The Hunting of Man: What Hemingway Has to Say About Roaming


So, twentieth century Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway and solo roaming in Guild Wars 2’s WvW. What do these two have to do with one another? Well, absolutely nothing if you don’t over think it and purposefully read too much into a lot of out-of-context quotes. Even vaguely intrigued by this stream of thought? Read on.

Ernest Hemingway was a 20th century journalist and author. He’s known for several books, many of which are considered literary classics, and won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature the following year.

Roaming is when a player goes into WvW and eschews the usual tactics of joining the main group of players and instead goes off on their own (or in small groups). While this means the greater objectives such as keeps and castles (and often towers too) are beyond their reach, camps and sentries become fair game. They function as scouts, assassins, and guerrilla combatants while engaging in what is essentially a map-wide running battle with enemy roamers.

Before I get in to how these two are related, I thought I’d start with a brief introduction to give you an idea of who I am what my articles might be like. That was you can all consider yourselves fairly warned for the future.

I’m Varr (not my real name as I’m sure you’ve all surmised by now), and I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 since launch. Well, technically since before launch, if you count the early start and the beta weekends and have far too many hours logged. I played the original Guild Wars heavily as well, and have always been particularly interested in the lore and how we, as players, technically craft our own stories within that universe.

I’m also a regular writer at Chronicles of Tyria, where I write an ongoing story (published fortnightly) set in the Guild Wars 2 world. If you’re interested in that, have a read and let me know what you think.

But enough about me, let’s talk about authors dead half a century and how they relate to murder!

In Guild Wars 2, I spend much of my free time solo (or duo) roaming, levelling one of my many alts or farming for one of my ongoing projects (Sunrise/Eternity these days), and it’s the first of those that I’m going write about today. Specifically, what Ernest Hemingway can teach us about roaming and World versus World versus World.

But how does one tie a man’s out-of-context quotes to a psuedo-guide to/reflection of solo roaming when he’s been dead for fifty years? Well, it started a little like this…

I was thinking about what to write for my very first article. I had thought to discuss my love of roaming and the importance of respect between enemies, open it with a (perhaps overused) quote that reads as follows:

There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”

Cliché, perhaps, but it remains one of my favourite quotes and struck me as very fitting in regards to WvW and specifically to solo roaming, so I thought it would be a good way to simultaneously lead in to my love of that and give the impression that my articles will have some less than prosaic (in other words; pretentious) language.

But then, as I was looking up the quote to ensure I had the wording exactly right, I naturally ended up seeing some more quotes from Hemingway, and I noticed that many of them could be interpreted as important lessons that I’ve learned about roaming. So, let’s have a look.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

This is perhaps most important message when it comes to roaming. No-one out there is a perfect player, and no-one has the “art of roaming” completely mastered. There is no perfect build, there is no perfect playstyle. Certainly some have distinct advantages over others, some are quicker at taking camps and flipping sentries, some are better at hunting down enemy players, but there is no perfect way of doing things.

When you first decide to start roaming, keep this in mind. Yes, you will lose fights, but so do the very best of roamers who’ve fine-tuned their builds till they’re perfectly comfortable with its strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is that you should learn from each loss – what did I do wrong? Was my opponent just better or did he have a build that counters mine? Did he outlast me, or did he just burst me down? Do I have trouble dealing with conditions of crowd control? How can I change my build or my mentality to avoid this sort of death in the future?

“Courage is grace under pressure.”

What I’ve found to be the biggest difference between experienced and fresh roamers is their ability to stay calm under fire, and it becomes apparent very quickly when you encounter someone which category they fall into.

When you’re just starting, it’s natural to find yourself hit by a surge of frantic energy (also known as panic) the first time you run into to someone who’s trying to kill you. This is especially true if you’re the one getting ambushed. You’ll immediately dodge, maybe double dodge, burn through your endurance or activate your defensive skills. I’ve seen a lot of warriors immediately go into their Endure Pain or Berserker’s Stance the moment I hit them with so much as a feather, and the moment I see that I usually realise that I have the upper hand in experience before we actually get the fight started.

Experienced players try to save their endurance, their stunbreaks and their blocks for specific moments. They try to anticipate their opponents’ specific moves and react accordingly. You’ll see them actually getting fairly low on health and not panic because they know exactly how much punishment they can take and they’ll certainly have recognised several aspects of their attacker’s build.

With this knowledge comes a certain confidence, and with that confidence comes a calmer approach to combat. The calmness is what wins them their fights as it means they can approach each battle from a more serene, analytical angle rather than the emotional burst that newer players will have.

The keyword of all of this is experience, so don’t be discouraged. Take your time, experiment with your build, find something you find comfortable with and practice with it till every part of running with it feels natural. In time, you’ll be just as experienced as the players who were mopping the floor with you and you’ll be able to give as good as you get. It may sound like a somewhat culturally insensitive (and potentially racist in a sort of post-colonial way) mistranslation of something out of some ancient Chinese texts, but strive for serenity.

Someone comes at you with an axe, intent on cleaving your skull open? Take a breath, keep your cool, realise that your mind actually works a lot faster than you think it does and try and cleave their skull open right back.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

There is always more to learn. In my experience the only truly stupid people are those who are convinced that they know everything in any given field, and that applies to WvW as much as it does to any other aspect of life.

This one’s fairly simple: be open to the ideas of other people. Be willing to listen to someone who might have a differing opinion about the effectiveness of a skill, trait or tactic. Someone else might have done the math and could tell you, factually, that skill A is better with Trait B than with Trait C. Someone else might have tried something similar to your latest idea before, and they might be able to offer advice concerning what they found to be its strengths or weaknesses. Look up build guides, ask for suggestions, listen to what people are randomly talking about in map chat concerning skills and traits.

Somewhat tangentially, remember that it’s just as important to listen to yourself. Sure, look up a build by Shinryuku or Helseth (or ask me!) but don’t forget that one who’s going to running the build is you. If you’re not comfortable with a certain set of skills, or you want to change something to make it work better for your particular play style then go ahead and do it. This is a game, and we’re here to enjoy ourselves. Enjoyment comes first.

“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

It’s simple: don’t give up.

You will die. You will lose fights. You will find yourself in situations where you are simply outclassed – whether it’s a question of numbers, a build that directly counters yours, an ambush or any of those other battlefield situations that you can’t control. It’s going to happen at every stage of your roaming career, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve become a seasoned veteran, there will be times that you lose.

The most important thing to do when it happens is not to give up. If you’re getting too frustrated with that Gold General engineer from the green server that routinely murders you every time you run into him, maybe take a break from roaming for a bit, or switch to a different borderlands, but don’t give up.

The very best players have tasted that frustration, and while I don’t rank myself amongst them, I have definitely tasted it. It’s not a fun feeling, but the important thing is to keep at it. The more you play, the better you’ll become and the less you’ll experience that feeling.

No-one starts out great, and all those players that seem to kill you with impunity? They were once right where you are now.

“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”

And with the aforementioned line that Hemingway penned in April of 1936 for Esquire, I’ll end this overly wordy and by now far too long tirade.

Solo roaming is an acquired taste. For those who love it, it can be the most fun that Guild Wars 2 has to offer. The excitement of knowing you’re taking part in a larger conflict and actually making an impact, watching the PPT rise directly due to your action. The thrill when you see an enemy roamer and rush to engage them. That rush when you win a hard fought battle. People like us want the fights. We want to run into people that want to kill us, and we want to try and kill them right back.

That being said, it is not for everyone and don’t let anyone put you down if it’s not your cup of tea. Some (though not all or even most) roamers fall into the trap of feeling superior to PvE players or even other WvWers, and this is understandable in a sense: solo roamers take significant risks and put themselves in very dangerous situations, but that should be because we love it just as you might love some other aspect of the game.

In that same vein, don’t let more experienced roamers put you down if you’re starting or if you’re trying a new build or play style. Experiment, learn, and if you’re still having fun, keep at it.

Well, that concludes this rather precipitously penned prolix piece of prose. Solo roaming can be an intensely exciting business, full of thrills and memorable encounters that never play out the same way twice. It can be frustrating, it can be tedious and it will certainly be difficult at times, but for those of you who’ve a taste for it? You know it’s all worth it for those moments of elation.

Roaming is one of my greatest pleasures in Guild Wars 2, and I’ll almost certainly be revisiting the topic again in the future here (perhaps in a similarly wordy fashion). There are more Hemingway quotes, after all. Future articles may concern more in depth technical thoughts on solo roaming, my philosophy behind it, personal experiences, duo or team roaming, psychological warfare in WvW, and other such things. If any of that interests you, watch this space!

If you’ve read this far, I’m both impressed and appreciative; leave a comment and let me know what kind of a monster I am.

Good hunting,


2 thoughts on “The Hunting of Man: What Hemingway Has to Say About Roaming

  1. You succedeed in 4 things:

    1. Want to read E. Hemingway
    2. One-breath read through a long article which, at first, frankly thought “this will be boring”
    3. Consider roaming in WvW again – an escapade I’ve long given up upon
    4. Anxiously await for your next article!

    Thank you on all 4 accounts. A warm welcome to our family!

  2. Varr approached me a couple of days ago saying: “You may not like the idea for my first article. I want to write about Hemingway and Guild Wars 2. Wait for it, it’s going to make sense!”

    Of course I’m never against any creative ideas, but reading through his post today heh… I’ve got to say that it’s brilliant!

    Great job you. Will be really looking forward to your entries from here on after.

    Welcome to the Dragon Season family!

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