Every match you receive Experience Points (XP) and Influence Points (IP), the amount is depending on how long the match lasted, if you won or lost and if you had an active IP/XP boost. As soon as you have enough XP you level up and receive a mastery point and an additional rune space. With IP you can buy new runes and champions in the shop.
You start at level 1, the maximum summoner level is 30. Every level up you receive a mastery point which is used for buffing your champion ingame (like additional attack damage or armor). Furthermore you can buy runes with IP which have a similar effect. In one match you can use up to 30 runes (at level 30) but you can also change the runes after the match if you want to play another champion.
The last way how you as summoner have influence on your champion are the 2 summoner spells everyone chooses before the match. Those are abilities which are not connected to the champion you play and can be used at any time, for example a teleport or a heal.
To clarify this issue: Summoner = your account, Champion = the character you choose for the battle
The buffs don’t make that much of a difference but they add up and it would be pretty unfair if a player with level 30, 30 mastery points and runes would play against a beginner with level 1, no runes and 1 mastery point (not to mention the difference concerning gaming skills). That’s the reason why the system puts preferably players of a similar level together in one match. Unfortunately you can’t be sure about that because if a high level player starts a game together with a low level friend the system averages out. In this case it can happen that you have to play versus enemies with a much higher level. That’s uncool but can’t be avoided.
Riot Points (real money) Somehow Riot Games has to make money. Because of that you can buy so called “Riot Points” with real money. Those you can spend in the shop for champions, skins and other fancy stuff. Pretty much the only things you can EXCLUSIVELY buy with Riot Points and not also with Influence Points are skins (alternative looks for your champions). This means that someone who spends money for Riot Points doesn’t have the slightest advantage over someone who plays LoL for free!
To clarify again: Riot Points = bought with real money, can be spent in the shop, Influence Points = gained by playing, can be spent in the shop (not for Skins or IP/XP boosts)
LoL vs. DotA
Now that I have explained the game concept I will point out the differences between LoL and DotA:
1. There is NO “denying” (killing own minions so that the enemy can’t get gold or experience for them). This is a real change but I actually like it because it makes the game less passive (and to be honest how sick do you have to be to kill yur own soldiers?! 롤듀오)
2. Like already mentioned above the player himself (summoner) can also level up and get different buffs for his champions. Nice gimmick.
3. In my opinion cooldowns and manacosts are shorter/cheaper than in DotA which also leads to a more aggressive playstyle, especially in the early phase of the match.
Overall I still like to play DotA now and then because it’s just awesome but I have to say that LoL is a worthy successor, doing several things better. This is no surprise since DotA is limited to the WC 3 engine.
Advices gained in practice
I am no “pro gamer” but I play for nearly 2 years so here are some advices which shall make the start easier for you:
1. There are three tiers of runes. The first one is available right from the start, the seconds one as soon as you reach level 10 and the third one when you reach level 20. It’s pretty much waste to buy tier 1 or 2 runes since you will reach level 20 fast and there is no way to sell runes. So better only play the free champions in the beginning and save your IP for runes. If you have enough IP for buying at least one complete tier 3 rune page you can go on and buy some more champions you would like to play. You should keep in mind that it is not possible to sell champions so it would be better if you tested the champion first (e.g. when he is among the weekly free champions) to avoid disappointments.
2. Since LoL is free to play there are also some annoying fellows around. Fortunately there is a “mute”-function which makes them shut up. So don’t join their flame war if you encounter them – just mute them and go on playing in peace and harmony! The best option is to play with friends but that’s not always possible. /mute saved my life a Thousand times!
3. As long as you are new it is good to buy the recommended items for every champion. Later when you are more experienced and want to test new item builds or tactics you can find very good guides to every champion on MOBAFIRE.COM and LEAGUECRAFT.COM. I always visit them before I try out a new champion. As soon as you feel comfortable and self assured you can also visit the numerous streamers and watch how the pros are playing. I wouldn’t do it before level 30 though.
4. Nowadays many experienced players have smurf accounts. This means that you often meet enemies at your level who are far more experienced than you and kill you with ease. That is very annoying but once you are past level 5 the smurfs become less. And remember: if someone flames you, mute him, don’t give a **** and move along.
5. I strongly suggest playing the tutorial and the battle training to everybody since the basic tactics are explained there pretty well (even DotA veterans should play the battle training).
Reading this wall of text everything sounds fairly complicated. It is not! After a few games you see how the wind blows and improve step by step. Just don’t be mad if you get spanked hard in the first matches. Everyone was when he was new! And people who tell you something else or flame you because you are a newbie are just dumb and should be muted.
There is a reason why the LoL playerbase grows exponentially (leading to heavy server issues which are fortunately solved now). The game is just pure fun, the best option is to play with friends via Skype/TS, but playing solo can also be very nice. I hope I could familiarize you a bit with the game and perhaps whet your appetite. Maybe we see us in the battlegrounds soon!