Some of the races available in the FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign setting are significantly more powerful than the races in the Player's Handbook. You need your DM's approval before playing a character of such a race. To maintain the balance of power between player characters, adjustments have to be made to characters of these races so that the game remains fair and enjoyable for all involved.
All of these races have a racial trait called level adjustment that is a number between 1 and 3.
When creating a character of this race, add the level adjustment to the character level of the creature. The DM determines how many experience points she lets your new character start with. If a powerful race's minimum experience point requirement is higher than this number, you can't be a member of this race. Your character's beginning equipment is based on his effective level; not his class level. (If the DM wants to bend this guideline and let you play such a character, then that character should start with as many experience points and gold pieces as the DM would normally allow, not the minimum listed here.)
For example, the PC group is 3rd level and 4th, so the DM decides to allow new PCs to start with 2,000 XP rather than 0. A player can therefore play an aasimar but not a drow. If the DM decided to let someone start with a drow, the DM should have that character start with 2,000 XP rather than 3,000 XP. (The player already has the advantage of playing a powerful race. She should not also get the advantage.of starting with more experience points than another starting character.) Your DM has the final say on what sort of characters the players can create for his game. Chapter 8: Running the Realms has more advice for DMs on allowing characters of these races as player characters.
Because characters of these powerful races possess a higher level than just their character level alone, they do not gain levels as fast as a normal character. Add your character's level adjustment to your Character level to arrive at your effective character level (ECL). From now on, this character uses his ECL to determine how many experience points he needs to reach a new level. These characters begin play with the minimum number of experience points needed to be a normal character of their ECL. You still use the character's actual level for everything else (such as when you acquire feats, skill point acquisition, and so on).
For example, an aasimar has a level adjustment of +1) so Zophas, a 1st-level aasimar paladin, has an ECL of 2 (one character level plus the level adjustment of +1). Because his ECL is 2, Zophas begins play with 1,000 XP, the minimum XP to be a 1st-level aasimar character. He is also treated as a 2nd-level character for purposes of determining how much gold he has to purchase equipment (900 gp, based on Table 2-24 on page 43 of the DUNGEON MASTER'S Guide). When he reaches 3,000 XP he gains a level in paladin, and his ECL becomes 3 (two character levels plus the level adjustment of +1). He would pick up a third character level at 6,000 XP, a fourth at 10,000 XP, and so on, always one level behind a human character with the same experience point total. Another example is Renevelazzon, a 1st-level drow sorcerer from Cormanthor. A drow has a level adjustment of +2, so his ECL is 3 (one character level plus the level adjustment of +2). Because his ECL is 3, he begins play with 3,000 XP (and 2,700 gp), the minimum experience point total needed to be a 1st-level drow character and the starting equipment recommended for a 3rd-level PC. When he reaches 6,000 XP he gains a level in rogue, and his ECL becomes 4 (two character levels plus the level adjustment of +2). He would pick up a third character level at 10,000 XP, a fourth at 15,000 XP, and so on, always two levels behind a human character with the same experience point total.
This system allows your DM to give you and the other players a set experience point total for your characters, and you can build your characters with any race and class combination and still be about the same power level despite the overall differences between powerful and standard races. For example, your DM could give each player 10,000 experience points and 9,000 gp (from DUNGEON MASTER'S Guide Table 2-24) to build a character. Michele makes a 3rd-level drow rogue (ECL 5), Duane makes a 4th-level aasimar monk (ECL 5), Julia makes a 5th-level human cleric, and Rich makes a 2nd-level svirfneblin fighter (ECL 5).
The best thing to consider when making a character of one of these races is this question: Is the initial jump in power worth the long-term decrease in the speed your character gains levels?
Essentially, instead of needing your character level x 1,000 to reach the next level, your character needs your ECL x 1,000 to reach the next level. This adjustment is summarized below.
|ECL Experience Requirements|
|XP||ECL = Level (Normal)||ECL = Level +1 (Aasimar, Tiefling, Genasi)||ECL = Level +2 (Drow, Duergar)||ECL = Level +3 (Svirfneblin)|