Everybody that has played D&D with me (or in one of my games when I am the DM) knows I built elite characters - built to survive anything. I'm not exactly a min/maxer - I don't just push all of a character's skills, feats, race and class selection to maximize one trait to the extreme while sacrificing all others. I have never played a half-orc barbarian/fighter with all combat feats and ability score spreads starting from highest in STR and moving down the line through the rest. To me, that's guaranteeing that you will be good at just one thing - and do that one thing until your mind is stolen by an evil wizard, you fall prey to an acid pit trap, or your soul is drained by an undead thing of unspeakable horror. Tank characters that are made to do max damage are great to play, but seem to have a tragically short life span because of all their other weaknesses. I once faced off against one of these players in a duel; he could do enough damage to kill my character in two rounds with some good rolling. He hit first, taking half my life away. On my turn, I sundered his weapon, tripped him, and continued to hit him until he was killed. He had spent all his resources making himself unstoppable with his favored weapon - when he lost it, he was reduced to almost nothing. Anyway, enough about what not to do - My strategy is simple: there are 3 things to consider. 1. What has killed most of your characters in the past and does your DM like to throw something at you over and over? If your characters keep losing will saves and being dispatched (or turning against the party), make sure you make a character with a better save - it doesn't have to be the best, just average. You want to make sure that you are not building any super weaknesses into your character. You want to make sure that all your saving throws are about the same as your character level AND that any particular thing your DM likes to throw at you is really well protected (like UNDEAD armies, so get a REALLY good fort save). Short version - make your character to survive! 2. Pick 2-3 things to be good at. Not just one. And killing stuff AND smashing stuff doesn't count as two things. You can make a character that is good at dealing damage, good at being stealthy, AND good at making tactical combat moves. Not the best at those things, but good at them. A sorcerer can be very good at casting spells, diplomacy, and opening locked things and finding traps. This way, unlike a min/maxed character, if you are in a situation that cancels your one good trait, you are still useful. I knew someone that made a character of unbelievable melee fighter power. What killed him? A FLYING dragon that refused to land long enough for him to get a good hit in. 3. Make sure you don't "min" anything. Unless its part of your character's RP (like playing a pacifist druid or something), don't make your character bad at something by min'ing all their skills. Giving your character a weakness makes for good RP if you do it on purpose, but if you do it to max one thing, it just makes them dead sooner than later. Even a pure spell caster should be decent at doing something in combat (whether is dodging from a high AC, being able to use a bow and fire it someone accurately, or actually being OK with a blade).
Class Combos There are tons a good ways to mix character classes to not only make a good character, but also help you come up with an interesting RP behind your character. I’m going to go over the optimum way to mix your character classes to create the “best” combination. Under normal circumstances I never use more than 3 classes (usually 2 classes and 1 prestige class) unless it’s an epic game or multiple classes are needed to qualify for a prestige class (in a starting high level campaign). Almost all the classes have a “right” almost of levels to mix with a primary class to make an unstoppable combination.
The Barbarian The barbarian has a few benefits to mixing – always as a first level and only one level. The first benefit is the most obvious - +1 BAB, access to weapons and armor, and 12 hit points for the first level; this really gives the character some added survivability at lower levels. One level of barbarian gives fast movement, giving any character +10 more feet movement and it gives the rage ability. It’s only 1/day use, but the benefit to be able to rage just once a day can add enough damage and hit points for a character to come out victorious in a fight. Taking the barbarian at first level also gives at least 16 skill points – a real advantage over classes that only get 2 skill points every level. Here are a few classes that will progress nicely after just one level of barbarian. Fighters and Rangers will all benefit from the barbarian’s extra movement (remember, no heavy armor) and rage abilities, but that’s about it. The hit points aren’t much better (though the ranger might gain some benefit there, but not with the spells). Since the BAB is the same, the character would be just as combat oriented either way. RP wise, both make sense – a barbarian might naturally progress into a Ranger, while a barbarian that was exposed to more civilized combat styles might choose the path of the fighter. Paladins and Monks don’t work at all. Because the barbarian has to turn lawful to become either, they lose their ability to rage. Losing this plus the above drawbacks make this a very bad choice. Rogues, Clerics, Druids, and Bards all can have an interesting advantage taking one level of Barbarian. The rage ability grants them a “surprise” attack that their opponents will never suspect. The +1 BAB and 12 hit points will give them a slight combat advantage, the extra movement can always been used (none of these, but maybe the cleric will be wearing heavy armor). The skill points are actually a negative in the case of bards and rogues, but the benefits might outweigh this penalty. One of the best benefits to me is the extra +2 to fortitude saves, something that all these classes could use. RP wise a rogue is a the hardest to manage, but clerics, druids, and bards can all make easy sense – a barbarian shaman can be a cleric or druid while the lore keeper of a tribe could be a primitive bard. Wizards and Sorcerers are an odd combination. Taking a level of barbarian gives a MUCH improved low level HP, +BAB, and the ability to rage, though because of the arcane casters poor combat ability, these improvements simply make them mediocre at best. Of course, the extra movement can be useful, allowing them to out run normal opponents to get out of melee to cast spells. RP wise though, a wizard makes no sense at all; the barbarian is illiterate (though gains literacy when taking another class) and most players would be hard pressed to explain how their barbarian not only learn to read common and the other languages he knows, but the complicated runes that make up spell formulas. The sorcerer however presents an interesting chance to role-play a character that might have been brought up from birth to fight savagely but suddenly and unexpectedly starts to develop supernatural spell abilities. Played correctly, this combination could turn out to be a fun experience.
The Bard The bard is just mentioned for the sake of completeness. This class, like a few others, make a good class to continue a class in (and have a one class character for), but don’t have a particular level where taking just a few levels provides an optimum advantage. Their primary abilities are their knowledge and song, and few useful songs are available at first level and knowledge is modified by level. Because the songs are modified by the perform skill, the only two classes that make sense to multi-class are rogue and monk – neither really is a great choice. The bards spell casting is also too slow in progression to be any real use at low levels. So, one level as a role-playing boost for a monk or a rogue could work, but it doesn’t provide any real benefit. You might consider their large number of skill points worth it - but with the rogue and the ranger as much better choices, use either one as a 1st level skill multiplier.
The Cleric A few levels of Cleric will make a good mix for several reasons. I say if you are going to use cleric, go for 3 levels. 1 level gives +0 BAB and 2nd level still casts only first level spells. With third level you get +2 BAB for a 3 character levels, making it still good for mixing with a warrior character and d8 hit dice, not bad for a warrior either. You also get 1st and 2nd level cleric spells (which are extremely useful), and enough turning undead skill to kill off a mass of skeletons and zombies. If your character is with a party that has no healer, even a character with a few levels of cleric can be invaluable. The domain ability and spells also come in very useful. The Cleric has two strong saves, giving any class a +3/+1/+3 boost to their saving throws. The only real draw back to the cleric is their lack of skill points which will hurt characters trying qualify for some prestige classes. Fighters, Rangers, and Barbarians benefit from the Cleric’s ability to cast buffer and healing spells and turn undead, and don’t suffer much because of the clerics still strong combat abilities. Using some divine feats makes these classes can really shine however, using divine feats that allow the cleric to burn turning attempts to increase his combat ability. Taking the trickery domain also gives bluff as a class skill; letting all of these classes gain some feinting ability. One of the BEST fighting classes to use is the Paladin, and it’s described below. Paladins and Monks benefit the same as the above, but fit in better with the ability score concentration that works for a cleric. A high wisdom gives a low level cleric a few bonus spells and a monk a high AC. Monks also have some charisma based skills that can benefit from the same high charisma that will allow the cleric to have a stronger ability to turn undead. A paladin benefits from wisdom for their spell casting the same as the cleric does. The a high charisma bonus will increase a paladin’s saving throws, healing ability, and a paladin can add some of their level to the 3 levels of cleric to turn undead. If you use divine might, you can also use your turning ability to add your charisma to your damage rolls as well. RP wise, both fit perfectly as a player can play a character in a religious monastery or militant order easily. Druids make a poor choice to mix with a cleric. Their ability scores may match up, but a druid is better off concentrating on a single class or mixing with another class rather than diluting their spell casting and special abilities with levels of another divine spell caster. Rogues and Bards don’t gain as much of a benefit from taking levels of cleric as more combat oriented classes do, but it does help them vary their abilities more to become even more useful in a party. A rogue that has their trap finding augmented by spells and the ability to buffer themselves and their party against different types of damage is even more useful for the party. The first two levels of divine spells contain a mass number of spells that make roguish character twice as useful. The extra hit points gained help both a rogue and bard, but the serious lack of skill points hurts both classes (the spells are a trade off for the loss of skill points). If RP supports it (perhaps in the case of a cleric of a god of thieves or music), a character will MUCH more benefit from taking a roguish level first, then 3 levels of cleric, then going back to their roguish levels. Arch-types of rogues that find themselves as tomb robbers and dungeon crawlers will find the ability to turn or control a mass of skeletons very useful. Wizards and Sorcerers both making an interesting choice to mix cleric with – but might be the only class to not take a full 3 levels of cleric. Just having a handful of healing spells at the right moment could save an arcane caster’s life. The cleric’s domain powers can also modify both arcane and divine spells, so taking a domain like the knowledge domain will modify all divine and arcane divination spells +1 caster level. I would usually suggest just a single level of cleric – the +0 BAB will not hurt the arcane casters combat abilities and the +2/0/+2 saves will still greatly benefit them. Just a 1st level cleric’s turning ability is really too weak to do THAT much good, but the positive or negative energy could come in useful sometimes. The last benefit for the cleric and arcane casting mix is qualification for the mystic theurge which needs 3 levels of cleric and 3 levels of an arcane caster.
The Druid Like the Cleric, the druid gains some early skills that make it useful to multi-class with other classes. The same applies, about 3 levels of the druid work well with another class, supporting combat with a +2 BAB and d8 hit dice. The druid also gains the same +3/+1/+3 save bonuses to add to another class. Though the druid spells gained are good buffs, they don’t have near the same useful applications as cleric spells. The druid also has an animal companion, even at low levels that can be useful in mid-level games (at high levels, you’ll find your companion dies very easily). The two most unique abilities a druid gains are very limited in use – but extremely powerful if used right. Those are woodland stride and trackless step. The issue with the druid is that they must continue to revere and serve nature after they stop gaining levels as a druid or they lose all abilities. Without repeating myself too much – the fighter, barbarian, paladin, and monk all benefit in similar ways from the druid levels as they did the cleric levels (though the paladin and monk don’t fit PERFECTLY anymore with the RP for the cleric). The druid does gain 4 skill points per level, making it a better choice for a player that really wants to increase their skill points. The class of the warrior classes that really stands out is the Ranger. The ranger gains all the benefits of the other combat classes, but also has abilities that fit well with and stack with the druids abilities. The ranger’s wild empathy will stack with the druid’s, and the first animal companion that the druid gained will become more powerful with ranger levels. Rogues and Bards benefit more from Druid levels than they do Cleric levels. The druid gets 4 skill points per level, meaning that these two classes aren’t harmed nearly as much by taking 3 levels of druid. In addition to the spells (which aren’t as useful as the cleric spells, still add some variety of ability anyway), the Druids trackless step and woodland stride can REALLY help a roguish character out. If you want to make a bandit character that preys on travelers going through a forest (the hard part is figuring out the RP behind this), your character can run through underbrush at full speed and can’t be tracked once they go back into the woods. Wizards and Sorcerers benefit the same from a druid level as a cleric level. Druids still get cure light wounds for a first level spell, but also gain nature sense (which seems to help the arcane caster the most) and an animal companion (some DM’s, including me, will let your perform a ritual that turns your animal companion into a familiar when you take levels of arcane caster.
The Fighter The Fighter is perhaps my favorite class to multi-class. Though some may say the fighter is the least versatile and simplest of classes, I strongly disagree; it’s quite the opposite! The obvious strengths of the fighter is the combat ability gained from multi-classing - every level is +1 BAB and 10 hit points. But even more valuable is the fighter's collection of bonus feats, which can be useful even to the non-combatant. The fighter has two levels cut off to make them useful - if you are using the fighter as a small combat reinforcement or to add a few useful bonus feats, 2 levels of fighter works very nicely (1 if you are just REALLY worried about using too many levels). Both 1st and second level fighters get bonus feats on both levels, giving a 2nd character a crushing 3 feats (4 if they are a human). The other perfect number of levels to add is 4 - this is perfect for the heavy or skilled warrior character to take because of the ability of weapon specialization (which is almost always taken at as the 4th level bonus feat in this case). All the warrior classes benefit from either 2 levels or 4 levels of fighter to start with, though some classes are really better going INTO fighter rather than the other way around. A paladin benefits great from 2 or 4 levels - though some of their special abilities will be gained later from the delay, their combat ability will be fair superior than other paladins of their character level. A ranger or a barbarian will also benefit from a few levels of fighter, though both are better starting classes from their early feats (just one level of barbarian or two levels of ranger to start) and moving into fighter to gain the same benefits. This way, they retain their unique class fighting styles while gaining more combat skill from advancing as a fighter from there on out. A side benefit from this progression is also both the barbarian's and ranger's higher skill points, making this a much better choice. RP wise, it’s easy to play an already righteous fighter that progresses into paladin, or even more fun, a fighter that has done awful things and participated in wars and slaughters that becomes a paladin in order to atone for the atrocities he has committed. A ranger or barbarian that become more civilized might start taking levels of fighter - or one that just undergoes more disciplined training still in their current setting. Clerics and Druids both benefit from the small amount of combat ability gained from 2 levels and greatly from the bonus feats. A very militant cleric might also benefit from 4 levels of fighter (from gods of war, slaughter, etc) and take a weapon focus and specialization in their god's favored weapon. Clerics can also take up combat styles relating to their gods, gaining power attack for gods of strength, bow feats for a god of the hunt, etc. The Monk and the Fighter is perhaps the greatest combination for a skilled, well rounded warrior - giving them the ability to fight in and out of armor, with weapons, or unarmed, and skills beyond a normal warrior like evasion. Taking 2 levels before monk to add some BAB and general combat feats makes an even more deadly unarmed warrior (that can also fight with any weapon). You may think taking 4 levels of fighter and THEN taking weapon specialization in unarmed combat would be the greatest of all, but here's an RP draw back- How is your 4th level fighter going to be both specialized and focused in fighting unarmed without first taking unarmed combat as a feat? And because of ex-monk rules, you can't take a level of fight, then monk, then fighter, and then back to monk. If your DM allows, you can use an optional rule that allows you to take unarmed combat at 1st level, weapon focus in it at 2nd, weapon specialization at 4th, and then gaining a feat in place of the monk’s improved unarmed combat ability/feat. Using this, it makes what I like to call the ULTIMATE fighter/monk which I am going to define further in the next post. Rogues and bards can benefit from fighter levels in two ways. First, like the above, it can add to their combat skill - 2 levels of fighter improve their BAB and much improves their hit points and ability to survive at lower levels. The feats can help them gain an edge in combat and take up things like two weapon fighting, disarming and tripping feats, etc. so that the roguish type characters have more maneuvers in combat. The rogue can REALLY max about their benefits by maxing out the number of times in combat that they can make their opponent provoke an attack of opportunity AND be denied their dex at the same time. A rouge with the right weapons , one wielding a whip and a short sword - they can use improved trip as an attack of opportunity (because the whip is a reach weapon) and gain a +4, trip their opponent, and then get an extra attack and use their weapon to disarm their opponent (with the feat at later levels, another +4) and STILL have two more normal attacks even at 3rd level (2ftr/1rog - taking exotic weapon: whip, combat expertise, improved trip, and two weapon fighting). When the opponent attempts to get up next round, they rogue can take an attack of opportunity again to trip them again, or deal damage - and the same if the opponent tries to scramble for their weapon (with combat reflexes, the rogue can take two attacks of opportunity). Using this combat style is very fitting to the rogue AND if combined with partner, can get sneak attack damage as well. Now, the other way to take a 2fighter/rog or bard deserves its own paragraph. Just because a character studied as a fighter does not mean that they studied to be an offensive weapon master - it could be the opposite. Not all rogues and bards like to fight and shed blood, but they wouldn't last long if they were completely helpless. As the first two feats, a fighter should take combat expertise and dodge - one in rogue or bard, the character can fight defensively (either standard action or full attack) and gain up to a total of +6 to their AC (dodge + 5 for combat expertise) - if the rogue or bard also has 5 ranks in tumble, they can take an additional +3 to their AC and -4 to their attack. In this way, a non-combative roguish character can get into a fight, take a standard attack and get a mega bonus to their AC and still take a move action while their more violent companions finish off the opponents. Wizards and Sorcerers benefit from fighter levels in three ways. The first, is as the bard and rogue above - dodge and expertise feats (and the extra BAB goes to AC) - the arcane caster can even take cross class ranks in tumble up to 5 for the extra +3. 2nd, even two levels of fighter makes a vast difference in combat ability for an arcane caster. Besides their normally weak combat ability, the next biggest weakness of a caster is that they can run out of spells - once they do, they are little better than a peasant in a fight. Just a few levels (and some feats) gives them a much improved combat ability. For example a 2nd level fighter/8th level sorcerer fights as a 6th level fighter - that’s really not that bad for an exchange of one level of spells. The 3rd direction of this combination really fits best as a 4th level fighter/sorcerer. The character specializes not in a weapon, but in touch attack or ray spells. The 4 levels of fighter gives his character good combat ability with a weapon and a sorcerer can just learn the ray or touch spells that the character gets bonuses with (and some to augment their combat ability like true strike and invisibility).
The ULTIMATE Fighter/monk Now, this combination is more min-maxing than I usually like - but for what you get, it has few real weaknesses. For the ultimate fighting machine - a monk that can fight with unbelievable skill, making more attacks than you would ever think possible, lets look at a 4th level fighter/ 16th level monk. First, as a fighter, we are going to take improved unarmed combat, weapon focus (unarmed), and weapon specialization (unarmed). On 5th character level, we will take the first level of monk, exchanging unarmed combat with rapid shot and taking stunning fist as the monk feat. 2nd level monk we take combat reflexes and at 6th level, improved trip. As character feats - 1st level improved two handed weapon, 3rd point blank shot, 6th improved natural attack, 9th improved two weapon fighting, 12th weapon finesse (unarmed), 15th, greater two weapon fighting, 18th improved critical (unarmed). We are also going to assume a 19 dex for the sake of pereqs and attack bonus. Now, see if you can keep up with this. A 4fighter/16monk of this level has a BAB of +16/+11/+6/+1. Using the 11th level flurry ability of the monk, we increase this to +16/+16/+16/+11/+6/+1 (one more attack than a 20th level monk). Using greater two weapon fighting (and yes, you can do it, its in wizard's official FAQ for the monk) you can also gain +16/+11/+6 as an off hand attack. THEN using rapid shot, you can throw one shuriken adding another attack at +16. So assuming no magical weapons, that you will throw at least one shuriken, -2 to everything for a light off hand weapon (unarmed), -2 for rapid shot, +1 for weapon focus and point blank shot, and that we have weapon finesse and a 19 dex, our monk can make the following attacks: +17/+17/+17/+17/+12/+7/+2 with the flurry, and +17/+12/+7 as off hand attacks. Now, as a further bonus, any of these attacks can be a trip attack, giving ANOTHER extra attack if successful, or a stunning fist attack using the monk’s ability. Since the monk also has combat reflexes, up to four more attacks can be made on opponents that trigger attacks of opportunity (like by getting up after being tripped). To top it all, the monks unarmed attacks can hit pretty much anything (from ki strike) and do 3d8+2 (the improved natural damage feat does work for monks, see the official FAQ) damage and threaten a critical on 19 or 20. You add in the abilities of a 16th level monk (INCLUDING QUIVERING PALM!!!!) and you have one bad ass warrior-monk. Add magic items befitting a 20th level character (like a monks belt, ki straps, + stat items, bracers of armor, boots of haste, and some rings - this character can't be defeated in combat.
Can we say Jet Li?
The Monk The monk is a very unique class that has some awesome abilities. Next to the fighter, its one of the best things to mix with, but unlike the fighter, very hard to rationalize it with a good RP background. The monk gets TONS of abilities in the first 2 levels, making that a perfect cut off for most combinations. First, the monks unique ability to use its wisdom to add to his AC and their unarmed combat abilities no other class gets - if you want to use either of them, you are going to have to multi-class. In addition, the monk gets 2 bonuses feats and evasion all in the first 2 levels. To top it all, a 2nd level monk gets +3 to every save, making this alone a good reason to multi class. Any of the warrior classes gains a better rounded combat ability from taking 2 levels of monk. Though few of these benefits are considered to be min/maxing, they really add to your character's ability to survive. A warrior that can gain extra AC out of armor and can deal good damage unarmed isn't stronger when fighting with a weapon in armor, but has a much better chance to survive if disarmed or caught at camp in the middle of the night. The two bonus feats a monk gains are useful to any warrior as well and evasion and save bonuses are useful to ANY character. I particularly like the monk/fighter combination and the monk/paladin combination - which makes for an interesting character to play. The monk/paladin could be a much more spiritual version of the paladin (not wielding giant swords and wearing heavy armor), but instead having a high charisma and wisdom and average physical scores. They will cast increased spells as a paladin, fight with a light monk weapon (use flurry with a simple staff), have extremely good "insightful" and "social" skills, and have saves that are unbelievable (paladin's grace plus the monks high saves). This character while having still good combat ability has so many other special powers (immunities, healing, special mount, super saves AND evasion, can catch arrows, stunning attacks, smiting, detect evil, and turning undead) that playing him will be very rewarding if done properly. Clerics and Druids don't benefit from monk much beyond the obvious - though a cleric with a high wisdom can play in a similar style to the paladin mentioned before (unarmored, very skillful, and lightly armed). The key ability scores to match up well with both classes and the addition of the combat feats and evasion are always good. However, druids really feel the short end of the deal, being that their "natural" attacks in wild shape can't be used in a flurry or as unarmed damage, making this not as attractive to druids that plan on taking up that combat style. A bard and a monk mix is at first glance a pointless idea - a bard doesn't really have much EXTRA benefit that makes their abilities stronger by taking the combination. This is actually the point... the bard casts both divine and arcane spells, fights decently, has a mass number of skills and skill points, and has their own unique powers. The only thing they are missing is unarmed combat ability and a few more powers which the monk provides, perhaps making the best-rounded character in the game. Increased saves adds to their appeal, and their strength in reflexes saves means they are likely to use evasion when they need it. This combination of classes means the character won't be the best in anything, but WILL be able to do just about anything. Any party should welcome this character into their party. The rogue has a unique benefit in multi-classing with two levels of monk. Most rogue weapons aren't that powerful - most do about 1d6 damage, the same as unarmed as a 2nd level monk. Also, most rogues prefer not to wear armor, also able to add the monk's wisdom bonus to AC (if any). So unlike most classes that multi-class with monk, the rogue might stick with unarmed attacks and stay unarmored. But here's the secret behind the success of this combination - using the monks unarmed flurry and stunning fist attack, a monk/rogue can stun their opponent, robbing of their dex bonus and therefore giving their next attacks sneak attack damage. If you DM allows, you can use an alternate rule, allowing you to take a bonus feat in the place of evasion that the rogue would double at 2nd level. A high level monk/rogue could do a crushing amount of damage using their sneak attack with an unarmed strike. Wizards and sorcerers mixing with monk gain an ability to fight and not have to hold weapons and a possible bonus to AC without wearing armor. The monk also gains more skill points and has concentration and knowledge (arcana) as class skills, meaning that monk can come into an arcane casting class with max ranks in both of these skills (plus at least two more). Improved grapple and deflect arrows both make great additions to an arcane casters defenses also. In addition, in a duel between spell casters, a caster with 2 levels of monk can have a nasty surprise in store for an opponent when they dodge a lightning bolt and resist powerful spells using a higher than normal set of saving throws.
The Paladin The Paladin has many skills to offer a character at low levels, but doesn't have a clear cut off point. Divine grace and lay on hands (both strong charisma based skills) come at 2nd level, but aura of courage and divine health are gained at 3rd level. Of course, the paladin gets a nice BAB and hit points making any class benefit from a slightly higher combat ability when mixed. The main problem of the paladin is their alignment and code of conduct makes it very difficult to multiclass with a druid (can't be Lawful Good), a barbarian (can't be Lawful), and rogue (usually conflicts with code of conduct). Luckily none of these classes mix great with the paladin's abilities anyway or really share key strong ability scores. Fighters and Rangers can benefit slightly from some of the paladin's abilities, but it’s generally not enough to make it worth it to multi-class. Neither class is known for its high charisma scores, possibly granting little benefit to the paladin's second level powers. This as the fact that the fighter will be giving up a feat to take paladin and the ranger will be giving up a large starting skill point base, make neither class a great choice. RP wise is even harder - why would a paladin take levels as a fighter? If they changed their outlook on their way of life they might lose their abilities anyway. The cleric benefits from a few levels of paladin and it makes perfect sense for the background of your character. The added combat ability makes a more militant, crusader like cleric who could be very good at turning undead also - a high charisma gives bonus to that ability and good healing and saves. The cleric also will benefit from being about to detect evil, smite evil, and having divine health. This character could go into a very good "hunter of the undead" type of archetype. The monk can benefit from some of the paladin's abilities, but not as well as the opposite (listed under the monk entry). Taking the 3rd level of paladin really makes little sense, being that the monk gives a similar power to the paladin's divine health. However, the increased BAB does grant some benefit, as well as the increased saves (if the charisma is there). All in all, you are better off taking fighter instead of paladin OR taking monk first and going into paladin and playing the concept mentioned under monk. Bards and Sorcerers are very good to add to a few levels of Paladin. Both classes are vastly improved for combat with the increased BAB and hit points gain proficiency in all weapons, just as the fighter does. The benefit over fighter for these two classes is the fact that their key ability, charisma, also grants increased abilities with paladin. Divine health is just an extra benefit and the extra level grants more healing with the lay on hands ability. Think of a paladin/sorcerer combo like a fighter/wizard. A wizard does gain benefit from starting as a paladin - but not much and certainly not more than mixing with a fighter (wizards are also not known for their charisma). For the right character though, with a high charisma, this might make sense, but usually there won't be enough high ability scores to go around doing this.
The Ranger For the ranger, I am not going through every class one at a time - the ranger is good to use as a combat base like a fighter or a skill base like a rogue - read the differences below and make sure to follow up under the rogue and fighter sections. The Ranger is a nice class to multi-class for specific purposes - but in general, if you want to make a combat oriented character you are going to be better off using a fighter instead. First, consider the ranger's two benefits over the fighter - 6 skill points per level and track/animal empathy at 1st level and favored enemy at 2nd level. But, the ranger only gets one bonus feat (their "combat style", which means either two weapon fighting or rapid shot") and only gets d8 for hit points. So, if you are making a character that is going to be a dual weapon wielder or an archer, the Ranger might make sense over a fighter. On top of that, if you want your character to have more skills than a fighter would give OR want to dedicate your character to destroying one type of creature (such as a undead slayer) a ranger makes more sense. The ranger has tons of skill points and a nice selection of skills (though focusing more on a rural character than urban). You may think a skillful character should start with a rogue, but notice that most of the skills a rogue does not have, the ranger does. Consider what you want your character to be able to do before you decide which is best for your concept. Also, consider the rangers stronger combat abilities and bonus abilities. This makes perhaps one of the best mixes of characters the ranger/rogue. While not the best warrior, good archery or two weapon fighting, give the character some edge as well as a better BAB and slightly better HP. When gaining a level or two of ranger, the character can select skills that only that the rogue can't, and as a rogue, the character can fill it the remaining skills. This creates a character with good combat and a ton of skills that should be able to do a lot. If it fits your concept better, you can also go with bard instead of rogue, though they have slightly less skills to choose from and only 6 skill points per level.
The Rogue The Rogue has one primary benefit - SKILLS! They get more skills than any character and have a wider selection of skills. This is their primary benefit in multi-classing. A 2nd level rogue can have 5 ranks in 8 skills - and 5 ranks is the required level to get synergy bonuses. So instead of me talking about which classes this works best with, for the most part I'm just going over the benefit of this number of skills. First, you can do the strategic skill spread - 5 ranks in bluff, diplomacy, disguise, intimidate, sleight of hand, jump, tumble, sense motive - if you have a high intelligence or are a human, take balance too since tumble will add to it. This gives you as a 2nd level character a +5 bluff, +9 diplomacy, +7 disguise, +7 intimidate, +7 sleight of hand, +7 jump, +7 tumble, +5 sense motive, +7 balance before taking into account ability score bonuses (and additional skill selections from a high intelligence). Practically any character could benefit from this. Besides abusing the synergy system, a character could also concentrate on the more roguish skills (especially if the have a high dex to augment them further), so any warrior or spell caster could also pick locks, lift items, disarm traps, etc. With the rogue's spread, its best to take 4 skills to do with the class (combat skills for a warrior, or casting skills for a caster) and 4 skills in an "extra" skill set - like hide, move silently, tumble, and balance or pick locks, sleight of hand, disarm trap, and escape artist. This way your warrior could also have a selection of thief skills or your arcane caster could also be an acrobat. Using this you could also take bluff, sense motive, diplomacy, and intimidate for a very nice (and synerific) addition to any character class to turn them into the groups leader or a diplomat (with no cha bonus, this character at 2nd level would have still have a +9 to diplomacy). Now that I've talked that much just about the benefit of spells, don't forget about the rogues other 1st and 2nd level powers. Sneak attack +1d6 isn't powerful, but any time you are fighting with a companion you might flank an opponent to get a bonus to damage. If you are going to take some roguish skills, trap finding comes in useful. And like the monk, evasion is ALWAYS useful to any character class.
The Sorcerer and Wizard This is the only section with two classes and that’s because both offer very similar benefits (and drawbacks) at low levels. The arcane caster's have horrible attack ratings and hit points. Pretty much, a 1st or 2nd level arcane caster that gets into combat is going to die (or at least be knocked unconscious). That’s why even one level of a warrior class makes the chances for an arcane caster to survive much better. In addition, starting as an arcane spell caster also means crappy skill points, almost no proficiencies, and bad saves. Low level arcane casters only come with two benefits - one is their familiar (which could add some RP value and could always be useful to any class) and the other their spell casting ability (though somewhat limited at low levels). If you are going to be a wizard, I would suggest being a specialist that fits with the class you are going into - it gives you one more spell per day, and at low levels, the schools you give up won't be missed. Since both classes are the same at low levels (1st and 2nd) they are about equal in choice. I personally prefer sorcerer - and only one level. This means you can pick 4 0th level spells like detect magic, mage hand, arcane mark, etc and 2 1st level spells that go with the class you are going into. With a charisma of 12 or higher, you can cast your 1st level spells 4 times. But that’s IF I wanted to take an arcane caster class to start with (which can make for some good RP). Don't get me wrong, I love arcane classes - but always as a second class. Just makes very little sense if you are going to multi-class anyway, to start with an arcane caster. Now all that being said, there is a good use for 1 level of an arcane caster. And that is you can use wands and staves that are normally for arcane casters only. When in a bind and badly outnumbered, your 1st level wizard/4th level fighter can pull out a wand of fireballs and start firing. Your 1st level sorcerer/6th level monk can use a staff of power in a fluffy of blows and cast powerful spells from it when not beating the hell out of an opponent with it. I'm not examining each class since I don't believe any one class benefits greater than another from these abilities.