Original basis for this article is taken from a series of posts on making the most of Solo Adventuring by Thod on the Paizo Forums. This document may have been extensively edited since then.
This is the result of a chat with one of my members who isn't playing currently. He tends to play WoW and other games mainly on his own and felt that PFO just doesn't allow him to enjoy it because it doesn't allow solo play.
This got me thinking. The game will lose a lot if we have no solo players. I'm playing 95% of the time 'solo' - so why is there a problem for other people?
Maybe the issue is that there is a difference between playing on your own and solo play.3
Playing on your own is possible in PFO and can be rewarding. But playing on your own might need adaption to games designed for solo play.
So first lets start what I mean by 'solo play' - I already started using the phrase playing on your own instead. I mean that you log in on your own without mumble or teamchat and enjoy the game.
A lot of potential players seem to struggle with how to play on your own in PFO - and that lets them reject the game. I mentioned already a member of the Emerald Lodge telling me that he tried the game, couldn't play meaningful on his own - and therefore wouldn't start until much later as EE. So I thought to enable a functional Emerald Lodge I needed to do something for these players - before I lose them. And I'm sharing my thoughts here as the overall community will be better off if we don't chase away these players.
There are several hurdles to overcome if you play on your own. The main reason in my view to reject playing on your own result from a few generic topics
1) The game is deliberately complex to allow years of gaming 2) The game is designed for settlements and not for solo play 3) The game is still in development
So lets look into ways how to play different roles solo in a rewarding way - and which hurdles you need to overcome to do so.
General hurdle for all roles - knowing how to play the game
This is a new game. It is a complex game. I often compare the crafting and other advancement trees to Civilization. In a way this is good - as it offers a large interdependent game play - but right now it is confusing for a beginner as you start without a map of the tree - in alpha the tree sometimes changed, some information isn't available inside the game itself yet (common vs uncommon) so you have to reply on external spreadsheets - and these sometimes can be out of date. And you have to add to this some non-intuitive ways how everything is named / works. Like learning feats to go up levels in fighter/wizard/rogue or cleric or having to equip a staff/wand to be able to cast spells, needing the right equipment so that a feat actually is doing anything - or the other way round - having +3 equipment but lacking the feats so it isn't doing anything better as a +1.
So learning the game is an investment. Just logging on and learning by playing is a sure recipe to be frustrated with the game. GW has been adding tutorials, there is more and more information available online - like Cheatle's guide or the PFO Wiki. And it helps to follow the links in the start-up screen. And ASK - there are many helpful players out there and there is a plan to have a help channel in the game. I died uncounted times while running from a to b and giving advice to players in the chat - and running into large groups of monsters doing so.
But as a player who wants to play mainly on your own you have to accept that this game is not yet in a place where you pick it up, log in and enjoy playing. There is a huge learning curve - even if you played many other games before. Or maybe especially if you played many other games before.
The game is designed for settlements - not for solo play
This is the most important part to understand in playing on your own. The game is deliberately designed so you will never be self sufficient - even with a destiny twin or multiple accounts. But there are still a lot of ways how to play in a meaningful way on your own - with on your own I mean 95% on your own. Occasionally you will have to interact. Ideally by aligning yourself with a settlement. How much you will be able to do on your own and how much you depend on others will depend on the role you chose. This will be investigated in later posts.
The game is still in development
This can be good or bad for someone playing on his own. You can see this as giving added meaning as you can influence where it is going. But it also might mean that you are caught flat footed by some changes if you don't spend hours at forums and always read the blog. People caught out overloaded when encumbrance was switched on is one such example.
The amount you are able to play on your own also depends a lot on your role. Do you want to play gatherer, crafter, PvE fighter, PvP fighter, trader or another role. I have started to write about the gatherer but realized I didn't finish the write up. So I felt I start with this post and then dedicate further threads to individual roles. Explaining what is possible, what to look out for and how best adapt in PFO to have a meaningful game. I plan to post these whenever I manage to finish them.
General This is likely the easiest role to do play on your own. Gathering resources means you walk the landscape, you look for resource nodes and you gather ingredients. I've spend hours doing this and looking for the elusive ingredients missing in one of my crafting recipes. To learn gathering is easy - you hardly any XP and you can specialize in dowser (sparks), miner (rocks), forester (plants) and scavenger (trash heaps). The higher your level, the more raw materials (mats) you get.
Some important information to know: Level 1-6 allows you to collect tier 1 ingredients. Level 7+ is when you start seeing completely new tier 2 ingredients. Each hex has a limited number of resources. There are only very few hexes with copper - and you will never find coal in a mountain rock. Knowing what to find where can be extremely helpful if you are after a certain material - so ask or Google what to find where. No spoilers here if you like to find out yourself and this is the attraction for you to become a gatherer. You might even help some of the initiatives to generate an accurate map what to find where.
Meaningful play To make it long term meaningful and not repetitive you need to plan early on what to do with the materials. Do you have a settlement which uses them and supplies you with crafted items in return? Do you want to trade them - then look further down for trader role. Do you want to sell them in the auction house?
Gatherer is easy to do on your own - as you don't depend on anyone else - but to make it fulfilling you likely want to either go with a settlement / alliance or do some other role as well. So the main issue as gatherer can be to keep it meaningful and interesting for you in the long run. PvP (bandits) is currently not a problem as player looting isn't implemented yet. But look out for developments here if being attacked will cause you to stop enjoying a game. Being on an unusual time zone (Australia?) could be a benefit for this role as you might have less problems with bandits or other gatherers.
Useful commands / items / feats Useful command - X - lets you sneak closer to monsters without triggering a combat. Watch out for encumbrance. Heavy armour and gathering is likely a no-go. There are feats to increase you carrying capacity. There are items to help (bags, etc) but they are not yet implemented. So watch out for them in the development. Watch out for smallholding or base camp. Unfortunately I'm unable to tell how good these are if you need defending.
Your role and settlements As a gatherer you should be welcome in nearly every settlement. A lose association will be enough as it allows you to train higher levels at a later stage. Most settlements are likely happy to have you associated even if gathering is all you will ever contribute.
Downsides You will need someone who uses your gathered raw materials. So if you don't use the auction house then ensure you are in a settlement with the main users on the same time zone - or at least several at the same time zone. Nothing more frustrating as piling up resources in your vault that nobody can use because you are never online at the same time and place.
What GW could do to help this role There are currently some issues plaguing gathering. I assume they will be fixed soon. The main other issue is to be online with other settlement / company members at the same time. A company or settlement vault would really help this game play. Also a better Auction House would be beneficial if you want to sell gathered goods.
My personal thoughts about a gatherer This is how I started the game and I had hours of fun with this role. It is great if you play on your own. But I feel it isn't enough long term. But it is a role that can be combined well with fighting monsters or refining or crafting or trading. So do this and something else. They main challenge I see will be to keep yourself interested. Being the first to gather rare tier 2 resources might be a goal for you - but you will need someone capable of using these to keep it interesting. But this is a great role to start of and later or at the same time to branch into other roles.
Role Monster Slayer
General This is likely the play style that draws PvE players looking for a fantasy MMO to PFO. And expectations what can be done playing this way might have driven a lot of players to be non-active. This doesn't mean you can't play on your own this way - but coming from a different game might cause you some rude awakening. Stay with us to figure out more how it can be fulfilling and hopefully you will be back.
Some important information to know: I called the play style Monster Killer and not fighter - because you can play with either of the four implemented roles - fighter, cleric, rogue and wizard and slay monsters. Levels of fighter, cleric, mage and rogue are pretty much meaningless if you don't have the equipment to go with it. This is most apparent for wizards. They go to the wizard school - learn all these fancy spells available and go out - and the first goblin they encounter kills them because none of the spells can be used. This is a very hard first lesson. You need a staff or wand before you can use the spells. It is similar - but not that obvious for other classes - like fighters. Train up your two-handed sword attacks several levels - and wonder that you haven't got better. What you lack is +x equipment as only in combination with the right equipment do your feats translate into improved damage or other benefits. To reiterate - you need skills/feats/spells AND equipment to benefit from both. There is a whole fighting guide written by Ryan - so I'm not explaining this here - go and read it when you want to become a monster killer. Okay - what else? If you target a monster then the colour tells you how dangerous they are. White is 'simple', yellow more tough, red pretty deadly (for a beginner, solo player) and don't try any other colour on your own - not that I have seen any apart of purple for Thornguards.
Meaningful play There is a decent amount of different monsters out there to fight. Goblins, bandits, wolfs and Ogres are the basic staple to hone your skills. Escalations bring in more variety and you can go out trying to bring down the total escalation in a hex or you fulfill some of the minor quests like Bookworms, etc. What you want to do is to slowly start with simple monster and go for more and more advanced creatures. I managed to repeatedly kill whole Death Squads (1 white, 1 yellow and 3 red) on my own as fighter 4. And off course you can kill monsters for the loot they offer. You get some coin (copper) as well as salvage and more importantly recipes for crafters, maneuvers for fighters and rogues and spells for wizards and clerics. Useful commands / items / feats I don't know yet what is included in the basic player pack. During alpha you would start with a simple club and peasant clothes. So the very first thing to get is items. Heavy armour (banded steel) and a decent weapon (sword) and a long bow is likely easiest for a fighter, a wizard needs a wand and a staff. Most of these items drop from simple monsters - Omega wolfs, goblin scouts, bandit recruits (I hope I got them all right). Of high importance to survive are hit points - train the feat up as high as possible. Also armour increases hit points and makes you less vulnerable. This can make even a bigger addition to hit points as the feats. And +1 armour which gives twice the hit points as +0 - but ensure you have the matching feats - or it won't do anything.
Your role and settlements Your biggest issue as a lone monster slayer are access to items. The drops only give you the very basic items. If you want anything better then there are only three options: a) trade with people using chat. This works great in alpha as many players have surplus. It is also great at the start when you want to play a fighter and got a staff or wand - and want to exchange it with a weapon more suitable for you. But this likely won't get you very far and the best equipment will be out of reach unless you are good at trading what you get from monsters (recipes/spells/maneuvers against equipment). b) use the auction house to spend your money. A large warning - so far there isn't much choice and expect the best items to be traded under the counter. c) align with a settlement and ensure this supplies you with equipment in return for services. These could be recipes and salvaged items you leave for the crafters or it could be that you keep escalations down and keep shrines free of monsters.
Downsides You are dependent on equipment. If you can't organize decent equipment for you in one way or another then you will be severely handicapped. This is likely the biggest reason for players stopping to play in frustration. Drops won't give you what you need (unless you are extremly lucky) and they will restrict what you get to the basic items. This means you can 'play' on your own - but you need some form of interaction with other players to get what you need to function.
You won't be able to finish a full escalation. They are build in a way that needs collaboration. There also likely will be monsters that you never will be able to attack as a single player.
What GW could do to help this play style Some people wanting to play this play style like better graphics. It is improving - but I guess that would attract more people. Also a dungeon would be great. Will it be feasible to explore on your own - who knows. The Emerald Lodge is close to the Emerald Spire - albeit right now (and for a while to come) we will have to wait if/when something functional will be made out of that place.
My personal thoughts about a monster slayer I slowly developed killing monsters as a necessity to get recipes and as part of gathering. It was interesting to get better and better - yellow ogres which seemed untouchable in the early days became easy prey on their own. Spending enough time you can develop tactics against tougher monsters / monster groups. This role also means you are not a push-over when PvP starts. I can't see myself doing only this role - but I sprinkle in a certain amount of it and I will ensure each of my characters has at least some basic weapon training to be able to kill up to yellow monsters on his own.