The Power of Friendship

With mere days left to go until "snapshot day" (when our characters' state will be locked in for any future cloning to a different game mode) and the Burning Crusade pre-patch, I actually managed to get a third Alliance character to level 60. Somewhat to my surprise, it didn't end up being my druid, who had been my favoured candidate for this for a long time. (Though she's currently level 55, mind you, so not too far behind.)

No, the dubious honour of becoming my second max-level alt on Hydraxian Waterlords went to my human mage Jehna. When I last mentioned her in my year-in-review post at the end of December, I noted that I found mage quite enjoyable to play in group content and was thinking about replacing her in a guild levelling group that was still kinda-sorta meant to be going on at the time. That... didn't actually happen. The group was already floundering at the time of me writing that post, and was more or less officially dissolved shortly afterwards.

However, late one evening - I think it must have been after a raid - I noticed the rogue class leader (who was also the tank leader and one of our raid leaders... aka the guy who rage-quit the raid on Sapphiron on Monday - he's worn a lot of different hats over time) on his druid alt in Desolace. As that was my mage's next destination as well, I whispered him to ask if he fancied doing some quests together. His response was something along the lines of sure, why not.

And we had a very good time that evening! Our approaches to questing seemed compatible enough (we both agreed to stay well away from the centaur reputation quests for example), and feral druid and frost mage had good synergy, as he could go bear to ensure mobs stayed away from me, while my frostbolts helped to make things die much more quickly than they would have if he had been questing on his own. Plus the universal rule of grouping applied of course, meaning that things like accidental overpulls in densely packed areas largely ceased to be threatening.

I instantly knew that I wanted more of that and suggested at the end of the evening that we should do something like this again soon. He seemed to concur, but he may have simply taken it as a polite turn of phrase at the time, considering that he returned to Desolace on his own a few days later to finish what quests we had left over, but that didn't stop me from pushing. Maybe we could do another zone together? Where else had he not done any quests yet?

So we met up again some time later, clearing out the elite quests in Alterac while quite under-levelled for the area, and doing some quests in Arathi, where we duoed our way right into the heart of Stromgarde Keep, though we had to resign ourselves to being unable to kill Otto and Falconcrest with just the two of us. We quickly developed little routines, with me sheeping whichever mob he wasn't focusing, or him dodging out of melee range when mobs were rooted or frozen to heal himself back up when needed.

I also encouraged him to come along to dungeons with me. Just because my dungeon levelling group had died, that didn't mean that I didn't want to do them anymore, even if it meant going with some pugs! The more guildies the merrier though, and him being willing to go bear and tank was a boon to group formation as everybody knows that finding a tank is usually the trickiest part. We started by running Scarlet Monastery with two guildies and one pug, and then hit every instance on the way as our levelling journey continued.

Luckily we seemed to be reasonably in sync in terms of investment in levelling our alts, with neither party tempted to pull ahead too much. Like me, he works a desk job so couldn't play much on weekdays during day time, and evenings were often taken up by raids, so there was only a set amount of time available to focus on alt play - for both of us.

Slowly but surely we went from me being the one to ask him if and when he'd feel like playing again to him seeking me out, and at a higher frequency as well. His eagerness hit a peak around the time we were getting ready for Sunken Temple, as I remember him pushing for us to go "tomorrow evening" (whenever that was) and I was pushing back because I didn't feel ready for Sunken Temple yet because I was still missing quite a few quests for it, including my class quest. He was not to be deterred though and basically instructed me to just follow him, as he ploughed a path through several zones in a row in an attempt to get me through all the required pre-quest chains asap. For my class quest in Azshara he even logged his max-level warlock and laid waste to scores of naga and elves to speed up my quest progress for me. I think it was 2 am in the morning or something when we finished, and I felt both slightly delirious and incredibly amused. Ironically, we were then unable to go to Sunken Temple that night anyway, but for other reasons.

We also ended up forging new bonds/improving our relationships with other guildies that had alts in the right level range. For example there was the dps warrior main on his paladin alt, struggling with how slow everything was, who was grateful for every bit of assistance that would make things go a bit faster. Or the tank main who was happy to try out healing on his druid.

My favourite instance of this was when we were questing just outside Jaedenar in Felwood when we ran into a warrior killing some mobs in the same area. This person whispered me to ask what quests we were on and whether we were interested in grouping up, and I just remember slowly staring at his guild tag and level, when it was as if a light bulb had suddenly gone off in my head and I remembered that one of our regular community raiders from another guild had been levelling a warrior alt that was supposedly in our level range... "Leyland, is that you?" I whispered him, and I was right. Of course we threw him a group invite and then laid waste to the rest of Felwood as a trio in short order.

And well... last night our mage-and-druid team's journey finally came to its natural end. Our characters had never been completely in sync, so I dinged 60 just as we finished up business in Winterspring, while we had to then do a few more quests in Western Plaguelands to get him his ding as well. After several months of questing together (which, incidentally, was very efficient by my standards ... my mage's /played was only a little over seven days), we had reached our final destination - for now, that is. After all, the level cap will go up again in a little over two weeks.

In a way, this experience of levelling with a friend has been more quintessentially Classic to me than anything else. Raiding has been fun, but wasn't anything I had really planned for. And while exploring the world solo had its appeal too, it was limited in terms of longevity. But questing with a friend in the original World of Warcraft is still something that I can do all day long.

I'd also tried repeatedly to level with other people before, but it always fell apart for one of two reasons: either the other person would lose interest in playing (that character) altogether, or they would be so much more engaged and put in so much more time than me that they quickly out-paced me and simply left me behind. It's been nice to be able to make it work this once at least. I couldn't really have asked for a better capstone to my Classic experience.

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