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Experience Penalty

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An item, ability, debuff, or situation that causes the player character to gain less or no Experience Points. May be a trait of the Infinity -1 Sword to balance it out or when a high-level character fights lower-leveled enemies for Level Grinding.

Contrast Experience Booster. Compare Cast from Experience Points, Level Drain, Level Limiter and Anti-Grinding.


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  • In Blood Sword, if you have a Warrior in your party, he'll lose experience points from the total awarded at the end of a book, if he does something really cowardly or ignoble such as refuse to help a questing knight fight a sorceress that's way beyond his power level.

  • In Nothing Is Sacred, the amount of DP that Stella earns from her dueling matches is dependent on both how challenging her opponent is and how much of a challenge they present. A completely outclassed foe will provide her with no DP, a challenging foe that presents very little challenge due to favorable draws provides a reduced amount of DP, and a challenging foe that actually forces Stella to struggle to win will provide her with a sizable amount of DP.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide: if a party of PCs has 10 times (or more) the hit dice/Character Levels of the monsters they're facing, the Dungeon Master should at least halve the Experience Points they receive for defeating the monsters.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition:
      • Multiclassing incurs an XP penalty unless one of the character's classes (ignoring Prestige Classes) is their race's "favored class". Humans and half-elves get to choose their favored class.
      • The optional Bloodlines rules from Unearthed Arcana can also result in an XP penalty if the character doesn't take a "bloodline level" at some set points instead of a regular level.
  • DC Heroes: Hero Points are the game's version of Experience Points (they can be used to improve the character).
    • If a PC initiates Killing Combat (tries to kill an opponent), they lose all Hero Points they normally would receive for the adventure. If they enter Killing Combat only after an opponent initiates Killing Combat with them, they only lose half of the possible Hero Points.
    • If a player doesn't roleplay their PC properly (e.g. violating their character's Motivations or displaying sudden personality shifts) then the PC will forfeit the standard Role-Playing Hero Point award.
  • Similar to the above Marvel Super Heroes has Karma Points which can be used to increase abiilities or buy new powers. If a superhero does something not so nice (such as being rude to someone) they lose some Karma. If a superhero kills someone they lose their total Karma points (so the Punisher or Elektra will rarely get to improve in anything). The only exception is Wolverine who has Popularity Power to save his Karma.
  • Champions: PCs can be penalized Experience Points if they roleplay poorly or the adventure is a terrible failure.
  • Mage: The Awakening: Downplayed with apprentices in magical Legacies. Until they master their Legacy, one experience point at the end of every Story (i.e., one plot arc's worth of game sessions) is tithed to their mentor through the bond between their souls.

    Video Games 
  • Possible in Persona 4 with Shuffle Time. A card that can appear during Shuffle Time is one that cuts the amount of experience earned from the previous battle in half. As a trade-off for doing this, you get to pick two more bonus cards, which can be useful for Min-Maxing.
  • Starcraft II: During multiplayer matches, the amount of experience given for killing and building units drops to a third after a certain amount of time has passed.
  • Warcraft III: In the Frozen Throne expansion, heroes gain experience for killing creeps up to level 5, after which only enemy units give experience (creeps can still be killed for gold and items).
  • Dragon Quest VI: Gaining levels in classes is determined by the number of battles fought against sufficiently strong enemies. If the character's level is too high for the area, battles fought in that area no longer count (the Spiegelspire is the first area with no level cap, making it a Peninsula of Power Leveling despite the enemies not being endgame-difficult).
  • Dragon Quest IX: Experience is split by the number of characters in the party. Metal Slime runs can be very rewarding with only the main character, but very easy to lose in the higher level grottoes.
  • In Pok√©mon, higher level Pokemon gain less experience defeating lower level Pokemon in Black and White, Black 2 and White 2, and Sun and Moon.
  • In Stellaris, leaders can get the Arrested Development trait, which prevents them from gaining experience and subsequently from leveling up. The Stubborn and Slow Learner traits both reduce experience, with the first being a personality trait and the second one being a biological trait. The Conservative biological trait gives a experience penalty, while giving a starting level boost for new leaders.
  • In World of Tanks platoons are penalized if there is more than one tier difference between the tanks in the platoon to a maximum of 50% for Tier I tanks platooned up with Tier X tanks. This is to discourage "fail platoons".
  • Neverwinter Nights:
    • A Multiclassed character receives a 20% exp penalty if the levels of their individual classes are apart by more than one (for instance, a 3rd-level Wizard/5th-level Rogue).
    • When travelling with companions, experience gains percentages are reduced depending on how many characters are in the party. (This is balanced out by the fact that the game will spawn more enemies, and therefore a higher base exp, for larger parties.
  • In City of Heroes, the penalty for dying was gaining "Experience Debt". While in debt, half of the XP you earned would instead go toward working it off.
    • The original "exemplar" system, where a hero's level would be artificially lowered to match a partner in order to help with that partner's missions, caused players to gain Influence (the game's currency) instead of experience, though this was later changed so that exemplars would gain experience normally.
    • The game also features an option to disable gaining XP. This would primarily be for players who wanted to experience all story content available without outleveling it (though the Flashback system offered a more robust alternative).
  • Last Word: The Infinity +1 Sword: The Last Word also offers the skill "Last Word" - which costs 50 Bows to equip, but allows Whitty to instantly win all discourses at the cost of not getting any EXP from it.
  • In the Disgaea series, the "Depraved" status effect prevents a character from gaining XP, and may also prevent one from giving XP when killed.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The EXP Zero ability first introduced in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix prevents experience from being gained for as long as it's active.
    • Using the Warp spell causes enemies to disappear without leaving any experience.
  • Similarly to the Kingdom Hearts example, using the Warp or Teleport ability on enemies in the Final Fantasy series removes them from the field, either sending them to another dimension or just somewhere else. Either way, since they were removed without combat, no experience is given.
  • In Mass Effect, killing enemies while riding the Mako cuts experience gain by 60%. Thankfully, attacking enemies with the Mako doesn't instantly qualify for a penalty, so you can whittle an enemy down to a few hit-points with the Mako's weapons, get out of the tank and kill the enemy with your own guns for full experience gain.
  • Tools in Minecraft can be enchanted with "mending", which makes any experience you gain while holding or wearing them go into repairing them rather than your experience bar.
  • Each of the Celestial Weapons in Final Fantasy X will deny the user of Ability Points until its full power is unlocked through sidequests.
  • Many food and booze items in Kingdom of Loathing will cause you to gain experience. A few will cause you to lose some, notably the cursed food from Hey Deze. If your Clan is fortunate enough to have a hot dog stand, eating too many hot dogs will cause you to lose exponential amounts of experience points.
  • Using a Ridiculous Hat in Fallen London will clobber your hard-earned attributes, as it's hard to seem particularly imposing when you're dressed like The Cat in the Hat. It can also be merely equipped to reduce attributes temporarily.
  • Super Paper Mario has this trope in its most literal form: Killing a Cragnon while he's Brainwashed and Crazy will deduct from the team's accumulated experience points. As they spawn infinitely, killing enough Cragnons can actually make you level down.
  • Overwatch players who repeatedly quit games earlynote  will be slapped with a 75% penalty to EXP gains. The penalty persists until the offender completes a set number of games. Fortunately, levels are only needed to unlock Competitive Mode (at level 25) and to earn Loot Boxes for strictly-cosmetic items, but quitting in Competitive Mode carries more serious consequences than just a reduced rate of Loot Box gain.
  • Fairune 1: Enemies will drop no EXP if they're a lower level than Hope Girl.
  • The Logomancer: Monsters give progressively less experience with each level when the character that fights them gets to a certain level, different for each monster, and stops at 1 EXP per monster, and it takes 1000 EXP for every level.
  • The Wild ARMs series has the "Amnesia" status effect, which persists until cured and prevents the afflicted character from gaining any experience points after battle.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the option of applying the "Skilled" trait at character creation: all your skills start off with an extra 5 points, but you suffer a -10% penalty to experience rewards.
  • In the Xenoblade Chronicles 1 series, killing an enemy more than about 20 levels from your own will give you much less experience. This not only applies to weaker enemies but also to stronger ones, as there are cheap ways to win some battles against high level enemies that would give too much experience without the penalty.
  • For the King: The Astronomer's special ability "Black Hole" triggers at random and instantaneously crushes the enemy into a chunk of Star Matter, but negates the XP and loot that the creature would have granted.