Wizards has posted a playtest article for what they call Hybrid Characters, if you’re an Insider member you can check it out.
Like the two-weapon fighter added in Martial Powers, Hybrid Characters feel to me like an answer to some of the complaints coming from some of the D&D fans. After 3.5 many people felt that 4.0 was very limiting on character designing, forcing different classes to play certain ways and limiting them to what they were good at doing. Of course, with the inclusion of roles in 4.0 this is in essence what they were trying to do. Still, in an effort to make more people happy Wizards has been continuously expanding the options and opening up new possibilities and Hybrid Characters will certainly do that.
Essentially the Player’s Handbook 3 (due out sometime next year) will include a full set of rules for combining two character classes into a “class” that is more diverse that the two individually but not as good at either of their roles (unless their roles were the same of course). This is different from multi-classing in that the character will be a Fighter/Cleric from the beginning and can in fact still multi-class.
Multi-classing takes up a feat slot and then additional feat slots if the player wants to swap out powers, but hybrid does not have this cost. Essentially the costs are paid up front in that some of the class features of each class are forfeited and others are weakened slightly.
I can’t say I love the idea of Hybrid Characters but I will say that I am glad that it might shut up some of the complaining. For me, the base classes were fine, I was not dying for this nor was I looking for it but I know that some people were and that does make things better for the game overall.
I worry that some classes will combine better than others (Wizards too seems worried about this) but DMs will simply have to review characters and decide if they will fit. It also adds the problem that a player might say they are playing a cleric and so no one else does and then they bring a Cleric/Wizard that does not have enough healing to support the party. Again, this just means the DM might need to keep a closer eye on things.
Overall the rules seem pretty straightforward, though they are still subject to change. It really is just a simple equation of adding one class to the other. The one really neat thing about this is that while it might limit the character’s power slightly it will be nothing like the gimpyness of a 10th level fighter/10th level wizard in 3.5.
Feel free to sound off below!