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I like the flavor, flexibility, and role-playing inspirations provided by Themes, as introduced in D&D 4E Darksun and added in general in Dragon #399. I'm planning to use them in the game I'm starting. The problem is that there just aren't enough. A little over a dozen character concepts are covered — if I require that players choose a theme, that's quite restrictive. And if I make it optional and some people take it, the themes give enough extra power and flexibility that it's kind of a punishment to characters for whom a theme does not fit.

There are another three dozen themes from Darksun and Neverwinter and other miscellaneous articles, but most of them are very setting-specific and would require at least some degree of adaptation.

So, would offering a number of free multiclassing feats be a fair and balanced alternative option I could give to players who don't feel like any of the themes are a match?

Themes generally offer:

  1. A basic feature like shapeshifting or cost-free-alchemy
  2. Feature upgrades at levels 5 and 10
  3. Alternative utility powers

Would it be roughly equivalent to offer a bonus multiclass feat at first level and additional multiclass feats at levels 5 and 10 (must meet prereqs/follow restrictions), plus the 8th-level Acolyte Power feat (which lets you swap a utility power for one from your multiclass class)?

This wouldn't automatically give the flavor of themes, of course, but would provide an alternative framework without having to create a whole new theme from scratch.

Is the basic idea here sound? Is the proposal too much or too little? (And if so, what can I remove or add?) Are there any unforeseen consequences?

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2 Answers 2

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I think that you'll be better off allowing the players to choose their own themes from the various books and dragon magazine and simplly fluffing them to serve your desired purpose. Also, do not forget the Weapon Multiclasses. Player's have so many options unless your trying to do a modern campaign.

Remember that it is always taboo for a DM to change the mechanics of the game, unless your very experienced, because you open yourself to 'game-breaking' PCs. Everything seems like a good idea until it falls in the wrong hands!

Example: Half-Elf Cleric takes Skald [Bard Multiclass(HoFW)] for free. For his Dillitent he takes the first 'bard song at-will' (can't remember the name). His first actual feat he takes 'Power of Strength' which lets him turn one attack into a melee basic attack (can't remember which one).

Now you have a Cleric with a +4 Wisdom and +4 Charisma that damages 1d8+4 and gives +8 THP each basic attack until the end of the encounter.

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My first thoughts on this on seeing the question, are articulated by mattdm and Brian in the comments of Brian Ballsun-Stanton's answer

I think that the multiclass entry feats are close to on par with the power level of some of the better new themes, but I would be very concerned with giving out the power swap feats for free.

The level 5 and 10 features of themes tend to be fairly weak (unless the starting feature is weak). Modeling after feats, I would suggest sill training or a skill bonus in one of the 2nd classes skills, or an proficiency feat for an armor or weapon that the 2nd class is proficient in.

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