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Strategies and information in guides may not work for everyone.
Experience Point Calculation
The formula for the number of experience points you get after defeating an enemy is complicated and it depends on a variety of factors. But it is a good idea to be familiar with it in a general way to get more experience points for the time you spend leveling. At first you might think that the best strategy is to go after the highest level monsters you can without getting killed. This gives you the most experience points per monster but you may lose valuable chain bonuses and spend so much time healing between battles that your experience over time may be relatively low. On the other hand, battling monsters that have levels that are too low will result in experience per monster that is so low that bonuses and less time healing will not make up for it. The idea is to be like Goldilocks and find the level that is just right.
The idea of this guide is to summarize what you need to know about how experience points are determined to best plan strategy. See Experience Points for the complete details. Most of the information here applies to parties with level at most 30.
In many role playing games the number of experience points you get for a certain monster is fixed. For example, if you get 5 experience points for defeating the Fluttering Butterfly at level 1, you still get 5 for defeating it at level 11. The game encourages you to go after tougher monsters at higher levels by making the gaps between level exponentially larger and larger. For example it might take 50 exp to get from level 1 to level 2 but 2000 exp to get from level 11 to level 12. FFXI uses a different strategy, the gaps between levels increases moderately but the number of experience points you get for a certain monster decreases as your level increases.
In terms of how you play the game the formula accomplishes several things:
- Discourages most types of power leveling
- Encourages 6 member parties with members relatively equal in level
- Makes it impossible to level by killing hundreds of very weak monsters (no exp is given)
- Makes it impossible to level by killing 1 very strong monster (exp is capped)
The experience point formula has the following steps:
- Base exp – determined by your level and the monster’s level (see table below)
- Adjustment for party size – percentage based on the size of the party (see table below)
- Experience cap – no gain in experience for killing monsters that are beyond a certain level
- Bonuses and penalties – Miscellaneous additions or subtractions based on various factors
Base Exp (Solo)
The starting point for the amount of experience you get is the Base exp given in the table Experience Points#Base Experience. The first thing to notice about this table is that the number of experience points is not always proportionate to the difficulty of the monster. A strategy for maximizing your exp then is to find levels where the amount of experience you get is high relative to the difficulty.
For solo exp, start with row 0 (monsters that are your level) and follow the table down (easier monsters). If your level is at most 30, the table has the property that exp falls rapidly from 100 to 50, then falls less rapidly for a few entries, and then picks up speed until it reaches 0. What this means is that you get good exp relative to the difficulty of the monster at the mid easy prey range and when close to even match (assuming you can kill it without risk of dying yourself).
When your level hits 31, the drop from 100 to 50 is more gradual. The effect of this is an increase in exp for monsters that are at least 2 levels below yours. So it is better to concentrate on monsters at the mid easy prey range. This pattern seems to persist until level 75.
When fighting monsters that are too low a level, the overhead of finding them and waiting for new monsters to spawn becomes more important. In this case it's better to fight slightly higher level monsters until you're spending most of your time either fighting or healing.
Base Exp (Party)
When fighting in a party, the base exp is based on the difference between your party's level and the monster’s level, where the party’s level is the highest level of any member. This is the main reason all the members in a party should have more or less the same level. For example, suppose your party has members with levels 15, 15, 15, 15, 15, 20. Together you might be able to defeat monsters with levels up to 24. Your party’s level is 20 and the difference between that and the monster’s level is 4, giving 200 base exp. On the other hand if all your party's members have level 16 then you might still be able to defeat monsters with levels up to 24 but now the level difference is 8 (24-16), giving 550 (almost triple) base exp. If you are joining a party as the highest level member and are close to leveling, you should consider holding off on using exp enhancing items in order to delay leveling, since this will bring everyone else’s exp down.
For party levels between 1 and 30, the main feature of this table is the whopping 75% increase between 200 and 350. What this means is that you should pick monsters so that the majority are at least 5 levels above your party’s level. In other words, most of the monsters should scan ‘Very Tough’ or higher to the highest level party member. If your highest level player levels when you’re already touching the 200/350 boundary, be prepared for a significant drop in exp and consider moving on to tougher prey.
Starting at level 31 this big jump is smoothed out somewhat and eventually disappears by level 46. This should give you a bit more flexibility at higher levels.
If your level is not the highest level in your party then you get a penalty based on your level and the party’s level. In a well-balanced party it should amount to no more than a few percent, so there is no need to go into details. All you need to know really is that if your level is lower than the party’s level then your exp will be a few points less than it would be normally. However, if the party is not well balanced then this modifier becomes significant, it's main purpose seems to be to keep parties balanced by keeping out members with low levels compared to the rest of the party.
Note that having a single party member that has a much lower level than the rest does not penalize the other members directly, only in an indirect way because one of the members won't be pulling their weight. It's much worse to have a single player that has a much higher level than the rest.
In many role playing games, if a party defeats a monster then the experience points are shared out equally among the members of the party. In FFXI your share of the exp is somewhat larger (see Experience Points#Player Share). Be sure to have signet in parties with 2-3 members since the additional exp is significant.
Note that the total share (the individual share times the number of members of the party) is more than the 100 base exp the monster would be worth if any one soloed it. This is one way that you are encouraged to form a six member party; the total share reaches a maximum of 210% when you have 6 members.
Once the base exp has been computed and the party size adjustment is made, an overall experience point cap which depend on you level is applied, see Experience Points#Experience Cap. One thing this means is that even if you are level 30 and manage to defeat a Very Tough monster solo, you won’t get the 350 base exp listed in the table, but are limited to 200 exp. However, the cap is applied before the various bonuses that are listed in the next section, so it is possible to exceed the cap.
For six member parties with level less than 50, the 35% exp share means that, in effect, your base exp is capped at 200/.35 or 571. This means you get no more exp for defeating tougher monsters once you hit this value. Meanwhile, tougher monsters take longer to kill and require more healing time between battles, so fighting these monsters actually decreases your exp over time. So you should pick monsters so that the majority are below the exp cap.
Combining this with the result from the Base Exp (party) section for parties with level 30 or less, there is a "sweet spot" for the level of monster you should hunt relative to your level. Namely, the average level of the monsters should be between 5 and 7 levels above your party’s level (provided of course that your party can defeat these monsters. For example, Clippers on Qufim Island have level 25 – 29, which averages to 27. The best party levels for these monsters would be between 27 – 7 and 27 - 5, in other words levels 20 and 22. Note that this is the level of the party and not the individual member, assuming the party is well balanced, the members would be between levels 18 and 22. If the average monster level happens to come out to a fraction then round up or down depending on the situation.
For levels higher than 30, the following table shows where the level cap will hit for six member parties. For example, a level 38 party should hunt monsters so that most will have level less than 38+9 or 47.
- 1-30 - 8
- 31-45 - 9
- 45-50 - 10?
- 51-55 - 12?
- 56-60 - 13?
- 61-75 - 16?
- The ?'s in this table indicate the values are based on extrapolation of the values in the base exp table.
Bonus for Experience Chains
The Experience Chain bonus is very important as it can be worth up to 50%. This is especially true at higher levels where you are given more time to complete chains. First notice that fighting monsters that are above your exp cap makes it more likely that you will lose this bonus, another reason to avoid doing this. The longer you keep chains going the higher the bonus so you should modify your tactics to keep chains going longer and these tactics may change depending on whether you are at the beginning or near the end of a chain. This can require some quick thinking and can make experience parties much more exciting.
For example, at the beginning of a chain you may want to cast Bio on the monster to weaken its attacks and you can save on MP used for healing. But near the end of a chain Dia may be better since it lowers defense and a quick kill is the highest priority. (The spells are incompatible so casting both will just waste MP.)
Other bonuses and penalties are important but don't affect strategy too much. See Experience Points for details.
- Fight the right level of monster for best experience over time, not the highest level you can defeat.
- For soloing this usually means fighting monster in the mid-Easy Prey range.
- Form 6-member parties with members having more or less equal levels.
- Avoid parties where 1 or 2 members have levels much higher than the rest.
- For 6 member parties with level 30 or less it’s usually best to fight monsters with an average level between 5 and 7 levels higher than the maximum level of your party.
- Use strategy to keep experience chains going.