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Level Adjusted Character . . . how to keep them balanced?


D&D 3.5/d20/OGL


Greetigns all.

I will soon be starting a new AWAP witha group I'm in, and as a part of my pre-campaign prep for it, I printed a handout with a list of house rules for the group. I've been int he group for a wghile, and some house rules are just assumed by all, this would be the first time I've DMed for the group and I wanted to put everything out there so there wouldn't be agruements about how thnigs asre being done later.

In the handout I listed that I would want everyone to start with an ECL 1 character. I indicated that if they wanted a race with a level adjustment that I would implement a racial progression for the race such as what's listed ont he WotC website.

One of the players voiced his opinion that I was effectively removing the option of using level adjusted characters because no one likes the racial progression rules and I should instead just list that no level adjusted races are allowed. He stated that if he wants to try his TN Drow Cleric of Pelor, he should not be handicapped into not getting his spell like abilities at level one.

He argued that by starting at ECL 3 with the character he wouldn't get as much xp as the rest of the group. I just don't like the idea of a LA character being so powerful compared to the rest at the beginning.

Now, I know that as far as no one liking the racial progression rules, he's wrong because I perosnally like them.

Can anyone give me any advice that would help me smooth out the situation. I offered to him the option in UA for buying off the level adjustment, but I'm not to thrilled with that option either.


1. You can't be TN and be a cleric of Pelor.

2. I ran a very brief FR campaign a few months ago, which started at level 1 and featured a half-vampire (from Libris Mortis) wood elf fighter. He was, to put it lightly, badass. He was far stronger than anyone else in the party in that first level, and actually carried them pretty well through their first fights. I think his ECL was 3. That said, he was far from unvulnerable, and he wouldn't hit level 2 until everyone else was level 4. The party quickly made it to level 3, and while the half-vampire was still a good character in combat, he was actually getting a little weak. Very survivable, but not as much of a use in battle as he would have hoped. We all knew beforehand, however, that he would start out very strong, but over the course of a few levels, his power would balance and possibly be outpaced by the other, non-level-adjusted characters. We were right.

3. I once had a player run a gnoll were-bear samurai for what turned out to be one adventure. It was only one adventure because his class level was so low, that even with his massive ability scores, he failed the save DC for a ghast's paralysis, and was then swarmed and eaten by the undead. So much for the mighty LA.

4. That event turned my party off to LA completely. So, let them experiment a bit there, and they may well find out the hard way that a LA isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Also, while the LA characters might be a little stronger to begin with, it will balance out in the long run. So long as everyone in the party is okay with this, go for it.

5. AoW can be brutal. There are some pretty darn lethal areas in the campaign, so the LA might be nice to get the party off their feet, rather than having to worry about loosing their character before they really get to play them. On the other hand, the player of the LA character might, again, be digging his own grave by trading solid HD bonuses for other benefits. Let 'em.

So, in the end, I would say that it is all right to allow characters of up to a +2 LA (ECL 3) in your campaign. It should all work out well, and will actually make the player of that character pretty happy, if your group is like mine.

Happy gaming!


At ECL 3 he'll have to wait until he has 6000 xp to go up his first level. Let him do it.

For a while he may be a bit more powerful than other PCs, but he'll be regretting his decision when he's making 10th and the others are reaching 12th level.

My two cents :)

Jack


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
William Pall wrote:
He argued that by starting at ECL 3 with the character he wouldn't get as much xp as the rest of the group.

Actually, as an ECL 3 character, he will receive just as much XP as level 1 and 2 characters. PCs begin to receive less experience for the same CR at level 4. That being said, I agree with the others. Let him play an ECL 3 character - not being able to get that 2nd hit die until everyone else hits level 4 will hurt, and definitely makes up for the increased power at 1st and 2nd level. Especially with the base attack bonus as well - he won't get a 2nd attack until ECL 11. Also spellcasting - He won't get 2nd level spells until ECL 6, while the party wizard will be getting ready to learn 4th level spells. As a healer, he'll pretty much stink from party level 2 to level 14, when he will (finally) get heal.

Turning, on the other hand, should go well for him, with his increased Charisma. And having faerie fire on hand is useful. If he wants to increase the flavor of his character (which will go a long ways to keeping him from being frustrated), suggest the Drow Noble feat, if you can track it down. I can't remember where it was last printed, but it gives additional spell-like abilities including levitate, which can be handy for navigating Wind Warrior tombs and the like.

TK


No TN for Pelor? Hmm . . . I couldn't reembmer what alignment he said, maybe LN . . . but it was a non-evil drow cleric of a sun god . . . I thought that the idea was crazy enough. I mean, I'd be interestedto see what he'd come up for a background story on how the non-evil drow survived to maturity, got out of the underdark, and found his calling as a cleric of pelor . . .

The group's current house rule has been that LA's up to +2 are allowed with the option to be bought off with the rules in UA . . but I've always wantedto tryt he racial progression rules . . . ah well . . maybe I'll do something with ity next time i'm on the other side of the screen.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
William Pall wrote:
No TN for Pelor? Hmm . . . I couldn't reembmer what alignment he said, maybe LN . . . but it was a non-evil drow cleric of a sun god . . . I thought that the idea was crazy enough. I mean, I'd be interestedto see what he'd come up for a background story on how the non-evil drow survived to maturity, got out of the underdark, and found his calling as a cleric of pelor . . .

Pelor, being a NG deity, allows clerics of NG, LG, and CG alignment (only TN deities allow a TN alignment), by the core rules. You being the DM, you are free to flex with this if you wish - in the Eberron Campaign Setting, Clerics can be any alignment and worship any god; it's all in how they view their god's intentions. Granted, in Eberron, gods have never appeared before mortals, so no one really knows what their true intentions are.

TK


If the only reason you players not playing something is because he doesn't want to be lacking a spell like at first level, i'd tell him to play something else.

Their's nothing wrong with the racial progressions, as is and if it's his dislike for your rules that's making him be a prat about it well now

Logos


Thanis Kartaleon wrote:

Pelor, being a NG deity, allows clerics of NG, LG, and CG alignment (only TN deities allow a TN alignment), by the core rules.

TK

TN, being one step removed from NG is allowable in a cleric of Pelor...unless I'm forgetting some stipulation that forbids clerics of Pelor from being neutral.

William, your player sounds like a real whiner, at least the way you describe him. You've made your list of house rules, and you're perfectly justified in sticking with them even if your group is accustomed to different ones.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Tequila Sunrise wrote:
TN, being one step removed from NG is allowable in a cleric of Pelor...unless I'm forgetting some stipulation that forbids clerics of Pelor from being neutral.

From the PHB, page 30, last sentence under "Alignment":

"Additionally, a cleric may not be neutral (that is, neutral on both the good-evil axis and the lawful-chaotic axis) unless his deity is also neutral."

I suspect the intent is that a cleric should be dedicated to principles in a way that is incompatible with a neutral alignment unless his god is also dedicated to neutrality.


Doug Sundseth wrote:
Tequila Sunrise wrote:
TN, being one step removed from NG is allowable in a cleric of Pelor...unless I'm forgetting some stipulation that forbids clerics of Pelor from being neutral.

From the PHB, page 30, last sentence under "Alignment":

"Additionally, a cleric may not be neutral (that is, neutral on both the good-evil axis and the lawful-chaotic axis) unless his deity is also neutral."

I suspect the intent is that a cleric should be dedicated to principles in a way that is incompatible with a neutral alignment unless his god is also dedicated to neutrality.

My bad. I guess I just don't think of neutrality as necessarily a dedication to the ideal of neutrality.


In 3.5, is there still the other option for characters with a Level Adjustment that he builds his character as a 3rd level character (2 levels of drow, 1 level of cleric), then (since the rest of the group are all playing LA 1 races, they're all level 2 characters) he takes a -1 on pretty much everything he does until he levels up?

Plus, if I'm reading the OP right, we're talking about a difference of one level here. Not likely to set the world on fire.


Another solution is to let your players play whatever you all agree upon and modify the adventures accordingly...no PC stat block adjustments should ever detract from the level of difficulty that the party encounters in an adventure. It's up to the DM to make sure of that.

Unless, of course, the DM doesn't want to or know how to make these kind of adjustments. The first can be characterized as a personality flaw, the second is understandable and through experience, should be rectifiable.

As ever,
ACE


Colin McKinney wrote:

since the rest of the group are all playing LA 1 races, they're all level 2 characters)

Plus, if I'm reading the OP right, we're talking about a difference of one level here. Not likely to set the world on fire.

Actually, they're ECL 1 from what I've been reading. Meaning level+LA=1, so they aren't LA +1, they're just first level characters.

I had a very upsetting encounter that seared these rules into my mind, involving the difference between a 15th level character and a Drow Half-Fiend Vampire Lord Wizard 10/ SHadowdancer 5.
The guy had been saying he had a 15th level character, so we agreed to an arena battle...
4 rounds.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Tequila Sunrise wrote:
My bad. I guess I just don't think of neutrality as necessarily a dedication to the ideal of neutrality.

No worries; I don't use those rules myself*. I was just explaining why, by the RAW, others were saying that a cleric couldn't be a TN cleric of Pelor.

* I use something rather more like Eberron, though with even fewer direct game effects from character alignment.


Jon O'Guin wrote:
Colin McKinney wrote:

since the rest of the group are all playing LA 1 races, they're all level 2 characters)

Plus, if I'm reading the OP right, we're talking about a difference of one level here. Not likely to set the world on fire.

Actually, they're ECL 1 from what I've been reading. Meaning level+LA=1, so they aren't LA +1, they're just first level characters.

I had a very upsetting encounter that seared these rules into my mind, involving the difference between a 15th level character and a Drow Half-Fiend Vampire Lord Wizard 10/ SHadowdancer 5.
The guy had been saying he had a 15th level character, so we agreed to an arena battle...
4 rounds.

And that is a cheating bastard who should be shot for not understanding the rules. *nod*


well, consider this; in one game I am currently playing in; the gm chose to completely dissregard an level adjustment; some toons are like +4 and are acting and getting exps as first level characters; this does not work either; some of these guys just slaughter stuff while many of the more non fighting types just pink away with little overall input. many of the + type things these races offer are just color; but some like for ogres, gnolls, ect; give real stat and combat bonuses. I have run a few tests on the side and thought a lot about ecl and how to fairly do + type races and flat races and character classes and nothing works; basically, this game is not at all balanced; classes are not balanced; and ecl for races doesnt really work. Sadly, I have no solution. Most of us have just thrown are hands up; agreed there is no balance and just decided that peeps can play what they want and we can all still have fun. The gm now just makes some mobs for both the combat monsters and us normal damage dealers to fight.


Valegrim wrote:
I have run a few tests on the side and thought a lot about ecl and how to fairly do + type races and flat races and character classes and nothing works; basically, this game is not at all balanced; classes are not balanced; and ecl for races doesnt really work.

Heh, what? There are systems in place to try to even out ECL...and for the most part they can work. Do a bit of reading on these boards and elsewhere...you'll find them.

As ever,
ACE


I've got a similar question. how would LA and ECL work for a ghost character? Say Level 4 2 cleric/2 Ranger plus 2 levels as a ghost at least.

Paizo Employee Developer

You'd have a Ghost ranger2 cleric2 of ECL 9. Or am I thinking like a DM and thinking CR?


Watch out for ghost characters- the template gives a random number of special abilities with no adjustment to their CR/ECL whatsoever, and from that random number, the creator of the creature, be they player or DM, can choose any of the listed possible special abilities. There really needs to be a system in place for adjusting the challege to reflect their abilities.

Valegrim, I'm not sure I understand you, but if you think there are no good working balances in place, do a little more research on the various classes compared to each other in a combat situation, and also look a little further into the ECL/LA system. As Ace said, the subsystems have worked pretty well in my experience.


I was wondering if you guys use a different rule b/c the general rule might make your drow good at lower levels but it will be really ncool compared to the rest pf the party at high lvls.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Saern wrote:
Watch out for ghost characters- the template gives a random number of special abilities with no adjustment to their CR/ECL whatsoever, and from that random number, the creator of the creature, be they player or DM, can choose any of the listed possible special abilities. There really needs to be a system in place for adjusting the challege to reflect their abilities.

While it is true that ghosts have "1 to 3 extra special attacks," they do have a listed CR (+2) and LA (+5). I generally default to giving a ghost the maximum number of special attacks. It is kind of weird, though.

TK


Clearly I'm a little late to the party, but the PGtF option of penalizing an LA adjusted race starting at 1st level works, to a greater or lesser degree.
There is also an option in the same book for non-level adjusted versions of the 6 planetouched, Duergar, Drow, and Svirfneblin, which you could also consider.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber

In a similar vein, I just started preparing my next campaign, which will be an evil campaign. My players voiced interest in playing underdark races, and I will probably get a Duergar fighter, a Drow aspiring to be an assassin, and a Svirfneblin tinkerer/inventor.
Now my questions: How would you even out the various LAs (Duergar +1, Drow +2, Svirfneblin +3) ? I thought about giving the drow the spell-like abilities they had back in 2nd ed (Levitate, et al), which seems to be covered by the drow noble feat. If you give them as inborn abilities, would this give them another +1 LA ?
I thought about giving the Duergar some template, but did not find something really satisfying in the +2 range - infernal creature or probably half-elemental (earth). I don´t want to give him additional class levels. Anyone a good idea for this ? Is there a list of templates somewhere on the web?
There is no consolidated list for this on the WotC homepage, and templates are spread about myriads of books.
Finally, any good ideas for a gnomish tinkerer/inventor ? I´m presently thinking about using the bard class as basis, perhaps with one or two levels of expert thrown in. The player does not want to use a thief, as he recently played one.

Stefan


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber

I just found the Expert Class from the UA, I think that will fit the bill for the tinkerer/inventor the player was looking for. Yes, I know, they are said not to be compatible with the standard classes, but so what. Try and see.

Stefan


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Thanis Kartaleon wrote:


Turning, on the other hand, should go well for him, with his increased Charisma. And having faerie fire on hand is useful. If he wants to increase the flavor of his character (which will go a long ways to keeping him from being frustrated), suggest the Drow Noble feat, if you can track it down. I can't remember where it was last printed, but it gives additional spell-like abilities including levitate, which can be handy for navigating Wind Warrior tombs and the like.

TK

I found that feat on the consolidated feat list, it is called Highborn Drow and published in Underdark. I don´t know what its benefits are, as I don´t have that book at hand.

Stefan


Templates List from the 1st MM.

As for an easy solution, start them at 4th level. So the Duergar gets 3 class levels, the drow 2, and the Svirf 1.

If you have Ebberon, Tinkerer/Inventor sounds a lot like artificer, maybe with slightly different special effects. Complete adventurer has the Maester and Exemplar prestige classes-- you could try stretching them out to 20 level classes, perhaps by blending with Rogue and/or Expert.


The Highborn Drow feat adds detect magic, detect good and levitate to a drow's list of spell-like abilities. ('Cause one of my player's character's has it and I have access to the character sheet online. :) )


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber
delveg wrote:

Templates List from the 1st MM.

As for an easy solution, start them at 4th level. So the Duergar gets 3 class levels, the drow 2, and the Svirf 1.

If you have Ebberon, Tinkerer/Inventor sounds a lot like artificer, maybe with slightly different special effects. Complete adventurer has the Maester and Exemplar prestige classes-- you could try stretching them out to 20 level classes, perhaps by blending with Rogue and/or Expert.

Thanks for the link, its a good point of reference.

Yes starting them at different class levels would be the easiest solution, but I´m not quite satisfied with that option, as they would differ wildly in hp, the duergar fighter with approx. 25 , and the svirfneblin with 8 hp to start with. So I´m looking for a way to do this in a more hp-neutral way. Perhaps racial levels which also give them hp, like the paragon levels, but with the progression/abilities from the WotC home page.

I will have a look at the other sources you mentioned for ideas, thanks again.

Stefan


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Lilith wrote:
The Highborn Drow feat adds detect magic, detect good and levitate to a drow's list of spell-like abilities. ('Cause one of my player's character's has it and I have access to the character sheet online. :) )

Thanks, I had suspected that it were these spells. Drow above 4th level could use these spells under 2nd Ed rules (AD&D2 Monstrous Manual, p. 113: levitate, know alignment, detect magic), and even the original Fiend Folio listed these spell abilities.

Stefan

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Stebehil wrote:


Finally, any good ideas for a gnomish tinkerer/inventor

Check out the Magic of Faerun for a prestige class called the Gnomish Artificer. It allows the character to simulate magic by mechanical means through bizarre devices that he can craft. It does cost XP to craft these items, much like making a magical item, but it is significantly lower than standard crafting (there are drawbacks, however...).

I would recommend the character start as a bard or possibly a rogue with a little sorcerer or wizard mixed in early on to meet the prereqs for this PrC. Lots of potential madness in that class but it seems to be exactly what you're looking for.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I know I'm late to this conversation, but who cares about levels 1-3 anyway? they should fly in a couple of sessions. then when everyonw is level 4 you've got a drow with TWO hit dice and a giped cleric level progression. LA races are horrible for casters and unless they are +con, are (usually) bad for melee. Ask a level 18 Drow Cleric (ECL 20) if they wish they could cast 9th level spells...

I always use the buyoff rules since by the mid-levels, the bonuses don't mean much anymore.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Oath wrote:
Ask a level 18 Drow Cleric (ECL 20) if they wish they could cast 9th level spells...

Ummm... you CAN cast 9th level spells at level 18. :P


Again, I point to the PGtF and it's options.
Penalizing the characters based on their respective LAs would still leave them imbalanced level-wise, but as mentioned, if you use LA buyoff, then it will fix itself in time.
All three of these races also have a non-LA version in the same book.
If you wish, you could mix the options, start them at 1st level as the watered down versions, then give them some of their racial abilities as they level up. This is "unfair" to the duergar mostly, and to the drow to an extent, since they would ultimately recieve less benefit with no balancing mechanism, but if the players are happy with their choices and harbor no ill-will towards each others selections, then go for it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules Subscriber

Sparrow, thanks for your hint to PGtF. But I came up with a different solution to my problem: The Drow will gain the Tieflings abilites as a template, and the Duergar will gain the half-elemental (Earth) template from the Manual of the Planes. The half-elemental is rated at a +3 LA, but I think this is too much. I just looked at the Minotaur, who gains a +2 LA as PC race, and I don´t see the half-elemental as much more powerful than that. So I put the template at +2 as well, and have all PCs at the same LA and am done with it. Yes, it is a zoo, but so what? It is meant to be a fun campaign anyway.

And I will have a closer look at the gnomish artificer PrC, looks interesting. Perhaps I will redo it into a standard class.

Stefan


Wow . . I hadn't noticed that this thread was still going strong.

Yeah . . . as it turns out, the "I don't like your rules and think you should change them so I can have my drow cleric" player wasn't insisting that I change the rule. We talked again and he clarified that he wasn't so much insisting on me changing it, as he was saying that he wouldn't use the same rule in a game he'd run.

But it's strange how the Ghost template has come up in this thread. in my rules, I listed that if a character dies, they have the option to continue as a ghost rather than be ressurected. Either by incrementally adding the template to their character in the same manner as a racial progression, or by removing any number of exsisting class levels to make up the difference. Technically, I've expanded this to include any type of undead, but it would depend on how they die.

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