HD&D: Classes and Multiclassing

We should probably have got around to discussing this long before now. Although various posts on this blog have all mentioned character classes and alluded to mechanics for multiclassing, nothing has been properly set down in black and white. I aim to change that today, because it’s not as cut and dried as I might have hoped. I believe that the system I have come up with is robust, and should survive contact with cunning players. It offers the multiclassing flexibility of third edition, but with more checks and balances so multi-classed characters are not significantly more (or less) powerful than their single class companions. Let’s get started.

Character Progression

A character’s progression in HD&D works far more like the fourth edition game than third. Whereas in third edition all classes gained unique abilities at different levels, and may have enjoyed different base attack bonuses, saving throws or armour and weapon proficiency, in HD&D the progression is completely standardised. Nowhere is this better evidenced than the progression table below: 

Level

 Ability Scores

 Features

 Talents
Known

 Feats Known

 Max Skill Ranks

1st

see race

Gain 3 talents;
gain 1 feat

3

1

1

2nd

Gain 1 feat

3

2

1

3rd

Gain 1 talent

4

2

2

4th

+1 to two

Gain 1 feat

4

3

2

5th

Gain 1 talent

5

3

3

6th

Gain 1 feat

5

4

3

7th

Gain 1 talent

6

4

4

8th

+1 to two

Gain 1 feat

6

5

4

9th

Gain 1 talent

7

5

5

10th

Gain 1 feat

7

6

5

11th

+1 to all

Gain 3 talents;
gain 1 feat

10

7

6

12th

Gain 1 feat

10

8

6

13th

Gain 1 talent

11

8

7

14th

+1 to two

Gain 1 feat

11

9

7

15th

Gain 1 talent

12

9

8

16th

Gain 1 feat

12

10

8

17th

Gain 1 talent

13

10

9

18th

+1 to two

Gain 1 feat

13

11

9

19th

Gain 1 talent

14

11

10

20th

Gain 1 feat

14

12

10

21st

+1 to all

Gain 3 talents;
gain 1 feat

17

13

11

22nd

Gain 1 feat

17

14

11

23rd

Gain 1 talent

18

14

12

24th

+1 to two

Gain 1 feat

18

15

12

25th

Gain 1 talent

19

15

13

26th

Gain 1 feat

19

16

13

27th

Gain 1 talent

20

16

14

28th

+1 to two

Gain 1 feat

20

17

14

29th

Gain 1 talent

21

17

15

30th

Gain 1 feat

21

18

15

 So all classes of a given level will have the same number of feats, the same number of talents (our new name for class abilities) and the same maximum ranks in any skill. Because weapon proficiencies have been folded into the main skills system there is no need for a base attack bonus. A wizard could potentially have the same ranks in a weapon skill as a fighter. Of course, chances are the fighter has a broader chioce of weapons, as well as feats and talents that make him better than any wizard swordsman. In addition to the information in the table above, all characters receive the following standardised abilities at first level:

Racial Benefits: All races provide +2 to two ability scores, +2 to two skills, +1 to one defence and two racial traits. 

Defence Bonus: All classes gain a +2 to their defences at first level. This can be applied as the player sees fit, so +2 to one defence or +1 to two defences. And yes it can stack with the racial bonus, so you could end up with +3 to one defence and +0 to the other two if you wanted.

Favoured Skills: All classes choose sixteen class skills from a list of Favoured Skills. The contents of this list is dependent on your class. To carry on with the comparison between fighters and wizards: all the weapon skills would be on a fighter’s list of Favoured Skills, but only the staff, the dagger and the crossbow is on the wizard’s list. As mentioned in the last post, class skills cost less skill points to advance than other skills. However, the maximum ranks in either is the same.

Hit Points: All characters start with hit points equal to their Constitution score (not Con Modifier), and gain 4 additional hit points each level. Every time you select a talent you either get +0, +2 or +4 extra hit points depending on whether the talent has a scholarly, general or martial bent. This rule seeks to give fighters more hit points than wizards, but notice how the acquisition of additional hit points is dependent on your talent selection, and not your level, class or classes.

Level Modifier: In fourth edition you received a +1 level modifier to initiative, skills, defences, attacks and ability checks at every even level. HD&D also has a level modifier, although its application isn’t anywhere near as broad. In HD&D all your Defences and Saving Throws improve by +1 at every odd numbered level. Starting at level one. So a starting character has a base of 10 in all his defences. He gets +1 to that at level one, so a first level character actually starts with 11 in all his defences before applying the relevent ability modifier and other defence bonuses.

All of the above seek to make it very hard to ‘optimise’ a character by multiclassing. You can no longer multiclass to get additional skill points or hit points; or a better base attack bonus or saving throws. All these things are the same for all characters. The only way to optimise your character is through your selection of skills, feats and talents.

Building a Character

At the beginning of character generation all characters are pretty similar. By the end, they will be very different. One of the first steps in character generation is to select you race and your class. There is some synergy between certain races and certain classes. By and large this plays to the racial stereotype: elves make good archers and wizards; dwarves make good fighters and so on. Humans are adaptable and a good choice for any class. This situation has existed in every edition of Dungeons and Dragons, but HD&D doesn’t take it to the same insane degree as fourth edition did. You’ll have to trust me on that for the moment.

At first level you need to select three talents and one feat. These are in addition to any abilities you might have gained from your racial traits (humans get a bouns feat at first level, just as they have in previous editions). You may select any feat or talent for which you qualify. This normally means any feat or talent associated with your Class or your Race. So a Half-Orc druid selects from a pool of half-orc feats and talents, and druid feats and talents. In addition to class and race specific feats and talents, there are also “General” feats and talents that can be selected by any race or any class. These are also available for starting characters. Inevitably, there are a lot more general feats than general talents.

Note that feats and talents may have further prerequisites in addition to a specific race or a specific class. Further prerequisites for feats and talents are usually your character level, and a requirement that you have already selected certain other feats or talents. For example, the Triple Attack talent requires the character to be either a Fighter, Ranger or Paladin, to be 21st level and to already have the Double Attack talent. Sometimes other prerequisites (such as having a certain skill as a Class Skill) may also be required.

All the abilities that were considered class abilities in previous editions of the game are now Talents. The mantra of HD&D is that no-one gets anything for free. So a fighter needs to select the right talent to give him Armour Proficiency, the wizard has to select the right talent to be able to cast spells. A monk without the Martial Arts talent is just a bald bloke in an orange dress. In order for the system to work, and in order for multiclassing to work, no class can gain any advantage in the game that is not obtained either through a talent or through a feat.

HD&D characters are therefore entirely modular. You start with a blank canvas and a bucket-full of options. You can select what you want from where you want with few limitations, because the game is designed to allow you to create exactly the character you want to play. That’s why we have a point-buy system for stats instead of rolling 4d6 and dropping the lowest die. This freedom of choice is carried over into the rules for Multiclassing.

Multi-classing

In genereal the problem with multi-classing is that it has a habit of breaking the game. Powers and abilities that looked perfectly sane and reasonable for one class, are suddenly transformed into insanely powerful and world-destroying when combined with the abilities of another class. That was certainly true in third edition and, to some extent, I think this will continue to be true in HD&D. Now things are never going get as bad in HD&D as they did in third edition: the fact that you don’t get any extra hit points, skill points, saving throw bonuses or base attack bonuses from prudent multiclassing, goes a very long way to limiting the damage. But I think it’s likely that certain feat and talent combinations from different classes may be unbalancing. I think we’ll have to unpick those on a case-by-case basis when we find them. Hopefully there won’t be too many.

As in fourth edition, you multi-class in HD&D by choosing a special Multi-Class Feat. All multiclass feats have an ability-score based prerequisite. You must have a 13 or more in the Ability Score most associated with the new class in order to take the feat (e.g. Str for a fighter, Dex for rogue and so on). If you can select the feat, it provides you with two benefits. Firstly it allows you to add a prescribed skill from your second class’s list of Favoured Skills to your own list of Class Skills. For example, the Wizard multiclass feat lets you add Spellcraft to your list of class skills. If you already have Spellcraft then you can choose any other skill from the wizard’s list of Favoured skills instead. Secondly, the multiclass feat allows you to select feats and talents as if you were a member of the new class. It doesn’t give you any extra feats or talents – you still have to ‘pay’ for those separately – but it broadens your options.

Note that even though you have added an additional skill to your list of Class Skills, you don’t get any more skill points. A character with one multi-class feat will have seventeen class skills, but still get sixteen skill points at every odd numbered level. You can obtain additional skill points with special feats, or you may decide that you have enough skill points as it is. You are not obliged to concentate on all your class skills, indeed, the rules encourage you not to.

Because feats are gained at even levels and talents are gained at odd levels, it probably takes two levels to fully exploit your choice. So you choose your wizard multiclass feat at one level and gain the Spellcraft skill, then at the next level you can chooe your first Wizard talent. The exception to this are levels 1, 11 and 21 where you gain talents and a feat at the same level. Although not explicit in HD&D, these are levels when the game tends to change up a gear. They generally equate to the Heroic, Paragon and Epic tiers of the fourth edition game. Except that in HD&D “Epic” has the same undetones as it did in third edition. Twentieth level will be the upper end of advancement for most characters. So what happens if you multiclass at level one?

You can choose a multiclass feat at first level if you like. Thanks to their racial traits, Humans and Half-elves can choose two. However, there is a special order in which you apply the effects of multiclass feats to your character. First of all, you select a character class as normal. This is your primary class. You select your sixteen class skills from the list of Favoured Skills of your primary class, and only your primary class. Only when you have done that, do you select a multiclass feat and gain another skill from your second class. Basically, multiclassing at first level doesn’t give you any game advantage. You aren’t able to pick and choose class skills from two lists of Favoured Skills or anything silly like that.

There is no limit to the number of multi-class feats you can gain, except for your ability scores and your number of available feats. There is no penalty for “uneven” multiclassing as there was in third edition. In you have the right multiclass feat, and as long as you meet any other prerequisites, all the talents and feats of the chosen class are open to you. Does this take away from single class characters? Probably not. Single-classed characters are always going to be better in their chosen field than multiclassers because they will have more class talents than a character that is spreading its focus more widely. I don’t think the game owes anything to players who just stick at one class. Multiclassing shouldn’t be less attractive or more attractive an option. It should just be an option.

Multi-racing

In addition to multi-class feats, there are also Multi-Race Feats. So who qualifies for them? Generally half-breed races have the option to select a multi-race feat that gives them an extra racial trait, and allows them access to the talents and feats of one of their parent races. For example, a half-orc is a race in its own right. A half-orc has its own racial traits, and its own half-orc specific feats and half-orc specific talents. However, the half-orc is also a half race. Chances are one of the parents was human and one was orc. Therefore the half-orc can (if the player wants) take a either the Human multirace feat, or the Orc multirace feat – or even both, if the player so desires.

A multi-race feat gives you access to the one of the racial traits of the parent race. So the half-orc could select the Human multirace feat and gain the Human Endeavour racial trait (that gives him one additional class skill, and +1 skill point per level). It also allows the half-orc to select any racial feat or talent of that race. Some races, such as the Genbassi, are able to select the multi-race feat for any race, but usually a race (such as the half-orc) will have a choice of two.

This is also the way HD&D handles things such as exotic bloodlines. If you have an otherwise human sorcerer, but you want to play up his draconic bloodline, the GM may allow you to take a multi-race feat and gain access to a draconic benefit, and the ability to select draconic feats and talents. Obviously, I haven’t worked out those rules yet but you see the principle.

Prestige Classes and Paragon Paths

In third edition, you could move on from the regular classes and graduate into one of the game’s prestige classes. All of these classes had special (and sometimes very complicated) prerequisites; and my god: there were a lot of prestige classes. All this encouraged characters to play to the prestige class. Rather than consider their character in the here and now, they were looking to the future, trying to optimise their character and make sure that they qualified for the prestige class of their dreams. Then, in fourth edition this was thrown out of the window and all (okay, almost all) characters were forced to choose a Paragon Path at 11th level. No thought or planning was needed here because Paragon Paths had few prerequisites beyond being a certain race or class.

So, what are we going to do in HD&D? Well, I like the idea of Prestige Classes, but I think that they should be special. If you have 1000 different options, then they’re really not very special are they? It is also important that Prestige Classes are not any more powerful than regular classes. They should simply do different things, not better things. The choice to enter a prestige class should be based on the story of your character, not on any desire to gain a mechanical advantage over the other players. And probably most importantly:

PRESTIGE CLASSES SHOULD NOT BE GENERIC!! 

Almost all of the Prestige Classes published in third edition (or the paragon paths published in fourth edition) do not need to exist. The powers and abilities of classes such as the Loremaster, the Archmage, the Assassin, the Cavalier, the Drunken Master and so on don’t need to be classes in their own right. They can just become options for the standard classes. Any paladin should have access to the abilities of the Cavalier class without having to bend over backwards to make the prerequisites. Likewise, racial based classes such as the Elemental Tempest (for the genasi) or the Warforged Juggernaut (for the warforged) might as well be converted into a bunch of racial talents that simply aren’t available until higher levels.

Prestige Classes in HD&D take the form of a highly specialised group of talents and feats (usually no more than three talents, and six feats). These abilities are linked in theme, and almost certainly tied to a particular tutor, instititution, group or school. The demon-hunting Knights of the Chalice from the Complete Warrior is a good example of what a Prestige Class should be. All prestige classes should be intrinsic to the campaign setting. They should not exist without reason or tether to Iourn, or the Realms or where-ever the game takes place. As you can appreciate, there are going to be significantly less prestige classes than before. Many players will never bother to consider them as options for their character: which is fine. They should be uncommon.

Taking a leaf out of 4e, the requirements for entering a prestige class are going to be much easier in HD&D than they were in third edition. You don’t need a multi-class feat to enter a prestige class. What you must do is meet three prerequisites: 1) A certain class or race; 2) a certain experience level; 3) you must complete a role-playing based prerequisite in game: this could be a special service, a quest or anything else the GM can devise. On rare occassion there may be additional prerequisites, but it is my hope that they would be few and far between.

As a note, fourth edition’s Epic Destinies are just plain silly. Any elements from them that I want to save (and there are very few) can be folded into the talents and feats of specific races, classes or prestige classes.

Level Dependent Benefits

In fourth edition you never see the phrase the phrase: “inflicts x damage per caster level” or “lasts x rounds per caster level”. This is because 4e has completely divorced a character’s level from his intrinsic proficiency in an individual character class. For example, in fourth edition a Fighter might take the Wizard multiclass feat. He might take further multiclass feats and decide to use the paragon-mulitclassing option to concentrate in the Wizard class instead of taking a fighter-based paragon path. At twentieth level such a character would look like this:

Fighter Powers: 1 at-will, 3 encounters, 3 dailies, 4 utilities
Wizard Powers: 1 at-will, 2 encounters, 2 dailies, 2 utilities

These powers have been gained at various levels, and are the product of retraining. Whereas in third edition this character might be described as a Fighter 12/Wizard 8, that’s just not possible in fourth edition. Whichever way you slice it, this character is a Level 20 Fighter/Wizard, just in the same way a Fighter who dabbles in multiclassing and gains no wizard powers at all, is a Level 20 Fighter/Wizard. There’s no way to tease apart your level of skill in each individual class.

HD&D has the same problem. As we have seen, HD&D characters are modular. Their class abilities are built from a selection of talents. The multiclassing system in HD&D is much freer than in 4e, but still follows much the same rules. You choose a multiclass feat to gain access to the talents (and feats) of another class. As with 4e this means that you cannot tell the level of proficiency in an individual class.

Let’s take that perennial multiclasser Elias Raithbourne as an example. In third edition Elias is 14th level. He is a Fighter 2, Sorcerer 1, Rogue 2, Paladin 5, Pious Templar 4. But how would that translate to HD&D?

Well at 14th level Elias has eleven talents. Assuming Marc still wants access to all these classes, and is willing to spend the required feats, then he can select talents from any these classes. He decides to take Spellcasting Level One and Summon Familiar (from the sorcerer), Evasion (from the rogue), Two-Handed Master (from the Fighter), Double Attack (from the Fighter), Smite (from the Paladin), Lay on Hands (from the Paladin), Summon Warhorse (from the Paladin), Spellcasting Level 1 (from the Paladin), Spellcasting Level 2 (from the Paladin), and for the eleventh talent he decides to choose something related to his blue dragon bloodline.

So what level is Elias in all these classes? Who knows? He can’t be described as anything other than a Level 14 Sorcerer/Fighter/Rogue/Paladin/Templar. So does that really matter? Unfortunately, I think it does.

There are a number of spells, talents and even feats that contain level dependent benefits. The Fireball inflicts 1d6 damage per level to a maximum of 10d6. The Monk’s slow-fall ability lets you drop an increasing distance without taking any falling damage. To what do we peg these level dependent benefits?

Do we just say that they relate to your overall class level? That would be easiest but would it be fair? Say Elias multiclassed into Monk at 14th level and picked up the Slow Fall talent at 15th level. Suddenly Elias is better at slow-falling that Raza (who has been a monk from level one) because Raza is still only 14th level.

There’s a disparity here, certainly. But it should also be noted that there is a mechanical benefit from doing it this way. If you select a talent and don’t get the full benefit of your level from it, then the usefulness of the talent is diminished and may even be considered worthless. If getting Slow Fall will only allow Elias to drop safely 30 feet, while Raza can use it to drop 150 feet then what’s the point in multiclassing at all?

This was a big problem in third edition. Multiclassing had the potential to create under-powered (or rather oddly-powered) characters because many low-level abilities just aren’t that useful at higher levels. Do we still consider this a problem in HD&D, or do we said say that it’s a feature? The system simply shouldn’t encourage you to pick up every class in the game? Personally, I think that multiclass characters should be just as powerful as single class characters regardless of the number of classes they have multiclassed into. They shouldn’t be more powerful, but they shouldn’t be penalised for multi-classing. I suspect some of you might feel differently.

For those of you who do feel differently, I will ask you this:

If we don’t peg level-dependent benefits to a character’s level, then what we do we peg it to? As I have pointed out, there is no conception of individual levels in a multiclass character’s bundle of classes. If Slow Fall doesn’t improve by(e.g.) 10 feet per level, then how does it improve? Do we peg it to talents? Does the text of Slow Fall read something like this: “For every additional Monk Talent you have beyond this one you can Slow Fall an additional 20 feet”?

Now that might work, but I have two reservations. Firstly, it’s difficult to keep track of. If all level-dependent benefits run off you level and you know you’re level 14 then its pretty easy to work out what you can do on the fly. If you have to count up your talents every time you jump out of a window (and you just know that some players will do that) then the game will start to grind. Secondly, although this mechanic works fairly well for something as simple as Slow Fall, it doesn’t work as well for spells.

But then spells are a different animal. Each individual level of spells is a different talent. You can’t get Spellcasting Level Two, unless you have already selected Spellcasting Level One. So in one respect, it’s self regulating. You can’t just choose to get hold of a fireball at 9th level if you’ve not had previous spellcasting experience. Low level spells usually aren’t quite as devastating.

In the above example Elias is able to cast 1st level sorcerer spells. He can’t cast anything higher than that, but he’s mastered 1st level incantations. However, he’s Level 14 so his caster  level is also 14. This means that when he casts magic missile he casts it as a 14th level caster. The range and number of missiles increase accordingly. Is this right and proper? What if Elias chose not to pick up that Spellcasting talent until level 13? He goes from not knowing anything about magic at all, to able to cast magic missiles as a 13th level caster. Is this too much?

We need to decide how these level dependent benefits work, and we need to decide pretty soon. I encourage debate on this topic. I am a little torn as to which way to go. But unless someone comes up with a good alternative, I am inclined to go for the easiest and most mechanically consistant solution – i.e. level dependent benefits simply run off your character’s level. So if you feel strongly, convince me otherwise.

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10 thoughts on “HD&D: Classes and Multiclassing

  1. My eyes glazed over slightly from the massive wall of text but as far as spells and spell casting talents go how about this:

    Your maximum caster level is your spellcasting talent level x3 so
    Sorcerer 1 maxes at 3
    Sorcerer 2 maxes at 6
    Sorcerer 3 maxes at 9

    Sorcerer 9 maxes at 27

    So Elias would be able to pick up a level of spell casting for magic missile, etc anywhere but unless more focus was put on it, the spells would remain fairly weak (as they should be).

    My only thought for what to do with the other tricky feats would be, using slow fall as an example, ‘slow fall 30’ then when you level up it get’s upgraded to ‘slow fall 40’, then ‘slow fall 50’ etc.

  2. Eyes glazed over…. Cheeky devil.

    You propose that talents do increase in power with character level, but only to a point. So Elias takes Spellcasting at 1st level he’s a 1st level caster. At 2nd level he’ll be a second level caster, at 3rd level he’ll be a third level caster, but he can’t be a 4th level caster until he takes the next talent.

    Okay. I see the principle there. My question is: how easy is this to adjudicate? The 15th level Elias casts his Charm Person spell that lasts for one round per level. Can Elias just snap his fingers and realise that he’s still only a third level caster? Would it be obvious? Would it slow the game down? Can we think of a form a words that would make the rules clearer?

    One thing I didn’t mention in the post above, but is relevent:

    The power of spellcasting is largely dependent on your Spellcraft skill. The more ranks in that skill, the more likely it is that you spells affect high level characters. Well, there’s nothing stopping 15th level Elias having maximum ranks in Spellcraft. He’s already punching above his weight, so why not all the way?

  3. Actually, I’ve had a thought about all this – at least where spells are concerned. The solution may be just to do what 4e does and give spells either none or few level dependent benefits.

    Take fireball for example. The lowest level you can get access to it is 5th level. So it starts out inflicting a minimum of 5d6 damage. It then improves by 1d6 per level, but only for five levels because it maxes out at 10d6.

    So a 19th level fighter who dabbles in wizard and picks up “Spellcaster Level Three” as his next talent is still only doing 10d6 damage with a fireball, not 19d6. Fireball is therefore a suboptimal choice as a damage dealer for him, because his melee attacks probably do a lot more than that. Yes, fireball can still affect a large area, but the amount of damage it can do, compared to the amount of a hit points 19th level foes will have, makes it less useful.

    This principle could be extended to all spells. Simply put a cap on the level dependent benefits of a spell. Have the spell improve as the player gains levels but only to a certain point. That way caster level can still equal character level. It’s just that a very high caster level may be irrelevent for low level spells.

    Still not sure how to deal with a talent with level-dependent benefits though (like Slow Fall).

  4. I feel as I though I’m talking to myself here, so please feel free to pitch in!

    When we think of level-dependent abilities that aren’t spells, Slow Fall is not the first thing that springs to mind. The king of all level-dependent abilities is the rogue’s Sneak Attack. It’s the class’s defining ability, and probably not something you want to give away for the price of one talent + one multiclass feat.

    Or is it?

    In third edition Sneak Attack does an exta 1d6 damage per two levels to a maximum of 10d6 at 20th level. In fourth edition sneak attack does 2d6 extra damage (rising to 3d6 at level 11 and 5d6 at level 20). In order to inflict this extra damage your opponent needs to surprised, flanked or (as 4e calls it) granting Combat Advantage. I like this term, so we’ll call it Combat Advantage in HD&D too.

    In HD&D, Sneak Attack will do the same damage as in third edition. The 1d6 per 2 levels progression works surprisingly well in the Average Damage versus Average Hit Points stakes. Now “Sneak Attack” will be a talent that is open to Rogues, and to any one else who selects the Rogue Multiclass feat. So, is it fair if a wizard selects the Rogue Multiclass feat and the Sneak Attack talent at 21st level, and goes from having no understanding of sneak attacks, to being able to use the ability as well as the party’s rogue?

    Or to put it another way, why wouldn’t every fighter choose Sneak Attack in addition to their fighter talents because it’s just so damn useful?

    The answer (as with spells) is to make Sneak Attack slightly less attractive to other classes. It’s still very useful, and still something that you might imagine that other classes would pick up if they have umlimited talents. But it’s not a “must have” ability that a fighter would automatically choose instead of his Fighter talents.

    Sneak Attack comes with some built-in limitations that don’t really matter to a character built as a quintessential rogue, but might well matter to a fighter or a wizard.

    1) Sneak attack can only be used with some weapons. In melee you need to use a light weapon, like a dagger or a rapier. At range you can use a light thrown weapon, a bow or a crossbow – but you must be standing within thirty feet.

    Longswords, great swords and axes can’t be used to sneak attack. So a fighter built around these damage dealing weapons wouldn’t be able to use Sneak Attack with the weapon he is most skilled at. Therefore it would be a suboptimal choice. Equally, a wizard can’t sneak attack with a spell. And yes, there might be feats that let a character sneak attack with different weapons, but if a fighter is willing to go down the road of a multiclass feat + a talent + another couple of feats to be able to stand there and sneak attack with his claymore, then I say we let him. The player has invested considerable resources to make this happen.

    Attacks at range with sneak attack seem useful to all archers (but see multiple attacks below). However, using Sneak Attack to snipe with a bow is the equivalent of the extra Precision Damage that was gained from several third edition prestige classes such as the Order of Bow Initiate. Frankly, I think that’s fair enough.

    2) Sneak Attack is a standard action. You only get one standard action per round. If attacking with your Sneak Attack talent is a standard action, then you can’t use that action for anything else. This means if you sneak attack, then you can’t make multiple attacks.

    Most fighter-types will have the Double Attack or Triple Attack talents. As a standard action they can attack twice or three times instead of once. Rangers may have the Two-Weapon Fighting talent, which lets them attack with a weapon in each hand as a standard action.

    None of these stack. You can’t use Double Attack and Two-Weapon Fighting in the same round because they are both standard actions. Equally, if 21st level fighter who can usually attack three times uses Sneak Attack he can only attack once. He is giving up two attacks in order to add Sneak Attack damage to one attack. It’s probably not worth it.

    This isn’t a problem for a Rogue, who probably only has one attack per round anyway. Suddenly, this isn’t looking like quite such a silly idea is it?

    I believe that taken together points (1) and (2) make Sneak Attack less attractive for other classes. A 21st level fighter can pick up Sneak Attack, and can suddenly inflict an extra 11d6, but if he does he isn’t playing to his strengths. A fighter probably isn’t very stealthy so he can’t use Sneak Attack as part of a subtle assassination. In melee combat, even if he has combat advantage over a foe, a fighter is probably better off making multiple attacks then making one Sneak Attack.

    In short, I think that (like spells) all level-dependent talents can simply run of your character’s level. A 20th level bard with the Monk multiclass feat and the Slow Fall talent, can drop the same distance as a Monk with the Slow Fall talent. The difference is in the way the talent is described, and the way other elements of the game interact with that talent.

    Postscript

    What does this mean for Elias? Well, unless he’s willing to devote even more feats to the cause then he won’t be able to Sneak Attack with his longsword or greatsword in HD&D. And that probably means that there’s no point in him taking the talent in the first place.

    However, the Dirty Fighting talent is an excellent replacement for it, and in keeping with the way Elias’s kick-them-in-groin Paladin has developed. HD&D characters may not have all the same elements as their third edition counterparts, but their overall feel and mechanical impact should be pretty much the same.

  5. After months of cogitation, Neil says:

    I’m afraid I completely disagree with you, though I understand it is difficult.

    In my opinion multi-classing shouldn’t, generally speaking, be allowed. There must be a reason for someone to suddenly want to go into the clergy, become a monk, study wizardry etc. I can see how throughout a long campaign certain characters might naturally become other classes. For example perhaps a priest decides to become a Paladin as he is attracted to the more knightly profession. A bit later maybe something happens to a member of his family and he becomes more wrathful and the Avenger class is more suited. Even later, he finds himself kicked out, alone destitute and starving. Naturally he resorts to thievery (Rogue class) until he is taken in by a kindly old man. He discovers, much to his surprise, that the man is in fact a wizard and he becomes his apprentice. An extreme example but one that I can see working. The character would have to be quite old, none of this multi-classing at level one rubbish, and it is justified by his background.

    If a character becomes another class they should stop progressing in their original class since they are no longer dedicated to it, and start from level one in their new class. It is ridiculous to have the possibility of a 14th level fighter deciding to dabble in magic, gain the multi-class feat, gain a couple of talents and start flinging fireballs as powerful as a 14th level wizard could! I don’t see this as a problem since the player simply continues as though he is now the new class and gains talents abilities etc as if a new character. He doesn’t lose any of his other stuff but he doesn’t progress, in the original class, either. Realistically the character should slowly lose skill in the previous class as his skills atrophy with disuse, particularly classes such as wizards, but I think this is probably adding a layer of unecessary complexity. There may be some issues with gaining talents etc if for example in the previous class you got to a level which enabled you to gain an additional feat the next level you multi-class enabling you to gain another feat whereas if you had stayed in your original class you wouldn’t have (badly worded but I think you will see what I mean).

    You shouldn’t be able to multi-class from a religious class to a non-religious one and still have the religious class’s powers (skills yes but anything given to the character through his connection with a God should be stripped from him.

    No-one should be able to sneak attack with a claymore it is too slow and unwieldly. If the sneak attack is so useless to a fighter why would he pick it? The reason to gain classes, other than for background colour, is to gain an advantage. In this case the advantage would be that the fighter can now be stealthy/pick pockets or whatever, basically something he couldn’t do before. Going back to the sneak attack, it might not be as good as the fighter’s normal attacks but it has the advantage that he isn’t going toe-to-toe with the opponent. If you allow multi-class characters to be as good as those characters that have progressed as usual what is the point of single classes? What was the point of that rogue working hard to gain the skill necessary to inflict more and more damage in a sneaky way if a wizard etc can just come along and get the same benefit for a few talents/feats? You are thinking too much about the mechanics and not enough about why these powers/abilities progress with level IMHO.

    If you don’t want to link powers etc with level then link them with a skill only that class has, spellcraft for example.

  6. I think we are butting heads against an old problem: you want to build a better roleplaying game, while I want to build a different version of D&D. I think we’ve established (at length) that those two things are not necessary the same!

    However, I do fundamentally disagree with a ban on multiclassing. Why shouldn’t anyone of any class be able to learn new skills and abilities? Why shouldn’t a cleric learn how to fight with a warhammer in two hands, or a rogue cloak himself in illusion magic?

    The class abilities (aka talents) are entirely modular, and each character has a finite number of them. If a rogue chooses to spend his talents on learning magic, then he’s not able to learn as many Rogue talents. So, although he might have magic on his side, he’s not as good a rogue as he otherwise would have been because he hasn’t concentrated on it.

    Why would skills atrophy with disuse? A fighter who multiclassed into a wizard would still be swinging his sword around in combat. He’d still be using his old fighter talents. They wouldn’t disappear.

    I agree there might be roleplaying or ethical reason why certain characters would never multiclass, or not multiclass into certain classes. An undead hunting cleric of Lathandar probably wouldn’t multiclass into a Necromancer. You can imagine that certain classes might be against the ethos of certain religions. But these are special cases.

    Why would a god strip away all divine powers for a little multiclassing? What if a priest of the god of magic multiclasses into Wizard to gain an understanding of mortal magic? Or a cleric of a god of nature multiclasses into a ranger so he can better live in the wild? Or a cleric of a god of war multiclassing into a fighter or warlord?

    I also can’t see why characters can’t multiclass at level one. You have been able to in every other version of D&D. It’s just a means to express a different type of character. It’s all about the background.

    Which is where HD&D has an an advantage over previous versions of the game. I can afford to place roleplaying and story as prerequisites for multiclassing. The rules may exist to allow a character to take a multiclass feat, but there also needs to be in-game justification of selecting it. Especially if it’s happening in the middle of the campaign. This isn’t a mechanical safeguard: it’s a conceptual one, and designed to preserve the integrity of the plot.

    The Power of Multiclassing

    Maybe multiclassing is too easy. I was considering increasing the prerequisites on multiclass feats from a stat of 13, to a stat of 13 *and* skill related to the class as a class skill. That would make it easier for characters who are already fairly close to the class in question to multiclass (e.g. a ranger multiclassing into druid), but would put another obstacle in the way of other characters.

    Are multi-class characters too powerful? Maybe. The point of the blog post was to work that out. Certainly talents (and spells) that escalate in power with a character’s level may work better for higher level dabblers, than they do for lower level characters built of one class. I’m not defending that. It’s a problem we need to overcome.

    Linking them to skills is a viable idea. But it’s fairly easy for a fighter to get his (e.g.) Spellcraft skill up high enough to make the use of any spellcasting talents he selects. It would be another hurdle to climb though, something to think about.

    Multi-class characters might be “as good” as single classes characters in certain aspects of that single-classed character’s schtick. You might have a rogue who could fight with two weapons as well as a ranger, or a fighter who could sneak attack as well as a rogue. Or a warlord who could cast third level spells as well as wizard. But they wouldn’t be as good at all elements of the other class’s role:

    The rogue couldn’t track or tame animals like a ranger, the fighter couldn’t sneak like the rogue, and the warlord couldn’t cast any spells of higher than third level as well as the wizard (or at all).

    A multiclasser who invests in the right feats and talents could play a second role really well, but like all multiclassers from all versions of the game his versatility comes at the price of expertise. Maybe the fighter just doesn’t have the free slot to get the Longbow Mastery talent because he multiclassed and picked up Sneak Attack.

    What do we owe single classes?

    Another interesting point (and my last, I promise) is the general assumption that the game should reward single class characters for being single class characters? Why?

    No one flounces around a game world in character saying “I’m a Warlord!” The character classes themselves are just conventions. They are aids to character generation, nothing more. If you want to play a sneaky thief then take the Rogue class, chances are this is where you’ll find most of the abilities you want. But if you want to play a rogue who can also stand and fight, or who can turn himself invisible with a spell… that’s where multiclassing comes in.

    Multiclassing is a fundamental tool to escape the rigidity of the class system. It enables players to play the sort of character they want to play and not one that is defined by a narrow character class. And isn’t that the point?

  7. Neil says:

    To my mind you are talking about two very different things, one is becoming another class entirely and the other is cherry picking some skills of other classes.

    You seem to have failed to understand the sheer effort to become another class in addition to your original one. Each class is good at what they do because they have spent time on the requisite skills, there is no way on earth it would be fair to have someone from one class at, say 10th level, multi-class, take a few feats/talents whatever and then be as good as a 10th level of the new class! Yes, perhaps they could have facets but not everything and magic should be completely out unless gifted by a powerful entity or has an innate ability such as the sorceror class. It is meant to take years of dedication to learn such arts and to debase it by allowing someone to just pick it up is silly. Looking at the fighter class, European Knights took years to master their skills and did little else. The samurai schooled kids from as young as 5 until they were 14/15!

    Taking a rather more down-to-earth analogy how many people do you know who have multiple degrees? Even less that have multiple doctorates. Why? Because it takes dedication to specialise in a field (class).

    Why would skills atrophy with disuse? Because they do! You can take pretty much any skill and if you stop doing it for long enough you will get worse at it, the more complicated the skill the quicker it is lost. A fighter who picks up some rogue skills, for example, is splitting his time between rogue and fighter and thus will slowly increase in rogue at the expense of, at least, slowing down his increase in fighter. I seem to remember in 2nd ed or 3rd (both?) a multi-class character had to split their XP between the different classes and therefore slowed their progress, are you keeping this?

    When will the priest have time to learn these new skills etc? If he takes time from his normal duties such as praying then his dedication is lacking and the God may not like that. Why would a priest want to gain an understanding of mortal magic? Isn’t the God’s gifts good enough? If a priest of a God of magic wants to do this then there should be provision within the class for doing so. A character who is trying to do more than one thing invariably ends up doing them all a bit poorly compared to the character who sticks to one thing only.

    Multi-classing at level one is basically wanting your cake and eat it too! When you were learning something for the first time how hard was it? How much harder would it have been if you tried something equally as hard as well?

    As I said at the start, I have no problem with other classes using other skills (to be honest I think most skills should be available to any class, if not from the beginning then at least they should be able to pick them up), but going to a completely other class is very different.

    What was wrong with my idea of stopping in the original class and then continuing in the new one? He could always go back if he wanted.

  8. To be honest, all your suggestions sound far too restrictive. It’s like a step back to second edition, or the worse aspects of fourth edition.

    To illustrate quite how far apart we are on this issue, when I was thinking up the basics of HD&D I was a whisker away from getting rid of classes altogether. I thought we could just have a pool of talents with various prerequisites, and players could please themselves. Ultimate freedom. The *only* reasons I didn’t do this was:

    1) The classes are strong archetypes, and therefore an aid to character generation.

    2) Building an effective character would require too much system mastery. You’d need to understand all the options to be able to choose the right ones.

    3) It didn’t feel like D&D.

    I really didn’t care that characters would have the ability to mix and match different elements of different classes. Every decision in the game (or every version of D&D since 3rd edition) has been about cherry picking the right abilities for you, whether from one class or a dozen. So that isn’t an issue. However, I wanted to retain the legacy of the previous versions of D&D. And that meant classes.

    Your Original Idea

    To take your last point first… a character cannot stop progressing in a class and start progressing in a second from level 1. That’s how it worked in third edition, but that’s not how HD&D characters are built. There are no talents or powers or abilities associated with level one of any class. There is simply a pool of talents and abilities. There is no de facto level one to start from – just a series of choices.

    However, certain talents can’t be chosen initially. Take magic as an example. Multiclassing into wizard lets you select a talent that allows you cast first level spells. You can’t cast second levels spells without taking another talent two levels later. And it would still take 8 extra talents from the point of multiclassing to be able to cast ninth level spells. That would be about 12 levels, minimum.

    So in some respect, multiclassing does behave the way you suggest. When multiple talents are required to fully flesh out class features, then the slow acquisition of those talents reflects a character starting with a limited degree of expertise and growing in power and experience as he levels.

    Where it doesn’t work is when one talent encompasses an entire class feature – and that talent improves as a character levels. As characters have no level except their overall level, we can’t peg that talent to a characters proficiency in a given class. More on that below!

    Building Multiclass Characters

    You say that that wouldn’t be fair for someone to “…say (at) 10th level, multi-class, take a few feats/talents whatever and then be as good as a 10th level of the new class.” Well, it doesn’t really work that way.

    Firstly, taking a few feats and talents is all that any class ever does to grow in power. Nextly, let’s look at how this would work in practice. Characters get feats every even level, and talents every odd level. So say you’re playing a cleric who wants to multiclass into paladin. At level 10 you take the palain multiclass feat. You gain one skill from the paladin skill list to add to your own. Nothing else happens.

    At 11th level you you get another talent, which you can now use to select a talent from the paladin’s list of talents if you like. One talent. Compared to the other seven talents you have in your first class. That doesn’t make you as good a paladin as an 11th level paladin.

    And this is assuming that you qualify for the multiclass feat in the first place. What if you’re a rogue wanting to multiclass into Paladin. Well, first you need to know the religion skill. If you don’t know that, your feat level 10 is Skill Training. Then your feat at level 12 is the Multiclass feat. And you can’t start taking Paladin talents until level 13. Three levels after you decided to multiclass.

    Do not the levels spent acquiring or qualifying for multiclass feats adequately reflect the time spent training to gain the abilities of different classes? And isn’t it also up to the GM to make these changes believable in the context of the game?

    All your questions about a multiclassing priest all have the same answers: it depends on the priest, and it depends on the god. As I said before. Certain characters are inclined to multiclass and some not. But those are story decisions, they’re nothing to do with the system.

    Atrophy and Skills

    I’m not saying that skills don’t atrophy through disuse. I’m saying that multiclass characters continue to rely on all the skills and powers of all their classes. The skills don’t atrophy because they’re still used. They’re used all the time.

    There’s no slowing down the progression for multiclass characters. That’s silly. It just unbalances the game. Multiclass characters aren’t more powerful than single class characters, after all. I think having to spend a feat to multiclass is penalty enough.

    Splitting Your Focus

    Yes. A character who muliclasses into two classes winds up doing each less well than a single class character. That’s a given. Multiclassers don’t have enough feats and talents to use all the abilities of each class to their fullest potential. A 20th level character has 14 talents and 12 feats. Splitting those between two or more classes results in a broader base of skills, but less power.

    Multiclassing at Level One

    Really. Why not? At first level you have three talents and one feat. That one feat would need to be spent on a multiclass feat, and you would then have to split your focus between two different pools of talents. If the classes aren’t closely related you’d need two feats to multiclass instead of one so you couldn’t do it at first level (unless you were a human).

    So you’re a fighter who can can’t wear heavy armour, or you’re a rogue that can’t sneak attack. You’d have to make some pretty serious compromises to multiclass at level one.

    Multiclassing has been a tried an tested part of D&D for years. I really have zero problems with it in principle. It’s just a way to customise characters. I don’t find it remotely unbelievable, because all it does it break with the class system – which is in itself nonsense. You’re acting as though “Rogue” is a trained profession. It’s not – it’s a collection of largely unrelated sneaky skills.

    Krais was a fighter/thief throughout the entire Crucible of Youth game. I don’t think his skill-set seemed particularly false. He knew how to fight, but he could sneak around when he had to. Plenty of other characters like that: Conan springs to mind. Krais wasn’t as good a fighter or as good a rogue as a single class character, but he was good enough. It worked.

    The Problem of Multiclassing in HD&D

    The true problem (I think) is mechanical rather than conceptual. How do we peg the power level of class talents to a character’s experience in a certain class? That’s the stumbling block that’s making things like Sneak Attack or Slow Fall problematic.

    A 10th level fight takes Skill Focus (Stealth) as a feat at 10th level. He takes Sneak of Shadows (the multiclass feat for rogues) at 12th level. At 13th level he chooses Sneak Attack. It’s taken him three levels to get there, but when he does the fighter sneak attacks with the same power as a single class rogue of 13th level.

    That is what I think needs addressing.

  9. Neil says:

    Actually, if you go back in your blog you will see that I did in fact advocate just this, the concept of class seemed too restrictive. You said but this is AD&D not a new system and so dismissed it. I’m glad you seriously thought about it though.

    I agree, I think the problem is mechanical, it is the idea of one class being as competent for the cost of a feat as a character who has worked his way up. Take the monk as an example, I’d be pretty hacked off if I was a 10th level monk and had the ability to slow fall 40′ (or whatever it is) only to have someone multiclass into monk and be able to straight away slow fall the same distance. Having said that I do think you are looking at it a little too mechnically; there is no feeling of how some classes acquire their abilities. A monk for example acquires them through meditation and years of practise for someone to be able to just multiclass into the class and gain these abilities is silly. Undoubtedly there are some that could be acquired, martial arts for example, but these would be practised at a far lower rate than the original monk character practised them. Your example of Krais was only so because of the limitations of the multiclassing mechanic; I wanted him to be someone who could look after himself but had some skill in acrobatics, petty thievery etc. In another, better, system I would simply have selected the appropriate talents, skills etc, in 3rd ed I was forced to call him a multiclassed fighter/rogue.

    This actually brings me onto another artifciality I hate, levels. It is ridiculous to have the situation where a trained samurai, for example, is only a 1st level fighter, it has taken years to get as good as he is but he is only 1st level?! I suppose you could have Samurai, for example, as a prestiege class but how do you progress into it?

    I’m not going to ask you to change this as I know you want to keep HD&D AD&D but I wanted to get it off my chest!

  10. I’m glad your chest is now burden free! I do remember your stance on character classes, and over the years I’ve been coming around to your way of thinking. Character Classes do work well in games that emphasise playing to a particular archetype. But I don’t think I would ever seriously consider using them outside D&D.

    That’s why the upcoming Sanctuary game is going to be run under the d100 system. That will also be my system of choice when I get around to converting and running Rifts again. That’s looking to be about 2016 if your want to make a note in your diary.

    I think what we can probably agree on here is that some classes suit Multiclassing better than others. The act of multiclassing into Fighter so you learn to wear heavier armour, or multiclassing into rogue so you can kosh some unconscious is more acceptable than multiclassing into Samurai and learning how to fight an iajutsu duel, or into wizard and learning how to cast magic.

    I understand that.

    However, I don’t think there needs to be a mechanical difference for the way multiclassing works for different classes. The difference needs to come from how the GM and the Player explain the multiclassing in game. As a GM I would try never to say no if a player wanted to try an off-the-wall character, but some things need to be properly explained.

    For example, back in my first Iourn campaign Marc was playing a sorcerer/fighter/rogue who wanted to multiclass into paladin. I made him play three levels of vanilla paladin with no powers or abilities of any kind, until the party found somewhere he could be trained.

    That’s an extreme example (and I probably only did it because I like victimising Marc) but I hope you see my point. If a 17th level character who had been a single class Cleric of Flower Arranging all this time told me that he wanted to multiclass into monk then I would allow it, but there would be some serious narrative hoops to jump through to get there.

    I think I can probably tweak the talent system to make sure that those characters who multiclass start out at a lower level of proficiency than those who have been in the class for some time. Or rather, are far more likely to have a lower level of proficiency. Taken together, I think these things should mitigate some of your concerns.

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