Grinding is the act of doing something repetitively, such as killing monsters or working up a trade skill. If one is grinding their levels, it usually refers to killing massive amounts of creeps. If one is grinding for reputation, they may be collecting items for repeatable quests for a particular faction.
In older MMORPGs, such as EverQuest, grinding was the primary way to advance your character's level. The quest system was very underdeveloped, as opposed to the quest system in World of Warcraft. This is one of the reasons that World of Warcraft has received much praise, as the game has less of a treadmill feeling than its predecessors. The terms is context-sensitive, however, and several other activities may be referred to as grinding:
- Grinding does have some advantages over questing. If one chooses to ignore quests for the most part, or even entirely, they can farm useful or profitable items more quickly, including rare world drops which they may either use or sell for large amounts of gold. Level-grinding through mob kills is an option where questing is unpleasant or slow, particularly when the player has leveled several alts through the same zones.
- Since gathering professions usually offer a better income at low levels, many players start with some combinaion of Mining, Skinning, and Herbalism. Near the level cap, however, production professions may provide a greater income. When a character changes professions, he or she must start over from skill level 1, even if the character previously knew that profession. The common solution to this problem is profession grinding; the player buys or gathers a large amount of materials, then produces dozens or hundreds of items for skill-ups. The player can either sell the products, often at a loss, or bank them for low-level alts to use. Since many crafting professions give a lower-level player access to better gear than he or she would normally have at that level, profession grinding is also popular with alts who wish to accelerate the leveling process, or twinks looking for an edge against their opponents.
- Grinding reputation with some factions yields substantial rewards (especially with the advent of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade) such as Timbermaw Hold or the Scryers. In subsequent expansions (Wrath and Cataclysm), reputation grinding (either through daily quests or through championing) offers players the opportunity to buy weapons, armor, or enchantments suitable for early Heroic dungeons or raids.
- "Dungeon grinding" generally refers to running through the same dungeon repeatedly, either to gain experience as an alternative to questing, or to have a chance at winning a specific piece of loot. For high-level characters, this may be a specific weapon or piece of armor, but several dungeon bosses drop mounts or other interesting items that appeal to collectors. and are two such rewards with frustratingly low drop rates. An alternative definition is to run a variety of dungeons one after the other, such as repeatedly queueing in Dungeon Finder to collect Justice and Valor points.
- Generally referred to as questing, this term often carries a negative connotation when used by those who prefer other play styles. The term was more applicable before the Shattering, when a large number of quests were only slight variations on "Kill eight harpies" or "Collect six bear hides".
- Before going out to grind levels, make sure that you know what you are going to kill. For example, dense crowds of low-level mobs may actually give more experience per time than a powerful single mob, especially for classes with strong AoE abilities.
- Grinding in a party may lower the amount of progress or loot any one player makes per fight, but also makes those fights much quicker.
- Two grinders need not have conflicting interests. For example, players often allow skinners to tailgate them because they take 'loot' the player cannot use, while the skinner reciprocates by helping in fights (once the original player tags a mob) while not reducing the amount of xp the original player gets. This is especially useful with large level disparities which would severely reduce the amount of experience a character may get if partied.
- Make sure you stock up on restorative items and ammunition to reduce backtracking and overall downtime.
- Know where to find a vendor so you can periodically sell junk.
- Keep in mind that being rested doubles the experience for killing a monster.
- When grinding reputation from kills (as opposed to from drops), you get the same amount of reputation per kill regardless of how many players are in your party. Because of this, it is faster to grind kill reputation in groups.
- Farming: The act of gathering items for use or resale, often through repetitious activities like the above.