Leveling up Your Crafting Without Actually Crafting

Another one of those EverQuest II posts.  This time I ramble on about crafting.

Crafting has changed over the years in EQII, and the best route for leveling up your crafting as much as anything.

As with my running off at the keyboard about gear the other day, I want to start off with how crafting in EQII differs from WoW.

But there is a twist this time.  WoW crafting is very much the child of crafting in EverQuest, with skill points you get by crafting and recipes going gray and not giving skill ups after a while and all of that.  The WoW version of this was much streamlined from EQ, and took something of a departure in how much stuff any particular trade would let you craft.  You cannot/could not outfit yourself fully at any point when crafting in WoW.  You could sort of manage that with EQ, but I am not sure it was worth the effort, at least back in the early days.

EQII took a completely different tack on the crafting idea which stems, as I understand it, from a plan at one point to make crafting a parallel character class to the adventure classes.  I think Kendricke mentioned that once or twice in comments here back in the day.  (I wonder where he ended up.  Also, I found the comment on this post, where I was writing about crafting gripes back in 2007.)

While that idea got ditched at some point in beta, the basic structure of crafting was set and crafting had levels the way adventure classes had levels.  This led to some odd situations, since either your adventure level or your crafting level seemed good enough to unlock level gated content.  I recall figuring out quite by accident that I could get to The Enchanted Lands or Zek with my level 25 templar because he was already a level 35 alchemist.  Of course, I only figured that out after the guild got out and helped me do the access quest for Zek, but that is the way these things go.

Anyway, the evolution of crafting in EQII.  Back in the early days you leveled up by grinding away.  But there was lots of grinding to be done as getting to a finished product required you to start with raw materials and then go through several stages of production.  And there was the whole interdependence thing where to get to a finished product you needed something from one of the other crafting professions… unless you were an alchemist or a provisioner.

Fortunately I went down the alchemist path, so my various products… inks and washes and whatever else… were in high demand, at least from my guild mates.  This is how my crafting level got well ahead of my adventure level early on.  Higher level guildies would go out and harvest the stuff I needed to keep going if I would just stay in the crafting hall and crank out what they or their alts needed.

At some point along the way the concept of “vitality” was introduced.  This was/is essentially the EQII version of WoW rested experience or “blue bar.”  SOE wisely waited until Blizz changed the perspective from a penalty on people for playing too much to a bonus for people who were had been away before copying the idea.  Having that sped things up a bit, especially if you were an obsessive like me and have a trade skill going on each of your characters.  You could optimize by rotating to the character with the most vitality.

Meanwhile, crafting when through some convulsions as SOE first added auxiliary trade skills that let people craft their own secondary parts from other professions and then just did away with the idea of interdependence altogether, revamping the materials needed for recipes, removing intermediate production stages, killing off the quality levels in production, and somewhat simplifying the whole range of harvestables.

At the end of all of that you could just harvest some raw materiel, buy the fuel required, and craft a finished item in one go.  While people still moan about the removal of crafting interdependence, being able to just make stuff in one pass felt pretty damn good.  Your pet theories about complex cross-profession crafting can suck it.

You still leveled up the same way, though somewhere in the mix we got a new benefit.  We got some super bonus experience for the first time we crafted a particular recipe.  So leveling up your crafting profession began to involve crafting one of every single recipe in every level you unlocked… ideally while you had a good portion of vitality running… to move yourself along.

And then that first time bonus went away.  I don’t recall why, though I seem to associate it in the back of my brain with the return of Domino to the EQII crafting team and another round of changes overall.  It may have been a balance or fairness thing… some professions get a lot more new recipes per level than others… or it might have simply been to contain recipe profusion.

As a replacement we got crafting writs.

Crafting writs are small crafting quests that cover your fuel costs, take your crafting output, and gives you a small monetary award, some bonus crafting experience, and some status.

Level 87 provisioner writ

It was a decent system.  With your vitality full you could get a couple of crafting levels with five or six writs.

That gets us up to about the EverQuest II Extended era and the experiment of trying to bring the instance group to Norrath.  The former worked out well for SOE, while the latter was something of a fiasco.  We made a guild, which persists to this day (there is likely a “joys of having a guild hall” post in me somewhere) and worked on crafting, but the game still didn’t stick with group.  But while we were there a bunch of work went into leveling up the guild, a lot of it via Gaff doing trade skill writs. Between those and some heritage quests done as group efforts, we got the guild to level 40.

A cut from the guild event log…

That is about where my knowledge of crafting stayed.  It was 2011, the level cap was 90, and I only played sporadically after that, coming back for brief visits every year or two.  Writs worked okay once the level cap went to 95 and were even still viable, if a bit slow, when the cap hit 100.  But from level 100 onward the xp slope went way up and writ rewards took a big hit.

Level 106 armor writ… not much status…

You theoretically could use writs, but the xp ramp up was so big… as it was with adventure xp… that just crafting or doing writs would be a very long road forward.  The company clearly wanted to push people away from that. (All of those 100% bonus to adventure and trade xp potions I have in the bank are now useless.  I saved them until they had no value at all.)

That is where I had to go back and learn about the now standard trade skill quest line that comes with each expansion.  I first ran into this in the Tranquil Sea, which I believe came in with the Altar of Malice expansion.

Reward from the FSTC… that effect is useless now as well…

I did the trade skill quest line for the Terrors of Thalumbra expansion with Sigwerd as part of trying to get languages and past expansion pre-requisites setup to unlock more current content and get access to ascension levels to help me in the Plane of Magic.

That set and the Plane of Magic signature quest line done, I found myself at level 110 for adventure levels, so decided to pursue the trade skill quest line as well.

This was an odd diversion, in part because it looks like a adventure/combat series of quests at time, but it most assuredly is not.  I quickly learned that no matter how green the mobs looked to me, they are meant to be avoided and not fought.  They cannot be defeated except through special means that are part of the quest lines.

It sure looks like I could beat him…

It is, I suspect, meant to be level independent.  I am not sure I would want to try it with a really low level character, but in the instances your mercenary is removed and you are not expected to fight. (EQII remains inconsistent in telling you how tough a mob is even in their over-wrought, too much detail consider system.)

Also, aspects of it are kind of expensive.  The end of the quest line in the Plane of Magic requires six rare harvest items and, while you could hang out and harvest them yourself, that might take quite a while.

That pricey final combine

Also, you really need to know about what the quest lines require in advance to not spend a lot of time running back and forth.  At points there  will be items to harvest in the quest instances or you will need a special fuel that you can only find there.  But at other times you will need a pile of raw materials and fuel with you.  And it can be critical that you have it all.  At one point I was most of the way through an instance on Luclin, but forgot one of the raws I needed, so ended up engaged in the quest but without the sprayer I needed to engage the next two mobs in the instance.

I recalled back home, got the items, but then found that the quest was stuck in place, so I had to delete it and start it over again.  However, on the second run I was now out of materials to make the first item.  I already had it though, so could get to the two mobs and spray them, but the quest wouldn’t advance because it hadn’t recognized that I had made the first item.  So I recalled again, got fresh supplies, deleted everything, went back in the instance, made both items, got to the two mobs… and found that since I had already sprayed them they were now in the state for the next part of the quest, but I couldn’t advance the quest because I could no longer spray them.

So I left again, but I couldn’t reset the instance until the next day for whatever reason, at which point I ran through it again and got it right.

Some of you may know where I am

But I seriously suggest you go to the wiki and come prepared with all the stuff you need, because the quest chains can be a bit brittle.  The wiki even warns you now and again to bring double portions for this stage or that because of known issues.

Anyway, I have managed to run through the Plane of Magic and Luclin trade skill quest lines twice now, so have two characters at max level for their respective professions.

The kicker is, and this wraps us back around to the title of the post, at no time during my advancement through 20 levels of trade skills did I actually need to craft anything that was related to either profession.  I have a max level armorer and woodworker.  Not once were the skills for either needed.

That makes some sense.  These quests are for ALL professions and, as such, when you do craft… and you actually do craft some things now and then… you end up using a set of independent reaction skills with icons borrowed from other skills in order to make required items.

These are not my skill icons

This means that now, at level 120, my actual crafting skills are still where they were when I was at level 100.  EQII still has skills that need to be raised up through usage, going up five points every level, which was never a problem when we were banging out a few writs per level.  You can get those five points in two runs if you work at it.

Now though my skills are all at 500, but the skill cap for 120 is 600.  I am going to have to crafts a lot of stuff to bring those up to spec… or not.  I am not sure they matter all that much beyond a certain point.

So the way all this works in EQII is… as I keep saying… different.  It is not necessarily bad… I am pretty sure running the trade skill quests that come with each expansion now is more fun than grinding out writs or what not… but I did advance 20 levels as an armorer without needing to make a single item of armor.  I feel like I got my armorer’s GED or something.

Anyway, I keep going.  With two players at the level cap I now have a 40% veteran’s bonus for trade skills… which probably does me zero good for levels 100 to 120, but I have a couple of alts at lower levels, down where writs still mean something and crafting xp isn’t meaningless, that might benefit.

Bhagpuss posted his own bit of reflection on the state of crafting in EQII, which overlaps a bit with my own, but not that much.  I was already well past the 1,500 word mark when it was posted, so his chances of influencing or attenuating my output was minimal.

5 thoughts on “Leveling up Your Crafting Without Actually Crafting

  1. bhagpuss

    Heh! I could write a comment longer about all this that was longer than both our posts combined but I’ll try and restrain myself.

    I laughed out loud at a couple of points reading the post – recognition humor. I usually follow the wiki rigorously but for my first run through Blood of Luclin I’d been trying to keep research to a minimum. Mostly that worked out fine but I hit a point similar to yours, where I ran out of materials while deep in an instance. It was the one where you have to make lockpicks, which for some reason requires huge quantities of zelniak pelts. (There’s a post to be written on the insanity of the combines themselves – they long ago departed from all logic and any internal sense of reality).

    I’d been harvesting like a crazed hoarder for days by then and my bags were stuffed with all kinds of mats so I was confident of having anything i’d need. Overconfident as it turned out. As the doors opened to reveal yet another set of locks to be picked I realised I was going to run out of pelts. Unlike you, though, I was extremely wary of leaving the instance. I’ve been caught that way before. So I opened the handy Broker window you get to use anywhere as a perk of Membership and went to buy the rest of the pelts I needed, only to find the cheapest on sale were around 200 plat each – and I needed several hundred.

    A lengthy internal debate ensued but in the end I ground my teeth and paid up. It cost me 27,000 plat. Lucky I made some money back in the dragon atack event and could afford it.
    It was worth it not to have to re-do the instance. I hate doing that. After that experience I’ve been very careful to read the wiki and make sure I have more than the minimum of all required mats.

    Getting back to the way crafting has changed, it goes back farther than you might think. There was a full crafting questline as far back as Rise of Kunark, which I remember doing twice on different characters. That was very differently organized, though. As I recall, the first modern-style crafting questline came the following year with The Shadow Odyssey and most (all?) expansions after that had a full Signature questline for tradeskills. It was a few more years before it became the optimal option just for levelling. I think that was probably Altar of Malice, which itself is five years ago now.

    People do still level by writs – or they did until Blood of Luclin, which as yet doesn’t have any. There’s a clamor for them to be added. The craft line is so quick and easy to do up to the point where you hit 120, though, I can’t see why you’d want to except for Status.

    As for the way the classic trade classes have been usurped by “Artisan” crafting, well I’m not sure what I think about that. It’s convenient, for sure, but once again it makes no sense. But then, what in EQ2 does?

    Anyway, I’ll stop before this comment gets out of hand – as if it hasn’t already.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – I have a pretty big empty spots in my knowledge of the game where I was either not playing or pottering around in what is now very old content. I was going to mention that writs were completely unavailable… I remember taking the screen shot… from level 110 onward.

    My pet theory is that Daybreak has moved to the trade skill quest path for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is more fun. Easy win there. But they may have also made grinding, especially writ grinding much less viable to combat botting. Trade skill botting used to be rampant in EQII, and it wasn’t too tough to spot. There were some bad bots that would make the same mistake over and over but still worked. People would even post screen shots in the forums for other things that showed color coded markers on their reaction skills which the automation would use to know what to click when. (Because you can re-work the whole UI, you can add bot friendly icons.) SOE even admitted at one point that they were not going after people botting trade skills because the whole thing was so grindy.

    I don’t know what the Daybreak stance on trade skill botting is, but it sure seems like they have added a way to level up and get around feeling the need to grind for days.

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  3. Mailvaltar

    Personally I always liked to do writs. Timed writs, to be precise, or as most guildies and I called them for some reason I can’t remember, “rush orders”.

    For me those hit the sweet spot in a couple of ways. Time pressure, but not too much. Engaging, but no too hard (ok, pretty easy, but you had to pay attention in order to be quick enough). Rewarding, but not outrageously so.

    I think this is still my overall favourite way to level an MMORPG crafting profession, with the beast tribe quests (Ixal, Moogle) in FFXIV a distant second.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Mailvaltar – I think you call them “rush orders” because the NPC who hands them out has “rush orders” as part of the title over their head. (In that guild events screen shot you can see the game calls them rush orders as well.)

    There is probably a “what should the industry learn from/take from what EQII has done over in its little corner of the genre?” post in me somewhere. As I have said, it being pre-WoW has been both a burden and a benefit to the game and has caused the team there to evolve and adapt in strange and interesting ways.

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