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The “Best” Multiclass

Posted On: January 14th, 2011

Posted By: Tolero

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I saw an interesting question from the magic mouth spell (my guestbook) from Deacon_AL, who asked  “Excuse me Tolero, May i ask, what do you think is the best multiclass character?” It’s a very fun and subjective question, and not one that I could answer in 25 word or less, so it’s the perfect excuse for a beefy blog entry! This entry will be quite long, as it contains pretty much my entire outlook on multiclassing, and builds in general really…

Tolero’s Character Building Tome

What is the best multiclass character? I think that’s similar to “what’s the sound of one-handed clapping” or another question to ponder during a deep meditation - the answer will be personal to each person who considers it.

The Answer In Summary

Personally, I think the “best” multiclass character is one where the player has specific (and long-term) goals for the character in mind. I find this to be as true in video games as it is in Pen and Paper roleplaying games.  This usually doesn’t happen on the “first” character you make, and comes after you’ve gotten a better feel for the world you’re playing in. Ultimately you should know “why” you want to play the character in that way. The character should be fun for you to play, and that fun also means weighing how the character works with your play style and with other players. Now if this explanation isn’t helpful enough to get you out there building, let’s break it down in deeper detail. There are 4 major pitfalls for character building, and 4 easy solutions:

The Pitfalls of Character Design

Pitfall 1: Running Before You Can Walk… Or Build

When I first set foot in a game as a BRAND new player, it’s tempting to just haul off and start mucking around in character building nuts and bolts. I find it goes better if I’m comfortable with the game itself before making characters from scratch… after all how am I going to know the benefits of what I’m picking if I don’t even know what fortification IS or why I would want it in the first place? It doesn’t mean I’m stuck on character paths from now until the retirement of the character… but it’s best if I don’t  wander off a path until I’m feeling comfortable with the more basic game lingo.

Solution: Observe, Listen, and Use Those Resources!

I’ve found that as you play the game - even on a character path - you will innately begin to pick up on the “language” of the game subconsciously. This comes not only from inspecting the icons in your character sheet, but from being exposed to other players who also talk about their own characters and builds.

If you’re eager to get building, and passive exposure isn’t fast enough for you, then you need to turn yourself into an information basking shark - swimming through the game gathering all the tasty bits of game knowledge plankton you can fit in your jaws. You need to open your mouth wide, but also find good feeding grounds. (Sorry, there was a nature special running in the background just now).

  1. Actively listen to how other players talk about building. Watch your guild chat, the advice channel, forum posts, or any other DDO chatter related to characters. Pay attention to what is said.
  2. Ask questions and investigate, whether that’s making a forum post, commenting in the advice channel, asking friends/guildies, or even sending a PM to someone. And always ask why (we’ll talk more about this in pitfall #4)
  3. Know where to turn for help! There are lots of great character resources out there. To name just a few official and player created ones:
  4. The Compendium - you can use the advanced search tabs to look up just about anything, and create complex searches such as “only show me every enhancement that a wizard could use with the word ‘fire’ in the description that happens before level 4″. Players also make comments about the entries, explaining pros and cons or offering opinions in the discussion tabs.
  5. DDO Wiki - players have compiled an extensive site of tips and information on this fansite, which even includes records of things that may no longer be in the game, but may inspire you all the same! There are also active regulars dwelling here who are particularly fond of character building.
  6. Character Planner - a very nice player-made tool that lets you create a “road map” for the character, with output so you can easily copy it to other places to ask fellow players for advice
  7. Advice Chat - Every public zone allows you to type /advice to ask a question that is presented to players in that region. Anyone can offer or solicit advice here, so you’re likely to get a pretty broad range of responses.
  8. The Class & Build Forums: a multitude of character-building threads happen every day… from build templates to class andrace specific questions, this is an excellent place to watch and learn!
  9. Special website & podcast segments: don’t overlook fansites and websites who may have special edition features containing build advice! DDOCast’s and DDO Cocktail Hour’s segments are good examples! If you see or hear something you like at a fansite, drop back to reference it often!
  10. Pick-up Groups: This is a surprisingly vivid way to see the best (and worst) of character builds. If you see something another player does that really impresses you (or horrifies you) during a quest/raid, find a moment to chat with that player about how they got their character to that point.

Pitfall 2: “Watery Character Syndrome”

This is something that happens to me in games with a heavy amount of character customization. With so many choices, it’s very tempting to sample a “little of this” and then “a little of that”. Pretty soon, my character become jack of all trades and master of none. For me, this results in a character that feels watered down. They’re mundane at a lot of things, instead of “solid” at particular things or particular situations. Without a “goal,” I start to feel like my character is a “failure” because he isn’t really shining at anything, he just… is. It’s very hard for anything to live up to ambiguous expectations, so it’s a no-win situation for both of us if I’m waffling on my choices along the way.

Solution: Set A Long-term Goal

So if you don’t want to end up with “watery character syndrome” what can be done to avoid that? The answer: setting a goal. This goal should be something you envision the character to be at the pinnacle of their…uh… characterness…ing.

Anyway, the best kind of character goals are straight forward, but they can also be very off the wall and not entirely related to a game system per say. Some people go for something basic like “to be a character who fights with two weapons” or “get the most hit points I possibly can”. Personally I tend to have non-standard goals, such as “have all passive abilities because I’m too lazy to click on my hotbars” or “only pick items, abilities, and outfits that help my character personify Brad Pitt Achilles from Troy”.

You should always know why you want to accomplish the goal - and that why can range from “because it is very powerful” to “because it’s freaking hilarious”. Avoid subjective goals when possible, like “to be the best rogue ever” because that is very situational… no one character is going to be “the best” in every situation the quests have to offer (we’ll talk more about this in pitfall #3). But what if you’re not even sure how to pick a goal in the first place? Turning to your peers is usually the next step.

Pitfall 3: Blindly Following “Expert Advice”

Earlier we talked about all the great resources there are out there. Almost everyone I know, including myself, taps these resources to help determine what the “goal” will be. All advice should always be taken with a grain of salt. Why? Have you ever stopped to consider how many character permutations there are for characters in DDO? I don’t know, I suck at math, but conservative estimate is:

Roughly 43,225,500,000,000,000

not including class/race variations
not even touching fighter, monk, and wizard levels
nor taking the same feat twice in one build
nor factoring in stuff like “skill focus: swim”

It’s not even counting the looks or gear, just the actual character ability combos! Every straight class character is a unique snow flake practically, much less when you start factoring in equipment and multiclassing! Even among the most well renowned builders, no one person - or even community - will know or have played aaaaaall of the possibilities at aaall the levels in eeeevery piece of DDO content ever known or yet to be known. On top of that,  it is ever-changing based on game updates and additions. In the blink of an eye, I’ve seen today’s “gimp” become tomorrow’s “hot build” and vice versa. In fact some builds have a lot of growing pains to go through before they reach their max potential… and can you endure slogging through the prior levels to get to the point when the build starts to shine? This isn’t the only danger…

When someone gives me advice, I always ask “why,” not only to understand and learn the reason why something is “lame” but because too often people are just repeating what someone else said without question. You would be surprised at the number of times I’ve had a player parrot back build advice that they either didn’t understand, or didn’t bother to question the reasoning behind when they heard it.

I once saw a player vehemently state that “warforged are worthless” but when asked “why”, they admitted that they saw someone else say so. They couldn’t even provide an example of what it was that was “worthless” about them… heck I was expecting at least the old “because they take less healing” argument. The player then completely changed their opinion after only one or two comments from players in favor of warforged. *baffle*

Always get second, third, or even forth opinions when considering build advice.

Solution: Build For YOU And No One Else

I’ve tried following build advice only to end up frustrated if I don’t keep my own playstyle and interests in mind. For example: some players put a heavy amount of focus on obtaining key pieces of gear for their character. Me? I have the worst loot luck EVER. I’ve determined that if a build relies on a piece of gear, I’m unlikely to pull that build off because I’ll never ever get that piece of loot… EVER. I’m talking stuff as simple as a freaking chaosgarde. Never ever. Is it because the item is hard to get? No… it’s just me. I know this, accept it, and am happier in that knowledge when I deal with builds. I don’t bang my head into the wall trying to accomplish a goal I can never succeed at by virtue of my loot luck curse.

One does not live on meaty build advice alone. Never let someone else tell you what is fun to play. Only YOU know what is fun to play for you. Someone could make the most deadly and unstoppable barbarian EVAR, but if I like to cast spells, where does that leave me? You need to decide what is important to you about the way the character will play. Things that can be important to you vary, even from one character to another, and could include such concerns as (food for thought):

  • How powerful it is compared to other options of a similar type?
  • How easy its abilities are to make use of?
  • How resource-intensive it is?
  • How funny or unusual it is?
  • How many hotbars will I need to manage?
  • Does it require a lot of manual dexterity at the keyboard?
  • Does it put me in the front lines of the group/raid in combat?
  • Does it keep me in the back of the pack during combat?
  • Am I going to be crippled by certain types of combat situations?
  • Am I going to have to do a lot of item hunting?
  • Is it expensive to upkeep?
  • Is it zerg-friendly? RP friendly? Getting-distracted-by-the-new-born-baby friendly?
  • Will it call in sick to work for me and wax my car? And not with that cheap stuff that leaves the filmy residue?
  • Can I actually pull off playing it well?

These are the types of things to ask yourself when thinking about build advice, and if you can’t answer the question with “… that doesn’t bother me” or more importantly “…I will enjoy that”, then you shouldn’t follow that build advice because it’s not a good fit for YOU.

The last question, “can I pull off playing it well” is as important as the rest. There is nothing more sad than a player with an “uber build” who still has a miserable time completing quests. In the same way that having a fancy top-of-the-line set of kitchen equipment will not automatically make you a good cook, having an “uber build” will not automatically help you play DDO.

Pitfall 4: Karma

I find that every action has a reaction, whether now or in the character’s next life when they reincarnate. This doesn’t just apply to unlocking certain features for a True Reincarnation… this also includes social ramifications. I would be lying if I said that other players don’t pay attention to your build as much as you’re paying attention to theirs.

Consider that in some cases, if you are trying a weird, unusual, or unpopular build then other players will  react according to what they’re trying to accomplish (or any pre-conceived notions they have about the way in which they *think* they can accomplish it).

  • You’ve joined the group that expects your bard to haste and buff them when you took all CC spells?
  • No one in the party can get to the boss because they’re falling in your constant grease spells?
  • Your all-coal-throwing half-orc just ran out of ammo but no one wants to stop so you can summon a Djinni of repairing to resupply?

These are just a few examples of the travesties I’ve inflicted on other groups….. I mean… these are just a few examples of the kinds of situations that can come up. Don’t expect that everyone is going to be willing to put up with your “mute character who refuses to use voice chat” or any other manner of wacky custom character concept. Consider how that character will work with the group… and if you care.

Solution: Build for YOU … and Live With The Consequences

When playing “your flavor” of whatever it is you’re building, you need to decide early on what matters to you about your DDO play experience. For me, since I predominantly solo these days, I’m currently not concerned with how my character interacts with others. I need to be able to reflect on if and why it would matter:

“But you won’t be able to do the XYZ fast enough and nobody will want you in their party for ABC quest!!”

… but I’m soloing… so why does that matter? Why does it matter if I want to lumber along painstakingly strolling through a quest at my leisure if I’m the only one in the quest?

“But you won’t be able to do XYZ without hirelings”

…. so? What if I like playing with hirelings because in some weird intangible way having the little lackeys around makes me feel less lonely and they don’t back-talk  me?

“But if you do this that and the other thing, you won’t be able to hit the numbers in such and such quest on elite!”

… really? Hmm that’s a good point.
No wait, it isn’t…
I never plan on playing that quest with this character anyway, I already got the item I wanted and will pass it through the shared bank /shrug.(ok obviously that example is hypothetical since I never pull the loot I want hehehe).

“But no one will invite THAT kind of character into their guild!”

… and? What if I never planned on being in a guild in the first place? Or making my own guild? And what if I only want my guild to be me and my college buddies and family members?

Obviously YOUR answers to those types of questions are going to vary a lot depending on what you care about. It’s not just about whether you like to play alone or not… it could even be something as simple as “but it’s going to be really hard to find that many summoned snowmen during the off-season from festivult” or “it’s going to be tough to get people to wait for me to use this ability during the fight with [boss guy here].”Before you get your heart set on a character only to find out it’s colliding with your playstyle, you should think about these types of things and feel good about what your personal philosophy is … and that philosophy can change over time too!

The Ultimate Rule To Remember About Multiclassing

The single biggest thing to remember is a very ancient saying:

“Matters of taste are not for dispute”

It means that it’s not a good idea to fight about peoples tastes because they are so varied and you can’t prove or disprove that it is “right” to like something or not. This applies to most everything in life, from why people like vanilla more than chocolate to why a cleric brutal-sunflask-thrower is awesome to one person, and why another person wants nothing (or everything) to do with it. Play what is fun for you, be aware of how it will impact your day-to-day gameplay in DDO, and have fun!



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