Many North American players, new to the game, have some terrible misconceptions about how the experience (exp) penalty works in parties, and also about the optimum level range within a party. All the time I see people on the boards saying that you should have no more than a 3-level range in a party, but the acceptable level ranges are actually *much* larger, once you get above level 20 or thereabouts. Heck, even the official strategy guide tells you that parties will not want beastmasters or summoners because the pets rob the party of exp. Again, this is just *wrong* information.

It can also be disconcerting to have one character in your party ding to the next level, and everyone else suddenly sees their exp per kill dropping by a huge amount. Also, in other MMOGs, the higher level mobs tend to give larger and larger amounts of experience points, but in FFXI it seems like you’re always getting the same low exp no matter what types of mobs you are fighting. This guide explains everything you ever wanted to know about how exp works in the game.

**Warning, this is a loooooonnnnng guide, because the subject matter is complex and there is a lot to cover. If you are reading-challenged, I apologize in advance, but remember that knowledge = power in MMOGs.**

### Exp Basics

There are five different situations that each yeild different exp rates for players:

- You get one exp rate if you are solo
- You get a different exp rate if you are in a
*party*(2 – 6 players) - You get yet a different exp rate if you are in an
*alliance*(7 players or more) - Pet controllers get a special penalty to exp
*only for themselves* - Each player gets special bonuses pulling off an
*exp chain*

#### Solo Exp Rates

Whether you are level 1 or level 70, a mob that checks as EVEN to a *solo* player is worth exactly 100 points to that player. If the mob checks as tougher than EVEN, then a solo player gets more than 100 points for the kill. If the mobs checks as easier than EVEN, a solo player gets less than 100 points for the kill.

#### Party Exp Rates

If you are in a *party* (2 to 6 players), things are different in two important ways:

**The exp per kill is based on how the mob checks to the**. If the mob checks as EVEN to the highest player, then the base experience will 100 for everyone in the group.*highest*level player in the party

Next, the base experience is multiplied depending on how many players are in the group:- 2 players = 1.2
- 3 players = 1.35
- 4 players = 1.6
- 5 players = 1.85
- 6 players = 2.1

Finally, the multiplied total is then divided by the number of players in the group.

For example, say a group of 4 players kills a mob that checks as VERY TOUGH to the highest player in the group, who happens to be level 29. The base experience is 350 points, which is then multiplied by 1.6 for a total of 560 points. This total is then divided by 4, yeilding 140*pre-penalty*points for each player.**An experience penalty is assessed for each player who has fewer levels than the highest player.**This penalty is based on two different formulas:- Formula 1: ExpPenalty = 1 – (Your Level / Highest Player’s Level)
- Formula 2: ExpPenalty = 1 – (Your NEXTLevel / Highest Player’s NEXTLevel)

Formula 1 takes priority over Formula 2. Formula 1 is used when either of the following conditions exist:

- The highest player in the group is level 51 or higher. This affects
*every*player in the party regardless of their level. - The difference between your level and the highest player’s level is 8 or more.

So continuing with our example of the 4-person party, where the highest player in the party is level 29, we are starting with 140 pre-penalty points for the other three players. If the other three players are all level 29 too, then they would each get 140 points. But let’s assume that one is level 28, one is level 26, and one is level 21. Here’s what their penalties would be:

- Level 28 = 1 – (5800 / 5900) = 2% penalty. So .98 x 140 = 137 points
- Level 26 = 1 – (5600 / 5900) = 5% penalty. So .95 x 140 = 133 points
- Level 21 = 1 – (21 / 29) = 28% penalty. So .72 x 140 = 100 points

#### Alliance Exp Rates

If you are in *alliance*, (more than 7 players), then exp works similar to how it works for parties, with one important exception: the multiplier for everyone is always 1.85. This may lead you to think that you could exploit a higher exp rate by joining two small parties together in an alliance to get a higher multiplier (for example two parties of 4 each to jump from a 1.6 multiplier to a 1.85 multiplier), but remember that you still divide the post-multiplier exp by the total number of players in the alliance, so you end up with a lower exp rate in an alliance no matter how you slice it:

- 4 players in a party, all the same level, kill a 100 point monster: (1.6 x 100) / 4 = 40 pre-penalty points each.
- 8 players in an alliance, all the same level, kill a 100 point monster: (1.85 x 100) / 8 = 23 pre-penalty points each.

#### Exp Penalties for Pets

Unfortunately many people believe that pets hurt a party’s exp rate. This is caused in part by the fact that the official strategy guide says so. However, the pet penalty really applies *only* to the player that controls the pet; it does not affect your other party members.

What *is* still unclear is whether the pet penalty is applied before or after your party-level exp penalty and exp chain bonuses. So I can’t give you a concrete example. The bottom line is that somewhere in your personal exp calculation for a given kill, an additional 30% is shaved off because of your pet. Again, this affects *only* you–not anyone else.

So party leaders, give those beastmasters, summoners, and dragoons a break and let them in if they can help your party. Their pets will NOT steal exp from the party; only from their controller.

#### Exp Chains

Now for the fun stuff. If you kill a mob that checks as EVEN or tougher *to you* within a given amount of time, you are awarded an *exp chain*. It’s important to note that this applies only to you–not to any other player in the party. It doesn’t matter what the mob checks to other members of the party. All that matters is that the mob be your own level or higher.

When this is the case, you get an exp bonus for killing the monster fast. The faster you kill it, the higher the exp chain number, and the more of a bonus that you, personally, will receive. Actually calculating the exp chain bonus is labyrinthine and not worth the effort. You can check the **Chain Bonus** section of http://www.geocities.com/bside_ffxi/index.html#exp if you want to play with the tables yourself, but here’s a quick summary:

- Say you have a party of 6 people. The mob you’re killing checks as VERY TOUGH to you. (Remember, it doesn’t matter what it checks to other people in the party.) You’re all between levels 31 and 36. You manage to kill the mob in less than 120 seconds. In this case, you get your normal exp for the mob, and
*you personally*receive an additional message in your chat window saying**#3 Exp Chain!**. This translates to an additional bonus to you (not anyone else), of 182 points!

The moral of the story? Just know that killing mobs fast is a good thing, and the higher the exp chain number, the more of a bonus you’re getting. The faster you kill it, the higher an exp chain number you will receive.

### The Trouble with Dings

We’ve all seen it. One player in the party dings to the next level, and suddenly, it’s as if everyone else’s exp per kill takes a huge nosedive. What’s going on here?

The problem stems from the fact that, as described above, all exp calculations are based on how a mob checks to the highest-level player in the group. Say you’re in a group of four level 10 players, for example, and one of you dings to 11. The mobs that might have previously checked as VERY TOUGH to all of you probably now check as only TOUGH to the player that just dinged to 11. So the base exp of 350 that you get for a VERY TOUGH mob has suddenly been reduced to at most a base value of 200 exp for a +4 TOUGH mob. That’s a huge drop in exp per kill right there.

On top of that 150-point drop in base exp for the mob, you now have to factor in the exp penalty for the level 10 players in the party, which would be 1 – (2600 / 2800), which is an 8% penalty. So, when all four of you were level 10, killing VERY TOUGH mobs, you were each getting (350 x 1.6 ) / 4 = 140 points each. After one of you dings to level 11, here’s what the exp for each of you looks like:

- Level 11 (mob now checks as +4 TOUGH): (200 x 1.6) / 4 = 80 points
- Level 10: 80 x .92 = 73 points

The party is not really all that much stronger, because only one of you have dinged to the next level. Yet your exp per mob has literally dropped to almost HALF of what it was before. This is unfortunate, but it’s how it works. Until more of you ding to 11 and have the strength to take on mobs that now check as VERY TOUGH to the level 11s in the party, you’re just going to have to deal with sucky exp flow.

### Optimum Party Level Ranges

So what are the optimum level ranges you can fit into a party? I see grouping guides by well known experts that claim emphatically that you should *never* have a spread greater than 3 levels in a group. I see this same myth propagated on the forums too. Wrong. The real story is laid out in the following table.

**CAUTION:** Remember that these tables are based on the two exp formulas used in the game. You should still use common sense when building a party. While you could *theoretically* add a couple players into your group who might be 6 levels beneath your highest level character (or more), it’s not always a good idea. You might be able to get away with this for back-line support characters, but it would be a horrible idea for a group with four level 30 mages to have two level 23 WAR tanks, for example. The tanks simply wouldn’t do a good job of holding aggro against the kinds of mobs such a group would be hunting. **The general rule of thumb is this: it’s okay to add one or two characters that are LOWER than the bulk of your party, but it’s a terrible idea to add even one player who is HIGHER than the bulk of your party.**

The table is based on a spreadsheet that I built using the formulas found here: http://www.geocities.com/bside_ffxi/index.html#exp, and using a NEXTlevel exp chart found here: http://ffvault.ign.com/?dir=guides&content=leveldata. These seem to be established formulas and exp charts, so my table data should be trustworthy. Again, the formulas work like this:

- If you are under level 51 and the party level range is 7 or less, then Formula #2 applies. This formula is based on values in the NEXTlevel chart that correspond to each player’s primary job..
- If the party level range is 8 or more, or if anyone in the party is greater than level 50, then Formula #1 applies instead. This formula is based only on the level of each player’s primary job.

#### Using The Table

The table contains four columns:

- The
**Lowest Level**column is the level of the**LOWEST-Level**player in the group - The
**10%****Penalty**column is the level range**UP**from the lowest-level player, if the lowest character wants to get 90% or better of the exp earned by the highest-level player for each party kill. - The
**15% Penalty**column is the level range**UP**from the lowest character if the lowest character wants to get 85% or better of the exp earned by the highest player. - The
**20% Penalty**column is the level range**UP**from the lowest character if the lowest character wants to get 80% or better of the exp earned by the highest player. - The
**25% Penalty**column is the level range**UP**from the lowest character if the lowest character wants to get 75% or better of the exp earned by the highest player.

The easiest way to apply this table to your party is this:

- Look at the lowest-level member who wants into your party.
- Determine what exp penalty the lowest member will find acceptable (10%, 15%, or 20%)
- Find that player’s level in the
**Lowest Level**column. - Look across to the
**10% Penalty**,**15% Penalty**,**20% Penalty**, or**25% Penalty**columns as appropriate. - Add the indicated value to the lowest player’s level. The result is the optimum highest level of the party.

**Example 1**: A party is forming, and they are all powergamers who will be satisfied with nothing more than a 10% exp penalty for the lowest-level player in the party. The lowest player is level 18. Looking in the 10% Penalty column, we see a value of 2, so the highest level player can be no more than level 20.

**Example 2**: A full mid-level party is out hunting, and their White Mage is about to log out for the night. A lowbie White Mage is in the vicinity with his LFG flag set. The party asks the lowbie mage to join them, but the low mage wants to know whether the exp penalty will be worth it to join the party. The highest level in the party is level 33. The lowbie White Mage is level 20, which would make for a party level range of 13. Looking across the columns for the **Lowest Level** value of **20**, we see that 13 is much larger than any of the listed values, so we know that the lowbie will take a greater than 20% exp penalty if he joins the party. (In fact, he would take a huge 40% penalty, but you have to know the formulas to calculate that.). The lowbie decides it’s better to wait for another group that is closer to his optimum level range.

Lowest Level |
10% Penalty | 15% Penalty | 20% Penalty | 25% Penalty |
---|---|---|---|---|

1 |
0 | 0 | 0 | 0 |

2 |
0 | 0 | 0 | 0 |

3 |
0 | 0 | 1 | 1 |

4 |
0 | 0 | 1 | 1 |

5 |
0 | 1 | 1 | 1 |

6 |
0 | 1 | 1 | 2 |

7 |
1 | 1 | 2 | 2 |

8 |
1 | 1 | 2 | 2 |

9 |
1 | 2 | 3 | 3 |

10 |
1 | 2 | 3 | 3 |

11 |
1 | 2 | 3 | 3 |

12 |
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

13 |
1 | 2 | 4 | 4 |

14 |
1 | 3 | 4 | 4 |

15 |
2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

16 |
2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

17 |
2 | 3 | 5 | 5 |

18 |
2 | 3 | 5 | 6 |

19 |
2 | 3 | 6 | 6 |

20 |
2 | 4 | 7 | 6 |

21 |
2 | 5 | 9 | 7 |

22 |
3 | 6 | 10 | 7 |

23 |
4 | 8 | 12 | 7 |

24 |
6 | 9 | 13 | 8 |

25 |
6 | 9 | 13 | 8 |

26 |
6 | 9 | 14 | 8 |

27 |
6 | 10 | 14 | 9 |

28 |
6 | 10 | 14 | 9 |

29 |
6 | 10 | 14 | 9 |

30 |
6 | 10 | 15 | 10 |

31 |
6 | 10 | 15 | 10 |

32 |
6 | 10 | 15 | 10 |

33 |
7 | 11 | 15 | 11 |

34 |
7 | 11 | 16 | 11 |

35 |
7 | 11 | 15 | 11 |

36 |
7 | 11 | 14 | 12 |

37 |
7 | 11 | 13 | 12 |

38 |
7 | 12 | 12 | 12 |

39 |
7 | 11 | 11 | 13 |

40 |
7 | 10 | 10 | 13 |

41 |
7 | 9 | 10 | 13 |

42 |
8 | 8 | 10 | 14 |

43 |
7 | 7 | 10 | 14 |

44 |
6 | 7 | 11 | 14 |

45 |
5 | 7 | 11 | 15 |

46 |
5 | 8 | 11 | 15 |

47 |
5 | 8 | 11 | 15 |

48 |
5 | 8 | 12 | 16 |

49 |
5 | 8 | 12 | 16 |

50 |
5 | 8 | 12 | 16 |

51 |
5 | 9 | 12 | 17 |

52 |
5 | 9 | 13 | 17 |

53 |
5 | 9 | 13 | 17 |

54 |
6 | 9 | 13 | 18 |

55 |
6 | 9 | 13 | 18 |

56 |
6 | 9 | 14 | 18 |

57 |
6 | 10 | 14 | 19 |

58 |
6 | 10 | 14 | 19 |

59 |
6 | 10 | 14 | 19 |

60 |
6 | 10 | 15 | 20 |

61 |
6 | 10 | 15 | 20 |

62 |
6 | 10 | 15 | 20 |

63 |
7 | 11 | 15 | 21 |

64 |
7 | 11 | 16 | 21 |

65 |
7 | 11 | 16 | 21 |

66 |
7 | 11 | 16 | 22 |

67 |
7 | 11 | 16 | 22 |

68 |
7 | 12 | 17 | 22 |

69 |
7 | 12 | 17 | 23 |

70 |
7 | 12 | 17 | 23 |

71 |
7 | 12 | 17 | 23 |

72 |
8 | 12 | 18 | 24 |

73 |
8 | 12 | 18 | 24 |

74 |
8 | 13 | 18 | 24 |

75 |
8 | 13 | 18 | 25 |

76 |
8 | 13 | 19 | 25 |

77 |
8 | 13 | 19 | 25 |

78 |
8 | 13 | 19 | 26 |

79 |
8 | 13 | 19 | 26 |

80 |
8 | 14 | 20 | 26 |