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I've just been looking into 3.5e and noticed it had LA (level adjustment) and was wondering if there was something similar in 5e?

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3 Answers 3

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Nothing similar exists as of yet

That’s just a simple statement of fact. There is no way to prove a negative, but it is the case.

It’s worth noting that 5e does have “monstrous” races, that have LA in D&D 3.5e, and doesn’t use LA or anything like it for them. Instead, 5e recreates those creatures as player races, no adjustment necessary.1 Thus, there is evidence to suggest that Wizards of the Coast either has no interest in providing more powerful creatures, or at the very least has not yet determined a satisfactory way to do so.

Which brings me to my next point:

Whatever they come up with almost-certainly won’t be LA

Because the level adjustment system of D&D 3.5e worked atrociously. Almost every single creature with LA in all of 3.5 (and there must be literally thousands of those) is basically unplayably crippled by it. There are maybe a handful of, as in approximately five, exceptions (and those are arguably overpowered instead).

This is because LA meant you were a lower level than the rest of the party, which meant your everything was worse than the rest of the party. Your monstrous abilities basically never made up for that fact: even if you could do super-cool stuff as a vampire or dragon or whatever, the fact that you had literally one-third the hit points of everyone else meant you were nothing more than a liability.

Wizards of the Coast recognized this fact, and tried numerous ideas for fixing it:

  • Unearthed Arcana offered rules for “buying off” LA so you could get rid of LA later in the game, when the abilities you gained originally are no longer worth being behind by one or more levels.

  • Savage Species offered savage progressions that allowed you to gain LA gradually, and in some cases, avoid LA altogether.

  • Templates with LA were given out as benefits of prestige classes, so that you could have them without taking the LA. This literally started right in Dungeon Master’s Guide with the dragon disciple, and continued through many books: dread necromancer from Heroes of Horror, walker in the wastes from Sandstorm, etc.

  • Later on, they just kind of gave up and recreated various options in with less LA, to make them more playable. Player’s Guide to Faerûn had “lesser” planetouched without LA. Races of the Dragon added the LA +0 dragonborn and spellscale races, as well as the LA +1 draconic creature template, for easier ways to play as a partial dragon without having to take the LA +3 of the half-dragon template. Libris Mortis printed the necropolitan, a no-frills playable undead template that was LA +0 (and cost a level to take, so it was like an LA +1 template that you immediately “bought off” à la Unearthed Arcana).

So Wizards of the Coast never seemed satisfied with level adjustment, and it did not reappear in D&D 4e. It is unlikely to do so in D&D 5e.


  1. Volo’s Guide to Monsters does point out that they are not necessarily balanced with other races. But some, at least, seem underpowered relative to other player races. And whether balanced, more powerful, or less powerful, the fact remains that Wizards of the Coast does not attempt to apply any adjustment to players of those races, they are just played as is. So whatever Volo’s says about their balance, someone must think they are balanced enough to be played that way, and playing alongside other player races was the idea behind developing them as player races.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not going to bet against, you. Wasn't aware of the 4e progression, or lack thereof. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26, 2018 at 3:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ " Instead, 5e recreates those creatures as player races that are balanced alongside other player races. " - Volo's guide to monsters goes out of its way to state that the monstrous races are -not- balanced and you should talk with your DM about using them. They seem to mostly be on te weaker side rather than being stronger in my opinion though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Feb 26, 2018 at 12:53
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There isn't, at least not in the official rules, and I don't think there ever will be, for the following reasons.

In D&D third edition, level adjustment first appeared in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting as a way to allow fans of the Drizzt Do'Urden novels to play a drow player character. The drow had already been made more powerful than a standard PC race, since they were originally intended as monsters and didn't have to be balanced as a player character race.

This notion was expanded in later books until virtually every monster had a listed level adjustment if it could be reasonably playable, most notably an entire sourcebook on this subject named Savage Species.

This gave players some amazing options, but unfortunately it frequently didn't work well in practice1. The vampire, for example, had a level adjustment of +8 to account for its numerous powerful abilities, but the cost is that you're eight levels behind the rest of your party, and thus are so lacking in hit points and class abilities (e.g. spellcasting) as to be extremely fragile and underpowered.

D&D 5th edition has abandoned this idea of trying to balance existing monster statblocks for use as player characters. Now, all playable races are simply balanced so that, say, a level 1 drow or tiefling is of equal power to to a level 1 elf or human.

In fact, if you look at the Unearthed Arcana online material for D&D 5th edition, you find some former monsters statted up as player character races (minotaur, vampire, githyanki, revenant). In all cases, the monsters have simply been weakened to fit the expected power level of a standard race.

D&D 5th edition has abandoned the idea of level penalties entirely. You no longer lose levels upon raising from the dead, you can no longer take a prestige class that costs spellcasting levels, undead no longer drain levels, and so on. For this reason, and the problems level adjustment had in 3.5, I don't think we'll see an official level adjustment rules system for D&D 5e outside of third-party or fan content.


1 A rare situation where level adjustment was really worth taking was a monster with good Strength and Constitution, as a fighter character. The benefits made up for the hit points and attack bonuses you lost in the level penalty. For spellcasters, however, even losing one level of spellcasting ability was almost never worth the race benefits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ “didn’t always work out in practice” → “almost never worked out in practice” would improve this answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 25, 2018 at 22:36
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No (Not yet)

The DMG (p. 285–287) has guidance on how to make custom monsters and custom races as optional rules. The "monster as PC" came alive in Volo's Guide so that a Kobod, Orc, Goblin, Tabaxi, Yuan-ti and a few other races are available for PC builds. They follow the PHB humanoid races in terms of pattern or template.

The system to make any monster a PC has not (yet) been folded into the published rules books. Whether that arrives in due course is to be determined, but so far the design method has been to release each "monstrous" PC class in its own context.

Level Adjustment

This line is included in the entries of creatures suitable for use as player characters or as cohorts (usually creatures with Intelligence scores of at least 3 and possessing opposable thumbs). Add this number to the creature’s total Hit Dice, including class levels, to get the creature’s effective character level (ECL). A character’s ECL affects the experience the character earns, the amount of experience the character must have before gaining a new level, and the character’s starting equipment. (d20srd (3.5), Reading the Monster Entries)

I have not yet seen a monster stat block with a Level Adjustment in published material.

5e probably won't unless they test it out via an Unearthed Arcana article

What we have seen so far in the three+ years since game release is a number of public play tests of unofficial game material via the Unearthed Arcana articles posted to the WoTC web site. Some of the material tried out there has been folded in, after public comment, and some has not. The latest book release announced (Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) has not indicated that this particular method of making a monster-based PC with the LA methodology will be included.

The Monster Manual does have the Half Dragon template (p. 180), so a hint at an approach to a monstrous-based PC is already on record, however, LA is not yet part of the 5e material. (And it may never be ... we'll see.)

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