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Ideas for archaeology
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In exchange for 1-5 keystones and an amount of gold depending on the race, allow someone to specialise in a particular archaeological race. Digsites relevant to those races have a slightly increased chance to spawn and each dig will yield 4 spots instead of 3.
Old World races would require 1 keystone and a small amount of gold, BC races 2 keystones and a higher amount, Wrath races 3 keystones and a couple of hundred gold, and Tol'vir and any future Cata races would require 5 keystones and maybe 1,000 gold.
Characters can only specialise in one race at any one time, though can switch to any other providing they're willing and able to pay the price. The stones and gold are there to prevent people from switching constantly, and scale appropriately to help those who level the profession while they themselves are levelling.
It is entirely optional but the boost is noticeable enough to justify the price. For example, Tol'vir specialisation would require perhaps 1000g and 5 Tol'vir keystones - equivalent of 60 fragments - for a chance of up to 6 extra fragments per Tol'vir dig site. That's at least 10 Tol'vir dig sites before you see any return, though there's also a slightly higher chance for such dig sites to spawn.
A rare chance for any particular dig site to spawn a hostile guardian after a successful fragment find. Tol'vir could be mummy, fossil could be a ghostly dinosaur, etc. Each guardian should be level-appropriate to the current zone, and may occasionally be an elite.
As well as the XP reward (if applicable), each could drop greens with an occasional chance of a blue and an incredibly rare chance of a world drop epic. Elites would also drop 10 fragments relevant to their race.
They cannot be 'farmed' other than by completing dig sites as you would normally.
Each dig site, regardless of the race, could rarely offer additional keystones to an as yet unknown race. For example, a troll site would offer 3 normal digs with the normal 3-6 troll fragments each, but also with a rare chance of offering 3-6 alien fragments - "oooh I've found more of the troll vase I'm currently researching, and, hmmm, what's this? These look strange, I'll hang onto them."
Nothing concrete is ever known about this alien race which allows rolepayers to weave their own stories around their finds. Completed items would offer curious but vague, and sometimes funny descriptions. Rare items would exist but be limited to fun things such as a Mind Control device that forces everyone within a 20-yard range to salute the person who 'uses' the item (with a suitably lengthy cooldown to prevent abuse; would not break combat or any other action, similar to the Piccolo and train set).
Perhaps in time a quest chain is introduced with one of the future content patches, in which the archaeology trainers offer their insight into the alien race, and suggesting that certain finds might exist, such as a mount or companion pet. Those items could then be added to the alien race 'loot table'. Their insight would simply be a guess based on what items have been found, and would not require the introduction of any actual race to Warcraft lore, and nor would it prevent players from 'guessing' something completely different. It would forever be an alien race. Note that alien in this sense means unknown rather than extraterrestial, though could of course also mean exactly that.
Each race has a number of weeks in the year where bonus fragments will be found at the relevant dig sites. Some races may have 3-4 weeks, others maybe only 1. During those weeks each site relating to that race will offer 1 extra fragment per dig, for example 4-7 instead of 3-6.
Suitable explanations for such weeks could be offered by the archaeology trainers, for example Dwarven spirits might be restless during Brewfest, and might disturb the Dwarven dig sites bringing more fragments to the surface. Fossil weeks might coincide with the raptor mating seasons, with aggresive male raptors rampaging over the ground shaking up more fossils to find, etc.
A small boost but a boost nonetheless. Those looking for a particular find could look to set some time aside for archaeology during the relevant weeks.
Coded Messages, Treasure Maps, etc
Each successful dig has a rare chance to offer a BoP 'super fragment' rather than the normal 3-6 fragments, something like a treasure map, lost scripture, etc. Not all races will have these. Such super fragments will complete any common artifact for that particular race, though due to their age would need to be used within a certain period before they disintegrate (ie you can't keep them more than a couple of days, or hoard them in order to use several at once).
As an alternative to vendoring or deleting common finds, players could elect to 'donate' their finds to a specific lore-crazed character within Ironforge and Undercity. Such donations would be rewarded with a small amount of reputation towards that faction's meta-reputation, and a Bag of Clutter - similar to the Bag of Fishing Treasures - containing things which are of no interest to said lore-crazed character.
These bags would typically contain vendor junk of a lesser value than the lowest value archaeology find, such as , , etc, but would occasionally contain something useful such as a profession recipe, random archaeology fragment, etc. This would be a good way of making some recipes available where their previous permanent source was removed due to the changes required for Cataclysm.
I love your ideas.
I would like to add:
If you specialize in an archaeology type, you are guaranteed to complete every artifact from that race, even a rare one, as long as you have completed each common item (X) times. Whether that is five times, three times, whatever, just give players SOME kind of limit to work towards. So you know eventually you can get that rare item, you won't just end up with twenty each of crusty troll undies.
Seriously, what other profession can you level to maximum, and it's still possible you haven't acquired one single useful item? Not a non-combat pet, not a video of dwarves dancing, not a thing that turns you into a wisp, an actual useful item for your class.
First Aid: useful for healing up if you are a class with no healing spells, or if you have no mana.
Cooking: useful for making foods to restore health and other resources. Can create buff foods to benefit a entire group.
Fishing: Can acquire items that can be cooked or consumed for benefits to any class. Possibility to fish up rare/fun items. The fun items are RNG. The useful items are based on persistence NOT rng.
Archaeology: dig up stuff for hours on end. Make useless vendor items. Dig up more stuff. Make more useless vendor items. Dig up more stuff. Get a useless item that shows a video of spacegoats and a ?crystal? entity. Re-examine your life...
Seriously, I had fishing maxed on like 3 toons in WOTLK. I don't mind grindy crap, just make it so there's an END in sight, some way to be sure that at some point, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but hopefully before the end of the millenium, I might be able to get Tyrande's Stupid DOLLY.
This needs to get in game
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