What is Multiclassing?
Chapter 6 of the Player’s Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition presents players with the character customization option called multiclassing. This rule set allows a Player Character (PC) to add a level (or levels) from different classes whenever they level up instead of advancing a single class up to 20th level. Multiclassing adds a great deal of flexibility and/or unique characterization for PCs but is entirely optional. Its implementation or omission will depend on a Dungeon Master’s decision if the idea of multiclassing is in line with their campaign or adventure setting.
A PC with levels in multiple classes can gain access to a variety of exclusive class features, granting them more versatility as an adventurer. Multiclassing gives them more operational tools as a character, but this flexibility does comes at a cost. Unlocking power spike features, such as Extra Attack for martial classes, will take longer due to the redirection of experience points. Taking even a single level in a different class also automatically takes away a character’s chance at getting a capstone ability at 20th level. In a way, the decision to build a character with multiple classes can be seen as trading specialization for the option to become a jack of more trades.
Minimum Ability Score Requirements
The table above shows the minimum Ability Score requirement for multiclassing. In order to qualify for a level in a different class, a character must first reach the minimum score for their primary class. Once this prerequisite is fulfilled, they must then have the minimum score required by the class that they wish to take a level in. Based on these requirements, a character with Barbarian as their primary class would need a minimum of 13 STR and 13 CHA before they can take a level in the Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer, or Warlock classes. They would only need 13 STR to take levels in the Fighter class as the minimum Ability Score requirement has been fulfilled (Fighter requires 13 STR or 13 DEX).
Hit Points and Hit Dice
For every level a character takes in one class, they add one Hit Die from that class to their total number. This might result in a variety of different sided dice that a character can use during recovery or consumption of said Hit Dice. In terms of Hit Point increase, the method prescribed by the DM (rolling, average, etc.) will be followed every time a character gains a level and the character must use the Hit Die indicated for their desired class. The total HP is added cumulatively as a character.
Proficiency and Class Abilities
Characters that take 1st level in a different class (assuming they already chose a class at character level 1), do not gain all the proficiencies normally granted at the 1st level of their new class. Instead, they can only get the proficiencies indicated in the the reference table above. A character’s Proficiency Bonus scales with total character level and not class level.
- Channel Divinity – Effects from all classes can be used, but the number of Channel Divinity uses does not stack. Additional uses are only gained as upon reaching a level in a class that would grant additional uses.
- Extra Attack – Only one instance of Extra Attack feature is considered active. No more than two attacks can be made with this feature unless it explicitly indicates otherwise. Having enough levels in Fighter will unlock improved versions of Extra Attack, but the one granted by a different class will remain inactive.
- Unarmored Defense – If this class feature has been previously granted by a different class, it cannot be added to the character’s list of class features.
Multiclass Spellcaster – Spell Slots
Acquiring access to higher level spells and spell slots works differently depending on which classes were chosen by a character as multiclassing options. Classes are generally categorized as full casters, half casters, and third casters. Each class level for a specific category adds a different value to the total multiclass spellcaster level.
- Full Caster (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard)
- These classes gain the full range of spell slots up to 9th level and gain Cantrips at 1st level.
- Add class level total to the multiclass spellcaster level.
- Half Caster (Artificer, Paladin, Ranger)
- Paladins and Rangers gain their Spellcasting feature at 2nd level and have no access to cantrips, whereas Artificers gain Spellcasting and cantrips at 1st level.
- Gain access to spell slots of up to 5th level.
- Add 1/2 of class level total (rounded down for Paladin and Ranger, rounded up for Artificer) to the multiclass spellcaster level.
- Third Caster
- Gain access to spell slots of up to 5th level.
- (Arcane Trickster, Eldritch Knight) – Add 1/3 of class level total (rounded down) to the multiclass spellcaster level.
Warlocks are special due to their Pact Magic class feature granting them the ability to use magic instead of the Spellcasting feature like other full casters. Thus, a warlock’s spell slots are treated separately from regular spell slots. This allows interactions such as a Sorcerer (with Warlock as a secondary class) using their Warlock spell slots to create more Sorcery Points.
Class levels from martial classes except for characters with the Arcane Trickster and/or Eldritch Knight feature do not add their level from that class into the multiclass spellcaster level. The spreadsheet linked below can be used to determine a character’s multiclass spellcaster level for all configurations for published classes. The number indicated as the TOTAL is the character’s Multiclass Spellcaster level (see table above).
Spells Saves | Spells Known and Prepared | Spellcasting Ability
Spell save Difficulty Checks, Prepared Spells, and access to higher level spells are determined/calculated separately for each spellcasting class. The potency of a multiclass spellcaster’s spells may be difficult to optimize depending on their existing ability scores. One way to circumvent this is to plan a character’s potential classes around their highest ability scores or to simply choose combination of classes with the same spellcasting ability.
A character with 13 INT and 13 CHA that takes levels in Wizard and Bard will have low spell attacks and spell save DC for both classes. In cases like this, the character will diminish their degree of influence in party actions both in and out of combat, but the decision to take multiple classes might have been motivated by character development or story reasons.
Multiclassing may end up granting a character access to spell slots with a level higher than what they can learn/know or prepare. These spell slots can still be used but only to enhance the lower level spells that they have. A character with 4 levels in one class cannot gain access to higher level spells gained by that class at 5th level.
A Sorcerer 4/Artificer 1 character will have two 3rd level spell slots, but can not cast 3rd level Sorcerer spells (gained at 5th level Sorcerer). They can, however, use their 3rd level spell slots to “upcast” their known or prepared 1st and 2nd level spells for both Sorcerer or Artificer.
The scaling of damage or effects for cantrips is based on total character level. The key consideration in this interaction of mechanics is differentiating character level and class level. Once a PC hits a cantrip scaling threshold (5th, 11th, and 17th PC level), it won’t matter if they chose to be a class purist or a mishmash of professions – their cantrip damage dice will still be increased.
A 4th level character with a Wizard 3/Druid 1 class distribution can cast their Shocking Grasp cantrip wuth 2d8 damage instead of just 1d8.
Multiclassing is a great tool to have when crafting unique characters. Most new players might think that fusing classes together is confusing, but I hope this post encourages more people to try multiclassing for their next (or current) character.