D&D 5E Templates and Level Adjustments in 5e

Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
So I've been doing some research and there doesn't appear to be much on the subject.

3.X had templates, which could be added to monsters and player characters, and often came with an adjustment to a monsters ECL (encounter level, or CR), or a characters effective level.

Thankfully, the monster side of the problem is now not an issue, as I find 5e monsters are much easier to design than they were back in 3e. You can do adjustments to monsters easily enough.

But adding templates to PC's hasn't been addressed since 4e and its not mentioned at all in 5e. Its probably not too important, but I am looking for solutions. I think templates added a lot of unique options to add variety to characters that can also help players actualize their character concepts better (what if they want to play a lycanthrope?).

Previous methods never worked very well. I've tried level adjustments, level buyoffs (spend XP like a loan to buy off templates), gradual template progression based on HD (savage worlds), and just basic +0 LA templates that feel watered down.

How could players potentially get access to templates if they want to change or improve their characters in a way that can be measured and balanced? Thank you very much for your consideration.

EDIT [For clarity]:
I think maybe I need to specify why I am looking at using templates, these templates represent things that happen to a character outside of character creation, and sometimes by accident.

For example, templates that add a "mutation" whether positive or detrimental, or a template that adds lycanthropy or vampirism to a creature without having to choose it as a lineage (because its acquired in game, not at character creation). Templates to add extraplanar qualities that are acquired after traveling to an alien dimension. Templates to modify creatures in ways that are not tied to their heritage or lineage.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
How could players potentially get access to templates if they want to change or improve their characters in a way that can be measured and balanced? Thank you very much for your consideration.
I would count them as awarded magic items. If the template has 4 abilities, 1 minor(common), 2 moderate(rare) and 1 really good one(legendary), count that as 4 magic items that the character would receive.
 

JEB

Legend
How could players potentially get access to templates if they want to change or improve their characters in a way that can be measured and balanced? Thank you very much for your consideration.
The lineages from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft sound like what you're looking for, or at least they'd be a good starting point.

Alternatively, I'd take a cue from the Svirfneblin Magic feat, and break the desired effects up into feats, easing them in over time as their transformation etc. progresses. I did something similar for my PC race experiments, compensating for stronger-than-average monster races. If you're building in some disadvantages (like lycanthrope or vampire drawbacks) you could certainly make such feats more powerful than a standard feat. The only catch with this approach is that anything other than a Variant Human wouldn't be able to benefit until level 4. (Unless you're using One D&D rules, of course, then everyone starts with a feat.)
 

dave2008

Legend
How could players potentially get access to templates if they want to change or improve their characters in a way that can be measured and balanced? Thank you very much for your consideration.
Isn't that what gaining levels is for? Is there a reason you don't just increase their level? Other than levels there is no method that is "balanced" against the assumed encounter balance in the DMG. If you are not worried about encounter balance then you can give supernatural gifts (Theros & DMG), piety (Theros), boons (DMG), or magic items (DMG) to give them more options/tools. You just need to do that fairly between the players for it to be "balanced" between the PCs. Then you need to adjust the encounter balance as needed to compensate. I would suggest on step down (so a "deadly" encounter becomes "hard" instead), but it may require more.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Depending on how much design space is necessary for the modification of a class or race:

Use a feat, including a background feat.

Use the multiclass mechanic, and create a mini-class with only about 1 to 10 levels. Take as many levels as one wants. It is like a 3e prestige class but more balanced and less convoluted. Avoid prereqs.

A werewolf works well as a single feat. A vampire can easily require a standard class of 20 levels including subclass archetypes. A dragon might be somewhere in between.
 


Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
The lineages from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft sound like what you're looking for, or at least they'd be a good starting point.

Alternatively, I'd take a cue from the Svirfneblin Magic feat, and break the desired effects up into feats, easing them in over time as their transformation etc. progresses. I did something similar for my PC race experiments, compensating for stronger-than-average monster races. If you're building in some disadvantages (like lycanthrope or vampire drawbacks) you could certainly make such feats more powerful than a standard feat. The only catch with this approach is that anything other than a Variant Human wouldn't be able to benefit until level 4. (Unless you're using One D&D rules, of course, then everyone starts with a feat.)
Cool I had not had a look at the new lineages, looking at them now, they seem to be pretty similar to the original alternate species rules from savage species (3.0), which as I mentioned above I have already tried. They do look pretty polished though.

I am trying to avoid using feats, because they are already limited as they are in availability in 5e.

I think maybe I need to specify why I am looking at using templates, these templates represent things that happen to a character outside of character creation, and sometimes by accident.

For example, templates that add a "mutation" whether positive or detrimental, or a template that adds lycanthropy or vampirism to a creature without having to choose it as a lineage (because its acquired in game, not at character creation). Templates to add extraplanar qualities that are acquired after traveling to an alien dimension. Templates to modify creatures in ways that are not tied to their heritage or lineage.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
For lycanthropy specifically, Grim Hollow's transformations are worth a look – it includes a system of selectable "transformations" (they're their own thing) but maintains the risks/threat of lycanthropy as a curse rather than just a boost to your numbers.
 

Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
For lycanthropy specifically, Grim Hollow's transformations are worth a look – it includes a system of selectable "transformations" (they're their own thing) but maintains the risks/threat of lycanthropy as a curse rather than just a boost to your numbers.
I like this, thank you very much.
 

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