Dual class vs Multi class
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Multiclassing (Only available to non-humans) is when you start a character with multiple classes (Up to 3), and split experience evenly among them. They have the advantages and limitations of every class that makes them up, for example, you roll a multiclass Fighter/Mage/Cleric. You can use all heavy armor and shields, but your Mage spells will be uncastable while wearing more than Robes. You also cannot use any piercing or slashing weapons, as limited by the Cleric.
Since you split your experience evenly, you'll never have either class as powerful as a 'pure' class. However, some multiclasses work really well. Fighter/Mage for example, is a melee powerhouse, able to cast many protective and enhancing spells on themselves to survive in melee, and you can get a chain mail later in the game which does allow casting.
Cleric/Mages are great too because you have an absurd amount of spells to cast.
Dual classing is only available to humans. You progress as one class, and abruptly stop and change to another partway through. You need to have high enough stats in the prime requisites (Intelligence for Mages, Strength for Fighters, etc) of both your starting class, and your changed class to do the swap. You lose all your previous class's abilities until you surpass it by one level. Usually people dual class very shortly into the game, to get access to their prior class skills back ASAP.
As for which is better, it's a tossup. If you're powergaming (You won't be able to effectively powergame if you're not experienced with this game), dual classing at specific levels of Fighter, to Cleric or Mage is incredibly powerful, as you get most of the fighter combat bonusses, and then gain a massive amount of killer spells later. If you're interested in doing one of these, I reccomend doing a multiclass, because IMO it's more fun, and you run less of a chance of screwing up your character.
Dual classing is easy in this game, because you start at around level 7 and go waaay up, so you can dual to your desired class very early and get your old class back very quickly.
If you were to do a playthrough from the start of BG1, with Tutu or something like that, I guess Multiclassing becomes more attractive because you get both classes' skills right from the beginning. Else you'd spend all of BG1 as a pure fighter.
Just looking at BG2 however, I don't see that many advantages in multi classing a fighter/mage.
The level 9 kensai (which is usually used) will have an offensive power similar to a normal fighter of much higher level. Even by the end of ToB, this character won't be far behind in Thac0 because the mage levels also occasionally give a thac0 bonus. Not to mention Tenser's Transformation of course...
A multiclass fighter gets fighter HLAs like whirlwind but not nearly as many highlevel spells, which are more useful in my opinion.
If you use a kensai you won't be able to use a lot of items, so I kind of prefer a berserker. The berserker won't have the same offensive power as the kensai, but especially during berserker rage it should come close. Also a berserker could use Shield of Harmony, the Helmet of Balduran and Gauntlets of Weapon expertise + it will be protected from a lot of negative effects during its rage. Combined with all the protection that the mage spells grant, this must be the best defensive character in the game while still having amazing offensive options.
Like I said, the kensai will be a little bit better in melee thac0 and damage, but that only looks good on paper imo. In the actual game it's more useful to be protected from the disabling effects of an enemy mage, while melee damage output is more like: Either you can hit them, which means they're going to be dead soon, or you can't, which means they'll have some protection up against which even a kensai's superior thac0 and damage can do nothing, like stoneskin or pfmw.
To compare melee damage: A level 9 kensai has +3 to hit and damage over a regular fighter or berserker of the same level from his kit bonuses.
During a berserkers rage, that shrinks to +1 and if you consider the berserker can wear the easily aquired Gauntles of Weapon expertise (+1 thaco, +2 damage) that even ends up with the berserker having +1 more damage. With the Gauntlets of extraordinary specialization, a berserker even gets another half attack per round that a kensai can never aquire.
The kensai can't wear the helmet of Balduran, but at least the ioun stone that gives +1 thac0 too. He'll still miss out on the helmets +1 to all saves, or things like a free simulacrum every day from Vhailor's helm.
Oh and from a roleplaying perspective, it's almost mandatory for a kensai to use katanas or at least swords, although there is the option to use other types. (Why?)
Since one of the best weapons is a flail, I guess most people will go for that... but it seems so unfitting. A flail is such an unprecise weapon...
But then again, a berserker who duals to mage seems kind of strange too.
I prefer multiclassing over dualing. Dualing from a fighter gives some great benefits for relatively little cost since fighters get what makes them good early, while mages get what makes them good later on. Also you don't give up much on the mage side in the long run. However for a new player I don't really recommend it since the process of dualing is not fun at all and a new player won't know where the easy experience in the game is. One of my favourite classes is the gnome F/Ill who gains a massive saving throw bonus, +1 spell/level at the cost of Necromancy (mainly Skull Trap and ADHW).
"Just looking at BG2 however, I don't see that many advantages in multi classing a fighter/mage.
The level 9 kensai (which is usually used) will have an offensive power similar to a normal fighter of much higher level. Even by the end of ToB, this character won't be far behind in Thac0 because the mage levels also occasionally give a thac0 bonus. Not to mention Tenser's Transformation of course..."
He will be 9 behind in thac0 to a normal fighter and he will have less attacks. Thac0 bonuses from each of the classes don't stack, you only get the value of the best class, so his base thac0 will remain at 12 (not including kensai bonuses). If they then a FC multi could get a base thac0 of -14 which just isn't the case.
Tenser's is a bit iffy since it is risky to just cast because you think you need it. If I were ever going to use it I would want a spell trigger with PfMW, Stoneskin and Mirror Image ready beforehand.
Ah I see, the thac0 bonuses don't stack.
But somehow my kensai/mages thac0 kept improving later on. Maybe it was due to items, but this characters thac0 wasn't far behind those of people like Korgan in ToB.
Tenser's Transformation should of course be used with care... but even if you lose access to mage spells, the characters HP will be gigantic so there's no risk of dying easily. In any case, a fighter/mage with tenser's active won't be more vulnerable than a normal fighter would be.
Fighter/Illusionist sounds like a great thing, since the necromancy spells aren't that important for a fighter multiclass. Actually I think it's kind of unfair, the advantages that gnomes get with options like these and saving throw bonuses.
But somehow my kensai/mages thac0 kept improving later on.
There is a big difference between Base THAC0 and THAC0. Both of these stats are shown on your character screen. Base THAC0 is simply what is gained by leveling up. THAC0 is the total cumulative THAC0 of Base+Strength+weapon enchantment+proficiency points+miscellaneous modifiers (such as gauntlets of specialization).
Base THAC0 of a dual class character is going to be whichever is the higher of the two classes (they do not stack). A level 9 kensai is going to have a much better Base THAC0 than a mage of any level, so once you dual over the Base THAC0 will never again improve.
Now take the fighter/cleric dual as an example, the high level cleric has a better Base THAC0 than even a level 13 fighter (the level 20 cleric has the Base THAC0 of a level 15 fighter). So once your cleric's Base THAC0 becomes higher than the dualed fighter's Base THAC0, the cleric side will override (not stack) with the fighter's Base THAC0. This is why a level 7 fighter can dual to cleric and still have a great THAC0 since the cleric has a decent Base THAC0 (unlike the fighter/mage which needs to have a lot of fighter levels to make up for the mage's extremely poor Base THAC0).
Anyway, as for the difference between a kensai/mage dual and a fighter/mage multi, a level 9 kensai with it's bonus to THAC0 and damage will have the Base THAC0 equivalent to a level 12 fighter. This is a big difference between the fighter/mage multiclass which will have the Base THAC0 of a level 20 fighter in the end. The level 9 kensai/mage is never going to have a Base THAC0 better than 9 while the multiclass fighter/mage is going to go all the way to a Base THAC0 of 1.
The multiclass also gets fighter HLAs which are much better and more effective for a fighter/mage than just mage HLAs. Improved Haste+Critical Strike is an extremely effective combo that a dual-class kensai/mage misses out on.
The extra spell slots of the dual are okay, but not essential. A multi-class fighter/mage only loses out on 1 level 6 slot, 2 level 7 and 8 slots, and 3 level 9 slots. This is a total of 8 slots missed. A mutli-class gnome though becomes a specialist illusionist and gains +1 slot per level, so the gnome only effectively misses out on 1 level 7 and 8 slots, and 2 level 9 slots... 4 total slots missed. Plus, the gnome gets a huge bonus to saving throws related to Con.
Also, Tenser is not that great of a spell. It only doubles your hit points, which is a far less effective defense than PFMW. PFMW completely negates damage from magical weapons while Tenser is still going to be taking the damage. Say the enemy has 3 attacks per round at 20 damage per hit. PFMW lasts 4 rounds. PFMW will have effectively protected you from 3*4*20=240 damage. Tenser is not going to improve your hit points nearly as much as that. making Tenser a far less effective defense. Also, remember the saying that the best defense is a good offense... The best offense is Improved Hasting for 10 attacks per round. A multi-class has no need of Tenser since the multi will always keep improving in Base THAC0 because the fighter side keeps improving, and the multi can therefore spend those level 6 slots on the far more valuable spells of PFMW and Improved Haste.
So all in all, with the exception of a few more high level spell slots, the multi-class fighter/mage beats the living crap out of the dual-class kensai/mage.
Hmm, I guess it's a matter of preference then.
To me, losing 3 level nine spells is a pretty bad thing. The 2 each on level 7 and 8 as well.
Also I don't think Thac0 is so important, hence I prefer the berserker over the kensai for dualling.
I think it's really rare that you come up against an enemy that you can't hit because your thac0 is too bad.
But then, I usually use a fighter/mage dual as more of a mage, especially in the later game. Having a good melee ability only helps to save spells. It's annoying to have to waste 3-4 spells to kill an enemy and then after 2-3 of those you start running out of damage spells. In these cases, any fighter/mage can usually just kill the enemies with the melee weapon and move on.
The hard monsters are the ones with defensive spells and disabling spells I think. Against a brute force enemy with a lot of HP, improved haste + critical strike is surely useful, but against a mage it's more useful if you have more spells yourself.
Lastly, consider that with just one level 9 spell, a dual class can cast a timestop and then hit regardless of thac0 for 3 rounds.
It may be cheesy or lame, but level 9 spells are just really powerful and valuable.
but against a mage it's more useful if you have more spells yourself.
Not really. Just cast Breach to remove the mage's combat protections like Stoneskin and PFMW, then just hack the mage to pieces. I always use a fighter/mage as a fighter first and foremost regardless of whether it is a dual or multi. The mage part is basically just used to buff the fighter. I don't waste slots on damaging spells like Fireball or Lightning Bolt or even Horrid WIlting. I let my pure class mages use those spells.
But yeah I agree that THAC0 isn't terribly important. A THAC0 in the negative teens is actually overkill. The best enemy AC is -12, and that AC is only held by the ToB boss, Demogorgon, and all of the dragons. The rest of the enemies have AC no better than -5 usually. (Keep in mind that most enemies aren't loaded with AC improving equipment like your own party members can be so, so enemy AC usually only comes from armor, dex, and maybe a shield if they have one.)
It may be cheesy or lame, but level 9 spells are just really powerful and valuable.
It isn't cheesy or lame. Level 9 is the highest level of spells so of course that level should be incredibly powerful.
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