View Full Version : Using NPC classes for level adjustment in 3.5/Pathfinder

2012-09-23, 03:28 PM
So a while back an idea occurred to me for doing level adjustment.

Characters who are playing as a more powerful species than a human need to sacrifice something to be balanced with other characters. Pathfinder did away with level adjustment because it didn't scale well with level (which was kludged with XP buy-off at high levels). Even the Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide has ended up using level adjustment with XP buy-off. Ultimately it seems that the entire idea of sacrificing character levels to balance race is flawed.

Another option, which some forum members are already homebrewing, would to make each monster race a 2-8 level class that the PC has to take before he can take any levels in a PC class. However, that requires a lot of homebrewing and customization for each class. Such classes also cause problems because they discourage certain character builds (through lack of caster progression, or less-than-full BAB). This idea I have would fit everything.

What if instead of giving monster PCs dead levels to balance them, you require them to choose levels in the underpowered NPC classes instead? I believe that it would be balanced to let a monster PC take twice its LA in NPC classes. If you're using the Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide, that would be one level in an NPC class for every 5 RP above the party's level.

The only downside I see is that these monsters PCs will still be a bit overpowered until they have taken all of their NPC levels. (Perhaps you could give them a permanent negative level for every 2 NPC class levels remaining to make up the difference, to represent them being unskilled or young.)

Commoner: Needs to be changed. Since an adventuring commoner would probably fall into the "action survivor" role, I think giving them all good saves would be appropriate. That would encourage players to take a one- or two-level dip in the class for the massive saving throw bonuses (most build guides I've seen recommend Iron Will and the like).

Warrior: Gives proficiencies and full BAB, but no feats. Characters who want to play martial classes don't lose out on their to-hit and iterative attack progression but fall behind on their class features in exchange for racial abilities. Could also be a popular choice for rogues to improve their combat ability.

Expert: Gives lots of skill points. Useful for rogues and similar classes because they can remain useful to the party as skill monkeys, party faces, and doing stealthy stuff. The only real downside is losing out on sneak attack progression, which is only 3.5 damage per 2 levels (I'm sure that 10 RP of racial abilities can make up for that in utility). Besides, rogues aren't really meant to be combat all-stars anyways, their focus is what they can do outside of combat. Also useful for players who like skills (most games I've run, the martial characters always have 3+ non-combat skills).

Adept: Needs to be changed. It's fine as-is, but it would be helpful to dedicated casters if they could choose to swap out theier adept casting to add their adept level to the caster level of their PC class (similar to the Practiced Spellcaster feat, granting caster level but not additional spell levels or spell slots). It would also be nice to be able to swap out the summon familiar ability to make it add to your effective level for key class features like the wizard's arcane bond, bardic music rounds per day, cleric domain powers, druid animal companion, sorcerer bloodline powers, or psion discipline powers. You could even replace the summon familiar ability with those class features, but that would require the PC to decide ahead of time what their first PC level is going to be.

Aristocrat: Gives a balance of skill points and weapon proficiencies. I imagine that many characters would only take a level or two in this and then multiclass into warrior or expert. Perhaps you could incentivize players to take more levels if you let aristocrat class levels count as doubled for the purpose of the Leadership feat.

It would even be interesting to run a campaign where you allow all of the players (even those with LA +0 races) to take 1 free level in an NPC class alongside their first normal level. Does this all seem balanced?