WoW: Glyphs

Reopening World of Warcraft after two weeks of inactivity, the first order of the day was to get some glyphs.

Glyphs are a way to enhance your spells and special abilities. There’s a special interface, a tab under the Talents menu, containing three banks of glyph slots, each accepting one prime, one major, and one minor glyph. (This prime/major/minor distinction is apparently a recent alteration to the system.) The interface also has a lengthy scrolling list of all the glyphs available to your character class, with tooltip descriptions of their effects. Each glyph applies to one spell, and the effects are varied. Most glyphs simply increase the effect, range, casting frequency, or duration of their spell. Others are more miscellaneous: the glyph for Healing Wave, for example, causes it to heal the caster for 20% of the amount it heals the target, and the glyph for the Grounding Totem, a summoned object that absorbs one attack spell cast at you, makes it instead reflect the spell back at the caster. There are even vanity glyphs: one minor glyph for the Shaman just alters the appearance of your Ghost Wolf form to look like an arctic wolf.

None of this is available from the beginning. The first bank of glyph slots (and the entire glyph interface) becomes available at level 25, the second bank unlocks at level 50, and the third at level 75. Furthermore, in order to assign a glyph to a slot, you first need to learn the glyph. And this was a sticking point for me, because the game doesn’t explain how you learn them. I’ve spoken in praise of WoW‘s tutorial system before, but the glyph interface is one place where it really let me down. It guides you to the point of looking at the glyphs interface when it initially unlocks, but you can’t do anything with it at that point, because you haven’t learned any glyphs yet, and it doesn’t give you a clear notion of what to do about that. When Oleari turned 25, I just figured that I’d find some glyphs somewhere eventually, and then I forgot about it, until she hit level 50, and the second bank opened, and I realized that I needed to research this a little.

It turns out that glyphs are created by player characters using the Inscription profession. This means that if you and your friends have opted for professions other than Inscription, and you’re not willing to change, the simplest way to obtain glyphs is from an eBay-like in-game auction. Auctions are an area of the game I hadn’t delved into before, figuring I wasn’t advanced enough to take advantage of it. I mean, I’m still finding better equipment on my own on a frequent basis without having to buy it. But I should probably be taking advantage of it more, to sell all my surplus herbs and the like. It’s definitely a big part of the game for the experienced players — possibly the biggest. The auction house in Orgrimmar is always the busiest place there.

And, having participated in some auctions now, I can report profound sticker shock. Trying to pick up glyphs when the interface opened at level 25 would have been pointless, as I would not have been able to afford them. My total wealth right now tends to hover around 100 gold; some of the minor glyphs can’t be had for that much. I have to wonder if the auction prices really reflect the market here, or if most glyphs are going unsold. You’d think that there would be a low demand for glyphs, seeing how each player character can only usefully learn nine of the things, and high supply, as scribes create them for practice. But then, gold isn’t really as valuable for most players as it is for a noob like me. (Strange that I can play for nearly two months and be more than halfway to the level cap and still be a noob, but there it is.)

5 Comments so far

  1. josh g. on 6 Mar 2011

    Back when I used to play, there was a great UI mod called Auctioneer that you could use to track item prices on the auction. You’d build up your own data set – it would store info every time you visited the auction – so for the first couple of weeks it wasn’t terribly useful. But once you had even a few weeks of history built up, it did (does?) a fantastic job of highlighting items for sale which sell on average for x% higher. It turned the AH from a guessing game to a reasonably reliable money-maker, because there’s always someone dumping items on the AH for cheap because they’re just sick of having them take up inventory space (or don’t know a good market value for it, or just go with the default price which is always way too low).

    Dunno if you want to get sucked into that, but if you do want to work the auction house for fun and profit I’d recommend that mod (or whatever’s replaced it in the last 4 years).

  2. malkav11 on 6 Mar 2011

    Well, there’s a couple things going on here: #1, auction house prices are almost always significantly higher than vendor prices because players inflate pricing, and people who focus on making money through the auctions have a lot of money to throw around. #2: you can only use nine glyphs (per spec, and you can have two specs)…but the system changed with the Cataclysm lead-in patches so that a glyph is learned permanently the first time you acquire it and you can feasibly learn every glyph your class supports and then all it costs to change your glyph loadout is one charge of something called Vanishing Powder per glyph you want to swap out. This means that where Inscription used to be a continual money generator as people needed a new set of glyphs anytime they respecced or changed glyph sets for whatever reason, now any given character is a client only once per glyph. So individual glyph prices are higher.

    As to -why- you would want to go around regularly swapping out glyphs…I think it’s got something to do with really high end min-maxing that I’ve never bothered with.

  3. Starmaker on 7 Mar 2011

    The glyph system went through several redesigns. When a second talent tree feature first went online, glyphs sets weren’t swapped. There was only one set of six glyphs (three major, three minor), and if you wanted to fine-tune your character every time you switched sets, you had to carry stacks of glyphs around (erasing was free back then, and I think they had done away with the requirement of being present in an Inscription shop by then).

    Inscription is the easiest and the most boring profession. First, it’s not properly integrated. A scribe does not need anything else but herbs. The things most in demand are not glyphs but buff scrolls, so the second profession of a scribe is set in stone (it’s Herbalism, yup).

    Now, if Alchemy recipes demand specific herbs (so there’s travel involved: Wild Steelblooms just *don’t* grow in Stormwind, you have to go to Lordaeron for those), Inscription requires herbs of a certain level. So you get to an area and gather everything in sight – might as well play Progress Quest.

    Worse than that, once a scribe hits high levels, you’ll only need the Northrend inks – everything else can be bought from a vendor for a bottle of Ink of the Sea (the staple Northrend ink) and a nominal fee. You’ll be just making rounds in Storm Peaks, minimum an hour per day if you’re in a guild – at least you can look for the Time Wasting Proto Drake while you’re there, ISN’T LIFE AWESOME???? *mad giggle*

    Oh, and Book-of-Glyph-Mastery related drama is tons of fun. I mean, our calm, happy and content lives will surely benefit from being spiced up with death threats, right?

    Bottom line: don’t be a scribe.

  4. malkav11 on 7 Mar 2011

    Yeah, I like glyphs as a mechanic but I’m not sold on Inscription as a player profession. I think it would have been better off with glyphs as either vendor or drop-based. (I’m not sure what impact the latter might have, but I always, always want more interesting loot than just another piece of armor with slightly higher stat numbers.)

  5. Machinelf on 21 Mar 2011

    Glyphs cost more now because mat cost tripled.
    Inscriptions’ a great profression, ive made at least 3k-60k a day for years with it. as a millionaire i regularly buy out cheap glyphs and resell for somethimes hundreds more. It works.
    Also, people need different glyphs for a wide variety of situations, i.e. PVP, PVP, BGs, w/e

    If you want cheap glyphs, go find a buddy who’s a scribe. if hes a noob with none of the increasingly hard to get high end patterns, your best luck is to go farm the mats yoruself and plead with a veteran scribe. This prolly wont work. So maybe try someone in your guild or keep asking around.

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