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I'm not very far into Disgaea yet. I've only made it to Map 1-4: Hall of Caresses, and the mid-boss keeps beating me there. I figured it's because I just bought my first new characters (3 of them, a healer, a red skull, and a brawler) and they're all only level 1. They keep getting one-shotted and die. The ranged enemies seem to specifically seek them out.

My thought was that I should go back to the previous map, Map 1-3: Corridor of Love and try leveling them up there. This walkthrough seems to support the idea that it's a good spot to level characters up to level 5.

However, the problem I'm having is that I don't fully understand how experience gain works. It appears that I only get experience by doing damage, or maybe even just for killing blows. So my plan of bringing my level 1 newbies onto the map while my level 5s ran around and killed everything ended up not working, as none of the newbies leveled. I had the level 1 healer following them around and healing, but the act of healing also doesn't seem to grant experience (or if it does, very little, as she's still level 1 too after burning off all her spell points on heals). So I tried the map again, this time attempting to get the newbies into the fight, but just like in the Hall of Caresses, they keep getting one-shotted and die.

This seems like a problem that's only going to get worse as I get further into the game. I'm hoping I have more options than just sticking them on the easiest map possible and building my way up from there. That seems like it will drive me nuts if I keep having to play the tutorial maps whenever I create a new character, and I'm hoping there are better options.

What exactly governs when characters earn experience points, and what's a good strategy for leveling up new characters?

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Realize that, in general with this series (and all the tactical RPGs from Nippon Ichi) - if you're not grinding, you're doing it wrong. – agent86 Mar 30 '12 at 14:39
@agent86 actually early on in Disgaea games grinding isn't very necessary. It's only after you "beat the game" will you need to do much grinding except for the odd item world trip – Ben Brocka Mar 30 '12 at 14:45
@BenBrocka, I would say when compared to other RPG series where you can generally expect to just play the story mode straight through and have little trouble, the NI TRPGs tend to be far more grindy, even discounting the optional post-story levels. That's my personal experience, however, and yours may have varied :) – agent86 Mar 30 '12 at 15:04
@agent86 I wouldn't say it's level of grinding is out of whack for any form of JRPG really. I don't remember ever going out of my way to level in D 2/3/4 either. – Ben Brocka Mar 30 '12 at 15:11
As long as you stick to only a few units you won't need to grind for the story missions. And one more thing to add, if you are playing this on the DS version, it may be beneficial to lose to the mid boss on your first run, this allows you to do a new game+ and grab pleinar next time, she is pretty awesome as her speed stat is insane and cause almost everything to miss her. – l I Mar 30 '12 at 21:34
up vote 5 down vote accepted

edit I just realized that the rest of what I wrote only applies as you go much deeper into the game and you are just starting out.

Early on, the only way to get experience is to grind some levels. If the monsters don't give too much experience, throw some of them and combine them before finishing them off with your main character (Laharl) so he levels up faster. Try to save up your money and boost your customer rankings a bit and then pass a few 'more expensive items' bills to buy a good weapon to facilitate this. Bribe senators with really cheap stuff to assist in that area.

General early on tips:

  • Use only a few units so they gain more experience and weapon skills.
  • Toss enemies together to make them tougher, but not so tough that they wipe your party.
  • Make ample use of the geo squares if its available, a lot of the early on levels is very obvious how you should position your units to gain the maximum benefit.
  • Save up the money to buy better items once you pass a few 'more expensive items' bills.
  • Don't make too many pupils, though a mage and cleric is handy. Laharl and Etna should be used to kill most of the enemies.
  • Don't be afraid to replay some of the levels to gain more experience.

Late game stuff:

There are only two ways to gain experience in Disgaea:

  1. Deal the finishing blow OR be a part of a team attack that kills a unit.
  2. Gain it as experience reward at the end of a map.

Method 1:

I've found the best way to level up characters is through team attacks when paired up with a really strong ally. There are several ways to bump up the chances of a team attack:

  • Pupils are more likely to perform a team attack with their teacher.
  • Units using the same weapon type will gain a bonus chance to team attack.

Instead of grinding the lower levels, you can quickly boost a character to 100+ or more by having them join an attack on a high level enemy, once they're past the hump, they can start doing their own killing by giving them an exceptional weapon (like a level 100 Yoshi).

Another thing you can try is to combine all the enemies on maps with all invincibility squares (map 5-3 is perfect for this), and slowly wittle the high level enemy down.

Method 2:

This mostly works on item world levels due to ease of geo chaining. Find a map with a lot of +xp bonus (high end item worlds can give up to 100-250k or more experience as xp reward, if there's a few of them your character can easily earn 1 million experience at the end of the level).

Make sure you always have a scout that can geo change in your party when visiting an item world. This way, you can either a) do two geo chains by completing one, then using geo chain to create more colors, or b) do a geo chain on a map with no geo squares.

Find a map with lots of experience boost bonuses, then finish all enemies except one, then bring out all your low level characters, and then proceed to beat the level, they'll all gain the bonus experience.

Final Tips

Don't forget to equip statistician items on your low level character. Even though the max bonus per stack is 300, you can equip multiple stacks of them on one character for a LOT of experience boost.

Disgaea is a game involving a LOT OF grinding. If this isn't up your alley, then I'd suggest sticking to just a bare minimum number of characters rather than spreading out the experience, that way they'll always be rather over leveled and make the game much easier.

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This is good general advice, but isn't going to help someone with levels in the tens. Good post-game tips . – Ben Brocka Mar 30 '12 at 14:39

You only gain experience from killing enemies or from end of level bonuses which give XP (don't worry about the latter). Your new characters are going to have to kill targets to get the XP.

How do your level 1 characters kill anything? Weapons. Disgaea has no limit on what "level" of weapons a character can equip; you can equip a level 100 Yoshitsuna (best sword in the game) to a level one character. Give your best weapons to a level one character and find the strongest thing you can kill with that weapon + a level one character is.

You don't have to stick to the easiest map, with a good weapon you can kill level 9999 monsters with one strike from a level 1 character. What you need to do is focus on making sure you have a strong Sword; swords have a 3x3 AoE that's great for leveling.

As for what maps are good to level on I don't recall, I didn't grind much at low levels. Late level, you're going to be grinding at Cave of Ordeals 3 but that's post-game stuff. Just find the map with enemies you can kill in one hit.

After your level 1 character kills an enemy Lift them with another character. This will keep monsters from killing the character you're leveling and give them the turns they need to kill everything.

Remember that you can use the Item World to level up a good weapon to make it even better (and thus expand your leveling abilities). Buy one of the best swords you can afford and get it to level 10 (or even 30) quick to help in your grinding.

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