Follow TV Tropes


Non-Combat EXP

Go To

"You can get experience points for roleplaying?"
Jim, Darths & Droids

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

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

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

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

Contrast No Experience Points for Medic.


EXP gained applies to a character's general level

    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 

  • Fate Revelation Online: After the fight with the first Floor Boss, Shirou realizes that his experience gains from the battle vastly paled in comparison to his gains from inventing a new spell. He and Ilya realize that this means that Kayaba is encouraging players to focus on the magic system, almost to the exclusion of all else. From an in-game perspective, this is a good thing, as it allows non-combat players to stay competitive to at least some degree, letting the player base move forward in a more unified manner. From an out of game perspective, it's absolutely terrible, because when the Enforcers finally realize what is happening and come to execute Kayaba for revealing magic to the world, the players will not be "victims" but "collaborators." Unless something changes, they'll all be executed for crimes they didn't even know existed.

     Films - Live Action 
  • Invoked in Free Guy. Guy, an NPC who has recently gained sentience, is smitten with Millie's Molotov Girl avatar and wants to help Millie/Molotov find her game code stashed somewhere in Free City. Since Guy's level is at a newcomer "1", Millie tells him to get to level 100, then they'll talk; Guy balks at doing any violent missions, so Millie suggests trying to be a "good guy". Guy becomes a viral sensation as he quickly levels up through do-gooding sidequests (like saving a little girl from being run over) and draws speculation that these actions actually earn more XP than the game's main GTA Online-esque crime sprees and combat.

    Video Games 
  • The main source of experience points in Aground is not combat but mining, which gives experience based on how tough the tile the player has mined. Other sources for experience include crafting, modifying and smelting items, building, harvesting, farming, chopping trees, fishing, pumping water and finishing quests.
  • Arknights: Operators gain levels with battle records - essentially watching taped fights to gain experience at the cost of money. Why watching videos cost money is anyone's guess.
  • In the Baldur's Gate series, particularly the second installment, the most XP is gained from completing major quests rather than combat encounters. Picking locks, disabling traps and memorizing spells will also give XP.
    • This is necessary because Baldur's Gate uses the 2nd edition AD&D ruleset, in which most XP was normally earned for treasure and magic loot, at a scale of 1 GP = 1 XP. Since that was not implemented in Baldur's Gate, without quest XP it would take comically long to level up in the first game, and be impossible in the second game (where you quickly reach the point where each new level takes hundreds of thousands of XP but dangerous monsters only give thousands).
  • Civilization series:
    • Building a Barracks in a city generally gives each land unit built in that city one additional level of experience; before Civilization IV, all units operated on a single general "experience" system, but afterwards this gave a certain number of experience points that could be used to "buy" promotions for that unit, allowing the unit to get stronger or (most often) to specialize in something like fighting against infantry or being a medic.
    • Different games may have additional things that would allow units to be built with free experience points from the beginning, ranging from "traits" of the civilization itself to additional buildings.
    • Scout units, which are weaker than other classes and thus have a harder time gaining experience through direct fighting, can also gain experience by scouting around the map and claiming tribal villages. V and VI introduce natural wonders that can be discovered, which if done so by a scout unit also grants experience.
  • Command & Conquer series:
    • Red Alert 2: Sneaking an Allied Spy to the enemy Barracks or War Factory allows any units produced from your equivalent production structure to start off with one level of veterancy. However, taking one spy to said point is quite difficult though, and it only works once per building.
    • Red Alert 3: Veteran Academies are tech buildings that, if captured, will grant most (if not all) units veteran levels equal to the amount of Academies owned by the player. It goes all the way up to Elite.
  • Deus Ex series:
    • In the first Deus Ex, exploring nooks and crannies of the various maps not only nets you more inventory, some additional lore and bonus scenes, but every so often also gives you "Exploration Bonuses" in EXP.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution hands out XP for a variety of non-combat tasks. Players receive XP every time they successfully hack computers, complete missions, or win a "social battle" (i.e., persuade someone to do something for you by choosing the right dialogue options). You also can get a huge amount of XP for going through an entire level without being seen and/or setting off an alarm.
    • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided expands on Human Revolution's XP system, adding such things as XP for locating and using the correct passwords in computersnote  and "Points of Interest" that would award XP in addition to any exploration bonuses for investigating certain areas.
    • All three games (Invisible War has no XP system) also award the vast majority of points simply for progressing in the story: it's certainly possible to max out all the skills a player is likely to actually want without doing anything optional.
  • Disco Elysium entirely relies on this, since it doesn't have any combat. The bulk of XP is gotten from completing quest objectives, while smaller amounts can be gotten from picking dialog options that give new information.
  • In Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin II, characters gain experience points from advancing quests (in both the main quest line and Sidequests) and from exploring new map regions, as well as from killing enemies.
  • Evil Islands gives you experience points for each completed quest. Note that you only need to do the quest rather than return to the quest-giver to gain exp.
  • The Fallout series awards XP for doing non-combat related things, which may bypass combat altogether, such as lockpicking, hacking and persuasion. Fallout 4 also gives you small amounts of experience for crafting.
  • Servants of Fate/Grand Order are leveled up by giving them items called embers. Some servants' voice lines at being given embers implied they are eating them, and apparently it does not taste good.
    Percival: I will eat without being picky. I'm an adult after all.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII-2, you can get CP (the game's form of EXP) from finding fragments throughout every area, which are obtained by completing sidequests or main missions. However, the CP gained from fragments not directly related to killing things tends to be pretty poor.
  • Fire Emblem series:
  • In King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, you gain experience for solving puzzles, apart from killing enemies.
  • Konaes Investigations: Manually unlocking a door gives EXP, while bypassing the minigame does not.
  • Besides the standard exp for battle victories, Lunar: The Silver Star occasionally doles out exp for completing quests. This happens often at the beginning of the game, tapers off toward the middle, and is not found in any other game in the Lunar series.
  • The Mass Effect series, despite relying heavily on combat, did away with XP-for-kills starting with part two, instead handing it out for quests and some item pickups (Mass Effect 3 rewards you with bonus EXP when you pick up medigels when your medigel stock is already full—in effect, rewards you for fighting smarter, not harder). Even Mass Effect, some XP was gained upon unlocking each Codex entry, i.e. from simple exploration and interacting with the environment.
  • Mega Man X Di VE, experience is only earned by completing a stage. Doesn't matter how many enemies you kill.
  • In Minecraft, since version 1.3 you can gain experience from mining and smelting — specifically, you get experience for mining monster spawners and ore blocks (diamond, coal, redstone, lapis lazuli, emerald, quartz) and once you take the items from the output slot for smelting. Breeding animals also nets experience, as well as trading with Villagers as of the 1.8 update.
  • In addition to Quest EXP, Neverwinter Nights and its sequels include a few instances of XP beyond combat. Some conversations have bonus XP nestled in them for "roleplaying" options, there are times where avoiding the combat encounter will grant as much or more XP than fighting through it (if you're over-leveled for the fight). In Neverwinter Nights 2, a later expansion even gave XP for opening locks and disabling traps.
  • A Dance with Rogues basically showers you with non-combat XP: picking locks, disarming traps, solving puzzles, completing quests all bring you hefty chunks, while "rewards" from killing enemies and monsters range from nada to single-digit amounts (except for some bosses, beating whom essentially counts as a mini-quest, anyway). This is done to facilitate a sneaky Skill Monkey gameplay of the eponymous class that is the focus of the module: you're expected to avoid trouble you can see coming with strategic application of quick wits and manual dexterity.
  • Pillars of Eternity, being a Spiritual Successor to BG, follows suit: you get (small) amounts of XP for picking locks and disabling traps and substantial boosts for completing quests. Even the "combat EXP" is given not for killing enemies, but for completing the Monster Compendium: every monster entry is worth a finite XP total, which you gain in chunks every time you kill a monster of that type. The size of these chunks depends on how many you must defeat to complete their entry, at which point you no longer gain any XP from fighting them.
  • Planescape: Torment became a cult classic largely because of this trope. Whereas most CRPGs at the time were heavily into hack'n'slash, Torment gave the best rewards (including experience) for dialog-based solutions to problems.
  • Rebel Star: Tactical Command: Using the Medic and Psionics (non combat and more in mind screw) commands grant exp.
  • Ring Fit Adventure, being an exercise game, ties EXP to doing exercise in most capacities. Doing things like running through stages, destroying/navigating around obstacles in your path, playing minigames, and even the stretching done to warm up before playing, all involve different forms of fitness and all reward EXP. The player can even do exercise with the Ring-Con while the game's turned off, earning coins the next time they play for squeezing and stretching it.
  • In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, finishing mini quests gives you exp and the skill points to acquire skills. Also you get that by farming and or mining items at certain spots (the only way to finish some of said quests as well as getting certain crafting materials).
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 awards the player EXP for simply exploring the world map, by discovering landmarks and hidden areas. It also awards EXP for successfully completing sidequests and completing key points (called "Chapters") in the game's story. Being that it's easily over 80 hours in length (up to 100, or more, including sidequests) it's not hard to see why that is.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X expands on the original by also awarding EXP for launching data probes to mine resources in each area of Planet Mira.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 awards EXP from the same non-combat sources as its predecessor. However, rather than immediately going to the characters, this "Bonus EXP" is deposited to a reserve that the player may use to level them up when staying at an inn. This feature was later added to the Definitive Edition of the first game as an optional "Expert Mode".
  • Valkyrie Profile has Event Experience, which is received at the ends of dungeons and after triggering events while exploring dungeons. It's usually pretty meager in comparison with the experience you get from killing all the stuff in the dungeons, but has the advantage of being able to be divided as you wish among your characters, allowing you to stockpile it and level up weak characters who'd have a difficult time surviving combat.
  • Gothic gives you experience points for each completed quest.
  • Elvira 2: Jaws of Cerberus grants you experience for going into unexplored map squares and casting spells. Technically, you could get unlimited experience by preparing and casting a lot of free spells (but you'd have to wait for your Power Points to regenerate, so it would take a long time.)
  • Most Nippon Ichi games give the healer classes EXP for healing others, and also, the Merchant class (appearing in Makai Kingdom and Phantom Brave) can gain experience and level up just by buying things from her (in addition to killing things, of course).
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines gives experience only for quests completed through any means, making verbal conflict resolution and full stealth runs a completely viable way of playing without gimping your character - right up until the last part of the plot where the whole thing devolves into dungeons upon dungeons with very little stealth or social options. Hope you spent some XP on weapon skills after all...
  • Superhero League of Hoboken gives bonus XP for discovering every area on a map (how hard this is varies, since different terrain types have different requirements for being passable) and for completing missions.
  • Guardian Heroes gives players EXP for casting spells, including ones defensive ones like Nicole's healing spell (unless the enemy is weak to Light-elemental magic) or the Barrier spell will give EXP.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], the EXP Walker ability will grant 1 point of experience for every step taken by the Player Character.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV offers sources of EXP for tasks besides winning battles: successful demon talks, completing quests (both main quests and optional quests), and fusing new demons. The EXP awarded for a successful quest is based on your current level, meaning that if you're at level 99 (e.g. on a New Game Plus), it's possible to shoot a low-level demon up by tens of levels just by having them in your party when you complete a quest.
  • Sonic Chronicles will give you a small EXP bonus for doing sidequests. This becomes handy on New Game Plus, as the EXP from this doesn't diminish as your level increases.
  • Etrian Odyssey awards EXP for reporting a completed mission or quest. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth and Etrian Odyssey Nexus also have "Adventurer's Log" field events that will also grant EXP even if the event doesn't result in any combat.
  • In Miitopia, the Miis can gain EXP points by playing the roulette.
  • Tombs & Treasure boosts your level and health by completing tasks around Chichen Itza, due to the game using enemy encounters as Beef Gates to keep you from exploring too far too early.
  • Clearing a sidequest in Rakenzarn Frontier Story nabs you some extra EXP towards your current Rune Class.
  • In Streets of Rogue, you earn XP for doing nearly anything, whether it be picking a lock, cracking a safe, or even completing a mission without killing.
  • The Geneforge series grants XP for completing quests, disarming traps, picking locks, or using certain options in the Dialogue Tree system unlocked by the Leadership skill.

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

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Space 1889 has an unusual version with close combat and other experience points in parallell and completely separated. You get one skill point for every major event or episode, these point may not be used to purchase close combat skills. You also get one for every time you participated in close combat, those can only be used on close combat skills.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has various rules for GMs to give out EXP for completing tasks outside combat, such as talking one's way out of a fight or for superb roleplaying. Also, long before there were official rules for it, this was a very popular house rule.
    • Even in the earliest D&D sets PCs got 1 xp for every gp of treasure found. Getting treasure by avoiding combat with monsters was actively encouraged.
    • 4th edition added the "skill challenge" mechanic which was a method for designing encounters around a series of non combat skill checks and setting standard experience point awards for those tasks. A few of the examples were even about using non combat skills to circumvent or reduce the difficulty of combats.
    • The 2nd Edition rules were very specific that the listed XP rewards for monsters were awarded for defeating them, not necessary killing them, and thus could be awarded for intimidating them into surrender or retreat, tricking or outsmarting them, or otherwise defeating them without combat.
    • Dark Sun (World of Athas) campaign setting.
      • Fighters receive XP for constructing defenses and Siege Engines.
      • Rangers get XP for using their thief abilities, making good use of followers and casting spells.
      • All wizards can gain XP for casting spells to overcome problems. Preserver wizards get them for successfully hiding the fact that they are wizards, while defilers obtain them for casting spells for a sorcerer-king.
      • Priests receive XP for casting spells and using their chosen element (earth, air, fire or water) creatively.
      • Rogues get XP for using a special thief ability successfully.
      • Templars obtain XP for carrying out their police/judicial functions (accusing, judging, and pardoning other people), as well as for furthering their sorcerer-king's goals.
      • Psionicists can gain extra XP for defeating problems and avoiding combat.
      • Dwarves get XP for pursuing their focus and for completing a major focus.
      • Elves receive XP for refusing a ride or magical transportation, testing their friendships with other beings and running (10 XP per mile).
      • Half-giants gain XP each time they shift alignment and for imitating a charismatic friend.
      • Halflings get XP for aiding other halflings and practicing another race's customs.
      • Muls (Half-Human Hybrids of humans and dwarves) get it for exerting themselves in heavy labor.
      • Thri-Kreen obtain XP for each kill (animal) they bring back for food.
  • Dragon Age specifically mentions that any investment of resources into a given encounter should be compensated with EXP, whether that means losing Health and Mana in combat, or spending time and money negotiating through a political situation or exploring an unknown wilderness.
  • Fabula Ultima: While combat is a big part of the game, the players don't gain XP by killing enemies. Instead, XP gain is based on how many Fabula Points were spent by the party during a session, and how many Ultima Points were spent by the Villains during the session. The total number of spent Fabula Points is divided evenly amongst the players as XP, while the number of spent Ultima Points is added to every player's XP total. Every player also gets 5 XP each session just for showing up.
  • F.A.T.A.L. manages to use this trope to limit the poor, deformed, psychotic PCs that get created. Each class has a specific action that grants it EXP. All classes have the same EXP requirement to reach new levels, but the actual EXP gained varies tremendously by class: an accountant (yes, that's an actual class), who gains EXP for each month they work, must work for eighty years to gain a level.
  • Iron Crown Enterprises' games (Rolemaster, Space Master, Cyberspace, etc.) often gave experience points for non-combat actions, such as coming up with useful ideas, performing movement maneuvers (e.g. running), traveling (5 XP per kilometer), using spells or psionic powers, performing research and building or repairing items.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space works on a voting method: the other players at a session make secret votes to decide if a player gets 1, 2 or 3 XP. The average is rewarded.
  • World of Darkness:
    • Being a storytelling system, the series mainly grants EXP through non-combat means. One point for showing up, one point if the character learned something, and so on. EXP can be gained through combat, though it's not the primary method.
    • Mage: The Awakening adds a second track for "Arcane Experience", which can only be spent on a few magical abilities but is gained in addition to ordinary EXP. Characters earn Arcane Experience whenever they experience supernatural phenomena for the first time or expand their knowledge of the supernatural.
  • Games based on the Hero System (Champions, Danger International) gave experience points for things like good role playing, how outnumbered the PCs were and how successful the adventure was. The PCs did not gain XP just for defeating opponents.
  • DC Heroes. PCs can receive Hero Points for participating in the adventure, roleplaying well, saving innocent bystanders and subplots (activities unrelated to the main adventure).
  • Mutants & Masterminds is entirely divorced from combat experience instead awarding build points on a per game session basis which can be spent to acquire or improve any sort of power or ability you can think of.
  • Barbarians of Lemuria is interesting in that it technically doesn't give out XP for what the player characters did in play at all. Instead, points are awarded purely on the basis of how entertainingly the players describe squandering away their characters' acquired treasures between the last scenario and the upcoming next one.
  • In Ironclaw EXP is completely based on roleplaying. Combat only figures in when it accomplishes one of the characters' Goals.
  • Numenera encourages exploration, so the XP is mainly awarded for discovering ancient mysteries and figuring out how to use them. There is also the "GM Intrusion" mechanic, wherein the GM can do something mean to a character but offer 2 XP to their player in return (one of which they must then give away to another PC). The player can refuse the XP, however, and thus negate the negative effect, but it costs them 1 already earned XP.
  • In Apocalypse World and most of its hacks, your most common source of XP is rolling for your "highlighted" stats (two of your stats selected at the start of each session by the player whose character has the highest Relationship Values with you and by your Game Master, respectively). You also gain an XP whenever your Hx with another player rolls over (i.e. gets an increase when it's already +3, resetting to +1), or when a special move tells you to mark XP.
  • The second edition of Monster of the Week, based on Apocalypse World, removed the Hx scores, so you instead mark an XP for any skill roll that you botch: the GM gets to do something nasty to your character, but you get an XP for it. You still get XP from special moves, and the entire party gets one or two at the end of every session if they achieve certain narrative goals.
  • Flying Circus awards XP for clearing Stress, which can be accrued both in and out of combat. This makes it equally viable to gain XP from shooting down enemies and enduring anxiety-inducing social conversations (as with the Survivor playbook).
  • Ironsworn:
    • In the core rules, Ironsworn players mainly earn experience from fulfilling iron vows, the game's equivalence of quests. While iron vows may involve defeating opponents in combat, combat only indirectly contributes to experience by advancing a vow's progress track, and only if that combat results in defeating a major threat relating to the vow. In many cases, players are better off exploring alternatives to combat, as tangling with a random ash bear does little else but exhaust resources.
    • Beyond iron vows, there are a handful of Assets that grant experience, but mostly in addition to forging bonds with other characters. The closest combat-related one, a Spirit-Bound ability, involves almost dying.
    • Ironsworn Delve adds a "failure track" that acts similarly to other Powered by the Apocalypse games, where players mark progress on a track after missing a roll, including missing combat rolls. This optional rule allows players to earn experience for failing to kill monsters.
  • Scum and Villainy: Every playbook has XP triggers where the character (or ship) gains XP, only the Muscle explicitly has combat as an XP trigger.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay suggests awarding XP for overcoming challenges, roleplaying, and/or completing sections of the story, or simply granting it for every few hours of gameplay, rather than indicate specific XP awards for defeating any given enemy.

    Web Comics 
  • Spoofed in Culture Shock in this strip - You can get EXP for quite literally anything - kicking trash cans, beating up nerds, popping bubble wrap, opening bags of chips, and using the restroom, among others.
  • Discussed by the Light Warriors in 8-Bit Theater - Apparently, sidequests are the primary source of an adventurer's EXP gain, and are what separates noble adventurers from roaming bands of thugs.
  • Goblins features one conversation between two city guards in Brassmoon City about a time when a DM granted someone roleplaying XP for taking a dump. This granted him just enough XP to level up. Needless to say, things got crappy real fast.
  • The Order of the Stick is set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse, so this comes up sometimes:
    • The first time the Order levels up on-screen, Belkar, their psychotic evil halfling ranger, is a mere handful of XP shy from leveling up with everyone else. When killing rats proves to not grant XP and party kills are prohibited, he resorts to a melodramatic Ass Pull sob-story monologue for roleplaying XP.
    • Played for Laughs with Crystal, who, as Haley's Arch-Enemy, is required to be at least as high-level as her, to avoid an anticlimactic Villain Forgot to Level Grind scenario. Cut to Crystal spontaneously gaining a level mid-card game and the other players grumbling about how they need to find their own nemeses.
  • In Darths & Droids, Jim is actually surprised that XP can be gained from roleplaying, rather than just fighting.
  • In Homestuck, characters level up for things like completing a Stable Time Loop by accident, or even throwing their hat in frustration.
  • Played straight for Peganone and Jordie in Our Little Adventure, who both gained their character levels doing non-combat things.
  • In Knights of Buena Vista the game FantasiaLand offers this in large amounts to encourage roleplaying instead of just raw combat. Even Mary, The Real Man player, gets into it for that reason.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Mr. Tensaided gives Susan XP for answering riddles.

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

EXP applies only to a particular skill or attribute.

    Video Games 
  • Besides an initial Point Build System, both attributes and skills in Dwarf Fortress are increased only by using them and each action has one or more attributes and sometimes a skill tied to it. This means while you can only raise combat skill by fighting conscious opponents, you can improve physical and mental ability by doing things like sharping rocks, swimming a lot, walking on crutches (even if you don't need to), and sneaking around (even if there's nobody around to hide from). It works the same in Fortress Mode (which has many more non-combat skills usable), but since that's a Space-Management Game rather than an RPG it's not exactly this trope.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Through Oblivion, the series uses a leveling system in which the player gains experience toward an increase in a certain skill by successfully using that skill. For example, if you sneak around, your Sneak skill will increase. If you brew potions, your Alchemy skill increase. If you strike enemies with a sword, your Blade/Long Blade/One-Handed skill will increase, etc. After 10 skill increases, you'll level up, at which point you can choose some of your Attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Endurance, etc.) to increase. Attributes which govern the skills you increased will receive multipliers based on the amount of times you increased those governed skills. (For example, increasing your Heavy Armor skill 5 times will give you a 5x multiplier on your Endurance skill). You don't have to increase Attributes that receive multipliers, but it is highly recommended in order to avoid Empty Levels.
    • In Skyrim, the system is similar but has a few major changes. First, there are no longer Attributes. Increasing your skills 10 times still allows you to level up, but instead of increasing Attributes, you choose to add 10 points to your Health, Magicka, or Stamina. Secondly, leveling up allows you to choose a Perk in one of the skill trees, with more Perks being unlocked the higher your level in that skill.
    • A major reason for the leveling system overhaul between Oblivion and Skyrim was Oblivion's much reviled Level Scaling system. In Oblivion, unless you take extreme precautions to be a full blown Min-Maxing Munchkin, you can very quickly end up on the wrong side of the level scaling curve. Simply leveling up when you have the option is likely to result in an insignificant bonus to your abilities, but all the enemies still increase in strength. Your actual strength in combat is linked to abilities that aren't governed directly by your level, which is all the game cares about when determining the strength of the enemies it spawns. You see the problem? This is actually referred to as "The Leveling Problem" in Oblivion, and you can read more about it here. (This is extant, but to a much less extreme degree, in Morrowind as it has very limited level scaling. Failure to level efficiently simply means it takes you longer to reach greater levels of power. It is also possible in Skyrim if you focus solely on increasing non-combat skills and their Perks.)
  • Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (and the Distaff Counterpart ''More Friends Of Mineral Town): You get experience on using the tools by using the tools.
  • In No Umbrellas Allowed, there are three stats you can increase for Darcy's shop: Wittiness, Expertness, and Attractiveness, which are represented by percentages. Wittiness increases the suggested price for recommending items, Expertness boosts the positive price effects of cards and removes negative effects, and Attractiveness makes customers more patient with you. These stats are increased by recommending high-quality items, avoiding mistakes in appraisal, and being kind to your customers, respectively, but doing the opposite lowers them.
  • In Quest 64, while you gain HP, MP, and defense by performing tasks in battle, you gain agility by walking. Including running around in circles for hours.
  • The Quest for Glory saga lacks experience levels, the skills are improved by performing them.
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale: You get Merchant Exp by haggling in your shop. Vending Machines do not count.
  • Swords & Souls: Neverseen: Almost all of your attribute points don't come from leveling up, but from training in minigames.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Basic Roleplaying and its descendants (Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest being the most famous) doesn't have experience points. Instead they have a system where you get a chance to increase a skill if you used it. Realistic in that you get better at doing stuff by actually doing it, unrealistic in the amount of increase a single use can get and unrealistic in that it causes player to use skills for little or no reason other than to increase it.
  • The German tabletop RPG Midgard explicitly splits XP into three categories depending on how they're acquired: combat, magic, and "general". This division informs what skills they can be invested in; combat XP in particular are good only for acquiring and raising combat and certain other primarily physical/athletic skills, which means that aside from the usual dangers to life and limb getting the lion's share of one's XP solely from fighting also risks stunting the character's development in other areas.
  • The One Ring includes two XP tracks, neither of which are dependent on combat:
    • Advancement Points are gained by using Skills (which can involve anything from stealth to cookery) and are spent on increasing Skill scores.
    • Experience Points are gained by advancing the story and are spent on training in weapon proficiencies, Equipment Upgrades, and unique personal abilities called "Virtues".
  • Ars Magica awards XP for adventuring, but also for practice, one-on-one training, taking lessons, studying Spell Books, testing Mana in the lab, and simple exposure to the skill of interest. Given the scholarly nature of most mages, a good teacher or well-written book is usually a better way to learn than picking fights, even if they're learning to fight.

Mixed Type - Contains both variants

    First-Person Shooters 
  • The Borderlands games reward experience for completing quests, which is often vital for keeping up with the level curve. The series also includes numerous achievement-like challenges, which can range from killing enemies to picking up money to finding secrets scattered throughout levels; the original game gave regular experience for these, but Borderlands 2 and on mixed things up by rewarding players with Badass Ranks, an account-wide progression system that let players upgrade fourteen different stats directly.

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


    Role Playing Games 
  • Rune Factory 3: You have to develop skills to increase your stats, which can be anything from finding hidden items, to running, to fishing, as well as to unlock new recipes for the extensive Item Crafting system. This is combined with your standard 'waltz through dungeons killing everything forever' shtick for your actual level EXP, which seems to mostly be good for raising your raw HP and RP. Of course, the limited time constraints typical to Harvest Moon games means you can't really farm anything but the crafting skills effectively, which keeps you from reaching Game Breaking levels by spring.
  • In Fantasy Life, doing non-combat tasks will give experience for the general character level (that raises HP and unlocks new armour), but will also level up the task in question. For example, both making a dagger and using it will give you general experience, but you'll be better at fighting than forging if you've spent more time on the battlefield than in the forge.
  • Rakenzarn Tales gives you EXP for completing sidequests. However, an important part of the game is having Kyuu go and train with others, which increases his stats outside of leveling up and Rare Candy usage.
  • Dead In Vinland mostly trains individual stats for "innate" skills like Strength and Wisdom and "acquired" skills like Harvesting and Mining; characters gain XP for individual skills every time they're used. Individual skill XP feeds into general XP toward gaining levels; while combat also provides XP, most of the XP you earn will be noncombat.
  • Pokémon:
    • One method that has existed since the first set of games is Pokémon Daycare. Just drop one or two of your Pokémon off with a kind elderly couple (or their grandkids), and they'll gain EXP just from you walking and biking around the overworld. Similarly, Sun and Moon onwards would start having activities that you can have the dozens of Pokémon sitting in the PC do passively in the background to earn EXP while you're running around, or even while you aren't playing the game, from exploring caves to helping out local businesses.
      • While still related to the battle system, starting in X and Y, catching Pokémon still grants you EXP, meaning don't have to give even a single attack command (well, if you don't want to improve your chances of a successful catch, anyway).
    • Every Pokémon has a limit of 510 total "effort value" points they can receive that raises their base stats, with the cap for any given stat being 252. Gaining EVs is usually done by battling, but vitamins, which include HP Up, Protein, Iron, Calcium, Zinc and Carbos, are (expensive) purchasable items which add 10 Effort Values to a Pokémon's HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense or Speed, respectively, up to a maximum of 100 EVs. X and Y onwards have additional methods to improve your Pokémon's EVs outside of battle, ranging from playing minigames to enrolling them in specialized university classes.
      • Conversely, Emerald and onwards have special berries that have the opposite effect of the vitamins: they remove 10 effort values from a stat, which is useful if you want to redistribute their points. Meanwhile, the Reset Bag item in X and Y's "Super Training" mode and the "Lady Clear" NPC in Sword and Shield completely reset all a Pokémon's EV levels.
    • Pokémon can earn small amounts of EXP in Pokémon Legends: Arceus from collecting minerals and other resources for you on the overworld.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • XCOM2:
    • Rookie soldiers can be staffed in the Guerilla Training School facility for a few days to get promoted to the next rank without having to go on a mission. With the War of the Chosen expansion, picking up "Live Fire Training" as either a continent bonus or Resistance Order gives the trainee two more promotions, letting them go directly from New Meat to Sergeant Rock.
    • Covert Actions in War of the Chosen both give the assigned soldiers a decent amount of general XP and frequently give one of the soldiers a permanent boost to one of their statistics (health, aim, mobility, dodge, will, or hacking).

Other Media

  • Cinnamon Bun: In Chapter 37: "Let me Level With You", Broccoli gets her first Character Level notification due to non-combat. As the other members of her group explain:
    She perked one eyebrow at that. “That’s unusual for a non-combat class. Most of the time you’ll level up from doing things in line with your class. I’m a Sword Sweeper. I get levels from fighting and practicing with a sword. But if I were a Baker I’d get levels from baking.”
    Severin shook his head. “You could get levels from baking wiz your current class as well. It would just take an order of magnitude more work zen usual. You said you received a rank up, Broccoli?” he asked.


Video Example(s):


EXP for everything

Being an exercise game, Ring Fit Adventure awards EXP for every exercise action, no matter how small. Here, the Trainee earns some EXP for crushing the rocks blocking her path.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / NonCombatEXP

Media sources: