The N Level Rule For Multiclassing
There are many ways to approach roleplaying games, all of which can bring you hours and hours of enjoyment for many, many years. But as we develop our palate, most of us find we prefer certain styles, flavors, or tastes in and from our roleplaying games. What one person likes, however, may bring nothing but annoyance and aggravation to another. There's no pleasing everybody all the time, you know?
With luck, you will fall in with the "right" crowd and with those who share your preferences, and finally you will find the game for which you've been looking. But no matter what style you like, keep in mind since the primary point of playing a game is to have fun, if you are having fun playing under a particular style, then you are playing correctly. Don't let anyone tell you that you are playing wrong.
Unfortunately, since you rarely play these games alone, if your preferences aren't shared by your play-partners, what you find fun may not be fun for them. Thus, compromise is usually the best solution. You can still have fun doing that if you don't have to compromise too much. Failing that, you may have to seek out those who more closely share your personal preferences, and that's ok too.
THIRD EDITION DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, or 3rd ed. D&D, or in the shortest way I can find to express it, 3e, is the topic of this work. Or more specifically, a problem with their new multiclassing rules.
Why did you write this?
3e violated too many points I consider important for my preferred style of play.
What style is that?
Quite simply, the Roleplaying style.
Aren't all styles in a roleplaying game, roleplaying styles? I mean, how can they not be roleplaying? They are roleplaying games, aren't they?
It's a matter of degrees. For example, an Actor on stage is playing a role, so even he is "roleplaying" in the strictest sense of the word. But for the most part, he isn't creating his role so much as he is following the author's creation for that character. He may improvise a bit, even bring life into the character with his skill, but not so much this approaches what I consider to be roleplaying.
And what, pray tell, do YOU consider roleplaying?
Well, on one end of the spectrum we have those who are pretty intense, though without actually becoming the character in real life (which we'll assume is impossible). There, one could strive to pretend to be the character in as many reasonable ways as possible. They would stay "in character" more, speak only as that character would speak, use information only available to that character, immerse themselves in that character's life and thoughts and feelings, and concern themselves with that character's problems and joys, etc., almost totally forgetting about their own real existence, at least for a time. They may even dress like that character or carry equipment similar to what their character is carrying.
Sounds like a lot of work if you ask me. Actually, it doesn't sound much like a game at all since such meticulous attention to detail could be a full time job. It almost sounds like someone having problems distinguishing between reality and fantasy.
Exactly. I am talking about an extreme. Most people feel you can go too far in playing the role. This is a game, after all. Not a job. On the other hand, many players may feel some don't go far enough.
What do you mean?
Well, for example, if you always talk about real world matters, the latest movie or TV show, the most recent in-thing, whatever that may be, and ignore the game too much, that could be a problem too. Or one may try to use player knowledge as character knowledge, or treat their character like a game piece, or play him like he's aware he is in a game and, worse, like he knows the rules, and even worse, have him try to manipulate the rules on the character level.
Oh sure, I get it. I've seen people do that, but I don't play that way.
Exactly. Neither do I. And neither do most players. But precisely where on this roleplaying spectrum one does play is a matter of preferences and tastes, and we all have different ideas about what's fun and how to best roleplay to have fun. It isn't an all or nothing proposition.
You should never end your sentence with a proposition. . . Umm, like that.
Cute. But seriously, there's even more to it than that, this roleplaying thing.
OK, back to the actor idea. If I created your character for you, picked its class for you, chose your character's race, made up its name for you, wrote their family history, determined their eye and hair color, their weight, their gender, their sexual orientation, what they like to eat, how they like to dress, and countless other details, then gave it to you to play it, you certainly could roleplay it, couldn't you?
I suppose so. So what?
Well, that's still roleplaying since you're playing a role. Do you want to do that?
Umm, I guess I'd rather make my own character. I mean if this game is going to last more than a few sessions, if I'm going to put that much time into this, I'd rather create it myself. No offense, but I don't need YOU picking my character's sexual orientation, thank you very much.
Don't worry. I wouldn't want to anyway. My point is, part of how we are going to define "roleplaying" as opposed to just playing a role, stems for the player's own imagination and creativity. So roleplaying in a roleplaying game is often much more than just playing a role. It's is also CREATING the role, as much as possible. You pick the race, the class, the gender, etc. You name it. You decide all those little things about your character, either when you make them or as you play and develop them. Not me. And not someone else, either. You do it.
So as long as I make my own character and play it, that's all roleplaying is, is it?
Pretty near. But don't forget about not mixing Out Of Character (OOC) and In Character (IC) knowledge. What your character knows and what you know is not always the same thing by a long shot. So even though one can go too far by almost pretending they, the player, no longer exist, you can also not go far enough if you don't think of your character as an individual with their own life and their own problems, and not just some game piece you march around killing monsters and gathering treasure.
All right, I think I get it. Make your own character, supply your own details, keep IC and OOC knowledge separate, and pretend to be your character while gaming, within reason. Is that it?
One more thing.
Have fun. If you can do all that and have fun, that's the roleplaying ideal.
Forgive me for asking, but what does this have to do with 3e D&D?
Good question. I feel 3e violates the roleplaying ideal in too many areas to easily ignore.
But I have fun playing 3e? I love it. I roleplay my character like you say, within reason. How isn't that "roleplaying."
It is, so relax a bit. Remember, I said it was a matter of degrees. Did you name your character? I mean, did you make up a name, or did you borrow one from the book?
Well, I did use that dwarven family name, but I made up my own first name. My dwarven fighter is named Orotor Balderk.
OK. So technically, since you didn't totally make up your own name, you are roleplaying just a little bit less than you could be. Also, there are more dwarven fighters named Balderk than there might otherwise be if 3e hadn't tried to foist those on the players to substitute their creativity for the player's own. So your PC is less unique insofar as there are other male dwarven fighters also named Balderk.
So that's bad, is it?
Only a little. What's much worse is that DMs either have to put up with those ideas being forced onto their world, or they have to take extra measures to make sure their players aren't using those suggestions out of the 3e PHB like they MUST be true on this DM's world. Like it or not, most players will assume things in the book are true unless the DM makes an extra effort to tell them otherwise, and even then they may not like it. The written word is a powerful thing like that.
That's one thing I disliked about 3e from the start. Such creativity would have been better put in a supplement or at least an appendix. Instead they tried to cram it down everyone's throats by making it part of the standard rules. Too bad. But on to other more important matters.
Now, realism is often sought in our games, but not to the exclusion of having fun, and usually not to the exclusion of ease of play. I mean, roleplayers like as much realism as possible, but one can go too far there as well. For example, we could make combat so realistic it would inspire awe in veteran war gamers, but if that level of realism took several extra hours per battle, would you like that?
Umm, well, that's a bit long; especially for something like a meaningless random encounter. Sometimes I can only play a few hours, and having it all tied up in a meaningless random fight might not always be fun for me. But some people might like that.
Precisely. Some people love combat, almost to the exclusion of more roleplaying endeavors, but that's not the point. Those people might find greater enjoyment in battle simulations rather than roleplaying games. The point is, however, in a roleplaying game, we are probably willing to sacrifice a bit of realism on a non roleplaying front, particularly like combat, in order to save time so we can spend more of our limited time in other roleplaying areas, like story and plot development, for example. Ultra detail isn't always desired, you see? So being as realistic as possible is often not the goal.
In some areas, however, sacrifice of detail and realism may actually interfere with roleplaying.
You want an example? OK. Hmmm. All right, let's use 3e's starting ages just as an example. Take an elf. Their starting age is 110 plus some dice, depending on their class. An elven wizard, for example, starts at 110+10d6. 10d6 averages 35 years, but its range is 10 to 60. So a starting elven wizard should be between 120 and 170 years old, but no younger than 120 years. With me so far? Good.
Now the starting age of an elven rogue, for example, is 110+4d6. If you rolled way below average, you could be as young as 114 years old. Now here's the problem. An elven rogue starts adventuring. They will accrue enough experience points to become second level in far less than a year. Suppose they wish to become a wizard for that level. There you go. Unless the DM forces the player to shelf that character for at least 6 whole game years, there's a slight problem in the rules. Furthermore, this xp that was gathered wasn't even for doing wizard things, but for doing rogue things.
Thus, we can see in 3e, if your elf wishes to become a wizard, the quickest way is to become a rogue first. Even using average rolls, the average starting age for an elven rogue is 124 while the average age of a starting elven wizard is 145. An elf can, on average, become a wizard 21 years faster if they first become a rogue (or barbarian or sorcerer). Neat, huh?
But isn't that just cheesy player manipulation of the rules? You know, mini maxing?
No, since the rules can be seen to be working on the character level, an observant character should also see something "odd" is going on and possibly be able to take advantage of this. So I am showing you what the 3e rules do since there is a serious flaw in how quickly 3e assumes your character can just pick up a new class.
But I thought I read where they fixed that. A DM option, or something, wasn't it?
The 3e rules only have it as OPTIONAL that a DM "may" require your PC takes extra time off, but then again, they may not. Even if they do, they don't say how much time or give any guidelines other than suggesting the DM "may" require the player to mention their intent to take a different class sometime prior to going up a level, as if that would totally solve the problem of "sudden development." It won't. Even under the suggested option, they are trying to squeeze years of experience and training into a few weeks or months.
But like I said, as a matter of fact, one can gain enough xp to go up levels so much quicker than the game years it should take to lay the foundation for all the skills that make up a class's base skills, that you'll see a variety of problems and inconsistencies surrounding this one notion. It is wholly unrealistic. So no, that character isn't doing this because they can see the rules. Not at all. They're doing it because they can see it works and that is the quickest path to becoming a wizard.
Think about what they actually see happening in their world. They should be able to see something in their reality that reflects these rules if they are good rules. If the difference is, on average, pretty small, they probably won't notice it. But if the average difference is about 21 years, I think someone will catch on. Here they will see gaining experience (and not experience points as that's a game concept characters can't really see), but real experience and learning happens at such an accelerate rate while adventuring compared to studying with some old master, that they'll logically choose to get into the field the quickest way possible, even if it means studying a whole different, easier to learn class than what they ultimately want to do with their lives. But if a more realistic approach were in play and one didn't idiotically use any old acquired xp to buy any old class in relatively no time, then this wouldn't happen.
So 3e is broken?
Seriously. Yes, but all systems are probably broken like this to some degree or another. The question isn't if it is broken, but is it sufficiently broken to bother us?
So if they fixed those starting age tables, that would repair 3e?
It couldn't hurt. But, alas, no. The age table is just one way to uncover one of the real problems. There are other ways to reveal this same flaw. In fact, since the entire approach to 3e multiclassing is built around a rather unrealistic idea of picking up a mountain of skills and training and study and learning in next to no time, any rule linked to this will demonstrate this same flaw. The age tables just help demonstrate the problem. Like the class write-ups for how one might come to learn their class's skills while growing up, the age table also suggests learning this stuff takes years. Not days or weeks. Yet multiclassing rules allow this to happen at this unrealistic speed. It's a problem.
Even at rock bottom minimums and assuming one rolled all 1's on their age dice for those classes, you can see it would take years, not days, weeks, or even months, to acquire the base skills for a class. And 3e maintains on one hand, while younger, you learn quicker - this is probably true - but on the other hand they apparently have you learn even quicker when older (when it suits them). Whether or not this is why 2e always assumed your character either had all those skills before they started, I couldn't say, but this major problem of 3e wasn't in 2e because of that. 2e has other problems, sure, but this one in 3e is more serious and harder to ignore and much harder to justify. And since they built so much on this premise, like a crumbling foundation, it's a serious problem.
Fixing the age table would be nice, but that isn't the true problem. Again, though the age table is one way to see the real problem, there are others.
Hmmmm not convinced yet? OK. Suppose my wizard wants to learn how to wear platemail.
They can now. They just buy the 3 feats: light, then medium, then heavy armor.
That sounds so easy. But buy them with what? They only get feats rather slowly as they go up in levels. What they do get, they probably should use to buy more wizard-like feats. And how long would it take to get three feats? Quite a long time. And they have no apparent way to learn feats without advancing in level, possibly having to wait several levels to acquire multiple feats. However, they can pick up 1st level in fighter pretty darn quick in 3e. And guess what? When they take fighter, not only do they instantly get all those armor feats, but all those other skills fighters have as well. So in 3e, it would take him much longer to learn just those three armor feats than it would to learn how to be a 1st level fighter and have those three feats, and much, much, much, more as well. Stupid, isn't it?
Well, fine. But that's just one little problem, and wouldn't it be easily fixed by changing the armor rule for feats?
Little? No way. The method - or rather the speed - of multiclassing deliberately ignores common sense, violates or is inconsistent with several other premises, and these are clearly demonstrable on the character level. In fact, a PC would have to be a fool not to see clear advantages to doing certain things since they obviously work better. Becoming a rogue then a wizard will give you a more powerful 2nd level character than becoming a wizard first and then a rogue. Though they SHOULD be virtually identical in power, they aren't. The only reason one might shy away from this is that it may seem like simple rule manipulation. I mean, characters shouldn't know the game rules, but the rules are a reflection of their reality and they can see this to a certain extent. If the differences are minor, then it's more like tweaking the rules and bad roleplaying. But if the differences are huge, then ignoring them is more like not playing your character properly since he's totally oblivious to things almost right under his nose. It isn't the same as rule manipulation at all.
But the DM can stop certain abuses, can't he?
It's not so easy. He may have to forbid this or that, or force certain constraints on players and their PCs, but that sort of heavy-handed ruling often reveals the gamer's footprint. 'Why can't I do this?' a character may ask. 'The DM says so,' is hardly an acceptable answer for the character, even if it should be for the player. So why, for example, can't a player who wishes to play a wizard pick rogue first, just to play him for one level?
You mean just so he can be younger? That seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through just for that.
No, no, no. Not just for that, but for all that goes with it. In particular, the 24 extra skill points that rogues get at first level compared to mages. To get that many skill points as a wizard, he'd have to get to 12th level wizard. Or he can take one level of rogue first, get all that, be younger, and have the rogue's class skills too. And if it works, if the rules reflect game world reality, they can see this is clearly the path to power. Your PC would have to deliberately disdain power not to take such a path. And even if you, the player, like playing your PC's weaknesses as well as your strengths, even if you like roleplaying less powerful characters, that isn't the same as the character actually wishing to be weak, or crippled, or blind, or saddled with any disadvantage you can name, just because it would be fun to play. They may be fun to play since you can always walk away from the game table, but they're not fun to live with, believe me. So there's no way a character would want to ignore power even if the player might (far more often than not, of course, for there are nearly always exceptions).
OK, I get. Yes, that is a problem. Is there an easy way to fix it?
Easy? Not really, but there are some things you could try. Like make all players who wish to play multiclass characters add lots of dice to their starting age. Give them mountains of incomplete but nearly complete training to begin with as part of the back-story. But then that gets more like 2e.
Hold on. Isn't there an xp penalty to those who take multiclass characters and then leave one class behind? You know, that uneven level rule.
Yes, but that rule is easily circumnavigated by taking the right favored class, race combinations. Besides, the rule makes no sense as far as realism is concerned, and the authors only seemed to add it to try to prevent or discourage some of the obvious abuses of their new multiclass system that I'm pointing out to you here. It's a bad fix, if that's what they meant it for, and if they meant something else, it's a stupid rule on top of that.
Their justification makes no sense. Uneven skill levels are hard to maintain? The strain? If this were remotely true then rogues, with all those extra skills, and warriors, with all those extra feats, should have serious xp penalties too. I can buy an xp penalty for having more classes, but uneven levels? Please. Why a 5/5/5 PC would have an easier time learning than a 5/5/1 is too silly for words. In fact, a 5/5/5 would have a harder time as that lasts 5 represents more advanced and complicated study and training. If anything, the xp penalty should be X% for each class beyond the first, LESS Y% (effectively a refund) for classes that you let fall behind by more than 2 levels since you are not learning new stuff so much as simply maintaining old skills. But I digress.
So 3e is a pretty bad game then, is it?
As is, I'd have to say it is less roleplaying friendly than 2e since it forces a number of things on the players that make little sense, as far as I can see. And when it does that, one would be remiss in their roleplaying if their PC 'looked the other way' just for game harmony, and didn't explore the world around them. People are curious creatures, and your PC probably is too, so they would do these things if the laws of the universe permitted it.
But it's still a good combat game. In fact, the area they improved mostly seems to deal with combat or game mechanics. And game mechanics are not coincidentally most often used in combat. Unfortunately, they damaged or at least interfered with some roleplaying potential when they made this new system. My guess is their target audience would have to care more about fighting, combat, game numbers, power gaming, mini maxing, and hack and slash, as some call it, than they would about roleplaying, plot, story, and intrigue, etc. They're pretty strong on the game mechanics, and they are better than before. In fact, it's almost like they wanted them to be handled by computer simulations; they're that precise. Maybe WotC is planning on making D&D more computer-friendly.
But is 3e bad? No, I wouldn't say it is ALL bad. As a matter of fact, I'd say a few decent house rules (so obvious that should have been part of the standard game from day one in my honest opinion) could easily fix many of the problems found in 3e.
I guess the best way to fix this multiclass problem is simply to not allow what I call class hopping.
What's class hopping?
The relative ease one can go from one class to another. In standard 3e, you can switch so easily, perhaps even use retroactive learning and sudden development, that it might take only days to learn what first level characters apparently took years to learn. So you prevent them from doing that by not allowing them to switch at any old time, but only after achieving N levels in their current class.
But if the DM forces them not to switch, wouldn't that reveal what you call the gamer's footprint?
Yes, unless a good IC (In Character) reason can be found why this happens. And in this case, it is simply a fact that you need trainers, teachers, mentors, etc. to teach your PC and show them the ropes.
The N level rule assumes there are always more potential students than there are qualified teachers. Since teachers are in demand, they are not likely to train someone unless their pupil is dedicated and not liable to waste their valuable time. In game rule terms, this means if you wish to learn this class, you have to stick with it for N levels before moving on.
N? What do you mean N?
I leave that open to each DM to decide for themselves. In standard 3e D&D, N=1. That means you have to become 1st level in one class before you can become 1st level in another class, or switch classes. N=1 is the trivial case, however. But N=1 is way too unrealistic and way too fast. N=2 is better. N=3 is even better. N=4 is better still, etc. If multiclassing were NEVER allowed, then N would equal infinity. I don't mean to say the higher N is, the better, since N can get too high as well, you see? But it should be larger than 1 and probably less than 7. You understand?
I think so. So if I wanted to be a wizard, I couldn't take rogue just for one level. I'd have to take rogue for N levels before switching. Is that right?
Yes. And if N were a decently high number, say like N=5 which I feel is a good number for the game, then class hopping is not so easy and this house rule prevents many abuses of 3e's multiclass rules. You can't take any class just to pick up its base package of skills unless you really want to devote some time to this class.
Furthermore, the larger N is, the more time your PC has to realistically develop this second class while adventuring and in their non-adventuring time. It makes it more realistic this way, and it helps prevent the problem of 'sudden development.'
What exactly is 'sudden development'?
Most things take time to learn. You work at it. You know what you are learning, you know why you are learning it, and you do it, however long it takes. But with an xp system, you accumulate points, perhaps without stating what it is your character is even trying to learn. They may gain many experience points and when they have enough to go up a level, finally then, and only then, decide what it is they have been working on all this time. Understand?
I'm not sure. What's so awful about that in a game? Couldn't we just say that's what they had been learning all that while?
Yes, we could, but it sometimes has problems. For example, what if the reason you wanted to become a wizard was due to a recent event? Like suppose you found a nifty dagger, quite powerful, but only usable by the wizard class. Now your character has lots of experience points they got prior to finding this dagger. In fact, they have enough to finally go up a new level. They wouldn't have been learning how to be a wizard all this while. They might actually have been learning to be a rogue for their second class, and then bingo. Sudden development. They suddenly weren't learning how to be a rogue after all and suddenly had been learning how to be a wizard. Now all that previous xp to become a rogue with rogue trainers was really training to become a mage? How? They didn't even want to be a mage until they found the dagger. It makes no sense and it's very unrealistic.
It is generally more realistic to state in advance what your character is learning. True, this takes more skill to play, and some may even claim they don't care about this level of realism in their games. But most roleplayers do care and are quite capable of thinking ahead and making good decisions. And part of the fun is sometimes living with these decisions, even if they don't turn out to be exactly everything you need. That's life, and that's realistic too.
OK, but they could become a wizard the level after that, couldn't they?
Sure, that's better. That's the optional rule a DM may impose that insists you tell your DM at least one level in advance what class your PC is working on next. But if it normally takes years to learn the base skills of a new class, even one level's notice is very sudden and rather unrealistic. It should take much longer. Maybe years. And you normally gain a level's worth of xp far faster than years. So the N level rule not only helps prevent class hopping, but it also adds more than a single level's worth of time and helps mitigate or lessen the problem of sudden development. It takes N levels of your PC's free time to learn a new class. The higher N is, the longer it takes.
OK, I guess that makes sense. So I learn my first class to Nth level, then I can learn a second class, and that goes to N level as well?
Yes, or as an option, maybe less, if the DM wants.
What if I want to triple class?
You can. After reaching Nth level or higher in your first class, you take a second class when you feel ready. Now you have to keep that class for N levels too. For example, if N=5, then you reach 5th level and switch. In your second class you reach 5th level there too, and this makes you a 10th level character. Then you can switch to a third class. If you do, you keep that until you're a 15th level character, etc. But like most things, your PC will be more powerful if they specialize more. More than two classes gets to be pretty unrealistic. And the higher N is, the harder it will be as well.
Can I ever learn in my old class again?
Absolutely. After you reach 10th level (if N=5, or 2N if N equals something else), then each new level can be added to either class. It's pretty easy, really. This is why the N level rule is not like the old dual class rules. Back in 2e, once you switched, you never looked back, (and that was pretty unrealistic too). Also, you couldn't use your old class skills while learning your new ones, but this isn't true under the N level rule. You can use any skill you have at any time, and after you finish your N level minimum, you can go back or add to any of your classes with each new level. The point is, once you take a class you have to take the next N levels in that class and that class only. After that, you can add further levels to old classes or take a new class if you want.
Can't I learn two classes at once? One level here, one level there, switching back and forth?
The N level rule suggests not, and generally it is probably harder for that to happen. We are trying to prevent class hopping and sudden development, but that's mostly born of whim and circumstance and opportunity. We don't want to stifle someone if they honestly wish to pursue two classes at the same time and know this at character generation. But it is harder to do.
You'd either have to have a master well versed in both classes you want, or a couple masters working very closely together, which is unusual. And your PC's starting age should be much higher, like roll the dice for each class and add them both to your race's base age. But if the DM allowed this, that's ok. Your PC would then be expected to only be those two classes and probably learn them in couplets, one level in this class, one level in the other class, then repeat, until your PC was a 2Nth level character. But the DM should allow such things sparingly as they should be rarer, and he must watch out for mini maxers who only want a lot of power. That's not always too good for roleplaying campaigns.
What about standard favored classes and xp penalties and that stuff?
Ignore them all if you use this house rule. No xp penalties for multiclassing, no xp penalty for uneven levels, nothing like that applies anymore. If the DM wishes a race to have an advantage for being of a particular class, they can give them something to do this. Maybe +1 to some stat, or maybe +500 xp to start, or perhaps a 5% xp bonus if they use the xp for their favored class, or whatever.
And this fixes 3e D&D?
In my opinion, it fixes one problem, in fact, the BIGGEST problem in 3e. Plus we aren't telling what the other DMs have to do, but leaving it up to them to decide where they want N, either in general, or on a case by case basis. This flexibility is frequently appreciated. If they like triple or quadruple class characters, if they like letting players bounce from class to class, then N should be low. The closer to N=1, the more unrealistic it is, but that's their choice. And this rule gives them a choice and spells it out clearly, unlike most (if not all) of 3e's vague suggestions that DMs may do things a bit differently if they wish (without ever explaining how or giving any examples).
OK, but 3e still has lots of problems?
Yes, but that was the biggest. Far bigger than any other, so fixing that and that alone will vastly improve the game. And remember, 3e has lots of nice stuff too. And the new game mechanic is pretty nice. So if you use only one house rule and you pick this N level rule, you'll be that much closer to a better roleplaying game.
In your opinion, you mean?
Yes, in my opinion. We must each do what we feel is right, of course. And whatever that is, if you have fun doing it and doesn't detract from the fun of others, then it isn't wrong. I, you understand, like more realism and more roleplaying in my games, and I dislike it when players try to manipulate the rules to squeeze every little advantage out of them, like that's somehow the point of the game. Mini-maxers, as I call them, often miss the point, and they frequently fail to realize it can be fun to roleplay a character with disadvantages as well. So I like the N level rule, and if you do too, then maybe this will work for you.
OK, I'll give a whirl. Why not? Even N=2 might make a significant difference and still not be too different.
That's the spirit. And if you have time, next try N=3. Why not? You may find it prevents even more abuse. But to each his own.
Besides, even a low N greater than 1, such as N=2 or N=3 is often all one needs to prevent the abuse of Class Dipping.
Class Dipping? What's Class Dipping?
Class Dipping is taking a single level in a few extra classes, not because of a genuine desire to play that class, but merely for the fantastic advantages this might afford a character. For example, taking 1 level of rouge, then a level of cleric - with a nice domain - then a level of a specialist wizard - and then fighter for the rest of your career. Thus, a 1/1/1/N rogue/cleric/wizard/fighter, would be your PC. As a fourth level character, you'd have vast skills (that come from the 8X factor for 1st level rogue as your first class) plus all the rogue skills and abilities, then 1d8 hit dice, +2 Fort, +2 Will, 1st level divine spells - including healing - the ability to turn undead, etc. from cleric, then a few 1st level arcane spells due to specialization and INT bonuses, perhaps, +2 more on Will saves, a familiar, not to mention the ability to use a slew of magic items pure fighters never can use, and finally the rest of your life as a fighter, which is pretty nice if you wanted to play a fighter in the first place.
Similarly, most any class you wish to really play can wait a few levels, and all sorts of combinations of Class Dipping can give a character awesome ability. This all comes about simply because 3e doesn't require any significant time to acquire the base skills of a 1st level character, aside, perhaps, from the natural assumption your 1st level character has probably been studying for years to become 1st level in their 1st class. But this realism isn't required for picking up other classes, for 3e is rife with sudden development problems. Even the suggestion of one level's notice before switching hardly helps, as gaining one level's worth of xp can be pretty darn quick. Certainly not on the order of years. Thus, N level's notice is about as realistic as we can expect, short of not allowing PCs to ever switch classes, but that's a rotten solution too. The N level rule, therefore, is about the best compromise I could imagine, and it prevents this abuse of Class Dipping.
Surely, the DM wouldn't allow that stuff in the first place, would they? And the uneven level rule would give them a penalty.
That's even assuming they play by the uneven level rule, which is pretty unrealistic in its justification to begin with, and some ignore it anyway and don't even try to replace it with another rule to maintain game balance. Or they may only Class Dip into a couple classes, 1/1/N, and avoid the penalty by careful use of favored classes, not to mention prestige classes.
The point is, the standard 3e multiclassing system allows this, otherwise it would not be easy to switch classes at all, and that's what many feel is the best thing about 3e, aside from the game mechanics. And if a DM arbitrarily says you can't switch classes, or may have no more than 2 classes, for example, and doesn't have a good IC reason why, it makes the game world sort of bogus. Such heavy-handed DM rulings often reveal the gamer's footprint.
Even N=2 goes a LONG way to preventing Class Dipping. N>=3 would assuredly stop it altogether, aside from those who genuinely don't mind dividing up their PC's time between 2 or 3 classes they honestly wish to play, rather than just grab a single level for some quick bonuses, skills, feats, and abilities.
There are also slight variations on this house rule that might work. More DM options, for example, rather than just having N= a particular level all the time.
Oh? Like what?
Requiring N levels for the first class is more acceptable to some as this clearly prevents certain abuses in low-level games all by itself. But some dislike having to keep N high for subsequent classes. They feel it should become less over time. Like 5 levels for your first class, then 4 levels for your second class, then 3 levels for your third class, etc. Or you might start lower too, such as 4, then 3, then 2, or even much lower like 3, then 2, then 1.
So I could become a 3rd level rogue, then switch for 2 levels of wizard and be a 5th level character, then finally switch to a third class like fighter when I'm 6th level?
Yes. And after that, any new levels could be dumped into any of your three classes. But I'd prefer you became 5th level, then 9th level, and then 12th level before you got there. It seems more realistic. But whatever numbers your DM chooses, it's up to them. It's their world, after all.
But if I used 3, 2, and 1, wouldn't I be unrealistically becoming a fighter after a space of only one level again? Isn't that sudden development? Isn't that what you're trying to prevent?
That's part of it, yes. But some class skills may overlap one another. So by the time you learn your third class, much of the 1st level skills of any class may already be part of your other classes. This is why some feel N should become less with each subsequent class, and I tend to agree as far as that goes. Even I would recommend tapering N off as you go. I'd just never let it get down to one, which is why I play under the 5, 4, 3 rule. On my world, I also don't allow quadruple classes or more than 3 classes, but if one did, it would be the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rule. The DM may also never allow N to become less than 2. So if N = 3, it might cost 3, 2, 2, 2, etc. and never could one pick up a new class in only a single level's notice. Anytime you keep N > 1, you at least keep people from class dipping so freely and abusing the new multiclassing system. You see?
Yeah. Actually, it's pretty easy, isn't it?
I think so.
But sometimes odd things happen in a game. Being forced to complete N levels no matter what seems a bit rigid then, doesn't it?
Like when, for example?
Suppose a war comes up, or my trainer dies, or I really have a good reason to switch before I complete N levels?
That will always remain up to the DM. The N level rule is design to prevent abuse and give more stable and realistic guidelines. If the DM feels the game situation warrants it, or rather the NPC trainer your PC made the promise to feels this, they may be let off. Thus, they would be free to pursue other training. However, it's likely the original trainer would want you to come back when you could to finish your training.
I guess that makes sense. But couldn't they just 'skip out' on their promise or get other class training on the side? What's to stop them?
Mostly getting a bad reputation, having it become known far and wide they are a liar or a quitter and not worth the trouble to train, or just pissing off someone powerful enough like a high level trainer (and his friends). You skip out on your mage master to become a cleric, chances are the church will hear of this and refuse to train you too (unless you pay triple, ha ha). You're the sort to skip out on them too, so why risk it? And even if word of mouth is slow and your PC might be able to stay ahead of them all by going from city to city or trainer to trainer in secret, they burn too many bridges behind them to be wise. It will probably come back to bite them in the ass. It's not worth it.
Good trainers are hard to find, anyway. It's next to impossible, in fact, if you also try to do it on the sly and keep it quiet so word doesn't get around. PCs should consider themselves fortunate to find a competent trainer willing to do the job. They do not grow on tress (even druid trainers don't grow on trees). So skipping out is sort of foolish, as a general rule. Remember that your PC is likely to wish to revisit their trainer many, many times over their career.
Wouldn't there be many lower level trainers than higher level ones? And wouldn't they require lower values of N?
Actually, this house rule assumes accepted trainers will be a minimum of (N+1)th level themselves. Thus, they may teach you well. Yet lower level characters may train you as well, sort of in tandem and through agreement with their own masters or mentors that your PC will start their training with them, but complete their training under your first trainer's own master. I usually assume a trainer must be at least one level higher than the level your PC aspires to become. For example, if you wish to train to 3rd level, your trainer must be at least 4th level to do it properly. Thus, a trainer must be at least 2nd level to teach a 0th level person how to be a 1st level character. And if N > 2, that's ok since your trainer will do this with permission of their own trainer who is likely N+1 or higher. You'll be expected to complete your training under the higher level master, unless your first trainer rises to N+1 level before you get to Nth level yourself. It's sort of like tag team training, or an advanced student teaching the beginners while the master spends more time with the advanced students.
And please don't mistake me and think I'm talking about structured schools. They may be guilds and have actual buildings in larger cites, but usually this is not the case. Your trainer and an open field may do. His master may be in another county. So sometimes you got to travel to get to your trainer, and that can be an adventure in and of itself. But your DM will decided upon such details for them self.
Ah, I think I see how that might work. So it's easier to get training and still keep your promise to get to Nth level.
Right. And remember some, for example the thieves' guild may take a broken promise so seriously, they'd put a contract out on your PC just to help train their more serious students.
Ouch! That's a bit harsh, isn't it?
It just depends. You'll have to judge for yourself how risky it might be. I'm just suggesting, since there is clearly a huge advantage to taking rogue for one level and then dropping it, a good IC reason why this is a bad idea is a thing to cherish. Turning your back on the thieves' guild, or a master thief, can't be smart, usually. DMs who care about good roleplaying should always make it hard on players if they perceive them to be simply manipulating rules or mini maxing, unless that's the norm for the game, in which case even playing by the N level rule is something they aren't likely to do anyway.
Still, in a normal game, the DM should allow your PC to try to go rogue - and I don't mean become a rogue or a thief but to become a free agent - no matter how ill advised that may be.
Can a character, say a warrior, continue to learn how to be a warrior from a different master, or is that cheating too?
What your master is concerned with is that you take his time and effort seriously so he isn't wasting his valuable time, so he only cares about you learning what you promise you will learn, and not about where you learn it or who you learn it from. No matter what class you are trying to gain N levels in, you must learn that class first or it will look like you weren't serious. This system does assume there are always more students or adventurer wannabes than there are qualified teachers and trainers, so it's pretty important not to waste their valuable time.
But if my PC just wanted to learn a bit of swordplay, for example, couldn't he find someone to teach him just one level of fighter? Is that so unrealistic?
The Class System assumes classes are not just a loose collection of skills, almost like a random mix of skills and feats. A true class level represents the teachings of the masters; centuries of experience and knowledge that are being handed down through them and imparted to the student. These special and sometimes secret skills work in synergistic ways to reinforce each other and achieve fantastic, almost epic results. If you envision a class level as a 'bit of swordplay,' you are seriously off the mark. And remember there are more potential students than true masters.
Thus, we assume if you want FULL BONUSES from a class level, you need to get training from a master, and they will require the greater commitment of achieving N levels. However, if all your PC really wants is to learn 'a bit of swordplay' or to dabble in a class level, the DM should allow you to pick up a single level of substandard training whenever you want.
Substandard Training? What's that?
Your PC uses up their level but fills it with a substandard class level. For example, if you wanted to learn a bit of swordplay, the DM would let you, from a non-master, for a single level. But that level would not have the full benefits of one level of fighter. It may have a 1d6 Hit Dice instead of 1d10, it may not get a bonus-feat or it might yield fewer skill points. It may not have all the skills of the class, like knowing all those weapons or armors or shields. The DM will devise exactly how the sub standard training will occur and how much less the normal full bonuses will be. It could be several things. Lesser Base Attack Bonus, no increase in saving throws, smaller hit dice, no feats, or whatever.
Actually, it might be best just to assume this level of substandard training is a Commoner level, plus full bonuses for one, and only one, of the many abilities found in the adventuring class. For example, for a 'bit of swordplay,' you may get +1 BAB, like a fighter, but everything else like a commoner.
Wow, that's not much, is it?
It is EXACTLY what you wanted. A 'bit' of swordplay almost anyone could teach your PC. But if what you REALLY wanted is a level of fighter with all the fighter bonuses, then you'll need a master fighter, and they will demand a serious student. Otherwise, they have better things to do and more serious students waiting for them who actually will devote themselves to the art and not waste their trainer's valuable time.
The thing is, for ease of play, and since your PC would almost be wasting a level like this, it is usually better to get training from a master. However, there may be reasons why you'd still do this. A wizard, for example, might pick up a substandard level of fighter since all he really wants is to learn light, medium, and heavy armor (which the fighter class assumes all fighters know for free). Then the DM could easily give the wizard one level of sub fighter but use normal wizard bonuses to attack, saves, etc. forego the extra spells he would have gotten as a wizard, use 1d4 hit dice, etc. That way, there is a reasonable option to learn many (not all) of the base skills found in a class - by essentially spending one level - without actually being a full-fledged member of that class or having to achieve N levels in it.
That sounds complicated.
Sometimes greater realism is messy and complicated. I'm not suggesting this should become a normal practice. Using your PC's levels to pick up substandard training is just a possibility, not a recommendation. And it addresses your concerns about a bit of swordplay. Just be careful, for not all skills are easy to pick up. A bit of spell casting, for example, isn't realistic, unless you limit it to orisons and/or cantrips only, and never 1st or higher level spells without actually becoming a full-fledged spell caster. Some things are just harder or impossible to pick up only a little of it and expect it to be of any use. You usually have to get training from a real master, and they usually will require a full N levels.
For those with a handy DMG, 'expert' or 'warrior' classes are given on page 39 of the DMG. Though this is on the right track for what constitutes substandard training, these classes, unlike the commoner class, may be giving a little too much away for free. That is, they are still too nice, in my honest opinion, to allow PCs to take them without requiring some greater commitment.
While I wouldn't recommend they be forced to learn N levels of expert or warrior, I wouldn't automatically assume they can always find a competent expert or a qualified warrior, or better yet, might insist they take six months off to pick up such a level since these specialized classes have a rather substantial package of base skills - almost rivaling fighter or other standard classes.
A wizard, for example, taking warrior would seem to learn all armor feats, all simple weapons, shields, +1 BAB, +2 FORT, and a solid 1d8 hit dice, all of which is overly nice for a quickie and well worth it if they could get around N levels of commitment. Don't let them. Thus, 'warriors' probably require greater time or actually joining some service - like the army or signing on as a guard for six months.
'Experts' also take a lot of time to learn. The 10 skills associated with the expert class - whatever skills the DM decides constitutes that particular expert class - and the player should not be allowed to choose which 10 skills they want since that's too convenient - take months to learn. Therefore, the DM will be expected to control substandard training and limit access to expert and warrior classes for PCs, or at least require greater commitments in time, OR they will have to further degrade the bonuses for those classes to be commensurate with the amount of time actually invested to pick up a bit of 'swordplay' or whatever.
Here's a question then. If trainers are concerned about N levels, why, for your third class, for example, do they only want you to learn N-2 levels?
My, that's a good question. I'm glad you're thinking. But there is an answer. Two, in fact. First, they only care about you meeting minimum standards, and with the advantages of previous training for your other classes, you are already closer to this. It's not likely you'll uselessly get killed because you didn't take your training seriously. Try to imagine how a trainer feels if they learn you died because they trained you so poorly. Try to imagine how that might affect their reputation, too. Trust me, they don't want to send out unqualified people.
And second, higher levels take more xp, so you're likely to put in even more actual 'time' than you were at lower levels, and your master recognizes the limitations on your time to maintain other skills. To take such training on often will only be done by serious minded people. Or, in short, you have already proven you are serious and therefore very likely not to be wasting his time. He'll cut you more slack, if he has to. You've earned that level of respect by then, and the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, each trainer (the DM, actually) may set N to whatever they feel is optimal. So the thieves guild may set N = 6, a warrior's guild might use N = 4, a monastery might be N = 3, a wizard may insist his student learn 4 levels, etc. The DM has great control under the N level rule. This isn't the N= 5 rule, you understand.
The point of the N level rule is to show your players up front what is normally expected. Thus, they must contrive valid reasons for not completing N levels rather than, as standard 3e suggests, think they can hop from class to class with the frequency of a cheap transistor radio. So the N level rule sets up in the mind of the player the very notion that mini maxing will be frowned upon, while standard 3e almost does the opposite by encouraging it.
Can characters train themselves?
The whole concept of requiring training to go up levels above and beyond simple acquisition of experience points varies from game to game. Some assume xp is enough and it automatically happens. Most games I've played in assume that once you get enough xp, you then seek training. Only after getting training from a master does your PC go up in level. And 3e also implies this as many skills and feats almost certainly require a trainer.
This system assumes you need a trainer of the appropriate class who is sufficiently higher level than your PC so your character may learn quickly and properly. In fact, 3e assumes trainers whether you deal with the details or just gloss over these issues. However the DM does it isn't the point. Training alone might be done, particularly at high level (past name level is a good guess, so around 9th to 12th level in THAT class and not just that level as a character). But when just starting out in a class, you really need a mentor or master or trainer to do it well. Self taught beginners could easily be 10 years older, for example. Self taught veterans might takes years to learn a new class or months longer to learn a new skill, than one who avails them self of a professional trainer. Also note, a 'trainer' might simply mean a book or instruction manual. With such a tome in hand, you are not honestly 'self taught,' but a taught by a trainer once removed.
There is usually a cost involved, too, both in time and money. Training alone will take far longer (twice as long, maybe four times as long). I remember playing one week/level as standard with a trainer, so training alone might cost you one month/level of just time. And the cost? Well, economics are also better left to individual DMs to fit to their world. Training alone, suffice it to say, would probably cost more since you'll take more time, make more mistakes, and break more equipment, etc. But the DM may lessen the cost, too, and the increase in time for cost of living may be negligible in comparison to the training cost in equipment, etc.
I guess that makes sense.
I think so. But it answers your questions, I hope, and explains how the N level rule is not so inflexible or rigid as it might first appear. N, for a start, is determined by the DM, perhaps it could even be different for each NPC trainer or established school or guild. And they'll decide, via the appropriate NPC trainer, if your PC may have special dispensation and leave training early. I just wouldn't count on it, if I were you. So if you want to try, you better have a darn good reason and you better expect your DM to say no anyway.
How exactly does someone get training for their new class? And when?
Chances are they have a mentor for their first class. When they get enough xp to go up, they'll spend weeks or months with them - about one week/level, plus one week/new rank in each skill, plus one week/new feat, for example, but ask your DM.
Yet in a group of adventurers, everyone doesn't always want to take time off at the same time. So if the warrior, for example, needs to train to go up a level, the others probably don't need to train just then. They will have to find little things to fill their time, and hopefully, as it is only a week or a month or so and not years and years, they can do this without needing to roleplay their actions and take game time while excluding the training player's PC - since he is busy. There are lots of things to do that don't take game time, but I won't go into that here. One thing, however, may be multiclassing. And if your PC wants to multiclass, even though they aren't going up a level just then, they can use that 'down time' to learn part of their new class's skills from a master or mentor or trainer.
But if you really wish to know how I handle training, you can read more about here:
Won't it seem like they are skipping out on their previous commitment?
No, as this assumes they are on schedule, and they would be, as long as they keep using their xp to go up levels in their first class until N levels are achieved. Just because your master insists you work hard toward becoming Nth level, he doesn't insist you can't do ANYTHING else. So small draws on your PC's time are fine. You get to adventure, travel, relax, go to taverns, consult sages, follow up on rumors, visit family and friends, start a family, whatever, and roleplay in numerous ways, or learn more about your next class in a continuing piecemeal fashion, all while primarily working toward becoming N levels higher in your first class from the time they decided to begin this new training, and sticking to your trainer's schedule.
Thus, though it may take N level's worth of most of their free time, it is assumed by the time they finish their obligations and achieve N more levels, their next level will be in their new class, or they may take that new class any time thereafter if they wish to continue in their old class past Nth level. So, for example, you may wait until you're a 9th level warrior before finally becoming a 1st level wizard and a 10th level character. Understand?
Yeah, I get it. I guess the N level rule would prevent abuse, as you say, and be more realistic. 'Sudden development' is a problem. I can see that. And the rules as they are given are open to some clear potential for mini-maxing abuse, and Class Dipping. This will help stop that.
Right. And either variation of the N level rule is a far cry better than the standard multiclassing rules of 3e. Just using the N level rule should help set the tone for the game and demonstrate to your players up front and before character generation that you wish them to roleplay more and crunch numbers less. So I hope you'll give the N level rule a try. I'm pretty sure you won't regret it.
You're welcome. And remember, play nice and be sure to have fun ;-)
© August of 2001