Some players like to plan their characters all the way up to level 20, even if the campaign starts at level 1. I would prefer my players to react organically to the story I’m presenting, taking into account the things that affect their characters during play. For example, if the LvL 10 Fighter discovers during the story arc, that the teachings of the church that hired him make more and more sense, why not take a level cleric, even if that’s not "optimal".
Of course, I cannot (and won’t) force my players to make the decisions I think are the most logical. That would suck. On the other hand, how do I handle weird player choices that make no sense at this point in the game? The main problem here is spontaneous multiclassing. What do I mean by that?
Some classes are “easier” to multiclass into than others are. It doesn’t take too much imagination to justify taking a level of fighter. You saw the bad guys and your friends swing swords often enough. How hard can that be? Boom, you take a level fighter. Same with rogue (although you would have to explain where you learned Thieves’ Cant all of a sudden).
But most classes are harder to just spontaneously multiclass into. If nobody is offering you a deal and you’ve never met any entity that would be interested in your services, how can you take a warlock level? You can’t just flip open a random spellbook and take a wizard level. Well, maybe you were in the woods once or twice, but that doesn’t really justify a druid or ranger level. Playing the guitar? Nope, you’re not instantly a bard with magic. These are just some examples.
Although it might be optimal from a mechanical point of view, some choices are just illogical when considered from an in-universe perspective. And don’t get me wrong. If my player starts with a bard at level 1 and tells me at the beginning of the campaign, that they really want to become a raven queen warlock during the adventure, then I’m absolutely willing to tweak my plot here and there to accommodate this plan. But if I tell my players they earned a level-up at the end of the session, and one of them shows up at the next session with a random raven queen warlock level we never talked about, then I’m really baffled.
In my opinion, I have three choices:
I could tell the player, that they cannot multiclass without a proper in-universe explanation. Problem is, this could discourage the player.
I could allow the random multiclass and come up with an in-universe explanation for it. Problem is, this means a lot more work for me.
I could allow the random multiclass and let it go without explanation. Problem is, this makes the world I'm creating more and more illogical.
Without enough immersion, how can we tell a compelling story together at the table? I know that things like that could have been addressed in a Session 0. But it never occurred to me that the play style of some players might differ from my own so widely. That's why I came here to ask:
How to handle spontaneous multiclassing?
This question is inspired by the goings-on in a D&D 5e campaign.