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
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
General Rules for Template Classes
The following rules apply to the "class version" of any
- 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
- 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.
Example: 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.
Example: 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.