[RPG] n equivalent to Level Adjustment (LA) in 5e


I've just been looking into 3.5e and noticed it had LA (level adjustment) and was wondering if there was something similar in 5e?

Best Answer

Nothing similar exists as of yet

That’s just a simple statement of fact. There is no way to prove a negative, but it is the case.

It’s worth noting that 5e does have “monstrous” races, that have LA in D&D 3.5e, and doesn’t use LA or anything like it for them. Instead, 5e recreates those creatures as player races, no adjustment necessary.1 Thus, there is evidence to suggest that Wizards of the Coast either has no interest in providing more powerful creatures, or at the very least has not yet determined a satisfactory way to do so.

Which brings me to my next point:

Whatever they come up with almost-certainly won’t be LA

Because the level adjustment system of D&D 3.5e worked atrociously. Almost every single creature with LA in all of 3.5 (and there must be literally thousands of those) is basically unplayably crippled by it. There are maybe a handful of, as in approximately five, exceptions (and those are arguably overpowered instead).

This is because LA meant you were a lower level than the rest of the party, which meant your everything was worse than the rest of the party. Your monstrous abilities basically never made up for that fact: even if you could do super-cool stuff as a vampire or dragon or whatever, the fact that you had literally one-third the hit points of everyone else meant you were nothing more than a liability.

Wizards of the Coast recognized this fact, and tried numerous ideas for fixing it:

  • Unearthed Arcana offered rules for “buying off” LA so you could get rid of LA later in the game, when the abilities you gained originally are no longer worth being behind by one or more levels.

  • Savage Species offered savage progressions that allowed you to gain LA gradually, and in some cases, avoid LA altogether.

  • Templates with LA were given out as benefits of prestige classes, so that you could have them without taking the LA. This literally started right in Dungeon Master’s Guide with the dragon disciple, and continued through many books: dread necromancer from Heroes of Horror, walker in the wastes from Sandstorm, etc.

  • Later on, they just kind of gave up and recreated various options in with less LA, to make them more playable. Player’s Guide to Faerûn had “lesser” planetouched without LA. Races of the Dragon added the LA +0 dragonborn and spellscale races, as well as the LA +1 draconic creature template, for easier ways to play as a partial dragon without having to take the LA +3 of the half-dragon template. Libris Mortis printed the necropolitan, a no-frills playable undead template that was LA +0 (and cost a level to take, so it was like an LA +1 template that you immediately “bought off” à la Unearthed Arcana).

So Wizards of the Coast never seemed satisfied with level adjustment, and it did not reappear in D&D 4e. It is unlikely to do so in D&D 5e.

  1. Volo’s Guide to Monsters does point out that they are not necessarily balanced with other races. But some, at least, seem underpowered relative to other player races. And whether balanced, more powerful, or less powerful, the fact remains that Wizards of the Coast does not attempt to apply any adjustment to players of those races, they are just played as is. So whatever Volo’s says about their balance, someone must think they are balanced enough to be played that way, and playing alongside other player races was the idea behind developing them as player races.
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