HD&D: Thoughts on Multiclassing

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.

Potential Changes

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:

Barbarian
Str 13; Trained in Survival

Bard
Cha 13; Trained in Bluff

Cleric
Wis 13; Trained in Knowledge (Religion)

Druid
Wis 13; Trained in Knowledge (Nature)

Fighter
Str 13; Trained in three Weapon Groups

Monk
Dex 13, Wis 13; Trained in Unarmed Strike

Paladin
Str 13, Cha 13; Trained in Diplomacy

Ranger
Str 13, Con 13; Trained in Track

Rogue
Dex 13; Trained in Stealth

Sorcerer
Cha 13; Trained in bloodline specific Knowledge skill

Wizard
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.

In Conclusion

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.

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6 thoughts on “HD&D: Thoughts on Multiclassing

  1. Hey Neil

    I like these rules more than the multiclassing feats that they replace. I am also quite pleased that prerequisite ability scores do not apply to your first class as I like the opportunity to play against type.

    I would make two suggestions to change the prerequisites though. I think bards should require perform as a skill instead of bluff. I also think that as there are a variety of ways to build a fighter they should require either stength 13 or dexterity 13. Its just that in my experience the class that dabbles in fighter more than any other are rogues – either becoming a swashbuckler style fighter or an archer. A strength prerequisite might get in the way of this sort of character, unless they choose fighter first, which might not always be appropriate.

    Aside from those small points, I think it will work just fine.

  2. The problem with putting prereqs on ‘fighters’ as seen in 3.5 is that the Fighter class is basically intended to be a catch-all for ‘Every martial class that focuses on using weapons ever’

    Archers, finesse based ‘duelists’, big two-handed monsters, shield and sword footmen, charismatic frontline generals, mounted knights, Mongol-like mounted archers. These are all character archetypes that were intended to be exemplified by the ‘Fighter’ class in 3.5. And as you can probably guess, they all have fundamentally different stat requirements.

    Now of course as it turned out, extra feats weren’t worth as much as real class features and spellcasting which is why classes like the Knight appeared later on, but HD&D ‘fixes’ that by basically making feats -be- class features, so you’re going to have real trouble making stat requirements for the Fighter class make sense if you keep it as the be-all-end-all of nonmagical classes.

  3. Ah, comments. Excellent.

    Yes, of course Perform should be the prerequisite skill for multiclass bards, and not Bluff. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I came up with that.

    Regarding Fighters: I agree with you both to an extent. It would probably be wise to make the prerequisites for a Fighter as Str 13 or Dex 13, as well as training in a number of Weapon Group skills. Four might be a better number than three, in hindsight.

    To answer your points more specifically, Will… you’re right that the fighter class covers a laundry list of fantasy archetypes. However, all those archetypes use Str or Dex to some degree. When you consider that you only need to met these prerequisites if you multiclass into Fighter from something else, then I think it might hold up. I won’t be long before I know one way or the other.

    And apropos of nothing, I think that some of the comments you raise regarding the Fighter can equally be applied to the Rogue. The Rogue covers a number of separate archetypes. Using Dex as the stat prerequsite is fine, but the skill prerequisites could be broader. Instead of just Stealth we could say Stealth or Sleight of Hand or Disable Device.

  4. The Rogue suffers less from the ‘trying to do to much’ thing than the Fighter does, but it does indeed have that trouble.

    A Str or Dex requirement would probably fit the bill well enough for all practical purposes.

    I will add two more things though after reading the list more closely; Ranger prereqs seem off. Str 13 + Con 13? Those are fine stat requirements for a melee class, and in general everyone wants as much Con as they can get, but an Archer Ranger is going to have Dex, not Strength, and probably less Con too since they’re not trying to be in the front lines.

    Monk prereqs seem a bit off too; on the one hand Monks do get alot of out Dex, on the other some of the most successful Monk builds i’ve ever seen were Str primary, as Monks suffer badly from low to-hit modifiers and they get AC from Wisdom, Dex tends to crop up as a tertiary score with Wis and Str the two most important nnes.

    My humble suggestion would be to make Fighter prereqs “13 in two physical scores”

    Rangers i would suggest any combination of 13 Str\Dex and 13 Con\Wis, since Rangers do want some Wis to use their spells, but if they’re Archers they may not neccessarily have the points to spend on Con as well.

    And finally Monks are fairly easy; Str 13 and Dex 13 and Wis 13. Monks are probably the single most multi-attribute dependant class in the game, although if you don’t want their MC prereqs to reflect that, Str/Dex 13 + Wis 13 would work just as well.

    Obviously of course the above is just my 2 cents based on what i’ve seen so far, so take it how you will.

  5. I see what you’re saying about Rangers. I was guided in my chioce of prerequisites from the old ‘ability requirements’ each class had in second edition AD&D. They placed Con at a premium for Rangers (presumably something to do with chasing Uruk-hai across country).

    I’m happy for Rangers to have Str 13 or Dex 13; and Con 13 as prerequisites. I think that differentiates them somewhat from fighters. Elves in HD&D don’t have stat penalties to Con so the archetype of the elven ranger is still retained.

    My instinct is to shy away from “13 in two physical skills” for Fighters. I’d rather the venerable core classes (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Cleric) only have one stat prerequisite if possible. Although a 13 in any one physical stat is a possibility with Fighters.

    I do have to disagree with you over monks, though. I think that Dex/Wis is the obvious combination in third edition. In HD&D, the skill Unarmed Strike comes off Dex and Str. Therefore, all Str does for a monk is increase his melee damage. Useful for sure, but a monk’s damage increases as he gains levels anyway, and he has various tricksy powers to bypass armour and so on. So although strength is handy for a monk, it’s not essential.

  6. If you natch the Str requirement for Monks, then Dex\Wis works out well enough, although i will add that ‘dealing damage’ is pretty much what Monks are supposed to be about, so even if Str doesn’t affect their to-hit, it’s still a very important stat for them for the damage increase. Probably becomes less important than Con though.

    If you don’t want Fighters to require more than 1 stat, i’d definitely make it ’13 in any Physical stat’, since Fighters are pretty much all about the Phsyical stats, and can be about some of the mental ones too with the right feats.

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