In Age of Conan, crafting doesn't begin until level 40. I'm not sure exactly what the design decision behind this was, but that's the way it is. Your guild can start building its PvE city (separate from the PvP Keeps in the Border Kingdoms) as soon as you have a level 40 and that level 40 character is given Guild Leadership for long enough to claim a plot of land for the City in one of 3 truly massive zones). Your guild also needs to be made up of at least 24 people.
That said you can start gathering materials as low as level 20 in order to help your guild build that city and make a place to call home. To do this, it's a bit different than any other MMOG I've played. You'll get a quest in your starting city to go to your nation's main crafting and PvE city zone. For Khemi, this is the Purple Lotus Swamp which can be reached by heading straight south through the first adventuring zone in Stygia called Khoshepf Province (or something like that).
Once there you'll have to make your way to the Swamp's main crafting village which is oddly massive in the case of Purple Lotus Swamp. I assume it was made gargantuan with the expectation that eventually lots of people will be there training their crafting but last night there were only ten of us hanging out getting all the quests you need to begin your vocation as a gatherer. Anyway, this big old crafting village is where that initial quest first sent you, and by finding the NPC for that quest you'll be given 10,000 XP just for talking to a guy. Not a bad deal really. But once you see how long the jog is to get here, you'll realize why the reward you so.
So anyway let's go over the cool and the uncool about gathering in Age of Conan.
- This will likely be an uncool for some but there is no innate way to track gathering nodes. You must search the zone while keeping an eye out for indicators of something that can be harvested. Trees that can be harvested will have falling leaves from them and might stand out a bit more. Metal or rock deposits will be differently colored than the regular mountainsides and ground and often will be nestled next to a mountainside or rock outcropping. Leather is attained by killing beasts throughout the zone, with a somewhat small drop percentage.
- While you can't use a tracking system on your radar like in WoW, you can however make map notes of where you found the node or herd of animals. The place where the resources are never changes so as you scout the massive gathering zones, it's perfectly viable to make tons of map notes for future reference, or sharing with your guild mates via screenshots.
- Resources like trees, rock and metals have "health" on a percentage. Each time you gather from one it takes away roughly 10% of this health. When it's below 10% you won't be able to get anything from it, but when you stumble across one that's at 100%... you've got yourself 10 pieces of ore, or bundles of wood or whatever. This can also be an "uncool" in the fact that if it's a busy gathering day you might constantly be finding only recently tapped nodes.
- While harvesting a tree, or a copper vein, or any type of resource node, there's a small chance that you'll be interrupted by a "Jealous Prospector" or some other type of NPC enemy. This little touch is very cool in the fact that it even brings combat to a usually non-combative feature. It keeps you on your toes, rather than auto-pilot as you zoom from node to node. It also ensures that you'll be getting some XP and loot while you spend precious hours harvesting resources your guild.
- The whole zone is generally aggro free. Except for the rare occurrence of a mob popping when you near a node, or when you're harvesting, there's no real enemies. It's a zone entirely made for resource gathering and exploration and boy is there a ton of ground to cover. I spent 2 hours in Purple Lotus Swamp last night and only covered about 50% of the ground while I was gathering.
- It's a massive place. I don't know about the Acquilonian gathering zone, or the Cimmerian one, but Purple Lotus Swamp is one huge zone to play in. And the fact that they don't just give you a gathering radar to go by a la WoW or LotRO really places an emphasis on exploration that I thought might be missing from Age of Conan due to its non-open world. Tobold has said that he doesn't get the feeling of a world from AoC, and I can only suspect that it means he's not spent some time in the gathering zones. They're epic, plain and simple.
- Once you have the gathering skills, you'll also find nodes for the resources in the main adventuring zones of the world. But they're few and far between compared to the dedicated gathering zones.
- Since the zone is so large... I really wish I had a horse, or even that lumbering mammoth. Speed would be of much use for this part of the game.
- Lastly, you can take up all gathering professions. I can't recall them all at the moment, but there is no limit to which gathering profession you take on. You can be a miner and a skinner, a stone cutter, and a weaver (cotton and other fabrics). Why? Because your guild will need the goods and it's nice to be able to do it all instead of worrying how many more miners your guild will need. Everyone can pitch in this way.
- The initial quests to learn your gathering skills are long and often tedious. I spent 2 hours last night gathering, copper, silver, ash wood, etc. I only completed 2 of I think 6 different gathering quests. I couldn't even find leather on the beasts I killed, and I certainly didn't come across any Cotton plants.
- There are tons of nodes spread out across a massive zone... but because of the fact that they're spread out so far it often feels like there are too few of them to be found. I would like to see the disbursement be a little more dense. Maybe twice what it is now.
- The quests to gain the gathering skills require 20 of each resource. You spend hours doing these things and then you give the resources away to the quest NPC. LAME! After all that work for what I thought was going to go towards my guild's city, I ended up losing the resources. That sucked.
- The documentation on how or where or what the nodes will look like is slim in game. I was lucky to have a guildie who already had done them, or else I would have been lost. So take heed. Ores and rocks are near mountains and other major rock formations, lumber is on trees that have leaves constantly dropping from them, and leather is on the animals in the area. Cotton? No idea. Hopefully will find some tonight. My guess is by water sources.
- This is a guess, but I'm thinking that on PvP servers the gankage level will be astounding. Not necessarily an "uncool", but it could be if you're in the middle of mining some copper and you get jumped by 3-4 assassins and a necromancer. This is why I play on PvE servers.
- Nitpicking now, but there's no way to tell at level 20 how much resources you'll need for your guild city from within the game. There may be some website which has this info already, but I'd like to know what I should be stocking up on as I go along.
And that's about it for now, folks. I can see this part of the game frustrating a great many people who are used to the more simplified and streamlined affair that is WoW's gathering, or even EQ2's these days. But to me, this is a very novel and surprisingly fun take on the key part of crafting that will really reward the explorers and the dedicated. I could have been 24 from level 20 earlier in the night had I spent my evening questing and killing, but something kept me in Purple Lotus Swamp. I'm sure there will be others who find it as engaging as I do, but I worry that most will find it a waste of time when they could be out grinding mobs for experience.
Me? It's satisfying that childhood urge of being an archaeologist. It feels good to be exploring an uncharted land. One day I'll have all the nodes marked and it will likely become a chore, but for now... for now it's a blast to run around looking for buried treasure.