Feeling a bit out of ideas for character concepts? Try archeology.
Take a quick look around! Ulduar is just the most obvious example, but there are ancient ruins and caves pretty much anywhere in Azeroth. Pretty much every single one of them has some sort of ruin/cave/haunted castle you could lose yourself in for fun and profit. For example, pretty much any area with a native NPC Troll population (Stranglethorn, Hinterlands…) is bound to have some ruined temple or other equally ancient structure to explore and/or pillage IC. Sure, you’ll probably have to content yourself with just going around mouldy caves for the first few levels (Westfall comes to mind, not a lot of archeology to do there…), but things get a lot more interesting after level 20. And even better: the Outland is a veritable gold mine for archaeological opportunities, what with all those remains of orcish and draenei civilization, and Northrend is pretty much all about the stuff, going all the way up to Ulduar!
And hey, just because the level 80s are already kicking Old Gods in the chin(s) in Northrend and doing their own IC research, don’t think you can’t have fun at the lower levels! Sure, Ulduar is all the rage now, but there’s still fun to be had while mowing down troggs and earthen down in Uldaman. Research is research, old digs can always be reopened and combed through for more useful information, even more if the dig site itself is hard to reach (think Maraudon) or otherwise in constant danger (Uldaman itself).
Of course, we’re using “Archeology” as a pretty wide gamut of stereotypes with very little to do with actual, real-life archeology. Even the least-adventurous types are generally more about SCIENCE! than actual, run-of-the-mill garden-variety Science. Since we’re talking fantastic fantasy here, there’s a lot of stuff to do in that field. It goes from Indiana Jones (pictured!) to Smithsonian Institute, so let’s go over some stereotypes and see how they apply to WoW:
THE DUNGEON CRAWLER
That’s the classic archaeologist in fantasy and action fiction: the Indiana Jones (or the Lara Croft nowadays). Boldly going where no one else’s been for the last thousand years or so, the Dungeon Crawler sneaks around and defeats ancient guardians to get to treasures and artifacts in the end of today’s dungeon, all with a lot of dirt on their still-stylish outfit. The most adventurous of the stereotypes we’ll present today, the Dungeon Crawler is the only one who will actively go after trouble instead of having trouble coming after him. A Dungeon Crawler is defined by his or her style.
A Dungeon Crawler’s motivation might be greed, fame, or simply the thrill of being (often generally) alone in the dark but always close to action. As a self-sufficient character, Warriors, Rogues and Hunters tend to make good DCs by class concept alone, and a dedicated DC will find something to do virtually everywhere zone in Azeroth. Every underground formation, abandoned fortress and ruin is a new opportunity to come up with new stories of how your character survived/outwitted his/her last encounter with huge living statues or packs of angry [insert mob name here].
While the Dungeon Crawler spends his time getting down’n'dirty with invariably ultra-territorial denizens of holes in the ground all over the world, the Scholars are the ones who actually get all the paperwork and researching done. Sounds boring? It isn’t. While the Scholar will probably never get too close to any dangerous digs unless with a few escorts and guides (read: grouped up, instancing or raiding), you can still be very creative when describing their (from wacky to feasible) theories over the events in the past. You can be mind-numbingly boring (“And so we learned that ::very long-winded explanation about the mating rituals of ancient trolls:: and that’s why they became extinct”) or very gripping and whimsical (“You see, this Associate of mine just sent me some new evidence from the Hellfire Peninsula digs! It’s astounding, the primitive Orcs seem to have developed a whole culture over the worship of a little black rock they called ‘Ka-Thoom’!”).
The main theme on the Scholar stereotype is knowledge, making it this one have Mage, Warlock and Priest written all over it. Regardless of it being knowledge for knowledge’s sake, for one’s own benefit (goes well with Warlocks researching demonic structures in Outland/Northrend), or for some higher purpose (like the Dwarves trying to learn about their origins). Above all, it’s a mostly social character (even if you’re using a gruff stereotype), and a great way to talk about things without actually having to go anywhere, great for lazy Guild Chat afternoons.
THE FIELD AGENT
So Dungeon Crawlers find and explore the digs, and the Scholars butt heads together until they come up with a good conclusion based on what they’ve been told and the items that have been sent to them. What’s the missing link in that chain? The Field Agents, the guys who actually get in there with the shovel and tools, and unearths the secrets swallowed by the sands of time. Sure, the Dungeon Crawlers do get to bring back some interesting souvenirs from their trips for the Scholars to drool over from time to time, but the brunt of the digging and exploration is made by the Field Agents. Whole groups of them are at work this very moment, bringing things from the past back to the surface all over Azeroth! From the digs in Loch Modan and the ruins in Echo Isles, and all the way up to Northrend, you’ll see Field Agents of all races and factions at work!
This concept is fairly simple: all your character has to do is to be good at keeping ancient items intact, and to like digging. Any other talents are optional extras, which will surely be needed at some point, given the exceptionally dangerous state of many of Azeroth’s ruins and potential archaeological sites! Find yourself a nice place to start with and dig away, just be careful not to unleash some ancient threat into the world. Again.
You know those Scholars up there? They need someone to boss around. See the Dungeon Crawlers? Sometimes they need someone to stand watch (or check for traps!) while they sneak around with style and grace. Who does that? The Assistants! The guys who carry all the heavy bags and manage the pots and pans for whoever they are currently working for. The Assistant sometimes doesn’t even do much archeology. Instead, they complement their partner’s skills. A mage who’s obsessed with the secrets of ancient elven magic would need an Assistant who’s good at managing the mage’s tower, resources, research and safety, think of a butler/bodyguard (Hello, Alfred!). Meanwhile, the most interesting and dashing Dungeon Crawlers tend to have at least one weak side to them, so the Assistant fills that up nicely. Be it cooking the meals and carrying the picks and shovels, or doing the actual asking-around-for-rumors-of-forsaken-places-filled-with-ancient-treasure-while-the-hero-drinks-his-butt-off-at-the-local-inn.
Conversely, the Assistant could be a trainee, someone who’s still learning the tricks of her master’s trade. Using the previous examples, you could have an apprentice warrior who, although lacking in arcane talent, is resourceful enough to be useful to her mage superior, or a young hunter learning the tricks of cave exploration from a grizzled old druid. That’s beauty of the Assistant concept: it’s really, really versatile. It all depends on who your character works for and what they need you to do! It’s also very easy to change from Assistant to something else. If you try something and it doesn’t work for you IC or OOC, it’s okay: it’s part of the entire concept that you could leave it at any time. On the other hand, it’s fairly easy to promote your character to something else. Started as an artifact hunter’s assistant? Well, you can become an artifact hunter yourself, eventually! Or, who knows? Maybe your character could become interested in ancient languages, from seeing all those runes and glyphs all over the place!
Also, being an Assistant gives you a great excuse to not to be somewhere (due to RL issues and so on). Even if your employer is a player character (which is uncommon but definitely funny), it’s easy to come up with feasible reasons for your character (not) to be somewhere at a given time. Maybe he had to sweep the tower, or something.
WRAPPING IT UP!
Of course, those are just the very basic concepts I could come up with in a couple hours. You can have just as must fun by creating with your own, or simply mixing things up (a Dungeon Crawler/Scholar would make for a pretty interesting Indiana Jones-type character). If you already have a character and want to try getting into the exciting world of Azerothian Archeology, it’s also very easy! Just start as an Assistant and work your way up! I think all classes, except maybe Druids, Paladins and Shamans, could fit in without hassle. Heck, even if you are one of those classes you’d probably be able to find a good reason that your character likes exploring moldy ruins (besides, you know, because Random NPC #438 told him to) or talking about said moldy ruins.
So, here’s your pick/whip/quill and notepad! Get out there and have fun!
DISCLAIMER: most of the numbers in this post have been created to help bring examples of the subject at hand, based on the author’s previous in-game experiences. Those numbers are meant to illustrate the examples and should not be taken literally.
I’ve asked that question around a little and heard a lot of knee-jerk reactions going: “What do you mean?! Not grouping is stupid!”. Right, I’ve probably sanitized the… ahem, colorful language often used by WoW players, but you get the drill. I agree, you pretty much have to group up to do some quests (unless you’re a Paladin/Hunter or some other really good soloing class/spec), and the whole endgame of both raiding and PvPing absolutely requires you to group up. So, what am I talking about? The whole of the early and mid-game: leveling.
It’s something I think it’s interesting: leveling in a group isn’t quite as profitable as going alone. Mind you, it still beats doing the grind on your own 90% of the time, but the XP penalty you get from killing enemies, specially when you’re being assisted by your guildmate’s Death Knight, might set you back a little. And that’s a lot more visible in the very early game.
As an altoholic, I’ve done the initial 1-20 quests and areas for each race at least twice. Goldshire-Elwynn-Westfall, Coldridge-Dun Morogh-Loch Modan, Valley of Trials-Durotar-(::shiiiver::)The Barrens, Deathknell-Tirisfal Glades-Silverpine… and all others. Done it all, wasted hours and hours of precious time leveling alts who’ll probably never see Level 80-dom. Sad, but true. And it was while doing those same quests over and over again that I starting to notice that the more help I had, both level-appropriate and from maxed-out guildies in Ulduar/Gladiator gear, the lower my level would be by the completion of a particular quest hub.
A particularly jarring example was when I was working on a human Paladin, after having just gotten a Warrior through that area solo. I had done all the quests in the exact same order from Goldshire to Westfall and Redridge (repetition brings perfection). Both characters did a couple instance runs and were carrying gear looted from the Deadmines, as well, with the Paladin being run through and the Warrior tanking it for a semi-underleveled group (max level 20, min 15). The only effective difference between them was the fact that I’d pulled the Warrior through that area by myself (downed Hogger on the first try, gotta love Fire Festival buffs), and the Paladin had the help of a really nice guildmate who was bored enough to help me with yet another alt, and he always grouped up when he had the chance. By the end of it all, the Paladin was level 22 by the end of the run, and the Warrior was level 25.
That’s three levels of difference. Sure, they’re early-ish levels where you need a lot less XP to get around, and there are probably other factors at work here, but I’m fairly sure the XP the Paladin didn’t get from killing mobs due to being grouped with at least two more people/a much higher-level character must be of some importance to this situation. Now I’m wondering what sort of XP/level hit would a player who only quests while being grouped up would take all over his 1-80 career, when compared to a full-on soloer doing exactly the same quests.
Here’s my reasoning. For example, if you’re to get 2000 XP from completing a quest that asks you to kill 10 Murlocs that give you 50xp each, by the end of it all you’ll be up at least 2500 XP (2000 reward, 10×50 Murloc). If you group up, with someone near your level, those same Murlocs could be giving you only 40 XP a piece, and in the end you’ll be only getting 2400 XP from that quest. That doesn’t seem like much, but it does add up over time. Things get even more interesting when you’re going after mobs with low drop rates on quest items (such as the cultists in northern Darkshore). Since you could literally be killing dozens of mobs before the required item drops, each one of them giving you XP, you could very well have gotten more XP from just gathering the items than from turning the quest over. In our previous example, if you had to get 10 Murloc Heads at a 10% drop-rate (and so is born the Legend of the Headless Murloc!), you would on average have to kill 100 Murlocs for it. That’d give you a grand total of 7000 XP for the quest, reduced to 6000 if you did it with someone near your level.
It’s even more extreme when doing it with a much higher-level player grouped up with you. Those Murlocs that once gave you 50 XP per kill are now giving you only 2 XP! So, instead of your tasty 2500 XP for 10 dead fishmen, you’d be getting pretty much just the reward: 2020 XP. And if he’s rounding them up and AoEing their grimy butts into oblivion for the ten very rare Murloc Heads, you’d be getting only 2200 XP for the whole thing! Again, this is most noticeable at the lower levels, but it should still add up.
Either way, when would be the best time to group up and quest with other people? There are a few scenarios I can think of:
- Group up when you’re doing a quest targetting one or more elite mobs you simply can’t take on alone. That one is common-sense: the XP loss from being grouped up is far outweighted by the XP reward from completing the quest.
- Group up when you’re doing a quest that sends you to kill few mobs or to gather items with a specially high drop-rate (50+%). Since you’re killing few enemies, you don’t need to worry too much about the penalty, as the XP gained from slaying mobs is comparatively small compared to the XP reward.
- Always try to do instances with a group of appropriate level. A full run will probably net you from 1/10th to 1/4th of a level, depending on the amount of trash involved. Do it with people too far above you, and those rewards will be cut by a wide margin (I’ve once had elite mobs that gave me 30+XP on the Deadmines give me only 2xp when I was being run through).
- Don’t group up when you’re doing a quest that sends you to kill many mobs or to gather many items with a low drop-rate from fast-spawning mobs. The XP penalty might hit you if you have to kill a considerable amount of mobs. However, do group up if those mobs are on a long respawn timer and you’re facing competition for the spot. Having to wait for the mobs to respawn because two ungrouped people cleared the place up is wasteful.
- This one should be obvious, but here it goes: never group up while AoE-grinding for XP.
- If you’re getting a higher-level friend to help you, don’t send him/her a /invite. Instead, tell him/her to come to a custom chat channel (/join [channelname]), so you can keep in touch, and tell them to kill any mobs you engage. Keep them tagged and deal some damage, and the kills should still count as yours (at least they always did to me).
Of course, this is just a rough guide for those who want yet another bit of optimization to their leveling. It’s not really any interesting to you if you’re creating a character to play with a friend, or if you just like grouping up to be able to interact with someone instead of spending all the time running around alone (my case, really). There’s probably not a very noticeable difference between playing normally and following my guidelines, in both methods and results (I mean, how many people stay grouped up for more than 5% of their time?), but I hope it’ll be helpful to a fellow altoholic trying to make his way past the 1-80 range.
Any of the (few, if any) readers out there ended up noticing some sort of leveling hit while being grouped with or powerleveled by someone else? Does anyone know the coefficient of the XP penalty when in a group or with someone whose level is higher than you? Should be an interesting study, and I haven’t seen much about it published around.
(Hey, who knew we could get a rant written down so quickly?)
First thing to avoid:
As a WARRIOR…
Specially while you’re still leveling!
So I was working on my Warrior. New to the server, haven’t got enough money to paid for a transfer, so I had to start from the beginning. Again. It’s okay, I’m trying out leveling as Arms and having a blast! Hit level 26 and just as I had bought my new skills and was leaving Stormwind, I got a mage /whispering me and asking if I wanted to tank through Blackfathom Deeps.
“Hey, sure. Why not?”
Guy invites me, I accept. We got a full group now. Resto Druid (had Heirloom shoulders, so he was someone’s alt who knew what he was doing), Human Mage (he invited me), Human Rogue (didn’t check his spec), Human Arms Warrior going sword and board (that’s me!) aaaaand… a level 31 Gnome Mage, specced Frost for AoE grinding.
The Gnome is considerably above dungeon level, he’s not going to get any XP or good loot out of it, and level 15-20 greens don’t sell all that well on the AH. I just shrug and run to BFD. On the way, I read the Frost Mage commenting he’s drunk. And pissed off, I can’t remember why. So we summon everybody and run into the instance. What happens?
I tank. Lacking the Prot talents I’m so used to, I’m a little bit rage-starved early in the pulls. But that’s alright. I tell people to wait until I get one Thunderclap off before dropping the hammer.
The Rogue does his job, stabbing mobs and generally focusing on the same mob I’m targetting.
The Mage throws Arcane Missiles, sheeps things and does the occasional Flamestrike after he’s sure I got enough threat.
The Druid… heals. He’s very good at that.
The Gnome Mage… curses a lot and tosses his talented Blizzards around as soon as he sees the “in combat” symbol pop up.
By the end of the run, the Druid had healed that Mage for at least 50% of what he healed me. The guy was pulling aggro quicker than a level one in Icecrown! Sure, he could take a few hits. But just because you can drop massive AoE damage while your low-level Warrior tank is still trying to build up threat, it doesn’t you have to.
So here’s today’s Thing to Avoid: Mages Without Control Over Their Massively Overpowered Fireballs.