Multiclassing in 4E?
Multiclassing is something that's been around, in one form or another, throughout D&D's entire lifetime. It appears to be getting a pretty drastic revision for the new edition, and I'm creating this forum in order discuss the various merits and flaws of the new approach, as well as to serve as a place to consolidate all of the speculation on 4th Edition, rather than waiting for Gazgurk to break it out in some other area ;).
Based on what I can gather (from http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4ex/20080430a and the various character sheets WotC has posted online), the design philosophy behind the new approach to multiclassing is pretty sound. The stated design goals for multiclassing in 4E are as follows:
"1.Design the classes, make them cool, then force multiclassing to play nice with them. (*rather than designing classes with avoiding multiclass abuse in mind)
2. Institute controls to prevent abusive combinations.
3. Institute controls to make every combination as playable as possible."
How this philosophy is put into practice is an entirely different matter, and one that I'm still unsure about.
"Multiclassing" in 4E is approached entirely with feats. For each class, there is a class-specific "multiclass feat" that grants character who take it access to some of the iconic skills and abilities of their "second class," as well as qualifying for any other character advancement options that are limited to the second class. For example, a fighter could take the Sneak of Shadows feat(assuming he meets the Dexterity-13 prerequisite) and gain the Thievery skill and the ability to Sneak Attack once per encounter.
Once you have take a multiclass feat, there are also "power-swap" feats that allow you to trade one of your abilities from your original class for one of equivalent power from your second class. I've always felt that there should be a system like this in place, a way to swap class abilities in and out with one another for additional customization.
The main problem I see is that while individual abilities have become more interchangable, the classes themselves have become less modular. It's kind of funny that they're still calling this process "multiclassing," as it's no longer possible to *actually* gain levels in another class. Once you've chosen a class, you can't decide to wholly give up on it and pursue another path. For example, if I'm playing a young wizard who, through the course of the campaign, decides that he wants to turn his back on his arcane abilities and become a warrior, I can't just start "taking levels in fighter." In order to reflect that mechanically, I've have to completely rebuild my character as a fighter with some multiclass wizard stuff. The advantage, I suppose, is more divirsification within a single class, so that not every fighter takes same group of feats.
The overarching design philosophy behind 4th Edition seems to revolve around categorizing things in order to increase efficiency. Every party needs a Defender, which can be a Fighter or Paladin, and my Paladin is unique because of these specific elements I've chosen. The interesting thing is that the lower down you get on that tree, the more fiddily bits you have. 4th Edition appears to provide a lot more freedom and customization down on the specific ability level, but your choices of character roles is quite a bit more limited, with character classes straddling that gap.
I think the reason that many people (myself included!) have a knee-jerk negative reaction to this idea is because nobody likes to be categorized in this much detail, because we're individuals! The same goes for our characters, we don't like the oppressive WotC regime telling us who we have to be and what roles we need to take in our games.
The truth is, though, everybody can be categorized, and it's not necessisarily a bad thing. I can lump myself into the "People Who Enjoy D&D" box, which fits into the larger box of "Tabletop RPG Enthusiasts," which I think applies to everyone that frequents this site. The "Tabletop" box fits into the larger "nerd" catergory, which fits still further into the "Humans Who Have Enough of Their Needs Fulfilled to Worry About and Create Social Strata," which fits even more broadly into a whole succession of other groups.
These categories, character roles and classes, have, in some form or another, existed in the game since it's beginnning. Everybody knows that wizards and fighters do different things in D&D, and you can't easily substitute one fo the other. The real question is: Will making these categories explicit in the rules (rather than implicit as they always have been) be good for the game? Only time will tell, I suppose.
What do you guys think?