Monday, March 17, 2008

Slow going...

The team is level 46 at the moment, and three bubbles from level 47. The guild I am in has grown a bit and there is more to do with my main character with other people, and since that is what I prefer to do with my play time, it has left little time available to level the alts. This is not a bad situation, but it does mean that leveling will slow down quite a bit from here on out. I'm looking at a level per week or so, though two levels per weekend are possible under the right circumstances.

Playing them once a week means that they'll almost always be earning experience at the rested rate. After getting them to level 45 by running Uldaman a half-dozen times, I led the group to the Swamp of Sorrows and had them set their hearth at the inn there. Later, a guildmate provided them with a portal to Shattrath City and they set their hearth to the Scryer inn. My shaman is Aldor-aligned, but for now the factions don't matter, and the Scryer terrace is much closer to the ground than the Aldor terrace, which means fewer deaths if I happen to miss the elevator. This is a distinct possibility, because running four instances of WoW on one computer works just fine... until I am in Shattrath City. Then my characters lag pretty badly at times while moving through the city. But for normal zones, other cities, and instances, everything works just fine.


The Temple of Atal'Hakkar (aka The Sunken Temple, hereafter ST) sits in the center of the Swamp of Sorrows. It is a fairly large and somewhat complex dungeon, with what amounts to three separate wings within the same instanced area. There is one level where you can activate some statues in order to spawn a boss below. There is another area where you must defeat six mini-bosses, which allows access to another room below and the boss that is inside. Finally, there is an area crawling with dragonkin and their bigger brothers and sisters. Most mobs are level 48-50. One boss, the Avatar of Hakkar, can only be summoned after following a quest line. As much as I'd like to do that, it's not really an efficient use of my time, especially now.

Getting to level 46 did not take long, as the group was about 40% of the way there already. I cleared the two circular hallways, allowing me to summon the first boss and unlock access to the second. The group hit level 46 while I was clearing some of the early dragonkin packs, and at that point I called it a day, having killed only the first boss.

A week later I returned, ready to see if I could clear the zone. This is a matter of time, as my shaman can kill anything in there with little fuss. But I tend to take my time as I work my way through the zone, carefully looting and managing drops, etc. To make a long story short, I cleared the zone and got the group from around 2% of level 46 to 85%. It was all rested experience-- a full clear won't be worth a whole level to them. But it would've been easy enough to reset the instance and go again until they'd gotten level 47, or simply kill the trash that had respawned. Trash mobs in ST respawn pretty fast. I'll try to get levels 47 and 48 next weekend.

The first boss (Atal'alarion) is a pretty straightforward fight. The only thing to keep an eye out for is his ability to knock you very high into the air. I took about 50% of my health in damage when I finally landed. He still died pretty fast. Jammal'an the Prophet was a concern for me, because he can mind-control players in the group. If he managed to successfully mind-control my shaman, I'd wind up tearing the group to pieces. So I worked on keeping the group far enough away to avoid aggroing any mobs, but still close enough to soak up experience. This worked just fine, and the boss died just as he was about to try to mind-control me. His partner in crime was practically a footnote.

After that, I carved my way through the four lesser dragons that fly around in pairs once you have killed Jammal'an and his buddy. Those were pretty trivial, even though I clumsily pulled the first pair by having them aggro the group as I was running around. But no one died and finally I was faced with the final boss, the Shade of Eranikus.

The Shade was a concern because of his ability to sleep his current aggro target, effectively removing them from the fight for a short duration. Having him sleep my shaman and turn on the group could be a disaster. Again, I parked the group far enough so that the boss treated this as a solo attempt for aggro purposes, but close enough for them to get credit for the kill. I summoned my fire pet just in case, and went to town. I don't know if he attempted to sleep me or not, but after a few seconds he was dead.

My current short term plans are: Get the group to level 48. This will allow me to complete the quests in the final room in Uldaman (the ones with the discs, which requires level 47 to access) as well as the quest using the Essence of Eranikus. This should provide a considerable chunk of extra experience for the group. I will also look for any other quests that I can complete there. I do need to turn in a side quest in the Hinterlands as well, which may open up further quests for ST. I will then run ST and Zul'Farrak until at least level 50, and perhaps through to level 52 before I head on towards Blackrock Depths. I expect BRD to be their home until level 55 or 56, at which point I'll hit Stratholme and Scholomance and perhaps Dire Maul. Getting them to the mid-50s is the big short-term goal, since it opens up so much variety for me.

In the meantime I'd like to continue to level their tradeskills when I am able to. My shaman is a blacksmith and enchanter, and my other level 70 character (a rogue) is my gatherer-- he is max'ed in mining and herbalism. So the idea is to get the alts to cover for any tradeskills that I'd like to have. Engineering is out, since I plan to put any efforts at mining into jewelcrafting. My warlock is currently only at 101/150 in JC. The priest is at 260/300 in tailoring, and will continue to level it as I move on to mobs that drop runecloth. Bonuss, the paladin, is at 312/375 in skinning (this is the reason that I wanted the portal to Shattrath City for the group). He should get pretty far just from continuing to skin the endless supply of dragons and dragonkin in ST. I have a large amount of both low/mid-level leather and herbs, and just need to decide who will learn leatherworking and who will learn alchemy.

It's almost frustrating that things are getting so busy now, because I'm getting close to a really exciting and fun period for the group. But it's one of those problems that anyone would want to have, and it's nice to have as many options for grouping with friends as I do these days.

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