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In just about any Role Playing Game that has a level system, players will try to make the game easier for themselves via Level Grinding. Most games only gently discourage this, by simply making each level take longer to reach than the one before it, unless you're actually going through the game at the intended pace - in which case the requirements for gaining a level end up keeping pace with what you can get toward a level-up from the current enemies.

Sometimes, however, the developers decide that they really don't want you to level grind like that, so they'll put in more measures to prevent it. They may simply make it so hard to get your level higher than the one they want you at that even a dedicated level grinder would give up in disgust or resort to a cheat device, or they might make it actually impossible to level past a certain point before you get to the next part of the plot. This is Anti Grinding.

The most common forms of Anti-Grinding are escalating "experience to next level" values, where the higher your level goes, the more excessive the amount of experience you need to level up, and adjusted experience gains, where the amount of experience you earn for defeating an enemy is relative to your current level—a level 50 party killing level 4 enemies would get a whopping 1 experience point for their trouble. Another option is to make enemies gain levels along with the player, so grinding an extra ten levels leaves you with enemies ten levels tougher, too. If the enemy also learns new attacks and powers as they level up, this could backfire on the player, making those Giant Spiders extra demonic. A few games (but not MMORPG ones) add a time limit to discourage excessive grinding so a player must go to next area / complete objectives within a certain amount of time. There are four reliable ways of doing it:

  1. Level Scaling.
  1. Stop giving experience after a while.
  1. "Diminishing returns" - when a Level 1 fights a Level 1, the experience is X, but when a Level 5 fights a level 1, the experience is Y, where X>Y.
  1. Not having a Level System at all, or making the levels useful for something other than stats.

Level Scaling is a Sub-Trope.

Examples of Anti-Grinding include:

  • In the first two Paper Mario games, each time you level up, the number of Star Points you can get from enemies decreases by 1, so that eventually, you can't get any from the enemies you can currently face. (The second game does, however, give you a consolation point if the enemies don't give any.) Then, in the next area, new enemies appear, the enemies start giving Star Points again, and you can resume Level Grinding.
  • In the Mario & Luigi games (or at least in Bowser's Inside Story), low-powered enemies just plain stop giving you EXP after a certain point, meaning you have to continue on in the story to continue leveling.
  • The Fire Emblem series calculates the experience a character receives in combat based on how powerful the opponent is compared to them, so if you grind your party members to high enough levels, you will end up getting a mere 1 point of experience for each fight. Conversely, defeating enemies much stronger than you gives massive amounts of experience, with many lower level party members able to level up after getting just one kill, and almost all party members getting a level up if they defeat a boss. Since most Fire Emblem games only contain a certain number of enemies, this also helps to prevent grinding. Moreover, in Fire Emblem, the missions are non-replayable, effectively preventing grinding except for Arenas.
    • Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones completely averts this trope, not only allowing the player to backtrack to past shops, but giving them a tower that seems to be specifically made for grinding! Not to mention that you get chances to fight past battles over and over again, allowing you to get money and weapons AND allowing the player to run through these with the cheapest weapons money can buy (iron weapons/fire tomes cost almost nothing, and have enough uses for multiple battles). However, Manaketes (arguably the strongest units in terms of attack power) are impossible to grind, as their Dragon Stones have limited uses and cannot be repaired, bar certain Good Bad Bugs.
  • Super Robot Wars uses a similiar system to Fire Emblem.
  • The Shining Force games also decrease the experience you can get from enemies as you go up in level, so that if you're intent enough on Level Grinding, they will eventually start not giving any experience. Healers were easier to grind, as the experience from healing only depends on whether the spell/item actually did any healing, and a successful heal spell or healing item would always give a healer at least 10 experience (out of the 100 needed for each level up).
  • Many MMORPGs will not allow characters into an area if they are above a certain level, or if they are above that level, will level down the characters and force them to use equipment of the appropriate level.
    • Dragonfable instead prefers to level up many enemies to your level. Also, when PVPing, wins don't count unless you're no more than ten levels above your opponent. These features make grinding a lot less practical.
    • Battle Stations, on the other hand, determines NPC encounters based on your level and limits PvP targets to those within 5 levels of the player. Even in Clan War, the player will only encounter attacking or defending players within their level range. Thus, unless you're trying to meet requirements for a particular piece of equipment, grinding is pointless.
    • zOMG! does this a bit differently. The items you need to level up randomly drop from fallen monsters, and enemies that are weaker than you drop items less frequently, if at all.
    • Final Fantasy XIV cut out levelling after a certain point in scaling amounts, forcing players to have to switch to another job class to keep levelling. This, along with a few other issues pissed off the western audience so much the game almost sunk before it was launched.
  • Etrian Odyssey does a fair amount of this by making healing potions and member recovery fees relatively expensive and scaling Inn prices with party level. The price goes up for 1en for each level of each character, so if you've got 5 level 50 characters in your party, it'll cost you 250en to sleep in the Inn each time. Best to save up those monster parts you've been hawking. Same thing goes for revival, 5en per level.
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years imposes easily-reached level caps on the characters of each specific tale, roughly corresponding to their overall strength (lv50 for the team consisting of The Lancer, an expert airship mechanic, the son of the previous game's heroes and one of the said heroes, lv40 for everyone else except the Big Bad of the previous game, who can get up to 45 and is the most likely character to reach that level within their own chapter without tons of extra grinding.) When they do finally meet up in the final chapter, you can freely level them all up to lv99. The maximum amount of Gil you can carry is also limited to 99999 in each tale, but you can always circumvent this by buying a lot of expensive items to sell for later, and in the final chapter the enemies drop such ridiculous amounts of Gil that it becomes more or less useless.
  • To discourage players from Level Grinding their way to the end, Final Fantasy VIII modifies the enemies' stats based on your characters' levels and emphasizes its junctioning system instead, where characters' stats can be increased by attaching magic spells to them. Of course, this has the practical effect of swapping Level Grinding with Magic Grinding, forcing players to endlessly draw spells from enemies if they want to stay competitive.
    • If the player actually used the draw system to grind magic they were doing it hopelessly wrong. More magic can be acquired from converting items into magic and items can be obtained by turning cards from the card game into items. Essentially this all boils down to card grinding. Oh, and you can turn monsters in battle into cards so you didn't have to even play the card game.
      • Furthermore, defeating an enemy by turning it into a card gave you no experience but did give you AP to increase the abilities of your guardian forces. This ultimately resulted in being able to coast through the game at around level 8-10 and equipping all the most ridiculous spell junctions in the game by transforming everything into cards. In some ways, Final Fantasy VIII was easier to break by avoiding any levels than any other Final Fantasy is by Level Grinding. It did require some progress in the game before this method became very efficient, but at that point, it became very easy.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics does something similar, in that you get fewer XP for hitting an enemy whose level is lower than yours, and more for hitting higher-level enemies. Of course, the enemies in random encounters match your average party level, so perhaps this was only intended to encourage a balanced-level party.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance also awarded EXP for healing or buffing allies, but made itself highly abusable that way as well. Since you'd always get 10 EXP (and 100 EXP needed for each level) if the target had the same level, 2 Jugglers could just pass turns between each other for all eternity with Smile Toss or Quicken (which does cost mana). The sequel averted that method by only giving out EXP at the end of the battle, with a large portion of exp being static (up to 60) with small bonuses going to especially valuable party members.
    • It should be noted, that although Final Fantasy Tactics makes it difficult to level your highest level characters, there is a quick way to level up stragglers: send them into battle alongside one really strong character, then have them take turns pelting him with rocks.
    • You could grind your high level characters indefinitely by using self-targeting moves (such as Accumulate from the Squire class, or Chakra from the Monk class if you've taken damage) which will always give 10 EXP per action. Provided that you can last long enough, you could theoretically take a party from level 1 to level 99 in one fight - and it's fairly easy to reduce the enemy side to one completely irrelevant unit. That being said, it still takes a really long time and isn't generally worth it, though it can be useful when grinding for job points.
    • Another, more subtle way that FFT discourages level grinding is by making your characters fairly gear dependent. You need to proceed with the game to access stores with better gear. Since the random encounters level up with you, they can become quite difficult if you level grind too long. There are ways around this, but they are more trouble than they're worth
      • Final Fantasy Tactics a 2 has this for the final battle once you beat the game and attempt to beat it again; the final bosses and its allies will be around your party's average level. So if the final bosses were around level 50, and then you beat the game and level up 10 more times, their levels will match yours.
  • Despite having no traditional levels to speak of, Final Fantasy XIII manages this by putting arbitrary ceilings on the Crystarium, its character advancement system. No matter how many Crystarium Points you earn, you'll only be able to move to specific points on the chart. Where you can move on this chart is dependent on your point in the story, so it's necessary to advance the plot to advance your character.
    • To illustrate: A "good" respawnable encounter for CP in Chapter 10 gives around 600+ CP. The nodes and abilities in the sort of "mini-stage" unlocked after finishing Chapter 9 all cost around 775 CP apiece, and there are roughly a half-dozen-plus nodes. Once you beat the boss midway through Chapter 10, though, the Crystarium stage unlocked has 30+ nodes and each cost somewhere between 4000 and 10000 CP apiece. This isn't even getting into the secondary roles unlocked around this time, where even the lowest-level nodes cost 3000 CP, and up to 120000 CP for a single node.
  • Soul Blazer specifically limits the number of enemies—when you kill them, the Mook Maker shuts down and they're gone. There are a couple of places where enemies spawn infinitely and Level Grinding can be done, but it's much harder than usual.
    • Illusion of Gaia, the sequel to Soul Blazer, has 100% finite enemies and a very unique leveling system that rewards you only when you clear a room. However, if you ignore the leveling and go straight to the boss, you get the level ups anyway, discouraging low level runners.
    • The third game in the series, Terranigma, just throws in the towel and gives in to grinding and infinite enemies.
  • Chrono Cross only allows character's stats to improve a small amount for each boss they defeat, allowing a small amount of grinding in between bosses, but directly basing the player's power to the number of bosses they defeated. You CANNOT advance stats past specific points until you fight the next boss. You can grind your other party members with relative ease. Of course, New Game+ lets you finally crush those annoying early-game bosses.
  • In Dragon Quest VII, while you can still get experience points from battles, eventually you stop leveling up your jobs that give you new skills and abilities if the monsters are too low a level. There is one area at the end of the game that will always give you EXP for your jobs.
    • Dragon Quest VI worked exactly the same way, and the DS remake removed the level limit from even more areas, allowing you to max out your jobs even earlier.
    • Dragon Quest VIII has a skill point system that allows you to customize your characters to be more proficient in certain weapons or abilities. Largely, you can spend these however you want, but the game will refuse to let you advance a certain skill set any further if you've been devoting most of your skill points to it and aren't sufficiently leveled to overcome that threshold yet.
  • Neverwinter Nights just goes with the other choice. You simply can't level past a certain limit each chapter, or even gain experience.
    • Neverwinter Nights 2 just has a limited supply of enemies, until one irritating section at the very end with infinite enemy respawns. The expansion has enemies everywhere slowly respawn, presumably so the game's hunger system doesn't kill you.
  • Knights of the Old Republic features a limited supply of foes, with only a few exceptions (Hulak Wraid in the Dune Sea and Sith in the Star Forge), and even the exceptions are not worth grinding, since the level cap (20) can be achieved just by the opponents you meet during the game (and you'll hit the cap early on the Star Forge for all characters anyway).
    • Another (sneaky) trick put in to discourage level-grinding early on in the game is the fact that you're cross-classed on the second planet. Nothing like level-grinding through the rackghouls in the sewers only to discover that you've actually hurt yourself by leveling up on Taris. Also, once per level, you can usually get information about your party members, but only so much. After a certain point, they clam up and won't tell you anything more about their histories until you reach another goalpost (leaving Taris, getting one of the Star Maps).
  • Dungeon Siege nicely plays this by making enemies finite; in short, any enemy you kill is dead for real and will never respawn again.
    • The full conversion, Mage World, completely inverts this. Not only does the author not consider it a cheat, he actually encourages grinding on the relatively easy home rows. Enemies are still finite, but the home row includes pells and target ranges to increase combat skills without fighting actual enemies.
  • The Tales (series) usually has some form of this. Tales of Symphonia, for example, cuts your EXP gains if you're at too high a level compared to the enemies you're fighting. At most, this can halve your EXP gain, making the 10x EXP upgrade in the New Game+ more like 5x EXP.
    • The Playstation 2 remake of Tales of Destiny surprises level grinders of the tape-the-analog-stick-to-the-right kind by greeting them with Barbatos, a near impossible Bonus Boss fight. It is possible to beat him in the Bonus Dungeon, but not on the overworld map where he appears to punish levelers. He even kicks off the battle by saying, roughly: "You bastards, what do you think you're doing dilly-dallying in this place? Try to run away like rats, but you will die by this axe!"
    • A slight example exists in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, where the player characters of the first game do not gain EXP whatsoever and only have different levels and equipment based on your point in the story. This however, doesn't stop you from leveling the two new characters or the monsters.
  • The Suikoden games feature an experience system in which each level is 1000 experience away from the next, and XP rewards are based on a comparison between your level and the enemy's. While this isn't much of a problem if you want to be three or four levels stronger than the local Random Encounters, it's a fairly big one if you want to get further than that. This does help to prevent other party members from falling behind, and to keep the game at a reasonable challenge
    • It has the odd side effect where if you take a low level character into the final dungeon and kill something, their level could slingshot past everybody who fought their way there. Taken to the extreme in that the least ground characters are the only ones who can reach max level.
    • The .Hack games also do this, exactly the same way.
  • Tactics Ogre has a similar system to the Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem ones above, with the general standard being that striking a unit the same level as yourself earns you 10 XP, and working from there. However, the game developers were wise enough to include a "Training" mode, accessible from the main map at any time, that pit your units against each other and allowed everyone to grind up, with the only penalty being that enemy units would be the same level as your highest-level character (terrifying in the late-game secret dungeon). Although plot enemies would, with only some late-game exceptions, cap out at level 30 anyway, so it was still possible to grind up and beat the game.
    • The GBA version also gives out emblems for various in-battle achievements: most of them increase your base stats or they're required for advanced jobs, but some of them have negative effects and once you have one, you can't turn its effect off. 2 of these emblems are gotten by killing 20 targets in training (which increases your damage during training by 25%, meaning you'll be able to get less hits off your targets and thus gain less XP) and gaining a total of 20 levels in training (which makes performing critical hits impossible).
  • Golden Sun actually limits the number of enemies you can possibly fight in the first dungeon; after so many, they just stop appearing. The cutoff is tied to your character's level. However, killing Jenna averts this, since dead characters gain no EXP.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyan for SNES has a similar system to Golden Sun above; once charcters' battle point reach certain amount, random battles will be shut off. In addition, by the beginning of Vegeta arc, if you spend time leveling up Gohan and Piccolo rather than go and look for the rest of Z-Figthers to recruit then grind. All of them will be killed by Nappa, and Gohan will have to navigate major parts of Namek after that alone.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night very quickly reduces weaker enemies to giving a mere one experience. Thankfully, it's not necessary to grind.
    • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia actually downplays this a lot by making bosses and enemies still deal incredible amounts of damage despite having high levels. Those thinking they could still grind their way to defeating tougher enemies will be in for a surprise.
    • In Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, you can only level up to a certain point in various point on the map. For instance, you cannot advance past level one in the first area preceding the first mansion.
  • In Runescape, The experience needed to level up an item increases exponentially, doubling roughly every 7 levels. This discourages level grinding on low level items, as the xp just isn't fast enough for the higher levels. There is also a skill called "slayer" which can only be leveled at a significant speed by only killing some monsters of one kind, then you can't get experience anymore until you get a new monster to kill. It's intended to discourage one-monster-type grinding where everyone on the server wants to grind the same monster type and cause lag. Another example would be the random events, that force players to keep attention to their game instead of clicking a few times an hour.
  • Lost Odyssey features diminishing returns for fighting in a given area. Each area will generally see the characters advance one or two levels, after which the experience reward from each battle drops sharply, often to a mere 1 point per battle.
    • However, to gain skills for the Immortal characters in your party, you're still going to have to do a fair bit of grinding, it just won't increase your character level very fast. Having Sed around eventually makes it somewhat faster, but it's still a grind nonetheless.
    • A lot of item farming is required to collect all the components to the various rings. Doing this will potentially have you levelling up several times after the experience bonuses have slowed down to a crawl before you have everything you need.
  • Unlimited Saga has this to the point where it can screw you over. The only way to increase your stats is to get Skill Panels. These are mostly given after successfully completing a quest. With the exception of one character there's only a finite amount of quests in the game. Also, killing monsters usually don't net you money and in the long run will make you meet stronger monsters.
  • Persona 3 has your characters become tired and then sick if you spend too much time grinding monsters.
    • In the original, on the day before a full moon your characters never become tired, even if they die, and you can always recover health on the bottom floor, making those days ideal for grinding without sacrificing nights studying in favour of leveling up. FES altered this - the party will still get tired on the night before the Full Moon, but they won't ditch you as they would other nights, and will be fully rested by the next day.
    • Persona 3 and 4 also uses a soft level cap to diminish the returns from grinding. Earned XP depends on the difference in levels between the party and the enemies fought. Since the game only opens new areas (with their corresponding higher level enemies) as the game progresses, the only real reason to grind was to obtain money and items, though one could easily level underleveled Personas due to this.
    • The Reaper in Persona 3 serves to punish those who do try to level grind too much. If the player does defeat him, though, the game opens up a bonus dungeon where you can grind all you want.
  • Parasite Eve does this to an extent. As you continue to traverse a given area, encounters in that area will become rarer and rarer, to the point where it becomes extremely impractical to keep entering and exiting a room over and over again in the hopes of getting attacked.
    • However, if you can manage to grind Aya's level up to 38 (which is not an easy task, given the above mechanic), you only need 4500 XP (a comparatively paltry amount for that point in the game) to gain every level after that.
  • The Elder Scrolls games rely on a level system that increases based on your usage of skills, rather than combat or quest victories. Using your class' core skills eventually increases your level (and thus increase related attributes), but higher skills are more difficult to increase, making high-level grinding bothersome to say the least. Most importantly, in Oblivion: your enemies level up with you. If you don't manage the system carefully and don't get high enough attribute gains, or level exclusively in non-combat skills, you can screw yourself over pretty good when you start running into monsters "just two levels below you" that pound you into the ground.
    • Then again, if you grind and avoid leveling up at all, your character will be a frikken juggernaut. Granted one must level up at least once to finish the main quests the proper way, but there are ways to circumvent that.
    • Morrowind, apart from using this (albeit to a smaller degree than Oblivion), integrates this into the story as Dagoth Ur's raising power at the expense of the Tribunal Gods'.
  • In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games there was a limit on each floor of the dungeon. After a certain number of turns you will get a series of warnings. If you fail to heed that warning you are automatically kicked from the dungeon, which has the same effect as dying.
    • In the original games, Pokemon of certain levels that were traded to you will only obey you if you have certain badges. This isn't so much to restrict level-grinding per se, but primarily to restrict your buddy trading you (or giving yourself from another game) a level 100 Mewtwo to you so you can finish the game in an hour.
    • Played straight and inverted with Pokémon Black and White's experience system. All Pokémon now receive an additional experience modifier based on the ratio between user and opponents' respective levels; as your party members level up, the same opponents (e.g. wild Pokémon) award fewer experience points than they did before. On the flipside, this means that low-level party members (such as freshly bred Pokémon) level up faster when you defeat high-level opponents (especially since it stacks with all the other modifiers, like the bonus on traded Pokémon or Trainer battles, and the Exp. Share).
  • To prevent story missions from being too easy, once you receive one, Freelancer prevents you from leveling up any further until you finish it.
    • And then there's the level cap which can only be raised by finishing story missions; the cap is too low for the best fighters in the game until you complete the single-player campaign.
  • In ADOM the higher the kill count for a particular monster race the tougher the members of that monster race become. In extreme instances this can lead to situations where a pack of jackals can kill a demon lord.
  • In most Roguelikes not descended from Angband there are a finite number of levels, and each level is only stocked with monsters and items when it's first generated. While there are Random Encounters, they happen infrequently enough that the scarcity of food forces the player to move forward.
    • The Angband based roguelikes require grinding, but it will be tedious if you aren't grinding deep enough. In addition to growth in amount of exp per level, the XP gained by kills is divided by your current level. More strongly enforced is the item-grinding, as there are things that will kill you in one hit without the proper equipment.
    • In another roguelike, XirrelaiRPG, grinding isn't discouraged much, and levels can be gained extremely quickly by methods such as zombie scumming, and there's no hunger either so you can hang around as long as you like. However, the level cap is only 10, so the relative lack of stat-upgrading items means you'll still find yourself outclassed in last area, which is full of crazy pyromaniacs and blue fairies wearing the third-best armour in the game.
  • In God of War there are a limited number of enemies, preventing you from grinding to get Red Orbs. However, you can circumvent this once- the area where you get Medusa's Head has enemies that respawn unless you kill them by petrifying them and you have infinite magic until you accomplish this. While they quickly stop giving you Red Orbs from killing them, you can still get them for getting large combos, which is easily accomplished by endlessly spamming Poseidon's Rage on them.
  • Ogre Battle's battle system discourages and encourages grinding through the alignment system. Basically, you can grind as much as you like (enemies are practically finite, but plentiful), but attacking enemies that are lower level than you is evil and causes your alignment score to go down. Level grind that Knight too much, and he'll never advance into a Paladin. Of course, certain classes require a low alignment, so level grinding those characters is recommended.
    • Subverted in that random encounters are available in infinite, if slow quantities on many maps, and that many of these are pure evil critters like ghosts and skeletons, which impart significantly reduced alignment penalties (and massive bonuses at low levels!). This is so much the case that it's possible to access many of the game's upper-tier unit types barely 1/4 of the way into the game with no penalty to speak of, save wasted time.
  • City of Heroes uses this trope by having all enemies 5 levels lower than you stop producing experience and influence, and also disallows you to accept missions in low level areas after a certain point. They also prevent Level Grinding in the same manner.
    • In an odd player-enforced example, they added the Newspaper/Police Scanner to give infinite random missions because players in the upper levels were running out of missions from their contacts and having to resort to level grinding to get new missions again. The "No XP" button was added because at the lower levels it was very easy to outlevel your missions before getting access to them all.
  • In Warcraft 3, if you are playing Campaign, you can only gain one level per hero per map.
    • Except in Frozen Throne's grand finale, where Arthas can go from level 1 to level 10 if you kill enough enemies (and with a pretty much infinite supply coming from Illidan's naga camp, why wouldn't you?). Of course, since it IS the grand finale, these levels won't actually go anywhere.
    • In Skirmish, your heroes will only gain experience from creeps up to level 5. Admittedly, there is nothing stopping you from mauling player units...
  • In the MMORPG Pirates of the Caribbean Online, it looks like the levels of the enemies in the Black Pearl Boss Fight actually change based on the level of the player who initiated the fight. This becomes a big problem if you're a higher level (but not level 30 and don't have the Voodoo Staff yet) than the rest of your party.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines had an ingenious system wherein the player got experience points solely for completing quests, not for defeating enemies. It elegantly provided incentive to seek out sidequests, and made stealth-runs and verbal conflict resolution perfectly effective (except for the Scrappy Level.) There are even cases where killing enemies will give you less experience than charming or sneaking your way through, most notably the Elizabeth Dane mission, where killing a guard will not only lower the XP you get, but piss of LaCroix and seriously hamper your ability to get the Downtown haven.
    • Said system is a more or less faithful adaptation of the Storyteller System of the Old World of Darkness, which was built around this trope and awarded character points for moving the story along rather than just killing things. That said, Bloodlines does dish out character points at a rate that no Game Master would ever allow IRL.
  • Avernum, Geneforge, and other games from Spiderweb Software discourage grinding elegantly, and still reward thorough exploration. The margins for XP diminish to a trickle at around the time the player is expected to progress in the game and story; this has the added consequence of balancing combat-based with puzzle-solving character builds. A player who stays to grind will spend hours advancing as far as he or she could just by visiting the next town/city/settlement. Toward the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, the player could still try to squeeze some levels out of the Bonus Dungeon, but that's always far more challenging than simply facing the endgame. Beating the bonus and carrying away all prizes does give bragging rights though, and makes the endgame a breeze.
    • In fact, in Exile by Spiderweb it's pretty much impossible to gain levels beyond 47 because of the seriously diminished amounts of experience enemies give (sometimes none at all), the fact that baddies from random encounters start to flee from you more and more often, and due to (apparently) a bug that ocasionally causes your experience to start decreasing instead of going up. Fortunately, experience doesn't change at level-up (like other games that reset it to zero) so there's no getting negative experience or losing levels. However, there's still those handy Knowledge Brews that give you skill points, so you can abuse those while grinding for gold.
  • In Legend of Dragoon, random encounters give pathetic amounts of experience. Bosses, on the other hand, nearly guarantee a level up for every character in your party. There's no need to grind in the first place, but if you try, be prepared to spend a long time hunting enemies. On the other hand, the Addition system in combat is pretty fun, and using Additions over and over again levels them up. So the game is pretty well balanced, and when it's not, it's usually in your favor.
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter does this to a bit of an extreme. Not only do enemies do not respawn, but you're expected to just start a New Game+ (which is available from the get go) on your first run because the enemies are really challenging. However, there are some loopholes that allow you to ultimately end up with stronger characters by repeating boss battles: this involves abuse of party XP, which is carried over unlike normal XP when you use the SOL system to revert your game to the last save point. It also allows you to use your Purposefully Overpowered dragon form to finish the said battles even faster (since while the D-Counter can never be lowered normally, SOL Restoring your game to your last save point allows you to revert it to whatever value it was at before you went on a rampage with it), allowing you to net even more party XP than you normally would.
  • Anarchy Online takes the same route as Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines - you only ge experience for beating missions (though you do get items and such if you wish to beat up any enemies in a mission). However this resulted in a different sort of grinding due to the relatively simplistic nature of the randomly generated missions and the sorts of abilities one could get. Players would create characters that run very very fast and literally run through a mission (sometimes in as short a time as six seconds), grab the MacGuffin to complete the mission, and then repeated the process.
  • Fallout 3 averts this by experience being plentiful to the point where it is legitimately difficult to finish the game without hitting max level if you do even a modicum of sidequests. The main plot experience plus battle experience alone will probably see you over three quarters of the way to max level.
    • Unlike Oblivion, enemies do not level up linearly with you (a Mirelurk has the same stats whether you're at level 1 or level 20), but tougher enemies spawn at higher levels. This is mostly reasonable in the regular game, but in the Broken Steel expansion, the Wasteland is pretty much crawling with Deathclaws and Sentry Bots once you get past level 15 or so. This is bad for you, and pretty much instant death for traveling overworld NPCs.
    • Fallout: New Vegas places a Beef Gate directly in the path of the main storyline, but strews the intended long route with more than enough sidequest experience to make grinding unnecessary. This also gradually introduces many locations with later significance. Four different DLC addons each add five levels to the cap to allow for the leveling you will do while in each one. The general rule with Fallout 3 and up is that grinding for its own sake generally isn't necessary. You can make sufficient progress just on the main quest line to complete the game competently while side quests have the added benefit of building you up even more in their undertaking.
  • Live a Live does this on occasion, particularly in the Akira homage chapter. Each time Akira levels up, the Preexisting Encounters he can run into on the world map increase in power and use better monsters to fight you with. Akira's abilities are cool, but you may want to save the grinding for the final chapter.
    • In addition, the experience you gain at each encounter is based on your level, to a constant total of 100 for each level up, making this one more example of diminishing returns.
  • Lower-level enemies in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords will scale up to your character's level... up to a point. Then the rewards you get for will scale inversely, to the point where the only XP and gold you get from fighting inferior foes come from whatever coins and purple stars you clear from the game board. Many of the missions also have level requirements, making sure you can't get a cheap level boost by grabbing advanced missions and grinding till you beat them. Then again, you can get around these limits, somewhat, once you purchase the Temple upgrade for your citadel.
  • Like most of the other MMORPGs on this list, Guild Wars has monsters start giving less experience, then eventually none, as you gain levels. On top of that, characters max out their levels and gear fairly quickly through each campaign (or start with max level if they're PvP only). The game was designed from the ground up to put veterans and relative n00bs on equal footing, rewarding skill and strategy instead of the number of hours you've invested. You can certainly grind for money and materials for spiffy wardrobes and more skill and equipment options, but they won't necessarily make you any stronger. Averted in that there are easily unlockable upgrade runes for PvP, and Subverted in how the Pv E runes require grinding, but the enemy mobs are easy enough to defeat without them anyway.
    • Considering the game was designed with an anti-grinding philosophy, it's funny that trying to get to the maximum level in the tutorial world has gained something of a following, to the point where the developers have started adding content to support it. Due to the fact that enemies eventually stop giving XP, this seems like an impossible task, if it wasn't for the fact that enemies can actually gain levels of of killing you. This means that hordes of playerlevel grind an enemy monster so that its level increases enough to give experience to high-level players.
  • The old DOS classic Might & Magic 4 and 5 joined together to create a super-game. You could use the same characters to travel back AND forth between the two worlds. As you can imagine, with two entire game worlds to explore, you could level to ridiculous heights. Unfortunately, the real stopping resource wasn't experience points, but money. Monsters didn't respawn (and the few that did gave no gold or items) and leveling up costed exponentially more gold pieces. It was actually most efficient to skip all the 'level up for free' rewards entirely until you had bottomed out on training realistically, but you could always work one week for 50 gold (or something like that). This became a factor when you realise characters had real ages that went up and required 50,000,000 gold to go from 1xx to 1xx+1.
  • Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song has the Event Rank system. Winning battles raises your Event Rank over time, opening more quests while closing others. The worst best example of this would be "Unsettling Settlements", which closes at ER 2. Most characters start at ER 1 (a few start at ER 0), and also have some fights to complete as part of their prologue... making it very difficult to avoid battle and keep the quest open long enough to complete it. Oh, and if you miss "Unsettling Settlements"? You can't delay the Jewel Beast's awakening, meaning that the Frontier is doomed.
  • In The Magic of Scheherazade, your level can only go so far before you have to move to the next chapter.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, the amount of XP you get from a given monster shrinks as you level up, and is cut off to nothing when you are more than eight levels above what you should be. Of course, usually you'll end up more challenging monsters after whenever you level up, anyway.
  • Also in Dungeons and Dragons Online You get penalties for repeating dungeons for experience and treasure.
  • Quest 64 used a system that boosts stats that are used often: taking damage raises HP and DEF, using spells raises MP, and running around raises EVA. Although you can max your EVA by running in circles all night in a safe zone, it becomes difficult to raise your DEF, potentially making the endgame very difficult.
  • Each of the original .hack// games had a level cap built in, mainly so that you don't start out way too strong on the next installment. The only game in which this was really noticeable was the first: Infection. Even once you've hit the level cap (around 30), the Final Boss, Skeith, is enormously difficult, and for once simply grinding past his strength level is not an option.
  • Nethack uses a combination of Rubber Band AI and unfeasible numbers of experience points being required at the top end (each level from 21 to 30 requires another ten million XP), although there are instant Upgrade Artifacts available.
    • There are still infinite level-grinding techniques so easy that a script can run through the busy work for you. At least two of them have inspired anti-grinding community patches.
    • This in a game where killing Death gives not even 2000 XP. You would need to kill about 50,000 Black Puddings to advance from level 20 to 30, if not for potions of gain level.
  • None of the enemies in Mass Effect 1 respawn so it's impossible to level grind. There is just about enough XP in the game to to get to the level cap during a single playthrough if you do the sidequests. A singular explioit is available in the first game that lets you start the game over with your old character (even if you haven't finished the game the character is from). Do one mission, start the game over with your gained experience, rinse and repeat for infinite levels from the first mission.
    • Mass Effect 2 allows you to start a new file using an old character from ME1, and retaining your level in the New Game+; however, there's a catch for the latter. While you keep your level and your skills, you do not keep the upgrades to your weapons and armor that makes high-level combat survivable. This can make the scaled enemies on harder difficulties more difficult than if you started at level 1. There are segments with infinitely respawning enemies (namely Tali's recruitment mission), but in ME2, enemies no longer give experience individually, experience is only obtained for finishing missions and completing tasks.
    • There are a few places in the sequel where enemies infinitely respawn—the most notable one is during Tali's recruitment on Haestrom. There's a section where the game will keep throwing waves and waves of recon drones at you until you get to the other side. However, since you don't get experience points from defeating enemies (you only get them for completing missions), trying to level grind there is pointless.
  • Eve Online does away with xp and levels all together, replacing them with skills that are learned in real time. This doubles as Anti Poop Socking too since the skill training continues whether you are logged on or not.
  • Most of the games in the Ys series decrease the EXP value of the monsters every couple of levels. In some of the games, the EXP of all enemies reduces to 1 well before you can max out.
  • Killer 7, while not an RPG, does have a level grinding mechanic: killing enemies earns you thick blood, which can be turned into serum at save points and used to upgrade your characters. However, you can only carry 1000 units of thick blood at once, it doesn't carry over through levels, and if you convert enough the serum conversion machine stops working until the next level.
  • The Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness games have non-respawning enemies, a level cap for each game (like .hack above), and rewards exp even to those who were down at the end of the battle.
  • Borderlands does this also using the "diminishing returns" principle, where enemies at a lower level than you give less and less experience the farther ahead of them you are, to the point where you stop receiving XP from them. Turning in quests, however, will always give a flat amount of experience depending on the quest, but at a certain point it may not be enough to move your XP bar any noticeable amount. These rules also apply to multiplayer games, which often results in the lower-leveled members of any given party gaining levels in leaps and bounds (as the amount of given XP increases with the amount of players, as well as increasing the levels of the monsters you fight) while other, more experienced party members receive little reward for their efforts.
    • Also, the game only gives you a small fraction of the XP you'd normally get if you kill an enemy using the Runner, to dissuade players from merely driving back and forth over Skags for an hour. The sound enemies make when squished under a car, though, never stops being funny.
  • Considering it's possible to reach the top levels in a single fair-sized map of Heroes of Might and Magic V, it's not really surprising that the campaign features a level cap. It's the map itself that carries the limit, which leads to the odd situation when characters from previous campaigns join up with you and are already beyond it.
  • Robopon 2 does this in an interesting (and infuriating) way. Your robots can evolve, but when they do, their level drops by half, so you have to build them up again. No matter what their evolutionary stage, they eventually reach a stat cap, which means that even though their level increases, their stats won't.
  • In Dungeon Crawl, anti-grinding is a core part of the design philosophy. You need to eat if you're not undead, and staying on a level too long causes diminishing enemy spawn rates... although the chance of encountering out of depth enemies increases.
  • World of Warcraft has severe diminishing returns for experience gain once you outlevel enemies by five or more. Gray enemies give no experience at all, and gray quests give a paltry amount. However, gear is more important than XP and there are plenty of other things to grind for.
    • Reputation gains used to suffer from the same diminishing returns once you outleveled the mobs/quests you earned them from, but this had the effect of making certain older reputations difficult to the point of Lost Forever to acquire for high level players, and was reversed in a patch.
    • Amusingly averted in the South Park episode based on the game, when the boys were forced to grind to max level by repeatedly killing the lowest level boars for weeks on end, in a noob-zone that the episode's villain wouldn't bother entering.
    • By request of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese client cuts experience gain by 50% after 6 hours of play, and cuts it out completely after 12.
  • The Last Remnant has the infamous Battle Rank. This is one level up system which is explicitly bad. The higher the rank gets, the harder the enemies are. So as you fight, your enemies get experience instead of you! The key in the XBOX version is to upgrade your equipment, keep monster fighting to a minimum and go for the strongest possible monsters available during grinding. Most importantly, upgrade your equipment if at all possible. Grinding is a last resort and can only be carried so far before enemies start outpacing you.
    • The PC version is better balanced for a regular playthrough, and you can beat the game fighting every encounter you normally meet, as long as you don't try to deliberately farm weak monsters excessively, but if you for a Hundred-Percent Completion, this Anti-Grinding measure actually produces much more extreme grinding (with elements of Guide Dang It), where you find certain monsters that give the most stat/technique gains for the least BP growth and farm them until you are bored out of your mind.
  • Digimon World 2 puts a level cap for digimon. Once you hit those levels, the only way to level up again afterward is to combine it with another digimon, creating a new digimon that starts out at either level 1, 11, or 21 depending on the class of the combined digimon. The cap is raised higher with each subsequent combination.
  • For an extreme example, RPG parts of Half Minute Hero reduce grinding time by adding a (usually) 30-second time limit to complete the mission which can only be prolonged a few times. It is also combined with Forced Level Grinding so players have to use the said time most efficiently to level up so they could take down the boss.
  • Dark Messiah makes grinding completely impossible: XP is awarded only for advancing in the story.
  • Kingdom Hearts II has a grinding cap for Drive Forms and Summons that is tied to the plot. For example, before getting Master Form, it's impossible to grind Valor or Wisdom over level 5.
  • Legend Of Zork allows you to choose at which level you want to take a level at, but each level below you gives diminishing experience and currency. If you're playing at more than four levels below your own, you receive no experience whatsoever, and only a pittance of money. Which takes forever, but since you don't need to go anywhere to buy equipment and battles are determined by percentage values, it might be worth the month of grinding for 30 zorkmids.
  • Sword of Mana gives a set amount of exp for monsters defeated, but levels shoot up in difficulty every time, and one strategy is to store several level ups to use in boss fights as opposed to using them as you get them. Additionally, if you really have the patience to sit in an area long enough, killing a thousand of any enemy will net you a tough version.
  • Sonic Chronicles has enemy exp drop as your characters gain levels until it finally hits a piddly 10 exp per fight, regardless of enemy strength.
  • In the original SNES release of Front Mission, there are some (risky) ways to grind for money, but there's almost no way to grind for experience; enemies only offer useful chunks of experience in actual missions, and the enemies are limited in those missions. While you can replay the arena challenges all you like, all you really stand to gain is money, as arena experience quickly becomes a case of diminishing returns. Defeat an enemy enough times in the arena, and he simply stops being profitable in terms of money or experience. It's not uncommon to have even tougher enemies eventually giving you 0 experience points in arena mode.
  • Like most of the other BioWare games noted above, Dragon Age achieves this through no Random Encounters and no respawning enemies. All encounters on the World Map come from a preplotted list of one-time events and once dungeons are cleared out, they stay clear. It's possible to earn an extra level or two by doing every single sidequest and the relevant DLC quests, but otherwise you're going to end Origins with a few levels above 20 at most.
    • Unless of course you abuse the infinitely completable quest in the first town...hello level 20 and a few hundred gold before effectively starting the main game.
  • The dungeons in Recettear actively discourage adventurers from staying too long on any one floor. Their oh so subtle way of gently needling adventurers into leaving is by summoning living balls of pure fire, electricity, and hatred that appear out of nowhere.
    • In addition, the enemies that spawn on a given level are finite anyway, those less than half your adventurer's level give piddly amounts of experience, and the areas with the weaker enemies have pretty pathetic treasure (and in a game where your primary goal is running an item shop, bad random drops are a bigger problem than usual).
  • The World Ends With You both averts this and plays it straight with its various level-up systems. The amount of experience needed to reach the next character level increases on a linear scale, making grinding fairly quick and easy compared to most RPGS; however, all this does is increase your HP. To increase your stats, you have to give your characters food and digest it by fighting battles, though they can only eat so many large items every real-world day (though you can keep eating the small items that give +2 or so to a given stat). Lasts, only certain types of pins evolve when leveled up in battle, others involve either turning the game off or using the mingle function.
  • Iji imposes level caps that decrease with difficulty. There is also tons of experience scattered around that you'll run into just by going through the level. You can easily max out your level without killing a single enemy.
    • However, by unlocking a certain element, you can gain enough experience to completely max out all your levels in the first to stages of the game.
  • Skies of Arcadia, or moreso in its remake, Legends, has optional bounty boss fights that pop up early in the game. Two of them are required, and the rest come as the story progresses. The catch: the bosses level up alongside the characters, so it can seem pretty agitating if you level up and then have an extremely difficult boss fight against the measly 2000 gold-reward boss.
    • It's also hard to level-grind anyway in general, especially in the earlier parts, because there are far fewer enemies and very little EXP to obtain (leveling up on the first level of the game can take as much as seven to ten battles). However, if you obtain a certain member for your crew, providing you have a crapload of money, he can sell you all the stat-boosting seeds you want.
  • Eternal Eyes makes it so that the higher your level is in relation to the enemies in the area you're in, the fewer EXP you'll gain per hit, and the fewer Bonus EXP you reach for clearing a stage. You'll also gain progressively less EXP if you continue to grind on one stage for a long time. However, having a weaker unit attack a stronger one results in that unit gaining more EXP—just make sure to stay far away unless you like that unit dying.
  • In Brave Fencer Musashi, a level cap is placed on each stat, which increases every chapter. While this doesn't prevent grinding, it does limit the amount of grinding that can be done at any particular point in the game.
    • Being an action RPG, the stats are mostly negligible. In fact, many people who have played the game never realized there were stats, presumably because the stat caps are so easily reached and throughout the rest of the chapter there are no stat ups to remind you that there were stats to level up.
  • The Nintendo 3DS features a pedometer that rewards you with "steps" for taking it with you on walks (not to mention the ability to gain other peoples' Miis on Street Pass). You get "play points" for walking enough (or just shaking the device up-and-down and side-to-side), which you can use in Mii games, but you can only get 10 a day. This was probably implemented so that people wouldn't spend all of their days farming for points, and possibly also suggesting that the owner of the system just take a nice, long easy walk, and not risk a wrist cramp.
  • The Naughty Sorceress, the Big Bad of Kingdom of Loathing, drops three Instant Karma items when defeated, but only if you fight her at level 13, the lowest level the game will allow you to fight her at.
  • The Inazuma Eleven games (aside from the Japanese version of the first game) have stat caps: Each character has a cap on max GP, max TP, and the sum of the remaining stats. Max GP and max TP aside, if a character's total stats have reached the cap, any further stat training will lower another stat by an equal amount.
  • Gladius limits your ability to level up and gain gladiators in the first two areas you explore. In the first area you are limited to eight gladiators of maximum level five and in the second area you are limited to twelve gladiators of maximum level ten. Only after reaching the third area can you max out at up to twenty gladiators at level thirty.
  • The sequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy, Duodecim, subverts this. The Final Boss for the last required story mode hovers around level 50 while the player is capped at 100. Thus, it is very possible for players to just overpower things with superior levels. So, in an attempt at installing Anti-Grinding, the designers implemented something called a KP Bonus Line, which makes it hard for a high-leveled character to gain currency. However, the player can set their character's level to any they've already reached. While an adjusted-level character is still bound by equip level and basic stats, they have access to all the abilities of their true level, plus the CP to equip them, rendering the developers' attempts largely pointless
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution gives a tiny amount of xp for killing enemies, ten times that amount for the most basic of exploration rewards, and a hundred times for completing major sections of the storyline. You can grind, but your "grinding" is sidequests, exploring air vents and hacking random doors rather than killing enemies.
    • The game also encourages non-lethal kills, as it rewards more XP. The most you can get from an enemy is 50 (10 for defeating him, 20 for non-lethal, and 20 for using a takedown or headshot), which is 1% towards getting a Praxis kit.
    • The original Deus Ex gives no XP for enemies, and only rewards you with it when you are physically present in certain map locations or trigger certain events. Advancing the plot gives the biggest rewards, but finding secret areas not only gets you hidden equipment and ammo, but somehow improves how well you can swim and pick locks.
  • Agarest Senki has a turn counter. If you grind, the turn counter goes up unnecessary. Higher turn count makes some events become unavailable and lowers bonus and reward some plot-related battles offer. US release modded the game so players can grind in the dungeons without increasing turns. The result is some players leaving their Xbox and auto-battle all day long because the game actually has a lot of features that encourage people to grind, like title gaining and equipment smithing.
  • In War of the Dead, an Action RPG for the Turbo Grafx 16, the player's EXP could overflow from 9999 to zero. This perverse mechanic was apparently intended to be a feature.
  • In Dark Chronicle, you level up your weapons rather than your party members, and then use items to upgrade them into better models. Grinding works up to a point, with the usual law of diminishing returns in effect, but upgrading your weapons to some of the higher-powered models additionally requires you to defeat certain monsters. The required monsters can usually only be found in later chapters of the game.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning also uses the diminishing returns method. Loot dropped by enemies doesn't improve either. And if you are higher level than them (their names are grey), you don't receive Fate energy for killing them either.
  • Wild Arms 3 makes level grinding pointless - random encounters give a pittance of experience, and the Migrant System encourages not fighting low-level battles. Smart use of Lucky Cards and skills makes it easy to gain levels from boss fights alone.