Enter at Your Own Rift: Creature comforts

I've got a problem that nine interventions and three bouts of electroshock therapy have yet to cure: I'm hopelessly addicted to collecting non-combat pets (aka vanity pets) in MMOs. I don't know why that is, exactly, although I've always had a fondness for "fluffy" elements on online games. In my opinion, a lot of what we work for in MMOs is cosmetic anyway -- a really good-looking set of armor, a top-of-the-line mount -- with some piddly stats occasionally making a cameo.

(Comment bait? Oh yes, I'm evil that way!)

While adding nothing to my combat power nor helping me advance in the game, pets still hold purpose. They are fun to display, particularly if you have rare critters that others haven't seen, and they can give you a feeling of virtual companionship during your journeys. Unlike many collection items, pets have a use -- you can actually do something with them instead of tucking them away where they'll sit collecting pixelated dust.

I was pretty pleased to discover that RIFT wasn't going to leave us high and dry when it came to non-combat pets, although it's interesting that they're somewhat harder to come by than in, say, World of Warcraft. If you're like I am, you're scouring the game looking to expand your menagerie, so it might be frustrating to be well on your way to 50 with only a paltry pair of pets to your name. Where is everyone getting all of these? How can I snag a few more?

Join me after the jump as we examine six ways to collect crazy critters!

1. Promotional items

One of the things any serious RIFT pet collector realizes early on is that it's impossible to get them all, at least on one character. If you didn't purchase either of the collector's editions of the game, you're already out three pets, not to mention the different pre-order companions from various retailers.

If you did, then every character you create will automatically start out with two companions: your pre-order pet and a choice of one of the three other pets when you get to your home city.

A promotion that you can still get in on, however, is the Ascend-a-Friend program, which rewards you with a little floofy dog that I still do not have because I apparently have no friends. Still, it's not terribly hard to get if you can convince a buddy to purchase and sign up for the game using your code.

2. Reputation vendors

You've probably noticed that each zone has a reputation system tied to a specific faction -- the Quicksilver Scholars in Silverwood, for instance. While questing and dungeon crawling tend to net you a fair amount of reputation, chances are you're not going to hit honored with these factions without putting in the effort to grind out daily quests and instances.

Why is this important? Because some of the reputation vendors will sell you (that's right -- not give you) a pet for a chunk of platinum if you've hit honored with the faction. Gloamwood Waykeepers will sell you a pet werewolf (which I simply must own), Granite Falls an Oreling, and so on. Since most folks just move on once they've completed a zone, going the extra mile to snag one of these rep pets means that you'll be somewhat unique among most of those players you encounter.

There are also reputation vendors in your home city that will sell you a variety of pets for 5,000 planarite if you've achieved a high enough reputation with them.

3. Event rewards

By far, this is my favorite way of attaining pets: participating in world events and saving up for the ones you want with the special event currency. It's low-stress compared to the other ways and dangles an attractive carrot at the end of the stick to make you want to stay up-to-date with your dailies.

The River of Souls event had a trio of nice pets, including a nasty scarab, a spider, and a Shadetouched Hound. The current Waves of Madness event promises to be even better, with more pets like a blue-shelled crab and a little birdie. I wouldn't assume that we'll ever get a chance to earn these pets again once the event is done with (although who knows?), so if you're even slightly interested, you should get cracking on saving up currency now.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that weird pseudo-event that bridged the gap between these two world events, the one where you were doing dailies to get a mysterious artifact that usually was just... an artifact. The reason I mention it is that there was a low, low chance for a "gritty kitty" pet to drop from it, but there was no way that you could save up to earn it.

4. Drops and quest rewards

Believe it or not, pets actually come from drops -- if you know where to look. My first pet drop came from a rift reward, which granted me the awesome power of the Harbinger of Regulos (a demon bunny, essentially). Later on, a friend told me that you can get a Ghost Screechling as a random drop from one of the bats at the bottom of Deepstrike Mines. I actually stayed after a dungeon run to mop up these bats solo, and wouldn't you know it, a Screechling dropped on the first try.

Unfortunately, pet drops are extremely uncommon, so you're not going to be seeing these a lot. There's a fluffy werewolf that drops in warfronts and... well, that's all I know about. It seems like there's a lot of room for Trion Worlds to add more rare companion drops, but so far it's pretty limited.

If you like the assurance of quest rewards versus the random number generator, there are a couple of pets that come from lengthy quest chains in the game. And when I say "lengthy," I'm talking about "reading the entire library of romance novelist Nora Roberts." Both Scotty's quest chain and The Saga of the Endless span the entirety of the game in terms of levels and zones, so you'll be working toward these for a long time. But hey, two more pets for the zoo!

5. Artifact rewards

We've all seen those shinies littering Telara, but what's the point in collecting them all? Feeding your OCD?

Well, yes, but there's method to the madness here. Each completed artifact collection can be turned in for a nice reward that includes a lucky coin. These coins are hard-to-come-by currency that can eventually be traded in for cosmetic armor, mounts, and -- yes -- companion pets.

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that working toward these pets is going to take you a fiendishly long time unless you're Mr. or Ms. Moneybags and can buy all of your artifacts through the auction house. So it's important to look at these as rewards for a steady investment of time and effort, a little here and a little there, until you can save up enough (usually 10) for a cool pet. Happily, they are pretty sweet and include a Bog Shambler, Forest Disruptor, a cat, and a white bunny.

6. Achievement rewards

If you thought getting enough artifact collections to purchase pets was difficult, just wait -- there's something that tops even that. Most zones have a double artifact set that asks you for copies of the most difficult artifacts in the zone, a feat that is insanely time-consuming or wallet-draining. Put yourself through that, and you'll be on the receiving end of a nice reward, which sometimes includes pets. The Relics of Freemarch set, for example, will give you a chipmunk, while the Scarlet Gorge set rewards you with an Arcane Excavator (trés snazzy!).

Even tougher are the pets that come from completing all of the achievements in a zone for the meta-achievement, such as the Arcane Lifter companion for doing Glory of the Gorge. Best of luck to you if you're pursuing these, as they'll take quite a bit of effort to finish.

Probably my favorite achievement pet to get is the Spirit of Tears, a little kitty cat that's given to you only if you fill up your Critter Tears artifact set. So the game rewards your slaughter of innocent critters with... a critter pet? Sounds fair to me!

For a more comprehensive list of pets and where to get them, a few enterprising players have compiled their findings in a useful thread in the RIFT forums.

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.