Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wow. What happened?

Ding, I say. DING!

I started off the evening with Aeven in Ironforge. A nice, relaxing evening... a little dinner, a little shopping. You know, trying to stay fashionable. All the really hip Dwarven death dealers are packing a Morning Star with Crusader on it these days, after all! Sigh. Aeven's just a slave to fashion, I guess.

I decided that I really wanted to get Aeven Dual Talent Specialization so she can go retribution spec for leveling. Aeven's got the gold to drop on dual specs, but that would leave her with only a few hundred gold in the bank, and I'd rather keep that buffer large in anticipation of future expenses. So - that called for her to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty mining radioactive glowing ores and ripping the skin off of dead critters. Mmmmm, radioactive blood. What's not to love?

So, last night, I really just intended to take some time and run around Un'goro mining and skinning. Believe it or not, that's just what I did. Almost 20 stacks of thorium ore and nearly as many stacks of dense stone, gems, leather and hides are up on the AH now, waiting for eager buyers. Come on, sing with me - you know the tune: "Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold..." The best part about the gathering was the skinning - there were a few non-skinner folks slaughtering their way through the dino and gorilla mobs, giving Aeven the chance to pick up stacks of skins without even having to try very hard.

Oddly enough, though, even without doing to much grinding, Aeven managed to pick up 120k experience, and another level. Sure, each mob was worth 300-400 XP, but she didn't kill anywhere near the 300+ mobs it would have taken to level. Oh, she completed a quest here and there, and stopped to turn them in when she had the opportunity. When all was said and done, though, the focus of the evening was gathering. The XP and new level were just a nice bonus at the end of it all.

Right now, I'm thinking that Aeven will spend the next couple of evenings in dungeons - there's the next wing of Marudon to do, along with Zul'Farrak, which is a tremendously fun instance to run. With more mining and skinning in between runs, I expect that the next couple of levels will come quickly.

After that, though, the next week may be kind of quiet. Sunday sees the start of Children's Week, and if my achievement-earning main wants her Violet Proto-Drake, she's going to have to get off her duff and visit the School of Hard Knocks... and fumbling around completely unknown PvP battlegrounds is going to require a bit of time and effort. So Aeven will be getting a short vacation. She'll probably spend it in Ironforge window0-shopping at the weapon shops. Got to keep up on those latest fashions, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fifty Levels


Aeven hit 50 in Un'goro last night. While the stat increases and the new levels of Consecration, Devotion Aura, Lay on Hands and Flash of Light were nice, the real benefit I saw was in gathering.

After about 90 minutes of running around the crater, killing dinosaurs, and slimes and gorillas and raptors and whatever else happened to cross her path, Aeven had managed to accumulate almost 10 stacks of thorium, a bag full of leather and hides, and more crystals than you can shake a stick at. In the process, she got her mining skill up to 310, and her skinning up to 317.

I've always looked at Un'goro as a bother... it's got a couple of interesting quests, sure, including the Linken quest chain. Which I'm going to have to do; my eldest daughter is currently enthralled with Legend of Zelda, and she'll appreciate my helping Link... er, Linken, find his boomerang and sword. But in terms of mining, it's always been heavily farmed, and killing 50 petrodax to find 8 wing webbings or whatever has always been annoying. When you're the only miner in the crater, though, and every critter killed means extra hides, then your view on the whole place changes. It used to be speed bump in leveling; now, I'm thinking that I'll hang out here for a while and maybe go slow, grinding a bit in between quests just to give myself the opportunity to linger a bit at the all-you-can gather mineral and leather buffet.

Other changes... that last talent point went into the protection tree, as well, bringing her up to a 30/11 prot/ret spec. Which means that next level, she'll be able to plunk down a talent point in prot and finally get Holy Shield. Courtesy of level 50, she's also got Holy Wrath now, which should be useful now that she's of a level to start thinking about heading into Felwood and the Plaguelands.

For now, though, it's a brief rest in Ironforge, a new mace to start using as a primary weapon, and then back to the crater to whomp on dinos and keep the cash rolling in. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MMO Magic

Just some random musings here. Aeven's stats:
  • Strength: 119
  • Agility: 50
  • Stamina: 89
  • Intellect: 57
  • Spirit: 61
  • Damage: 107 - 145
  • Melee Speed: 2.20
  • Melee Power: 389
  • Melee Hit Rating: 5
  • Melee Crit Chance: 7.52%
  • Melee Expertise: 0
  • Armor: 4448
  • Defense: 244
  • Dodge: 11.24%
  • Parry: 9.96%
  • Block: 4.96%
  • Resilience: 0
  • Spell Bonus Damage:0
  • Spell Bonus Healing: 0
  • Spell Hit Rating: 5
  • Spell Crit Chance: 5.72%
  • Spell Haste Rating: 0
  • Mana Regen: 17
  • Ranged Damage: N/A
  • Ranged Speed: N/A
  • Ranged Power: 64
  • Ranged Hit Rating: 5
  • Ranged Crit Chance: 5.16%
All in all, 28 stats - 30, if you take melee and ranged damage as a minimum and a maximum value. Throw in 19 slots for items, and assume every item can have some sort of enhancement - that's essentially 38 pieces of information there. Add in another 12 items (six glyphs each for two different specs allowed by dual talent specialization), and that's 50 pieces of information.

If you figure that each value is stored as a 16-bit value - two bytes - that's 50 * 2 = 100 bytes.

What about talents? There's a theoretical maximum of 99 talents for each class - theoretical, because as far as I know, no class has a completely packed talent tree. Let's further say that each talent can be represented, on average, by three ranks; some are actually 5 rank talents, some are 1 rank talents. I have no idea how Blizzard might handle this sort of thing, but I expect that they'd do so bit-packing to keep sizes reasonable. So let's estimate that all classes can have their talents be represented in 256 bits or less - 32 bytes. Allow for dual-talent specialization, and that's 64 bytes.

Class abilities, profession skills, racials... all pretty simple to represent as a string of bits. Let's be generous an imagine that characters can have up to 256 abilities for their class, and a similar number for each profession (two primary, three secondary). Figure on two bytes per ability, and that's 32 bytes * 5 = 160 bytes.

What about reputation? Same thing. Two bytes per reputation, and, say, 64 possible factions. That's another 128 bytes.

Stats (100 bytes) + talents (64 bytes) + abilities (160 bytes) + reputation (128 bytes) = 452 bytes.

What's left? Bag space. Bank space. Cash, emblems, honor, and other currency that gets tracked separately. Heck, let's allow for 768 bytes for bags and bank... that's enough to record almost 400 items and any possible enhancements. Throw in another 128 bytes for recording information about currency. Oh, and 32 bytes for a name.

452 bytes + 768 bytes + 128 bytes + 32 bytes = 1380 bytes. I'm probably being sloppy there - I'm sure there's a way to pack this information more effeciently - but I've also omitted things like mounts, non-combat pets, hunter pets, and the like. So let's almost double that size, and make it a nice even 2048 bytes to give us plenty of room for all that extra information.

This article, so far, clocks in at 2941 bytes.

Remember 3 1/2" floppy disks? They could hold 1.44 MB. That's enough space for 720 WoW characters, at 2K per pop.

Now, I'm guessing that Blizzard doesn't store characters as a string of bytes on disk, one character per file. With backups, maintaining game state, statistics tracking, and everything else that goes into WoW, I'm sure that a single character takes up more than a measly 2K. Add in the overhead for the state of the world, and the storage cost per character can probably get pretty hefty.

Still.... you could probably do it in less than 2K. Experience with the game says that the server is able to ship us data about other players pretty quickly, which implies pretty compactly. Just consider how quickly you get information on someone when you inspect them, for example.

2K. Less data than your average page in a novel. Less data than 99.9% of the pages you'll ever encounter on the world wide web. Barely enough to answer a final exam essay question decently.

Yet it's enough to bring a character to life, and give you hours of enjoyment as you wander through a virtual world.

Now, that's magical.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gold, Guts, and Glory

So... after a weekend's worth of activity, Aeven sits about halfway to level 50, and she's still going strong. She's finished off the Scarlet Monastery, run through the first wing of Marudon (purple stones) already, and will be queueing up for the other wings soon, with Zul'Farrak to follow soon after.

Getting to 50 was interesting. I never gave it much through, but while I was running around, I realized that there are a bunch of mid-40 quests in Tanaris, and a bunch of higher-level (50 or so) quests as well. In between, you get a couple of quests that will conveniently take you out to the Hinterlands, where there are more level-appropriate mobs for the late 40's. So by the time you're done with those quick quests, you're now high enough level to start tackling the more difficult chores when you return to Tanaris. Very nice.

On the way to 50, Aeven managed to max out her skinning skill, and pick up Master Of Anatomy (Rank 4). That's a +12 to her critical strike rating, yeah! She's plugging along with her other profession skills as well. Her mining skill was in the doldrums for a while, until she hit the Hinterlands (mithril and truesilver), and ventured into Un'goro (where she got to mine thorium... a lot of thorium), so now it's pushing 300 as well. First Aid and Cooking are both at Artisan levels, and dishing is... well. Let's just say that, more than half the time, she is able to correctly identify a fish as being a fish with only a few minutes of contemplation.

Now, ask her about deviant fishlike monsters, and you'll get an earful. As far as regular fish go, though, Aeven's pretty much convinced that they are somebody else's problem, thank you very much. Just make sure hers comes with an extra side of chips and she'll be happy.

I mentioned venturing into Un'goro, which turned out to be interesting. I ran around a bit, mined a bit, picked up the flight point, did a couple of quests... and, oh, yeah. I died.

A lot.

There are some nasty critters hanging out down there in the southwestern part of the crater. It was immensely fun, though, whomping on something until I noticed that hey... is he healing himself? He's back at full health! What kind of dinosaur heals... himself... oh. A level 55 dinosaur. Pardon me, a level 55 elite dinosaur. Of death. I'll... be running away now, then?

Aside from the whole death thing, it was nice. I've always liked Un'goro and it's Northrend twin, Sholazar Basin. Two wonderful areas, especially if you're a miner... and if you're a miner and a skinner, like Aeven is, then well. It's a veritable gold mine. Thorium mine. Whatever, it's money money money everywhere you look!

On top of that, I realized that the crystal widgets you can get in Un'goro by collecting crystals off the ground - things like the Crystal Charge - are all white items. Which means that Aeven can use them! I have a feeling that I'll spend a lot of time running around Un'goro to collect crystals. Which will be more than OK, because while I'm doing that, I'll be mining and skinning and generally just letting the money roll in.

Which is good, because I'm eventually going to need that cash. I just realized that, by using a sword, I've been forgoing the 5-point expertise bonus that Dwarves get for using maces. So I really need to sidegrade to a mace, and then pick up a crusader enchant for that weapon... not cheap. Fortunately, selling everything I've come across - and I mean just about everything I've come across, including that really sweet world drop of Pattern: Comfortable Leather Hat - has managed to net me close to 1500 gold.

Yep. She's well on her way to my epic flight training. Or maybe shelling out for dual spec to go prot/ret, and picking up that really sweet Glyph of Seal of Vengeance in another level or so. Her actual gold in hand is about 1200 or so. She's had some expenses, you know, getting things enchanted and buying her own armor instead of looting it fro the still-warm corpse of her enemies. Still, on the minus side: having to pay for your own armor and weapons. On the plus side: no stubborn ichor stains. Overall, it's a net win, I think.

Oh, and when I said I was selling just about everything? I meant "just about everything except the materials I've been holding back to eventually try and power-level engineering." If I had really been selling everything, and working hard to make the best profit (instead of just undercutting on the AH by 10-20% to get things to sell quickly), then I think I would probably have closer to 2K gold.

Next up: level 50... and beyond!

Tanking in Cataclysm

This piece by Dawn Moore over at was pretty interesting. One bit of her advice from the column, and in fact, pretty much the point of the column:

Step 1: Go to the auction house.
Step 2: Buy 150-175 item level gear.
Step 3: Queue for random dungeons.
Step 4: Learn how to heal again. (Alternatively: pull out your hair.)

One of my level 80 characters is a Dwarven priest - he's, well, my healing main? My main alt? My alt main? Whatever! He's fun to play, and I've had a blast learning to heal in instances. I got him up to speed and geared out by starting off doing heroic dungeons in quest reward greens, and using the LFD tool to run heroics over... and over... and over. So I started learning how to heal very much in the way that Ms. Moore suggested, with just enough oomph to make me think, plan, and actually learn how all my abilities work.

After reading this this morning, I realized that Aeven is teaching me how to tank for Cataclysm. We've already been told by Blizzard that they want to iron out the spiky boss damage, and make it so that being at less than fully health doesn't mean instant death.

That's pretty much the definition of old-world dungeons, isn't it? I mean, here I am, with my little Dwarven dealer in death and destruction, and she's spending a good part of her fights in instances at less than full health... but it doesn't really matter too much, because she can take a beating for a while before it's critical. Even with the armor and mitigation she's got now, chances are she's not going to be on the wrong end of a one-shot killing blow from an instance boss. I can spend less time worrying about my status and more worrying about the way the fight is going.

Especially since so many more old-world dungeon bosses come with adds. I mean, I know there are bosses with adds in WotLK, but it seems like every boss in the old world has a couple of flunkys to keep things interesting. Reacting to the fight to stun or snare or taunt back an add is a whole lot more fun than just waiting for the Big Bad to start using special ability A.

The more I think of the dungeon runs I've done with Aeven, the more I think "Yeah, this is what they want it to be like in Cata." Maybe a little bit harder (ok, ok - maybe a lot harder), but a lot more loose, a lot more chaotic. More situational choices and less "this is the strat, deviate from it and die." Something that's very different from the fights we've seen in WotLK.

I'm starting to think that I'm really going to enjoy Cataclysm when it comes out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Screeching Halt

That's pretty much how my play time ended last night.

Oh, I was having a good time - ran through Uldaman twice, with two different groups. Oddly enough, both times, someone commented on my gear, or lack thereof... the first time that that's ever happened, at all, ever, in a PuG or otherwise.

"Aeven? Why are you in grey gear?"

I was feeling a little bit nervous when I answered both queries... Well, one, I'm in white gear, thank you very much; and two, it may be white, but it is enchanted, at least. I think it's the last that got me the questions. I imagine it's one thing to see someone in "scrub" gear, another to see someone dressed out in vendor gear and sporting expensive enchantments.

Fortunately, in both cases, when I let the other folks in the group know that yes, this was intentional, they must have just shrugged their shoulders, because that was the only commentary I heard that night. No worries about whether or not I could tank, no concerns over dps, nothing, nada, zip. Well, a "lol gl with that" from one of the players in the second PuG. Just two pretty fun runs through an interesting dungeon.

Then, like I said, it all came to a screeching halt.

Not for any RL issues, thankfully - no sick kids, hurt pets, or anything like that. Not for any in-game issues, either. With a couple of notable exceptions, I think that just about everybody I've encountered in-game as part of a PuG or while questing has been, at worst, indifferent to the little Dwarven killing machine in their midst. I even got a couple of "thank you"s from random folks who were happy to find a female Dwarf during Nobelgarden for one of their achievements.

In fact, it was the game itself that stopped my progress. Specifically: it was the LFD tool.

So far, I've used the LFD tool to pick up all my dungeon-running groups. It's amazingly useful, and using it has meant that I've been able to avoid spamming "tank lfg deadmines pst" over and over in trade chat. All in all, it's been a wonderful tool.

Like all tools, though, it has it's limitations. Because I'm very reluctant to impose Aeven on a group in a place where she might be a liability, I've avoided using the LFD tool to run random dungeons; the sole exception there was "in the beginning", when RFC and Deadmines were the only things available to her. It's really not much of a "random dungeon" when your choices are Ragefire Chasm, Ragefire Chasm, and Ragefire Chasm, is it?

So instead of running randoms, I've been using the LFD tool to select the dungeons for Aeven to run. I've generally tried to make sure that I'm only queuing Aeven up for "green" dungeons - instances where she's at the top of the suggested level range. That way, even if she ends up in a group of higher-level characters, she'll still be able to tank, hold aggro and generally contribute.

Here's the problem: the LFD tool doesn't just impose a minimum level ("You must be at lease level 35 to enter this instance.") It also imposes a maximum level cap. That means that if, say, the maximum level for a dungeon is listed as 45, and you're level 46, then you simply can't use the LFD tool to collect a party from multiple servers and go go go. Instead, you're limited to players from your server, you have to find them yourself, and then you need to deal with the inevitable "Let me know when you have three others and I'll join" responses from folks who never bother to show up.

So, after the last Uldaman run, I was heading back to Ironforge to turn in a couple of quests when I noticed that Aeven was about 10K experience shy of making level 46. Wonderful! New skills! Another talent point! Another... wait... hold on...

Crud. The Scarlet Monastery - Cathedral has a max level of 45 in the LFD tool. If I turn in these quests, then it's goodbye quick group for SM:C, hello painful by-hand group assembly.

Yeah, yeah. I know. You used to have to do this all the time. In fact, back in Vanilla WoW, they would only let you group up for Deadmines if you were currently standing in a pile of snow, shivering and catching pneumonia while a rabid squirrel was gnawing off your nose. And you liked it. That was then, this is now, and I'd rather avoid the whole rabid squirrel thing if I can, ya know?

Why in the world did Blizzard do this? I've lost track of the number of times I've gone back to run a "low level" dungeon. You get involved with questing, and before you know it, you're level 47 and you've never gotten around to running Razorfen Downs. You'd really like to, if only because you have half a dozen quests that you want to finish off. Sure, they're green, but that's still a pretty good chunk of XP. Two days ago, you could have queued up for RFD and finished it off in under an hour. Now, it'll take you that long to just find a tank or a healer.

Now, imagine that the LFD interface could be adjusted to allow you to select any lower-level instance... but if you pick something outside of your level range, it starts adjusting the party composition. Here's how I think it could work. Let's consider the Amazing Dungeon of Doom (a very fast level 25-35 instance).

If you're in the "right" range for the dungeon, you get grouped with four other level 26-35 folks. This is essentially just how the LFD tool works now. If you're in the next level range (36-45), then you can queue up with other people in that level range... but you're only allowed to have 4 people in the party. The next level range after that (46-55) reduces the number of party members to 3. Random dungeons would always be "level appropriate", you'd just be able to select specific dungeons from a much larger list, and run them at a slight handicap.

I can't see going any further than that - if you really want to run dungeons 20 levels lower than you are, then you can hop on your magical sparkle pony and haul your own sorry butt out to Where The Wild Things Are. But for folks just a bit higher level than the dungeon's max level, it would help keep the LFD tool useful for a longer period of time.

So... LFD tool whining aside, I haven't run SM:C yet. I really want to get Aeven all the old-world dungeon achievements, if I can, so she can get the Classic Dungeonmaster meta-achievement. So rather than picking up that extra level, I called it a night and logged out immediately. Literally - Aeven was in mid-flight.

Tonight, or tomorrow evening, I'll log in and specifically queue up for SM:C, at which point Aeven will stand stock still, barely even daring to breath lest she accidentally do something that grants her experience... until such time as she find her group, and can jump back into the whole "hit things with a pointy chunk of metal" thing she does so well.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Halfway to level 45 and being able to actually, you know, wear plate armor, Aeven strolled into the remote outpost of Nijel's Point in Desolace. After a quick word with the quest givers there, she consulted her map, called forth her mighty charger and descended into the desert to give the forces of evil a good talking to. With a big, pointy chunk of metal.

After a few minutes, the rugged beauty of Desolace had seeped into my consciousness, prompting me to ponder several of life's fundamental questions. Things like, "For the love of all that is holy and pure and good in the world, what major mental malfunction made me think that questing in Desolace would be fun?"

Yeah. The landscape is barren. There are hordes of annoying and dangerous critters all over the place, just waiting to gnaw on your tender limbs. For fighting off lightning-breathing lizards, you get the reward of mining a copper node. Those parts of the desert that are uninhabited by face-gnawingly repulsive lizards and scorpids are the dwelling place of undead, demons, or - even worse, IMHO - centaurs that all seem to think that bathing is something that other people do. The starting quests in the zone? They almost literally take you to the four corners of the map, and we're not talking a small map, here, either. Even with a fast mount, it was a painful slog.

My visit did bring back some fond memories, though. A bit of further contemplation revealed that those fond memories were of leaving. Which I did, posthaste, swearing never again to return... unless, of course, if Blizzard decides to allow us to witness the Cataclysm upheavals in real time. If that ever happens, then I'll gladly return to Desolace, park Aeven up in Nijel's point, pop some popcorn, and spend an hour or two cackling madly and /lol'ing as I watch this cursed land get torn asunder.

Then, I'll send Deathwing a thank-you card.

I managed to reign in my quest-completion co-dependency enough to just pick up a handful of quests there.... not even enough to get Aeven to 45. A quick taxi ride to Tanaris found her in Gadgetzan, in the middle of an entirely different desolate wasteland. One that was similar to and yet so much better than Desolace. One spinkled liberally with goblins, each of which seemed to have a level appropriate chore for Aeven that - strangely enough - did not require traveling 10 minutes to accomplish. Take that, add in the cold hard cash to pay for services rendered, and you can see that in comparison to Desolace, Tanaris is like paradise... at least until the quests dry up.

Aeven reached 45 pretty quickly, and then it was a quick trip back to Ironforge to empty her bags, pickup some training, and... buy her first set of plate armor! More on that later, but I'll say this: with her new armor and spiffy new enchantments, I finally feel like she's a real tank. We'll just have to hit Uldaman, Marudon, and Zul'farrak to see if that's really true or not.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Addon Review

Light, light, light leveling last night. As in, "Got home at 10:30 PM completely worn out, logged in to check auctions and turn in a couple of quests, then headed for bed" light. Which is perfectly fine - that means I've still got a good ways to go before hitting level 52, so I can take some time tonight and have fun running dungeons.

When I started this blog, though, I committed myself to trying to do an update every week day, at least. Since "three bubbles on the XP bar" really isn't much of an update, though, I figured I'd talk about addons.

I played WoW for a good long while before I started messing about with addons... and for the longest time, there were only a couple that I installed. Those are still pretty important core addons for all my characters.

Lightheaded is a wonderful addon that gives you an extra pane in the quest log window... a pane full of information about the quest you are looking at. It includes information like where you need to go to turn in the quest, and comments (sometimes pages and pages of comments) from WoWHead about the quest. Strategys for soloing difficult mobs, locations to find the particular critters you need to kill, advice on what to skip and what to make sure you do - it's all there. While you can do a lot of quests without consulting Lightheaded, it's especially invaluable for those old-world quests that tell you "Find Prester John", without mentioning to you that he's a hermit living in a cave on the other continent. Good stuff.

Lightheaded works extremely well with TomTom, an addon for managing waypoints and world-map markers (which they should, since they were both written by a truly talented chap who goes by the nom de plume of Cladhaire). Give TomTom some coordinates - say, from clicking on them in a Lightheaded entry - and TomTom will plop down a lil' green dot on the map for you. It also allows you to pick what you're next point of interest is, and provides a waypoint arrow that you can use to determine direction/distance to that point. It's actually a lot more capable than that, but it's most basic functions are all I use, and I like it.

Gatherer, as you may expect from the name, helps you gather. Ore, herbs, chests, clams, whatever - if you can find it lying around, gatherer can help you track it. The WoWHead DB is an addon that lets Gatherer know about tons of nodes that WoWHead users have already found and tracked, and if you're in a guild, you can set up Gatherer to share information about new nodes you find with your guildmates. It also comes with a heads-up display that you can use to help guide you to the next most likely node of whatever type you're interested in. I hardly ever use the HUD, though - I just find it too visually distracting.

As time went on, I started trying out more and more addons. Some stuck, some didn't. Some are purely cosmetic or otherwise not a big influence on actual game play. For example, I think AchievementSnap (screenshot your achievement moments), AutoProfit (automatically sell all grey items at a vendor), and DagAssist (seldom used trade and class skill drop-down menu) are nice, but they're hardly essential, and they really don't change the way I play the game at all.

That said, there are a couple of addons that - IMHO - really get the job done. They either make playing the game a more enjoyable experience, or make understanding the game easier (which makes it easier to play well) . In no particular order, they are:

EveryQuest. This gives you the ability to see information about... wait for it... every quest in the game. Integrates with Lightheaded, so you can also see that treasure trove of information as well. Couple this with the ability to sync with your realm server and figure out what quests you've completed, and track quest completion, and this is an absolute must-have addon if you're going for the Loremaster achievement. Because otherwise, you're going to be wandering around all of Kalimdor, trying to figure out where that last quest you need is...

Auctionator. Makes using the auction house about 1000% easier, particularly for dumping loads of goods into the market, and finding the best deals on whatever materials you happen to need at the moment.

Deadly Boss Mods. Picked this one up when I was hitting Naxx semi-regularly with my guild. If you're going to be running any sort of dungeon or raid, this is an essential addon... not that it tells you anything you couldn't pick up otherwise, really; but because it puts that information right in front of your face, so you don't miss in in the hustle and bustle of whatever fight you're doing at the moment.

Skada is actually my second-generation damage meter. I originally used Recount, but when I started playing a disc priest, I wanted something that would do a better job of tracking damage absorption stats. Even better from my point of view, Skada lets me set it up to show one view while in combat (threat) and another view out of combat (overall dps). While I don't care too much about that on my priest, it's a nice to have that bit of utility for my mage, and absolutely wonderful to have when tanking with Aeven.

Perfect Raid. Along with it's related addons, this is my raid frame addon of choice. It's from that Cladhaire fellow I mentioned above, and as with Lightheaded and TomTom, Perfect Raid does a wonderful job (for me, at least). Easy to configure, it will actually work right out of the box for a lot of people. I use it primarily for party and raid healing on my priest, but it's been useful when tanking with Aeven as well.

Quartz is a "modular casting bar", which I am pretty sure is Latin for "amazingly awesome". Seriously, go read the desription of what it does - or, ever better, install it and see what it does. I first started using it to show how latency was affecting spell casting - high latency means that I can actually start casting before the current spell cast ends (and in some cases, well before the current spell cast ends). It lets me make sure that, mana and cooldowns permitting, I've always gone something in the pipe, ready to burn a firey path of destruction towards whoever has annoyed me most in the past few seconds.

SexyCooldown is similar, but not the same, which is probably a bit confusing until you actually see it in action. It gives you one bar, but man, that's a nice bar to have. It shows you, graphically, where your cooldowns are. Toss off a judgement? You'll see an icon appear on the bar, sliding from right to left. It will move more and more quickly as the cooldown finishes, with a nice big icon pulse at the end to let you know "Hey, you can use this ability again right now!" With a bunch of abilities, you can glance at the bar and see "Ok, I can toss of a judgment now, then Exorcism will be up in a second or two, and I'll be able to pop a potion in about 30 seconds." Absolutely wonderfully awesome.

Finally... I save the best for last, or at least, the most controversial. GearScore. Yes, I have it installed. No, I don't make a big deal about it. When I started healing LFD pugs, though, I found out pretty quickly that it was a useful tool for me as a healer. If I saw a tank with a 2k gearscore in a heroic, I'd know right away that I'd have to pay more attention to them. If I saw a mage with a 6K gearscore, I'd know that they would probably be holding back to keep from pulling aggro, and that hitting them with a power infusion would be a waste. On any character below level 80, though, it's pretty much useless. So I generally just ignore it on Aeven.

There's a few more, but those are the main ones. If I was really pushed - if for some reason, I needed to cut back on my plugins - I think I'd really have to keep SexyCooldown, Quartz, Skada, Lightheaded, TomTom, and Perfect Raid. Maybe not in that exact order, though, depending on which character I was most interested in playing at the moment.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

If you ever find yourself wondering why you're ferrying random materials from one continent to another when there's a perfectly functional mail system, or why a taxi will only take you to where you've been, or why the blasted quest giver is sending you back to the same area yet again to do something he forgot to tell you about the first time...

... the you really should read Shamus Young's "Lord Of the Rings Online" series over at the Escapist. Yeah, he's that Shamus Young [1].

"The snark is strong in this one..."

"You see, the four farthings brewing-moot is coming-," I miss the rest of his sentence because I can't hear him over the construction noise and the rhythmic thumping of me hitting my head against the bar. When I recover, he's asking me to get him some hops.

"Okay...," I say slowly, "So you want me to find a supplier and bring back some or...?"

"We use a special blend of hops. 'Frog Hops' we call it. It grows in the Marsh to the north."

"So basically you want me to invent agriculture for you?"

"What? No, I just want you to go and find some..."

"Yeah, see. That's your problem right there. If you're 'finding' crops, you're doing it wrong. A few thousand years ago somebody came up with the idea of planting stuff on purpose so you don't have to go wandering around in the wilds looking for what you need. I'm actually a farmer myself. Give me ten or twenty minutes and I'll grow you some."

Ponto gives me a dumbfounded look.

"The whole 'agriculture' idea seems to be working out pretty well so far," I assure him. "And it's guaranteed to be more effective than telling your customers about the horrible things you put in their drinks before asking them to fetch you more."

[1] As if there are a dozen online bloggers and game commentators with razor-sharp wit who also happen to be named Shamus Young, so you need help distinguishing them...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taxi! TAXI!

Last night, I finished running Aeven around Dustwallow Marsh, completing the various quest chains there and getting halfway to 45. Well, all the quest chains except for "... and Bugs." If Morgan Stern wants crab legs from half way across the world, he's going to have to pay the import tariffs at the Theramore docks, just like everyone else. I'll go to the Swamp Of Sorrows when I'm good and ready, thank you.

I understand that Dustwallow Marsh used to be kind of a barren area, but one of the patches added in a bunch of the quests that are sprinkled across the landscape now. For all the back and forth between Tabetha's Farm, Mudsprocket, and Theramore that Aeven did, I still enjoyed the quests here. When I finished up Brogg's quest chains, with Challenge to the Black Dragon Flight, he told me:

Brogg is grateful for your help, Aeven, and he will never forget what you have done for him. Brogg will never give up his quest to bring Stonemaul back where they belong.
Which made me wonder if we'll see more of Brogg and the Stonemaul once Cataclysm rolls around. After all, Deathwing is the leader of the Black Dragon flight, the dragon flight that is responsible for the destruction of the Stonemaul. I'd be tickled pink to have the chance to hook up with an older, more experienced, more cunning Brogg and maybe follow him and a group of Stonemaul survivors as they lead a raid into Deepholme.

Dustwallow also has the quest chain that leads up to Peace at Last, which is another favorite of mine (along with the Battle of Darrowshire in the Eastern Plaguelands). The Battle is more epic and lore-driven, but there's something about Peace that really touches me - especially Captain Vimes' consideration for the dead, asking, "You didn't tell them about James, did you?" If this is a tribute to Pratchett's Samuel Vimes, then they hit the nail on the head.

After Dustwallow, I really did put Aeven on the road to Desolace. Made it there, too - Summon Charger for the win! Picked up a bunch of flight points along the way, including a side trip to grab the one in Gadgetzan for the future. Which got me thinking... there's something just inherently wrong about using a taxi service that doesn't know where it's going.

"Hello, sir! Where can Azerothian Yellow Cab take you today?"

"Stormwind, please."

"Sure! Love to! We'll get right on it! Have you ever been there before, sir?"

"No, this is my first trip, and man, I'm excited!"

"Oh. I see. Well, I'd appreciate it if you would do something for me then."

"Sure - what's that?"

"Could you, you know, if it's not too much trouble, I mean... could you, um, run to Stormwind yourself, and then come back here? Then I'd be happy to take you there."


"See, I can't just, you know, take you to Stormwind. Unless you already know how to get there. See?"


"It's got something to do with quantum, I'm told... Archmage Malin was saying..."


"Sorry! Union rules."

Grrr. Forget the magical sparkle pony. I'd pay $25 to get a BoA tome titled "The Hitchhikers Guide to Azeroth" that simply let my characters learn all the flight points so they could avoid the idiocy of having to dodge hordes of... well, Horde... just to get from one major city to another.

I finished up the evening by getting Aeven a shiny new enchantment for her new sword - Enchant Weapon: Crusader. Yeah, I could have been sporting it all along, but it's a pricey enchant... now that she's got a weapon that will have to serve her for 16+ levels, though, it seems like it's worth the price. We'll take it for a test run tonight, we will. In Desolace!

Super Sparkle Pony Powers, ACTIVATE!

Well, no. Not yet, in any case. Though maybe in the future, if I win the drawing that Avalonna is running over at Tales of A Priest.

Frankly, I'm not all that interested in a celestial steed. No matter how sweet she looks, or how magical and special our adventures together through Azeroth might be... *sniff*. No, really, it's OK.

So, fot the two people who stumble across my blog and have never heard of ToAP: head on over, answer the questions, and try to win yourself a super sparkle pony.

Go on now! You know you want to.

Feeling Guildy

So, if you look at Aeven's armory link this morning, you'll notice something different: she's got information on her "Guild" tab now.

I've been a member of Council of Fate on Kirin Tor for a while now... more than a year, certainly. Ever since a couple of folks (Whisper and Elrock, IIRC - correct me if I'm wrong, folks!) helped my first character kill some giants in southern Winterspring. They are a truly wonderful bunch of folks, and over the past few weeks, I was really missing interacting with everyone in guild chat.

There's a couple of reasons why I didn't immediately get Aeven in as an alt on the guild rosters. Mostly, I'm an amazing slacker. I'd log in, see that there were a few folks on line and that they were all in Ulduar or something, and think, "Oh, I'll bug them later..." and forget to do so. Plus, there's the fact that I wasn't sure that Aeven would even turn out to be viable. I might hate playing a pally, or get disgusted with playing another Dwarf, or find out that leveling in venfor gear was just Too Stinking Hard and call the whole thing quits.

So, my getting Aeven into the guild is both (a) a refutation of my general slacker-ness, and (b) an acknowledgement that I like Aeven, and I'm going to stick with her as far as she can go. Oh, and (c), that I've got an awfully nice bunch of online WoW friends that I was missing quite a bit. I think it's that last one that really tipped the balance, though.

Leveling: took Aeven all the way up to the brink of 43 in Dustwallow Marsh, then over the top thanking the Scarlet Monastery Armory.

Yes, I know, I said I was heading for Desolace. I'll let you in on a secret: slacker I may be, but it's a defense mechanism. against being obsessive-complusive. As in, "I'm going to ride by that quest giver. I don't need that quest. I'm going to Desolace, uh-huh. No, don't look at me like that... I know you're having trouble with deserter agitators, I've been here before, but... would you stop looking at me like that? Sheesh! OK, OK, one quest. I'll do one quest for you. Oh, it's part of a chain? Man, don't cry, you know I won't just leave you hanging..."

And BAM! Before you know it, I'm running errands for Tabetha and finding unpopped spider eyes for the crazy old guy who lives in the swamp. It's like some sort of weird co-dependency relationship, really.

Anyways... running the Armory went well. I've decided that Blessing of Sanctuary is my new, special friend. Put that up, switch to Devotion Aura, make sure Righteous Fury is up, and Aeven's all set. Pull mob #1 using Hand of Reckoning, switch to mob #2 to lay down Judgement of Justice, pop Consecration, and start whacking on mob #3. Re-apply Consecration as needed, hit the other mobs with JoJ when it's available to keep them from rabbiting.

At that point, I think, I can pretty much just stand there and make rude gestures, and the mobs are going to stay on me. Well, no, not really, but I was holding them pretty consistently at 2k-3k threat. Aeven managed to do 161 dps overall, mostly thanks to trash mobs - her dps on Herod was much lower, but if I understand things correctly, that's more or less the way it should be. As long as the big bad nasty is trying to eat her face off, instead of smooshing the squishy dps, she's an adequate tank.

A nice, smooth, fast run... though I have to admit, I didn't check the gear in my party. Everyone else may have been horribly overgeared, and just good at managing their aggro, or a veteran of vanilla WoW running their 14th alt through SM:A. So, jury's still out, I think - either I'm turning into a decent tank, or I'm completely fail and just getting carried by good groups. I'm going to have to start paying more attention to party gear and see if I can't get a better indication of how Aeven's doing, overall.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Greased Lightning

So, yeah. Logged in, checked the AH, played for two hours and... Aeven's now level 42, and still hasn't even started packing her bags to head to Desolace. What happened?

The Badlands. Specifically, Lowtil Variatus.

Before heading to Desolace, I figured I should clear out my quest log. So, a quick trip to the Badlands, a run through the non-instance part of Uldaman, killing a few rock elementals, and so on really let me rack up the XP. The quest chains branching off from that that insane little gnome Lowtill are pretty good, too - with a little bit of preparation and a trip to the AH, I was able to bang out about 8-9 quests in the space of a minute or so. Add in killing an ambassador of Ragnaros, and that XP added up fast.

And here I was thinking that going from level 40 to level 45 would be a grindfest. I guess that this proves that Coolant Heads Prevail.

As a side note: no, I am not using any leveling guides or the like. I do use LightHeaded to help figure out more difficult quests, which is how I knew what to buy for the Coolant Heads quest chain - a nice helpful comment on wowhead detailed the items I'd need to have available to complete things quickly. Other than things like that, I'm just wandering from quest hub to quest hub, killing anything in my way and picking up whatever quest suits my fancy.

While poor little Aeven was running to and fro to complete all these quests, she picked up a Falchion when I was in Ironforge. Still haven't gotten it enchanted yet, but when I do, it will be her go-to weapon for quite a while. A Morning Star or Francisca would give slightly higher dps, but then she'd have to spend the time leveling 1H mace or 1H axe skill. It will have to last me until level 60, when she'll be able to switch over to an Ancient Bone Mace.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Study in Sleep

So, not a lot to report. Aeven's managed to claw out the last few XP she needed to make it to level 40, hurrah! So now she can wear plate, though as I've mentioned before, that's really going to take until level 45 to achieve. Bah.

It's getting to be time to run the last few wings in the Scarlet Monastery and look at Ulduman. In between, I think I'll take her over to quest in Desolace... I avoided that region while leveling my priest, but for some reason, it seems to the the kind of place that's appropriate for Aeven.

I had been hoping to pick up a couple of levels this weekend, but life got in the way. Yesterday evening, I found myself bedding down in an unusual situation for me: electrodes attached to various portions of my anatomy, wires running everywhere, and two - count 'em two - monitors of some sort stuffed up my nose.

Yep. I was in the hospital for a sleep apnea study. Apparently, my biological self is so made of fail that I may well need mechanical assistance in order to lie unconscious and do nothing.


Add in to that more than a little bit of fear. "Oh, this is just a simple test to see if, you know, you stop breathing in the middle of the night. When you'd otherwise be completely unaware of just how close to death you're coming. Nothing to worry about, eh?" The test itself? Pshaw. The possible implications? Just a little bit terrifying.

The geek in me was singularly pleased to see so many wires, random pieces of hardware, parallel port adapters and what not lying on the table next to my bed yesterday evening. Oddly enough, that was comforting - it reminded me of the spare room in our home, where the random pieces of electronic gear are different, but the overall quality of computer geekiness is the same. It helped, really it did. While the test itself was annoying, and ironically enough, exhausting - you try sleeping on your back in an unfamiliar room, when you really just want to roll over - it really wasn't much of anything.

What it did accomplish, though, was to leave me up at 6 AM this morning, feeling as if I hadn't really slept at all. So, that's two days down the drain - one evening of no WoW in the hospital, and a day of skipping church and trying to catch up on my sleep so I could actually function as something other than a low-budget zombie imitator.

So I've had two days characterized by not-so-wonderful followed by exhausted rest, a near crippling lack of caffeine, and a lack of time online. Hardly the way that I wanted to spend my weekend, but there you have it. With a little luck, though, this evening will be a chance to relax, and perhaps make a bit more progress with Aeven.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Oooooh, shiny...

No, not new loot, though loot is involved... specifically, this blog post from Quinafoi via TankSpot: how to write a macro for loot iteration.

Yes, I'm a geek. Having someone walk you through the steps of creating a macro? Cool! I did something similar (but not WoW related) earlier today. I've also been telling myself for a while that I really need to buckle down and spend some time learning Lua so I can do Neat Things with the WoW API. I realize that this doesn't apply to everybody, but it's definitely another aspect of the game that I could enjoy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thirty-nine? That and a gold will get you a respec.

Poilished off a few quests in Arathi over the last few days, and ding! - Aeven's level 39 now. I'm starting to notice a change in the mobs she's dealing with, too. It seems like she's missing more, especially against same-level or higher mobs. They're generally tougher to take down, even if they're a level or two below her. Overall, though, she's still one tough little lady. Handling three level 40+ normal mobs is just about beyond her, but just barely. So the questing is proceeding well.

With level 39, I decided to finally bite the bullet and repec Aeven to be primarily 19/11 prot/ret. This allows her to keep +5% parry from Deflection, attack power from Improved Blessing of Might and added damage from the Seal of Command, all from the protection talent tree. Now, though, she also gets Divine Strength (+15% strength), Anticipation (+5% dodge), Improved Righteous Fury (-6% damage), Toughness, and Improved Devotion Aura from the protection tree.

We'll see how the shift in talents affects her leveling. Not much, I'd wager - she'll be harder to kill, sure, but there's a slight reduction in her damage as well, so mobs will have a longer time to try and kill her. We'll just have to see how that all pans out.

Long term plans: hit 40, get a faster mount. Hit 41, start queuing up for the two wings of the Scarlet Monastery that she hasn't seen yet. Hit 43 or so, and start thinking about venturing into Ulduman.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Short Update

Aeven is now level 37, and more than halfway on her way to level 38. The big Four Oh is just around the corner! She's managed to tank Razorfen Downs and the Graveyard and Library wings of the Scarlet Monastery without complaint, though I'll mention that having an insanely geared max-level-for-the-instance shaman running SM Library with you is an interesting experience.

Gear is static: still sporting the augmented chain armor, as I will for another 7 1/2 levels. Bleah. On the plus side, I seem to be doing a decent job of tanking - I'm think I've mastered "Keeping Aggro (101)", and graduated to "Regaining Aggro When The Mage Starts Setting Things On Fire (102)". I'm still a pretty horrible fail at using Righteous Defense, though. I really need to find a decent macro for it, so I can make it part of Aeven's tanking repertoire instead of an "Oh, yeah - I could have used RD there... crud" ability.

In terms of talents, I've been putting points into the protection tree for the last dozen levels or so. I think that when Aeven hits level 40, I'll go ahead and pay for a respec and re-allocate her talent points to be a more solid prot spect instead of a prot/ret hybrid. Or... Hmm. I've got a bunch of materials I've been stockpiling, thanks to mining and skinning, with an eye towards power leveling engineering at some point. There's probably a good bit of gold in them there bank tabs. Enough to pay for a dual spec so she can go prot/ret? Probably not, but it worth it to check, at least. Going prot for dungeons and ret for questing seems like it would be the best of both worlds.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

As a noob tank myself...

... I really appreciated this post from Rhii over at I Sheep Things. She pretty much sums up why it can be distracting to have someone else pulling aggro when you're a new tank trying to learn the ropes.

Welcome to Early Middle Age

Aeven's mid-level now; at level 35, she's almost half way to the level cap. Picked up a Glyph of Seal of Command as Aeven's second major glyph, which seems to have helped with maintaining mana - while fighting regular mobs in one or twos, the glyph plus using Judgement of Wisdom seems to help her keep her mana topped off.

On the way to 35, she finished off some of the longer quest chains, including The Missing Diplomat and the Morbent Fel chain in Duskwood. Fortunately, Morbent's Bane - which is required for completing that quest chain - is a white off-hand item, so Aeven could use it. There may be other quests in the future that will require using uncommon items to complete, though. We'll see what's across that bridge when we come to it; I don't expect the requirements to use uncommon items to complete quests will ever lead to Aeven having to grind mobs to level.

One XP source that I've avoided so far has been PvP battlegrounds. Quite frankly, I stink at PvP. I enjoy getting into the tussle in Wintergrasp, but that's been a one in a blue moon kind of diversion for my level 80's, so I've never really had an incentive to learn how to handle myself in PvP. Now, I find myself thinking, "Gee... you know, Aeven really isn't as, oh, squishy as my mage and my priest. Maybe hopping into a battleground or two wouldn't be so bad..."

So, there's a possibility of some righteous Horde smiting in my future. Probably a bad idea for a character leveling without any item bonuses, but who knows? Maybe I'll try and squeeze a battleground in sometime between hitting up Razorfen Downs and the Scarlet Monestary.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Home Base Reset

As I mentioned in the previous post, things are getting a might bit hectic, with a lot of running to and fro. Right now, Aeven has quests sitting in her log that will take her to Duskwood, Dun Morogh, Ironforge, Loch Modan, Stormwind, Westfall, Silverpine Forest, and the Wetlands. There would be more, except that she's knocked off a couple that took her to Dustwallow Marsh and Darnassus.

That's a lot of running around; and, in all likelyhood, it's just going to get worse. the Dustwallow Marsh quests she picked up are an indication of the cross-continental challenges that are looming in her little Dwarven future.

With that in mind, Aeven bid a fond and tearful farewell to her home base in Ironforge, found a friendly mage, coughed up a few gold, and then said hello to her new hearthstone home in the floating city of Dalaran.

A home base in Dalaran has a lot of advantages. At this level, it's primarily good access to profession trainers, and instant portals to most old world cities (as well as, eventualy, Shattrath). With a little planning, I can hearth to Dalaran, catch a portal to wherever, and complete a couple of quests just in time to be able to hearth back to Dal and do it all over again.

Despite the new hearthstone location, though, my heart's still in Ironforge. It's the home base for all my characters, Dwarf, Human, or otherwise. If I could bring my Tauren to Ironforge, I would. There's something about the city that really just appeals to me. If there was one thing I could wish for in Cataclysm, it would be major city portals in Ironforge, so that I could make it my adopted home once and for all.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Well, talk about disappointment.

Since I'm level 32 now, I can upgrade to augmented chain armor. If you follow the link to wowhead, you can see that these are level 37 items. Which should mean that an enchantment like Enchant Bracer - Assault should be usable on them, because the enchantment "Requires a level 35 or higher item."

Except that it doesn't work. Attempting to use a scroll, at least, results in an error message that tells me "Target is too low level."

Some comments I've come across online seem to indicate that in some cases "Requires a level X or higher item" actually means "Requires an item that you have to be level X to equip." If that's the case here, I'm going to have to stick with lower-level enchants for the next 13 levels or so.

Addendum: on the plus side of things... after gearing her up in the augmented chain armor, I really like the way it looks. There's a definite "space marine" vibe going on there.

My Favorite (or not) Quest Chains

The past couple of days, I've been concentrating on questing, pushing for level 32. During that time, I've managed to entwine myself in some of the most annoying quest chains in the early portion of the game. If you've ever played Alliance, you'll know what I'm talking about.

The Duskwood quest chains leading to Morbent Fel and Bride of the Embalmer.

Having done these a couple of times before, I have to say that doing them all at the same time was actually quite interesting. What each of these quests has in common is the fact that, no matter what the objective of any particular part of the quest chain might be, it always happens to be somewhere else.

Which wouldn't be annoying, except that it's almost never "somewhere else" as in "a nearby wood" or "that lake over there". Instead, it's "somewhere else" as in "I want you to saddle up and ride for me, Dwarf girl! Haul your butt over to Stormwind! Now to Goldshire! Now go to Westfall! Back to Duskwood! Cross the map, I say! Again! And AGAIN! DANCE FOR ME! DANCE! BWA-HA-HA-HA!"


As I said, doing all those quest lines together was actually kind of fun. If I was heading to Stormwind to talk to some random cheese monger who happened to be an retired SI:7 agent or something, well, there were a couple of other people in the area I could pester. Keeping my quest logs full meant that even though I was running around the southern part of the Eastern Kingdoms like a spastic bike messenger, I still managed to get things done.

I find myself looking at these quests, though, and feeling a bit of trepidation about the future. These quests don't just stay local, you know. They grow. In a few levels, I'm going to find myself running back and forth across entire continents, doing these laundry quests.

You know the type I'm talking about.

"Oh noble paladin! I am archmage Grandlooser. The very foundation of Azeroth is in jeopardy! Even as we speak, a fel host musters itself on the very borders of reality, ready to snuff out all life on this feeble sphere!"

"Wow! Just... wow! How can I assist you in this time of peril, Mr. Archmage sir?"

"While I'm dealing with that, do you think you could cross the world and find my lucky socks for me?"

/me blinks

"They're very lucky, you see. Oh, and they were stolen by a pair of diabolical ogres who hid them within horrible magical protections."


"You'll have to talk to Mekgineer Foozle to start a hideously long quest chain about building a Fuzz-o-matic Sock Relocator to help you find my socks. He'll send you off to the most desperately remote locations in the world, and have you collect unbelievably exotic components - one at a time, mind you, one at a time, can't have you getting ahead of him, now - and then..."

/me backs away slowly

"... you'll be able to conduct the Ritual of the Socks, assuming you can find 39 other people who are willing to go with you into an old world 40-man raid instance that's about as exciting as tapioca pudding these days... I say, Willikins, would you look at how eager she is to get started! Why, she's leapt out of the blocks like a wildebeast! Forgot to accept the quest, though... I SAY! COME BACK! YOU FORGOT THE QUEST! Kids these days, Willikins... all enthusiasm, no attention to detail."


Anywho. All that running around and random "talk to this guy, deliver that letter" experience added up, so I was just shy of level 32 when I realized that if I was going to use the LFD tool to hit Razorfen Kraul, I'd better do it soon. Picked up a really good group, including a wonderful healer (Tussen - Blackhand; if you queue with her, you're in good hands) who was able to direct us through the instance. Which was good, because as with so many other old-world instances, I ran it once, long ago, and have since forgotten how to make my way through it.

Dinged 32 soon after entering the instance, which was a nice little bonus. Now that she's level 32, though, it's time to see about upgrading Aeven's gear again. I'm optimistic about the push to level 40, now. Questing has turned out to be easier than I anticipated, even without gear. I suspect that, at least for old world content, leveling and dungeons will remain doable until I hit the highest tier of challenges.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

State of the Dwarf Address

Spent more time questing instead of running dungeons yesterday, ending up halfway to level 29. The pace of questing is nice and relaxing, compared to the frantic nature of a dungeon. I've managed to get Aeven's skinning skill up to Artisan level, and her mining high enough to smelt iron as well. It's tough to work on leveling random skills (like first aid and cooking) when you're busy making your way through a dungeon.

The more sedate pace of questing has also allowed me to pay more attention to managing my buffs and talents. While leveling other characters, buffs have been nice-to-have sort of things for me... oh, I've lost Inner Fire? When did that happen? Sheesh, I didn't even notice that Arcane Intellect had expired... better renew that in a bit. Right after this mob. Or the maybe the next. Buff food? Meh, why bother. These are just regular mobs. Maybe to clear out bag space if I have to.

With Aeven, I notice when her buffs dissipate. The difference between her, buffed and not, is the difference between a shivering, snarling, white hot ball of Dwarven terror and... well, a wet noodle. She typically runs around with a +4 spirit/+4 stam food buff for questing (courtesy of a stack of Boiled Clams), Blessing of Might in place (+55 attack power), and a combination of an Elixir of Lion's Strength (+4 str) and a Weak Troll's Blood Elixir (+2 health/5 seconds) along with a Lesser Wizard's Oil (+16 spell power) applied to her weapon. That's a lot of +whatevers to let expire, and when it does, hoo boy, it shows quickly.

Add in whatever buffs she may happen to pick up from passing druids, priests, mages, and the like, and she does well. Let those buffs fall off, though, and it's immediately noticeable. Same-level mobs that were going down in 3-4 swings are now taking twice as long to kill. Taking on groups of 3-4 mobs now requires popping a mana potion or a health potion, or even for her to Lay on Hands.

As a result, I'm becoming more aware of the need to manage my buffs. I'm also becoming more aware of the need to allocate talent points and train at the earliest opportunities (like, immediately!) That +3% to strength from adding a point into Divine Strength? Essential - give me that ASAP. A new rank of Flash of Light? Pile it on! Woohoo! Hey, where'd my food buff go? Stop and eat, and review and refresh any other buffs that are getting long in the tooth before she picks up and heads on to the next Dark Iron Dwarf or Dragonmaw Orc or whatever the current kill du jour is.

Long term, will this make me a better player? I don't know. A more efficient player, certainly. In the meantime, it's pretty obvious that the buffs Aeven has available to her are really helping her to compensate for her lack of +stat gear, at least in the leveling game.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Light Leveling

Spent yesterday evening laying pipe for a french drain and filling in the ditch thereof... and then, for a followup, helped move a six and a half ton entertainment center.

Well, it felt like six and a half tons. Especially after dealing with the ditch...

In any case, by the time the kids were in bed and I was able to log in for some play time, I really didn't feel up to running a random dungeon. Aeven is only a few levels past the minimum for Razorfen Kraul, anyways, which is an annoying instance to begin with, and the only other instance she's eligible for in the LFD tool - and that she hasn't done - is Gnomeregan.

Yeah, I think I'd like to be a bit better prepared (or at least, more awake) before tackling those two.

So I took her to the Redridge Mountains and spent some time polishing off enough quests to pick up another level or so. Which honestly surprised me. Aeven's a little higher level than expected for the zone, but most of the quests were either green or yellow, so should have been appropriate for her, right? Despite that, though, none of the quests really posed much of a challenge, except for Lieutenant Fangore, and that was because he managed to pull an entire pack of gnolls along with him.

Gath'ilzog? No problem - teamed up with a warlock to take him and his pet whelp down. Tharil'zun? Again, no problem - soloed him, in fact. In fact, I find myself taking on enemies that I actively went out of my way to avoid while leveling other characters.

Part of that, I think, can be attributed to my own experience. Yes, this is my first pally, and my first tank, but I've played two other characters all the way to 80 and beyond, so I've got a lot more experience this time around. Another part of it can be attributed to playing a class that's actually intended to be able to stand in one spot and soak up damage. I'll be honest, that's something that's extremely refreshing. Ha! I laugh at your pitiful attacks!

I think a lot of people would look at the situation, though, and say "Meh, look how badly Blizz has nerfed leveling! It's too easy!" I'd be tempted to say that as well, except... I started playing a year and a half ago. So while I missed playing in vanilla WoW, I did get a taste for what leveling was like in BC before Wrath came out.

While I generally prefer playing casters, there was a point early on where I gave different classes a try. As a result, I rolled a Dwarven warrior because I wanted to see both what the Dwarven starting area was like, and what playing a warrior was like.

You know what? I remember that it didn't really appeal to me, for whatever reason - the rage mechanics, the lack of interesting abilities, the stances. Whatever it was, the warrior class just didn't tickle my fancy the way that mage, priest, and now pally have. What I do distinctly remember is saying something much like, "Wow... leveling as a warrior is so easy! I'm creaming these guys that turned me into toast before! Look at me not dying! Ha! I laugh at your pitiful attacks!"

So... leveling too easy? Nah. Not really. It's just the way the game is made, and I, for one, am pretty darn happy that my little Dwarven lady can laugh in the face of her enemies, the way that a real hero should.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Episode 14, In Which I Begin to Understand

Ran Shadowfang Keep last night, as part of my desire to let Aeven see as many old-world dungeons as she can handle. She put out a very respectable 58.4 dps, taking second spot on the overall dps charts, and soaked up 80%+ of all damage taken in the instance. We managed to take down Archmage Arugal, finishing the run with only one death on the final boss.

All this despite a rogue running ahead to pull hither and yon whatever they felt like, a healer who started the instance with "lol pull more so I can actually heal", and a gnome mage tossing out Arcane explosions while hopping around like a caffeinated Mexican jumping bean on speed. Even with all that, the run was going well enough... though I did decide halfway through that if the rogue pulled it, he could tank it. Unfortunately, since he had a 1000+ gearscore, he could tank it, so there was no teachable moment there.

On the final boss, I started by pulling the adds on the floor, but someone else (I'm not sure who) decided that they could pull Arugal as well. So to start off with, I've got poor Aeven trying to keep two Sons of Arugal from gnawing on the cloth-wrapped doggie treats standing behind her, while trying to get aggro on the Big Bad Boss. Meanwhile, the rogue is doing his best to go all-out and pull Arugal off of Aeven. Then, Aeven gets hit with Arugal's Curse - 10 seconds without tanking, then I have to turn around and find Arugal again. I have about 2 seconds to try and regain aggro before he teleports... and then hits her with the curse again.

I finally get Aeven back on Arugal, he goes down, we roll for loot, and the healer leaves group but not before telling me "learn 2tank".


I'm trying, Mr. Idiot Healer who almost let me die (Twice? Three times? I lost count of how many times I had to pop Divine Protection or use Lay on Hands). The fact that I managed to make it through SFK and only loose one person is, I think, a pretty good indication that I am learning to tank. At least, I'm better at tanking today than I was when I started two or three weeks ago.

So I'm good enough to power you through the dungeon to get teh shinies, but as soon as you don't need me, you're going to turn on the abuse and then run? Man. It's events like this that really make me understand why some tanks seem to have an overwhelming disdain for just about every other player in the game.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fifty Eight Point Four

Took Aeven on a spin through Blackfathom Deeps, where we only lit two braziers at a time, instead of all four, and actually finished that instance. Then bopped over to another group to run the Stockades twice.

Finished up, looked at Skada, and... holy cow, she's managing 58.4 dps now?

Wow. That was second on the dps chart, underneath the 23rd level hunter.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, to the level 25 rogue who managed to blow the top off of the dps meter in BFD while simultaneously managing to not pull aggro off of me:

You, sir, rock.

Assumptions Will Get You Dead

The first and most important words of adventuring knowledge, which I've imparted to my eldest daughter (yes, I am a geek) is:

Remember to not die.

If I recall correctly, it was Greg Dean who first revealed these words of wisdom to me, though I am unable (i.e., too lazy) to look up the exact comic in which they appeared. My forgetfullness is your gain, as you will now have to read through the backlog of his excellent comic strips in order to find this particular gem of wisdom.

I was recently given cause to ponder a corollary to this most excellent first thesis, which is:

Don't assume that anyone else knows what they're doing.

Which is all well and good, except that when you take it to it's logical conclusion, you arrive at a destination you may not be all that comfortable with. To wit:

Don't assume that you know what you're doing.

I was reminded of this in Blackfathom Deeps the other night. The LFD tool put together a slightly overpower group, again with Aeven as the junior tank. Even in that situation, we were doing quite well, and had managed to make it all the way to Twilight Lord Kelris without any major problems.

Now, in my defense, I've only run BFD once before - and that was on my Naxx-geared level 80 mage, just to see what the dungeon looked like. Oh, ok - and to get the achievement. I'm funny that way. At this point, I remembered that you needed to do something like... ah, right! Click on the braziers to open the door!

Patting myself on the back for remembering this little detail, I went ahead and did just that. I clicked on the braziers.

All of the braziers.

Each of which spawned a wave of critters intent on gnawing my face off to get to the tasty, tasty squishy folks standing behind me.


After that debacle, a bunch of folks dropped group - and I really can't blame them. I mean, I was an idiot. I could see how they might view my actions - "We were running BFD, and the idiot tank clicks on all the braziers and wipes the party." Did I do it intentionally? Accidentally? They couldn't know.

So, for those fine folks that I maligned by allowing hideous creatures of the deeps to gnaw on your bones: please accept my apology. My actions were not motivated by malice, but were, in fact, an act of momentary idiocy. You see, I thought I knew what I was doing.

In other news: despite the setback in BFD, Aeven has managed to make it to level 22. Lots of tasty goodness along the way - Consecration and Exorcism, for one, and her first mount, for another.

Level 22 also brings with it a gear upgrade, as she's now high enough level to make use of Polished Scale armor, and a weapon upgrade, to a Longsword. The new armor will get more or less the same set of enchantments as her current set, with the exception of putting Greater Defense on her cloak and Greater Striking on her longsword.

Oh, and she finally picked up a set of Durable Chain Shoulders, a white quest reward from killing Chok'sul in Loch Modan. That was kind of weird. I mean, when was the last time you saw a white quest reward? I had to check twice to make sure I was really seeing what I was seeing. Shoulders? For me? And I can wear them? Joy!

The armor upgrades are significant, in that - aside from a few drops that I may run into, like the Double Mail armor pieces - they're the best Aeven is going to see until level 32, when she can finally equip Augmented Chain, the first set of armor she'll be able to use that can take level 35+ item enchantments. So, armor-wise, it looks like it'll be a slog through the next ten levels, followed by a big upgrade... followed by another period of no upgrades until level 45, when she can start equipping plate.

At this point, I can hear a couple of you chuckling at my ignorance again. "Waiting until level 45 to wear plate? You silly noob! You get to wear plate at level 40!"

Hey - check out what wowhead has to say about that, chuckles. Notice something there? Yep. While there are plenty of uncommon or better plate items with no level restrictions or with a level restriction of 40 or better, to wear the lowest grade set of standard, non-magical, common plate, you need to be level 45 or better.

So in this instance, at least, I know what I'm doing.

Or at least, I think I know what I'm doing... we'll just have to wait another 23 levels and see :-)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Play The Game Tonight

"Wow. You guys suck."

That was the parting message from our healer last night in Wailing Caverns.

I joined a dungeon crawl already in progress, which is always sort of odd. After I joined, we had one player finish the first boss, then apologize and leave because of the time. We replaced them, powered on, then lost one player in the party to a disconnect and wiped trying to four-man a tough pull. We were pretty much fumbling our way through a confusing instance without much direction or purpose, killing whatever we happened to stumble across.

Into which comes Mr. Healer. One tough pull, one wipe, and it's "Wow, you guys suck" and poof, no more healer.

Yeah. Stay classy, dude.

I'll be honest - I sympathize with the attitude, if not with the way it was expressed. We did suck. I was tanking again, and playing fumble-fingers with my abilities. There was another pally in the party who pretty obviously was just in the group to run around and kill things. The gnome rogue had some pretty amusing bellyaching about how the druids in the instance kept putting him to sleep. We really had no idea where we were going, what we were doing, where the bosses were, or anything else.

Basically, we were just having fun screwing around, playing a video game together.

I realize that some people who play WoW might have an issue with that, but I also find it ironic that someone would have a problem with a bunch of people playing a game. I mean, there's a reason it's called play. In this instance, I wasn't too horribly concerned with downing the bosses. After all - I don't need the loot, I don't need the achievements, I don't really care about much at all. I was more than happy to just bop around and, you know, play for a bit.

Mr. Healer obviously didn't feel the same way. He didn't know who we were. Didn't bother to ask. Didn't bother to offer any direction or suggestions. Didn't bother to talk to us, except to tell us that we sucked.

Noob tank? Check. New guy on a WoW trial account? Check. Couple of other players who, based on their chat, were probably younger than my venerable mumblety-mumblety years? Check. Lack of heirloom items and gear that is pretty much indicative of either casual or first-time players? Check.

Jerk healer with an attitude? Check.

I can't help but imagine Mr. Healer joining a pick-up football game in the park, and after the first play, looking around at his fellow players and going "Wow. You guys suck." and walking off the field.

What can you do in that situation, really, but shrug your shoulders, find another player for your pickup game, and then go back to having fun? You know, the point of playing your game?

Well, I guess you could do something else. You could hop on your blog the next day, and jot a note for all the jerks out there - be they tanks, healers, or dps - who think that they're too good to play a game with you, and let them know...

"Wow. You guys suck."