It’s getting harder and harder to solo your way through World of Warcraft. The older the servers get, the more guild-play and raiding affect the economy and practices. At this point, no matter how much of a loner you are, or how odd the hours you keep, I highly recommend finding a guild to join just for the few little conveniences it gives you–non-antagonistic people you can ask questions of; folks who are more likely to help you if you need it; having a guild-name under your character name (which makes people less likely to assume you’re a gold-farmer). It is possible to find one of the few laid-back, non-raid-focused, friendly guilds out there if you look in the right ways–but that’ll be the subject of another post. Today it’s time to adapt my old blog posting (of more than a year ago) on solo play in Warcraft to today’s issues.
Sometimes you just want to play an MMORPG like World of Warcraft solo, without a party or guild. Maybe you’ve just had trouble finding a good one, or you log in at odd times, or you want the relaxation of being able to do whatever you want whenever you want. However, soloing can be difficult. MMORPGs are social games, and they’re built to reflect that. They encourage reliance on others. So how do you solo comfortably? Here are a few tips:
Using alts: Unless you’re the kind of player who only feels comfortable playing one main character, create several of widely differing classes in the same faction (Alliance or Horde–you have to choose anyway on a PvP server, but on other servers it’s possible to have both). For example, create a mage, warrior, rogue, and perhaps a warlock as well. It’s good to have a spread of abilities at your command. Also, this means that if you want to do instances, you can fill the needs of most any pickup group no matter what class they’re looking for, which makes it easier for you to find groups. If you want to level up one or two characters first, then consider doing this with an under-played class or one of the basic, always-needed classes. Rogues and hunters, for example, often have trouble getting into groups because there are so many of them.
Try to alternate playing your characters so that you spend as much of your playtime in rest state as possible–since you probably won’t be doing as much instance-running as most folk, it helps to maximize experience from kills. It helps to keep a few levels’ distance between characters; the loot you find often works best for characters below your own level, and this allows you to pass on the loot you find that suits other classes to your alternate characters, which cuts down on equipment costs. It helps to not have two characters with similar armor and weapon needs too close to the same level, so that they don’t compete for items you may find.
Talent points: Do your best to spend your talent points in ways that make solo play easier. Concentrate on talents that protect you rather than helping you protect others. For example, shadow priests tend to have an easier time soloing than holy priests, even though they have a harder time getting into groups.
Strengths and weaknesses: Play to your own strengths as a player and do what you can to account for your weaknesses. Watch what you have trouble with and account for it. For example, I find that when soloing health is a huge problem for me, so I collect stamina-buffing items. I spend talent points on things that increase my chance to hit and crit (so I can kill things as quickly as possible), decrease my chance to be hit or reduce the damage I take, reduce my chance of having spells interrupted by damage, make it easier for me to escape if I get overwhelmed by adds, etc.
Trade skills: Make sure to give each character a different set of trade skills, for example: tailoring/enchanting (mage), mining/blacksmithing (warrior), skinning/leatherworking (rogue), herbalism/alchemy (warlock). Aggressively pursue those trade skills, collecting as many recipes as you can and building up your skill level as much as possible. If you play the auction house (see below) and get most of your equipment that way, then you might find it best to avoid some of the less immediately useful tradeskills such as leatherworking and smithing. You can instead concentrate on gathering skills (so you have mats and something to sell for money) and things like alchemy, enchanting, and engineering, which constantly benefit you. Potions can be a huge help when you’re soloing; stat boosts from enchanting make quite a difference; and the devices and explosives of engineering can give you a much-needed combat boost when you don’t have party members to help out.
Have each character support the trade skills of the others. Cloth drops off of most humanoids, so send any useful cloth to the tailor. If you can’t sell a magic item send it to the enchanter to be disenchanted. Both blacksmithing and tailoring sometimes require leather, so have the skinner send it to them when necessary. Have your alchemist send potions to everyone else as needed, and have the others send any herbs they loot in return. Looted ores can go to the blacksmith. Patterns go to whoever can use them. Gemstones go to whoever most needs them, or can be kept by the finder until needed later. Please keep in mind if one of your characters joins a group and looting is based on need that no one cares about the needs of your alts (alternate characters), so declare your needs only for that character; it’s rude to take more than one character’s share of loot for yourself.
Money: Have each character support the monetary needs of the other. Send money where it’s needed most at the time, to cover training, etc. I find that giving a character a little extra cash at low-level so they can get decent armor, weapons and training can make a huge difference in their own ability to accumulate cash later. Having decent bag-space makes a similar difference.
Keep an auction house/banking alt. Keep one alt stationed in a major city near the bank and auction house. Any time a character has things to be stored long-term or sold at auction, send them to that character. This reduces your trips into town, allows you to collect stackable items into larger amounts for sale, etc. You can also use this character to buy items for characters as needed. There are a couple of mods you might find particularly useful if you do this:
- Auctioneer–helps you get the best deals at the AH
- BankStatement–lets you view all your characters’ bank contents, so you can see if that cheap pair of boots you found would be useful to a character, or if they have something of that level already
- Book of Crafts–lets you see if one of your characters could use a tradeskill recipe
Farm up your own mats: Soloing is much easier to do if you have more than a few minutes here and there to spare on Warcraft. Spend some time farming the materials you need in areas that are a level or two below you. Since you’re alternating between characters you’ll get double experience points most of the time for being in a rest state, so you can collect items, cash, and experience this way without spending as much time dead. This also prevents you from having to spend as much money on materials, which allows you to save up your money for more important things.
Exploring areas: The World of Warcraft website has a page on finding quests for your level as well as a chart of region levels. If you don’t want or can’t find a decent group with which to hit the instance dungeons it can be tough to level by going through the appropriate sequence of areas for your race. So, hit the right area for your level for your race, then hit the right area for your level for another race, and so on. Move around doing whatever quests you feel up to until you’re ready to move on. If a quest is elite, you can either find a pickup group to do it or wait until you’re a few levels higher to tackle it.
Auction Housing: The prevalence of high-level characters has naturally driven up prices on most servers. Since folks can afford to pay more for equipment for their alts, people charge more. To make up for this, if you have some spare time you might consider using your auction house alt for more than just selling off loot.
Start with Auctioneer. Try to scan the AH at least once a day so your price data will be accurate–you don’t need to be at your keyboard for most of this, so just let it run during breakfast or dinner. Give your characters some decent gathering skills and make money by selling stacks of metal bars, herbs, and so on–I find metals and herbs to be two of the better money-makers, but it depends on the server and circumstances. Use the nifty detailed search function of Auctioneer to search for anything with a buyout price of, say, 70% under market value. Buy it, then resell it for, say, 10-25% under market value. Similarly, search for things with low bid prices and place bids.
If you give your AH alt the enchanting skill, you can also buy green items on the cheap, disenchant them, and either sell the mats or use them to enchant the items you’re going to sell to make them more valuable and likely to sell.
Here are several things to keep in mind:
- Only buy things that are so cheap that you can afford to resell them for less than the current market value. That means you’ll have faster turnaround time on your sales, and you’re less likely to annoy the folks who think it’s greedy to sell things for what folks are willing to pay for them.
- Do pay attention to the types of items that just don’t resell well. Do remember that Auctioneer can only note what people are trying to sell items at; this doesn’t necessarily mean those items are selling.
- Buy in the morning and sell at night/on the weekend. There are fewer people on in the morning, so try to run auctioneer over breakfast and place a bunch of bids; you’re less likely to get out-bid. At night there are plenty of people playing (particularly Fridays and weekends), so put everything up for sale, including the items that aren’t as likely to sell.
- Right after a patch that adds content, beware of buying up new items for a week or two; their value will probably drop precipitously as they flood the market initially, so you could lose a lot of money on them.
- Sometimes the best way to make money is by reselling small items. It might not seem like much to buy an item for 10 silver and resell for 40 silver, but keep in mind that the important factors are percentage of profit (it’s rare to sell high-ticket items for four times what you bought them for!) and how fast you can turn those sales around (cheap items are more likely to sell fast, in many cases).
It may seem that I got slightly off-topic there, spending so much time on auction house play in an article on soloing your way through Warcraft. However, I have found that if you don’t tend to participate in party-play a lot (for instance, I usually only play for an hour or two at a time, and often early in the day, which makes it tough to work in a group), having a source of funding makes things a whole lot easier. I can also seriously increase the survivability of my characters simply by buying up good items for them when I find them cheap, enchanting them myself with decent basic enchants, and mailing them on for when the character becomes high enough level.
Raids: Well, you’re going to have to go ahead and face this now. Solo play and raiding are fairly incompatible. I’m sure there are some few who make it work somehow–probably by joining a guild that only cares about its players’ raiding habits and that only wants to talk to folks who have already reached level 60 (and if you have tips on making raiding and solo play work, feel free to leave a comment). You still have to be willing to set aside a block of time for the raids, get on a voice server (most likely), and learn to work with your guild, which seems unlikely if you were set on soloing up until now.
PvP: On the one hand, it’s at least easier to PvP solo than it is to raid, since by definition raids require large groups of people and technically you can join a battleground or go beat people up by yourself. However, the truth is there’s likely to be a limit to how far you can progress unless you develop a good PvP team. It’s extremely difficult to rack up honor points and kills quickly when you’re playing solo or in a pickup group. Again, if anyone has tips here, please feel free to leave a comment.
I enjoy being in a guild in Warcraft, but mostly for chatting with folks while I go out and solo quests. I love having the huge world to mess around in, but I also like to be able to go at my own pace, log on and off as I please, etc. This means that I tend to solo a lot, even though at the moment I’m in a guild I really enjoy. Hopefully this overly-long post has given you a few ideas; please feel free to contribute any thoughts in the comments.