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Basic Rules


Home > Classes > Template Classes > Gaining A Template Mid-Campaign

Gaining A Template Mid-Campaign

The D&D game offers a very powerful tool for customizing characters and monsters: templates. Who hasn't wanted to play a half-dragon, werewolf, or vampire? Templates make it easy to create such a character, and the Monster Manual provides a level adjustment for most templates that tells the Dungeon Master approximately what level of power a templated character has. With this information, the DM can decide whether an incoming character with that template is too powerful or too weak to join an existing adventuring party.

But what if an established character gains a template in the middle of the campaign? Many of the templates presented in the Monster Manual are acquired, which means a character can gain them during the course of a game. What happens when your 10th-level ranger is attacked by a lycanthrope, gains the wereboar template, and thereby jumps from ECL 10 to ECL 12? Suddenly your ranger is more powerful than the other PCs, and balancing encounters becomes much more difficult for the DM. An encounter that's challenging for the ranger's allies is easy for him, and one that's challenging for him can be deadly for his allies. Such an imbalance can also make the other players jealous or resentful of the templated character. Fortunately, there is a solution.

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.

This series of articles will cover all the templates presented in the Monster Manual -- inherited as well as acquired. After all, cases might also arise in which inherited templates, which are meant to be present from a character's birth, could nevertheless be acquired midgame. For example, a fighter might submit to a magical process that imbues him with the essence of a dragon, thereby allowing him to gain levels in the half-dragon template class of his choice. Or a cleric could perform a quest for his church in order to gain levels in the celestial template class. The same balance problems can occur in cases like these, since inherited templates also have level adjustments, so the same process is applicable.

General Rules for Template Classes

The following rules apply to the "class version" of any template.

  • A character may take a level in a template class as long as the DM approves and the character has earned enough XP to gain a level.
  • The DM may wish to require an appropriate ceremony, quest, ritual, or experience before allowing a character to gain levels in an inherited template class. This same option also applies if a character wants to gain levels in an acquired template class without the appropriate trigger (such as an attack by a wereboar to acquire the afflicted wereboar template).
  • Template classes follow the normal rules for template acquisition according to creature type. For example, the wereboar template can be added only to a humanoid or giant. Thus, a half-dragon character (whose inherited template has already changed his type to dragon) could not take levels in the wereboar class.
  • Unlike the regular template rules as given in the Monster Manual (see Adding More Than One Template, Monster Manual page 293), this variant rules system allows a character to gain levels in a desired inherited template class after gaining levels in an acquired template, if desired. (In effect, these rules turn all inherited templates into acquired templates that have special circumstances for acquisition later in a character's life.)
  • The DM should disallow certain redundant combinations of monsters and templates. For example, it makes no sense for a hound archon to gain the celestial or half-celestial template, since it is already a kind of celestial.
  • A character cannot take levels in a template class if she already has that template or has taken all the levels in that template class. For example, a natural wereboar (a character who already has "wereboar" as an inherited template) cannot take levels in the wereboar template class.
  • Characters are not required to complete all the levels of a given template class in uninterrupted succession. For example, a character who takes a level of wereboar could then take a level of fighter and a level of rogue (or any other combination of other class levels) before taking another level of wereboar. A character must still take the first level of wereboar before taking the second, just as with a normal class.
  • Each level in a template class increases the character's level adjustment by +1, just as would a level of any other character class.
  • Template class levels can be lost due to any effect or circumstance that would normally cause a character to lose a level.
  • Levels in a template class do not count when determining whether a character takes an XP penalty for multiclassing.
  • In some cases, a certain monster ability presented in the Monster Manual for a given template is split over two or more class levels in a template class (often by limiting how often an ability can be used at the start). Alternatively, variant abilities may be introduced to build toward an ability that is too powerful for a lower-level character. In these situations, the template class features section explains how the ability works at each level. By the time a character has acquired all possible levels in a template class, the completed set of abilities relating to that particular function works exactly like the normal ability described in the Monster Manual.
    In the vampire template class presented below, the template class has abilities called alternate form (lesser) and alternate form (greater). The description of the alternate form ability given in the class description explains that the vampire initially has access to only two of the vampire's normal alternate forms (bat and wolf) but will eventually be able to assume the other two forms (dire bat and dire wolf), as described in the Monster Manual.
    In the vampire template class, the character slowly becomes more resistant to critical hits and sneak attacks via the fortification armor special ability. This ability thread culminates in immunity to those attack types once the creature finally gains the undead type. At that point, the fortification ability becomes redundant and can be ignored, and the vampire built with all levels of the template class works exactly like one built with the Monster Manual template.
  • Unlike standard character classes (and the "monster classes" from Savage Species), most template classes do not increase Hit Dice, base attack bonus, base saving throw bonuses, or skill points with level. They also do not affect when a character acquires feats, since feat acquisition is based on HD, not ECL. However, some of these aspects of the character can be affected indirectly by alterations in Hit Die type, ability score changes, special attacks or qualities, bonus feats, and so on.



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Last updated Sept, 2004