This trope represents RPGs
where there are particular advantages to refraining from Level Grinding
. In MMORPGs
, this feature is known as Anti-Grinding
. This can exist when there are benefits that are Lost Forever
if you try immediate grinding, but also when there are tactical advantages caused by a level gain. Or when the game uses Level Scaling
, especially in conjunction with Empty Levels
Other times, especially in multiplayer games, this trope is used to avoid scaring off new players with particularly harsh penalties for death
and similar things, or to give them a chance to get used to the setting before such things are imposed. It's not uncommon for MMORPGs
and similar games to waive most of the penalty for death for lower-leveled characters. Low-level characters are also frequently exempt from PVP, which can be a mixed advantage.
- Cave Story: Many players insist that the level 2 Blade is better than the level 3 Blade: it does much more damage per second, provided you Spam Attack from very close. note And the Nemesis is a Lethal Joke Item that gets worse as you level it up: At level 1 it's one of the most powerful weapons in the game, and at level 3 its status as a weapon is a pure formality. And it levels up from a single experience pick up.
- Since Demons Souls and Dark Souls determines invasion and summon matchups by Soul Level, your ability relative to other players you fight is increased by finding better equipment and spending Souls to upgrade it instead of leveling up. Some griefers take this to the extreme, using low-level runs and Good Bad Bugs to twink insanely powerful late-game weapons and armor for curbstomping people only hours into the game. For this reason Dark Souls II also bases matchups on the total number of souls you've collected, though that system is a bit broken in the other direction: it's quite possible for someone to amass a lot of souls but lose them from dieing, or lose a moderate amount of souls frequently. This would make you have a high value despite being low everywhere else except play time since you never actually used those souls for anything.
- City of Heroes prevents characters below level ten from receiving xp debt for a defeat. On the other hand, xp debt isn't really a massive problem anyway.
- Also, there was an early period which drove completionists crazy, because the original design for the game involved characters outleveling mission arcs and the chance to even be introduced to many contacts. The idea (to individualize characters and their experiences) proved so unpopular that there were guides developed about how to get through missions with as little experience gain as possible. This eventually led to a "Turn Off XP Gain" checkbox buried deep in the game options, long before replaying missions was possible.
- An EverQuest server made Player Versus Player combat ineffective against characters under level 6. Fansy the Famous Bard exploited this by "training" monsters. This involved taunting monsters and running away from them toward player characters of the opposite faction so that the monsters would slay the other characters. Because this Fragile Speedster never got any kills himself, he stayed on level 5.
- World of Warcraft features a heavily reduced difficulty curve for players below level 20, primarily affecting mana and health regeneration but also how certain stat modifiers scale. The curve is pronounced enough that a properly equipped level 1 character could theoretically outdamage a level 10. However, since base stats are fixed at each level, there's no advantage to exploiting this in the long term unless you plan to be a Battlegrounds twink.
- Also, on PVP servers you are safe from opposing players as long as you stay in your factions lower-level zones (designed for roughly the same level range). Unfortunately, the same can't be said for most NP Cs in those zones.
- On the other hand, each of the previous level caps features a huge jump in the stats gained from equipment. This is particularly painful for characters using heirlooms which scale with the player level, and don't make that jump until the next level AFTER. As such, while you can enter the first Outland dungeon at level 58, it might be better to wait until level 61.
- ADOM has numerous optional quests that are Lost Forever above a certain level. These include: killing Kranach (vanishes at level 6), the Pyramid (levels 13 to 16 only), the Minotaur Maze (levels 22 to 27 only), and Keethrax (the druid won't assign it after the unicorn quest).
- Also, the Small Cave gets exponentially harder as you level up; past level 6 or so (which you'll reach VERY fast in there, if you even survive that long), you're toast. Unless you have on-demand Invisibility or Teleportation, that is...
- Finally, several bosses are keyed to the player's level when you first encounter them, so if you visit their floor early, then go practice elsewhere for a while, you can come back later for an easy kill.
- Nethack characters can reach level 30, but the merits of doing so are debated, and depend on the character. Higher level characters are much more likely to encounter Archons and Arch Liches, and may not be significantly more powerful.
- Donating a certain number of gold pieces to a priest will permanently improve the character's protection against physical attacks, with the amount of gold required increasing with every Character Level. Gathering lots of gold while maintaining a low Character Level and then donating all the gold to a priest is known as the Protection Racket.
- In Final Fantasy VI, most Espers give a special level up stat bonus. Therefore, it's best to save all your level ups for when you have some Espers with stat bonuses.
- The leveling in Final Fantasy VIII was a whole element of strategy because the enemies level up with you. The game can be beaten at disgustingly low levels. (There are no-level-up runs.) Despite no-level-up rounds... party members may still have maxed out stats and Ultimecia will be at a ridiculously low level on her first form. Indeed, it is far easier to beat the game at low levels than at high levels because of the way the magic junctioning system works - spells add a fixed amount to your stats, regardless of your level, meaning that you can become hyper-powerful at level 1, and the enemies will still be weak. There is even a convenient item which turns enemies into cards (and prevents you from gaining XP from them) you find fairly early on to make maintaining your low level easier.
- If you do level up, it's best to wait until you have <Stat> Bonus abilities, which award an extra point (in the case of HP, an extra 10) to that respective stat upon leveling.
- In fact without those <Stat> Bonus abilities, enemy stats generally increase faster than your party's, not to mention that enemies will gain new attacks at higher levels, making the game harder if you level.
- In Final Fantasy I, your stats growth was affected by your current class, so you got the best stats by leveling up as little as possible before the class upgrades.
- The above only applies to the remakes from 'Dawn of Souls' and up. The original NES and Origins versions averted this: the stats each class gained on level-up were determined by a table, each level having certain 'guaranteed to go' stats. Every time you levelled, you automatically gained a point in each of those stats, as well as having a 25% chance for each of your other stats to go up. The only character who actually suffered from this trope was the Black Belt, who gained 4 magic defense (a hidden stat) per level, while after class change, the Grand Master only gained 1 magic defense per level, presumably as a result of a bug. Having a ribbon (all elemental resistances) equipped made it moot though.
- In Final Fantasy III, all of your stats except max HP change upon changing classes. You gain HP based on your Vitality stat when you level up, so it's best to wait until you open the Karateka or Ninja classes which have the highest Vitality to do a lot of your Level Grinding if you want to have more HP at the end. Similarly, you might want to unlock and change to the initial job classes as soon as possible to avoid weak HP gains from being Onion Knights.
- Here's a marginal example in Final Fantasy VII: The final boss - Sephiroth - gets a severe stat-boost if you've hit the level cap at 99. Anything below that, and he'll have his original stats, meaning that the ideal conditions for taking him on is Level 98. He'll also get a massive HP boost if you've been spamming Knights of the Round on the two bosses before him.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy also does this. If you are leveling up to get that one move that you can spam like crazy, your opponent also levels with you, and probably gained some move that trumps yours.
- There are also accessory builds that take advantage of the massive multipliers you can get from certain booster accessories if there's a large level gap between you and your enemy: being able to be killed in a single HP attack ceases to be a problem when you can always survive any hit with 1 HP when you have more than that, almost always have an assist available to escape the enemy's attack when you're down to 1 HP, never stay at 1 HP longer than it takes for you to land a HP attack and regardless of your low stats, always break the enemy in a single hit, gain an equal amount of BRV and more often than not can finish them off with a single HP attack afterwards.
- The masters in Breath of Fire III teach skills, but each master teaches each skill only once (skills can then be transferred among party members). The reason to avoid leveling without masters is that they adjust your stat gains on leveling.
- Dragon Quest VI and Dragon Quest VII rely on the player winning battles against decently challenging enemies to gain job levels and consequently skills from advancing. Each area has a maximum level at which job points are awarded; if a character exceeds this maximum level, they will not be awarded job points and not advance. Therefore, grinding early on can lead to some big trouble in class developing.
- This is downright unfair in VII because, right before you can even take jobs, you're forced into a long, difficult dungeon with multiple That One Boss candidates - and your characters are stripped of their natural skills in the process. If you know it's coming, you'll want to level grind, but as noted, that might be a bad idea. This dungeon, understandably, is where many players abandon the game.
- EarthBound features an event where Ness can gain two level-ups with unique bonuses. However, his level must be below the cap to get one or both of them.
- This is frustrating because the player can ending up grinding experience in the Stonehenge base waiting for a Starman Super to drop a Sword of Kings. This dungeon isn't accessible later, so the player needs to get the Sword of Kings before beating the dungeon.
- You get a title in Tales of Symphonia for remaining below a certain level when you defeat a boss. Also, later titles boost growth rates more, though carrying over titles in New Game+ will lead to even better stats than just not grinding as much.
- In Pokémon, the mons tend to learn moves faster at lower Evolutionary Levels. Therefore, sometimes it's best to keep them from evolving until they learn their final move, which can be five to 10 levels lower than in the evolved form. Also, Pokemon that evolve using stones, with the exception of Eevee, have a very limited movepool in its evolved forms, so it's better to not evolve them after their previous form has learned all the attacks it needs. Some moves can only be learned if a Pokémon is at a particular stage of development, and if it evolves to early, they won't be able to get it at all.
- In a related case, leveling up traded Pokemon beyond levels supported by your badges will make them disobey you. It isn't nearly enough though: the level they have to be at is so much higher than anything you can meet before acquiring the required badge that they can easily crush anyone even when only making a move every third or fourth turn.
- In the fifth generation of Pokémon, particularly in Black 2 and White 2, monsters would receive more experience from an enemy the lower the level of said monster. The equation didn't account well for level 1 monsters, which are only obtainable by breeding. With the proper exp modifiers, a level 1 mon could shoot up to somewhere between 50 and 70 by being swapped in during a high level trainer battle with a Blissey or Chansey. Attempt to do this at a higher level (i.e. 30) and you'll only end up gaining about 10 levels or so, if you're lucky.
- This mechanic is also present in the sixth generation, but it isn't nearly as exploitable.
- A very general example: In a lot of RPGs, leveling up heals you.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has two places where this mechanic can be abused. In the Pit of 100 Trials, your resources will be stretched thin, but if you go in at a low level, the regular level-ups will heal you and reduce the strain. Also, near the end of the game, there is a place where two bosses must be fought sequentially without an opportunity to heal. However, if you time it so that you level up after the first fight, you will have all your HP and FP back for the second boss.
- The "Danger Mario" setup stops working at very high levels, as the game forces you to upgrade HP (pulling you out of permanent danger) because you maxed out flower and badge points.
- In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the stats the Bros gain upon level-up are in direct relation to Bowser's level. Keep their levels sufficiently low until Bowser hits level 37, and you're pretty much free to grind away.
- Knights of the Old Republic: it can be advantageous, depending on your class, not to level up much on Taris (before you get your Jedi powers) since you get better stat bonuses as a Jedi. (This doesn't mean you can't gain XP though; just don't click "level up".) Soldiers definitely should save levels; they have nothing to lose. For scouts and scoundrels, on the other hand, the matter is a bit more complex. Both classes have more skill points per level than even the Sentinel (the so-called skills class; this was fixed in the sequel), as well as special feats that may help the player a great deal down the line. note
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Lightsiders can train as many as four of their party members as Jedi (Atton, Bao-Dur, Handmaiden/Disciple, and Mira). As in the first game, Jedi characters outclass their Muggle counterparts, and the Sentinel class (Atton, Mira, Visas, possibly the PC) actually has an appropriate skill progression. However, there are reasons not to save levels. Mira picks up the Precise Shot feats (bonus damage with ranged weapons) for free every 4 levels until 20. Atton is essential on Citadel Station (you only have two party members for the duration) and also has the Scoundrel's Luck and Sneak Attack feats. Bao-Dur has a crafting ability that far outclasses anybody else in the party (including T3 at first). However, the Handmaiden and Disciple are both soldiers, making it a clear choice to save levels for them.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the enemies of the world only level up when the player levels up. However, you trigger the level-up procedure by sleeping and there is nothing stopping you from continuing to increase your skill levels (which determine your actual power) in the meantime. Although the game does restrict a few things to higher levels, it is entirely possible to complete the main quest at Level 2. This can all result in the land being saved from a horde of extremely feeble monsters by a strangely competent chronic insomniac.
- Avoiding leveling up is also advantageous because entire classes of enemies disappear from the game world if your class is too advanced. All of the scamps and skeletons or whatnot will be replaced with elite mooks wearing daedric armor who can kill you in two hits if your armor is trash. Many, many user mods have balanced out this aspect of the game.
- There's also the issue of damage being capped (via both available magicka and a limit on stats), while health is not. Basically, once the player reaches a certain threshold, their damage stops increasing, but the health of enemies around them isn't, leading to long, drown out and incredibly dull fights with not only bosses, but with a simple leveling mook. However, monster damage is not in fact capped, meaning that as the player reaches the point where they were supposed to be able to challenge the nine Divines themselves (say level 40 or so), its more or less impossible to get through fights without resorting to the use of a Game Breaker (which there are plenty of, and thereby render things too easy, but still long and drawn out).
- The fact that your allies during the main quest are some of select few humanoid NPCs that don't level up with the player hardly helps—if the player delays too long, allies are rendered useless and escort missions near impossible. On the other hand, if the player delays too little, he may find his allies overpowered, rendering things too easy and having said allies basically win by themselves. The same goes for summoned creatures—overpowered if acquired early, little more then cannon fodder when used later.
- In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, there are some trophies to be earned if the player beats certain bosses with minimal levels.
- The most obvious example of this being the trophy asking you to beat the final boss with all three of your party members at level one. And he doesn't scale with your levels. Needless to say, just being able to challenge him like this requires quite a commitment throughout the game.
- In Planescape: Torment, the combat stats of the Big Bad scale with The Nameless One's level (and this is justified by the plot.) Of course, with so many ways of Talking the Monster to Death, fighting remains a sub-par option in any circumstance.
- Tactics Ogre's Gaiden Game The Knight of Lodis has a rather interesting strategy. You do level the main character, but you purposely keep him out of the sidelines and several levels below the main party. The game uses a level scaling system that will set the boss so that they will be above the main level of the leader and the units will be within 1-2 levels of him. But when your other 7 characters are much stronger than he is...There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
- AdventureQuest and Dragon Fable, due to almost all the enemies being level-scaled, often rather harshly.
- Xenogears has the character Emeralda, who has a certain side-quest in Disc 2 that turns her into an adult form. After that quest, she has insane stat growth with every level up. If you keep her level low at the beginning and do some grinding after the quest, then she can be even more powerful than her own Humongous Mecha.
- Resource management is a key feature in the mini Roguelike Desktop Dungeons, and levelling up will restore your Hit Points, Mana Points and status. Hence, a widely-used tactic is to start fighting a boss while a few XP short of a level-up, burn through your resources, and then go squish a low-level monster for a mid-fight heal.
- The enemies of Fallout 3 don't level up with the player, but instead there is a higher chance of tougher enemies spawning. When the DLC Broken Steel is added, this can result in the simplest journey from A to B being plagued by Super Mutant Overlords, Feral Ghoul Reavers, and Albino Radscorpions, all of which have obscenely-high durability and damage.
- In Dead Island the enemies gain power along with the player so often leveling up only serves to reduce the effectiveness of your current equipment. This is especially obvious in subsequent playthroughs where you can earn huge XP rewards for challenges that were partially completed by your predecessor, giving you multiple simultaneous level ups that tend to leave you rather helpless until you can find some upgrades. At very low levels the enemies can be killed pretty easily and you can make use of the numerous grey quality weapons that are soon rendered useless as the enemies toughen up. Unfortunately XP cannot really be avoided as you receive large amounts for completing story missions.
- This is usually not the case in RPG's but in Dungeons & Dragons 4E, if your DM was keeping the game balanced with your level, there was a slight advantage to being a lower level character in that monsters used to scale faster than you could keep up with. However, the developers released the unnamed bonus feats as a patch for the scaling problem before it would have been an issue in most games.
- In the card game Munchkin, some of the more powerful monsters will allow low-level characters to retreat without having to make a die roll to successfully run away. And because it's Munchkin, it's of course quite legal to play a "gain a level" card on a rival who just so happens to be in that sort of situation...