Wow has reached an age where a lot of players have tried almost everything, we have plenty of alts of all classes, we know the ins and outs of leveling and generally have extrapolated enough knowledge about the game to get around smoothly.
But the WoW-era we’re in currently has also made leveling not just more linear, but also more efficient – in my opinion too efficient. Killing mobs, completing quests, even picking a flower, will award you xp in generous amounts. Don’t be surprised if you out-level the zone you’re in, before you’ve even completed the main storyline. That’s why this also is the best time to really try something new, something unconventional, something that will make you rethink how you play the game, re-analyse the challenges that come your way and see WoW from a new angle.
My own little challenge, Joy the Nerfed Hunter is an attempt of just that – self-nerfing to the extent it’s harder to level, that I can’t always take the easy choices and most of all, I wanted to learn to play a hunter and experience the true strengths of this class. But I am in no way unique, nor is my not-so-clear-cut challenge original.
So here I bring to you, the players that challenge the cookie-cutter-whatever, that think outside the WoW-box, that I find a great inspiration and maybe they can inspire you too. They don’t come across as the obvious WoW hero, they “lack” a long list of raid and arena achievements, they don’t seem to be too bothered about the straight and paved road of leveling, instead they aim for the uncharted and rocky pathway.
I like to think of these players as the overlooked heroes of WoW.
We’re starting back in vanilla WoW, and the player behind who became Jumba the Naked Troll, was already getting bored and figured he could make the game interesting again by … well, by being naked.
“As it stands right now the only armor I will wear are gloves and shoes because not even total badasses wander around without shoes on.”
Jumba therefore kept shoes and gloves on, but would go on for the next 59 levels without pants. He made “The Naked Troll Project” to document the leveling and even made a short video that shows the exact moment of dinging 60. It took him 14 days and 10 hours of /played to reach level 60, and when he hit the mark, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to go next, especially as not everyone thinks pantsless hunters are jolly good news.
On Saturday, October 14, 2006 Jumba posts “Operation Tinfoil Armor” discussing the possibilities of getting into a raid while still obeying his own rule of nakedness. As far as I understood, he managed to get into raids wearing either lvl 60 broken armor or low level white armor with no stats, that gave the impression that he was wearing something useful.
The trend spread and more people began leveling naked alts of all classes, fx Gutrot the warrior who put down his weapons and leveled without anything, except, opposite Jumba, covering up his behind with a loincloth.
Later during The Burning Crusade we began seeing new ways of pulling off similar feats as the naked trolls, fx Noor the Pacifist who’s up next.
Being a pacifist for Noor means that she refuses to kill mobs and other players, or at least tries her best to avoid it. Her allowance includes undeads, demons and mechanical targets, but killing everyone else is against the deal.
This post is focused on the leveling sides of unconventional gameplay, so Noor’s ways sound absolutely ludicrous given the time of The Burning Crusade expansion. How on earth was this even possible in a world where everyone seems to be at war with everyone?
Well, Noor comes in two versions, the more obvious class for a pacifist play style, an undead priest named Reinisch, which opened up for an even harder option, the gnome rogue Noor.
“As a rogue is a sort of “spy” class, I Googled for a pacifist spy and found Noor Inayat Khan, a woman who was also executed by the Nazis for aiding the French resistance, so I named my rogue after her. She was the daughter of a well-known pacifist in India.”
By using cunning engineering devices, such as target dummies, she was able to complete some quests that would otherwise force her into battle, despite her fate as a rogue making this a bit of a contradiction.
She quickly found herself stuck around the lower twenties and had to think of new ways to get xp other than exploration and non- aggressive quests, which quickly became a depleted source. Daily battlground quests were the answer, and while Reinisch the undead priest could easily heal his way through this, Noor the gnome rogue had to find another solution.
“In battlegrounds, my rogue will throw bombs to interrupt flag captures and stun people and may even accidentally kill players low in health or nearby critters”
Noor has showed us the limits of this type of leveling, as you will still get honorable kills even when you don’t use real weapons but whack others with a fishing pole, which at the time didn’t give you any weapon skill. Noor’s proof was in the lack of skill in weaponry, which today doesn’t exist any longer. As we shall see later, there are new ways of being a pacifist and being able to prove it.
Noor still runs a blog called “Pacifist Undead Priest/Gnome Rogue/NightElf Druid/Tauren Shaman“, where she keeps track of all her pacifist extentions. She has given several interviews to WoW Insider’s 15 minutes of fame theme: The first one on her pacifist playstyle, and another one on her journey to 70, including information on which other methods she used, such as fishing and profession based quests – a glimpse into a very deliberate and considerate approach to leveling.
It sounds like the worst stereotype of a bad player, but it isn’t. Especially not when you consider that this challenge was carried out during the Burning Crusade and that Gweryc did reach level 70 in the end, without ever using a ranged weapon.
He has also off-tanked Karazhan, joined a raid in Black Temple killing the first three bosses (this time as dps) and done battlegrounds, still without using a ranged weapon. Like Jumba, he pushed his nerfed character as far as he could go, putting the concept of the melee hunter to the test.
Gweryc exemplifies not just that it can be done, but also how it can be done and provides on his blog “Out of Range” a lot of numbers and calculations around Gweryc’s gear, stats, everything you would want to know about this niche of hunter playstyle. It’s a funny hypothetical scenario to think of, and most of us would never dream of actually carrying it out, yet Gweryc pushed this from the fantasy into the reality and it’s a noteworthy experiment indeed.
Gweryc also did an interview with WoW Insider, and he, like Noor, was met with the harsh surface of that audience (something I will discuss further at the end of this article).
Someone went as far as to create an alt on his server just to send him this in-game mail:
Gweryc’s attitude to this really amuses me, as he writes in the accompanying post:
“While it’s largely blather in the vein of a frightened goose honking at something it doesn’t understand, I concede that there’s a valid challenge to my logic in there. Was Mongoose the wrong way to go for an enchant on my Felsteel Reaper?”
And then he goes on with great enthusiasm to discuss choices and options with regards to gear and enchants. Even though Gweryc was self-nerfed, he still had a penchant for theorycrafting around the obvious obstacle of fighting as melee.
I gave her the postfix “The Gatherer” and with the way Everbloom leveled, she surely deserves that title.
Now that you can get experience from gathering materials, Everbloom the resto druid did just that and continued until she hit level 85. This of course includes exploration as an xp source as well, and if done flawlessly will grant you a statistics page with 0 quests completed and if you’re also a pacifist, 0 killed mobs. Everbloom died 25 times in the process, but if you’re stellar and have a good connection, you could make that a 0 as well. Someone is in fact working on that feat right now! – Maedra is up next.
I was alerted in the comments about a player who did in fact play under the rule of permadeath (permanent death). It simply means that when your character dies, no matter how, then you are not allowed to resurrect and can not resume playing him or her.
It takes nerves of steel to carry this out, and Maedra the gnome warlock, must have plenty, as she is on her fourth incarnation – that’s four times she died, had to reroll and start over again.
“I’ve always been a fan of hardcore mode games, where death is final. It adds an extra edge to a game that is hard to replicate in any other way. I played a lot of Diablo 2, and once I found Hardcore mode, I couldn’t play anything else. Similarly, in Torchlight, I was straight into Hardcore mode. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, for sure, but I love it.”
Players usually carry out this exercise as it introduces an element of realism, the immediate effect on the gameplay, is a step-up in intensity. You are more likely to think about your choices in the game, as you literally cannot afford to take many chances. Combat, of course, carries the immediate threat of critical loss, which only increases as you reach even higher levels.
As I am writing this, Maedra is level 47 by which time I would have died a few times already. I checked her armory, and yes, 0 deaths it says. How far will she go? You can follow her progress here.
Thriftee is also a more recent leveling experiement, rooted in the linearity and flight heavy land of Cataclysm.
“Thriftee was always an all or nothing guy, and now finds that he cannot bear to part with a single copper – for anything!”
Thriftee is a dwarf hunter, whose only rule was to not spend any money, this included not accepting gifts from others.
A simple rule with huge consequences, as this meant Thriftee couldn’t train new skills and had to make the best out of the gear he earned as quest rewards. So the trainer was off limits, the auction house included, but also things we normally take for granted, such as riding skill, taking flightpaths or even getting repairs. What Thriftee did utilise, was the talents as they are free and so Thriftee became a beastmaster hunter, despite the irony of having a limited control over his pet Bear.
And now we come to the last bit, a challenge that has similarities with the previous stories, but is still unique. It was concieved recently between several people, where the bloggers Vrykerion and Psynister have both posted about the concept in detail. This one is still in the making and inspired me to dig all of these stories out which dates back to vanilla.
The challenge is to level a character while wearing white or grey items, no enhancers (enchants, glyphs, heirlooms etc), no professions (except first aid), no talents, only training your skills is allowed.
The Ironman Challenge is yet to unfold and a new Cataclysm chapter of the overlooked WoW heroes is about to play out. You can do it too, Vrykerion and Psynister invites everyone, who wants to try out this kind of gameplay, to join them.
Being Unconventional can have Backlashes
As I mentioned earlier, some people don’t see neither the point nor the entertainment in these adventures. All of the players I’ve featured above (I’m not sure about Everbloom though) have been verbally attacked, called stupid and clueless. Gweryc’s in-game mail is a pretty good example and he, problably due to his raid and battleground activity and flirt with a notorious stereotype, had a lot of anger directed towards him, so much that WoW Insider featured him again, but this time in what they called “The Non-Conformity Backlash.
The article is an interview with Gweryc, where he goes indepth with design issues, player motivations and the animosity towards himself and Noor:
“I think the really violent reactions come from highly competitive players who can’t reconcile themselves to the idea that I am, in essence, playing a different game than they are. They mistake my own meta-game of optimizing Hunter melee for fun as a serious effort at excelling as a melee Hunter on their own ambitious turf.”
Maedra states the same philosophy behind her challenge:
“I’m not doing this for the prestige (if such a thing exists for playing a game in an unintended way) but rather for the enjoyment.”
Thriftee (the player who’s also behind Döra the lvl 1 explorer) has also had some belittlement thrown her way, and reading about Gweryc helped her understand the opposition as she wrote her reflections on the topic in a post she called “Odd Bods“.
I have not received any hatred yet with my own nerfed hunter project, but I am expecting it to happen one day, especially as I have just put on a low level pair of intellect pants (for the looks, not the stats!) But to others my gear must look utterly ridiculous, so I consider this a matter of time.
If you plan on participating in the Ironman Challenge, just remember that not everyone “gets it” and some players will tell you that you’re the one not getting it. Do remember that playing unconventionally and nerfed are completely valid playstyles.
If you’re having fun leveling, however you do it, you’re doing it right!
The Ironman Challenge has since been completed by the blogger Tome of the Ancient, who documented her entire arduous journey. Here’s her post about finally hitting lvl 85 with her Ironman warlock named Ironsally.