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One of my players is a Warlock 3/Fighter 2 multiclass Half-Elf. We haven't played for a while as we have all been either busy or away on vacation and so she decided to take the opportunity to reconsider her "in-game" life choices. She asked me if I could let her "drop" the two fighter levels and add them to the Warlock instead because she decided she doesn't want to be much of a fighter.

I am worried that by allowing her to do it, it could cause problems in the campaign since other players might start wanting to change their characters (They are all single-class so they might want to become multiclass with their current levels) and they would have a justifiable reason. Allowing them to do it right now would create problems story-wise because the campaign is sand-box I have based entire quests on their backgrounds, races and classes. This character's "quest" is based more on the "Warlock" side rather than the fighter and so it won't be a problem at all. But other players will cause issues such as having to delete entire missions along with their side quests and I would need to write brand new ones and I don't have that much time as of right now so the campaign would become unplayable.

My question is; What's the best way to allow her to do it without causing the aforementioned issue?

Note: It's my first time DMing.

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This is known as a "re-spec", and it's reasonable on occasion.

While changing one's character levels isn't a standard rule in D&D 5th edition, it's not unreasonable to allow a character to change a poorly-built character on a one-off basis like this. In fact, the Adventurer's Guild organized play rules explicitly allow low-level characters to do this:

We recognize that many players start out with a pregenerated character, or might try out a character class, race, or other option, and then decide later on that it wasn’t the play experience they were looking for. As such, characters in the first tier (levels 1–4) can be rebuilt after any episode or adventure.

This is commonly known as a "re-spec" or "rebuild", and I've seen it used well in the first D&D campaign I ever played in. Most of our gaming group was new to D&D at this time, and many players made mechanically very sub-optimal choices as a result. When we reached level 10, the DM allowed us to change our characters once only, to ensure that nobody would be laboured with an ineffective character due to poor decision-making early on.

It's not unbalanced, since a re-spec is fundamentally no more powerful than a normal character of their level. It's mechanically identical to allowing the player to select a new character of the same level (something many DMs, myself included, allow when a character dies or retires), except that this way they retain their existing character identity and story, which is usually a good thing. And while AL currently only allows it up to level 4 (as noted by nick012000), you aren't bound to that rule unless you're playing in Adventurer's League.

However, I recommend it be allowed very sparingly, such as once per campaign. Allowing frequent re-specs would give characters too much flexibility (e.g. completely changing their character to suit each adventure or scenario), which would lead to an effective increase in power. It may also undermine the continuity of the game, and lead to much time being spent in character generation instead of playing the actual game.

You may like to offer the other players the chance to re-spec at the same time, just to be fair. However, again, it must be made clear that this is a one-off grace which players will not expect to be repeated. As DM, you are within your authority to bend the rules to accomodate players, but don't let them talk you into doing this often, or the rules lose meaning.

Youtuber and excellent Dungeon Master Matt Colville, of Running the Game fame, has in the past stated that he allows his players a great-deal of leeway in re-spec. He considers it important that characters get to play the sort of character they want to play, and that if the player's character concept doesn't match what they had mind when they made their decisions, that they should be able to change it. In one case he recently allowed a character to change a spell mid-session when it was discovered to be less effective than the player had assumed when they made that choice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ultimately, the frequency of respecs isn't what's can potentially be a problem - it's the purpose of the respec (whether or not the respec is motivated by having something suited best to the situation). Limiting the frequency is probably the easiest and objective way to limit this problem, but not necessarily the only way (if it's even a problem in your group to begin with) \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Jul 12 at 11:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper Agreed. I avoid frequency by having training times for multi-classing. It is a significant time investment so there had to be an in-game reason for doing it in the first place so it required the players to think carefully and plan it out. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 12 at 11:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ "a re-spec is fundamentally no more powerful than a normal character of their level" -- it may still be more powerful than a character they could build naturally by being more focused. Because they only have to care about optimal build choices for this level and this moment, not for all the previous levels and past changing circumstances, too. That's probably why the house rule you cited is limited to low levels. \$\endgroup\$ – ivan_pozdeev Jul 12 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ But y'know, even as I write that, as a DM I still wouldn't be saying "no" to my player. I'd just be working with the player to develop a story where they end up breaking their pact and dealing the fallout that comes from that act. So I guess what I mean is I'm comfortable with a purely mechanical rework if it's altering a decision that happened one or two levels ago, just retconning it to have never happened, while I'd want an in-story justification for a deeper change. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 12 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ivan_pozdeev I would expect that to be less of an issue with new players as well. I'd have no problem bringing the AL rule into my game, especially for new players: it's a complex game and it's easy to make a "permanent" mistake. The point is to have fun, not feel permanently weakened because you made a dumb choice. For a power-gamer, I would be much more critical of what they wanted to change. If they've been sleeping every person they fight and at 6th level they suddenly want to change (because it caps at 5HD in older systems), I'd probably make them use in-game retraining. \$\endgroup\$ – TemporalWolf Jul 12 at 22:57
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Yes, this is fine. It's unlikely to lead to problems.

In my games, I use a more aggressive rule. I tell players: "I want to make sure you're playing the character you want to play. Between sessions, if there's any decision about your character that you feel wasn't the right choice, feel free to change it. You can change your spells, your feats, your stats, your class, or even your race. We'll rewrite history so that your new character is the character that was always there."

I ask players not to abuse this by tailoring their choices for the next scenario we have planned, but otherwise no restrictions.

Hardly anyone ever uses this rule at all. I've certainly never had a problem with it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I use a similar rule for all my campaigns since D&D Next. I've never run into problems with it, and players greatly appreciated it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 12 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ "We'll rewrite history so that your new character is the character that was always there." -- This is generally great advice, but one thing I'd like to add is about OP's "quest" involving the character being a Warlock. Suppose the character wanted to drop the classes of Warlock and be a pure Fighter instead; Assuming the player is fine with it you could say that the fighter's strength comes from a patron or that the fighter owes the patron a debt. There can be creative solutions to splitting class flavor from class mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – Captain Man Jul 12 at 17:59
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It would not be unfair

The game is designed so that class levels are meant to balance out. A level 5 warlock should be about as strong as a level 3 warlock/level 2 fighter. You could come up with some kind of justification in game to account for the change. Or you could just hand wave it. Ultimately the game is meant to be fun for everyone, not bogged down in rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Ultimately the game is meant to be fun for everyone, not bogged down in rules." +1 to that. Unless this player's choices would somehow step on the fun of others at the table, there's zero reason not to let her have them. And if the potential weirdness of retconning her character choices is a concern, one should bear in mind that characters, even single-classes ones, suddenly gain or lose abilities all the time in the normal process of leveling up. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Jul 11 at 23:58
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I would honestly suggest some sort of compromise if you're worried about it completely breaking things.

If you want to make the RP more immersive, have the player in question respec a level or two at a time with their character finding an in-game means of retraining their skills.

Basically, make them work for it and make it an enhancement to roleplaying.

This is a good way, in my opinion, to keep it from being abused, also by rate-limiting how fast they can respec you can kibosh unrealistic or exploitative respecs.

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I think allowing a multiclassed character to rebuild to a single-classed version of the same character is fine, as long as the concept is still believable, or the character's transition from one class or subclass to another is believable.

I know that all players make a few character choices they regret, and MMOs usually have Respec options for good reason (unless you are playing one of those Korean "Pay-to-Win MMOs" that charges you 50 USD for a single rebuild of a single character).

Rebuilding your character won't make them any stronger than a character with the same statistics and level. It may make them more ideally suited to the party composition or the adventure, though.

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As other answers have said, there is no balance problem - but you are right that your other players may want the same thing... So just be open and upfront with them. Ask them if they think it's OK, and offer them the same deal (maybe with some restrictions applying that you work together with them, so it still fits with everything you have planned.)

I know it sounds simple, but just talk with them. You can tell them the same thing you told us.

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