Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wings of Retaliation

Part one of a series of short stories centered around the sin'dorei, and based on my interpretations of the 4.1 patch: Rise of the Zandalari. There's an intriguing conversation involving Halduron Brightwing in the Ghostlands, which brings into question the current state of blood elven government. This, then, is my interpretation of these events as they would take place within the story I roleplay as Cerylia.

Part one focuses on Lor'themar Theron, the Regent-Lord of the blood elves, and his response to Halduron's comments in the Ghostlands. Do enjoy!



To live in blissful, blind denial was one thing; to have the raw truth lie torn and bleeding before him was quite another. It was one frustration after another for him, day after day, and this time Lor’themar felt it was done on purpose. Reminding him once again of everything he wanted yet could never have.

There, upon his desk, on top of the scathing missive from Halduron telling his Regent Lord, in so many words, to piss off and leave the defense of Quel’thalas to him (whether or not high elves were involved), was a crisp letter marked with the seal of the Dawnwing family. It was printed elegantly in gold ink, though not by any hand he personally knew, and picking it up again sent a pang of grief through him once more. Yet, as if he enjoyed the pain, Lor’themar read it again.

“Regent Lord Lor’themar Theron,

You are cordially invited to the wedding of Lady Cerylia Dawnwing and Crusader Lord Mithraius Sunrose, to take place on the 7th day in the 6th month of the Year of the Rising Flame. This joyous ritual is to be followed by a small reception. Please respond promptly with your intentions to attend or to decline this invitation. Your presence would be greatly welcomed, though it is to be understood if your attendance cannot be possible.


Regards…”


The impersonality of the invitation had been such that at first, Lor’themar believed it to be some kind of prank. If Cerylia were truly getting married, she would have penned a personal note to Lor’themar in her beautiful hand, telling him how she would want him there because he was near and dear to her heart, as he had always been. But he had quickly tracked down Llylithen Dawnwing, Cerylia's older brother, who confirmed—with a bit of a scowl—that the wedding plans were real. The only thing was… Halduron Brightwing had taken it upon himself to have the invitations written up and sent off without consulting either of the betrothed. The two were now in a mad scramble to make wedding preparations, since they could not take back the invitations.

Lor’themar resisted the urge to crumple up the invitation again. Damn the Ranger General for his arrogance, his audacity, and his betrayal. Halduron was supposed to be one of his best friends, advising him gently in personal matters, and giving the Regent Lord a stern shoulder to lean on in the leadership of their people. And he had been. But things had changed dramatically with the recent uprising of the Amani trolls down south… Suddenly, Halduron had become cold, sharp-tongued, and openly hostile, for reasons still unknown. It was so sudden, in fact, that Lor’themar was at first left at a loss as to how to respond.

Setting down the letter again, Lor’themar took several deep breaths to calm himself. This last, inconsiderate gesture was the final straw. Halduron knew perfectly well how Lor’themar felt about Cerylia. Having grown up with her had left him with a shy, yet fervent love for the young noblewoman. Unfortunately, he had been too shy about it… and he could only watch in stunned silence when it became known that she had taken the Blood Knight Mithraius as her lover.

For a time, Lor’themar had been hurt, but he had grown to accept this circumstance. He turned a blind eye to the relationship, accepting that Cerylia could give love and affection to many people. He naively forced himself to believe that in time, maybe she would take him into her heart as well. And for the past few years, it seemed like it could be true. With every tear she shed for him, every discreet hug, every kiss given out of heated emotion… Lor’themar felt himself closer and closer to his original desire. That Cerylia could be his. Maybe she really did love him most of all.

But this invitation was the knife in all of that. Halduron had done it on purpose; Lor’themar knew it. It wouldn’t be unlike the Ranger General to deliberately inconvenience and anger his second-in-command, just so he could get in this most perfect of jabs at the Regent Lord. At least in recent days. Llylithen—wise as he was, yet emotionally distant—had placed a sympathetic hand on Lor’themar’s shoulder and sighed, as if he hated to confirm what would hurt his best friend the most.

“I’m sorry… but she really does love him.”

Of course she did. Lor’themar knew that. Perhaps he had just been stupid enough to think that Cerylia would love him just as much.

He balled his hands into fists, biting back the tears of frustration that threatened to come, and looked up to the sound of armored footsteps. A guard had entered the chamber, saluting to his lord.

“My lord, Lady Dawnwing has arrived, as per your request.”

Lor’themar nodded, and the guard turned to leave the room again. In a few moments, the sound of lighter footsteps approached instead, and Cerylia entered, dropping into a curtsey as soon as she saw him.

“Lor’themar.” Though she spoke his name reverently, she still spoke it, instead of his title, when they were alone together. She knew him intimately, as he knew her. He had known her since the day she was born, for Light’s sake. But perhaps that was why she could never love him as much. Perhaps there was a brief, underlying sense of platonic affection, seeing him as more of a friend than a lover. Friend was too cheap of a word, though—it was something beyond friend, beyond brother, beyond any word that language could come up with. It made his heart swell, with both admiration and sadness, knowing he could never voice his true feelings for her. And that, he knew, was why he had lost her in the first place.

“Cerylia. I’m glad you came so fast.”

She stood up again, a timid smile forming upon her lips. “How may I be of service?” she asked, politely.

Lor’themar knew that she already was aware of the invitations. Judging by her nervous, tense demeanor, he was certain she also had been told—perhaps warned by her older brother, or even informed by Halduron himself, just to upset her—that Lor’themar had seen one before Cerylia could tell him of her engagement herself.

“I am sure you’re aware of the Ranger General’s… response to my disapproval of the quel’dorei presence at Zul’Aman?” he asked, gently.

Cerylia reddened a little, nodding. “Yes. Though I may assure you that I in no way approve of what he said—”

“Of course not. I know you better than that,” Lor’themar snapped, almost frustrated that she would think he believed her a traitor too. “…It merely seems that, since words have no effect on Lord Brightwing… I will need to take action against his insubordination.”

“Y-you’re going to punish him, then?” asked Cerylia, looking pale at the thought. As much grief as Halduron gave her sometimes… Lor’themar knew she liked him too, in her own way. He could understand.

“In a sense… yes. And I would demand your help in this. I do need Halduron’s talents serving me still. It wouldn’t do for me to remove him as Ranger General,” Lor’themar explained, pacing as he spoke. “No… it is the Alliance presence in my lands that needs to be removed. And it will happen, whether Halduron likes it or not.”

At the fierce tone in the Regent Lord’s voice, Cerylia glanced up, startled… before smiling a little. “Well,” she murmured, sounding impressed, “how does my lord wish to proceed?”

Lor’themar stared at her, sternly. “I want you to defeat those damned trolls before Vereesa or Halduron do. Take whatever allies you like. Pledge yourself to Master Vol’jin. Claim Zul’Aman in the name of the Horde. But in the end, I want you to make it painfully clear that I sanctioned that defense of Quel’Thalas. Not the Ranger General, or that human-loving quel’dorei. It will be by my command.”

Cerylia’s eyebrows raised sharply. For once, he could see her shrink a little in his presence… something that never happened. Lor’themar knew perfectly well what she thought of his political prowess. She tried to flower it up as best as she could, but in the end he knew that she believed her more knowledgeable than he was. He wasn’t stupid enough to not notice how she gently, subtly manipulated him, even if he didn’t realize it until it was too late. Perhaps his foolishness was in the fact that he let her do it for so long. Perhaps he relished the thought that she could force him to bend to her will if she was patient enough, that feeling of being hers.

But he wasn’t hers, and he never would be, now. Perhaps now was the time for him to exercise his power, like he should have long ago. Long before Halduron and Rommath and Cerylia and Llylithen and everyone else believed that Lor’themar was weak, unfit for the position of Regent Lord, and would never do what was necessary unless they poked and prodded and urged him step by baby step forward. He’d had enough.

“And to convince Lady Vereesa that she and her elves are not needed in Quel’Thalas’s defense,” Lor’themar continued, “I would have you send word to your fiancĂ©. As I understand it, Mithraius is serving some duty for the Argent Crusade at Light’s Hope Chapel at the moment, isn’t he?”

Cerylia blinked at him, perhaps shocked by his use of the word “fiancĂ©.” Perhaps surprised that Lor’themar did not show any weakness while speaking it. “Ah… yes, you’re correct,” she replied.

“Excellent. Please give this command to him.” Lor’themar reached over to his desk and picked up a sealed letter, handing it to Cerylia. “It is a request for him to return to Silvermoon immediately, and assist you in the command I have given you. But, it also asks him to collect some information for me. Specifically, from the Quel’lithien Lodge.”

She gaped at him a little, confused at what the high elven Farstrider lodge in the Plaguelands had to do with anything. “But… why?” she asked.

“You’ll see. I’ll just say that Vereesa is not welcome in my lands if she cannot even take care of her own people.”

Cerylia still looked confused, and Lor’themar was content with that. She couldn’t be expected to know about everything in and around Quel’Thalas; she was an ambassador of the Horde and often had far more important missions elsewhere. But Halduron was unaware of this tidbit of information as well… something Lor’themar would take pleasure in using against him too.

I have my own eyes and ears, as well. I am not as helpless as you think I am.

“I know this is a great task I ask of you, but I trust you, and Mithraius as well. I also have asked Llylithen to aid me in this. The three of you will succeed. I know it.”

Blushing, Cerylia gave another curtsey. “Thank you. I will not let my lord down,” she promised.

“No, thank you,” Lor’themar replied, bowing. “In these trying times, it is good to have someone I can trust completely.”

She hesitated at that, before she spoke, more softly. “Lor’themar… about… the invitations…”

He shook his head. “Do not apologize. I know it wasn’t you who distributed them. Llylithen told me everything.”

“Ah.” Cerylia paused again, before looking up at him. And at her gaze, he weakened slightly, at her eyes wide with apology and affection. “Lor’themar… I wanted to tell you myself. I… I know we have not spoken of our relationship. But I know how you have felt about… us.”

Lor’themar had steeled himself against such words in so many ways, before summoning her, but they hurt him nonetheless. “It is my fault for not speaking up,” he said. “…Mithraius is a lucky man.”

Cerylia’s gaze softened, before she looked away. “I do love you.”

“Not the way I love you.”

“…I know.”

He bit his lip, holding himself stiff and steady, willing himself not to break. Even when she came to him, taking him into a tight hug. “I would… like you to come, though,” she murmured, against his chest. “I owe you so much. You are one of my best friends. I want you… to share this important part of my life as well. Please… don’t hate me for this.”

“…Of course not,” Lor’themar replied, weakly. “I want you two to be happy together. And if coming to the wedding makes you happy, then I shall certainly be there.”

She smiled, warmly, letting her hug loosen. “Thank you…”

Despite himself, even though he knew he should not… Lor’themar couldn’t bear to let her go. Despite all that he said, all that he told himself... he let his face dip and catch her mouth in a soft peck of a kiss, one he had no right to take, before pulling away. “…Diel al a’nar,” he whispered. “Please stay safe…”

Cerylia blushed a little, though she mostly looked saddened, moving away and giving one last curtsey. “I will. Don’t worry about me. You’re the one I worry about.”

His mouth curled into a brief smile. “Don’t,” he chided. “I know what I am doing.”

For the first time, she looked as if she genuinely believed that, standing straighter with pride in his presence, smiling out of understanding instead of pity. “Of course, my lord,” she replied. “By your leave, then.”

“You have it. Please report back when you are ready to depart to Zul’Aman.”

With a final nod, she turned and left the chamber, leaving Lor’themar to himself once more. He turned to his desk with a sigh and looked over the impersonal invitation again… before setting it aside for the missive beneath it.

“…In conclusion, while the Regent Lord is welcome to request reports regarding progress in Zul’Aman, I regrettably must admit that all such requests must be ignored until our military objectives here in the Ghostlands are met. In the future, I advise no further interference. My Farstriders, coupled with Lady Vereesa’s rangers, Master Vol’jin’s soldiers, and any Horde or Alliance volunteers that report to us will be more than sufficient to handle the Amani threat. The Regent Lord’s attention is not necessary at this time.

Regards, Ranger General Halduron Brightwing”


The letter crumpled sharply in Lor’themar’s hand.

“I trusted you like a brother, Halduron,” he said, darkly. “But if you are foolish enough to act openly insubordinate, there will be consequences. At least Cerylia was smart enough to be respectful.”

Enough games. His people needed his protection now.

--
A few endnotes:

- Mithraius is my boyfriend's paladin character. At the time of this story, he and Cerylia are engaged to be wed in the RP.
- I don't think I mentioned it here, but Llylithen is a death knight. Llylithen was a friend of Lor'themar's when Llylithen was alive. I guess they're still friends now, but it's kinda... awkward.
- I'm in charge mostly of RPing Lor'themar in our RP story, so this is my take on him. If you don't approve of such creative liberties or my interpretation of lore... too bad. There's a back button on your browser you could have used at any time. :)

If you liked what you read here, my previous story on Lor'themar might be of interest to you as well.

Part two will be about Halduron Brightwing, and what his reaction is to whatever Lor'themar has planned. Silly boys are going to get in a bit of fight, it seems...

As always, comments are welcome. Thanks! :)
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Alternate Paths - Making Use of Stopping Your Experience Gains

See? No experience bar! :D

Updated as of 11/16/2011!

If you read through my introductory post on why I want to slow down leveling, one of your first thoughts might be of the fairly-recently introduced feature of Experience Elimination! You know, where you can visit a stealthed NPC (Behsten in Stormwind Keep on the Alliance, or Slahtz in the Valley of Honor on the Horde), and for the price of 10 gold, can turn off (or back on) your experience gains! Say, that’s an obvious way to keep yourself from leveling, right? Why don’t we just go do that?

Well, there are a few consequences of turning off experience gain that may not be immediately apparent.
  • PvP brackets. When you turn off experience, or are capped by only having the basic game (at level 70) or Wrath of the Lich King expansion (at level 80), you are placed into a separate Battleground bracket. People who have left their xp gains on (and thus are able to get xp in BGs) will play together, while the xp-off people get to play in a separate sandbox together. Because there are significantly fewer people who play this way (usually to “twink”), it is possible you will never be able to get a BG to pop, or it will take a very VERY long time. If you like PvP, you may want to consider the population of “twinks” for a particular bracket before you turn off that xp gain.
  • Lost experience. Now, this might not be too much of a concern if you don’t care about leveling much anyway. But some people I’ve talked to are under the mistaken impression that if you turn off xp gains, all quests will behave as if you were expansion capped, meaning that all xp from quests will convert into extra money. This is NOT the case. If you manually turn off xp gains, then all that experience is simply lost. You don’t get extra money, and the xp you would have gotten simply disappears into thin air. When you turn xp gains back on, the xp you earned while it was off doesn’t magically get credited to your character either. So keep that in mind in case you thought otherwise!

  • Loneliness. Unless you have friends or guildies that want to do this with you, you will probably be left behind by all your normal leveling friends, thus not having anyone to play with at your level. :( How sad. Well, there’s still the dungeon finder if you want to interact with dumb PuG groupmates!

  • Travel time. Shouldn’t be an issue if you want to linger in quest zones for this long anyway. xD But, it might get annoying to have to travel back and forth to Stormwind/Orgrimmar all the time to turn off/on your xp gains.

  • Cost prohibitive? If you have a filthy-rich main who can mail hundreds of gold to your alts, this may not be a problem. But, if you’re new or rerolling fresh on a new server, this could be. I mean, you’ll want to level eventually. But turning your xp gains on and off and on and off could get expensive after a while!
  • Trials need not apply. If you are on a Starter Edition account (a trial, in other words), you are not allowed to turn off your xp gains. Not that I see the need to do so since you can only level to 20 anyway... but I thought I should just mention it before we continue! ;)

Since I rarely PvP, the first con isn’t a big deal to me. The next three, I’m ok with too. But the last one raises a bit of a concern—money! I’m a stingy gal with my fake moneys, so I don’t like the idea of spending 10G when I don’t have to. Plus, the idea of turning off xp gains at random intervals doesn’t seem useful either. This calls for a systematic approach!

--
Step 1: Level to 20.
While xp could be stopped at any point before this, I find it unnecessary. 20 is a great place to stop leveling not only because you can still get into the early dungeons via the dungeon finder… but also because you are at the level to get your first mount + riding training! Trust me… once you get spoiled with a mount, you’ll never want to go back to old-fashioned walking. :P

Step 2: Turn off xp gains!

Visit good old Behsten (Alliance) or Slahtz (Horde) and spend 10G to turn off your xp. As this is a fairly decent chunk of change for a level 20 character that doesn’t have a rich big brother/sister main to finance their adventures, this could be troublesome to a new player.

While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this method of leveling for brand-new players, I think it could make the experience on a first character really fun for a new player as well. To take in everything and not rush through. My advice for these younglings? Pick up two gathering professions (Herbalism, Mining, or Skinning) and collect materials to sell on the Auction House. Even low-level herbs, ore, and leather will sell for gold on all servers, and you can easily get together 10G+ from your sales. (The downside to this? Picking flowers, mining ore, or killing a creature to skin will give you experience points. It’s entirely possible to level your character on nothing but gathering. xD)

While I like leveling a crafting profession as I level up my character, it’s hard (and expensive) to keep most crafting professions leveled appropriate to your character’s level. While turning off xp gain will help you catch up on your training, you’ll still need plenty of money, support, and supplies to level that profession. I’ve found that having supportive friends and a lot of alts really helps. If you’re playing alone, it will be tedious, expensive, and frustrating to level a crafting profession. So, just weigh the pros and cons of your profession choices. :)

Step 3: Quest, gather, and dungeon to your heart’s content.
Once xp gains are off, you are free to enjoy the content at your leisure. Run dungeons until you get sick of them, or until you are decked out in all the drops you desire. Finish up Redridge Mountains without worrying about the quests going grey on you (or whatever 10-20 zone you happen to be in). Continue gathering materials to earn all the gold you can if needed (I’ll mention the total costs that this strategy requires at the end of the guide!).

When you take your time leveling, you can
meet many more new friends! Like this guy!


Step 4: Turn back on experience gains. Make about 5 levels.
Another 10G will turn back on your xp gains so that you can properly enjoy the next set of content. But how much do we need to level?

This is where a zones by level guide comes in handy! http://www.wowpedia.org/Zones_by_level

As you can see from the link, most 1-60 zones in WoW now are in chunks of 5. We’ll see that the next zones for our characters will be the 20-25 level zones. At this point, pick the zone(s) you want your character to head to, and start questing. You’ll level quickly, I’m sure. But we’ll want to turn xp back off soon because it’s easy to outlevel the zone. You can easily hit level 25 and still have half the zone left to do. By the time you finish all your quests in the area, you’ll probably be around level 28 or so… already close to outleveling the content in the NEXT zone!

Myself, I have been stopping xp gains every 5 levels on my new alts, to match how most of the zones are set up in intervals of 5 levels.

For my new alts, I've chosen to stop at the 5 and 10 marks (25, 30, 35, etc.), since it's easier to keep track of, and you'll also be ready to move on to the next questing zone once you decide to turn your xp back on. I tend to quest until I hit the mark, turn off xp, then finish questing. Once I'm done, I run all the dungeons at that level for gear, quests, and achievements. I would recommend this strategy for others. :)

Whatever intervals you choose to use, though, make sure to take your time and smell the roses.

Step 5: After stopping xp gains, quest/dungeon/gather to your heart’s content. (Again. Just like Step 3.)

"I kin see why this would give experience... Lookit the size a' this!"

Step 6: Once finished with all the content in the zone, turn xp back on. Level up 5 more levels.
Once again, you’ll want to start leveling eventually, so turn xp back on and head to the next zone. Start questing again. Once you hit the next interval (and you probably will before you finish the zone), be sure to go and turn off your xp.

Step 7: Rinse and repeat for every zone bracket up to level 58-60.
At this point, it’s pretty much leveling 5 levels at a time, before stopping and focusing on the content in a zone, then leveling again and moving on to the next zone. Kind of a start-stop-start-stop kind of progression. With all the amazing revamps to questing, you won’t want to miss any of it… and you won’t, with this strategy!

By Outland, I recommend abandoning this strategy and leveling as normal. Outland questing isn't as smooth and organized as they are in the 1-60 areas, and the quests are more challenging too. It'll be easier with a bit of level padding on your character so you don't get overwhelmed on some of the harder quests. If you're on an alt and are sick of Outland like I am, go put on your heirlooms and level through it quick if you like. You can leave Outland at 68, or do what I do and stop xp temporarily at level 70 to finish up achievements, quest chains, and other goals I might have.

Northrend questing is also a bit slower and more challenging. In fact, it may seem like it takes even longer because you'll have to level all the way up to level 80 before you can move on to the Cataclysm 80-85 zones. Enjoy it at a normal pace if you're on a first character, or go ahead and blaze through it if you've seen it all before. Again, I sometimes turn off xp at 80 to finish up a few loose ends before moving on. :)

(Note: in patch 4.3, the amount of experience needed to level through Outland and Northrend will be reduced. If it is enough to make leveling a breeze, then you may want to pick up the stop xp every five levels strategy again! Assuming you're not sick of those continents, of course.)

And… leveling through the Cataclysm 80-85 content becomes smooth again. Go ahead and enjoy it. You'll level somewhat quickly, but hitting 85 before you finish all the zones just means you get extra gold from the quests. :D

You can't rush perfection.

--
So what about those heirlooms you mentioned?
The main draw of heirloom (or other BoA gear) is that it usually provides a nice boost to experience gains. Well, if you’re using this strategy, it shouldn’t matter if you wear heirlooms or not, right? Well, you’re mostly right. However, another big thing about heirloom gear is that it provides VERY good stats for a piece of gear at that level. If you deck your character out in full heirlooms, you’re going to be tearing through enemies very easily.

While that may be fun for some people, I think it goes against we’re trying to accomplish—slowing down the leveling experience and making leveling a challenge again! You may not be leveling fast, but if you’re killing quest enemies fast, that’s not a challenge at all. For that reason, I don't personally recommend heirlooms from levels 1-60, even if you are going to turn off xp. However, it's up to you. Sometimes good gear for certain specs is hard to find, and heirlooms can come in handy for those slots. Those heirlooms will be useful in Outland and Northrend if you want to hurry through, and they will still be good for when you run dungeons. :)

All right, so… what about those costs?
Again, for a player with a rich main, the costs of turning xp gains on/off may be trivial. But if a newer player (or fresh reroll without support) wants to use this strategy, it may be more of a concern. But I’ve saved you the math and calculated all the costs from level 20-58/60.

If we follow the strategy exactly as I’ve described it… your total bill comes out to about:

18 visits to Behsten/Slahtz x 10G each = 180G

You’ll probably want more gold on hand for your ground mount + riding training (about 55G, give or take), as well as costs of training new abilities, so we’ll round that up to 250G just to be safe. That’s about 250G you’ll want to keep on hand for each alt you want to level up in this way.
It’s not THAT bad, actually, though it may seem daunting for new players. Relax! If you take the two gathering professions as recommended, it really isn’t that hard to make 250G (or more!). :)

If worse comes to worst, just ask your big sister for help!

--
In conclusion, this strategy is ideal for the average player who wants to enjoy questing at a slower pace, while still partaking in dungeons, leveling gathering professions (or even something like archeology), and getting pretty loots. It may not be as ideal for a PvPer, though I can see ways of getting it to work. For instance, you could:
  • Run as many xp-on BGs as possible in each bracket, then turning off xp and going back to questing/dungeons when you hit the 5 or 10 mark.
  • Level to about the 4 or 9 level marks, stop xp to finish up quests and instances as desired, then turn xp back on and run BGs. (Thanks to Cynwise for the idea!)
  • Any other ideas from PvP fans? :D
I’m still in the process of trying this strategy out for myself, but I feel really good about it. If I run into any complications, or find ways to improve it, I will definitely edit this strategy as needed. I hope others can find some value in this guide and use it too! If you do so, please let me know! If you have any suggestions for the strategy, also feel free to let me know as well. Remember, you don't HAVE to follow this to the letter. Modify it to your tastes, however you like!

If you have any other alternative leveling suggestions for future posts in this guide series, please share them! :D Next post in this series will probably be how to use rep as a motivation as you level.

Happy questing!


Alternate Paths Series:
- Introduction
- Making Use of Stopping Your Experience Gains
- More to come...?
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Alternate Paths – How to Slow Down Your Leveling!

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

–Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”


All right… I know what you’re probably thinking. “Surely this can’t be right. Who would write about how to slow down leveling in WoW?” After all, everywhere you turn, people are looking for ways to speed up the leveling process. From guild perks that increase experience gains, to heirlooms that increase experience gains AND make your character powerful enough to blaze through quests, to guides that walk you through the 1-85 process step by step… It really does seem like the objective of this game is to level as fast as humanly possible, reach end-game, and then do nothing but end-game gearing/dungeons/raiding/PvP/etc. for the rest of the expansion. Right?

Not necessarily!

While raiding and the like might be the objective for a lot of players… not everyone wants to play that way. This includes me! After the shine of the new quests and changes to the game brought about by the Cataclysm faded away, I found myself rather disappointed with the whole leveling experience. Don’t get me wrong; leveling is very streamlined nowadays and the quests are much more creative and fun. But for me, they’re a little too EASY. Quest items are easy to locate and collect. Most monsters are not scary and are quite easy to defeat. The objectives pose little to mild challenges; even terrifying elite enemies are easily torn apart due to an NPC helper or other quest mechanic that lets you weaken the monster. It’s not hard to make 5 levels or more in a night without even breaking a sweat. While that may be good news for some, for me… that’s really boring. I mean, I’m not even a hardcore WoW player, and I think it’s dull!

Ok, so besides the easy-mode experience… why else would I want to slow down leveling? I mean, if I want a challenging game experience, I should get to end-game and work on heroics and stuff, right? Not quite. For me—if you haven’t figured it out already—I LOVE role-playing. Not necessarily with others in the game world, but I do love creating character stories and getting a feel for their personality and experiences as I play. The leveling process is a huge part of this. Where I level, what quests I do, and what NPCs I meet really play a big role in my characters’ development. But if the questing experience is too fast, I miss all of that. I feel disconnected from my character, and subsequently don’t like playing them.

For a while, I was discouraged. My favorite part of the game is the leveling and questing process, and now that has become dull and unsatisfying. What do I do? I don’t think there are many people who will sympathize with my plight; the most common reply to my complaints would be that “the game starts at 85!” nonsense. (Heck, I’ve seen plenty of people complain about how there are no heirlooms for 80-85, who want to level even FASTER!) But surely I can’t be the only one with this problem, right?

So I thought about it more, and then realized that if the game itself wasn’t going to lend itself to what I wanted—slowing down the leveling process so I can appreciate the questing experience—then I’ll have to come up with ways to slow it down myself!

What follows will be a multi-post series that details different strategies for slowing down the leveling process. Not just simple bullet point tips, but laid-out plans that will help focus the leveling process and give ways to literally keep you from out-leveling the zones you’re in. And, you won’t have to necessarily give up other aspects of the game (dungeons, professions, etc.) to do it, either!

This is something I really am passionate about writing about, and hope all of you can contribute to this guide too, so that a wide variety of people can take something from my posts. One strategy or method may not be fun for one person, but might be a great, novel idea for someone else to try. That being said, I encourage all of you to share your ideas for how to slow down the leveling process or play in an alternative fashion. If you have a particularly creative idea, I will include it in a future post! I also would love it if you shared article or blog links (whether yours or someone else’s) that talk about alternative methods for leveling or playing in Cataclysm.

I know I can’t possibly be the only person that feels the way I do, so it is my hope that my posts might make the game refreshing once again for some players out there.

Happy questing!

Alternate Paths Series:
- Introduction
- Making Use of Stopping Your Experience Gains
- More to come...?


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