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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    At the request of tjwitz, I'm posting up the rules for zero-levelling, an optional gestalting system originally created by Aelyrinth of the Monte Cook boards. The threads which originally held this information dissapeared in the ezCrash.

    I do not claim creation of any part of this. It is entirely the creation of Aelyrinth. I am merely paraphrasing the rules from memory.

    Zero Levelling
    Zero-levelling is a way to represent side-training that your character may engage in without taking away from his primary training. A Fighter may want to research a bit of magic without neglecting his combat skills, or a Wizard may want to learn how to hit those vital areas on creatures without slowing down his magical growth.

    Ordinarily you must take levels in other classes to represent this. However, that indicates that you are pursuing that area of learning with the dedication you normally reserve for your primary vocation, and completely ignoring your standard training for a while. The zero-levelling mechanic allows you to train in other things without detracting from your growth in your primary class.

    Zero-levelling presumes that you look at ordinary levelling up as 'buying' a level, rather than simply hitting a predefined XP total. That is, you spend 4k XP to buy your fifth level, rather than simply reaching 10k total XP.

    Essentially, you can spend XP to buy gestalt levels in classes. Because there is an inherent cost, this 'gestalt' is no more powerful than a normal character.

    Buying a zero-level costs the same as buying your next character level would. If you are level 6, your next character level is 6k. Thus, any zero-levels you buy while you are level 6 cost 6k as well. This is the same whether you are buying your first zero-level in a class or the third.

    You may only buy a number of zero-levels in each class equal to half of your character level. There is no limit to how many different classes you can zero-level in at one time, however.

    You may also zero-level in Prestige Classes. However, a prestige class represents dedication to a particular thing, and so is harder to train as a side project. You may buy a number of zero levels in a PrC equal to (character level - 10)/2. This means that you can't zero-level in a PrC until level 12, at the earliest. As with base classes, you may zero-level in any number of PrCs at one time.

    Benefits of zero-levelling

    Zero-levelling confers benefits similar to gestalt classes. Compare levels from your main class with the equivalant levels in all zero-levelled classes. For example, if you take your first zero-level of Fighter you compare it with your first level in your main class (and the first level of all other zero-levelled classes you may have).

    In the case that you increase your HD due to this, increase your total HP by the difference in the average values of the die. A wizard zero-levelling in fighter would gain 3HP when his d4 is replaced by a d10. If his HP was originally 12, the first zero-level of Fighter increases it to 15. If he then zero-levelled in Barbarian, his d10 is replaced by a d12, and his HP increases to 16.

    For BAB and saves, it is best to think of each class' bonus not as a total number, but as a discrete increase at each level. So, for example, the Wizard class would have a +2 to will saves at first level and a +1 to will saves at second. At third level it would have a +1 to Fort and Ref but a +0 to Will (since Will does not increase that level).

    Thinking about it this way, simply use the best value for BAB and save increases among all of your classes. A Wiz6 who took three zero-levels of Fighter would have a BAB of +5, a Fort and Will of +6, and a Ref of +2. The Wizard's BAB increase would be replaced by the Fighters and levels 1 and 3 because the Fighter receives a +1 at those levels but the Wizard receives a +0. Wizard's Will save increase at level 3 is replaced by the Fighter's, because level 3 has no increase on the Good progression, but it does in the Poor progression.

    If zero-levelling in a PrC, compare the first zero-level of the PrC with the 11th level of your main class instead of the first level for the purpose of determing BAB, HD, and saves. You may zero-level in a base class as if it were a PrC by using the PrC zero-levelling rules; if you do so then compare it with the 11th level of your main class as well.

    You gain skill points from zero-levelling as if you had actually levelled in the class. Zero-levelling in Bard gives you 6+Int skill points, even if your primary class is Rogue.

    You gain all class abilities from your zero-levels appropriate to their level. For example, the first zero-level of Fighter grants a Fighter bonus feat, and the first zero-level of Ranger grants FE, Track, and Wild Empathy. However, if more than one class (among your main classes or any zero-levelled classes) grants the same ability, and that ability has a progression, do not grant the ability twice. Simply use the best progression of the ability among all classes with the ability. For example, a high-level Fighter who zero-levels in both Rogue and Arcane Trickster does not gain Sneak Attack from both classes, but only the highest value of Sneak Attack among them. Similarly, a Wizard who zero-levels in Sorcerer does not increase his caster level, as his Wizard levels grant him a greater value for it. However, he would gain spell slots and spells per day as a Sorcerer, as this is a different mechanic than wizard spell slots. The GM may need to adjudicate this on a case-by-case basis.

    Finally, at every fourth level a character gains in a specific zero-levelled class, he gains a bonus feat similar to the bonus feat he gains every 3 normal levels. As well, at every fifth level a character gains in a specific zero-levelled class, he gains a +1 stat increase similar to the stat increase he gains every 4 normal levels.

    And that's about it. My description is probably pretty confusing, and I apologize for that. It's actually extraordinarily simple once you actually start working with it.

    Probably the best benefit of it is that it creates much more well-rounded characters without making them too much more powerful, and it does so with a true, fairly balanced cost mechanic. And most importantly, it slows down levelling! Now you have a *reason* why it actually takes many, many years to reach high-levels. You spend a lot of your time training to make yourself well-rounded, rather than a one-trick, no-zero-levels pony!



    Some final notes: Aelyrinth uses what he termed the 'Karmic Ceiling' to prevent characters from exceeding level 20. Haxan was populated with many level 20 personalities, and the Karmic Ceiling prevents them from being Epic game-wreckers that totally overshadow the PCs. Basically, you can't begin taking Epic levels until you complete an Epic quest. Most people, even if they've reached level 20 through an exciting adventuring career, will never accomplish this (or want to, since the Quest is extremely lethal by its nature). Instead, they broaden out and spend their XP on zero-levelling. Thus, you can have powerful people in the world who have been fighting and adventuring forever, but aren't much more powerful than your average level 20 character. They've just gained a lot of breadth in their abilities.
    D&D, as run by Jackson Pollock&&&&DM: You get attacked by a frongjdojk! &&Player: What? &&DM: Orc attack! Fireball! Sword +3! &&Player: Wait, what? &&DM: Levels for everybody! Lich! Handle animal check!&&~Inspired by Lysander&&&&~Avatar by idksocrates

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Interesting system. My main mechanical question (which may not have a definitive answer, but we can discuss it ;D) is how this system would affect XP awards. A Wiz4 with two zero levels each in cleric, fighter, monk and rogue may have spent 34,000 XP total on levels (enough to get halfway to 10th level if focused on a single class), but is he still expected to face only CR4 challenges, and earn XP as a 4th level character? Or does he have to face down frost giants and adult red dragons with his grab-bag of low-level spells and starting feats? Neither solution seems entirely fair, but rules to find an appropriate middle ground aren't apparent either. Thoughts on this?
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    This sounds like level-dipping hell, really.... a neat idea, but far too easy to powergame.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    I use a similar system in my games (More true to 2nd ed multiclassing). To keep players from merely dipping, I simply adjusted the multiclassing rules a bit.
    **** the RAW

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Eldersphinx: Treat him as a fourth level character, or slightly higher. Zero-levelling makes one only slightly more powerful than your main levels would imply; the main benefit is in versatility.

    The most important consideration is that a highly-zero levelled character will never have more HP than a Barbarian, or more BAB than a Fighter, or higher saves than a monk (this is actually slightly untrue, as zero-levelling can cause saves to exceed Good progression). So, though he has lots of abilities, his actual power is not a significant amount higher than a character with no zero-levels at all. He can die just as easily a normal character.

    Mr. Nexx:

    Level-dipping is the entire point, really. You take your main levels in the class you really want, then zero-level in things that have abilities that you like.

    The difference is that level-dipping with only main levels usually produces a very fractured character concept. Rather than being, say, a cleric who's had lots of experience and varied training, you end up with somebody who has Bard-syndrome. He's not good at anything, really. This is *especially* true of spellcasters.

    Zero-levelling lets someone represent that extra training and such without fracturing their basic character concept. They can still be a cleric, first and foremost, but they've also had some slight training in Ranger and Barb, or whatever.

    The system as a whole isn't designed with balance in mind, but it tends to remain fairly balanced. I believe it works best when implementing training rules, but that's up to each individual DM.

    Aelyrinth used training rules explicitly. You couldn't level without finding a trainer in what you're wanting. However, you were allowed to take your first zero-level in a class without training (reprenting sudden inspiration). So, if you adventured for a while without coming on anyone who could train you in your main class, you could sink your extra XP into a new class or two.
    D&D, as run by Jackson Pollock&&&&DM: You get attacked by a frongjdojk! &&Player: What? &&DM: Orc attack! Fireball! Sword +3! &&Player: Wait, what? &&DM: Levels for everybody! Lich! Handle animal check!&&~Inspired by Lysander&&&&~Avatar by idksocrates

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    This is an OLD thread that I found while looking for opinions on gestalt characters. I'm totally resurrecting it to get some feedback. The system here is *very* interesting, in my opinion, and accurately reflects a crucial concept in gaming: synergy.

    (Note that I'm going to avoid talking about PrCs here, since their purpose is to add abilities to an existing, levelled character.)

    Simply put, level-dipping does not really encourage synergy in the RAW. Taking a level in Monk, for example, is a popular choice because of the WIS bonus to AC, etc. A second level in Monk gets you Evasion, also a highly sought-after feat. However, each base class in D&D is designed to work with itself. Abilities gained stack upon abilities gained in such a way that they harmonize and complement each other, and not get in each others' way. A Monk's abilities make sense if you play as the Monk was designed to be played, but not if you play as a caster.

    On the other hand, gestalt games have a different problem -- class abilities don't match up well between classes. A Monk/Wizard is great in some ways, but there's a fundamental mis-match: the monk abilities makes your character want to be on the front line and hitting an awful lot, but your Wizard abilities make you want to stay back and do crowd control, for example. And a Monk/Wizard is a decent mix, compared to others. Paladin/Wizard? I think not.

    My opinion is that gestalt rules allow for ability mixing, but rarely do they mesh playstyles together in a synergistic way. Level-dipping, as you would expect, is far far worse, in that you frequently lose power compared to an equal-ECL pure class character (doubly true for spellcasters). But mostly, I consider zero-levelling a far more effective device for roleplaying (as opposed to roll-playing) characters who want to attain a breadth of capabilities. A Bard 6/Warlock 1 is far different from a Bard 6 who has zero-levelled one level of Warlock in those terms.

    Feel free to disagree with me, of course. That's the point of the forums! I would very much enjoy to be convinced that I'm wrong!
    Last edited by warbacon; 2006-12-21 at 01:23 AM. Reason: quick fixes

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    This sounds like a good system, but what do you do in the case of zero-leveling in a class with multiclassing restrictions (Monk, Paladin, etc.)?

    Also, the classes could give you the ability to enter a PrC much earlier than what was intended, especially for PrCs which require features or good scores (BAB/Saves) from two classes, such as any of the Gish classes. Would this be a balance issue?
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Well not in terms of total experience spent. You have to spend a LOT of experience to get those zero-levels so in that regard its balanced. But even more so, balanced is something that changes from game to game, what could be balanced in one campaign is extremely weak in another and overly powerful again in the next. If you are gonna allow this kind of stuff turn up the difficulty until you find the right fit for your party imo.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Quote Originally Posted by Daracaex View Post
    This sounds like a good system, but what do you do in the case of zero-leveling in a class with multiclassing restrictions (Monk, Paladin, etc.)?
    Naturally, alignment restrictions stay the same. You can't zero-level in Rogue if you're a Paladin.

    From the d20 SRD:
    A monk who becomes nonlawful cannot gain new levels as a monk but retains all monk abilities.
    Like a member of any other class, a monk may be a multiclass character, but multiclass monks face a special restriction. A monk who gains a new class or (if already multiclass) raises another class by a level may never again raise her monk level, though she retains all her monk abilities.
    The first statement is a non-issue. Alignment functions as normal.

    Monks cannot level again as a Monk if they have gained a level in another class. You could argue that zero-levels should count as "raises another class by a level" but I would argue the opposite. The purpose of the above rule is to bar a PC from level-mixing in a class which requires continued dedication in RP terms. Zero-levelling represents a widening of skill sets without changing the main focus of your character. They are not true level gains as defined in the RAW, nor are they gained in the same manner. You are still a Monk the entire time (remember that you cannot zero-level more than half of your HD). This issue is indirectly address in the previous posts by Xanthir, I think.


    Quote Originally Posted by Daracaex View Post
    Also, the classes could give you the ability to enter a PrC much earlier than what was intended, especially for PrCs which require features or good scores (BAB/Saves) from two classes, such as any of the Gish classes. Would this be a balance issue?
    Not so much since you have to buy your zero-levels with XP. Indeed, the purpose of this system is not to stay balanced in a standard D&D, but rather to provide an alternative to Gestalt while putting the control in the players' hands. Zero-levelling isn't gestalt nor is it a standard D&D progression. It's something in the middle, in a way. As a side note, PrCs are a problem with gestalt games as well, since a number of them meld the abilities of two classes together (Arcane Trickster, Mystic Theurge, etc).

    I'll close with:
    Quote Originally Posted by Xanthir
    The system as a whole isn't designed with balance in mind, but it tends to remain fairly balanced. I believe it works best when implementing training rules, but that's up to each individual DM.

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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    So, if I had a lv.6 fighter and wanted to 0-lv. in monk, I could take up to three levels in monk, then I could never progress in monk again? But if monk was my main class, I could 0-lv. all I want and it wouldn't affect me?
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Hrmmm ... I think ya got me there.

    I would say that special multi-classing rules don't apply for zero-levelled classes. To be honest, I brought this thread back from the dead because I wanted to see you guys try and break it.

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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Allow me to say... ROGUES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY(in 3.5). Rogues in 3.5 do not have any alignment descriptions. In fact, a paladin/rogue is required I believe for a certain PrC.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Quote Originally Posted by NullAshton View Post
    Allow me to say... ROGUES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY(in 3.5). Rogues in 3.5 do not have any alignment descriptions. In fact, a paladin/rogue is required I believe for a certain PrC.
    Huh wha? What's this in reference to?

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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Quote Originally Posted by warbacon View Post
    Huh wha? What's this in reference to?
    Let's see... Complete Divine? No... Complete Adventurer... Ah! Here we go! The Shadowbane Stalker PrC. Page 70 of Complete Adventurer. Requires Lawfull good alignment, Detect evil as class ability or spell, and sneak attack.

    There's also it's partner, the Shadowbane Inquisitor, just before it which has pretty much the same recuirements, but also has +5 BAB tacked on. This one is a little more focused on the paladin side of the relationship.
    Last edited by Daracaex; 2006-12-22 at 03:41 AM.
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    Quote Originally Posted by Xanthir View Post
    Eldersphinx: Treat him as a fourth level character, or slightly higher. Zero-levelling makes one only slightly more powerful than your main levels would imply; the main benefit is in versatility.
    How do you handle CR if some of your players 0-level and some don't? The example above had a WIZ 4 with enough XP to be LVL 10. So you could have a party with PC's everywhere from 4-10...
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Zero-levelling -- An alternative gestalt rule

    I personally dislike any rules or character options in which the characters spend XP for anything. They work fine in a small campaign, but if you play in a larger campaign where players might have multiple active characters in the campaign then anything that causes them to lose XP, spend XP or gain less XP becomes a benefit and not a penalty.

    The reason being is that the character earns, spends, blows, or loses XP, but just keeps getting gold and treasure and ends up WAY more powerful than other characters at the same level. Even doubly so if the character is doing something with his XP that makes the character more effective (buying off level adjusts, making magic items, zero-leveling, etc).
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