Not so long ago, I had a discussion with Scott from pumpingirony.net in the comments of this blog about farming Zaishen Keys (z-keys) in Guild Wars. Traditionally z-keys are obtained by trading in Balthazar faction earned through PvP. They are used to open the Zaishen Chest and advance your Zaishen title rank. The z-keys aren't cheap and in most cases one z-key will cost you up to and over an hour's worth of PvPing (depends on how many wins you have). Naturally there is a second method of obtaining z-keys, which requires no PvPing. You can purchase a z-key with gold from another player (who most likely earned it through PvPing). So in theory, if you can earn gold in PvE faster than Balthazar faction in PvP, then wouldn't the wisest course of action be to buy the z-keys with gold? After all, nobody cares how you got the z-key and it would save precious gaming time...
Scott and I both had differing opinions on the issue. Scott's comment was:
"I know it doesn't matter to anyone else, but how I get the z-keys (or anything in any game) matters very much to me. I am a firm believer in earning everything legitimately, so I don't mind (well, I mind grinding but whatever) putting in the time so I feel better about it."
Since we weren't breaking any game rules or hurting anyone else, my opinion was to simply buy the z-keys if it was the easiest option. I don't think there is a right answer in this particular scenario, but if Scott wanted to be efficient it would have meant breaking his own code of honor.
I'm sure all MMORPG players have been faced with an efficiency versus honor scenario, as exploits are everywhere in online games. If everyone chose the honorable path when faced with such decisions, I think the MMO gaming world would be a lot more equitable and enjoyable to play in. Since this is never going to happen, I'm inclined to lean toward the path of efficiency if it means reducing the grind. Just as long as no other player's online experience is ruined as a result.
In answer to the question, no I don't think it is efficient to be honorable, but only the player can decide the best course of action when faced with such a scenario.