So I’m about halfway through this no-quests week, by my own freaky internal gaming calendar (taking out days where I can’t play, phases of the moon, hangovers, etc. etc.). It’s been a really interesting and really really fun trip so far.
Warning: Incoming wall of text.
For those who haven’t been following previous posts, the basic premise was simple: Play an MMO for a week and not do a single (standard) quest.
I chose LOTRO because that’s the game I’m playing right now, having got into the F2P beta a few weeks ago and shortly thereafter shelled out for a sub, mostly so that I could check in on and say hi to friends on the “real” servers.
We ended up having to add a few riders to the basic rule. First, LOTRO deeds don’t count as quests, even if some of them are started by NPCs with little quest-rings over their heads. This was sort of a must because most of the deeds are automatically started and incremented, so if I wanted to avoid those I’d have been able to do… well, not much of anything at all, from exploration to killing mobs to using abilities.
Second, I decided somewhere along the first play session that I wouldn’t make any alts. The No-Quests character was made fresh on a server where I didn’t already have a handful of alts, and for some reason it just made sense to keep it that way. And as it turns out, the no-alts thing has been as interesting to me as the no-quests thing, if not moreso. I’m a terrible altoholic and playing with just one character is both foreign to me and a little disconcerting.
The secret to being rich is not spending all your money? Nowai!
The first thing I’ve discovered is that No-Alt chars are oh, so much richer than Alt chars. It’s almost laughable. In the space of 3 play sessions (admittedly fairly long ones, 4+ hours each on any given day), Ysharros the No-Quests Captain has made approximately 2 gold (2000 silver) in Auction House sales. That’s probably not much for higher-level and/or older characters, but considering that Ysh is only level 16 it seems like a fair wodge of cash to me. I’m looking forward to logging in and seeing if she made any money overnight, which is not usually something I care (or can care) about since pretty much everything I harvest is farmed out to the various crafting alts for gobbling up.
(Quick digression and oops! It seems I didn’t take a single screenshot yesterday. Mea maxima culpa! In my defence, I was having such a blast I just forgot…)
Ysharros has even managed to make it to Journeyman Tailor and is working on mastering the previous Apprentice level as well as getting through to Expert. It’s slow going now, because I’ve only just made it to the levels where critters start dropping the medium hides you need for T2 tailoring, but I’m sure it’ll speed up as she levels. Her Prospecting and Forestry are both at expert now, even though I’m not of an adventuring level to really harvest T3 stuff.
Levels? Why yes. In-deed.
And yes, she has been levelling, albeit more slowly. This is not unexpected, since even my questing characters slowed down quite a bit when they hit the mid-teens. That may have more to do with my playstyle than with any actual lack of experience being offered — the teens is where you tend to move from your starting area to the next location up, which is Bree, so it’s also where you try to wrap up whatever’s still dangling from your time in newbie-land.
Ysharros was no exception. I spent some of yesterday trying to finish off some of the Shire deeds (she moved to the Shire to do her 1-teens levels rather than staying in Combe, which I don’t much like) — which included slugs (check), bandits (check, and some rather nice recipes and loot withal) and harvest-flies — uncheck.
The harvest-fly deed in the Shire is a pain in the ass, at least for me, because I don’t know of any locations where they spawn in reasonable numbers for the spittle-flying, sword-slashing extermination I had in mind. There are a fair few of them around but they’re spread over quite a large area and, worse yet, they share a spawn with wolves and toads and other non harvest-flyish critters. Running around getting rid of spawns and waiting for respawns and running around some more doing it again — that would have been a grind for me, so after a dozen or so flies I gave up on it. Whatever the trait is that’s associated with the advanced version… I’ll just have to get it some other way, or later on. I’ll come back to it at some point I’m sure, but I do not want to be bored. The whole point of this experiment is to see if I can have fun and NOT grind and NOT be bored… while still not taking quests.
The human element
On the bright side, the time I spent slaying various monsterage and harvesting nodeage also allowed me to get to meet some very lovely people. About time, too — I was starting to get worried that Elendilmir is one of those moribund old servers where the few players left are all in the highfalutin’ leet areas and you won’t hear a word in a regional or local channel until you hit 40 or so. (Note also that Elendilmir is the unofficial Oceania server, which makes finding populated times and areas even more difficult when you’re in the middle of the US like I am. Fortunately I do generally play at odd hours, so it’s easier for me to interface with non-US players than it can be for someone who can only play in the US-evening time.)
Anyway, yesterday the Shire /ooc channel was very active and very entertaining, even though only a handful of people were taking part. We chatted, we made jokes, we talked about food (what is it about /ooc channels and food?!), we got hungry, we threatened to scalp dwarves for Hobbit foot-toupees You probably had to be there. Eventually two of those people and I even met up to help one of our number do the “Bad Dourhands and pet Troll” quest out of Needlehole, whose name I can’t recall and which I couldn’t share anyway — but nobody ever said I couldn’t help with quests, even if I can’t take (m)any myself.
We romped through that bit, slaughtering evil dorfs left and right — easy to do when one of your number is level 17 and a nuker — and got on so famously that we decided we might as well make a silly-people’s food-obsessed kinship.
Enter The Ministry Of Silly Pies. How’s that for a guild tag to wear proudly? Monty Python + Food + Hobbit reference = WIN.
I felt a little awkward about it given that my long-time guildmates from Asheron’s Call have a guild on Elendilmir, but I don’t think any of them are active there right now. Besides, the guild leaders are my neighbours and I can probably bribe them away from anger with a beer or three.
Having explained what I was doing on Elendilmir and why I couldn’t take quests or make alts, my newfound friends (whose names are being withheld until they tell me otherwise and *cough* I actually log in to remember them*) took to the experiment with gusto and were very mean indeed about not letting me make any alts — not even placeholders to make sure our three-man guild would have the 8 members it needed to not be nuked after 24 hours. Mean, I tell ya.
After those couple of hours of fun and games I moved Ysharros over to Bree, where I putzed about gathering a few tier 2 resources and getting myself to level 15 — at which point I RAN NOT WALKED to my trainer and got my quest fix for the day, since level 15 is when you get your first class quest in LOTRO.
Oh yes – class quests were also deemed allowable to do, especially since they’re really rather essential to some classes (minstrels get to wear medium armour, for instance) and certainly very useful to all of them. At the time the rules were laid down we didn’t know what I was going to play. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
But what’s the verdict?
So all right, enough of the gaming journal crap, what are the actual conclusions so far?
1. Alts – do want! And yet it’s equally liberating to not have any, and that I certainly didn’t expect. We get into playstyle ruts, we pick up our comfortable habits and we don’t deviate much from them no matter what game we’re playing — and filling up the char select screen with alts is one of mine.
Now, I’m not suddenly all down on the alt thing, but it really is a different experience when you only have one character. For one thing you get less scattered, and there’s a lot less to remember (not having any quests really helps that one too). You don’t have to figure out who’s what level and needs whom to make what gear, who’s waiting on what resources, and who needs money. Ah yes, money. It’s in chronic shortage when you have crafting alts, at least until they’re all big enough to make useful stuff to sell — and even then, because the basic fact is that resources sell at least as well if not better than finished goods.
So I will remain dreadfully tempted to make alts, and I will continue to resist. If I want the full-on alt experience I can just log on to Landroval, where my first move was to make half a dozen alts. I’m not kidding. Before I even logged in for the first time.
2. You don’t need to quest to progress. It’s somewhat slower going, for sure, but it’s really not all that different. The biggest thing questing does isn’t so much to provide experience (which typically comes to about 10-15 mob kills) but rather to provide goals and a structure. I can set those for myself: I can go out harvesting, which includes killing mobs to get them off my nodes or to rip their precious hides off them. I can go out to do a deed or two, and in LOTRO they’re nicely varied, so I can explore or I can just go after a certain type of critter or I can go out and sightsee and kill stuff and use my skills while I’m about it, incrementing the ability-deeds in the process.
I did a mix of all of the above yesterday, harvesting when it took my fancy (which was most of the time), killing mobs when I felt like it, and exploring all the while.
3. You don’t need to quest to get good gear. It helps, that’s for sure, and if you’re very gear-oriented then this whole no-quests thing might not work for you, especially at the higher levels. But for the lower levels that I’ve been playing at, you can buy or make pretty much the same stuff as what the quest-givers would hand out. You have to spend a bit more on buying gear, obviously, but if you’re also doing the no-alts thing then you should have plenty of money from selling stuff at auction.
As a side note on that one, I don’t even think it’s essential to take a harvesting profession if you don’t enjoy that kind of thing. Killing brigands in Bree and the Shire netted me some pretty cool recipes and gear — which I only noticed much later on because I don’t usually pay attention to loot until I’m ready to sell it — and a couple of pieces had sold on the AH even before I logged out yesterday. I bet that’s as valid a way of making some cash as selling resources has been.
4. Be clear about what YOU consider fun. If your main aim is to get to the end-game and raiding and whatnot as fast as possible, this is probably not the playstyle option for you! It is slower, even if it’s not as much slower as I’d expected — I guess we’ll see what happens when I hit 20 or beyond, assuming I get that far. It’s also less obviously structured, and you have to be prepared to make your own priorities.
On the upside: it’s less obviously structured, and you can pretty much do what you like when you like without that quest log nagging at you that you should be looking for groups, that some of your quests are going green (or even grey), that you’re really very close to XYZ area and should be doing quests A, B and C while you’re here… all that stuff. It adds up as background noise in the brain — at least my brain — and it’s been really pleasant to shut that nagging up all week. So much so that even though I’m already very fond of my Landroval characters, I haven’t really wanted to log on to them and let that babble start up again — a babble that’s only made 5 or 6 times worse when you have that many alts.
In fact, I’m very, very tempted to a) cut some of my Landroval alts (though it pains me to even think about doing that) and b) play questless on a few of them, at least for a while — at least until I recover some of the spontaneity and doing-my-own-thingness that made MMOs so much damn fun in the beginning.
In the previous update post, Geekdoctor mentions wanting to try a similar experiment with slightly different parameters: questing normally while avoiding all the kill-ten-rats type quests that have no meaning other than to send you out to basically grind X amount of xp before coming back to the quest-giver. I think it’s a capital idea, and it would absolutely work brilliantly in LOTRO, since the major arc quests are built to tell a story rather than just give you a structured way to grind levels. Keep us posted if you do that, Geekdoctor — I’d be happy to offer guest-post space if you don’t have your own gaming blog.
The only downside of this experiment is that I’m enjoying it too much. I’d already made some friends on Landroval (where Syp and a bunch of other bloggers play), became attached to my chars (all 6 of them) and even joined a guild with one of them. But I’m also having a blast on Elendilmir with more new friends. That’s going to be a tough choice — or it’s going to split my gaming time rather more sharply than I usually like.
Right now, I’m not sure what to do about that.
* I am cataclysmically bad with names. Seriously. I’d forget my own if it wasn’t on my email address.