Better Characters through Cherry-Picking

2007 August 30
by Stupid Ranger

Though I’m continuing in the spirit of the “improving your character” theme, I thought I would take a step back tonight and share an option best explored during the early days of your character: cherry-picking, picking the best level(s) of a class in order to advance your character’s development. Cherry-picking is a subset of multi-classing: you will be taking levels in a class other than your primary class, though usually only for one or two levels. Not everyone is interested in multi-classing, so cherry-picking isn’t for everyone. But it can be an interesting twist when you want to develop a character that’s a little different.

Picking your Cherry-Pick

Some classes lend themselves to being cherry-picked. Fighter L1 is one of the best: you gain all those lovely weapon and armor proficiencies, as well as the bonus Fighter feat. This makes it a wonderful option if you want to play a class that doesn’t have the weapon or armor proficiencies you would like; you won’t waste your first level feat on basic proficiencies. I have cherry-picked Fighter L1 to create a Human Cleric who could power attack with a broadsword at first level. Silvia’s backstory : she was a member of her town’s militia until she received her divine calling. I have also cherry-picked Sorcerer L1 (for the Mage Armor spell) for Sprinkles, my Gnome Bard; I took the Sorcerer level at my Sprinkles’ second level to take advantage of the Bard’s d6 hit die at first level.

Planning your Cherry-Pick

The combinations are definitely intriguing, but don’t just rush into cherry-picking without doing a little bit of homework first. You can get yourself into a lot of trouble – multi-classing can lead to experience penalties if you’re not paying attention. That’s why I feel cherry-picking is a technique best employed when planned and implemented during character creation. Be aware of your race’s favored class: this will help reduce the effects of cherry-picking since the favored class is not considered when determining experience penalties. Humans and half-elves are the most flexible when making these decisions, as their highest-level class (whatever it happens to be) is their favored class. If playing a human or half-elf doesn’t suit you, take a look at the favored class for your favored race.

If you haven’t found yourself in a multi-class situation before, you might want to grab your PHB; the beginning of Chapter 2 has a table with the favored class for each race, and the end of Chapter 3 is full of useful information regarding multi-classing. If you’re still seeking inspiration, D&D For Dummies also has a great section on cherry-picking; I don’t have my copy within arm’s reach to tell you what chapter, but it’s in there.

Above all, have fun and cherry-pick responsibly!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Yax permalink
    August 31, 2007

    As a DM, I don’t think I’ve ever encouraged planning future character advancement.

    Maybe I should. How cool would it be for a player to be told by the DM to take some time to plan a rough draft of what the character would look like at level 10, 15, or 20 – if everything went as planned.

    The point wouldn’t be to generate a second character sheet. It would be to genrate buzz about the upcoming campaign, encourage background creation that would explain the lofty or unique goals of the characters, or just toy around with rules and feats we don’t often think about because they’re epic level. (That was a long sentence).

  2. Stupid Ranger permalink
    August 31, 2007

    The characters in whose development I was most invested were usually the characters who had backstories and were the most fun to play.

    I know not all players are ready to plan that far ahead; maybe a nudge from the DM might be a good way to get them to think ahead a bit.

  3. Michael Phillips permalink
    April 14, 2008

    Rogue 2 is a wonderful Cherry Picking choice. If you take rogue for your first two levels, you get 1d6 Sneak Attack, Evasion, and God’s own skill point horde. (You can grab a bunch of skill synergies that way too.) If you aren’t playing a Paladin or a Monk, you can split the rogue levels to say first and fifth level. That lets you have respectable Tumble and Use Magic Device skill levels. (If you have an int bonus or racial bonus, you can wait a few levels longer and get even better scores in those skills.)

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