Experience Points

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"Kill monsters, get experience!"
Hero, RPG World

An important convention of Tabletop Games, Role-Playing Games, games with RPG Elements, and the occasional extreme Role Playing Game Verse, are Experience Points. often abbreviated EP, EXP, or XP. These are tiny imperceptible motes of lessons learned and Character Development, the bread and butter of many RPGs. These are used to either track character progression for leveling up, or to allow a character to buy and upgrade abilities.

The most common method is killing monsters, but there are other ways.

The Trope Maker, as the first Tabletop RPG, is Dungeons & Dragons.

Character Level is its Sister Trope, and Class and Level System is the Super-Trope for both. Compare Stat Grinding, in which you get better at a skill or ability by actually using it.

The following works are especially notable for featuring Experience Points.
This trope is ubiquitous; examples playing it straight need not apply.

Video Game Examples[edit | hide | hide all]

Action Adventure[edit | hide]

Action Game[edit | hide]

  • In God of War and Devil May Cry, one gains experience points for killing people, smashing things, and also extra points for hitting things repeatedly without pause, or with a variety of attacks. Subverted, in that its not intangible points you're collecting, but crimson-colored goodies that are spent towards new abilities.
    • Darksiders employs an identical system, gathering souls to buy advancements. Fitting, as it was heavily... "inspired" by these games, among others.

Edutainment Game[edit | hide]

  • In Wolf Quest, you get experience points when you kill coyotes, hares, elk, etc., and also when you do things such as mark territory. With enough points, you earn rewards: the ability to name your pups, easier to mark territory, a bonus den choice, or even a pure white pup (despite the parents' colors).

First-Person Shooter[edit | hide]

  • System Shock 2, Deus Ex and Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines all award fixed amounts of XP not for slaying enemies but for particular achievements on the way towards the next major objective. The two latter ones also grant additional points for solving the problems in a non-standard way or finding hidden routes.
  • In Medal of Honor: Airborne, you earn weapon upgrades for frequently killing enemies with a specific weapon, as well as for getting headshots or other specific hits.
  • The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series has this for its multiplayer, alongside a military-rank-themed Character Level system. Earn XP from kills and from completing challenges.
  • BioShock 2's multiplayer works similarly, with the XP referred to in-game as ADAM that players earn from racking up kills, successfully sabotaging machines, and simply finding vials of the stuff lying around.

MMORPGs[edit | hide]

  • On Discworld MUD (and possibly other Multi-User Dungeons) the players do not gain levels with experience. They have to spend that experience on skills, and this ratio of points in certain skills determines level. If the player dies, XP drops to zero, although getting resurrected can bring some back.

Racing Game[edit | hide]

  • Blur has Experience Points and Character Levels in the form of Fans and Fan Levels. You get more fans by winning races in higher places, pulling off stunts, and wrecking other drivers.

Role-Playing Game[edit | hide]

  • The SaGa games don't use experience points—Human characters simply get an increase to stats related to what they did in each battle—cast a lot, max JP and intellect increases, use melee attacks, Strength and max WP goes up. Monsters and Mechs get stats based on what form they're in and what they're wearing respectively. Mystics change based on what monsters they've absorbed.
    • Quest 64 also increases stats just by your in-game actions. Also, the strength of your melee staff attack is based on the sum of your four elements' levels.
  • Final Fantasy games often separate experience gains into XP, which raise the character's stats, and AP, which teach them new skills or abilities.
    • Final Fantasy II is probably the only entry in the series to NOT use XP at all. Instead, stats are raised based on what you've been doing in the battle. Attack more, get higher strength and weapon proficiency; cast more, get better spells and more intelligence. It even included HP increases for taking a lot of damage and MP increases for casting a lot of spells.
      • The reason the system isn't used in the later entries (apart from Final Fantasy XI, which still uses traditional EXP and levels but awards bonuses to skills based on use) is twofold: one, the system was easy to break (beating the crap out of your own party members was an effective way to boost max HP), and two, the system was at least partly broken to begin with (in the original NES version, a canceled move would be counted just the same as an executed one: repeatedly selecting commands and then backing out would still provide bonuses).
    • In Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Zack levels up whenever the slot machine that grants him special attacks comes up 777, apparently at random. In fact, it does keep track of experience points, though never shows the player their total, and the probability of it coming up 777 is based on how much experience above the threshold for the next level you have.
    • Final Fantasy VIII had the interesting variation that when Squall leveled up, every monster in the game would as well. Therefore the goal is not to level-up to get more powerful, but use the magic junction system to improve your stats.
    • Final Fantasy X uses AP points that allow you to move across a character grid and use power ups on it.
      • Final Fantasy XIII has the similar Crystarium system where Crystal Points earned in battle are used to connect to a system of nodes for each of the classes a character has. It's possible to spend a small amount of CP on ability or stat increase and change to another node as long as it connects to a previously unlocked one.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics, instead of giving experience to the whole team based on the enemies defeated, gives individual characters experience based on each action taken, and who it was taken against. To the inattentive player, this can lead to a team full of front-line fighters who are over-leveled (from taking constant action in attacking) and mages who are under-leveled (from taking only occasional action that's not certain to work). At worse, it can lead to your whole team being under-leveled—if you try to play efficiently, and take out enemies in as few turns as is necessary, you won't get nearly the same experience for it.
  • Chrono Cross characters gain levels only when defeating a boss, although the next 5-10 battles after a boss battle will generally give them a slight stat increase as well.
  • As belies its spin-off nature, there were experience points in Pokémon Pinball. Upon activating the "evolve Pokemon" event, if the Pokemon involved evolved by gaining levels in the main series, then "Ex" icons would appear on the board for you to collect.
  • In Dark Cloud and Dark Chronicle, your characters don't gain experience, but their weapons do.
  • Demon's Souls uses Souls as a dual currency/experience points. You can spend them on items and weapon upgrades… or spend them on improving your stats, eventually gaining Soul Levels as you do.
  • Neverwinter Nights had a particularly bizarre method of giving experience, as it was altered by your companions. In weird, arbitrary ways. Killing alone gave you more experience than if you had an NPC ally, but less experience than if you had a summoned creature. A wizard or sorcerer's familiar gave you more experience than alone, but less than using a summoned creature. Using a familiar and a summon in concert gave you more experience than using only a familiar but less than just having a summon. A druid's animal companion on the other hand, made you gain less than you would alone, and summoning a creature made you gain even less. Oh and barring one or two areas where enemies can respawn infinitely, there's a limited amount of experience available, so this matters.
  • In Ratchet and Clank, slain enemies leave behind Nanomites, which improve the weapon you used.
  • The first Valkyrie Profile has, in addition to the normal experience points you get from battles, Story Exp., which goes into a communal bank instead of directly to one character. You can then divvy up that experience in whatever portions you want to any of your characters. It's particularly handy when you get a new, under-leveled character and want to get him or her up to speed, or at least a head start on catching up.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, starting from The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, XP is only earned via Stat Grinding. Killing bandits and wolves won't get you XP but killing enough with a bow to rank up your Archery will. Likewise, making a bunch of weapons/armor at the Blacksmiths, making potions via Alchemy or even selling a bunch of stuff will also get you closer to leveling up.
  • In Persona games, your Personas increase in power separately from the main character, and not every game worked the same way.
    • In P1, you have a character level that determines your stats, and a persona level that determines what level of persona you can use. You always gain XP, but your persona level gets more XP the more you use it in a fight. Personas themselves also have 8 ranks, and need to be used a certain number of times to rank up and provide better skills.
    • In P2, you only have your character level to worry about, but Personas still have the 8 ranks and need to be used to improve their rank.
    • In P3 and P4, the main character's Personas have levels and gain XP along with the character, though they always need much more XP to level up, encouraging you to trade up as soon as possible. The other party members have their character level and persona level tied together.
    • Shin Megami Tensei: If, the predecessor to the Persona series, had "guardian demons" that modified your stats and skills. As you fought, you gathered guardian points, and whenever you died, you were brought back with a new guardian demon based on how many guardian points you had. Too few points, and your guardian demon was weaker, while maxing out your guardian points meant you got a significantly stronger demon. Yes, this means you were required to die periodically to become stronger.
  • Monster Girl Quest Paradox has two types, normal EXP and Job EXP. The former is used for conventional levels (i.e. raising stats) while the latter is used for leveling up Jobs and Races.

Shoot'Em Up[edit | hide]

  • Bubble Tanks has… bubbles. These are produced when enemies are defeated, and are actually the bubbles they were made of. Once enough bubbles are collected, you level up, and can choose an evolution path for your tank. Careful– if you get hit, you lose experience points, and if they go below your level, you will de-evolve to a lower stage.

Third-Person Shooter[edit | hide]

  • The online mode in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, uses a slight twist. Each character has levels, and levels determine who you get automatically matched up against, but all EXP is, in fact, based on the player's overall performance, rather than a basic EXP scale. That means that it ranks your ratios from each match, and determines how much EXP you gain. To make things fair, if you don't preform above a set scale, then you can lose EXP and levels.
    • There are also skills in game that work the on the basic EXP scale, I.E. you use them and you get EXP. There are some unique requirements, such as having to fall victim to the looking at dirty magazines/sexy poses a certain number of times, for unlocking/leveling up skills, but it could easily be equated as EXP

Turn-Based Strategy[edit | hide]

  • One series of strategy game to feature these is Heroes of Might and Magic.
  • In most Turn-Based Strategy RPGs, experience is gained by successfully performing actions such as hitting someone or using an item (including hitting your allies and healing enemies). This means that the most efficient wins in these games (when you play tactically with the hopes of racing up to the enemy boss to a quick and easy victory) paradoxically become the worst in terms of overall gameplay.
  • In the Fire Emblem series experience is not only gained from killing enemies, but also from healing allies, using thieves to steal enemy items or weapons and using dancers to allow another unit to move again.

Wide Open Sandbox[edit | hide]

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas uses XP that can actually increase or decrease depending on actions.
  • Minecraft has experience points as glowing orbs that are obtained from a variety of actions. Besides killing enemies, they can be obtained from smelting, farming and mining, among other things. These are used to enchant equipment.

Other Examples[edit | hide]

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In With Strings Attached, Jeft the gamer talks occasionally about Stress Experience, or S Ex, that his characters receive.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Shock Social Science Fiction, designed to play out a new Three Act Story every session, gives Protagonists an extra die every time they fail their Intent roll. Antagonists, in comparison, are able to roll up to six dice per conflict, but have a very limited supply and don't get any more.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Used downright horribly by FATAL in which these points are given only by doing things related to the class you're leveling. The problem comes when it takes 83 years to level up a clerk, and a whore has to reach level 20 by giving millions of blowjobs.
  • The Hero System is different from most games with Experience Points in that a player will earn only one, or maybe two if he did a fantastic job roleplaying his character, Experience Point per session. Also, he can spend those points on his character, making it more powerful.
    • GURPS copied this system.
    • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe uses the Hero System... um... system.
    • Exalted has a similar one, in which, with a full day of play and a great deal of acting skill, you might be able to afford a new Charm at the end of the session. A common criticism is that, due to quirks of the character generation and advancement chart, chargen in Exalted is a kind of minigame in which you can win dozens or hundreds of free experience points simply by having a build that gets a lot of XP-intensive stuff at chargen at a huge discount, then buys the cheap stuff with XP.
  • Scarred Lands gives this an in-setting justification/handwave—you're slowly increasing the size of your "thaumaturgic field," which provides a power source for superhuman abilities.
  • Shadowrun explicitly states that Karma is a representation of the ability to choose your own life. You can trade this commodity with some supernatural entities as well as using it to power magical effects.
  • The old Marvel Comics RPG put out by TSR had Karma. Player characters would get Karma at the end of every adventure chapter if they accomplished mission objectives, which they could spend on either permanently raising attributes and abilities or on modifying dice rolls in-game. Karma could also be contributed to a community pool in order to help your teammates out in a tight spot. However, being heroes, they lose Karma if they fail objectives or do heinous things. They will lose ALL of their experience points (with the exception of any Karma specifically set aside, either before a session begins or after it ends, in a sort of "savings account" toward improving your character later on) if they kill anyone, including villains, and even if it was by accident (thanks to an unlucky roll of the dice, for example). Interestingly enough, the character of Wolverine is the only one immune to losing Karma if he kills someone.
  • Some FATE games, such as the Dresden Files RPG or Kerberos Club, track character advancement across "milestones" and story events, where you'd get to change around your stats for minor milestones (finishing a "chapter" of a story), and get bonus Refresh (which controls your pool of bonus "fate points" which you can spend for immediate bonuses like rerolls) on major milestones (finishing a "volume" of a story). Refresh can then be spent on powers, gifts, stunts, and similar bonuses, giving you more power but reducing your fate points and thus your flexibility.
  • PDQ system games, as a rule, do something unusual with character advancement. In Dead Inside you have to find ways to regain soul points which can go to improving your Type (sort of your race or class), and then Type ranks can be traded for Qualities (skills and abilities). Truth & Justice offers Hero Points for suitably heroic actions, and you can decrease the maximum size of your Hero Point pool to buy extra Qualities and Powers. Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies gives you Training Points which can be spent towards new Fortes (Qualities) - but you can only earn Training Points on failed rolls, since succeeding means you didn't have to learn anything from the effort.

Time Management Games[edit | hide]

  • Mousehunt: The 'levels' are called ranks. "Rank Percentage" is gained to "rank up", mostly from catching mice, and there is a significant amount of time between moving up from one rank to another. While each mouse has a certain amount of points, it is NOT directly proportional to the amount of "rank percentage" earned. "Rank percentage" also cannot be lost.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Red Mage from Eight Bit Theater does some things for XP, even though that world apparently doesn't have it.
  • Jim from Darths and Droids is surprised you can get them from actually roleplaying.
  • A cartoon from Knights of the Dinner Table (perhaps from the comic) has a line about getting excited from getting points for doing one's own stitches, so the player says he's going to take them out and do it again.
    • Finding ridiculous ways to abuse the system to gain XP or other bonuses probably accounted for a good third of the jokes, at least in earlier strips. Bob started his own religion and managed to gain a level before the first game session just by recruiting fellow PC's to his religion. They also once started a monster farm to mass produce killable monsters for the XP.
    • Then there was the time Sara forced them to crossplay. They spent most of the session luring men out of the tavern and jumping them for XP and treasure. In a later Sara game, they played the rpg of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after getting tired of playing second fiddle to the Chosen One (Buffy), they discovered they could kill her, wait for a new Chosen One to appear and ambush them creating an infinite XP loop.
    • In Homestuck a fridge levels up after being thrown at imps. It makes more sense in-- ... actually it doesn't.
  • VG Cats Explains XP here.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Used in the World of Warcraft episode of South Park. The boys power up by spending over a month slaughtering boars in Elwynn Forest, which only gives you 2 experience points each (but kill a billion of them…).
    • It's interesting that the game does not work like that. Any enemy around 5 levels below you garners no XP.
    • One World of Warcraft player tried to see if it was possible to level all the way to the Level Cap (level 70 at the time) just by killing boars. He was a Night Elf Hunter, and his pet (also a boar) was named Cartman. The hardest stretch came in his mid-20s, where the only boar in the whole game that he was capable of killing, but which still gave XP when killed, was a unique monster named Bellygrub.