More on classes in D+D

For some reason I looked at the video below/overleaf on Youtube, it’s about D&D character classes and multi-classing and this is my response. Not sure how useful it is as most of the words relate to rules no longer used. I conclude with the words, in summary, if playing in a balanced party, given the current (v5e) broad choice of initial classes, their enhancement via prestige classes, the nature of the XP scale (it’s no longer exponential), power games should stick to pure classes, and real power players will play human wizards.

I have played PnP with the 1st edition rules and on the computer for the 2nd edition and version 3.5.

Under ADD 1st edition, demi-humans had permitted multi-class combinations, experience points were allocated to each class and class progressions were allocated for each class. There were limits on the class levels. Humans could dual class, they could switch class but lost the abilities of the original class until their 2nd class had caught up. The xp/level tables were exponential which meant that for humans, they basically gave one level away for the 2nd class. E.g. Fighter/Thief at 7/7 required the same XP as an 8th level fighter although at lower levels it was still quite dangerous, in the case of our 7/7 fighter thief, as their comrades become 8th level, they are 7/1 and probably useless as the DM will have monsters & traps suitable for 8th level parties. Unless starting at higher levels possibly the optimum strategy was to take one level of a class then dual to another in order to get innate class abilities such as a wizard’s “use wands & rods”, or a fighter’s weapon choices for use with a wizard or cleric. It should be noted that the original class choices were quite limited; there were basically four which is one reason why multi/dual classing might be seen as attractive. However, the limitations with one exception, made the option of switching a human early, or using demi-humans the best way to get a flexible character class and we should always remember that a character can only do one thing at a time.

It seems the rules were pretty similar in 2e which I experienced playing Baldur’s Gate (1 & 2). I played a Bard although I believe the Bard song (Luck) was broken and Charm Person not so useful in this story but the Bard’s use magic item allowed the use of the plentiful wands and less plentiful rods. The sub-classes were much more varied and the Paladin and Barbarian had become classes. Classes still had their own xp tables, which while not exponential  and the distinction between demi-human multi-classing and human dual classing was still in place (see also my article on Jaheria). My experimental instincts were attracted to some of the sub-classes. I looked at the Berserker, which like the Druid had a shape shifter ability at higher levels. Apart from the offering of more classes, these were still pretty focused (apart from the new Bard) and so the strategies remain the same, multi-class a demi-human or switch early via dual classing rules.

Version 3.5 which I played using NWN/NWN2 made more changes. The most dramatic was that the xp scales belonged to the character and became more linear. When one switched class, the next level-up happened at the character’s next progression point, so for each additional class level one takes, one gives away the same number of levels from the original class i.e. a Fighter/Thief 7/7 is equivalent to i.e. requires the same XP as a 14th level character. This is really not good for thieves and other expertise users. This is because abilities like “find/remove traps”, Bardic song and even “use magic items” all test the character’s ability measured by their “feat” points against the item’s threshold. I ran a fighter/thief through Shadow of Udrentide and got very cross about his inability to deal with traps, although perhaps I should have taken one level of wizard to get the pixie familiar. Another feature of 3,5e is the so-called prestige classes. These were sub-classes which various classes could evolve into. Also there were 15 base classes. This choice allowed the selection of much more flexible classes and in many ways reduced the need to dual class although a lot of imagination and effort was spent on designing multi-class combinations and we should note that in NWN1, one only got one companion so creating a balanced party is/was trickier than it might be unless one created a flexible player character. However, with my much interrupted run thorough NWN2, I indulged my need to play a Barbarian/Druid.

I should also add that having a pure play fighter is a more boring option, there’s only one thing that can be done, “buff & bash”.

Another point made in the video is that many/most PnP games do not take levels into the high teens or beyond and so the massive advantages for pure class spell casters do not accrue to the chosen player character; it might be a good idea to take a level or two of something that allows some non-magical self defence if magical self defence is too hard to get.

In summary, if playing in a balanced party, given the current (v5e) broad choice of initial classes, their enhancement via prestige classes, the nature of the XP scale (it’s no longer exponential and is attributed to the character not the class), power games should stick to pure classes, and real power players will play human wizards.

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