Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 05, 2010
Being poor in a mature economy

The two alts I made last year are twinked to the max: Heirloom items, the best gear and consumable money can buy, and in some extreme cases I even had expensive enchantments on very low level gear. There is a certain fun to be had when playing a completely overpowered low level character. But for Tobold the tauren shaman, my new alt in the <Single Abstract Noun> blogging community guild, I wanted to try something different. I could have transferred heirloom items and gold from a different server, or taken some gold from the guild bank, but instead I decided to try how I could do without outside help, just a poor low level character on his own, armed with nothing but the economic knowledge gained in years of playing World of Warcraft.

Now Argent Dawn (EU) is an old server, with a very mature economy. For example I checked the auction house for low level green items, and found somebody selling level 7 green maces for 27 gold apiece. And he had 8 of them for sale, which given that this mace is a drop and not crafted made me wonder how he got those. Meanwhile my shaman was counting the copper pieces to pay for his training, so there was obviously a huge gap between his wealth and the wealth of the average player.

Now while that is obviously bad when you want to *buy* something from the auction house, you can use that huge gap to your advantage when *selling* to the auction house. You just need to find something which you can farm at low level, and which is in demand by people who have lots of gold. So once I reached level 5, and saved up the about 2 silver I needed for training professions and buying tools, I went to Orgrimmar and learned mining and skinning. Now skinning is not necessarily the most profitable gathering skill, so herbalism would have been an alternative. But herb prices only take off at slightly higher levels, the Peacebloom and Silverleaf you can gather at level 5 don't sell for much. And having both mining and herbalism isn't optimal, because you can have your mini map radar search set to only either the one or the other.

So I spent a rather fun evening traveling through Durotar and mining copper. Part of the fun was that this isn't all that safe at level 5, with monsters in that zone up to level 10. But I didn't want to just stay in the safest part, because there I would have been limited by the respawn rate of the copper nodes, and going to places that aren't safe is a lot more exciting. At the end of the evening I was level 7, and had put several stacks of copper on the auction house, plus rough stone, light leather, and some other stuff I found on mobs. On pricing I saw that stacks of copper went as high as 8 gold, but there was some copper sold for much lower, and I decided that for the start selling my copper fast was more important than selling is high. I turned part of the copper ore into copper bars, and undercut the cheapest offer by 5 silver per unit. This morning I had 10 copper pieces in my purse and 10 gold pieces in my mailbox, so I kind of skipped the silver pieces phase of the economy. :)

Now my training cost problem is definitively solved, but even 10 gold isn't all that much when you actually want to buy something from the auction house. I did find a level 7 mace and a level 7 shield that were reasonable priced, and this evening I'll look for the NPC vendor selling level 5 (?) leather armor in Razor Hill. I also visited the weapon masters to learn all weapon types a shaman can handle (the Lunar Festival helps to teleport to other cities), bought some 10-slot bags, and some low level consumables like healing potions. So I'm down to 4 gold, but that is still plenty, and I'm much better equipped.

So where do I go from here? I will continue this evening to mine more copper, wait for the prices to go up a bit during the weekend, and make some more gold that way. But a bit further on I would rather drop mining, and learn leatherworking instead, to make my own armor. That might be less profitable than mining, but I didn't do much leatherworking with previous characters, so I think that could be more fun. Which means I need another source of income, and I have an idea I'll try out this weekend: Fishing.

Once upon a time, years ago, I joined a freshly opened server and made a human priest there. That turned out to be not a brilliant idea, because I already had an undead priest, who grew to become my "raiding main", and so I abandoned the human priest at level 60, where he still is. But at the time I was facing a similar problem, the priest having no money at all when I made him, only that he was playing in a fresh economy. Everybody was low level, and there was nobody paying several gold pieces for a stack of copper ore. So at the time I came up with a different get-rich-quick scheme: At level 10 you can get your fishing skill high enough to successfully catch fish in much higher level zones, e.g. the level 40ish Stranglethorn. Stranglethorn has a long coast, and while some of that coast is populated by 40ish mobs which kill a level 10 character very quickly, other stretches of the coast are empty. With some careful searching of the coast you can find pools of wreckage, from which you can fish crates containing items that are designed for level 40ish characters: Trade materials like silk cloth, and even the occasional green item. Now in a mature economy a level 40ish green item is worth several gold, and so are the trade mats. So the plan for this weekend is to level up to 10, get my fishing skill to the max for that level, swim from Durotar to Ratchet, take the boat to Stranglethorn, and start fishing there.

As an added incentive, I can join the Stranglethorn fishing contest on Sunday afternoon. No, there is no chance to win that one at level 10, unless I'm the only participant. But throughout the duration of the contest I can fish the Tastyfish (spelling?) for the contest, and then sell them for 20 silver apiece to the goblin NPC organizing the event in Booty Bay. That's 4 gold for a stack of fish, not bad for a level 10 character.

In summary, being poor in a mature economy is an opportunity. Some work, some creativity, and one can earn several gold pieces per hour even at very low levels. And as prices for training or white gear from NPC vendors are fixed and designed to be paid with the few coppers you can make from looting low level monsters, having a handful of gold pieces is already more than sufficient to pay for everything you really need at those low levels. You just need to not waste too much of your wealth on overpriced twink items on the auction house, because there you are competing directly with players who have thousands of gold.
Bah! You keep evading me, I tend to log on just as you log out. I'm in the same position as you. Currently I'm leaning towards NOT transferring an alt to provide heirlooms and some gold, but to try to cope with being poor as good as I can. I'm going mining too, but I won't compete for your nodes as it looks now. It seems as if I'm settling for a tauren druid! Never could I have imagined myself playing a cow. How little do you know. I'm in love with her already!
Isn't it great to be poor, exploring the world and trying to find wealth?

Why are there no computer games that maintain this illusion for longer than an evening?

I want to explore the world for wealth - not for exp. I could evade dangerously looking monsters that way. I could actually behave in a credible way - immerse myself in the world.

Now, I need to farm 'badges' so that some strange people give me stuff that I need to safe their asses. I'm not immersed at all, but I want to achiiiieve.
I suggest fishing Deviate fish in the Barrens. They sell pretty well.
@Nils said:

"Isn't it great to be poor, exploring the world and trying to find wealth?

Why are there no computer games that maintain this illusion for longer than an evening?"

I believe that Planet Calypso (aka Project Entropia) covers that base pretty well. In fact it covers it so well that the ongoing feeling of poverty can easily extend into real life.
I understand how years of WoW economy knowledge will help you getting wealth easier.
But I really do not understand why you think an inflated ("mature") WoW economy has anything to do with that. Yes, you will make gold instead of silver for certain low level items. But no, you won't be able to buy more using that gold than the silver would've bought you on a less inflated WoW economy.
I could (with help) transfer some of my wealth from my Alliance characters, but it is more fun starting fresh again.

It was also good to see you online, in the same guild as me! As Tam and Larísa have said: "SQUEE!"
Hey Tobold, I realize you want to explore the world, and make money through mining and skinning for a bit.

But, if you're tempted, these items always sell well on the neutral AH, or even better if you're able to get them over to the opposite side.

I've helped a few friends go from a hundred gold, to a few thousand gold, just by having them providing recipes that people can't get easily.
"You just need to not waste too much of your wealth on overpriced twink items on the auction house, because there you are competing directly with players who have thousands of gold."
I guess it depends on your playstyle, but if one is just trying to achieve level cap with the least amount of hassle, I definitely would NOT buy ANY kind of Gear from the AH whilst leveling. The rewards from Quests, The LFD Tool and or leveling your crafting skills whilst leveling are more than enough to survive the trials and tribulations of leveling. When I die, and by the Gods I die a lot :D, it is usually not due to my gear but because I overextended myself (or run out of range of my Pocket Healer).
Oh yeah, and here's a walkthrough I did a while back for the Night elf spider kabob recipe.
I have found it very hard to play poor in a MMORPG, once I made a character thinking I wanted to be a beggar.. My begging career ended quickly as other players did not only give small change as I had hoped and they did not even harass me for begging as expected, but they showered me with the big bucks.
Well it isn't easy to stay poor in a virtual world.. I wish it was the same in real life though.
/castsequence Find Herbs, Find Minerals

Just keybind this baby and click it every 5-10 secs while moving.
Yes, you will make gold instead of silver for certain low level items. But no, you won't be able to buy more using that gold than the silver would've bought you on a less inflated WoW economy.

The difference comes from the fact that WoW doesn't have one economy, but two. One player-based, where as you said having more money doesn't help if everybody else has more money too. And the NPC-based where the difference between a fresh and a mature economy matters very much.

While my added gold isn't helping me much to buy gear from the AH, it *does* help to pay all my training cost, flight path cost, and vendor-bought trade materials.
I'd recommend staying a gatherer until 80 and then switch to leatherworking. And stay away from the buy-tab of the auction house. With the random-dungeon-tool as it is right now there is really no need to buy stuff at all. I recently started a mage on a new server. I'm level 20 now and I'm sitting on about 120 gold without trying very hard. On top of that my character is about halfway in blues which is plenty at that level. I really see no reason to buy overprized stuff ;)
The only thing you should think of: Make sure you have access to some jewelcrafter. Those gems are necessary and can be extremely overprized.
An added challenge in this particular case is that a lot of us rolled up alts at the same time and are trying to do the same things to make money. I chose mining and skinning for my shaman as well, and when I went to the AH to sell what I had gathered, it was already flooded with items from my fellow Single Abstract Nouners (like you!). :P
Try fishing in the Barrens, the deviate fish always used to sell well (haven't checked recently though.)
I leveled a warrior on a fresh server without a penny. It's only hard at the start but a fun experience.

At level 30 I had about 100g. And if you're lucky enough to find a blue you can get a ton of money. Sell if, even if you can use it! Blue items you find are often a few levels beneath your own level anyway.

You just have to be economic with your gold. Blue items? Pass. Just look at those good green items. For me that came down to finding the green "str/sta" items who sell for <x g that were a decent upgrade. Just check the Ah on a regular base and you'll find nice upgrades.
When Mrs Bhagpuss and finally decided to give WoW a try last year, the game had been going for five years. We started with nothing and we had pretty much no knowledge of WoW either.

We didn't find it remotely difficult to make money. It took us about half an hour to work out that mining copper would make us more money than we needed and we went on from there.

I can't offhand think of any MMO I've played that doesn't follow the same basic format - forage craft materials, sell them to players for tens or hundreds of times what an NPC would pay you. The "problem" isn't usually that it's too hard to make money, it's that there's no point in making money.

All MMOs are balanced so that if you ONLY take the gear that quests reward you and that mobs drop, then you can easily progress to the top level with nothing else. That's the whole point. Ditto the costs of spells, abiities and so on. I've never played an MMO where you HAD to earn extra coin to progress.

Once you've played a few MMOs, though, you know the drill and you automatically get yourself a quick nest-egg at the start by playing the broker/AH or by some fishing/foraging/repeatable quest trick.

Consequently, within a day or two of installing the game you already have more money banked than you will need for the free month of play and thereby you risk devaluing most of your forthcoming achievements, becoming disenchanted with a game that is "too easy" and deciding not to subscribe.

The most for me fun is always on a brand new game, or at least a brand new server, when most (never all) of the get-rich-quick options are off the table. Sadly, it generally takes only a week or two for the market to establish itself and the free money to start rolling in.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yay for Single Abstract Noun! I joined the US chapter last night, it was great fun. I just wish we weren't separated into US and EU versions.

A good way to get some startup capital on a new server is to roll a DK and play through the starting area. It takes a couple of hours and you finish it with between 30 to 40 gold.
Good luck with your new toon!

Like some people above, I also recommend against buying anything off the AH. New gear is relatively abundant through quests and dungeons, and even running more or less naked won't hurt your progress noticeably. I have had toons keeping even white items all the way up into the 40's! Also, levelling is so fast now your bought gear will be outdated anyway within hours of purchase.

As for the fishing, the recent changes mean that you can fish all pools in the game without any skill at all. So if you're willing to put in the effort, get your scared little toon to the river between Grizzly Hills and Dragonblight and start fishing angelfish. There are relatively few mobs there and the fish ought to sell handsomely!
I think the biggest part of being new with no money is bag space. I've had several friend in real life start playing because of me and the first thing I do is send them 3 or 4 "16 slot" bags and 50 Gold. As you said, the hardest part just starting out is paying for your training, and 50G is more than enough. Its the lack of bag space that can make the game extremely tedious, with multiple trips back to town just so you can sell your trash. Or you're forced to walk all the way back to a Bank so you can stash away your ore/herbs.
One of the best ways I have found to make money on an established server, with a new character is to become Professional Guild Charter signer.

You can easily get 5 or 10 gold per signature these days.
I'm a altaholic who tends to take long breaks from the game and start from scratch each time. Before BC, gold was hard to come by, and my toons would be chronically poor. However, I've found that I have plenty of gold now, just by questing and selling excess items, whether drops or farmed items.

Of course, spread over ten alts, they are all passing items and materials between each other, but I also don't bother to farm anything that I don't need to advance my skills. Ever since BC, I've hardly ever had to pass money between my alts.

I'm wondering if maybe you aren't taking the money side more seriously than is required. On the other hand, knowing you, the money making might be the most fun part of the game. Just remember to get your reputation up so you can get the training discounts.
Timely post as I just conducted a similar experiment on my own. I started a Blood Elf on my "alliance only" server, Doomhammer. I had no heirlooms to send and obviously couldn't send money across factions.

It was a real blast to go from a penniless rogue wearing gray items to full greens and blues (thank you LFG!)and 200gp in my pack. I also got all Netherweave bags and all my glyphs (you know, the "right" glyphs are always insanely priced.) I'm currently level 22 and very happy with the challenge.

My strategy was different, since the Ghostlands is a money making wonderland. In Tranquellien, once you complete the Tomber's Supplies quest you can buy copper, bronze, and sometimes silver ores. You can also get all sorts of herbs for just coppers. These resell very high on the AH. Then the poison vendor sells Sinister Scimitars and Throat Piercers which also go for about 10-12 gp each. Then in Silvermoon City you can buy wool cloth for a silver and resell for 3-4 gold. Combine that with mining/skinning and you're making a lot of gold in a short order.

I'll probably do it again on the Alliance side. Though I wonder if I can have the same success without access to Tranquellien's "Easy Street."
Sorry for the double post. I had an error in the one above. Tomber does not sell "bronze ore" as I mistakenly stated. He sells copper and tin, which you can smelt into bronze bars. Occasionally he has silver ore for sale as well. It's all very easy money, as the ores sell for coppers each.
I won the fishing tournament at level 19, just set your hearth at booty bay and go to the zandalar island. No mobs to kill you and if nobody else is there you've got a good chance of winning ;)
As for the fishing, the recent changes mean that you can fish all pools in the game without any skill at all. So if you're willing to put in the effort, get your scared little toon to the river between Grizzly Hills and Dragonblight and start fishing angelfish. There are relatively few mobs there and the fish ought to sell handsomely!

Great tip that!

I went to the Taunka refugee camp in Dragonblight at level 7, and in a short time fished up two stacks of Dragonfin Anglefish, which I sold for 25 gold per stack. I also got my fishing skill up from 1 to 75, and got some other sellable goods, like cobalt ore from crates, or pygmy suckerfish.

This appears by far the best way to make gold fast at low levels!
Bah! Your 10g puts my measly 3.5g since I've joined SAN to shame. I'm starting to believe your "I am Gevlon" post....
And the NPC-based where the difference between a fresh and a mature economy matters very much.

Ah yes, I overlooked that. Maybe Blizzard should scale the NPC economy with the player economy then ;)
green gear under level 10 is quite rare, and tends to fetch a lot of gold from rich mains gearing alts.

I would never recommend wearing any green BoE gear under level 9 if you aren't already rich.

When I level an alt without financial backup, I don't bother to equip any decent BoE gear until the mid 20s, when the twinks mostly want blues and decent greens can often be had for close to d/e prices.

Also, it only takes 3-4 hours of play for some crap "of the boar" level 12 item to be wearable and even with bad itemization, it's better than the level 7 piece which will fetch 5-10g on the auction house.

Also spirit is surprisingly useful at low levels. Even classes that "don't care" get something out of it. Warriors and rogues get a fair bit of out of combat regen from spirit. Useless in a dungeon/raid context of course, and at max level, it's trivial compared to eating, so we don't care right? Well, under level 30, that out of combat regen is actually pretty helpful. Until level 30 or so, I rarely need to eat. If I'm at 2/3 health and I have to run 30-40 yards to the next mob, I'll be full by the time I get there.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I don't actually *look* for spirit, in fact, I treat it as a non-stat unless I'm a caster who gets good regen or other benefits from it. But when "of the bear" goes for 10g, and "of the boar" goes for d/e prices (<1g, and effectively zero cost to equip if I'm an enchanter), and I'm going to be leveling out of that item in 3-4 hours, I'm wearing "of the boar".
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