Variety is the spice of life!
No one hero is a cookie-cutter defined by his Class from start to finish. There is variation within the classes to make the theme of the character fit into the job they have chosen. Some players in Pathfinder may want to branch out and try something else!
Characters in RPGs should be like hot rods. You should be there to tinker, try out new things, and customize your character to work just how you like it.
To that end, Pathfinder First Edition (and Second Edition to a limited extent) has an option called Multiclassing. This lets you dip into other classes to add their abilities to your own, and the cost of having to spend time developing in that class rather than the one(s) you already had.
Pathfinder in both First and Second Editions can get somewhat awkward when attempting to truly multiclass like previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons though. To that end, we are going to look at some options for how to make Multiclassing work for you
A Note on Multiclassing and Power Level
It should be noted that Pathfinder was somewhat of an answer to some of the excesses of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. One of those excesses was the almost ridiculous levels of multiclassing done for creating powerful characters. If you didn’t multiclass, you were left in the dust.
Pathfinder corrected this by making the Base/Core classes better to stick with until the end, rather than almost requiring you to spread yourself out to compete. To that end, it is largely considered more optimized to stick with your main class from 1-20, rather than jump around to other classes.
This is especially true if you are a Caster. The more you level in non-caster classes, the less options you have to expand your level of spells. A level 10 Wizard/10 Fighter is only half as good as a level 20 Wizard and a level 20 Fighter.
This multiclass character doesn’t have anywhere near as many or as powerful spells as the level 20 Wizard, and fewer useful feats than a level 20 Fighter.
In truth, the only REALLY optimized reason to take levels other than your original base class is to make sure you qualify for a Prestige Class.
Example: Ranger or Fighter levels, then a splash into Sorcerer/Bard/Wizard to qualify for Arcane Archer.
Whenever you are making your character in Pathfinder 1e, it is possible to pick a favored class. Whenever you do, you gain specific benefits to taking levels in that class. Most often, that class will be the one you choose at 1st level, but technically it doesn’t have to be.
This just supplies more incentive to grab one class and stick with it all the way to Max Level. Prestige Classes are not an option for choosing a Favored Class.
Also sometimes referred to as a Dash (because food terms are all the rage), “Splashing” into another class is a good way to add a small bit of flavor to a single class build. Splashing adds 1 or maybe 2 levels of a class to a build in order to create an interesting build. Most often this is done to round out a specific roleplay build.
A good example of this is actually a character I played a few years ago. I was a Half-Elf Barbarian, but our party needed more healing potential, so I began taking levels in Cleric.
Before the end of the game, I had multiple levels of Cleric and only one level of Barbarian, in essence “splashing Barbarian.” In this instance, the character helped out as both a damage dealer and a box of bandaids.
The Roleplay was also rather enjoyable as “I’m a servant of nature spirits, and I preach their gospel. Mostly though I just make it up as I go, and hit people with this large sword.”
Never be afraid to splash a level or two in another class if you want access to something fun, or need to add some Roleplaying flavor. Grabbing the Sneak Attack of a Rogue as a fighter or just a few spells from Sorcerer is never a bad idea, unless you are in a situation which demands the utmost in Optimization (I’m looking at you Pathfinder Society).
Some classes are a great small thing to splash into a build, while some are better left to be the main focus of your character.
Like the above example, Splashing a small bit of Barbarian into a build can offer you some amazing freedom in how you go about your character class in both RP and character dynamics.
If you find yourself on the front lines of combat often, the Rage ability can extend your life with extra hit points and get you through some tough physical challenges.
The Fast Movement is also a huge benefit, getting you in and out of combat quickly. If you decide to grab a second level of Barbarian, you also get some Rage Powers to help out. Finally, that d12 Hit Die is exceedingly tempting
Bard has a wide breadth of abilities at first level, and is generally a great option for anyone to dip a toe into. This is especially true if you need some “second-line” help with inspiring allies with buffs, as well as debuffing the enemy.
They are a truly versatile class with a wide selection of powerful abilities and a very large skill list. The easy access to arcane magic also makes this a great option to pick up spells for a Prestige Class, or just to help out your allies.
While this is really a class you should focus on to the end, Cleric does have some options if you are looking to just splash a level or two. Having some extra buffs and heals just in case is always good, but something that really tips the balance are the Domains and their special abilities.
A pair of great examples are the Travel Domain or the Protection Domain. The Travel Domain’s first level power allows you to ignore difficult terrain for a short time.
This is powerful if you have something like the Barbarian’s Fast Movement ability. The Protection Domain will give you an option to grant allies (or yourself) resistance on saving throws for short periods of time.
Rogue has an extensive skill list to offer any player, and is a great choice if a character needs access to a specific skill for a Prestige Class or Feat.
Adding in the ability to get their quick sneak attack and the ability to find magical traps, makes this a good choice if you want to add a bit of sneaky cunning to a build that is very straightforward.
In order to bring more life into the idea of multiclassing, the Pathfinder community has put together a system known as the Multiclass Archetypes. These are a sort of combination of multiclass builds and Gestalt Characters from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.
If you are looking at making some really great combination classes, this is the most efficient and optimized way to do this without simply homebrewing your own classes from the ground up.
The main entry for these archetypes has a full listing of thirty different options, but I want to draw attention to a few of them.
1. Battle Adept (Cleric/Fighter)
This option is sort of like a Paladin. Unlike the Paladin Class, this Archetype gets spell casting out of the gate and access to one of their Deity’s Domains.
Their spell casting is diminished, as is their BAB, but they gain a real versatility as they level. They also do not sacrifice access to more powerful spells, as they would if alternating Cleric and Fighter Classes.
2. Divine Blade (Fighter/Cleric)
The Divine Blade is the direct inverse of the Battle Adept. Whereas the above is more focused on spell casting, the Divine Blade build is more focused on the combat aspect. You have a higher hit die, better BAB, and better saves. All of this comes at the cost of Spell Casting. You still have access to one of your Deity’s Domains, but rather than casting as normal, you get one cast of a Domain spell a Day. The added benefit of Channel Energy is a huge bonus.
3. Battle Caster (Sorcerer/Fighter)
The Battle Caster is a really interesting take on a War Mage or a Spell Sword type build. This class gets a focus with either a specific object or their armor, and imbues magical abilities on their focus as they level.
While their spellcasting is limited, they still have access to the huge list of Sorcerer/Wizard spells. Their Combat Readiness ability at 5th level is a HUGE shift of momentum in their favor as well.
4. Battle Knave (Rogue/Fighter)
The Battle Knave is a real “kick’em when they are down” kind of class. While they aren’t as tough as the Fighter, they sacrifice that for some versatility and the ability to hit hard. They know where to hit their enemies and how.
They can substitute Critical Hits for Sneak Attacks as well as swap his level with his BAB when he is flanking a target. In addition to that, they can gain access to fighter feats, and the Rogue’s impressive Skill List.
5. Resonant Warrior (Fighter/Bard)
This Fighter harnesses the power of sound to give himself and his allies the real edge in combat. While they do not get any of the Bard’s Spells, they get the Bard’s ability to perform and inspire allies.
The cadence of their voices can even speed up his allies to get them to move faster! At higher levels they can become the Skyrim Dragonborn, shouting to deal thunder damage to enemies, or imbuing their weapons with sound damage.
6. Songfilch (Bard/Rogue)
Arcane Trickster with a twist! The Songfilch gets some of the bard’s spellcasting and performance abilities with the talent’s of the Rogue. These two classes really synergize well together.
The Bard contributes their more beguiling abilities, allowing for distraction and debuff magic, while the powers of the Rogue can really capitalize on it with sneaky talents and their signature sneak attack.
7. Silent Warrior (Fighter/Rogue)
If the Battle Knave is a Rogue who appreciates the Fighter’s dedication to his battlecraft, the Silent Warrior is a Fighter who has learned to really fight dirty. This version of the combination gains the Fighters’ hit dice, proficiencies, and bonus feats while also getting some stealthy Rogue elements and most importantly the Rogue Sneak Attack.
This Warrior is NOT a front line fighter, but more a fighter who kicks dirt in someone’s eyes, flanks them, and stabs them in the kidney before they can do anything about it.
8.Spirit Warrior (Barbarian/Druid)
Can you say Shaman? This archetype is very much focused on channeling the powers of animals into their extraordinary physical feats. Calling on Animals to bolster skill rolls to climb, jump, or just survive in the wilderness.
They also gain the Barbarian Rage and the Druid Wildshape ability, making them a force to be reckoned with in combat. Finally, they top that off with the best BAB in the game as well as two good saves. This combination is a powerhouse.
9.War Chanter (Barbarian/Bard)
This build is one of my personal favorites overall. This combination archetype is very much what one would call a Skald. This combo gives the character access to the Bard’s powerful inspirational and debuffing performances, as well as the Barbarian’s Rage.
At higher levels it can call on thunder and sound like the Resonant Warrior above in addition to some of the Barbarian’s toughness in the form of its Damage Reduction. It also has one of the best BAB options available in the game.
10. Divine Emissary (Paladin/Cleric)
We heard you like divine magic. So we put some divine magic with your divine magic, so you can Pray while you Pray! This build focuses the power of a Cleric’s Spell casting and adds the considerable might of a Paladin’s smiting abilities in all its different flavors.
At the higher levels, you start to become a divine being yourself, achieving the equivalent of Angel-hood. This is great for players who REALLY want to lean into the Divine Warrior angle of their classes.
Multiclassing in Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Pathfinder 2e does not allow Multiclassing at all as it is presented in Pathfinder 1e or even in Dungeons and Dragons. Once you have selected a class, you are in that class from the beginning to end. Though, there are options if you’d like to branch out.
Through the use of Archetypes, players can open up further options for their characters.
Source Core Rulebook pg. 219 2.0
There are infinite possible character concepts, but you might find that the feats and skill choices from a single class aren’t sufficient to fully realize your character. Archetypes allow you to expand the scope of your character’s class.
Applying an archetype requires you to select archetype feats instead of class feats. Start by finding the archetype that best fits your character concept, and select the archetype’s dedication feat using one of your class feat choices.
Once you have the dedication feat, you can select any feat from that archetype in place of a class feat as long as you meet its prerequisites. The archetype feat you select is still subject to any selection restrictions on the class feat it replaces.
For example, if you gained an ability at 6th level that granted you a 4th-level class feat with the dwarf trait, you could swap out that class feat only for an archetype feat of 4th level or lower with the dwarf trait. Archetype feats you gain in place of a class feat are called archetype class feats.”
Once you select an Archetype, you can expand your character’s horizons somewhat and start borrowing from other classes through the use of Multiclass Archetypes.
While these are not true Multiclassing, they can offer you some abilities of the other classes. This is very similar to things like Splashing we discussed before. For Example:
“Cleric Dedication Feat 2
Archetype Dedication Multiclass
Source Core Rulebook pg. 224 2.0
Prerequisites Wisdom 14
You cast spells like a cleric. You gain access to the Cast a Spell activity. You can prepare two common cantrips each day from the divine spell list in this book or any other divine cantrips you learn or discover. You’re trained in spell attack rolls and spell DCs for divine spells.
Your key spellcasting ability for cleric archetype spells is Wisdom, and they are divine cleric spells. Choose a deity as you would if you were a cleric. You become bound by that deity’s anathema.
You become trained in Religion and your deity’s associated skill; for each of these skills in which you were already trained, you instead become trained in a skill of your choice. You don’t gain any other abilities from your choice of deity.
Special: You cannot select another dedication feat until you have gained two other feats from the cleric archetype.
Cleric Dedication Leads To…
Basic Cleric Spellcasting, Basic Dogma
This feat belongs to an archetype.
You must select a feat with this trait to apply an archetype to your character.
Archetypes with the multiclass trait represent diversifying your training into another class’s specialties. You can’t select a multiclass archetype’s dedication feat if you are a member of the class of the same name.”
So while you don’t get full access to Cleric abilities or Cleric Spells, you can get limited access to a few cantrips and are considered a Cleric.
Overall, while this might be limiting for some, this can help to round out characters who don’t want to be bound to only one specific trope for their character from start to finish.