Enchanting Isn't

The profession of enchanting has never quite lived up to its name. From the early days of World of Warcraft, enchanters had to get half-way in to the drudge of a dungeon Uldaman simply to find the profession trainer and learn new enchanting formulae. Selling enchantments was not much easier. Rather than creating a bottled enchantment and placing it for sale on the auction house, as every other profession was able to do with its products, the enchanter had to stand around populous locations and hawk their wares over the trade channel.

Plenty of time was needed in order to sell to a fickle market, time that other professionals could instead spend adventuring, and comparative prices could not be easily gleaned from other sellers without close monitoring of other hapless enchanters trying to sell on the trade channel. If you were patient or motivated, enchanting could make some decent gold. But for most players it was a money sink, continually destroying magical items—which could be sold on the auction house—in order to get the materials enchantments require, before enchanting the same pair of boots ten times just to increase your enchanting skill. And then it was back to the looking-for-group channel to try to find people willing to get you back to the trainer.

The first new profession revealed the weakness of enchanting. Jewelcrafting allowed players to create gems that could be fitted in to sockets in equipment to provide buffs to certain abilities. It was essentially the same profession as enchanting, but with tangible products that could be sold and traded normally. And although jewelcrafting still required the destruction of items to provide materials for the profession, the items were obtained by a gathering profession instead of being random and valuable drops.

The one benefit of enchanting was that enchanting and disenchanting were combined in the one profession, allowing a second profession to be trained. But as tailoring was the only other profession that did not require a separate gathering skill, there really wasn't much choice. At least enchanters tended to have a good supply of bags, or could try to stave the loss of coin caused by enchantment by training an otherwise useless gathering skill and selling the collected materials.

The enchanting trainer eventually escaped from Uldaman, and selling enchantments was finally made a little easier with the introduction of the inscription profession. Inscriptors created scrolls, as an incidental skill, that could be imbued with magical power before being sold on the auction house. It is a neat solution, but still not good enough to fix the broken nature of enchanting. All it did was reveal that enchanters should have had the ability from the start to create something physical, like scrolls of enchantment, that could be sold on the auction house. When this is realised, the solution is merely applied to the new inscription profession and not used to actually fix enchanting. Instead, enchanters have to beg or buy scrolls from inscriptors to get a fair chance to sell their own wares the same way everyone else can. Enchanters need to spend even more gold for a chance to earn any back.

At some point, players start asking for the enchanter to grab the loot the player won from a boss, disenchant it, and let the player have the magical shard instead. Perhaps it was inevitable, given the abuses enchanters suffered up to that point, and the offer wasn't refused. After all, the player would only sell the bind-on-pickup item, and this way a useful shard could enter the economy. It's a shame, though, that enchanters didn't turn around to say 'yes, you may have that item disenchanted, if you take the bloody time and effort to level up the enchanting profession'. But the damage was done, and players everywhere started to expect enchanters to disenchant loot and then gracefully hand over the shards to non-enchanters.

But surely having more enchanting materials available is good. And perhaps it would be, if not for two problems. The shards would be sold on the auction house, which could offer a guide on how to price various enchantments, except that enchanters could not often afford to buy the shards, having to destroy their magical items rather than sell them on the auction house themselves. There also was little point in the enchanters buying shards off the auction house when other players would do so and then request specific enchantments to be added by enchanters. By providing their own materials, many players thought they didn't need to pay for the serice, or only gave a small gratuity to appease their conscience for treating enchanters like machines.

The second problem is that other gathered materials were never considered to be common gains in the same way enchanting materials were. Mined ore, skinned leather, and picked herbs were always assumed to be the sole property of the character with the profession, even if it took a party of adventurers to get far enough in to the instance in order to get to the materials. And woe betide any enchanter who dares to mention the possibility of rolling to see who gets the mined ore, skinned leather, or picked herbs. The other tradesmen quickly get defensive and protective of the fruits of their profession, claiming that the ore, leather, or herbs would not be up for grabs if they weren't present, so it stands to reason that they have full claim on it. Well, yes, that's rather the point. Yet few players, even enchanters, could see the parallel with not disenchanting bind-on-pickup items for players other than the enchanter herself.

To this day, ore, leather, or herbs are still claimed only by those who can gather the material, no questions are asked, but enchanters are still expected to quietly, without complaint, provide enchantment materials on request. In fact, this abuse has now been institutionalised with the new 'disenchant' feature. Adding the 'greed' button as a choice when rolling for loot solved many problems, as players can show they 'need' an item, or they roll 'greed' if they are only going to sell it. Now, players can also select 'disenchant', which performs the same task as the 'greed' button, but on winning the roll the item instead is disenchanted automatically and the player gets the resultant materials, skipping the need for the enchanter's involvement and time-consuming trade windows.

The new 'disenchant' option sounds rather efficient. But an important point of the new feature is that it only provides the disenchanted materials, instead of the item itself, if an enchanter is in the party, one skilled enough to be able to disenchant the item normally. Without an enchanter present, the 'disenchant' option reverts to the same function as 'greed'. Essentially, the skill of the enchanter, the time and effort invested, is being treated as little more than a convenience. There is no choice in being able to opt-out of having your enchanting skills being used in so cavalier a manner. As long as you are present and someone selects the 'disenchant' option you are effectively forced to provide a service that you may not be comfortable or agree with.

There is still no choice to let you choose to skin a corpse, to which you have looting rights, if a skinner is in the party. There is no choice to be able to mine an mineral node if there is a miner available. Herbs cannot be gathered by the character next in line to loot just because a herbalist is present. Yet the enchanting skill is abused and pillaged without consent. No one even bothers to ask any more if there is an enchanter in the party, as there is no need. Yet if one happens to be present and shards are casually dropped in to a character's bags there are no words of thanks to the anonymous benefactor, it is all entirely taken for granted. This is even a step backwards from when enchanters had to do more of the work.

Enchanting has always been difficult and unrewarding work, despite it being considered necessary for any top-level adventuring. Now, more than ever, it is a thankless task. Not only do bind-on-pickup items get turned in to shards, but any item not otherwise needed can be transparently disenchanted and silently awarded to a non-enchanter, the enchanter herself getting no reward for the investment in to the skill, or even a word of thanks. The question is not so much how we got in to such a state of affairs, as it feels like enchanters have never been respected, but why, after learning all of this with one character, did I create a second character to choose enchanting as a profession? I hate the new option to disenchant loot, I feel it paradoxically lessens the perceived worth of my character.

One Response to “Enchanting Isn't”

  1. Cootewards Says:

    So true. And that's one of the reasons I'm glad I didn't make my character with enchanting my main, there are others of cause. Like it being a gnome and ne hating how pretty much everything piece of gear looks on gnomes.