Note: The first half of this post was written early last week, so some of it may be a bit dated, but overall my point stands.

A common theme has been running through the chats on both chapters of Single Abstract Noun. In each case, many of us didn’t have alts available for transfer. Which means we’ve got a bunch of people used to being high level and having easy access to all the perks that come with it – heirlooms, money, gear, mats, etc. – only now they’re level 1 again, often on a completely new server, without access to these perks. The Guild Banks on both sides are impressively full of impressively useful things, but they can’t give us a 20% XP bonus, no matter how hard they try.

So the conversations alternate between grumbling about the lack of luxuries once enjoyed, and a curious sort of joy in rediscovering the simplicity of life at level 1.

For every person I’ve seen bemoaning their lack of bags (*CoughMeCough*), I’ve seen another politely declining the free bags in the GB, preferring to “rough it”. Every now and then someone will link a [Small Black Pack] and we all cheer. The lowbie tailors are linen-making machines, eating up the cloth in the GB and replacing it with 6- or 8-slot bags at an epic pace.

There is delight to be had in knowing that every single piece of gear you pick up – whether it’s cloth or plate; a grey or a white – is an upgrade. I think I saw a pally cheering over leather armbands yesterday. They were grey.

They were totally an upgrade.

And he didn’t need a website, add-on, or veteran guildie to tell him so.

At some point as we level, gearing becomes work. A bit of brightly coloured text in the loot window doesn’t represent a potential upgrade, so much as a few minutes of mind-numbing effort looking at Ratings Buster or Rawr or some equivalent source to try to puzzle out whether two more points of haste is worth more than a single point of crit. Or whether I should actually be considering those bracers for my ENH shammy, even if they’re not mail.

Some people enjoy this stuff immensely, but me? It gives me a headache.

Never is loot so clear as between levels 1 and 10.

I also think it’s easy to forget just how fragile our characters were, once upon a time. I play tanks primarily. I am used to being nigh invulnerable. Bring on your pats and your respawns and your unexpected elites. I got this.

But at the baby-levels? My fingers reflexively twitch toward CDs I don’t have, and abilities that aren’t there. Takes me just long enough to realize I don’t have those fancy buttons to also blow whatever time I had to escape.

I step cautiously, in a way I haven’t in a long time now. I pause before launching myself into battle against a foe I wouldn’t have sneezed at on another server, decked out in heirlooms and blues and other resources. I consider patrol paths and pull angles – something I normally reserve only for group quests and instances. Because if I don’t, I’m looking at another long run back from the graveyard spent in quiet contemplation of the error of my ways.

And that’s another difference – everything takes longer at this level. The graveyard isn’t two steps away from the blood stain that was my character. I don’t have a mount (let alone epic flying) – I don’t even have flight points. My hearth is actually in a quest hub – not even a capital city, forget Dalaran – so if I level I have to run all the way home, and if I have to travel to a new map, I have to run all the way there.

But there’s a flip side to it, too. I’m not in a rush. Not in the slightest. I don’t have to hurry up and go farm dailies because OMGit’sraidnightandIneedrepairmoney. I don’t have to bust my ass to get 80 so I can run heroics. I don’t have to scramble to level my profession because the guild needs it. Granted, some of these things are related more to the nature of SAN than the nature of the low-levels, but they’re interlinked in my head in some way.

Everything is calm and simple and straightforward. At end game, there’s too many things to do. Raid, gear, farm, craft, rep grind, heroics, and so on. On my lowbie, there’s none of that unless I want it. There’s just me and these damn quillboars. I can live off of silvers, and I bring in more than I spend in a session anyway. There’s no rep except Tranquillien, which hardly counts since you get it by default. I can instance if I want, but there’s no requirement for it, because you’re just going to replace the gear in a few levels anyway, and you can get just as much XP by questing, so the choice really is up to you – do if it’s fun. Don’t if it’s not.

At level 10 the world of Azeroth is a wide open place, with more options than you could play through with a single alt. There’s nothing linear about it. And the end game, there are no options. You either do instances/raids or you don’t, and there are absolute requirements that have to be met if you choose to do so. You have to rep grind. You have to do extra work to bring in gold. You have to keep up with the content in terms of your gear and skill and research. These things have a value unto themselves, but now that I’m once again happily ensconced in the lower levels, I’m reminded of just how much work they can be.

Lowbies have freedom a level 80 can only dream of. The whole game lies before them, instead of behind, and there are so many ways to play it.

Maybe I don’t miss my heirlooms so much after all.