2. Experience elixirs
1. New hairdos
I think I've become somewhat famous in the Massively guild, OnedAwesome, for how frequently I'm changing my hairstyle and color. Rubi is often exasperated that I'm out-girling her in this department, but the real truth is that I simply haven't found anything that really clicks yet. Couple that with the store's lack of any preview, and I change my looks at least once a month. At least it's not that expensive.
I'm not generally a huge advocate of experience-gain-boosting purchases, although in DDO
it kind of feels different. For one thing, you're not earning XP with every kill, but rather only during quest objectives and at the end of a mission. For another, leveling doesn't seem like it's the point of the game as much. Since I only play DDO
once a week, I use these to help keep up with the group's leveling pace -- and with 10% and 20% bumps to XP gain, the elixirs aren't overpowered.
3. Gold seal contracts
At first I didn't think twice about ever purchasing a DDO
store hireling. After all, hirelings are available in-game with fake money, so why drop TP on one? Then a friend pointed out the one huge advantage to these: You can use up to five "gold seal" hirelings at once, versus just a single normal hireling at any given time. Being able to pull out a small army of hirelings, especially if your group composition is hurting, can be a Godsend. They're not too expensive, either, so I don't feel bad when I need to get one for a special situation.
Tomes are DDO's
method of giving unique one-time increases to various stats. You can use +1 tomes at level 3 and +2 tomes at level 7. The +3 and +4 tomes are only available (as far as I know) through raids and other special in-game efforts. Because a +2 tome overrides a +1 one, I like to wait until level 7 to beef up my character's stats. A smart shopper, such as myself, will patiently wait for Turbine to run a store special on these and then snatch them up, as tomes are rather expensive.
Actually, make that quiver, singular. As a bard who totes around a heavy repeater, I burn through loads of ammo like nobody's business. It was pretty convenient to pick up a beefy quiver right at the start of the game instead of waiting to save up for one.
6. Bell of Opening Locked Items
I've only ever bought this once, and even that was due to a rare situation in which we were deep in a dungeon without a lockpicker and came upon a door that was hiding a bit of juicy content and an additional quest. The bell isn't cheap -- 95 TP is almost $1, more or less -- but by getting one, I became the hero of the hour, and our mission continued.
7. Cosmetic hats
Don't be fooled by the word "cosmetic" here. While these hats certainly add a bit of flair to your character's appearance, most of the hats come with helpful stats attached. These stats are typically aimed at a particular class or role; for example, I have the Festival Hat II on my bard, as it bumps my haggle skill up seven points and both my performance and diplomacy skills by five.
8. The 32-point build
Although you can unlock 32-point builds in the game, it takes a substantial amount of time and effort to do so (unlike unlocking the Drow race, which is relatively easy). I've always felt inadequate with 28-point builds, so I forked out a good amount of TP at the start of DDO Unlimited's
run to make the character I've always wanted.
If I was a poor man...
Of course, many of the above purchases were made with little concern for my finances, seeing as how DDO
gives me a monthly allowance to spend. However, if I were a poor man running the F2P client instead, I'm sure my choices would be radically different. (You can read Rubi's take on a truly F2P experience in a previous column
For starters, I'd probably make a temporary character to garner enough favor to unlock the Drow race for free (aka "the poor man's 32-point build") and work within those limitations to create my main character.
The only true store necessities of the early game are... well, none. That's how DDO
hooks you in: You really don't have to spend a penny for a good long while to enjoy the game. Even when you get up in the higher (level 8+) levels, you still have options if you're looking for a free ride.
One option is to thoroughly rake in as much favor as possible on as many unlocked character slots as possible to get as much free TP as possible, then use the TP for adventure packs. Assuming that I wasn't going to spend anything at the start (and thus remain as a free player versus the premium player upgrade), that means two character slots. Rinse and repeat on all of the servers, and I could theoretically earn up to 3500 TP. Of course, that's an insane amount of work, but it is possible. (An even crazier option involves earning the TP, deleting the characters, and rerolling, as the TP remains in your account.)
A saner path would be to scrimp and save all TP from normal favor acquisition and simply keep an eye on the store for adventure pack specials. While there are adventures that take me all the way to the level cap, there are only six such adventures after level 11, which means that I'd be running the same six for nine levels. Everyone has his own opinion which adventure packs are worth buying to beef up the F2P experience (and that's a subject for an entirely different article), but I'd probably hold off until I reached level 10 to explore my options in that regard.
In any case, the store is a different entity if you're a subscriber vs. a free player. For the former, it's a playground of luxury items and niceties; for the latter, it's the gatekeeper to actual gameplay. All in all, I feel that it's pretty reasonable for both groups, and it's terrific that Turbine made some effort to allow players to earn TP in game, even if its a small sum.