13th Sage: Multiclass Design Notes


Despite our chatty and occasionally informative sidebars, we don’t get around to explaining all our design decisions in 13th Age. Today we’ll take a look at a 13 True Ways design choice that could use a bit of explanation.

Multiclass penalties

The multiclass system in chapter 2 of 13 True Ways is a tool whose significance depends heavily on the user. I know players who have never read the chapter and never will. I know other players who picked up 13 True Ways, skimmed a bit, then turned to the multiclassing chapter and read every word before even looking at the new classes.

As a game designer, I originally told myself that I wasn’t that interested in multiclassing. Jonathan cared more about it, mostly because he knew we needed it and he was being the responsible one. But I was the one who ended up handling the fiddly and in-depth work, and along the way I carved a multiclassing system that creates characters I enjoy playing.

The key is that multiclass characters sacrifice a bit of power for flexibility. That’s pretty obvious when it comes to classes like the sorcerer and wizard, characters who depend on spells. Getting access to spells one level behind a single class character is an obvious reduction in raw power.

Weapon-users were trickier to handle. With a few exceptions for classes that are all about weapon-use and shouldn’t be penalized (exceptions mentioned at the bottom of page 107), multiclass characters suffer a die-size reduction, using WEAPON dice that are one size smaller. The point is that weapon-using multiclass characters who need to take a hit to their raw power take that hit through dealing slightly less damage every time they attack with weapons. It’s not crippling, since you’re still rolling one WEAPON die per level, but the point is that this damage reduction parallels the damage reduction that spellcasting multiclass characters suffer.

Questions about corner-cases we didn’t handle should consider our design intent. A multiclass character who has found a way to roll a number of damage dice equal to their level, all the time, should probably be taking the die-step penalty unless both their classes are from the classes listed as taking no weapon damage die penalty.

Those classes, again, are the barbarian, bard, commander, fighter, paladin, ranger, and rogue. It made no sense to us to put two classes that are great at using weapons together and produce a multiclass that was worse at using weapons. Happily, game balance works out fine allowing these multiclass characters to keep their full weapon damage. They all take some form of hit from lagging a level behind on class features, the class-by-class exceptions detailed in the chapter curb specific excesses, and their raw power isn’t so great that the increased flexibility of multiclassing somehow pushes them above other classes.



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