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The rebuilding/retraining rules (PHB II, p. 192) allow a player character to retroactively change character choices, including feats and class levels. The rules include some restrictions that look like they're trying to discourage you from trading away your prerequisites after using them to qualify for something. For instance, from the section on class levels (p. 197):

If reallocating your character's class levels disqualifies him from a prestige class in which he already has one or more levels, he loses the benefit of any class features or other special abilities granted by that class.

Other options (feats, substitution levels, class feature choices, etc.) include similar restrictions - you must demonstrate not only that you qualify for the thing you're retraining into, but also that you still qualify for the other parts of your build (or else you lose access to their abilities, as above).

However, some character options can supply their own prerequisites. For instance, the Nar Demonbinder prestige class (Unapproachable East, p. 25) requires the ability to cast 4th level spells, but also provides the ability to cast 4th level spells.

Would the following sequence of steps be legal?

  • Qualify for Nar Demonbinder by obtaining some way of casting 4th level spells (say, 7 levels of Wizard)
  • Take your first level of Nar Demonbinder (thus being able to cast 4th level spells as a Wizard, but also different 4th level spells as a Nar Demonbinder)
  • Rebuild away your Wizard levels into something else, losing the 4th level spellcasting that you originally used to qualify for Nar Demonbinder
  • Keep your Nar Demonbinder abilities, because you still meet its prerequisites (by casting 4th level Nar Demonbinder spells)
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No, that does not work.

1. What you want to do is rebuilding, which is designed as an exceptional in-game process.

The rules on retraining allow only substitution levels to be retrained. If you want to exchange class levels, this is a rebuild. The rebuild has tough prerequisites that do not allow it to be incorporated into a normal character creation process:

In essence, you are altering reality in order to rewrite your characters personal history. Therefore, to accomplish a character rebuild your PC must complete a significant and challenging quest. (PHB II, p. 196)

The rules forsee a quest for changing 1/5 of all class levels. Your DM would have to approve your character having completed several quests before entering the game. This is clearly not a regular character creation process.

2. Entering this build by rebuilding would not gain Nar Demonbinder class features.

If reallocating class levels disqualifies him for a prestige class in which he already has one or more levels, he loses the benefit of any class features or special abilities granted by that prestige class. (PHB II, p. 196)

The point is that "qualifying" for a prestige class means fulfilling its prerequisites before taking it:

...the first step of advancement is always choosing a class. If a character does not meet the requirements before that first step, that character cannot take the first level of the prestige class. (DMG, p. 176)

Essentially that means you have to meet the prerequisites of the prestige class without taking into account the class features of the class itself. You could not buy skill points with a level of prestige class to enter it. And you cannot take a spell level into account that you only get by virtue of the prestige class itself. These prerequisites (that is why they are called prerequisites) have to be met without the prestige class to qualify for the prestige class. If you change your build so you do not longer meet the prerequisites, you do not qualify for the class.

The example given in the PHB II illustrates this:

For example, a 7th level dwarf fighter could not trade a fighter level for a dwarven defender level, since his remaining fighter levels would not allow him to meet the +7 base attack bonus requirement for that prestige class. (PHB II, p.197)

This character would still end up with base attack bonus +7, because Dwarven Defender 1 lets you gain base attack bonus +1, but not without the prestige class itself. Thus, if you trade away your wizard levels by rebuilding you no longer qualify for Nar Demonbinder.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Updated the question to reflect that I'm indifferent to whether the process for this would fall under "rebuilding" or "retraining." For point 2, can you expand on your argument a bit more? It seems like you're reading the word "disqualify" as meaning something other than "cease to meet the requirements," which would have been my reading. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Jan 18 '18 at 22:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think I’m with A_Soo here—since reallocating class levels doesn’t disqualify the nar demonbinder from that class, he never loses the benefit of that class. It’s not clear to me that rebuilding is the same as building in the first place, so I am not sure I buy that the quote from Dungeon Master’s Guide even applies. I think this answer would be improved by expanding some on that subject. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 18 '18 at 23:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ The PHB II-quote says just that: You cannot trade away class levels that make you qualify for your prestige class. This applies to rebuilding and not to building. So you do disqualify for nar demonbinder if you trade away your initial spell casting ability. \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Dec 3 at 7:47
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Rules as written, yes.

Since the Nar Demonbinder gains 4th level spellcasting as soon as they take the class, and they prepare their class spells as sorcerers (and thus arcane casters) losing wizard levels would not keep the character from accessing 4th level magic, and they would thus keep the Demonbinder class.

However!

Definitely check with your GM first on this one, because retraining like this would be more than a bit munchkin-y, and would likely result in a rather cheesed off GM.

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What the rules say

The Player's Handbook II on Class Level Rebuilding with regard to prestige classes if a creature already has levels in a prestige class is unclear:

You can also use this method [i.e. Class Level Rebuilding] to trade out (or add in) prestige class levels, though if you want to take levels in a prestige class that’s new to your character, you must be able to demonstrate that he can still qualify for it [the prestige class] using what he has gained from his remaining class levels. (197)

(Emphasis mine.) "But," you may ask, "what if I want to take levels in a prestige class that's not new to my character?" For example, can a wizard 3/cleric 3/mystic theurge 1 that completes a rebuild quest pick to lose one level of cleric to gain one level of mystic theurge? The are silent.1 Ask the DM.

What this DM would allow

This reader's gut initially said No, a creature can't bootstrap itself this way if for no other reason than, compared to the remainder of the game, that result seemed too generous. I mean, no other effect allows a creature to trade class levels it doesn't want for ones it wants. No other effect allows a creature to transform into an amalgam of class levels that otherwise could not exist.2 Then I kept reading. Before we can even appraoch this question, we have to take a lot of things into consideration:

  • Does the DM allow class level rebuilding? I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but a player shouldn't assume these rules are being used. Even a DM that tries to use everything will still find some things beyond the pale. (For example, this DM's campaigns don't allow rebuilding yet do allow retraining.3)
  • Is the DM willing to develop the rebuild quest? The DM must be willing to design a rebuild quest or use an existing one, perhaps reskinning it for the DM's campaign. A DM may not have time to create a lone PC's adventure, existing rebuild quests may not apply, and reskinning may still yield an inappropriate quest. In other words, a DM may nix a rebuild quest request because it's a hassle.
    • Reminder: A rebuild quest should be specific. Unless the DM has PCs that are all headed in the same metaphorical direction—they're all ex-paladins wanting to return to the fold, for example, or they're all sinister wizards looking for necromantic know-how—a rebuild quest will only benefit select PCs. The example quests make it clear that there's no general quest a PC goes on to rebuild but, instead, that there are quests that reward those who complete them with the ability to rebuild within specific guidelines.
  • Is the DM willing to allocate time at the table to the rebuild quest? The quest is not supposed to occur off-screen but, instead, during the course of the regular game. While the example rebuild quests seem fairly short (looking to this DM as if they'd take maybe one to four 4-hour sessions), the DM must be willing to pause the larger campaign until the quest's completed.
  • Will the PCs successfully complete the rebuild quest? Again, while this sounds like a no-brainer, the assumption seems to be that the rebuild quest will be completed successfully. However, the example rebuild quests are quite challenging for typical PCs that aren't particularly optimized. Examples seem to indicate that PCs who go on a rebuild quest have a significant chance of failing to complete it.
  • Will PCs be able to go on another rebuild quest? The PH2 says that rebuild quests are supposed to be rare and that a PC probably won't go on more than a couple—if any!—during the campaign. In other words, using the Class Level Rebuilding rules is likely a once-per-PC-per-campaign opportunity. Use it wisely.

To sum up, this question arises only if your DM approves the class level rebuilding rules; then your DM develops a rebuild quest specific to your desires for your character; then everybody spends table-time going on your character's rebuild quest; then, after your character successfully completes his rebuild quest—that is, by the way, in all likelihood, his only rebuild quest ever—, you ask the DM if your PC can trade one level of wizard for one level of Nar demonbinder.

After all that, this DM says, "Go ahead! Have fun!"

But just in case some kind of further tacit validation from the game itself is absolutely necessary, the Player's Handbook II in its introduction to the chapter "Rebuilding Your Character" says

After your character goes through the retraining or rebuilding process, you might notice that he doesn’t quite match the specs of a similar character built up to the same level by the normal method. Maybe his skill points don’t add up quite right, or his hit points are off a bit from the expected value. But the small variations that crop up in this process don’t significantly impact play balance, and writing rules to eliminate them would complicate the process without really improving the quality of your game. (191)

…And while this section's examples are things like skill points and hp, this DM is broad-minded enough to include among those "small variations" an impossible collection of class levels that couldn't be attained absent the rules on Class Level Rebuilding, especially given the time and trouble necessary to use such rules in the first place.

So, in the end, honestly? If the new configuration isn't game-breaking then whatever. You get through all the Class Level Rebuilding rigmarole then I figure you've earned being able to play your otherwise impossible wizard 6/Nar demonbinder 2. Good luck explaining how that happened on a messageboard or to your next DM, though.


1 Pure Idle Speculation: This reader thinks this problem might've arisen during the book's editing. The clause if you want to take levels in a prestige class that’s new to your character could've been originally if you want to take levels in a prestige class that are new to your character, which is technically borderline acceptable but on a quick read looks really clumsy and wrong. (That is, without the prepositional phrase the clause becomes a more comprehensible if you want to take levels in a prestige class that are new to your character.) In other words, perhaps there'd've been an ugly sentence but no ambiguity if the book's budget allowed an extra $0.05 for an are. (So you know, this editor would've changed the original's word order so that it read if you want to take prestige class levels that are new to your character… which eliminates ambiguity and saves that precious $0.05, but I have the benefit of hindsight, I'm not on a deadline, and nobody asked me.)
2 The core rules are vague on what levels are lost when a creature's been level drained (although the FAQ less so). (For details see this question.) Gaming level loss—while always dangerous and usually expensive—may be the alternative that you're looking for to yield an otherwise unbuildable character. Again, though, ask the DM.
3 The retraining rules, I must say, have worked wonderfully well in the two campaigns in which I'm using them. Both campaigns involve mainly Tier-3-or-lower PCs, and retraining has made them much more interesting.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the excellent answer! The first section, covering RAW, seems focused on whether this character could rebuild Wizard levels into additional Nar Demonbinder levels, but I'm really interested in whether they could be rebuilt into anything. For instance (if your DM gives you the opportunity), could you rebuild your character from a Wizard 7/Nar Demonbinder X into a Truenamer 7/Nar Demonbinder X (which would not be a legal character if made from scratch, since Truenamer 7 could never qualify for Nar Demonbinder)? \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Feb 18 '18 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can discuss more in chat if needed; I'm posting a little more there. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Feb 18 '18 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 Ah! Mea culpa! I'll let the answer stand because I think it's accurate despite drifting away from your purpose somewhat. However, I'm not sure you can ever escape the rule that says, "Each time your character completes a rebuild quest, you can change a number of levels equal to 1/5 his character level (rounded up) from one class to any other class (or classes)" (198). So unless your wizard 7/Nar demonbinder 1 is, instead, actually a wizard 7/Nar demonbinder 1/something else 27, you aren't changing seven levels of anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 18 '18 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Roger, I understand that that particular example would only be possible in the unlikely event that your DM approved way more rebuild quests than recommended. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Feb 18 '18 at 20:25

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