I was reading the forums the other night after filling out my warlock survey when I came across a few threads about locking XP in the 80-84 bracket. It’s a small PvP bracket right now, with most people staying at 80 for the beneficial stat scaling on the gear that exists (much like the 70 bracket.) Some class combos, though, apparently fare quite well at 84 – Frost DKs in particular.
Hey, I thought, I have a level 84 Frost DK. I should lock XP and check out the bracket.
And then I suddenly felt much better about Cynwulf’s future.
Locking XP at 84 seems a little crazy – you’re almost there! – but I’ve been dreading getting to 85 with him. He’s currently my gathering toon, the one I play when I’m on my treadmill so I can fly around and mine ore, and he’s slowly crept his way from 80 to 84 on mining XP alone. And I suppose, once he hit 85, I would probably be okay with outfitting him with some cheap Bloodthirsty gear and continuing to use him to mine. It’s a boring existence, but at least it has a purpose.
But there’s a very different world that opens up at 85, a world that requires a commitment to get good and stay good. There are dailies and reputation grinds and PvP and dungeons and heroics and raiding and gear and gear and more gear.
And I don’t want that for him.
Leveling to the endgame makes me feel like the character is never complete. There will always be something else to get, something else to do. That’s okay – that’s part of what WoW is about. That’s why I have an endgame character to experience it, and when I’m playing her, I always have something to do. Always.
But there’s a darker side to that, which took me twinking Cynderblock at 19 to realize: I will always be running to catch up with the endgame. The price of seeing cool things and playing at the endgame is the fundamental knowledge that the gear I have now will not be good enough in 3 months. That the dailies I do today will be replaced with different dailies later on. That there will be always be a compulsion to keep up with the Joneses.
Some people are able to manage this really well psychologically. They get endgame characters to a certain point and go, good enough. I can do that in PvE well enough, I suppose, but in PvP I’m constantly going, gear is an issue. Gear is an issue. Gear is an issue – until it finally isn’t. Then there are a few weeks or months where I have the best PvP gear available and play to my heart’s content – until the new tier/season comes, and it starts all over again.
I don’t like putting work into something only to have it lose value, and lose value rapidly. So there’s an issue with gear.
But there’s more to it than just a gear grind. That’s a big part of it, but not all of it.
I’ve written before about how I’m trying to think of my characters as projects, with specific purposes behind each. It’s helped make me happier in game, of reducing the alt guilt and feeling that I should do something with any given alt. I rolled a hunter to see the 20-24 twink bracket; when I feel like playing her, I do, but as I get mostly BiS gear, I don’t feel any great compulsion to play her. There’s no guilt associated with not logging in, no sense of falling behind. I make peace with characters when they hit a point where they’re good at what I want them to do. PvP, PvE, leveling – if they’re good at doing what I want them to do, then I can settle down and enjoy playing them.
It’s funny – if I’m leveling well – decent gear, comfortable with abilities, confident with the class – then I find I actually enjoy the process. I like seeing the world. I like experiencing the quests. The pvp imbalances don’t bother me.
But when I’m lost within a class, then I don’t enjoy logging in to them.
I locked XP on my druid at 70 to help fix this problem – stop the leveling, I want to get off for a little while and rediscover the joy in playing a toon. I’m working on her PvP gear, slowly, but my big thing is just trying to relearn healing wiht her. Locking XP helped me suspend any future changes to abiities, but also helped me suspend any expectations with her. It calmed me down about what I should be doing; not leveling, but just figuring out what spells to use, maybe a few macros to help out, work on cleaning up her UI when the fancy strikes. I’m doing the same thing on my priest, only I haven’t locked her XP yet – but I plan to.
And this is, surprisingly, working on these characters. I log in, I putter about and make some progress, and then I can leave them for days, weeks, or months. I don’t feel guilty about leaving them be, of falling behind. If I want to let them level up further, I can – my druid might go to 79 or 80, for instance – but I don’t really want to go any further. Stats start to drop off at 81 and go downhill to 85, making it especially unattractive for a healer.
So I don’t really think that locking Cynwulf at 84 is all that crazy – at least not anymore. It’s an opportunity to get him some more playtime in PvE and PvP without introducing the additional stress of the endgame. It avoids the dramatic drop off in abilities that happens at 85, a drop off which is only compensated for by gear.
Will I miss out on all the Cataclysm endgame stuff?
But I don’t think I’m missing out on much, to be honest.
I’ll have more fun, and less guilt, this way.