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Non-Combat EXP
In many RPGs, dating to the original Dungeons & Dragons (see its entry below), the only mechanically supported way for a character to gain experience and grow stronger is to kill enemies. It's a simple fact of most role-playing games that some amount of Level Grinding will be required. Gaining Experience Points often requires several hours of killing mooks or otherwise going on a spree of mass murder and terrorism in the streets.

Some games, however, give you experience for activities completely unrelated to fighting. Craft a sword? Gain EXP! Run a mile? Gain EXP! Collect your 300 rat tails and give them to the witch who needs them? Get EXP for that, too!

This can be justified; just as it doesn't make sense for reading a book to improve your combat parameters, it also doesn't make sense that killing a thousand Red Shirts improves your ability to use a compass or forge the Infinity+1 Sword. Instead, you gain proficiency in item crafting by doing so repeatedly, and so on. This is more common in recent RPGs. This is also easier to justify in games where the characters can do more than just fight, and especially in games where experience points can be used to improve a character's noncombat capabilities.

This trope is not about items which give you free experience or stats. For that, see Rare Candy. It's also not for gaining experience for mundane tasks such as talking to random NPCs. For that, see Easy EXP. This trope is for when EXP is gained for things such as training, completing sidequests, and advancing the plot, whether those things involve defeating monsters or not. It is a specific way to avert RPGs Equal Combat.

Contrast No Experience Points for Medic.


Examples:

EXP gained applies to a character's general level

Video Games
  • In the Baldur's Gate series, particularly the second installment, the most XP ix gained from completing major quests rather than combat encounters. Picking locks, disabling traps and memorizing spells will also give XP.
  • In the multiplayer for Call of Duty, players have levels. They must gain XP to level up, which allows them access to new weapons. You mainly get XP through kills, but the game liberally dishes out XP for getting kills in special ways, such as revenge kills ("Payback!") or killing an enemy immediately after they killed a teammate ("Avenged!"). You can also get lots of bonus XP for certain achievements, like getting a certain number of headshots with a weapon, or using a perk a certain number of times. In objective-based gamemodes you also will get XP for capturing objectives.
  • Command & Conquer series:
    • Red Alert 2: Sneaking an Allied Spy to the enemy Barracks or War Factory allows any units produced from your equivalent production structure to start off with one level of veterancy. However, taking one spy to said point is quite difficult though, and it only works once per building.
    • Red Alert 3: Veteran Academies are tech buildings that, if captured, will grant most (if not all) units veteran levels equal to the amount of Academies owned by the player. It goes all the way up to Elite.
  • Deus Ex series:
    • In the first Deus Ex, exploring nooks and crannies of the various maps not only nets you more inventory, some additional lore and bonus scenes, but every so often also gives you "Exploration Bonuses" in EXP.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution hands out XP for a variety of non-combat tasks. Players receive XP every time they successfully hack computers, complete missions, or win a "social battle" (i.e., persuade someone to do something for you by choosing the right dialogue options). You also can get a huge amount of XP for going through an entire level without being seen and/or setting off an alarm.
    • Both games (Invisible War has no XP system) also award the vast majority of points simply for progressing in the story: it's certainly possible to max out all the skills a player is likely to actually want without doing anything optional.
  • Evil Islands gives you experience points for each completed quest. Note that you only need to do the quest rather than return to the quest-giver to gain exp.
  • The Fallout series awards XP for doing non-combat related things, which may bypass combat altogether, such as lockpicking, hacking and persuasion.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII-2, you can get CP (the game's form of EXP) from finding fragments throughout every area, which are obtained by completing sidequests or main missions. However, the CP gained from fragments not directly related to killing things tends to be pretty poor.
  • Fire Emblem series:
    • Staff users gain EXP whenever they use a staff. Similarly, in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Micaiah gains experience whenever she uses her "Sacrifice" skill.
    • Because of the unique mechanics of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, each unit has a separate amount of currency, and characters will not give money to others. However, thief units (Dew and Patty or her replacement) can, and they gain EXP for giving their money to another unit.
    • In both Tellius games, Bonus EXP is awarded for completing maps, doing so quickly, leaving certain units alive, and other tasks, which can be given to different units to build them up.
  • In King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, you gain experience for solving puzzles, apart from killing enemies.
  • The Mass Effect series, despite relying heavily on combat, did away with XP-for-kills starting with part two, instead handing it out for quests and some item pickups. Even Mass Effect 1, some XP was gained upon unlocking each Codex entry, i.e. from simple exploration and interacting with the environment.
  • In Minecraft, since version 1.3 you can gain experience from mining and smelting — specifically, you get experience for mining anything that drops a usable block (diamond, coal, redstone, lapis lazuli, emerald) and experience for smelting raw blocks (iron, gold) into usable blocks (iron ingots, gold ingots). Breeding animals also nets experience, as well as trading with Villagers as of the 1.8 update.
  • In addition to Quest EXP, Neverwinter Nights and its sequels include a few instances of XP beyond combat. Some conversations have bonus XP nestled in them for "roleplaying" options, there are times where avoiding the combat encounter will grant as much or more XP than fighting through it (if you're over-leveled for the fight). In Neverwinter Nights 2, a later expansion even gave XP for opening locks and disabling traps.
  • Planescape: Torment became a cult classic largely because of this trope. Whereas most CRPGs at the time were heavily into hack'n'slash, Torment gave the best rewards (including experience) for dialog-based solutions to problems.
  • Rebel Star: Tactical Command: Using the Medic and Psionics (non combat and more in mind screw) commands grant exp.
  • In Star Ocean The Last Hope, finishing mini quests gives you exp and the skill points to acquire skills. Also you get that by farming and or mining items at certain spots (the only way to finish some of said quests as well as getting certain crafting materials).
  • Xenoblade awards the player EXP for simply exploring the world map, by discovering landmarks and hidden areas. It also awards EXP for successfully completing sidequests and completing key points (called "Chapters") in the game's story. Being that it's easily over 80 hours in length (up to 100, or more, including sidequests) it's not hard to see why that is.
  • Valkyrie Profile has Event Experience, which is received at the ends of dungeons and after triggering events while exploring dungeons. It's usually pretty meager in comparison with the experience you get from killing all the stuff in the dungeons, but has the advantage of being able to be divided as you wish among your characters, allowing you to stockpile it and level up weak characters who'd have a difficult time surviving combat.
  • Gothic gives you experience points for each completed quest.
  • Elvira 2: Jaws of Cerberus grants you experience for going into unexplored map squares and casting spells. Technically, you could get unlimited experience by preparing and casting a lot of free spells (but you'd have to wait for your Power Points to regenerate, so it would take a long time.)
  • Most Nippon Ichi games give the healer classes EXP for healing others, and also, the Merchant class (appearing in Makai Kingdom and Phantom Brave) can gain experience and level up just by buying things from her (in addition to killing things, of course).
  • Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines gives experience only for quests completed through any means, making verbal conflict resolution and full stealth runs a completely viable way of playing without gimping your character - right up until the last part of the plot where the whole thing devolves into dungeons upon dungeons with very little stealth or social options. Hope you spent some XP on weapon skills after all...
  • Superhero League of Hoboken gives bonus XP for discovering every area on a map (how hard this is varies, since different terrain types have different requirements for being passable) and for completing missions.

MMORPGs
  • Guild Wars 2 gives experience for almost everything, from harvesting materials in the world, to crafting to exploration.
  • Mabinogi has lots of ways to get XP from crafting and other non-combat activities.
    • The two skills for crafting finished adventuring gear, Tailoring and Blacksmithing, give some of the easiest XP in the game, especially if you take part-time jobs or process your own raw materials.
    • Additionally, the Merchant Destiny give you more than double XP for crafting stuff for as long as you keep it.
    • There is also Exploration XP, which is basically an entire second XP-and-level system, fueled entirely by tracking down Irian artifacts with an L-rod.
    • Mabinogi is one of the few combat-oriented games where you can make a respectable character who never fights.
  • Trickster Online gives the player experience from various activities, namely drilling and playing cards.
  • World of Warcraft gives experience the first time a significant landmark is visited. 4.1 also made it so that gathering nodes like ore or plants give XP when gathered.
    • There are also plenty of quests that don't necessarily require combat. Some of them are just to get you to the next quest in the story train but others like the repeatable quests relating to professions or those involving major world events give an amount of experience that scales with your level and can add up a bit after a while (assuming you haven't hit the current level cap).
  • PlanetSide gives you a small amount of Combat Experience Points for completing tutorial missions. Using an ANT truck to recharge a base's generator will grant you BEP. Taking over an enemy base while commanding a squad will grant you Command Experience Points, regardless of whether you were actively engaging in combat or simply giving orders.
  • Urban Dead allows human players to gain experience by healing damage with First Aid Kits and by DNA scanning and revivifying zombies, while zombie players can gain small amounts of experience for smashing barricades.

Tabletop RPG
  • Space 1889 has an unusual version with close combat and other experience points in parallell and completely separated. You get one skill point for every major event or episode, these point may not be used to purchase close combat skills. You also get one for every time you participated in close combat, those can only be used on close combat skills.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has various rules for GMs to give out EXP for completing tasks outside combat, such as talking one's way out of a fight or for superb roleplaying. Also, long before there were official rules for it, this was a very popular house rule.
    • Even in the earliest D&D sets PCs got 1 xp for every gp of treasure found. Getting treasure by avoiding combat with monsters was actively encouraged.
    • 4th edition added the "skill challenge" mechanic which was a method for designing encounters around a series of non combat skill checks and setting standard experience point awards for those tasks. A few of the examples were even about using non combat skills to circumvent or reduce the difficulty of combats.
  • FATAL manages to use this trope to limit the poor, deformed, psychotic PCs that get created. Each class has a specific action that grants it EXP. No more needs to be stated.
    • Actually, one more thing should be stated - all classes have the same EXP requirement to reach new levels, but the actual EXP gained varies by class. As a result, an accountant (yes, that's an actual class), who gains EXP for each month they work, must work for eighty years to gain a level.
  • Iron Crown Enterprises' games (Rolemaster, Space Master, Cyberspace, etc.) often gave experience points for non-combat actions, such as coming up with useful ideas, performing movement maneuvers (e.g. running), traveling (5 XP per kilometer), using spells or psionic powers, performing research and building or repairing items.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space works on a voting method: the other players at a session make secret votes to decide if a player gets 1, 2 or 3 XP. The average is rewarded.
  • The World of Darkness series, being a storytelling system, mainly grants EXP through non-combat means. One point for showing up, one point if the character learned something, and so on. EXP can be gained through combat, though it's not the primary method.
  • Games based on the Hero System (Champions, Danger International) gave experience points for things like good role playing, how outnumbered the PCs were and how successful the adventure was. The PCs did not gain XP just for defeating opponents.
  • DC Heroes. PCs can receive Hero Points for participating in the adventure, roleplaying well, saving innocent bystanders and subplots (activities unrelated to the main adventure).
  • Mutants & Masterminds is entirely divorced from combat experience instead awarding build points on a per game session basis which can be spent to acquire or improve any sort of power or ability you can think of.
  • Barbarians of Lemuria is interesting in that it technically doesn't give out XP for what the player characters did in play at all. Instead, points are awarded purely on the basis of how entertainingly the players describe squandering away their characters' acquired treasures between the last scenario and the upcoming next one.
  • In Ironclaw EXP is completely based on roleplaying. Combat only figures in when it accomplishes one of the characters' Goals.

Web Comics
  • Spoofed in Culture Shock in this strip - You can get EXP for quite literally anything - kicking trash cans, beating up nerds, popping bubble wrap, opening bags of chips, and using the restroom, among others.
  • Discussed by the Light Warriors in 8-Bit Theater - Apparently, sidequests are the primary source of an adventurer's EXP gain, and are what separates noble adventurers from roaming bands of thugs.
  • Goblins features one conversation between two city guards in Brassmoon City about a time when a DM granted someone roleplaying XP for taking a dump. This granted him just enough XP to level up. Needless to say, things got crappy real fast.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the first time the Order levels up on-screen, Belkar, their psychotic evil halfling ranger, was a mere handful of XP shy from leveling up with everyone else. When killing rats proved to not grant XP and party kills were banned from him, he resorted to pulling out a sob story for roleplaying XP.
  • In Darths & Droids, Jim is actually surprised that XP can be gained from roleplaying, rather than just fighting.
  • In Homestuck, characters level up for things like completing a Stable Time Loop by accident, or even throwing their hat in frustration.
  • Played straight for Peganone and Jordie in Our Little Adventure, who both gained their character levels doing non-combat things.

Multiple Media
  • Noob has shown experience points to be gained by exploration and completing quests. In the webseries, a semi-Running Gag has one of the characters try to level up on exploration alone ; while it didn't actually work, he still reached level 100 with the EXP gained by discovering a new place. The comic has short story in which he actually gains a level by exploring; the puchline reveals that it took about four months and hints that his teammates have been waiting for him to finish all that time.

EXP applies only to a particular skill or attribute.

Video Games
  • The Elder Scrolls series uses a levelling system which gives the player experience for doing a given task (so you level up in sneak if you sneak, destruction magic for killing things with magic and so on) and awards levels (with respective stat increases, as well as perks in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) every 10 ranks (so you could become quite high level by doing nothing but sneaking, smithing and learning to talk really well).
  • Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (and more friends of mineral town): You get experience on using the tools by using the tools.
  • In Quest 64, while you gain HP, MP, and defense by performing tasks in battle, you gain agility by walking. Including running around in circles for hours.
  • Recettear: You get Merchant Exp by haggling in your shop. Vending Machines do not count.
  • The Quest for Glory saga lacks experience levels, the skills are improved by performing them.
  • Besides an initial Point Build System, both attributes and skills in Dwarf Fortress are increased only by using them and each action has one or more attributes and sometimes a skill tied to it. This means while you can only raise combat skill by fighting conscious opponents, you can improve physical and mental ability by doing things like sharping rocks, swimming a lot, walking on crutches (even if you don't need to), and sneaking around (even if there's nobody around to hide from). It works the same in Fortress Mode (which has many more non-combat skills usable), but since that's a Space Management Game rather than an RPG it's not exactly this trope.
  • The video game franchise Ultima utilizes this mechanic in its games. Instead of a class or level system, the core mechanics are an attribute system and a skill system. Players gain more powerful at their skills by using them repeatedly.
Tabletop Games
  • Basic Roleplaying and it's descendants (Call of Cthulhu and Runequest being the most famous) doesn't have experience points. Instead they have a system where you get a chance to increase a skill if you used it. Realistic in that you get better at doing stuff by actually doint it, unrealistic in the amount of increase a single use can get and unrealistic in that it causes player to use skills for little or no reason other than to increase it.

Mixed Type - Contains both variants

MMORPGs
  • Perfect World: When obtaining materials and crafting, you get a small dose of experience. Obtaining materials affects one's overall level, while crafting only affects one's crafting ability.

Roguelikes

RolePlayingGames
  • Rune Factory 3: You have to develop skills to increase your stats, which can be anything from finding hidden items, to running, to fishing, as well as to unlock new recipes for the extensive Item Crafting system. This is combined with your standard 'waltz through dungeons killing everything forever' shtick for your actual level EXP, which seems to mostly be good for raising your raw HP and RP. Of course, the limited time constraints typical to Harvest Moon games means you can't really farm anything but the crafting skills effectively, which keeps you from reaching Game Breaking levels by spring.

Moving Target BonusVideo Game RewardsNot Actually Cosmetic Award

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