The game consists of 3 current running game modes: Summoner’s Rift, Twisted Treeline, and Howling Abyss. Players compete in matches, lasting anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes on average. In each game mode teams work together to achieve a victory condition, typically destroying the core building (called the Nexus) in the enemy team’s base after bypassing a line of defensive structures called turrets, or towers.
In all game modes, players control characters called champions, chosen or assigned every match, who each have a set of unique abilities that determine their playstyle – one passive, or innate, ability that cannot be activated and thus gives a perpetual bonus or effect, three normal, or ‘basic’, abilities, and a powerful ‘ultimate’ ability that can only be unlocked once the character reaches level 6. Ultimate abilities are vastly more powerful than regular abilities and thus have much longer cooldowns (period of time before they can be used again). A champion’s full set of abilities is referred to as its ‘kit’. The use of champions’ abilities is limited by cooldowns and a resource (usually some form of mana or energy). If a champion runs out of their resource, they cannot cast spells, even if they are off cooldown, and must wait for it to regenerate. Some champions do not have a resource, being limited only by cooldowns, and others have ways of restoring their respective resource. Each champion also has an ‘auto’ or ‘basic attack’ in which they deal damage to the target unit within range simply by right-clicking them, with no cost – some champions are melee and have to be closer to use their basic attack, while others are ranged, although to compensate melee champions are usually more durable. The rate at which a champion can basic attack is determined by their attack speed, a stat that can be improved through items. Some champions additionally use ammo and must reload after enacting a certain number of basic attacks. Champions begin every match at level one, and then gain experience over the course of the match to achieve a maximum level of 18. Gaining champion levels in matches allows players to unlock their champion’s special abilities and augment them in a number of ways unique to each character. If a champion loses all their health, they are defeated, but are automatically revived in their base after a ‘respawn timer’ ends – the timer increases in duration as the game goes on. Players also begin each match with a low amount of gold, and can earn additional gold throughout the match in a variety of ways: by killing non-player characters known as minions and monsters; by killing or helping to kill enemy players; by destroying enemy structures; passively over time; and through unique item interactions or champion abilities. This gold can then be spent throughout the match to buy in-game items that further augment each champion’s abilities and game play in a variety of ways. Champion experience, gold earned, and items bought are specific to each match and do not carry over to subsequent matches. Thus, all players begin each match on more-or-less equal footing relative to their opposing team.
Across matches, players also earn rewards that are applied to their account. Player accounts begin at level one and progress through a maximum level of 30 with experience points earned at the end of every match. As a player progresses they unlock content initially barred to new players. These include ‘summoner spells’ – high-impact, long cooldown spells with a specific use. Any champion can choose to equip two or eleven summoner spells before a game – some summoner spells are unique to certain game modes and some have been removed over the game’s history. Players can also customize Rune pages. Runes grant their champion small, perpetual bonuses to stats, and can be gained through spending ‘Influence Points'(ip) which is granted by playing. Ip can be used to unlock both Runes and new champions. Additionally, players can unlock masteries, which grant unique bonuses not necessarily tied to stats, as Runes are. Some masteries, called ‘keystones’, are much more powerful than others and only one can be selected per game, with certain champions synergizing more with certain keystones. Player level is separate from character level; both a level 30 account and a level 5 account would begin at character level 1 at the start of a new game.
Accounts are given rankings based on the Elo rating system, with proprietary adjustments. These ratings are used in automated matchmaking to make games with players of comparable skill level on each team.