The Vana’diel Diaries (June 2006)

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I began playing Final Fantasy XI back in mid-April. Prior to then, I’d scoffed at MMOs and those who played them: It’s digital crack and those who play them are naught but weak-willed addicts.

I was wrong. Final Fantasy XI is addictive, and with a few missteps anybody could get hooked. But it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

My character is Finnegan, a Tarutaru Red Mage (RDM) and White Mage (WHM). Tarutaru are…well gosh, they look like an Elf and a really cute teddy bear made some sweet love and had a kid. They’re incredibly magically adept, but not very tough. Red Mages are the masters of status ailments, the guys you want throwing down spells like “Blind,” “Paralyze,” “Slow” and “Poison.” They’re also the most melee-capable of the spellcasting classes, able to wear heavier armor and use swords. White Mages are the healers. Their main objective is to keep the party healthy and protected until the monster dies.

My alternate is Gaelan, a Hume (read: Human) Warrior (WAR). Warrior is kind of point-and-whack, at least it is so far. I haven’t really advanced Gaelan much yet.

The server I play on is Bismarck. If you’re unfamiliar with FF XI, there are about two dozen different servers, and you’re assigned a server when your character is generated unless you’ve been provided with a WorldPass, which lets you play on whatever server you like. I’m a citizen of the Kingdom of San d’Oria, with the other rival kingdoms being Bastok and Windhurst.

(Incidentally, if you’re playing FF XI on Bismarck, send me a /tell sometime. If you’re thinking about starting FF XI and want to try Bismarck (because our server rocks it down to Chinatown), drop me an e-mail and I’ll hook you up with a WorldPass.)

I’m a member of the linkshell Fruit Bat Revenge (http://www.lunar-seal.net/bats). A linkshell is something like a guild—a group of people who have gotten together to socialize, commiserate about the game, offer assistance to one another and occasionally organize missions and quests together. FBR is awesome. Occasionally, Seigrune, Kaizersan, Cupkeeki and Kiterunner make it into my diary —proud Fruit Bats one and all.

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This diary is from a blog I keep of my daily adventures in Vana’diel. If it’s not your cup of tea, Paul and Eric’s DCW this month rocks—go read it.

Important abbreviations and concepts:

WAR: Warrior

MNK: Monk

THF: Thief

RDM: Red Mage

BLM: Black Mage

WHM: White Mage

“The Hate”: Characters generate “Hate” or Enmity by doing things that piss monsters off. This includes things like attacking them, casting spells at them, healing your party members, etc. There are a few special abilities that generate a lot of hate instantly, such as the WHM special ability “Benediction” or the WAR ability “Provoke,” to name a few.

Aggro: Aggressive monsters will attack your character (“going Aggro”) as soon as they are aware of his/her presence. They will not, however, attack you if they perceive you as too much of a threat.

HP: Hit Points (you run out, you die)

MP: Mana Points (you run out, you can’t cast spells)


JUNE 2, 2006

Perhaps even more than the beginning of May, the beginning of June in southern Arizona heralds 24 hour air conditioning, a complete avoidance of leaving someplace cool without real cause and little excuse to do anything but game and swim.

Speaking of the former, I made 10th WHM last night! Finally! w00t! Overconfident bastard that I am, I went and auctioned all my old stuff—hey, I’m 10th level now…I don’t need this crap. I was wrong.

Burgeoned by my new level and the mad skillz that came with it, I sallied forth into La Theine Plateau and was killed by the very first monster I engaged, dumping me right back into 9th level. I found myself stripped of a good third of my gear as I no longer met the level requirements. Bugs and windshields.

After 20 minutes of taking out my aggressions in West Ronfaurue, I made it back to 10th, but learned a lesson.

So Kiterunner says now is the time to go find parties in the Valkurum Dunes…again…and push on. Cupkeeki recommends biting the bullet and pushing WHM to 15th, that way I can set aside the WHM gear and concentrate on my RDM for another 12 levels up to 30th, where I can begin researching advanced jobs. I don’t want to let my RDM job gather too much dust, so I think I’ll probably alternate a bit between the two.

Speaking of advanced jobs, I’m beginning to have second thoughts. Since I first created Finnegan I was sure I’d go RDM, then pick up WHM, and ultimately the advanced job Summoner (SMN). SMN still sounds like loads of fun, and it’s definitely the first advanced job I’ll try, but there’s other stuff I find myself more and more interested in. I’d love to try Ranger (RNG) sometime, but that’s probably going to require some levels in Warrior (WAR)—I’d have to start from scratch again. Corsair (COR) is another job that has appeal, but would also best be served by some levels in WAR.


JUNE 2, 2006

I’ve been going back and forth a lot over the past few days on what to do with Finn. As I’ve said, I was quite convinced I’d go RDM -> WHM -> SMN and that would be the end of it. The more I play and watch other, more advanced characters, play, I think I’d enjoy RNG.

However, I don’t want to give up on SMN just yet. It does look really awesome and I think I could have all kinds of fun with it. So I’m going to stick with my original plan for now and unlock SMN at 30th RDM. I’ll give SMN 10 levels or so—if I’m liking it, I’ll move forward. If not, I’ll start WAR or THF and run them up 10 levels before unlocking RNG.

There’s a long stretch between 18 and 30, and I might change my mind a dozen more times between then and now, but for now RNG is definitely on the table.

I also think I’ll switch from Leathercrafting to Woodcrafting. My Leathercrafting skill is right now at a little tiny rank of 2, so the change isn’t going to be a big hit, and it will make the whole RNG thing cheaper if I go that direction (being able to craft my own arrows would be handy).


JUNE 2, 2006

I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier. Mages are mages and fighters are fighters—mixing them produces what I call the Weak Martini Syndrome (as in, you’re mixing in too much vermouth or lemon or lime or what have you and not enough gin or vodka). My solution is to spend an extra $1/month and start a second character.

When I’m in the mood, I break out my WAR/THF/RNG and go nuts, but most of the time I’ll be playing Finnegan (he needs a suffix…like Finnegan the Destroyer!!! or Finnegan the Eradicator!!! I need to work on that).


JUNE 3, 2006

So after a little name poll on my LiveJournal, I went with the name Gaelan for my secondary character. Gaelan did little more than get created yesterday, but I have high hopes. That, and he has such fabulous hair.

Finn had a rough day. I partied with Seigrune and Cupkeeki for a bit to try and pick up an item they need to unlock Paladin, and though we experienced some success early on, we eventually all died. That was a portent of things to come for me. Finn is still having a hell of a time getting party invites, but Cupkeeki and later Kaizersan were willing to try and lend a hand doing some good old fashioned power-leveling.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, power-leveling is the practice of a higher level character who can cast heal spells following a lower level character around and healing them while they fight. It allows the lower level character to scrap with a monster that would normally kick his ass six ways from Sunday, and get big experience.

In this instance, however, it went badly.

Finn died four more times that evening, and wound up just barely ahead on experience points. Saturday I’m going to play Gaelan for a while to have a break, and see if I have better party luck Saturday night.


JUNE 4, 2006

Now yesterday was a kickass kinda day.

Started with Gaelan in the afternoon. Solo’ing WAR is a joy. Since MP aren’t a factor, you can simply hunt down and destroy monster after monster after monster until HP get to be an issue. I quickly made it up to 6th level just by hunting through West Ron. Once I make 7th, I think I’ll try the Tomb mission.

Spent the evening and wee hours with Finnegan. Finally, finally, FINALLY found a good party—really good. Taking out high-tier goblins and later beach pugils at the Dunes, I earned around 6,000 XP in one night, bringing me through level 19 and pretty close to 20.


JUNE 5, 2006

Put in a few hours playing Gaelan today. I’m still in blissful awe of how easy it is to solo with a WAR. I’ve also started to discover the joys of ranged weapons. My usual M.O. is to take a shot with my bow to “attract the attention” of a monster who needs some killin’, and then whack its ass with an axe. It works like a charm. The longbow also does surprising damage, better than my axe on a good hit…it just doesn’t hit as reliably.

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Kaizersan suggested skipping bows entirely and just skilling up crossbow—crossbows (and later guns) are the RNG weapons of choice, but the weapons and ammunition are so expensive, I think I’ll stick with my longbow for a bit—it looks all cool and Legolas-y.

Anyway, Gaelan solo’d his way up to 7th, meaning I could finally get out of the bronze harness/subligar combo that looks like bondage gear and into some more conventional leather armor.


JUNE 6, 2006

My plan for last night was to play Finnegan. I was hoping to find a party in Valkurum and make a final push to 20th level. At 20th I can do the Chocobo quest and then get back to the level two missions in San d’Oria.

However, I wound up playing Gaelan. Seigrune was bringing back some goodies for him from halfway across Vana’diel, so I thought I’d be ready for them. While I did get him to 8th level (yay!) by crushing bad guys all over West Ron, the game was mean and wouldn’t let Seigrune deliver the rare items she’d acquired. Mean game. :p

I have decided to give up the longbow and begin using the crossbow. Even though the longbow does great damage, it’s painfully slow to fire and only hits about 30-40% of the time. The crossbow will let me get in a couple shots to the longbow’s one. Kaizersan was nice enough to craft me up a crossbow and about 200 bolts – I need to advance my woodcraft quickly so I can start making my own bolts.


JUNE 7, 2006

You get in a good party, and things happen.

First things first. I spent about 30 minutes crafting last night with Finn. While I’ve pretty much capped my leatherworking skills (at least this particular project isn’t going to advance them any further), there’s no denying that Sheep Leathers are worth big money, and that’s a good thing. I sold another stack yesterday for about 30,000 gil, meaning I can help Gaelan a bit and still have enough left over for a big future purchase.

After that, I made the looooooooooooooooong trek to Valkurum from South San d’Oria. I can’t wait to finish the Chocobo quest. Hiking all around creation while dodging especially nasty monsters is soooo time consuming and downright boring (not to mention dangerous). I wish Finn had like a badass truck with hot 24s with chrome and ground effects and a kickass stereo system. That’d tell that Battering Ram to stay the fuck away.

My party last night was superb. Though we were perhaps a bit heavy on healers (two RDM/WHMs and a SMN/WHM), our three melee guys (two WAR/MNKs and a Samurai (SAM)/WAR) rocked the house. Even though I died once (damn Beach Pugils can be nasty), I easily made 20th level.

This is kind of a milestone. Conventional wisdom dictates that once a character hits 20th, the Dunes really aren’t the place to level, and said character should move on to Qufim Island in Jueno (where I have never been). Before doing that, I have to, HAVE TO, take care of the cursed Chocobo quest. This is a time-consuming, boring quest that will probably take circa six hours, and much of it spent doing nothing, or even offline. The payoff is awesome, but I’m still not looking forward to it.

Afterwards I’m going to take a short break from the RDM and get my WHM up to 15th. That way it’ll be fully leveled for my push from 20th to 30th RDM. I also think I’ll play Gaelan a little more; I’d like to take care of the second San d’Oria mission and get him to 10th before I begin looking for parties with him.


JUNE 8, 2006

This was easily the worst day I’ve played in ages. Aside from one bright point, it sucked. I just completely spun my wheels.

I switched to my WHM in hopes of leveling that job up to 15th before I continued in RDM, and it exploded in my face. I got in a party with 2 WARs, a Ranger/Ninja (RNG/NIN) and a Paladin (PLD). You would think that between all those melee types, they could figure out how to hold the hate and keep their main healer alive.

WRONG. I died twice.

The first time was just because our WARs were newbies and didn’t really know what their role was in a party. We were taking Thickshells at La Theine Plateau (maybe a little out of our league, but worth a shot). I was main healing, meaning I was keeping everyone alive and staying out of melee. Main healing draws a lot of hate from the monster, meaning eventually it gets fed up and foregoes attacking the melee guys to come attack the healer. To combat this effect, WARs use an ability called Provoke, which instantly creates big barrels o’ hate and turns the monsters attention back onto them…where they should be.

And they didn’t. I’m main healing like a good WHM and never do they ‘voke. I’m sitting there going “Please Provoke.” “Please Provoke.” “PROVOKE” “DAMMIT! VOKE!” over the party channel…then I’m dead. Level down. Afterwards I had to teach WAR 101, which I’m really kind of ill-qualified to do. I re-popped back at West Ron, picked up the level again and went for another go.

This time they were doing a fair job of Provoking, usually keeping the Thickshells off me. Unfortunately, we’d pulled the mother of all Thickshells, and were having a hard time taking him. I was curing left and right and just couldn’t keep up. The Thickshell had about 10% of his HP left when I ran out of MP. People were getting low and I could only do one thing—Benediction.

Benediction is the WHMs special ability. It can only be used every two hours and it instantly heals everyone in the party to full. The downside is it draws MASSIVE, MASSIVE hate. The Thickshell focused on me and no amount of Provoking was pulling him off. I died. Level down. The upside is everyone else lived. So even though I’m dead, I’m the badass hero. Yay me! Picked up a raise and got my level back before calling it a night.


JUNE 12, 2006

The little hole in my blog here represents the stumbling block all gamers face eventually: non-gamers. Specifically, non-gamers who happen to be family members. Whether it’s being forced to visit in-laws, watch Disney’s Little Einsteins or some task from the grand “Honey-Do” list, it saps away precious gaming time. However….

There’s something kind of magical about the gaming marathon…the Mountain Dew on ice, pretzels dumped chaotically in a nearby bowl, the CD carousel fully loaded—it’s like a great celebration of one’s religion. That’s what I was treated to this weekend. With the family out of town, it’s time for an extended visit to Vana’diel.

Taking Cupkeeki’s advice, I decided not to do the dreaded Chocobo quest this weekend, and instead devoted the entire time to leveling Finnegan’s WHM job from 10th to 15th. Kiterunner was right about one thing: WHMs get party invites like nobody’s business. I spent the entire weekend in the proving grounds of Valkurum Dunes, and I was never without a party. One party would disintegrate, and within ten minutes of putting up the “Looking for Party” flag I was invited to another.

Surprisingly, I didn’t really get mixed into any bad parties. People seemed to know their job, and I only bought it once. My groups would go between higher-tier Goblins, Hill Lizards and finally Snippers (more ornery crabs), and by Sunday afternoon I made 15th. About damn time.

I’m on my way back to San d’Oria now—next time I sit down it’s time to get back into the RDM gear and make the push to 30th level…and do the dreaded Chocobo quest.


Next time:

The Chocobo Quest and Finn’s push to 30th level, as well as Gaelan advancing through the low teens.

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About the Contributor

Steve Hamner is a former staff member from GameCola's early days as a monthly email newsletter.

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