Enter at Your Own Rift: A closer look at wardstones and public groups

What a busy first week it's been in Telara! The first evening of RIFT's head-start was a bit stressful, as players fretted over hours-long server queues and lost playtime. But after that, things settled down, and the forums went relatively quiet as players chased down rifts and fought off invasions. With all of the excitement, though, there are a few things that players might overlook. This week, we're going to investigate a couple of handy tips that you might have missed but that will definitely make your adventures in Telara more enjoyable.

Read on to see why public groups are not just for rift invasions and how a little love to your nearby wardstone can make your life (and those around you) much happier.

Public groups -- they're not just for rift invasions

If you've ever played an MMO, I'm sure you've experienced the following. You've stopped by a quest hub, you grab every quest you can get, and you head out to kill your 10 roaming creatures. But just as you run up to attack your first mob, some guy behind you tags it first and steals your update. He's got the same exact quests as you, but instead of grouping together, the two of you spend the next 10 minutes trying to hit keys faster and steal mobs from one another. On the surface, it would make much more sense to group up and work together, but that would require a tell, and consent, and then the feeling that you're obligated to stick together even after you're done with the quest. Small talk can actually be a pretty big barrier to grouping!

In RIFT, that is no longer an issue. Many players are aware of the public group feature and are making good use of it during rift invasions, but it's also something you can use while hunting. If you click on a player and he's set himself to allow public grouping, you'll see a little button above his name. A simple click instantly adds him to your group, and you can work on quest updates together without ever having to send a tell or engage in small talk. Of course, if you prefer not to group with someone, you can flag yourself private and prevent others from grouping with you.

Several times now, I've been working on a tough named mob for a quest update and have pulled players into my group so they can get the update too. It's much better than having a line of players queued up and waiting for their turns at the spawn. The only time I can see myself turning it off is when I'm in a full group and don't want to be suddenly merged into a larger raid, because it's a hassle to have to disband and reform the group. But overall, this is a great feature, and despite the fact that it cuts down on the opportunity to chat, it actually makes the game much more social. I've grouped with more players in the last week than I have in the past year in other games.

Buff those wardstones!

So there you are, running around questing as the air suddenly grows warm and your map explodes with fire rifts. A zone-wide event just started, and it's a race to see whether you can drive back enough invasions before all of the wardstones are destroyed. On the surface, the easy plan is to go all-out-offensive and try to kill invaders before they kill you, but sometimes the best offense is a good defense. I've talked about buffing wardstones a bit in a previous column, but I'd like to take a closer look at exactly how this works and why it's so important.

Wardstones are located at quest hubs and towns, and if they go, so go the NPCs around them, which means no quest givers and no merchants. They start out as Hallowed Wardstones, and as they are buffed, they upgrade to Blessed, and eventually, Consecrated. They also give out a nice buff as they are upgraded, too, with the Consecrated Wardstone giving you the ability to deal out 20% more damage and receive 20% less.

During events, if certain key wardstones are destroyed, players fail the event and miss out on the rewards. But a quick trip to the nearby planar goods merchant can solve that problem. For 50 planarite, you can purchase the ability to heal up and upgrade a wardstone. For Guardians, it's called "Bless Wardstone," and for Defiants, it's called "Augment Wardstone." To use it, you need a planar charge, which you can get from sealing a rift. You can have up to three planar charges at any given time, and you can see how many you have in your character's target window (they're little blue crystals).

To heal and upgrade a wardstone, all you need to do is target it and activate your ability. You can only do this once every five minutes, but it can completely turn the tide of battle and make you a hero. In the picture below, Defiants forces are attacking a Hallowed Wardstone, and if they win, they will drive out all the NPCs and establish a foothold in the area.

Just as the wardstone is about to fall, I buff up the stone, and it immediately heals up fully and becomes a Blessed Wardstone, complete with bigger crystals and a protective gargoyle. By doing this, I've not only bought my side more time to fend off the invaders but also made the Wardstone a lot harder to destroy.

In this particular battle, a few other players arrived shortly after I buffed the Wardstone, and what was looking to be a sure defeat suddenly became an easy victory. During zonewide events, with players constantly moving from invasion to invasion, that little sliver of time you just bought might make all the difference in the world.

There are several other abilities that you can purchase from the planar vendor as you level up, and we'll examine more of them in future columns. But the ability to upgrade a wardstone is an ability that's easy to acquire and important to use. Here's to buffed up wardstones and (hopefully) questing free of kill-steals!

Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.
This article was originally published on Massively.