Massively Overthinking: The weirdest ways we’ve leveled in MMOs


One of my favor flavors of fluff post we do occasionally is report on folks who have accomplished fame by leveling “wrong” in MMOs, which is really just to say leveling contrary to the obvious mobs/quests/dungeons path. And if I can be honest, this is my favorite type of leveling. I’ve leveled by crafting, by discovering places, by murdering players, and (more pleasantly) by training other players. I’ve even leveled by logging out!

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, tell me the weirdest ways you’ve leveled (or otherwise progressed) in an MMO – the weirder, the better. What was the game, what did you do, how did it work, and is it possible to fully level all the way up doing it?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Gosh, there’s a few I can think of. Asheron’s Call 1 had skills that gave you XP when they were used, and they weren’t always active. For example, on the PvP server, I made a fun character with the Deception skill, as that would make it harder for people to determine not only my basic stats but my general level. I leveled off that once when someone tried to ID my character from afar. Between gaining the level and knowing he tried to ID me, I ran after the guy who triggered it. If only he knew just how low my level was!

Also in AC1, I leveled up trying to assess some loot. Yes, there were skills for assessing weapons, armor, magical items… even mobs. I’d love to hear that someone leveled up by IDing a bunny in that game!

There weren’t any trade “classes” in the game, but there were trade skills, so my cook character leveled up on hamburgers and sausages that literally contained rat tails. Horizons/Istaria did have trade “classes,” which also had skills (which isn’t totally surprising, as one of the higher-ups was David Bowman, who had previously worked on AC1), and I leveled up once by making spoons or some other dishware. In a similar vein, I think I recall leveling up for dying once in Project Gorgon. Not like cloth dyes, but for being murdered by mobs. There may have been other weird Gorgon level-ups, as that game too has a mess of weird, wild skills (and for those who forgot, is made by a former AC2 dev). Honestly, games that use skills for leveling are the best.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I thought this would be easy since I can think of so many bizarre skills and activities in MMOs, but it’s pretty rare for me to actually do them all the way – I’m more likely to dabble. A few off the top of my head:

  • Ultima Online had some weirdo skills, like Forensic ID – you could use it on player and NPC corpses to find out whoddunit and which way they went. I knew people who leveled it all the way to 100.
  • Maybe the weirdest thing I ever did in UO (the first year of the game, mind you) was kill a buddy and resurrect him with bandages hundreds of times to max out my healing. (Best gaming buddy ever!)
  • But the cake has to go to the dread lords who leveled their cooking skill by cutting their player victims’ into body parts and roasting them on campfires.
  • I was the first person on my original Star Wars Galaxies server to finish leveling up Image Design, which is to say, doing hair and making people look like Neo. That wasn’t the best part; the best part was people traveling from planets away so I could train them, which actually leveled me up with the points I needed to train other things.
  • Guild Wars 2’s combat and crafting experience are equivalent, so I have quite a number of characters I leveled to 80 almost entirely crafting. Why not?

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I’m not sure this qualifies as weird exactly, but one of the most pleasant ways I’ve leveled up alt jobs in Final Fantasy XIV is to use the Duty Support system that lets you run dungeons solo with members of the game’s main cast. Is it the most efficient? Probably not. But what it is is a lot more laid-back and stress-free, especially as I’m learning a new class and don’t have to worry about bringing a PUG down with my ineptitude.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’ve been wracking my mind for the past 10 minutes trying to think of times I’ve done anything like this. Unfortunately, I think I’m boring like vanilla ice cream. I usually just follow the quests and instructions and go about leveling.

The closest I’ve got, maybe, is leveling in GW2’s WvW. Even though you’ll be underpowered, you’re scaled up to max level and still gain XP that can level you up. It’s not directly on the quest leveling ladder, so it kind of counts.

The only other time that I can think of that might count was when I played a little browser MMO called Dragon Sword (I think). This was back in 2005-era internet. I can’t recall specifically if I was able to level much doing it, but I would scroll through the town’s list of good-aligned players and kill them. The good/evil system was based on user votes so that players would then downvote me, making me evil or something. I think I made it to the top of the bad guy chart, so if that counts as beating the game, then I won.

Tyler Edwards (blog): The only thing I’ve ever done that might qualify for this is that back in WoW Cataclysm I leveled a warlock to cap without using pets. I never really liked the pet mechanics in traditional MMOs, but I liked everything else about warlocks (this was before Grimoire of Sacrifice was a thing), and I always felt WoW’s questing was too easy, so this kind of killed two birds with one stone.

I should note I wasn’t super strict about it. While the majority of my leveling was done without pets, I did still pull out my demons now and then if I was soloing a group quest or something. I also used pets on the occasions I ran dungeons with her, as I didn’t want to disadvantage my team.

Anyway, it was fun. I will say even without pets questing was still pretty easy more often than not, which really goes to show you just how trivial WoW’s open world is, but going without my demons did spice things up a bit at least. I also found it really helped the character come alive for me. While I’m not a role-player in the sense of acting out stories with other people, I do put a lot of thought into the backstory and personality of my characters. I decided she avoided summoning demons because she actually has a special hatred for demonkind, and she only started delving into fel magic so she could turn their own power against them (imagine my joy when Grimoire of Sacrifice was announced).

I originally intended my warlock to just be a one-off leveling challenge, but I fell so in love with the character and the class that she supplemented my mage and became one of my most-played WoW characters.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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