As I continue to consolidate the HD&D rules for this Autumn’s playtest, I have been giving some thought to the existing rules for multiclassing. ‘Fixing’ the third edition multiclassing rules was one of my major goals when I embarked on HD&D, but I’m coming to the conclusion that using fourth edition mechanics may not be the best way to go.
How it works now
At present, HD&D mulitclassing is reminiscent of 4e. In order to mulitclass you have to take a multiclass feat. The feat comes with an Ability Score prerequisite (usually 13 or more in the class’s prime requisite ability). Taking the feat gives you training in one of the new class’s skills, and ‘unlocks’ all feats and talents related to that new class.
One of the problems of this mechanic, is that the multiclass feats completely duplicate the Skill Training feat. As long as you have high enough ability scores there is never a circumstance when you would choose Skill Training over a multiclass feat. This problem is tempered in 4e by characters only being limited to a maximum of one multiclass feat. HD&D has no such limitation, and therefore these rules don’t sound like good practice.
I would argue that the best way forward is to get rid of multiclass feats completely. Instead, we should introduce prerequisites for all classes (not just prestige classes). That way if you want to multiclass, and select a feat or a talent from another class, you have to make the prerequisites of the class as well as the feat and talent. Here are how these prerequisites could pan out for the eleven third edition classes:
Str 13; Trained in Survival
Cha 13; Trained in Bluff
Wis 13; Trained in Knowledge (Religion)
Wis 13; Trained in Knowledge (Nature)
Str 13; Trained in three Weapon Groups
Dex 13, Wis 13; Trained in Unarmed Strike
Str 13, Cha 13; Trained in Diplomacy
Str 13, Con 13; Trained in Track
Dex 13; Trained in Stealth
Cha 13; Trained in bloodline specific Knowledge skill
Int 13; Trained in Knowledge (Arcana)
Each class therefore has an Ability Score prerequisite, and a skill prerequisite. Therefore, to a very real extent, multiclassing in this system is pretty much the same as if we had kept multiclass feats; only this time the Skill Training feat is used instead. It’s also easier to multiclass into a class that is similar to your own. Druids would find it easier to multiclass into rangers than bards – and that’s probably how it should be.
Marc should be pleased to know that this system is also slightly kinder on characters who want to multiclass into many different classes. However, there are a few provisos to this system that I want to raise:
Firstly, these prerequisites only apply if you want to multiclass into these classes. If you only have one class, then you don’t have to meet these prerequisites at all. So it’s still possible to start the game as an excessively puny fighter, or brain-dead wizard.
Secondly, I must impress that multiclassing in HD&D is a privelege, not a right. In addition to the mechanical prerequisites, multiclassing also has a roleplaying or story-driven prerequisite. The change in your character’s emphasis and study needs to be covered in-game. If your 10th level fighter wants to start casting spells, he needs a jolly good reason for it – as well as the opportunity.
Wanting to multiclass just because you want the shiny talent of class x, is not a good enough reason in and of itself. We have to justify that decision, that change, in the context of the campaign and the story of your character. It’s the GM’s job to work with the player, and make these changes happen in as organic and believable way as possible. That’s always been how I’ve tried to handle multiclassing, sometimes with more success than other times.
Multiclassing in HD&D is relatively easy and free from consequence. A wizard picking up a few fighter talents to shore up his deficiencies happens all the time. It’s the GM’s job to keep the system from unravelling, and the player’s job to create a character background that makes all these multiclassing choices make sense. These are rules that might not survive in a mass-market roleplaying game, but for the purposes of HD&D I think they will do fine.