A few days ago I received an interesting (but touching) email from a new reader of Wowalone, someone belonging to the older demographic. Here's his situation in a nutshell: he is 61 years old, plays WoW casually, is not in a guild but would like to run some dungeons with his level 70 Paladin. The problem is that he doesn't have a lot of time to do this because his wife is very ill and I assume he needs to take frequent breaks from WoW in order to attend to her. He says that WoW provides an outlet for his distress. I shall refer to my reader as My Friend, as I don't want to disclose his name.
His situation is something that I can identify with to an extent and I believe that, as a veteran solo WoW player, I can give him some useful advice.
My Friend, I perfectly understand how WoW can provide the much needed relief and escape from reality that we sometimes need when going through hard times. I am fortunate enough to not have an ailing wife or relative but during my long history of playing WoW I have lived during a time when real life really sucked due to several things conspiring at once to make it miserable. WoW was indeed my escape from all that. Whenever I played, I forgot about my worries. Unfortunately, I ended up escaping from reality a bit too often and for too long, which caused some additional problems in real life. Eventually I recovered from my addiction and that, in fact, is how Wowalone was born: I decided that I wouldn't be playing WoW again with other people. It would be just me, playing it whenever I felt like it, with no obligations and pressure.
You, My Friend, seem to be a lot like me: a solo player. That's not a bad thing and, in fact, you can accomplish a lot of things in this game even without playing with others. You don't need to be in an actual guild. I am my own 1-man guild and I like it that way.
I assume that you would really like to run a few dungeons, in a group. Luckily, this has been made really easy thanks to the Dungeon Finder Tool. Before you jump into that, there are a few things that you should do.
Do you really want to run dungeons?
As a solo player, this is one of the questions you should be asking yourself. It is entirely possible to complete the game (by reaching maximum level) with maximum enjoyment without setting foot inside a single dungeon. But dungeons are a very important part of the game and it is a shame to never experience one. Each has its own flavor and personality.
Do you want to run dungeons with a group?
If you have decided that you do want to run dungeons, there are two options from here. You could either solo lower level dungeons or run level-appropriate ones with a group.
Solo-ing a dungeon is entirely viable, provided you stick to those which are several levels below you. Depending on your skill and equipment, you should be able to solo dungeons starting 5 levels below you. At 10 levels below you shouldn't normally have any problems. For example, at level 70 your Paladin could easily vanquish any dungeon from Azeroth and could also take a shot at some of the beginning dungeons in Outland. Again, this is very dependent on skill and to a lesser extent on gear.
The advantage of this approach is that you can visit each dungeon at your leisure, whenever you have time. If you need to be away from your desk often, just retire your character to a safe area and come back later when you have time. If you can't finish a dungeon for some reason, no one will care. You can always attempt it another day. I highly recommend solo-ing lower level dungeons. There's a certain kind of pleasure to be had from clearing a lower level dungeon all on your own.
Running with a group is slightly more complicated. Thankfully, the Dungeon Finder Tool makes it a lot easier than before. A big advantage of using the tool is that you don't need to be in a guild, you don't need to have any friends and you don't even need to interact a lot with your group members, if you don't want to.
While anyone can jump into a group with the Dungeon Tool, it won't be easy the first couple of times. I remember that the first time the tool came out I was afraid to use it. You can read about my anxiety in this 2009 article. Once I began running a few random dungeons, I loved the experience! I encourage you to read these two articles because they offer some insights into how a solo player can easily and safely join dungeon groups for lots of fun.
I can understand if you are anxious about joining a group with strangers. The best thing you can do is to click that "Join" button. The worst that can happen is for the group to kick you because you don't know what you're doing. But I doubt you are bad considering you've made it all the way to 70 and I have some more advice that should help you.
Being in a group doesn't automatically force you to become super social and make friends with everyone. In fact many people don't even say a word during these random runs. If you feel like talking that's also fine. My personal etiquette dictates that I will always say "Hi all" when joining a group and "Thanks for the group" at the end, even if no one else responds to my greeting. Sometimes people do feel like chatting and that's fine by me. I chat back. If not, I'm just as happy to run in silence.
Random dungeons runs usually last around 30 minutes. Before joining a group you should make sure that you have at least that time. Bear in mind that queuing up for a dungeon can take up to half an hour (but usually about 10-15) minutes for DPS specs. A trick I use while queuing is that I turn the speakers up and then busy myself around the home. When the join window pops up, I can hear the loud chime and run back to my computer to join the group.
If you join a group and something comes up which forces you to leave before the end, just apologize to the others and leave the group. People usually understand when someone needs to leave unexpectedly. If you are DPS, they won't mind a lot because a replacement is only seconds away. If you want to be particularly nice you could even tell them from the beginning that you might have to leave unexpectedly on account of your wife being ill. I don't think anyone will begrudge you that.
Now that (hopefully) I've convinced you to use the Dungeon Finder Tool to get into random groups, I will give you a few tips on how to prepare before joining your first group.
Choice of spec and role?
If you don't have dungeon experience, I urge you to spec as DPS, which in the case of your Paladin means Retribution. Do not make the mistake of joining as a healer or tank, before becoming an expert at running as DPS. Healers and tanks hold a huge responsibility and there's little room for error. For beginners, it is much more forgiving to run as DPS.
If you haven't specced your Paladin as Retribution yet, here's a quick spec I whipped up. It's just a suggestion but it could be helpful if you are undecided.
Rotation and damage
When questing on your own, damage and skill rotation are not particularly important. Usually it's enough to mash your main skills and the monsters will go down. In a dungeon, however, it is highly indicated that you are familiar with a proper form of skill "rotation". If you are not familiar with the concept, in a nutshell it means a sequence of skills used to maximum effect. This article is not meant to be a tutorial on how to play a Retribution Paladin so I would recommend that you head on to Elitist Jerks in the Paladin section and read everything you can about Retribution.
I am not familiar with your level of skill. Nonetheless, I still recommend this "elitist" site. Why? Because these people have exhaustively studied all classes and specs and they have nice primers on things like rotation, gear and so on. As a solo player who had never stepped in a group in a very long time, this site helped me a lot to learn how to deal damage, and later how to heal and tank.
Damage is also fairly important in a group setting. It is important in the sense that if you are really terrible, people might kick you from the group. If that happens, don't feel too bad. Even I, a veteran WoW player, get kicked from time to time, mostly because those who do the kicking are neurotic but I can always get into another group later. If people are complaining about your damage, explain that you are new at dungeons and are doing your best. Most will understand. Groups are usually good enough that a single under-performing player won't hold the group back.
If you know how to install and configure an addon I would also recommend a DPS addon such as Skada. This will give you an idea of how much damage you are dealing compared to the rest of the group.
Practice your rotation
Before going into a dungeon it is important that you practice your skill rotation to perfection. Find a training dummy inside a capital city and attack it using your skills. Or, you can practice directly on monsters. Try to use skills the moment they are off cooldown.
Now that you've decided to join your first dungeons, here are some general tips to get you going.
- Don't announce you're a beginner, unless people start complaining. Sometimes (but rarely) you might get kicked if you so.
- Always attack monsters from the rear, never from the front. Attacking from the front as melee DPS is poor form.
- Watch your threat level. I recommend an addon such as Omen. To make sure you don't generate too much threat, wait a second or two before attacking your target.
- Always attack the tank's target, unless otherwise told. You can use the F key to "assist" the tank, which means you will be attacking the same monster the tank is.
- Stick close to the group but never run ahead of the tank. The tank should always lead and pull, unless he says otherwise.
- If you are the only one who dies, it's probably your fault. The healer's priorities are, in this order: himself, the tank, and the rest of the group.
- Don't stress yourself too much over dying. It happens to the best of players.
- Don't be afraid to Need gear which drops, if it is an upgrade from what you have. Here are some dungeon loot rules and ethics that I use.
- Don't be upset if you get kicked from the group for whatever reason. Sometimes it happens, through no fault of your own.
- If you have to leave the group to attend to your wife, don't be ashamed to do so. If you can spare a few seconds it would be nice though to let them know why you are leaving.
- Remember that even if you don't complete the dungeon you can still get experience, loot, perhaps even some good gear which drops from the first bosses and also skill in playing your character.
- WoW players span a very wide demographic. There's a high chance that you will group with 12-year olds or people your age. Age is not always a factor but sometimes people will act like jerks. If that happens, try to diffuse the situation if possible and move on.
- You asked me about repairing items inside dungeons. Well, that's a tricky one. My advice is that you should always have your gear at 100% before entering a dungeon. Unless you die over and over and over, your gear shouldn't get destroyed from a single run. Even then, it is not gone forever, it simply becomes unusable until you repair it. There are certain Engineering gadgets which you can use to repair gear inside dungeons but that's too expensive to recommend. A trick that you could do is to make sure you join the dungeon from a city or area which has a repair NPC nearby. If your gear gets damaged, click the green "eye" icon next to your minimap and choose "Leave dungeon". This will port you outside the dungeon. Repair your gear and then choose "Teleport to dungeon" from the same icon. You will be teleported back inside the dungeon. Beware though: you will be placed at the entrance so you will have to run back to the group.
- It's just a game! No matter what difficulties you might encounter, remember to have fun.
I can't imagine what your real situation is but here are a couple of extra suggestions. If possible, try setting aside 30-40 minutes when your wife is asleep. Or, try playing close to her if that is not distressing to her. You can always turn the volume way down or use headphones.
I hope I have covered as many bases as possible. It is not easy to get for the first time into a dungeon with a group, especially when your play time is not set in stone. Thankfully, WoW has evolved to the point where dungeon running is now possible for almost everyone, even under the most stringent real-life constraints. You just need to adjust your mindset a bit and try to wrap dungeon runs around the spare time in your life.
Dungeon running gets easier the more you do it. Eventually it will become second nature. The beauty of the Dungeon Tool is that all this becomes possible without having to step into a guild.
If anyone would like to add some advice or correct my own, they are welcome to do so in the comments.