How does Level Adjustment buy-off work for templates acquired at different times?

If I have a character with a +2 LA template and after buying off the LA at level 9 acquire a +3 template, can I also buy off the first point of the second template's LA at level 9?

Unearthed Arcana is a little vague on this subject, but there isn’t much support for allowing that based on what we do have.

If the level adjustment is greater than +1, this process repeats until the creature's level adjustment reaches +0. Each time, use the creature’s current level adjustment to determine the point at which the level adjustment can go down by 1. For example, a drow (level adjustment +2) may drop to level adjustment +1 after gaining her sixth class level, and then to +0 after gaining an additional three class levels.

Note that the rules don’t actually call out how or why you have take three “additional” class levels. It just says “use the creature’s current level adjustment to determine the point at which the level adjustment can go down by 1.” Taken literally, that would imply that you need 3 class levels—which this drow already has by virtue of being 6th level—to get rid of the remaining LA. But the textual example, as well as the accompanying table, clearly indicate that you cannot count the 6 levels used to reduce the LA +2 to LA +1 towards the class levels needed to reduce the LA +1 to LA +0. The LA +1 can only be reduced at 9th.

There are two possible interpretations of this: you need to ignore class levels already used for other LA, or buying an LA off is a process that takes $3 \times LA$ levels. The distinction here could matter: if you got the LA +3 template at, say, 12th level, it would be unclear if levels 10th, 11th, and 12th could be applied towards buying it off. Even though those levels weren’t used to buy anything off, you didn’t have the template yet to start buying them off. You could conceivably have to start on your six levels at 12th.

The other issue is how separate instances of LA work together, or don’t. Unearthed Arcana doesn’t address this at all (and, in fact, the authors seem to only be considering racial LA, and the variant is found in the Races section of the book). Is a separate LA +3 template treated as a new, separate thing, or is it treated as adding on to your total “pre-buyoff” LA? Certainly, if you started with an LA +2 template and an LA +3 template, you would have LA +5—Unearthed Arcana doesn’t give any indication that you should be able to buy that off more than once, at 15th. But then, like I said, Unearthed Arcana seems to ignore the possibility of multiple sources of LA altogether.

So really, any one of these possibilities is true, depending on how you answer:

\begin{array}{c|c c} & \textbf{Pre-acquisition} & \textbf{Must Start Upon} \\ & \textbf{Levels Count} & \textbf{Acquisition} \\ \hline \textbf{LAs Stack} & \text{24th} & Acq + 15 \\ \textbf{LAs Separate} & \text{18th} & Acq + 9 \\ \end{array}

Where $Acq$ is the level at which you acquired the LA +3 template after buying off an LA +2.

But there really isn’t much evidence for allowing you to start immediately at 9th: the example of the drow, who has LA +1 after buying off at 6th, explicitly says that despite having three class levels, they need three additional class levels. That is going to apply to you too.

In reality, I strongly urge you and your DM to just eliminate LA from your game altogether. Don’t play things with LA, don’t allow things with LA. The system just doesn’t work. It’s a shame but it’s what it is. Homebrew a non-LA way to get things you want/are appropriate to the character, whether that’s a scaled-down version of a creature or a prestige class that gives the template as a reward.

• I've heard some people make the argument that by RAW you can only buy off LA at specific character levels ( for instance if you acquired a +1 LA template at level 3 you could immediately buy it off but if you acquired the same template at level 4 you could never buy it off because you can only buy off +1 LA at level 3). Is this an unsubstantiated view? – Cellheim Jan 20 '18 at 0:23
• @Cellheim I don’t think it is, though the same vagueness that makes this answer difficult also affects that. But ultimately, the text is that you become “eligible” to buy off LA at a certain level, with nothing ever saying you then become ineligible. Reading in some cut-off point is quite a stretch. The real issue is that it’s very unclear what happens if you delay things—would that drow in the example have to wait until 10th if she bought off the LA at 7th instead of 6th? No one knows, and I suspect people are basing their idea that she can’t do that on the fact that no one knows. – KRyan Jan 20 '18 at 0:25

I hope this is not necroposting, here are my 2 cents:

For example, a drow (level adjustment +2) may drop to level adjustment +1 after gaining her sixth class level, and then to +0 after gaining an additional three class levels [Unearthed Arcana p. 18]

Since the reduction in this drow example re-starts the count for LA+1 after buying off the LA+2 at level 6, I think that if you obtain a LA +3 template at level 9 you should wait until lev 18 (3*3 + the 9 levels that don't count) to reduce the LA. I also believe that if you took the template at level 12, you still should wait until level 18, because the manual says:

Once the total of a character's class levels (not including any Hit Dice from his creature type or his level adjustment) reaches three times his level adjustment, his level adjustment is eligible to be decreased by 1. [Unearthed Arcana p. 18]

(Excluding the first 9 levels because of the example, even if this rule should technically include them, it is all quite poorly written)

As you pointed out in a comment, some people say that you can't buy-off levels unless at the specific levels that would allow you to do so (meaning that you can't do it if you surpassed those levels, you can't buy-off a LA +1 at level 4 instead of 3). They probably say that because of this:

Each time a character's level adjustment is eligible to be reduced, the character may pay an XP cost to take advantage of the reduction. The character must pay an amount of XP equal to (his current ECL -1) × 1,000. (...) The payment must be made immediately upon becoming eligible to reduce the character's level adjustment. [Unearthed Arcana pp. 18-19]

Are they right? Probably. Is it a stupid rule? Totally, because if my PC at level 10 acquires a LA +1 template, he could in no way buy it off, since they're far past level 3. I would houserule not to consider that "immediately" nonsense. You're at level 10 for Pelor's sake, and this entire variant rule exists because the designer realised that:

When a character with a level adjustment advances in experience, the level adjustment he started with becomes more and more of a burden. Eventually, the benefits of the creature type may come to be eclipsed by those of his class features [Unearthed Arcana p. 18]

So, why couldn't you buy off that burden of a LA? You're paying a high price for that already! (Ah-ehm, strictly speaking the UA also says "the LA he started with", but I believe they just missed to consider the acquired template possibility)

• Also don't worry about necroing, that isn't a thing here. As long as a question is open, you can answer it no matter how long ago it has been asked. In fact, we actively encourage you to add new and better answers to old questions. You can even get a badge for it! – Rubiksmoose May 7 at 15:48
• Wait! Isn't that "the LA you started with" proof that you can't buy off LA acquired later? The assumption that the process only talks about a single LA that KRyan noticed in their answer might suddenly make sense! – Zachiel May 7 at 17:57
• By RAW it might very well be so, @Zachiel, but I think it's extremely stupid from the designers. They're the ones that pointed out that at some levels the LA is not balanced anymore. I think they missed to consider the option, rather than discarding it consciously. – Lyla Du Perie May 7 at 21:37