On Multiclassing in 5th Edition

Multi-classing hasn't worked in Dungeons and Dragons since the year 2000.

Thankfully, 5th edition did us the double favor of both making it function again and unnecessary.

A little skippable history: Non-human characters used to have the option of taking more than once class at a time, and splitting their experience between them. Humans had a special option called Dual Classing, where they stopped advancing in one class forever. This originates with +Ernie Gygax's character Erac's Cousin. Gygax recounts the story of how Erac was transported to The Land of Ugor where his magic didn't function in Dragon #319 in Up On A Soapbox.

In 3rd edition, characters could choose what class they gained when they leveled up. They also had the option of picking among thousands and thousands of prestige classes. This created several problems.

  • Classes were front loaded. There was no point in going past the first few levels of many classes like ranger. 
  • If you took spell-casting classes, you always were at a disadvantage multi-classing, unless the class had full spellcasting progression, due to the importance of spell level. A sixth level wizard who took a level in a prestige class wouldn't get fourth level spells until eighth level, causing him to be underpowered compared to level appropriate encounters. 
  • Characters could get ridiculously high saving throws.
  • Certain prestige classes made rule-exceptions that allowed classes to trade useless features (turn attempts per day) and turn them into ultra powerful abilities. 
  • Because you could do this, a lot of players spent time planning out which class they would take at which level to maximize certain values to unbalance their characters. 
5th edition solved all these problems super-elegantly
  • Spells are categorized by level, but most all spells can be improved by using a higher level spell slot. You don't need summon monster IX, you just can cast the Conjure Elemental spell at a higher level spell slot for a more powerful summon. When you multi-class, you gain addition slots, even if you don't gain higher level spells. 
    • This means even if you lose the raw power of higher level spells, you don't fall behind in general power level, because your spells increase in power either way.
  • There are no prestige classes. Each class has a prestige option that grants abilities at three different levels, meaning you don't have to leave the core class.
  • When multi-classing, you don't gain all the features of the class you change into—only a restricted list. 
  • Your total proficiency bonus is tied to your total level, rather than based off what the class gives you.
  • The ability of classes to specialize, removes a lot of the necessity of multi-classing, letting it represent a way to customize your character, rather than to try and generate a concept. 
In 5th edition, you multi-class in essentially the same way as third edition. You select which class you'd like to take when you level.

But what if you'd like to do traditional multi-classing or have gestalt characters in 5th edition? Having characters being able to take more than one class simultaneously and level up in both like in first edition games could provide the same experience.

It's possible, but not quite straightforward.

1st Edition Multi-classing in 5th Edition

There are a few problems to be aware of.
  1. Experience gain isn't quite as exponential as it was in 1st edition. 
  2. The classes are designed to be equal and don't require different experience point totals. 
So, our major concern here is that gestalt characters will always overshadow single class or 3rd edition style multi-class. Here are the changes necessary to make that work.

Two or Three classes are selected. Experience points are split evenly between these classes. No other classes can be taken. Once the classes reach the required experience point total, you level as normal. 
  • One class is the primary class, chosen by the player. The secondary (or tertiary) class only gets the core class proficiencies from the multi-classing table on page 164. 
    • EXCEPTING saving throws. If a class combination receives proficiency in the same save from both classes, they can select another saving throw to have proficiency in. 
  • The classes split experience points equally between the classes.
  • When gaining a level, the hit dice are rolled, added together, divided by 2 and rounded up. A barbarian/fighter would roll 1d12+1d10/2 for hit points and then add their Constitution bonus. 
    • Use the better hit die for hit point recovery.
  • The classes are not additive to determine the proficiency bonus! A Fighter/Wizard 4/4 would have a +2 proficiency bonus.
  • Spell slots and spells known are not additive. A Wizard/Warlock keeps track of his spells separately, ignoring the multi-classing table. He cannot use wizard slots for warlock spells and vice-versa.
  • Other, unmentioned class features stack according to the guidelines in the multi-classing section of the players handbook.
  • They must meet all the requirements of the multi-classing requirements in the book.
The new experience point table is as follows.

  • The experience point value for class level is listed as in the 5th Edition Players Handbook, page 15. 
  • The 2 Class Total XP indicates how much experience you would have to acquire split evenly between your classes to reach that level. 
  • The 2CEqL (2 class equivalent level) is what level a single-classed character would be with the total experience acquired by that point..
  • The 3 Class Total XP indicates how much experience you would have to acquire split evenly between your 3 classes to reach that level.
  • The 3CEqL (3 class equivalent level) is what a single-classed character would be with ith the total experience acquired by that point..
Experience Points Level 2 Class Total XP  2CEqL 3 Class XP total 3CEqL
0 1 0 1 0 1
300 2 600 2 900 3
900 3 1,800 3 2,700 4
2,700 4 5,400 4 8100 5
6,500 5 13,000 5 19,500 6
14,000 6 28,000 7 42,000 8
23,000 7 46,000 8 69,000 10
34,000 8 68,000 10 102,000 12
48,000 9 96,000 11 144.000 14
64,000 10 128,000 13 192,000 15
85,000 11 170,000 15 255,000 17
100,000 12 200,000 16 300,000 18
120,000 13 240,000 17 360,000 20
140,000 14 280,000 18 420,000 21
165,000 15 330,000 19 495,000 22
195,000 16 390,000 20 585,000 23
225,000 17 450,000 21 675,000 25
265,000 18 530,000 23 795,000 26
305,000 19 610,000 24 915,000 28
355,000 20 710,000 24+ 1,065,000 29

There may be situations in which characters may be overshadowed or outclassed by multi-class characters. Is a single level 20 fighter superior to a Fighter/Magic-User/Thief 13/13/13? His proficiency bonus, hit points and class features make him more powerful, but the F/M-U/Thief is a lot more flexible.

For the first three levels when the disparity is lower, the multi-class characters will seem more powerful. But they will always be lagging behind, often getting their level right before the single-classed characters gain the level beyond that. . 

As a further control on these power levels, and to insure that multi-classing strengthens you game, rather than just becomes another powerful option, perhaps consider limiting multi-classing to certain approved combinations. For example, only allow Dwarves to be Fighter/Clerics, and restrict elves to Fighter/Magic Users. 

Hack & Slash 
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  1. Yes, I was pleased with 5e's take on multi-classing myself. I also like that there are stat requirements to multi-class.

  2. Thanks a lot! Seems like working fine in our newest campaign. I've got only two constant players, and helped them out with a multi half-elf rogue/ranger NPC with a carney background. Almost substitutes two NPC-s, especially in this so early state of character development.

  3. Would you mind if I translated this to portuguese? With the due reference to your blog, of course.
    It's an amazing work and i'd like to share this with my fellow portuguese speakers players and dms.

    1. I've had problems with people wanting to do such things for content farms before. As long as you add links back to the original work and post here with the translation it should be ok.

    2. Thanks. There you go with links and all https://covildeammurnar.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/gestalt-personagens-multiclasse-na-5a-edicao/

  4. How does gaining ability scores work with multiclassing? Do you just gain one every 4 character levels? or only when you hit levels 4,8,12,16, and 19 in a single class?

    1. I would allow them to use the class that gets the most frequent increases to stats as the schedule.

  5. Hi, hope this is not a silly question.

    IF leveling using the 1st edition method, for a gnome thief/wizard, will the levels to gain ability score be at 4, 8, 13, 16, 19 as per charted in the chart above?

    DOes the amount of ability score stack for each level gain in each class whereby instead of gaining only 2 ability score increment when thief4/wizard4, it increases to 4? If so does it also apply to acquisition of feats whereby it will be 2 feats at once rather than 1?

    As mentioned above too where saving throws are exempted from the 5e rulebook if one of the saving throws are shared between 2 classes, one may pick another saving throw, hence the thief/wizard has proficiencies in dex,int and also wis?

    Thanks in advance!!

    1. The character would only get statistic boosts when their primary class would gain statistic boosts. They would only gain +2 at any given time. They would only gain one feat.

      If the Rogue were your primary class (as it is listed first in your description) you would gain +2 bumps (or feats) at 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, and 19. If instead Wizard were the primary class, you would gain +2 bumps (or feats) at 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. One or the other. Not both.

      Note that the primary class selected limits your proficiencies gained from the secondary class per the multi-classing rules on page 164. If wizard is the primary class they only gain light armor proficiency and one class skill. If rogue is the primary class they gain no proficiencies from wizards (saving throws excepted).

      The saving throw is the exception (1e multi-classing always having the feature of multi-class characters having exceptional saving throws) and you are correct.

  6. This might be a dumb question, but you say that there is a list of abilities you are restricted to multiclassing in 5e. Where might I find this list?

    1. Chapter 6, pages 163 and 164 of the PHB, right between the equipment and the feats

  7. This might be a dumb question, but you say that there is a list of abilities you are restricted to multiclassing in 5e. Where might I find this list?

  8. Chapter 6, pages 163 and 164 of the PHB, right between the equipment and the feats.

  9. I'm not sure if I'm just misunderstanding your explanation, but most of this seems to completely contradict what is stated in the players handbook.

    1. Because it's an article about using 1e style multi-classing with 5e instead of 5e's multiclassing system?

    2. I'm so sorry C, I totally misread this. However the part when comparing how 5e handles multiclassing has me a little confused. There wasnt a restricted list of bonuses that I saw. From what I read you get all the 1st level bonuses of the other class when you take one level, everything from second level when taking the second. The restrictions only seem to apply when determining duplicate bonuses such as unarmoured defense and extra attacks.

    3. Page 164 in the players handbook lists what proficiencies are restricted when multi-classing.


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