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How To Choose A Game Mode? - Path of Exile Beginners Guide

Mar 28, 2023

In this article, I’m going to cover all the game modes who they’re right for and what you should be playing as a beginner. 

When you log in and click create you get presented with a screen that looks like this and this is a lot of options to choose from, but we can make the screen look like this and it will be exactly the same, only simpler.

POE different options at the beginning


So, your first choice: Standard or Challenge League. Standard just happens to be the league where all my characters go to die. I never play them again. There are some exceptions, but that’s only really to retest or build in a new league. Standard is the persistent game mode. In this mode, you never lose anything. It just accumulates forever. 

Challenge Leagues

Challenge Leagues on the other hand, last for around three months. So, once they’re done, everything will end up in Standard and then shortly thereafter another Challenge League will pop up in his place. Challenge Leagues are a great place to test out your new characters in a fresh economy. As a new player, there’s no reason you should pick Standard because if you play the Challenge League once it ends, it ends up in Standard, anyway.

Next, we can go over the three toggles. These are Solo Self-Found, otherwise known as SSF, Hardcore and Ruthless. But first, the absence of toggles, this is also known as Soft Core Trade League. In this mode, you can trade with other players, party with them and even set up guilds. This is, of course, the easiest of all possible game modes.

Solo Self-Found

Onto Solo Self-Found now and this is really easy to explain. You’re on your own. You can’t set up guilds. You can’t play with other players. You can’t trade with them. This game mode is right for you if one of the following applies:

1. You like foraging or fending for yourself or maybe you’re good at other ARPGs and you want a bigger challenge.

2. You hate people in general.

3. You hate the shambles that is a Path of Exile trade system or the lack of it.

4. You’re practicing a league starter and so want something completely fresh.

Characters in Solo Self-Found can be transferred to the parent league with a touch of a button. So, you can change your mind if you’ve made the wrong choice. 


Hardcore, in this mode you have one life from one life. Only once you die your character will transfer straight to Standard. This game mode is for people who like abusing the system and logging out frequently to avoid death. 

This is actually how I started my Path of Exile journey and it was a terrible mistake because I’m terrible at dodging bosses. I wouldn’t suggest starting in this mode even if you’re a pro at other ARPGs and that’s because you really need to learn the boss mechanics to avoid dying.


And lastly, we have Ruthless but something to mention first. These toggles are not mutually exclusive live, so you can play Hardcore Solo Self-Found or Hardcore Ruthless and you’ll normally see this described as HCSSF. If you see that in a build guide, it means it’s suitable for that kind of gameplay.

POE Hardcore Ruthless

There is only one kind of person in this world that will play Ruthless. You kind of have to like pain in huge quantities to want to play Ruthless. In Ruthless, you can’t buy support gems from vendors. You don’t get a free one in the Twilight Strand and you also can’t buy normal gems from vendors either, only get them as quest rewards.

Now, as a new player, this probably doesn’t mean much to you right now. But as a general hint, they’re the way that you actually build the powers onto your characters.

POE Twilight Strand

Also, in this mode, everything you buy from a vendor is so overpriced that when you first get to town, unless you’ve been exceptionally lucky, you won’t be able to buy anything at all.

In addition to this, the drop rates of everything have been reduced massively. The chance of dropping POE Currency is probably about as likely as you winning the lottery.

In addition to all this evil, you also don’t get your flask refilled when you go back to town and you can’t get a movement skill. Also, you only get scroll shards for selling blue items Unidentified, which is a bit crappy. 

And if you happen to mix the Hardcore and Ruthless buttons, then you’ll have a problem. When you die you don’t go back to Standards, your character is simply deleted. Although depending on how you feel about cleaning up Standards, this might actually be a benefit.

The best thing to remember when playing Hardcore or any derivation of it is that your stash becomes a great part of your progression. Things that you put in your stash before you die are passed on to the next character that you start in that mode.


Next: Are We Getting Archmage or Mana Buffs In The Incoming POE 3.21?
Previous: Thoughts On Chaos Orb And Trade Quality Of Life In Path Of Exile 3.21
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