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D&D 3E
Multiclassing XP penalty 
9th-Apr-2008 12:55 pm
geometry, roleplaying, random numbers, games, 3e
For the first time in a long while, the issue of XP penalties for multiclassing came up recently. I'm playing a dwarf ranger who would be a perfect candidate to take a level of barbarian, but that's probably not going to happen, because of said XP hit.

But it started me thinking about what I'd do when I'm running future games. I don't generally think that multiclassing is a good bargain, anyway (it's not a bad bargain, exactly, but I think you're generally better off sticking with one class), and the XP hit just discourages multiclassing for no real benefit.

One benefit humans get is that they have a lot more flexibility in multiclassing without taking the XP hit, so if I were to scrap that rule, would I need to give them an extra racial feature to make up for it? What sort of thing would be balanced?

In my experience, very few characters are directly affected by this, but a more substantial number may be indirectly affected, as they avoid class combinations that would incur the penalty...

So, thoughts?
9th-Apr-2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
Humans probably don't need an extra bonus, as their benefits are already pretty strong.
Half-elves, on the other hand, don't have much else. They'd probably need something.
9th-Apr-2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I ignored half-elves in this post because they don't exist...
9th-Apr-2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
The multiclassing penalty is a social penalty made into a mechanic.

If Multiclassing were broken for any race, it'd be broken for all races. It's even more notably not broken as characters are allowed to multiclass to the highest synergy class for heir race, not the least synergistic.

I ignore it, and mostly play in games that ignore the penalty (at least, for the first class taken). Should you give Humans (and half-elves, et al) something to make up for taking away that restriction for everyone? I wouldn't bother.
9th-Apr-2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
If Multiclassing were broken for any race, it'd be broken for all races.

I agree. It is is broken for all races. Well, except Humans (and non-existent half-elves), who don't have this penalty.

It's even more notably not broken as characters are allowed to multiclass to the highest synergy class for heir race, not the least synergistic.

I don't understand what that means. Why is "the highest synergy class" for dwarves fighter and not barbarian? Why is "the highest synergy class" for elves wizard and not rogue?
9th-Apr-2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
I agree. It is is broken for all races. Well, except Humans (and non-existent half-elves), who don't have this penalty.

Multi-classing being broken has nothing to do with the XP penalty, and everything to do with being 50% less than a single-class character of the same level.

The only time Multi-classing isn't broken in 3rd edition is when you multiclass between same-role classes -- and then it's broken the OTHER way.
9th-Apr-2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
While the XP penalties can hold a certain class of Munchkins in check, I've found it to be almost completely useless (at best) and a serious impediment to legitimate roleplay decisions.

As such, they've been banished from my game. To help balance this, I have a set of houserules:

- Generally speaking, if a weapon has a race name in it, members of that race can treat it as a martial weapon instead of an exotic weapon. This is subject to GM approval.

- Humans can treat Bastard Swords as martial weapons.

- Half-elves can treat human and elven racial weapons as martial.


While it's true that humans don't really need a buff (free feat = godly), this helps to sprinkle a bit more race-specific flavor without actually increasing strength. (After all, most martial characters would do better with a +Str/Dex/Con-type race.)

The changes to Half-elves are probably not enough of a buff. Any ideas?

You can see the rest of my houserules here:

9th-Apr-2008 09:14 pm (UTC) - XP Multiclass penalties? --oh, yeah
I tossed that rule so long ago I had to think to remember what it was.

10th-Apr-2008 05:07 am (UTC) - Re: XP Multiclass penalties? --oh, yeah
Agreed. For a game that is a world of clean design from AD&D1e and AD&D2e the XP penalty stand out badly.
10th-Apr-2008 03:06 am (UTC)
Keep in mind that there are ways around the experience penalty from multiclassing. Example: a Dwarf Ranger2/Barbarian1 would not have an experience penalty because her nonfavored classes are still within one level of each other.

I'm going to have to disagree with you about the whole sticking with one class thing; for the most part, really good builds don't have more than five or so levels in normal classes.
10th-Apr-2008 10:47 am (UTC)
Example: a Dwarf Ranger2/Barbarian1 would not have an experience penalty because her nonfavored classes are still within one level of each other.

This is true, but if you want to primarily pursue one path (in this instance, ranger), and only have a level or two of the other, this doesn't last very long.

Also, if you decide at level 9 that you want to pick up a second class, and you're not already your favoured class, you're pretty much screwed...
10th-Apr-2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
I agree.
10th-Apr-2008 10:41 pm (UTC)
True enough, unless you're taking levels of your favored class.

Example: Dwarf Monk11/Fighter2
10th-Apr-2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's my point. There's a class I want to take levels in for roleplaying reasons - it makes sense for the character. But the XP penalty means that doing that is, mechanically, a very bad idea.

You're technically correct that I could be a ranger 9/fighter 1 rather than a ranger 10, but there's no in-game reason to do that (as there is with barbarian), and there isn't even a system advantage.
11th-Apr-2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
Your solution then is to argue to the DM that for this character and this character only, barbarian should be a favored class(or ranger), rather than fighter.
11th-Apr-2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
This character, which started me thinking about the whole thing, is merely an example of how it is broken. I'm simply pointing out that being told it's not broken because I should know better than to play a demi-human in any class other than his favoured class is not terribly helpful.

I don't care to argue for special exemptions and exceptions, and I shall probably stick as a pure ranger instead. The question was, what should I do about this rule when I GM? And the obvious answer is to get rid of it completely. The sub-question on which I was specifically asking for feedback is is the lack of a favoured class a valuable enough ability that humans need to be compensated for its loss?
11th-Apr-2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
There are also other approaches you could take. For instance, there are a plethora of variant class features for Rangers in lieu of spellcasting (one of which increases base land speed), which would make your character somewhat more Barbarian-esque.
11th-Apr-2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Most DMs will let you bend rules like this for flavor reasons; maybe your Dwarf was raised in a clan where Ranger or Barbarian is the favored class rather than Fighter, for instance.
14th-Apr-2008 12:26 am (UTC)
I agree with bending rules for flavor reasons. Within reason, of course.
14th-Apr-2008 12:34 am (UTC)
Of course. It's downright amusing what some players try to get away with.
10th-Apr-2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Also, it pays to plan your build out so you don't run into this scenario.
10th-Apr-2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, I know players who, before they even sit down at the table, map out exactly which classes, feats and skills they're going to take at every level, up to at least 20.

There's nothing wrong with that, but I personally prefer to allow the character to evolve naturally over time, taking the feats and classes that seem most appropriate to his character and experiences.

Is that an approach that should be penalised?
11th-Apr-2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
Based on the way the rules are written in the 3.5 books? Yes. Based on the true purpose of roleplaying? No.
14th-Apr-2008 12:28 am (UTC)
There's something to be said for mapping out a character (and then discarding the map after you actually roleplay for a while). "Plans are worthless. Planning is priceless." Or something to that effect.

My current character (Sor4/Clr3/MT4/Couatl bloodline 3) began life (well before the game I'm currently in) as a paladin/wizard/Rainbow Servant. You make plans, then you adapt them to the world in which your character lives, then you discard them if necessary.
14th-Apr-2008 12:31 am (UTC)
My guess is that the WotC people included the XP penalty for a reason, game-balance wise. However, I DON'T know why "humans and half-elves don't get penalties" is balanced.

I *think* the purpose of the rule is to not let a 16th-level wizard take 2 levels in Rogue and Fighter just for Evasion and the bonus feats. However, if they're a human or a half-elf (or, in this case, an elf), it works just fine for them to do this.

I'll email this post to my resident game-breaker and ask him what *he* could do if the XP penalty rules were not in place. I expect the answer is "very nasty things."

Is this in the WotC FAQs anywhere? I bet they've had this question before...
14th-Apr-2008 03:08 am (UTC)
AC 142 with a +154/+149/+144/+139/+134 ranged touch attack for 48d6 each at 2200 feet isn't THAT broken at 45th level. )=)

Huh. I went to put "0=)" and got horns instead ...

(In fairness, that DM also house-rule allowed stacking on all sorts of crazy bonuses, templated Polymorphs, and unlimited source material)

Multiclassing only becomes an issue for me when I'm facing a situation as described above: for character purposes, it makes sense to take a level of some class. The pre-planned character makes sense if you want to make sure to have a max-power character by the time your party takes on the Tarrasque, but it will usually mean sacrificing effectiveness at lower levels to do so. While it's great that three or four feats can be combined to make a particularly useful technique, you don't get to enjoy it for the first nine levels, since the key feat has a prereq 12 ranks of a skill. In the meantime, you keep getting smacked around in battle because the buildup feats aren't very useful by themselves. Great example: PrC that require "Iron Will" or "Run" or similar feats that few people ever take; the PrC requires commitment for a couple levels of underpowered play.

That said, the XP penalty is little deterrent for more than PCs trying to gain a lot of power in just a few levels; but for them, there are always the Prestige Class. Since there is no XP penalty for multiclassing PrC, someone (probably one who earlier mapped out how to max at 20) can pour through allowed sourcebooks for PrC with similar requirements, or which build on each other. It's tricky, but usually generates a stronger character than sticking to base classes. Short, I suppose, of a Mnk2/Pal2/Clr1/Rog1/Warlock for the rest ... but honestly, a power-player would probably just do straight Warlock anyways.
14th-Apr-2008 10:48 am (UTC)
"AC 142 with a +154/+149/+144/+139/+134 ranged touch attack for 48d6 each at 2200 feet isn't THAT broken at 45th level."

OK, now you're going to have to tell me what that involves...
14th-Apr-2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
In my group, the multiclassing XP penalty is practically extinct. Lately we've played in small groups, so frequently our characters have to take more than one class to be effective at what they do (example: a fox hengeyokai ninja who is migrating into sorcerer, and from there is going to god knows what). The multiclassing penalty is a pain in the neck for non-human characters who are playing against type, and for that reason (and perhaps a few others I can't think of now) we have for all intents and purposes discarded it.

If anything, I think it was originally intended as a form of stereotyping, i.e., dwarves are almost always fighters, elves are almost always wizards, etc., which is rather silly in some respects. Gimli may have been a straight fighter, but Legolas was probably a ranger with a few levels of archery focused fighter, for example. And ultimately, these are stereotypes. They might have been true in previous editions, when as I understand it dwarves could not be wizards unless they were houseruled otherwise.

Not to mention that some of the favored class choices are kind of wonky (gnomes as bards? wtf mate?), but that's another issue entirely. Basically, I'd say, don't feel bad about getting rid of it, and if someone abuses your rules, then deal with it on a case by case basis.
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