C: Following up on our discussion on levelling and character advancement in general, we levelled up your character Farrar today—which also meant levelling her animal companion, Barty. It got me thinking about a couple of things.
A: Were they: animal companions are annoying for DMs; and, levelling up animal companions is even more annoying for DMs? Because I was going to save my rage about this until our conversation on witches, but I can vent now if you like.
C: Admittedly, companions—as well as mounts, familiars and all of those other good, good animal-boys—can be a little difficult to level because they all seem to operate quite differently and don’t really level the same way as characters. But that’s a story for a whole ‘nother time.
A: Fine. But I’m ready when you are.
C: I was thinking about Farrar’s class choice and the idea of multiclassing late in the game—or relatively late, anyway. When we started my campaign, she was a Bard. She levelled up in Bard for a lot of levels, and then at one point, she essentially in-game purchased, or like procured, an animal that was essentially a mount.
A: She did rescue.
C: Yes. She has a rescue mongrel mouse, or a mongrel mink, which is our world’s equivalent of a huge-ass fucking weasel. And because Pathfinder has a class called Cavalier, which allows you to specialise, you were like, ‘I want this to now become my mount,’ and you took a level in Cavalier, and you’ve since continued to develop that.
A: True; now Farrar has three levels in Cavalier and can sometimes manage to hit things.
C: It’s really cool that the class mechanics feed into the storytelling in that way. I think this is true for every player to some degree—the skills of their class feeds into how they want to optimise a character. And then that is reflected in a character’s personality and characterisation. And multiclassing is just another way of doing this.
A: That’s a good way to think about multiclassing—like breadth-optimising rather than depth-optimising.
C: Yeah. And Farrar committed to it in a really cool way, and you’re now really good at a different specific thing, which is riding around and kicking ass, which you might not have ever got super good at if you’d just been like, ‘Whatever, I’m optimising as a Bard.’
A: I do love my multiclassing. You guys just met a couple of Cleric-Monks in my game. They’re great; I love Cleric-Monks. My Cleric-Monk of Urgathoa, who has the feat Crusader’s Flurry with a scythe, would have been awesome if she hadn’t rolled natural 1s and the NPC I gave you guys rolled natural 20s all the time.
C: She was still cool, even if she did drop her scythe every time she tried to Flurry of Blows with it.
A: Thank you. She was fun to build—I worked it into her backstory why she followed the god that she does and why she has monk-skills. I picked her classes to feed into this idea of her following the necromancer because she’s super into death and undeath and getting up close and personal when destroying things.
C: I think it’s really interesting to see how people develop characters. With Farrar, you didn’t optimise your Bard—you did what made sense for the character in the circumstances. It’s like Vax taking Paladin levels in Critical Role—class mechanics feed into and inform the actual choices the character makes in a roleplaying way.
A: Right. But my Cleric-Monks were also odd to build. I do wonder, if they’d been player characters, at what point would they have taken the Cleric levels versus the Monk levels.
C: Ooh, that’s a really good point. Yeah.
A: I think when we talk about multiclassing, there are two different approaches. Basically multiclassing them from the get-go, which is especially easy when building high level NPC. Or choosing quite far into the game to make that choice. I have mutliclassed characters in all the games because I am a multiclass fiend, but Farrar is the only one I multiclassed in-game. Everyone else I’ve done it from the start.
C: Yeah, the original Unshackled party are the only PCs who began at Level 1. Most characters, in all our campaigns, started out at Level 3 or 4.
A: Which is, like, way easier because then you don’t have to have that moment where you’re like, ‘Wait, when did Törgene the Witch decide to pick up a gun?’ If it had happened in-game, it would have been such a dramatic twist.
C: True. I think for now, let’s talk about the second option—choosing to take a level in an entirely new class which you didn’t originally plan for your character.
A: Which I think is actually only Farrar for me. Patience and Frieda in your game both multiclassed in-game, though they did so at Level 2 or 3, so their characters were still developing. Their classes felt less fixed. And we were levelling a lot quicker, so it was maybe easier.
C: Yeah, Patience sort of found faith, and then levelled up in a faith-based class.
A: And Frieda found nature. Or rather, the player learnt that she could get an animal companion. Now we have a wolf who chills with the party.
C: But those were still huge moments of character growth. I think that the story is continually informing a player’s decisions about mechanics, even if they don’t pick a new class, or if multiclassing happens early on, or in an unexpected way. For Oslowe, who I play in our friend Jacques’ campaign, I’ve picked at least one spell very specifically because it made narrative sense. My character found a bone-fetish, and then I picked a spell which requires a bone-fetish to cast, and I was like, ‘Ooh, this feels very on-brand and interesting’, and in the same way, I’ve picked at least one feat with relevance to the character itself.
A: True. And Törgene’s familiar Gustav took a feat to drop bombs because another PC is an alchemist and Gustav is a thieving crow, so it made a pleasing narrative to imagine him stealing alchemical materials from Loïc.
C: With character growth, it’s sort of a cyclical thing, I guess. Like, early on the mechanics feed into the character, because it’s like: Level 1—am I cool with necromancy? and then later on the character feeds into the mechanics—you choose the spells, feats and classes which work for how your character develops.
A: But to return to multiclassing, I guess even though it can feel very off-piste—and I get why players don’t do it as often as DMs—I think it works well. People often assume that multiclassing is going to be like, ‘Oh, my character is weak and can’t do as much as the rest of the party.’ Especially when mixing some classes. But actually they tend to combine better than you think, right? Like Bard-Cavalier isn’t a normal combo, but it doesn’t do badly.
C: It does awesome. You can move around and inspire people really easily, and you can also do damage, and you also have healing and you’re also tanky. It’s a very good build.
A: It’s unusual because they don’t share any stats. Like Monk-Cleric, obviously Wisdom is the stat you’d choose to put most points in because both classes use it.
C: Right—people might be like, ‘Oh, Charisma, so Paladin-Bard, that’s a given,’ but they might not expect this one in the same way. Yet it totally works.
A: Yeah, it doesn’t really hold you back in the way that one might think.
C: So yeah, DMs and players alike: go for it. You can make the unusual combos work for you. And it really is cyclical. You will explain the class mechanics in some way with your character, but then the choices your character makes can and probably should inform some of the mechanics you choose and some of the ways you literally grow your character.
A: Though I want to add a caveat. Like, I’ve said to you guys in my game: I’m excited for you to multiclass if you want to, but you have to justify it.
A: You can’t just do it for the class powers.
C: I think I’ve said to you, but maybe not to the party, that if our Barbarian were to die, I might take a level in Barbarian, which I think would hopefully be justifiable given that I knew one, and also the idea that Barbarians get upset. I feel like spending time with a Barbarian and then losing them, you might be like, ‘Grhhh, time to rage.’
A: Yeah. I’m not going to be like, ‘You can only justify multiclassing if you have a big reason’. Like, again, our barbarian has gained a ‘pet’. If she suddenly wanted to take a level in a class that had an animal companion—though not a mount because it’s (currently) a tiny little lizard—then yes! That’s obviously worked into the narrative and would be fine.
C: She could pick Witch with a creature that size.
A: Yes. She could.
C: Is Snowbert a familiar that lost his master? Keep it straight with me.
A: So yeah, to sum it up, don’t be boxed in—and DMs, let your characters try new things.
C: Answer me!