Is D&D 5e Multiclassing Just for Power Gamers

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Multiclassing has been a part of D&D 5E since nearly the beginning of the game. For that matter so have power gamers and power gaming. In the earliest days of Dungeons & Dragons, multiclassing was strictly the purview of the demihuman races. Humans could only dual class and the other races had level caps. With third edition Dungeons & Dragons the role of multiclassing greatly changed. In fourth edition D&D the multiclassing rules took a bit of a turn. D&D 5E realigned the rules back to a system like 3.5 D&D. Now let’s discuss multiclassing, power gamers, and D&D 5E.

D&D 5E multiclassing just for power gamers?

Many reasons to multiclass in D&D 5E

Story reasons

Sometimes things happen during the course of an adventurer’s life. Players will do things in game that are completely unexpected by the Dungeon Master as well as the player themselves. For instance the wizard befriends a wolf pup during the course of an adventure and becomes motivated to begin taking ranger levels in order to become a Beast Master.

Or what about the dying fighter who pledges his soul to a power in order to save their life? Maybe the rogue was exposed to arcane energies and wants to know if they have a latent Sorcerous Origin awaken.

Mechanical reasons (abilities)

Many of our own character builds are creating a new theme or character concept from the mechanics. Sometimes none of the existing character classes capture the theme or character concept you have in mind. By mixing and mashing different character classes together you can change the whole theme that was presented previously.


Other multiclassing considerations

Defining character classes — suite of abilities or profession?

[Art by Wayne Reynolds]
As a profession, classes are suites of abilities predetermined by the game. They are much like occupations a person will pursue for the rest of their lives possibly. These professions often have story and roleplaying elements tied to them. The complication might come into play when you start unraveling the abilities from the story elements.

As a suite of abilities you are customizing the abilities to create your own class or theme. This requires ignoring the story elements and stripping them from the mechanics.

Oftentimes in our own games we will reflavor class and race abilities to look different, but still work the same. Describing the way of the Way of the Open hand monk as a brawler or pugilist would be an example of this.

When is multiclassing most problematic?

It doesn’t make story sense

Example: Why would a god grant abilities to empower non deity granted powers?

Example: Paladin using non paladin spell slots to smite

Unexpected consequences of different abilities and how they will work together

Example: Life Domain cleric’s Disciple of Life ability to make druid spells better

Not all abilities are created equally. A single level or two grants powerful features

Examples: Sneak Attack, Action Surge, Rage, Expertise or the equivalent, Domain Features, Sorcerous Origins, Arcane Traditions

Advantages to multiclassing

  • The biggest detractor for multiclassing isn’t relevant. High level abilities — Do you really get to use them? Your 20th-level class abilities you get to use for one to maybe a few sessions, while if you level dip early you can use those class features the whole game without losing too much.
  • Broadening abilities and having more options. Not necessarily stronger options just more of them.
  • Specializing like dips into all the different classes that allow adding alternative modifiers to initiative for example.

Disadvantages to multiclassing

  • No access to high level abilities. Uber powerful class abilities like higher level spells might be out of your reach even though you have higher level spell slots for example.
  • Too broad you won’t be able to use your all of your abilities. You might just have more class options than you can access. A good example would be mixing classes together that get a lot of bonus actions. You can still only use one at a time.
  • Ability Score Improvements are tied to character class level. You don’t get many in D&D 5E. Missing them will hurt.
  • Are you going to piss off the rest of party. By not staying in your lane and doing what the other characters do in your party. Or being super specialized that makes your character so much more powerful in a particular area. For the DM to challenge you in that area it’s now overkill for the rest of the characters at the table.

I see multiclass character builds as just another tool at the table. Like anything some players will seek to take advantage of it. As always we recommend having a conversation with your players to find out what they are after and if some middle ground can be reached if a particular build presenting problems at the table.

The question is how do you approach multiclassing in your game? Let us know in the comments.

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Follow Dave Friant:
My name is Dave Friant I've been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it's always been a part of my life I've kept secret and hidden away. I've always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth. Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I'm gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life. Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG's.

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