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Can I level quickly by exploiting acquired templates?

Inspired by Quadratic Wizard's question.

This requires a friendly lycanthrope, a cleric, and a bucket of water:

  • Be a normal character with a few levels. Assume you start at level 4 with 6000 xp.
  • Get bitten by a were-rat, fail the save as needed to contract lycanthropy. Your LA goes up by 2 and you gain a level of rat HD. Your XP total probably doesn't change, and you are now ECL 7.
  • Drown yourself.
  • Get Raised, losing a level. Assume you can't just lose the rat level, but either way. You are now ECL 6, and "The victim’s experience point total is immediately set to the midpoint of the previous level." (i.e. to 18,000).
  • Get cured of lycanthropy. You lose the LA and the racial hit die, and so are now level 3 with 18000 XP.
  • It's not clear what happens then, but probably the limit on gaining enough xp to level twice also applies to having enough experience to level twice, so you would gain a level and enough xp to be one shy of the following level, and lose the rest. So you are now at level 4 and 9,999 experience.

Where is the flaw?

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I think you can argue as you have. I would accept it, for example, in a theoretical optimization exercise. But it doesn’t definitively and unambiguously work. Specifically, this point:

The victim’s experience point total is immediately set to the midpoint of the previous level.

The way 3.5e overloads the word “level” and then uses it without qualification, expecting context to handle things, is the problem here. Does that refer to effective character level, i.e. including the LA +2? Or just character level, i.e. 5th? As I said, I think you can make a case for ECL here, but I think I can just as easily make a case for not using ECL, and then you get dropped to character level 4th (ECL 6th), and get the XP of a 4th-level character halfway to 5th (8,000 XP, not 18,000). Curing yourself of lycanthropy removes the LA +2, so you are no longer ECL 6th but ECL 4th, matching your character level, and you have the appropriate amount of XP.

Considering how neatly and intuitively using character level here works, as opposed to effective character level resulting in a state the rules are supposed to prevent from happening in the first place, this seems like a strong case to make for character level being correct—but that isn’t a RAW argument. I do not believe there is a definitive RAW statement that can be used to determine which level is being used here. And I can undermine that “well it just makes sense” argument pretty easily—because it really doesn’t make sense for someone with 20,999 XP (read: 1 XP short of finally leveling up to ECL 8th) to fall all the way down to 8,000 XP if they die, which is what using character level consistently here would have us do. (Neatly illustrating one reason why RAW rejects “it just makes sense” arguments.)

Of course, the most sensible thing to do is to use the level that you would have for your XP if you had no LA, but that definitely isn’t suggested anywhere in the rules at all.

Well, actually, the most sensible thing to do is to eliminate both LA and anything that results in a party with unequal level or XP totals from the game altogether.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Yes, those are novels. Novels are not games. They have different needs. And, for that matter, you could construct a game designed around uneven parties. D&D 3.5e is not one of those, however. It responds atrociously to it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 11 '18 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oddly enough, lots of my various groups' games have had uneven levels and worked out wonderfully. So my personal experience apparently differs. Though, as I recall, it is possible to get a little creative with how ELs were applied if we wanted to avoid leveling up the lowest leveled party members more than one level in a single encounter. Fantasy, sci-fi, and supers games are what I'm talking about if genre matters. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 11 '18 at 17:01

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