-by Niami DenMother
Buying resources that other people have gathered from the broker is oftentimes "convenient", but it can rapidly become expensive. So, if you're not an independently wealthy crafter, I strongly recommend learning how to harvest your own resources. Thankfully, it's pretty easy, once you get the hang of it.
When you arrive in Norrath, you're given several skills that automagically drop into your Knowledge book ('K'). Among these are abilities such as mining, trapping, foresting, fishing and gathering. If you're the sort of person that gets flustered by having multiple hotkey banks open, you can ignore all the pretty little hotkey buttons for them ... The Hand knows what to do. (For those who prefer less mousing and more hotbuttons, there are a few quick tips down at the bottom of this article.)
Before we get too deeply into how and where to harvest, let's set up a few basic terms. A "node" means a harvestable clump of resources. When a "Tier" is mentioned, it's referring to the level range of the resources and/or region: Tier 1 is level 1-9, Tier 2 is level 10-19, Tier 3 is level 20-29, Tier 4 is level 30-39, and so on in groups of 10 (except for T10, which is 90-95 and T11, which is 96-100). "Ore" means weapon/armor grade metal as well as loams for the alchemists, while "stone" nodes carry the jewelcraft "soft" metals and gemstones. A "den" holds animal products (hides and meats), "wood" holds organic structural materials, "roots" hold the fiber-type roots, and "shrubs" and "gardens" hold the food-type goodies. "Fish" carry, well, fishies, if you hadn't already figured that out!
So, you're in your home city's newbie area and you find this clump of "roots" on the ground. When your mouse cursor floats over it, you find that your cursor turns into a hand icon. This is an in-game sign that there's something you can do to this lump of stuff on the ground. Mind you, The Hand also wakes up if there's a quest ground spawn (shows as a "?" on the ground) as well as other items that can be right-clicked, such as quest triggers, but if it's on the ground, the name above it sounds tradeskill-ish, and The Hand appears, it's generally a good bet that it's a tradeskill harvest.
Edge up close to it (there's only so far those arms of yours can reach when grabbing stuff, after all!), and take a quick look around for people staring at the node and for critters wandering past. If you see someone appear to be staring directly down at the node, it's likely that they are already harvesting that node, and a courteous harvester like yourself would just move on to another node and leave them to it. The critter check is two-fold: checking for aggros (creatures with their names outlined in red attack once in-range) and checking for unsuspecting beasties peacefully meandering in front of you just as you let fly with those harvesting tools of destruction. Whoops! Your hatchet slipped while you were going for that wood and boy is that bear angry! (Translation: double-clicking just as a creature walks between your cursor and the node makes you attack the creature instead of harvesting the node. This generally tends to be painful to either you, or the creature.)
Once you're sure the coast is clear, put The Hand to work. Generally, a double click on the resource node will get you trying to harvest a resource from the node, with a progress bar at the bottom of your screen quickly filling before it tells you what you managed to harvest. (You can also right-click and select Harvest if you so desire, especially if you're worried about a nearby roaming Bambi straying into your path.) Sometimes you'll come up with a whole lot of nothing, other times you'll manage to snag a useful tradeskill resource. If you're extremely lucky, you might even stumble upon a rare harvest. (More on that below.)
Nodes give 3 harvests per node. Sometimes, however, you might find yourself with only one harvested item because someone got lazy and didn't fully harvest the node, or because you're harvesting something at the same time someone else is trying to grab the same node. Once in a while, you'll also come up to a node and try to harvest it just as it decides it is too old and despawns.
It's really, really, really a "good thing" to not just skim a single harvest off a node, but to continue harvesting until the node disappears. Once a node has been fully harvested, in a certain amount of time a fresh node will spawn in a random spot in the same general area. If you leave behind anything in the node, not only does the person who next finds the node not get a full harvest, but it can't respawn until someone does. Besides, there's a slim chance that the piece you're leaving behind could be a rare, so if you're going to scrounge anyway, you might as well increase your chances of getting something more valuable/exotic.
If you're sharing the area with other harvesters, you might want to dive for your preferred nodes on your first run-through of the area, BUT after that, if you find you're all diving for the same resources, do go back and clear up what you're all apparently considering "junk". This way, you give the other folks a chance at the nodes that you don't want, on your first run through, but clean up the unwanted stuff after, so that there's a better chance for the "good stuff" to spawn. (Besides which, you may find that some of that stuff you thought was unwanted is worth money to some other player.)
Each area in the lower tiers has a set number of harvestable nodes that can be active at a time (and the area can be either the entire zone, or some portion of the zone, depending on the region). This means that if you and everyone else harvesting are ignoring certain types of harvestables (such as gardens), eventually the area will clutter up with mostly the ignored stuff, and leave the "good" stuff crowded out and rarer than hen's teeth. Clear out the cluttered junk and you've got a better chance of getting what you need/want. This only partially holds true for the upper tiers, where certain types of nodes only spawn in certain areas, based on the terrain type in the area.
Rares are rare. That should go without saying, but folks tend to get antsy when they've completed what seems like hundreds of harvests and not seen one, so it bears repeating a time or five.
Rare components, along with rare dropped books that contain all the rare recipes allow you to make uncommon single-user (except furniture) items. While the best-known of these are the expert scrolls, there are also armor, weapon, jewelry and furniture sets that can be made from the rares. In many cases, the items made are attuneable. This means that they must be worn and attuned before you gain the benefits from them. Of course, once the item is attuned to you, it responds only to you and becomes no-trade. Additionally, the materials used for imbued gear is also considered a rare harvest.
You WILL find yourself spoiled when harvesting tier 1 and tier 2 nodes, and amazed at how many rares you find. Don't expect that trend to continue as much into the upper tiers. The lower tiers intentionally have a higher rate of rare harvests.
Further details on nodes and resources can be found on The Node Knows page.
For a humorous look at Mum's early days of harvesting, check out the first installment of Diary of a Compulsive Harvester