D&D is a truly unique game that allows people to not only play through a story in a fantasy setting, but to create and build the setting, story, and virtually all major decisions that affect the game with some guidelines there to help them out. This happens in almost all aspects of the game, and that includes the classes you choose.
The problem with classes is that there is only a set amount of them. In normal games, this isn’t an issue as the game has limits, boundaries, rules, and restrictions that people accept.
However, D&D is all about what the participants can and want to create, as such some players are happy to stay with the guidelines set out but most want to enhance and change their characters and, as such, their classes.
Obviously, you can’t have a player changing aspects of a class to make it overpowered or that impacts the other players in a negative way, so how do you modify classes reasonably?
Well, as always, the creators and writers of the D&D manuals thought of this eventuality and constructed the concept of multiclassing, so players can have their characters take attributes from more than one class.
But how does multiclassing work? And is it worth it? This is a complete guide to multiclassing in D&D, examining how to do it and detailing its benefits for you, so you won’t have to search yourself.
What Is Multiclassing?
Multiclassing is when your character takes multiple levels in different classes. So, for example, let’s take two level 5 characters, one that is wholly one class and one that has more than one class.
The first character is wholly one class, a fighter, as such every level that they have obtained has been through the fighter skill tree – so they are 5 levels of fighter.
The second character is fifth level as well, however these levels are split. So, the first 3 levels this character obtained were, let’s say, in the paladin skill tree and up to level 3 they have all the skills of a level 3 paladin.
Now, in this example, the player decided to multiclass at level 4 into a fighter. This means that instead of getting level 4 paladin skills, they would instead get level 1 fighter skills. As such, the fourth level character will have third level paladin skills and first level fighter skills.
While this may seem a bit counterproductive and may weaken your character, it can actually improve them immensely and make them more versatile, even if overall their skills are weaker.
Barbarians are traditionally weak conversationalists and support units, but when multiclassing with bard skills, they can improve their ability to speak with others and the aid they can do in the background.
How Do You Multiclass?
While multiclassing can appear fun and inventive, there are quite a number of concepts and requirements that are necessary to hash out before you can play your multiclassed character.
We have already discussed the basic concepts of character level (the total sum of your character’s class levels) and the class level (the individual levels a character has achieved in that class), but there are quite a few other areas to consider before throwing yourself completely into multiclassing.
You need to choose which classes you wish to use in multiclassing. A lot of people decide on doing just one or two classes, while others go crazy and try to multi-skill everything possible. While this is definitely possible, it is not recommended.
It is important to know the limitations of each class so that you don’t accidentally pick something that doesn’t fit into your party. If you end up with something like a barbarian cleric who cannot cast spells because he lacks the requisite feats, then you’ve gone too far! This is why we recommend trying to keep things simple by picking just one or two classes.
When choosing classes, think about what kind of character you want to be in order to determine what classes you should aim for. For example, if you want to play a stealthy assassin, then you should probably stick to the rogue class. On the other hand, if you want to be an unstoppable tank, you’re better off using the barbarian class.
If you’re unsure about what type of character you want to play, then consider playing both the base class and the multiclass, and see how you feel about the two. You could also ask your DM what they feel about multiclassing. They might allow certain classes to be used in certain situations only.
For example, they may not allow a wizard to multiclass into a rogue unless it fit the story, was explained away, or they had certain abilities that gravitated them towards the class. In this case, it becomes a matter of whether or not the DM feels that this feat is worth allowing.
Requirements Before Multiclassing
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to meet some prerequisites before attempting to multiclass. In the player’s handbook on PG 163, there is a table and several paragraphs that sum up multiclassing, how to go about it and what it involves.
Every class in the game needs a minimum ability score that the class is most proficient in to be at least 13. For example, if the player wants to multiclass their bard with the barbarian class, they would need their character’s strength ability score to be 13.
If it was the other way round, i.e. the player wanted their barbarian to multiclass with the bard class, then their character’s charisma ability score would need to be 13. For the full table of the class requirements for multiclassing, looking for the table online or on PG 163 of the player’s handbook.
Experience points are the way in which player’s determine their character’s levels within the game. Normally, this would be you reach certain experience thresholds, and then you gain a level. In multiclassing, it’s a bit different as you are choosing which class level to level up to, while the overall experience score remains the same.
For example, your character is a level 8 Druid/Ranger, they have 6 levels of Druid skills and 2 levels of Ranger skills. When they level up to level 9, they can either take a seventh level of Druid skills or a third level of Ranger skills, and these together will make a level 9 character with level 9 experience points.
Hit Points And Hit Dice
So, for those unsure of both hit points and hit dice, let’s take a step back. First, hit points are basically your health are dependent on class, level, and the amount you rolled when leveling up. Hit dice are the dice you use to determine character growth and actions in a campaign.
So, one use of hit dice is when they are rolled to determine hit points when leveling up – after the first level, as that is done slightly differently.
For example, let’s take a barbarian. A first level barbarian will determine their health by adding the maximum number on their classes hit dice to their constitution modifier.
This barbarian has a constitution ability score of 16, which makes their constitution modifier +3 on dice rolls. A barbarian’s hit dice for calculating hit points is the d12, so 12 + 3 = 15 hit points.
After the first level, the process of leveling up is the same, with the only difference being the hit dice is rolled to determine hit points rather than just taking the maximum number. So, if you rolled a d12 and got a 7, it would be 7+3 = 10 and that’s how many hit points are added to your total.
So, what does this have to do with multiclassing? Well, different classes have different hit dice for their hit points. A wizard only uses a d6, which as you can imagine cuts the potential hit points available.
If you are making a wizard barbarian with 4 levels of barbarian and 2 levels of wizard, every time you level up the barbarian class instead of the wizard class, you would use the d12 and every time you level up the wizard class you would use a d6 to determine hit points.
Proficiency In Equipment And Skills
This part may seem a little confusing, since proficiency is used in a lot of ways. Let me explain: You start out with a set number of skill proficiencies (abilities to use items or skills determined by the class) and an equal number of feats.
As your character grows, you are able to gain feats, but the proficiencies will remain the same – unless you improve an ability score at some point for the conceptual skills.
When you multiclass, you don’t automatically gain all the proficiencies for that class as well as your own. Instead, you look up the class you are multiclassing into on PG 164 of the player’s handbook and there is a table (if you don’t have the book, many helpful people have made it available online for free).
It will give you a rundown of classes and what proficiencies you will take from those classes to add to your character’s own.
Multiclassing does not affect proficiency bonuses, as these are unique to your character and character levels, not classes.
In addition to proficiencies, you also get class features when you multiclass. However, there are some rules to this also. For starters, you never receive the class you are gaining’s starting equipment, and you only gain features and abilities at that level, a third level rogue multiclassing into a first level wizard cannot access second level wizard spells.
Some of these features are quite unique in function as well, so they have been adapted for multiclassing in a way that sometimes makes them less powerful, but more functional for the situation. Most of these are limits based on your class level, but some have more nuance.
The features that cause people the most grief are Channel Divinity, Extra Attack, Unarmored Defense, Channel Energy, Cantrips, and Spellcasting.
For a more detailed look at most of these and how to use them when multiclassing, go to PG 164 of the Player’s Handbook or find notes online, as they are too in depth to go into here.
However, if you are looking for a quick answer, then know that most are restricted by class level, so playing them at your class level (like the rogue/wizard from earlier) should work in your campaign.
One thing you must, MUST look up if you are multiclassing is how spells work, they are complex and cover half PG 164 of the Player’s Handbook just for how they function, so we do not have the room to discuss it all here. Again, there are free copies online if you don’t have the book, you just need to look for it.
It should be noted that the only thing that changes about feats is how many you can do and how you view them when deciding what to give your character. Some feats are unavailable to certain classes, due to lack of ability rather than the class, like any class that can’t do magic cannot take the elemental adept feat.
Multiclassing, in this instance, is entirely beneficial, as it gives your character more choices and options when developing their fighting style or skills. The more classes your character has, the more things they can do, and the more things they can do, the more feats they can potentially pick up.
Why Do People Multiclass?
At this point, you must feel that multiclassing seems like too much effort. I mean, most of D&D – for all our love as players and dungeon masters of stories, invention, world building, and creativity – is a difficult slog that requires determination and hard work.
It is completely understandable why players choose to not multiclass in the game and just do what they need to.
So, what are the benefits or detriments to players who multiclass? Is it worth it?
Benefits Of Multiclassing
The main benefit is flexibility. If you want to play a ranger, but you aren’t sure which subclass to pick, multiclassing allows you to take the subclasses that best fit your needs without having to worry about whether you can actually make those choices.
You instead focus on creating a character that fits your setting and story, not your preconceived notion of what you think would be fun. This means that the character will remain true to themselves, while still being able to handle whatever situation arises.
This is what makes multiclassing so great. By giving yourself options, you can create characters that better reflect your own interests. For example, let’s say you want to play a wizard, but you dislike the idea of making lots of spell slots. Instead, you decide to multiclass with the cleric.
While you might miss out on some abilities of a wizard, you gain access to a lot of new ones, including utility spells, healing spells, channel energy, etc. That is a lot of power, especially if you’re already interested in healing. In addition, since you now have two different sets of rules to follow, you have a great deal of freedom where you can put your points.
For instance, a wizard could easily build a set of spells that complements the cleric’s spell set, allowing him to combine his spells to create a force multiplier. Because of this, he becomes both stronger and more flexible than a single-classed wizard would be, and it reflects more on the play style that you are most comfortable with.
This is also one reason why multiclassing is often seen as a good way to level up: by switching classes, you get to keep the same number of levels, but you get to use more diverse abilities at higher levels.
Another benefit comes from combining the powers of multiple classes. First, let’s assume we have a level 4 fighter who wants to add some magic to her arsenal. So, this character adds a level of sorcerer to her fifth level character.
It may seem like this character would be weaker than a regular fifth level fighter, but the flexibility means that they are more capable in most encounters rather than specific situations.
Say, the party was assaulting a goblin tower or a creature that is magically protected, the fighter can now shoot fire bolt or thunder wave as a kind of artillery assault that would really weaken the enemy, something they can’t do as a regular fighter.
Characters can gain healing, destructive magic, or abilities in close quarters that would be unavailable otherwise, and as such they make your character stronger in areas they are normally weaker in. When combined with other abilities, they can be really effective at expanding the character’s fighting style.
For the fighter/wizard, this could mean that they attack with fire bolt, then use their extra attack to charge in and hit the enemy with their sword. The enemy have been hurt by fire bolt and now can’t run away from the main tank of the party, making them easy prey.
Downsides Of Multiclassing
As I mentioned above, there are downsides to multiclassing. While it gives you greater flexibility, it also increases the complexity of your character. Some players hate that feeling. They prefer to stick with a simple class because it’s easier for them to understand how everything works.
Others feel overwhelmed when faced with a character sheet full of numbers and symbols. Still others don’t like the fact that they need to keep track of more things (spell lists, feats, etc.) and finally, some people simply dislike the concept of multiclassing.
However, these issues tend to go away once you start playing. Once you spend enough time building your character, you’ll see all the benefits and realize that the complexity isn’t too bad. Also, the sheer variety of abilities available makes any given build feel unique.
The only times that complexity comes back to really annoy players and dungeon masters is when it is time to level up, but since this can be done outside the game, it is not that big of an issue.
Another problem is that your character, although strong in many areas, won’t have access to the most dominant and strong abilities and skills each class offers.
Again, this is not that big of an issue, especially since most player’s stop using the same characters around level 10, but during a pinch that extra damage that these abilities can do can really help out to save the party.
Finally, the last concern is if you realize that multiclassing was a bad choice. If this happens, people tend to abandon the idea of multiclassing and so you can find level 10 fighters with 1 level in rogue that they never use.
These are considered dead levels and can hinder the player immensely if they never choose to proceed with them or just never use the abilities they offer.
Is Multiclassing Worth It?
The answer to that question is almost entirely up to the player. There are benefits and downsides to multiclassing, but most people who do it have few regrets.
It gives diversity and flexibility to players in a game that often demands it, it gives access to spell lists and proficiencies to those without, and it can provide powerful options or even just viable options to those willing to take it.
However, it also means that players sacrifice things like extra damage, health, and total dominance over certain skills and classes that may prove useful later on. As such, the calculation of whether this is a good or bad option in expanding your character’s skills is down to you, but it does make the game more interesting to say the least.
Examples Of Multiclass Builds
Multiclass options are vast and varied, so we decided to look at some builds that people enjoy the most:
- The Fighter/Barbarian – Imagine the skills of a fighter mixed with the ferocity and damage output of a barbarian. The use of the rage ability alone makes this a deadly combination in combat.
- The Barbarian/Bard – This one is more fun for the role playing and storytelling aspects, as well as making barbarians a little bit better during social encounters. You could play a Norse skald or an old Celtic style bard moving from court to court, recounting tales of long forgotten legends and myths.
- The Cleric/Rogue – An intriguing combination that combines the tenets and healing skills of a holy person, with the cunning of a rogue. The support healer can double up as a hidden blade, turning the tide of battle when the opportunity is right.
- The Druid/Warlock – A spell caster with two patrons: one the earth herself and the second a being of immense will and power. Caught between two powerful entities is great for role playing and battle. The druid class can serve as a tank at times and, when combined with a warlock, gets a greater degree of long range attack as well – especially with eldritch blast available – to add to your fighting style.
These are only a few examples, but you can see how they would affect playing the game.
The multiclass options in D&D are long and seemingly endless, which is what makes them perfect for this game. You can create a character you want and tailor that character to the game, through battle, experiences, and role play.
If you are still unsure whether to multiclass, I would say go for it. If it all goes wrong, you will learn from the experience, and you can always make another character that does not suffer the same fate.