Terror in the Mists: Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm

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Terror in the Mists: Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
Alive and Kicking Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
Playing on a PvP realm spins World of Warcraft in an entirely different direction. In this Azeroth, there's no such thing as "wait until I'm ready." Every single moment is rife with danger, even when you're merely trying to remain unnoticed long enough to race through a few dailies. Every player is ripe for the picking, whether you're fully healed and bristling with cooldowns or half-buried beneath an accidental overpull. Protest all you like -- if this isn't your cup of tea, you don't belong on a PvP realm.

Danger is palpable. At any given moment, someone's likely to be lurking in the shadows with the specific intent of blocking your progress. If you're an Alliance player on Maelstrom (US), that somebody is likely to be a member of Horde Strike Force.

"One of the first things you need to learn on a PvP realm is to expect the unexpected," explains Horde Strike Force GM Gug. "One of the second things you need to learn is to accept the fact that sometimes you're going to get attacked and killed by somebody or somebodies much more powerful or skilled than you are. The sooner you can absorb and roll with this, the faster you'll progress in level."

"PvP leveling is not for the faint of heart," he continues. "You've got to be tough and able to react positively to negative situations. 'OK, I died but I can rez and go quest somewhere else for awhile' is a good code to live by while leveling. Don't get stuck in a rut; there are a lot of quest options out there. All this being said, the game doesn't get any more fun or alive and breathing than on a PvP realm. Once you go PvP, you never truly go back."

Terror in the Mists Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
Main character Loremaster Gug, orc protection warrior
Guild Horde Strike Force
Realm Maelstrom (US RP-PvP Horde)

WoW Insider: Gug, for the curious PvE-realm majority: Just how different is leveling on a PvP realm?

Gug: Leveling on a PvP realm is light years beyond leveling on a PvE realm. Once out of the starting faction zones and into contested territory, anything is fair game. On a PvE realm, most mobs have set patterns, and sticking to the roads is a safe alternative to venturing out into the wilds.

On a PvP server, the opposite is true; the roads are the fastest non-flying routes from point to point, and thus you're much more likely to encounter another player travelling. Any time you hear footprints coming up, it could be the last sound you hear. Depending on which zone it is and what your server's Horde-to-Alliance ratio is, you have to be ready to fight for your life at any moment.

So give us some seasoned perspective: Is it that leveling is slower because there's more PvP to work around, or is it that leveling is slower because there's more PvP to enjoy?

Most people play in a PvP realm to PvP. PvP realms are violent. Most people on PvP realms embrace this and are eager to put their skills to the test against another.

On the other side of this, you have to decide which is more important to you. Do you want to attack the enemy now and postpone gaining power for a bit, or leave them be and gain power as quickly as possible? The answer is up to the individual, but I've discovered as the zones get more neutral, the fighting gets much more common, especially if there are lots of nodes or quest hubs that cater to both factions, or common PvP zone objectives such as the towers in Hellfire. Some players stay away from these places altogether to gain power faster; others seek them out to get right into the action.

In general, if you want to level quickly, these places are best avoided. And it seems to me that most people save the real bloodthirsty PvPing for the higher levels.

Terror in the Mists Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
Do the realm's usual rules of engagement (I say "usual" because we all know that there aren't really any true, accepted rules for world PvP engagement) change during the leveling period? Are there places or situations where players generally frown on unprovoked attack?

In general, you'll find that enemy players are less aggressive when leveling than they would be if faction grinding at max level. A good example of a situation where one would be less likely to be attacked is during an escort quest. These are considered really nasty times to gank an enemy while they're trying to escort somebody to safety; killing them is a huge blow, making them start the entire thing over again at the least.

Many players consider attacking in this situation to be the epitome of brutality. You'll get a lot of grief in general from not only the player you've killed but sometimes even from your own faction. Anybody who has had this happen knows what a serious thing it is to have to go back to your body, rez, go back to the beginning of the escort quest, wait for the target to respawn, then go through it all again -- perhaps to be ganked again. It can be a real nightmare if your enemy is a serious PvPer.

Despite how awful this is to do to somebody, some players and guilds actively encourage this kind of thing. I personally revel in the fact that my guild, Horde Strike Force, is among them.

That sounds like out-and-out griefing. Is that the point? You call this "awful" -- you're wanting to make other players miserable?

We certainly don't want to ruin peoples' Warcraft experience. At the end of the day, it's only a game; we're all in this to have fun. That being said, our guild takes a similar RP aspect that the early Garrosh Hellscream realized: This is not a skirmish. This is not a battle. This is an out-and-out war, and only one side can emerge victorious.

The Horde Strike Force takes the mantle of the fighting arm of the Horde in that our members do what they must to crush the Alliance on all levels, weak and strong, in order to protect Horde at large. Sometimes unfortunately this does require intimidation and strong-arm tactics against the weak while they're at their most vulnerable. Today's leveling Alliance is tomorrow's front-line attacker of Orgrimmar. Our membership consists of those who were wronged by Alliance evil, those who have had their families or ancestors slaughtered at Alliance hands, and even those who realize that Horde victory is the truest fastest route to lasting peace.

We utilize the leeway Blizzard has given RP-PvP realms to take our ideology to its logical extremes, and often this does mean that so-called innocents get run over in order to accomplish our larger objectives. We all know those who have taken this same grief from our enemies, and we are here to give it back tenfold. This is an RP-PvP realm, and we embrace every aspect of it fully and completely.

Terror in the Mists Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
Has larger-scale world PvP activity in Mists generally increased now that there are more players out in the world and thrown together in the new zones?

World PvP has literally exploded. Maelstrom is a medium-population server; when the cross-realms became active, the number of people in every zone increased exponentially. Beforehand, many of the people you encounter in PvP battles you recognize, or at least know their guild tag. Rivalries among guilds and individuals within those guilds were personal and serious; certain guilds would go to great lengths to call their members to war if somebody famous from the other side was encountered.

Now, you're constantly encountering new people, new PvP goals and styles, and new guilds with unknown numbers and objectives. Now the world defense channel is continually alerting us to attacks, whereas before it would often be silent for very long periods until something major was going on.

The fact that so many of the new zones' hubs don't have guards is a wake-up call to those who thought they could escape world PvP by staying in town. The changes and new content make the entire realm feel refreshing and alive. This is what world PvP should be.

How much of the world PvP on Maelstrom is driven by guilds, roleplay, and other organized effort? Has world PvP become more spontaneous since Mists' launch?

The majority of world PvP consists of hundreds of tiny skirmishes throughout the day: gankings, camping, fights over nodes or rare spawns, etc. These rarely last more than a few minutes, with one side or the other either giving up or moving on.

I still find however that the best world PvP is the war that starts from a random humble beginning: somebody attacking somebody else, they call in help, the first person calls in help, a guild group gets into the action, and soon enough, a giant war is boiling in an previously unimportant area. This is what really makes world PvP fun, the spontaneity of sudden conflict on a potentially massive scale. The cross-realms and the combined questing areas in Mists of Pandaria have created a whole new fuel for these kinds of fires.

Terror in the Mists Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
How do battlegrounds fit into the picture on a realm like yours that's not just a PvP realm but an RP-PvP realm?

I have found that battlegrounds are generally used on PvP realms to gain honor to buy gear to prepare for future conflicts out in the world. As fun as roleplaying PvP patrols in contested territory are, they are very inefficient ways of gaining honor to buy that high-end, resilience-laden gear that you want when battle breaks out. I liken battlegrounds to the homework and studying you have to get through to pass the real exams of world PvP.

I've played on PvP realms where a large proportion of the players seem to revile attacks and don't actually seem to belong on a PvP realm at all. Would you say that your realm community in general differentiates between "ganking," "griefing" and "PvP"? What about you?

My server Maelstrom is one of the less populated servers, so unfortunately we get a lot of spillover from other realms, both PvP and PvE, who are not familiar with roleplaying or PvPing in general. Many are just looking for a realm with fewer people and less competition for spawns and raw materials. This causes a lot of "care bears," people who aren't really into the whole "attack and kill the other player" situations. Many of these kinds of people end up complaining when they do inevitably get ganked, or especially if they get griefed or camped.

The community in general is very harsh against these people and their grievances: "PvP on a PvP realm -- like it or GTFO" is a not uncommon response to "Please stop PvPing me, bro"... When I first started playing on Maelstrom back in 2007, the general attitude was much more accepting of these care bear kind of people. Ganking (jumping somebody much weaker than you or while they're busy fighting something else and/or severely wounded) has become over the years a much more acceptable and indeed expected thing, while griefing (repeatedly killing somebody much weaker or less skilled or geared than you are for a long period of time) is still frowned upon in many quarters.

The tide does indeed seem to be turning. My guild has a very strong attitude toward dead enemies of the sort that they should have known what they were getting into when rolling on a PvP realm, and if they didn't, it's our job to teach them. And this seems to be a continuing trend on Maelstrom.

Terror in the Mists Clawing up the levels on a PvP realm
How does the Maelstrom community handle disputes when those different expectations and definitions clash? Would you characterize your realm as a contentious community, or do you think the two sides get along fairly well given the nature of the divide?

I believe the community at large has gone from a general distaste to a general acceptance, and this change makes a giant difference in day-to-day life -- a lot less whining, a lot more understanding of the pecking order, a lot more PvP encouraged in general. You can always tell the new players to Maelstrom because they make posts on the forums or in trade chat whining about being ganked. The response is usually something like "you must be new here."

This understanding has led to a kind of grudging respect among both sides in our constant world PvP conflicts; if one side or the other ends up complaining about being ganked, often veteran players of both sides will backlash against the whiner, reminding him where he is and what is expected of him on Maelstrom. In a strange way, the war and killing of each other out in the world has brought us all a lot closer. It's a very active and fun community, despite our relatively small size.

What sort of new opportunities has Mists presented your realm community in terms of its RP-PvP identity?

Now we encounter other realms in the real world -- questing with them, grouping with them, interacting with them, and fighting against them. Shifting our focus from one server to multi-realm servers within the same zones and cities is a transition not everybody makes easily. When this first occurred, there was a lot of criticism from people who thought Maelstrom would actually lose its identity among the swarm of other RP-PvP servers, particularly Emerald Dream, which has a very high population. The general consensus was that we would lose the intimacy of knowing your enemies by sight and knowing what they would likely do or what to expect from their guilds.

A good example is from last week when Thrallmar was getting attacked by several max-level Alliance from Emerald Dream, and I mobilized my guild to stop their attacks which had been going on for some time. We thoroughly annihilated all resistance, took the towers in Hellfire, took some other Outlands PvP objectives, then slaughtered them all again and camped Honor Hold for quite awhile in retaliation.

At the end of it all, somebody in general chat said, "Is the Alliance still attacking us?" And the response from another realm was "No, Maelstrom came in and saved the day." I can see no greater glory for our realm than that.

Find the Horde Strike Force on their web site.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.
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