15 Minutes of Fame: Noor the pacifist

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Back in November 2007, columnist John Himes took a look at a special breed of player who levels from 1 to 70 in a decidedly unconventional manner: hunters who only melee, a naked (well, except for his loincloth) warrior – and Noor the pacifist, who levels without intentionally killing anything. Now, this isn't the first time we've heard of players who've given this idea a whirl, but Noor, a gnome rogue on Maiev, and his Horde counterpart, Reinisch the undead priest, seem to have the gumption and persistence to make it to the top of the XP tree.

We checked on Noor and Reinisch's progress this month and found them plugging along merrily through battlegrounds, quests ... and yes, levels. Intrigued, we contacted the player behind the toons to find out what's behind this novel way of playing World of Warcraft. Read more about the attraction of playing a pacifist character, how to go about getting XP without killing anything – and of course, whether or not Noor thinks he can actually make it to 70 ... all after the break.

Ok, so we gotta ask – why on earth a character that doesn't kill anything? Doesn't that feel like pulling teeth? I prefer doing stranger stuff, as opposed to grinding high-end instances. Once, my 70 mage was in Southshore, and someone was asking directions to Ghostlands in zone chat. I told him how to go through EPL. Then I clicked on him, and he was something like a level 12 Draenei hunter. I asked him why he wanted to go there, and it turns out he wanted a red cat for a pet -- so I escorted him through EPL, and he only died a couple of times getting there. I've also done a few quests on PvP servers with non-hostile Horde players (not pre-arreanged or anything), such as the mechanical chicken escort in Feralas (twice, so we could all get credit).

So what sparked the idea of starting a pacifist character? I had thought about doing such a character off and on for a while. When I saw Gweryc Halfhand's blog on being a melee-only hunter, that finally spurred me on to try it. It turns out he had been thinking of trying something similar but wasn't sure if he'd have the patience for it.

Show us your kung fu: what's the actual nuts-and-bolts reality of this character? Both my priest and my rogue try not to hit anything, although there's always a chance of a misclick when trying to open a quest item with mobs fighting near it. Both of them always wield a fishing rod, so any accidental hits won't increase their weapon skills. Neither of them will do quests where they have to kill things. In battlegrounds, my rogue will throw bombs to interrupt flag captures and stun people and may even accidentally kill players low in health or nearby critters. My priest only heals, so he is actually closer in roleplaying terms. Neither will "get around" these limits by grouping and having other players do their dirty work.

In terms of bragging rights, I intend to keep my rogue's weapon skills (dagger, thrown and unarmed) at all 1s. My priest will also have all 1s, but it won't be obvious on WoW Armory that he has no offensive spells beyond the level 1 Smite all priests start with.

Tell us about the concept behind Reinisch, your first pacifist character.

I started him from a roleplaying point of view, based very loosely on a real German priest, Franz Reinisch, who refused to serve in Hitler's army and was executed. My undead priest's back story is basically the same, and he still refuses to kill.

What made you start a pacifist rogue, too? My priest hit an XP plateau. There were no longer any quests he could do without killing mobs -- this was before 2.3 came out, with repeatable BG quests that grant XP). I had already decided to try both Horde and Alliance pacifists, so this time I started an Alliance character using what I had learned from my priest.

I thought about using a hunter and have my pet act as a decoy; however, I figured that my Alliance character would also have to go into dangerous areas, and a rogue with stealth and sprint would stand a better chance. I settled on a gnome because they get +15 to engineering, allowing my gnome to use Target Dummies at level 5 (as opposed to 10 for my priest).

As a rogue is a sort of "spy" class, I Googled for a pacifist spy and found Noor Inayat Khan, a woman who was also executed by the Nazis for aiding the French resistance, so I named my rogue after her. She was the daughter of a well-known pacifist in India.

Didn't you originally have a pacifist rogue named Noorkhan? When my first gnome rogue Noorkhan learned Sap, I tried it out -- and my melee skill went up, so it was no longer a "perfect" 1. I was also reminded of the Anh'Qiraj war drive when I saw it again on the public test realm for patch 2.3. I knew a low-level character could get some extra XP if the war drive was still going on, so I looked and found that the Maiev realm still hadn't finished the war drive to open the AQ gates. So I rerolled on Maiev. The name Noor wasn't available for my character on Maelstrom, but it was on Maiev -- and I preferred just Noor, anyway.

It's apparent from the research and design behind Noor that you have some WoW savvy up your sleeve. What's your past WoW experience? Do you currently play a "regular" character as well? I've been playing since October of 2005 and have a 70 mage and warlock on Stormreaver (Gummo and Vardlokker) in <Critical Mass> and a number of alts, mostly in the 40s.

Who do you consider your main character – Noor or Reinisch? I'm working on both; Reinisch is doable but slow, since he can only do WSG dailies now since he's level 15. Both are pretty low-maintenance at the moment, so I can level both simultaneously. I've been mostly neglecting my level 70s in <Critical Mass> lately, though I still do a few instances with them.

What kind of time do you spend on Noor each week? How often do you play? So far, I've still been playing nearly every day. I'm still collecting items for future consideration (green whelp armor for battlegrounds, etc.), and I want to earn enough money so I can buy what I can't make. The Charred Vale in Stonetalon Mountains is the best place for a self-twinking miner, as it has mithril and truesilver nodes, most of which are far from the mid-20s mobs. I hit 270 mining at level 23, so I bought a +5 mining enchant for some gloves and mined a rich thorium vein in Azshara in the Bay of Storms just for fun.

It must take a ton of research time to orchestrate the XP progression. What percentage of the total time you spend on Noor would you guess is spent researching vs. actually playing? At first, it was quite a lot, since there are a lot of quests in four different starting areas to look over. The new "!" markers on the minimap help, too. However, the number of new quests has fallen way off. Level-27-required quests only shows about half a dozen new entries on, and I can only do one of them.

It looks like PvP is a huge part of your strategy. Do you foresee continuing to PvP the whole way up? I have to; the repeatable daily battleground quests are the only way to "grind" XP if you aren't going to kill mobs (not counting the very slow repeatable seasonal quests that you can do each year). Without them, Horde characters would be stuck around level 15 and Alliance around level 23 ("around" since class quests vary, and exploring very high level areas can get you a bit farther).

What reaction have you gotten from other players in battlegrounds? Some are amused, some are not so amused -- at least for my rogue. At least nobody complains in BGs about a priest who runs around just healing everybody.

What about from your battleground opponents -- can you tell if they've been taken aback by any of your actions? Not that I can tell -- but they might wonder why I'm just whacking people with a fishing rod instead of using standard rogue attacks.

You blogged that you recently started throwing bombs in AB because you didn't feel you were pulling your weight defending the flag. What other compromises have you made so far? I had to "make up" for some unintentional XP I received when I was grouped with another player to meet up with him and some murlocs attacked. He killed them and I got shared XP, so I completed one quest without turning it in to compensate. My priest will actually be much better in roleplaying terms, since he won't need to throw bombs. He'll just heal other players and sometimes interrupt flag captures with a Psychic Scream or Mind Control. I did have my rogue do the second part of A Noble Brew even though that kills an NPC, because she isn't told that the drink will kill him. But both of my characters will refuse to do quests if they know it will kill NPCs.

What about in-game support -- do you have a guild or friends who help you out, or is this strictly a solo effort? I don't have any alts or "rich uncles" helping my pacifists. I've met a few people like Mephisston who read my blog because it talked about the opening of the AQ gates, and he decided to open them on Maiev by buying up linen and turning in bandages. He's made some potions and bandages for me (at 225 First Aid, you can use but not make Heavy Runecloth Bandages). ... But no huge support network.

As far as a solo effort, I bought a Security DELTA Data Access Card from the Auction House and managed to stealth all the way to the "D" Punchograph card readers in Gnomeregan at level 24, so I could learn how to make Discombobulator Rays myself instead of needing to rely on another engineer to make them. The hard part was placing the Target Dummy so all the ranged attackers would attack the dummy instead of me while I got the schematic.

Are you in touch with other pacifist characters such as Gutrot? I've read Gweryc's and Gutgot's blogs, and Gweryc and I have left each other messages on our blogs. I also sent an in-game mail to Lintilla on Dragonblight, which I found by searching WoW Armory for guilds named "The Pacifist," though I haven't heard back. Lintilla's weapon skills are low for a level 17 rogue (9 in daggers, 2 in unarmed).

Are you a roleplayer outsider of World of Warcraft? Yes, mostly back in college. I've roleplayed with Michael Mornard, who was one of the original playtesters for D&D back when it was just World of Greyhawk.

How long have you been playing MMOs? Not much outside of WoW since I'm on a Mac and many games are PC only, but I was on Steve Jackson Games' Metaverse MOO years ago, where I created some simple dice-rolling objects to automate paper-and-pencil gaming. I even got to show them to Steve Jackson (in the MOO), and he liked them.

And the points many readers will have made so many guesses and assumptions about: How old are you? What do you do in real life? I'm a 50-year-old male computer programmer, and I'm also the main webmaster of the Firesign Theatre website.

So tell us -- is Noor actually going to make it to max level? 80 or bust! Hmm, she's now at level 27 with 18.5 bubbles to go, and she's out of quests. That means roughly 14 daily BGs. That's about four weeks to go from level 27 to level 28. We'll see. Level 28 opens up the Missing Diplomat quest series, and I might actually do the fights (since nobody actually gets killed) to go as far as I can with them.

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More interviews with World of Warcraft players from 15 Minutes of Fame: Horde of Unschoolers - A Mom uses WoW as a learning tool for her homschooled kids. Plus, Lisa Poisso logs on to the WoW servers every week to ask players what's on their mind in Gamers on the Street.