4E was voted down in my group was because it already feels like a different game.:)

    A point buy would probably bring it closer in line with our campaign style, in so much as it would address some of the customization issues we ran into during the playtest.

    I’m not sure it would have converted the diehards to 4E, but it illustrates part of the challenge with getting buy-in. You really need to grok 4E’s approach to the game, because if it doesn’t resonate with you, it probably never will.

    I do think 4E is young, and it will have more options as it gets more advanced, but I think there are fundamental design choices (every class has a balanced number of powers, for example) that aren’t ever going away. When you’ve got players hate that mechanic, I don’t know that additional rulebooks are going to bring them back.

    I agree multiclassing is a gradual thing in 4E, but I also think that’s part of the problem (at least for 3E players looking to migrate).

    When you pick up a class ability and perhaps one power, the change isn’t so huge to make a player feel like “yes! now I’m a fighter/wizard!” I do think that’s something that will change over time, as folks get a better feel for what different powers do, and what the advantages to mixing and matching them are.

    I almost wish they’d used a different word, one that doesn’t have three editions of baggage associated with it. “Augmentation” is really what we’re talking about here, not multiclassing as we’ve known it.

  9. @ Bartoneous : Sorry, I must have missed your comments from those posts.

    In general, my comment that 4E multiclassing allows you to dabble stems from my current view of it. While I did say that 4E was broken – that was an early opinion; one that has changed often while I was reading up on what other bloggers were saying about it and from skimming the 4E multiclassing flame wars in the forums. In the end, I actually really like 4E multiclassing – but with the caveat that it is a completely different animal than 3E. I expect that as the 4E game matures, the number of paragon paths that become available will essentially widen the possibilities enough that 3E players might see enough flexibility in the new system to make the switch. I suppose, to clarify, I should probably post something about this.

    once again – good discussion here – thanks for the read.

  10. “You really need to grok 4E’s approach to the game, because if it doesn’t resonate with you, it probably never will.”

    There’s certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence against this: a lot of people who didn’t expect to like it or resonate with it sit down to play for enough time and grow to like it, even if begrudgingly.

  11. I agree, 100%. I reckon the folks who gripe about multi-classing in 4e are the closet powergamer optimizers who want to wring every last advantage out of the system. Or maybe there isn’t even a closet. I dunno.

    Personally, I’d much rather approach multi-classing as a darned cool way to customize and personalize your character. Which it is :D

    greywulf’s last post: Carnivals and Logos

  12. @The Game well, I can only go based on my group; the conversion decision pretty much split along party lines — those who wanted a simpler, more streamlined system that limited choices (but in a good way) were pleased with 4E and those who loved 3E in all its crunchy glory. The latter group strongly, vigorously disliked the new edition, even after the playtests.

    I freely admit our group may be the exception to the rule; we’ve playing D&D together every week for the last twelve years, and have a Greyhawk campaign that’s been running that entire time (well, several subcampaigns in the same world, but we do have characters from the start of the campaign who are still running around).

    We’ve got a certain style of play, and a certain level of complexity that we want to enable that style of play. Even those of us who liked 4E felt that it just wasn’t going to be a good match for our Greyhawk, and (to try and bring this back around to the original point), the new edition’s approach to multiclassing was a big part of that decision.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I suspect that if 4E looked like Star Wars: Saga Edition (and more importantly, multiclassed like SE), my group would have converted.

    @greywulf Yeah, no closet needed. :)

  13. It’s funny, my “gut” feeling was that 4E wasn’t as customiseable. I “knew” my options wre more limited, Multiclassing “was” broken, and that was all WotC’s fault, and that they should all be horsewhipped, and forced to make 20 FATAL characters before starving to death.

    Oddly enough, the more I look at the game, the more I like it. It is a good different, I just wish more folks would give it a chance before making evil eye wards, and automatically hating it.

    There is only one way to multiclass and stay good at everything, it’s called gestalt. Unfortunately, it’s broken too :)

    Multiclassing SHOULD be about dabbling. After dropping out of the SCA after a particularly lurid and scandalous Pennzig, I multiclassed into white collar worker. four years later, I decided to go to fighter practice and had my ass literally handed to me. I had devoted so much time to doing something else, my skills had atrophied.

    Same principle. It takes an insane amount of time and discipline just to master one path, let alone two or three. 4E seems to have gotten it better than 3e did, with better flavor as well.

    Donny_the_DM’s last post: Okay, I’m sold. Assault on the lightless Depths will be 4th Edition.

  14. Probably the worst part in the change with multi-classing is that it’s *different*. Which is, in my opinion, the root cause of much 4e angst. People look at their 3.x characters and struggle to see it them in 4e. That’s fair; 4e is not the same game.

    Change is painful. But change is what I *want* in a new edition of a game. What I’m still a bit steamed about was 3.5, because I feel that it didn’t change enough to warrant a new edition. But that’s old news.

    Cross class dabbling may be what we have now. It certainly feels like dabbling at lower levels. On the other hand, we’re still dealing with the core rules of 4e these days. I expect that some of the forthcoming splatbooks will fill in some of the void that’s currently there.

    Plotter’s last post: D&D Insider Ennui

  15. Plotter: 3.5 was not enough change to warrant a new edition, that’s why it was still 3rd Edition. :D It did, however, end up fixing quite a bit of the huge problems with 3rd Edition that made it 100% worth upgrading to.

    If they had made 4th Edition exactly like 3rd Edition, ie – not different, then it would have just been a sham. If people want 4th Edition to be exactly like 3rd Edition, then they should be pleasantly surprised to find that they already have that game right in front of them.

  16. I actually like the “student” level multi-class feats, my question comes regarding the value of the power swap feats. Seeing as the powers themselves are balanced, is the player really gaining enough by spending those feats just to have a different flavored power?

    Oz’s last post: Dr. Horrible lyrics

  17. TheMainEvent says:

    @Oz: Powers are balanced internally class to class, with each class having a role/flavor. So you’re spending a feat to choose a different flavor, so the answer is it CAN be a worthwhile investment, but its not always the case.

  18. There have been some complaints about the type of multi-classing you can do in 4th edition. This article doesn’t seem to talk about the problem though.

    The fundamental problem with multi-classing in 4th edition is that there is absolutely no possible way to gain a specific ability from another class. The mutli-class feat gives you small token powers for some classes, but only one single choice, even if it wasn’t what you’d like from the class your trying to blend with the class your in. You have no ability to pick it.

    The mutli-class feats all focus on the powers of the classes as opposed to the actual abilities of the second class. You can gain a hunter’s quarry ability but never pick a weapon style, you can get a rather pathetic bonus to hit once but can never take any of the shield feats beyond proficiency, I could get a healing word once per day but never have a channel divinity feat, etc.

    Essentially you can’t ever actually blend two classes together. All multi-classing allows you to do is change how you do damage. Sure 4th edition is just a miniatures skirmish game but the amount of restriction on everything is just ridiculous. No one but a ranger could ever take a ranger paragon path for example, due to the requirements. Even if you pick to multi-class in a particular other class you /still/ don’t pick up any of the actual abilities of the secondary class. Even in epic tier play there is absolutely nothing.

    Morgen’s last post: Re: Do I still I still count as a heroe?

  19. Jack Trowell says:

    @Morgen : From what I understand, there will be new multiclass feats in the Martial power books.

    They might be variants of the initiate feats, or additionnal feats, but eitheir way they should give new ways to get abilities from other classes.

  20. Morgen: That’s definitely the biggest limitation with 4e multi-classing, but I don’t think you should view it as wrong. If you want to be going around cursing everything all the time, don’t make a fighter and then multi-class warlock, make a Warlock and then pick a secondary class from there. The fact of the matter is if you want to be running around performing the roles / abilities of several classes you’re asking for a lot, probably to the level of powergaming. If that’s what you really want, you shouldn’t have any qualms with just breaking the game system and changing things, but you definitely risk the loss of balance and fairness (and fun for all of the players).

    I mentioned the Ranger paragon paths in my post, as they seem to be the most restrictive from what is provided in the PHB.

    I’m very curious to see the multi-class feats for the new classes like Swordmage (if there even is one) and Artificer when they finally come out.

  21. Bartoneous, are you sure you read the multiclass rules?

    “At first level you have to take an Initiate/Student feat which officially makes you a multi-class character, and each one gives you a small portion of the second class’s power. Typically the class’s at-will power is given to multi-classed characters as an encounter ability…”

    Only two multiclass feats – Pact and Arcane Initiate – give you this. For the rest you have to wait until level 11 to be able to do the most basic moves (at wills) of your second class, and that’s only if you’re willing to forego the significantly more powerful paragon paths and take paragon multiclassing instead.

  22. My two cents. The game now is going to try and capture most of the former “multi-class” paths from 3E into primary classes of 4E. Look at the swordmage. It’s the fighter-mage of 4E. Sure, just looking at the TEXT you think “this has FAIL written all over it” but in practice at the gaming table it feels exactly like you’d expect the Fighter/Mage. If you’d rather be more magic heavy, make a Wizard and multiclass into Fighter.

    The point is that with the stripped down primaries, they can really tap into the desired archetypes that 3E’s multiclassing was “meant” to allow for due to 3E’s primary class balance issues.

    Now individual classes are easier to balance (since there’s only a handful of powers at any given tier/level). But you can dabble to make those custom “tweaks” that havent been created yet.

    With the rulebooks so few at this point, I can see why the 3E muxers are up in arms, but time will show that what people “want” will show up in the form of Primary classes and in the mean time, they can dabble to get by.

  23. Matt: Sorry that my use of the word “typically” in fact only applies to 2 out of the 8 classes, I was thinking about the Half-Elf as well because class/power diversity was on my mind, so I exaggerated it a bit.

    The important difference is that those early feats are giving you another class’ at-will power as an encounter power, whereas at the Paragon tier you are giving up really good Paragon powers to get another class’ at-will power as an at-will power of your own, which gets much closer to half-and-half multi-classing. You’re giving up “significantly more powerful” paragon paths to be a more diverse character, it’s probably still arguably a fair trade.

  24. Marty Lund says:

    You know, I’ve found that getting to Paragon really does put a whole new spin on Multi-classing. I think it is that At-Will power swap that really does it. I took a light-blade fighter build (Rapier) and combined it with the Sneak of Shadows -> Novice -> Acolyte -> Adept set of feats. At 11th level he trade out for Riposte Strike. Suddenly I’ve got a whole new ballgame with an enjoyable new trick for a new level of play.

    Riposte Strike combined with Combat Challenge and Combat Superiority makes it very hard for a struck enemy to accomplish much of anything on its own turn without teleporting or drawing more strikes from Reinhart – an at-will feature that no other class or combination of classes has at its disposal.

    Being able to take Scale Armor Specialization and Shield Specialization in this build was just gravy.

    I think the “Gish” style works pretty well going Fighter -> Wizard as well once you hit Paragon too, but the Swordmage class really overshadows it. Meanwhile I don’t see anyone really multi-classing INTO Fighter, save perhaps the elusive Strength-based Paladin build discontent with having to use Charisma based 9th level Daily Powers and wants to trade for Victorious Surge.

  25. It isn’t that you can’t use the other abilities constantly, it’s that you can’t choose which ability you get when you mutli-class. At the moment it’s just a way of changing up how you do damage.

    I know that 4th edition is essentially just a miniatures skirmish game, but that’s very limited considering how already well limited most of the classes were to begin with.

    Morgen’s last post: Re: Do I still I still count as a heroe?

  26. Morgen: Asserting that 4e is “essentially a miniatures skirmish game” twice does not make it true. As I enter my fourth month of my campaign, I know it’s all the RPG D&D has ever been.

  27. Interesting angle on the subject. For argument’s sake, I offer an alternative. Of course, this is all pure min/max with no regard for RP’ing.

    A multiclassed character is at their pinnacle of effectiveness/power at level 1.

    As the character levels, its efficiency actually decreases. At level 1, you see a huge spike in character effectiveness, and as they level and continue to lose feats for diversity, I feel they not only level off, but actually dip below other non-multiclassed characters (with a couple of rare exceptions… as explained later).

    At level 1, you trade 1 feat to gain:
    1) An additional skill
    2) An additional encounter ability
    3) The ability to have access to class-specific feats from another class
    4) The ability to chose a synergetic paragon path from another class

    Never does a multiclass character get so much for 1 feat. Instead, the “bang for your feat” value continues to decline. They lose feats. They never gain additional uses of powers, they only gain access to powers in other classes – as you stated, they merely become more diversified, but at the cost of several feats.

    In my opinion, from an efficiency/min/max design point of view, multiclass is broken in 4e when taking all of those feats and swapping powers as you describe. In terms of overall power, I feel a character is almost always better off grabbing 1 feat to multiclass, and then tweaking from there with paragon paths or feats.

    My biggest complaint? There is never a way to trade out At-Wills. One of the biggest complaints I have about 4e is that At-Wills seem to define each character to me – along with passive benefits gained for your main class and paragon paths (which is why certain combinations of paragon/multiclass is an exception to some degree). It seems like combat was made up almost entirely of At-Wills. And, when you would use encounters and daily’s, they were usually on non-minions and so their miss rates tended to be much higher than seemed appropriate for skills that you were scared to use in fear that it would be needed later on or would miss.

    Just my opinion. I know the At-Wills don’t really define the class, but that is how it seems to me when I play.

    I forgot to mention how horribly biased the feat selection is to melee/martial characters. Where is the caster love?

    After re-reading it, I wanted to reiterate that I do feel there are a couple of exceptions to the rule, but the fact that they are so far, few, and in between is a testament to just how ineffective/broken multiclass’ing really is. In my opinion, anyone who opts to take multiclassing all the way (as in, not taking a paragon path) is really hampering their character’s effectiveness. I feel that characters who opt out of a paragon path SHOULD be able to also swap At-Wills. It just MIGHT be worth it then… and I’m sure it would still be very debatable.

  28. @The Game: We’ve been playing 4e since the start too you know, and honestly there is nothing in it that makes it a role-playing game. Everything interesting out of combat we come up with could be done with almost any game. The skill challenges are great, but not for almost any role-playing situation we’ve found or used them with. I’m not saying it’s a bad game, it’s just 90% of the rules are for combat, which is a miniature’s skirmish game. You can’t argue against that point.

    Morgen’s last post: Re: Do I still I still count as a heroe?

  29. Risking the possibility of thread-jacking these comments: 4E is just as much a role playing game as any other game.

    What makes something a roleplaying game is not the presence of rules; it is instead the presence of the players desire to develop their characters and the story they are immersed in beyond the rules.

    4E is much more in the spirit of ODD (or even 1E) in this regard – the rules of combat are somewhat well defined and occupy the majority of the printed text. The ‘rules’ for role playing are far less well defined by design and occupy much less of the printed text. This does not necessarily mean it is of less importance.

  30. Tonester: The effect that at-wills have on the gameplay is greatly diminished once you get to later levels. As illustrated in my post, a 10th level character has 3 encounter powers, 3 dailies, and 3 utilities (which can be encounter or daily). When we played as 12th Level characters, it really ended up being mostly encounter / daily powers in each combat with the at-will powers filling in.

    Morgen: You’re overlooking the few but useful powers that are non-combat in the game which have no effect on damage at all.

    The way you’re looking at D&D is very restrictive. For example, there are NO rules in poker for bluffing, if you were to remove bluffing from the game simply because there are no rules for it then it would become a pretty dumb card game. If your players NEED rules for roleplaying, then there may be bigger problem then the rules of D&D.

    Oh, and I’d be careful saying phrases like “You can’t argue against that point.” You might find that it is never correct.

  31. OriginalSultan says:

    It seems like multi-classing would be better if the swap feats weren’t so high level. By making the encounter, utility and daily swap feats (going from memory here) 4th, 8th and 10th level respectively, you are shoe-horned into swapping feats at these levels. What if you really wanted to use a low-level daily power from another class? You have to wait until 10th level to do it, and by that point you are getting close to the paragon tier where you will start swapping out low-level powers for higher ones anyway.

    It would have been better if the swap-feats had no level requirement – only the requirement of taking the ‘intro’ multi-class feat. That way you would have more flexibility in swapping your powers.

  32. @Bartoneus If your players NEED rules for roleplaying, then there may be bigger problem then the rules of D&D. I think of it as less of a question of “need”, and more how is the game encouraging it? My group had this self-same debate at GenCon last year, and my argument is the same now as it was then — you don’t need rules telling you how to play, but it’s amazing the differences rules encouraging role-playing can make in the game.

    Spirit of the Century and Cortex RPG (Battlestar Galactica/Serenity) are great examples of this because they provide in game mechanics and rewards for encouraging role-playing. Yeah, I know, it’s a hippie story games thing (though BSG and Serenity remain very, very crunch) but BSG did an incredible job of getting players to use both their advantages and hindrances in the game, because good role-playing yielded them a tangible in-game result in the form of plot points (which in turn are essential to surviving the game).

    To try and bring wrench this back on topic, I’ve been seeing a fair number of comments along the lines of “you’ll only miss 3E’s multiclassing if you’re a min/maxer”. At least in my group, that’s not true — multiclassing was used to finely define who your character was in terms of the world. When we moved our Greyhawk campaign from 2E to 3E, the group rejoiced because we could finally tweak our characters exactly the way we wanted them, both for combat AND role-playing. For our group, one fed the other.

    Yes, there was min/maxing involved from some players, but more were using it to build their character the way *they* wanted.

    With 4E, that kind of freedom goes out the window. If you’re cool with it, if that kind of freedom was abused in your previous campaigns, or if you just don’t care, then you’re going to like 4E. But if not … well, it makes conversion are harder sell.

    Having said that, future books, with better multiclassing options, might win folks over. It’s one reason why I plan on keeping up with 4E, so I can see if it ever reaches that tipping point for our campaign.

    Ken Newquist’s last post: Crochet of Cthulhu

  33. Ken: I agree with pretty much everything you said there, thanks for wording it all so well!

  34. @Morgen: I’ll tell my players they’ve been doing it wrong then, since they’ve been using those skill challenges for negotiating, solving mysteries, and being chased by an angry dragon. They’ve also used their skills in plenty of non-combat situations, activated their utility powers out of combat, and, hmm, roleplayed as their character all the while.

    Just because combat tends to be one of those things that requires more rules (as in most editions of D&D, and plenty of other games) does not make it a miniature skirmish game. I’ve also played it without minis, in front of an audience… and it still worked.

  35. Wow. Nice apologia for 4E. So, those of us who preferred a much more in-depth and flexible multi-classing system were just enjoying torturing ourselves, huh?


  36. @Aaron – No, that wasn’t the point at all.

    It’s more like there wasn’t any other “real” options. In other words, it wasn’t that you “enjoyed” torturing yourselves. It’s that you got so used to it, you began to look forward to it. Chill out.

    They were not “apologetics”, they were caveats. Similar to liking 3.5 EXCEPT for the torturous prep time. Or enjoying 3.5 high level combat AFTER homeruling it back to some semblance of fun.

    You really don’t want to throw stones here. 3.5′s flaws are much better and widely known than 4e’s at this point. They are DIFFERENT games, that evidently seem to appeal to DIFFERENT people.

    Going out of your way to snark off topic? Classier.

    Donny_the_DM’s last post: SO here she is…The Weeping Womb!

  37. @the game – I’ve been using a slightly different mechanic with skill challenges. We just “free-form” role-play until it gets too heavy. Generally when one side or the other is about to cry uncle both the players OR the DM can call a skill challenge.

    With a 2 minute break – players huddle, DM scratches notes, the antagonist (the “caller” if you will) announces who and what skills they will use. The DM secretly notes which are auto-fails and such, and we roll it out in a narrative style.

    It is 10 times more fun than the bland book mechanics, and ensures everyone gets to participate as often as they want.

    We are averaging about 4 or 5 a session, lasting about 10-15 minutes each. Who said 4E has no role-playing? It is what you make of it! In fact, with the rules being left so uncodified, I would opine that there are MORE chances to role-play.

    Donny_the_DM’s last post: SO here she is…The Weeping Womb!

  38. Donny: Yeah, I’ve been playing it very loose too. I used initiative order in the last game (which involved running from an angry dragon, and the PCs not having any of the skills I expected them to.)

  39. LOL! nothing wrong with a little drama! I just let them pick their own skills – unknowing as to which ones are useless…and fudge things accordingly if they can actually RP it well.

    Running from a dragon…I think I will use that one!

    Donny_the_DM’s last post: SO here she is…The Weeping Womb!

  40. The “Student/Initiate of…” feats are okay.

    The power swap feats are not. If we assume for a moment all powers are equal, why should I waste a feat on what amounts to be a wider selection?

    Because a wider selection = flexibility, and flexibility = more power, you say. Well, I’m not convinced.

    The problem here is that they really shouldn’t have reused the term “multiclassing”. 4E defines this term into something unrecognizable. Of course customers are unhappy!

  41. Something that I’ve toyed with is have power-swapping cost one feat, which lets them swap one of each power type (encounter, daily, and utility). It alleviates my concern that multi-classing is too pricey in terms of feats, but I need to chew on the crunch some more to make sure it isn’t too good now.

    Oz’s last post: 4e Combat Crib Sheet

  42. Oz: Turning multi-classing into a single feat is definitely too powerful. I think if you do a lot of crunch research, and playtesting, you’ll find that the rules as presented in 4e are pretty balanced and fair as far as multi-classing goes.

  43. No, I just meant making power swap a single feat. The initial “student” feat gives plenty of bang for the buck.

    Oz’s last post: 4e Combat Crib Sheet

  44. @Bartoneus
    All of my 4e experience has been a few different characters up to level 4 and 1 other character to level 5. My view of At-Wills is certainly biased towards the lower levels.

    I should be involved in some higher level play soon – I’ll revisit this topic after trying my multi-classed character then.

  45. My understanding is that the only good reason to multiclass from a mechanical standpoint is to gain access to good synergy in your paragon path.

    You really get hosed if you take the power swap feats or choose to multiclass instead of taking a paragon path. Wizards of the Coast R&D really needs to improve the non-paragon swapping aspect of multiclassing in 4th Edition.

  46. Aaron: A large part of this post was illustrating how you don’t get hosed by choosing the Power Swap feats. If you’re a fighter, gaining the ability to mark at a distance using wizard spells (something reserved for classes like the Swordmage) can be a huge advantage, easily worth spending a feat or two to obtain.

    As for the Paragon Path trade offs, I’ll be looking into those very soon.

  47. I’m amazed no-one has mentioned the article Wizards published – one of their “Character Concepts” series (Dragon #365)- that gave examples of two characters run from 1st to 30th level, with detailed explanations of the powers they chose for the character. One of those concepts was a Fighter/Wizard multiclass character. As far as I’ve seen, it remains the best step-by-step example of how multiclassing works in 4E. (And it’s still free right now!)

    One of the things they mention that I haven’t seen mentioned here is the fact that once you have the Novice/Acolyte/Adept feats, you can re-swap a power every time you gain a level.

    I’ll say that again for dramatic effect: You can ‘gain back’ the power you initially swapped out and replace it or another power of the same type EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU LEVEL UP, as if you had just taken the appropriate feat.

    Oh, and it doesn’t count as using your ability to retrain one power every level either.

    The only restriction is that the multiclass power you get can’t be the highest level power of that type, which makes sense from a roleplaying point of view.

    The customization options from level to level are amazing, once you take that into consideration.

    Of course, 4E still may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but once you really sit down and run a test character up to level 15 or so you may find that 4E’s multiclassing isn’t nearly as restrictive as you may think.

  48. Bartoneus has fallen into the old trap of adopting the attitude that people who don’t share your perspective “just don’t get it”.

    It’s not short-sightedness that makes people think multi-classing is a poor option. They think it’s poor because of its poorness. You can assert that a feat in the 4e isn’t worth what it was in 3e, but even a humble 4e feat needs to result in a net gain, while the power swap feats are a push at best. You lose a power that was custom-made for your class and gain something that wasn’t.

    The initiate feats are a mixed bag. Multi-classing into warlord or cleric grants a useful encounter power, for instance. On the other hand, I recently tried to create a ranger that multi-classed into rogue. Then I had to stop and realize that the sneak attack ability I was getting didn’t work with any of the weapons my character would be using.

    In general multi-classing is just another instance of 4e taking the easy route rather than an elegant one–the club instead of the rapier.

  49. “Oz: Turning multi-classing into a single feat is definitely too powerful. I think if you do a lot of crunch research, and playtesting, you’ll find that the rules as presented in 4e are pretty balanced and fair as far as multi-classing goes.”

    Well, I’m pretty sure you won’t.

    What does rolling the three power swap feats into a single feat do that’s too powerful? You’ll still have dumped a power for a power.

  50. JJ: Thanks for mentioning that, it’s definitely a great Dragon article that really illustrates a lot of what I’m talking about here and how effective multi-classing can be.

    Felon: So instead of thinking that people who don’t agree with me “just don’t get it”, I should be like you and flat out tell them they’re wrong? I don’t think so, I’m a much smarter person then that, but thanks.

    But let us, for the sake of kindness, assume that you also “just don’t get it”. Perhaps you’ve missed the part in 4e where having a fighter who can take a power like Thunderwave, or even Fireball, and as a result mark up six or more enemies at once with one power, is a REALLY good option. All for just one simple feat.

    As far as your issues with cross-classing from Ranger into Rogue, perhaps you could use a light blade with your ranger? Oh, I suppose you want to be able to sneak attack someone with a bastard sword? If so, perhaps munchkin should be a character class then also.

    Please don’t talk about elegance in game design, when you seem to have little idea what it really entails.

  51. Not to stir the pot too much, but I have actually had quite a bit of fun with my Ranger multiclassed to Rogue.

    I initially took the Sneak of Shadows feat because we were not going to have a character in the party with thievery as a class skill, and I wanted to be able to take out the traps my scouting unearthed. I soon discovered that it worked out very well for combat as well, as I can quite easily lob a thrown dagger with an off-hand after taking Quick Draw at level 2. I don’t think I’ve had an encounter go by yet where I didn’t get an opportunity to add the sneak damage.

    I don’t think I’ll be taking any of the power-swap feats, it’s just not really consistant with my character concept, but I’m really looking forward to taking the Master Infiltrator paragon path. I have always been reluctant to multiclass, even in 3.5, but against my expectations I’ve found it quite enjoyable in 4E.

  52. “As far as your issues with cross-classing from Ranger into Rogue, perhaps you could use a light blade with your ranger? Oh, I suppose you want to be able to sneak attack someone with a bastard sword? If so, perhaps munchkin should be a character class then also.

    Please don’t talk about elegance in game design, when you seem to have little idea what it really entails.”

    Bartoneus, you’re going to need a thicker skin if you really want your blog to be seen in the light that you seem to want it to be seen. If your blog becomes popular, you can count on many folks challenging your posts, and stooping to flaming anyone whose tone you don’t like isn’t going to make you stand out from the pack of bloggers out there. In this case, you did exactly what I said you were doing, and accused a person who didn’t agree with your notions of game design of having “little idea of what it entails”.

    I’m not sure what’s so munchking about using a sneak attack once per encounter with a heavy blade when you’re not getting the benefits that a rogue gets (like the brutal scoundrel’s bonus damage). A ranger’s certainly better-suited not using a light blade in such a build, where he’s only getting the sneak attack once per encounter, but doing what you’re best-suited to do doesn’t make one a munchkin.

  53. Felon: Actually I apologize, I was mistaken. If you were trying to min-max you’d just be a Ranger, dual wield rapiers and end up doing 1d8 + str + 3d6 (quarry & sneak attack) once per encounter. Sneak attacking with a Bastard Sword (or other heavy blade) doesn’t really make sense, but I can see it not being too overpowered as most of them only do 1d10 or 2d4 damage which isn’t a whole lot more than the Rapier at 1d8. The problem then becomes that a Rogue should be able to do the same, and that’s a decent amount more damage per hit when done every round. In the end limiting sneak attack to light blades doesn’t really hinder a multi-classed Ranger at all, it’s just a fluff issue of not wanting your character to be using that particular weapon. You can always rationalize that you’re using a longsword-like Rapier.

    As far as the rest of what you said, blogging advice is always welcome and we highly appreciate it. By arguing that 4e multi-classing is less elegant and more brutish, I can only assume you’re talking about it in relation to previous editions of D&D, which in my opinion presents a lack in understanding of game design and elegance. That’s my opinion, my point still stands that it’s better to assume someone doesn’t understand what I’m saying then to flat out say that they’re wrong, like you did in your very first comment here.

    I agree that “stooping to flaming” is a bad idea, in light of that you should probably go back and revise your first comments here and provide something constructive instead.

  54. Woah, wait, who said this blog wasn’t popular already?

    Let’s keep it on topic about multiclassing and leave our numbers to me.

  55. Trolling



    I don’t really see how the methods of multiclassing are that different. The 4e method of multiclassing seems to be more gradual and perhaps a bit too gimped.

    The 3e version allows for immediate power gain. Isn’t that one of the reasons why they moved a bunch of feats and such to the second level of classes? So you couldn’t take one level of multiclass to pick up all the feats, skills, and useful abilities in one go. The 4e multiclass system seems to be an extreme version of that.

    My main disagreement with the 4e version is that it seems a bit gimped (as I said above) in that when you want to get a multiclass feat, you are one level away from getting it. I’m not sure if this is a numbers thing, but it is frustrating to be stymied by design.

    What Felon seems to be referring to is the presence of this idea of only allowing certain combinations. I remember trying to make several multiclass characters and running into this same problem. Their core ability only works with a very limited range of things and there is no way to get around it. This leads to the somewhat justified criticism that things aren’t as customizable as they were in 3.5. The issue seems to lie somewhere between game balance and customizability (freedom?).

    joshx0rfz’s last post: YouTube of the Week: Let me tell you about my dire shark game Edition

  56. I’ve enjoyed my level one multi-classed rangers, but it appears the additional hunter’s quarry damage bonus has been errata’d to two-rounds, on one specific target. I haven’t decided on how to handle all the errata changes yet (I don’t have alot of free time to tag all my handbooks) It’s still putting out extra damage and is largely helpful with very limited damage resources.

  57. @Felon

    “even a humble 4e feat needs to result in a net gain”

    From a roleplaying point of view, that’s not necessarily correct. I know many players (including myself) who have multiclassed or taken a feat purely for ‘flavour.’

    Also, whether or not a swapped power is a “gain” or a “push” is also quite subjective. For instance, a Warlord’s attacks target mainly AC. Using a multiclass feat to gain an attack that does the exact same damage you may consider a “push,” but what if it targets Will defense instead? What if you’ve swapped out a single target attack for a close or area blast? What if, like Bartoneus suggested, there’s a synergy with the new muticlass power and a main class ability?

    The more I look at 4E, the more I’m coming to believe that it was 99% crunch and 1% fluff. That massive crunch factor satisfied a lot of people, but at the end of the day it doesn’t leave a lot of room for Role Playing.

    My kind of math says that Role Playing is 2/3 of RPG.

  58. I agree quite a bit with what Josh and Felon have said – there are quite a few combinations that aren’t possible just because of seemingly stupid oversights (like not being able to take any Ranger Paragon paths due to not having any of the core Ranger skills you get at 1st level).

    Also, the angle I was coming from has to do with the whole role/class design of 4e – which is much more like a traditional CRPG, something I do know quite a bit about (unlike D&D in general). When you have class roles and functions so clearly defined and when a good mix of these roles is vital to party survival, I really don’t see the benefit in “gimping” a character just to diversify a bit.

    I’d argue that having 5 character who are all highly specialized in their own role (maybe 1 or 2 feats into a multiclass system) is far superior than having a group where 2-3 of the members have chosen to go deep into the multiclassing system. In a game which functions much more like an MMORGP played on a tabletop, having watered down characters who aren’t fulfilling their roles to their greatest potential is only hurting their group.

    There have been plenty of articles written on the issues of balancing “hybrids” in CRPGS – and the issues brought up in those articles resembles this debate very much.

    And to go back to the Fighter example – the same advantages could be gained by: A) Being a dragonborn or B) Being a half elf or C) Only using 2 feats instead of several.

    In its current form, I really don’t see the advantage of going deep into a multiclass system. There are a couple of exceptions such as the TWF Ranger who takes the Pit Fighter paragon path. And then, when you see those numbers crunched, it makes you cry baby jesus and wonder why in the hell can someone NOT backstab with a heavy blade ONCE per encounter?

  59. One thing I feel needs to be stated is how 4th ed. addresses one of the key problems with multiclassing in 3rd ed. I honestly didn’t know anyone who played a 3rd ed character from level 1 to level 20 without multiclassing or taking prestige classes, unless they played a monk (and then it only happened once).

    In 3rd edition the base classes simply couldn’t compete with the multi-class options. There was no reason to just play a Fighter. After level 4, and often after level 2 (when you got the 2 bonus feats) it was just as easy to add your next class etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a great deal of satisfaction that can be derived from this sort of customization, but somewhere in the mix I feel that class identities became lost in 3rd edition. Many players never got beyond level 4-6 in any class, there simlply wasn’t a reason to, and in the end if you didn’t multi-class you weren’t as powerful as the rest of the group.

    For new players this meant that if they just picked a class and played it, after a relatively short time they could no contribute to the group like more experienced players. From a play standpoint I found this hurting my ability to draw new players in.

    With 4th edition I have found this worry largely assuaged. Yes there are concerns, and yes the customization levels aren’t the same, but they are simpler and they are less broken. A new player can step in and pick any class and play it to level 30 and not worry that by level 10 they won’t be able to keep up with the power-gamers and have to sit and watch the game go on around them.

    I can understand from a RP standpoint that it is much harder to get all the tweaks you want for your character. Knowing WOTC thirst for revenue I am sure they will release tons of new stuff to customize your character to the nth degree, so I’m not worried about that moving forward.

  60. Not to open any new wounds… but I’d like to add my 2 cents to the pot.

    I’ve been playing a dragonborn cleric, going for a more “battle cleric, front line troop, my god will listen to me and give me aid to smite you and help my friends” sort of feel. My companions, a two-weapon ranger, and a warlock. By lvl 4, my role no matter how much I pray ( pun intended :P ) is to walk into the front lines, absorb the hits from the enemies, miss with 90% of my powers, and watch the bodies drop around me from sword pokings, strikes, or the dark magic barely missing me at times.

    There’s plenty of role-playing reasons for wanting to get much much better at hitting things with my mace. I mean, the warlock is taunting me by offering to help me slay “my” enemy. The ranger has just resolved to look disgusted at my attempts to finish it off. So what’s a solution? Get training!

    In 3e I could stop advancing as the cleric and pick up fighter lvls for the serious bonuses to hit (given time and levels). In 4e… I’m reduced to a single multiclass fighter feat granting +1 att with either one-handed or two-handed weapons. Now in all honesty I’m content to let my clerical abilities stop their advancement as I become a better foot soldier with a god on my side. Note again, this realization is coming from a lvl 4 character.

    “I just wanna be able to hit the broad side of an ogre once and set it aflame….. *Tears persue* ” (In reference to Cleric Lvl 1 Daily Prayer)

  61. @Ashabel -

    As far as missing with 90% of your prayers goes, this should not be the case.

    Let’s say the Ranger has an 18 Str. At level 4, that would give him a +9 bonus to hit with longswords (+3 weapon, +2 half level). Let’s also say this allows him to hit, oh, 70% of the time.

    Since the Cleric and Ranger don’t have any difference in “Base Attack Bonus” (1/2 level) any more, it all comes down to weapon and stats.

    So, if you’re going for a Battle Cleric, I assume you’re focusing on Strength and melee powers. Let’s say (conservatively, as it would be your primary [or secondary at worst] stat, and you got a bonus to it so it should probably be higher) your Str is 14 (+2) and you’re using a Mace (+2).

    This gives you an attack bonus of +6. You will miss 3/20 of the time more than your ranger friend. Since every +1 is a 5% chance to hit, you will miss 15% more often, and using the theoretical numbers above you should hit 55% of the time.

    If you’re missing with 90% of your attacks, that’s just bad dice.

    If you want to improve your attack percentages, ask your DM to let you respec your stats to a higher Strength. (What is your Strength, by the way?)

    While in 4e you can’t pick up a different class to improve your shoddy BAB, there is also no need to. Which also means that at level 30 you won’t face monsters that the Fighter can hit on anything but a 1, while the Wizard needs a 20.

    Graham´s last post: Decisions, decisions…

  62. In hopes to lighten this up a bit; and because I seem to be getting old and unimaginative, I thought this would be a fun question. What were your favorite multi-class characters in E3 that were stronger than a mono-class of the same level?

  63. Nero: My two favorites were not particularly great but I always found them fun/hilarious – a Rogue 1/ Ranger ?/ Fighter 4 using a composite longbow and getting sneak attack with it, weapon focus and specialization, etc. It was particularly nasty when used in the game Neverwinter Nights because you pretty much always got sneak attack damage. Pretty sure it’s better in most ways than a straight level 5+ ranger as far as to hit and dmg output.

    and a Halfling Paladin 2/ Monk 1/ Bard 1, a level 4 character with at LEAST +5 for each save, not particularly good in other respects but considering the amount of balance put into each class’ save progression, this breaks it right away.

  64. HAH! That’s great. We definitely have had some fighter/rogue, or ranger/rogue combos. Gives sneak attack, and a good spread of skills and feats. 1 rogue/4 fighter/? ranger would make a strong archer. Weapon specialization and level one sneak attack could be worth slightly less hp and the xp penalty for tri-classing. Cheesy, but not as cheesy as specializing in small thrown weapons with a high strength fighter in E2. We have had very little triple or more multi-classing attempts. We have always roll played our multi-classing, and we are old school so you would never see a multi class paladin. Fun stuff though.

  65. I always liked my silly Rogue/Paladin Blade Dancer in terms of off beat multi classing.

    When Duskblade came it out it removed the need for some of the dabbling you’d do to take things like Dragon Disciple…

    The Main Event´s last post: Hit Him in the Knees


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