Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

TSW Protips

This is a Work in serious Progress, but I thought I would get it out there for folks who might be interested. Other sites may be a lot more thorough. You won't find cookie-cutter, flavor-of-the-month builds for your character, here. Nor do I have solutions to the various missions. Some of this is basic, newbie-level stuff. But it's stuff I've learned or figured out in playing The Secret World, and it may be of help to someone.

I am certainly no expert on TSW. I don't even have a character at maximum "level" yet. But I wanted to clear up some confusion I have heard people discussing about various aspects of the game. I guess I "get" the playstyle of TSW more than some people I've spoken with. Others have no problem with the game, but may benefit from some lessons learned. After a request from a friend for advice about the game, I decided to consolidate the "protips" posts I have written over the past few months since the game launched.

NOTE: When referring to weapons, I include magic abilities, because they require a "focus" which occupies a weapon slot in your gear. Also, several of these pics are from July, when my character Poppyshock was not very far along in her progress.

Tactics vs. Strategy:
Many have been less than impressed with the combat in The Secret World, but I think TSW is more about strategy and less about tactics. While choosing a deck seems more complex initially (and it is), you have time to look at what's available and prepare from the safety of the Sheriff's Office or The Horned God bar. You don't have to worry in the heat of battle where that obscure stun is among your 48 buttons. The downside is that it may not be available and you'll die. You'd probably die anyway, because you're hunting through all those buttons for that one ability you never use. The upside is that when you do load out properly, you will "crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!"

The Ability Wheel:
I had a friend concerned about the number of choices available on the ability wheel. He was concerned that too much choice would lead to vapor-lock as to what abilities he should use in practice. This was based partly on the notion that all the abilities would be conceivably available if you have enough Ability Points (AP) to spend. This is not the case, as you will have figured out if you've tried spending AP at all. The various Abilities build on each other. For example, Dancing Blade, a 3AP ability, will require you to have purchased (with AP) one 2AP ability and three 1AP abilities. Furthermore, the abilities seem to alternate between active abilities and passive abilities. You learn an active ability and the next ability to learn will likely be some sort of passive improvement on its predecessor. The passive abilities also affect the damage/healing/survivability of abilities in other schools of combat. That is, magic passives are likely to affect gun/melee actives as well as spells.

"Dual Wielding" Weapons:

Yes, yes, YES! you can carry two weapons and use them! Do it! Do it NAO! There are no two-handed weapons in the traditional sense, only in the animation of your avatar. The assault rifle, for example, only occupies one slot on your gear, as do the pistols (which you appear to dual wield). So you could conceivably have a slot each of a rifle and pistols, or pistols and a sword, or a sword and a chaos focus, etc. As Syp pointed out, having two weapons means you can have two "finishing" moves where you can do big damage or healing. I've decided the best strategy is to settle on two weapons before I train during the tutorial, based on the deck I chose, then pick my secondary weapon in the training chamber, and get my primary weapon from the first QL1 green weapon mission reward. This will require spending at least 1 SP in the primary weapon right off the bat.

A couple of points to consider regarding weapons abilities:
  • Some abilities build power, others spend it.
  • Most abilities that build power do it for both weapons.
  • Ranged (guns) builds "combo points" power on the target.
  • Melee power starts full, then drops.
  • Magic power starts empty, then builds.
So other than pulling mobs to you, if you have an ability that spends all your melee power, use it as soon as possible. Then lay enough power-building abilities to pop off a major magic or gun ability. Then pop the melee "finisher" again. If you don't have a melee weapon, I would prioritize building the combo points, then spending the gun finishers before the magic, since the magic finishers can be used on new targets, where the gun finishers cannot.

I only have two specific recommendation of abilities every lowbie character should have:
  • Lick Your Wounds: a Fist HoT passive in the Primal section of the Inner Wheel.
  • Immortal Spirit: a Blades passive HoT in the Technique section of the Inner Wheel.
Each is only one ability point and is the first one in the section. Either—or both—can be equipped, regardless of which weapons you are actively wielding.


Borrowing from card games like Magic: The Gathering and computer games like the original Guild Wars, The Secret World only allows you to have up to seven active abilities and seven passive abilities in play at any given time. As you're learning new abilities, those slots fill up. So once you have more than seven abilities of either type, you have to start making decisions.

I strongly recommend filling out both weapons inner-ring arcs as early as is feasible. My original thought was to fill out the abilities for one weapon completely, with only minimal AP spent on the other until later. But then playing my Dragon, I decided to try it the other way, to get more variety. I managed to get a very strong single-target "deck" as well as a very strong multi-target/AoE "deck" relatively early, and am mowing down mobs. The trick is knowing which load-out I'll need for the next fight.

To help you, the developers in Oslo have come up with some ability combos they think are effective to fill a role in the Unholy Trinity. One of the tabs on the Ability Wheel interface is Decks, on the far left of the screen. I'll go with the devs' advice, since completing a Deck will give me extra buffs, and a cool outfit to boot. I tend to call whatever my current set of actives and passives a deck, even when it is not a preset Deck with an outfit.

The Major Decks will take quite a bit of time to complete, since every deck has at least one 50AP ability. This translates into several hundred AP. (Poppyshock's Ninja Deck is 856 AP.) So in the early game, the big Decks are more a goal to work for rather than an instant win scenario.

Due to suggestions and requests from the players, this past fall, Funcom introduced Starter Decks, which are the same regardless of which faction you belong to. These decks, which are visible here, combine "inner ring" abilities from two different weapons to give help the player with viable suggestions for combat. Let me emphasize the "suggestion" part of that statement. Individual players who care to may be able to find ability combos more fitting their unique playstyle. All the Starter Decks are pretty good for soloing in the first two or three zones. However, none of the starter decks is very good for Tanking or Healing. That's not to say that a reasonable low-level tank or healing build can't be made with inner ring abilities.

I won't tell you which weapons to start with.
Despite vigorous debate on various forums, I don't think you can go completely wrong with any two weapons. You'll be glad to know, if you complete the inner-ring arcs on two weapons, chances are you'll have one Starter Deck—and three achievements along with two jackets and an outfit (if that's your thing).

I have two characters for whom I decided to completely fill the inner ring before completing a Major Deck, and this is what I would recommend. Over-specialization can actually hamper you in the mid-game.

Ability Search:
Have you ever used the Ability Search on the right side of the Ability Wheel interface? If not, doooo eeet! If you have, have you used the check box filters (at the the top) to narrow down the search to only abilities you have already purchased?

How about looking only at abilities one weapon or the other:
Or only actives or passives:
I do this often to help me decide which abilities to equip for my Single Target deck, and which to use for my AoE deck. These are not the preset Decks, but decks I have created myself and saved using the Gear Manager. On two characters, I also have a deck emphasizing healing, and another for tanking. I can't tell you which abilities you should use because I haven't played with all the abilities. Study the abilities you have, sorting them in different ways might help. This is exploratory learning. I can tell you some are more situationally useful than others. I'd venture to say that every ability is effective in some combat situation in the game. Deciding which ones to equip and use is up to you.

As you progress through The Secret World, you'll acquire new abilities and encounter creatures that will force you to re-evaluate your habitual decks. This can be frustrating, but also rewarding (much like the Investigation Missions).

Character Skills:
Skills are all passive as far as I can tell. Each skill level costs a corresponding amount of Skill Points (SP) beyond what you have already spent on previous levels (i.e., Skill Level 3 costs 3 SP, and a cumulative 6 SP). Each weapon has two Skills, a personal DPS buff and a support buff (survivability, healing, DPS of another player). But don't forget the Talisman Skills at the bottom. To equip a higher quality (QL) item, you must have the appropriate skill level (i.e., Skill 3 enables you to equip QL4).

You only need ONE of the two skill lines on each weapon to advance the QL you are capable of wielding.

My advice is one of balance, remembering the Talisman Skills, as well. Spend one point in the Major Talisman Skill (for Hit Points), then one point in each Skill for the Weapon(s) that you are currently using (discussed above), and finally the Head and Minor Talismans (for Magical and Physical Protection). Then build other weapon skills, keeping them balanced, because you never know when you might decide to use a different weapon. Finally, build the second tier of weapons skills.

NOTE: AP and SP cannot be refunded. Stop asking. The choices you make, make you. If you want to change to a different school of combat, start spending points in that school. I've put points in the wrong school myself. You can slowly but surely built up your new abilities and skills, integrating them into your combat rotation as they become powerful enough to fit the area you're in. You only have to repeat missions if you want to. Your choices matter in the short run, but given enough time you'll be able to master all 525 abilities.

Don't Re-role:
Kadomi once contemplated re-roling her character, because she wasn't sure she liked the weapons she'd chosen. Feliz and I admonished her not to do that.

In my mind, there are only three reasons to re-role:
  1. You don't like your name. (Now changeable with a Real Money fee.)
  2. You don't like your looks. (Now changeable in-game with a coupon or Pax.)
  3. You don't like your faction. (No answer there, as far as I know, other than there are three character slots, one for each faction.)
Anywhere you currently are is a faster XP gain than starting over.

Now, you may decide to go back to Kingsmouth to run some easy quests again and make some quick AP/SP. This is OK, but if you're not doing too badly in your current area, stick with it, because you're getting more XP per kill and per quest in the more advanced areas.

Never sacrifice your AP/SP! Keep your current abilities while you gain new ones. If you're putting SP into your Talisman Skills (which you should be!) you won't lose them by switching to a new weapon. But you will if you re-role. Remember, you can spend points on weapons before actually wielding them. No need to gimp your current deck while building the next. No need to equip new weapons until you can use them effectively.

I went through a mission on an alt in the second zone that tested her survivability. I had a certain weapon on my other two characters that had enabled me to get through a certain stage where I was being chased by several mobs but unable to leave the area. This alt didn't have that weapon skill at all. I went and did few side quests until I had enough skills points in that weapon—and a couple abilities I thought I would need—that I could reasonably wield it for that tier of the mission. It worked and I'd only spent a couple hours of game time in the area I was questing in.

I didn't need to go back to Kingsmouth and start over. And if I had, it would have taken longer.


You can only have one Main Mission (the red, green, or yellow ones) at a time. If you accept a new main mission when already on one, the first will pause at the current tier of the mission (i.e., 3/5). You'll have to return to the original mission giver (e.g., Sheriff Bannerman) to pick it back up, but you'll be at the same tier.

Research may be required on your mission, there is a built-in internet browser for a reason. You can search Google. Also, there are sites (set up by Funcom) representing many of the organizations found in the game that may be of information value. While there are plenty of kill-ten-rats type quests, this is not a mindless hack-and-slash. You will need your thinking cap. It's one reason I really like this game.

Yokai and Sarcan have an incredibly thorough set of guides that I am only beginning to scratch the surface of. If you are interested in indepth theory-crafting, I recommend you check in with them. If anyone has any more protips to share or wants to clear up confusions they've heard, feel free to leave a comment or question.

Gear Manager Is Your Friend . . .
. . . but I think it's a slight misnomer. I've tried to explain this before, but I don't think it was effective. You don't need multiple sets of gear for Gear Manager to be effective. Yes, you can carry around enough gear to effectively fill any role in a group, but chances are—at least early in the game—you'll want to simply upgrade gear you've got rather than accumulate different sets. On the other hand, you're quickly obtaining so many abilities that you'll soon have far more abilities than you have currently equipped. Some abilities are clearly useful for fighting single opponents, while others are far more suited to mowing down groups of mobs. Gear Manager comes in very handy for quickly flipping between sets of abilities even if you only have one real set of effective talismans. If you like macros, you can also set buttons to "/gearmanager use name" where "name" is the name of the saved gear/ability settings.

If you're making macros to assign to buttons, it helps to name your sets the same between alts (I've switched to the simple "AoE" from "Mass Mobs," for instance.)

This is a response to an issue my friend +Mario Delgado (aka @tententacles) was having with swapping gear sets in TSW. He would get an error saying he can only have one elite ability on the bar at a time.
I did a little messing around and found nature of the bug. I'm guessing the different builds have the elite abilities in different slots, like this:

Elite ability "Slow the Advance" in Slot 7, but . . .

. . . elite ability "Go for the Throat" in Slot 5.

Gear manager swaps ability slots from left to right, not all at once, so swapping from that first bar to the second will lead to the error. Swapping the other way is error free.
Solution: Keep your elite abilities in the same slot for different gear sets. I don't know how much that would affect your rotation, but with the different elites in the same slot, I had no errors swapping gear sets, either through the GM interface or using the chat commands. Since the elite is usually on a long cooldown, I have it in slot 7 where it won't be in the way when I'm using hotkeys.

I've gone over skills and abilities above. I don't plan to write any guide showing any überl33t Flavor of the Month Deck that I think you should follow. I can only say that I am having little trouble so far with my chosen decks, and I only want to point you in the right direction. I linked this Deck Builder the other day, as well. It's awesome for seeing at a glance which active and passive abilities produce/exploit which states (Afflict, Weaken, Hinder, Impair) and what weapons may create synergies when used together. And it's accessible from inside the game, through the web interface (though this may not be ideal). You can also use whatever passive abilities you may have learned, regardless of whether you're currently using the weapon associated with them. So that Blade HoT passive can be used even if you're currently using Blood and Fists.

There's a saying in the U.S. Army: "That which is authorized, is required." In the case of TSW you can move while casting pretty every ability, whether instant or "long-cast." However you are frequently required to move while casting, to maintain DPS while avoiding incoming damage from ground targeted and other AoE attacks.
I use my Logitech M570 to control camera angle and for general navigation. For combat hotkeys as well as dodging and strafing, I use a Razer Nostromo.

And a pic of the built-in keyboard of my Asus G73 courtesy of Republic of Gaming:

Also, I feel a little behind the times here, but apparently TSW is modable. There are a bunch of addons available through Curse. More to come.

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