Optional LA/Gestalt

Characters who have used this rule
Name Gestalt Combination
Marybelle 6LA Half-fey Half-Fiend
Hugrim 13//9+4LA Phrenic Mineral Warrior Half Giant
Fi 8LA vampire
Crysta 2LA winged halfing
Candar Full class gestalt
Aviana 4RHD+2LA
Shiva Full racial gestalt
Rocco 3RHD+3LA Wereboar
Marzanna Full racial gestalt
Lyralei 2LA Drow
Nero 1LA Water Genasi
Kali 1LA Feral
Gabrielle 1LA Catfolk

Using this variant each player may, at their option, choose to gestalt either class levels, or any LA they happen to have (though I like to limit the LA to in game granted material, or using savage progressions, rather than allowing a player to begin play with exorbient LA that they will pay off on the side) by paying a cumulative 500xp per gestalt level (see table below). Their ECL is then calculated by summing their xp on both sides and rounding it down to the nearest level threshold of a normal character. This has also been provided in an easy to read table format below.

The progression is staggered, so a player does not go from 1//1 to 2//2, but rather to 2//1, then 2//2. A character cannot choose to partial gestalt with class levels. A player may choose to begin gestalting at level 13 (as one of my players did), but he must continue to progress his gestalt side until it has caught up before he may begin his staggered gestalt progression. If gestalting with RHD/LA, the remainder of the gestalt side must be filled with gestalted class levels.

As you can see, the numbers start to get a little high toward the end, with ECL 20 being hit at 17//16. While this does not quite result in dual 9s for any dual spellcasting progression, like typical level 20 dual progression builds, this is offset by a much broader set of benefits from having the ability to access any prestige class the character desires, and continuing to gain the benefits of one of his base classes, rather than forcing themselves into a dual progression prestige class, likely with significantly less interesting class features.

This system does allow for a much higher level of LA than the normal one does. It has a natural “buy off” effect since gestalted LA, as you gain levels, has less of an impact on your total XP, until it finally stops affecting your ECL. For example, a player with +6 LA (10,500xp invested into LA) has +1 ECL until level 11, where the LA ceases to increase the character's XP to the next level threshold. This allows players who gain templates such as lycanthropy or vampirism to explore these options without completely ruining their character's ability to advance due to LA. By level 19, a vampire's +8LA would be completely offset, resulting in no increase in ECL, which, at that level, it would not be deserving of any, while still maintaining a hefty penalty at lower levels, where it is powerful. I also strongly urge DMs to use savage progressions for any templates that players may acquire over the course of the game, just to add granularity to it. As a litmus test, I've looked at this against a few creatures, their LAs and their CR. For example, a succubus, 6HD and 6LA, under this rule would be ECL 7, which just happens to be their CR. Hound Archons and Janni, similar popular (though likely hardly ever played) monstrous player races, while having 6HD and +5 LA, still result in ECL 7 (despite their CR4) and attain “LA”+0 once they hit level 8 (assuming they take no gestalt levels).

This is definitely a higher powered when used to gain low amounts of LA, as it is strictly better than LA buy-off, but generally the higher RHD/LA a template/monster has, the less likely it is to see play due to the levels not being worth it. Full class gestalting has proven to work very well if the initial character concept involved some kind of dual progression already, or if the player is interested in a higher level of versatility versus lower amounts of HD. It has also shown to greatly favour the lower levels in this regard, allowing dual progression builds to function at much higher effectiveness earlier on, but slowing down in build tempo as the character gains levels and increases their ECL more and move above their HD.

Here are a few clarifying points about the system:

  • LA may be distributed on either side of the player's gestalt. Levels gained after LA are placed before the LA when calculating which levels they gestalt with. For example a Fighter 4//LA3 who gains a gestalt barbarian level will have his barbarian level gain gestalt benefits as if it were gestalting with his first fighter level, not his 4th fighter level.
  • Prestige classes must have their pre-requisites able to be met at the level they gain them, so a Wizard 7 cannot begin gestalting levels in loremaster as he could not meet the pre-requisites for loremaster at level 1. (This point is waived for E6 games).
  • Once a player begins class gestalting, he must have his main and gestalt side of equal level (adding up class and LA gestalt) before he may continue progressing his main side
  • Works best with set HP per level, partial bab/saves, and no multiclassing penalties.

Through playtesting, I have also added the following rules to cover additional use cases:

  • Characters gestalting may choose to withold selecting a feat when they gain class levels on their main side until their gestalt side has caught up. This is to allow for feats to be chosen as if the character was of equal level on both sides of his gestalt.
  • For gestalt characters starting from level 1, I encourage players to take a feat granting them the abilities of their intended gestalt class. This feat is used to make the transition more granular, showing the character's previous training or understanding of the class they intend to take. Upon gaining their first gestalt level, this feat can be retrained at no cost or time for the player.
  • Since prestige classes have come a long way since unearthed arcana was released, the rule regarding no dual progression prestige classes is slightly modified. Since players may still want the benefits of certain dual progression prestige classes (such as the Initiate of the Perfect Soul), they make take these classes, gaining all the benefits, as well as full progression of both their class abilities regardless of whether the prestige class normally progresses full rate or not (for example, the Initiate of the Perfect Soul normally does not progress manifesting at 1st and 6th level, but while gestalting it would.), however while taking levels in these classes, the other side of the player's gestalt must be one of the base classes being progressed by the prestige class. In essence the character trades the benefits of one of his base classes for the benefits of the prestige class. Additionally, any abilities gained by the prestige class that stack with levels of the base class that is taken at the same time will only progress at the better rate of the two classes. For example, a wizard//druid who takes levels in arcane heirophant, choosing to gestalt with druid would still only progress his effective druid level for his animal companion by 1 each level. To keep granularity, the prestige class must be taken after the associated base class, so as to not front load all the rewards of both classes in a single level.
Gestalt XP Costs
Level Cost Cumulative Cost
0 0 0
1 500 500
2 1,000 1,500
3 1,500 3,000
4 2,000 5,000
5 2,500 7,500
6 3,000 10,500
7 3,500 14,000
8 4,000 18,000
9 4,500 22,500
10 5,000 27,500
11 5,500 33,000
12 6,000 39,000
13 6,500 45,500
14 7,000 52,500
15 7,500 60,000
16 8,000 68,000
17 8,500 76,500
18 9,000 85,500
19 9,500 95,000
20 10,000 105,000
Gestalt ECL Changes
Level Gestalt Level
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1 +0
2 +0 +0
3 +0 +0 +1
4 +0 +0 +0 +1
5 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1
6 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1
7 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1
8 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +2
9 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2
10 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2
11 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2
12 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +3
13 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3
14 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +3 +3
15 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3
16 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3 +3
17 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3 +4
18 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3 +3 +4
19 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3 +3 +4 +4
20 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +0 +1 +1 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +3 +3 +3 +4 +4
  • hb/optional_la_gestalt.txt
  • Last modified: 2019/01/07 03:54
  • by Chronos