Hybrid characters, the newest Player’s Handbook 3 debut content, were released as part of Dragon Magazine #383 (DDI subscription required). The concept of a dual classes and how the game designers were going to differentiate multi-classing from hybrids is something I’ve wanted to see for some time. I was very excited to see this update and to get my hands on the debut rules. Based on my first impression with the hybrid system I’m very impressed.
In short, the hybrid system opens up a wealth of new character options for players. While not every option will make sense or be optimized, the hybrid system allows players to tinker with various character concepts and build something unique.
The debut content article has great insight from Andy Collins and Mike Mearls. The designer insight is one of the aspects of the advance previews that I’ve enjoyed. It’s great to get a look into why certain decisions were made. Additionally, you get a sense that many of the idea’s were on the back burner for some time, waiting for the appropriate opportunity in D&D’s evolution to come forward.
In creating a hybrid character you are essentially borrowing elements from two different classes. While experimenting with the system I created a Bard/Swordmage. As a Bard I gain the ability to heal, but only once per encounter. As a Swordmage I can mark my enemies, but there are limits on my ability to do so. Other features of each class are also removed to provide balance. You’re able to regain some of these class features by selecting the Hybrid Talent feat.
What you’ll find as you experiment with the system is if you create a character from classes in two different roles you won’t be as good as a pure class. Your character will be more versatile and if you pick your combinations properly the character you create can be very powerful. In the case of my Bard/Swordmage I feel I’ve created a much more powerful character that is more useful to our party than the pure Bard I was playing previously (I have provided a pdf copy of each version of the character for comparison purposes: Bard | Hybrid). My goal in creating the character was to have him act as a defender (which the party does not have). In the pure Bard version I did this through multi-classing. In the hybrid version I combined Bard and Swordmage. Time will tell how accurate my feeling on this build is, but on paper I like what I see.
The article on hybrid classes suggests combinations for each class. From a mechanics standpoint it makes sense to select two classes that share primary ability scores. Some combinations I’m interested in experimenting with are Ranger/Rogue, Warlock/Sorcerer, Fighter/Warden, and Invoker/Avenger. In three of these instances by staying within the same role I think the combination of abilities would make for a very deadly character. The Invoker/Avenger is one I’m most interested in testing out to determine how those abilities might mesh.
By now you realize that I’m a big fan of the hybrid rules. I really favour them over the 4e multi-classing system. I experimented with the multi-class system extensively with my Bard. One part of the system that never sat right with me was using a feat to swap an existing power with one from the class I multi-classed into. It just felt like a waste of a feat and I really felt that multi-classing weakened a character, rather than strengthening it. I know there will be exceptions to that, but it’s the experience I had.
The hybrid rules provide a fresh set of options for players to experiment with. DMs look out because your players are going to be bringing all kinds of new monster killers to the table. In the end I feel hybrid characters are good for the game and help to keep things fresh. I just hope I have time to actually play all the character combinations I dream up.
What are your thoughts on the hybrid system? Does it add to the game or take away from it? How do you think it will effect the balance of 4e? Are hybrid characters going to end up being too powerful compared to traditional class characters.