Whether to take a Multiclass penalty or ECL RaceEdit

Let's imagine a Wood elf takes 1 level of Fighter and 1 level of Bard for her first two levels, then puts the rest of her levels into fighter and prestige classes like Red dragon disciple. After her 4th level, she is a Fighter 3/Bard 1 and she will begin to take a 20% Multiclass penalty to XP. If instead of pursuing Red Dragon Disciple she adds 1 level of Rogue, the penalty increases to 40%. Adding another base class, say paladin, increases the penalty to 60%. Only up to 4 classes may be taken in NWN2, so this is the end of the line for the masochist (unless he further combines this mess with a heavy ECL race). However, most of us want to minimize the forces that slow our character's level growth. How to do this?

One very important question, then, is whether an ECL race (see Race and Level adjustment), whose favored class will prevent the experience penalty, is better than a Non-ECL race that will take an experience penalty. At what point does one become better than the other? The following tables are meant to assist in answering this question.

To work through this problem, I'd like to provide a different scenario. Let's say your character has walked into a place filled with an infinite supply of goblins. Every time you kill them all more come pouring out, so you're guaranteed to never run out. Additionally, let's say every goblin will give a normal character (with no XP penalty) 1000 XP when killed. Logically, a character with a 20% XP penalty only gets 800 XP per kill, and so on.

A normal character needs 120,000 XP to reach level 16, which means killing 120 goblins at 1000 XP each. A character with a 20% XP penalty needs to kill 150 goblins (120,000 / 800 = 150) to reach the same level, thus needing 25% more carnage. Of course, I'm ignoring the technicality that an XP penalty cannot begin until level 5 or later because in higher levels this difference of 10,000 XP becomes minimal.

So, how many goblins does a character need to kill to level up if he has a 40% XP penalty, versus having an ECL +1? Or +2? The results of my calculations are below.

Multiclass XP Penalty TableEdit

20% Penalty40% Penalty60% Penalty
33,000 3,000 3,000 3,000
46,000 7,500 6,000 6,000
510,000 12,500 16,667 12,500
615,000 18,750 25,000 37,500
721,000 26,250 35,000 52,500
828,000 35,000 46,667 70,000
936,000 45,000 60,000 90,000
1045,000 56,250 75,000 112,500
1155,000 68,750 91,667 137,500
1266,000 82,500 110,000 165,000
1378,000 97,500 130,000 195,000
1491,000 113,750 151,667 227,500
15105,000 131,250 175,000 262,500*
16120,000 150,000 200,000 300,000*
17136,000 170,000 226,667 340,000*
18153,000 191,250 255,000* 382,500*
19171,000 213,750 285,000* 427,500*
20190,000 237,500 316,667* 475,000*
21210,000 262,500 350,000 525,000
22231,000 288,750 385,000 577,500*
23253,000 316,250 421,667 632,500*
24276,000 345,000 460,000 690,000*
25300,000 375,000 500,000 750,000*
26325,000 406,250 541,667* 812,500*
27351,000 438,750 585,000* 877,500*
28378,000 472,500 630,000* 945,000*
29406,000 507,500 676,667* 1,015,000*
30435,000 543,750* 725,000* 1,087,500*

* The XP limits of 253,000 and 528,000 in the original campaign will not prevent a heavily penalized character from reaching level 20 or 30, as long as a continuous supply of XP is available (such as in a persistent world). This is because the numbers in this table indicate the amount of XP you have to gain before the XP penalty takes effect. Even a character with a 60% penalty needs 190,000 experience to reach level 20... but he will have to kill a lot more enemies to reach that point than someone with no penalty. That is what this table represents.


  • XP penalties do not start until after the highest level class becomes more than 1 level higher than lower classes. Thus, the earliest an XP penalty can start is level 4, for 20%. 40% can start at level 5 and 60% can start at level 6, if the player branches to all classes before leveling up any beyond level 1.
  • Starting the XP penalty in later levels rather than immediately obviously reduces the overall penalty at high levels. Players should keep this in mind when choosing when to take levels in the classes that will start the penalty. Taking a level in bard at level 15 (to qualify for Red Dragon Disciple, for example) results in a much lower penalty than taking it at or before level 4 (a difference of approximately 26,250 XP).

ECL Progression TableEdit

Compare the above table of Multiclass XP Penalties to the ECL adjustments below. This table was adapted from the ones in Character progression.

ECL +1
ECL +2
ECL +3

* This is the maximum possible experience points that a character may have in NWN2 without the Mask of the Betrayer expansion. Even non-ECL characters may obtain this amount of experience points. However, the level cap of 20 still remains in place.

** This is the maximum possible experience points that a character may have in NWN2 with the Mask of the Betrayer expansion installed. Even non-ECL characters may obtain this amount of experience points. However, the level cap of 30 still remains in place.


From here we can make some very simple comparisons to see who suffers most. The following table assumes a character incurred multiclass XP penalties as soon as possible. Players who will wait before starting an XP penalty will have slightly better results.

Race/Multiclass PenaltiesXP Required
0% Penalty and
No Level Adjustment
Level Adjustment +11.11x
Level Adjustment +21.22x
Level Adjustment +31.33x
20% Multiclass Penalty1.25x
40% Multiclass Penalty1.67x
60% Multiclass Penalty2.50x
20% Penalty and +1 Adj1.38x
20% Penalty and +2 Adj1.52x
20% Penalty and +3 Adj1.66x
40% Penalty and +1 Adj1.84x
40% Penalty and +2 Adj2.03x
40% Penalty and +3 Adj2.22x
60% Penalty and +1 Adj2.76x
60% Penalty and +2 Adj3.03x
60% Penalty and +3 Adj3.28x


  • The values in this table were calculated for reaching level 20. The ECL penalties are much more pronounced at lower levels, and lessen gradually as level rises. For example, the XP required for a +2 ECL race (like Drow) at level 1 is 6.00x normal, but lowers to the 1.22x seen above by level 20. XP Penalties, on the other hand, remain fairly constant.
  • As seen by the table, even a Drow with her +2 level adjustment requires less experience to reach level 20 than a character with a 20% experience penalty.
  • A Deep gnome fares slightly worse than the 20% penalty, but a character with a 40% penalty suffers even more. 60% is only for the insane and self-hating.
  • Combining multiclass penalties with an ECL race can be especially harsh, though not necessarily unmanageable if both are low. A nightmare scenario involves a deep gnome with a 60% multiclass penalty. Why someone would be so cruel to themselves is beyond me... but I really shouldn't dwell on it.


When you're given the choice between using an ECL race that avoids an XP penalty, or just letting yourself take the multiclass XP penalty, most of the time you should probably choose the ECL race. The XP Penalty is far more punishing!

See alsoEdit

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