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The Tattered Notebook: Pitfalls of powerleveling in EQII

MJ Guthrie
Two weeks ago I closed my handy tips and tricks guide by encouraging players to shun power-leveling in EverQuest II. At that point, I touched on the issue by talking about how you miss so much of the game by skipping all the stories and lore in the quests. I even cautioned that people hesitate to group with someone who doesn't yet know his or her class. But the reasons to avoid it go so much deeper than what I mentioned there. There are definite pitfalls when characters are power-leveled, even for the folks who have other max-level characters!

Some may be wondering why this topic is hot enough at the moment to warrant more of my attention. As those of you who read level 1-9 chat already know, there was recently a massive surge in power-leveling services and a population explosion of max-level characters, all due to the unexpected consequences of combining the new experimentation crafting prestige line with playing as your character in the Dungeon Maker. While this latest power-leveling scheme has been negated (thanks to last Tuesday's patch), many folks are feeling the fallout of using the service.

EQII screenshotNow that the method that really brought the power-leveling problem to light has been fixed, I feel better discussing it. Basically, folks found a way to use the level-agnostic Dungeon Maker to level anyone at any level faster than a speeding Ratonga after cheese. How fast? How about level-one-to-95-with-a-full-compliment-of-320-AAs-in-only-12-hours fast. No joke!

And it was so frighteningly easy that anyone could do it with nothing more than a level 22 Shadowknight or Brawler and some cheap common gear with a single experimentation enchantment on each piece. It took no skill; the person running the dungeon just stood there as the mobs melted, falling dead around his feet, killed by the gear! Everyone getting the XP just stood around, soaking it up.

Adding the ease and speed together, I can see the lure and understand why some players want to do it -- especially those who have run the level treadmill many times before. One player who talked with me about this particular power-leveling actually had seven other level 95s already. He was used to endgame and had seen the rest of the content countless times before, so what would the harm be in just getting an insta-max character to try it out? As he found out, there were still problems he hadn't anticipated.

Lack of know-how

No matter how well you know -- or think you know -- a class, power-leveling comes with drawbacks. One of those is your ability to play that class. Just because you know how to play one class in an archetype doesn't mean you know how to play another (as my friend found out trying to move to Defiler from Inquisitor). By leveling the normal way, players are introduced to skills at a regulated pace, giving them time to acclimate to them. Power-leveling strips players of that practice time and leaves them not knowing what skills work best in what situations... or even what skills they have!

I actually have some personal experience in this area. By request, I livestreamed an instance of power-leveling where a higher-level friend ran me through some dungeons. As expected, by the time that run was done, I had no idea how to play my character; I was already trying to learn a new class and suddenly there were too many skills to grasp all at once. Another side-effect to that run was totally unexpected: Once she was leveled a bit like that, I actually lost interest in playing her, precisely because I didn't know how to play her. As it stands, that poor Monk has been relegated to being a bank alt.

Being inept while soloing is one thing; being so when grouping is another. Worse than blundering on your own is when you create a disaster situation in your group because you don't know your skills. Let's not even mention those instances where groupmates didn't even know they had specific skills that were actually quite necessary to the success of the group -- it's just too painful!

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Lack of armor

If you have other high-level toons sitting around, chances are you have some cast-off heirloom pieces that you can pass on to your newly max-leveled toon, but you probably don't have a full set of everything. I can't tell you how many level 95s I've met this past couple of weeks in level 1 gear!

Unless you have a gaggle of max-level crafters, it's going to cost you a pretty plat to get all that gear. Folks who choose to PL need to have huge plat reserves to get suited up in decent, level-appropriate stuff, especially if they plan on purchasing loot rights to high-end gear from instances and raids (which will be necessary since they can't actually run it themselves). This leads to the next pitfall.

EQII screenshotLack of cash

Players who power-leveled their toons often are short on cash. Why? Because besides the fact that they have most likely already outfitted other level 95s for a significant chunk of change, most of the folks offering power-leveling services do so for a fee, and a steep one at that. At the end of Monday night, just before the patch that ended this specific PL method, people were charging 75 plat per person for a 10-minute run. And people were paying it!

While plat seems like pocket change to some people, it can still go pretty darn fast (see loot-right buying above). And without cash, there's no outfitting your character with either gear or upgraded spells, which leaves you sorely unskilled. Without skills, you sure won't be making much cash, at least on that character.

Lack of skill

If the reasoning behind your power-leveling was to get into the highest-level content and endgame, just hitting level 95 ain't gonna do it for ya folks. The minute you step out into the world to face equal-level mobs, you're going to be eaten alive. Heck, the lower-leveled mobs may still chomp you pretty good. When power-leveled, players miss out on gaining both spell upgrades and skill through the normal course of adventuring.

Just how well do you think you can play that toon without gear and with only apprentice spells? Of course, you could have looted some master spell books while adventuring or spent the time to researching them up... oh wait, no you couldn't! Which means you have to buy them -- if you have the cash.

And then there are the basic skills themselves, such as crushing, piercing, and slashing for combat and disruption, ministration, and ordination for spellcasting. When power-leveled, your character doesn't spend the time actually performing any actions and therefore doesn't build up any skills. You might have a skill of two out of 500 -- not exactly a ringing endorsement for competency, is it? Now you'll have to find and beat on a practice dummy for an inordinate amount of time or go hunt in lower-level areas just so you can actually land hits on your level mobs when you face them.

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Don't be a Lacker!

I won't deny that there is an allure to power-leveling (especially in regard to AAs!), but when considering it as an option, how many folks really note the pitfalls that are also present? Going the PL route won't immediately get you a usable character; level-appropriate content will still be out of reach. I suppose if you want to be level 95 while going back and running through the content from the beginning, you'll pretty much avoid those pitfalls and get to see all the content to boot, but what are the chances of anyone actually doing that?

I, for one, am very glad that the latest speed-power-leveling craze has been removed. Although some crafters have surely made a bit of a profit off of it (and the power-leveling folks have made out like bandits), I really don't see that much benefit coming from the practice, either for individuals or the community at large. Is power-leveling really worth the trouble and cost? It's certainly not for me, but you'll have to answer that for yourself. At least with these points you can make a bit more of an informed decision.

EverQuest II is so big that it takes two authors to make sense of it all! Join Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie as they explore Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!