I wasn't that interested in going back through all of the quests and zones, however. I've done them, explored them, and made peace with them, and I knew that chugging back through all of those quests would drive me nuts (and take too long!). So instead, I figured I might as well try a new tactic: I resolved to just use instant adventures augmented by dungeon runs for the entirety of my leveling experience.
It's a huge plus in RIFT's favor that this is an actual option, and I quite enjoy IAs anyway, so that choice felt right. Over the past week of doing this, I've learned a few interesting lessons about chugging through IAs as a character's sole source of XP, loot, and advancement. For anyone who might be following this path, I'd like to share those lessons.
Levels 10 and 15 are important milestones for this method of leveling. Until level 10, you're going to have to either grind, do random rifts, or complete quests. Fortunately, this doesn't take long. It usually takes me around 45 minutes to get through the tutorial, and that puts me at level 6 or 7. Another 45 minutes or hour past that, and I'm 10. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Once you hit level 10, you can start queuing up for instant adventures. With the new lowbie IAs, this means you can usually get in on the fun right away.
Dungeons are a great complement to IAs because the XP is decent and the loot is usually a lot better than what you'll be getting in the world. What I end up doing is get into an IA right away and then queue up for a random dungeon. Then, when the dungeon pops, I jump right in without worrying that I'm letting a group down or anything. IAs are ridiculously easy to get in and out of.
2. Always remember to pick up the IA daily quest
This is something that's easy for me to forget, and it's a shame because it's free loot. Every day there's a daily quest for instant adventures in the capital cities that rewards advanced currency for gear in exchange for doing just seven IAs. That's nothing, less than a half-hour of gameplay, and it's silly to pass it up.
There are also the automatic dailies tied to both IAs and dungeons. Every day you can run up to 14 IAs and get better-than-normal rewards for them (and standard rewards from the 15th IA on), and every day your random dungeon finder gets a counter that goes toward an extra loot reward (with a maximum of seven of these stored up at any time). Both of these are free loot for doing what you were doing anyway, so it's equally important not to ignore them. Hitting one quick dungeon and 14 IAs a day will maximize rewards.
3. Have and use area-of-effect skills
Instant adventures are slightly different from soloing and dungeoneering, as they contain a group aspect and a more chaotic flow. Because you'll be tackling rifts and other big fights with your group, you're going to want to make sure that you can dish out damage to mobs of enemies instead of just one-on-one all the time.
That's why I make sure that all of my builds have at least one easy-to-reach area-of-effect skill on my hotbar; that's what tends to get used the most. It's not even a bad idea to let your pet (if you have one) "off its leash" by setting it to aggressive in these big fights. Dealing out the DPS to multiple mobs at once is one of the best ways to contribute to a group's success.
Of course, there will be fights with single powerful mobs, and you'll want to switch to solo DPS mode there, so don't AoE to the exclusion of all else.
Everyone quickly realizes that there are two major advantages to IAs. The first is that you get so much XP that it feels like you've activated the cheat mode for the game. I'm not complaining, of course. The second is that because you're in a raid group, all of these mobs that are dropping like flies tend to have loot for everyone.
Since making bank is still important and you'll want to save up for more roles and faster mounts, snagging that loot is essential. My rule of thumb for this is simple: Stay near the group.
See, it's easy to get spread out in some of these IAs. You'll be directed to a target area, but it's huge, and everyone kind of splits up to go do his own thing. That's all well and good in terms of getting the objective done quickly, but it can be detrimental when it comes to loot collecting. You'll end up with all these rotting mobs with loot that will go ignored.
So I always aim for the largest mass of players and stick to them like glue. It not only makes me feel more social, but it's where the majority of loot is going to be. Even if I'm pairing with only one other player, chances are I'll get more stuff that way than soloing.
5. Gear up
RIFT's quests are designed to gradually gear you up according to zone and level, so while you never will be sporting all the best stuff if you just depend on quest rewards, you'll be more or less on par. This changes when you dump quests and go all-out in instant adventures because getting gear becomes more scattered.
The first source is drops, which is another reason to keep looting. The second source is the occasional caches that are handed out at the end of some IAs (I'm not sure why some IAs award these and others don't). The third is from using planar currency and other currency that you accumulate to outfit yourself back in the capital city. But ultimately, that's why I like to keep dungeons in the mix: You're going to gear up better through a handful of dungeon runs, and that gear will last you longer.
6. Be open to multiple roles
If there's one big criticism I have about instant adventures, it's that just about no one considers anything other than straight-up DPS for his role. It's not just the fault of the player, however. RIFT doesn't have any role requirements for IAs, and for the most part, you don't need them. They're chaotic melees that need far more DPS than anything else.
Still, roles do serve a purpose here beyond just DPS. Healing is probably the second-most important role, and it's in shameful short supply. I got used to doing IAs as a healer when I played my Cleric, and I received so many comments from other players being thankful for having someone watch their backs in this regard. People still get hurt in IAs and even killed, and healers cut down on that. Plus, support characters create co-dependency and group togetherness.
Tanking and support roles are welcome but mostly are needed just for the big boss fights. If you have those roles, consider swapping to them when you know a super-elite mob is coming your group's way. It's just a button-click away, after all.
Whether they're keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Karen Bryan and Justin Olivetti save Telara on a weekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT, from solo play to guild raids, their column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Karen and Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.