I decided to give one of the parties I mentioned a try in terms of starting from scratch. What I attempted to do was create a cleric/swashbuckler. Unfortunately, I discovered the hard way that this combination was not possible, at least not in that order of creation.
Apparently, one of the things I failed to remember was that dual classes have a restriction where the class you’re dual classing to must be just one of the basic four classes. You cannot dual class into a kit. What this means is that in the case of creating a cleric/swashbuckler, you’d have to start with the swashbuckler then dual class into the cleric. However, there’s some major implications if you try this out.
First, if you go along with one of my party ideas, you’ll essentially lose out on a thief until your cleric side can catch up. Since the “Use Any Item” ability is available at level 24, you’ll practically be jammed for 24 levels without a dedicated thief. That’s a huge blow to any party considering that a lot of the game practically requires a thief to disarm numerous traps and pick locks. If you went this route, you’d have to pick up another thief to compensate.
On the other hand, one thing I learned in experimenting with the swashbuckler/cleric is that upon receiving the “Use Any Item” ability, it will translate over for the cleric in terms of gear. That means, you can use any weapon or any item, even at level one. Of course, you won’t have the proficiencies for non-cleric weapons but this does open some possibilities up as a cleric.
The thing though is that after discovering that I no longer could go from cleric to a swashbuckler, I essentially lost any motivation of trying that combination out, even in reverse. I could cheat and assign experience to allow for that character’s class to instantly catch up, but that route is pretty empty.
Another consideration was examining potential demi-humans to try a multi-class version of the cleric/thief. Surprisingly, elves and half elves were prohibited, although half-orcs and gnomes (not sure about halflings) could do that combination. Since the party I had in mind would use both Jaehira and a half-elf ranger/cleric, bringing along another cleric seemed pointless as I’d lose some armor and fighting ability. This would provide the opportunity of trying out a different demi-human but there really isn’t a point in this situation.
In turn, I pondered a bit about what I could replace this cleric/swashbuckler class with. At the very least, I needed a thief of some sort. Pure thieves are pretty boring. I already had tried the Wizard Slayer/Thief and felt that the combination had reached it’s lifespan with me. An alternative to this combination would be to move towards a multi-class fighter/thief, using a half-orc. The major deficiency in fighter/thieves of any kind, whether dual or multi-class, is the vulnerability to level draining undead. A cleric/thief would be able to use an Amulet of Power to avoid dealing with Negative Plane Protection spells. But a regular fighter/thief will only get to use such an item when they receive the “Use Any Item” ability.
Another reason I ended up avoiding this route is that multi-class fighters lack the depth of weapon proficiencies that a pure fighter class or kit receives. So a half-orc at the end of the day honestly would contribute little. I thought about having a dwarf for this slot as well because I would be able to wield the Dwarven Thrower. In the scheme of things though, that weapon would have limited use and is obtained a little later in the game. If anything, you could purchase it for Korgan when you’re ready to do his NPC quest. Otherwise, a dwarf fighter/thief really doesn’t contribute a lot whereas an elf would receive some bonus weapon racials towards long/short swords and bows.
So I could try a Mage/Thief. In that situation, it would be better to just use one of the NPCs, even though their thief skills in general are fairly weak (except the gnome’s but would you really want to bring him along?) In the end, I settled on taking an elven fighter/mage/thief. It was an odd but interesting choice considering that I have another elf fighter/mage. My idea was to make the fighter/mage focus on tanking and only utilize magic as a backup. Then once she obtains the Bladesinger Chain, she could deal with magic on a more full time basis. The fighter/mage/thief would switch armor depending on the situation. However, I see him using bracers and other forms of mage style protection rather than armor. In this manner, he will be able to fully utilize his range of skills and only employ armor in emergency situations.
More than likely, I’ll have my fighter/mage/thief focus more on ranged attacks while my fighter/mage will become a tank. While not wearing prohibitive armor, my fighter/mage will focus on defensive spells and buffs and the occasional spell stripper. My thinking here is that most offensive magic ends up being weak compared to raw combat so it’s better when you have this many mages to simply focus on defensive magic.
Another aspect to this type of character is that in looking at max level/experience, the fighter/mage/thief won’t be able to use the “Use Any Item” ability since he won’t be able to get enough experience and cap pretty early. However, this combination’s versatility makes the “Use Any Item” ability pretty moot. Mostly, when I aimed for the “Use Any Item” ability with my Wizard Slayer/Thief, I would have him focus on non-thief weapons like the Vorpal Sword or the Battle Axe which functions similarly to the Vorpal Sword. Looking back though, those weapons aren’t necessarily game breakers and there’s plenty of interesting and good weapons in Throne of Bhaal to compensate.
On the other hand, the sheer versatility of this class does allow me to switch his roles on the fly. For instance, I could provide an extra set of heavy armor for tanking. This is something I really couldn’t do with my Wizard Slayer/Thief. In fact, the Wizard Slayer half prevented me from handling a lot of options for a while during the leveling process, which felt frustrating due to how prior to “Use Any Item” your item set was limited. So it’ll be interesting to see how this multi-class performs over the game.
Leveling still will be painful but the variety of items at my disposal will compensate over time. In some ways, this class makes me feel how the Bard class should’ve been if it had received more thieving abilities. You won’t get some of the high end talents introduced in Throne of Bhaal, but quite honestly I don’t think most of them mattered at the end of the day. The only one I felt worth anything was the “Use Any Item” ability. However, adding the mage class effectively nullifies the need for it as a thief hybrid. Combat will feel slightly weaker than the Wizard Slayer as I will be missing out on 5 points in weapon specialization. Yet as I mentioned before high end weapons will end up making up for a few proficiency slots.
The one area where I might hurt a bit is the mid game. The mid game is where other classes will start receiving better overall bonuses and spells while this character struggles to gain a single level for any of its classes. Here, I’d probably emphasize more of the utility of the character class and switch him from role-to-role where I see fit. For instance, he might act as a party buffer with his defensive spells, or convert him into a tank by handing him spare suits of armor. I could simply keep him as a ranged bowman too. But that’s part of the diversity of this class and why I ended up going with him.
Overall, this arrangement will be interesting to work with in employing a kensai/mage, ranger/cleric, fighter/mage, fighter/mage/thief, Jaehira (fighter/druid) and Minsc with Kheldorn as the long term replacement. This setup provides me with two core healers, all fighters, all armor combination possibilities, a thief who will not be vulnerable to undead down the road and a lot of magic. Magic will have gradients of power and use in that I will have one high end caster, one mid and one low end caster. The fighter/mage will be able to reach high end spells towards the end while my fighter/mage/thief will be able to act as a back up, focusing on defensive spells and utilizing scrolls. Also, Jaehira will be able to handle the druid quest (not the stronghold one) and I will be able to fully enact the romance plot since I have a rotational NPC slot in Minsc/Kheldorn. I am unhappy that I cannot experiment with the cleric/swashbuckler in how I want to but I really dislike giving up a thief slot in exchange for a redundant class. Either way, we’ll see how this goes.