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Character Level

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Now I can finally take a level in badass!
...and gain the ability to sit? Oh well.

"Wow! I feel as if I've passed some arbitrary experience value and gained more power!"
Marcus, Fallout 2

The concept of "experience", in the Role-Playing Game, is based off the idea that people get better at what they do the more they use their abilities. This is quantified by Experience Points, but is usually rewarded by an increase in character level.

In most games with Character Levels, the main character starts off fairly weak with a low "level", usually described in single digits (e.g. "Lv.1"). When they defeat an enemy, they receive Experience Points, and each time their experience reaches a designated threshold, the character "levels up": Their stats increase by a small amount, they may learn new skills and abilities, and they may recover lost health and or mana. Over time the character becomes stronger allowing the player to successfully take down tougher foes (with higher yields of experience).

Generally speaking, monsters do not "level up" with the player; monsters are usually assigned a fixed experience level which remains the same for the entire game (although it may vary from one area to the next). There are exceptions, however (e.g. Final Fantasy VIII), but this can lead to a phenomenon known as Empty Levels.

Depending on the game, the increase in level may either have a predetermined effect, allow the player to invest into new abilities and stats, or a combination of the two. Some games even tried to make the process more logical by increasing the attributes the character has used most.

Like many Role-Playing Game tropes, this comes directly from Dungeons & Dragons. It occasionally shows up in other genres as well.

Finally, some games may actually use levels to restrict options. For instance, that Infinity +1 Sword may require you to reach, say, Level 50 before you're allowed to even lay eyes on it, let alone pick it up. This comes up in games where it's feasible for a level 1 character to get his or her hands on that sword somehow; typically, this would be an online multiplayer system.

See also Level Grinding, Absurdly High Level Cap, Absurdly Low Level Cap, Class and Level System, Level-Locked Loot, Level Scaling, Spell Levels, Stat Grinding and Super Weight. If a game is said to have RPG Elements, then people usually mean that it incorporates a Character Leveling system into its gameplay in addition to whatever is expected from the genre. No relation to Mook-Themed Level.

Oh, and if you're looking for the game called Level Up!, that's here, and if you are looking for the show called Level Up, that's here.


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     Action Adventure  

  • Iji has levels for your Nanofield, but all a level does is allow you to get a 1-point increase to one stat. Interestingly, this isn't automatic - you have to find a special station to spend your available point on one of the seven stats. You can also get extra points by picking up special powerups.
  • Played for laughs in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where levelling up would make Logan glow brightly and let out a primal roar.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Deadpool gets the best level up lines. "I gained enough experience points, and I leveled up!" "Now I'm the best at doing whatever it is Wolverine does!" (As one of Wolverine's post-Mook-kill phrases, as well as one of the character's signature phrases, is "I'm the best at what I do.")

     Beat Em Up  

  • The NES version of the first Double Dragon game added a leveling mechanic - you start the game with only basic punches and kicks (and a headbutt), gradually giving Billy access to the rest of his moves as he levels-up.
  • The Capcom game Knights of the Round had this system, where EXP was gained from defeating enemies and picking up things; basically, it's through the score system that the character you play as gets more elaborate weapons and armor as they level up.
  • Used A LOT in IGS' games:
    • The whole Knights Of Valour series had this via the score meter leveling up your character when a certain amount of points are achieved; leveling up was less subtle and was only at the end of each stage in the second installment. Level 70 was the max level to reach in the third game's HD installment.
    • Paving way for the third installment of the above series, Oriental Legend 2 also had this by proxy, only it could go up to Level 100; new moves could be unlocked per set level for all characters.
      • All the later games with this form of system could have main character(s) selected + current level saved onto an IC card for the arcade machines.
  • The NES game River City Ransom featured a system where individual stats (agility, punch strength, kick strength etc) could be improved by means of the characters purchasing certain items from shops (mostly foodstuffs).

     First Person Shooter  

  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's multiplayer not only has character levels, topping out at 55, but once you do get to the highest level you can then go for Prestige — resetting your character level to 1 so you can go through it again, this time with a special icon to let others know how many times you've done this (up to 10). Later games add various other bonuses for prestiging - Modern Warfare 3 gives you "Prestige tokens" every time you prestige, which can be spent on bonuses such as extra Create-a-Class slots or having a specific weapon or gadget unlocked indefinitely, even if you prestige again.
  • Uniquely done in Titanfall 2: of the playable "Titans" in multiplayer, the "Monarch" can activate its "Upgrade Core" as its form of a Limit Break during combat, upwards to three tier levels. These tiers consist of active or passive abilities unlocked for the Monarch (and designated by players in the menu) and will last for as long as the Titan remains on the battlefield, ranging from increased firing rate and shortening reload time for its primary weapon, supporting allied Titans by transferring its shield to them and launching more missiles from its ordinance.

     Hack And Slash  

  • The only thing that increases when Caim levels up in Drakengard is the amount of Hit Points he has. In order to increase his damage or his magic meter, you have to level up the various weapons that are found in the game.
  • As of Samurai Warriors 2, a more clear-cut level-up system was used for unlocking character move lists and the like, whereas previous games merely used a ranking point system. By that proxy, battlefield drops that increased individual stats were abandoned in later Warriors/Musou games in favor of stats growing per level instead.

     Mecha Game  

  • In Zone of the Enders 2, if you defeat enough enemies, your health bar will increase slightly. But since you gain no other attributes upon "leveling up", you will still die fairly quickly if you let your guard down (especially against the Big Bad)

     Miscellaneous Games  

  • In the DS Dinosaur King game, the level(s) of your opponent's dinosaurs determine how much EXP you obtain by beating them. Also, as they level up, dinosaurs produce Move Cards, which can be equipped on any dinosaur regardless of their level.
  • In Angry Birds 2, you can earn colored feathers that increase the damage your birds will do and unlock levels of the arena once all the birds reach a certain number of feathers. They are earned in the bonus chests you get every few levels and as prizes in the arena.
  • In the Head Sports series (excepting Head Soccer), each playable character gains Experience Points and levels up independently.


  • An interesting usage of this trope involves the MMO Sports game Shot Online, a golf game where you start as a Level 1 golfer, slicing and hooking the ball like mad, driving off the tee barely 150 yards. The more you play, the more experience you earn, gaining levels, and placing points to stats to straighten and lengthen those shots...
  • Battle Stations - levelling up gives you stat points that can be used to boost your abilities, and allows access to better ships and equipment.
  • Largely averted in Runescape. Although there's a combat and skill total levels, the levels have to be gained for every skill separately.
  • Dark Ages handled character levels in the usual way, but it called them "insights", which at least added some flavor and an explanation as to why your character was suddenly better at something: he or she was said to have "gained a flash of insight". Later updates to the game ruined this flavor, though, by implementing a "Level Up" graphic above the character's head.
  • Guild Wars had the usual level up system for an MMO. However, an interesting difference to other games is that enemies can also level up by killing players, and this was originally the only way to get an achievement in the first area.

     Platform Game  

  • The Ratchet & Clank games feature this, generally in increasingly extreme forms as the series progresses, but for your weapons; Each time you kill something with any particular weapon, the WEAPON earns experience. When it gets enough, it levels up. Later games allow it to become a new, more powerful type of weapon at the end of a multi-step leveling sequence. Most of the games have a cap on the level you can reach, but in the New Game Plus you can use the money you've acquired to buy the upgraded form, which will put the weapon at the next level, as well as allow you to get more experience for your weapon until you reach the second level cap.
  • Faxanadu has character levels, but they only determine the amount of XP and money retained by the player when they die and resurrect.
    • And the character levels are, in fact, counter-intuitive. Rather than leveling up as soon as you get enough experience, you have to get enough experience, and then make your way to a church and speak to the priest, who gives you a new title (and effectively the level). If you die before you manage to make it to the church (a frequent occurrence), then your experience points are reset to your previous title, making leveling a grueling and entirely unnecessary aspect of the game.
      • And in fact, being at high levels will actually hurt your chances of winning the game, as levels actually shorten the duration of the items that you use.
  • Smashroom: Whenever you fill up the Experience Points meter in the top right corner of the screen, Smashroom can level up, allowing you to upgrade one of four randomly selected stats.

     Racing Game  

  • Blur has Fan Levels. As your fan level increases, you unlock new cars and new mods. In single player this is capped at 25. In multiplayer this is capped at 50 with the option to enter Legend Mode, similar to Prestige in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in that your level resets to 1 and you can go through the progression again (up to 10 times), except each Legend Mode unlocks another new car.

     Real-Time Strategy  

  • In Puzzles & Survival, your Commander can level up through experience points, unlocking talent points which can be used to unlock special skills and improve stats. Experience points are gained through winning battles and can also be bought in some of the shops.

     Role Playing Game  

  • DragonFable plays it straight. Due to the self-referential nature of the game, it's often used for meta jokes.
    Dragon: I should probably just eat this hero now. It will save me a lot of trouble in 30 levels or so.
  • The Epic Battle Fantasy series of RPGs. The first game's description says:
    You start with level 99 characters – there’s no adventuring or levelling up
  • New Worlds Ateraan has a simple level-up system with main levels adding new abilities to the character, while smaller skills make those abilities better. Players can choose which to allocate experience and coins to. NPCs don't level up, though, and level has no affect on usable gear.
  • The Fallout series has a fairly generic level-up system similar to GURPS (which it was originally slated to use), in which each level-up is primarily focused on allocating skill points. Base attributes do not change upon level-up, but every third level grants a perk for further customization of the player character. Your NPCs level up as well, and, as the page quote shows, they will throw in some funny lines when they do. Fallout's level system is notable for not holding the player back from wielding powerful weapons in an open game, allowing people in later playthroughs to pick up devastating weapons and armor early on with the proper know-how. This is marginally balanced by the fact that most low-level characters won't be able to pick up enough ammo or even hit anything with an energy weapon at 20% skill with it.
  • Despite being a card game, some Genre Shifting Yu-Gi-Oh! video games do this, preventing you from using stronger cards until you "level up" to their caliber. This has sometimes gone to the extreme, not only preventing you from using cards higher than your current level, but whose collective experience point total is higher than yours, as well, essentially forcing you to play with lackluster cards until you're more than halfway through the game.
    • The card game itself has "Level Monsters", monsters that are capable of Leveling up and becoming stronger. Lower level monsters usually just need to survive a turn to level up, but destroying a monster in battle is also typical. Higher leveled monsters usually get some benefit from being leveled up from their previous level, while the highest leveled monsters typically cannot be summoned by any way but by leveling up the previous leveled monster.
      • The card Level Up can also be used to bypass any leveling conditions; it tends to be abused.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Played straight in Arena, which uses standard levels.
    • Starting with Daggerfall (and continuing into Morrowind and Oblivion), individual skills increase in level (rather than levels leading to new ones). Every 10-15 increases of a Primary/Major/Minor skill (designated by class when creating a new character or selected yourself if you create a custom class) results in a new character level, with the option of increasing your Attributes (Strength, Intelligence, etc.) upon leveling up. The Attributes which govern the skills you increased in order to increase in level will get multipliers based on the amount of skill increases. (So if you increase Heavy Armor 10 times, Endurance will get a x5 multiplier.) This can also eventually lead to Empty Levels or a Parabolic Power Curve if you level inefficiently. Oblivion also includes the series' first attempt at perks, which come into play every 25 skill levels on a 5-100 scale.
    • Skyrim does away with classes and attributes, in favor of pure skill-leveling with perks. Increasing any combination of skills enough (with higher skills being harder to raise, but being worth more than increasing lower ones) will allow you to level-up, with the option of increasing your Health, Magicka, or Stamina by 10. Additionally, you can choose one perk with every level gained in one of the skill trees. The higher the skill, the more perks there are available to you.
  • Get in the Car, Loser!: Every character has a personal rank based on the lowest ranked trinket they have equipped. Enemies also have ranks, which can be lowered or raised through ailments or Devil Clock effects. Every difference in rank between an attacker and defender makes a huge difference in the damage formula. A character one rank higher will deal twice as much damage and receive half as much when fighting a lowered ranked character.
  • In the Pokémon games, traded Pokémon may not listen to your commands if their level becomes too high, since you haven't "earned" the right to command it. Defeating Gym Leaders and earning their badges raised the maximum level that such Pokémon would obey your commands, with a complete collection of badges allowing you to easily control any Pokémon regardless of its level.
    • In Pokémon: The Original Series, this phenomenon was depicted by Ash's Charizard, who cheerfully obeyed him as a Charmander, but ignored him more and more as it evolved. It almost followed the games rules: the Charmander wasn't his to begin with (it was a castoff from some other trainer who was never heard from again) and quickly became his most powerful Pokémon (thus higher level), but the anime failed to account for the badges, which are the sign of "earning the right" to command traded Pokémon.
  • In Lost Kingdoms, you would only level up with the storyline. This wouldn't stop the player from using powerful cards, since you'd use HP instead of rune stones when you ran out of them (and your HP wouldn't drop to 0 from this, and exploitation fixed in the sequel).
  • In The World Ends with You, you and your partner go up a level as soon as you gain enough experience. The beam of light that accompanies this phenomenon has been observed to damage enemies. Notably, leveling only increases your HP and braverynote ,; attack and defense can only be permanently increased by eating food. You can also lower your effective level in the menu (only affecting HP, not bravery) to raise your drop rate multiplier.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The first two Paper Mario games take a somewhat different direction. When Mario levels, he can choose between more Hit Points, Flower Points (used for special attacks) and Badge Points (which can be used to equip badges with a variety of effects). His offense on the other hand is upgraded by finding better hammers and boots, and the Star powers are plot-related. His partners don't level at all but can be upgraded twice, resulting in more hitpoints (in the second game), offense and a new move.
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and sequels have a different, albeit slightly similar variation. As well as the standard leveling up, a bonus slot machine type wheel appears and you can choose any stat to add a few more points to each time. The latest game also adds ranks which are gotten by character levels, each enabling you to equip more items/gear.
  • Averted (for the most part) in Monster Hunter, which is a bit of a surprise given its MMO-like structure. The character's abilities depend directly on two factors: player skill and gear. Played straight in some versions where you can recruit NPC companions who do indeed level up.
  • .hack//G.U. uses your character level to lock you out of higher level equipment till you hit that level.
  • In Dragon Quest IX, every character in your party caps each job at level 99. However, once you complete the main plot, you can reset a job's level to 1 after it reaches level 99. This allows you to perform Stat Grinding to get all of the many job-specific and weapons skills to their maximum.
  • Inverted in the first two Rockman.EXE / Mega Man Battle Network games, the first Ryuusei no Rockman / Mega Man Star Force game, and Rockman.EXE: Operate Shooting Star, their Crossover. Instead of having to level up in order to increase your abilities, your level is calculated based on the upgrades you've acquired (although Star Force and Operate Shooting Star add levels for certain postgame achievements, to round out the max to 100). There are no experience points whatsoever, and the level itself is mostly cosmetic, which may explain why most sequels dropped them altogether.
  • The NES/Famicom (along with its Updated Rereleases) game Final Fantasy II went the "level up only what you've been using" route, and applied it to weapons and spells as well as stats (for example, your maximum HP would increase if you got hurt a lot). Needless to say, it didn't last, although its remakes have made it less grindy and more generous and balanced, along with removing the occasional stat decreases from the NES/Famicom version.
  • In Infinite Space, only assigned crew members will gain experience points from battle, and when they level up, the stat required by their post will go up faster than other stats. The assignment and command skills owned by your crews will level up for each twenty levels.
  • Freelancer levels are based on money, except if you're still playing through the story, in which case every other level requires you to complete a storyline mission. These levels allow you to purchase mightier ships, which in turn have better armor, shields, armament capacity, and cargo space.
    • The "money levels" in Freelancer are also a form of Go Wait Outside because generally your allies are getting plot-important stuff done while you go raise some cash and spruce up the ship for the next mission. It's always set at a certain amount above your current value, so you can't just grind up extra money ahead of time and skip those levels.
  • Knights of the Old Republic naturally does this. It's a good idea to wait until low on health before spending the experience points, as this will fully heal your character. In the first game, it is also advisable to stop at level 4 of your initial class and spend the rest of the Taris section as The Load, so you gain the most bonuses from your base class and are able take four Jedi levels at once after making it to Dantooine.
  • Averted in Crimson Shroud, where your party's stats are determined by the gear they have equipped, and otherwise remain constant throughout the campaign.
  • Averted in Three the Hard Way, which is very unusual for an RPG Maker game. Characters' stats are increased only if they are victorious in a "challenging" battle.
  • In Gyromancer (an RPG/puzzle hybrid), players have a level, and so do monsters (whether they belong to the player or are enemies). Monsters advance in level along with the player, except that they have level caps which will eventually prevent them from advancing further. This has the effect of requiring players to trade in their monsters from time to time rather than sticking with the same set throughout the game.
  • In Undertale, levels, abbreviated as LV, are called LOVE. As is typical for this trope, you increase your LOVE by gaining EXP from killing enemies. At the end of the game, it is revealed that EXP and LOVE are acronyms; EXP stands for "EXecution Points" and is a way of measuring how much of a ruthless murderer you've been while LOVE stands for "Level Of ViolencE" and is a way of measuring how much of an unfeeling sociopath you've become. The more you kill, the easier it becomes to distance yourself. The more you distance yourself, the less you will hurt. The more easily you can bring yourself to hurt others.
    • Deltarune Like Undertale, the game tracks your EXP and LV. However, EXP and LV still appear to quantify Killing Intent, and the protagonists are unable to kill anyone due to the enemy running away after a certain amount of health is lost (non-lethal beatings still don't give any EXP). Consequently, LV for the whole party is stuck at 1, making it essentially cosmetic. There is even a boss that must be overcome peacefully due to it being able to heal itself more than the party can damage it, removing even the ability to non-lethally beat up every enemy in the game.
  • In Gems of War (well, the RPG Elements thereof), player characters have levels, with increases providing boosts to stats like health and attack. Experience is gained from battles (including defeats, albeit in different quantities). However, other troops also have their own levels, and they work differently — they have to be specifically levelled up by spending Souls, which can be obtained from battles and other places. You'll generally have more troops than Souls to level them, so you have to choose which ones to focus on.
  • In Capella's Promise, characters will gain a distribution of 20 stat points upon leveling up according to their equipped Megaloma. If no Megaloma is equipped, the distribution of the 20 points is random.
  • Postknight: You gather Experience Points, and after getting a certain number of them, you can increase your stats.
  • In Shop Heroes, there are several kinds of character level. The player character has a level as a shopkeeper; you increase this by selling things, and it unlocks things such as hiring more employees (who make the stuff you sell). Each of these employees has their own separate level, which increases as they make things. Each hero who frequents your shop has a level as well; this is increased by successful questing, and determines what sort of equipment the hero needs.
  • In Emerald Dragon only the protagonist Atrushan and his Love Interest Tamryn gain EXP and level up as usual. The rest of your party have no levels, making them reliant on equipment to keep up.
  • Monster Girl Quest! Paradox has three types for each character:
    • The standard level, which is increased by gaining regular EXP and determines base stats. Some characters also learn new skills as they level up.
    • The job level, which is increased by gaining Job EXP. New skills and abilities are learned as job level increases, and reaching the maximum job level of 10 unlocks access to more advanced jobs.
    • The race level, which is also increased by gaining Job EXP, also gives new skills and abilities as it increases, and unlocks access to more advanced races when a level of 10 is reached. A notable difference is that (outside of certain quests and events) characters can only switch to races based on their starting race(s) (e.g. a Lamia will only be able to switch to the more advanced Lamia races).
  • Parameters: Noted at the top left corner of the screen. Increases once you get enough Experience Points.
  • The 1974-75 dnd game uses an experience points system and like early Dungeons & Dragons, you experience is tied to how much gold you loot from enemies and the dungeon at large. You need to leave the dungeon with 10,000 XP to level up, at which point your hit points and spell usages increase.
  • Rise of the Third Power: Unlike most games, the entire party shares an EXP bar, meaning it's impossible for anyone to be ahead or behind in levels.

     Shoot Em Up  

  • Bubble Tanks has your "levels" in an evolution tree- when you collect enough bubbles from defeated enemies, you "level up" and choose a next evolution for your tank. Careful though, getting hit by enemies causes you to lose experience points, and you can go back down a level if you are not careful!
  • The Psyvariar series has levels increase via bullet grazing, which gives your ship a new firing pattern, and makes you invincible for a brief moment.

     Stealth Based Game  

     Survival Horror  

  • Dead Rising uses a basic form of this: you kill zombies and take pictures to gain experience, and each level gained results in either a stat boost (Speed, Power, Inventory, etc.) or a new move (Double Lariat, Disembowel).

    Tower Defense 
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time: Starting from a patch, you can level up your plants by giving them seed packs. By leveling them up you can increase their damage, their lifespan, rate of fire and other effects, making them more effective.

     Turn Based Strategy  

  • Jagged Alliance has an "Experience Level" that increases slowly whenever the character's attributes or skills go up (no matter which skills...). It increases performance in nearly every aspect of gameplay, but does not increase the level of challenge (that's based on another, character-irrelevant value). However, more experienced characters do cost more to hire, which means that you need to watch out not to train your characters beyond your financial means.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics characters get experience and ability points for every successful action taken (meaning attacks that hit not missed etc.), which could result in possible grinding by hitting your allies, while having some unfortunate enemy surrounded or running off to the distant corners of the field.
  • Units in Ancient Empires gain experience as they fight and can level up several times, gaining increased stats. In the second game, some levels are accompanied by name changes. For example, the Elemental becomes a Sea Elemental, then an Aqueos, then a Neptunian.
  • Units in Fire Emblem can generally gain up to 20 levels in a base class, followed by 20 levels in a promoted class, though one has the option to promote them starting at base level 10. EXP is usually gained by defeating enemies, with lesser gains for hitting but not defeating enemies note . When a unit levels up, they get a random gain to their stats, determined by their individual stat growth rates; it is possible, however unlikely, for a unit to gain nothing upon leveling up.

Non-video game examples:

    Fan Works 


  • This is a common trope in the LitRPG genre, due to its core concept of incorporating RPG mechanics into a standalone narrative.
  • The Gam3: Each player in the Game has a level, gaining levels grants points to spend on abilities or stats. The main character's starting level is 3. The average and median levels of publicly listed players is given as 3460 and 1337. There is no level cap.
  • The Wandering Inn:A mechanic built into the world in which Erin, Ryoka, and the rest of the Otherworlders find themselves. Every intelligent being gains Classes, Levels, and Skills based on what they do, how they do it, and how they are perceived by themselves and others.
  • In Erebos, players can gain levels either by winning them in duels from other players, or by doing different tasks in the real world. While no explicit stats are given, higher level players appear to be stronger, and gain the ability to see the level of every character whose level is lower than their own (e.g., a Level 3 can see if somebody is Level 1 or 2, but if the other is also Level 3 or higher, the level will be invisible).
  • In Lair For Rent, there is a system of Villain Ranks. For some undefined reason, Walter gains additional perks and abilities every time he gains a new rank. It's suggested that this is to compensate A.I.s whose normally don't increase their "power" of being sentient.

  • Star Wars Episode I: You go through the Jedi ranks by spelling J-E-D-I and fighting Darth Maul.
  • In Pinball Quest, your pinball levels up by destroying monsters to gain Attack Strength.
  • Much like Episode I, Star Wars (Stern) has the player advance through the ranks of the Jedi by hitting a specific set of drop targets.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Stern): Each of the four turtles can be leveled up (to a maximum of 4) through Training Modes or a successful Weapon Hurry-Up. Each level bestows an additional perk upon the player.
  • In Avengers: Infinity Quest, each of the six primary Avengers can be leveled up by shooting their shot after collecting them. Doing so provides a number of benefits, including doubling the worth of their shot, increasing scoring during associated multiball modes, and increasing the power of any Infinity Gem placed on them.

     Tabletop Games  
  • As mentioned in the introduction, Dungeons & Dragons is the Trope Maker and hasn't changed much over the years in this respect either. The one significant change that did happen was the switch from second to third edition, when class-specific XP tables were abolished in favor of the same XP progression for everyone and the new multiclassing rules made the difference between "class level" and "character level" more significant while 3E lasted.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay... sort of does this. Instead of gaining levels of "wizard" or "warrior", characters start with a Career and a set of skills and gear related to that, and then they can spend experience points to advance skills and stats as set by that career's available advances (for example a servant can increase their agility but not their leadership). When you have ticked off all the available advances, you can move on to an advanced career (or change to another basic career if you wish) by spending experience and amassing the necessary prerequisite gear and gain access to new advances and skills. What makes this system nice is character progression feels organic and tied into what happens during the game; so for example a Peasant is equally likely to become a Farmer, a Militiaman, an Outlaw or a Zealot depending on their choices.
  • Exalted returns to character levels, sort of. It uses the WW system and allows you to buy what you want, but a character's meterstick for power is their Essence stat.
    • All of the New World of Darkness games feature a meterstick for power (Blood Potency for Vampires, Primal Urge for Werewolves, Wyrd for Changelings and Gnosis for Mages). In most cases, however, this doesn't limit what powers you can buy (save for mages, where Gnosis determines just how many levels a mage can buy in their ranked Arcana).
    • Exalted Third Edition plays this much straighter. Now, rather than purchasing Essence with experience points, it will rise for free once you've spent enough on other traits.
  • Two of the first tabletop RPGs not to use levels at all were Traveller and RuneQuest, which relied on skill and stat advancement entirely.
  • Averted in GURPS. Characters slowly gain Character Points that are used to improve skills, powers or stats. Theoretically a character built on more points is more powerful but the system explicitly notes that even a discrepancy of 25 points is fairly minor. Given the number and variety of ways you can invest those points, it's also entirely possible to have a high-point character be "weaker" than a low-point one in terms of combat power. You could build a 1000 point super-chef with no combat skills who would be swiftly trounced by a 100 point character who put that into hitting things. Of course, not all games are based on combat and what is "powerful" depends on the game at hand.
  • F.A.T.A.L. apparently has levels too...although your character is supposed to die before level 20. The author considers this a good thing.
  • Dwellers in Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok earn whole levels, usually one per campaign, that allow them to draw a new rune of power from their pool during combat, or gain a new rune imbued with more powers.
  • HERO System games like Champions don't use Character Levels or even a typical class progression. Rather, your Experience Points function in a manner identical to the points given at character creation, creating a smoother curve of progression than the typical "staircase" style of level-based systems. (In other words, characters tend to end up improving more often but in correspondingly smaller steps...barring cases like saving up to buy a complete new major superpower or the like.)
  • Mutants & Masterminds: First edition had levels the character earned after every 15 power points. These levels in turn acted as a cap on how much a character could invest in certain attributes. Second edition loosened this up a bit, and level simply became a cap on all players power point expenditures (the cap only applies to certain categories) that could be changed any time the GM felt like it.
  • Ponies & Parasprites averts this in much the same way the World of Darkness does. It allows players to improve certain aspects of their characters with experience points instead of giving them a rigid 'class' to play as.
  • Subverted in Torchbearer: characters do level up but the only way to advance skills and abilities is logging tests, traits advance every Winter phase with the help of the other players and new Wises also are acquired during Winter, all independently of the character's level.
  • The German tabletop RPG Midgard somewhat inverts the usual progression: while it by and large is a traditional Class and Level System, going up in level requires actually improving individual skills by investing experience points, money, and training time into doing so first. The levelup happens after doing enough of that and mainly serves to raise assorted caps (most notably on stamina points, combat skills, and spellcasting) so that the character can now improve beyond the limits imposed by their earlier lower level.
  • Forsooth! has Fate score that can be used to resolve character conflicts in those rare instances when players don't agree on the outcome. Players usually have multiple characters, the highest Fate character being the Protagonist.
  • The old superhero game Villains & Vigilantes has a leveling system in place, but somewhat oddly, as-is the system doesn't address characters becoming significantly more powerful the more they're played (Since most superheroes' powers don't become stronger the more experienced they are). It offers some minor stat or skill-based enhancements based on what stat or skill the character was "training" during that level, and mostly reflects the character's degree of combat experience. That is, a 1st level character will find it much harder to hit and avoid being hit by a 10th level character, then that same character will at 5th level.
  • The Ur Examples: when a pawn reaches the eighth rank in Chess it is promoted to a queen (or, rarely, another officer). When a piece in Checkers reaches the eighth rank, it is promoted to a king and gains the ability move backwards.
  • Pokémon Tabletop Adventures not only has the traditional Pokémon leveling from 1 to 100, but Trainers also go from level 0 to 50.

  • 8-Bit Theater: Red Mage lets out a barbaric howl of DING! when he "levels up".
  • Awful Hospital: Fern Green levels up after defeating enemies in or around the titular hospital, as part of the adventure being structured like a JRPG parody.
  • Goblins: Apparently gaining a level feels like a glow inside... and can be the result of roleplaying at the last moment to have just enough experience.
  • Gold Coin Comics: Lower character levels often mean you get the lower end of the equipment list.
  • El Goonish Shive: Parodied in a sketchbook as Tensaided gains a level... in Manager.
  • Homestuck:
    • Each main character has an "echeladder" that they climb as they gain experience, gaining increased health, a boost to how much in-game resources they can carry, and some in-game money with each step up. Rather than numbered levels, each "rung" on the ladder has a different silly name. It also parodies the concept by giving the same echeladder system to inanimate objects and having them "level up" upon being used as tools to defeat enemies. Jane once gained a level both for herself and for her hat by throwing it forcefully onto the ground, which is apparently worth a tiny amount of experience.
    • There is also a second set of levels above the regular echeladder called the God Tiers (that name being a pun on Character Tiers). Attaining the first God Tier requires completing a "sidequest" of sorts, but once the transition has been made further level-ups occur as normal. These also use distinct names instead of numbers, although they tend to be more dramatic than humorous.
  • The Order of the Stick: Levelling up is representing by an audible "Ding". Roleplaying for experience is also what comes to mind when you've just been denied killing your party's scrappy for the level. In On the Origin of PCs, Haley convinces Vaarsuvius to leave their academic studies of magic behind and join an adventuring party by telling them that you gain much more XP through adventuring than you do through studying the skills you're actually interested in improving.
    Haley: Like two weeks ago, I'm on an adventure where we're fighting kobolds. Nothing but kobolds as far as the eye can see, in dark little cramped caves. We get back to town, and BAM! I'm better at picking locks. I didn't even see a lock during the entire trip!
  • Our Little Adventure: The group gets a fanfare-filled panel when they do level up. When the characters level up in the Rosoro Underground, not all the characters do so at the same time. Lenny leveled up first accidentally in this comic here.
  • xkcd: Parodied in a strip where a geek motivates himself into exercising by thinking of it as grinding stats like strength and constitution.

     Web Original  

  • In the first ASDF Movie a character levels up after randomly punching another character in the face.
  • Mall Fight's perception of a Character Level is absolutely distorted into oblivion. One fighter has some set stats (Attack, Defense, etc.) while another has totally different stats (Strength, Perception, etc) while another doesn't even care about it at all.

     Western Animation 
  • Miraculous Ladybug: When Max gets akumatized into a villain called "Gamer", he turns into a video game character and destroys people in order to gain XP and level up.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Experience Level


Bowser's Inside Story levels

Once the character gets enough EXP to raise their level flag to the top, they gain points in all stats and get to choose another stat to gain additional points in.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / CharacterLevel

Media sources: