Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some Tuesday Ponderings

This is what happens when you wake up early and don't feel quite well enough to go run on an elliptical machine for 1/2 hour.
  • Who'd have thought that the Arathi Highlands would be more deadly to a 45th Level Blood Elf Paladin than Loch Modan? I was attempting to finish a quest involving the Syndicate when I was relentlessly tormented by ?? level Night Elf Hunter apparently working on a similar quest. After getting zapped twice, I said to hell with this and decided to hunt for the Flight Point in the Badlands. That, of course, meant that I'd be passing through Alliance controlled Loch Modan. Naturally, nothing happened to me while I explored the entire area. Go figure.
  • PvP has a lot in common with Laser Tag. Of course, the two PvP areas I played in were either Capture and Hold (Arathi) or Capture the Flag (Warsong Gulch), but the emotions and intensity are similar to those bouts of Laser Tag I played as a teen way too many years ago.
  • What works in PvE/solo questing does not work in PvP. There are some commands you simply aren't going to use too much because they take too much time in a PvP environment. Exorcism vs. Holy Shock; hmm, instant vs. having to wait it out? In PvP, if you wait you'll probably end up being zapped by a random Hunter's shot.
  • If you're a Paladin in a group with a Mage and a Shaman, you're the tank by default. Doesn't matter if you don't have a tank spec, someone's got to go into the front line and absorb damage. And it ain't gonna be the Mage.
  • A Mage, a Priest and a Warlock get in a fight with some bad dudes. Who gets to play "damage magnet?" I figure it has to be Warlock as they have a minion already, the Mage can launch broad ranged attacks from distance, and you don't want your Rez/Healer meal ticket to bite it.
  • One of these days I'm going to try to make a dash to Light's Hope Chapel in Eastern Plaguelands so I can get the flight point there. It will be nice to take a flight from Silvermoon all the way to the Badlands without having to jump through hoops getting to the Undercity first.

Monday, October 19, 2009


So I made a real effort this last weekend to push my death knight's tradeskills ahead.

First off, let me say that one major drawback to playing a death knight is the fact that you don't have a chance to level any profession as you go. You are suddenly thrust into the world at level 58 and have a lot of making up to do as far as your main professions go.

So here we go...

Cooking is at 322 (I know, right?) Cooking? Who levels cooking? I never have. Which is exactly why I wanted to this time around. I'm up to the point of cooking up any strange critters I find in outlands. That's right. If it's dead and has meat it's goin in the fryin' pan.

Fishing is at 128. I haven't spent too much time on this, but this is another skill I have never bothered to level before. It's still kind of boring, but at least there's achievements now. Hey, I caught Old Crafty, have you?

First aid is up to outlands coth drops. Nothing special here.

Mining is at 160. Also nothing special here. I chose not to mine nodes on this caracter, instead using my level 80 pally to crusade aura around mining the necessary materials for blacksmithing.

And here we are at Blacksmiting: 350!!! With the majority of the materials farmed by myself in one weekend.

Oy! That's a lot of mining.

In fact, to advance this far I've used roughly:
133 Rough Stone
190 Copper Bar
24 Coarse Stone
5 Silver Bar
120 Bronze Bar
150 Heavy Stone
5 Gold Bar
230 Iron Bar
35 Green Dye
50 Steel Bar
5 Truesilver Bar
60 Solid Stones
150 Mageweave Cloth
320 Mithril Bar
20 Dense Stone
430 Thorium Bar
10 Star Ruby
155 Fel Iron Bar
10 Netherweave Cloth
70 Adamantite Bar

I'm up to the point now, however, that I'll be needing cobalt bars from northrend to advance. And I'm not going to bother with that until I'm level 65 and can advance to the next tier of skill level for Blacksmithing.

Which finally brings me to my point of this all. After having spent all the time I did finding all those materials to level a tradeskill it really did feel more like a job IRL. /rant Especially when you get to the point of not having any new recipies to learn, you only need two more points until you advance to the next tier of materials, and the only current thing you can make is of the yellow skill level so you farm up enough materials to make 8 of said yellow items and get ONE POINT!!! SERIOUSLY? WHO THE HELL THOUGHT THIS UP!! /end rant

Blizzard should make leveling tradeskills in the old world easier. Smithing up to about the point of using mithril bars went pretty quick and easy. Then you get to the point where you need a boat load of materials just to get one point. For instance to make the Thorium helmet you need like 16 Thorium bars and a star ruby. The going rate for those materials on the auction house is roughly 50 gold. 50 Gold for just one point in your chosen profession?! Hence the reason I farmed most everything I needed.

Seriously Blizz, just reduce the number of bars needed per recipie towards the later end of tradeskills in vanilla wow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PUG Life

Alright... I'll start this off by saying I'm a tank. Pretty much what ever class I'm playing I seem to gravitate towards the tank role.

I realize that by not being in a guild currently I have to suffer the fate of finding pick up groups (pug) to run dungeons my level. Why must the random pug always be such a headache?

Group composition:

Level 70 Warrior - Protection Tank Spec (myself)
Level 70 Deathknight - Blood DPS spec
Level 70 Shaman - Enhancement DPS spec
Level 70 Mage - Arcane (I think?) DPS spec
Level 70 Druid- Restoration Healing Spec


Utgarde Keep

Here I am. My first Northred dungeon on my warrior. I have high hopes for this run. I remember back to a few weeks ago I did one night of Outlands dungeon runs with a group similarly composed to my current one and we did very well.

First few pulls went ok. I noticed the mage pulling aggro a bit so I placed Vigalance http://thottbot.com/ta148 on the mage which took care of that.

The run generally went pretty smoothly up to the first boss. The one pull where you get two spell casters and two melee mobs to fight was rough. The shaman died and reincarnated himself and the death knight died also. I felt bad for letting this happen and apologized to them.

We killed the first boss successfuly, though losing the deathknight again.

On our way up to the second boss I started feeling more comfortable with the rotation of using my abilities again and started watching my group members. They were attacking who ever was closest to them with out a care in the world.

Trying to maintain aggro on all of the mobs in the pack pulls was a complete mess by the end of the run with the each of the three dps picking their own mob to try to kill.

I'm pretty sure I know how to aoe tank. Charge in, thunderclap, back pedal a bit to group up mobs and unleash a shockwave followed by a demoralizing shout, and then a succession of tab targeting to apply devastate and cleave when rage allows.

I was like a mad man trying to maintain aggro on all of the seperate targets at once.

Now two realizations hit me here:

1) Why oh why can't PUGs assist the tank?

I think I know. Paladins and DeathKnight tanks have lovely lovely AOEs that give them great front loaded threat on the various targets. So much so that you can just, that's right.... set it and forget it. As having played both a level 80 Paladin and Deathknight as tank specs I cannot recall having to worry about group pulls pretty much ever.

Warriors can get this too, but it requires a bit more work because you have to make sure you position your shockwave to hit all the targets. Now being lower level I realize I don't have all the tools in my back of tricks yet to help assist grouping the targets up, but ARGH was this frustrating.

2) Perhaps leveling my DeathKnight alt (once the wife catches up) will actually prove less frustrating that the constant struggle I would face in my current predicament of haivng to find PUGs.

Why, then, does playing my deathknight feel like cheating somehow?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hypothetical Question Time

The other day when I was putzing around and completing a few quests around Thousand Needles, Murtaugh and I were keeping a running conversation going. (He was over in one of the higher level areas; more than high enough to be instant death for a 31st level Paladin.) Anyway, during the course of the conversation he asked me whether I'd be playing the Horde if he and Missy weren't already playing that faction when they invited me to join. I rather quickly tossed back the reply that I'd probably be playing an Elf of some sort, whether Horde or Alliance, and gave as my reasoning that I've played enough Humans in my past that I'd like to try something different.

After his query fermented in my brain for a while, I thought it deserved a better answer than that.

Of course, the flippant answer would be that I wouldn't be playing WoW at all; I had no real desire to go play an MMO before being invited to do so. The 'why' of that is simple: MMOs are not what I typically play when I play computer games; I'm much more in the mold of the turn based strategy player. Civ is probably my favorite game, but the Total War series is also damn good. The old Master of Orion was great, and it sounds like Galactic Civilizations II is following in the same vein. Sure, I'd played computer RPGs before, but not MMOs.

Now, putting all that aside for a moment, what would I play if I decided to try out WoW on my own? My RPG history suggests a Human Priest or a Human Warrior, but in reality I'd kind of tired on playing Humans. The natural extensions of a D&D player interested in fighting would be Dwarven or Orc Warrior, but I wanted something different. The Elves of both sides are appealing to me, mainly because they're different from Humans but not too different to play well. (Yes, I slip into FTF RPG mode when I consider characters to play; kind of hard to disassociate myself from something I've been playing since 1980 or so.) The thing about Elves is that, well, they're popular. Blame the Lord of the Rings movies, the Cult of Drizzt, all sorts of generic fantasy worlds, or even D&D, but Elves are hot. For a guy who prides himself on marching to the beat of a different drummer, following the pack wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

Two things made me stick to my guns: just because everybody else does it doesn't mean that I shouldn't, and in an MMO you can make your own path. Do your own thing, don't be an ass, and you'll be fine.

Now, the question becomes Horde or Alliance? If I'd have just seen pictures of the races and made decisions that way, I'd probably have chosen Alliance. Come on, I'm programmed just like everybody else to think that the side where Humans, Dwarves, Elves and Gnomes are on is the "good guys" side. When Murtaugh and his wife invited me to join, however, I took the time to read a bit of the history of the races. Blizzard did a great job of making the backstories neutral enough to keep it from being slanted toward one faction. There were enough bad and good deeds all the way around that kept one particular faction from being easily defined as "the good guys". Digging down, you find the stereotypes of the Horde races don't fit; sure, they don't like the Alliance, but that by itself doesn't make them evil. (Okay, the Forsaken don't help themselves much with their tendencies toward eradicating Humans, I'll grant you that, but given the Scarlet Brotherhood you can understand the source of their dislike.) In fact, I find the Native American slant that Blizzard built into the Tauren fascinating. It's perfect in it's own way, taking what would be a stereotypical Minotaur and turning it into something else.

I guess the answer to the faction question isn't simple; I still might have chosen Alliance, but I'm comfortable with the Horde. Except for the Forsaken; even the rest of the Blood Elf NPCs seem to be a bit, um, uncertain about their erstwhile allies, but they play nice for the time being. The Horde seems to be a good fit for me right now, and I'm fine with playing it. While I might try an Alliance character later for comparison, I'm fine with playing Horde at the moment.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The core question...

Hard or soft?

There seems to be a few schools of thought when it comes to WoW players. You've got your die hard raiders that are all about getting top of the line gear with the best possible group compositions and raid spots all figured out.

At the other end of the spectrum you've got the casuals. The people who are doing 5 man dungeons for badge gear and pvp'ing for gladiator gear. They'll occasionally do a raid if they can find a decent PUG (pick up group).

This game seems to support both options, but leans towards the first. In a game that's driven by gear, the top gear always wins out.

Classic WOW:

When molten core came out and the very first raid dungeon was introduced into the game, our small guild ended up having to merge to attempt to tackle the 40 man content. I still remember the very first pull in the dungeons. The very first pull of the dungeon and my tier 1 bracers dropped randomly and I actually won them! From then on I was hooked. We steadily made progress into the core into that lava ridden cave and eventually got burned... out.

Yep, I ended up retiring from raiding right when we were just starting to conquer An'Quiraj.

The requirements of being adequately prepared for the raids were expensive and required a decent amount of time spend just farming every week for materials I would need.

Burning Crusade:
Brand new 10 man content! Oh man was I excited for this expansion, flying mounts, content that didn't require 40 people, and man the gear was such a huge upgrade from the old world stuff (even though my collection of level 60 raid gear lasted me a while).

Once I realized, however, that you still had to do larger raids to get all of your tier set I was not too happy. Our small guild of friends didn't grow much beyond what was required to just do Kara and we ended up topping out there. I spend most of my time in BC doing PVP and getting completely frustrated with being a healer.

Again, new 10 man content with a harder 25 man version released. Awesome! Once again the guild reforms with most of our players from BC. We progress through all of the 10 man content including Naxxramas, Obsidian Sanctum, Vaults, and Eye of Eternity.

Next thing you know, the guild is looking at merging with another guild to successfuly complete 25 man content.

You can't stop running the 10 man content for people to gear up to compete in the 25 man content. Again, this led to major burnout as I was the main tank and had been tanking EVERYTHING since level 70.

Moral of the story? Find a group that you will be happy with. In the end, I came to the realization that I didn't care about getting the 25 man gear and accomplishing the 10 content can actually be harder than the 25 man. And I still got to see the content and didn't feel I was being left out of anything.

With the constant lure of shiny new gear, can a guild sustain themselves at 10 man content alone?

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Past vs. The Present

When I first began playing D&D, I wanted to be a fighter. You know, so you could fight with a sword, kill things and in general act like one of those knights you'd see on the movies as a kid. The kid who introduced me to D&D -a boy named Rob- had his own fighter whom he'd so eloquently named Sir Robert, and boy did I want that.

So there we were, rolling up our first characters. He had the old blue box D&D set, so our choices were along the lines of Dwarf, Elf, Mystic, Fighter, Cleric, Thief. You probably know the drill: roll 3 six-sided dice once each time for Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. Well, I rolled an 18 for Wisdom, and Rob told me "Oh, that's good. You should be a Cleric; they need high Wisdom."

"A Cleric?"

"Yeah, they're like a priest."

Images of the priests at church walking around in a dungeon fighting dragons appeared in my head, and I passed. "I want to be a fighter," I told Rob.

He shrugged and we set my character up as a not-too-strong (but very wise) fighter.

That character, Sir Michael, didn't last too long when the first room we went into had ::cue dramatic music:: 5 Red Dragons!

Oh well.

However, somewhere along the line, I began to warm to the idea of being a Cleric. Especially when I found out that no, it wasn't like Father Jim going around blessing people, but more like Friar Tuck (without all the rotundity). That, I could deal with. When I started playing D&D in college, I soon discovered that "Cleric" was the sort of character class that nobody really wanted to play but every group needed to have one of, so I bit the bullet and became the group Cleric. In fact, in the current game I play, I'm still a Cleric, although I have double dipped and have an Elven Wizard as well (it was another class that nobody wanted to play, so you know the drill).

I think you can see where this is going.

When I first downloaded WoW and set up a character, what class did I choose? The Priest, naturally. As I inquired about it, I was warned that the Priest class in WoW is a bit different than that in older editions of D&D. (D&D 4E has the Cleric set up more like the D&D 3E and WoW Paladin, but I digress.) I quickly discovered that yeah, the Priest is different. No armor -only cloth for you, bucko- more heavily reliant upon spells, and best when attacking a single enemy with spells at one time. The WoW Priest is far more fragile than any D&D version, and is typically right at the back of the line with the Mage and the Warlock. You won't see my Priest invoking the name of his Deity and charging into battle anytime soon.

Do I like the priest?

Well, yes and no.

Oh, I like putzing around with the spells a bit, and the Priest seems to be a popular character when groups are forming ("Looking 4 Priest 4 Grp 4 Ragefire Canyon"), but the Priest is definitely the Yang to the Yin of the Mage. That takes some getting used to, and soloing with a Priest means I have to stop a lot to heal/regain mana. For a guy who's used to charging into battle and inspiring the troops with a few well timed invocations, that can be frustrating. (As a contrast to the WoW Priest, early in my current D&D 3E Cleric's career, he bull rushed a group of goblins who were about to overwhelm one of the party's Rangers. Stupid and dangerous, yes, but it succeeded, and so the Cleric now has it in his head that he can do that and it'll just work for him. Playing a character from an pampered upper class background can be fun that way.)

So, I put the Priest on a shelf for a while, and decided to try the Paladin. Murtaugh here mentioned that the Paladin is probably closer to what I'm used to playing as a Cleric, and he's right to a big extent. The Paladin can get in there, invoke the Gods, mix it up, and still take enough of a licking to keep moving on without much healing or mana regeneration. Of course, the Paladin very similar to the D&D 3E Paladin (and is somewhere in between the 4E Cleric and Paladin), so if you've ever played the part of the classic Holy Warrior, this is the class for you. Considering the amount of damage the Paladin can deal out, I have to wonder how much more physical damage a Warrior of comparable level can inflict.

I think that I'm going to have the Paladin as my primary class, but I won't mind dragging out the Priest ever so often for a spin. I also have to admit I'm curious about the Hunter class, as I don't know anyone personally who plays one, but the WoW version of the Ranger does have a certain appeal to a guy who likes to solo a bit.

Hmm... Maybe a Tauren Hunter...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Redbeard Checks In

I'm the other half of this endeavor, the WoW Noob.

Although I'm new to WoW and other MMO's, I've a long history of gaming, both electronic and otherwise. As a kid growing up in the 70's and 80's, I played all sorts of boardgames, D&D, and a boatload of computer games. Yes, I did play the original Colossal Cave Adventure (courtesy of a friend's brother-in-law's computer access), Zork, and the old Infocom text adventure games. When I went away to college, I got exposed to the Commodore 64 and The Bard's Tale, the Ultima series of RPGs, and all sorts of other games of the late 80's/early 90's.

While I tend to play the turn based strategy games such as Civ, I have played and enjoyed the RPGs that use the Bioware engine: Baldur's Gate I/II, Planescape: Torment, and Neverwinter Nights.

From all that I entered into the world of MMO's a couple of months ago when I was invited to try out WoW.

As a IT person with a programming background, I've been tremendously impressed with the quality of work in WoW.

As a player... It's definitely more than I expected. Far more. You can do your solo thing if you want to, you can play with a group, you can roleplay, you can just bash heads if that's your thing. The system is flexible and big enough that it's great to simply immerse yourself in and play. I can easily see how people can get so addicted to this game, as it's a helluva lot of fun just to explore.

My angle on this blog is going to be from the standpoint of the noob, but also one who's just enjoying himself along the way. (I do have this anal tendency to want to finish whatever quest I picked up, no matter if it's gone grey or not, but hopefully that won't prove too much of a distraction.)