Thursday, April 16, 2009

Balancing multiclass feats

Today I'm going to take a look at multiclass feats. These feats tend to be a bargain, as they usually offer useful class abilities on top on skill training. Because of this, most characters will take one such feat at some point in their careers, even if they are not interested in further multiclassing. Unfortunately, their power level isn't completely uniform, and there are several underperforming feats, as well as a couple overpowered ones. While this is a natural situation in a system with hundreds of feats, the usual solution of just ignoring the bad ones is not feasible here, as they are a requirement for players who want to multiclass. Below, I present my suggestions to improve the ones I have found problematic, including a couple from PHB 2.

The changes were made with the following ideas in mind:
  • Power level - every multiclass feat must be worth taking by itself
  • Worse than class features - The abilities from multiclass feats should't be as good as the features from the original class. Most of the time, this means limited uses per encounter or per day, but sometimes it will be necessary to reduce their effect.
  • Reference feats - I consider that feats granting at-will powers once per encounter, or granting Healing Word style powers once per day are fine. When an ability can be used each encounter, it should last one round if it is about as good as Sneak Attack (see Sneak of Shadows) or two if is comparable to Hunter's Quarry (see Warrior of the Wild).

Changes: Limited to 1 attack/encounter. Can no longer regain the power.
Comment: Oath of Enmity may well be the single strongest class feature in the game, and being able to use it for two rounds (plus an action point) was just too good. Also, there is some ambiguity as to whether you can regain OoE when your target drops, which I've tried to fix.

Changes: Increased extra damage.
Comment: Although the effect is not as bad as it seems when used in combination with area spells, the damage bonus was just too low. This brings it closer to Hunter's Quarry, but you'll still have to hit multiple enemies to make it worthwhile.

Changes: Lasts 2 turns instead of one.
Comment: The idea was interesting, but the effect wasn't strong enough.

Changes: No longer affects enemies marked by an ally.
Comment: Oddly, the requirement of an immediate interrupt makes this a difficult feat to use by defenders. However, it is a very strong choice for melee strikers that can afford it. The change prevents the effect from triggering when the enemy attacks the defender marking him, which was a bit abusive.

Changes: Can only deal damage once.
Comment: In the original version, the effect would usually last for several turns, or even the whole encounter when the chosen monster was elite or solo. That is, in the right circumstances, this would be just as good as the full class feature. To make things worse, Divine Challenge is far better in the hands of a ranged class like a Warlock or Sorcerer than in those of a Paladin. Even with such a severe fix, the feat should still be good enough to see plenty of play.

Changes: Amount of THP granted - now fixed per tier.
Comment: This was a decent feat at higher levels, but just terrible earlier on. The new progression should provide a decent power level for all tiers of play.

Changes: Bonus increased to +2, changed to feat bonus.
Comment: I'm breaking my own rules a little, since there are tactical warlord builds whose tactical presence grants a worse bonus than this, at lower levels. Still, the feat isn't worthwhile at a mere +1, and it does get a reduced use frequency. At paragon tier and beyond, the Warlord feature becomes clearly better, but the feat remains playable.

EDITED: fixed errors in requirements of some feats


  1. Why is Cha a requirement for a fighter multiclass feat? It's one of the two abilities that fighters have no need of (apart from skill checks).

    It's also interesting (in a good way) how your requirements for Soldier of the Faith have synergy with your proposed changes to Divine Challenge (that the bonus damage is based on Strength rather than Charisma). It makes perfect sense for a Strength powered ability to include Strength as a requirement. However, you might want to also include a second multiclass paladin feat for the Cha & Wis paladin. A variation of Lay on Hands ought to do the trick.

    One thing that bothered me with the multiclass feats in the PHB is that some had a single ability requirement while the paladin had two. Why should multiclassing into a wizard be easier than multiclassing into a paladin? I like it that you included two requirements for most feats, but your avenger and sorcerer feats still have only 1.

  2. Oops! The fighter feat wasn't intended to require Cha, I just screwed up while copying and pasting. Other than that, I'm afraid ther isn't much merit in my choice of requirements for each feat, since I'm using the same ones from the original versions in PHB and PHB2.

    I agree that there's some inconsistency in the different requirements of each multiclass feat, though classes like the paladin do require a wider spread of ability scores than, say, wizards. A cleaner implementation might have been to have some feats requiring a 13 in 2 different abilities, while all feats depending on a single ability required a 15 or higher. But I prefer these feats to be easily accessible.

    As for your suggestion of a paladin feat granting Lay on Hands, Divine Power has Soldier of Virtue, which allows you to use Virtue's Touch (a new feature you can have instead of LoH). It's a pity they didn't also include LoH or Ardent Vow (the other new feature) as an option, but it can be easily houseruled.