Effective character level (ECL) is a way to compensate for certain classes having a harder time at low levels in Neverwinter Nights (especially in single player). This is implemented by counting some classes as a lower level than they actually are when calculating the experience point awards for killing monsters. (This results in higher awards, hence faster leveling.) For a multiclassed character, the ECL for each class is calculated separately (sometimes called the effective class level), then these are added to get the character's ECL.
|Effective Class Level|
After level 14 all classes progress in the same way, with ECL equal to the true level.
Pen and Paper comparison
In pen and paper D&D, ECL is used to compensate for the traits of the more powerful races. The average drow, for example, has several powerful abilities that make her more powerful than a human, and so would always be considered to be two levels higher than the sum of her class levels. Thus a drow character would gain levels slower than a human, balancing out the racial advantages.
- Some modules have scripted various systems to implement subraces, and some of these include pen-and-paper style ECL. One such system utilizes racial hit dice, but this solution has the drawback of using one of the character's three potential classes for these racial hit dice, limiting characters with racial hit dice to two "real" classes.