Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Can It Be Done?

In the middle of all the Blizzard lawsuit controversy, the TBC Classic Fire Festival event is in full swing.

The Fire Festival was delayed by a month, mainly because TBC Classic dropped June 1st*, but since it showed up now I took advantage of it to play around with Card. 

She already had 4 bars' worth of XP from farming Felcloth --yes, Felcloth and Mooncloth still sell on the AH-- so when I saw a couple of quests registering an entire bar of XP, I decided I was going to have her do all the quests that she can in the Old World, just to see how much XP she could get.

This should give you an idea.

This has inspired me to do something with Card I'd never have considered even a week ago: to find out just how far I can level a toon in the Old World without having set foot in Outland. 

My first instinct is that as a practical matter, I could probably hit L64 or L65 given all of the quests remaining in max-level zones such as Silithus. However, the mobs in Silithus reach up to L58-L59, so it's conceivable with enough grinding I could possibly get Cardwyn to L68 by the time Wrath Classic drops, and she could just go straight to Northrend without having set foot in Outland at all.

Now that's a challenge I'd be interested in. 

Before anybody asks why, my response is "Why not? I have no desire to overdo it or get spellcloth factories going or raiding with a ton of toons. I want to just screw around in game rather than get caught up in the Meta, and this is just one way of doing that."


And given the news that Phase 2 is now in the Public Test Realm, the rumor that Phase 2 will drop in mid-August is starting to sound more and more likely.

Which gives me heartburn.

Maybe it's time someone finally told Blizz what's what:

Blizz, stop this rushing to get the Phases out. Just because the Top 5 guilds on each server have been clearing since Week One doesn't mean you have to feed the beast and encourage the Meta any further. There are still plenty of guilds out there that aren't even close to getting properly geared up, much less downing all of the Phase One bosses, and if you ratchet up the arms race I believe you're more likely to have people simply jump ship from Classic into something else rather than push harder. It is not the Classic Community's fault that Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands have proven to be duds, so artificially trying to keep subscriptions up by pumping out the content faster than necessary only serves to exacerbate the problems that exist in TBC Classic. 

And given the disproportionate rate healing gear has been dropping relative to everything else --it's pervasive enough on Myz-US that it's practically its own meme-- I doubt that most average raiding guilds will be truly ready for a Phase 2 release in mid-August. Oh, and let's talk about the elephant in the room: the mitigation gear needed for Phase 2. Auction House prices will spike once news of an impending Phase 2 drop is on the way, and guilds will be hard pressed to get ready in time.

Blizz, don't give me the BS that people don't have to start raiding SSC and The Eye when Phase 2 drops. You know as well as I that your player base is conditioned to jump after the latest and greatest, and pretending otherwise is being disingenuous (at least).

My concern, Blizz, is that if you push too hard, enough people will vote with their wallets and jump to another MMO instead of WoW Classic. And if a Top 5 guild moves on, so what? There are a lot fewer of them than there are the "filthy casuals", so maybe slowing things down a touch isn't necessarily a bad idea. And extra month or two between phases isn't a bad thing, as it allows the majority of the server population to see the content without feeling like they're missing out. 

Okay, Blizzard isn't going to read this blog; I'm quite aware of that. But perhaps it's cathartic to get my opinion out there, because I doubt that Blizz is going to listen to people anyway. If anything, they listen to only a few people, typically those that share their own viewpoint on the game. That makes a certain amount of sense, as a more casual player isn't going to write a "Dear Blizz" post, in spite of there being far more of them than the hardcore raiders. Oh well. It was worth a try.


I do have one piece of sad news to report: WoW YouTuber MadSeasonShow is leaving WoW behind. Yes, both Retail and Classic. 

His second last video, provided below, makes it plain it was made prior to the A-B lawsuit being filed by the State of California. He outlines why he is leaving, and provided an ending video that... well... hit kind of hard.

*That's the official reason, but I'd have honestly preferred to have gotten it over with back in June because the lure of easy gold would have thrown a monkey wrench into the Meta.

Monday, July 26, 2021

A Past That Never Was

Judge Drayton: See, I tried to make it... ALL... right. I tried to right ALL wrongs; reverse ALL of the injustices. I... I... I guess I was wrong, it's impossible.
Judge Harry T. Stone: Even a fool knows we can't reach out and touch the stars but that does not stop the wise man from trying.
Judge Drayton: I like that... Who said that?
Judge Harry T. Stone: You did. It was in a speech to the bar association.

--From Night Court, Season 3, Episode 13

I have started this post a couple of times. Each time I get partway through, and end up deleting it.

Words pretty much fail me when I consider the allegations brought against Activision-Blizzard.

Every time I look at the allegations, the angrier I get.

Every time I see the crap foisted on people such as Christie Golden, who were never part of any of this, the angrier I get.

And every time I read some comment about "it's no big deal" or "boys will be boys" or "it's all in the past", the angrier I get.

And in a weird state of suspended disbelief, all people are talking about in guild is the volume of gold you can make in the Fire Festival event in TBC Classic.*

I feel like I'm in some bizarro world bubble, where people are willfully ignoring the obvious, pretending it doesn't exist, because they don't want to rock the boat. Or let justice take its course. Or something. 


And here I am, playing WoW Classic too, because I know that if I unsubscribed it would be a useless gesture. I am just one person among millions, and I've already paid for my WoW time, so there won't be any reason other than symbolic to stop playing. I am not a tastemaker, a WoW celebrity, or even well known on the server I play on, so it would only be just for my purposes only if I unsubscribed.

And I can't even bring myself to unsubscribe just for myself, because other people are depending on me. 

But I feel like I have to be doing something. I mean, how can I look at my kids and think that I am setting a good example when I ought to be doing more than what I always have been doing?


These are the sort of questions that have been weighing on my mind lately. 


Ever since the news broke about the lawsuit, I have logged in and done what I usually have been doing these days: farm a bit, maybe do a few other things, and help out some of our last levelers get to where they need to be. My questing buddy has been doing other things, such as running heroics or targeting quests for specific gear she needs, so we haven't done any real questing in Shadowmoon Valley or Netherstorm. (I continue to honor my commitment there.) If someone asks for help on a quest in General, I go to help out. And there's the Monday raid night I'm Loot Master on, and we've now added a Friday Kara run which will go on until we get Gruul/Mags on farm so we can throw Kara back into Monday.

So... I don't do much. 

It gives me time to think about how the community should be better than what we are. In game are a pale reflection of our real society, molded and shaped by our shared experiences and the game rules. There will always be asshats and dickheads, but I guess the best thing to say is to not let them win. Not let them dictate how things should be done. Call them out when you encounter it. And to be proactive in reaching out to people beyond our limited friend groups, to let them know they aren't alone.

Maybe that's what I can do to respond to my sense of rage at how badly Activision Blizzard has failed as a corporate culture: to do the things they would not and did not do to their employees. But.... it just feels so inadequate a response to do the things I already have been doing.

I alone can't change things, but enough people acting together can. And setting a good example is paramount, because that is the one thing you have complete control over. You can pontificate all you want, but if you don't walk the walk, what's the point?

There are plenty of times I wish I had all the answers, and there are plenty more when I did know and wished I didn't. I'm not exactly sure which scenario this is.

*Card completed two intro quests and got a bar's worth of XP at L60. I could theoretically do this and level Card to at least L61 this way. Throw in some occasional farming into the mix, and I could probably get her to L63 or L64 without having to set foot in Outland at all.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Wandering Eye

Unlike his big sister, my son plays Final Fantasy XIV these days. Part of the attraction is his love of the FF series, which he's played every iteration (as far as I know), and the other part is that all of his friends play FFXIV. I've walked by his room --door shut, naturally-- hearing him working out an instance with his friends, all the while smiling to myself. 

So when he mentioned to me that yeah, they've been seeing a big influx of WoW refugees lately, that intrigued me.

I'd bought the game during the Steam Summer Sale --there ya go, Syl!-- so it's been sitting there, waiting for me to download, but that interest in FFXIV far predates the current issues with WoW. As my son pointed out, I'd had it on my Steam Wishlist for several years now. So when I began to pay attention to all of the posts and videos about people leaving for FFXIV I felt simultaneously ahead and behind the curve.

But this particular video attracted my attention, because it was done by Jesse Cox, whom (along with WoWCrendor) at one time I'd linked to over in the links section of the blog.*

Yes, it really did attract my attention.
Be warned, it's 1/2 hour long.

I knew Retail was in trouble, but not to this extent. 


The thing is, I can see the origin story of a lot of Retail WoW's current problems in TBC Classic.

Just look at the endless grinding of dailies --normal and heroic instances-- for badges, for rep, to unlock said heroics, and to unlock the various attunements. Were it not for the retail inspired Meta of chain running instances, rushing to max level, and total grinding to get all the attunements and rep grinds done ASAP, I'd likely have never noticed the obvious connection between TBC and Shadowlands' rep grinds and gated content. The emphasis on spreading out and making people grind to get the mats to craft gear --particularly in Tailoring-- has created an environment where people would find grinding anything preferable to the crafting grind.** The grind and the speed of leveling has encouraged and/or required the leveling of alts so you can do all the things, and alts are still very much a huge part of Shadowlands today.

And I haven't even touched on the reputation of the player base either. 

Even some of Retail's narrative problems can be traced to TBC era WoW, as the WoW comics began publication during TBC, and their storyline directly contributed to the TBC storyline. That last part is critically important as Blizzard had published novels before, but until that point these non-video game publications hadn't become required reading to figure out what's going on in the current WoW story. This effectively offloaded a significant portion of the narrative, which meant that the WoW devs could spend more time working on what became the holy trinity of WoW: raids, dungeons, and PvP.***


Are other MMOs a panacea to the problems WoW has? That is a question I can't answer. I haven't played FFXIV (yet), and the single player centric nature of Elder Scrolls Online won't necessarily appeal to everybody. SWTOR continues to hang on with their niche audience, as does LOTRO, and the original storylines for both continue to impress me the longer time has gone on. There are other new MMOs on the horizon, most notably (for me) New World, and they will have their time to shine too.

But all good things do come to an end, and right now WoW is more vulnerable than at any other time in their past. I'd never count them out, but outside of deliberate scheduling tricks --something WoW has done in the past on a fairly frequent basis-- their well of goodwill is currently dry. They've got their endgame raids, dungeons, and PvP, but I don't think that's enough to keep a decent portion of the player base. Maybe that's the portion of the player base that the WoW leadership cares about, but that alone isn't enough to keep WoW viable for the long haul.

*I swear, Blogger, get yer act together and support more native controls for other Google applications. This isn't hard, people. If Wordpress can do it, surely one of the largest corporations on the planet can do it. And if they need programmers, I happen to know one who's pretty damn good at her job.

**Enter LFR in a later expac, after crafted gear became less important in Wrath and Cata. There were times in both expacs where I felt that I was the only one who even bothered with crafting gear in those two expacs, particularly with the introduction of Heirloom gear in Wrath. 

***I could add a fourth pillar to that trinity: the rush to max level. Sometimes I wonder why WoW devs even bother with the leveling process if the whole point is to just raid, run dungeons, or do PvP.


EtA: Corrected some grammar mistakes.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Uh Oh

I don't typically pay much attention to the Retail side of WoW, particularly after I grew tired of the post-Wrath emphasis on the faction leaders being both the driver of the action and the central figures in the expacs from Cataclysm onwards.*

However, when I asked a friend whom I knew played both Retail and Classic his opinion of the 9.1 update, Chains of Domination, he said "I've played Horde, and what they did with Sylvanas was nothing short of character assassination."**

That's when I knew something had gone down on Retail.

Then my YouTube feed showed vlog commentary from Bellular Clips about a PC Gamer article, and so I hopped on over to PC Gamer to find this:

Hoo boy.

This goes far beyond the normal complaints that you see from people about this or that part of the expac, but strikes at the heart of Blizzard's cash cow.

As Bellular pointed out in his clip on this article, this isn't a more niche site, but something the general public is more apt to see, which becomes harder to sweep under the rug or just dismiss it as trolling.

This sort of thing is also likely to perk up the ears of the institutional investors of Activision-Blizzard, causing them to wonder what is going wrong with the Blizzard side of the house.

And really, I believe this can be laid directly at the feet of J. Allen Brack and Ion Hazzikostas. Brack, because he's in charge overall, and Hazzikostas, because he's the one in charge of WoW. The snark in me says that when the person in charge of WoW is most well known for his participation in Elitist Jerks prior to being hired by Blizz, this is what you get when you let a theorycrafter and raid encounter designer without real narrative experience run the show. I'm certain you get a lot of nicely designed raids, but narrative is gonna suffer if you hand wave a lot of stuff (or offload it into books because.... it's not important or something? I guess we'll never know for sure.)

And, apparently, suffer it has.

*And that includes having a significant portion of the action tucked away in books and other media, not in-game. I personally like the authors that Blizz employs --I've encountered some of them in social media and I can speak rather highly about their likability and thoughtfulness-- but in the end Blizz' management drives the show and they just interpret the direction management wants to go. Just like in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, the decision to kill off Chewbacca wasn't the decision of the author, but management.

**My opinion, which I expressed to my friend, was that Blizz had been doing that ever since Wrath. There were quests in game that showed her humanity behind the bravado, especially one memorable quest where you find a piece of jewelry given to her by one of her sisters. (It's a drop from a Scourge near Windrunner Spire, naturally.) However, Blizzard chose to ignore those overtones and instead sent Sylvanas down the path she's been on from Cata onwards.

EtA: Corrected an issue with the "*". The author, R.A. Salvatore, came up with the idea as he wasn't happy that he was going to have to kill off Chewie, so he created the death scene so that Chewie went out with a bang.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Lazy Days of Summer

Our team hasn't started raiding Gruul or Magtheridon yet, and there's already the stirrings of attunement for Serpentshire Cavern and The Eye.

It's at this point when you realize you're
largely on the last step of... Part 2.
From Wowhead's page on TBC Classic Attunements.

If the first month of TBC Classic taught me anything, it's that I'm not going to rush my tail (literally, because Draenei) all over Outland to get myself ready to.... do it all over again in the next phase.

To be fair, the server Discord always has people looking ahead to the next Phase, but what seems to be attracting the most attention is the sheer number of mats required to build mitigation sets for the tanks on a 25-person raid team. I don't have a list that I can share right now, but let's just say it's a pretty hefty price tag.

But let's not be a Debbie Downer here, and put those discussions off until Phase 2 is actually announced.*


My questing buddy got her Bear to L70, attuned, and last night she was off to Karazhan. I assisted in getting her pre-raid mitigation set crafted by farming the Clefthoof leather needed for the set. A nice little side effect is that I received plenty of Roasted Clefthoof for Brig's raid usage, and given that my real life work has been less than kind to me lately, I got to take my frustration on the Clefthoof population in Nagrand.

Outside of that, however, my interest in doing much in TBC Classic has been pretty damn low. I'll go pug an instance or two, maybe farm a bit, or even do some quests, but unless my questing buddy is on I've placed Shadowmoon Valley and Netherstorm on a questing hiatus; she waited for me to do those together, and I'm not about to screw her over and go ahead and quest without her. 

I suppose that it's at this time I should consider leveling an alt, but I've not been that interested in doing that very much either. Linna is sitting there in her crappy boosted gear, waiting patiently, and I even went to the trouble to create a seventyupgrades version of her, but all I've done is move her around the Old World. She's currently sitting in Light's Hope Chapel, which is pretty appropriate, but outside of some basic questing I've done little else.

It's not that I don't have things to do, such as working on reputations, leveling a craft such as Leatherworking, or maybe even venturing into a Heroic version of an instance, but nothing is appealing right now. A week ago, someone in guild asked if I was interested in running Heroics, and I told him not really. "From what I can see, they're just wipe fests, and why would I sign up for that?"

"True," he replied. "They are brutal."

Ah, Animal House. Don't you ever get old.
This could cover Heroics, or the leveling
process, or the isolation involved. Or all three.


"Exactly. From what I can see, Karazhan is easier than the average Heroic."

"Don't you want the badges from the daily?"

"Not really. The Heroics aren't going anywhere, and in a couple of months the gear there will be obsolete anyway."

As if to prove this supposition correct, in a Mechanar run a few days later the Hunter happened to mention the special "Heroic" attack the first regular boss does: "Everybody gets a charge, and if you're too close to the wrong charge you can wipe the group."

"Oh great," I replied. "The Thaddius ability from Naxxramas come to a 5-person instance."

"The strategy I've seen has been to go to the stairs, and depending on your charge you run up or down the stairs," my questing buddy added.

"So in addition to all those damn bombs going off, you have to handle the charge routine." No wonder these were considered an alternative to end game raids, I thought. "This is totally different than the Heroics in Wrath, where they were an easily defined stepping stone to raiding." 

To my mind, this pretty much confirms the "Retail" mindset pervading people's approach to TBC Classic: you have to do all the things to really be "winning" the game. 

Couldn't resist.

But that's the thing: there is no "winning" in the traditional sense. You're just caught up for a short while, and then the goalposts move farther away. 

I'm reminded of George Carlin discussing golf back in the 80s: "Think of the brains it takes to play golf. Hitting a ball with a crooked stick and then… walking after it. And then hitting it again."** That pretty much defines the MMO playstyle: you get to a point where you're caught up, and then the next thing you know you're chasing after a new set of goals.

So I've been tempted to just... well, do some slumming. Like maybe sit on top of a giant mushroom and watch the LFG channel for a while. Or hang around near Halaa and watch the back and forth of the factional fighting. 

"I'm just sitting here watching the world
go round and round..."
--John Lennon


I've been asked occasionally if there's something I want to do in game, but I always turn it around into helping somebody else out instead. At least that gives me a purpose, to help somebody out, rather than actually think about my needs for a change.***

Because... Hell if I know what my needs are. The last time somebody asked, I told them that all I really wanted was for them to just be a friend. Nothing very concrete, and very much an existential response, I suppose, but after the events of the past 2 months**** that's all I need for now. 

But I also think that so much of our interactions in TBC Classic have been so wrapped up in the Meta, raiding, and doing-all-the-things that a decent subset of players are now like a fish out of water when interacting with others in game. Trying to get past the superficial "Are you raiding Kara?" or "Wanna do a Heroic?" takes effort, and players have problems pushing past that superficiality. It's going beyond the generic discussion starters where people flounder. 

Last week I said hello to a friend I'd not talked to in-game in a couple of weeks, and she was happy to chat. After a minute or two of pleasantries, she asked if I wanted to run an instance. "Sure," I replied, "as long as it's not a Heroic."

"Why not?"

"Not attuned yet. Still working through that."


And that was the end of that. I was more than a bit disappointed, but when people are caught up in the current Meta that's what happens, I suppose.


Independent of that conversation, I had another friend a week or two ago tell me that he was concerned that I was being 'self isolating' because I wasn't running Heroics and had no real interest in running them. In fact, I was telling him --half jokingly-- that I was trying to see if I could be the last raid main to get into a Heroic in guild when he posted his concern. He believed that by falling too far behind, I'd isolate myself from the rest again. 

"Again?" I asked.

"The first time was when you leveled your Shaman," he replied. 

"I wasn't the one who isolated myself. And I didn't level Brig for myself either."

"I know, but I'm just concerned."

I just kind of shrugged at that. I pug things, I pretty much always have, and if people only want to run the things that will only benefit them, they're the ones who are self-isolating. "I'll get there when I get there," I replied.


I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised by these conversations, but it did leave me more than a little sad that so much of how we interact in game is so tied to what we get out of something rather than doing it because of what others might need. If we're not getting something out of it, we're doing it wrong. There was one instance run, months before the pre-patch, that should have given me a glimpse of what TBC Classic would be like. Someone had asked me for help in getting an instance done, and I said that sure, I'd go. I joined the group, and then a few minutes later I was unceremoniously booted from said group because one of this person's guildies said they'd go. Since I was going "for fun", they didn't need me. And this was despite that I was asked for help and I willingly offered it. Because I wasn't directly getting something out of the run, I didn't have the higher priority over another person's guildies.

And really, that kind of describes TBC Classic in a nutshell: "How does it directly benefit me?" That isn't a recipe for a healthy in-game ecosystem.

The fix isn't difficult, you know. 

Be a friend. Do something that doesn't benefit you, but others. Just be there for someone.

That's all.

*My guess is September or October, although it might come earlier if subscriptions for WoW don't pick up with the "Chains of Domination" 9.1 release. (And, having put my ear to the ground, it sounds like it is not doing so well.)

**From "Playin' with Your Head", 1986. Yes, I'm old enough that I have the original on LP. The entire quote has a bit of profanity, and isn't central to my comment, so I left it off. Still, I can truly appreciate his opinion of watching golf on television, as golf was always... ALWAYS... on the television when I was growing up.

***Why do I get the feeling that my love language is Acts of Service?

****It includes pre-patch, people.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Just a Pinch of Thyme

I wanted to put aside some of my foibles in The Burning Crusade Classic for the moment and talk about something near and dear to my heart.


You know, this stuff.
From, but apparently
it's an Adobe stock photo.


If you've ever gamed with friends --whether it's playing D&D or Settlers of Catan around a table, playing Smash Bros around a television, or kicking a soccer ball around in the yard-- you know that food and drink makes a good gathering great. It never has to be fancy, but it does have to leave you full. 

Food is also a window into a culture. The various cuisines around the world pay homage to the immense cultural variety out there, and you could spend a lifetime exploring various cultures through cuisine. The late chef Anthony Bourdain strove to put that exploration into his television show, Parts Unknown. I remember distinctly his episode in Libya, not too long after the revolution there; you could feel the danger Anthony put himself in just to explore the cuisine that few Americans have ever experienced. 


As much as food is a window into a culture, it is also a window into our fictional worlds. 

I am a big Tolkien fan*, and I used to scour the bookstores and library for books about Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. Books by J.E.A. Tyler and Robert Foster found their way onto my bookshelf, as did a book that I discovered when perusing the shelves and the Downtown branch of my local library:

The library's version was in hardcover.

It was a book made for fans by fans. Yes, there were articles by some scholarly critics and a short biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, but what fascinated me were the fan related sections. There was a map of Middle Earth as it looked in the First Age, as a fan noted the Blue Mountains were in both maps and simply combined the maps of LOTR and The Silmarillion. Another article that fired my imagination (and no doubt planted the seed of my blogging career) was about the LOTR fanzines that sprang up all over the world in the wake of Tolkien fandom. There were also fan-made scholarly articles, poems, filk songs**, and even a listing of the more popular fan clubs and fanzines (and their addresses) in the back.

Alas, those fan club addresses were out of date. And yes, as a middle schooler I did try them, which is how I know.

But there were also recipes.

I may try to take another pic, but I didn't want
to damage the book.

These were fan inspired versions of foods found in Lord of the Rings, or as in the case of Scotch Eggs Strider, a Scotch Eggs recipe with Aragorn's Bree nickname attached to it.

While I remained fascinated by the recipe section, I knew my parents were less than thrilled by my Tolkien obsession already without me turning the kitchen into Tolkien fan food zone. 

So my interest in these recipes slumbered, until they were revived by another book:

I slightly tweaked the coloring to make
the bottom left corner more legible.

I'd somehow managed to "sneak" the original Dragonlance Chronicles past my parents, despite their being published by TSR, the publishers of the "Satanic" Dungeons and Dragons. So when a cousin of The Tolkien Scrapbook for the world of Krynn appeared, it was a no brainer that I'd grab a copy. 

And yes, among all of the other articles, there was a recipe section:

Again, not the greatest of photos, but it'll do.
Also, actor and lifelong D&D fan Joe Manganiello
referenced this book in a review for, well, you'll see.

Being just out of high school by the time Leaves was published, I kept those recipes in the back of my head for a time when I could try some out. That came later, after college, in my then girlfriend's (now wife's) apartment. Considering my cooking skills needed a lot of work, she tolerated my interest if it meant cookies were going to be made (and they were). 

Still, I never really had the time to follow through on this interest to the extent I wanted, so Leaves went back on the shelf.


Ages came and went, and the world changed.

First came the rise of the "themed party". No longer chained to birthdays, variously themed parties became popular in the 90s and have stayed with us until today. Just go look at the magazine aisle at any craft store and you'll see what I mean.

Second was the 800 pound gorilla that was Harry Potter.

Harry Potter became such a phenomenon --which continues to this day-- that Harry Potter themed parties are a cottage industry all to themselves.

Some parties are more elaborate than others.

So with an environment like this, food from Leaves or The Tolkien Scrapbook fit right in. And believe me, as I was to discover, themed foods from other SF franchises are very much a thing.


My kids gave me this as a gift this past Christmas:

Yeah, this is the book Joe reviewed.

The inside of Heroes' Feast is gorgeous.

It looks like a modern cookbook, complete
with the luscious food pics.

And I have to admit that I didn't see this coming.

I mean, I expected that there'd be Harry Potter cookbooks out there, and I've even seen one for a Star Wars themed party. But something like this, where the authors tried to imagine what the food in a D&D setting would taste like and interpret that like this? And that they'd convince a publisher to actually, you know, publish it? THAT I wasn't expecting.

With this in mind, I started poking around the internet, because surely D&D was not a harbinger of the fandom cookbook revolution. 

And... Wow. 

There's a ton of cookbooks out there for all sorts of gaming and literary fandoms, such as The Elder Scrolls, Lord of the Rings (naturally), Fallout (really?), and A Game of Thrones. Oh, and there was another cookbook that caught my eye. I collected some of my birthday money*** and picked up this:

In a world of $200 18" statues, this
cookbook gift set was a bargain.

"You didn't!" --Cardwyn

"Oh yes I did." --Me

"You could have just asked me! My sister could have written half of this!" --Cardwyn

"You do realize you're a figment of my imagination, right?" --Me

"..." --Cardwyn

And yes, your eyes do not deceive you, it comes with a 2-sided apron: Alliance on one side, 

Everybody ignore that 80s era
door behind the apron.


Horde on the other.

I have to admit that the Horde
side does look better.

And the interior is just as beautiful as Heroes' Feast is:

Yeah, I could go for some chops right now.

Okay, I want to try these recipes. ALL OF THEM. But at the same time, I realize that I've got responsibilities, things to do, and so I can't commit to doing all the recipes at once. So I'm going to have to pace myself, picking and choosing what makes the most sense for the moment.

I have kind of a hard and fast rule about cookbooks: if I can find about a half dozen recipes that work their way into my regular rotation, it's definitely worth picking up. If I can then find about another 6-10 recipes that I'll occasionally go to, then I've got a real keeper. So these two cookbooks have a tall order to fill, but I think that they're up to the challenge.

And if nothing else, there's the drink section to keep yourself lubricated, right?


*Not nearly as big as Stephen Colbert is, but when I was much younger I could have possibly claimed that level of obsession.

**Filk are fan made songs with a particular SF, Fantasy, or Horror theme, and frequently utilize the music from a popular song for their lyrics. In that way, it's a cousin to the spoof genre, as popularized by Weird Al Yankovik and Doctor Demento. Just like Weird Al used the Greg Kihn Band's "(Our Love's In) Jeopardy" music to create "I Lost on Jeopardy", filkers took The Beatles' "Penny Lane" to create "Middle-earth". Or converting Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Puff The Magic Dragon" to "Smaug the Magic Dragon."

***Most of the time I get gift cards to hardware stores, because there's always something around the house that needs repairing. But this year, I just got cash, which was fine with me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A Brief Glimmer

Shintar, over at Priest with a Cause, posted today about her experiences lately in TBC Classic. In their own way, they provide a counterweight to my own impressions of the expac, given that while I started from L1, she was able to go to Outland from the moment the Dark Portal opened only to discover some of the same feelings of FOMO that I was experiencing. But as she explained in her post, what she thought initially was just FOMO has turned out to be something else, where her relationship with her guild has not been what she thought it would be when TBC Classic dropped. In its own way, her guild and my own are doing similar things, where they spend most of their time working on their individual checklists rather than enjoying the game as it is. 

And in both of our cases, it can be an alienating experience, realizing that your relationship with your guild isn't where you thought it was.

In her case, she feels she's treated as just another flavor of the month Hunter, and some people in guild can't even remember her name right. That matches a similar situation I find myself in, where people can't remember that Card is no longer my main. 

Once every couple of days I get a whisper from somebody saying that they miss running or raiding with me, but then in the next breath they say they're just too busy with other things. Well, out of game issues I understand, but in game? That's a choice that you make. You can make yourself feel better by a drive by hello, but the reality is that you have control over what you do in game. To have all of your boxes checked prior to entering Gruul's Lair or Karazhan is placing a lot of pressure on yourself.

Of course, there are limitations to that. A Mage will have to acquire tanking gear before they step foot into Gruul's Lair, and a tank will have to get enough of the right type of gear to make it even worth their while entering into the Phase 1 raids. But chasing 9/9 pre-raid BiS slots with a vengeance? Or getting all the patterns for Enchanting? Or who you hang with in game? That's a choice you make.*


I have some friends in game that I miss, not because they're not playing or anything, but because they server transferred. I was assured that they left because they felt the larger server would work better for them, but I can't help but think that if I had the chance to spend more time with them they might not have considered transferring so much.

At the same time, there's only so much of me to spread around. I have to make decisions based on the time I have, and I have to live with them.


I was contemplating all that when we were preparing for last night's Karazhan raid. We had almost enough people for two raids, but we ended up having to get a couple of puggers to fill the last two slots. We were trying to find a healer when I ran into one of our regular raiders from our Saturday Night Blackwing Lair runs. We hadn't spoken since the series of raids had ended, so we were catching up on what we'd been up to and I noticed that she was at L70, so I asked if she'd gotten into Kara yet. 

"No," she replied, "I'm geared and ready to go but no luck."

I blinked. 

"You know, we're in need of an extra healer for Monday night," I said. "Would you be interested?"

Her reaction was somewhere along the lines of "hell yes!", so she hopped onto our Discord and immediately signed up. 

Shortly thereafter another regular from our BWL and AQ20 runs also hopped on to sign up as melee DPS. 

Problem solved.

But as the raid approached, I grew nervous. This was not only going to be my second time entering into Karazhan, but a first as an actual lead for the place. And you can only read/watch so much before you have to go out there and actually get into the raid and do it. Thankfully, however, the overall lead was the lead for all of those ZG/AQ20/BWL raids I'd done over the last several months, and once we started I began to relax. It wasn't the same raid, but it was the same person. 

She did a fantastic job distilling a fight to the most basic components, and while it was a learning experience for about close to half of the raid, it felt so much better and smoother than last week's run. Even when a disconnect zapped my macro for handling loot, we just rolled with it.

We got what is supposedly hardest opera event, the Wizard of Oz, and wiped twice, but the third attempt was as smooth as butter. We accidentally pulled Moroes early and wiped, but we recovered the next time. 

And there was one memorable trash pull where everybody went down except for the Warrior tank, the Pally healer above, and me. We had three of those arcane creatures on us, and the tank kept aggro while the Pally healer kept him alive, and I improved my positioning enough that I didn't take damage so I could DPS down the trash. "I thought we were going to have a wipe," the raid lead admitted. 

"I thought so too," I replied. "But that was an awesome job tanking!"

"An awesome job healing, you mean," the tank replied.

"Hell yeah!" And if I hadn't run into her randomly out in the Old World, that pull would have turned out completely different.

At the end, we hung around late --because of some trash wipes-- and we killed the Prince on our second try. It felt.... well... like we knew what we were doing. Even though I'll admit that I didn't.

Afterward, I sent the raid lead a message via Discord that she did a great job, and that I really missed this over the past month of leveling alone. I got a thanks as an acknowledgement, but really that message was as much for me as it was for her. I really had missed our regular raids together, with some of the regulars across several guilds, and how we came together and had fun.**


It felt... good.

Like I wrote to the raid lead, it was the best I felt in game in a month.

It doesn't cover up a host of faults I've discovered about this expac and how people are pursuing it, but it did provide a welcome respite from the in-game shenanigans. It also gave me some hope that perhaps I won't have to take the drastic route and leave the guild (at minimum) just to find my place in TBC Classic. There's still a couple of months of Phase One ahead of us, but this is the first glimmer of hope I've had in a while, and for now I'm holding onto it.

*One of the people I knew from Classic, upon hearing a gratz aimed at everybody in his guild who made it to L70 within two weeks, quipped about "that was only the 'no life' crew that sprinted to L70." To which I laughed.

**This doesn't mean I suddenly started liking Karazhan; I haven't. It's just that I liked the raid itself rather than what we were raiding.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

A Bucket of Cold Water

For some reason that I can't fathom, people fawn over Karazhan.

The fact that it was the residence of the Guardian of Tirisfal, which is on the other side of the continent, for pete's sake, doesn't truly enter into it. Lorewise, yadda yadda yadda, whatever, doesn't change that it was designed as a "catch up" raid in as much the same way as Zul'Gurub and AQ20 were, to be run in conjunction with Gruul's Lair* and Magtheridon's Lair, so that people who ran Naxx in Vanilla would be on the same footing as those who didn't raid at all. If you look at the entire focus of The Burning Crusade, which is Illidan and the Burning Legion in Outland, it seems pretty silly to have both Karazhan and Zul'Aman as part of the same expansion. Neither of these 10 person raids are directly part of the story; while you could make an argument that Zul'Gurub and AQ20 were built up to in Vanilla as part of extended storylines, neither of the TBC 10 person raids could lay claim to the same level of build-up.

And no, attunement to Karazhan doesn't count.

But regardless, people who played TBC back in the day seem to have a universal love of the place, and just about any conversation I've had with friends in TBC Classic has led with "Are you raiding Kara yet?"

The attunement to Karazhan itself is pretty much a bare minimum if you want to consider yourself "caught up" in TBC Classic, it seems, as guilds have made a concerted push to get into Karazhan and to get as many bodies into Karazhan at all costs.** 


I knew that by the time I reached L60 that people in guild were already attuned to Kara, and a week later they were already going into the place. As one of the raid leads I also knew that there would be a push --once I reached L70-- to get me attuned as well.

Another add-on the guild has been promoting --and WoWhead as well-- has been Attune, which keeps track of the various attunements needed in TBC Classic. That's nice and all, but by default it announces in Guild Chat whenever you've accomplished an attunement. 

Which drives me nuts.

If this was all it did, I would be using it myself.
From the Attune Curseforge site.


Yes, you can go into the settings and turn that off, but the blatant spamming and wink-wink advertisement --by default-- by the add-on only serves to irritate me. Maybe it's my Midwest upbringing shining through, but the "look at me!" nature of the add-on only served to remind me that I was not with the cool kids. And to make matters worse, you could configure the add-on so that you could see where everybody in your group was on attunements so you could "keep track" of them.

It just had to get more invasive. I work
in IT Security, and this set off alarm bells
in my head. Just what else under the hood
is going on? From the Attune Curseforge site.


So what have I done? 

I've ignored any and all suggestions to use the add-on --or any other add-on that keeps track of things and reports/collects them without my knowledge-- and am using my own noggin instead. Just like knowing that Guild Roster Manager is watching for any changes to my information, and that even my birthday would be registered if it were known***, I've been trying to keep as minimal a footprint as possible within the guild itself.

No changes, no updates, no snooping. 

I've strongly considered keeping only my main in guild, which means Briganaa, and pulling Card. After all, she's my disenchanter right now, and will remain so for the time being. I may do that once I settle into Phase One raiding at the end of July, because by then everybody and their grandmother had better be aware that Card is in semi-retirement.


Regardless of how it was tracked, I knew that I would need to get attuned to Karazhan. And given that I got to L70 my way, I was going to get attuned my way as well. The Friday that I dinged, I'd already done every single quest or instance that I could perform without flying being required.**** This meant that I had the first two Tempest Keep instances to be run to get the parts for the key for the third instance (The Arcatraz) and then I also needed a Black Morass run to get the key 'approved' by none other than the past version of Medivh himself.

I still think a Shivarra would make a great
around the house assistant. Imagine the
amount of repair work that could get done
with six arms!


Yeah, bear with me on this, because there's absolutely no reason --in game or out-- to think that Medivh would be so stupid as to provide his imprimatur on a key to his stronghold to someone he didn't know. This is the case where Blizz' careful story building completely falls apart, and they pretty much handwave that obvious flaw in the story to just say "Hey, you got to see some lore firsthand, isn't that cool?"


While I was watching the livestream of the Gruul attempt on June 25th, I was pinged by my Raid Lead. She was already dead in the Gruul attempt (I think), so she had time to chat. She apologized for missing that I dinged L70 (see my previous post for my standard answer), but she asked if I thought I could get attuned by Monday's Kara raid.

Only four instances to run and 3 days to do it? I told her that sure, I could get attuned.

I had only one requirement about joining Monday's Kara run: that I not bump anybody. 

Just because I'm on the raid lead team doesn't mean that I should bump someone who had been waiting to raid Karazhan. I don't get to jump the line just because of my rank; I'd much rather have someone else go who was ready before me, especially since the Raid Lead and the other two members of the lead team were already signed up.

I was assured that yes, there was a spot for melee DPS as the raid was short one already.

Then she dropped the bomb: "How do you feel about off-healing?"

Well, crap.

"I haven't healed an instance since 2010, so I'll need to practice."

"We'd only need you to off-heal on the later bosses in the run, as we can get by with two in the first half."

"Okay, I'll do it."


You have to understand something about my relationship with instance healing: it ended badly.

I still remember the run as clear as day. It was an at-level Halls of Stone LFG run, with me on Quintalan in Holy Spec. The tank zoned in and while the rest of us were getting ready he took off. After the first couple of pulls I was sucking wind on mana and constantly having to drink. Of course, I know now that a Holy Pally drinking constantly is pretty common, but he wouldn't wait. Still, I'd done this instance before so I knew what to expect. 

It was then that the tank started harassing me, asking me "Do you even know how to heal?" 

"Of course," I replied.

Then he posted "Divine Plea", "Arcane Torrent", and told me "Use them." 

That was great and all, but if I was going to use Divine Plea, I'd ideally use it while he wasn't in combat, which was, well, never. Back then at least (I can't tell you if/how it works in Retail now), if you healed while Divine Plea was active the outgoing heals were severely handicapped, so you'd preferably use it while out of combat. Such as, you know, drinking. And besides, Arcane Torrent's minimal amount of mana regen isn't exactly a panacea for constant pulls like the tank seemed to think it was.

Then, right after the first boss, before I had a chance to get unstoned, the tank runs up to a trash mob, pulls, and immediately after dropped group and left, the others following shortly thereafter.

I sat there for a long time, staring at the screen, thinking that maybe he was right and that I didn't know how to heal. Maybe he knew things I didn't, and I simply didn't measure up.

And I thought about all the stress that I induced by simply trying to heal an instance --which was considerable-- and I decided it wasn't worth it. I could go Ret, treat healers with respect, and probably do a much better job overall than what I was doing. If the healer went down, I could pick up the slack by sliding Healbot into view and just start casting. In that scenario nobody was expecting heroics out of me, so I could relax a bit.

So I said screw it and switched off to Retribution on a permanent basis.

With the benefit of almost 12 years of MMO experience, I now know that was just a bad pug, and that instead of a complete overhaul I likely needed to tweak things a bit and get more heal specific gear. But then, when I was still feeling my way through WoW the first time, that was a gigantic and crushing blow to my ego. I'd had the benefit of running with Deftig as tank for months, and he made my healing a lot easier because he was a skilled tank. Oh, and he was overleveled for a lot of these instances, which made a big difference.

Still, my belief I was a bad healer persisted through the decade, and I avoided healing like the plague. 

And now I was going to have to confront that belief, whether I liked it or not.


I finished my attunement in a semi-guild Black Morass run on Sunday. I say 'semi' because the tank was an ex-guildie who he and his friends from our AQ40/Naxx raids had gone back to their original guild when TBC Classic dropped, but they remained friends overall. So there was me, a couple of guildies, and our ex. The run wasn't put on for my benefit; the tank wanted some rep and I happened to be on at the right time. Considering a few hours earlier a Black Morass pug had ended in abject failure (the Pally tank was unable to keep threat even though I was doing non-crit white damage) these two runs ended pretty much as I expected. 

Another thing that Black Morass is
good for is farming Netherweb Spider Silk.
And leveling Skinning.


"Hey, I get to group up with the world famous Cardwyn," one guildie quipped when we hopped on Discord.

"It's not like I've not been around," I replied, a touch irked.

"I know, but the thing about this guild is that if you don't completely keep up with the latest you get left behind."

Tell me something I don't know, I thought. "I won't lie and say it hasn't been rough, because it's been rough for all of the leveling Shamans, watching everybody else being where we want to be while we struggled alone. And now, once I get attuned, I'm going to be tasked with off-healing on Monday, which is something I've not done in over a decade."

"The thing is, Card, that sometimes you're too nice for your own good."

"I find it hard to believe that treating people with courtesy and kindness is considered too nice."

"Amen to that." One of the leveling shamans had hopped on Discord and chimed in.*****

I realize that he meant well, but I wasn't going to change who I am just to play the way I want. If there was going to be a choice about it, who I am versus what I want to play, I will always choose being true to myself.******

So when Monday came around, I got some practice in learning how to create and use mouseover heal commands, and I set off for Deadwind Pass. 

I'm still not used to some of these empty
places in Wrath being active and busy.
Much like how Silithus was in Classic.



I can describe Karazhan in four words: Shadowfang Keep on acid.

If Shadowfang Keep is Worgen heavy with a decent helping of ghosts along the way, Karazhan is a haunted house where the ghosts have decided the party never ends and the entertainment borders on the bizarre. 

Courtesans? Check.

Wanton Harlots? Check

Opera? Check

/record scratch

Opera? Yep, there's an "opera" in there, but Aida it ain't. We're talking stuff like The Wizard of Oz, The Big Bad Wolf, or Romeo and Juliet, and it's a boss encounter. Our raid got the Big Bad Wolf --a Worgen, naturally-- who turns a random raider into Little Red Riding Hood, and you have to kill Wolfie before he kills off Red and the rest of the raid. It's hell on totems, let me tell you. I was constantly throwing down Tremor Totems while chasing Wolfie around, because he fears (again, naturally).

Other people in the raid loved it, but I was kind of meh about the whole thing. Part of that was that I practically went out of mana just tossing down those freaking totems, but part of it was also that I wasn't amused by the shtick. 

Nor was I amused by the Chess event, which was obviously a Blizzard homage to Harry Potter.

"Ron, you don't suppose this is going to be like . . . real Wizard's Chess, do you?"

"Yes, Hermione, I think this is going to be exactly like real Wizard's Chess."

Probably part of the reason why I was not amused by the Chess event was that two players in a 10 person raid were going to be stuck with being pawns. What's the fun in that?

Let's see, some other highlights....

There's a giant woman dressed in Roman garb as a boss, because that's apparently a thing Blizz does. See: Uldaman, Myzrael, Halls of Stone, Halls of Origination (Egyptian garb here), etc. For all I know someone on the dev team has a thing for Giantesses.

I died three times on one boss, the Shade of Aran, because he requires constant heals while on the run, and guess what class' off-heals doesn't have instant heals? Shamans. So I had to constantly stop to try to get a heal off, and that put me behind this boss' blizzard. And not being on a Mage, I couldn't blink out of the blizzard either. 

Oh, and did you know that there was a ghost dragon in the upper halls? Well, if there's Chess and an Opera, sure... Why not have a ghost dragon?

Or that the end boss was a demon,******* in an impossibly large roof area of netherspace? I am shocked... Shocked, I tell you.


As you can tell, I wasn't altogether thrilled about the experience.

Healing wise, I think I did okay. I didn't have too much to do, but I filled in where I could. I can confirm that Chain Heal is really nice, but if not a lot of people are taking damage, the quick heal is much more efficient.

DPS wise, I was called out for my positioning, and the tank was absolutely right. My positioning sucked. I had issues trying to figure out which direction the ghosts were pointed, because you can see through them, so I didn't have the visual reference of knowing the tank was on the other side or not. And that was on me. 

I suppose I'll get better at my melee positioning, having played Card for so long, and as far as mechanics goes I'll get better with practice.

But what I think won't get better was my impression of the place. 

I've a friend who is an English Lit teacher, and she went bananas about all the Enlightenment references in there. There are other friends who came to TBC Classic just so they could run Karazhan again, because it was such a touchstone on their WoW careers. Still there are others who think Karazhan was the best raid that Blizzard ever produced for WoW.

I just... No, I just can't think that.

For me, Karazhan was neither epic nor special. I never went there until I was L90 --and soloed the place-- so I didn't have the pull of nostalgia. Its mere existence in the southern part of a continent for a Guardian who was named after the northern part is off putting to me, lore be damned. If nothing else, it feels like a very pretty "look at what we can do!" showpiece that is out of step with the rest of TBC. Now, if this raid were a bridge between TBC and Wrath, some judicious reworking of the bosses could let this fit right in as a prelude to Wrath. But TBC? The only thing it's got in common with TBC is that there's a demon at the end. And that the last occupant opened the Dark Portal back in Warcraft 1.

I mean, I'll still run it, but it doesn't have the same feel or pull that the Classic raids did. Even if you took the 40 persons and converted it to 25, the Classic raids would have a greater sense of purpose and awe than Karazhan has. And while Karazhan does make a 10 person raid feel like a raid, that's not saying a lot given that if you treated both Upper and Lower Blackrock Spire as one dungeon --which it can be treated as such if you choose to-- Blackrock Spire would feel pretty epic in its own way. And be more integrated into the WoW Classic story than Karazhan is to TBC Classic.

Even Gruul's Lair looks more like a regular raid to me than Karazhan does.


I suppose I ought to brace for the commentary telling me I'm full of crap, but after the Death March to L70 and the subsequent push to attunement, I've more than a bit of buyer's remorse. 

I busted my ass for this?

*I still don't get why we're picking on poor Gruul Dragonslayer. I thought the Black Flight were the enemy, after Onyxia and Nefarian made pretty plain. 

**That 'all costs' reference continues to bear fruit, as I've seen some acquaintances decide to pass on the raiding scene in TBC Classic entirely, getting off the treadmill just as they should be getting ready to roll. Ironically enough it hasn't been any of the Leftovers, although we could be forgiven for jumping off the raid train, but people for whom real life has trumped any game playing. 

***Sorry, I'm not gonna put it out there. I'll just say that it's already happened in 2021, which means you've got half a year to guess. 

****Technically speaking, if you had a Warlock in the group you could get summoned to the platform of a Tempest Keep instance prior to running inside without being L70, but I knew that wasn't an ideal situation. Or, bypassing the Arcatraz key, if you had one person in group with the key plus a Warlock, you could skip two instances entirely. But like I implied, you're going to need that key eventually, so why not take care of it now?

*****I couldn't decide whether she agreed with me or the other guildie, but I'm going to assume given she said it after my comment that she meant my opinion.

******Somewhere upwards of 25-30 years ago, my father was involved in a disagreement with his boss at work. From what I remember, the disagreement stemmed from activities that his boss would do --and encourage his underlings to do and then expense-- when they went on business trips. Dad thought the activities were unethical and said so, and the resulting tiff led to my Dad getting reassigned. Well, the people who worked for my dad --his entire department as he was a middle manager-- effectively revolted and told senior leadership that they would all quit en masse if Dad didn't get his old job back. Because of that pressure, my Dad's boss was reassigned instead and Dad put back in his former position. My dad and I frequently didn't see eye to eye, but I never forgot that moment. 

*******Whom we defeated on our third try. Or was it fourth? Either way, the RNG gods smiled on us and we were able to defeat the Prince before the summoned hellfiring demon that wiped us in previous attempts appeared.