Death Penalties

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.  Check the thread out to see posts from other great blog authors!

There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Fortunately there isn’t a monthly gold fee to pay to Stormwind or Orgrimmar to pay for the services you get there – that’s why you have to pay for repairs and the auction house fees. However, death is rampant in WoW. There are very few people who can say that they haven’t died at all while leveling, and if doing dungeons or raids is your thing it’s a given fact that you will die at some point.

One big question stands out: how does a game deal with a character death? This question has been mulled over, thought about, and discussed a great many times as everyone has a different approach to it. I’ve played a few games which have all had different ideas about it, which I will explain and then give my own thoughts.

The first MMORPG I played was one called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Penalties for death included losing half the experience you had (over level 99), as it was used as a currency to purchase better health, mana, and stats. Also there was a “death pile”, which consisted of various items that the character was carrying, and certain items broke upon death. Prior to level 99, the character would lose a portion of their current experience.

After Nexus, I played Final Fantasy XI. Their death system worked similarly, with the exception of the items being dropped in favour of a more steep experience penalty. When a character dies there is a large experience penalty, and the chance that the character can actually level down. I had experienced that many times, when I was in a group killing stuff and recently leveled and then we all died… and I was suddenly the level I was previously.

Full disclosure: I haven’t played either game in a very long time, so their death systems may be different now. What I explained is how they worked when I played them.

As many people know, in World of Warcraft the penalty for death is fairly low. In essence, the taxes that I mentioned in the first paragraph are the penalty for dying in WoW. Equipped items are charged 10% durability loss with every death, in which the repair bills add up quickly after a night of learning a new raid boss.

If it’s decided to use a Spirit Healer, then an additional durability loss is charged to ALL items that are carried – whether they’re equipped or in the inventory. A character who has multiple sets of gear will go through great lengths to avoid using a Spirit Healer. On top of that a debuff called Resurrection Sickness is applied to the character for a period of time, which reduces health, mana, damage, and healing done. Basically, if you don’t go to recover your corpse you can’t do anything but travel for a while.

The death penalty is charged to discourage people from not caring about dying. Blizzard wants us to care about our characters, and try to keep them alive. At the same time, the penalty isn’t so steep that if a death happens we aren’t so discouraged that we throw our computers out the window.

In comparison to the other games, I believe that the penalty is exactly where it should be. It’s not so huge that we are mad beyond all reason, and not so small that we don’t care about dying at all. I can attest to the fact that after a night of learning a new encounter in a dungeon or raid, seeing my repair bill sure makes me want to have less wipes the next time I go.

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Melting Faces and Taking Names

Once upon a time, it was said that Shadow Priests can melt faces. After testing out this theory for myself, it turns out that the information presented was indeed correct. For the first time in my World of Warcraft career, I’m playing a “squishy” class without actually being squishy.

When Cataclysm hit, I had my sights set on making a goblin priest. I’m not sure why exactly I wanted to do that specific race/class combination, but it seems to be working for me so far. The first bit I decided to try to level entirely by using the dungeon finder, and it worked – for a while.

Levels 15-35 were fairly uneventful, with decent groups being able to go through a dungeon in a good amount of time without much drama. After that, it seemed every second group would either be completely full of idiots, or people who don’t know what they’re doing. If I was really fortunate, it would be a nice mix of both. I was really hoping to continue leveling through the LFD tool to work on my healing, since I would likely be doing this once I hit max level. However, this didn’t end up happening, and at level 42 I decided to start questing again.

Unfortunately, since this character had been parked in Orgrimmar from levels 15 to 42, I didn’t have any flight paths other than Bilgewater Harbour and Razor Hill. Thankfully I had epic riding skill, so the drive down to Dustwallow Marsh to pick up the Thousand Needles breadcrumb wasn’t too big of a problem. I changed over to my dual spec of Shadow, and promptly began to melt the faces of Grimtotems, pirates, and anything else that stood in my way.

Since then there has only been one circumstance when I switched back to my Discipline spec for use, which was to heal a tank so we could duo Durn the Hungerer in Nagrand. Apart from that, I’ve only switched over to spend the talent points that I had earned. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any need to do so.

While I was leveling my enhancement shaman I found I was able to solo most things, including some group quests which I had never been able to do before. Out of curiosity, I decided to try this in Hellfire Peninsula on my priest. I had gotten the feel of the class by this point, and was comfortable in what to do for an elite mob. After some preparation and making sure I had the proper buffs, the giants for the Colossal Menace quest were destroyed efficiently.

I was honestly quite shocked – a clothie that can solo group quests this easily? It was different from what I had expected. (For the record, I have leveled a Warlock previously and they did well for group quests – but having a Voidwalker or Felguard will help quite a bit! Warlocks aren’t that squishy, but I don’t have any experience with one since originally leveling through Outland back in Burning Crusade.) Not having a pet or something to tank an elite mob, while I was able to still do very decent damage and have self-healing… it was a nice feeling.

Going through Outland, I was able to solo all group quests in Zangarmarsh and Nagrand (with the exception of Durn). In my brief time in Howling Fjord I’ve been able to solo the one group quest that has come up which has always presented me with problems on other characters, which is March of the Giants – elite giants who do heavy damage, along with a hard-hitting damage over time debuff placed on you. Fortunately a priest’s arsenal includes Dispel Magic, which saved my hide a number of times through the course of that questline.

I was able to hit 70 before completing the quests in Vengeance Landing and Camp Winterhoof in Howling Fjord the other night. Originally, I was expecting to level by healing the dungeon finder groups I found with a Discipline spec. I’m extremely glad that I decided to make the switch.

It will be interesting to see how things go through Northrend and Cataclysm content. I’ll be wanting to get more healing experience, but being able to melt faces is just so much fun. Rolling this priest as an alt seems to have been a very good idea.