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To qualify for a new class, you must meet the ability score prerequisites for both your current class and your new one ... Without the full training that a beginning character receives, you must be a quick study in your new class, having a natural aptitude that is reflected by higher-than-average ability scores. PHB, p. 163.

Can the ability score prerequisite(s) be met by (long-term) use of a magic item(s) such as Headband of Intellect (INT 19), Ioun Stones (+2 to various ability scores), etc.?

The phrase "natural aptitude" suggests nonmagical, but a character could have been using a magic item for years which seems virtually indistinguishable.

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There is nothing in the PHB or DMG that I can find that indicates that this is not possible.

However, because of this fact, this is a conversation you need to have with your DM.

It's possible that in the campaign they envision, there would be severe complications, it's possible that there won't be. But only they can determine whether or not this is a good idea for your game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This presents the question "And what if the item were to be lost?" \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Dec 27 '14 at 7:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o pretty much exactly why your DM has to be closely involved in a decision like this. He need to either develop a contingency, commit to not stealing this item or deny it. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Dec 27 '14 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o Agree with DM interpretation/involvement, particularly if the magic item was for the original class since single class characters do not have minimum ability requirements (e.g., level 10 Wizard with INT 12 but DEX 13 multiclassing to Rogue after wearing a Headband). One read would be you keep everything gained up to the point the ability decreases below the minimum (or even continue gaining), noting "the full training of a beginning character" since you are passed that point when you gain a class level. \$\endgroup\$ – sadaqah Dec 27 '14 at 18:37
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In this unofficial tweet, Jeremy Crawford states that the prerequisite ability scores for multiclassing are intended to be met by your base score and not a temporary score. As such, we can infer that magic items that don't permanently increase your ability scores wouldn't work.

Keith
@mikemearls @JeremyECrawford would a temporary stat bump fulfill a multi-class pre-req or does the base score have to meet the #

Jeremy
The intent is that your base score, not a temporary score, has to meet a multiclassing prerequisite.

As of 2016, this has also been reiterated in the official Sage Advice Compendium:

Would a temporary stat bump fulfill a multiclass prerequisite, or does the base score have to meet the requirement? Your base score, not a temporary score, has to meet a multiclassing prerequisite.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This has made it into the Sage Advice Compendium, which is now an official source of rules clarifications. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Apr 18 at 21:00
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There are two pieces of evidence in the citation which indicate that the answer is no.

natural aptitude that is reflected by higher-than-average ability scores

  1. The character needs not just aptitude but natural aptitude. In D&D natural typically contrasts with magical, and this looks like a pretty clear statement that enhancement of ability scores through magical effects do not enable a character to qualify.
  2. Aptitude is reflected in ability scores, implying scores themselves are evidence of that aptitude. Items which raise ability scores therefore do not necessarily affect aptitude.

The passage is worded in a way which strongly suggests the author did not envision a scenario in which magical enhancement would give rise to multiclassing opportunities. Given this is a system in which magical enhancement of ability scores is commonplace (for PCs at least) it would be implausible to think it's a special case the authors overlooked.

We can also look at the consequences of such an interpretation to determine if it would be wise to house-rule magical bonuses from items as an acceptable source of natural aptitude:

  • This would make ability-enhancing magical items more powerful. Typically, the role of items in the game is to affect what your character can do or how well they can do it moment to moment, but don't directly influence overall character development.
  • My gut feeling is that players are more likely to metagame or become stubborn when dividing up loot if not getting an item today means they can't multiclass tomorrow. When your player and your character are both looking at items in terms of their use value then conflict is more likely to stay in-character and have an acceptable resolution.
  • Does the character really wear the magical item all the time, even when at rest? What if the attribute was improved not by a headband but a helmet which needed to be taken off when eating, sleeping, washing etc.? If that changes your answer, do you think it's already factored into the in-game value of different magical items? What would happen if the character loses the item part way through training?
  • What if the item providing the bonus is thematically inconsistent with the new class?
  • Could similar effects be achieved with ability-enhancing spells cast regularly?
  • Conversely, do temporary effects cause you to fail to multiclass? What if any point an ability score is lowered temporarily through magical or other means?
  • What about other character development options which have ability scores as prerequisites - could they, also, be met by the same means?

Perhaps you feel you can come up with a consistent and satisfactory answer to these questions. But it is inviting a level of metagaming and rules lawyering that is likely to harm the playing experience. So a DM's answer to a request to permit it by house rule, unless they have a policy of being indulgent and happy to manage the resulting fallout, will probably also be no. And even if they were tempted, it might be simpler to simply ignore ability modifier prerequisites rather than create a loophole.

I cannot see any reason you would conclude from the rules that ability enhancements granted by worn items can be used to meet class prerequisites, or any game objective it would serve to do so; allowing it would seem contrary to the intention of the rules, and is likely to cause undesirable effects and distractions from gameplay.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Atunement is meant to solve some of these issues. But you're right on several points (including the second to last one most significantly). I think you're making quite the inference based on a single word, but I also think that I'd disallow this in my games for pretty much the reasons you list here. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Dec 28 '14 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with your interpretation of the ability scores representing abilities and not defining them. One example of this would be: a Headband of Intellect +2 is like the D&D equivalent of a high-end camera in filmmaking. Sure if you get one you can have higher resolution and better colors, but if you're a novice, you're not going to suddenly become a great filmmaker. Conversely, Steven Spielberg could make an Oscar-winning movie on an iPhone (i.e. no Headband), but the high-end gear enhances his natural/acquired abilities. If you then take away that awesome gear, he's still Steven Spielberg. \$\endgroup\$ – Emkaytoo Dec 29 '14 at 19:54
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I agree that this is something that the DM needs to approve.

When it comes to temporary ability score adjustment I don't include the magical items like the Headband of Intellect as being temporary. The Headband's effect will remain so long as you wear it unlike a spell which will end. Since the "natural aptitude" the PHB speaks of is represented by your ability score, then any adjustment to that score would provide you with the necessary "natural aptitude" to enable you to be a quick study.

Spell effects just can't last long enough for you to really study anything, even if your stat now means your a quick study in the moment. A spell's duration of 1 minute, or even 1 hour, just isn't reasonable for multiclassing. But the Headband of Intellect's effects can be present the entire time the player is picking up a new class. If your attribute drops while you're sleeping does that really impact being a quick study? No.

The elephant in the room with magical attribute adjustment and multiclassing is what happens when the item is no longer in your possession? That is up to the DM. For me, that alone produces so many fun story possibilities that I don't have an issue with allowing magic items to enable multiclassing. If a DM doesn't like the problem introduced by potentially losing the item, then that is their choice. And that choice isn't wrong any more than mine is correct.

The other thing I should mention is that I put zero value in RAW or Adventurers League rules when it comes to games I play in. For me "balance" in the game is OK until it gets in my way as a DM or player in enjoying a great story and/or game session.

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No, Temporary stat boosts, however gained, do not permit multiclassing

This has been clarified on page 6 of the Sage Advice Compendium:

Would a temporary stat bump fulfill a multiclass prerequisite, or does the base score have to meet the requirement?

Your base score, not a temporary score, has to meet a multiclassing prerequisite.

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Multiclassing

Multiclassing allows you to gain levels in multiple classes. Doing so lets you mix the abilities of those classes to realize a character concept that might not be reflected in one of the standard class options.

With this rule, you have the option of gaining a level in a new class whenever you advance in level, instead of gaining a level in your current class. Your levels in all your classes are added together to determine your character level. For example, if you have three levels in wizard and two in fighter, you’re a 5th-level character.

As you advance in levels, you might primarily remain a member of your original class with just a few levels in another class, or you might change course entirely, never looking back at the class you left behind. You might even start progressing in a third or fourth class. Compared to a single-class character of the same level, you’ll sacrifice some focus in exchange for


Prerequisites

To qualify for a new class, you must meet the ability score prerequisites for both your current class and your new one, as shown in the Multiclassing Prerequisites table in the Player’s Handbook. Without the full training that a beginning character receives, you must be a quick study in your new class, having a natural aptitude that is reflected by higher-than-average ability scores.

Now, I know this is from the Basic Player Rules, but it's still got the majority of the same wording present in the complete Player's Handbook. What I pasted above is the Introductory section of the Multiclassing description, and the section following that regarding the prerequisites for Multiclassing at all. The way I see it, the only reason you need to meet a certain Ability Score Threshold in the first place is that "you must be a quick study in your new class, having a natural aptitude that is reflected by higher-than-average ability scores." With that, I figure that as long as your character is strong, agile, smart, wise, or charismatic enough when they take on the new class' training they should be able to do it just fine, no matter how or why the character has those characteristics. Additionally, as @NerdyFool mentioned if it was not allowed by RAW then a DM could house-rule it in anyway, albeit the class features being lost upon the loss of the magical enhancement to one's ability score.

I think it is important to note that as I was reading through the Player's Handbook I was borrowing for studying, I remember coming to the conclusion that to multiclass, a character must meet the prerequisites for both the class (or classes) for which they already have class levels as well as the new class they are trying to take on.

I hope that this information was of some use to you all!

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Yes

The rules require you to meet the prerequisites by having an ability score of X or higher. Assuming your items allow you to reach that target number, then you can take a level in that class. This is not stated explicitly, but there are no other situations (that I can find) in which you use your natural ability score instead of your enhanced one while benefiting from a magical item. Thematically this makes sense. If you outfit yourself in gear that increases your intelligence, it will become easier to study, memorize spell formulas, and do other intelligence based tasks.

What happens if you lose that item?

In previous versions of the game when your ability score is lowered to below a prerequisite of an ability, most often feats, you cannot use that ability. This is not a direct correlation, but it does offer some insight into historical intent. My gut reaction is that if for some reason you lose the effects of your magical items you will be unable to use class abilities and features until the ability score is restored. This would be entirely up to your group and your DM though, as this is outside of any RAW that I can find.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In previous editions, if your ability score is lowered below the pre-reqs of a class either nothing happens or you can't level up until it's fixed. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 15 '15 at 6:48
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It would depend on whether the DM is okay with temporary inability to use class features, which is not really how the game is supposed to work, not in essence. Now, you do get items like the Tomes of X that inherently boost your abilities, ie permanent magical increases. These are rare and costly items, for a good reason.

Now, if your campaign is the kind where the players are hopped up on class features in the way that certain "performance medicines" give you increased abilities, then that's another matter. In a campaign with enhanced performance while affected by a magic item, substance, or class features that rely on abilities, and the only way to get those is to take a certain substance or use magic, then that's a design decision, and it goes against the spirit of the game, as I understand it (15 years experience here). I'm not saying it's strictly outlawed, but generally, you want to streamline play with as few headaches/chances for confusion as possible, so as to not get bogged down in arguments and more philosophical (but generally polite) conversations about the concepts of class level and ability.

In general, as intended, it would make sense that they design the game to rely on the abilities in a more permanent manner than magic/substances etc would be able to provide, unless that's the idea of the particular campaign.

So magic = drugs, kids. :p

PS: if you can create a character concept where they get their class abilities from temporary buffs, then that's also more likely to work out well in your favour. But that's not what 9 out of 10 DM's would go for, I imagine, if they're the kind who want to minimize headaches anyway. (Namely, their own.)

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By RAW you must meet the prerequisites without magic.

However, I have known DMs that allow it with the knowledge that if you lose the item or it is removed you lose the abilities gained from the new class until your ability is returned to the appropriate amount.

If your DM is more flexible with the rules you can ask his preference.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Do you have a cite for RAW? \$\endgroup\$ – sadaqah Dec 26 '14 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have the books on me at the moment, so not right now. \$\endgroup\$ – NerdyFool Dec 26 '14 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've checked both the magic item listings and the MC rules and don't see a rule along this line. A citation would be most helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Dec 26 '14 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having rechecked in the books, I also can't find anything specific. \$\endgroup\$ – NerdyFool Dec 27 '14 at 21:39

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