I am planning to add a template to my level 12 swashbuckling-type character by using a wish, for example I think the radiant template would be ideal. But I have a strong disagreement with my DM about how the Level Adjustment would work, so I am looking for the exact official 3.5 rules to solve the dispute.

We are not only speaking about acquired templates (BTW radiant is an inherited one), so I am also interested in more general rules, and if it appears that I am wrong about XP calculations, I am also interested into rules that allow to acquire a template through rebuilding, eg by exchanging levels or using specific rituals.

I made a lot of research and read the online rules about Monsters as races and Reducing level adjustment. I came to the conclusion that someone who is level 12 and applies a level adjustment of +3 has an ECL of 15 and therefore needs the XP someone would need to get from level 15 to 16 when trying to reach class level 13. That means paying 15,000xp instead of 12,000xp and so forth until reaching level 20.

But my DM said no, you need to pay three levels blank (that is 39,000xp) and then you can reach class level 13 (and refused to apply the rules about reducing level adjustment). I found that decision horrific because it means that the later you apply a template, the more it cost you, although it should be the opposite because it is at low level that templates give the most significant relative improvements. As for templates with high LA like vampires (+8), they would need to take 8 level blank, so basically one could say they are done with that kind of progressing

And today I was reading Savage Species and fell across that quote (on page 145):

Once a character transforms, she has a new effective character level. This ECL determines how many experience points she needs to gain her next class level, and how many experience points her parry gets from each encounter. The DM must explain these effects to her players before allowing them to begin transforming their characters.

For example, a human rogue just gained 5th level and has 10,000 experience points. On her next adventure, a wererat bites her. The rogue decides she wants the abilities that lycanthropy brings; perhaps envisioning a gang of wererat thieves all working for her. She voluntarily fails her Fortitude save against the curse of lycanthropy (see Lycanthropes, below) and, after her first change, becomes a wererat. Now her ECL is 8, Instead of needing 5,000 experience points to go from 5th level to 6th, she needs 26,000 experience points (the difference between 5th and 9th level). The average level of her party increases, so everyone gets fewer experience points from the ensuing encounters (see Table 7–1: Experience Point Awards in the DUNGEON MASTER'S Guide) unless the DM tweaks those encounters to increase their Encounter Level. When she has 36,000 experience points, the rogue can add her 6th level as a rogue (or any other class level she chooses), and she will be an ECL 9 character. She needs 3,000 XP to reach her next level (the difference between 9th and 10th level).

Would it be that my DM was right? (at least if applying the hybrid 3.25 half-broken ruleset)? But I still don't understand the full rule:

  • The character from the example is level 5 and has 10,000XP, OK
  • We apply a +3 template, his ECL is now 8 and he needs to reach 9 to get to rogue level 6, that is a 26.000XP difference, OK
  • She needs 3000XP to reach her next level???? WTF? I would have said 45,000-36,000=9000XP to reach ECL 10, why is it only 3000XP in the rule? Is that a typo?

So my main question is where are the official 3.5 rules on that topic, and in the case they would be unclear, how is it commonly understood? And if you all agree with my DM, what about the things you gain when you progress in level that are not related to your class, such as Hit Dice, skill points, bonus feats, abilities bonus and such?

I am also considering applying the template by using the wish ritual, rather than by being bitten by some random monster (Savage Species, p. 150):

A spellcaster casts wish and transforms the character.

Ritual Time: 1 action, as the spell.
Ritual Cost: The ritualist must spend 5,000 XP (the spell’s XP component). The ritualist charges the subject a number of gold pieces equal to caster level × 90, plus an additional 25,000 gp (to compensate for the experience point loss).
Ritual Caster Level: 17th, as the spell.

Casting wish to become a new kind of creature, with full access to all extraordinary, spell-like, and supernatural abilities (see End Result, below), while retaining Intelligence, memory, and personality, falls under the “wishing for greater effects” rules in the spell description. While this is the quickest method of transformation and potentially the least expensive, it has substantial risks.

The DM may, for instance, require the spellcaster to make a Spellcraft check. For every point by which the check result exceeds 20, the transforming character gains a 5% chance to have the goal creature’s abilities. The transforming character must roll for each ability. For instance, if the spellcaster gets a 28 on her Spellcraft check, the transforming character has a 40% chance to have any of the goal creature’s abilities. He rolls for each special attack or special quality, and each time he gets a 61 or higher on d%, he gains that ability. It is entirely possible to fail every roll and gain the characteristics of a goal creature but none of the creature’s special attacks or special qualities.

Wish is expensive (a cost of at least 26,530 gold pieces) and may not work. Since characters of lower than 8th level shouldn’t be able to afford this method of transformation, a DM who uses this ritual it is setting a minimum level at which transformation can occur. If the DM wishes to discourage transformation, she can enforce the Spellcraft check described above. If so, she must inform her players that transforming via wish may not grant all the special abilities and special qualities of the goal creature.

Unlike others rituals (unlearning and vitality, see Savage Species p. 145-150) that explicitly state that there is an XP cost for the character getting the template, that one only mention a cost in gold pieces, and that there is an XP cost for the caster. And also that it might be the least expensive method and that you get full access to all powers (rather than having to get the level one by one as in normal progression, or at least that is how I understand it)

What I understand is that you get full access to the template and no ECL (or gain the ECL but don't have to pay XP), because I don't see why they would have omitted such a crucial point when they addressed it in every other ritual, and also because if you had an XP cost for the ritualist when using the wish, it would be much more interesting to use the ritual of vitality (you pay 3,000XP to get an ECL of +3, a joke). By the way if you ask the ritualist to pay an XP cost, why would you charge a 5000XP fee to the caster of the wish?

But I am curious to know what you would think of this?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Your PC isn't applying a template, as much as they are obtaining one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bleep
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Something I am noticing too - the Wish Ritual is for actually becoming a different type of creature not becoming a templated creature. For example, you can't polymorph into a Draconic Minotaur. You can only polymorph into a Minotaur - because Draconic is a template. I do not believe this ritual counts towards a template - rather than a specific creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ruut It's actually for becoming a different kind of creature, and kind is a poorly defined term in D&D 3.5. Personally, using the wish rules as presented above, I think's it's legit to say, "I wish to be me with the radiant template" (or however one must phrase the wish so that one doesn't spend 26,530 gp only to find among one's belonging a sheet of paper detailing the radiant template). How doing so alters the character's advancement is the bigger concern. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 9:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I replaced the image of the "Wish" section from Savage Species with the actual text being quoted. Please don't use images of text where you could just format it as text instead; images aren't as accessible. You should also trim the quote(s) to just the parts that are relevant to the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 18:21

5 Answers 5


You Have More Than One Option (Subject to DM Approval)

Option 1: Level Adjustment Buy Off

Reducing Level Adjustments

It happens at multiples of "3". If you were going to use this method, I as DM, would allow you to buy off your 1st level adjustment at 12th level; otherwise, technically, you wouldn't be able to buy off all of the +3 before 20th level.

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.

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.

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. This amount is immediately deducted from the character's XP total. The deduction should reduce the character's effective character level (ECL) by 1.

So, if your current ECL would be 15, then you would pay 14,000 XP (ECL 15 -1 x 1,000). Your level adjustment would then be +2. When you take your 15th character level, your would be ECL 17, you would then pay 16,000 XP (ECL 17 -1 x 1,000). Your level adjustment would then be +1. When you take your 18th character level, your ECL would be 19, you would then pay 18,000 XP (ECL 19 -1 x 1,000). Your level adjustment would then be +0; meaning you would no longer have a level adjustment.

Total XP spent would be 38,000 XP, and you would be able to shine rainbows upon everyone guilt free.

Option 2: Savage Progressions

Gaining a Template Mid-campaign

Savage Species takes dozens of existing monsters from the Monster Manual and presents them as though they were character classes -- that is, it breaks down the monster's benefits into levels and presents them as advancement tables. Thus, a young ogre (ECL 1) could join a 1st-level adventuring party and gain levels along with his friends. Upon reaching his full growth (at an ogre's base ECL of 6), he begins gaining class levels like the rest of the characters.

The Savage Progressions article series does the same with templates, breaking each into a number of class levels equal to its level adjustment. Such a treatment allows a character who acquires a template to progress through these template "class levels" just as she would normal character levels, thereby maintaining the same relative level of power as the other PCs in her party. The player of the templated character gets to gain abilities at every level, just as the other PCs do, and her presence doesn't cause balance problems for the DM.

What would happen is this: you gain your template as class levels. Instead of Hit Dice, Skill Points, etc. you instead gain a portion of your template. Since the template has a +3 level adjustment, there would be 3 Template Class levels. They do not count towards your character level; meaning it won't affect your base attack bonus and base save progression that stops at character level 20. What is a template class for the Radiant Template?

Well, Sean K Reynolds either didn't get around to it while he was still employed at Wizard of the Coast, or he wasn't commissioned as a freelancer to make the "official" template class.

Regardless, your DM can easily make it into a template class. Here is how:

1st Level

  • Outsider (Native) Type
  • Rainbow Attack (Su)
  • Dex +2
  • Cha +2
  • -8 Hide checks
  • +4 Spot checks

2nd Level

  • Spell-Like Abilities
  • Dex +2
  • Cha +2

3rd Level

  • Challenge Rating +1
  • Special Qualities
  • Cha +2
  • Alignment 1-Step Closer to Chaotic

How much XP would that "cost you" by taking a level that isn't really a level? 12th to 13th is 12,000 XP; 13th to 14th is 13,000 XP; and 14th to 15th 14,000 XP.

Total XP "spent" would be 31,000 XP.

Is one better than the other?

They are both subject to DM approval. One way you are spending more XP, and leveling up a little "slower" - but your relative power isn't dwindling as much. The other way costs less XP, and leveling up a little "faster" - but you will notice huge power drops as your companions would literally be 15th level and you would virtually be 15th level.

Talk with your DM!

Find out what the best solution is. Also ask yourself, is this template worth it? Your companions are going to pass you up in power level. Despite the nice immunities and spell-like abilities you will receive. But if it makes for good roleplaying, then I am all for it! Talk to your DM, talk with your party. If this is something you really want, then there are the two ways that are "official" to get it done.

I'll restate your question with my words to see if I've understood it properly first.

Let's keep the math easy. ECL 2, starting level 2 (1000 XP)
You get a +2 LA somewhere during level 2, let's say right after leveling up.
So you're now 1000 XP, ECL 4 and you need to reach ECL 5 for adding your new class level.

Your DM says ECL 5 is reached at 10k XP so you now need 9k XP to level up.
You say LA +2 is like going from 4 to 5 so you need 4k XP to level up.

Your way, you gained two levels (your LA) for free.
DM's math: 0 + 1000 + 2000 + 3000 + 4000 = 10k
Your math: 0 + 1000 + ............. 4000 = 5k

Your DM is right and no, it's not like you need more XP the higher you get, because your class levels you already took costed you less than if you took them after the template, so the thing balances out. The only real imbalance comes from the fact that you get the template before paying the XP for that LA.

As for the example you quoted, I'm pretty sure that was a typo and that's 9000 XP, not 3000

  • \$\begingroup\$ Here is a chart I made for level adjusted people for my "Seekers of the Misty Isle" campaign: seekers-of-the-misty-isle.obsidianportal.com/wikis/…. If only I could get fellow players to care about the site I spent HOURS putting together - and still not finished. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 14:50

Here is a rule that nobody talked about so far, from PHBII on page 198-199, chapter "Rebuilding".

The Process (for rebuilding a template)
Each time your character completes a rebuild quest, you can add, subtract, or replace one template. For example, a dwarf paladin could gain the celestial template, a half-dragon elf fighter could lose the half-dragon template, or a celestial human rogue could replace his celestial template with the fiendish template.
Adding a template is a lot like changing your character’s race, except that he usually doesn’t lose many (if any) existing racial abilities. Follow the guidelines presented in the Race Rebuilding section above, paying special attention to the information on gaining or losing Hit Dice and level adjustment. If the character’s Hit Die size changes (for instance, from transformation into a vampire), use the Hit Points entry in the Class Rebuilding section above to determine the new hit point total.
Removing an existing template, on the other hand, requires you to eliminate any of the template’s effects and benefi ts,which might include special attacks, special qualities, skill modifi ers, ability modifiers, bonus feats, and a variety of other bits and pieces. Use the guidelines in the Race Rebuilding and Class Rebuilding sections to rework your character’s statistics.

And when taking a look to race rebuilding:

The Process (for rebuilding a race) Each time your character completes a rebuild quest, you can change his race. First, remove all racial traits (including ability score modifiers) granted by your character’s original race. Then add all the racial traits and ability score modifi ers from the new race. The character’s known languages don’t change unless you also choose the language retraining option (see page 194).
So far the process sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy. Many potential complications can arise from this aspect of character rebuilding. The sections below demonstrate how to handle the various issues that might arise.
Feat: If a change of race means that your character no longer qualifies for a feat she already has, she loses access to the feat, as well as to any others for which it is a prerequisite. However, the feat still occupies a feat slot unless you also use the feat retraining option (see page 193).
Prestige Class: If a change of race disqualifies the character for a prestige class in which she already has one or more levels, she loses the benefit of any class features or other special abilities granted by that prestige class. She retains the hit points gained from advancing in that class, as well as any improvements to base attack bonus and base save bonuses that those levels provided. However, you can use the class level rebuilding option to replace the now-useless prestige class levels—and you probably should, unless you’re sure that the character will be able to meet the requirements again soon.
Racial Substitution Level: Changing your character’s race might well mean that any racial substitution levels (detailed in theRaces series of supplements) she has are no longer appropriate. Treat this situation as if you were replacing one class level with another (see Class Level Rebuilding, page 197).
Level Adjustment: If your character’s original race had a higher level adjustment than her new race does, you can replace any lost level adjustment “points” with the same number of new class levels of your choice. If the new race has a higher level adjustment than the original race did, you must remove class levels until the character’s effective character level is the same as it was before the rebuilding occurred. You can choose the levels lost from all those that the character has, regardless of the order in which they were gained.
Racial Hit Dice: Adding or subtracting racial Hit Dice is perhaps the most complicated part of character rebuilding. Work with your DM to ensure that he approves of this degree of change and that you’re doing it correctly. If your character’s original race had any racial Hit Dice, you must remove all the benefits they granted. This process is similar to removing class levels (see Class Level Rebuilding, page 197). Next, replace these racial Hit Dice with class levels of your choice until the character’s effective character level is the same as it was before the rebuilding occurred. If your character’s new race has any racial Hit Dice, you must subtract class levels until his effective character level is the same as it was before the rebuilding occurred. You can choose the lost levels from all those the character has, regardless of the order in which they were gained.

I have the feeling that these rules fit better with the question, as they come from another -3.5- book than Savage Species and not an exotic one. One could easily imagine using a wish to skip the the rebuild quest thing.

What is very interesting in those rules is that you can choose which level to drop when obtaining the template, for example I have 5 level of swashbuckler. Among those levels 2, 4, 5 are not really worth the investment. If I apply a template withe a +3 LA or more, I may drop them and only keep 1st and 3rd level.

I am waiting for your comments, but I am considering accepting this.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ ... this doesn't seem like an answer, mate. Your question, as posed, is: "So my main question is where are the official 3.5 rules on that topic, and in the case they would be unclear, how is it commonly understood?" ... How does rebuilding fit at all? Also, What does "I am waiting for your comments, but I am considering accepting this. " mean? This almost seems like its own poorly phrased question. Beyond that, perhaps we can copy slightly... less... copyrighted content? Excerpt only the bits that matter for the answer you plan to give. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 8:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The topic is about rebuilding a PC by applying a template, so it seems to me that this answer is right on the mark. BTW I asked for a 3.5 rule and all the answers so far stick with the weird 3.25 pre 3.5 Savage Species rules. As for copying copyright content, I don't know which is your legislation but in my country (France), as long as you only copy a small extract, refer to the original author and don't try to make profit, it is okay. Anyway if you feel like this is too much, feel free to edit ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Epeedefeu
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 8:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I had never read that batch of text, but You can choose the levels lost from all those that the character has, regardless of the order in which they were gained must be pretty high up there with the most poorly phrased rules in the game. That is someone's 3 AM writing and someone else's 3 AM editing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also have the feeling that regardless is too much. If the PC takes others levels of that class afterwards it might just break the game. But if we skip that point, the rule still seem worth being used in certain occasions \$\endgroup\$
    – Epeedefeu
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think what Brian is getting at is, if this solves your problem, you didn't say what your problem was in the question. The problem in the question is "I'm having a disagreement with my DM about how does this XP thing for a new template works", and this answer doesn't solve that. I'm not sure what to recommend to resolve this mismatch, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 14:57

Is your DM right?

Yes. Level is defined by an absolute amount of XP, the 'amount you need to level up' is a shorthand included for convenience. Gaining that template effectively gives you a bunch of levels without the commensurate XP, so you 'pay that back' over time. And you also get less than your friends because you are ECL 15 now and get less XP than them from the same encounters.

Should it be that way?

No. Due to the fact that LA is generally piled on so hard that templates are vastly weaker than their LA in class levels, LA also gives no HP, no BAB, no save progression, and no spell progression. You will be a level 12 with a few extra tricks, but count as level 15.

The DM should give you the template at a much reduced cost, or he should give it to you for free. There is no printed template worth it's actual cost except perhaps the insanity that is the Feral template. A wish permanently increasing someone's power is perfectly fine as long as intra-party balance is maintained,and so the cost should be tweaked on that basis, not on the RAW, which for templates and LA is utterly terrible.


There is no core rule that lets a PC obtain a template during play.

While, as @Ruut notes there are some optional books that suggest variant rules for how your DM may handle the effect of obtaining a template during play, the core rules have an implicit assumption that templates either convert your PC into an unplayable NPC, or are applied at character creation before any in-play XP is earned.

There are acquired templates like vampire or lycnathrope which your PC may obtain, but these automatically shift your character to an NPC either permanently or temporarily. And they also shift your alignment, which in many games is enough for DM's to convert you to an NPC anyway.

Regardless of these counter-examples, the specific template you're interested in is an inherited template, not an acquired one. Which means that, regardless of the mechanism you use, you are firmly within the domain of house-rules whenever a PC or NPC somehow obtains that during play.

Additionally, your DM is correct in reading the rules for XP advancement.

Take a look at the 3.5 equivalent of the "Experience and Level Dependent Benefits." (It's table 3-2 on page 22 in my 3.0 PH, but not a rule that was changed in 3.5.). The XP column does not list "Additional XP needed to reach next level", but rather the total XP needed to obtain each level.

If, as a 12th level PC with 66,000 XP, your character obtained an acquired template with a +3 ECL, they would still have only 66,000 XP. In order to reach level 16 and obtain another class level, you would need to reach a total of 120,000 XP.

(And, as @Zachiel notes, you're also asking for the equivalent of free XP. Unless you're several levels behind your party, that's something the other players may well perceive as unfair.)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's a variant rule. All of those "a DM may" lines are a clear indicator of house-rule guidance, rather than an "official" rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bleep
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 18:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, you're wrong. d20srd.org/srd/monsters/lycanthrope.htm \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 12:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also: d20srd.org/srd/prestigeClasses/… There are a lot of non-core examples, too. There is also no 'official' vs 'non-official' line in the sand as you imply, all content is up to the DM ultimately, but otherwise it's fair game. Actual 'optional' content like that in UE is very clearly signposted as such. In this case you're reading an optional 'the DM may' and using it to nix the entire RAW ability. An actual argument against it would have been that SS is 3e, not 3.5e. Downvoted. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 12:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Lycanthrope doesn't automatically change your alignment, and for certain groups, being Evil doesn't mean that your character is an NPC. That is a completely non-standard attitude that I have only experienced once in years of gaming. It is also a houserule. Dragon Disciple gives you the template, via a class feature. You gain the template, LA and all. That is what that ability does, and if in your game it doesn't, that is a houserule. Please do not represent houserules as RAW. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 13:23
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, your title implies that the rules do not allow templates to be added to characters during play at all. Please amend it to state your actual belief, which is that 'in core there are no templates that a PC can take after character creation without becoming an NPC'. The two things are very different. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 13:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .