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Level Scaling

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Should have been studying the blade.

A specific form of Anti-Grinding, usually seen in RPGs and Roguelikes, though it could potentially be used in any game with Character Levels. Level Scaling is where the world (or specific areas) levels up with you to provide a constant challenge, primarily by upping your foes' stats.

There are three kinds of level scaling systems that are commonly used. One is where enemies simply have their stats and/or equipment improved. Another is increasing the number of enemies. The third is replacing weaker enemies with different, stronger ones. Taking an encounter with a 25 hitpoint wolf in its den as an example — in the first system, the same wolf may have 100 hitpoints at a later level. In the second system, an entire pack of wolves will be encountered at higher levels. In the third system, the wolf will be replaced by a dire wolf or a bear. There may also be a combination of systems, so the wolves get stronger and then eventually replaced with bears, for example. Most games with level scaling also make use of a level cap for certain enemies and/or areas, so the cellar in the First Town won't be filled with level 100 rats if you return later.

When done well, level scaling keeps the game fun by ensuring a constant challenge, and frees the developers from having to predict what level the PC will be at when they reach any given area. When done poorly, it makes leveling up unsatisfying since things never actually get easier for you. It can even lead to Empty Levels and cause situations where a 'stronger' character actually makes the game more difficult, such as enemies being able to kill your Escort Mission buddy that much quicker. Underleveling (purposefully keeping yourself or your party at a low level) can become a viable tactic if this trope is in effect. It can also lead to (usually) unintentional cases of Improbable Power Discrepancy, depending on when a player first enters an area.

This is becoming more common in RPGs as the sandbox-style gains popularity, as the aforementioned advantages are greatly beneficial for that type of game.

Compare Kill One, Others Get Stronger, where a certain group of individuals grow stronger each time a member dies. Also compare Hard Mode Mooks, which is when different enemies appear based on the game's chosen difficulty level. Contrast Sorting Algorithm of Evil, where the enemies get tougher as you go along, regardless of your own level. Also contrast Beef Gate, which relies on an aversion of this trope.

Sub-Trope of Dynamic Difficulty.

Video game examples:

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    Four X 
  • In Civilization V, every time you found a new city or annex one through conquest, the culture and science costs for new policies/technologies gets more expensive to purchase. So, you end up in a similar treadmill situation where getting bigger just adjusts the difficulty to match.

  • In Borderlands, each area has minimum and maximum level, and the enemies you encounter are within a few levels or your level, or their minimum or maximum. In the case of co-op, it scales to the host's level.
    • In both the original and the sequel, the raid bosses are scaled to be a few levels above you, even at max level.
    • In Borderlands, the Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot DLC is always scaled to your level. After you finish Playthrough 2 of the main game enemies everywhere will be scaled to your level, besides in the Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC, which will be completed itself before it will be scaled.
    • In Borderlands 2, beating the game in True Vault Hunter Mode causes enemies and quests to scale to level 50. In Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode, everything scales to your level, period. On Digistruct Peak, however, enemies scale to your "overpower levels", which you gain by completing challenges — this means bad guys can go up to level 90, whereas the player can only achieve level 80. It's the same for loot, though you gain the ability to use overleveled gear as you gain overpower levels. The DLC for the game sets the level of an area to what you are when you first get there, but also has a minimum.
  • Left 4 Dead's AI Director is specifically designed to accommodate for how poorly or how well you're doing. It becomes cruelly unforgivable on the Expert and any Realism difficulties, to the point that if you're the only one left from your team, the Director will still spawn a Tank just for you.

  • In Kingdom of Loathing, there are several times where a monster will scale to your level, that is, their stats are equal to yours, plus a certain amount, including the optional boss, a past incarnation of the final boss, the Naughty Sorceress (later reduced to a static difficulty), and all holiday-related monsters. Areas with nothing but scaling monsters are this game's Peninsula of Power Leveling.
  • In Dark Age of Camelot, an instanced dungeon's difficulty is scaled by its level range, your level, and the number of players in the group. If you enter an instance that's level appropriate for you, the mobs will be relatively easy to kill and complete solo. As you add more members however, the enemy NPC's levels will also increase to increase its difficulty as well as rewards.
  • Played mostly straight in City of Heroes. While enemies in open world areas have fixed levels, most missions are instanced, and the instances are scaled to player levels and group sizes. In case of the flashback system that allows high-level heroes to revisit low-level missions, the player is scaled in level to match the mission difficulty.
  • World of Warcraft
    • Boss enemies have a skull in place of their level and are always considered to be 3 levels higher than the player, but only in terms of how this affects the hit chance of attacks. Proper scaling does occur with the sparring partners Monks face in their daily quest, though.
    • The Warlords of Draenor expansion added Timewalking dungeons, dungeons from the previous expansions where the players are scaled down to match them; the gear earned would then be scaled up to match the player's real level.
    • The Legion expansion implemented level scaling for its pre-patch event, and for the first four zones in the Broken Isles along with the new dungeons; enemies, quests, and loot drops all scale to the player's level.
    • Starting with Battle for Azeroth, questing zones from previous expansions were reworked to scale the level of enemies and quest rewards to match player level up to a certain point. This is to counter the tendency of players to outlevel a zone's content before completing the story.
    • Battlegrounds scale players up to the level cap for their bracket, which helps prevent lower level players being completely dominated by enemy players nearly ten levels higher.
    • In preparation for Warlords, raid content was redesigned from static 10/25 man difficulty to automatically scale to the number of players in the raid with a cap at 30. 13-14 was generally the magic balance number during Warlords.
  • Guild Wars has a rough version in the Pre-Searing area of the Prophecies campaign. Daily quests that allow players to continue gaining levels after completing the original content generate higher level enemies at regular player level intervals.
  • Guild Wars 2 scales the level of any player over the current zone's level down to match. Max level players still have an advantage as they have superior gear compared to leveling players.
  • Final Fantasy XIV mostly does the opposite of this for dungeons and FATEs by temporarily lowering the players level to the intended level range. However, when performing Levequests, players have the option to adjust the level of the enemies encountered to their current level or choose freely (up to 4 levels higher or lower than the base). Certain beast tribe daily quests also involve fighting enemies scaled to your level.
  • MapleStory does this with some events and theme dungeons having enemy stats and HP scaling depending on what level you are.

  • NetHack determines enemy level by averaging your level with your current dungeon depth.
  • Beneath Apple Manor, which actually predated Rogue by two years. Each time you entered a new level the creatures' hit points and damage done were increased to be proportionate to your damage done and hit points, but you could spend Experience Points to increase your stats at any time. This meant that you started off a level fairly vulnerable to monster attacks but became more powerful over the course of the level, easily defeating monsters at the end.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery:
    • A species' level scales by the number of that species of monster that's been killed. This means that Enemy Summoners that create endless swarms of a single weak species (like werejackals which summon hordes of jackals) will lead to that species soon becoming very tough.
    • The 'Small Cave' starter dungeon's enemies scale by your level, but in a way that will cause them to massively outpace you if you don't get through it quickly.
  • Elona has two types of level scaling:
    • As your Character Level increases, the enemy level of monsters randomly generated as time passesnote  increases as well. Further, the level of monsters in non-bandit ambushes also increases.
    • As your fame increases (due to completing quests and clearing out dungeons) the bandits which ambush you become tougher.
  • The Binding of Isaac has the somewhat controversial Damage Scaling mechanic introduced in Afterbirth, where certain bosses have an "armor" value that, to make a complex calculation very simple, caps the damage inflicted per second to said bosses. Generally it's seen as something of a Scrappy Mechanic as, while it does stop certain Optional Bosses from becoming Breather Bosses, it ends up making them every bit as disappointing by turning said bosses into Damage Sponges who simply will not die. Also, due to somewhat poor implementation, having too high of damage build can actually break the calculation and render these bosses basically impossible to kill.

  • Dark Ages I: The Continents automatically generates stronger random encounters as you level up. This results in an unusual Peninsula of Power Leveling situation on those occasions where you find an area full of just one monster type, like a spider nest: the fact that the monsters remain weak lets you grind levels much more quickly and easily. (Although since you don't get the chance to upgrade your equipment when doing that, you might actually find yourself at a disadvantage when you move on.)
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 4 normally has enemies at a set level, except for Battle Mountain, where enemies do scale. The sequel, Epic Battle Fantasy 5, also has scaling in effect for all of its optional dungeons. Due to the way player and enemy stat growth works, enemies actually outpace the players unless they use stat boosting items. though the 5th game toned down the enemy's stat growth in later updates.
  • Eternal Twilight: Unlike most examples, this game has level scaling while averting Anti-Grinding. While the enemies scale to the player's level, the scaling is capped for them. Leveling also benefits the player a lot more than the enemy, since higher levels increase the chance of getting good stats on new gear.
  • Final Fantasy has several examples of this:
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and A2 base random encounters on your clan's average level, which can be exploited, by having a bunch of low-level people in your clan, with a few high-level people that you generally use.
    • In the 20th Anniversary Edition of Final Fantasy II, there's a superboss Phrekyos: a summon beast that changes its stats depending on the amount of key words that you've gathered (which indicates your progress in the plot and, naturally, your level).
    • Final Fantasy VII: The first phase of the final boss fight changes based on the party's minimum and average levels, which secret characters have been recruited, and how long the previous boss fight took. Depending on these factors, this fight will be broken up into one, two, or three parties, with higher levels resulting in more split parties. All components will also gain more HP for every character at level 99, with another large boost if a secret summon was used in the previous fight. The second phase will be boosted similarly, but level 99 characters will boost its stats other than HP as well.
    • Final Fantasy VIII matched a monster's level to your party's level, with the monsters automatically learning new (more dangerous) techniques (this was made tougher than it needed to be by the fact that the calculation was made by the party's average level, and the protagonist almost always being in the party). Savvy players figured out that using the "card" ability allowed the player to defeat enemies without collecting the base Experience Points, thus enabling their characters to grow more powerful (from the other victory spoils) while enemies remained the same. However, a number of rare items are more difficult to acquire in this way. The 'LV UP' and "LV DOWN' abilities allow you to forcefully change a monster's level to whatever range gives them the item you want.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics bases non-story battles on your party's levels, which can be a problem, because while monsters gain almost all of their stats from leveling up, humans, especially melee fighters, gain most of their stats from equipment.
  • .hack has this in the .Hack//G.U. games with the Doppelganger, a shadowy version of the main character Haseo who is always five levels higher than you, while Bearing Far stronger Stats, regenerating Health/SP, and status effect-causing weaponry. Facing it head-on like any other monster is tantamount to suicide as it cannot be done. Fortunately, due to the game's combat system there are intelligent ways to weaken it or bleed its massive health; helped by its stats no longer increasing when you are within 5 levels of each Volume's level Cap. So fighting it at level 47/97/147 has it be the same as fighting it at level 46/96/146, if not just minutely easier. Your reward from it in Rebirth is a key item, in Reminisce is the volume's most powerful weapons (only if you got the key item from Rebirth), and Redemption a weapon for the game's ending new weapon-class and the game's second-most-powerful armor. Worth it.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Each enemy has a minimum and maximum level, and are limited to particular areas, though some will always level with you.
    • Your allies will always be within one level of your character, so they never fall too far behind.
    • The "Trespasser" DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition adds an option to have all enemies scale up to the player's level. (And no, they don't scale down.)
  • Lunar:
    • The bosses in Lunar: Silver Star Story and its PSP remake Silver Star Harmony have stats that scale with the hero's level, so it's easier to defeat some bosses at low levels.
    • In Lunar: Dragon Song, both enemies and bosses level up with the player.
  • Tactics Ogre:
    • Many of the enemies in the random encounters scale with your party's level. However; story battles would eventually cap at a certain point so one could level to 50 and just throw rocks at the level 20 enemies and kill them. It's also possible to exploit this in Knight of Lodis, where it was actually scaled off of Alphonse's level, so keep him three levels below the rest of the party and they carry him to victory.
    • The PSP version of Tactics Ogre also uses this trope; but they discourage you from simply grinding your characters to level 50 because the levels are based off of your class's levels, instead of characters gaining EXP individually. So you can hit level 50 in the first chapter theoretically, but unless you somehow managed to get the other classes that early, they'd be at level one so if you ever tried to train them during a random encounter, you'd be constantly reviving them because the AI will immediately target them.
  • The 7th Saga does this when fighting other playable characters as bosses. Those enemies are matched to be at exactly your player character's level, making Level Grinding largely pointless. If you lose against them, they steal whatever runes you were holding on you when you fought them, and can use them against you for the inevitable rematch. In the North American release, the stat points gained when your character leveled up were reduced, but the enemy stats were unchanged, resulting in incredibly hard fights if you were too "powerful". Unfortunately, at least in The North American release, excessive level grinding is pretty much required to get from one area to the next, so you're in trouble either way. There's a reason The 7th Saga is considered one of the hardest role-playing games ever made.
  • In The Last Remnant, the enemies do scale to your level(even though you don't technically have one), but have a certain cap when they stop leveling, Special encounters however do not scale and have set statistics.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2, the types of random encounters adjusted to match your level. In extreme cases this could lead to fighting through a dungeon of random superpowerful liches to fight the comparatively pathetic ostensible boss.
  • In Neverwinter Nights this can become a real problem on a multi-player server (where most people end up playing the game). Encounters will higher level monsters for the PC who triggers them (along with some adjustments for companions), and the monsters don't automatically despawn if they are not killed. Hence you will see many complaints from players and DMs about people leaving high-level enemies around that can easily wipe lower-level characters going through, usually because the high-level characters were headed to somewhere else and didn't want to spend the time to clean up their spawn, not helped because it wasn't always obvious where creatures they spawned from an encounter trigger might be and it's certainly possible to spawn even more monsters while trying to kill the ones you spawned earlier.
  • In Anachronox, enemies would, at certain points, be scaled to match Boots' (the main character) current level. Thus, enemies would get easier to fight in a certain dungeon, then get tough again upon leaving. As Boots is in your party non-stop, this made level-grinding something to avoid, as Boots would surpass his fellows and render them useless against even mooks. The game made an effort to compensate by similarly increasing the levels of characters that fell behind, but didn't do so enough.
  • In Marvel: Avengers Alliance, regular missions play at a set level, but the enemies in Bonus/Special missions are set at the player character's level, making them difficult (but rewarding) for everyone.
  • Mass Effect is a strange example. Enemies do not level with the player noticeably, but equipment drops, experience points and quest rewards do. Thus, a low-level Shepard might gain a few hundred credits for staking a claim on a mining resource, while a high-level Shepard would get several thousand credits for the very same resource. Similarly, with the exception of the Pinnacle Station DLC, there is no way to get high-tech equipment early on in the game, but later, the player will find super-valuable prototype equipment in any caves and on the corpses of any enemy.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda implements it fully. Enemies level with the player all the way to 132. Unfortunately, your stats and equipment flatline after level 80 so any level after that are Empty Levels and actively work against you. Worse squad mates max out their skills at level 53 so they are left behind even sooner.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Morrowind has very limited level scaling:
      • Creatures in the wilderness and outside of caves/tombs level up with the player to a degree. (For example, a stronger creature might spawn if you're at a higher level, but the creatures remain the same regardless of level. So a Scamp encountered at level 1 will be exactly as strong as a Scamp encountered at level 20.) Those inside, however, do not. The quantity of enemies the player encounters also increases, at higher levels being attacked often by enemies that are not strong enough to provide a challenge, like Cliff Racers. This makes the game exceedingly difficult at lower levels, and exceedingly easy at higher ones.
      • Loot inside of containers is also randomly generated based on the player's level, with the Luck Stat also playing into it. The higher the level, the better the chance of finding higher-quality items. Items outside of the containers are hand-placed, however, and will be the same regardless of your level.
    • Oblivion takes level-scaling to extreme levels:
      • A major issue for Oblivion is the tendency toward Empty Levels, making it very easy to end up on the wrong side of the level-scaling curve. Enemies level scale based purely on your level, but your actual strength in combat involves many factors besides just level (health gain per level, attributes, equipment, and skills). As such, leveling up with too many non-combat skills is likely to result in an insignificant bonus to your abilities, but all enemies still increase in strength. Even if you've been careful in your leveling, damage caps at a certain point while health does not, meaning high-level fights become increasingly drawn-out with even standard foes becoming damage sponges without providing much challenge. While being a full blown Min-Maxing Munchkin is only necessary if you want to max out every single attribute, you're best served incorporating elements of it in order to avoid falling on the wrong side of the curve.
      • Alternatively, it's possible to gain a significant Low-Level Advantage by leveling up skills but never sleeping. Though this severely limits your ability to make use of NPC trainers, as you can only use them five times per level, your skills will still increase naturally through use and by finding skill books. This ultimately leads to the world being saved from a horde of feeble monsters by a strangely competent insomniac.
      • Unfortunately, even if you level up effectively, some friendly NPCs do not (and/or have low-level equipment even at the highest levels), making Escort Missions with non-essential NPCs very difficult as your allies get torn apart in seconds by enemies scaled to your level. This is particularly blatant in a quest where you protect (what's left of) the city of Kvatch. If you do this quest early on, as the game expects you to, the City Guards fighting alongside you are apparently being terrorized by the goblin-like Scamps, who don't do much besides fling slow-moving, weak fireballs. Postpone it until you're level 20 or so and the guards' reaction will finally look appropriate, now that they are facing humanoid crocodiles, magma golems, and demonic sorcerers.
    • Skyrim has a much improved system (borrowing elements from its Bethesda Fallout sister series) after the struggles of its predecessor. Most enemies simply get replaced by tougher variants in high-level areas, while some do directly scale with player level. Random loot also scales, as do many pieces of unique equipment (which makes it advantageous to wait to collect some of them, lest they become less useful later on). It is still possible to grind non-combat skills and end up facing very difficult opponents relative to one's combat ability, although almost every skill has some combat utility if applied with creativity, so the game never becomes straight-up unwinnable. Though due to how magic works in this game (doing a set amount of damage and having very little in the way to squeeze out more damage) spell slingers can find themselves being outmatched by tougher and tougher foes while doing the same damage they were doing levels ago.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 3, the level scaling is based on your level when you enter an area and is never adjusted again for that area, so in the starting areas, you'll deal with easy enemies, and as you get stronger and go further out, the enemies will also get stronger, but if you back to the beginning areas, you'll be dealing with the weak enemies again. In addition, enemies are largely prebuilt to a certain level and pulled off a list to set what's appropriate, instead of having scaled stats and equipment a la Oblivion, and the exceptions are less jarring. There are exceptions, however; if Broken Steel is installed you can encounter the freakishly tough Super Mutant Overlords, Albino Radscorpions, and Feral Ghoul Reavers as early as Level 10 when they're a difficult fight for max level characters. See the "Demonic Spiders" RPG page for more detail on them.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas: Lonesome Road, unlike in the main game, the Deathclaws level up with the player, eventually surpassing the Legendary Deathclaw in attack damage (thus on Very Hard, they are guaranteed to kill in one hit, no ifs, ands, or buts about it). The Marked Men, Tunnelers, Lobotomites, and most other DLC creatures also do this though they (mostly) are a far less difficult fight, using their numbers as their main advantage. Later patches to the main game have the NCR, Legion, and Brotherhood of Steel Elite Mooks level with the player, which can be a pain when you have the elite hit squads stalking you due to a bad rep.
    • Fallout 4 scales similarly to 3, with higher maximum enemy ranks, stats and equipment the farther you travel from the starting location; unlike 3, the scale can adjust somewhat when enemies respawn at a previously-visited location. Enemies that are a much higher level than the player, such as the first Deathclaw in Concord, have a skull next to their name. Some bosses (e.g. Kellogg) and high-ranking mooks level with the player indefinitely.
  • Radiant Arc: If the player is overleveled for an encounter, the enemies will scale to their level. However, levels for the enemies only improve their offensive stats and no other stats.
  • Wizardry 8 has various kinds of enemies (each kind may appear on different levels) that the game draws from to use against player, depending on how strong the party is.
  • Done as far back as in 1986's The Realm of Angbar: Elfhelm's Bane for Apple ][, where as the player's statistics grow, the monsters become more numerous and come in more powerful types.
  • While not having a true level system, Fable will replace the enemies in areas as players gain more renown levels by doing quests, killing monsters, etc. An early area that previously held nothing but beetles and wasps with 10-20 health will eventually be filled with high level bandits with over 1,000 health each.
  • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, enemies and bosses in story missions are set at fixed levels, but Paralogues are based on how far you are in the game. It's the same in Fire Emblem Fates, but Fates does the same thing with Xenologues.
  • Octopath Traveler has you pick one of eight protagonists to start with, and whichever one that is will face the weakest versions of the enemies in their region. As you recruit the other characters and complete story missions, enemy and boss difficulty will increase accordingly. Each area also has a maximum level where the enemies stop getting any more powerful.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning sets the level of each area the first time you enter it (although each area also has a cap on the min and max level). So running halfway across the game world to complete a quest early in the game will come back to bite you later when all those low-level enemies stop giving XP.
  • The SaGa series employs the "weaker enemies are replaced with stronger versions" type. Worth noting that how this is applied greatly varies from game to game. In most cases it's just matter of defeating enemies of the same "family" (beast, undead, bird etc.) for the "rank up" to take place, as one might expect. Some, however, are far most devious on the approach. In Romancing SaGa 3, for example, the enemies rank up every time one enters a battle with them. Meaning that one could escape from all the fights and monsters would still get stronger. And no, this isn't mentioned anywhere in the game. One of the many things that have contributed to the high difficulty the series is infamous for.
  • Super Robot Wars generally has Mooks scale to the level of either the lowest playable character in the party or the average of the entire party that is sortied for the next scenario. Bosses, on the other hand, will likely be around one or two levels greater than the highest Character Levels.
  • Of a sort in the original dnd video game. Since you level up based on how much treasure you can take out of the dungeon, the programmers added a feature where you would encounter more powerful enemies the more treasure you had on your person.

    Simulation Games 
  • The X-Universe series doesn't have traditional character levels, but it does keep track of a couple types of ranking that affect missions. Your Fight rank (simply put, how many kills you have) helps determine the strength of mission-related enemies: an "Average" station defense mission that spawned a half-dozen scoutships when you started the game (not even a threat to the station, never mind the player) will spawn at least one frigate at low twenties Fight rank. At near-maxed fight rank, high-difficulty combat missions will start spawning full size destroyers. Meanwhile, your Trade rank (raised by making a profit off of transactions - either by yourself or through your trade network) plays into mission payouts; in X3: Terran Conflict a mission that paid maybe twenty grand at low Trade rank will often pay over a million at mid-teens rank. However, Fight and Trade rank has no effect on the game outside of the randomly generated missions, meaning one may still end up having to flee from a patrolling Pirate destroyer in their piddly little Space Trucker freighter despite a fight ranking of "harmless".

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Cyberpunk 2077 introduced this as part of its Update 2.0: both enemies and loot scale to the player level.
  • Dead Island has scaling similar to Oblivion. Whatever level you are, the enemies will be. Your health increases, but their damage increases to do roughly the same amount percentage wise. Their health increases, but you can equip stronger weapons to do the same back to them. The main point of leveling are gaining new Skills to tilt the odds further in your favor.
  • Dying Light also has level scaling, but unlike Dead Island it's not 1:1, so you do feel more powerful as your level increases. For example, at level 1, zombies have about 150-200 health and a basic, common rarity weapon does an average of 20 damage, requiring several hits to kill just one zombie. At the maximum level of 25, zombies have about 400-500 health and a basic, common rarity weapon does around 700-800 damage, allowing you to chop through hordes with single swings. The only enemies that scale on a 1:1 ratio with you are Rais' soldiers, and only those encountered on the overworld rather than during main story missions.
  • TerraTech features a variant where NPC techs scale according to the value and weapon count of the player's. The system has some leeway, which can work in the player's favour or the enemy's.

    Other Genres 
  • In Muramasa: The Demon Blade, enemies are always scaled to correlate to your level. Even when overleveling, enemies never get any easier. The earlier Demon Trees don't fall too far behind when you are dozens of levels above the recommended levels, the bosses get more vicious, and the regular enemies deal more damage and have more hit points. Other than the trees, the only major benefit to leveling is being able to forge more powerful swords.
  • Puzzle Quest scales all enemies to the same level as your character, except for boss battles.
  • Mega Man Legends 2 has the digger's license mechanic. At any time in the game you can go and take a test to rank yourself up (you start at B and can go up to S). Certain ruins can only be accessed with a certain license, but ranking up means that the random enemies in every single ruin rank up to more powerful color-swapped versions.
  • Iji: A single Hacking Minigame has its level adjusted to match the player's Crack stat (minus one or two on lower difficulties). This is because cracking a target with higher Security than your Crack stat cannot be attempted at all, and this one is the only "required" cracking that is supposed to feel "difficult". All other hacking targets in the game have a static level, with all doors that you must crack to finish the game having Security 1.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: At the start of the game, most enemies in the game world consist chiefly of basic, relatively low-level types, and gradually get replaced with stronger variants the more enemies you defeat. The game uses a system where, each time an enemy is defeated, a number of points are added to a hidden ledger; the weakest enemies give none, stronger enemies give more, and bosses give the most. Certain monsters in the game, usually one or two in each camp, are marked with a specific tag; every time a specific points threshold is reached, all tagged monsters of a specific type are upgraded to the next strongest tier. By the time you've finished the main quest and found a good percentage of the Shrines, it's not uncommon to see at least one Silver enemy at every encampment. This extends to Lynels as well; if you thought the only Silver Lynel you'd ever see is at the Coliseum Ruins, you'd be dead wrong. The power of the weapons that amiibo gives scales as well depending on progression. This can lead into Permanently Missable Content, as one feature of the game involves getting pictures of enemies for the game's Monster Compendium. While the game takes care to ensure that every enemy type of each rank always remains somewhere regardless of the difficulty scaling, and even places a non-scaling basic enemy of each type somewhere in the game world in Master Mode, some of the enemies (especially the Lynels) carry exclusive weapons that level up with them, which are missable that way (thankfully pictures can also be bought).
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom uses a similar system as its predecessor, but toned down to keep multiple copies of each tier of enemy available throughout the game. A necessity since many ingredients for armor upgrades are specific to a given tier.
  • Forza: From the second game onwards, Forza Horizon lets you choose any car (that fits the class of the event you're playing) with any Performance Index and all the competing racers will drive vehicles that are roughly matched to your own PI in that same class. This leads to a little fridge logic example during 3's Midnight Battle races as you can show up to a race driving an S2 car and your opponent's car will scale to yours but when you actually win the car from the race and turns up in your garage, you'll see it was actually a B-spec vehicle.
  • Hollow Knight: The DLC boss Grimm of scales in health depending on how upgraded your weapon is, providing a consistent challenge no matter how much damage you do per hit.
    • In the base game, the Dream Warriors health scales as you upgrade your weapon. The scaling isn't proportional, though, so they get easier if you only use your nail. If you use spells, on the other hand...
  • Metroid: Zero Mission has a single case of this with the final boss, since a large number of upgrades in the game can only be acquired via a buttload of backtracking using a number of abilities which you get mere minutes before the end of the game. If you actually go back and get everything, in order to somewhat avert the Bragging Rights Award nature of these power-ups, the final boss gets a downright savage power boost: three times the defense and 1.5 times the attack power.
  • PlateUp!: As you go further in the game, you have to serve increasing numbers of customers, the customers' patience timers can decrease, and there can be complications with cooking and serving such as customers ordering multi-part dishes and changing their minds about what they want after their order is taken.

Other examples:

    Card Games 
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse is designed for 2-5 players. This does not mean, however, that playing with more than that gives the players an advantage. The villains often have attacks or other effects that are dictated by the number of players, so if you take six or more heroes into the fight, it's that much more difficult. Suddenly you're being even more swarmed by minions, and when the villains themselves attack, they're doing extra damage. On the other side, a party of only two players faces a much easier time, with some villainous attacks being reduced to 0 damage.

  • Prosper's Demon: In a rare, non-videogame version of the trope, the exorcist/narrator in and the demon known as Him have a strange connection; though the demon is unquestionably thousands upon thousands of years old, as the narrator grows up, so too does He. When the narrator is a small child, the demon speaks and acts like a small child. When the narrator is an educated adult, the demon seems to have become more clever, and starts using academic language, as though He is learning along with the narrator despite the two being apart.
  • This Used To Be About Dungeons: Completing dungeons raises a person's "elevation", which is a somewhat nebulous attribute (due to the random nature of dungeon contents) but affects both the difficulty and rewards of future dungeons. It's possible to get ahead of the curve by obtaining powerful entads before starting to delve, but otherwise, as you get more powerful loot, you'll also face more powerful monsters and hazards. If you're not thorough about collecting all the entads from each dungeon, you might even fall behind. (And each dungeon can only be completed once, so every entad is Permanently Missable Content.)

    Tabletop RPGs 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Over the course of its history, D&D has been moving in this direction from early editions relying on the DM eyeballing things (or even letting the chips fall where they may using random wandering monster tables) to an increased emphasis on helping Game Masters design properly "balanced" encounters for the party's level as of the formal third edition at the latest. Fourth edition streamlines the process to almost "decide how fast the group needs to advance to the next level, then include that many XPs' worth of challenge" (there's still a bit more to it than that, but it's the basic idea).
    • 3E had the problem of needing a player's gear to scale up along with their level in order to maintain play balance, and needing specific types of gear as well. If your fighter didn't have any cold-iron weapons, for instance, then he had real difficulty fighting the more powerful Demons. The DM's guide included tables to provide the appropriate amount of wealth to scale the player's gear with their level, but if the DM never included the specific types of gear needed to face the monsters he was using (like the aforementioned cold iron weapons) then the players would be outclassed.
    • 4E has the problem that some of the above video games do- monsters automatically increase in all of their defenses by 1 for each level. So, you have to Min Max just to keep up with the enemies, and likely pay the Feat Tax as well, Wizard of the Coast's inelegant solution to the problem when they realized that PC attack bonuses didn't scale up enough to match NPC defenses. Another problem was that since all of the NPC defenses increased this way, most monsters seldom had much of a weak spot, and a PC couldn't likely figure it out except with trial and error even if they did. To make things worse, a PC could at most keep up 2 of their 3 Non-AC defenses to scale, and thus always had a weak spot. So, an NPC might have stats like Fort 38/Reflex 39/Will 37, but a PC of the same level might have Fort 38/Reflex 39/Will 30, making any attacks against their Will defense an almost certain hit.
    • 5E averts this somewhat. Due to the "Bounded Accuracy" concept, enemies and Player Characters will rarely get to the point where they can't hit each other due to level differences. An Adult Red Dragon has an AC of 19, and even the infamous Tarrasque has only a 25. HP and damage are thus supposed to be the determinants of effectiveness. So, your level 5 party can take on a CR 15 monster and still reasonably hit it most of the time, but it will likely Curb Stomp them in the DPS race. That being said, some monsters that are really low level, such as less than 1 CR, can be put into the position where their puny +2 or +3 attack bonus will only hit higher level characters on a 19 or 20.
  • Gloomhaven bases its enemy levels on the average of those of the player characters, halved and then rounded up to the next whole.Example  The amount of enemies, as well them being normal or Elite, is also affected by how many players are used.

  • Magience: In the fictional MMORPG, monsters in Sir Erran's scale based on the average level of the party.
  • The Order of the Stick: Lampshaded when Haley finds out that her old rival, Crystal, is coming after her. Celia remarks that Haley must be stronger, having spent so much time in battle while Celia was working as a common crook. Haley replies that, as a personal rival, Crystal will always be the same level as her if not higher. The scene then cuts to Crystal leveling up while sitting around playing cards.
  • Return To Player: Sehan faces much tougher monsters starting with his third quest. Given how much stronger he is for his second playthrough, he takes this as proof that he's having an effect on the world.

Alternative Title(s): Scaled Leveling