When Quintalan hit 75 the other day, I took some gear out of storage that Murtaugh's Kriegtrommel had made for me ages ago. (Okay, I took out only half, as the other half was for level 76.) I spent some time equipping my Holy Spec with the gear, and then proceeded to start cleaning out the vault of some old equipment.
I kept a few items that had some special significance to me -the old Sindorei Warblade, Ravager, and some others- but I was in a house cleaning mode. Naturally, I need to do this with my part of the Guild bank, but I've already cursed myself a couple of times for having already burned some gems needed for the Jewelcrafting dailies from Dalaran and I had to spend extra time prospecting for them. Yeah, the old stuff -the Tigerseye and whatnot- that can go, but the oddball items I'm keeping hold of. In this game the oddest stuff shows up as an ingredient in some of these recipes, and I'm not going back to the Arathi Highlands just for an item or two. (Yeah, I know about the auction house, but I've already gone through that in my final Jewelcrafting push to get to 300, and I'm not inclined to spend a boatload of gold again. Painful, that was.)
Going through all of that stuff got me to thinking about where Quintalan has been in the journey, and what he did to get there.
I have a regular group night on Thursdays. It works out well for me as my wife is a big Survivor fan; she gets to watch her show while I spend some time online. That said, at least 85% -probably around 90%- of my leveling has been achieved by solo quests outside of the weekly session. With a few exceptions, I've even completed the non-dungeon group quests solo. Some of them (ol' Knucklerot and Luzran come to mind) I waited on until the quest was comfortably green to handle, but a lot of others I went in and just bashed it until I made it through. I could do this as a Paladin; doing it as a Priest is a bit dicier at the lower levels, I've discovered.
All of this solo questing has etched itself across the documents I've kept -the Horde Trauma Certificate is one example- as well as the occasional bonus item that was mailed to me a couple of days after. Sure, reputation is another indicator of how often you've been questing vs. instance hopping, but equally so is how it impacts your gear. With the exception of the gear that Murtaugh had made or gave to me (including sets of Fel Iron and Saronite gear as well as my current two-handed weapon), some items from a guy I ran into in Desolace, and a couple of items I bought at auction, everything else has been a pickup from somewhere.
Since my leveling has been solo heavy, my gear is a mix of green and blue. The Holy spec has the most blue right now, as the Saronite gear was made for a Holy Spec. The Retribution spec is still mainly green and in a constant state of flux as I pick up new drops and swap things out. I used to weigh whether the marginal increase in stats was better than the amount of gold I could get at auction, but once the vendor trash started being worth more than a gold coin I stopped worrying and would just equip as necessary. (You have to love Northrend for that.)
If you look closely at what I've got on, you can guess where I got a lot of the items. (Worg Slayer's Ring? Must be Grizzly Hills. Shoveltusk Pendant? You've been seen in the Borean Tundra having some beers with young Hellscream. Bladefists' Breath? Isn't that from Hellfire? Hmm... I need to replace that.) WoW doesn't have scars on the characters, but it does have this.
I can't say I've had a lot of players comment on my gear much. When I do get some comments, it's usually about the weapon attached to Quintalan's back. I received more comments about the Sindorei Warblade than anything else I've carried around, mostly along the lines of "Wow, what a kick ass blade! Where did you get that?"
Most of the rest of the comments I've gotten from other players I've encountered are more akin to wonderment that I've gotten so far with all of that green gear. "You should have at least only blue stuff by now," one Hunter told me when we were waiting for an 80th level Alliance character to evacuate the area we were farming. Another Hunter told me I need to get my gear up so I can go raiding and get the really sweet gear.
I just sort of shrug at those comments. I'm not concerned about the patchwork nature of the gear; it's Quintalan's story written there for everyone to see. Even after 75 levels, I'm enjoying the ride and how the quest chains pull together the overarching tale. If my gear isn't up to a raiding spec, that's fine with me; I don't raid anyway. If the luck goes my way in an instance, so be it; if not, well, there's always beers back at the inn later. Outside of the regular weekly session, I don't do instances either; I'm too wrapped up in the story. Since I don't do instances much, it follows that I don't have a lot of blue gear.
My job is simple: keep myself and anybody else alive in spite of best efforts otherwise. If it were possible to see, Quintalan's gear is probably covered in dried blood of both my enemies and my friends, and after a while that's all that matters, not whether its green, blue or purple. Just bring 'em back alive, baby.