Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Not-So-Brief Toast

This is the 11th anniversary of Parallel Context, and for this year, I'm going to do something different.

I'm going to use this space as a huge thank you to people who, over the years, have made my time spent gaming --and writing about gaming-- so enjoyable.

Oh, I've said thanks before --hell, I even said thanks to some friends who never read the blog a few days ago-- but this is different. 

I'm going to be all inclusive, and as much as possible, name names. (Hopefully in Alphabetical order.)

There's plenty of people over the past 11 years who shaped me as the gamer --and gamer Dad-- that I am. If I miss a name, it's not that I deliberately ignored you, it's likely that I forgot to include you. So this is my catch all "I love you, man!" moment.

First of all, I'd like to thank my wife, Laura, for tolerating my gaming habit. Given that she outplays me in Mario Kart and Scrabble I'd say she's got the gamer bug too.

The mini-Reds, Kathryn, David, and Stephanie: Sorry for outing you like this, but you know, it's a Dad thing. And besides, you're not exactly "mini" any more.

Sam (Souldat) and Missy, who got me started on WoW back in 2009. Soul and I started up the blog a month later. Their own kids will be gamers too, I just know it.

My fellow bloggers --some still here, others who have moved on-- who over the years provided encouragement, criticism, and friendship: Ancient, Arcturus Wilhelm, Atherne, Bhagpuss, Chas, Cymre, Cynwise, Dacheng, Darth Solo, Ehna, Gevlon, Gypsy Syl, Jaye, Joseph Skyrim, Kamalia, Krikket, Kurn, Larisa, Linedan, Lyrestra, Miss Medicina, Navimie, Nogamara, Njessi, Oakstout, Ophelie, Rades, Ratshag, Ravanel Griffon, Rohan, Sayville, Shayalyn, Shintar, SilkRX, Spinks, Syp, Tam, The Duke of O, The Jazz Panda, The Red Cow, Tobold, Vidyala, Voss, Zeirah, and Zinn.

My fellow pencil-and-paper RPG and boardgame players, who have provided hours of amusement and bad jokes, frequently at my expense: Bill, Cara, Craig, Dave, Emily, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Ed, Eric, James, Jeem, Kathleen, Larry, Michael, Richard, Roy, Todd, Tom, Tom, and Vincent.

My fellow MMO players whom I've interacted with and become friends/acquaintances, without whom the online world we inhabit would feel so empty. Some of these people I've not seen in-game in a while or maybe even met once or twice, but their online personas had a lasting impact on me. I'm also going to have to apologize about the lack of memory from my previous years playing WoW and the heyday of SWTOR. So naturally, this is gonna skew heavily in the direction of WoW Classic and Myzrael-US, so forgive me the bias*: Agarramesta, Akumabby, Alendor, Amorilla, Amyspaladin, Anarya, Andahar, Andrisa, Angelarenee/Ashablake, Angrymom, Angryslash, Annimagus, Aquilaen, Archimond, Artey, Arthur, Aryasmercy, Astrologic, Athenaheals, Auggustus, Azsharianna, Babushkae, Badsectorz, Ballowman, Beatocarlos, Beerly, Blackcadence, Bobknight, Brawhalla, Brandir, Brisse, Briteyez, Brohlm, Cambry, Camie, Candrilynn, Cathoran, Cerilya, Chantsy, Chowmeinz, ClickyMcHope, Clorinda, Coolbeanz, Corcair, Cormar, Crammarius, Crenshawe, Criminy, Dagalor, Daile, Dalazar, Danzandrin, Darlon, Dealtfate, Deeps, Deonysia, Diadema, Dilutes, DJDoug, Dnara, Draggonbite, Dreadxoom, Druldin, Elanda, Elavear, Eowin, Epa, Epyk/Naytiri, Etnwhvac, Eucaly, Exileriven, Faebissa, Fatality, Fermiumvolt, Feytor, Frozenchosen, Galaxyx, Galea, GeeGee, Gerran, Gerardian, Giblin, Gigglemug, Gohealurself, Gohmorr, Gorome, Grapenut, Grayhair, Gruber, Gwenthe, Haldol, Hallowman, Haylnn, Heathcliff, Henneli, Iamzlaw, Ita, Jaeger, Jalen, Jashal, Jasperin, Jeras, Jesup, Jukes, Jhaydis, Juliette, Jyhaero, Kaben, Kagatoe, Kale, Kaitie, Kellevi, Kendogg, Kerlin, Keren, Kiltpeeper, Kobuk/Sitka, Kokolo, Kuzon, Kyrisa, Lashuenta, Levilla, Lg, Lilboo, Lionusdrake, Lipwig, Lojze, Lolcats, Lollipop, Looksa, Lottarage, Lottathreat, Lottaheals, Ludovika, Lynestrex, Macfarquar, Malaia, Mathibarad, McLoughlin, Meatballsoup, Missguided, Mithridates, Mirshana, Mojack, Mool, Moonraye, Mysteria, Necrosis, Nehi, Neristranna, Neshama, Nikkifrost, Niplsauce, Nokt, Nubisa, Nugsy, Nysarra, Oakshanna, Oceani, Oldmanvekk, Ontherocks, Oom, Ophelia, Orcsquasher, Otaylig, Qanya, Paulgladdin, Payorth, Pelham, Penryn, Phaela, Phylox, Potatoetot, Primera, Prone, Quidz, Quintessence, Raike, Rashelle, Raziael, Realnoice, Reapicheep, Redlough, Rehni, Remedy, Remiel, Retrokitty, Reuro, Rhognald, Rhustto, Ritavrataski, Roddrigo, Rodeo, Rubmybelly, Sabreena, Sandella, Saylorjerry, Scro, Semiretart, Serah, Seri, Serona, Shag, Silkenblade, Sinean, Sitka/Kobuk, Smashpee, Smokywood, Sorla, Spoken, Stegg, Stumpymcaxe, Swearengine, Swifts, Swiftlist, Swimbish, Tanyquil, Thalor, Thedarkelf, Thelasmag, Thorry, Thrall, Thyrrien, Timmywayne, Travieso, Valarie, Valerianna, Verminyard, Verushe, Wexit, Wheelofzaps, Whitemage, Wip, Wiseman, Wraps, Wtfmate, Wulfgar, Xaya, Yaroslav, Yrenja, Yutenat, Zanzabahr, Zarae, and Zwak.

So to all, a big thank you. I'd say that most of the people listed will never know their name is here, and that's fine. It's just my way of getting this together and thanking people for 11 years of Parallel Context.

*I went with a person's definable main, or if they split time both toons.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

In Soviet Russia, Tentacles Kill You

Yesterday was one of those days where you kind of wish would keep going on and on.

And then you realize that it did.

Setting aside work for a moment, the evening began with this:

Yeah, and on AV Weekend, no less.

And ended with this:

Yes, Card is in there somewhere.

In between there were a lot of deaths.

A LOT of deaths.

The last one, by one of the Eye Tentacles, came right before C'Thun was weakened for the second time and those still alive were able to DPS it down.

And somewhere about an hour before first pull, I got pulled into a work call that lasted longer than the entire AQ40 raid.

So yeah, that made for an entertaining evening. 

But C'Thun is dead, and we proved we could kill it while trying AQ40 once a week.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Off Topic: Take This Seriously Part 2

Tonight I lost another member of my extended family to Covid-19.

Who's next? I don't know. But I do know we have it within ourselves to halt the spread of this virus. And we have to be all in on this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Cards Maketh the Man

It wasn't too long ago that I posted about the requirements to be an AQ40 raider, and my thinking that it would be a second job to simply keep up with the raiding requirements.

Well, I can confirm that yes, it does take a big chunk of your time to keep up with raid requirements.

At least the guild I raid with (or tolerates me, there are times I can't decide which) doesn't require flasks, but the requirements certainly cost a ton on the auction house. And to be fair, were it not for flasks --and their components-- costing so much* I'd not have been able to generate the gold to cover all the items needed for the other day's AQ40 raid.

It kind of left me hoping that I'd not be called off the bench for Monday's raid so I could preserve the pots and whatnot for another week.

After all, I was second off the bench that night. I figured that I'd sit around, play some solitaire, and once I was released I could go do some fishing for a while and collect mats for the Elixir of Greater Firepower.

About 10 minutes before invites were to be sent out, however, I got a ping from the raid leader that I'm #1 on the depth chart and I had a good chance at being called up. 


I finished the farming I was doing, switched over to Card, collected the mats I'd bought, and headed off to Ahn'Qiraq.


I wasn't kidding about playing Solitaire.**

Yes, I know I need to clean the carpet.
(And no, the stain wasn't caused by me.)
However, I couldn't rent a cleaner throughout
the Summer due to that Covid-19 thing.

And yes, I suck at Solitaire. To be fair, most random Solitaire deals from a real deck of cards aren't solvable, so it's more of a method to keep yourself grounded and the mind occupied while waiting.

I kept checking to see if I was invited, but so far nothing. And then I got a whisper that one of the raiders hadn't showed up yet, so be ready.

And in a couple of minutes I got the invite. I put away the cards, saluted the raid leader (who was outside), and ran on in.

How'd it go? I thought the raid went pretty well. We got to Phase 3 on C'Thun, and I'm sure we'll take it down next week.

I got teased a bit by some of my friends in the raid, with one of them whispering "You are becoming one of us" repeatedly, which made me laugh. 

There were a couple of items that dropped that I was interested in bidding on, but I decided against it because a) I'm not a regular member of the raiding team yet, so I'd rather the item go to someone who is, and b) I had issues getting the Weakauras widget that was created for handling loot on this specific raid to work. So while I could see the loot, I didn't want to take up any more time in raid to fuss around with my inability to use the widget when we could be out there slaying internet dragons. Or Old Gods; your choice.

It was the same belief that I took into the raid last week, when I had friends kicking me in the ass to roll on a mount. I'm the guest, and until I become a regular raider I'll wait until others get theirs first. I'm not going to be known as "that guy" who showed up, got a mount or some gear, and split. I've too much self respect for that.


Compare and contrast with the Molten Core run on Az last night.

I've been coming to that raid for a couple of months now, and Az has gotten pretty far in collecting T1 gear. However, I still need to upgrade my other stuff, such as rings and weapons. And tonight should have been a bonanza, as I was the only Rogue in the raid for the first half of the run and the Rogue who showed up in the second half of the run was already BWL level geared. 

But naturally the WoW gods had other ideas.

With the exception of the shoulders, every drop up until Ragnaros was something I'd already looted before, and I'd seen numerous times already. But the shoulders' drop was worth the wait, as I'd lost a roll on those twice now.

Still, when Perdition's Blade and the Band of Accuria both dropped on Ragnaros, I pinched myself.

So, the Perdition's Blade came up for a roll, I rolled and waited for the timer to end. As the other Rogue there had one already, I was confident that I was going to walk away with this one at least.

Then another person outrolled me.

That's when all hell broke loose.

On one side there were people arguing for the Warrior who rolled for the dagger. He was a fairly fresh L60, and for him the Perdition's Blade would be a huge upgrade.  On the other side were people saying that the Perdition's Blade was a BiS Rogue dagger that's useful up until it can get replaced in AQ40. 

The chaos went on for close to a good 5 minutes, until the raid leader reasserted control and said she'd let me decide if I wanted it or not. 

For me, it was a no-brainer. I'd already won an item, the Warrior rolled and won, so it belonged to him. Whether or not he should have rolled is beside the point; he rolled, didn't have any other wins, and he won the roll.

Almost immediately afterward I got whispers from people basically saying "How could you pass that up? It's BiS!!"

Because I'd rather have a clean conscience than a BiS item, that's why. 


I play the game to have fun, not to Win All The Things. When it stops being fun, then I have to consider either changing my in game behavior or move on. 

And I guess that's what I don't get: when you quantify "winning" as in "winning all that phat loot", then you can deviate into ethically questionable territory. 

Like the time that two friends of mine back in college decided to cheat at cards so that they could win at Euchre.

Oh yes, that did happen.

And it went on for at least a month or two before another friend noticed their signals between each other while my roommate and I were buried in our cards, looking them over for possible moves. That other friend started laughing, and then after the hand was played he pointed out the cheating. My roommate was hurt, but I was infuriated.

We didn't play for money, and we didn't play for booze or anything either. We just played to have fun. But winning was so important to them that they felt they had to have that extra edge, and that's what hurt. And here I was thinking that my roommate and I were just having some long droughts of bad luck, but no, the reality was a lot different.

I've never forgotten that feeling of humiliation, betrayal, and anger. That's why I play games the way I play, so that others know that when they win, they've won fair and square. That there's no recourse for accusations afterward. And so that everybody knows that any winnings are rightfully gotten on both sides. You could argue that I've taken that to extremes and that I should assert myself more, but in the end I have to live with myself. And in the dead of night, when you're trying to sleep, your conscience can be pretty damn loud.

*Thank you, Dreamfoil, for costing so much.

**When I say "Solitaire", I mean "Klondike". That's the game that was known as Solitaire when I was growing up, and whenever I pull out a deck of cards to play, that's what I play.

Monday, September 14, 2020

FOMO -- Discord Style

Discord has been a godsend to the MMO community, and the gaming community in general. It's far more than the old Ventrilo system, or even a Skype or Teams system, as it also replaces many of the functions that guild websites would have been utilized: keeping track of sign-ups, forum discussions, and managing various in-guild activities by the guild leadership.* Add-ons such as Rythm ensure that guildies can be their own DJ, and there are all sorts of other add-ons that come in handy.

So I wanted to listen to ELO. Don't judge me.

To be fair, I don't consider Discord "user friendly" as some people do. I consider it closer to UNIX in that it is extremely powerful, but you can accidentally cause problems without intending to because you're not always sure how to do things without going back to the online manual. Which can suck if you're on the tablet or phone app.** And, given how space works in something such as Google, you're never quite sure --as an end user-- just how much space you're allowed when you're looking at a video you took and whether you should upload it to your guild's Discord server to share with your friends. 

Do you know how long it took me to find
the Disconnect button? Usually I'm in a
hurry to get to wherever I need to go for the raid,
so taking the time to look at the "fine print"
of Discord is just not there.

But another thing that I've had to get used to is that when you pug, you join another guild's Discord server in order to join the audio connection. Yes, it's very simple to do that, but if you leave the server after that event you joined for --a raid or grouping or just to be social-- you have to get an invite to get back in. That can be annoying if you pug a lot, and the sign-ups for those pugs are on the same Discord server you just left. My first forays into raiding were like that, and after the first time you realized you should have hung onto that server you learn to never get rid of them. Just in case.

Oh, and if your MMO's Discord server is anything like WoW Classic's Myzrael-US server, the "Guild Recruitment" page entries all seem to end with an invitation to check out the guild's Discord server.

So, if you're like me, you collect what feels like a ton of these Discord server connections. 

Again, just in case.


As those connections have piled up, I've found that I've had to be more aggressive in muting alerts from these servers. I don't want to be a snoop, yet at the same time I seem to regularly get alerts when someone posts in a Discord server to "@everyone". 

And then there's the constant stream of people in raid chats that --despite my best efforts-- make me wonder what I'm missing out on.

I hate that FOMO feeling. Not because I really think I'm missing out on everything --to be fair, you're always gonna miss out on something if you're in an MMO, because you can't be on all the raids/instances/whatever for every guild-- but because that feeling is usually associated with being in the in-crowd.

That's the crux of the problem: you physically can't be doing all the things all the time. My regular raid schedule went from one night a week, to two nights a week, and now four nights a week across two toons. Trying to do more than that on a regular basis isn't sustainable, even with two kids in college and not at home. Spur of the moment raids such as Onyxia, Z'G, or AQ20 are doable, but even then I have to think hard on what I might be giving up both in-game and out-of-game. 

Just like last night.

I could have signed up for an AQ20 run, but decided it wasn't necessary so I was fine with working on some other things in-game for a while. In the end, a friend whispered me for an assist with her guild group, as one of her guildies was working on farming for a wand in Stratholme and needed a fifth. Because I was free, I got to help out and catch up with my friend on how she's been doing. Or, like on Saturday, I got to spend about an hour or more chatting with a friend on cooking, family, jobs, and all sorts of topics while I farmed herbs. There was no pressure to do anything else, despite all of the requests in the LFG channel, and it was a relaxing afternoon.


FOMO is always going to be there, no matter what you do, and apps like Discord can exacerbate that feeling. But the trick is to understand that it is an internal pressure, something you place on yourself, and you have to learn to manage it. And if you have issues, talk to people about it. No sense in burning yourself out on a game you love because you feel that you have to be doing all the things all the time.

*One thing I'm eternally grateful is that some people are called to step into guild leadership positions. When I get done with work I want to take off my "team lead" or "[whatever] lead" or "manager" or whatever hat and just relax, but some people have that urge to go out and be the organizer. Occasionally I get the urge to do something like that, but then I remember that I herd cats all day, so why do it at night?

**Don't ask why, just trust me on this one. I'd rather save the embarrassment.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Well, This Is Different

The last seven days were pretty eventful, game-wise.

Not for any earth shattering content update, or even for some in-guild or on server drama*, but for personal reasons.

A week ago, I began laying the groundwork to have Card begin showing up at the Tuesday Molten Core raid that Az currently attends. I figured I could switch off between the two for a while until I could determine a better long term plan. I knew where I needed to go --finish as much T1 as I could and obtain Zul'Gurub level gear with hit bonuses necessary to hit BWL (and higher) bosses-- but getting from Point A to Point B was the question.

My problem has always been that Rogues are far more in demand than Mages in Z'G for their ability to interrupt some of the bosses, so that even on those pugs when I do bring Card, the raid leader is frequently left trying to find a Rogue.** And so I volunteer to switch to help out.

Nevertheless, it looked like I could get Card moving in the right direction again, so it gave me the chance to relax a bit. I could go incognito, play around with an alt or two, and just keep an eye open for an instance that interested me and I could hop on Az or Card to see about getting in.

But some of my WoW friends had other plans.


By midweek, I began getting whispers from several of them, asking me to come along on Friday night. They were running MC after all, they said, so I had no excuse. Then on Thursday, I was tag teamed and leaned on until I cried "Uncle" and signed up.***

"I feel like I've been the subject of an intervention," I muttered as I clicked the sign up page.

The Friday Molten Core run went well --I don't think I've ever been in an MC run that was terrible, whether or not we actually kill Raggy-- and so I succumbed and said "okay" to signing up for Blackwing Lair on this coming Friday. What actually sealed the deal was that the guild sponsoring the BWL run decided to keep the MC run after all, but move it to Thursday.**** I still felt undergeared for BWL, but after last week I figured they were gonna pester me until I signed up anyway, so I decided to save them the effort.

We're here to kill you and all you can
do is whine about your beauty sleep?

Card found a new (old) home for Molten Core, and my friends successfully pulled me into Blackwing Lair. And that was that.

Or so I thought.


Monday was a holiday here in the US, and I had an eye to work on some projects around the house and begin work on a set of speakers for my wife's old mid-1980's all-in-one stereo.***** I got up early, and after I helped my wife get ready and out the door for work I pulled together a list, visited the hardware store, and began work on replacing a few rotted boards on the gate for our fence. I managed to free the boards but the bolts were stuck, so I hammered at them to free them up. Almost instantly ants boiled out of the so-called "good" wooden beams, and I realized that the entire gate would have to be junked.

Frustrated with that turn of events, I went back inside to cool off a bit and took my annoyance out on a metric ton of unsuspecting demons in Azshara.

While I was singlehandedly depopulating Azeroth of demons, I received a ping from one of my WoW friends.

"Hey, the guild is looking for a Fire Mage for their AQ40 raid team."

Then a separate ping from another friend announcing the same thing.

I sighed.

"I haven't even been in BWL yet and you want me to jump to AQ40? At least give me a chance to see how I handle BWL first."

Unlike Blackwing Lair, I did have at least some experience with AQ40. Back in 2010, my (now disintegrated) Horde guild decided that it would be fun to enter into AQ40 just to check the place out. We tried 5-manning it, and since we couldn't even get past the Prophet Skeram we returned a few days later with a full 10 man raid# and eventually made it through and downed C'Thun. I remembered Skeram for obvious reasons, but I also remembered the Twin Emperors because we a) didn't have a warlock along to tank the arcane Emperor, and b) because a Pally had magic damage, guess who got the job of trying (and largely failing) to tank that emperor. I also remembered C'Thun, because once you think it's dead, oh no.... You get C'Thun Part 2.

But I was told that I'd be fine, and respeccing as a Fire Mage was easy. I had my doubts, as I originally started Neve (remember her?) way back in pre-history as a Fire Mage and I knew the limitations of the spec, especially when not in a raid environment. After all, there was a reason why I spent a lot of years in WoW playing a Frost Mage. While I'd miss Frost, I could respec as necessary due to the synergy Fire Mages get when working together. (Greater synergy than Frost, to be fair.) 

But still, with very little T2 and almost no Z'G gear (like the Bloodvine set), Card was going to stink on the DPS meters. The guild's own documentation had a set DPS number goal for certain bosses --the ones you can just go balls to the wall and blast away-- and I knew I was likely not going to make that minimum number. So I told my friends that there was really no way around the fact that I needed to get my gear up in order to effectively raid with a main raid group. "I don't want to hold the raid back," I replied more than once.

"Go ahead and talk to the raid leader about it," I was told. 

"I did, a month ago, and I know where I need to go to get where I want to be."

And that, I thought, was that. 

Some hours later, I'd recovered from my disappointment at fixing the gate and was busy cutting wood for the speakers when my wife got off of work and came home.## After shaking off the dust, I followed her inside and we talked about her day while I grabbed a drink. I happened to walk by my work area and I saw Discord flashing, which I wasn't expecting.

It was the raid leader/co-GM.

"Somebody blabbed," I muttered, and I clicked to see what he had to say.

Sure enough, he'd heard that I was interested in the Fire Mage position and wanted to chat. 

"Well, here we go," I said, replying to his direct message.

I'm not going to discuss all that was said, but from his perspective the biggest barrier was whether I could raid late on Monday nights EDT. I paused a second, because I never even considered that part. Friday nights, and even Thursday nights are one thing, but Monday? But you know what, I'm up late enough that for me it isn't an issue, so I replied that yeah, I can raid on Monday nights.

But for every concern I had he had an answer, and he assured me that they'll work with me to get my gear to where it needs to be.

The next thing I knew, I agreed to go to AQ40 that night.


I almost went in the wrong instance.
For the record, this is AQ20's entrance.
The least the Qiraji could do is put a nice sign out front.

I'm actually surprised I didn't slice off a finger while I finished up my cutting, because I certainly wasn't that attentive at that point. I was thinking that "I've got to respec, then practice the respec, then figure out what pots to take to the run, etc. etc."

Then I got pinged in Discord by the Mage lead for the raid, and he dumped a metric ton of info on me about 2-3 hours before the raid invites were to start. There was a spec to mimic, Weak Auras settings to be installed/used/understood###, a basic rotation to work on, some pots to get, and some YouTube videos to watch to understand the mathematical and in-game underpinnings of how Fire Mages tick. (I still haven't gotten to that video yet. Sorry, Haldol.) Somewhere in there reading up on the strategies for AQ40 got lost, but oh well. I was going to do what I was told to do in raid, so I wasn't planning on worrying about that. Not with all this other stuff to absorb.

So here I was, at 9:30 PM EDT, drinking from a firehose and using the Scourge in Eastern Plaguelands as unsuspecting guinea pigs. 12 hours ago I was thinking about project lists, with saying hello to my old buddy C'Thun not exactly high on my priorities for the day.


And so that was how I went from looking for a new MC home to raiding AQ40 in one week.

What, you want to know how it went?


It went well enough, I suppose. I made a decision to not look at the meters, because I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but I only died six times on 4-5 total raid wipes. So not bad. The AQ40 mounts were dropping like flies, but since I was a guest I waited until everybody else from the guild got one first. That kind of got some of my friends upset, because they felt I should have been more assertive about that, but I wasn't about to barge in and do that sort of thing. That's not me, and I'm not going to change.

But what actually did keep me going throughout the raid were the whispers I got from my friends, who were really happy to see me up with them on the raid. And from the chat that the guild's Mages invited me into. Of course, knowing a couple of them already --Mages tend to stick together-- helped, but the espirit de corps of the group was infectious. 

The Prophet Skeram and the Twin Emperors were as I remembered them, so my memory isn't too far gone, but the "trash" in AQ40 definitely hit a LOT harder at level. So that wasn't entirely unexpected, but it meant that it took us a lot longer to get to the end than what I remembered.

Oh, we didn't down C'Thun, but I wasn't expecting us to beat that thing either. Burning down C'Thun at L80 is an entirely different experience at L60 in Classic, and things that don't hurt at L80 certainly do at L60. But I felt that the strategy that they were working out was fairly sound, it was just a matter of execution.

So that's it. I think it likely I'll be on the bench for next Monday's raid, because more than 40 signed up and I'm the new guy, but I'm fine with that. 

I presume the awkwardness will fade with time, and I've got a long ways to go before I feel like I'm actually contributing to the raid.

But yeah, this was a very different week than I expected.

Thanks gang. (And yes, I know that at least two people involved do read the blog. Commenting is always another matter, but I've been there, so I get that.)

*The guild I'm in has --on average-- about 3-4 active members as people have faded from playing or moved on to other guilds. It's purely social, as only two of us raid, and when I joined I didn't even raid at the time. It is one of numerous small guilds on the server that are frequently overshadowed by the medium and larger sized guilds on Myzrael.

**Yes, really. I'm not sure if it's just my luck or what, but in the Z'G pugs I've been in we always seem to be running short on rogues. At the time Az was still pretty much my main, so it wasn't a big deal.

***There were some issues getting the loot system for BWL properly configured so they ran MC once more. I was completely unaware of the switch until that moment, as I try not to poke around other guilds' Discord servers.

****I signed up for MC before BWL. Shh; don't tell anyone.

*****I've mentioned her stereo here before. I've gotten the turntable and radio working, but the cassette player will be a tough nut to crack as the rubber belt has disintegrated. The worst part of the stereo, however, are the speakers. They're crap, just a speaker in a box without any sort of engineering behind it.

#Until my first Zul'Gurub run earlier this year, that was my sole foray into raiding.

##Apparently I look hilarious wearing an N95 mask, but when you're cutting medium density fiberboard (MDF) you NEED one of those masks to keep the crap out of your nasal cavity. Saves you surgery and medical issues in the long run.

###I just want to know who came up with all of those settings/configurations. The amount of work it would have taken to initially come up with all of that would have been considerable, and that's not even counting the Weak Auras application/add-on itself. 

EtA: I have now gotten to watch that video, and after a week's worth of playing around with the Fire Spec, I understand what the video was talking about. I certainly wouldn't have understood it on Monday night, because after more than half a decade of being a Frost Mage, Fire was essentially a foreign language.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

One Little Add-on That Changed WoW Forever

I was speaking with Shintar* recently when she pointed out that I worry too much about gear.

/raises hand 

Yes, that's me. I'm guilty.

But in that moment I realized something. I began playing WoW during Wrath, and if there was one hallmark of Wrath --outside of the destruction that raiding in Wrath caused to many guilds-- it was the omnipresent Gear Score.

Does anybody else remember the Trade Chat entries for ICC pugs to be something like "LFR ICC 10-man. GS 5000+ pst"? That magical 5000 Gear Score became a barrier to people getting into ICC and other raids, because it boiled down your gear, your skill, and your class to a mere number that people could point to and determine your raid worthiness.  I seem to recall that 5000+ meant at least a full T9 set, and probably at least one or two T10 pieces, which really meant you were capable of grinding 5-man dailies over a period of a couple of months. 

Skill? No.

Talent Spec? No.

Knowledge of the fights? No.

But you've got that gear, man.....

Blizzard indirectly encouraged the GS domination by having their own internal method of determining your "fitness" for entering the ICC 5-man instances via the LFG tool. Once you got past a certain point, and I think it was around the 3000+ GS, you could get into the Frozen Halls instances. I remember quite clearly when The Forge of Souls popped up for me, and I promptly freaked out. I was kind of expecting something more tame, such as Ajol-Nerub, but nope. 

"WTF is this?" I remembered whispering Soul back then.

"It means that you've high enough gear score to get into the endgame instances," he replied. "Congrats!"

I wasn't that thrilled, as it was a whole new set of strats to learn, and I knew I was starting at the bottom once more.

And the flaws of LFG had already begun to rear their ugly head, as one of the players I'd ported in with promptly dropped group, and this was on an instance with endgame implications and gear designed to get you ICC ready.

That sort of behavior sticks with you, and you wonder what you did wrong.


I guess I'd completely buried those experiences in Wrath somewhere deep inside my psyche, but I can still see a direct correlation between those experiences pugging via LFG and my behavior today, both the good and the bad. Every time you'd get The Old Kingdom as an instance, there would be at least one person who would drop as they couldn't be bothered to deal with a "long" instance when all they wanted was their daily badges. And every time I saw that behavior, I'd resolve that I'd never be "that guy" who put themselves over the group. 

But it also does explain my obsession with making sure my gear is "good enough", because I was once on the receiving end of being judged purely based on what I carried with me into a fight, not how well I performed in the fight. 

It's kind of bizarre when you think about it, because this is simply the same "judging" behavior from middle school and high school, picked up and transferred wholesale into an MMO. But with numbers to back it up.


Maybe I ought to re-evaluate Wrath some day, without the rose colored glasses that I have for my first exposure to MMOs. I'm not so sure I'll like what I see, but I believe being honest with yourself is one way to take a critical eye toward the assumptions you make whenever you play.

But trying to make me stop worrying about gear? Well, that's a topic for another time.

*Owner of several blogs, most notably Going Commando (SWTOR Blog), Priest With a Cause (WoW Classic Blog), and Neverwinter Thoughts (Neverwinter Blog). And yes, I can trust her to get at the root of a problem. She knows me way too well.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Off Topic: Take This Seriously, People

I'm setting aside the theme of the blog for this post.

It's a post I'd rather not make, because I'm neither a health professional nor involved with government, but sometimes amplifying the message is what's needed.

Covid-19 is no joke, and take appropriate steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus.


I've had one member of my extended family die from C-19, and another is clinging to life while on oxygen.* My nephew had what we believe to be a severe case of it, but it happened back in March when the hospitals were refusing to consider the possibility of kids with severe cases, but he managed to recover. My immediate family had just recently emerged from quarantine as my wife and the oldest mini-Red both contracted the virus.** While the cases we had in our family were "mild", I'm here to tell you that it is not even close to "just a cold".

In the case of my wife, it would have been considered a normal summer cold, except for two unnerving things: the lethargy and the lack of taste/smell. This isn't your normal "I'm feeling sick, I'd rather not do much other than sleep" sort of lethargy. I mean, this is the sort of lethargy that says "I don't want to get out of bed to go to the bathroom" or "I don't want to do anything other than lie right here" or "I don't want to drink or eat at all". I'd never seen anything like it, and as soon as the lethargy crept into her bones I started hassling her to go get tested. You've heard numerous times about the lack of taste and/or smell, but it's been over two weeks since she was cleared by the county board of health to return to work and she still hasn't regained anything from those senses. It may take months, or who knows, it might even be permanent.

The oldest mini-Red had more of what you'd call a chest cold if it weren't for the fact that her cough was a lot like pneumonia. She's had walking pneumonia before, and this was much more severe than that. She slept on the couch so as not to infect her sister --who stayed up in the room they share together-- and I kept close tabs on her at all times until the congestion and cough finally broke.

But the one thing that nobody ever tells you is that when Covid-19 enters your home, your paranoia ramps up considerably. 

You're always wondering if you sneeze or you cough "Is this it? Am I finally catching it?" Or every time you check on one of them you think "Is their temperature going to spike? Are they going to have trouble breathing? Will I have to call 9-1-1?" And, somewhere in the back of your mind, is always the gnawing fear that something even worse will happen and they'll be gone within a day.

As much as you like to think you can, you can't quite compartmentalize your fears and just carry on with work as usual. Maybe health professionals can, but I certainly can't. And I know this situation has affected my mental health in other ways; I'm a bit more abrupt with friends and co-workers, and I don't want to lean on "Covid-19 quarantine" as an excuse. 

It has also crept into my game playing, as I'm sure it contributed to my feelings playing WoW the past few weeks. But it's not something you can just come out and tell people, you know? "Nah, I'm not feeling like joining an Ony pug, gang, because I've got the blues from dealing with a household with Covid." 

At times like this, mindless farming in game has helped me to just simply stop thinking about things for a while. Like tonight, where I realized that Card hadn't reached max fishing, so I stood there on the docks in Tanaris, constantly casting, forgetting everything for a while, and even forgetting there was a chance I might even join a pug raid tonight.** Or later, I got on to farm Felcloth, and forgetting that I'd been fishing earlier, I was fighting Satyrs equipped with a fishing rod.

Basically stuff that I'd never have screwed up in-game before, I was messing up constantly.


I wish I could thwack every idiot out there --and yes, that does include extended family members-- who thinks this isn't a big deal. 



And if there's anybody whom I play with who stumbles on this, I apologize for my moping around in game. Now you know a bit of the reason why.

*Due to his prior history he's only able to take oxygen via a mask, rather than a ventilator. The last I heard, which was the other day, he was doing slightly better. He's always been tough --a retired firefighter who had several bouts of cancer-- and he's giving the virus a run for it's money.

**The other two mini-Reds tested negative: one when he was tested as he arrived at university, and the other received a test because she works at a restaurant and could have potentially infected a lot of people otherwise. I showed no symptoms, and because of that it's pretty hard in my state to get tested. So I assumed I was asymptomatic and behaved accordingly.

***The raid happened, but no spots were available. Just as good, because to be honest because my mind simply wasn't in it. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Upon Taking the Oaths

The compassion to pursue good, the will to uphold law, and the power to defeat evil—these are the three weapons of the paladin. Few have the purity and devotion that it takes to walk the paladin’s path, but those few are rewarded with the power to protect, to heal, and to smite. In a land of scheming wizards, unholy priests, bloodthirsty dragons, and infernal fiends, the paladin is the final hope that cannot be extinguished.
--From the Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook v3.5, pp 42.


While I've been pondering Cardwyn's future, I've taken the time to, in her sister Linna's words, "Go bash a Defias."

I suppose it's not a big reveal that like Card*, Linna is short for Linnawyn. I was going to go strictly with "Linna" when I created her, but since it wasn't available her formal name will do.

And to be honest, Card likely thinks it incredibly funny to hear Linna's full name, as she only heard it on the farm when she and her older sister were in trouble.

"First Card and now you, Linna? Are you
sure that Mom and Dad are okay with this?"

Being a Paladin means that her path is going to be quite different than Card's. Paladins and Warriors have to slog through leveling, and Retribution Paladins --like I'm envisioning for Linna-- don't have the advantage of being good tanks that Warriors do. 

But hey, it's all about the journey, right?

Right now, Linna is whacking away at Defias, Murlocs, and Gnolls in Elwynn Forest, and I'm still working through a rotation.

Not Hogger, but still good for getting in
some good practice. Still have to get a two handed
weapon that does decent damage, tho.

But what really made me stop and wonder was the quest for learning how to rez people:

I was amused that the Dwarf called
his companion being daft for being brave.
After all, isn't that what Paladins are supposed to be?

With the impending release of Shadowlands, how is this going to work for retail going forward? Are people  suddenly going to pop into the Shadowlands when they die in game, and have to be pulled back into the "regular world" when they're rezzed? Or if you die in Shadowlands, where do you go? Oh well, I wasn't planning on checking that out anyway, but the mechanics of this alone would make my head hurt.

Regardless, I've been having more fun leveling Linna than I expected. I think that I'm so familiar with Elwynn Forest by now that I've just come to accept that she's gonna die at the hands of the murlocs, and that she has to pick and choose her battles when fighting packs. But I'm also not desperate to level her, either, so I've got plenty of time to work through rotations, learn how the Classic Paladin really plays, and go from there.

*Or Cardy, as some people call her on Myzrael-US. I would have never expected that nickname, but you know, it's pretty good. Far more people say "Card" than "Cardy", so when someone says "Cardy" I pretty much know who they are. The only times I really hear "Cardwyn" are when raid leaders do it, such as when they're calling out marks for sheeping in the Majordomo Executus fight in Molten Core.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Watch: Jasper Hour Classic on YouTube

Okay, after Monday's rant, I'm going to pivot* and promote a friend/acquaintance of mine** in WoW Classic.

Jasperin is a Pally Tank on Myzrael-US, and is probably one of the best Classic Pally Tanks I've ever seen. He frequently blows my mind with his skill in out tanking well geared Warriors, even though in raids he's frequently a Healer. And even when going balls to the wall on Cardwyn, I've never had issues pulling aggro from him. Yes, part of it is me being a good party member and waiting for Jasper to get a good grip on aggro before attacking, but even then on a lot of Pally tanks they'll still lose aggro. But not Jsaperin.

The guy is good.

And to match it, he's probably one of the nicest guys I've met on the server. Yes, I've been in Discord chat with him, and he's just as nice in Discord as he is in game. In fact, he reminds me of a guy I knew when I was much younger and at college; my friend back then was just as unflappable and upbeat as Jasperin. And like my friend, just about everybody on the server seems to know Jasperin.

Why am I talking Jasper up? Because he just started a YouTube channel to provide info about Pally Tanks, Boss Guides, and other assorted topics. Before you ask, no, his skills are in Pally Tanking, not video creation/editing, but he still provides a lot of data in his videos. One of his goals is to do a two Pally tank run of Zul'Gurub in Classic, just to prove it could be done. I've already volunteered to be part of his run if he wants me, but I think it likely that he'll want to do it as a run with his guild, Mystic Bond.***

Jasper Hour Classic

Now, after all of this, why am I promoting a YouTube channel when I implied yesterday I'm not too fond of them? Because Jasper puts in the work and figures things out. He has a grasp of the finer points of Pally tanking in Classic that a lot of people don't get and simply dismiss Pally tanks as --at best-- only good for instance running. And I'm not against YouTube channels as much as I am against the feedback loop that Blizz gets from using the PTR servers to overemphasize raids over everything else. 

Jasperin only has a few videos up so far, but he's intending to make more, and they're very much worth a view.

In addition to the channel link above, here's a link to his video about using two Pally tanks in Upper Blackrock Spire:

*Sorry about the obligatory Friends reference.


**Where is the border between when an acquaintance becomes a friend in a MMO? That's a question for another post, I suppose.

***Mystic Bond (or MB as known on the server) straddles the line between casual and progression raiding, but they lean hard on the progression end of things. Yes, they're that good. And to reference my post from several days ago, the guild's personality is of a light hearted yet serious bunch. If an MB guildie is in an instance pug or raid pug, you know you're getting both a quality person as well as a quality player.