As I mentioned in last week’s article, I chose to play a Shaman in World of Warcraft because it reminded me a lot of my old favorite battle-cleric character Lumbar that I used to play in D&D years past. In truth, the similarities between these two characters didn’t end at class and poor hygiene. About midway through the campaign in which I played Lumbar, I got really sugared up one night and decided that it would be a lot of fun to take the corpses of all the monsters we defeated and turn them into clothes, furniture, and other useful household accessories. This eventually led to such finery as the LA-Z-ROC™ chair and a line of luxurious time-saving undergarments created from shambling mounds that freed adventurers from the shackles of having to wipe their own epic butts while in the field. At this point in the campaign, we had a nasty habit of dying frequently, and paying to be True Resurrected was getting to be a problem. Happily, our characters had begun to establish themselves in a town. So it was that I managed to talk our DM into letting Lumbar open up a shop in town selling his creations. It didn’t pay for everything, but it was certainly a good start, and it was a wonderful opportunity to be a little strange and enjoy roleplaying my beloved battle-cleric. After all, the Uthgardt use every part of the displacer beast.
When I created Lumbar’s massively-multiplayer shamanic counterpart Lumbertha, one of the first things my friends told me to do was to pick professions. I looked through the list and chose Skinning and Leatherworking based solely on Lumbar’s creative taxidermy business. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t randomly turn quest mobs into a festive hat, but I got over it. Skinning was really easy. I just killed things and then skinned them as applicable. Leatherworking was tougher, and required a lot of time and resources. This was sort of a weird sticking point for me, as I had refused to play MMO games for years after seeing one of my friends playing Asheron’s Call and spending his nights making arrows to sell other players. “Why don’t you get a real job and earn real money?”, I remember taunting. As it turned out, leveling a profession was more fun than it first appeared. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure if “fun” is quite the right term. “Triggers a rabid need to progress” is probably a better term. I was very fortunate in that I accidentally picked two complementary professions (leatherworking is expensive enough even without the leather you need), and in that I could craft items usable by shamans.
As I was powerleveling Lumbertha so I could play with my already high-level friends (which I don’t recommend), I didn’t really try leveling my leatherworking skill until I was in my mid-60’s. This was not a particularly large amount of fun, because I had really only been playing a couple of months and didn’t have even remotely enough leather skinned (or gold to buy any). I eventually clawed my way up through needing the various kinds of leather vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade had to offer, and right before I quit playing about a year ago I got the itch to try and level my professions up to max. I hit the not-enough-resources wall once again, but as I had been questing pretty heavily from 70-80, I almost made it. Part of the problem was that I needed Frozen Orbs to make really good stuff, which at the time could only be obtained through running Heroic-difficulty dungeons – and I was rarely on at the same time as most of my guild. I didn’t know any good places to skin a lot of leather, I ran out of money, and eventually out of gas.
That all changed when Cataclysm came out. I leveled my way up to 85 and did all the new zones except for Vash’jir – which I avoided because water levels usually are intensely annoying to me. Once again, I was hitting the resource-wall trying to level my skills, and Googling the best places to farm savage leather was proving fruitless. (Apparently, I’d just missed them patching a bug that let you mass-kill a dozen bats, skinning them all, by mere days. I begrudgingly decided to quest in Vash’jir just to get some gold. In one of the early quests, I got bored waiting for something to respawn and starting killing off a bunch of nearby crabs. They didn’t give me much leather when I skinned them. To be honest, I still can’t figure out why crabs give leather and some dragons don’t. I mean, just say it out loud. “Crab leather.” It’s like instant cognitive dissonance. But, I digress. The crabs were giving off 2 or 3 scraps of savage leather each, and I can put together 5 of those to make a regular one. But they were plentiful, died fast, and respawned almost faster than I could keep up. Most importantly, they couldn’t really do much to me since I was higher level. So, I spent an hour and farmed about 50 pieces of leather. I was ecstatic. I started running around the zone seeing if there was something even better.
That’s when I found the eels.
There’s a quest in Vash’jir that pretty much declares eels to be evil. And by that, I mean it libels eels for a full two paragraphs before demanding you commit eel genocide in the name of all that’s good in the world. Listen, people. Eels are our friends. Eels are the caretakers of the sea, a vital part of every ecosystem, and Neptune’s dental floss. They are also delicious. I could not bear this indignity, so I decided to solve the problem the only way I knew how: I would kill every eel in the zone and skin it, then turn it into as much armor as I could to then sell on the Auction House. In this way, the honor and glory of eels would be properly spread through the Horde. Also, it did not hurt that the eels did not mind attacking me 2 or 3 at a time, just as ineffectually as their crabby neighbors, and then thoughtfully respawning (sometimes even before the first group was dead). So, over the next week or so, I refined my harvesting techniques. If eels were corn, I was now a combine. I found myself able to farm 7 or 8 full stacks of heavy savage leather per night (about 500-600 pieces of leather), and suddenly I found myself with two things: enough leather to learn a ton of recipes and make myself a decent set of PvP gear, and the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome from right-clicking eels for hours on end. Also, I wasn’t really excited about farming leather anymore. I love eels, but I was getting pretty tired of killing them en masse. I also found myself at skill level 525, the current maximum, way before I ever expected.
While it is nice to make myself nice gear, I was very surprised to find out I can sell the leather I skin for more than the items I can craft with it. I’m told by some of my WoW-veteran friends that it won’t be this way forever, as the cost of crafting materials is always insane for some time after an expansion comes out. Oh well. At least I can enchant my own bracers and leg armor. That +200 intellect was totally worth the 10 hours I spent right clicking on eels. Clearly, I only thought I was farming leather.
In truth, I was farming irony.