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First, definitions, just to be clear:

Underleveled: The state of being substantially lower level than the lowest level quest you have. This situation makes it difficult to complete your quests because you struggle to defeat regular groups of enemies, and are very likely to lose (often, repeatedly) to a strong or boss enemy at the end of the quest.

Overleveled: The state of being substantially higher level than the highest level quest you have. Most players consider this a good thing: quests are easier to complete because you are more likely to resist/parry/deflect attacks, and your attacks are more likely to affect the enemy. You also have better gear and abilities than a lower level person. The only possible downside is reduced challenge when completing solo quests, but Heroics, Raids and PvP are still just as challenging as ever.

I personally am a subscriber, and benefit from Rest XP, plus all the other perks of being a subscriber, so I am overleveled.

But I notice that almost all of my friends who are Free to Play (F2P) become so underleveled that they can't even beat a solo side quest. Sure, they might be able to clear out the groups of standard / weak mobs, but they inevitably die to some boss/champion/whatever at the end of the quest. It happens over and over again, and they ask for help when they can't beat it. And it's not just a few people: almost every F2P player I know of experiences this burn.

What advice should I give them so that they can safely gain XP and become at least "right-leveled" (the same level as the class quests and side quests they're attempting)? Note that in almost all cases, these underleveled individuals are completing all the side quests and heroics as they go. But they simply don't have the resources to buy XP boosts or subscribe, so they can't get Rest XP, etc.

I am already sort of aware of the following possibilities, but I wanted to know if there are other things they should be doing:

  • PvP as many times as they can per week until the system won't let them do it any more
  • Run dailies (flashpoints) as many times as they can until the system won't let them
  • Get into groups with other underleveled people and complete quests together
  • Repeat heroics several times (can F2Pers do this? I honestly don't know.)
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2 Answers

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I just recently started playing SWTOR as a F2P player. My experience so far has shown that as long as I complete all the side quests and heroics, I am usually a level or two higher than my current quests. Not much, to be sure, but it's enough to give me the edge I need, and I play a tank Jedi Guardian, solo except for the Heroics.

I don't PvP at all, so that's definitely not it. I run the Flashpoints once, mostly to see the content, but that's definitely a good way to pick up good gear if they run it multiple times when they're eligible for it. F2P players CAN do the heroics multiple times, so if they don't mind grouping, that would also be a good way to gain experience and potential gear upgrades.

If your friends are unable to beat a boss at the end of a sidequest, that means they may be focusing on the wrong aspects of a fight, or bringing the wrong companion with them to complement their playstyle.

They should also be keeping up with their equipment; quest rewards are important to keep you at the proper power level, and spend those commendations before you leave the planet entirely. Modded gear has a bit more complexity, but make sure your armoring, and hilt/barrels are the best you can get; they're what determine armor and damage.

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Subs have a 25% exp bonus since F2P came out; F2P players get the intended/normal experience gains. So no F2Per should be underleveled unless they are skipping a lot of content. I leveled my main before F2P and skipped all FPs and PvP, just did quests and Space, and was always ahead of the level curve. –  Matthew Read Jan 24 '13 at 14:58
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Oh, so it's not that F2P gets reduced XP, like the game keeps telling me, but that subs get a bonus to XP. Good to know, didn't know that. –  Frank Jan 24 '13 at 15:00
    
Yeah they made it confusing that way. –  Matthew Read Jan 24 '13 at 15:01
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I also started casually (2-3 hours a day during weekdays, maybe 5 or more during weekends) playing as F2P for about 2 months now and so far I have a Level 50 Sith Juggernaut with Columi Gear (bought an artifact authorization for a very cheap price in GTN), gearing towards BH/Rakata and a Level 32 Republic Commando.

Anyways, so far here is what I think the best way to maximize leveling up as a F2P player in SWTOR

  1. As @fbueckert said, side quests are really helpful in gaining that extra 1 or 2 levels above your current main class quests. In addition to that, some of the side quests' stories in itself are sometimes interesting so I don't mind doing them

  2. As much as possible do the bonus objectives on quests as they give some extra useful exp

  3. Try to get all the quests on a single area as chances are some of the side quest objectives reside very close to the area to which your main class quest objectives are located

  4. Try grouping with other people in the same planet. Not only are you able to do HEROIC quests which gives a ton of exp and some good gear, but you can also do main/side quests faster since a group's kills/gathers are counted as one therefore you will be able to do objectives faster. On a side note, avoid doing Heroics and Area Quests on your own, not only is this very hard, but this will cost more time and therefore will slow you down your leveling significantly

  5. Do daily Flashpoint and PVP quests. These can be found on the fleet on the Supplies and Combat Training sections respectively and these gives a ton of exp.

  6. If you have extra credits, level up your legacy perks in order to boost experience in the following subcategories

    A. Class Quest Experience

    B. Warzone Experience

    C. Space Mission Experience

    If you're asking what about Exploration Experience and Flashpoint Experience, well exploration really gives just a little bit of exp and will only be good for the first times that you explore places. Flashpoints on the other hand takes longer to do especially if you are grouped with less experienced people (one FP tends to last anywhere from 20 mins to 1 hour). I really suggest spamming flashpoints on the endgame where good gears drops from there, and not while leveling. Only do FPs for the sake of the daily rewards.

  7. Save up some credits to buy yourself Major Experience Boosts on the GTN. This gives you a 25% exp boost on everything you do that gives exp for 3 hours and this is maintained even if your character dies or if you logout! These typically costs anywhere between 10-40k credits but it is really worth it. On the other hand do not buy specific exp boosts (warzone/FP/Class/Space Missions) as these will not stack and the overall credit cost for these is far more expensive than the generic major experience boost.

  8. If groups for Heroics and main/side quests are not available on the planet you are on, try going for PVP experience. This, in my personal experience is the fastest way to level up. You do not have to win the PVP matches in order to gain exp (but it does give you a very large extra for performing very well). A typical match only lasts between 10-20 mins, even faster depending on the warzone and gives huge exp. In order to spam this, I buy myself one of those weekly warzone passes on the GTN for an average of 80-100k credits. This gives me unlimitted warzone participation instead of just 5 per week!

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I disagree partially with 4. Grouping diminishes your experience gains so it shouldn't be used for content you can do solo (if experience gain is what you want). Heroics a few levels below you can also be done solo although they will get you less/no XP if you are too far ahead. –  Matthew Read Feb 4 '13 at 22:56
    
@MatthewRead You have a good point. But even with the diminishing exp, I think the gain loss ratio between experience gained via killing stuff and time to complete a task still outweighs doing it solo. In addition to that there is no diminishing return in getting experience from quest completion rewards in terms of submitting the quests to npcs. –  Avias Feb 5 '13 at 5:26
    
For example, Doing Quest A might take you around 30 mins to complete and get around 15k exp reward and 5k exp from killing mobs for a total of 20k exp for 30 mins. On the other hand doing this with a group might yield you 2k exp from killing but you will still get the constant 15k exp reward and you might be able to finish this with a group in around half the time resulting to 17k exp for 15 mins, as supposed to the original 20k exp for 30 mins –  Avias Feb 5 '13 at 5:30
    
At least I think there is no diminishing return on experience rewards on quests, only on killing mobs. This is still highly based on personal experience and I might be technically wrong about this –  Avias Feb 5 '13 at 5:33
    
Re: 7. XP boost are not stackable anymore. @Matthew Not less but 0 XP. A lvl30 char doing a lvl29 mission will gain 0 XP: they always need to do higher based level mission to gain at least some XP. The best way is if you do a Heroic, do it with a subscriber. Then he will gain half the exp at least. Now the Koriban, Hutta, Tantooine, etc Comms are now changed in to Planatary Comms. It's better to use them to upgrade your gear with better modifications for free so search those missions where you can earn them and do them as often as you can as long you have orange items. –  user50904 Jun 28 '13 at 1:34
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