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Author Topic: Level Adjustment Theoretical Optimization Mini Handbook  (Read 6271 times)
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nijineko
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« on: June 10, 2011, 02:50:25 AM »

This mini handbook is designed to showcase a theory I came up with when reviewing the rules in detail attempting to optimize a ghost telekinetic. It is a thought experiment and would be surprising if allowed to be used in a real game. One of my DMs would allow this, but he subscribes to the school of "Let-them-do-what-they-want-'cause-the-more-they-take-advantage-the-more-I-feel-justified-in-PUNISHING-them-MUWAHAHAHAHAH!!!" Thus, it is not recommended to be attempted in game, even with my DM.

As this is the min/max section, I present it for your use and enjoyment. Feedback is welcome. 

Section 1: The Rules

Reducing Level Adjustments
When a character with a level adjustment advances in experience, the level adjustment he started with becomes more and more of a burden. Eventually, the benefits of the creature type may come to be eclipsed by those of his class features, and the player may regret his choice of race. Under this variant system, the character can pay an XP cost at certain intervals to decrease the burden of his level adjustment.

For instance, a gnoll's level adjustment is +1. When a gnoll character gains his third class level (remember, the gnoll's 2 starting Hit Dice don't count), he can pay an XP cost to reduce his level adjustment to +0.

If the level adjustment is greater than +1, this process repeats until the creature's level adjustment reaches +0. Each time, use the creature's current level adjustment to determine the point at which the level adjustment can go down by 1. For example, a drow (level adjustment +2) may drop to level adjustment +1 after gaining her sixth class level, and then to +0 after gaining an additional three class levels.

Table: Reducing Level Adjustments gives the levels at which level adjustments are eligible to be reduced for starting level adjustments of +1 to +6. Creatures with a level adjustment of +7 or more retain their full normal level adjustment until reaching epic levels (21st level or higher), and thus aren't included on the table. However, you can follow the pattern described above to determine when such creatures' level adjustments can be decreased.

SL    @CL
1    3
2    6,9
3    9, 15, 18
4    12
5    15
6    18


Experience Point Cost
Each time a character's level adjustment is eligible to be reduced, the character may pay an XP cost to take advantage of the reduction. The character must pay an amount of XP equal to (his current ECL -1) × 1,000. This amount is immediately deducted from the character's XP total. The deduction should reduce the character's effective character level (ECL) by 1. (If this deduction would not reduce the character's ECL by 1, the character's XP total is set at the maximum of the level below his current ECL instead.) This XP cost can't be reversed in any way, and the payment must be voluntary on the part of the character. The payment must be made immediately upon becoming eligible to reduce the character's level adjustment.

For instance, a 2nd-level gnoll fighter (ECL 5) who later gains a third class level has a minimum of 15,000 XP (his ECL has just gone from 5 to 6). He is eligible to reduce his level adjustment from +1 to +0. He must pay 5,000 XP, since his ECL is now 6 (2 Hit Dice plus 3 class levels plus his +1 level adjustment). After he pays the XP, his level adjustment decreases by 1 to +0. He now has 10,000 XP. His ECL falls to 5 (2 Hit Dice plus 3 class levels). Even if the XP payment would not reduce him to 5th level—for instance, if his XP total after reaching 6th level were 20,000 or more—his XP total can't remain above the maximum for 5th level, which is 10,000. Effectively, the gnoll has "paid off" his level adjustment with an XP cost, and he is now a 5th-level character.

Similarly, a drow cleric who has just reached 6th level (ECL 8) is eligible to reduce her level adjustment from +2 to +1. She must pay 7,000 XP, and her ECL becomes 7 (6 class levels plus her +1 level adjustment). When she gains her 9th class level (ECL 10), she can reduce her level adjustment to +0 (and her ECL to 9) by paying another 9,000 XP.

On the surface, this tradeoff may look like a bad deal. The drow cleric has now sacrificed 16,000 experience points, putting her behind her comrades in total class levels. Now, however, she progresses as if she had never had a level adjustment. With the self-correcting nature of the experience point system, she will soon catch up to the rest of her party, and will reach 20th level after earning a total of 206,000 XP (190,000 plus the 16,000 in XP costs). If she had not used this variant system, she would have had to amass 231,000 XP to reach her 20th class level (which is ECL 22 for a normal drow with a +2 level adjustment).

(Emphasis mine.)


Savage Progressions: Gaining a Template Midcampaign & 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.

    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.

(Emphasis mine.)
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nijineko
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2011, 02:51:09 AM »

Section Two: The Theory



Based on the rules highlighted above, the following summation can be drawn:

  • Qualifying leveled templates are gained the same as regular levels, by gaining enough xp to reach the next level.
  • Gaining a template level increases your LA, but most likely does not increase HD, BAB, saves, feats, or skill points.
  • If the given level of a template does not grant HD, then the LA can be bought off at the appropriate point.
  • There is no restriction on when a template level can be taken, so long as any prerequisites (for inherited templates converted to leveled templates by these rules) are met. Templates that change type might invalidate taking other templates that have type-based entry requirements.
  • Leveled templates must be taken in order from lowest to highest. (ie: 1st level of template, then 2nd level of template, then 3rd....)
  • There is no requirement that all levels of a leveled template must be taken.
  • The DM is supposed to veto anything that "does not make sense". The example given is taking a template that grants a type the character already possesses. (Taken to the logical conclusion, this rule would most likely invalidate the optimization concept in 99.9% of games out there.)
  • The only rule regulating when the LA must be bought off is that when the character reaches the level that puts them at a character level to LA ratio of 3:1, that one level of the LA must immediately be bought off by spending (ECL-1)*1000 in xp.
  • Furthermore, in the case where the starting LA is greater than 1, the text and table imply that the next LA buyoff is calculated from the starting point of the last LA buyoff. The best example of this is the drow example in the text, and the LA +3 line in the table.

    The drow has an LA +2, so, 2*3 = 6, thus the first LA level you can buy off is at 6th level. The remaining LA +1 requires an additional 1*3 = 3 class levels before it can be bought off.

    For the LA +3 line entry on the table: LA 3*3 = 9th level, LA 2*3 = another 6 levels or at 15th level, and LA 1*3 = another 3 levels or at 18th level. See the last paragraph in this post for a suggestion of combining this implied rule with the handbook concept of taking only one level adjustment at a time.

    If this implied rule is taken as applicable to all LA buy-off, then a given character will be limited to 6 template levels taken one at a time in a 20 level build. Furthermore, the level at which the LA is gained, would become the starting point for counting levels for purposes of buy-off. See last paragraph this post for details.



According to these rules as written, one can start off as a 1st level character, take a single template level at 2nd level, and take two more character levels. The character has an ECL of 4, the xp of a 4th level character (6000), 3 class levels and +1 LA. According to the rules, one must now immediately buy off the +1 LA buy spending [ECL(4)-1=3]*1000 = 3000xp. This drops the character to 3000xp, the minimum needed for 3rd level, and removes the +1 LA.

The character is now a 3rd level character with 3000xp plus the abilities of the 1st level of the template. The rest of the party is now 4th level and has 6000xp.

The party continues the campaign (and for the purposes of simplicity) manages to gain another 3000xp. This places the party at 9000xp, and the example character at 6000xp. The player opts to add the second level of the template as per the gaining templates midcampaign rules. The template level adds +1 LA for a total of three character levels, one LA, and a total ECL of 4 at 6000xp.

Now, according to the buy-off rules, the character, being at a 3:1 ratio of character level to LA, must immediately spend (ECL-1)*1000 in xp, which again works out to 3000xp. This drops the character back to 3rd level, with a total of 3000xp. The character now has three class levels, no LA, and the abilities of two template levels.

From this point the potential progression is easily visible. In essence, each template level is costing 3000xp, so long as no more than one level is taken at a time, and a template level is taken every time the character levels up.

Assuming a 20th level party, and a flat xp progression (a DM who only grants evenly split up xp regardless of character level), the rest of the party will have a minimum of 190,000xp. Even if the example character takes 6 template levels as specified above for a total effective cost of 18,000xp behind the rest of the party, the character will have a total of 172,000xp, enough for 19th level, plus the abilities of 6 levels worth of templates.

If the DM uses the xp charts as written, then the player must be certain that the character never falls behind more than 8 levels calculated from the average party level at any given time as this would cause the character to "fall off" the xp chart. It could be argued RAW that they cannot gain xp for encounters that exceed the character level by more than 8.


One possible method of compromising with the DM regarding buying extra template levels cheaply, would be to only take +1 LA every three levels. In other words, take three class levels, then take a +1 LA. Buy off the LA. Take another class three levels and take another +1 LA. Buy off the LA. Repeat.
This will cause the LA to be more costly each time you take it, but will still allow you to fit a +1 LA at levels 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18, for a total of 6 template levels bought off in a 20 level build.
This would cost 3000xp the first time, 6000xp the second time, 9000xp the third time, and so forth. (Idea courtesy of Widow. Thank you.)
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 02:31:41 AM by nijineko » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2011, 02:51:34 AM »

Section Three: Sample Build



To be added.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2011, 01:53:50 PM by nijineko » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2011, 02:51:53 AM »

Section Four: List of Eligible Templates



Aasimar

Aasimar to Half Celestial transition class

Drow

Duergar

Dwarf to Duergar transition class

Fiendish creature

Feytouched

Feytouched to Half-fey transition class

Ghost

Gnome to Svirfneblin transition class

Half-dragon

Half-drow to Drow transition class

Half-fey

Half-fiend

Lich

Svirfneblin

Tiefling

Tiefling to Half-fiend transition class

Vampire

Werebear

Wereboar

Wererat

Weretiger

Werewolf
« Last Edit: June 11, 2011, 02:56:34 PM by nijineko » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2011, 02:58:15 AM »

Section Five: Miscellaneous



Synergy Levels

Legacy Champion: Levels in this prestige can advance a template that are using the "Gaining Templates Midcampaign" rules since templates count as class levels for purposes of level gaining. This has obvious benefits as it effectively adds HD, BAB, saves, skills, and feat progressions to templates that frequently do not grant such.

Uncanny Trickster: Same benefits as Legacy Champion.

Master of the Unseen Hand: Notable for dramatically boosting telekinesis-granting templates, such as Ghost.




Synergy Races and Templates

Customized Half-fiend template rules: These rules allow one to customize which fiend one gains the half template from, thereby adjusting stats and abilities accordingly. Using these rules as guidelines, one can postulate similar configurations for celestials as well.




Synergy Feats

Item Familiar: By linking to an item magically and it becoming a familiar to you, you can various benefits. One of these benefits is a bonus to awarded xp, which can be used to accelerate the recovery of xp spent in buying off levels.

There are a number of monstrous feats which can improve save DCs of various template granted abilities. To be added.




Synergy Items

Orange Ioun Stone: For templates that grant casting abilities with a specified caster level, this item can boost said caster level.

Memento Magica: For templates that grant x/day type spell-like abilities, a memento magica of the appropriate level could be considered to restore a single use of said ability.




Synergy Spells and Powers

To be added.



[/Handbook]
« Last Edit: June 16, 2011, 12:49:29 AM by nijineko » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2011, 08:46:54 PM »

I am sure at some point you are going to mention the idea of taking 1 level of the template class every 3 levels so you can completely buy-off even large template class LA.  For games were buy-off is not available, advancing a template class with Uncanny Trickster or Legacy Champion can also be quite fun.  It might cost you an extra level, but most of your levels grant HD, feats, skill points, etc.
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2011, 11:23:53 PM »

 Actually, I think this may be more akin to buying off template class levels so they never existed, effectively gestaulting yourself. At least, that's what I'm gathering from the preliminary bold sections.
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nijineko
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« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2011, 01:20:54 PM »

right you are, mcpoyo.

and thank you for the mention of legacy champion and uncanny trickster, i will certainly add those options to the misc. section. =D furthermore, the 1 LA every 3 levels is not a bad idea... call it a compromise between dm and player. i had thought of that too, though doing that would cost more xp over all. which might go a ways towards placating a dm into allowing more template levels than could be bought off as per the LA chart in UA.


any other suggestions are welcome.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2011, 01:55:41 PM by nijineko » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2011, 03:50:51 PM »


Synergy Levels

Legacy Champion: Levels in this prestige can advance a template that are using the "Gaining Templates Midcampaign" rules since templates count as class levels for purposes of level gaining. This has obvious benefits as it effectively adds HD, BAB, saves, skills, and feat progressions to templates that frequently do not grant such.

Uncanny Trickster: Same benefits as Legacy Champion.


 Clap ... very niice. I like it.


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The "experience is a river" bit for LA works ok with LA+1,
and is do-able with LA+2. The math is surprisingly simple.
Just a string of (2/3)^X catch-up on the exp.
I'll post a mini chart later.
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2011, 06:01:20 AM »

Legacy Champion - where is that from? Consolidated list says "WL" but don't have a WL listed...
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2011, 08:02:57 AM »

Legacy Champion - where is that from? Consolidated list says "WL" but don't have a WL listed...

Weapons of Legacy.
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« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2011, 06:09:50 PM »

I am sure at some point you are going to mention the idea of taking 1 level of the template class every 3 levels so you can completely buy-off even large template class LA.  For games were buy-off is not available, advancing a template class with Uncanny Trickster or Legacy Champion can also be quite fun.  It might cost you an extra level, but most of your levels grant HD, feats, skill points, etc.

Actually, I think this may be more akin to buying off template class levels so they never existed, effectively gestaulting yourself. At least, that's what I'm gathering from the preliminary bold sections.

I thought that was exactly what I offered with taking 1 LA class level every 3 levels to buy it off completely, plus a no buy-off trick to boot.

You might not be able to get away with this, but there is also the custom half-fiends article found below.  It might let you tailor your ability scores to your needs if your DM lets you mix those rules with the template level break down.

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/20060630x&page=3

Another possible feat would be the ever popular item familar.  If you except the usual dangers of lossing the item, the xp bonus it gives you is only based on your initial xp when you first take it.  The bonus will be uneffected by lowering your xp total later, although techniquely you will be spending those bonus points.  Therefor you should be able to hit each buy-off point quicker and maximize your extra XP for being lower level.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/magic/itemFamiliars.htm

One more, but this one is total cheese and will instantly result in DM foaming of the mouth (I have seen it and it is not pretty... in the RPG Rifts I figured out how to start with a free Hellfire fortress).  The thought bottle from complete arcane can save you xp total for the cost of 500xp.  So save you xp total at or near the point of level buy off.  Buy off level and follow it up with an xp restore.  No player should ever touch a thought bottle, but it should be included for completeness.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 06:12:58 PM by Widow » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2011, 04:48:05 AM »

Legacy Champion - where is that from? Consolidated list says "WL" but don't have a WL listed...

Weapons of Legacy.

- Thanks - never heard about it.
But now i know what to look for
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nijineko
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« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2011, 12:09:58 AM »

I am sure at some point you are going to mention the idea of taking 1 level of the template class every 3 levels so you can completely buy-off even large template class LA.  For games were buy-off is not available, advancing a template class with Uncanny Trickster or Legacy Champion can also be quite fun.  It might cost you an extra level, but most of your levels grant HD, feats, skill points, etc.

Actually, I think this may be more akin to buying off template class levels so they never existed, effectively gestaulting yourself. At least, that's what I'm gathering from the preliminary bold sections.

I thought that was exactly what I offered with taking 1 LA class level every 3 levels to buy it off completely, plus a no buy-off trick to boot.

yours is more sane, and slightly higher possibility to be allowed, plus it follows the implied (but not stated) part about calculating the next buy off level point from the previous buy off point.

my first suggestion is a more rinse and repeat bit keeping the character at the lower levels while stacking on lots of template abilities.

Quote
You might not be able to get away with this, but there is also the custom half-fiends article found below.  It might let you tailor your ability scores to your needs if your DM lets you mix those rules with the template level break down.

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/20060630x&page=3

useful. i don't recall if they did a matching one for celestials. in any case the guidelines are decent enough (at casual glance) to model any specific outsider with some negotiation.

Quote
Another possible feat would be the ever popular item familar.  If you except the usual dangers of lossing the item, the xp bonus it gives you is only based on your initial xp when you first take it.  The bonus will be uneffected by lowering your xp total later, although techniquely you will be spending those bonus points.  Therefor you should be able to hit each buy-off point quicker and maximize your extra XP for being lower level.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/magic/itemFamiliars.htm

thank you. quite so.

Quote
One more, but this one is total cheese and will instantly result in DM foaming of the mouth (I have seen it and it is not pretty... in the RPG Rifts I figured out how to start with a free Hellfire fortress).  The thought bottle from complete arcane can save you xp total for the cost of 500xp.  So save you xp total at or near the point of level buy off.  Buy off level and follow it up with an xp restore.  No player should ever touch a thought bottle, but it should be included for completeness.

this one will not work at all, as the xp buy off rules explicitly state that the xp spent must be voluntary and cannot be recovered in any way.
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« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2011, 10:30:41 PM »

Quote
One more, but this one is total cheese and will instantly result in DM foaming of the mouth (I have seen it and it is not pretty... in the RPG Rifts I figured out how to start with a free Hellfire fortress).  The thought bottle from complete arcane can save you xp total for the cost of 500xp.  So save you xp total at or near the point of level buy off.  Buy off level and follow it up with an xp restore.  No player should ever touch a thought bottle, but it should be included for completeness.

this one will not work at all, as the xp buy off rules explicitly state that the xp spent must be voluntary and cannot be recovered in any way.

I understand, but this specifically lets you recover xp that normally cannot be recovered.  I would not allow it in my game, but I think it would work by RAW.
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nijineko
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« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2011, 12:07:08 AM »

what is the exact phraseology?
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« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2011, 04:01:53 PM »

Oh yeah ... this was done once late on the old TO board.


(-2) ... 3 hd or levels with a +1 LA, and a Thought Bottle
(-1) ... Reach level 4 + 500exp ... maybe you got a good combat or hadn't time to train (down time) just yet
(0) ... Put exp into Thought Bottle
(1) ... Now have exactly level 4 exp
(2) ... Buy-off the +1 LA
(3) ... Now have exactly level 3 exp
(4) ... Acquire new +1 LA template
(5) ... Regain exp from Thought Bottle
(6) ... repeat from step 1

variant (4a) ... use higher stuff Wish+Spellcraft from Savage Species
to gain the +1 LA from racial classes that have that.
You normally couldn't acquire these, but that's what the wish can do.
Very TO.
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« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2011, 07:30:53 PM »

what is the exact phraseology?

Not sure if this is legal, but here is the quote:

Quote
A thought bottle can be used to offset level loss as a restoration spell can, but is effective against level loss that even restoration can’t undo (including levels lost due to death, but not the negative levels bestowed by magic items such as a holy weapon). When a user’s experience has been stored within the bottle, he can subsequently access the bottle to restore his XP total to exactly what it was when it was last stored, negating any levels lost in the interim.

Looks to me like it would work, but again it would not be allowed in my game.  Although I would be tempted to use with an artificer and go on a crafting binge.
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nijineko
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« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2011, 01:24:34 AM »

no, i have to disagree. i do not feel that it would work with the wording as stated. while the thought bottle is more efficacious than restoration, i do not think that phraseology is strong enough to counter something phrased as "xp cannot be restored by any means".
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« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2011, 10:44:19 AM »

no, i have to disagree. i do not feel that it would work with the wording as stated. while the thought bottle is more efficacious than restoration, i do not think that phraseology is strong enough to counter something phrased as "xp cannot be restored by any means".

Raise Dead wording from the SRD:

Quote
Coming back from the dead is an ordeal. The subject of the spell loses one level (or 1 Hit Die) when it is raised, just as if it had lost a level or a Hit Die to an energy-draining creature. If the subject is 1st level, it loses 2 points of Constitution instead (if this would reduce its Con to 0 or less, it can’t be raised). This level/HD loss or Constitution loss cannot be repaired by any means.

Seems like similar wording.  The thought bottle can restore your xp total even after being hit with a non-repairable loss in xp.  The only thing the thought bottle does not do is counter temporary level loss from magic items (and persumably from spells that are non-permament), which does not actually effect your xp total.  Again I don't like it, even for overcoming death xp loss.
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