So here we go I got my gray orc and now I will share what I found out trying both orcs and planetouched races, and also what I found investigating further about ecl adjustment in tabletop and other games.
[Looking at it now that I have written all I had I see this thing is a behemot, so if you have little time just read the parts in bold]
So, as with my tiefling, I found out that these ecl +2 races are pretty brutal and not so less troublesome to level than drow or deep gnomes. While in fact the latters have areas made appositely for them where they can level in a safe although painful way, these formers share the same areas with non-ecl races. Long story short: with my tiefling getting out of Skullport was a real pain and I fear I would still be there had I not found somebody who brought my character on the ship before level 10; while with the orc I found myself in a training temple where the only way to get decent xp was fighting against mobs who took away about one third of my character's hp at each hit.
From this we draw that building of appropriate areas is more important than ecl itself while leveling, but at the same time, if there were no ecl adjustment these same areas, and many more, would be fine too if a little slow. Proof of this? I have had a halfdrow and a goblin of the same classes in both Skullport and the Orc Camp respectively and I had had a hard time but definitely not an unsustainable one.
Another very wrong aspect of ecl adjustment in this game is that, as Harroghty noted, the dynamics of the game are often quite different from tabletop. Hence it is easy to draw the conclusion that applying here the same values of level adjustment used in tabletop has the real risk to produce unbalanced consequences.
Even more so since level adjustment has been repeatedly deemed as a broken mechanic even in tabletop. Which prompts the question: why should we mess with it? But let's look at the evidence:
1)There are many instances where the logic behind level adjustment has been found flawed and incomprehensible. I even found a guy on a forum who claimed that the LA modifiers were chosen at random in many cases. Now mentioning a guy who says something on a forum would be cherrypicking, especially when there are manuals such as savage species that tried hard to provide a logical approach to that mechanic, in order to allow many exotic races as playable characters. But there are on the other hand also some very solid proofs that there is some inconsistency in the whole system. In fact some races and templates have been their level adjustment revised. Examples: vampire
, vampire again
. None of them is playable here, but the pattern is clear: there is something intrinsecally shaky in the whole idea. Trading a particular advantage for a general penalty such a level adjustment is a losing bet. Because your peculiar advantage will not always be used. And this depends also from your class. For example having a low will save defeats in part the purpose of spell resistance, especially when you lose on hit bonus and hp as well. Many examples of this kind of view here
in a thread about drow level adjustment.
2)Many have however realized that level adjustment at higher level, tends to leave the level adjusted characters behind. In fact there is a variant rule that allows to buy off the level adjustment. This is how it is phrased "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." Rest of the rules here: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/races ... tments.htm
3)As mentioned before videogames that use the same rule system have used higher xp costs but never the level cap. The games I have in mind are Icewind Dale II and Neverwinter Nights 2
, the latter being also a multiplayer game, which, unlike tabletop campaigns has many similar dynamics with our game.
4)There are many min-maxing boards that, with good reason often, claim that level adjustment is almost never worth it. Here
there is an interesting thread on this topic, and I linked precisely a post where a guy claims hobgoblins (+2 dex, +2 con and darkvision) is not worth a +1 LA! The race seemed so win-win that I thought it was not possible to conceive a similar thought, but apparently it is. Now his opinion is of course arguable, but the thread linked is still worth a look for the many other considerations expressed there. In general there is agreement it is universally wrong for spellcasts. And to sum up the rest one could say that most often level adjustment is broken and makes the level adjusted races underpowered. It is not broken only when it is not broken, i.e. too low for the bonuses it gives, and thus makes the races overpowered. So even when it is not broken, it is still broken. So, to put it mildly the only way to achieve balance with these races is to either nerf them, allow them to be played as overpowered or simply do not allow them for players. That's about it.
5)This logic has in fact emerged both in 3.X, pathfinder and 5th edition. The third edition introduced the option of playing lesser races in the Player's Guide to Faerun, actually nerfed down versions of the base races. The fifth edition did away with any kind of level adjustment entirely, introducing the formerly powerful races as normal ones, without incredible bonuses. Pathfinder did away with it too, introducing a system where the various advantages and bonus are converted into racial points and added up in a total. Some totals of the races we also have here: humans have 9 points, elves 10, dwarves 11, half-orcs 8, half-elves 10, gnomes 10, halfling 9, aasimars 15, drow 14, duergar 8, goblin 10, orcs 8, genasi 6-7, tieflings 7, deep gnomes 24. Now, let me point out pathfinder is a little different from srd, and that these races have different modifiers and slightly different bonuses in comparison to their equivalents here. But in general I find the system pretty neat in quantifying the racial power and it seems to me very similar to our kismet. In fact in pathfinder it is the DM that decides, considering the racial points, whether the race is too overpowered or not, or what is to be removed or added to have a balanced group. And that's how they solved it. Pretty well, in my opinion. I found in fact a thread
with a guy complaining about how he missed level adjustment. He was answered that if he was looking for an overpowered race it was humans with their extra bonus feat, and that nobody forced DMs to accept so odd groups of characters. And I personally feel they are right, if you are going to let a race be played, let it be with its flavour or do not make it playable at all.
So now, let's apply this to our game. Here some races are already playable and they have already their features. I commend for example the decision to nerf a few things to ease the penalties a little, as the +4 ac bonus for deep gnomes which is absent, and allowed them to have "only" ecl +5 instead of +7 (equivalent to their tabletop +3). But what is already in game, and established, would probably be pretty painful to be taken away, as many reactions to the mention of removing spell resistance have already proven. Also, as noted above, it would be better to leave the races their flavour instead of thinking to too strict balance. Especially that since we are an rp mud there are also many rp downsides for some races, even for the super-goodies aasimars.
But let's be more specific and analyze thoroughly how the various bonuses apply to FK:
-Ability bonuses: it seems easy to assume these are a real advantages. Well, no, given the high ability point pool an average character has here (89 points) these are of little importance. In fact my goblin and deep gnome have never had any problems because of having a net -2 to their stats. Also the net points depend from the class. For example a dwarf fighter, for whom charisma counts less than nothing, has in practice a net +2 bonus, while a goblin bard suffers the penalty quite well. Hence I would say that the net bonuses up to +4 are hardly an advantage worth an ecl adjustment. The counterproof is that characters with net maluses are perfectly playable.
-Darkvision: this one in tabletop counts almost nothing, in particular in the 60 feet version. Here however it has an enormous importance in exploring and use of ranged weapons. I would even say the whole aspect might need a rebalance and I have recently made proposals to generally increase the vision of most characters here
. But this is off-topic. Back on topic there is to note that orcs, halfdrow and drow pay for their darkvision with the needing to spend a feat point for daylight adaptation. Also other races, such as goblins or dwarves, get darkvision wthout penalties, so it is clear this advantage is not currently considered for the purpose of ecl adjustment.
-Special qualities: the only one I am aware of is svirfneblin nondetection. But since they live in the Underdark for 90% of the time it is also almost irrelevant to them, except for their illusionists and even then it is a double-edged sword, because you cannot see each other once you become invisible.
-Spell resistance: hic sunt leones! In tabletop this is an advantage, here much less so. First and foremost a level 45 character with 29 spell resistance has the mathematical certainty to be hit by a level 9 spell by a level 50 spellcaster, and down to level 4 if the spellcaster has spell penetration, as they should, if they are offensive casters. If you throw in even heighten spell then sr becomes even more useless. At least as long as we go on PvP, which is the most important aspect of balancing races between them. In PvE it does give a minor advatange against low-level casters, but still, given that here there are hordes of mobs and many spam cast insta-death spells, it is still a bit as playing Russian Roulette. On the other hand the problems with the spells beneficial for the character are all there. Most characters with spell resistance have generally lost count for the botched stoneskins, dragonskins or cures they have received. And this is even worse with group spells where everybody must lower their resistances at the same time. It is hypocritical and unfair not to account for this. Given all this I don't think that spell resistance, as it is in game now, really is worth an ecl adjustment. For the record my drow and deep gnome would be glad to get rid of it and consider it a handicap and with very good reasons.
-Spell-like abilities: of the races I played there is not a single one who has a useful spell-like ability. On top of that these abilities have a single use per day so once they are used, they will come back after a long time. In some cases, such as the tiefling, the already marginally useful tabletop ability has been replaced with a merely scenographical one. I think genasi have slightly better abilities, but in truth I doubt any of these abilities are worth an ecl adjustment. At all. For casters they might be a little nicer, because they get added to their spell lists, but even for them, there is hardly anything worth a spellslot.
-Racial feats: daylight adaptation is a malus, there is little to argue about it. There are however a handful racial feats for tieflings and aasimars. Three out of five add spell-like abilities, and thus not so useful. They are slightly better than the basic racial abilities, but not much more so. In fact I would only pick them up as a pre-requisite for the wings feats. The wings feats are neater, but mostly for fighters. Even then, however, they are still worse than fly spells because flying with wings has a high stamina cost and because creatures can attack you anyway. On top of that it is two feat points to get wings, so they do not come for free already. Some even joke on them being a waste of two feat points. I don't agree completely but I do see some reason in the joke. In any case, hardly anything worth an ecl adjustment.
-Bonus feats: the only one I know is blind fight for gray orcs. I find it odd because even in tabletop there is no mention of this. It is pretty much a bad deal anyway. Orcs are already short a feat due to daylight adaptation, and I would have preferred something else instead of blind fight. Again, not something worth an ecl adjustment.
So, long story short, the only real bonus they get is darkvision, which is not counted as a bonus for most races. The rest is minor or arguable at best.
So if the aim of having ecl was to have balance I am sorry to say but the mechanic has failed miserably. The races are underpowered and I hope I have managed to show enough evidence to prove it beyond any plausible deniability
The only thing that ecl achieves is damaging the game, by reducing the variety of rp for the playerbase. In fact it turns off those who are not fond of grinding for the pain at first levels, and at the same time also those who are attracted to the mechanical side of the game due to the obnoxious level cap. It damages even those few players who can get along with it for the sake of having a different roleplay, by reducing the number of players they can interact with. Proof for it is that deep gnomes, orcish and drow communities are definitely not healthy. This is simply spectacular. In a disastrous way, of course.
One wonders if the real intent of ecl is to keep some races that could be used for PvP, due to their background, as definitely underpowered to avoid having troublesome players drawn to them. In fact orcs have for example no reason, at all, to have an ecl adjustment, yet in the past when this was pointed out the staff refused to remove it. Now if this is the case, I can't disagree more on the matter. First it assumes more players who go for dark races look for PvP more than those who go for normal races. There is nothing more wrong. An orc has the same PvP potential of a human Cyricist. And on top of that half-drow or half-orcs have not appreciably less aggressive tendencies than drow or orcs respectively. But this is of course an assumption, and maybe also a wrong one.
I want also to specify, since we are in for a behemot, that despite I am being passionate on this, I can really be fine with ecl. I mean, I keep my ecl-characters as a characters with whom I make an rp I love, especially when I see online pc's of my same race, and then keep other characters as my main alts. As actually most players do, by the way. But let me at least say, this is a pity given all the wasted potential.
I would personally find better to enhance what FK does well, with intelligent and laudable mechanics such as the kismet, and ditch stuff like ecl that has never done anything good and was ultimately ditched even where it was born, i.e. in tabletop. I would find much merit in shifting what is presently handled via ecl to kismet. If a race is too powerful simply nerf it, or limit its availability. That would be the way to go.
Said that, I will close with Occam's razor: Is it right that some races, the ecl races in this case, are NEVER going to be able to reach the same level of power in their class to match the standard races?
No, it is not, it is unfair, unbalanced and breaks any sense of immersion or lore.
I am sorry it came out so long
At this point the matter needed to be analyzed in detail to point out its flaws, and I tried to do so providing as much evidence as I could.