One smaller detail that got lost in the sauce of Larian's final Panel From Hell preview of Baldur's Gate 3 was the final confirmation that it will allow multiclassing, combining classes to maximize their strengths (or, potentially, their weaknesses).
It's a feature that was often requested during Baldur's Gate 3's long early access period, and was even confirmed in a 2020 Reddit AMA with Larian creative lead Swen Vincke, but the company's never gone in-depth on the feature in Baldur's Gate 3 before. The multiclassing aside came as part of Larian's reveal of Baldur's Gate 3's respec system.
The fragile, unforgiving alchemy of mixing and matching classes with Baldur's Gate 3's super-low level cap of 12 would be a tough sell for all but a grognard's grognard if you could potentially permanently bork your character.
"We wanted to avoid players having to restart the whole game, because it's a very heavy narrative experience," explained Larian designer Nick Pechenin. "There's a character you might meet—you will most likely meet—that will allow you to reset your class, and reinvest all of the levels." Even with that leeway though, Baldur's Gate 3's system seems like a far cry from the OP class combos of yesteryear.
For a long time fan of D&D-based CRPGs, multiclassing is synonymous with playing the game good. My favorite way of playing the OG Baldur's Gates is as a multiclass Fighter/Mage. In that game, multiclassing meant getting experience in both classes at the same time—you'd level up slower, but also dual wield legendary weapons while giving yourself super speed and limited damage invulnerability.
There are some out there who swear by "dual classing", a completely different system also present in the original Baldur's Gates that gives me a headache to think about to this day. You'd gain levels in one class, "dual" over to the second, then get turned into a useless Magikarp until you gained enough experience in the second class to get the powers of both. A certain brand of forum guy will corner you to talk about "Kensai/Mages" but you don't have to listen to them. No one should have to live like this. You've heard of JRPG bullshit? Well Kensai/Mages are CRPG bullshit.
Third and 3.5 edition D&D (as well as their derivative, Pathfinder) opted for a streamlined version of dual classing (but confusingly called it multiclassing) where there's none of that baffling downtime: you pick one of your classes to gain a level in each time you level up, that's it. The most optimal characters of this generation are always some delicately filigreed construction of Too Many Classes. Going through the überhard Neverwinter Nights fan campaign, Swordflight, I opted for a monstrosity known as a "Fighter/Bard/Red Dragon Disciple," and that's at the tame end of the spectrum.
In a GDC talk about Pillars of Eternity, veteran Obsidian developer Josh Sawyer touched on a Something Awful forum creation, "Lol-R-SK8," a mathematically perfected 3.5 edition character that was a "Cleric of the Computer 1/Wizard 6/Contemplative 1/Mystic Theurge 10/Seeker of Alpha Complex 1/ Loremaster 10/ Monk 1/Variant Druid 1." What even are half of those. Yeah man, maybe we got out over our skis a bit here.
5th Edition D&D's multiclassing rules broadly resemble those of third and 3.5, but 5th Edition handles ability and attribute progression differently, while also just pulling back on stat inflation and feature creep across the board. Your attributes and levels just don't run as high as they used to, and you've got less wiggle room and incentive to make chaotic multiclass choices.
In Baldur's Gate 3, I think those base and vile Lol-R-SK8 urges are gonna be curbed by that Hobbit hole ceiling-low max level 12 cap. I'm less familiar with 5th Edition D&D than I am its earlier (and better represented in videogames) variants, but level 12 is about when a 3rd edition multiclass character would really start to come into their own and outshine a single-classer. Additionally, as CRPG YouTuber Mortismal Gaming points out, 5th Edition's attribute and feat economy, coupled with the level 12 cap, means that multiclass characters will miss out on two valuable attribute points (or a feat) versus their single-class brethren.
The days of Lol-R-SK8 are dead in CRPGs (at least outside of Pathfinder-based games), but it seems like there's still a niche for some multiclassing in Baldur's Gate 3. Mortismal notes that second level Fighters' "Action Surge" ability makes them a prime candidate for a cheeky two-level dip on a variety of builds.
I'm seriously eyeing the Blade Bard subclass also revealed at the Panel From Hell as my first character when Baldur's Gate 3 launches August 3, but maybe I could do for a little Fighter-based boostie as well. Hey, I can always respec if it's not good. Just don't tell my coworker, PCG news lead Andy Chalk—he says you should live with the consequences of your choices in D&D. Buddy, I do enough of that in real life!