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One of my players has requested that his next PC actually be two characters, similar to "Ferra & Tor" from Mortal Kombat, essentially a small wizard (or other magic user) riding a big barbarian (or other "tank" charactor). He proposes that in order to not seem OP “Every time I get hit, roll a d10 + strength modifier and if it rolls higher than a 7 or 8 I get separated” and if they get separated he has disadvantage on everything and reduced senses and stats.

His exact request was:

My character is actually two characters; one big tanky guy with a smaller, weak spellcaster sitting on his head/shoulders. Together, they're pretty powerful being able to tank and spellcast, but if they get separated from each other, then I get disadvantage on everything and reduced senses and stats
And I'd only be able to attack once with maybe a bonus action to be able to cast a simple spell. To balance it, I was thinking about having a level 4 tank and a level 2 wizard or something in the one character, trying not to make him OP"

This to me sound like a careful balancing act between being too OP or too UP, depending on what he has to roll in order to "become separated".

With the rest of a party on Level 5, Can anyone tell me how to balance this character? Such as...

  • What disadvantage it should get when separated?
  • How to make initiative work if they separate or join up mid battle?
  • How the separation mechanic should work including what dice and modifiers?

And any other advice on how to make this character function without bending the rules too much.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @JPChapleau that comment, to my mind, is not only an answer but is the right answer. As such, I've gone ahead and deleted it, since comments are for clarifying/improving posts. I hope you'll post that as a frame-challenging answer--I'd upvote it! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 20 '17 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW we can also provide the text of the deleted comment. Ping one of us in chat or raise a flag and we'll provide it. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 20 '17 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, the old "what can I trade out for doubling my action economy?" question. There's a reason that in 3.5, Leadership was the best feat bar none. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel Dec 21 '17 at 19:02
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Just use a regular multiclass character treated narratively as two characters.

I've tried the same thing you're describing (two characters in one) at my table before as a party-controlled NPC companion. I tried several iterations of homebrew, but all suffered from balance issues and caused confusion during play.

Eventually I tried the character as a by-the-book multiclass character treated only narratively as if it were two characters. This worked the best at my table in terms of balance and playability.

With a simple multiclass character, the player can have access to barbarian and wizard features, and in dialog and roleplay they can pretend the two are separate, but mechanically there are no special rules to contend with for the players or you as the DM. The two can be treated as psychically or spiritually linked so that it makes sense that they share one stat block. I suggest ignoring the minimum ability score restrictions for multiclassing with this character, since barbarian and wizard will be difficult to assign scores for competently.

Perhaps this counts as a frame challenge (rejecting the kind of answer you're asking for in favor of an alternative solution), but I've been there and done that with the kind of homebrew you're describing and it did not work out well in my experience, so I'm trying to save you the headache.

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Don't balance it

Let him simply play 2 characters and deal with the combo through role play. No bonus for being together, no penalty for being apart. One movement through the tanks initiative but the caster has their own initiative roll for actions.

Adjust the enemies (CR) to compensate.

The important part is to ensure he still gets only one share of table time, maybe the tank is dumb (Or mute) so the wizard does all the talking a-la Master / Blaster.

Other people at the table may get jealous but speak to them and see if you can get them on board.

This is by far the easiest method that I can see and doesn't rely on anything home-brewed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In my experience this does not work well. In party of 4, player with 2 characters either gets 2/5 of DM attention and time, to disgust other players, or does not get enough DM attention and time to actually use both characters, and is not satisfied. Only real choice was who ends up disappointed. Even if you try to limit his time, there are still attack rolls aganist his characters, saves his characters are making, attack rolls both can make and so on. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Dec 20 '17 at 14:01
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I actually did this for a player years ago, I think it was for 3.0.

His concept was actually twins, much like the movie. In this case I limited the physical stats of the, in this case psion, to 6 and the "big" brother's, fighter iirc, mental stats to 6. I limited the little guy's speed to like 10ft I think or something equally limiting and the big guy couldn't speak very much without his little brother being within proximity. I did not limit their class progression but if they were separated by more than a specified amount for a specified amount of time they started to deteriorate and die.

They had a telepathic connection to avoid issues with little bro being mounted on big bro.

The whole thing worked out pretty well, together they were probably a bit more powerful than the average player but apart they were significantly less so, and since they could be targeted separately charms on the big guy worked fine to disrupt them as did phantasms in some cases. I also did not allow the mounted feats for this duo to help keep them from being too over the top.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you balance table time and DM's attention? With two characters to roll saves, attacks etc, it is easy for such player to take up 2/5 of time during fight, in a party of 4 players. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Dec 20 '17 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot in my game I treated them as one character except where specifics were involved, like if they got separated. That particular player was already really good at balancing multiple characters as most of my previous players were as we sometimes had to have 2 toons each. You are correct though, without an experienced DM and player it could drag things and take some spotlight from the other players. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Dec 20 '17 at 16:00
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I would recommend making "two in one" to actually be a racial ability. Even in mortal kombat Ferra/Tor worked in unison as a single entity, linked as a racial ability, and compensated combat moves to create a unique fighting style. Create a new character "race". This way it wouldnt go too far from balance, and the whole hassle of splitting xp, figuring out two classes etc. Wouldnt be an issue.

There is a race in D&D 3.5 Dragon Compendium which is actually exactly two same looking people, and they split up some of the mechanical aspects. You should take that as base of some kind and work from there.

Here is a 5e version of that race (homebrewed, I presume). I do not have practical experience in the homebrewed race's validity, nor am I recommending it as-is.

If you are dead-set on making it with classes, take a look at the AD&D 2nd edition multiclassing rules for some guidance. Instead of taking a level in one or the other, you progress in both and most of mechanical aspects are split between the classes.

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Treat it as a single multi-class character (at least during combat).

If the wizard is "mounted" I think it's unreasonable for them to both be combat-effective at the same time. If the barbarian is dodging/attacking/etc the wizard would be too busy hanging on to actually do anything. Conversely, if the barbarian takes it easy, so the wizard can cast spells, he's effectively restricting his own actions.

You could break down their stats and HP for if they go their separate ways, or if you want to assign damage individually. This would also help if one was ever killed and the player wanted to continue with the other.

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Refluff a single multidsciplinary character, or steal from Ranger's Beast Conclave

So, first, you can re-fluff a multiclassed character. Take a few levels of wizard and a few levels of fighter. Stat it out as a single character, and just fluff it as two different people acting at different times. Alternately, since wizard / fighter isn't necessarily the best combo, you could go with a re-fluffed Eldritch Knight and do the same thing. If your player truly craves a balanced character with two bodies to play with, though, there is a basis for building one out of homebrew.

Start with the UA ranger's Beast Conclave as the way to get your fighter-type. Possibly pick Ape. There are suggestions on how to swap class features around between classes - use those to swap Beast Conclave onto a spellcaster chassis, in place of a class feature set of equivalent size. Adjust coordinated attack so that it triggers off of spellcasting instead of standard attacks. Possibly adjust the feature a bit if it seems a bit too weak or a bit too strong. Take a small race initially, and use the mount rules. Possibly invest a certain amount of starter cash in a special saddle/riding basket.

That will wind you up with something that should both give you a fair bit of what you want and be at least close to the right power levels. You can tweak to fit after that if it looks like the combination is either notably weaker than or notably stronger than the rest of the party. Admittedly, given how the rules work, your Big Dumb Guy is going to wind up really very dumb, but if I understand the objective right, that's not actually a problem.

I do not suggest using the original PHB Ranger beastmaster as a start point. The foreword to the UA Ranger acknowledged that the Ranger in general had had serious issues, and my readings online have suggested that the beastmaster option was particularly bad.

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I would recommend that one of the characters be controlled by the player, and the other by the DM. Both would be created by the player, but one of them acts as a party NPC. This arrangement should be agreed upon, and the player should have some influence of the actions of the character he does not control.

Additionally, control of the characters can switch between the DM and the player between rounds, encounters, adventures, sessions, or other predetermined periods of time. Swapping control of the characters should not be required, and only done if it is agreed upon by both the DM and the player. For example, they don't have to switch characters every session, only if both participants agree.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That notice ^^ is boilerplate language that we can't change. Nevertheless, this answer is devoid of reliable sourcing--that sourcing can be your own experience either playing as you describe, or GMing as you describe, or even just being at a table where a character-pair was played like this. As it reads, though, it seems just like "here's an idea," which is not what we're aiming for on Stack Exchange. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 25 '17 at 3:35
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In my current campaign, one of my player's characters has taken on an apprentice that I've allowed him to control. The apprentice is a child, and I've essentially given him the abilities of a permanent mage hand. In other words, he can carry things and perform basic tasks. I've started him at "level 0". I told the player that once the child reaches 500 experience points, his XP will revert to 0 and he will begin leveling normally. So far with this player and campaign, we have played one adventure in which the PCs have reached 3rd level, however the child is still at level 0. Companions, in my campaign, are meant to progress more slowly than the players, but still be involved.

For this case, I suggest that the player choose the more powerful of his characters to be his PC, and the less powerful to be the companion. The rules I have set can be easily changed to make the second character more involved, and the Level 0 mechanic does not need to be implemented. Essentially, the player should take control of both characters, and both should be involved in the story, except one should just be more involved.

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protected by nitsua60 Dec 25 '17 at 3:35

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