This divide persists into 1st and 2nd edition AD&D, with demi-human characters able to pursue multiple classes at the expense of gaining high levels of ability, while humans can pursue any class to whatever end they can achieve but cannot practice a blend of multiple classes at a time. The multiclass character, in either form, is a character that sacrifices peak performance for versatility. While the fighter/mage isn't quite as good at combat as the fighter, or quite as good at magic as the mage, he can do both at the same time, and ably fill either role at need.
Thanks to the scaling of experience earned in early editions of D&D, a multiclass character typically winds up only one or two levels behind the rest of the party. This means that the character still has a lot to contribute.
In 3rd edition, this situation changed markedly. A multiclass character was just a character with levels in two classes. But, since everyone used the same level table, and a level in any given class was considered equivalent to a level in some other class, that meant that a party of eighth level characters might have an 8th level fighter, an 8th level wizard, and a fighter 4th/wizard 4th. Unfortunately, in a game where peak performance is important, this means that multiclass characters have a hard time. Having the spells of a 4th level wizard in an 8th level group puts the character far behind the curve in terms of contributions, and the combination of classes often led to less synergy rather than more -- a fighter/wizard would be unlikely to have heavy armor, for instance, and wouldn't fight nearly as well as a fighter of the same level, or even a few levels lower. Some classes offered better synergies than others: fighting classes worked well together, because you generally kept the ability to swing pretty hard. A few levels of the rogue class could work with other classes, since it might weaken your combat power but broaden your skill set and give the handy sneak attack feature.
To deal with these inequities, late 3rd edition used several feats to provide synergy between classes that might fit well thematically, but which didn't have a good mechanical benefit. Also, prestige classes allowed combinations that would provide improvements in the abilities of both classes. Late 3e and Pathfinder both added new base classes that combined features of other classes, like making a fighter/wizard hybrid that could wield swords and use a limited selection of spells but was never as powerful a caster as a full wizard and not as tough as a fighter. Unfortunately, this had the side effect that many, many classes were necessary to cover all of the combinations. Plus, if a prestige class gave a great ability early on, players would be tempted to "dip" in the class; if the ability was gained as a keystone ability at top level, it might not be available until the character reached level 15 or higher, and it had better be worth it!
When 4e rolled out, they included two forms of multiclassing: the feat version, which was essentially a power swap, and the ability to move into a new class at each level band (low band 1-10, mid band 11-20, high band 21-30). While this could be thematically cool, it often offered minimal variety if you just took the feat -- you only swapped out one power, not too noticeable -- and meant having some weird synergies at really high-level games.
The next edition of D&D will certainly have new rules for multiclassing, but NDAs being what they are, you will have to wait and see for yourself!
In that vein, here's a little something for all of you d20 players (whether D&D or Pathfinder): a bard/cleric hybrid synergy. This feat and class give you a way to make a bard/cleric who uses psalms, choruses, and morality plays to bring inspiration to the faithful. The Divine Performer feat gives a small amount of synergy by letting the bard and cleric's daily use abilities combine, while the singing evangelist prestige class provides a way to combine bardic magic, clerical spellcasting, and some additional forms of bardic performance all in the theme of a religious performer. Enjoy!
You use music and song to spread the joy of your faith.
Bardic music, turn/rebuke undead, Knowledge (Religion) 4 ranks, Perform (any) 4 ranks
BenefitYou combine your daily uses of bardic music and turn/rebuke undead and may use those abilities interchangeably.
Your Knowledge (Religion) skill grants you a synergy bonus to your bardic knowledge ability, once you have at least 5 skill ranks. If you have any feats or abilities that improve your synergy bonuses (such as the Complementary Insight feat from Races of Destiny), this improvement applies.
Add Perform to the list of class skills for any class that grants you divine spellcasting ability, such as cleric, paladin, or favored soul.
New Prestige Class:
The singing evangelist spreads the power of faith through song, music, and acting. While a singing evangelist has a hard time learning the powerful songs known to high-level bards, her skills are amplified by her divine connection, and she casts spells as a cleric and a bard, which gives her a strong repertoire of healing and fortifying magics. She's not as broadly skilled as a bard, but makes up for it with her ability to use her music to improve her clerical powers, and her divine channeling to amplify her bardic performances.
Skills: Diplomacy 4 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 8 ranks, Perform (any) 4 ranks
Spells: Ability to cast 2nd-level divine spells.
Special: Bardic music, ability to turn or rebuke undead, must worship a deity whose alignment is within one step of your own.
4 + Int
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A singing evangelist gains no new weapon or armor proficiencies.
Bardic Knowledge: A singing evangelist's class level adds to her bard level for purposes of determining her bardic knowledge ability.
Musical Symbol: A singing evangelist may use any musical instrument with which she has at least 1 rank in the appropriate Perform skill as a holy symbol, including as a divine focus for casting spells and for purposes of turning/rebuking undead.
Spellcasting: At each level, you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in a divine spellcasting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you had more than one divine spellcasting class before becoming a singing evangelist, you must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day, caster level, and spells known.
Additionally, at each level you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in bardic spellcasting. If you did not previously have the ability to cast spells as a bard, you gain access to bardic spells per day, caster level, and spells known as a bard of your class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you had more than one bardic spellcasting class before becoming a singing evangelist, you must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day, caster level, and spells known.
Turn/Rebuke Undead: Levels in this class do not contribute to your effective cleric level for the purposes of turning/rebuking undead, unless you have an ability that adds your bardic level to your effective cleric level, such as the Divine Performer feat (above). You must still use whatever actions or expenditures are necessary to activate that benefit. When you turn undead, however, you use a Perform check of the appropriate type in place of your Charisma check. If you have other benefits that improve your Perform check, these apply.Bardic Music: At 2nd level, a singing evangelist gains additional bardic music per day, and the ability to use higher level bardic music abilities, as if she had gained a level as a bard. This ability improves at every other subsequent level. Effectively, the singing evangelist adds one-half of her class level to her bard level for the purposes of determining her daily uses of bardic music and which bardic performances she can use.
Divine Grace: At 3rd level, a singing evangelist gains a bonus equal to her Charisma bonus (if any) on all saving throws. If she already has this benefit from another class (such as paladin), the bonuses do not stack.
Inspire Resistance: At 3rd level, a singing evangelist with 7 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use song or poetics to grant divine resistance to her allies (including herself), bolstering their ability to resist hostile effects and enemy magic. To be affected, an ally must be able to hear the bard sing. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected ally receives a +1 resistance bonus on saving throws. The resistance bonus increases with the singing evangelist's effective bardic music level, equal to the bonus for her inspire courage bardic music ability (+2 at 8th bardic music level, +3 at 14th, and +4 at 20th). Inspire resistance is a mind-affecting ability.
Inspire Curing/Inflicting: At 5rd level, a singing evangelist with 9 or more ranks in a Perform skill and the ability to spontaneously cast cure spells can use song or poetics to grant fast healing to her allies (including herself), weaving divine power to bolster their strength. To be affected, an ally must be able to hear the bard sing. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected ally gains fast healing 1. The amount of fast healing increases with the singing evangelist's effective bardic music level, equal to the bonus for her inspire courage bardic music ability (+2 at 8th bardic music level, +3 at 14th, and +4 at 20th).
If the singing evangelist has 9 or more ranks in a Perform skill and the ability to spontaneously cast inflict spells instead, she can use her song or poetics to injure her enemies. To be affected, an enemy must be able to hear the bard sing. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected enemy takes 1 point of damage on the bard's turn. The amount of damage inflicted increases with the singing evangelist's effective bardic music level, equal to the bonus of her inspire courage bardic music ability (+2 at 8th bardic music level, +3 at 14th, and +4 at 20th).
A singing evangelist who does not have the ability to spontaneously cast cure or inflict spells gains the version of this bardic performance appropriate to her alignment or ability to channel positive or negative energy. If the singing evangelist has not previously chosen this and is neither good nor evil in alignment, she must choose whether her performance cures or inflicts. Once this choice is made, it cannot be changed.
Fear Immunity: At 7th level, a singing evangelist becomes immune to all fear effects. Unlike a paladin's aura of courage, this does not extend a bonus to her allies.Divine Chorus: At 10th level, the singing evangelist gains the ability to start and maintain two bardic performances simultaneously. She must expend one daily use of her turn/rebuke undead ability to begin a chorus, which takes a standard action and allows her to use any two of the bardic performance abilities for which she meets the prerequisites. She cannot choose to use the same performance twice. If either performance normally requires concentration, then the chorus also requires concentration, meaning that the bard must use a standard action each round to continue the performance. For example, the singing evangelist could start a divine chorus to simultaneously use her inspire courage ability and her inspire curing ability. Both benefits would take effect and would last for the duration of the performance (plus 5 additional rounds, as normal for those performances). Each performance must still abide by any individual limitations such as being heard or seen, being mind-affecting, etc.
|1st||+0||+0||+2||+2||Bardic knowledge, musical symbol, turn/rebuke undead||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|2nd||+1||+0||+3||+3||Bardic music level +1||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|3rd||+2||+1||+3||+3||Divine grace, inspire resistance||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|4th||+3||+1||+4||+4||Bardic music level +2||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|5th||+3||+1||+4||+4||Channel inspiration +1, inspire curing/inflicting||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|6th||+4||+2||+5||+5||Bardic music level +3||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|7th||+5||+2||+5||+5||Fear immunity||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|8th||+6||+2||+6||+6||Bardic music level +4||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|9th||+6||+3||+6||+6||Channel inspiration +2||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
|10th||+7||+3||+7||+7||Bardic music level +5, divine chorus||plus 1 level of divine spellcasting class and plus 1 level of bardic spellcasting|
Class Skills: Appraise (Int), Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Gather Information (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Speak Language (None), Spellcraft (Int), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha).