To Group or Not To Group?
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.
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