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In my campaign, a player has informed me that they plan to play a Multiclassed Barbarian/Monk as their character. I've already informed them of the potential issues that might arise from the (relative) lack of synergy between the Monk and Barbarian features and they are okay with that.

My concern though is that because the Extra Attack feature requires 5 levels individually in one of those classes, there's one of two problems that will probably arise:

  • The character will, especially at early levels, trend way more towards one class than the other just to pick up that Extra Attack feature, making the character feel less like a "blend" of both classes
  • The character will split their levels evenly between the two classes, and as a result, not get their Extra Attack feature until level 9.

So as a remediation, I was considering allowing the character, so long as they only take Barbarian and Monk levels, to gain the Extra Attack feature at level 5, regardless of how they chose to split their levels.

What kinds of problems might arise from allowing this?

Some constraints:

  • The character will use Point Buy, so regardless of how the character levels are distributed, their Strength modifier cannot be above +3 before level 4; +4 before level 8.
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As @Bacon Hero's answer focuses on the more numerical side of the issue, I want to provide one that focuses more on a psychological/decision-making issue that might arise from this house rule, the impact of which may vary depending on the level of optimization/intraparty balance your players favor.

Depending on the rest of the party composition, and especially if this house rule remains in place for future games/Extra Attacking characters, I think this dramatically affects the tradeoff considerations to be made when multiclassing. Extra Attack is a pretty high value feature- it's what lets your damage scale into the next 'tier' of content. By taking that part of the decision out of consideration, you're heavily shifting the balance in favor of taking whatever choice gives you the next most power, which is likely always going to be the 'other' class.

To put this another way, let's take a possible worst-case scenario this rule may run into in the future: There's a 4th level monoclassed fighter. Next level, they can take another level in fighter and get only Extra Attack... or their first level in any other Extra Attack'er and get Extra Attack, plus their level one features, plus their multiclassing proficiencies. The contrast between the two options may feel especially bad if there's ever a scenario where there's both a 5 fighter & 4 fighter/1 (monk/paladin/barbarian/etc.) in the party, though this may arise to a lesser extent with any monoclassed Extra Attacker being in the party next to a multiclasser.

Now, there are of course other considerations to be made such as the choice delaying higher level class features, but that 5th level decision really heavily favors multiclassing a martial character at that point. Then there's the fact that taking that 5th level later on now feels like a 'dead level', since you get very little compared to the non-house-ruled version (while that would eventually be the case with your 'second' Extra Attack class approaching 5th level in the future without the house rule, the house rule causes you to now face two 'dead levels', one with each class).

I think before you put this house rule into place, you should make sure to consider how often its use may come up in the future, whether or not you have any players that would feel 'pushed' towards multiclassing as a result of this house rule, and if you are ok with the above scenarios arising if/when that happens.

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Let's compare RAW builds to a multiclass build with your house rule:

RAW 3 Berserker Barbarian / 2 Monk: gets 1 attack action and as a bonus action either;

  • 2 unarmed strikes from Flurry of Blows (For 1 Ki)
  • 1 melee weapon attack from Frenzy (While Raged)
  • 1 unarmed strike from Martial Arts

Assuming combat lasts for 1 minute, rage is active, all attacks hit with Quarterstaff for 4+3 mod+2 rage= 9 damage and all unarmed strikes hit for 2+3 mod +2 rage= 7 damage and all resources are used optimally; This character can deal:

Round 1 & 2 : 9 + 7 + 7 = 23 damage per round (46 damage total)

Round 3 to 10: 9 + 9 = 18 damage per round (144 damage total)

Total Damage after 10 rounds: 190 damage


3 BERSERKER / 2 MONK with you house rule:

with an extra attack at level 5 in comparison will deal:

Round 1 & 2: 9 + 9 + 7 + 7 = 32 damage per round (64 damage total)

Round 3 to 10: 9 + 9 + 9 = 27 damage per round (216 damage total)

Total Damage after 10 rounds: 280 damage


We can observe that the house rule boosts damage by ~47%. But how does that compare to pure RAW builds?


Compared against other RAW Builds we can see that the RAW Multiclass Build loses a lot of damage:

RAW 5 Berserker Barbarian Quarter-Staff: gets 2 attack action and as a bonus action either;

  • 1 melee weapon attack from Frenzy (While Raged)

Assuming combat lasts for 1 minute, rage is active, all attacks hit with *Quarterstaff for 4+4 mod+2 rage= 10 damage* and all resources are used optimally; This character can deal:

Round 1 to 10 : 10 + 10 + 10 = 30 damage per round (300 damage total)

Total Damage after 10 rounds: 300 damage


RAW 5 Berserker Barbarian Great Sword: gets 2 attack action and as a bonus action either;

  • 1 melee weapon attack from Frenzy (While Raged)

Assuming combat lasts for 1 minute, rage is active, all attacks hit with *Great Sword for 6+4 mod+2 rage= 12 damage* and all resources are used optimally; This character can deal:

Round 1 to 10 : 12 + 12 + 12 = 36 damage per round (360 damage total)

Total Damage after 10 rounds: 360 damage


RAW 5 Berserker Barbarian Great Sword and GWM Feat: gets 2 attack action and as a bonus action either;

  • 1 melee weapon attack from Frenzy (While Raged)

Assuming combat lasts for 1 minute, rage is active, all attacks hit with *Great Sword for 6+3 mod+2 rage + 10 feat bonus= 21 damage* and all resources are used optimally; This character can deal:

Round 1 to 10 : 21 + 21 + 21 = 63 damage per round (630 damage total)

Total Damage after 10 rounds: 630 damage


RAW 5 Monk (Drunk Master): gets 2 attack action and as a bonus action either;

  • 2 unarmed strikes from Flurry of Blows (For 1 Ki)
  • 1 unarmed strike from Martial Arts

Assuming combat lasts for 1 minute, all attacks hit with *Quarterstaff for 4+4 mod= 8 damage* and all *unarmed strikes hit for 3+4 mod = 7 damage* and all resources are used optimally; This character can deal:

Round 1 to 5 : 8 + 8 + 7 + 7 = 30 damage per round (150 damage total)

Round 6 to 10 : 8 + 8 + 7 = 23 damage per round (115 damage total)

Total Damage after 10 rounds: 265 damage


In conclusion:

Allowing your Player to get an extra attack at level 5 for this specific multiclass build may give that player a ~47% boost in damage over the course of 10 rounds. Of course, this was just a quick example build that I used for comparison. Greater damage may be achieved with a more optimised build.

In actual play, the damage will probably be less due to missed attacks, unoptimal actions, losing rage etc...

Compared to Pure Monk 5 builds doing damage over 10 rounds, the damage increase is still present but not as significant. Pure Barb significantly outpaces damage of other builds, especially with Great Weapon Master Feat. Of course, a multi-class build has more access to class feats that pure builds do not have.

RAW 3/2 loses damage in exchange for:

  1. Rage
  2. Unarmoured Defense
  3. Reckless Attack (Attack with Advantage for disadv. when attacked)
  4. Danger Sense (Adv. Dex Save)
  5. Frenzy
  6. Martial Arts
  7. Ki
  8. Unarmoured Movement (+10 ft speed)

Whether this mixture is worth the damage reduction or not is up to you. Personally, I think that an increase in ~47% damage over RAW build is far too generous but this multiclass has a huge damage output reduction compared to pure builds.

Another interesting question to ask is if this damage gap closes once the RAW multiclass gains extra attack at level 7, 8 or 9 compared to other pure RAW builds at the same level. If it does the player may feel rewarded for putting up with a weaker start as his or her character starts coming into its own.

If the extra attack is awarded early, the later levels might feel stagnant as his or her power curve is flattened.

Perhaps allowing Ki and Rage resources to be combined would be a good compromise rather than an early free extra attack?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 10 at 20:18
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For the specific situation given, I think you're fine to give them the Extra Attack at level 5. Essentially, it will more or less just be a DM granted boon rather than a class feature.

The player is opting to accept the drawbacks already associated with splitting themselves between 2 classes, so they won't receive any of the other benefits of reaching level 5 (i.e. no Stunning Fist or d6 Martial Arts) in those classes and will generally be trending behind the rest of the group if everyone else is keeping themselves within 1 class. I think your proposed change will help bridge the power gap and help the player stay relevant without bucking the power balance within the party.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you think there won't be any issue in granting additional abilities from the multiclass but not delaying the extra attack? Have you done this? It seems like there is likely a reason for it otherwise they would have made extra attack based on character level and not class level. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 10 at 17:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ The player is opting to choose a less than optimal multi-class progression that's going to spread themselves out between Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom. Given that their ASIs will be spread further out, the character is going to be substantially less effective. Other players in the group are going to be seeing a lot more mileage out of fewer ability scores. For the qurent's specific situation, granting Extra Attack at the same rate as a single classed character does not seem likely to cause balance issues. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jun 10 at 18:03

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