Update #7: Multiclassing Details with Josh Sawyer!
Salve, amici. I'm here to rap at you about a very cool topic: multiclassing. In Pillars of Eternity, it took a huge amount of work to get in our 11 classes. During the early phases of Deadfire, a demon whispered in my ear, "What about multiclassing?" and here we are today.
Before I begin explaining how our multiclassing works, I'd like to explain our goals for multiclassing, because I think that can help put the system's mechanics into perspective. We want multiclassing to allow players to realize character concepts that aren't possible with the single class options. We want to keep the relative power of the multiclass character at about 75%-85% what a single class character would have at any given level. In our experience, that's the sweet spot where multiclass characters feel powerful and effective, but don't clearly outshine the single class characters. We want the multiclassing system to keep characters viable no matter when the player chooses to multiclass. We want to limit the number of permutations to something manageable. Finally, we want to give multiclass characters a unique title for their class combo.
With that in mind, we came up with our current system. At any time from 2nd level on, players have the ability to select an additional class to advance. Both classes may have subclasses, though certain paladin orders or priest deities (both of which are required subclasses) may lightly restrict multiclass options. When they make that choice, they gain a multiclass title, like "battlemage" for a fighter/wizard. After a second class is chosen and advanced, the player may alternate between classes as they see fit. In this system, companions may also multiclass, though their 1st class must always be one of their base classes (e.g. fighter or rogue for Edér, wizard for Aloth).
We try to keep the relative power band at the ideal spot through the use of associated Power Sources. Every class has a Power Source, from Rage for barbarians to Arcane for wizards. The level of a Power Source determines what level abilities can be chosen from that class, the available resources (casts/uses) for related abilities, and the strength (damage, number of projectiles, etc.) of those abilities. The level of a Power Source increases as the character advances and gains points (like experience points) in that source. A character always gains +3 points in the Power Source of the class they advance and +1 point in every other Power Source. However, those secondary points are "virtual" unless the player multiclasses into the class that uses it.
I'll go into examples, but here's the scale for how Power Source advances:
For example, a single class fighter would advance their Discipline from 1st to 10th level like this:
If that progression looks familiar, it's because we're trying to follow the general pattern of Pillars of Eternity and A/D&D, where new levels of abilities become available every odd level. For comparison, here's how a 50/50 split battlemage (fighter/wizard) would advance their Discipline and Arcane:
In this example, Power Sources advance a few levels later than they would in a single class character. The lag is not enormous, but it's enough that the single class character is typically getting access to the highest level abilities earlier than the multiclass character. In the video, I also give another battlemage example where the levels are chosen more erratically.
I should note that although the system designers and I believe this system gives the 3E D&D-style flexibility while solving some of that system's pitfalls, the cost is clarity. Using Power Sources as an intermediate resource to keep relative advancement stable makes things less clear to players. It also allows for a margin between optimal and viable progressions; some advancement schemes will grant access to power levels unevenly. An AD&D-style multiclassing system (where the combination is chosen at character creation) would make advancement clearer for players (and easier for us to balance) at the cost of player flexibility.
As always, your feedback and support are appreciated. Thanks for reading.
-- Josh Sawyer, Design Director
Stay tuned for our next update on Tuesday that focuses on Deadfire Lore!