Friday, May 28, 2010

Meet the Family

I think I've mentioned before that, while I'm on a roleplaying server, I'm not really into WoW for the RP opportunities. It's a fun game, and I enjoy immersing myself in the lore and exploration, but I really didn't choose a RP server because I wanted to pretend I was Arthas' long lost love or something like that. In fact, my thought process went something like the following:

"Ok, I'm pretty sure I want a PvE realm... I mean, if I want to experience never-ending, humiliating death, I'll play some Team Fortress. Hmm. RP or non-RP? What's the difference? Ah... people who are willing to put a modicum of effort into choosing a name, essentially. At least if I go RP, I'll be more likely be dealing with real gaming geeks, instead of a bunch of Donnys playing Xusuck." (Yes, those are all links to Twenty Sided. It was Shamus Young's reviews that enticed me into giving WoW a try. I'm sure that my wife would love to... thank him... for that.)

Even though I'm not really in WoW for the RP, I can't help but come up with stories for my characters in the game. Call it part of my tabletop gaming background, but I just need to have some idea of where these random collections of stats came from, and where they're headed. I've had some random thoughts about each one of my characters, here and there - what motivates them, what gives them pause, what their goals are and such.

So today, you're getting a RP-ish fluff piece: my characters, and the tidbits that make them characters in my mind, instead of just virtual mannequins used to display teh fat lootz.

C'mon in and meet the Laen family...

Laenson (Dwarf Warrior) is the youngest son of Mama and Papa Laen. He started off life as a brawler, and even as a little tyke, was fond of a fight - any kind of fight. He once argued with his own reflection in a mirror for 15 minutes before challenging himself to a duel. So it was inevitable that he would choose the way of the warrior, which brought tears to his parent's eyes, and sighs of relief from the general population of Ironforge when he finally left home.

After a bit of training, though, something... happened. Flush from killing wolves, troggs, yeti, and other menaces to the Dwarven way of life, he found himself needing some new gear. He popped off to visit a merchant, and a mere 12 hours later, had managed to reduce the poor vendor to a tear-soaked wreck who could only rock back and forth mumbling, "He wanted me to cut that last copper piece in half, in HALF..."

Laenson had found his calling. Buying and selling? It was just as much fun as hitting things over the head with a good solid mace. Even better, in fact - since you generally didn't have to worry about things like, you know, bleeding and dying and all that other annoying stuff that just got in the way of whatever the next argument was. To the consternation of the Dwarven nation, he returned to Ironforge to set up an import/export business, where he continues to this day.

Laenshield (Dwarf Priest) is the older brother. Where Laenson will fight, argue, or disagree with anyone at the drop of a hat, Laenshield has a much easier-going persona. "Live and let live," he would say. "Unless y're undead. Or a demon. Or a murloc. Or someone who owes me a pint. Come ta think of it, most of the world is made up of smarmy blighters who'd just as soon kill ya as look at ya. Let's get out there and bust a few kneecaps before they know what hit 'em!"

So, while Laenshield - in keeping with his name - tries to be a protector and defender of his people and their allies, he has a somewhat... proactive view of what "defense" means. His desire to be a protector led him into the service of the Light as a priest, but it is this "do unto others a'fore they do unto you" attitude that has drawn him into, as his Papa would say, "th' grand glory o' the heroin' business." That has led him all the way to Northrend, where his calling is jumping in and lending a hand wherever it may be needed (but especially in the Oculus, where he particularly enjoys helping out).

Aeven (Dwarf Paladin) you've already met. The middle child of the family, she blends the personalities of her two brothers, combining Laenson's belligerent nature with Laenshield's protective persona. The end result is an obstinate, willful, argumentative little lady who's as tough as nails, devoted to the Light, and willing to do whatever it takes to defend all of Azeroth against whatever threat may raise it's ugly head.

She's currently working her way towards Northrend, having sworn a vow to do so using only the most common gear available. This is the result of a long and protracted argument with Laenson, who wanted to give her a "going off ta be a pally" present, at a "quite reasonable discount, even - after all, yer family, lass!" After her little brother was unwilling to give her an additional 5 silver off "on account o' I'll rip yer arm off an' beat ya with it if ya don't, and don' think I won't, ya little con artist!", Aeven was quite upset. It was at this point that she swore she would trust only in the Light as her protection, eschewing all except the most common items, until such time as she had shown her worthiness by reaching the limit of her abilities.

Well, that's a bit romanticized. What she really said was "GAH! Forget it, then! I'm not needin' any of your stuff, or anything special anyways! I'll trust in th' Light, boyo, and spit in tha eye of whoever says otherwise - just you watch me!"

Aetherna (Human Mage) is the older sister of Aeristal. The two of them were taken in by Mama and Papa Laen years ago, after they visited with the Laen family during Orphan's Week. Mama Laen couldn't bear the thought of these two fine children being sent back to the orphanage. Discussing it with Papa, they decided that even if they were Human, they could open their hearth and home to the wee little ones. So Aetherna and Aeristal became de facto members of the Laen family.

As a result of her adventures with Papa Laen during their Orphan's Week shenanigans, Aetherna has become an experience hound. If there's a random hole in the ground somewhere with deadly critters at the bottom, she's been there, is there - or will be there as soon as she finds out about it. If there's something to be done, something to accomplish, something to achieve, whatever it might be - she's there. She's walked, ridden, flown, and in some cases crawled over, under, and through all of Azeroth.

Oh, and she's a mage, too. Arcane, because fire and frost are for sissy-boy mages who can't handle real power. She's kind, and sweet, and helpful, and she'll rip your head off from 30 yards away by warping the very laws of nature if you tick her off. She's a Laen, after all.

Aeristal (Human Death Knight) is Aetherna's younger brother. In a particularly strange twist of fate, he never wanted to be a fighter. When his brothers and sisters were arguing, brawling, and generally having a grand old time, Aeristal would wander around and talk to the Gnomes in Ironforge. He had a rather interesting lichen collection as a child, and when he grew to adulthood, joined the Explorer's League as a research herbalist and field alchemist.

His ability and insights resulted in an invitation to join one of the first Explorer's League teams sent to catalogue the flora and fauna of Northrend. Arriving on that cold shore, his team disembarked... and that first step, as they say, was a doozy. They were swarmed by scourge, wiped out to a man, and the next thing you know, scrawny little Aeristal was raised as a big, brawny Death Knight.

He doesn't talk much about that time, and tends to keep to himself - while his brothers and sister sisters return home to visit often, he has chosen to reside in the broken city of Shattrath (at least for the time being). He may be a death-dealing juggernaut on the outside, he's still the same Aeristal on the inside: more concerned with his plants and potions than anything else. Though when he picks a flower these days, he's likely to regard it seriously, and then solemnly pronounce "And now, you will serve me even in death." Then he giggles. Yeah, Death Knight humor is weird.

He's quick to point out that he's not living in the past, though. Nor is he hiding from his family. He just needs time to adjust to his new... life. If nothing else, he's found that being a death-dealing juggernaut makes the process of collecting interesting botanical samples a whole lot simpler.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Rub-a-dub, five players in a... hmm, not tub. Really, it was more of a spiky dark fortress filled with fel orcs and other unsavory creatures.

Yep! Aeven ran her first BC dungeon last night: Hellfire Ramparts. I queued her up when she was about 50k short of level 68, and went on questing in Terokkar, figuring that I'd either get the instance, or I'd level and try for the Blood Furnace. Tuns out that if you ding while you're in the queue, you stay in the queue... so even though I hit 68, I was able to get into a group for Ramparts. Nice!

I did my usual opening spiel with the group, with no immediate responses... except from another pally, who told us "I'll be there in a minute, go ahead and start without me." OK. Buffs all around, and when I checked again to see if anyone had any objections, one of the other guys essentially said "Haven't decided yet... go ahead and pull and we'll see."

Well, now. Let's see, indeed... so I went ahead and pulled the first group.

Then the second.

Then the third, and the fourth, and... you get the idea.

Twenty minutes later, we were standing over the body of a dead dragon :-) No deaths, no real aggro problems. Well, there were some pulls where the trash mobs were so numerous that the other DPS ended up pulling aggro off of me - but seeins as they were a DK, another pally, and a rogue, they were pretty much capable of handling single mobs, so I didn't worry about that too much. I was particularly proud of doing the one tricky pull the right way - the corner where there's about a dozen mobs around the bend, and you really need to do an LOS pull to get them bunched up.

Just after that, the other pally who joined late said "Dude! You're all in white gear!"... at which point the other folks laughed, and explained that was what I told them at the start. A few mobs later, I managed to loot a Tarnished Plate Chestpiece, and they all congratualted me on the gear upgrade. All in all, a very nice run. I wish I had gotten everyone's names, but for the record, I'll call out Talfurn of Stormrage and Omega of Destromath as particularly encouraging folks. (I'd link Omega, but he's got a twidle over the last 'a' in his name, and I'm not sure which twiddle it is.)

The chestpiece? I was really excited about that. First time in a long while that I've really been excited about a gear upgrade. I tried it on, checked out Aeven to see how it looked, put on the old chestpiece to compare stats, then sold the chestpiece in my bags and logged out to get my enchanted to whomp me up a scroll to enchant my new armor.

Logged back in, and... yep. You guessed it. I had forgotten to swap the chestpieces back out, and had sold the tarnished plate to the vendor. And, of course, since I had logged out afterwards, I couldn't buy it back, either. Grumble. Ah, well. It was a hundred armor or so, and changing out 150 health for 22 defense rating. I can live without it for the next two levels until I can buy her a Heavy Draenic Breastplate, I guess.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gender and You

Over at Jaded Alt, there's an interesting discussion going on about gender and the WoW player base and blogging community. Some interesting comments there, and I'm impressed that the discussion did not drift off in any of the usual bad directions. After reading through it, though, I feel the need to point out to any readers who might not know me IRL that I am, in fact, a male of the species. Yes, I am a guy (but not that guy, thankfully).

In fact, I'll got even further and tell y'all that I am a 40+ year old heterosexual male, and quite happily married. My wife and I have several delightful children (all girls) who sometimes like to watch Dada playing "the horsey game". I have a B.S. from a highly-regarded technical institution in a field of engineering that I've never actually practiced in, seeing as my life-long desire has always been to be a computer geek. I was an officer in the US Navy for a while, and have spent the last 10+ years of my life raising my girls, working for startups, teaching Sunday School, preaching in church services, and studying to get a B.S. or M.S. in Pastoral Theology.

So, there. Now you know all about me. Well, maybe not all about me, but perhaps more than you knew when you started reading this post. So now, if anyone is ever shocked - shocked, I say! - to find out that I'm a male, or a Christian, or that I have children... I can point back at this post and tell 'em that they should've done their homework.

New Policy

In light of the rather emphatic response I received from a LFD member last night in response to my "Hey, I'm leveling in whites, let me know if you'd rather find a different tank", I've changed my LFD intro message slightly. It now asks that people let me know, politely, if they'd rather find a different tank.

I realize that this is my failing - my last message did not actually request that individuals demonstrate a minimum acceptable level of maturity and civility. I know, I know. Silly of me. Hence the new message, and the new policy:
Failure to treat me politely at the start of the instance will result in my chain-pulling as many mobs as I can before I bubble hearth.
Well... no. That's a bit too rude, I think, even for the wonderful response I got last night. It was only one person, after all. The other folks didn't say anything, positive or negative (and, I'll note that the individual in question didn't even bother to speak up until after I had buffed everyone. Classy guy.) I really should have polled everyone and seen if the other members felt the same way before I decided whether or not to bail. Yeah, that would have been a better option.

So, call this a provisional policy. Unless I encounter an entire group of overwhelmingly rude induhviduals, I don't think I'll actually do anything like the pull/bubble hearth punishment.

No matter how much they desperately deserve it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Man... You think you're doing something interesting - leveling in vendor gear - then you find out about Gutrot, the Troll warrior who leveled to 80 completely naked.

Doesn't really change what I'm doing, since I'm not just leveling Aeven, but also learning to tank as well, and showing that gear really isn't nearly as important as some people think.

Still... level 80, naked. Man!

Double Coupon Tuesday!

Life, as usual, got in the way yesterday. So I'm going to make up for the lack of post with two - count 'em, two! - posts today, all for the same low, low price of free.

Aeven's about halfway to level 68 now. Yep, in the time since my last post - a mere few days - she's picked up almost two levels. She wrapped up all the soloable quests in Nagrand, and when all she had left in her quest log was group quests, she bailed and headed for Terokkar Forest. A few quests there let her ding 67, and a few hours later, she was more than halfway to level 68.

That's not with any amazingly long sessions, either. I'd estimate that it represents about 10 hours playtime over the course of 4 days. Additionally, remember that Aeven is leveling without the benifit of XP-bonus heirloom items; neither does she have the advantage of recruit-a-friend XP.

So what gives? Why's she leveling so quickly? My first time through the Outlands, on my Human mage, was just prior to Wrath. It took me about 6 weeks, and I didn't hit 68 until I had run through most of Blade's Edge and Shadowmoon Valley. My second trip to the Outlands was on my Dwarf priest, fully tricked out in heirloom items. That 20% XP bonus let him tear through there quickly - a month in Hellfire/Zangarmarsh/Terokkar/Shadowmoon, and he was ready for Northrend.

Aeven's time from level 60 to level 68? Eleven days. Given the pace she's going at, I'd expect her to hit 70 and head for Northrend in less than two weeks total real world time in the Outlands. That would be about 35-40 hours total playtime.

I've been thinking about this, and there's a couple of explanations.

Buffs! While I can't find a reference, I'm pretty sure that Blizzard mentioned something about adjusting things to make leveling through BC content easier when Wrath was released. So that's one factor, although probably not a huge one. Bumping XP gains from leveling by 10% or so in Outland is a nice bonus, but it doesn't account for halving the time it takes to reach 68.

Rest! Because she doesn't have any XP-bonus heirlooms, I've made sure that Aeven gets a good night's sleep in a city or an inn at the end of every day. Sure, it's a minor buff to XP gain from killing critters and creatures... but I think you'd be surprised at how long that buff lasts these days. Yesterday, after about 2 full real-time days of rest, Aeven kept earning rested XP for just about three hours of play time. That was pretty much my entire session for the evening. Most of her XP gain came from turning in quests, but when she did get XP for killing mobs, she was getting the bonus XP for being rested. Beauty sleep really does help, apparently.

Flight! One huge difference between leveling my mage and priest and leveling Aeven is that, once she hit Hellfire Peninsula, she was able to train for and purchase a flying mount right off the bat. Being able to fly as soon as you enter Outland makes for a vastly different leveling experience.

Remember all those times you had to slog through umpteen-zillion hellboars, uphill, in the lava, just to reach your quest objective - then fight your way back through them to turn in the quest? Just fly over them! Those mountains and walls and other obstacles you had to detour around every time you went from one place to another? Fly over them! Overall, I think I've used my charger once or twice in Outland, and that's been purely by accident.

Knowledge! Here's where I think the real advantage is. I've been through Outland twice already. Well, two and a half times - my Human death knight alchemist is sitting in Shattrath at the moment. Thanks to that, I know where the quest hubs are. The last two times, when I hit a zone, I did the quests at the first hub. Somewhere along the line, I'd get a breadcrumb quest leading to a second hub... and so on, and so on.

With Aeven, when I hit a zone, the first thing I do have her hop on her griffon and buzz about like a maniac, picking up every quest she's eligible for. Fifteen minutes later, she's got a quest log jam-packed full of all the things to do in the zone. Take Nagrand, for instance - she immediately hit Telaar, Aeris landing, the Throne of Elements, and Nessigwary's camp. She ended up with a total of about 18-20 Nagrand quests in her log. At that point, pretty much anything she kills, collects, or does in the zone is helping her complete some quest, which means she's racking up the XP about as quickly as she can kill things. A few hours of running around, and instead of 3-4 quests completed, she's got a dozen to turn in at once. At which point she picks up whatever follow-on quests there are, keeping her quest log full, which keeps that questing XP rolling in steadily.

The frantic pace of leveling has had one significant impact: Aeven has yet to step foot in a BC dungeon. Quite honestly, I'm a bit tentative about it. She's still not assembled a full set of tarnished plate, which means that - aside from the minor armor upgrades that new plate would provide - most of her gear can't carry BC enchantments. So she's operating at less than peak potential, which is rather important when your gear is all vendor trash.

Given that, once she hit's level 68, she'll loose LFD access to some of the initial Outland dungeon instances, I'm thinking that it's time to bite the bullet and take my chances on a random dungeon group. Before I do that, though, I may try to pull together a group myself, just to see how hard tanking in an Outland dungeon might be before I inflict Aeven upon the inevitable pack of unsuspecting blood DKs that LFD will pair her with.

Friday, May 21, 2010

2 Corinthians 10:12

"... but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."

So, let's engage in a little foolishness, shall we? Thanks to plowing through Zangarmarsh and partway through Nagrand, Aeven is level 65 now. She's actually just shy of level 66, but for what follows, that shouldn't matter.

The other evening, while I was on, I did a "/who pala" and found a random level 65 retribution paladin questing in Terokkar Forest. Chatted with him for a bit, and took a look at his armory listing. From that, I figured he was probably a reasonable person to compare Aeven to - no heirlooms on him, looks like he had a decent selection of appropriate gear and a reasonable talent selection. He didn't know what gearscore was, so we're definitely not talking about a hardcore raider's alt... just a random player with a level 65 pally, going about his business.

So, let's compare Aeven to Mr. Generic Paladin, shall we? For purposes of the comparison, we'll take whatever MGP has as being 100% - so if he's got a stat at 100, and Aeven has a stat at 50, we'll say she's at about 50% on the scale for that stat.

Aeven MGP Scale

Health 3642 5832 62%

Mana 3077 3947 77%

Hmm. Pretty much what you'd expect, here. Aeven's running at a serious health deficit, because - of course - none of her gear has any stamina on it, except for what she can pick up from enchantments. It actually pretty interesting to note that she's gotten to the point where her rank 10 Holy Light spell is generally enough to give her a full heal. Still, her health situation is better than I thought that it would be at this level.

Mana is surprising. It's still lower than expected, but - probably thanks to talents - it's coming in at just slightly over 3/4 on the MGP scale. So she's running out of mana sooner than she otherwise would, but it's not a huge difference. Given that Aeven can burn through a good dozen mobs before she needs to start worrying about mana, that's not bad at all.

Stats Aeven MGP Scale

Strength 135 362 37%

Agility 67 147 45%

Stamina 141 375 37%

Intellect 75 133 56%

Spirit 81 93 87%

Ouch. That lack of gear is really showing up in the stats. For strength and stamina, she's at about 1/3 of what she otherwise could have, compared to MGP. Agility and Intellect are better, coming in at around 50%. And... spirit? Is spirit still a stat? Huh. Apparently it's not that important to paladins. Yes, Aeven has some enchantments to help make up for these gaps, and her profession bonus for mining gives her a nice little stamina bonus. That's obviously just enough to help keep her from being a complete looser, though. Potions, food buffs, scrolls and the like will obviously only narrow this gap slightly.

Melee Aeven MGP Scale

Damage 125-170 458-563 30%

Speed 1.80 3.50 n/a

Power 560 923 60%

Hit Rating 5 29 17%

Crit Chance 15.37% 14.74% 104%

Expertise 5 0 n/a

When it comes to hitting things in the face with a big ol' chunk of something, Aeven's... wow. Really lagging behind. She's putting out about 1/3 of the damage of MGP, which is going to affect both her auto attacks, and her Crusader Strikes. Fortunately, her attack power is almost 2/3 of MGP, which is good, since that's going to impact the effectiveness of her Hammer of Wrath, Exorcism, Avenger's Shield, Seal of Vengeance... and more and more. For Aeven, it looks like attack power is going to be more of a benefit than just about anything else. Crit chance is higher than MGP because of her profession bonuses from skinning.

Spell Aeven MGP Scale

Bonus Damage 168 361 46%

Bonus Healing 168 361 46%

Hit Rating 5 29 17%

Crit Chance 13.55% 10.3% 131%

Haste Rating 0 0 n/a

Mana Regen 20 42 47%

On the "blowing things up with the power of the Light" side, though, Aeven's not doing too shabby. She comes in at about 50% of MGP overall, again with the exception of crit chance, thanks to skinning.

Defense Aeven MGP Scale

Armor 4225 5125 82%

Defense 323 331 97%

Dodge 6.00% 9.43% 63%

Parry 4.92% 10.26% 47%

Block 4.92% 5.24% 93%

In terms of defenses, she's doing much better. Overall, with the exception of her dodge, she's managing to stay very competitive here, at about a solid 2/3 of MGP overall. Keep in mind that she's only upgraded two items of her armor to tarnished plate - if she was in a full set, I think that her armor overall would be closer to 100% of MGP.

Finally, for completeness, a gear comparison. Looking up MGP on a web site, I saw that his gearscore was 914, compared to Aeven's impressive gear score of... zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothin', buddy, just move along. Note that he had not gemmed, nor enchanted, his gear - if he had, the above comparisons would (obviously) have been a bit worse.


Item Name Level

Helm of Natural Purity 96

Pendant of the Marsh 93

Expedition Mantle 93

Red Linen Shirt 10

Gilded Crimson Chestplate 85

Darkcrest Belt 87

Flintlocke's Piloting Pants 87

Expedition Footgear 93

Imperial Plate Bracers 54

Defender's Gauntlets 93

Tourmaline Loop 90

Amaan's Signet 93

Terokkar Tablet of Precision 99

Crazy Cenarion Cloak 96

Edge of Inevitability 99

Libram of Wracking 93

Guild Tabard 1


Item Name Level

Tarnished Plate Helmet 66

Durable Chain Shoulders 24

Squire's Shirt 1

Platemail Armor 50

Platemail Belt 50

Platemail Leggings 50

Platemail Boots 50

Tarnished Plate Bracers 66

Platemail Gloves 50

Argent Dawn Commission 1

Veteran Cloak 12

Ancient Bone Mace 71

Crested Heater Shield 50

Guild Tabard 1

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Episode Three: The Dawning Realization

Zangarmarsh. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Well, actually, yeah, sure, you can find more wretched hives just about anywhere. There's the Grim Guzzler in Blackrock Depths, for one. Yep, that would definitely be a more wretched hive, and as far as scum and villainy go, it's definitely in the top 10, if you know what I mean. So, what I mean when I say that Zangarmarsh is a WH of SV, is that it's freaking wet. I thought the Swamp of Sorrows was annoying, but that place has got nothin' on Zangarmarsh. Here, even the plants want to pick you up, pop your top off and suck you down like a frosty cold one on a hot day.

So... I wander in to the Cenarion Refuge, just across the border from the Hellfire Peninsula, and what do I find smack dab in the middle of this damp, dark, incredibly hostile wilderness? Of course! The Cenarion Circle!

Takes me about three shakes of a ram's tail to locate the right people to talk to. You get to know their look in this heroing business. I'll admit, though, that figurin' out whos got the jobs for ya when yer dealing with the Cenarions is a bit easier than that, even. Just wander around until you find the nastiest big bruiser around, sidle up to him, and before you know it, it's balance this, nature that, and would ye be interested in slaughterin' some of the wee beasties around here, lass?

They definitely have some strange ideas about natural selection, I'll tell you that. I think they're trying to breed animals with a natural resistance to Hemet Nessingwary.

Anyways, that's one down. Halfway there. Next thing you do, when you find yerself in the company of the Cenarions, is look for someone that seems to be little shifty, a little embarrassed, per'haps a bit fidgety. Oh, and generally giggly, too, for some reason. Strike up a conversation with them, and soon you'll be wanderin' away, with a promise that they'll pay ya good cold cash for bringin' 'em back some random weeds or a pile o' live poison toads or... you get the idea. If you're having trouble findin' the blighter, just ask the brusiers ta point ya at the guy who has "the good stuff" - that always seems ta work as well.

Anyways, about 5 minutes after hittin' this sorry excuse for a town - I mean, what kind o' place allows trees to just walk around? It ain't natural! - I'm gettin' ready to wade out into the great beyond and inflict mayhem on the flora and fauna of th' region. All in the name of the greater good, y'know. Only one of the bruisers catches me on the way out, and points to a gargoyle standing on top of the only decent bit o' architectural engineering in the place.

It takes me a few seconds, but I get the gist of it - said gargoyle, isn't, and a wee bit of a climb later, I'm talkin' to the head of the local muscle, a brusin' large specimen of a Tauren name o' Hamoot. Which just goes ta show you how strange those Horde folks are, naming a fine specimen of steak on the hoof like 'im after a pig. "Diff'r'nt strokes for diff'r'nt folks", as Uncle Flintlocke used ta say. O' course, he was talking about how to knock someone's head off from 200 yards with a chuck-shot, so I'm actually generalizin' a bit here.

Now, things get a little weird. I say hello, and kind o' shift in to idle, waitin' to get through the whole "balance o' nature" speech again, and it takes me a few seconds to realize I'm noddin' in the wrong palce, because that's not what he's sayin'.

"Hold up! Did you just say what I thought you said there, Hammy?" He grimaced a little at the nickname, but I figure, he's hirin' me, I get to set tha terms. He was a little annoyed at it at first, 'till I dropped Staggy's name a few times. Seems bein' on a nickname basis with tha head o' the Cenarions is just what ya need to get away with this sorta thing. Of course, I neglect to mention that the last time I saw Staggy he threw me out of his tower, but tha's just details.

"Indeed," he growled. "While our primary mission is to exploit the natural resources of this... why are you grinning?"

"Oh, nae reason," I said. "It's just refreshin' to meet a man... cow... man-cow who likes ta get right to the point. Exploit away, I always say!"

He grumbled, and continued. "As I was saying... we have run into difficulties. We are not the only ones interested in the natural treasures of the marshland. There are organized gangs of Naga who have pushed their way into our territory, which is causing difficulties for our operations. Staghelm is... quite insistent that we resolve these issues as quickly as possible..." He pauses for a second, then leans over ta look me close in the eye. "... and as finally as possible, if you understand what I'm saying."

And thats where the light went on for me. It all clicked. Staghelm's organization, and the grip it seemed to have on Darnassus. How the Circle was open ta all, but the Night Elves always seemed to be the toshes on top. The inevitable presence of heavy muscle with any Cenarion group. The concern for the continued flow of morrowgrain and silithyst dust. The constant searching for new territories, new flora, new compounds.

And now... an all-out war with the Naga. They were once Elves, ya' know. Common knowledge, that. So, really, what we have here is an inter-familial competition for the exploitation of the medicinal output of one partic'lar region. That was the final clue. Circle o' druids? Ha! Not bloody likely, friend.

"The Cenarion Circle is an organized crime syndicate!" I blurted out. And then froze.

Hamoot straightened up, and narrowed his eyes as he looked at me. "Do say, dwarf," he growled. Ever hear a cow growl? It's a disturbin' sound, it is. Enough to put you off yer ale, almost. "What if it is? What do you intend to do about it, then?" he asked, his hand strayin' to tha mace hangin' at his side.

"Do? What am I goin' ta do?" I was literally hoppin' mad at this point. As I've said, Mama dinnae raise no foolish girls. "Ya blooddy bug blighter, I'll show ya what I'm goin' ta do!" With that, I gave him the cold, hard stare of a professional killer. An' it was a good one, too. Learned it at me Grammy's knees when I was just a wee bugger.

"I'm raisin' me rates, buddy boy. No more non-profit discount for ye, ya blighters!"

"Now... where were these here Naga ya wanted offed, tall, dark and steakly?"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Episode Two: High Crimes and Misdemeanors

So, as I was sayin' - the Cenarion Circle seems to just be a little bit... off, if ya know what I mean. And I think you do. There's just a little bit of moral ambiguity there, and it's a wee bit disturbin'.

Case in point. I leave old Azeroth behind, and head for the Outlands. Now, there's many a person who would tell you that Hellfire Peninsula is a nasty, dangerous place. It's full of bloodthirsty corrupted orcs (as if there's any other sort!), demons, and all other manner o' nasty creatures that really just need a good, hard, swift boot to the rear. An' to be set on fire. That seems to help a lot. Ah, the pleasures of toastin' marshy-mallows o'er a flaming demons corpse. Reminds me of Winter's Veil back home that one year... but, no, that's a story for another day.

Anyways, there I am, runnin' around Hellfire Peninsula and having a grand ol' time. Basically smashing, burning, bombing, and committin' other forms of heinous mayhem on whatever critter or creature happens to cross my path. And who do I stumble across? The bloody Cenarion Circle, I kid ya not. Oh, they're callin' themselves the Cenarion Expedition now, but ya look at 'em, and it's the same thing as in Silithus - a bunch o' handsomely brutal lookin', well-armed goons with a couple of tosh looking Night Elves runnin' the show.

One more time, with feelin', now - you know the tune. "Oh noble Dwarf... person... hero... yadda yadda yadda preserve the balance yadda yadda yadaa nature in harmony with Elune blah blah blah." Oh, and would you be so kind, Ms. Dwarf, to walk over that ridge and slaughter a few dozen hellboars and bring us back their blood? What for? Um... because... because... we want to... test it! Yes, yes, to test it for demonic contamination!

Bloody pig's knucles, lass, unless you missed the memo, they're hellboars. Want me to say it again for you, slow-like? They're HELL... boars. Hellboars. Say it wi' me now, lass. Hellllllllll boarrrrrrrrrrrrs. I think the whole matter of demonic corruption and contamination has been pretty well established by this point, aye?

Now... you and I, being logical and rational creatures who have somehow managed to keep our head out in the open instead of stuffed where the sun doesn't shine, we can follow that sort o' argument pretty well. I mean, we'd look at the foul smelling, nasty, green-glowing lil' piggies belchin' flame, say "Huh. Hellboars, eh? Looks like a demon ta me!" and that'd be it. But noooooo, they still want the blood, right? Sigh.

At least they're payin' for it.

I ask her about how they want me ta handle it - tranquilizer darts, maybe, and a clean syringe for each lil' hell piggy? I mean, c'mon, you're druids, after all. Gotta maintain the balance and all that, right? First, do no harm? Strikin' any bells there, Big Blue? Apparently not. They all look at me like I'm a bit touched, hand me a couple o' buckets, give me a bit of a wink, and shoo me on my way. Ma and Da didn't raise no dummies, so I take the hint and wander off into tha hills, doin' my best to look like something tasty. "You're always your own best bait", as my uncle Davey used ta' say before he went out huntin'.

A few minutes later, I come on back covered in gore, carryin' a few buckets o' foul hellboar blood, still glowin' from the nasty demonic taint. Would you look at that, now? I mean, the fact that the blood is itself trying to crawl out of the buckets and strangle the life outta ya could, I suppose, be taken as reasonable proof that it is, perhaps, demonic. Who am I to say, though? I'm just the errand girl.

So I hand over the blood, collect my reward, and then the tosh suggests that it would be in my best interest to get in touch with some of their folks just across the hills in a place called Zangarmarsh. Oh, joy. A whole bloody marsh filled with Cenarion Circle Expedition yahoos. I can already see what's waitin' for me - can ya guess? My crystal ball is tellin' me... ooooohhhmmm... there we go, they're goin' to want me to gather some weird herbs for 'em, and then probably ask me to slaughter defenseless creatures in the name of preserving nature, or some such.

Well, as it turns out, I was right... but that wasn't really the end o' tha story this time around.

In Which Our Hero Begins To Have an Epiphany

You know, I'm startin' ta think that the Cenarion Circle isn't the happy shiny people they claim to be.

It started in Darnassus. Nice town, there. Not a decent tavern to speak of - you couldn't find yerself a decent brawl to save your life, let me tell you - but still, very nice. Clean. Pretty. Safe, too. No crime to speak of, really. Not like some other cities, which I won't name outta respect, where you can have run ins with folks like the Defias or black dragons impersonating politicians. There's a big Cenarion presence there, prol'y thanks to Arch Druid Fandral Staghelm puttin' the Cenarion HQ right smack there in the city and all.

So in wanders me sweet little self - the soul of kindness, I am - and Staghelm starts spinning me the party line about nature and bein' in balance and all that other rot. I'm nodding in the right places, I guess, 'cause he leans over and lowers his voice, and tells me that he's looking for someone who can help him with a... supply problem.

He's looking for Morrowgrain.

Frankly, I'm like, OK, sure - whatever floats your boat, Staggy ol' boy. Only I don' say it out loud, like, because me Mama dinna raise no rude little Dwarven death dealers. I do tell him, sure, I'll keep an eye out for it. I heard tell that there were some Orc kids and even some younger Night Elves who were into it for some reason, which made it kinda weird that he was interested, ya know? He musta seen sumthin' in my expression, though, 'cause I got another earful of the "restoring the balance" and "protecting the environment" and "I'm so important" and yadda yadda yadda, I get it already Staggy, just let me get on with it!

Well, ta make a long story short (old Dwarven joke there, I know, but the old ones are the best ones, right?) I found him his morrowgrain, but in the process, got a competing offer from one of his Lieutenants. Quintis was a nice enough guy, a little smarmy for me, but that's night elves for ya, true enough. All manners and courtesy and what not. He was looking for a morrowgrain supplier, to, but wanted to keep in on the sly, wink wink nod nod, know what I mean? No reason for ol' Staggy to know about it.

He gave me the same line as I got from Staghelm, about "research", minus the "I'm too important for ya, stop wastin' my time, ya wee blighter!" talk that Staggy likes. I think he's missin' a bit in the confidence category, ta tell ya the truth - always has to reassert himself. Sign of a leader who doesn't think his position's secure, ya know? Always know where your hammer is, my Mama used ta tell me. Da used to tell "Listen to yer Ma, Aeven, and make sure it's in the other buggers face!", which has served me well, let me tell ya. Now, Staggy, he looks like he's always waitin' for that hammer to tha face.

Speakin' o which, my next clue was Silithus. Sure, it's a dangerous, dry, dusty, hell-hole of a place, but really - there's a whole freaking Cenarion army out there. I thought these fellas was all about peace and love and balance and what not, ya know? And here I am, wanderin' into what's prol'y one a tha most heavily armed encampments in Kalimdor, and it's Cenarion Circle bruisers as far as tha eye can see, bristling with weapons and armor and it makes me poor lil' knees weak just thinkin' aboot all the concern'trated mayhem in one spot.

So, see, what I'm sayin', is they got themselves a lot of bruisers on the budget. As in, an amazingly blightin' lot of bruisers. What do druids need with all that muscle, you ask? Well, they were there to preserve the balance, yadda, fight the Silithid, yadda, yadda, and oh, while yer out there, Aeven, could you pick us up some a that there Silithyst dust that's blowin' around? It's all natural stuff, ya know. Perfectly good and healthy for ya, really. We'll take everything you can bring us, and pay ya well for it, too.

So, by this point, I've just about had it with runnin' errands for them, carryin' grass from one end of tha world to another. Now they want me goin' out and pickin' up this white powder for 'em wherever I might find it? C'mon, sonny boy! It's not even like it's real minin' and all, it's just findin' the raw stuff and haulin' it back to ya for "processing"! Makes me feel like some sorta mule, it does.

All that was weird, but it dinna hold a candle (Kobold joke there - I gotta million of 'em, thanks to my Uncle Gerald. Weird lil' blighter, but we kids loved 'im!) to what I saw of the Cenarion Circle in tha Outlands. That's when I really started to wonder...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Post...

I've been trying to stay consistent on this blog, with at least one update a day during weekdays. Work this week has kept me hopping, though; and family life has conspired with it to eliminate the opportunity for a meaningful post today.

Hence, this apology post. If I had the artistic talent of a spastic spider monkey, I'd draw some sort of goofy stick-figure comic to keep you entertained. Unfortunately, I rank rather lower in the artistic echelons than that, so no original comic from me. You'll just have to content yourself with re-reading The Order of the Stick for now.

Wait... what? You say you've never read OOTS?

Foolish minions. Go! Go now! Read, and be entertained!

But come back tomorrow when we'll return to our regularly scheduled content, and see how Aeven stacks up to a random paladin of similar level.

Now go!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cruising Along

Aeven hit 60 last week, and plunged into the Outlands. A few hours later, she's torn her way through the Hellfire Peninsula, dipped her toes in Zangarmarsh, and... managed to get about 2/3 of the way to level 64.

Yep, you heard that right. She's almost level 64. Four levels in about as many days. That's without any marathon playing sessions, either - just the normal "welcome to Outland, here's a bunch of really easy quests with nice, fat, juicy XP" progression. Along the way, she also became a Master Cook, and earned the achievement Got My Mind On My Money.

Along the way, she id a partial run of Dire Maul East. Man, I hate that imp. We ended up wiping once in the grove before the final boss because I thought we could push through quickly and avoid the roaming mobs, then again after we rezed and three of us were waiting for the other two to rejoin us. We thought we were off the paths of the wandering mobs, but of course, as soon as chez tank (moi) went afk for a moment, three trees tried to eat our faces. Joy joy joy joy joy.

Everyone decided to bail at that point, which annoys me. We were almost finished, guys. Presumably, you had a pile of gold and a nice shiny blue item waiting for you just a short ways away. What makes someone think, "You know, I'd rather discard the last 40 minutes of play time and start all over rather than take a another step in this dungeon with y'all." Bleah.

On other fronts, it turns out that the Tarnished Plate items that are an upgrade for Aeven are only available from drops. Just questing in Hellfire Peninsula allowed Aeven to pick up two of those pieces, so she's 1/4 of the way there. Oh, and she got her hands on the Ancient Bone Mace she's been coveting, but hasn't gotten it enchanted yet. Frankly, things have just been ticking along so well, it really hasn't been a consideration. Take a break and pick up some enchantments and a few pieces of new gear, or continue to cut a swath through Outland and rack up some experience? I know what my answer is - a nice big heaping plate of XP, thank you please, sir, and may I have some more? I'm planning on continuing along that path for a while, until it gets to the point where there's an obvious degradation in Aeven's ability to kill anything that moves. Then I'll look at weapon/armor/enchantment upgrades.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Upgrade time!

Her Uncle Ben once told Aeven, "With great level comes great cash outlay, lass." Or something like that. So, since Aeven's now 60, she's doesn't just have a bunch of shiny new abilities and a new world to explore... oh, no. She's also got a shopping list.

Weapon: Ancient Bone Mace. What the well-dressed Dwarven Death Dealer is sporting these days.

Armor: Tarnished Plate. Not usable for another level or so, but hey - it takes effort to stay ahead of the latest fashion trends, doncha know?

Enchantments: Oooooooooh. There's a whole world of Burning Crusade enchants that are available for her now that her armor and weapons are ilevel 60 or better. I'm going to have to look them over and see what looks best for tanking. Yes, tanking - I still plan on taking her into instances as a tank, until it's obvious to me that she can't handle it.

Consumables: Meh. Not a whole lot of new and interesting consumables in the level 55-65 range. Elixir of Major Defense is about it for interesting new potions, there's some minor upgrades in the area of usable scrolls, and of course a bunch of new buff foods like Ravager Dogs and Spicy Crawdad. Those will roll in as I level Aeven's cooking, though, so aside from getting her hands on a pile of elixirs, there's not much to worry about here.


Thanks to her time in Winterspring, a bunch of experience from the Linken quest chain, and doing a handful of quests in the Western Plaguelands, Aeven is now... fanfare, please... level 60.


Along the way, she's run - and tanked - 30 dungeons. She's made somewhere in the neighborhood of 2500 gold (mostly through AH sales on my bank alt). Completed 677 quests. Died 80 times. Hearthed 70 times and taken 215 flight paths. She's /lol'd 17 times, /cheer'd 11 times, and /wave'd 11 times.

All in common gear.

Hitting level 60 was a veritable bonanza of skill upgrades. Nothing new, but it seemed like just about every major ability got a bump to a new level of power. With training under her belt, she immediately headed for the nearest portal to the Blasted Lands, and from there, made her way to the Hellfire Peninsula and Honor Hold.

Where I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and did what I've been anticipating for a week or so: sent Aeven out to encounter - and deal with - her first Burning Crusade mob.

There's a tangible difference between vanilla mobs and BC. I've noticed it on all the characters I've leveled though outland so far (mage, priest, death knight). They just seem tougher. More armor? More hits? Faster? Whatever the qualities are, they've been noticeable. Keep in mind, too, that has been on characters that have been as well-geared as could be for their levels.

So when Aeven stepped out of Honor Hold and found her first Fel Orc, it was with a little bit of trepidation. Would this fight be too tough for her? Would the BC mobs just be too much to handle without boosted stats from gear? Or, if not, would it just take so long to grind down a mob that leveling would become a nightmare?

Time to find out...

Health at full? Check. Mana at full? Check. Retribution Aura, Blessing of Might, Seal of Righteousness? Check, check, check.

Target Orc, and... go.

Loot still-smoking corpse of former orc.


Oh, yeah. She's ready for Outland, boys.

Bring it.

Larissa: Apropos Heroes

Larissa chimes in on the Copra/Tobold discussion on being heroic in WoW... and, as anyh sane person would expect, she says it more clearly, more eloquently, and more entertainingly than I ever could.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yet Another PuG Story

A few days ago, I had an amazingly good and patient PuG for BRD (Prison).

What made it great? Patient people. Mature people.

People who didn't comment on my "I'm intentionally undergeared" message, but who all held back a few seconds to let Aeven grab aggro good and tight before they unloaded with theirAoE.

People who knew the instance, knew where they wanted to go, and asked instead of demanding that we do the extra bosses.

People who didn't start complaining or quit after we wiped (thanks to my misunderstanding of how to handle a pull).

People who all ran back after that wipe, with the exception of one fellow who'd never been in BRD before and got lost trying to find the instance portal.

People who waited for said lost soul, and then patiently described how to find the dungeon entrance.

People who, when said lost soul still managed to stay lost, backtracked and searched the dungeon until they found his body so he could be resurrected.

People who, when said lost soul was finally back with us, told him "np, Thanks for coming!" when he said he had to leave before we made it back to the next group of mobs.

People who thanked me for being a good tank... not because I was doing a tremendously good job at tanking, but because I didn't yell at them or berate them (yeah, I know - what a concept, eh?)

You know what else was interesting? In chat, they were using names. I didn't realize this at the time, but looking back, I can see that Mimetir's comments on the issue were spot on. There was basic common courtesy present, and it showed.

So, while I am reluctant to call out someone from a fail PuG - everyone has their bad days, after all - I have no problem in identifying the individuals who made this PuG one that was full of win. People like:
If you're int he Rampage battle group, and happen to end up with one of these fine folks in your party, do say hello, and let them know that their good reputation precedes them :-)

I'm starting to this that there's a positive correlation between maturity and ability. I'm not saying there's a causual relationship, mind you. I've run into mature players who definitely weren't the best, and I've run into jerk players who definitely were top players. But generally, it seems to me that "mature, patient, considerate" generally equals "capable player". While "childish, impatient, rude" generally equals "bad player".

Overall, though, it seems like the first few minutes of a PuG helps sets the tone. I'm going to add that to my list of "things to do while tanking" (well, while running in any PuG, really). Say hello, welcome people by name, and ask if there's anything special that they'd like to do when we run the instance. I'm sure that I'll still encounter fail PuGs, but hopefully, that little bit of civility will help nudge things in a non-fail direction.

Hmm. Apparently I was mistaken.

That wasn't an incredibly well-written phishing email - I actually did get invited to participate in the Starcraft II beta.

Huh. Whaddya know.

Making Bosses More Heroic

Continuing the chain of thought that led from Copra to Tobold. Personally, I think Tobold misses the point. His conclusion is "You want to be a hero? How about joining the fire brigade instead of playing video games?"

I'd actually agree with that. The only problem is, we're talking about a video game here. I don't play the game to become a hero, I play the game to play a hero... and heroes do, you know, heroic stuff. Imagine that you were playing some sports title from EA where you got to be the waterboy for a major league team. It might be visually impressive, there might be a whole lot of interesting stuff going on, but you wouldn't be involved in contributing to the outcome of the games you watched, except in a very minor way. It wouldn't feel very sporty.

I think that's the sense that Copra was using when he was talking about WoW boss battles not feeling very heroic. To quote Copra:

"The more I think of it, the challenge just isn't as tangible as it should be. There is no risk involved, only severe repetition to overcome the bosses. Gear makes the effort easier, but doesn't remove any risks."
The way I see it, the main problem with bosses in WoW is that they're missing something. As Copra says, there's no risk involved... or the risks are so great that near-perfect execution is required to overcome them. There is a level of excitement and involvement that's lacking. You're just another cog in the raid machine, and if you fail to execute properly, you die, and... the raids overall dps output shrinks by a minuscule amount. Or your failure results in a raid wipe. Great - your choices are to be an unnoticed cog in the great machine, or to be the broken cog that grinds everything to a halt.

Compare that to some classic fights in Naxxramas that involved some interesting mechanics. Bosses like the Four Horsemen, Gothik, Noth, Gluth. All of these battles had a frantic, exciting, and - may I say it? - heroic feel to them. You were part of a group going up against the Big Bad Bosses, but you were never going up against just A Big Bad Boss. There were adds to pick up and kill, kite or CC. Curses and diseases to dispel. With the exception of Noth, all of the battles involves splitting up the party in some way, which had the interesting side effect of making the battle more intense. You had your part to do, but instead of being a cog in the machine, you were a part of a team that was fighting a smaller battle in support of a larger objective.

In later content, the trash (not necessarily the bosses) in the ICC 5 mans have the same feel to them. Especially running through the tunnel in the Pit of Saron, or escaping the Lich King in the Halls of Reflection. You're not in a Boss Battle, you're in a fight. Yeah, you've got a strategy to follow, but that's what it is - a strategy, a high-level plan for the battle. The actual tactics you use has to change depending on you abilities and the situation at hand. You can even screw up, sometimes more than once, but messing up doesn't always mean a wipe. It just means you need to change your tactics, blow some cooldowns, kick it up a notch and maybe try something new to kill that last stinking abomination to bring down the ice wall.

When you pull it off, you've kicked butt and taken names. When you fail... ah, well. When you fail, you went down kicking and screaming, and by the Light, you took more than a few of those scourged bastards with you.

That feels heroic.

So. More of that, please, Blizzard. Boss battles that are real fights, that feel a little bit more like PvP than a Quest for The Perfect Rotation. Fights that require you to move, to think, to react to changing situations instead of raid warnings. Fights that split you up and put you in smaller groups that have to support one another. Fights where making mistakes means you have to change tactics, instead of wiping and doing a ghost run. Fights where my contribution to the outcome is more than topping the dps meters or spamming heals.

Battles where I can play a hero for a little while.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's Not Just Me!

In a post today, Tobold explains his current situation, where he is trying to level a druid that he let stall at low level a while back. An interesting article, but buried in there is a nice little comment where he tells why he left off leveling the druid in the first place. He rolled a druid and a paladin at the same time, started leveling them, and:

While that plan initially looked somewhat balanced, the flaws soon became apparent. While the druid was better to play at very low levels, the paladin got a big boost in power at level 16, and by level 20 was a completely overpowered soloing monster. Even without dual-spec yet, he was what players of previous games would call a "tank mage", that mythical character with no flaws at all, being able to deal as much damage as any other class, while simultaneously being able to withstand far more damage than a pure damage-dealer, and being able to heal himself to boot when things got rough.
This was pretty much my experience, too. Level 16 was a big boost, even trying to level as protection spec. As I've noted, being able to dual spec to protection for tanking, retribution for leveling at level 40 has made a huge difference as well. To be fair, Tobold also mentions another factor - having played three Horde characters to 80, he was more interested in seeing things from the Alliance side on his paladin. It doesn't change the fact that paladins are more capable and easier to play than other classes.

Which makes me wonder if I made the right choice of class with Aeven. It's one thing to level in vendor gear; it's another thing entirely to level in vendor gear, using what is arguably the most versatile and powerful class in the game. I've played a mage and a priest to level 80 and beyond; a death knight to almost 70, a druid into the 20's, and now I've got Aeven pushing into the 60's. Leveling any of them to 60 undergeared might have been annoying, but I don't think it would have been impossible. The process probably would have been slower, and I definitely would have made some different talent choices, but I'm sure it could be done.

Still... I can't help but think that it wouldn't have been anywhere as easy as it's been with Aeven. Perhaps I should have chosen to level as a warrior, or a rogue instead? Eh... c'est la vie. Aeven's who Aeven is, now, and if she's OP, well, that's life.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On a Completely Different Note...

I'm rather tickled that the default dictionary for Mac OS X is capable of handling words like "Draenei" and "Azeroth" correctly. Granted, it does it by using Wikipedia, but it's still pretty neat.

Hail, My Tauren Compatriot!

Apparently, patch 3.3.5 is going to include the ability to chat with your friends, cross-server... and cross-faction.

Given Blizzard's previous stance on cross-faction communication ("Nope, not happening - use emotes, dude"), this seems kind of odd. While the idea of making friend and chatting with friendly Horde is interesting, I can't help but think that this ends up opening a door to a lot of potential abuses. Battleground honor-farming collusion are and spying on enemy forces are two obvious ones. "Hey, Wintergrasp time. Jump on your Horde toon and let us know what they're planning, OK?" It just seems... wrong to allow players in a PvP environment to potentially communicate with one another.

Hopefully, Blizzard will impose some restrictions on this ability - not allowing cross-faction chat when you're flagged for PvP would be a reasonable one, I think. Or maybe only allowing cross-faction chat if it's also cross-server chat (though that still leads to potential problems in battlegrounds and other cross-server instances).

Personally, I think that implementing some sort of language skill to allow cross-faction communication would be a more interesting proposition. Make it something hard - requiring an achievement like Diplomat - before you can even start to learn the opposing faction's language. Ultimately, it would be more immersive, and allow for more nuances in game play - yeah, that Rogue? He's stealthed and crept into your base, and he understands what you're saying. Mostly. So long as... oh, crud, they switched to Dwarvish!

I mean, if you're going to poke holes like this in the communication barrier, why not go all the way? Cataclysm is going to shake everything up, after all. Why not allow Horde and Alliance to start to learn each other's languages? Or if that seems like too much, then introduce a common third language - Titanic - that can be learned by anyone using the new Archaeology skill.

Interesting stuff. One day, maybe, we'll even be able to group together. Imagine a mixed PvE/PvP dungeon... someplace like Uldum, an ancient Titan city. Powerful devices of the Titans are stockpiled there, magic and technology essential to the continued survival of Azeroth. It will require the combined power of the Horde and the Alliance, working together, to defeat the guardians the Titans have left behind. A situation where cooperation is borne of necessity... at least until the last guardian is defeated, and the only thing standing in the way of claiming the relics of the Titans are your one-time companions in adversity.

Now, that would be a whole lot cooler than being able to say, "hey bro, r u their?" to your Horde buddies. IMHO.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time for a Vacation

Over the weekend, Aeven finished up the various quest chains in Un'gro, with the exception of the Linkin quest chain, It's A Secret To Everybody. From there, she proceeded to tear through the Felwood, make nice to the friendly Furbolgs, and wade through the wonderful snowy landscape to find herself arriving at level 57 about the same time that she arrived at the Goblin outpost of Everlook. While I might drag her off to a Black Rock Depths for an adventure or two, I expect that Aeven will spend some time here knocking back a few quests and pushing for level 60.

There's something about Winterspring that really appeals to me. The quests in the area aren't anything special. They're not lore-heavy, not too difficult, and not to broken. The environment is kind of nice, and what running you have to do isn't onerous - probably because the zone is in the shape of a Y with Everlook right smack dab in the middle. So you rarely end up having to run the whole length of the zone to accomplish anything (yes, I'm looking at you, Felwood. Ugh!)

All of that combines to make for a nice, simple, relaxing zone. You've been running around like a maniac, righting wrongs, rescuing kittens, fighting ancient evils, and generally doing your best to pad out you Hero CV. All that's starting to pay off, it seems. At this point, you've probably gotten an inkling of the Silithid menace brewing in southern Kalimdor. You've seen hints of a demonic incursion and corruption in the Felwood. You've probably had half a dozen people give you ten good reasons each why your strong arm, in particular, is needed in the Plaguelands to fight the growing threat of the Scourge. We're talking real world-saving stuff, here, not just going on a quest to find Archmage Grandlooser's Socks of Power.

But you know what? It's been, like, 25 levels - at least - since you've had a decent vacation. In fact, aside from that time in Westfall... no, right, there were Defias there. Maybe it was that time in Stanglethorn Vale? Ugh, no, that's where you got that jungle rot. Oh! The Hinterlands! Yeah, that was a place of scenic beauty! Marred only be the Trolls, spiders, oozes and enraged wildkin roaming over every inch of the mob-infested place. Pretty scenery, though. Well, when it wasn't obscured by the howling Troll warriors trying to rip your spleen out so they could sacrifice you to the Old Ones.

Face it. You haven't had a decent vacation in... well, ever. It's been go go go since you first stepped out and started leveling, when Bozo the Wonder Quest Giver asked you to go kill Ten Sickly Squirrels or something. That non-stop pace can wear you down. So, before you head off to face uncertain death at the hands of huge mutant bugs, demonic legions and undead fueled by a hatred for all things living, wouldn't it be nice to just get away for a bit, relax, and spend some time enjoying the finer things in life?

Like slaughtering Yeti.

Well, OK - spending time in Winterspring is more like a working vacation. Sure, there's no skiing, no hot tubs, and the night life (quite frankly) stinks. But there is an inn, and a bunch of light questing you can do to keep yourself limber while you wander around, enjoying the scenery and killing the local inhabitants in order to loot their bodies for whatever pitiful few pieces of silver they might have on them.

What more could a noble adventurer want?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The First Rule of Fail PuG...

"The first rule of Fail PuG is, you must talk about Fail PuG."
"The second rule of Fail PuG is, you MUST talk about Fail PuG."

Who am I to ignore the rules? Listen, then...

Just about 1k experience short of making level 56, I queued up for Sunken Temple in the LFD tool. Apparently there aren't that many people interested in running ST, so even queued as a tank, it was a bit of a wait. After a while, though, I found myself in a group consisting of Aeven, two hunters and their pets, an elemental shaman and a druid.

I switched Aeven over to her tanking spec, drank up, and tossed off some buffs. Then I warned them, up front, that someone else would have to guide us through the instance. If this seems like a familiar litany of mine, then you'd be absolutely correct. I've run old world and BC dungeons enough that I'm vaguely familiar with most of them, but I'm more than willing to admit the rats nest that is Sunken Temple makes my brain hurt.

Within the first few mobs, Aeven picked up enough experience to hit level 56. Nice! I had gotten into Sunken Temple just under the wire, just before the LFD tool would not let me queue her for the instance. But I was there now, and hey - it's an old world instance, right? How hard could it be, really?

It didn't take long to see the warning signs of Fail PuG. One of the hunters was rolling need on everything. Not a big deal to me - greens and blues are just gold, and I was there to run the dungeon, not find new shinies. It was a point of contention to the other players, though. "Why are you rolling need on everything?" No answer. The druid was our healer, but seemed to spend more time in cat form then actually healing. Well, OK - I've healed as shadow spec on my priest before, when we obviously overgeared the instance and just tossing out a heal every once in a while was deadly dull.

With the shaman guiding us, though, we made our way to the upper ring of the temple. It was there that things started falling apart. "We should all tank everything," said one of the hunters in party chat. I said nothing. And indeed, there were soon bears, cats, and diminutive dwarven death machines running hither and yon. I did my best to hold aggro, but - to my shame - I had forgotten to turn on Righteous Fury, and didn't realize that until it was pointed out to me later. So lest you think that I am just the chronicler of fail in this case, know that I did in fact contribute to the level of Fail we expereinced. A minor contribution, to be sure, but there none the less.

After the second mini-boss, the shaman ran off, unnoticed, to find the next target. By the time I realized she had gone, we tried to follow her, and - lacking our guide - ended up on the lower level of the instance. Yeah, I know. How amazingly hard would it have been to just continue on the path and join up with her? Apparently, too hard for our four feeble brains. We ended up at the instance portal before we realized how mixed up we were, and the shammy soon dropped group in disgust.

One of the hunters says, "pass me lead." I think about it a second, figure that he probably has a friend to invite or something, and pass him the group lead. If he wants that position, it's fine by me - he can't have a worse idea of how to navigate the instance than I do. There's really no real benefit to being group lead, so if he wanted it, well, that was find by me. I'd classify this as my second shame. I was just interested in running the dungeon, but really, I should have stepped in and filled the role of the dungeon leader, whatever that meant. Instead, I sloughed it off and let someone else take up the minimal responsibilities.

We re-entered the LFD queue, and quickly picked up a priest - apparently, when the time came to re-queue, the druid decided that he'd just go full-out feral and registered as dps along with the hunters. Well, OK - we still had three dps, and now we had a real healer with us.

"Hey guys, first time healing, hope that's OK," said Priestly Guy.

"No problem," I answered. I was actually kind of excited. Here we are, in an old world instance, with what seemed like a nice guy trying to learn the ropes of his class. Stepping out of his comfort zone, getting ready to experience an entirely new aspect of the game, and... what?

"A vote to kick Priestly Guy has been initiated."

Before I couild even respond, bam! Priestly Guy was gone. Oh-kaaay. Here then is my third shame: I said nothing. Looking back on it, I should have just dropped group. Vote kicking someone for, say, rolling need on things they can't use? Apparently not. Vote kicking the healer because he's never healed in a dungeon before? Apparently, that's perfectly reasonable.

So, sans healer, the two hunters start pulling again. I shrug my shoulders, and rather than drop group - which would mean having to put together a ST dungeon run by hand, now that I can't use the LFD tool - I just go with the flow and follow along. At this point, one of the folks (the druid, IIRC) chimes in:

"hey aeven what with ur gear?"

Oh, joy. Text speak. I explain that it's intentional, and that I'm leveling and learning to tank using only vendor-bought gear as an experiment.

"aeven ur an idiot"

Sigh. I respond, saying something like, "Yes, the evidence seems to point to that inevitable conclusion." I choose not to mention that I am not refering to my gear - the fact that Aeven is level 56 should, I think, speak for itself - but to my continuing association with the current group of uncouth, over-caffeinated twitch-boys.

By the time we end up overlooking the pit full of dragonkin that will eventually lead to Eranikus, the druid has dropped group, leaving me with the two loot-happy hunters. Well, with their pets, we still have five in the party, right? At least, that's what I tried to tell myself. "Aeven, you can heal, right?" they ask, and I tell them sure, I'm not spec'd for it, but I can try. So they jump down into the pit, I follow... and land in the middle of a group of whelps and dragonkin. They go running off to pull another group, leaving me there wondering where they are, what's going on, and ooh, look, isn't that a cute little whelp that's gnawing my leg off at the knee?

I die.

By the time I make my way back to the instance, the two hunters have - not surprisingly - also perished, since they lacked a healer. And a tank. And anything approaching decent dps. At which point, they drop group, leaving my ghost at the entrance to the Sunken Temple.

So now I've died, I've lost my group, I've lost my easiest chance to run Sunken Temple, and my indifference has contributed to all of the above.

Wheh. OK, time for lessons learned.
  1. Before I head into an instance, I'm going to read up on it, and get out of the "someone else tell me where to go" mentality. I'll know where to go - generally, if not specifically. I'll know what to watch out for, and make sure that I know enough to get everyone (Aeven included) through the instance successfully.
  2. I took Aeven into the instance essentially unbuffed - no defense potions, no strength elixirs, no food buffs, no other non-class related buffs. Bascially, I've gotten lazy, thanks to the ease of leveling as retribution. Now that she's heading into end-game vanilla content and introductory BC content, I need to make sure that Aeven is as ready as she can possibly be if I want her to do a good job as a tank.
  3. I'm going to put together a macro that explains my gear choices to the party, and hit it on joining an instance. I don't have a problem with dropping group if people think that Aeven isn't capable of tanking a particular instance. Being forthright from the start will save us all some trouble if Aeven's gear will be an impediment (actual or perceived).
  4. I'm going to (finally) put together a tanking macro for Aeven that consolidates her emergency taunt abilities, so she can grab and keep aggro, even in the face of hunter pets running amok.
  5. I'm going to set and adhere to personal standards of behavior. Incivility - rolling need on everything, vote-kicking someone for no reason, foul language or rudeness - will be addressed by me. I won't wait for someone else to be the adult. If the situation isn't corrected, or isn't correctable, then sorry. The group will loose their tank.