On Titles, Character Uniqueness, and the Collecting Instinct

Ashwalker_the_argent_champion

Ashwalker, my level 70 warrior twink, became “Ashwalker the Argent Champion” tonight. I’m pretty happy with this, because it was in WPL/EPL where I clicked with Ash, where I did every single quest I could find, where her character started to take shape.

Even though this is a title from Wrath of the Lich King, it isn’t the hardest title to get, especially not if you do all the quests in the Plaguelands first. You’ll be in good shape both with the Argent Dawn and the Argent Crusade – Revered with the Dawn and Honored with the Crusade – which can then be finished off with some repeatable quests or commendation turnins. It took about 2 hours of play time to knock it all out once I decided I was going to do it this weekend – that’s after the questing, of course.

The most heavily revamped zones in Cataclysm that I’ve done all share one strong characteristic – they tend to tell a linear story centered entirely upon your character, and that story becomes definitional for your character. There’s not really a lot of good ways to repeat the zone and have the story feel that much different – the zones define a character. I talked about this a little while ago inĀ Replay Value, and I haven’t seen a lot that has changed my mind. If you take the story of a zone seriously – by saying yes, these things are actually happening to my character, they are affecting him or her, they matter – then they won’t really work well when you run through them on an alt.

Interestingly, the zones that came to define Ashwalker were WPL, EPL, and Swamp of Sorrows. Those are the zones she quested solidly in, where she saw the story through to the end (despite quests turning green and gray) and where she didn’t skip out all the time for PvP or LFD. (This is also why she never ran Stratholme at level.)

Ashwalker_-_stratholme_is_burning

I wouldn’t have expected those zones, which are either very heavily anti-Scourge (Plaguelands) or Alliance-Horde conflict (Swamp of Sorrows), to feature so prominently in my night elf warrior’s life. I thought she’d take more to Ashenvale (which didn’t click at all) or Duskwood/STV (which were okay, but didn’t compel me to finish.)

I thought about getting Ash the Argent Champion title at level 49, when I froze her XP the first time. I knew it was possible. But I didn’t, because – at the time – I was adamant that I was going to break out of the cycle which kept me from getting to the endgame with characters, and that I was really only going to lock XP until I’d gotten comfortable with all the new keybinds, get my UI straightened out, and then move on. (I also considered Ambassador.) So, I gave up on that idea and went back to leveling, which was still fun – I enjoyed SoS more than I thought I would – but eventually the call of Alterac Valley and endless Ramps runs proved too much to resist.

Cynwise has the Argent Champion title, too, but she rarely wears it. She has a lot of titles, but often runs around with the simple “of Stormwind,” “Crusader” (for ICC), “Chef” and “Salty,” because they’re ridiculous and I love them. They don’t define her, they’re kind of tacked on. I could show up without a title and be just fine. Cynwise kind of exists without a title, which is interesting. The titles I’d use for her (Colonel) doesn’t exist in game – it was deliberately chosen to be outside the Alliance ranks to indicate that she was a different branch of the armed services – in this case, a mercenary – yet to still indicate that she was the highest rank while still being allowed to be out in the field. ‘wise is a rich character, and I don’t think I need to have the title to remind me of that though.

Cynderblock, on the other hand, is Ambassador Cynderblock, and she’s going to hold that title for a long time, no matter what else I get on her. That title means something to me, it holds importance that no level of nerfing will ever reduce. I had a huge amount of fun getting that title. I spent time with friends who are moving on from WoW working on it. It’s the signifier of a good memory, and even Explorer or of the Alliance won’t replace it for long.

Different approaches to characterization are a good thing. I find Poetry’s take on the matter really interesting – instead of trying to collect titles and mounts, pick a single title that fits the character concept and go with just that one. Instead of getting 30 mounts, figure out the right flying and ground mount for the character and just use them. If it doesn’t fit the character concept or look and feel, skip it.

I find this interesting because in many ways it smartly anticipates what I’m figuring out as I fumble my way through getting titles on my alts – namely, that titles need to fit, to make a character unique, or they aren’t really all that important. Argent Champion matters to Ash, not because it was terribly hard, but because it’s an external signifier for something which was important and unique to me, that she and I had a blast questing through the Plaguelands together.

Ashwalker_-_epl_cultist_disguise

At the same time, there’s a definite tension between this idea of character uniqueness and my desire to collect everything, which I indulge on more than just Cynwise. Cynwise is my mount and pet collector, in as much as I collect them, but I collect all kinds of lowbie gear on Cynderblock, pretty dresses on my blood elf priestess and human rogue, gadgets on Cynwulf – I collect things. And I feel the pressure to get achievements, and the pets, and all the things.

Vidyala talked a lot about this pressure to reacquire all the achievements when she switched mains, and I really feel it too. Whatever I’m playing right now, I want them to be awesome, and that includes those cheesy points. And mounts. And pets. And 50 suits of armor – for screenshots, I guess, because I don’t even play on an RP realm. Why the heck do I feel these are necessary? I don’t know, but I do.

Sometimes, chasing achievements can be really neat. I know I’m out of the worldwide running for achievement points on Cynderblock (you need about 2500 to be considered truly serious, she has like… 1100?), but getting some achievements on her can really be satisfying. Killing the Whale Shark – which no, Cynwise doesn’t even have – was a pretty neat experience, even if I didn’t kill it per se – c’mon, level 19 warriors just don’t have the tools to solo it. It’s nice having that achievement to point to and say, don’t talk to me about limits, I’m a scrub and if I can kill the Whale Shark at 19, you can do just about anything. But again, it’s a fond memory.

But other times, I wonder – am I chasing these things on Cynwise so that I can have a higher “score”? So that the number that appears next to her name is bigger? Why should I go back and run all those dungeons I missed while leveling? It’s not like BFD is going to give me any phat lewt; it’s just checking a box on the way to Classic Dungeoneer.

She’s already about as unique a character as I can make. She’s more than the sum of her mount collection or achievement points.

Yet, I still feel compelled to push onward, collect everything I can on her.

There are two very different viewpoints being expressed here. On the one side there’s uniqueness, even if expressed via commonly-accessible items. A character is a character, this is who they are, they aren’t all things to all people.

On the other side, there’s the character as a respresentation of ourselves, of our sum accomplishments in game. Tension happens when we invest ourselves in a character like this, but also great things can happen with deep investment.

I’m glad I got Ashwalker the Argent Champion title. It’s fitting, somehow. I would consider getting her the Argent Tournament mounts, as well, but I don’t think that’s possible at level 70. So I am still searching for just the right mount (she’s using the Celestial Steed in the meantime.) I don’t feel compelled to get her any other titles right now.

But it leaves me wondering about all the titles I’ve collected on Cynwise, and who she is, really.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “On Titles, Character Uniqueness, and the Collecting Instinct

  1. Poetry

    Sometimes the title or mount picks the character. Sometime the character chooses them for him/herself. Either journey is quite essential to defining a character. I have nothing against collecting. My bestest friend is a mount/pet/achievement collector. For me though, it’s like friends. I’d really rather have a few close friends that I adore, as opposed to a bunch of friends that I barely know. The relationships are just more meaningful this way.I think I just compared my characters to my friends…. oh, oh dear.

  2. Poneria

    On Pon, I collect all the things. I’m still not that great at all the things (don’t even have 9k achiev points yet).The titles I run around with on Pon are either warlocky (the Hallowed & of the Nightfall) or something I love doing (the Seeker, and I’m reworking on the parts of Loremaster I lost in the Cata reset). I have a bunch of mounts (92) and pets (102) as well, but I only run around with a few: Twilight Drake, Cenarion Hippogryph, Blue Proto, Rusted Proto, Magnificent Carpet. Same with pets, though pets tends to differ on my mood versus what normally fits. She also wears specific tabards; particularly, I try to match them to my current oufit. Right now the Scryers tabard fits nicely (or Shattered Sun, but I <3>ll put them on Abyssal Bag instead.

  3. Poneria

    It ate my comment >.< last paragraph is actually two.I’ll have to switch to Tabard of the Achiever to make it fit the Balespider Robes, despite absolutely loving the Scryers tabard. & I’ve always wanted to display my other toons and their personalities & stories, but it felt wrong on my supposedly warlock blog. So maybe I’ll put them on Abyssal Bag instead.

  4. Jezriyah

    I basically follow Poe’s line of thought on Jezi, but seeing as I’ve had the same main for my entire nearly four years in Azeroth, I’ve seen an awful lot of evolution on her. She generally wears new PvE-related titles as she gets them — of the Ashen Verdict, Kingslayer, et cetera, to stand for what she’s doing.She really came into her own in Outland, and as I was grinding Skyguard rep, the story started to build itself around her. She reached officership in the Skyguard, discovering an incredible skill at flying, and wore their tabard and rode her Nether Ray through the entire expansion. She wore the Shattered Sun title proudly despite never setting foot in MgT or Sunwell, because it stood for so much of what she stood for — the races of Azeroth coming together despite their differences to protect their world.In Wrath, she was enlisted under the Warsong Offensive; her Scout’s Tabard, splayed with the insignia of the Horde, stayed on the entire expansion (and came off in Cataclysm when she resigned from the military because she was sick of Hellscream’s shit).These days, after briefly putting on ‘Defender of a Shattered World’ for pure OOC bragging rights, she is Jezriyah of Sen’jin almost exclusively. I actually picked up the Armored Razzashi Raptor, which thrilled me to death because it matches the Bloodtalon raptors that her father raises on the Echo Isles (one of which is her main IC pet). It’s been pretty fascinating watching her accoutrements evolve along with her as a character.

  5. Rhoelyn

    This is a total source of conflict for me. It’s because I have “two mains”. At the end of Burning Crusade, I finally leveled and discovered my abiding love for my druid. In Wrath, he became my new “main” in that I leveled him first, raided with him, and geared him. But Rhoelyn has always been my love, my first, my baby. I could never abandon her, even after now two Xpacs of my raiding focus being on Rhese. So Rhese has all the raiding achievements, the pretty purples, the PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWAH. He has all the reps a raider needs, all the grinds and their associated achievements. He gets my time when it comes to being a powerful, top-tier toon. But I can’t leave Rhoelyn out in the cold. She gets my time in every other way I can manage: pets, reps, titles, throwing bears at dogs and turtles at fire guys. She’s a Loremaster. Rhese isn’t. She’s got 150+ pets. Rhese doesn’t. She’s leveling archaeology. Rhese will never, ever, ever do that boring-ass tradeskill. I haven’t gotten Rhoelyn the Hand of A’dal title, yet, because I asked my friends to help me get it for Rhese. But I’m still holding on to a handful of grey quests she needs to finish it up. And it still kills me that I can’t get her everything. And I can’t get Rhese everything (because hellz no am I farming for two of every pet she has, grinding every rep twice). And neither one of them looks particularly impressive in terms of Achievement points because they’re splitting a lot of really awesome things between them.Urgh. So how did I choose who’s gotten what? Practicality and personality. Rhoelyn is a Loremaster because that’s the type of character she is. She HAD to be a Loremaster. Rhese… eh, he’s a smart kitty, but he doesn’t have the patience to absorb all those stories. Rhese’s favorite title is <private> because he snickers at it like a schoolboy every time someone addresses him. Rhoelyn never wears her <sergeant> title because it’s completely unlike her to have spent time in a battleground. (I was convinced by my partner-in-crime mage, at the time).So when you talk about the conflict of achievements on alts, I hear ya. When you talk about achievements and titles defining and BEING defined by a character, I’m with ya. And when Bmonster makes achievements (and titles?!) account-wide, I’ll be partying right by your side.