If your Wizard wants to dabble in swordplay he can always choose to multi-class in Fighter (assuming you meet the prerequisites). Or, if this is something you decided during the character creation process then you can make a hybrid character that combines aspects of both classes equally. But what happens if, after many levels as a Wizard, you decide that you don’t just want to be a dabbler who multi-classes. What if he wants to give up the arcane arts entirely and become a Fighter? What does he do then?
If you’re following the rules as written then you don’t really have any acceptable options. However, a creative player may be able to convince an adventurous DM to explore other possibilities, especially if they make sense in the context of the game.
Changing classes after character creation isn’t something that the 4e mechanics allow for. However, previous editions of D&D did. It’s not something that happens often so I’m not surprised that no 4e mechanic exists to accommodate this kind of thing. But sometimes there will be a really good in-game story rationale for why a PC must abandon his old class entirely and pursue another. In these cases we need to get creative.
In previous editions of D&D a characters had a couple of options if they wanted to pick up a different class. When it came to multi-classing in 3e you just took a new class and added the level 1 powers and bonuses to your existing character. It was possible for a level 12 Fighter to adventure along side a level 4 Fighter/level 8 Wizard. In fact multi-classing usually presented a lot of powerful synergies so it was more uncommon to find character that stuck to just their primary class all the way through their adventuring career. But in 4e you pick a class and that’s it. You’re stuck with it. You can still multiclass but you are no more than a dabbler, gaining one basic power from your secondary class. In order to get anything else you have to select feats that allow you to swap out powers one at a time.
Another option that was available back in 2e AD&D was to dual class. This is more along the lines of what I’m thinking of now. You decided at some point to stop being your primary class forever. You began anew at level 1 in your second class. The kicker was that you couldn’t use any of your powers or abilities from the first class until reached one level higher in the new class. So a level 5 Wizard could give up his magic to become a Fighter, but he was unable to use any of his magical abilities until he reached level 6 in his new class. It was a painful process, but once you made it those Wizard powers were yours to use again as you wanted. You could never again advance as a Wizard now that you were a Fighter, but you could benefit from all those years spent studying the arcane arts again.
The dual class model from 2e is what I’m thinking of for 4e. How can we use 4e mechanics for this kind of transformation to happen? I’ve given this some considerable thought and I’ve got a solution.
Let’s continue using the Wizard/Fighter example. Assume that the character reaches level as a Wizard. If he abandons Wizardry he cannot use any powers related to that class. This means none of his at-wills, encounter, utility or daily powers are accessible (for now). Any trained skill not normally allowed for the new class no longer gains the +5 benefit that comes with training. Any feats that are restricted to the original class are also barred.
I’ll bet some of you are thinking “How do you lose training in a skill?” Here’s how I envision it. Since the Wizard is trying to learn something totally new, in this case weapons and fighting, he’s not going to have much use for the Arcana skill. He needs to focus all his resources on the new stuff, like the History of battle tactics or the drills that are represented by Athletics.
After figuring out what you don’t have access to let’s look at what you do have access to. You keep your original hit points (as a level 5 Wizard) and just add the appropriate number per level based on the new class. You also continue to get the +1 to all the usual stats whenever the level of the two combined classes is an even number. Ability bumps still happen when the total character levels is 4, 8, 14, 18, 24, 28 as usual. And you can freely use any feat that is available to your new class. I’d even allow you to retrain class-specific feats to something that’s available to your new class (say, trading implement focus for weapon focus).
All numbers including attack scores, damage rolls, defenses, hit points and healing surges will be based on the PCs total level and not one or the other. In order for the PC to advance he’d need to meet the XP requirements for his combined level and not level 2 in his new class. You won’t select a paragon path for the new class until you reached level 11 in the new class. After all you still require 10 levels of experience to for all paragon paths.
When the PC’s level in his new class exceeds that of his old class then he can again go back to using powers, feats and skills trained from his old class. However, you are still restricted to the number of skills you can be trained in. I’d say pick the better of the two classes and use that number.
Magic items are a little bit trickier. I’d say you get to keep all of your items and material goods. This should help keep a more experienced PC closer to the power level of his adventuring companions who are traditional characters. However, if you’re making an incredibly radical class change, many items from the old class likely won’t be help in the new one. A +2 orb isn’t going to be much use to a Fighter.
Since most of us are utterly dependant on character builder this kind of deviation from the rules will present challenges. However, most of these can be overcome by maintaining two character sheets: one for the Wizard version and one for the Fighter version. You’ll need to mark up the hard copy and adjust some of the modifiers, but for the most part everything else will work as indicated on the sheet.
If you’re still with me you’re likely thinking that this is a lot of work for a character that will probably be less powerful than a full on, single classed character of the same total level. And you’re probably right. This isn’t a build designed for power gaming, this is a build that will allow players to try something really different with the 4e mechanics and open up new possibilities for their game.
I keep using the Wizard/Fighter example because it’s this kind of radical change from arcane controller to martial defender that I see as the most interesting and rewarding to play. I imagine the events necessary for anyone to choose this kind of transformation and it make me giddy. This is the kind of game I want to play. This is the kind of long-term adventure arc that screams of intrigue and sacrifice. This isn’t just a hack-and-slash adventure; this is something with real emotion. It’s gamers that want this kind of experience I believe will find this type of house ruled build the most appealing.
What do you think of a 4e dual class build like the one I’ve presented? Do you think it gimps the PC too much to be viable? Does the incredible story and role-playing opportunities outweigh the possible negative combat mechanics enough for you to consider using this build? How many players actually have experience with a PC that abandoned their initial class for a bran new one (possibly in previous editions)? Tell us about the experience and why it worked or didn’t.
- Adventuring With A Sub-Optimal Party (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4)
- Playing In An Unbalanced Party