So, the more and more I keep reading about 3.5's faults (perceived or not) the more I wonder how they (the problems) managed to hang on so long. One can't help but wonder if the Wizards playtesters ever played a high level game with non "single dip" multiclassing. The problems are painfully obvious
Thing is, multiclassing is fun. wicked fun just as it should be. I have always been a fan of quirky character builds. Need a Paladin/Sorcerer? How about a Ranger/Cleric? Fighter/Wizard? I choose these examples because they all have one thing in common...multiclass spellcasting. These builds have awesome role-playing potential, but in reality suffer from, "Piss poor fighter, crappy spellcaster" syndrome.
At 15th level, the average AC to hit is what? Close to 30? Riddle me this, what is the BAB of a Paladin8/Sorcerer7? 11. Add a decent set of buffs, gear, and STR make that an adjusted +18 to hit with your chosen pig sticker. That gives you a less than 50% chance to hit in melee. Lame huh? Add to that, most creature you will be fighting at this level also have DR AND SR. Caster level check...Aisle three...cancel that, YOU'RE DEAD!
This brings me to the supposed savior of the 3E neo-grognards...Pathfinder RPG. I have a lot of hope this product will make it all better, but I am not seeing it yet. Having reviewed the systems latest (and final) beta playtest, I can assure you that the same issue are still alive and well. The classes themselves have been re-tooled to smooth out power creep, but the multiclassing system is the same as it was. In fact, aside from hearing from the editors and designes how much high level play sucks, there has been VERY little improvement in any of the core issues that make playing anything but a single class core character impossible. This sucketh the mighty teat of lameness. I LOVE 3.5, but it has always been despite it's flaws.
I would opine that WotC knew this was a no-win scenario. The rules overhaul required to make the late game playable as the early game was simply not something they wanted to do. This was why they chose a completely different route for the new edition, abandoning the canon, and backwards compatibility. It is a bit daunting to know that they abandoned this ruleset instead of try and fix it, as I think a "fixed" 3.5 with skill challenges, condensed skills, and healing surges sounds like the game I would rather play.
The problems are intrinsic to the core mechanics, IMO, the single biggest problem? The way classes stack. A Fighter10/Wizard10 has a LOT of options. Especially if said player is smart enough to specialize in conjuration or abjuration. Against a CR20 (with party of course) encounter made up of tons of lower level (CR10-13) monsters, this build would shine like the sun! Against a solo CR18-20? Dogmeat. You're to hit is too low, and so is your effective caster level.
I could sugar coat it by saying that you could relegate yourself to support casting and aid another checks, but you know what? I came to this M*therF**king dragon's lair to kill a dragon, not be a cheerleader. If I wanted to cheer, I'd have made a bard! Besides, this particular problem is only a problem if you are a multiclass spellcaster. A Barbarian/Ranger or Fighter/Rogue doesn't have these issues (to that extreme anyway).
So where exactly is the problem? Is it class design? Monster design? Encounter design? What? Is there a unified mechanic that can simply and effectively allow multiclassing for more than 2 levels? Some PrC's help a bit with this, but this shouldn't be an issue in a core game...and thoughts, ideas? suggestions? Houserules even?