Letters From Tamriel

An epistolary gaming blog

The Alts, general set-up

@Zells - sepia stone - smallThis is a two-part post; the follow-up post is here.

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about playing alts, and apparently I use/play them differently than most do; a couple of people have requested I go through my alt/character system.

I don’t really have “alts” per se, is one big difference. I started using the Zell- naming prefix decades ago so friends could find me in MMOs no matter which character I was playing (before account names), because I really do play them all.

In the solo games I’ve done every quest, everything there is to do, multiple times, but never on a single character. That’s because in my heart I’m a role-player, and to me it doesn’t make sense for the same character to sacrifice souls to Sithis for the Dark Brotherhood while killing Daedra cultists for the Fighter’s Guild and also doing kill-nobody-we’re-not-evil! quests for the Thieves Guild.

So before I even start playing, I decide which characters are doing which parts of the game with the goal of doing every single thing while repeating as little as possible – I slice up the content like a pie and decide which character gets each slice.

You may have noticed my characters have simple, themed names: Fire, Shadow, Night, Ice, Vermin… Those are appearance guides as well as characterization/class cues – Fire wears red/gold/black; Nyx wears blue/grey/black; Issa wears white/ice-blue/grey, etc. I don’t use the same motif or costume on more than one character at a time, so the armor appearance varies. They don’t ride the same mounts, they don’t live in the same parts of the world, they don’t use the same skills… all that’s partly so I can see as much of the game as possible, it’s a function of me slicing up the content-pie and dividing it.

Another important play-style factor is that I have Hirelings on all my characters. I’d been playing only long enough to have a couple of characters and a basic understanding of the game when I started doing research on the crafting skills and found out how Hirelings work. I immediately decided all my characters would have rank 3 Hirelings as fast as I could get them, even though I hadn’t yet even built those characters. (Because: MOAR CRAFTING MATS, YAY.)

Hireling mails don’t arrive unless/until you log in with the character who has that skill purchased, which I knew going in.

What I’m saying is that one of my first big decisions in the game was that I would have 8 (now 10) characters and would be logging on with each of them every day I played – that was my foundation assumption from the start. I never intended to play just one character like most people do; I always meant for it to be an interlocking team. I don’t log in with every single character when I play, but I do get to most of them, most days.

So I log in to get the Hireling mail and do one/two/some of the possible activities on that character’s current to-do list, depending on my mood. Then I log out and move to the next one. I’m with each character 5 minutes to 2 hours. The log-in order varies based on my gaming priorities, and also by which characters are putting items into the shared bank and which are removing them. As I go through the list, the character advancing crafting skills decons the bank trash, and they stop by the stable if needed. If I feel like playing the character longer than their one ‘task’, then I pursue whatever they need to better perform their job – finish a step in a questline, go farm a skill point or two, or get an achievement.

Why get achievements on alts? Because it can sometimes affect the drop-rates of motif pages they’re farming. For example, the Dark Brotherhood motif drops from Sacrament reward bags more frequently the more ‘investment’ you have in the DB content – progression in the DB story line, achievements completed, guild rank, # of DB motif pages known, DB skill points, etc. All of it helps incrementally. So Vashta, my character who farmed the Dark Brotherhood motif, did all that a little at a time each log in after she ran the Sacrament & hit up Remains Silent, as I felt like doing it. Now her drop rate on the Sacrament pages is about 40%. I have 3 characters who have joined the Dark Brotherhood, but only Vashta did the whole questline, and she’s the only one who does Sacraments – no one else has that high of a chance.

That’s what I mean when I say my characters are set up to do specialized things – it isn’t just about the gear choices or build, it can be about questlines pursued and guild rank and a dozen other things. Before I put a character in a spot, I do the research to make sure they’re pursuing their goal as efficiently as possible. I also keep them in their ‘lane’ so their accumulated gains dovetail with whatever I want to do with them next.

Hireling mails deliver the rank of material the character has purchased in that skill – if you have rank 1 Blacksmithing, your Hireling sends iron ore. If the character has rank 2, they get steel.  Etc. To get a steady trickle of all the mats, 5 of my characters have their ranks stacked 1-5 in all crafting skills (Aedri has all crafting skills at 1; Zellur’ra has all at rank 2; etc.) and the other 5 characters all have crafting skills at rank 10, so the CP160 mats can accumulate.

I decided which mat rank to buy for each character based mostly on whether or not they’re out in the world harvesting nodes – if I’m questing/adventuring, I want to pick up ancestor silk, not jute. The characters with 1-5 mat ranks don’t go into the wilderness, and they don’t have Keen Eye either, because they don’t farm. Those characters also have minimal combat skills – maybe only 5 points, enough to fill up a single weapon bar. When they get to level 15, I set up the two bars so one has reasonably-functional combat skills for when I take them out for skill points, but the other bar has Rapids, for fast movement in town, with whatever other utility abilities are useful.

Also on that utility-skills bar are some combat skills I’m raising. I respec the alts occasionally, and move the combat points into new (combat) skills when the current ones get max’d out. By the time they’re CP level, all their useful combat skills have been on the bar and are raised to 50 – if I ever want them to be combat characters, I only need to farm a few new skill points to re-activate the skills I want, I won’t be starting from scratch.

In addition to the Sacrament runs, I’ve had alts farm nodes & treasure chests, run dailies for motif pages, pickpocket, loot tombs, even kill World Bosses… stuff you do, but they only do that one thing, and they have all possible advantages for it that I can get them. I log in, do their thing(s), shift their lootz to the banker, then log out ready to go next time. When they were raising crafting skills I’d also have them decon whatever was in the bank, and they’d hit the stable if needed. Rinse & Repeat until I move them to a new home. The system is constantly in flux as I finish goals / get bored / need gold / want to farm a new thing.

Sidebar: if you have the banker assistant and are leveling up crafting on an alt, consider leaving them at one of the wilderness crafting stations. Some of those locations are really gorgeous and are a joy to see when you log in. Wilderness crafting stations also tend to be node cluster spots, so there’s often good mat harvesting nearby. Log in, decon at the tables, run a circuit around the place to collect all the nodes and treasure chests, give everything new to the banker, log out. Esp. effective in zones where the zone set gear sells well and you can find a spot with multiple treasure chests nodes, but use a CP character in that case – a lvl 34 Spriggan’s ring is a sad, sad thing. 🙂 Also make sure that alt has the Treasure Hunter and harvesting passives, and speed gear – if they’re going to farm, set them up to farm.

We talk a lot about builds and high end-game performance, and if you’re running vet dungeons, you’ve got to have the gear and skills. But honestly, PvE in ESO is very forgiving. You do not need a CP-lvl character with dungeon gear to participate in a World Boss daily; a 3rd level character fresh out of Coldharbour can land enough hits to get loot credit and exps – everything scales now and the other players will compensate, I promise. Your alts really can go almost anywhere, do almost anything. Maybe they can’t do it alone, but this game has other players in it. 🙂

My crafting/farming alts usually wear hand-me-down gear from more combat-focused characters, or they wear a combination of Twice-Born Star with either Jailbreaker or Prisoner’s Rags. Jailbreaker & Prisoner’s give a movement speed bonus, and the TBS allows the use of 2 Mundus stones, so I can have a combat Mundus and still wear the Steed Mundus for another speed bonus. (The speed bonuses help with farming, running around town, and keeping up with World Boss groups.)

Add-ons can also be customized for each alt. MM slows my system down tremendously – I only run it on my banker alt, who a) is the only one who needs it, and b) is never in combat. If the harvest node map add-on slows your system, just use it on the alt who is node-farming. Etc.

This was all very general. I’ll do a part-two post and list all my characters and what each is set up to do. And I swear it won’t be two months before I post part two, like it was last time. 🙂  (UPDATE: Promise kept; follow-up post with specifics is here.)

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  1. Pingback: The Alts, specifics | Letters From Tamriel

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