On Alts and Why We Roll Them

If you gave me a new game tomorrow, set in some kind of fantasy setting, the first thing I’d look for is an archer. No archer? Is there some kind of magic-wielding plate wearer? Every fantasy game will always be overshadowed by my experiences with D&D based fantasy games which allowed me to either pling things from afar (while sneaking around when necessary) or a self-healing face-basher. What can I say — I like to be versatile. I invariably shy away from any character that is described as wearing cloth.

If I had to define a “me” character, that’s what I picked, and yet I play neither type in my WoW time. I found I didn’t actually care for playing a hunter in a group. It was an awesome solo and PvP character, but it didn’t make me jump up and down with excitement when I was put in a raid. I can’t quite answer why I abandoned my paladin, other than to say, at the time I needed a complete break, and switching from tanking to healing fit the bill. Basically, since I have begun this blog, and in many instances before that time, I have played a main that did not fit my natural inclination of “me” as a character.

Now, what does that have to do with mains and alts? Expansion time is priority evaluation time: a lot of players change their main toons, and get involved in re-investing in their cadre of characters. Rhii wanted to know if anyone could possibly have had more main changes than she. Fannon wanted to know how and why we chose our mains. Naora even gives advice on how to liven up the alt-grind.

The responses to these posts were pretty interesting, because people choose their main based on different criteria. Kurn, who constantly updates us on the latest and greatest in holy paladin techniques, isn’t actually a holy paladin. Oh sure, she RAIDS with a holy paladin, but it isn’t Kurn, and in her mind, it sure isn’t her main.

Now, to me, main is synonymous with my raiding character. If I wasn’t raiding, I wouldn’t have to designate a main, and the whole question would become moot. I recently cataloged my “mains” out of curiosity, and I am currently on my 6th main. However, I have had more than 50 characters throughout my WoW career. I know because I’ve had to do purges in Vanilla, BC, and immediately prior to Cataclysm.

So, if my “main” is my raiding character, and we all know I love raiding, why the heck do I have this small army of alts?

My guild would probably love to have a satisfactory answer to this question. Alt is apparently synonymous with unstable player in their experience, and I make no bones about my alt-y status.

The simple answer is: I don’t like spending 100% of my time schlepping around on a single toon.

  • My main is for raiding. I do raiding appropriate non-raiding tasks: professions, running daily dungeons, general dailies, and some maintenance type stuff. I rarely do the whole achievement whoring thing, because by the time I’m done with normal tasks on that character, I can’t stand looking at that pixelated bum any longer.
  • I can also blame it on the type of gaming I did when I got into PC games. You could pick a hero type, but if you wanted to find out what was hidden in Granny’s basement, or the secret of the stone in the Magic Garden, you had to be a rogue or wizard. Learning games from different perspectives became a common gaming feature for me, and it has carried over into MMO’s in the form of alts.

The complicated answer is: there’s a lot of reasons.

  • I like having a passing familiarity with everything available. When you’re a member of a team, knowing what everyone is capable of doing on an instinctual “what would I do?” vs. theoretical “I read that Druids have Thorns” level just makes the game more fun and less frustrating.
  • I like having mini-bios of my characters referenced away. I almost never do massive changes to my character’s specs. If I rolled an Elemental Shaman, by God, she’s an Elemental Shaman until the day I delete her. Dual-speccing has eased this a bit for me, since I can try two flavor combinations at a go, but I never change one of those specs to the third–I reroll.
  • Same goes for most professions. I hate power leveling professions–it takes all the fun out of the process for me. I did it once, with my paladin, and I will never repeat the process. If I want to try a new profession, I roll a new character.
  • I like being a trundling explorer. When you have a main or in a position where time does matter with leveling and the like, you don’t take the time to get lost. You meet objective A, and move straight to objective B. Wandering around Loch Modan on a L12 dwarf is just 100 times more satisfying than flying over the area and being dubbed an “explorer.”
  • I thought about letting the achievements game “cure” me of my altitis. I can only really max out one character due to the dungeon/raiding points providing such a large number of them; however, I decided pretty early that I was not going to be “trapped” on a character by achievements. I designate certain characters to take part in certain achievement related activity, and that meets my need to be a completionist without making me feel like all is lost if for some reason my guild falls apart/I’m fired, and I want to refresh my perspective with a different character.

Sometimes, I feel very much an outsider in my view of mains and alts as I see many players and bloggers extolling their love of their class–how it IS them in some undefinable way. I named my blog as I did because I never see myself falling back into that pattern of BEING my character 100%. I will always be an amalgamation of the experiences I’ve had being a “main” in a diverse number of roles. I’ve never always been a ranged dps, melee dps, tank or healer. My main has been all of those things, and I put every bit of myself into mastering that role when it was my main.

What About You?
Why did you pick your main? Would you ever consider changing it? Why alts?



3 thoughts on “On Alts and Why We Roll Them

  1. Goodness, what a fantastic post. And it's doubly interesting to me because my 'me' character preferences align completely with yours.

    Well; almost completely. I narrow 'ranged' down to 'Ranger' or very much like it; and I have a rather particular idea of what constitutes a ranger (mostly based on the DnD version, I suppose) and thus even though Hunter was my first WoW character it didn't last long because it wasn't what I wanted.

    For caster-in-plate, that usually means 'Cleric' but more flexible on this one. To this day, I'm not entirely sure why I went Warrior rather than Paladin when I started playing. I mean, I was alliance and everything, so I definitely could have.

    I guess maybe having one Archetype desire so badly twisted changed my mind on trying the second? I'm not entirely sure.

    Also agreed with the mains thing. My definition of 'Main' is, 'Character I raid with', or 'Character I am leveling/gearing with the intent to raid with'.

    If (when) I stop raiding; if I continue to play at all, I will no longer have a main, as I bounce between my alts far too frequently for any of them to qualify. xD

  2. Kamalia was my first character and I love her so much that she has always been my True Main At Heart, even when my "raiding main" was Kerisa (sort of like Kurn, I guess). BTH, however, tends to think of his "main" as being whichever toon he is doing most of his raiding with at the time.

    I have a small army of alts for pretty much all the same reasons you list under your "complicated answer". I want to explore and try out everything in the game, but my established characters are, well, established. Kamalia is not going to change her professions because they are part of her personality. Perhaps the only area where we differ significantly is in Achievements — because she is my Main, Kamalia is also my designated Achievement Hound.

    I also have alts that exist more or less soley because I want to be able to run around the world with a character who has a particular appearance. Those alts tend to not get much past level 10 and to be frequently deleted and recreated as I argue with myself about just how many alts I really need to be keeping around.

  3. Great post, Windsoar… thanks for the link love. 🙂

    In my own post, I only briefly touched on alts and why I roll them. A lot of the reasons that you talk about here are pretty universal and would apply to a lot of people, I think.

    I came into this game very late — just before Wrath launched — and there are a lot of things that I wanted to experience in order to feel "caught up". I rolled one of every race and played through the starting areas, I've rolled one of every class and played them to at least level 5, most to level 10. Interestingly enough, I seem to have a barrier at level 14… I find it very hard to get an alt past that.

    Anyway, ramblings aside, I focus the majority of my gameplay on my main, but my alts are there so that I can play through things I haven't seen before and try to experience everything this great game has to offer.

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