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In my current campaign we work with story based leveling. Our dear catfolk druid (effective level = 3+1 LA) has died and we used reincarnate to bring her back to life as an elf. We have not yet decided how this will affect her level.

Information:

  1. You lose a level from reincarnate
  2. The druid lost an effective character level by changing race
  3. The druid won't necessarily gain xp faster due to story based leveling

I would like to ask "what would you guys do?", but that is way to opinion based I'm afraid. So I think I will formulate my question as "How does reincarnate work with level adjustment races?". Answers can take the information provided in account, but this is not essential.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In your story-based leveling house rules, do PCs still gain XP or do the house rules completely remove the entire XP concept? Further, how do your house rules deal with other forms of level loss, for example, like a vampire's energy draining slam attack? (Really, if the house rules are of a reasonable length, it might be useful to reproduce them here.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 10 '16 at 12:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ In short, we level once we have reached the next part in the story. This is the first time using story-based leveling for both us as players and our DM. I don't know if the DM has prepared rules for xp usage. Thusfar we were to low level to be concerned about it, but than a player died while we got a salve of reincarnate. Because of this uncertainty I focused on the reincarnate LA races. \$\endgroup\$ – Me_Maikey Apr 10 '16 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just so I can get a feel for the question's purpose, are you asking so that you can voice alternatives when your DM finally determines his house rules, or will players, like, vote on what the house rules will be, or are you asking on the DM's behalf for answers to develop new house rules or share their own house rules, the most palatable of which will be used in the campaign? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 10 '16 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Foremost it is asking on behalf of the DM. He will have to decide, but player input is always welcome if it is a valid point. Secondly I personally would like to know how to handle LA and reincarnate, RAW or homebrew does not matter. \$\endgroup\$ – Me_Maikey Apr 10 '16 at 20:49
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First, the usual rules: LA is included in ECL when calculating XP. The catfolk druid, therefore, had at least 6,000 XP to have ECL 4th (druid 3rd +1 LA), and loses a level from reincarnate. When you lose a level, you go down to halfway between the previous level and the level lost, so 4,500 XP. His race also changed and he loses the LA +1, so 4,500 XP is enough to keep his 3rd level of druid.

From there, the XP rules would have the druid about half a level behind, and he would gradually catch up as the group levels since he would get more XP than those who are higher level. So initially he is 3rd-level, and they are 4th. Eventually, he levels up to 4th, so the whole party is at 4th for a while, but then they level up to 5th before he does, so he is a level behind for a while again. This repeats for each level for several levels, but each time the amount of time the druid spends a level behind shrinks. Eventually, it disappears altogether and the party is all at the same level.

Now, story-based leveling: the DM would have to find decent “halfway points” between the rest of the party’s leveling and the druid leveling. Moreover, these “halfway points” would have to slide, so that at higher levels the druid’s delayed level-up occurs sooner and sooner after the rest of the party—less “half” way, and more like a third of the way, a quarter of the way, etc. Eventually, the delay should disappear entirely, and the party should all be on the same level now.

But personally, this is not what I do, and I always use story-based leveling. What I do is eliminate split-level situations altogether. LA is rarely used in my games; I usually try to develop an LA-less solution to letting the player play as a given thing. And resurrection abilities don't reduce anyone's level. As a result, I don't have to worry about any of this.

And I do that because I think all of these mechanics are atrocious. They result in a lot of headaches and extra work for the DM, and a lot of frustration and annoyance for the players. It makes it much more difficult for everyone to participate. Moreover, particularly in a story-based game, punishment for death is unnecessary: dying (and temporarily being unable to play) is the “punishment.” As @anaximander said in a comment,

In some games, the punishment for dying is that you died. In games that use story-based levelling, there's often a heavier emphasis on story (obviously), so players can get quite attached to their characters. When that character dies, it's sufficient punishment that the player loses the character they love, cutting off any story they had planned for them, and that the rest of the party has to deal with that. Adding extra penalties in the form of XP loss etc. is just kicking them when they're down.

This remains true even if the PC gets resurrected, because resurrection itself is not free. How difficult it is to get, how much the PCs have to shell out to get it, these things are appropriate ways to control how much death “matters” in character (and I have played in and run games that run the gamut from “resurrection is just flat-out unavailable,” to “you resurrect instantly and for free at the end of the fight,” the last in a Diablo II-themed game).

So I recommend actually letting the druid level up from this, since the LA +1 is being removed, and making him 4th level like the rest of the party. Then you never have to worry about these problems again.

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    \$\begingroup\$ No punishment for dying? Are you mad, sir? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 10 '16 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ (I know the above comment was in jest, but for completeness...) In some games, the punishment for dying is that you died. In games that use story-based levelling, there's often a heavier emphasis on story (obviously), so players can get quite attached to their characters. When that character dies, it's sufficient punishment that the player loses the character they love, cutting off any story they had planned for them, and that the rest of the party has to deal with that. Adding extra penalties in the form of XP loss etc. is just kicking them when they're down. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Apr 11 '16 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @anaximander Something like that would make a good introduction to this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '16 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @anaximander except in D&D, where resurrection is cheap. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Apr 12 '16 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel It can be, but depending on setting, party makeup, and houserules, it might not be. Even when it is available, dying is often a traumatic experience for a character. In a beer-and-pretzels dungeon crawl that's not important, but in a heavily story-driven game it can have all sorts of effects. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Apr 12 '16 at 18:20
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As I already asked some time ago, when you lose a level you actually have your XP set at midway of your last levelup.

Had you been level 4, this means 4500 XP.

This includes your ECL. Your effective character level, used for all things related to gaining (and losing) levels is 4, as your XP quota tells you when confronted with the levelup table (which I can't repost, because it's not in the SRD).

You are a fourth level character, despite having only three character levels, and you should become a level 3 elf after being resurrected (actually, a level 3.5 elf).

My suggestion on how to port this to a XPless levelup is to decide a point, roughly midways from now and when the group levelup is supposed to be, to bring the character back in line with the others.

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It is in keeping with the typical D&D approach to level loss for an under-level character to gradually catch up to their compatriots.

If you would kindly open your Dungeon Master's Guide 3.5 to page 38 (in the English printing), you'll find table 2.6: Experience Points Rewards, wherein you'll see that a lower-level character overcoming a difficult challenge is rewarded with a greater number of experience points than one of nominal power. This has the effect, in a game with quantified EXP, of placing a party of inconsistently-leveled characters on a path towards gentle convergence.

Your DM is already using rules divergent with the usual expectations, so you need a suggestion instead of a RAW citation. This is mine: Anybody who is underleveled compared to the rest of the party should earn levels at twice the rate.

So, your compatriot will sustain a resurrection-based level loss. They'll spend a period of the adventure in this state until the next time the party levels-up, at which point they'll earn two levels and rocket back up into parity. At your DM's leisure, this rate of double-advancement could be implemented with interim level awards that do not apply to the rest of the party. So, halfway between now and the next time the entire party earns a level, the former-Catfolk player could gain a makeup level and be in-line with everyone else in time for the upcoming party-wide level advancement.

If Level Adjustment continues to play a role in your game (perhaps due to further reincarnation), you may be interested in the rules for buying it off. Under such rules, the increasingly marginal utility of race with Level-Adjustment is gradually sublimated into the character's ordinary class levels. Ordinarily, this places a character on similar footing with one who has sustained level-loss; for example, in a game with LA-buyoff and quantified EXP, you Catfolk companion may have already spent EXP that would have otherwise gone towards further levels to reduce their LA and start accruing EXP at a rate that would eventually put them at the same number of class levels as everybody else. To reconcile such LA reduction with story-based level advancement, your DM could award makeup levels after such point that a character with LA was eligible to reduce it. For example, your Catfolk companion might have reached level 3+1 at the same time everyone else got to level 4, but would then be entitled to earn level 4 and catch up in time to enjoy level 5 at the same time as everyone else.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ All right, except (IMHO) ECL not counting towards your level before death. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Apr 10 '16 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Elaborate. What do you mean by ECL not counting towards your level before death? You mean to say that the ECL of 4 should be reduced, ultimately, to a constant ECL of 3? Then what happens to a character whose LA was +2 instead of +1; is it your expectation that they would gain a class level out of the deal? \$\endgroup\$ – Eikre Apr 10 '16 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly. They would gain a class level (while losing racial benefits worth 2 levels, and probably well worth it if the player chose them). \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Apr 10 '16 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can construe of an order of operations where the loss of the LA and the reduction of hitdice occurs at the same time, thereby setting the new experience total without benefiting from either the additional LA nor the new HD from having lost the LA... but the truth is that I don't particularly care to endorse such an interpretation. I believe I will fall in line with your position. \$\endgroup\$ – Eikre Apr 10 '16 at 20:12

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