Tuesday Tweak: Multiclass Saving Throws

Today’s tweak targets a problem in the design of Pathfinder and old D&D. The removal of xp penalties for multiclassing has made it more of a difficulty in Pathfinder, but it was always there: saving throw explosion. Just by multiclassing in a couple of different classes with the same ‘good’ saves, you can end up with an exponential growth of bonuses that can really get out of hand (and when you add in two levels of Paladin for Divine Grace…well…it can be pretty silly).

First of all, why is this really a problem? Can you solve this issue by bumping saving DC’s a little bit for that player? Let’s look at the numbers.

A cleric 1 / paladin 2 with a 14 charisma would appear to be a perfectly viable build. You can pound enemies and have some spellcasting to back it up, and with two religious classes you seem to make sense. But your Will and Fort saves will be 8 each. Wait…what? That’s +5 more than the bonus a straight-leveled character would have. It’s only 2 more than a paladin would normally have though, so maybe that’s okay?

Well, a monk 1 /paladin 2 /cleric 1 / ranger 1 with the same charisma stat would have saves of: Fort +11, Ref + 7, Will + 9. That’s a double-digit save at level 5. And these will only grow more crazy as more classes are added. You don’t need the paladin levels to make it happen either–replace with more multiclassing to get the same effect without the alignment restrictions.

Now, you might argue that saves don’t kill monsters, so who cares? Well, I won’t spend time arguing that the above build is perfectly viable–although it is–but that no other core stat in the game functions this way. You don’t have this problem with BaB, AC, HP, or anything else. Provided you can find a character concept that fits, you can pump these numbers up to ridiculous heights.

The Solution:Β 

Forget the concept of straight bonuses. Focus on the formula that underlies those numbers: every save is either ‘good’ or ‘bad’–easily recognizable by checking to see if there’s a +2 or a +0 at first level. Change saving throw calculation to “Add up the number of class levels you have in classes with a good save, and write your base save as if they were all in the same class. Do not perform this calculation with poor saving throws (marked by +0 at first level), but add their bonus to the bonus created by the good saving throw calculation.”

Notice how this way you only get that initial +2 once, not matter how you slice it. You may ask, “what about prestige classes?”

Luckily, prestige classes are already balanced against this issue in Pathfinder. It’s a much more obvious problem to deal with.

This tweak was originally created by Ben Lesel, a good guy to game with! Thanks Ben!

Enjoy your mix-and-matching of classes!

-Max Porter-Zasada


6 responses to “Tuesday Tweak: Multiclass Saving Throws

  1. Well, I point out that a monk 1, paladin 2, ranger 1, cleric 1 has a BAB of +3 which is the same as a 5th level wizard. This isn’t so bad if you continue on with say, paladin or ranger so your 20th level BAB is 17 / 12 / 7. You sacrifice a 4th attack [which albeit, would probably miss] and with monk thrown in there, you are getting a lot of useless class features. Either you are going monky so you are giving up the armor prof of paladin & the weapon profs of paladin or you’re paladiny and you give up the AC and flurry?? [can you only do this with a light load?] of monk. I’m just pointing out some downsides to the crazy multiclassing – even though there are some that would be more than content with the trade off.

  2. Yes, it’s true that you may give up a couple things. But it’s quite possible to find a build whose abilities work…and have crazy high saves.

    While the loss of abilities and the hit to BaB may deter some, the possibility of breaking something as basic as saving throws shouldn’t be ignored.


  3. The simple solution is to do the same with BAB as well. A good BAB is +1 per level, Average is 3/4, and poor is 1/2. Add up all your classes and -always- round down. In the case of 1M, 2P, 1R, 1C, you actually wind up with a 4 (rounded down to 4.5) BAB in this way. Adding another level of -any- class brings you to 5 BAB. Just keep up with the total, and round on your Character Sheet.

    Similarly, when you pick up a class with a GOOD saving throw score in something you don’t have, add a permanent +2 (not for every source), and scale at 1/2 per level(including first), while Poor saving throws scale at 1/3 per level. This leaves you at a +6 reflexes, +6 Fort (6 1/2 rounds down!), +6 will (6 1/3 rounds down!) for the character build offered. If you took another level a of Fort+Will class next level (not unlikely!) You would gain a point in fort (+7), but NOT will (6 and 5/6 still rounds down). You get the idea! This isn’t including any bonus but the +2 charisma from the paladin.

    This is how I work it for my group, and is based on the same figures from Unearthed Arcana from the 3.5 set. Houseruled? Yes. But it just makes -sense-.


    • Thanks for the suggestion!

      You can certainly play that way, and the rules from Unearthed Arcana definitely work. However, I would argue that BaB is much, much less of a big deal: you can’t ever pump it up higher than +1 per level, so you’ll never have a better BaB than the people with a good BaB, if you follow my meaning. As far as I can tell, using the fractional BaB rules will rarely benefit you more than +1 anyway, so it’s a great houserule for those of us who know the rules well and want to optimize.

      With saves, however, it’s a different story; it’s quite easy (provided you find a way to make different classes work together) for the Wizard to give up some spell levels, turn around and pump his Fort save higher than the straight fighter’s. You can, with little effort, have better saves than the people with a good save. This is less fun because it takes too much incentive away from people to play the classes as they’re meant to be played, with only a mediocre mental reward for the smart multiclassers (when was the last time you got super excited about saves? Rare, isn’t it?).

      Anyway, thanks for the comment Hotaru, I hope you stick around πŸ™‚


      • Paladin, level 2, every time. πŸ˜„

        But really, you’re -losing out- with my system if you go anything short of paladin 2, monk-everything else. Multiclassing my way makes you not -terrible- when you don’t do it right. And I do love to allow multiclassing πŸ™‚


      • It’s great to allow the players more freedom, but there’s a stark line in the sand where too much freedom means you’re not playing a character any more. It becomes a set of numbers.

        I can definitely see that your interesting method allows some cool freedom, but I prefer to be a little bit harsh in order to protect the game’s style and themes.



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