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Stat Grinding

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Ever since the first Role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, most RPGs have used the system of simply leveling up once you have hit enough Experience Points. But that doesn't mean that some companies haven't tried to make an alternative to simple leveling to try something a bit different.

One of the most common is Stat based grinding. In an RPG that uses this system, there are no actual "Levels" to gain, per se. Instead, you are playing to increase your stats. As opposed to leveling up the character overall and giving them a boost to every stat, you level up each stat individually, or can work on multiple ones. How do you do this? It's actually rather simple, use the stat more and then you gain it. You gain Strength by successfully landing physical attacks, Magic by landing magical attacks, Endurance by surviving enemy attacks, and so on so forth.

This is based off of real life workouts. If you want to boost your overall strength, you practice lifting more and more weight, but if you want to boost endurance, then you add more reps. One of the pros of Stat based grinding is that you can customize characters a little more this way, and it can give that feel of immersion to it. (Such as say, Morrowind.) It also gives some strategizing because you need a certain stat but you don't just go out smacking enemies to level up your magic stat.

This system is not without its problems. For one, if the time needed to raise a stat by one point is comparable to the amount of time needed to level up in another game, and the difficulty curve is just as steep, players will regularly need to put the plot on hold just to train their characters and keep up with the pace of the game. This is especially problematic, as the very nature of the system generally makes designated Peninsulas Of Power Leveling useless; training in one region will only serve to make you more powerful against the monsters in that region, not the monsters in the mandatory dungeon halfway across the globe that are preventing you from advancing the plot.

A related problem comes when there is an Absurdly Low Level Cap, and you are only allowed to build a limited amount of skills. Say you spend most of the game raising money for the Infinity +1 Sword by basket-weaving, and this automatically increases the weaving stat throughout—when you reach the cap, you'll be a basket-weaving monster, but good luck actually killing anything with that sword. This can be averted if the game has a mechanic to reject leveling up in unwanted stats.

Another drawback: blatant Catch-22's. You need to build your defense and health/stamina by getting hit, right? Well, the problem is that you need to survive the hits to gain the health you need to survive. You need to hit enemies to gain accuracy, but without accuracy, you can't hit the enemies. This can make the game absurdly difficult and frustrating in the early hours, the part where players are supposed to be getting acclimated to the system. For this reason, some systems makes the stats increase even if or only if you fail.

Yet another drawback: is not only dependent on what the player does in battle but what the enemies do. In a party-based game, a player would find themselves putting someone out right in front of an enemy in hopes they decide to attack the character, that way the character will gain much-needed defense and HP. And if they don't, the player could wind up with characters who are extremely powerful but have little more HP than they actually started with, creating a true Glass Cannon.

Still another drawback: with the absence of levels, it can be a little harder to gauge how strong you should be by a certain point. Levels give you an idea on your progress, and how strong you should be before attempting a certain sidequest or starting off an event. Even if the enemies scale with you, this is a problem. Sure, you're level capped, but unless most enemies are weak to ornately-crafted baskets, that high Weaving stat probably doesn't count for much.

In practice, it often falls into a Violation of Common Sense. The enemies may not always attack who you want them to, so a good way to level up your characters' health and defense? Intentionally place them in harm's way, and let enemies beat on them.

Other games do actually combine simple Level Grinding with Stat based grinding. Since statistics and percentages are the bread and butter of the RPG Genre (don't let those fanboys prove you wrong) and it is your statistics that rule the battlefield, you may not start off automatically knowing how to use an axe as effectively as a sword. Some games instead make you train an individual skill in a weapon or armour proficiency by using it, or commonly, trade skills. These may often not require grinding, or at least as much as stat-grinding. (Commonly, MMORPGs have this type of grinding with professions.)


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     Action Adventure  

  • Brave Fencer Musashi also had this, but it also combined an item-based leveling up system with stat-based grinding. While Musashi's swords and defense increased the more he fought, his health wouldn't. He had to be given an item that would increase his max HP.
  • Threads of Fate was the flip of this. Your characters could increase their maximum mana as they use their powers and their max HP could increase when they got beaten up but their offense and defense increased only through items.
  • Quest for Glory requires you to perform one action repeatedly in order to build it up, which makes sense in-universe as well: you're actually practicing the skill to get better at it, so that you're good enough at it when it counts.
  • The Tony Hawk's Underground games utilized this in a way. As opposed to previous games where you collected money or stat points, Underground had stats increase by doing various related tasks- to increase Spin you do various spinning tricks, to increase Rail Balance you grind a lot, to increase Switch you do...things generally unrelated to switching stances, etc.


  • A subtle implementation of this is used in the Smash Run mode for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, as your stats will slowly build as you use the corresponding action during the item-gathering segment. It's not a huge boost, as you still need to gather power ups to really build your character, but it does provide a small benefit that can help in the long term.


  • The Mabinogi skill system is drenched with this. Every single skill level comes with a list of successes, failures, particular results and specific applications that must be met to level the skill up, plus requiring a bunch of AP. It works well for the most part, but you can run into difficulty when it comes to higher-level craft skills that require a certain amount of successes and failures to level. If you level the craft skill too high too quickly, then it becomes harder to accumulate the necessary number of failures than the number of successes.
  • Runescape pretty much uses a combination of this and Level Grinding. Each skill such as health, defense, strength, prayer, cooking, etc all had skill levels, and you don't exactly gain a single level to raise the combat level, per se, you increase your Strength, attack, and defense. Certain actions give the player with experience towards a specific skill level. The way the game determines combat level also avoid some o the common drawbacks to this trope, while creating their own. Raising combat skills you don't use much can make your level disproportionally high relative to what you can actually take on. Conversely, a little Min-Maxing can make your level disproportionally low relative to your actually lethality or survivability. This is occasionally abused in PVP, whether to surprise enemies or annoy them.
  • Tibia uses this for every weapon, shield, fishing and magic strength. You are only able to learn magic at a certain level though. The catch is that each class has certain skills raised quicker than others.
  • RF Online has this as its entire basis. You still gain levels, yes, but these are mainly used to limit the maximum HP and the level of every stat & spell available. Want to use those high level spells? Then you'll have to not only increase your Force level, but your White / Dark Force level too. Its so prevalent that its not uncommon to see a player getting mobbed by 30 monsters just to level his Shield stat.
  • World of Warcraft uses the variety for trade skills: basically, doing an orange combine, harvest, or what have you is guaranteed to give at least one skillup, yellow is highly likely, green is unlikely, and gray won't.
    • Weapons used to fall under this trope, with each type of weapon a class could wield having a separate stat bar. Each hit with a weapon had a chance to raise the associated skill, decreasing when the skill and enemy level were similar. If the stat was low compared to the target's level misses would happen more frequently which forced many players to seek out mobs they could grind the skill on.
  • An older version of Flyff does this with skill grinding, ie. you gain experience for a certain spell everytime you cast it and after a certain amount of experience in it, it levels up. However, this was replaced with the usual skill point system like in most other MMO's after a big update patch.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE, although your stats are defined by regular levels, there are expertises, that need to be raised by using them again and again. It's common knowledge that expertises are more important than levels themselves (most people only level up so they can raise their expertise points limit). However, due to some events and a couple dungeons allowing for easy ways of getting a huge amount of experience, it's possible to see a lv90 character who can't deal any damage, only has basic skills, and don't know how to fight properly. It's not hard to see a well built lv40 character outdamaging lv60-70 characters due to this.
  • In Temtem, Temtem's stats can be increased by gaining Training Values, earned by defeating other Temtem or through the use of fruits. The cap is 500 per stat, and 1000 total. Anahir evolves into Anatan once it has 1000 TVs.
  • This is how Level Grinding works in Kingdom of Loathing. You reach a new level when your main stat (Muscle, Moxie, or Mysticality, depending on your class) reaches a certain plateau. Since some level quests can be finished in a blink if the Random Number God is on your side, you can find yourself with no other recourse than hammering away at your stats. Expect to hear much talk about "Louvre It or Leave It" (considered one of the best single adventures for stat points), the Haunted Bedroom (has good single-stat adventures), or the Moon (scaling monsters equals very high stat gains).
  • Ultima Online uses this for all kinds of advancement. There are three stats and a wide variety of skills. Skills advance by a tenth of a point at a time, while stats advance a whole point at a time. You gain skills by using them, and you gain stats by using skills related to that stat. In the very early days of the game, you could gain skills by watching other people use them, but that was eliminated about a year in because it was easily exploited. Balance is handled by capping your totals: you have a maximum stat total of 225 and a maximum skill total of 720.0. Each individual stat tops out at 125, and each individual skill tops out at 120.0. The caps haven't grown much since the game launched in the '90s: the original skill cap was 700.0 (the stat cap has never grown), and individual stats and skills topped out at 100 and 100.0, respectively (allowing you to have seven maxed-out skills and two maxed-out stats with the third limited to 25). Due to the fact that very few skills were useful in the early days, it was quite possible to have a tank mage that had every skill useful for killing people maxed out; this was alleviated quite a bit later on by making several of the useless skills very useful and adding a few new skills to the game, making it advantageous for characters to specialize.
  • Nexus Clash has this as endgame content for when the Level Grinding opportunities run out and you want to keep improving your character. Doing a sufficiently large number of just about any action gets you the equivalent of more levels in character skill points if you just do enough of it. This hinges on Refuge in Audacity sometimes since you can learn anything with character points, so one could (for instance) learn first aid from smashing enough doors or learn magic from drinking enough booze.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Warcraft III's Rexxar campaign had some shops have Tomes for sale, which boost stats in increments of 1 at a time. They weren't that expensive given that the money-giving creeps respawn, but they had very long cooldowns.


  • The Binding of Isaac owing to its random nature doesn't reliably allow you to grind stats, but it does allow for a couple of such play styles:
    • Binge Eater works like this. Every passive and active item alternates between that and one of the health-increasing food items for the remainder of the run, and every food item will now also slightly increase two specific statsnote . Getting enough of these bonuses to actually amount to being worth it pretty much requires you to get Binge Eater in the first or second floor and consistently pick food over items, but devoting to it will grind Isaac up into a Boring, but Practical slow-as-a-snail walking gunboat.
    • Cain works this way, as his Lucky Foot prevents him from getting bad stat-down pills. Playing as Cain, you do everything you can to get your hands on more pills, buy Mom's Coin Purse and Placebo if it kills you, and if you get your hands on Safety Cap, never let it go.
  • Dwarf Fortress uses this. In Adventure mode, this is what you'd expect. In Fortress mode, not so much. The Dwarves will grind up their skills properly on their own given proper management and supply lines. A player may choose to help a dwarf develop other attributes, such as stoicism, to better deal with tragedies, via fine methods including: killing their entire families, subjecting them to constant battle, torture, or the ever so infamous dwarven childcare, which is absolutely ordinary childcare, but with rabid dogs, a pit, and very little food.
    • In adventure mode there's even a way of automating it: you can record a sequence of key presses and then use a command to repeat the sequence however many times you want.
    • One of the best ways to train for combat in adventure mode is to find a werebeast when the moon isn't full, when it will be an ordinary human without any weapons, and wrestle with it until you end up strangling it to death. Not only does it train combat related stats, it trains the fighting skill, which helps with all forms of combat, including armed combat. If you can't find any were-beasts then you can find a dangerous animal, break all of its legs, and then wrestle with it until you choke it to death.
    • Other forms of adventure mode training includes swimming, knapping stones, grappling a weak creature so its attacks bounce off your armor, and just moving around in hiding. All of these train useful attributes used by said skills, and for the latter two the skills themselves are rather useful (armor user to move around better in armor and ambush skill to move faster and be harder to spot in hiding). Just don't try swimming anywhere that's near freezing, otherwise you're liable to get frozen in a block of ice.
  • Elona combines this with Character Level: using a skill trains both the skill and its associated attribute (strength/dexterity/etc). Killing monsters gets you Experience Points, but so does training any skill. There's even in-game methods to help the grinding: spending platinum coins (gained from Irrelevant Side Quests) will increases how quickly a skill trains, and there's a potion which increases how quickly you gain attributes.

     Role Playing Game  
  • Dawn of Crafting has you gain proficiency at skills by failing at them, which depends on RNG unless your skill level is high enough to prevent failing at it. More difficult recipes have higher skill requirements, which means you'll have to grind for those skills by producing items of the highest skill requirement you can make, and failing enough to increase your skill further.
  • While Dragon Creek is an RPG, it has no experience points. Instead, you raise your dragons' six stats directly by playing minigames. You can skip the minigames, but the only way to get the highest possible amount of stat boosts and money is to get a perfect score.
  • Dungeon Master (1987) made use of levels and experience points, but with a variation: instead of having locked in character classes, you could level up in all four classes (warrior, wizard, priest and ninja) independent of each other. Certain actions gave experience points towards related classes; swinging a sword gave you warrior points, while casting a fireball gave you wizard points. Each level gain also gave stat boosts depending on the class leveled. With enough effort, it was possible to turn every party member into a Master of All.
  • Used in Final Fantasy II. Many things are still done today, but one of the things people made fun of in Final Fantasy II was that the most efficient way to power up your characters wasn't to kill enemies. It was to order your characters to smack themselves across the head with their weapons. Seriously. The way it was set up, you were helping yourself more when targeting yourselves and attacking than you were beating up the enemies as you were intended. It was also the most surefire way to level up the Cure magic. Even in the remakes, this remains one of the best ways to gain experience and empower your characters.
    • Magic was also a different story entirely, and was almost as big of a Catch-22 as evasion stats. You had to cast spells and after a specific time, they'd level up. This unfortunately meant that while magic can be powerful after all, it's just too tedious to level up since your characters can become just as powerful after a few rounds of masochism than they would fighting a million battles with magic. It also didn't help that you could still inflict dinky damage with the most powerful spell in the game's world because your intellect stat was still low.
      • The NES version was considered a little easier for magic-fans because there was actually a benevolent glitch that enabled you to simply select and deselect the spell over and over again and it eventually levels up.
      • The remake made it so that magic levels faster than weapons. (Though still not as easy to powerlevel as exploiting a glitch.) The Bonus Dungeon is much less tedious if you go at it with a party of mages.
    • Final Fantasy II also had another method to keep you from maxing all your characters stats out so even the manly-fighter Gus wouldn't wind up also being a formidable magic user: Whenever you worked on some stats, others would actually go down. This was removed in the remakes, meaning one could just make ridiculously powerful and nearly identical characters with enough time.
  • Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid. Leveling up does not raise stats; it just grants you moves on the Sphere Grid. To boost your stats, you use spheres to activate spaces on the grid that boost your characters' stats and grant them new abilities.
    • Final Fantasy XIII's Crystarium is very similar to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid, except the "grids" were unique to each character, not universal, and the ability/stat unlocks just required enough points. Thankfully, they gave you a lot to use, and it used Leaked Experience.
  • The SaGa series uses this a lot, to the point of being a Trope Codifier, although the method of grinding changes from game to game:
    • The Final Fantasy Legend does this primarily with mutants. Humans can use items to speed the process and monsters simply transform into stronger monsters with fixed stat values (a hidden "rank" stat on monsters and enemies allows for some real shenanigans, such as evolving a monster to one of the monsters outside of the last boss's room — before ever entering the tower).
    • In Final Fantasy Legend II, humans can gain stats the same way mutants do. Monsters evolve the same way as before (plus the inability to use weapons). New to this game are robots which simply increase their stats through equipped gear, as if it's added on as upgrades.
    • The Romancing SaGa trilogy tends toward everyone using the same system as humans in Final Fantasy Legend II, although they gain random special attacks and spells based on the attack types they use.
    • Sa Ga Frontier brings robots and monsters back into the mix, with an additional twist: robots can switch bodies, gaining intrinsic stats and abilities on top of their equipment.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has some form of this trope in every game except the first, Arena. To note:
    • In Daggerfall, skills govern almost every action you can perform. An action is resolved as a success or a failure by evaluating the governing skill with some random chance. Naturally, the higher the related skill, the more likely the action will succeed. Successfully performing actions related to the skill lead to increases in the skill.
    • In Morrowind, skill increases only occur after a successful use of that skill. This can make grinding a long process without the use of in-game training (which is unlimited as long as you can afford it) or exploits (Alchemy, Drain Skill and train, etc.) Grinding the spell-casting skills from the lowest levels can be all but impossible, as even a low-level Destruction spell has a laughable chance of success and will cost half (or more) of a non-magically inclined user's Magicka. Training and exploits are really the best options at that point.
    • Oblivion makes this less painful, as failed attempts at crafting count toward skill increases, accuracy rolls in combat are removed altogether, and your Magicka recharges passively. However, the skill points and attributes in Oblivion are handled in such a way that efficient grinding requires a Munchkin level of micromanagement, while the grossly overdone Level Scaling makes raising the 'wrong' skills much more potentially painful. The limits on training (5 training sessions per level) also make this a pain. That said, skills level up independently from your level, and the game only uses your level for scaling. If you never rest (and thus, never level up), you can beat the main quest, every faction questline, and every side quest plus explore for hundreds of hours while your level is still in the single digits. (A few quests force you to rest to continue, but not many.) Essentially, the world will be saved from a horde of extremely feeble monsters by a strangely competent insomniac.
      • The Total Conversion Game Mod Nehrim features this technically, but every skill is considered minor and raises REALLY slow. Instead, you mainly rely on Experience Points and leveling up, which grants you skill points that can be spent at trainers, ala Gothic.
    • Skyrim has a system whereupon combat skills always hit if the attack is landed upon the enemy actor. There is no longer a "chance to hit" stat; if your weapon hits them, they will bleed if their shield isn't up. This means you can raise skills by repeatedly hitting weak enemies, but skill advancement is still dependent upon the base damage of the weapon you use. Skills such as Lockpicking also let failed attempts get you experience as well.
  • The first Digimon World had no levels. You raise your Digimon's stats by having them train at the gym, by feeding them chips, or by having them win battles. (Unfortunately it was a grind for levels.)
    • The fact that your Digimon partner has a limited lifespan before needing to be recycled from scratch as a Baby level doesn't help, either.
  • In The World Ends with You, your stats do not increase except by eating food. Leveling up only affects your health. Pins also develop this way.
  • Secret of Evermore has such a system for both its weapons and alchemy. Weapons could be ground up to level 3, each time gaining a new "charge" ability, but most weapons simply weren't worth grinding to 3 as you got new weapons and had to start over from scratch with each one. Alchemy spells could be raised to level 9, and could be cast in quick succession for easy leveling (provided you had enough reagents to use them), but again most weren't worth doing so: aside from healing spells, the trick was to grind Flash until you got Crush, then grind Crush until you got Double Drain, and then grind Double Drain until you got Lance. Even spells like Escape, Levitate, Revealer, and One-Up could be leveled up, even though they had fixed-effects that wouldn't get stronger over time.
  • Secret of Mana had skills for each weapon and element, which increased with use and raised the damage/healing/duration/whatever of the skill you were using. Any element with noncombat skills can be easily raised with repeated magic casting followed by returning to an Inn. The level of the weapon skills also determines how far you can charge up a special attack.
  • Pillars of Dust: After battle, there's a chance a stat will increase. For offensive stats, this is dependent on whether the characters mainly use physical or magic skills. The chances go up if the enemies go through a phase increase, creating a risky way to eke out a few more stat points.
  • Pokémon has a mechanic that is officially called Base Points (Commonly referred as Effort Value by fans). A Pokémon gains Base Points by gaining experience from battle, whether they defeated a Pokémon themselves or just took part, however briefly; number and category of Base Points received determined by the opponent's species. For every 4 Base Points in a stat, the Pokémon will get +1 to that stat at Level 100 (scaling linearly if they're at a lower level); each stat can have up to 252 Base Points (255 prior to Generation 6), but the maximum total Base Points a Pokémon can have is 510, which means only 2 stats can be maxed out at once. There are certain held items that boost how Base Points grow, but they all cuts the holder's speed by half. Vitamins can also boost the Base Points of a Pokémon (there's one type of vitamin for each stat), but until Generation VIII, they could not raise a Pokémon's Base Points over 100. Generation VI introduced Super Training, allowing Pokémon to increase Base Points by playing a mini-game instead of battling other Pokémon. It also allows the player to see how many Base Points a Pokémon has overall, though not the exact number for individual stats unless a Reset Bag is used on a Pokémon.
    • Prior to Generation 3, the system worked slightly differently: whenever a Pokémon is defeated, its Species Stats (Known by the fans as Base Stats. Yes, it's confusing.) are converted into "Stat EXP" and then are factored into the stats of the Pokémon that defeated them. Unlike future generations, there isn't a limit on the total number of stat EXP a Pokémon can have, and can have up to 65535 in each stat; however, this doesn't amount to much difference in the total values of the individual stat, as Gens 1&2 use the square root of the stat EXP/4, rather than directly pulling from the Base Stat/4.
  • In Fable, using an ability of one of the three types (Strength, Skill and Will) gives you a form of XP that you can use alongside regular XP to level up abilities of that type.
  • Quest 64 used this in a way that ignored typical level up systems. You can improve your HP and Defense stats by getting hit, you can improve your MP stat by using magic, and you can improve your Agility stat by running around anywhere. However, this sort of system has its downsides. The best way to level up HP and DEF is by getting hit repeatedly by the quickest and weakest spells that you can; since being hit is all that matters, your best levelling chance is enemies that fire many projectiles that each do little damage. Conversely, your best chance for levelling your magic is to use spells with large numbers of projectiles that do little damage. As for agility, in some areas you can make your character run in circles by holding a direction on the analog stick. Hitting L+R+Start simultaneously will then register that position as center, so he will run indefinitely. You can max out your agility by letting the game run on autopilot.
  • Vagrant Story twists this trope by applying it not to its protagonist, who only gets stronger by beating bosses and gaining a boost to one of his stats from the roulette that pops up afterwards and using stat-improving items, but to his equipment: the more a weapon is used to kill a certain type of enemy (Human, Undead, Demon, etc.), the stronger it becomes against that type, while simultaneously becoming weaker against the others. This means that any one weapon could only be truly effective against two types at best, forcing the player to carry several differently "trained" weapons at all times, switching between them as the situation demands. Also, the only way to effectively grind some of the rarer enemy types was to find their Training Dummy and whale on it... for tens of minutes at a time. Between these two facts, this implementation ended up driving away a lot of players.
  • Some of the Grandia games level up weapons and spells by using them, along with a stat associated with the weapon/magic. The fact that healing magic can be used in the field allowed for power leveling - in areas where there are traps and rest points, repeatedly walk into the traps and heal until out of MP, then rest and do it again. This allowed a rapid boost in water magic levels, MP and HP.
  • The original Dungeon Siege applied The Elder Scrolls-like philosophy of use-skill-to-get-better to the Diablo II-like four stats. The Melee and Ranged stat improved by the use of weapons of respective range, while Combat and Nature Magic increased with casting spells of the respective school.
  • In Neptunia, while gaining normal levels still exist, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (including its Updated Re-release Re;Birth3) and its sequel, as well Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart spinoff also have some challenges that you can undertake for each character. This usually increases stats up to a certain point.
  • Betrayal at Krondor is another possible Trope Codifier for Western RPGs, as Stat Grinding is the only way to advance your abilities, since the game has no levels. You have three options for advancing a skill: using it, using a training item (like a practice lute for the barding skill, or reading a book), or getting training from an NPC (whether paying for it or as a quest reward). You could also tag up to three skills for focus to advance in them faster than normal, and could change tags at any time. (An early Good Bad Bug for gaining a lot of money required grinding the heck out of Owyn's barding skill, making piles of money in a town available in Chapter 1.)
    • The Spiritual Sequel Betrayal in Antara had a similar setup, with the twist that there was a cap on how high any given skill could be grinded at any given point in the game.
  • The first two Star Ocean games allowed your characters to power up their special attacks if they were used a certain number of times, usually a few hundred.
  • Persona 5: Training in either LeBlanc's attic or at the Protein Lovers gym increases Joker's HP and SP each time at the cost of an afternoon or evening. Continued training at Protein Lovers will eventually unlock harder training regimens that further increase these stats, and drinking a Protein Shake beforehand will add even more gains per session. Royal adds the Jazz Club to evenings, which allows Joker to invite one of the other Phantom Thieves to it for improved stats, HP, SP, or possibly straight up gaining levels, depending on what drink is being served that night.
  • FromSoftware has Shadow Tower where killing a demon will immediately give you a permanent stat raise, with early demons giving you a weak boost in a single stat while powerful demons and bosses give you hefty improvements in several stats. There's only a limited number of demons and they don't respawn, the real grind comes at New Game Plus where your now-mighty adventurer gets to reconquer the Tower.
  • In Miitopia, stats can be boosted even more outside of level-ups and equipment boosts by eating grub. It's always a good idea for a Mii to eat Liked/Loved grub to make this process easier.
  • The Legend of Dragoon has the Addition system. Every twenty times you successfully complete an Addition attack, it becomes more powerful, granting more damage, more spirit points (needed to turn into a Dragoon), or both. Each Addition maxes out at level 5 (80 uses) and mastering all of them unlocks a final Addition that's more powerful than any of the others.
  • Dragon Quest VI: Jobs level up not with experience or number of enemies defeated but by number of battles won. The catch is, the battle has to be "hard" for it to count, so there's a secret cap for each area (both for overworld regions and dungeons) where characters above a certain level won't actually improve their job level by fighting there. The earliest location where the cap is level 99 is the Spiegelspire, so prepare do do a lot of grinding there.
  • Last Armageddon: Instead of gaining EXP from killing enemies and leveling up the traditional way, your party members gain individual EXP for each stat by taking actions related to that stat (attacking physically to raise strength, using spells to raise magic, etc.). Enough EXP increases that stat. Your party also have overall levels that increase by increasing their stats, but all it does is determine when you're party members evolve into stronger forms and help you quickly gauge their overall power.
  • After Armageddon Gaiden: Your party members have a separate level and EXP for each stat. They gain EXP in every stat from killing enemies, but gain more EXP in specific stats for doing specific actions (ex. attacking with magic gets extra EXP in Intelligence). Stat level is separate from the actual stat value, which has a different growth rate for each character, so even if everyone has the same level for a stat they're vary greatly in how good they are in that stat. Characters also have an overall level that increases based on total stat levels, which affects when you learn spells and can evolve into different forms. You also have to increase your characters' stat caps from using the evolution mechanic. By default stats cap at level 20, but can eventually cap out at level 99.
  • Wizardry 8 uses a variation of this trope. There is traditional level-up system, where on level-up you get 6 points to raise base stats with (Strength, Vitality etc.) and 9 points for skills (Sword, Fire magic etc.). The base stats cannot be raised besides leveling up barring rare one-off occasions, but skills raise every so often when using them (for example casting a Fireball has a chance to increase skill in Fire magic as well as Wizardry magic school, where the spell belongs to). The fastest way to increase your Earth magic and the magic school it belongs to was to find a high-level locked door and repeatedly use earth spell Knock-Knock on it at lowest power level.
  • Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II allowed you to farm for specific synthesis items, then use those to craft stat boosts, providing a way to raise your stats besides traditional Level Grinding or using equipment, though you couldn't raise Sora's HP and MP this way. Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ had also data battles, some of which dropped these stat boosts, though farming for items was comparatively quicker (especially on Critical difficulty, which gave Sora two copies of the ability increasing enemy drop rates).
  • Darklands: There are no classes or levels, and the only way to improve skills is through practice. Although, the opportunity to practice combat skills is much easier to find. On the other hand, teachers for non-combat skills can be found in most cities.

     Simulation Game  

  • The Rune Factory series indulges in this. Farming, taming, melee, magic, cooking, weapon crafting, clothes making...there's a stat for everything.
    • Rune Factory 3 and 4 take it to hilarious extremes. You can level up eating, walking, and sleeping. And what makes them worth it is that they all funnel down into farming and dungeon crawling. Each skill raises the appropriate base stat which are used in general activities. Level up your bathing (yes, you can do that), and you raise your max HP.
  • The Sims level up their career attributes by practicing similar activities. Oddly enough, they can only do this in their spare time - despite presumably practicing their career skills whilst actually working, they never level up on the job.
    • Some career tracks in The Sims 3 do allow for on-the-job skill training, such as Culinary (Cooking), Criminal (Athletic), Journalism (Writing), and Professional Sports (Athletic).
    • The Sims 4 has a more limited version of The Sims 3's on-the-job training, as only a few careers allow you to do this. In the "Get to Work" expansion, any Sim who participates in one of the three "active" career tracks (Detective, Doctor, and Scientist) can earn skill EXP by interacting with objects just as they would do while at home.
  • In Diggles, the Diggles improve their skills through related activities. To improve stone working, they can dig; to improve woodworking, they can chop down mushrooms etc. Children inherit some of their parents' stats.
  • Dead In Vinland combines this with a level system. Every action in the game uses at least one and usually two Skills (whether D&D-style attributes like Strength or Wisdom or activities such as Exploration or Gardening), and the more you practice them the better they get (with the exception of napping, which uses Constitution to determine how much Fatigue it heals but doesn't improve any stats).

    Survival Horror 
  • You have a lot of stats in Project Zomboid, all of which can be boosted either by doing said action, or by studying it via books or television. A risky, but very effective tactic to quickly max out your Sneaking stat is to set off an alarm on purpose to attract a horde of zombies, and then sneak around in circles nearby.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Chaosium's Basic Role Playing system did this first with RuneQuest, and later in Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer/Elric!, Superworld and others. It took a successful roll to become eligible for a chance at improvement, and then between sessions (one week) the roll was made to increase the skill. There was also the possibility of taking formal training for skills and characteristics, but in Superworld (a generic superhero RPG), a critical success, special success, or fumble with a characteristic allowed to improve the characteristic as well.
  • Bunnies & Burrows used this system, where every time a character used a statistic, they would roll at the end of the play session to try and increase their level (not their ability) in that statistic.
  • PDQ# inverts the trope; you have to fail a roll to get Training Points (the logic being that, if you succeed, the challenge was too easy for you to learn anything from it).
  • Since the fourth edition of The Dark Eye skills have to be increased from a budget of experience points, costing less if they were used often or spectacular.

     Third-Person Shooter  

  • Your five skills in Crackdown — Firearms, Strength, Explosives, Driving, and Agility — are leveled up by repeatedly using them, with perks granted at higher levels. There are also driving and on-foot races to help level up Driving and Agility respectively, Agility Orbs on the rooftops of the city that grant extra Agility experience, and secret Hidden orbs that give a little bit of experience to all skills.

     Turn Based Strategy  

  • Done in the Disgaea series. Basically any stat on a character can be leveled in some way. Special skills and spells get more powerful/cover more area the more you use them, using the same weapon type levels up weapon proficiency which makes the weapon of the type provide more stats, stat growth can be increased by banking stored levels with Reincarnation, and Chara World gives you a small boost to stat points and lets you increase other stats like Aptitude (which multiplies stat points from equipment), Movement/Throw Range and Evility slots when you complete it. Apart from that, you can boost the stats of items by going into the Item World.
    • Disgaea Dimension 2 has a third option. You can boost all your stats by defeating enemies in the Land of Carnage. The problem is actually defeating enemies in the Land of Carnage because their stats are scaled way higher than regular enemies, but a few trips to the Cave of Ordeals or the item world to strengthen your equipment and some reincarnations later and you can handle these enemies.
    • Disgaea 5 has four forms of this trope. In battle, any enemies in Revenge Mode that are killed by the player will drop a Revenge Shard. There are eight kinds, one for each of the stats, which will permanently boost that stat when used, and the stats given scale based off the enemy's strength. Captured enemies can be converted into a "Magic Extract" which does the same as a Revenge Shard, but gives stats across the board based on the enemies used to create it. The Chara World has board events where the unit in question can receive direct stat increases. Shards, Extracts and Chara World boosts are all relegated to the same pool.
    • Finally, whoever lands the killing blow on the boss of the final Carnage Quest will not only unlock their final Unique Evility Slot, but also will gain "Eclipse Power", which rewards the unit with stat gains upon killing Item World foes that are registered as bosses (Item Bosses on x0 floor count, but so will Mystery Room enemies). Gains from Eclipse Power must be upgraded via Chara World visits once the non-HP stats all cap out. (Those cap at multiples of 300,000, and caps at 30 million for those stats — so 100 visits ultimately are necessary; HP caps at 10 million per visit, and at 1 billion overall)
    • Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny has stat Extracts that can be obtained through quests and fulfilling certain D-Merit milestones, which are consumed at the Juice Bar at the base. Obtaining all D-Merits for a character unlocks the "Infernal Corrosion" Evility, which grants Extracts on killing a target, albeit at 0.0001% of the target's stats.
  • Phantom Brave combines both Level Grinding and Stat Grinding for both your characters and the items they can wield.
  • Special Abilities use this system in Soul Nomad & the World Eaters.
  • In the classic X Com titles before the Firaxis reboot, your soldiers become better over time by putting their skills to the test. Several statistics (Time Units, Strength, etc.) gain experience for any successful action, while more active stats like Firing/Throwing Accuracy are trained by hitting aliens. Psi Strength, on the other hand, is trained by hit by psionic attacks until the soldier learns how to resist them.
  • The Fire Emblem games use this for weapon proficiency gains, in that by attacking with a certain weapon/magic (or healing with staves) enough times will allow the character to use the next relevant level of arms.

     Non-Video Game Examples  

Light Novel


  • The Gam3: A player's stats can be increased by spending points from leveling, however it is more common to raise stats through training or as part of a reward when learning a new ability. These don't necessarily have to be trained through combat either, Alan gains +10 Charisma for learning the ability Fashion Sense (Basic).

Web Comics

     Real Life  

  • Despite the reputation this trope has for being strange, complicated, and unintuitive, this is in fact the way real life works. Lift weights get stronger. Study math to get better at math. Speak in public to get better at public speaking.

Alternative Title(s): Stat Grinder