In the World of Warcraft, the alchemist carries basically the same description as what we have come to know from our own world. The alchemist is one who takes natural and base elements and ingredients and mixes them into something arcane, or transforms them into something altogether greater than the sum of its parts. However, considering that the surreal aspects of this once spiritual and philosophical discipline have long been archaic, it’s a safe bet that very few of us playing WoW have any real-world experience from which to base RP’ing an alchemist character upon. Fear not, my friends, for I have a couple of tips that just may help you get into a better RP mix when it comes time to play the role of mystical street pharmacist.
Now, I’m going to make the assumption throughout that the example alchemist has both the Alchemy and Herbalism skills trained. It is completely possible, albeit probably much more expensive, to RP an alchemist without the Herbalist skill, simply by purchasing herbs through barter with other characters or via the auction house. Therein lies the first tip: if at all possible, DO NOT buy herbs from the auction house, emergencies notwithstanding. It is my experience from currently playing two full-fledged alchemists on two different servers that the prices at which herbs are set are absolutely ludicrous. Do yourself a huge favor, make it an adventure to seek out the herbs needed, and save yourself that hard-earned gold.
When it comes time to gather up some herbs, I turn to my trusty notebooks, where I have written some prime locations around Azeroth where I can find my favorite herbs. I also make use of what I like to call one of my ‘memory mods’, MapNotes. MapNotes allows me to make my own notes on the game map, an item I make ample use of. I can quickly open up an area of the game world in the map, and the notes I have made tell me what herbs I have picked in that area, and where. Alongside that, I make notes about what beasts inhabit the area, and whether it’s frequented by the opposing faction (Alliance / Horde). With all this info known even before setting out, it helps to cut out much of the frustration and tedium of having to search an entire forest for one particular herb, and makes a day out picking flowers more enjoyable.
You’ve just returned from such a day, and now it’s time to whip up those potions. How many times have you seen a character mixing right in front of the bank? There’s no RP element or imagination in that at all. Every major city has a shop dedicated for alchemists, with a vendor who sells much needed bottles and some recipes. All the shops I have seen also have a table of test tubes and vials, similar to what you’d find in a real alchemists shop. That’s where I do my potion making, because I think it looks rather silly doing it anywhere else. Two come to mind as my primary places for alchemy, Undercity and Stormwind, because the bottle vendor is close enough to the table of vials and tubes to allow me to have the trade window open while I’m mixing potions. This way, I don’t have to buy a pile of bottles that take up space in my bags, and then go make potions. With the trade window open right there, I can buy the bottles only as needed, without them taking up space in my inventory. This way also makes it easier to quickly sell any potions (or anything else that may be in the way) as you make them. Throw in a few lines from Macbeth (Act IV, Scene I) while you ply your trade, and let the RP times roll!
Now, say you’ve spent an hour making every type of potion you know. Instead of standing in front of a bland mail box, or an equally boring auctioneer (have you noticed the game is NOT called ‘World of Auction House’?), situate your character at a prominent and open area in a city, open the Trade channel, and announce you have just opened your own shop. If your prices are comparable, characters will not hesitate to beat feet to your location and buy your merchandise. I have witnessed it firsthand, though few and far between. Just as in the real world, players would much rather deal with a ‘living, breathing’ person than with an inanimate object. If you provide them with one, they will come. Just think of the RP possibilities!
Well, there it is. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that, with a slight twist here and there, these tips could be used to RP your character(s) with all the other trade skills, as well. Look for me to cover those in future articles. Heck, I bet there’s someone out there who’s way ahead of me here. Have I missed something? Have any other ideas sparked from these tips? Please share!