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A level 1 bugbear rogue is targetted by the spell ability rip (Serpent Kingdoms 155). What happens? The bugbear has no supernatural abilities, so it should lose 2 class levels, but it only has 1. It has plenty of HD to lose, but those are only used if it has exactly 0 class levels. I'm looking for as strict a RAW answer as possible, even if that answer is absurd, like "it gains a 20 ft fly speed and turns pink", or unsatisfying, like "there is absolutely no published guidance, even indirectly, that bears on this issue".

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    \$\begingroup\$ A strict RAW answer from Serpent Kingdoms? That books is notoriously dysfunctional. Expect disappointment along the lines of "it is impossible to tell", "the book is contradictory", or "the book doesn't say". Are you sure this is what you want? \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Dec 4, 2019 at 7:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.Mini Yup. I'm aware. I mean, I expect some support for such answers, just like any other, but I imagine some variety of one of those is probably the answer. I'm asking because there may be advice in e.g. the core books or an appendix somewhere or whatever that addresses something like this. Like, I kind of expect answers to touch on level loss from enegy drain briefly, probably, as an example. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2019 at 7:40

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Nothing addresses this directly

The description of the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell ability rip [trans] (Serpent Kingdoms 155), in part, says, "If it [i.e. the recipient of the ripped ability] has none to exchange [i.e. supernatural abilities of the recipient's own], it instead loses two class levels (or 2 Hit Dice if it has no class levels)."

This could mean a bugbear rogue 1 recipient loses nothing: it has no supernatural abilities and only one class level so it can't lose two class levels, and because it can't lose its one class level it still possesses that class level, and that means it won't instead lose Hit Dice. Despite that being a possibility, I can't imagine a game designer deliberately wanting it to work that way, but this is Serpent Kingdoms, so who knows? Further, while this is what the text literally says, this player would expect individual DMs to have this function differently in play.

For instance, one alternative would see the recipient lose as much as it can lose but no more, much like how an attacker can deal 2 points of damage to an enemy even if that enemy possesses −9 hit points. Just because the enemy doesn't track its hp (or class levels) when it's dead (or has none), that doesn't mean the weapon (or spell) deals less damage (or costs the recipient fewer class levels or HD).

In other words, the DM may rule that the spell does its best to, essentially, deal damage to the bugbear rogue 1 in the form of two class levels or, if it finds none, two HD. This would mean that the bugbear rogue 1's class level—the only class level the spell found when it sought class levels (like the dagger finding a creature's last hp)—is gone. Oddly, if taken strictly, the bugbear rogue 1 wouldn't also lose 1 Hit Die because the parenthetical or clause only kicks in if the creature had no class levels when the spell was looking for class levels.

Nonetheless, I can easily imagine a DM interpreting the spell's description to mean that a creature that possesses no ability to exchange must lose two of something, and that means either 2 class levels or if that's not an option then 1 class level and 1 HD or if that's not an option then 2 HD. To be clear, though, the spell's actual text doesn't offer clear support for this interpretation even if this reader believes that's totally how it should actually be played.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What makes you say that the bugbear cannot lose its 1 class level? I have generally expected that you should implement as much of a rule as possible, so someone with one class level should lose that when they are supposed to lose two class levels. I can see an argument for a bugbear rogue becoming a bugbear with no class levels (since the loss of 2 Hit Dice is conditioned on the target having no class levels, which the target did), but not really for it staying a bugbear rogue. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 4, 2019 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Unlike, for example, negative levels, the spell exacts a precise toll. Were it to've said instead A creature loses 100 gp or its 2 fingers if it has 0 gp a creature with 1–99 gp doesn't still lose its gp nor does it lose both its gp and 2 fingers. The damn spell should've just used negative levels. Serpent Kingdoms, man, y'know? (By the way, exactly what you describe is covered by the third paragraph.) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2019 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I see how your example is the same kind of thing, but I see no reason why either ability rip or your hypothetical should be resolved the way you describe. And, I mean, for that matter, if we’re countenancing this absurdity, is there anything that explicitly prevents us from having a negative HD total? Or even a negative gold piece total? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 4, 2019 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan No reason? I'm taking 100 gp and if I don't I'm taking 2 fingers. That really doesn't mean I take up to 100 gp nor does it mean that I make up for less than 100 gp in fingers. You're correct that my limited mathematical imagination had me stop at 0 because the game doesn't contain anything that addresses creatures possessing negative class levels or HD (or, for that matter, gp). However, since the game doesn't address it at all, we're down to The Rules Don't Say I Can't, which you know is weak position. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2019 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ The rules don’t support 0 class levels or HD, either. Anyway, I don’t see any reason why “up to” needs to be there—I’d take that as the default, that you perform as much of the directed action as possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 4, 2019 at 15:21

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