Many years ago now I participated in the Ironman Challenge while playing World of Warcraft, an ongoing player driven event that aims to give the player a new way to experience the game. The idea is to level a character all the way to max level without dying, using only the worst possible (level appropriate) gear. There are some other rules as well, but that’s the jist of it. Personally, I was never able to get a character to level 80 without dying. I was doing really well on a Paladin until our internet cut out and he was killed by the tiger I was fighting at the time.
That was my fouth or fifth attempt and right about the time I decided the perma-death aspect of the challenge probably wasn’t going to work for me. However, I did enjoy the concept of leveling through exploring the dangers of the world (of Warcraft! lol…) thoughtfully and carefully and that’s what brings me to where I am now: challenging myself to not only level a character by sticking to some strict rules to make the process more difficult, but to have those rules be an integral part the character’s personal story. Only, I play Guild Wars 2 now, which is an entirely different game than WoW in many respects, so I had to think hard about how to make an interesting challenge.
Enter Dwayne Murphy, Human Guardian
My main character, a female Sylvari who I created in early 2015 when I decided I needed to give Guild Wars 2 a fair shake after having not played much at all in the 3 years I had owned the game, is a Guardian. I set her up for maximum burning damage, using sword and torch (with a back up septer and shield), and she completely out classes all my other characters in her ability to allow me to faceroll the open world content. I love this character; There is nothing about her that I want to change and I suppose that’s OK, because the game doesn’t make it easy to switch between gear/stat/skill combinations anyway. You’re best bet is to make a new character if you really want to play around with different builds for the classes you already play, so that’s what I did.
I made Dwayne a Human, because I wanted a character that would look good in a suit of heavy armor, but I loathed the voice acting on my original male Sylvari Guardian so much that I deleted him and rolled a female Sylvari instead. Sadly, the male Norm voice acting also bugged me to the point where I used a kit to change my ranger into a female too. Such is the problem with voice acting – when the acting doesn’t jibe with your feeling toward your character (or it just plain annoys you), well you’re shit out of luck, because that’s their voice. Anyway, I didn’t want another female Sylvari or Norn and I can live with the male human voice, despite the super cringy way he frequently yells, “STRAAWWHNNNG!”, so a human male I created! While in the proces of playing with the character creator I stumbled on a look that reminded me of a cross between The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) and Eddie Murphy which made me smile and with that, Dwayne Murphy was born!
But What About Those Chronicles?
When I was coming up with the rules I’ll need to adhere to, my ever curious brain insisted on knowing Dwayne’s back story and his motivations so of course I endulged in some late musings on the subject! After expanding upon the general principles offered in the game’s personal story background choices, I thought to myself, “hey… I should totally make a journal of my experiences playing this character, both from my perspective as the player and his perspective as a person in the world of Tyria!”. And so The Chronicles of D. Murphy began!
As I play through the game, on no set schedule, I will create posts here that are broken down into two parts, a story section written in the form of a personal journal entry by Dwayne, followed by some commentary about my own experiences playing the character to that point.
Guild Wars 2 is an easy game. It’s full awesome game play systems that truly respect the player’s time, while also going out of its way to ensure that players in the open world benefit rather than hinder each other. Almost every activity grants XP, from picking flowers to completing jumping puzzles, the game throws XP at the player like so much rain. Not only that, but once you’ve played a while on max level characters, you’ll end up with a pile of Tomes of Knowledge that can be used to grant free levels to your characters. And the XP buffs and the exotic gear and the food buffs and… yup, the real challenge here is finding a way to actually challenge one’s self while leveling!
Here is what I came up with…
- Dwayne’s morality prevents him from killing sentient, living humaniods (excluding undead, risen, and ghosts). This is defined as: Asura, Char, Dwarf, Ettin, Exaulted, Forgotten, Giant, Grawl, Harpy, Hylek, Jotun, Kodan, Krait, Largos, Mursaat, Ogre, Quaggan, Skritt, Tengu Troll, and Treant.
- Must level to 80 by exploring Core Tyria.
- No Tomes of Knowledge or Scrolls of Experience.
- No XP or combat related buffs/food/boosters (gathering/currency related ones are ok).
- No leveling through crafting, but harvesting is OK.
- Must use white armor and weapons purchased from Armor and Weaponsmith NPCs every 10 levels. For story purposes (and to actually USE it for something!) I started him in my set of Primal armor, which has level 8ish stats.
- Trinkets must be blue quality and purchased only from Karma vendors.
- May only use green Runes and Sigils.
- May only use blue quality upgrades (jewels, runes, marks, and talisman).
- Dwayne is afraid of portals and will not use waypoints (with the exception of maps that can’t otherwise be accessed). This includes travelling though The Mists.
- When defeated, must respawn at the closest village (as though he was brought there to recover by good Samaritans).
- Outside of the Crystal Desert zones, may only use the jackal mount, spectral glider, and magic carpet.
After reaching level 80, the following must be unlocked in order:
- May use all blue (fine) gear and any buffs/food/boosters.
- May use all green (master-work) gear and upgrades after discovering all the waypoints and vistas in Central Tyria.
- Mmay use all yellow (rare) gear and upgrades after discovering all the points of interest in Central Tyria and becoming a Master Jeweler and a Master Chef.
- May wear orange (exotic) gear and upgrades after discovering all the waypoints in the Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire maps.
- May where pink (ascended) gear after discovering all the waypoints, vistas, and points of interest in the Living World Season 3 maps.
I think that is a pretty decent set of parameters, given the very open, easy nature of the game and how I normally only participate in the open world content anyway (occasionally I will mash buttons in sPvP for the daily or other rewards). It’s definitely not as challenging as the Ironman Challenge from WoW, but it’s enough to create a game play experience that is unique to this character. I found it difficult to create sensible deterrents/punishments for things like being defeated or accidentally killing a sentient being, because ultimately it either hurts my whole account (by making me poorer if “x event costs x gold”, etc) or it needlessly wastes my time (repent for your sins by doing x activity), so I ended up not making any beyond having to re-spawn at a town. Ultimately, this challenge is something I’m doing for fun and I think what I have put together meets that criteria. Also, after playing up to level 9 I realized that world completion will not be possible for this character, as so much of the game is designed around killing sentient beings! Ah well, I there are other goals I can set.
In the next post I will provide Dwayne’s back story and some notes about setting up the character and playing through the first 10 levels or so. You’ll find them on my Guild Wars 2 page or sorted in the Guild Wars 2 category of the Post Archive page.