Dynamic level adjustment
Dynamic level adjustment adjusts a character's attributes and level based on the area they are in, either reducing them to match their current area in PvE, or increasing their attributes and levels (typically to 80) in WvW or Structured PvP. For example, in PvE, a character with an actual level of 50 in a level 10 area will have their attributes reduced to an "effective level" equal to a level 11 character (maximum level for the area +1). The effective level is shown as a green number next to a downwards arrow and the actual level on the experience bar and is stated under the actual level on the hero panel. Changes to attributes are also seen on the hero panel in green. Unaltered values for an attribute can be seen when hovering the mouse over that attribute.
Player versus environment
In PvE a character's effective level and attributes are automatically reduced based on level themed sectors within the given zone. For example, a character in the Venlin Vale area of Brisban Wildlands will be lower level than a player in the Koga Ruins area of the same zone. Although skills and equipment (runes and sigils particularly) are retained, zones should still be challenging to play.
The benefits of this are:
- High level characters are prevented from killing enemies too easily and depriving low level characters of rewards.
- Lower level content doesn't become obsolete, and remains adequately challenging, even after a character has out-leveled an area.
A scaled down character continues to receive experience and loot that is comparable to what they would receive at their real level, though it is still somewhat less efficient for obtaining experience and items than playing level-appropriate content.
This system also works in dungeons. If a character's level is higher than the effective level of a dungeon, the character will be scaled down to the appropriate effective level of the dungeon, including level differences between story and explorable modes. Dungeons do not scale characters of lower levels up to the dungeon's required or maximum level.
In some areas such as Fractals of the Mists, players have their effective level scaled up to 80. Some other areas such as the Super Adventure Box use a mechanic that effectively removes the effect of a player's level.
Note that in general, a player with a higher "real" level will still be considerably more effective than a player with a lower "real" level, even if they are scaled to the same effective level, primarily due to the increased Traits and Skills available.
World versus world
In WvW, characters have their effective level boosted to 80 but do not receive any new abilities or gear (though they may still gain levels and new gear as normal while boosted). Therefore by equalizing their effective level, the disparity in power is somewhat reduced but higher level characters will still be more powerful than lower level characters due to their higher level gear and wider range of Traits and Skills. Any levels gained through experience earned in WvW are kept normally, and it is possible for a player to level up to 80 entirely within WvW.
- Primary article: Structured PvP
All players are scaled to level 80 and have a separate set of traits, items, and skills. All skills and traits that scale to level will scale to level 80. As a result, a level 1 player will be on the same playing field as a level 80 character.
- Because scaling affects stats multiplicatively, an adequately geared character that is not downscaled can be more powerful than a higher level character with underleveled gear (discounting quality).
- In some rare cases, highly different level sectors within a zone run close enough together that monsters higher level than intended can be encountered by lower scaled players. A safe example of this exists in Brisban Wildlands, in the pass running NW from Venlin Vale to Koga Ruins. Along the pass are docile level 24 fireflies. Players walking from Venlin Vale are downscaled to 17 and the scale line to bring the player up to 25 runs right in front of the closest firefly spawn. An NPC warns players as they pass that the area beyond is dangerous, but an unobservant player could still easily attack one of these threats while still at a much lower level.
- The reverse case occurs in Lake Adorea near the cave tunnel to the Igni Castrum POI: the Flame Legion Charr and Embers are level 7 but players are still level 12.
- In early beta builds, a character's effective level could be increased by joining a party with a higher level character, and the feature was called sidekicking. This was removed long before release and dynamic level adjustment now only scales characters down in level in open world, while all players are scaled to the appropriate level while in an instance.