Something unexpected has come up in my WoW play since I went on hiatus from <Archon>: I've become more of a single-character than I have ever been before. (There is one category of exception, which I'll write about in another post.) This intrigues me enough that I'm going to write a post about it.
There's an interesting conjunction of factors. I have a character class that I like as much as liked hunters before the current wave of tweakings: the combination of melee and magic, the horror-rich background, the way cool abilities, it's just great. Furthermore, it gave me the chance to bring back a favorite old character in a way that makes complete sense for the world and gives me plenty of roleplaying opportunities whenever I feel like it.
Socially, I have a best-of-both-worlds environment. I have a small guild—six members right now, and it seems unlikely that we'd ever get beyond eight or perhaps ten or so. But I also have a couple channels' worth of overlapping friends, some going back three years and more now in real time, and one of the current incarnations of Earthen Ring's amazingly strong and productive cross-guild not-necessarily-raiding kind-of-an-alliance. For instance: random pick-up groups will not in general be glad to take level 75 tanks to, say, the Halls of Stone. But groups who include people who know me, or just who've seen me around in chat and have a sense of my style, will. And do. (Tanking Halls of Stone at 75 is some tough but fun work, lemme tell ya.)
So there's a combo of factors at work:
• Performance. Death knights can do a whole lot, and I like watching Spiderheart in action, and I'm with people willing to help me do my best playing her.
• Comfort. I just plain feel safer and more relaxed where I am. I am at, as nearly as I know, no risk of insult or recrimination for advancing faster than anyone else. There's a large continent who are already at 80 and thoroughly entrenched in the existing raiding, so I don't threaten anyone's need to be at the top—I'm not going to be at the top anytime soon, so I don't court a repetition of the emotional trouble that made maxing out Tivara turn so bad. But then people I am advancing with don't feel threatened by my progress in that way, either. They aren't worrying if I get to 75 while their character's at 73, or whatever. They're happy that I'm happy, and when our paths cross, we collaborate.
The biggest single gain for me out of all this is, slightly to my surprise, reputation. Here comes the primer for my non-WoW-playing readers.
• Reputation. Once your character makes contact with any member of a faction, they have a reputation with that group. The spectrum runs from Hated, to Hostile, to Unfriendly, to Neutral, to Friendly, to Honored, to Revered, to Exalted. You earn reputation points by performing quests for the faction, and for killing their enemies. The rewards for these range from a single point (for killing trivial enemies) up to thousands (for completing the final steps in long quest chains and killing major bosses). Going up, it takes 3,000 points to go from just barely neutral to friendly status, 6,000 to go from friendly to honored, 12,000 to go from honored to revered, and 21,000 to go from revered to exalted. Going down, it takes 3,000 points to get from neutral to unfriendly, another 3,000 to get from unfriendly to hostile, and 36,000 to max out hostility. (You won't often want to do that, but it can come up.)
Some reputations stand alone: the Argent Dawn doesn't care what others think of a character, and vice versa. Others come in pairs: the Steamwheedle Cartel cares very much what the Bloodsail Buccaneers think of your character, and vice versa, and your character loses as much (or more) rep with one as they gain with the other.
Why bother? Well, several reasons.
First of all, some factions (by no means all) have rewards at various levels. Every one of your faction's base groups gives a price break with rising rep rank. Arms and armor, recipes for different kinds of crafting, consumables like potions and foods with special restorative abilities, even pets (this one's going to be mine for Spiderheart in just a few days) are scattered all through the lists of rep-based rewards. Honored rep with various factions lets you buy keys to get into related dungeons' heroic mode.
Then there are other rewards for some. Notice that in the screenshots below, it's "Ambassador Spiderheart". That's because she has exalted status with all five of the Alliance's core groups: the humans of Stormwind, the dwarves of Ironforge, the elves of Darnassus, the gnomes of the Gnomeregan Exiles, and the draenei of the Exodar. When she's exalted with the furbolg of Timbermaw Hold, the Kalu'ak, and the Sporeggar, she'll have the option of displaying the title "Diplomat Spiderheart" instead.
(Note to my knowledgeable readers: these screenshots were taken early on the 9th, when I started writing this. Now, as I finish it up, it's the morning of the 12th, and I've made progress on several.)
Rep grinding is just what it sounds like: performing a set of tasks repeatedly. Sometimes it's a daily quest, like the one I wrote about where Spiderheart has to help a confused sea lion bull find his way to true love with an equally perplexed sea lion cow. Sometimes it's a task that can be performed as often as you can get it done; Spiderheart is in the midst of earning the trust of the Timbermaw Hold furbolg by bringing them ceremonial feathers taken from the bodies of enemy tribes' members, with 300 rep for each set of 5 feathers.
Some go fast—it can take just a few days' dedicated effort to get to exalted with a faction like Stormwind or Orgrimmar, because many, many quests give rep with them and a high-level character can recapitulate philogeny, I mean, start with the level 1-10 quests and go from there, and zoom. Some are, by design, slow—I may be at the Wintersaber Trainers one for weeks or months yet.
They all take time, though. And what I'm really liking most, I think, about the single-character play is making all this progress on goals I've always been interested in, but always distracted away from. I have, for instance, never had a character get to revered with Timbermaw Hold before. But Spider has, and exalted isn't that far away. This is fun.