Effective character levels (ECLs) are a way to compensate for the traits of the more powerful races. The average drow, for example, has several powerful abilities that make them more powerful than humans. To compensate for this, PnP use the concept of an ECL.
ECL's â€œlagâ€ your character behind by a certain number of levels, to compensate for your more powerful racial capabilities. If drow have an ECL of +2, that means that they are treated as level 3 characters at level 1. For example, a human with 11000 XP would normally be level 5 and is treated as such; a drow with 11000 XP is only level 3, but it's treated as a level 5.
- BioWare did not implement ECL in the conventional sense because Neverwinter Nights does not (by default) support subraces and monster races which are the main sources of ECL and thus it was not needed.
- BioWare did, however, implement a class-based ECL system where some classes get bonuses such that the game treats them as if they were lower than their actual level.
- Many modules have scripted various systems to handle subraces. One such system involves giving such characters Racial Hit Die however this solution is at best flawed as GUI limitations prevent characters from taking more than 3 classes and Racial HD take up one slot limiting special races to only 2 classes.