I'm DMing a campaign for Ironfang Invasion, and one of the characters got permanent negative levels while still in the woods. Since they don't really have access to civilization for a while, I was wondering if they had any recourse that would be available to characters of that level. I don't want one character to be stuck two levels behind the rest of the group for another adventure and a half, but I don't want to just deus-ex-machina the problem away. Can you think of any suggestions I might give the players for ways to remove it that they could access?
The expensive version of Restoration is the only thing I know of that removes a negative level. There's a magic amulet that prevents them before shattering I think, but only a Resto will solve the problem.
So, you need to make the spell available to the party, but in a way that continues to highlight the dangers of the their strapped for resources condition.
You could make an encounter with the Ironfang Legion that has a partially used wand of Restoration as part of the loot. 3-5 charges will give them a bit of a buffer in case it happens again.
There could be an encounter with a fey creature that can cast 4th level divine spells. Negotiating for some restoration spells could be an interesting encounter. Especially since the version of restoration they need requires 1000 gp of diamond dust. Even finding that will be difficult in their current predicament.
Dropping some scrolls as treasure will also work.
Negative levels doesn't actually lower your character level, so the problem isn't as severe as you thought.
For each negative level a creature has, it takes a cumulative –1 penalty on all ability checks, attack rolls, combat maneuver checks, Combat Maneuver Defense, saving throws, and skill checks. In addition, the creature reduces its current and total hit points by 5 for each negative level it possesses. The creature is also treated as one level lower for the purpose of level-dependent variables (such as spellcasting) for each negative level possessed. Spellcasters do not lose any prepared spells or slots as a result of negative levels. If a creature’s negative levels equal or exceed its total Hit Dice, it dies.
A creature with temporary negative levels receives a new saving throw to remove the negative level each day. The DC of this save is the same as the effect that caused the negative levels.
Some abilities and spells (such as raise dead) bestow permanent level drain on a creature. These are treated just like temporary negative levels, but they do not allow a new save each day to remove them. Level drain can be removed through spells like restoration. Permanent negative levels remain after a dead creature is restored to life. A creature whose permanent negative levels equal its Hit Dice cannot be brought back to life through spells like raise dead and resurrection without also receiving a restoration spell, cast the round after it is restored to life.
A very cheap way to remove negative levels is by using Dragon's blood. It would cost 360 GP to remove both negative levels.
Typically negative levels are due to energy drain. I am not familiar with Ironfang Invasion, so I don't know if this is the particular case. Per Energy Drain, these are temporary for 24 hours followed by a save to make it permanent. Did they get that save?
This attack happens automatically when a melee or ranged attack hits. Each successful energy drain bestows one or more negative levels (the creature’s description specifies how many). If the creature confirms a critical hit with an attack that includes energy drain, it inflicts twice the listed number of negative levels. Unless otherwise specified in the creature’s description, a draining creature gains 5 temporary hit points for each negative level it inflicts on an opponent. These temporary hit points last for a maximum of 1 hour. Negative levels remain until 24 hours have passed or until they are removed with a spell such as restoration. If a negative level is not removed before 24 hours have passed, the affected creature must attempt a Fortitude save (DC = 10 + 1/2 draining creature’s racial HD + draining creature’s Charisma modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature’s descriptive text). On a success, the negative level goes away with no harm to the creature. On a failure, the negative level becomes permanent. A separate saving throw is required for each negative level.
If this is not the case (or they failed, or it hasn't been 24 hours), maybe drop some Dragon's Blood, Mekainae/Soul Stimulant to reduce the penalties or Sweet Rest to double roll that initial save to make it permanent.
You may want to reread how negative levels actually impact a character. They aren't literally 2 levels below the rest of the party. They take cumulative penalties and the penalties impact some level dependent variables, however things like casters aren't losing their spells or class abilities etc.
It sounds like you are saying the party is level 3 and one character is being treated as level 1 - this isn't the case. I thought this too, and was relieved to find out my PC's didn't have to backwards calculate several levels lol
Edit: somehow missed the response above where they clarified the negative level rules.
Thank you all for the responses! For those asking, I do know that the negative levels aren't actually true lost levels, but the player was nervously treating them as such, and also was concerned about encountering another energy drainer. And yes, it was energy drain with consecutive failed saves (only needing a seven to boot).
Also, I think those are some great ideas. I hadn't even thought of the used restoration wand, and the group actually has already had an encounter with local fey, so it's a stones throw from there to having a diplomatic encounter for a favor like that.