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Ask the Kobold: Gestalt Characters

Ask the Kobold: Gestalt Characters

Skip Williams is one of the designers of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. He’s also a regular columnist for Kobold Quarterly. As long as you send in your questions, we’ll keep running the column here for free. But if you don’t ask the kobold, don’t expect a reply!

If I were to run a gestalt character in a group of non-gestalt characters, what would be the proper level adjustment to make the character balanced? The Balancing Gestalt Characters section of Unearthed Arcana says that you should adjust the CR for monsters facing a party of four gestalt PCs by 1 (or by 2 if they rely heavily on abilities that require saving throws).

Wouldn’t that mean that a level adjustment of +1 is reasonable for, as an example, a level 15 gestalt sorcerer/monk with a party of 16th-level characters? Or, is a level adjustment not appropriate at all? After all, the gestalt rules don’t even mention level adjustments. [More…]

It’s a fine idea to consider a level adjustment when a gestalt character joins a group of non-gestalt characters. Running with two classes at once potentially gives a gestalt character considerably more options than a regular character has. It’s true that the gestalt rules don’t mention level adjustments, but I suspect that’s because the rules assume all the characters in a party will be gestalt or none will be.

Be warned, a CR really has nothing to do with a character’s level adjustment or equivalent character level. As I have written before, a creature’s CR measures the hazard it poses to a party during s single encounter, and a level adjustment measures a player character’s impact on a campaign.

Level adjustments with gestalt characters are tricky in any case; they’re not popular with players because of the extra XP costs for gaining levels, which really hurts when you’re playing a spellcaster. Also keep in mind that even the most powerful character usually only gets one action during a turn, so a big slate of offensive abilities often doesn’t mean much.

Given all of the foregoing, +1 level adjustment probably is appropriate for most gestalt characters. Though +2 might not out of line for some characters. You might consider a +2 adjustment for a particularly effective gestalt combination. For example, a gestalt sorcerer/monk has a slate of class features that work pretty darn well together, and that could justify a +2 adjustment. On the other hand, a gestalt rogue/bard might have some great roleplaying potential, but perhaps not a great deal of combat punch.

The best course of action is to assign an adjustment, play it out, and see what happens. It’s best to err a little on the high side when assigning the adjustment (that is, assign a +2 if you think the combination merits it). If the adjustment proves too high, go ahead and reduce it.

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