Flameseeker Chronicles: Whatever shall I wear?

Every now and again I'm fond of revisiting the basics of Guild Wars here in Flameseeker Chronicles. This usually happens for one of two reasons: newer players have given me some ideas on things that are universally confusing or there's a lack of new Guild Wars 2 news.

Well, the Engineer topic has bypassed "beating a dead horse" and is rapidly approaching "beating a small smear of glue," and Justin Olivetti is playing Guild Wars in earnest again. What does that last thing have to do with the price of tea in Cantha, you ask? Follow along after the jump and we'll find out!

WTB level 15 robes

Justin is my officially designated "fresh set of eyes" in the world of Guild Wars. He's an inexperienced player with an eagerness to learn -- one of the most wonderful types of players in any MMO. See, ongoing games like MMOs need several things to continually thrive and grow, and one of those things is a constant influx of new blood.

He's been providing some great feedback as he plays, reminding me that things I take for granted as an experienced player aren't so obvious to newcomers. The topic of the week was gear -- specifically, armor. Part of Guild Wars' MMO-lite approach is that gear is super simple, but it's also not quite as intuitive and can be pretty confusing for newcomers.

Why can I use weapons that drop from foes but not armor? Is my armor level appropriate for the zone I'm running around in? Can I buy better armor from another player who isn't using it anymore? Veteran players are chuckling at that last one, but it's a legitimate question for those who are familiar with MMOs but new to Guild Wars. The official wiki is an incredibly informative resource but pretty overwhelming for those who aren't already familiar with the game. Let's see if we can't clear things up a bit.

"You need better armor." "How?"

Armor in Guild Wars is very simple. Acquiring it is a bit of another story, so let's cover the basics. First, there are only two methods of acquiring new armor in game: armor vendors and collector NPCs. The former will give you armor in exchange for cash and crafting materials and can be found in various towns and occasionally explorable areas. The latter will give you armor in exchange for various monster bits that you've picked up along the way.

I don't know -- and I don't want to know -- why they're so eager to have those bits, but there's no denying that it's a pretty handy system if you're frugal (or broke). The disadvantage is that a single collector doesn't have an entire set. You'll need to visit one for the shoes, another for the pants, a third for the gloves, and so on.

If you want to go the simpler route, visit an armor vendor. The vendors cost more in regard to cash and materials, but each vendor will sell you the entire set at once, meaning the entire transaction takes about 30 seconds as opposed to making you run all over to various collectors. It's a case of time vs. money: Decide which you'd rather spend and go pick up your new duds.

What about how to find them and which ones to use? This is where I'll pause for a moment to make sure you know your maximum armor rating. Of course, it's different for different classes. Elementalists, for example, have a maximum armor rating of 60, while Dervishes have a maximum of 70. To find yours, visit the armor page on the Guild Wars wiki and click on your class in the list on the far right. The resulting page will give you maximum armor stats for that class right at the top, and that tells you what to look for.

Once you know what your max rating is (and therefore know what your ultimate goal is), it's time to figure out what you can get and how you can get it. If you're going the armorer route, check out the full list of armorers. The chart can be a tiny bit confusing at first glance, so start by noting a few points. Every armorer sells armor to every profession, so you don't need to worry about figuring out where the Ranger armorsmith is. The list is broken down by campaign, so the easiest thing to do is find your current campaign and look in the "location" column to figure out what armor rating you can get according to where you are right now.

Many vendors offer more than one style of armor for each profession; the stats are the same but the cosmetic appearance is different. So you can click on the vendor's name in the wiki list to see what he or she offers. Note that you'll need to give certain crafting materials to the vendor along with cash, but for the most part they're extremely easy to come by. You can salvage them from drops using a salvage kit (they'll often drop in raw form from many enemies as well, saving you a step) or purchase them from material traders. If you're in a guild, I strongly suggest that you ask your guildmates to sell you what you need -- most veteran players have a huge surplus of common crafting materials and will be thrilled to unload some of it for a great price or a good cause.

Armor collectors have a similar list. Simply visit the armor collector page, click on the appropriate "[your profession] Armor Collector" link, and look to see what you have access to at the moment. The charts are broken down by location, and each chart contains a separate column broken down by armor piece, with a row for each armor rating.

Runes and insignias

Basic armor stats are pretty simple -- once you've reached max armor rating, it's all just cosmetic. However, you're not limited to just the armor's inherent qualities and nothing else. Each armor piece has two upgrade slots: one for a rune and one for an insignia. These can be used to further refine your armor's bonuses and purpose according to your preference.

It's a bit more difficult to say "do this" with regard to runes and insignias because tweaking your armor is such a matter of preference and playstyle. Your best bet is to spend a bit of time looking over the runes page and the insignia page to get a feel for what's available, then visit a rune trader NPC for an idea of prices. Rune traders in towns and guild halls sell both runes and insignias, and the wiki page carries a list of locations.

Runes and insignias don't change by level or location purchased, so the first rune trader you come across can trick out your armor quite nicely. Keep an eye out when picking up drops after a battle too -- use an identification kit on blue, purple, and gold items to reveal runes that might be useful to you. If you find something that you can use yourself (or sell to the trader for a decent amount of cash), remove it using a salvage kit.

Much of armor-choosing-and-upgrading process comes down to personal choice, and you will figure out the nuances of that as you go. This covers the basics pretty extensively, though, so hopefully that will get you started. Now suit up and have fun!

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at