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Level Grinding
aka: Level Grind

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Dammit! Just 69,765 XP left to level up...
Kyle: Dude! Boars are only worth two experience points apiece. Do you know how many we would have to kill to get up 30 levels?
Cartman: Yes. 65,340,285, which should take us 7 weeks, 5 days, 13 hours and 20 minutes, giving ourselves 3 hours a night to sleep.
South Park, "Make Love Not Warcraft"
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The term "grinding" refers to having to repeat the same action or group of actions over and over in order to gain money or the equivalent, power-ups or extra health. One can take that "up to eleven" by grinding for the purpose in order to raise one's experience points or one's character level.

In RPGs, one usually gains strength and abilities through repeatedly killing monsters, over and over again.

Forget trying to figure out the right combination of elemental attacks; just walk around a certain area and kill smaller monsters for a week, then pound away at the 'boss monster' as if you were the Incredible Hulk.

In video game plots, only The Hero ever has this advantage against monsters. It never occurs to townspeople to walk around their own village and smash slimes until they're strong enough to face the pirate who's taken over.

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In online RPGs (and regular ones occasionally), this is known as "powerleveling" or simply "grinding" and is somewhat controversial, as it can be a tedious, mechanical affair criticized for taking the fun out of a game. It is considered extremely rude to level grind and then complain a boss is painfully easy.

The traditional way of level grinding is to kill lots of a very low level enemy, for example, rats. However, Metal Slime-type enemies that give out large amounts of experience can shorten the process considerably. Given that the second group are always much more likely to be able to actually kill your character at lower levels, a ladder system is usually employed. Modern MMORPGs have turned to 'Quest Grinding' instead, offering both one-time and Repeatable Quests with massive Experience Point rewards compared to simply killing hordes of monsters — but this has simply changed the type of activity players use to grind instead of eliminating the grind altogether.

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In such games any Experience Booster is worth its weight in gold.note 

The act of Level Grinding is probably one contributing factor to the creation of the Bonus Dungeon.

Level Scaling can invert the trope, with monsters that scale according to the character's level. This negates the need to grind, but introduces its own set of problems.

Note that while the term Level Grinding typically has a negative connotation, there's a reason why it's still prevalent to some degree in so many games even today: many players actually enjoy it. Furthermore, because grinding typically doesn't require as much concentration or brainpower as normal gameplay, it can make for an excellent companion activity to other things such as listening to music or podcasts.

If the game is unbalanced or mean enough to practically require you to level grind, that's Forced Level-Grinding, not to mention Fake Longevity. On the other hand, there's Anti-Grinding, where the developers set up something that stops this behavior, as well as Low-Level Advantage. Other times, if the developers give the player a convenient spot to do this with, it's Peninsula of Power Leveling.

Sister trope of Item Farming and Money Grinding.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Action-Adventure 
  • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the only side-scrolling installment, Link has 3 skills (Magic, Life and Attack) which can each reach level 8. Doing this in the first playthrough requires a bit of grinding.
    • This game was also one of the first action games to introduce leveling and XP, and the developers' inexperience with leveling as a mechanic shows a bit in the game. You lose all experience towards your next level when you run out of lives, which means that grinding low-level creatures becomes the default method for leveling due to its safety. Completing a dungeon means an automatic level-up regardless of the XP needed, which means that with the expanding amounts of XP needed for later level-ups, it's better to level-up naturally up to at least six-levels from the maximum, and then just go back and finally beat the bosses of each dungeon to get the remaining six or fewer level-ups. This adds a bit of uneven pacing to the game as you've gone through over 2/3 of your level-ups before you beat each boss. Most enemies give only trivial amounts of xp (such as 2 pts when you need 9,000), and some give no XP except for when they hurt you, and then they'll drain xp from you.
    • A convenient, if risky, method of early leveling up is killing Bubbles, even in the first Palace. They respawn infinitely, they hold still when you hit them, and they give you a whopping 50 Experience Points each. All they ask in return is sore fingers and whatever magic they eat off you if you screw up. Having the downward thrust makes this substantially easier if you time your jump right.
    • You can also skip returning the crystals to the palaces until the last minute, making getting those 5000, 6000, 7000 and 8000 experience levels a lot easier.

    Action Games 
  • Ninja Gaiden:
    • Ninja Gaiden Black has a group of Mooks demons to fight near the end of the game. They are big, purple-ish zombies who hit hard, are tough to kill, but easy to avoid. The source of income in the game is the yellow essence that you gather as you kill enemies, the average enemy gives you about 20 points of essence. These three creatures, once you kill them, give you around 10,000 points of essence. And they respawn after you leave that arena and return, so you just return and kill them seven or eight times until you max out and upgrade all your weapons. Then you can return and max out again to buy all the extra health potions and ninpo items you want. If you're a halfway decent player, you can beat the final stage of the game relatively easy with all the items you bought.
    • Ninja Gaiden 2 also has an easy way to grind as much essence as you need to max out every weapon and buy as many healing items as you can hold: in one part of the Airborne Aircraft Carrier level, you come across a long hallway that's blocked from one end by laser beams: if you try to pass them, you naturally take damage and an alarm is triggered, which summons some TAC Ninjas to take care of you. However, the alarm trigger is actually separate from getting hit by lasers, meaning that if you inch your way right next to the lasers, you can summon as many of them as you want without running out of health in the progress. Not only that, but the ninjas enter the room via a long hallway and take their sweet time getting to you, which easily allows you to kill them in a single Ultimate Technique from the Eclipse Scythe.

    Adventure Games 
  • The classic Hero's Quest (later Quest for Glory) by Sierra had this. You improved your skills by using them, leading to sights such as the main character working on building up his 'climb' skill by scrabbling (initially ineffectively) at a tree.
    • Skills in all games were odd ducks: as long as you had a minimum level in any of the skills, you could use and improve it. The difference between low skill and high skill was success: if Weapon Use was 5, then a basic stab might miss or be easily blocked, and if it does hit, it won't do much damage. The only skill that averts the success rate is magic: the higher your magic, the more you can cast before needing to rest or use a potion (skill rate with the individual spells, increases damage, duration or effect).

    Card Games 
  • ShadowVerse:
    • Eyeing that free 5 packs at the end of Score Rewards? Be prepared to grind out about 1000 wins across a month. While the game is generous with Score Rewards at the beginning, the score intervals between subsequent rewards only get wider, reducing motivation to continue. Many players choose to stop grinding after they've gained the unique emblem and card sleeve of the month due to the lowering returns for raising ranked score.
    • Do you desire the Grand Master sleeve and flair? If you're already at Master rank, be prepared to grind to a Master score of 10000, meaning a net of 100 wins across a month.note  And unlike Score Rewards, this progress can be undone with losing. A bad losing streak, especially in a time when many other Master players are also striving for that rank, can easily undo hours of progress. And once you attain Grand Master, the rank is yours until the end of the quarter, where a new expansion launches and you get reset to Master rank.
    • Increasing your Class Level beyond 100 takes up to dozens of matches per level. Though if you win these matches, you gain more EXP, making the grind a little bit easier.

    Fighting Games 
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, there are twenty-two separate characters all of whom can reach level 100. This is in fact not the true grind — through proper setup a level one character can beat a level one hundred Exdeath and jump to level 100 in a single battle. The true grind is the equipped abilities — some of the late ones require 500 points to master, and under normal circumstances you get one point a battle. Even on a day when the game gives 4x the reward per battle, it would still require 125 battles to master.
    • You also have to grind for any of the exclusive level 100 weapons. In order to get them, you need to have 5 battlegen items that have, at most, a 5% chance of being created when you break a level 100 version of the person who's weapon you're trying to make. In addition, you need 5 exclusive "soul" items that will never drop during battle. Instead, you have to go to the second hardest Duel Coliseum track and hope you can get enough Megalixirs, which require 18 medals in a course where you max at 10 per battle. And they don't always show up. And you need 20 per exclusive weapon. Suffice to say, you're going to be fighting for a long time.
  • In the NES version of Double Dragon, as you fight and kill enemies, you fill a level bar that gives you new techniques when it resets. At the rate enemies are normally spawned, you don't get all your techniques until late in the game. If you're really patient, though, it's possible to get the entire moveset with the first two or three enemies you fight simply by punching them a few times and then moving away before you knock them out, and then repeating the process enough times to build up and reset the level bar.

    First-Person Shooter 

    Hack and Slash 
  • The Diablo series revels in this. Diablo II online is basically made of powerleveling. 75% of characters start off like this: Get glitched by a high-level player to beat the game on the highest difficulty at level 1, join a game, go to the second-last room and wait for the other characters to kill things, exit game, go back to step 2. Maybe 0.1% of people actually play the game like you're intended to.
    • Even ignoring online play, this is pretty much a necessity. Try going through the game without level grinding, you probably won't access even a single rank of the highest level skill. Now try and go through the game on Nightmare with that character.
    • If you play on your own (single player), you will not even get enough experience to keep up with the monsters, forcing you to stop and grind. If you play only in full (eight player) online games, you very quickly outlevel the monsters and stop gaining more levels unless you skip ahead. In numerical terms, you gain over five times as much experience in a full game.
      • Of course, console commands can trick the game into thinking one's playing a game with any number of players between 1 and 8 while actually going solo. Might make the enemies tougher, but as was mentioned above you'll outlevel them quickly enough.
    • In single and multiplay, the better gear becomes more important to keeping up than character stats. Because everything Randomly Drops, level grinding is just a byproduct of farming.

    MMORPGs 
  • Best example of this come from MMORPGs originating from Korea, notorious for having an atrocious leveling pace. Prime examples are MapleStory and Lineage 2, which has a leveling pace so bad and arduous that there are many private servers that give players thirty-two times as much experience, money, and loot as the official game yet still contain playtimes roughly equivalent to World of Warcraft. Add the fact that dying will result in XP loss that can de-level you quickly, even when another player kills you. Such games give rise to the euphemism Korean flavor MMORPG, even when the game isn't from Korea. Examples include :
    • Flyff
    • MapleStory
    • Ragnarok Online
    • Helbreath. Player servers have leveling sped up 10 to 20 times to gain levels at least at a somewhat average pace.
    • RF Online. Given that earlier versions of the game had no side quests and most of the quest requires you to kill a Pitboss (which is only doable with at least a party of 8, if not multiple parties and hope you got the last shot) there is really nothing else to do. On top of that, even on servers with the EXP turned up to 300 times the normal amount you still need to grind if you ever want to hit that oh-so-coveted level 65, because even at 300X, mobs still only hand out a sliver of exp per kill (and they can one-shot you).
    • ROSE Online. Although players can work together in parties to lessen the time it takes to climb the levels ladder (for everyone involved).
    • CABAL Online: Bad enough that it takes weeks or months just to gain one level even in the lower level ranges that the game sped up the leveling process after a few years from release.
    • Parodied here
  • Pretty much all the "free" ones make their money this way, instead of selling the game or subscriptions. When right from the start of the game, gaining a single low level or the most basic of equipment upgrades involves over a week of killing the same small monsters or performing the same tedious chores, suddenly it doesn't seem so bad to drop a few bucks into your account and shortcut yourself there.
  • Air Rivals, and how! The level grinding there is so intense after level 75 and specially at 8x levels that even the own developers of the game decided to add new maps of power leveling for players to get to the so-desired level cap of 110. Even with that, the American server (Ace Online) has a PERMANENT 200% EXP BONUS for everyone below level 75 and it gets reduced to 50% on weekends after that point. Geez.
  • Anarchy Online. This game has 200 NORMAL levels, 20 "shadow" levels, 30 "alien" levels (the experience for which can only be gained from a certain type of monster), and also 70 "research" levels, for a grand total of... 320 levels of some sort that can be obtained!
  • At first, Champions Online seemed to avert this trope — you got FAR more XP for actually accomplishing missions, many of which involved activities besides just killing mooks (such as disabling bombs, sabotaging alien ships, etcetera), than you did for wandering around killing everything you saw. That is, until the Crafted Travel Powers cropped up. In order to actually make the darn things, you have to kill tens of thousands of the right type of baddies to get the drops to make the components to make the components to make the Crafted Travel Powers.
  • City of Heroes initially had a problem where you could get the next set of contacts only after you reached a certain level but it was possible to complete all the missions from your present contacts long before you had enough XP to level (especially if you were a solo player), so the only option, if you didn't team up with someone on their missions, was to randomly go around picking fights with mooks on the streets until you levelled up which could get real boring real fast. Subsequent updates of the game have drastically changed this: there are now more contacts, Newspaper/Radio missions are always available once you've reached a given (low) level, and you can always play in player-made Architect scenarios. As a result of this, pretty much the only time you actually see heroes/villains fighting mobs on the streets is if they're trying to get the last few XP points needed to level, they're on a Kill X Number of Y mission, or they're badge-hunting.
  • In EVE Online, while your skills train passively at a rate determined by your attributes, there is significant grinding to be able to obtain enough cash, faction reputation, raw materials, and other such things to be able to purchase or build any items.
    • Players have discovered a way to basically "farm" the best subjects for grinding. In 0.0 security space (Free-for-all PvP and player owned) NPC pirate ships can pay anywhere from a few hundred thousand ISK to over a million. By wiping out spawns until one with multiple high-bounty battleships appear, and then only killing the battleships, corporations with 0.0 space can basically create a perpetual money factory. This is due to the fact that there a few set spawn compositions the game loads whenever a spawn has been completely cleared. But when a spawn is only partially destroyed, instead of changing the makeup of the spawn the game just "refills" it, ensuring that high profit spawns stay high profit.
  • Final Fantasy XI had you grinding from level 1. Add the fact that it can be really hard to level (for most jobs) without other people to help past 20-25, and the fact that if you die, you lose EXP, and even sometimes level DOWN. However, many tweaks to the game's system have made leveling easier, as well as many of the additions made with the Wings of The Goddess expansion that make it possible to level reasonably well on your own past level 55.
    • The advent of Abyssea has made level grinding much easier. Before, the best XP parties could make 20,000-30,000 XP per hour, average parties making 5,000 to 10,000 XP per hour. (For reference, it takes 156,000 XP to go from 79 to 75.) In Abyssea, players can earn up to 60,000 XP per hour fairly easily. To say that this has energized the player base is an understatement, people look forward to grinding now.
    • At least for the first couple of expansions, FFXI employed XP scaling, and you didn't get any XP for killing creatures the game considers "weak" relative to your level. Past a certain (not terribly high) level, "weak relative to your level" pretty much translated to "anything a player would actually be capable of killing solo" (and then fairly shortly thereafter to "anything that can be killed by 2 or 3 players rather than a full party"). It was hard to level outside of a party past level 14 or so, and practically impossible to get much past level 20 that way.
  • Final Fantasy XIV is no exception to the trope; not only do you have to level grind just to get access to higher level quests, but if you plan to take on side jobs like cooking or weaving, you have to level up your skills in those jobs as well just to be able to make better items. However, the ways to effectively grind are not "kill many enemies" nor "make many items" so much as, for combat classes, "Seek out FATE events obsessively" and for crafting classes, "Burn all your daily leve allowances on good crafting levequests."
    • With A Realm Reborn, there are enough quests and rewards that you can get your first combat job to the level cap with minimal (if any) grinding. Every other combat job after the first one? Grind away!
  • While the low cap (level 20) of Guild Wars tends to lead to less level grinding, mobs have the ability to gain XP and even levels by killing players. This led to the odd strategy of players leveling up the mobs by repeatedly killing themselves.
    • It's called death leveling and gained infamy when it was used by players in a Self-Imposed Challenge. Mobs give XP based on the mob and player levels, with much lower-level mobs giving no XP. In the tutorial area of Prophecies there are no mobs that can award XP past level 16 and there are not enough quests to make up the difference. Players began aggressively death-leveling Charr, sometimes as many as twenty at a time, in order to kill them for a few measly XP. Play time estimates vary, but have been cited as requiring as much as 710 hours to reach level cap. Arenanet eventually recognized these players by granting them the title "Legendary Defender of Ascalon".
    • A less aggravating grind is needed to get a maxed Survivor title, IE reach a certain amount of XP without dying. The first level of this title is reached at the level cap (20), but the highest level of this title is only awarded if you gather enough XP to reach level 100 if there was no cap, namely 1,337,500 XP. While this technically can be done just playing normally, you'll likely die at some point that way. Originally a single death would permanently lock a character out of this title track, but it has since been adjusted to simply reset the counter to 0. If players don't want to store up quests and XP books, it's best to find an area with high-level-low-threat mobs and grind them.
  • The MMORPG Jade Dynasty (which is adapted from the Chinese Zhu Xian and its English equivalent Celestial Destroyer) actually subverts this somewhat by giving the player a built-in bot at level 3, which is useable until level 90, at which point it starts using energy that has to be replenished. The bot even uses health and spirit recovery potions for the player, enabling someone to go to sleep with the bot running and wake up a few levels higher and much richer. However, since mobs give less experience and items as you level (up to no experience or items at all since your level is much higher than theirs), the bot cannot be used to avoid grinding completely.
  • The MUD Lusternia takes this to an extreme. Level grinding becomes progressively easier as you go on: while you technically gain much less experience per kill, the chance of performing critical hits ramps up massively, increasing the speed of said kills (the most powerful crit you can get does a whopping 32x damage). However, once you reach level 100, you become a Demigod, and experience is replaced with "essence". A lot of the unique Demigod abilities require essence to buy, meaning you have to hunt an awful lot just to unlock them: more insidious is the fact you lose essence when you die, and if you lose enough you'll be kicked back down to level 99 and lose all your neat abilities. Most level 100 players refuse to go outside their organizations unless they have a huge buffer of essence, and there are gank-squads organized specifically to target new Demigods. Needless to say, Level Grinding is a necessity.
  • Zynga games like Mafia Wars get to be this after a while, especially if you're unwilling to spend real money on what are essentially casual games.
  • The Nexus War series averts the obvious expressions of this trope only to use a whole bunch of less obvious ones. There's a clearly defined level cap that most characters reach fairly quickly, after which additional experience becomes useless except for bragging rights. However, the reward for leveling consists of Character Points (which can be traded for skills, spells, etc.), and players can also get Character Points by doing nearly anything often enough. Characters gain bonuses equivalent to levels for doing enough killing, vandalism, door repair, lockpicking, etc., etc. There are even bonuses for dying enough times, and so there are groups devoted to dying as much as possible that make up the bulk of the people visible outside in some cities.
  • As a MMORPG, Phantasy Star Online had a lot of grinders trying to catch up to the sharkers/Action Replayers when it was first released. The usual method of doing this was to equip the low-leveled character with a handgun or a rifle, go into multiplayer mode with a character who had beaten Normal mode, and employ hit-and-run tactics on the enemies in the second or third levels while the higher-leveled character stayed back and picked off the faster enemies. Since exiting the room caused the enemies to turn around and slowly march back to their starting positions while retaining all damage done to them, it was easy to exploit. There was a catch — you couldn't enter multiplayer on Hard Mode, where enemies gave eight times the experience, until both characters were level 20 regardless of that difficulty being unlocked in single mode. The game's Normal mode was so easy that grinding did you little good until Hard Mode was available.
    • The game also had a rather ridiculous alternative to level-grinding: Simply handing a new character a maxed-out Mag (a piece of equipment that, by feeding it various items, could be customized both in looks and stat boosts) and a piece of armor with some high-end Slots (which provide even further stat boosts, including to HP and TP) could turn them into something comparable to an unequipped character 20-30 levels above them.
  • RuneScape. You'll regularly see things like people setting line after line of fires just to get their firemaking skill up, or spending hours mining ores, smelting them, crafting them and selling them just to get those three skills going... It could be nearly king of this trope — according to one of the top players (who has maxed out every single skill), it takes at least 3000 hours to max out every skill (level 99) in the game, and that is if you only grind out the most efficient way possible for every single level.note 
  • Though it flirts with being an Allegedly Free Game, Shaiya fits here. There are four difficulty modes which are unlocked as a player advances along the leveling curve, each one bringing more benefits and challenges. The problem is, each difficulty mode sends the character back to the very beginning of an unimaginatively-written story, and the leveling pace is even slower to compensate for the power-ups. Some Shaiya players think that this justifies powerleveling, some do not. And some candy-coat level-grinding with dungeon raids involving a handful of very powerful veterans doing the heavy lifting for a number of new meat.
  • Star Trek Online. Although most of the progression is done through storyline "Episodes", once you reach the level cap there's a lot of grinding to get Marks of Exploration or Emblems in order to get better equipment for your starship.
    • Replaced now with Dilithium, which is used in all the various ways to get better equipment for your ships.
    • What's old is new again. Marks of Exploration are back, but just called '<Faction> Marks'. The Dilithium's still there, though, and given time, effort and the right decisions, you can make a good amount of both.
    • This is ultimately one of the biggest complaints about the second expansion, Delta Rising. Unlike the road to Level 50, trying to get to Level 50-60 requires a lot of work just to get up to the next level. This has angered players for such a sudden turn of ideals.
  • Wakfu plays with this. Enemies, especially single or double enemy groups, give incredibly low amount of experience, and by the time the player reaches around level 30, which is possible even in the early game, they'll be needing several thousand experience, if not several hundred thousand experience points. This is especially irritating for the more defensive classes (Feca, Sadida, Pandwa, ect) as killing large groups of enemies quickly becomes a chore. This means that Holiday events will result in surges of high amounts of experience, and the rest of the time, you'll be scrounging for a single level. Then again, the game justifies this: most of your stats — including HP, chances of critical hits, and even evading attacks — depend on your equipment, so the player is encouraged to find equipment that suits their character build rather than constantly putting focus on leveling up.
  • World of Warcraft generally averts grinding for the regular process: you never need to stop and kill mobs with nothing but killing going on. You always get a batch of quests, do them, then move on to a different area with a new batch. However, it packs several other kinds of grind:
    • PvP functions as an alternate levelling process, but you only have a scant handful of battlegrounds to do repeatedly in order to level up. Once at level cap, you do endless repeat of same old battlegrounds to farm your PvP gear.
    • Dungeons: during levelling you can do with doing each of them once or twice at most, but once you are at level cap, here comes the grind — although the amount of dungeons is higher than at any lower level range, you do them repeatedly for gear. And then upgrade to doing the raids repeatedly for gear.
    • Reputations: they are obtained by settling down and killing a ton of specific kind of mobs in the specific location, the epitome of grinding. You get gear and collectibles.
    • Alternate gear tokens: the assortment changes with expansions, but they often have both something that drops from nearly every mob in the expansion pack as well as more zone-specific. You can trade in hundreds or thousands of them for more gear.
    • Resource gathering: mostly serves to be sold for cash, however occasionally also yields rare resource to get crafted into high tier gear. It also gives small amount of XP, but using that for levelling is a Self-Imposed Challenge rather than a main method.
    • If you really want, you can still level up with regular old mob grinding, although you need to change location once you outlevel the mobs. You can almost do it by moving from one kind of boar to another, but there are a few boar-less gaps in the chain.

    Roguelike 
  • The Awakened Fate Ultimatum basically warns you from go that you're going to be in trouble if you don't replay dungeons to grind levels, collect useful items and upgrade your equipment. Indeed, each dungeon has progressively stronger enemies and especially earlier in the game, more and more twists are added, including opponents that inflict various status ailments, ones that can attack from a distance and ones that can self-destruct for massage damage.
  • Inside A Star Filled Sky is nothing but grinding. Because the game has no end that anyone could possible achieve in this millennium (or the next one, for that matter), all you're doing is moving back through entering items and getting better powerups. And if you're bad off, you make have to grind so that the first grind actually shows any effect.
  • NetHack tries to avert this with a combination of Level Scaling and a level cap of 30 — however, potions and scrolls and such can boost individual stats without changing levels, which means that Random Drops are the way forward. This generally means grinding by pudding farming: black puddings will happily duplicate themselves if hit with an iron object, provide worthy XP, they very occasionally drop items (of more or less any form) when they die, and also leave corpses. Kill, sacrifice the corpses or eat them when you grow hungry, repeat until the level is full of puddings and your max HP is wherever you want it (usually in the six-figure region); the repeated sacrificing of corpses can also be used to gain spellbooks and artifact weapons, and to increase your intrinsic amour class. Several bots have been written to automate the process.
    Jove: "The DevTeam has arranged an automatic and savage punishment for pudding farming. It's called pudding farming."
    • If you're playing a wizard character who has found a spellbook of Create Monster then you can use that spell to create an endless stream of monsters to kill (non-wizards don't regenerate mana quickly enough to make this feasible). The primary advantage this has over pudding farming is that it will generate monsters that have far greater random drop rates than black puddings.
  • Zettai Hero Project, being Nippon Ichi's take on the genre, is filled with grinding-you start every dungeon at level one, and your levels drop right back down when you leave or die-level grinding is typically only useful for surviving the later floors on whatever dungeon you're currently in (and sometimes not even then, if your stats aren't increasing fast enough or you starve). If you want your grinding to actually mean anything, the first step is getting an effective microchip layout from the Back-Alley Doctor, which raises the rate at which your stats increase when you level up. Since the best items for microchips are only found on the later levels of the painfully long bonus dungeons, you need to grind up levels in a dungeon so you can live long enough to get good chips, then use the chips so you can level up more efficiently for the dungeons which will give you better items for chips. This may take a while.

    Other 
  • Progress Quest parodies Level Grinding and Stat Grinding. To "play", start the game, pick a race and class and...watch your character grow stronger and automatically buy new equipment.
  • In Zap Dramatic's Sir Basil Pike Public School, you have "Persuasion Power", which is gained through correct choices and certain minigames. One of these games, tennis, can be repeated for extra power. It can become Forced Level-Grinding if it's too low, however, since you can only advance certain parts of the game with a certain amount of Persuasion Power.

    Platformers 
  • The Ratchet & Clank games have upgradeable guns from the second game onwards. While grinding isn't usually necessary to progress as weapons you use a lot upgrade fairly quickly, achieving 100% Completion in any game requires you to upgrade all weapons to max level. However, as the games also suffer from Can't Catch Up, this sounds a lot less tedious than it is. The games do discourage it as well, as you get less XP in areas you've already beaten, thus making New Game+ the best way to upgrade them. Some games also require you to max out your HP, but this usually happens quite naturally with normal progress.

    Simulation Games 
  • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War's method of unlocking new planes within a "family" involved you farming kills on one model so as to unlock the next, then use the next to farm up to the third etc. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception also has you unlock a set of color schemes by grinding enough kills on the relevant planes. Well, all of them to be honest.
  • Normally a hard to achieve feat in Dwarf Fortress, this is usually done by making dwarves train inside a room with wooden spear traps hooked up to a repeater.
    • The Fandom came up with a similar concept to use on children to make them slightly less useless, by trapping them with a large number of mad dogs. Fine-tuning this system has been concluded to be impossible, especially once fire-proofing (melting all burnable fat off of their bodies) and similar requirements were stated.
    • The civilians that can most effectively do this are mining and all metal working professions. Miners can simply dig without particular purpose, gathering mineral resources as a bonus. And when goblinite and/or low value metals become plentiful, metal working apprentices can repeatedly forge and melt down products from useless copper and suboptimal bronze, improving their general and specific skills.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Warframe: All equipment items have a "mastery rank" from 0 to 30. They are mastered through gaining "affinity," which is gained from killing enemies and completing objectives. As you master equipment, your overall mastery rank increases. Several weapons are mastery-locked, as are many quests, and it also determines a few other things like minimum mod level and void trace capacity. No matter what, you have to grind everything. Even paying real money doesn't skip the grind.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike introduced the skills mechanic where, for every 1000 points earned by a CO, they "ranked up" and unlocked an empty skill slot and their choice of skill to put there. The early skills are near worthless, such as getting a miniscule 5% raise to attack power, but the later skills you earn are devastating, such as the ability to deploy units from any allied citynote . Since points won in the non-canon War Room counted, a patient-enough player could farm Jake to Rank 10 before even starting the campaign and blast through story mode effortlessly. It was such a Game-Breaker the mechanic was removed entirely from Days of Ruin.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics took level grinding (or, more specifically, stat-maxing) to unparalleled heights. The Deep Dungeon and several other maps featured tiles that, when stepped on, would level your character down. These could be exploited by raising a character up with a stat-boosting job, then leveling the character down in a job with very weak stats (so the gain would overpower the loss), and then REleveling him up with another job to work on new stats. Many game-breaking tricks were possible to gain JP/XP... for example one could put an enemy to sleep and also speed break them repeatedly, which combined to give the player hundreds of free turns for every turn the opponent got. During each of these free turns you could steal from them, gaining party-wide JP and gold simultaneously.
  • The Tower of Valni in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is, in-story, the place where the Sacred Stone of Frelia was kept, until the Grado Empire raided the tower and broke it. In game, as it's full of low-level monsters, it can be used as this. There are also random monster skirmishes which can easily be used for grinding, particularly ones that spawn on earlier-game maps.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening also included skirmishes on the overworld that are meant for level grinding. Additionally, while it didn't include a specific area like the Tower of Valni, it did have an entire DLC map dedicated to EXP farming.
    • Fire Emblem Fates continued the trend of including means to level grind, though with a slight twist. The overworld skirmishes can only be done on Birthright and Revelation, but not Conquest; additionally, in Conquest, all DLC levels except the one specifically meant for level grinding do not provide EXP to the characters.
  • Made ridiculously easy in Luminous Arc, where healing or buffing any ally earns the character casting the spell 30 experience, and it takes 100 EXP to level. This doesn't sound so special until you realize that upon gaining a level, your [HP] and [MP] are reset to full, allowing you to simply go to a low-level map with all your healers and buffers and boost them up by massive amounts.
  • Any game made by Nippon Ichi, which usually takes this to the extreme (generally the maximum level in these games is 9999). On top of this, the Random Dungeons most leveling up takes place in usually work towards the development of your characters and/or their equipment. It's two! Two! Two grinds for the price of one! It's very to exploit the system in general, and considering the story of the series, it makes sense that the point of the series was never to play fair to begin with.
    • The Disgaea series especially falls into this category, being custom-made for Grinders. Levels top off at 9999 (excluding transmigrations), and while you're grinding, you're also turning your weapons into Infinity Plus One Swords in the process.
    • Fortunately, it's very easy to be a smartarse and game the system what for. The fact that you can "Fuse" enemies by way of throwing them into their kin and up the rewards for killing the stronger result is practically built for this.
      • Including transmigrations, the levels go even higher. Apparently the maximum number of stored levels you can get before storing more stops having an effect is 185000 - and that's not counting the 9999 levels you can make a character gain normally.
    • Disgaea 3 adds a third aspect to the grinding with the Class World, which allows you raise a character's aptitudes, as well. Taken to the extremes in Disgaea 4, where any character can get all of their aptitudes to a max of 300%.
    • Phantom Brave has what may be the easiest level grind in existence. Goes like this: There's an easy way to get a character that can easily "steal" objects that are much higher level early in the game. Use it to get high-level items and fuse them together. Use that item to power level the character, then have it get even higher-level items. Before long, all you have to do to level any character up is to hand it your hand-made Infinity +1 Sword and watch the levels add up. (However, every new character starts with a level cap of 100... but this can be easily raised to the 9,999 maximum with a few fusions.)
  • Players of Tears to Tiara 2 can grind levels on free maps. The experience gained decrease the higher the difference in level, but there's always using skills and items on yourself, known as "Apple Throwing".
  • Telepath Tactics tends to discourage this; while you gain experience with every action rather than with every kill, most experience-granting actions are offensive and thus consume limited resources. There are some abilities that can be used indefinitely, though, allowing a patient player to level grind as much as they like in the right circumstances. Shove and Pull are particular favorites, as they cost nothing and inflict no damage, but do give experience (quite a lot in Pull's case). If you corner the last enemy (or weaken them to the point that they're too terrified of counterattacks to do anything), you can use them indefinitely to get as much experience as you want. Steamthopters' cheap Hover ability is even better, as it doesn't end the character's turn.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas lets you level up several skills, such as sprinting, biking, and individual weapons, by repeatedly using them. Maxing them out offers various benefits, such as dual-wielding pistols and SMGs.
  • In Minecraft, experience gained by killing mobs gives experience levels. Although these are pointless for the first part of the game, once the player obtains diamonds they can make Enchantment Tables. These allow weapons, armor, and tools to be enchanted with special abilities, such as reduced damage from use, extra damage when attacking monsters, protection from certain types of damage (explosions, fire, water, fall, etc.), and increased item drops. The problem is that experience gained from monsters is worth much less at higher levels, and dying makes the player lose almost all their experience. As a result, even with structures built specifically to spawn and damage mobs automatically, it can take days to get enough experience for the best enchantments. Made worse by the Random Number God deciding what enchantments are received, which can absorb large amounts of EXP only to give a common, less useful enchantment or even ignore up to one quarter of the experience (but still take it) when calculating which enchantment will be given.
    • This has been rectified by later updates, as now far more activities (such as farming, mining, smelting ores, cooking food, and fishing) all reward the player with experience, and books can now be enchanted, and anvils can be used to fix items without the loss of the enchantments, and merge enchantments. In addition, villagers now sell experience bottles, and books with enchantments can be found in dungeons. Of course getting some of the enchantments is still a Luck-Based Mission but at least you can avoid spending 30 levels on a diamond pickaxe only to get Unbreaking I.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • Akuyaku Reijou Level 99: Watashi wa UraBoss desu ga Maou de wa arimasen is about a Gamer Chick who reincarnates into Yumiela, the Superboss of a combo otome game/RPG. She applies her gaming attitude to her new life, fighting monsters every day for years, to the point where she starts the game story proper at level 99. She tries to get the army and her fellow classmates to adopt these strategies, but they're terrified at the idea of deliberately risking their lives.
  • In Bleach, Driscoll Berci, The Overkill, gets stronger every time he kills something. He overconfidently thought he was at a high enough level to beat Yamamoto, who easily burns him to ashes.
  • Dog Days takes this to its logical conclusion, with entire wars being fought for the purpose of army-wide grinding sessions to prepare for the occasional demon attack (with the bonus of them being an excellent source of revenue and entertainment for the countries involved).
  • Dragon Ball Z sees both Goku and Vegeta doing this, training at progressively higher levels of gravity and working themselves almost to death to exploit the Saiyan ability of exponential power increases after a near-death experience.
    • Cell absorbs whole cities of civilians to increase his power before confronting Androids 17 and 18.
  • Hunter × Hunter's Morena can assign a "level 1" to people and make them gain 1 level for every people they kill (10 levels if they kill a Nen user).
  • I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level: As the title implies, level grinding is the source of protagonist Azusa Aizawa's absurdly high power, which is such that despite supposedly being a Squishy Wizard she can defeat dragons bare-handed with ease. However, Azusa did this entirely by accident, as she only killed slimes every day for exercise and because the magic stones they drop were a source of income. It's just that doing it for 300 years plus possessing a passive ability that increases her experience gains totaled out to over 10 million experience points, enough to reach max level.
  • in Level E, a group of five elementary-school kids end up stuck RPG world because of the Prince. When they catch a glimpse of the villain they are supposed to fight, they immediately decide to gain several levels before trying anything.
  • The necessity of this trope is somewhat addressed in Soul Hunter — the Brilliant, but Lazy protagonist Taikoubou, when tasked to seal 365 souls (a good number of whom belong to the local Evil Empire), tries to short-cut the process by taking on the apparent Big Bad first. He gets his ass handed to him, and he spends the rest of the plot working his way up the Sorting Algorithm of Evil and taking levels in badass.

    Fan Works 
  • Forged Destiny, being an RPG Mechanicsverse, has everyone partake of this to one degree or another with boosting, a process wherein a higher level adventurer weakens a monster for a lower member to gain levels, exists but is looked down on by some. The amount of experience given varies based on the task with killing Grimm seeming to give more than any mundane activity. This means that members of the Labor Caste are almost always locked at a lower level than those of the Hero or Soldier Caste. Jaune, who had completed a very large amount of work under his Blacksmith father, was Level 12 at the start of the story, four levels higher than his old Labor Caste friends but still four levels lower than the average Beacon applicant.
  • Subverted in Risk It All. Although Ren's power works like a video game, his power progression is tied to his notoriety rather than how many bad guys he beats up. While beating up bad guys may reward him with additional points, the bulk of his rank ups come from how well-known he is.

    Film 
  • Bleach: Soul Reapers become more powerful every time they kill a Hollow, with more powerful Hollows providing bigger boosts. Ichigo aims to kill Grand Fisher to become powerful enough to safely transfer his powers back to Rukia.
  • The Mimics in Edge of Tomorrow conquer worlds by resetting time itself to a specific moment whenever an Alpha, one of a special caste of warriors, is killed. This mechanism allows the mimics to win by Save Scumming and adapting to the tactics of their enemies. When Bill Cage, a morale officer with zero combat experience, gains the Mimics' power after killing an Alpha, he uses this ability to learn how to become a better soldier, by dying over and over again. He not only fights the Mimics over and over again, but also learns more about the people around him bit-by-bit. By the time he loses his power to reset, he's a One-Man Army.
  • Guy of Free Guy, an NPC within the game Free City, is told by Millie, a player controlling an avatar named molotiveGirl, that in order to help her in her mission to retrieve some data from a stash house, Guy will need to be "over level 100" in the game. Since he's never done any missions, his glasses show him to be level 1. Cut to a montage of Guy working tirelessly to complete missions and earn experience and credits, becoming more and more adept as it wears on. By the time he's done, he's showing Millie his own stash house with a loaded garage and Wall of Weapons.
  • In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character Phil relives the same day over and over. To fill the time, he learns how to sculpt ice, throw playing cards into a hat, perform CPR, perform the Heimlich maneuver, play the piano, get the girl, be a decent human being, etc. He has none of these skills at the beginning of the story. The implication is that Phil spent the equivalent of decades reliving the same day, giving him the time to perfect these abilities.

    Literature 
  • A Certain Magical Index
    • This is basically what Accelerator was trying to do with the Sisters: Killing 20 thousand level 2 espers to advance to level 6. Sure is a loooong grind. Though the thing that actually got him within a hair's breadth of the Level 6 Shift was getting punched in the face by Touma a few times.
      Accelerator: Guess the secret to leveling up is to face a strong opponent, huh?
    • Thor says he gets stronger and more skilled with each fight. By the time Touma meets him, Thor says he's become so powerful that Touma is pretty much the only opponent who could give him any significant boost.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) once found himself in an escape pod for three weeks while it coasted towards a planet. He spent the time practicing chainsword drills hours at a time, and got even better with it as a result. In another story he is granted access to a Space Marine training room for an hour every day (when all he'd been hoping for was an out-of-the-way space in the cargo hold); he is very aware of the impossible honor given to him, and trains assiduously.
  • Everybody Loves Large Chests, being an RPG Mechanics 'Verse, has quite a bit of this going on, codified and quantified on a per-person basis. Anyone can see the precise level of their power by simply chanting, "Status," and there's an entire industry of Scribes with Appraisal skills useful for identifying other people in this manner. Most of it's logical enough: practice with a sword, you get better at swordfighting. Practice casting Ruin magic, you become a more proficient Warlock.
    • However, an individual can also advance in power and proficiency by just understanding their craft better through rigorous thought and theory. On several occasions, the main character makes major breakthroughs in its shapeshifting ranks not by practicing what it already knows, but by experimenting with and inventing new techniques that it never had tried before, such as growing and controlling many spidery limbs for locomotion, or learning to mimic the structure of an axle and wagon wheel in a way that doesn't result in the structure separating from its body and therefore becoming inert.
    • Additionally, in times of war the government sponsors level grinding to raise the stats of its soldiers, by sending high-leveled individuals to weaken high-level monsters, and then having a low-level adventurer finish it off for lots of experience. However, while this is an effective way to get their Levels high, soldiers raised in this way tend to have their Skills go completely neglected outside of basic training, and they lack the wit and experience that a similarly leveled individual would have learned earning those levels the hard way.
  • The Gam3: A large part of Alan's time is spent doing repetitive or unusual activities with the explicit purpose of gaining experience or abilities. He isn't treated as unusual in this regard, as nearly every player shown is desperately trying to become as powerful as they can.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero the awakening of Cal Mira Island spawns a large number of monsters with increased XP rewards. As such the Heroes and other adventurers flock to it and grind their levels to the point of diminishing return.
    • After Naofumi founds a village and starts training his new slaves he loads them onto Firo and tells her to go grind some levels. She simply crushes any monsters she encounters to death with her carriage, without ever slowing down, and the people in the carriage receive XP without having to fight.
  • In Solo Leveling, after Jin-Woo gained the ability to be the only Hunter to grow stronger with each monster fight he gets into, he does everything he can to change from the weakest to the strongest.
  • This was necessary in the Most Dangerous Video Game that was Sword Art Online. The minimum safety margin is to be at least ten levels higher than the floor you're on; so if you're on Floor 40, you need to be at least Level 50. By the time the Clearers hit the Level 75 Boss, most of them are around level 90. Due to diminishing returns, basic grinding was inevitable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Judge was weakened due to centuries of imprisonment. He explains that his power will replenish over time, but he can also get stronger with each being he kills.
  • In the Highlander TV series, as with the movies, when one Immortal beheads another it's a case of Victor Gains Loser's Powers. While many Immortals are content to just live their lives and do whatever, some who are more serious about being the last one left purposefully and repeatedly seek out other Immortals who are notable fighters and take their heads, with the intention of becoming stronger and stronger with each one until they're unstoppable. These head hunters tend to be the most dangerous opponents that Duncan faces in the series.
  • Memories of the Alhambra: After Jin-woo gets stuck inside The Game Come to Life, with all sorts of video-game warriors trying to kill him, he has to kill Mook after Mook after Mook in the game in order to advance to new levels.

    Pinball 
  • Stern Pinball's The Avengers requires this to recruit some of the heroes. Arguably, the Black Widow is the worst, as you need to spell B-L-A-C-K-W-I-D-O-W repeatedly throughout the game.
  • In Zen Studios' Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, many of the bonuses and modes are only available by shooting the same target or ramp repeatedly.
  • This is a common complaint of Indiana Jones, which requires players to spend too much time making the same shots over and over.
  • Stern Pinball's Star Trek features six main game Modes, each of which must be completed three times to reach the final Wizard Mode.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Munchkin's Guide to Power-Gaming lampshades it, recommending that the tabletop roleplayers should make their PCs spill some boiling water in an anthill, so if every ant gives the minimum of 1 XP, you would get a boost of five or six thousand XP. The card game Munchkin has "Boil an Anthill" as a "Gain a Level" card.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In South Park, the boys get sick of being killed over and over by a griefer on World of Warcraft. So they kill boars for a few weeks straight to level up enough to at least be a match for him. It's worth noting that this strategy is impossible in the actual game, as monsters stop giving experience points entirely once the gap between the player's and monster's levels reach a certain point.

    Real Life 
  • Learning to do anything well almost invariably involves lots (and lots) and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of repetition! You ever hear of someone who reacts 'on instinct', without thinking? That's because they've done whatever it is so many times that it's already imprinted in their muscle memory...
    • “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” — Bruce Lee
    • Getting that M.D., J.D., or PhD in many countries starts by excelling in high school or even earlier. And if you see someone who has letters after that, they probably spent a few years getting those, too.
  • Any E-4 in the US Army will tell you how this trope fits correspondence courses. You might only get one promotion point for every five hours of classes, but it maxes out at 78 points or roughly 390 hours of classes. And trust us, when you need 798 points just to get promoted, every point counts.


Alternative Title(s): Level Grind

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