The Races of Stone dwarf cleric substitution level at 1st level grants the dwarf cleric the supernatural ability smite giants, yet the ability's description concludes with this sentence: "This substitution benefit replaces the standard cleric’s ability to turn or rebuke undead" (146).

But why include that sentence? Races of Stone on Racial Substitution Levels just told the reader, "When you take a substitution level for your class at a given level, you give up the benefits gained at that level for the standard class, and you get the substitution level benefits instead" (145), so the dwarf cleric was already getting only the supernatural ability smite giants and spellcasting (i.e. "Unless… noted…, a character who takes a racial substitution level gains spellcasting ability… as if he had taken this level in the standard class" (146)). The dwarf cleric wasn't ever going to get turn or rebuke undead… nor cleric weapon and armor proficiencies, spontaneous casting, domains, or even a patron deity or concept!

As a further example, the goliath barbarian substitution level at 1st level grants the goliath barbarian the extraordinary ability mountain rage, but the goliath barbarian substitution level doesn't grant the poor level 1 goliath barbarian any weapon proficiencies.

Assuming they're incomplete, is it up to the DM to determine what they should say and how incomplete they are? Or is there a guide in a later or different book that better describes what, exactly, is carried over from a parent class when a creature takes a substitution level? Or is there a different answer than either of these?

Note: Went changeling. Went rogue 1. (K-2SO Forever!) Took Racial Emulation. Killed monsters. Advanced a level. Took the barbarian substitution level goliath barbarian 1. Wanted barbarian weapon proficiencies. Asked question. Hasn't happened yet but it soon could.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of the sub levels I've just spot-checked work if you assume they only replace things that appear on the class table (which doesn't include proficiencies). But there's absolutely no indication in the rules that this should be the case, so I'm reluctant to post it as an answer, since I think from a RAW perspective it's probably wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – A_S00
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 I know, right! That's exactly what's bugging me. The rules say ditch everything then don't define everything. (The level 1 changeling rogue substitution level (RE 122) even goes out of its way to rejigger the rogue's class skills, although in that case at least things are a little clearer.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI: Upon further reading, the question's Note sadly doesn't work. The feat Racial Emulation (Races of Eberron 110-1) only allows the changeling to count as a humanoid not a monstrous humanoid like a tibbit or a goliath. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 0:34

1 Answer 1


Weapon and armour proficiencies are not features of the first level of a class. They are an inherent property of the class which you get if you have any levels in it. Similarly the spontaneous spellcasting, domain spells, etc are not first level cleric class features; they are properties of the cleric's overall spellcasting ability, which it is explicitly noted the cleric would get as usual.

For the "the benefits gained at that level for the standard class", you should be reading the benefits listed on the class's advancement table for that level. If it's not listed on that table, it is not an ability which is dependent on a particular level of the class, and it's not affected by a substitution level unless explicitly called out. For the cleric, the first level benefits are simply:

  • BAB +0
  • Fort +2
  • Ref +0
  • Will +2
  • Turn/Rebuke Undead
  • some spells per day

Apart from spells per day, which is explicitly kept as if taking a normal cleric level, you just replace those qualities with the ones listed for the substitution level - in the cleric case, functionally just replacing Turn/Rebuke Undead with Smite Giants.

For the character mentioned in your note, they would get normal barbarian weapon proficiencies because those are a general feature of the barbarian class, not a benefit specifically granted at or by any particular level.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are there sources that support this reading? (Not my downvote, by the way. I suspect that the answer's probably on track, but, as per the question, supplying textual references would make the answer far stronger.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 10:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately I don't know any sources that would explicitly confirm it, but the intent seems clear, and it would be a bit ridiculous in the ways that you have pointed out for it to work differently. Are there any published adventures with NPCs using substitution levels? Maybe their stat blocks could be examined to infer the reading. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 11:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I know some of the changelings in Races of Eberron have changeling rogue substitution levels, but I haven't dissected those NPCs to see how they're made, and I fear doing so might be a waste, what with Wizards of the Coast's NPCs with class levels being, on the whole, poorly constructed, rule-breaking-and-ignoring steaming piles. Nonetheless, I support anyone willing to wade in! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 11:41

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