Monday, February 28, 2022

Do You Have a Moment to Hear The Good News About The Meta?

Remember when I posted this YouTube video a few entries ago?


Well, now is as good a time as any to discuss this.

John's premise in the video is that anybody who has 'solved' an MMORPG and figured out the optimal path toward achieving the goals set out in said game is providing people with the 'metagame'. No, not the Facebook 'Meta', which is abjectly silly and just marketing speak for trying to bring as many disparate concepts/items/whatever under one roof*, but something quite different. 

This is the roadmap of "how to level in TBC Classic properly", or the definitive boss strategy in raids. Or the optimal raid composition and/or class spec for raiding. Or how to get yourself attuned (or Attune-d (tm), couldn't resist) most efficiently. Or.... Well, you get the idea.

But to continue, Josh believes that the metagame or 'meta' is ruining MMORPGs because it eliminates player choice. 

Yes, you read that right. And, once you hear him out, you'll likely agree with him.

The entire point of the meta is that it is the optimal way of doing something. And if that is the optimal solution presented to the gaming community, why would you do anything else BUT that? To do so is to cheat yourself of the best solution in a game. 

I was reminded once again of the metagame after the Friday Karazhan run** when during the Discord chatting post-raid someone mentioned about getting rep for Cenarion Expedition. Another person chimed in with how you "ought to do it" by buying those Unidentified Plant Parts and turn those in, one after another, until you reach Honored. Then you can go questing and get the rep needed rather than running Steamvault multiple times. Considering that I just went out and quested on Linna, not really caring about rep, until I hit Honored and the Plant Parts left in my bag*** were useless. But I was more annoyed that I knew about the meta for Cenarion Expedition rep and I deliberately chose not to do it, and I was --unintentionally-- having my nose rubbed in a pile of dogshit because of my choice.

And that's the thing about the meta: it exists, and because it exists you are always reminded of it even when you aren't following it. Unless you turn off Discord or chats and eschew grouping in favor of solitary play. Even then, the knowledge that a meta exists in some form or another will haunt you, despite your protestations of innocence. 

After all, even I end up on some WoW websites, trying to figure out the optimal builds and talent trees for my toons. Those published entries are as much a metagame as Attune or other attunement walkthroughs, and a not so secret reason why I haven't gone into any 5-person instances on Linna**** is because I messed up and took an extra level to finally get the talent for Blessing of Kings, and I didn't want to blow any extra gold on resetting my talent trees just to fix my screw up. 

And then I thought, "Why the hell should I be apologizing for not having the 'right' build, anyway?"

My brain almost immediately responded with multiple instances in the past where I was in instances, learning, and being told that I suck and the rest of the people dropping group. 

"Oh, right."

Then I thought about guild groups, and then I remembered that I was --rather politely-- told to 'get gud' by being 'counseled' on how to improve my DPS in SSC/The Eye and in Naxx.


Oh, you didn't know about that in Naxx?

Oh yes, I was given some unsolicited 'counseling' by a fellow guildie one evening --who didn't even run a Mage as anything other than a lasher farming alt-- on how to maximize my DPS. I was seething afterward, because I knew exactly where I needed to go but gear held me back, and here was someone who didn't even take part in our Mage Crew discussions trying to tell me what to do. I basically took the 'advice' and threw it in the trash, because I had my own roadmap and I knew that the rest of the Mage crew would back me up.

And now, having been on the other side of the raiding leadership, I know how this works: someone in raid leadership asked him to talk to me about it, rather than asking my class lead who was likely not involved at all. (And I have a really good feeling as to who it was who asked him, too.) Even though I didn't raid with him in TBC Classic (or that part of guild leadership), that experience soured me considerably on whether some random person might want to 'help' me by 'informing' me of the meta for whatever it is I'm doing.

So yeah, I don't need any guild groups in 5-person instances while I'm learning things, thankyouverymuch. 

Even if I did want to group up in guild, guildies would soon learn about my toons outside of the auspices of the guild and start adding them to their friends list. The only person who knows Neve and Linna are attached to me is my questing buddy, and I prefer it that way. A few other people are aware that I boosted a Paladin in case Ret were needed, but that's all they know.


Regardless, Josh's 'solution' isn't one that I think would work. You'll have to watch the video to form your own opinion, but my belief is that the meta is here to stay, and it will pretty much rule the MMOs that already have been 'figured out' because of human nature. 

If you ask someone what their goal is in playing an MMO such as WoW Classic, what is the answer?

How many say 'To win"?

How many say "To have fun"?

But the kicker is what does 'winning' and 'fun' mean to people? 

If it means 'endgame', odds are very good that it also means utilizing the metagame to win the endgame. Even if 'having fun' means that people want to 'raid with friends', eventually raid leadership will have to come to some hard decisions about people who simply aren't doing a very good job but happen to be good friends. Who do you pick, the friendship or finishing a raid tier?*****

If it means 'winning PvP', it means following the PvP meta. After all, the PvP crowd is more intensely driven to winning and min/maxing their way to success than even progression raiders.

If it means doing anything other than that, then perhaps the meta doesn't matter that much. But to an MMORPG, where everything is geared around Endgame and PvP and raiding, the meta will still rule.



Where does this leave me?

Probably trying my damnedest to keep my head down, run the Friday Kara until it simply isn't viable anymore, and just mind my own business. Eventually I'll get over this funk, and since I've got about 10 months or so until Wrath drops I've got plenty of time. I can console myself in that no matter what MMO I play, there will be a meta lurking out there, so it's not like I can change a game and free myself from the metagame. It's all about the community, and how overt --or backhanded-- they are in pushing people toward the metagame that matters.

And that last statement probably deserves a post of its own.


*There's another Josh Strife Hayes video on that, right here:

**You remember the person who was interested in learning to raid lead and was offered --without my knowledge-- a chance at running my Friday Kara run? He never followed through. I was going to contact him directly, but I was told to wait to see if he followed up with me. So far, he hasn't. Of course, he might contact me this week because that's just my luck. I post about it, and it happens.

***And a few mailed over by my questing buddy.

****Outside of 'Normal' runs for Hellfire Ramparts, Blood Furnace, etc. being very hard to find.

*****A couple of weeks ago, during the Friday Kara someone said in Discord that they missed raiding with me on Mondays. "Thanks," I replied, "but you at least have [raider's name] now, and she brings 300-400 more DPS than me." And nobody said a word about missing raiding with me after that. It's very easy to assuage your own guilt by saying platitudes, but the reality is that my replacement brings significantly more DPS than me. People can't deny the uncomfortable fact that when I replaced her for Vashj in SSC on my very last progression raid night we couldn't bring Vashj down. The next week, they nailed her on the second try. My questing buddy continues to insist that I'm missing the point and that people do miss me, but I believe I just simply said the quiet part out loud that nobody wanted to admit.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Existential Musings

I have found it amazing how external events kick me in the ass.

Last night, I just wasn't feeling like I wanted to just keep doing much, MMO-wise. Not for that evening, but in general. If there's one thing that seems to be a constant in my MMO career, it's that change will always happen. Unfortunately, the negative change outweighs the positive change, and that wears on me after a while.

So while I was busy just going through the motions and in general feeling down, the news came across about the invasion of Ukraine. 

And that was a shock to the system.

Oh, I knew it was coming --pretty much everybody did, if they were paying attention-- but knowing it was coming doesn't make hearing that it is actually starting any easier.

Mindless grinding did little to take
my mind off of things.


After I tried processing the news for a while, I just turned off my PC and lay down in the dark, staring up at the ceiling. 


A large part of my problem with the news is that my kids are now of military serving age. It's one thing if the situation was bad enough that the military had to draft "Old Man Redbeard" in his 40s and 50s, but my kids are an entirely different thing. It may have been an extremely unlikely scenario,  but late at night is not when safe, rational scenarios play over and over in your head.* 

About the only good thing that the news did was to get me to stop feeling sorry for myself. Even then, doubts always creep in because that's what they do.

I don't have the answers to my irrational fears or my existential dread of whether I was a good dad, or that I spent too much time playing video games and not enough time with my kids. Or whether it was all worth it.**


Morning dawned after a somewhat sleepless night, and I found no comfort in the cold, gray day. The news out of Kyiv isn't good, and both my work and personal problems didn't magically evaporate. But for now, there's not much to do except just keep on plugging away. Because I guess that's what we do.

*Among the other irrational scenarios: Is my blood glucose crashing? Is my heart about to give up? Is my blood pressure skyrocketing? Am I getting fired tomorrow? Am I just faking everyone and not doing as well as I seem in my medical recovery? Is [insert drug name here] right for me? Before you laugh about the last one, I never paid attention to all of those drug commercials until I became a walking billboard for them. Now, I see a random commercial and say "Yep, I'm taking that."

**"What was all worth it?" "Hell if I know; that what can be as large or small as my mind wants it to be."

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Side Benefits

Having done some occasional stuff on Cardwyn the past week or so, I will say this: my lack of interest in questing in most L60 zones back in Vanilla Classic has provided me with a great opportunity in TBC Classic.

Shush. This particular quest wasn't around
in Vanilla Classic.

All of those quests that I never did --the Wintersaber Grind, the Rockfury Bracer quests, the EPL quests, etc.-- are still there for the taking, and they all count as XP. On most days, I'll get on early in the day when nobody else is around and knock out the Wintersaber quests, reducing them to the equivalent of a pair of dailies. Between the two quests that I have right now, and the drop rate being just low enough, I can complete them both and get 5% of a level's worth of XP out of spending about 15-30 minutes of time. Since I'm in no particular hurry, that'll get me a level in less than a month. Considering she's L63 now, this is faster than I expected.

And when I get bored of doing those quests, There's zones in Silithus with L61 Twilight's Hammer enemies to beat on.

Once I get to L66 or so, I'll hike on over to the area surrounding Karazhan to see how Cardwyn will fare against the L68-L69 enemies there.

Every once in a while I get a whisper from some random toon, asking me if I'm grinding for the Wintersaber mount, and I say "Yes." And they go away. 

Since nobody else is out there, and it seems everyone and their grandmother is working on Netherwing mount grinds, I can just relax in peace.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Uncomfortable Nature of Messy Reality

There is a questline at Hellfire Peninsula in TBC Classic that I dislike.

Of all the quests in TBC Classic, this is the one that I actively avoid. 

No, not because it raises questions about temptation and consequences, or the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or even an obnoxious number of Kill Ten Rats, but because it reminds me too much of real life. I would wish that it was about our better angels, but it isn't, and because of that I have a hard time dealing with the questline.


If you're like me, you've seen about all of the original Star Trek episodes over the years. And if you're also like me, you've probably also read the short stories that James Blish made of the original episodes, because you simply couldn't get enough of the stories. While there are some episodes that hit you right in the gut, such as City on the Edge of Forever or Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, the episode A Private Little War has resonated in my psyche over the years. 

Yes, some tropes were pretty stereotypical,
but the Original Series did make you think.


The story unfolds when Kirk visits a Stone Age era society he once studied years ago. The person he'd once confided while he was an undercover observer in has now become chieftain, and as the story continues it is discovered that the Klingons are arming the competing tribe with flintlock rifles. The chieftain's wife observed Kirk and McCoy using their phasers, and decides to steal Kirk's and use it to get one up on the competing tribe. Things do not go well, and the chieftain's wife is killed. In the end, an arms race ensues, with Kirk's friend asking for flintlock rifles of their own to match those that the Klingons had been providing. Or as Kirk puts it, "Serpents, serpents for the Garden of Eden."

Even the best of intentions can oft fall astray, and no matter how much one tries, sometimes you just can't win.

If my observation of that episode sounds somewhat familiar, then you too may have come across the storyline that begins with the quest entitled 'Sedai'. 


Sedai's questline begins with Sedai's Draenei brother being concerned about him, as he'd gone to the Maghar Orcs seeking peace and hadn't returned. You investigate and discover a dead Draenei near the paths leading to the Maghar encampment. He'd been struck and killed from behind.

Returning to the Temple of Telhamat with the bad news, one of the Broken who'd befriended Sedai decides an eye-for-an-eye is good enough for him, and he sends you into the Maghar encampment to slaughter the Orcs. When you return, Sedai's brother is horrified at what you'd done, insisting that "This is not our way!" He then sends you out with a device to see if you can find the truth of the matter. 

With the device, you are able to see what happened: Sedai had gone to the Orcs, and they'd rejected him and escorted him out of their encampment, telling him to not come back. The Maghar have naturally been suspicious of outsiders, especially since so many of their brethren had fallen under the sway of the Burning Legion. Sedai turns to leave, and witnesses that the Orcs have been jumped by Fel Orcs. Sedai looks like he's about to help defend the Maghar when he is cut down by a Fel Orc assassin from behind.

The true villain in all of this are the Fel Orcs, who turned the Draenei/Broken and the Maghar Orcs against each other, but the thing is, like as in A Private Little War, there's nothing you can do. The two sides are willing to believe the worst in each other, and that suspicion makes them both ripe for manipulation by Illidan's forces. 

And that's what I hate about this questline: you know and can see how easily manipulated the two sides are, but like in reality, there's nothing you can do about it. Most of us don't have a pulpit to try to get people to see the other side in reality, so all we can do is watch the unfolding nature of events and feel helpless to do anything.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and the first decade of adulthood was in the 90s, so I got to see this messy reality in spades, with The Troubles being my most obvious example of this problem. Everybody knew that the true villain in the conflict in Northern Ireland was the lack of trust in each side, which extremists on both ends used to keep the conflict going. It was only when enough people --the common people who were the victims in the undeclared war-- finally said "Enough!" that real progress was finally made. 

I can love and respect what Blizz did with that questline, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I hate how it reflects on our own reality, where people can't see beyond sharp divides of black and white to finally meet somewhere in the middle, and how it reflects on me as well. No amount of gear or gold or whatever can change my mind on this, because all it does is sadden me at who we are and what we have become.

EtA: Fixed the flow of the Star Trek portion.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Really? Again?

I wish I were making this up.

There's a new addon that is sweeping the WoW Classic community. From the same person who created Attune, there's now Dailies.

Yes, an addon to detect, share, track, order, and plan your daily/weekly quests. It will also, like Attune, allow you to share your info with others in your guild. About the only thing it doesn't seem to do is allow a guild leadership to track who is completing their dailies. You know, for being optimally ready for raiding.

From the Why This Addon from the CurseForge interface:

"Dailies are already a big part of TBC with Ogrila, the Skyguard, fishing, cooking, dungeons and heroics, and now the Netherwing rep. But very soon we'll also get the Shattered Sun Offensive with a ton of new dailies, and then ... Wrath of the Lich King (hopefully!) with again a ton of dailies and weeklies.

Very quickly your daily grind is going to become very convoluted and having a simple yet effective interface to take you through your selection will be very handy."

Oh yay.

I was already avoiding dailies as much as possible, and now I've got another reason to do so. Because it's now part of the meta for TBC Classic, and like most metas it ends up changing something optional into a requirement.

I was going to post about this video
sometime in the near future anyway,
but this kind of accelerated things.

Between Attune, Questie, and now Dailies (among others), these addons are turning a game into a job.

Unless you actually like doing this sort of job, that is.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Freedom Redux and Other Musings

Last night, I went to bed early. A nice perk of listening to your body and saying "I'm tired as hell and I need some sleep," and no longer having the responsibility of helping to run a progression raid on Monday nights.

This morning, I had a message in my Discord about Karazhan.

One of the raid team's tanks wants to get a taste of raid leading, so I was contacted to see if I could let him have a chance of running a Friday Kara to get his feet wet.

I sat there for a few minutes, chewing on that, and said out loud, "Oh really?"

I'd been wondering whether I should simply leave that Friday Karazhan and just move on entirely, and here was a possibility of doing just that, wrapped up in a nice package and tied with a bow.

Of course, this request was likely a one off (or two off) scenario, but that didn't prevent me from suddenly getting very possessive of my little corner of Azeroth. And here I thought my only issue this week was making sure we had enough healers in place.

After musing over the possibilities, and admitting that I did kind of like having the Friday run to myself, I responded by saying sure, I'll let him try it out. I said I'd even reach out to him if he hasn't contacted me by Wednesday.

We'll see what happens, but that 'Happy Trails' screenshot I posted a few weeks ago may yet see a rerun. This time, for the guild and Discord channel.


Okay, let me address the elephant in the room: why the guild and Discord channel?

The answer for that is simple: the primary emphasis of this guild is progression raiding. Oh yes, I've read the guild charter, and there's a lot of fluff in there about friends and respect and whatnot, but what the charter says versus what actually goes on are two entirely different things.

Just like most of the progression raiding guilds, they follow the meta. There's a set of stuff to get, a set of talents to check off, a rotation to be perfected, etc. For Phase 3, that meant running Alterac Valley to get the Alliance trinket. Or Warsong Gulch for Honor/gear.* Or Shadow Resist drops. 

When I was contacted the week after I returned to work from the hospital and told that I was losing my job and would move on to a new contract, I immediately tuned out any talk of the meta. I think I knew at that moment, long before I posted here on the blog or in the raid lead meetings, that I was gone. I was not going to have to follow the meta, because I wasn't going to be in the raid much longer.

I didn't want to admit it to myself just yet, but deep down I knew.

And you know what I also knew? That 80% or more of the Discord discussions surround raiding: the raids themselves, raid tactics, raid strategy, theorycrafting for best DPS output, raid gear, leveling alts for raiding slots, running instances for rep/gear/whatever that points back to raids, ad infinitum. Strip that away, you have not much else. You login, and about half of the discussion in guild chat is about gear drops, raiding, specs, DPS/tanking (for raids and whatnot), grouping for instances (for gear/rep for raids) and not much else. 

All of that serves to remind me that I'm not raiding.


Right now, I have about 26 of 42 discussion channels permanently muted, so they don't exist to me at all. Of the 16 that remain, 7 are from my Monday raid team and one is a channel for raid leaders in general, which I have to remain in because I run Friday's Karazhan, the only Karazhan run the guild still does. One is the rarely used announcements channel, one is the channel for raid logs, one is the guild charter channel, and one is for raid guides. So really, I only look at 4 channels, and even then I still can't avoid raiding discussions. 

Not much of anything to look at, is it? 

The funny thing is, there was a survey toward the end of Classic --the same survey that led to me joining the Monday raid lead team-- and one of the key outcomes was that the guild focuses too much on raiding and there needs to be more opportunities for activities outside of raiding. 

Looking at it now, midway through TBC Classic, I'd say that having a single arena team doesn't really qualify for more activities outside of raiding, especially given the lack of interest in doing much of anything else. The occasional instance runs often feel more like charity cases than spur of the moment "let's run some stuff tonight", and that vibe really turns me off. I have tried to join some instance groups, but an Enhancement Shaman --much like a Rogue-- isn't people's first choice at DPS for 5 person runs. Plus, some people only want to take people who "need" something from an instance run as opposed to just "helping out" or "having fun". 

Even the Classic raids that we ought to just plow through failed to garner more than just 8-9 people's worth of interest. And yes, those are "raids" as well, so the irony is not lost on me. I had tried to generate interest in things such as a lowbie run through Ragefire Chasm --ala Wilhelm Arcturus' well documented lowbie run through Orgrimmar-- but there wasn't any real interest. 

So yeah, my interest in sticking around can be defined by one word --inertia-- and without the grounding provided by regular raiding there's no reason to stay outside of friendships. 

And like I said what feels like a long time ago, you find out who your friends are.


The asymmetry between Horde and Alliance questlines in a Classic zone continues to breathe life into the game. While some quests are identical --the Wastewander Pirates quests in Tanaris are a good example-- others have distinct differences. Go to the Hinterlands, and you might be tasked with quests attacking the High Elves there (Horde), or ignoring them entirely (Alliance). Thousand Needles have very few quests for Alliance, but plenty for Horde. Given that Thousand Needles is two zones away from Horde territory, the disparity is still quite stark. Wetlands is a similar scenario, only favoring the Alliance instead. I realize that some of this disparity is due to the unfinished nature of parts of Kalimdor, but that's fine with me. The quirks behind this give a 'lived in' feel to the game, and instead of creating artificial balance between the factions the differences just simply are, which is rather nice.


Neve is closing in on L50, and still hasn't been to an instance yet. I ought to fix that, especially since some gear from Scarlet Monastery is still really really good for a Mage, even in her mid-upper L40s. However, I refuse to run through a boost, because that's not the point of playing her. If all I cared about was getting to Outland as fast as possible, I'd consider a boost, but giving up 20+ gold (for a new toon on a new faction/server) PLUS the drops in an instance is a mind bogglingly bad idea. There is no way I am that desperate to get to Outland. I am spacing out my leveling with her so that she never leaves that sweet spot of an XP boost, which really really helps out a lot. Trying to stay within that XP boost range keeps me from overdoing it, which is also good.

*I still get hives when I hear that name. Okay, not really, but deep down in my soul I shiver. Leveling Adelwulf back in Cataclysm via Battlegrounds meant being beat up on a ton in WSG, and I have absolutely no desire to get back into that place again.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Letters From Outland

Dear Cardwyn--

Hi, Sis! Greetings from another world! 

I'm not exactly sure if you can call Outlands another world, as (I've been told) this is what's left of the place after primal forces tore the world of Draenor apart. Given how vast Azeroth is, I find it hard to believe that anything could be powerful enough to destroy an entire world. Even the Scourge can't do more than just scratch the surface of the Plaguelands. 

I made it safely across the Dark Portal to find demons pressing our forces from the front. The stairs leading to the portal from the Outland side funnel the attacks toward the middle of our lines, so we don't have to spend as much time defending our flanks. Here, both the Horde and Alliance are defending our opening into Outland in much the same way as we fought at Ahn'Qiraq in what feels like ages ago. I ran into Keyrissa when I stopped by the field hospital set up to the side of the stairs, and she says to tell you hello.

If you can see it in the background, the
sheer size of the infernals here are mind boggling.

I checked in with the Nethergarde in command on the stairs, and he sent me to the Alliance base called Honor Hold.

To be honest, I'm surprised that the old Alliance forces have lasted this long, shut behind the Dark Portal, without going insane. They have all aged significantly over the years, and I can't decide how much of that was the stress of constant warfare versus the natural progression of time.

Anyway, when I landed I was accosted by Marshal Isildor before I could check in at the Keep, 

and he gave me a once over and said "You'll do, Sister."

I told him I wasn't his sister --and that you'd take exception to his attitude-- and he didn't like that very much. 

I reported in at the Keep, and I was stunned to see Danath Trollbane of Arathor standing before me. I was sure he was long dead, as did everybody else, but the Light works its miracles.

He was speaking with an Elf so I had to wait my turn, but if I heard right that Elf is Turalyon's and Alleria's son. Given how we used to play Rangers and Trolls as kids, it feels weird to have the son of the Ranger General of Quel'Thalas right here in front of me.

And don't tell him I said this, but I think he probably takes after his mother in looks. I mean, I've seen the statues at the entrance to Stormwind, and Turalyon looks like someone who was told to clean the latrine for mouthing off. (Not that you'd know anything about that....)

After I met with Lord Trollbane, he gave me orders to report out into the field once I got settled into my barracks. 

Ever since, I've been out and about in this foreign hellscape.

The Orcs here, known as Fel Orcs, are a lot like the Dragonmaw and Blackrock clans in that nobody --not even the Horde-- likes them. Oh, and they're red for some reason. Nobody knows why, but I get the feeling I'm going to get the job of finding out.

But the thing that I noticed the most is that there must be something in the water, because it seems like everyone around here is abnormally tall. It's as if they've all been drinking that Firewater you are fond of...

Even the demons are much bigger than found in Azeroth:

And there are new varieties, too. Like this one, that seems like something out of a teenage boy's fever dreams:

But you know the old saying about the bigger they are...

Some things never do change. Such as the line for the latrine...

Or some of the goofy armor pieces that they hand out here. They may be better pieces than what I had back in the Plaguelands, but there's no way that I'm not getting an axe in the gut along the way.

What good is the armor if anybody can tickle you while you're wearing it? I may need you to ask your friend Keren* to come over here and complain to the smiths about this.

But one thing does still stand out: the power of friendship. I was tasked with seeking revenge on some Fel Orcs --the red ones-- for ensorcelling an Honor Hold officer, and after surveying the field I realized I was in over my head. But a new friend of mine, one of these Draenei you've no doubt heard about, volunteered to support me. Were it not for her, I'd have likely not made it back alive.

Light! How they knew my name is beyond me.
I might need  your skills to investigate this.

She has a sister of her own out here in Outland, but she hasn't seen her in a while. We'll have to seek her out once we get out of this peninsula.

I do believe that it is best for you right now to stay home and heal some more, because I'm sure that this place would rip the scabs off of your mental scars. I've heard that other parts of Outland are much more beautiful than this place, and I hope to finally get out of here to seek them out soon.

Tell the rest of the family hello for me, and that yes, I am taking care of myself out here. I hear that my nieces and nephew are getting pretty big now! You'll have to tell me more about their adventures in your next letter. Light willing, I'll receive a short leave of absence so I can come back home to visit. Maybe I'll drag my friend, Zarleigha, along with me. She's not been to Elwynn, and my description of home and the fishing pond intrigues her.

Be well!


*Yes, that's her in-game name. And yes, she's used to those sorts of jokes.

EtA: Fixed a grammatical glitch in the first paragraph.

EtA: Fixed multiple "but" sentences right after each other. Yeah yeah yeah, ::giggle:: ::giggle:: ::giggle::... He wrote "but" a lot....

Friday, February 11, 2022

"Great Caesar's Ghost!"*

I swear I didn't even notice it at first.

I was on a couple of different toons the other night, talking with my questing buddy. She knows how to find me and has a standing invitation to ping me whenever, so when I was on and was just putzing around she pinged me and we chatted for a bit.

When I have nowhere to go and nothing to do, I tend to just roam around wherever. In this case, I was avoiding my guilded toons --Briganaa and Cardwyn-- so I was just cruising around on Neve, then Az, and then Linna. You know, hopping from flight point to flight point, riding around to nowhere, just chatting away without much of a concern of any mobs aggroing on me. Well, I was on Linna, just flying around and then landing and chatting, when I landed at Nethergarde Keep. I summoned up her warhorse and cavorted around the Keep for a bit, then around the outside of the Keep. While I was typing a reply, a flash of light caught my eye: the lightning that's near the Dark Portal. I sat there, captivated by it for a moment, and I got a sudden feeling.

The time is now.

So I rode south...

"Welcome to the nightmare. Indeed."


Paused a moment...

And ran across...

"Well," I told my questing buddy, "I did a thing."

"What did you do?" she asked.

I sent her this pic via Discord in reply.....


"Bring on the clown gear," I replied, tongue planted firmly in cheek. 

Truth be told, I have no idea what'll happen, as it's been ages since I played a Paladin in any sort of serious fashion. I never got that far with Linna here in Classic --she was my boosted character as a precaution in case the raid needed a Ret Pally-- and the last time I played any Paladin for any length of time would have to be Tomakan back in Cataclysm. Quintalan retired just before Cataclysm went live, after the pre-patch, and I stopped playing Balthan when Rades' Bloggers Guild faded away.**

But if nothing else, Linna can send letters back to Card while the latter recuperates from her time spent in Naxxramas.

Saints preserve us, because I'm sure I'm not ready for this. My gear is low-mid 50s Greens that you get from the boost, I don't remember the rotation much at all, and while my memories of Wrath Paladins were mostly positive, TBC/TBC Classic is an entirely different beast.

Oh well, here goes nothing.

*Yes, the tagline that Perry White of The Daily Planet used to say in the old 1950s Adventures of Superman television show. Those shows ended up on the afternoon cartoon/kids block on our local independent around my 4th or 5th Grade.

**For all I know, Balthan could still be the guild master.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"

When I was a kid, I used to get sick.

A lot.

As in, "holy crap how are you still alive?" a lot.

I don't believe in the "that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger" nonsense, because I've lived through a winter that had me catch bronchitis, the flu (twice), strep throat, scarlet fever, and pneumonia. That was just ONE WINTER, that of my First Grade. Eventually, my doctor told my parents that if I caught one more thing it would likely kill me, so they pulled me from school and made an arrangement with my teacher for me to complete my First Grade schoolwork at home.

I, uh, was not a very attentive student at that time, and although I lived in fear of my father, I could get away with goofing off with my mother.*

But for a hyperactive kid, being cooped up is like a death sentence. You can't go outside, you can't run around**, and you can't make any noise. I did love reading, but there's only so much schoolwork type of reading you can do before you start to go crazy.

What kept me sane? My imagination.

There were three shows on television that captivated my attention --two series, one movie-- and I'd spend hours dreaming about them: Batman, Speed Racer, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.


The first, the 1960s live action Batman television series, was what I lived for on Saturday nights at 7:30 PM. Even my aunts and uncle were cued to that I loved that show, so when we'd visit my mom's family*** they made sure that the television was tuned to Adam West and Burt Ward. My mom had a pair of button down cardigan sweaters, one blue and one yellow, so my brother and I would wear them as capes, mimicking Batman (me, because I was the oldest dammit) and Robin (my brother). 

Oh, I did. Believe me, I did.

In an era before The Dark Knight (the comic book), Adam West's semi-comic version of Batman was what I knew, and I loved his wit and his gadgets and ability to see through the villain of the week's plans. It seems so odd to me now that Batman struck such a chord with me, given that superheroes as a genre today aren't really my bag, given I'm kind of sick and tired of all the superhero movies out these days.


The second, Speed Racer, was more of a forbidden fruit for me than anything else. 

Oh, not in the way you'd expect, mind you. My parents were fine with the early anime show. It was that Speed Racer was pulled from the local airwaves because it was "too violent". 

I wish I were making it up, but there it is. 

I mean, I've seen Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, and all of the old Popeye cartoons, and they were all vastly more violent than Speed Racer. But since Speed Racer involved car crashes, it was supposedly far more violent than those others. Parental complaints led to Speed getting pulled off our local independent station, and there was nothing I could do about that. 

And oh yeah, somebody bitched about the word "demon" in the theme song. Yes, my hometown is right on the northern edge of the Bible Belt. Does it show?

But while it was on, I loved that show. I loved the Mach 5 so much that 5 became my favorite number. Add to that Speed's propensity to getting into trouble with the "bad guys" that always led to confrontations on the race track****, yeah I was hooked. I had no idea what anime was --I believe both Speed Racer and the few years later import Star Blazers were lumped into the name "Japanimation" back then-- but in an era before the dominance of NASCAR in the US, motorsports were dominated by the Indy 500 and Le Mans, and Speed tapped into that popularity with a car so far out that it was more James Bond than Mazerati.


I saved the best for last, and I referenced it in a comment I made over on Bhagpuss' Inventory Full: The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Since I was sick a lot, some of my earliest memories were of me being propped up on the couch where I could watch television when I was recovering. We only had one television at the time, and it was a black and white one*****, but it was my window into the world. 

In those days, before Rupert Murdoch launched FOX as a fourth network, most localities in the US had at least one independent television station. Those stations were typically filled with old shows in syndication, cartoons in the afternoon that they could put on cheaply, and old movies. Tons and tons of old movies.

Like, oh, the 1938 Errol Flynn classic mentioned above.

Channel 19, before it became one of the first FOX stations back in the mid-80s, would have movies at 1 PM daily (ending at 3 PM in time for cartoons), and would have an average of three movies on during the weekends during the days. And it always seemed that whenever I was sick, The Adventures of Robin Hood was sure to be on in one of those slots. If you want adventure, patriotism, strong female characters (for the era), and more than a bit of swashbuckling adventure, Robin, Lady Marian, Little John, and the Merry Men were hard to beat. And for a kid watching the swordplay and archery in an era before D&D or the SCA exploded onto the scene, it was more than you could ever hope for.

You can't have a good movie without good
villains. Before I knew him as Sherlock
Holmes, Basil Rathbone (center) was
Sir Guy of Gisbourne. (From the DVD.)

It was little surprise, I suppose, that several years later when I was introduced to Lord of the Rings and D&D that I just hopped on board that train and haven't looked back.


It's not hyperbole to say that those early influences helped pave the way for my love of gaming. A love of adventure, heroism, and the medieval period are pretty much a straight line from those early influences to RPGs to video game RPGs and finally to MMOs. It probably also provides a background why I play the way I play; I don't explicitly think it, but my deference to letting others have loot first and helping others rather than asking for help could be easily traced from Batman and Robin Hood to today. From my perspective, it's just being a decent player, but for others it could easily be seen as being a 'goody-two-shoes' and 'overly chivalrous'. But you can't please everyone, I suppose.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there are some influences from my later childhood that I need to reconnect with as well....

*How times changed. When the mini-Reds were old enough for school, I was much more easy-going than my wife was. I swore I would not be my father, and I refused to engage in strict discipline. Thankfully, the mini-Reds turned out okay, but I was basically the "Good Cop" to my wife's "Bad Cop".

**We lived in an apartment that Spring while our house was being built, and the family below us had a newborn. So my brother and I weren't allowed to run around the apartment at all. Or bang on the metal container that held our Lincoln Logs like a drum.

***She was the oldest of six, so only she and her closest sibling in age were married. Her second sibling was still 3+ years away from her wedding.

****And that the mysterious Racer X was in fact Speed's older brother, there were definitely overtones that as a kid you never realized weren't in cartoons before.

*****We didn't buy our first color television until 1979. I remember that day well, because we bought the set at Sears, brought it home with the box in the trunk of my parents' 1972 Chevy Nova with the trunk lid tied down with twine, and when my dad turned on the TV for the first time, there was Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk in his full green skinned glory.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Distractions, Distractions

Today has been a day for LoFi music.

Part of that is dealing with the unexpected stuff at work, part of it is the ice storm that's currently trying to switch over to snow right now. 

This is what it was like around mid-morning.
That's ice and ice pellets on the ground and
road. Not snow or slush. And I was not crazy
enough to go driving in it. (Photo from the
Cincinnati Enquirer.)

And part of it is just dealing with the hand I was dealt with in Classic.


I got on Card this morning, when nobody else was around (and at work there was a (very boring) all hands meeting talking about sales), and killed some mobs for the Frostsaber questline. I never really did any of those quests because I never really wanted a Frostsaber*, and to be fair there's a lot of quests up in Winterspring that I never did on Card, so there's plenty of quest opportunity there. Because of that, Card is about halfway to L63 right now, still not having gone to Outland, and at this rate I think she can make L64 fairly easily before the grind starts to get extreme.

But it's something to do, you know, when I'm not on Neve.

I did get on Season of Mastery for a bit, but I discovered that quick leveling does have one big problem: you outlevel your ability to make gold for training purposes very fast. Since you then have to spend time grinding crafting so you can sell it on the AH and make gold that way, it slows you down a bit on an artificial basis. Still, the pace of leveling is actually, well, fun. It's faster than the old Classic servers, naturally, but it just feels smoother, I guess. I haven't gotten to the mid-30s, which is where Classic really started to slow down (before TBC Classic gave leveling a boost with XP tweaks), so we'll see when I get there.

Those two things serve as a distraction, of course, because the big question mark is what to do with Briganaa. 

I've thought about taking her to another guild's raid that fits in more with my time slot, but some of the guilds I'd have considered either left the server or blew up and don't have much of a presence at all any more.

"What happened to Conquerors?" I asked when I heard that another guild, Midnight Souls, blew up a few weeks ago. "I haven't seen any of them around much lately."

"Oh, they imploded several months ago," someone replied. "No big loss if you ask me."

Considering I'd never had any bad interactions with them, I was kind of surprised.

So.... Scratch off two potential guild landing spots.

Even so, I'm not exactly sure if I want to just go raid somewhere else right now, anyway. I did raid with another guild's alts on Az for a while back in Classic, but when that raid stopped being able to down Ragnaros due to geared people leaving, I found out that other guilds don't have it as well as we did. And with people not really spamming LFG (or using the LFG tool) to set up dungeon runs as much these days, there isn't as much of a chance to get to know people before I'd consider joining a raid opening.

Plus, there's that little matter of running the gearing up rat race should I join another guilds' raids, and.... No. I'm good for now.

So I'll just pull Brig out of the garage on Fridays, and occasionally help out when my questing buddy needs a second for making spellcloth, but I think that Brig is going to just not be my focus for a while. I'm just not into the complexity of her rotation, and I'd rather not be told how to up my DPS by people I barely know. 

There's always the option of server transfers, but I'm not really interested in that right now. If I transfer anywhere, it's faction transferring rather than server transferring.


There is at least one option available that I've not fully explored: Final Fantasy XIV.

As nice as it has been seeing FF XIV kind of stick it to WoW without really trying, and that FF XIV has a ton of story that's (apparently) well done, there's a lot about FF XIV that makes me uneasy. The whole "stick a leaf on your name so people know you're new" does kind of bother me when you're trying to just kind of blend in and not be noticed. FF XIV does encourage people to help out newbies, but you know, I'd rather not be helped if it means everybody knowing you're new.

And there's the art part about FF XIV. You know, the part that screams "anime": bunny people, cat people, tiny people that have a vaguely childlike look about them. Thankfully, that last group don't make me feel as dirty as when I see the Elin in TERA.** There's the anime look of the humans too, which simply doesn't do it for me, because the little anime I watched were first generation anime, like Speed Racer and Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato. I don't have that generational connection to the genre and art that it seems a ton of people do now, so it's just not my thing.

Still, it is a possibility. If I can find a server that works for me. I already poked around enough to try to create a toon on my son's server only to find that they're not accepting new toons there now.


*I did the raptor grind on Quintalan back in Wrath, so I knew what the grind meant.

**I still cringe when I think about it. The fanservice to the outfits in TERA aside, the Elin alone --as well as the players who "dress" their Elin in the most revealing outfits possible-- make me want to vomit. There's a reason why I uninstalled the game, and it has nothing to do with how my Elves looked while playing.

EtA: Frostsaber, not Wintersaber. Oops.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Invisibility Blues


Very very awkward.

Technically speaking, my last progression raid was on January 31st. I was hoping to go out with a kill of Kael'Thas, so I could say that I completed Phase 2 of TBC Classic before I bowed out. 

As with most of TBC Classic, that didn't go as planned.

In the lead meeting after the raid on the 24th we settled on who my replacement would be. That person was ready to go, except she didn't have a Vashj or Kael'Thas kill on her toon. Since it made sense for her to get the kills out of the way before our raid moved into Phase 3 content, I stepped aside to let her have my spot to get the kills done. I put myself on the bench, and I figured that as long as someone didn't show* I was done. That Kael'Thas kill would elude me, but I didn't have to go through anything weird or maudlin at the end of my progression raiding career.

Well, things got weird real fast.

My replacement got into an SSC run --and a corresponding Vashj kill-- during the week, so she was locked to SSC already. That meant there was a spot available for me, but on the boss I didn't need. Still, I was a good trooper and offered to fill in for the Vashj kill after they downed K'T.

And naturally they killed Kael'Thas on the second try, so once again I was reminded that I wasn't going to finish Phase 2 as a raider.


I had parked Briganaa in front of the SSC summoning stone hours before the raid, so I was ready to summon people once the Tempest Keep portion of the raid finished. 

And I made the conscious decision to not draw attention to myself by not using my headset during the raid, so no microphone for me. I did have another reason to not use the headset for technical reasons**, so I relied on that excuse when telling the rest of the lead team that I was going to be on mute. And I was glad I stayed on mute, because I could have made a ton of quips along the way but in the end I kept quiet.

There was still a lot of talk about the Kael'Thas kill, and I didn't realize how much it stung until I heard it.

Along the way, I got a whisper from my replacement thanking me for covering for her. I told her "You're welcome!" but for an insane moment I was jealous. This was supposed to be my spot, and my kill, I grumbled. It was the only thing I wanted before my time was to end, and it was denied me. But after a few minutes, I shook myself out of my funk and just accepted that was how things were going to be.


And the run to Vashj was incredibly awkward, mainly because we simply could not bring Vashj down. 

The RNG gods frowned on us by having Striders and Naga appear in the same location --and naturally the Striders feared the melee-- or we'd have an AOE damage hit the melee right after Vashj would spew her own lightning strike, and melee would drop. Or that people were slow and missed a tainted orb, causing more damage and/or healers to drop. Or.... Well, you get the idea.

I had nothing to do with any of these things per se, but the fact that I was there and my replacement wasn't, and K'T went down quickly and Vashj wasn't, stuck in my craw. As if I was the problem.

And that the raid was talking as if I wasn't there at all --there were a couple of offhand comments that made it plain that people forgot-- I was painfully aware that I was the interloper, much like how it was when I first attended AQ40 on Labor Day 2020.*** Without any whispers of encouragement from people.

So when the raid finally ended without a Vashj kill, I posted a "Farewell!" to raid chat and dropped group, then switched to Neve so nobody could find me.

Excuse me?
What am I, chopped liver?



All through today I regretted my decision to keep running Karazhan on Fridays.

I really wanted to just cut the cord, go away, and not have to deal with anybody's whispers or pity. Or worse, radio silence.

It was not made any easier that I'm going through the same thing at work.

Sorry, I can't speak much about that end of things, but the reality is that as awkward as I felt in that raid, it's 10x worse at work. My direct bosses who have supported me from the beginning have been great, as well as my coworkers and the administrative leadership within the company, but the rest of it....


I think I need to run Kara, just to see if I can shake myself out of this funk. And if that doesn't work, my WoW time is coming due in two weeks. I can take a sabbatical for a while if need be.

*Let's be honest here: we have had a few instances of people not showing, so we've had to scramble to fill in a spot on the team. We run so lean that we don't have a bench at all, so me being on the bench is a luxury for the team.

**For some reason Discord does not like it when my headset went on mute and basically shuts down my headset mic connection to the app. I've searched for a solution --and even deleted and reinstalled Discord-- to no avail. The only solution is to unplug and plug my dongle back in. I personally blame Logitech for this, since it's their headset and I've already had to use contact cleaner twice on switches on the headset, but I've no definitive proof.

***It was that long ago? Really?

****Paraphrasing. She was quite.... creative... in her language.