Friday, September 30, 2022

You Could Call it My Preseason

Back when Cataclysm first dropped, I was in the middle of leveling a Draenei Paladin and the original Nevelanthana. Both were in Outland at that point, so I decided to rechristen their leveling process the Convoy to L85. Complete with a song from 1975 filled with CB radio lingo:

Doing both toons, it took me from December 7, 2010 to January 19, 2011 for them both to ding L80 and then head for Cataclysm zones. Getting to L85 took a bit longer, the first week of March, but still that was also not going totally gangbusters either.

Mists was a bit different. I decided on Azshandra as my new main not too long before Mists was released, and I leveled her all the way straight to L90, mixing up Battlegrounds with questing out in the field. That misadventure took from August 2012 until June 2013 to complete. Of course, I was also heavily playing SWTOR and LOTRO at the time, so that also contributed to the slowness in leveling.

Why do I mention these things? Because I have a history of not rushing out and heading straight into the new expac. That contributed to my thought process in deciding to start from scratch in Mists with a new toon --Az, in this case-- because I figured there'd be no way I'd enjoy the chaos up in Pandaria. 

Looking back on it, I think the only time I logged in for a brand new experience and actually followed through on it was the release of WoW Classic itself.

The scene in Teldrassil on Myzrael-US,
August 2019. I wonder how many of
those toons are still being actively played?

I logged in, looked around, got a few screenshots, and then logged for a couple of hours, figuring that there'd be no way in hell I could complete any quests with that crowd around. (Plus it was dinner time.)

Hmmm... I do recall checking out the Cataclysm pre-patch on the night it went live, but I also recall making a ton of gold on Neve porting people back to Orgrimmar from Dalaran.

So imagine my surprise when I was heading to Zul'Farrak to farm some greens there to disenchant* and my questing buddy --who I was grouped up with-- said "we're kidnapping you".


Now, you have to also understand that allergies have been killing me all week, and I finally gave in last night and took some Benadryl, so I wasn't exactly in a very lucid state. Still, my brain completely fizzled out when suddenly two more people popped into our group and they decided on running Utgarde Keep.

"Uh... I was actually feeling tired, because I took some Benadryl."

I believe somewhere in the responses to my declaration was my questing buddy saying she was having none of that, and since she'd already joined me in Zul'Farrak I began waking up because I had a hard time keeping up with her and killing things.

So, away to Northrend I went.

I told my questing buddy on the ship to Valiance Keep that "this doesn't count" as far as me going to Northrend. I only collected a flight point --force of habit-- and then we did the same for Howling Fjord and away we went.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this I completely woke up and briefly thought about fleeing --the old fight or flight response to a surprise-- but I suppressed it. My questing buddy was looking out for me, and I'd be a pretty damn poor friend if I went and hid.

Although I'll be completely honest in that when I switched my Details meters from Threat to Damage, I wanted to hide from embarrassment: Deuce was barely doing more damage than my questing buddy, who was healing on her Disco Priest. 

The warlock, who was also a good friend, was doing about 80-85% of the damage in every single fight.

And it's not like Deuce is totally undergeared, as she has the full Brutal set from running Alterac Valley, plus the PvP Staff. None of those pieces are terrible, and they fit in roughly with a range from T4 through Zul'Aman to T5 gear from TBC. So, roughly middle of the pack epic gear but with Resilience, that classic PvP stat that keeps a body from being one shot in Battlegrounds. The difference was that the warlock had at least T5 --and in some cases T6-- gear, so he was running with easily some of the best stuff out of raids in TBC Classic. You know, stuff I would have had a shot at getting if I'd not had to drop progression raiding back in January.

Which then reminded me that I was once again on the outside looking in, and that I was essentially being carried through this instance.

So in the span of an hour, I went from surprised/stunned to reluctant to grateful to happy to embarrassed/humiliated. 


Oh, how was Utgarde Keep itself?

Like riding a bike, really. After a few minutes you remember the cadence. 

Although to be fair, I know more about interrupts and how things tick for a Frost Mage than I did back in 2010-2011, and that probably cost me a bit on the damage meters. I would interrupt and use Spell Steal to keep the additional damage off of the tank, who, being a Bear tank with a lot of T5-6 gear himself, didn't really need the help.**

I'd have completely enjoyed myself if it weren't for that constant reminder that I was not pulling my weight. Even the mage table is totally useless for Northrend, since the mana and health pools are so much larger than those found in Outland.

Someone shared a couple of quests along the way, and I accepted the first one strictly from muscle memory and then I realized what I was doing. I then refused the second quest and deleted that first quest from my log. Not until I officially go to Northrend will I do any quests up there.

And that concluded the first night in my "preseason" before I officially head to Northrend. 

I was extremely happy to be back in Outland by myself this morning.

*Long story, but in order to progress in Tailoring, after a certain point you need items such as Imbued Netherweave. To make THAT, you need Arcane Dust, which is found by disenchanting TBC Classic greens. But in order to get to the Enchanting level to disenchant THAT, I need to get to 275 in Enchanting. Deuce, being 230-ish, needed to get up to 275, which meant targeting green gear for disenchanting so I could then turn around and use FOR enchants to raise my skill level. And to find the green gear that would disenchant properly, the best places to look are in Uldaman and Zul'Farrak.

See? Clear as mud.

**It's still good practice, though, like using Frost Nova and then Deep Freeze to keep a caster in a mob from healing/casting.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Where'd the TIme Go, Part Whatever

PC began on September 29, 2009. 

The blog is now a teenager.

Saints preserve us.

Same Same But Different

Wrath Classic dropped at 3 PM Server Time Monday, and I was an expac behind.


But let me make one thing perfectly clear: this time, it was by choice. I deliberately chose to not board the boats (or zeppelins if you're Horde) for Northrend on Launch Day, because I firmly believed it was going to be a nuthouse. 

Our 10 person raid team had a "get to know you" sort of raid on Sunday, which was a combination of Zul'aman and Karazhan --minus the pre-patch Invasion boss in Karazhan-- and it was there that I discovered that the pre-patch included some additional nerfs to the bosses in these raids.* But when the question as to who is going to do what when Wrath drops, I told them I was going to wait in Outland and quest there for a little while. "I'm not entirely convinced that the boats won't have a Sultana re-enactment when they head for Northrend," I replied.

While the boats didn't blow up and sink --which admittedly would have been just the sort of thing that the Lich King would have loved-- I found out that afterward that on Atiesh-US the first ship to leave for Valiance Keep circled around and came right back to Stormwind's port. The people on the ship couldn't get to Northrend afterwards, so they had to take the port that Blizz put in place when things went south.

On the whole, however, people swarmed all over the place on Atiesh-US (and to a lesser extent, Myzrael-US) and I was grateful I was not caught in the middle of that mess.

My questing buddy logged on that evening and was going to group up with me to do some questing in Outland when she got pinged to join a couple of dungeon runs, so she headed off for Northrend too. That meant I could goof around by myself for a bit, and then I figured "why not" and ran some Alterac Valley battlegrounds. 

Deuce just hanging around with
The Knights Templar. Who knew?
(This particular screencap was the night
before, as I couldn't find a decent looking
one from Monday night.)

Did I miss not being there?

Uh... Maybe? Maybe not?

Okay, there are thoughts that I need to unpack here, and it starts with adjusting to reality:
  • The questing would have driven me nuts.

    It kind of goes without saying, but the crowd in Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord had to go somewhere, and for those who chose to level gathering professions or quest out in the field were going to find it extremely hard to do. I don't care how many layers Blizz puts on a server, people have to go somewhere.

    Additionally, I want to quest at my pace, which is a LOT slower than most other people. If I were grouping up, I would have simply stopped picking up quests at all just so I wouldn't slow down the leveling group. Even my questing buddy zips around from quest to quest much faster than I like, so I've pulled that before on her where I just hang around and kill things with her. I go back much later, in the very late night/early morning, and quest on my own where I can relax, read the quest text, and enjoy what is being presented to me. It's been since 2013 that I've actually been out in Northrend, enjoying the leveling experience in a non-beta fashion, and I want to savor the experience. Maybe on the 3rd or 4th time I'll start speeding up, but now? Are you kidding me?

    There was a Horde toon just out of view
    from this screencap, impatiently waiting
    for this to end so they could get moving
    to the next quest.

    And yes, I RP walked for this.

    My desire to quest at a leisurely pace would have put me at odds with almost everybody out in the field in Northrend, and all it would have done is gotten me frustrated. Even though there were at least 50 --and likely more-- people in Zangarmarsh when I was there Monday evening, I barely saw anybody. It was nice to quest and not deal with people pulling mobs out from under me. You know, like what it was when Briganaa finally made it to Outland on her own.

  • Chain running instances to level quickly is not my idea of fun.

    Everybody has their own idea of fun, and yes, I do enjoy running instances. If I've done those instances before, hey great, let's chain run a few. No biggie. But running them time after time to level quickly? Eh, no thanks. 

    That's the big difference between Deuce running some instances in Outland and Brig doing the same. Brig was doing them in their original, more difficult state, and I was just learning how to do those instances. Additionally, by the time Brig (and later, Linnawyn) got to Outland, people were already burning out on chain running instances to level their toons as quickly as possible, so I had to pug a lot (or in Linna's case, simply not run instances at all.) 

    Deuce, on the other hand, got to Outland after the pre-patch dropped and at the end of the expac, so chain running Ramps and Blood Furnace was a nice exercise in figuring out just how overpowered we were compared to the beginning of the expac. 

    I have to clarify something here: I really really like Wrath 5-person instances. I really do. Just like I really really like BC 5-person instances. And Classic instances. The problem is that people just want to use instances as a means to an end, while I want to enjoy the instances as they are. It's like people who skip all of the interlude text/interactions in SWTOR Flashpoints and then get grumpy when you have someone in the group who is reading it all for the first time. Well, I'm one of those people who --like when questing above-- enjoy those small parts of group content. 

    Part of the reason Questie exists.

    What I'm concerned about is that by the time I get to Northrend and actually want to run some instances, people will be burned out just like in BC Classic and I'll just make do. I mean, I can certainly make do well enough, it's just that I feel like I'm watching June 2021 on repeat.

  • Grinding out the Wintersaber Mount on OG Cardwyn taught me how to get maximum XP gain out of low level zones.

    It may seem kind of funny thinking of Winterspring or Silithus as low level zones, but compared to the content in TBC Classic they were. After I left the Monday raid, the Wintersaber Mount grind became something that kept me playing. And sane, to be honest. I learned how to spread out my XP so that I could always keep the Rested XP boost going, and how critically important it was to pace myself to prevent burnout. 

    So... Along comes Wrath Classic, and oh look, I've got a metric ton of quests available to Deuce in Outland.

    Here's the proof that it works.

    Take a good long look at that screencap. What do you see?

    1) The only zone that I "completed" was Zangarmarsh.
    2) Nagrand has exactly ZERO quests complete.
    3) My XP bar --with Rested XP active-- shows Deuce is over halfway to L71. And this was just after getting really really close to finishing up Terokkar Forest.

    What you don't see is that I completed only 18 quests total in the following zones combined: Nagrand, Blade's Edge Mountains, Netherstorm, and Shadowmoon Valley. For reference, 16 of those quests are from one zone: Shadowmoon.

    I have plenty of room to work with to get XP for. And unlike a lot of other people, I've not been out grinding every chance I get. If I take my time and do it right, I could potentially be at L73 by the time I hit Northrend.

  • Will I last that long before heading north? No.

    I may have willpower, but I only have so much willpower. I realize I've got about a month to get to L80 before we start raiding, so I know I've got plenty of time. Still, I don't want to leave my questing buddy in the lurch. She's leveling her Priest, Zarlie, as Disco, and I know from experience that leveling as a healer out in the field absolutely sucks. So, I'm going to make the jump up to Northrend as soon as I feel like there's enough space out there in the field to quest and I have enough gold to afford purchasing Dual Spec. I'm going to be a Fire Mage for raiding, but everything else? It's Frost. Deuce is returning to my Frosty roots.

  • Do I really hate having the spotlight on me? Oh hell yes.

    I mean, it's me. Did you have to ask?

    I may be back on a raid team, but I'm not on the leadership team. While I may have seen the sausage put together, I don't have to worry about it any longer. 

Of course, this will likely all change by tomorrow, but we'll see.

*It was scary, to be honest. We finished Zul'Aman AND Karazhan and had 30 minutes to spare before the raid was due to end. When I commented on how insanely fast the raid was proceeding, I was told my one of my fellow ex-Monday raiders that a raid team she's been on lately has been doing SSC + Gruul + Mags in one night.

**"Sultana?" the raid lead asked.

"Yeah, the steamboat that was filled with ex-Union POWs from Andersonville that was heading back north. It was overloaded with people, the boilers overworked, and on the way back home the boilers blew up and about 2000 people died."

"Holy crap, they were coming back from Andersonville prison camp? I've been there, and it's a horrific place."

And for the record, here's one article about the Sultana and here's a link to the Sultana Disaster Museum, which includes links to this podcast.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Words of Warning

(Normally, these pieces of fiction percolate in my head and in draft form for quite a while before I'm satisfied enough to release them into the wild. This time it was a bit different.

I wrote this very quickly, within the span of a few hours, and it passed through a couple of basic tweaks after I removed one big chunk that really had nothing to do with the story at hand. I'm not totally satisfied with it, but the release of Wrath Classic forced my hand.

As you probably know from reading the blog, I'm not fond of the entire Malygos questline. It makes no sense, and even if you knew the comics and/or other fiction Blizz puts out that isn't in game (see: why the hell Varian Wrynn is King of Stormwind in Wrath of the Lich King and not his kid) it still doesn't make sense. But it is what it is, and I'm determined to make some lemonade out of the lemons that Blizz presented us with.

Hence this piece.

As is usual, this is a piece of short fiction. Any resemblance to people, living or dead (or a dragon, I suppose) is purely coincidental and really, I'd have to ask if you've been dropping acid if you think dragons are real. Card and company are property of Redbeard, who thought up this whole mess. Blizz retains the rights to their characters and setting; this was based on Wrath of the Lich King Classic, and not Retail.)

Words of Warning
by Redbeard

“Do you really have to go, Aunt Cardwyn?” Lewys asked me for what had to be the twentieth time today.

My nephew flopped on my bed and propped up his chin with his hands, while he watched me organize my pack. He was flanked by his younger sister Starlys, whose face was contorted into a permanent pout. Their big sister, Carys, made her displeasure known by her pointed absence from my room, in the vain hope that giving me the silent treatment would make me come to my senses and stay back at the farm instead of heading off to Northrend, the fabled northern continent where the Kingkiller Arthas ruled.

“Yes, I really do,” I replied with a sigh. The kids were making this harder on me than they likely knew, as once my temper cooled off after the flashbacks from Naxxramas I found myself reluctant to leave home. I had made the commitment to finish what I’d started, to see Kel’Thuzad destroyed once and for all, but I was afraid. I knew what it was like inside that dreaded floating citadel, and I would have to walk those passages once more, facing old enemies that no doubt could smell my fear.

“Why?” Starlys demanded. “Why are you going, Car-wyn?”

“Because Kel’Thuzad is back, kiddo. You won’t remember this since you were just a baby, but a couple of years ago Kel’Thuzad led the Scourge in an invasion of Stormwind, and the Scourge even attacked the farm. Auntie Evelyn sent Carys to Stormwind to find me, and I brought friends here to help fight them off.”

“Oh!” Lewys exclaimed. “I remember that! Elsharin came and brought Elves with her!”

It would figure that my nephew was more impressed with Elsharin bringing some Silver Covenant Rangers here than seeing my friends, since they played Rangers and Trolls just like I did when I was their age. Still, my mistress never let on exactly how she pulled that off; she only vaguely mentioned that someone owed her a favor.

“Yes,” I replied, stuffing another article of clothing into my pack. “When that attack was over, I swore an oath that I would defeat Kel’Thuzad for threatening your lives. I thought I’d fulfilled it when we killed Kel’Thuzad, but he won’t stay dead.”

“Can’t you just stay here and protect us?”

“I wish it were that easy, Lewys. But if Naxxramas comes here to Elywnn, we likely have lost everywhere else. Even in Orgrimmar and Ironforge. It’s better to defeat them far away from home, so the rest of Azeroth can fight together.”

“Like how Auntie Evelyn fought at… Hyjeel?”


“Yeah, at Hyjal.”

“Yes, like that.” Mistress Evelyn spoke about that battle in only vague terms, but out of that she gained far more sympathy for the plight of the Orcs than in all those years of the Second War. A sympathy, I might add, that was not shared by Mom and Dad. Still, the formal letter from Thrall thanking me for my part in defeating would-be usurper Rend Blackhand was framed and hung on the wall in the house. “I’m going to fight the Scourge far away so that they never come here to the farm.”

“We’re going to miss you, Aunt Cardwyn,” Lewys added.

“I’ll miss you too, kiddo.” I wanted so much to tell him that he had a talent for Magecraft, but I didn’t want him to get a huge ego over it. Better to let it lie for now and me just be there to nudge that talent along slowly than try to force things. “While I’m not around, you three are supposed to keep up your studies with Auntie Evelyn, right? I’m sure she’ll keep you busy so the days will just fly on by.”

“Hmmph.” Starlys doubled down on her pout.

“Well,” I said, cinching my pack closed, “that’s most everything I need. I can always come back and grab something if I missed it, so I’m sure that I’ll see you three from time to time. After all, it’s nice and warm down h—”

A shadowy blur zipped past my window, followed by Carys shouting something outside.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Meme Monday: Saying Goodbye to Outland Edition (very late Monday/early Tuesday edition)

Okay, not really. I'm planning on hanging out there while the locusts swarm over Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord (and the associated dungeons), and then show up some days later. So far, so good, as things are quieter in Outland now.


Hey! I know that guy!
From Reddit.

Or, "How I Got Card and Deuce
and Neve all Geared Starter Pack."
From Reddit.

And one bonus Retail Meme:

Uh... You can say that in Retail and
not get banned?
From Reddit.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

When Rip Van Winkle Woke Up

Something I've puzzled over, off and on over the course of several years, was how on earth role playing games suddenly got popular.

Well, popular in a relative sense, since nobody is ever going to confuse the popularity of D&D with, say, the NFL.* But even more than its popularity, which is likely at the highest its been since the 80s, is the reputation of RPGs. For a survivor of the Satanic Panic, I'm as bewildered by this as much as I am that the Cincinnati Bengals actually made the Super Bowl this past NFL season.**

After all, this art wouldn't have gotten the views
it's had if it didn't resonate with people.
Princesses Playing DnD (2014), by madam_marla.

What I've come up with are a series of reasons why this resurgence in popularity, which started roughly around the time that Dungeons and Dragons' 5th Edition was released, came about. I don't have any data on this --really!-- so it's just speculation on my part. Still, I suspect I might not be too far off the mark here.

  • The release of D&D 5e.

    I'm of the opinion that 5e ended up riding the wave of popularity rather than being a cause, but there's no denying that direction that Wizards of the Coast took with 5e --moving in a less rules heavy direction-- allowed RPGs to become more accessible. 

    Look, I'm not saying that there aren't more rules-lite games out there, because there are. FATE, Fiasco***, Burning Wheel, and other RPGs are more rules-lite than D&D 5e, but nothing has the sheer name recognition among the general populace than D&D. Even Pathfinder, which dominated the RPG market after the disaster that was D&D 4e, doesn't have that market penetration. 

    But Wizards did a couple of very important things when they worked on D&D Next, which is what became D&D 5e: they abandoned the rules heavy approach of D&D 3.x and D&D 4e, and they brought fans on board from the beginning. Those two items, with an emphasis on picking up a game and playing without delving deeply into the rules, allowed more people to just sit in on a session without being lost. Wizards went so far as to release a basic version of the D&D 5e rules online for free. And yes, they're still there.

    Oh, this is the truth.

  • A generational change.

    All of those people who played D&D in the 70s and 80s grew up and had families of their own. (Some of them even have grandkids now.) For those who didn't forsake their roots and remembered with fondness those days of yesteryear, playing D&D in the basement with their friends, chances are they introduced RPGs to their own kids. And with a new, pick up and play friendly version of D&D, they could do just that more easily.

    A corollary to this is that you began to see D&D in places that they hadn't been found in some decades: the discount stores. Places such as Target and Walmart began carrying D&D core rulebooks and starter sets, so those families could actually see the games on the shelves while they were shopping.
    From Facebook.

  • Streaming and YouTube Videos filled a niche.

    I don't believe it's an accident that the rise in popularity of RPGs came about while Streaming and YouTube videos blew up online. In a very real sense, these two activities plugged a big gap in bringing people into the fold. 

    If you're like me --and even if you're not-- and you've heard of RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons, and you're curious about it, there was always that divide between wanting to learn and actually playing. I hate to say it, but it's true: there is a huge problem with gatekeeping in the geek community, and RPGs are no different. Everybody has heard horror stories about people curious about playing, showing up to a game session with people they've never met before, and being either talked down to or marginalized for not knowing how to play. What if there was a way to expose yourself to playing an RPG without having to deal with the asshats and gatekeepers?

    Enter social media.

    People who post real play sessions on YouTube, stream them on YouTube or Twitch, or even the "Celebrity D&D" and "How to Play" instructional videos help to bridge that gap and allow a new player to understand how the game is played without dealing with the gatekeepers. I can't emphasize enough how important it is that our hobby be viewed in a positive light, because there's still a pretty big social stigma out there that no amount of handwaving can ignore.

    Those videos/streams can lead to unrealistic expectations in a game group, and I get that, but people ought to realize that not every game group is going to be filled with professional voice actors like Critical Role's. That doesn't mean that people can't grasp the game, however, and do their own thing.


  • Video Games' popularity led people to wanting more.

    Now, this doesn't necessarily work for everybody. I know people who play video games and are perfectly happy with what they've got, such as a good subset of MMO players are interested solely in the raids or PvP and don't give a whit about story or immersion. But for some people, being exposed to MMOs and video game RPGs got them curious about the pencil and paper version, because they would run up against the limitations of video games and they wanted more freedom. This can come in the form of the obvious "Why do I have to kill everything?" question, or the "Why can't I do [insert activity here] in this video game when it makes sense to do that?" 

    The concept of freedom to do as you please in a pencil and paper RPG is something that can't be truly transferred to a video game. Some MMOs come closer than others, but a lot of that freedom in MMOs is restricted to secondary interactions. Interacting with NPCs in a manner that you'd expect, such as chatting up the bartender for information, simply doesn't happen in an MMO if the developers didn't put it in there.

    TL;DR: Improv in an MMO is restricted to player on player interactions, and that can leave a player wanting more than what the MMO can provide.


  • What is considered an RPG has expanded over time.

    I'm reminded of this every time I see a new RPG, such as This Discord has Ghosts In It, that veers more into purely improv territory.

    The old hands at RPGs**** tend to believe that if there aren't the classic six stats + dice + a dungeon + monsters to kill it isn't an RPG, but as the decades have gone on the "role" part of "role playing games" has gained increased significance. This doesn't mean that RPGs have turned into amateur thespian hour, but that the concepts behind RPGs have expanded to cover both the 'old school' designs as well as newer designs that are diceless in conception and execution. 

Such as Dread.
From d20Monkey.

  • RPGs are no longer merely a "Boys Club".

    As I've pointed out in previous posts, there was a deliberate attempt to include women in Moldvay Edition D&D based on the artwork and the sample character, Morgan Ironwolf.  Even the commercials of the time included girls at the table. However, among the general populace D&D was considered the province of geeks and nerds, the vast majority of whom were boys. Even though I would have loved to have gotten to know some, because I'm all up for similar interests, I personally didn't meet a gamer girl until the Fall of 1987 when I went away to college. They might have been there when I was growing up, but the stigma was likely worse for them than for me. 

    Of course, my tribe hasn't exactly been welcoming toward others, either. Like I've explained to my kids, people react differently to being bullied and picked on: some people become determined to not let that happen to others, others shy away from any contact until they're absolutely certain they can open up, and still others learn to become the bully to those they perceive as weaker than them. And if you don't end up on the wrong end of a Gatekeeper, you just might end up having to deal with a few people straight out of Reddit's r/niceguys. My oldest once had an experience with a game group in her high school years that I would describe as barely above soft core porn in terms of all the sex going on.***** 

    The thing is, as Treebeard said in The Two Towers#, the world has changed.

    You could make a big argument that Vampire: the Masquerade upended the RPG world in the 90s by giving an outlet to all of those Interview with the Vampire fans in an era before anybody had ever heard of Twilight. People who were not interested in D&D and other standard Fantasy RPGs found a home in a game set in the modern world where players --as vampires-- got to explore the horror genre in more of a storytelling environment. Among my friends who played RPGs, V:tM was considered the "goth game", but they also acknowledged that it brought women who enjoyed the Anne Rice vampire stories into the hobby, and while those women may have gotten older, they never really left the RPG genre. I still run into people in WoW Classic who played V:tM back in the day, and their stories about their adventures were inspirational to me.

    The Gatekeepers and Neckbeard types are still there, waiting to cause trouble, but they are becoming an ever smaller minority of RPG players. There's nobody stopping them from playing with their own restrictive group, and RPGs' tent has only grown larger over time. There's a spot at the table for everybody to play their own game, and they don't let others tell them that they're "doing it wrong" in a vain attempt to keep "the libruls" or "the wimmens" out. Thank goodness.

    From Reddit.

In the end, no matter the reasons why, one fact remains: RPGs are more popular than ever. I'm just happy that we've gotten to this point, and hopeful that in the future there'll be more stories that I hear about how epic the games were for people as they introduce their own friends and family to our own brand of fun.

*And as many times as the geek crowd like to make jokes about "sportsball", referencing the fact that physical sports aren't held in as much regard among our clan, physical sports leagues such as said NFL and the Premier League will continue to be far more popular among the general populace than RPGs. That doesn't make one superior to the other, it just is. And denial is more than just a river in Egypt.

**I just hope I don't have to wait another 33 years before the Bengals get back to the Super Bowl; I'm pretty sure I'll either be dead or in a retirement home by then. Although the way this season has started, it's not looking good right now.

***If you want a one shot that plays like you're in a Cohen Brothers movie, you want to play Fiasco. The rules are not deep at all, and it's definitely worth the price.

****If we were talking wargamers, we'd call them 'grognards'.

*****And not only that, a couple of the game group were obviously hitting on her. As she put it later, she wanted a campaign, not that sketchy stuff. 

#The novel, not the movie. In the movie trilogy, Galadriel provides that narration at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

On The Runway

The comments began almost as soon as Cardwyn set foot in Alterac Valley.

I figured that I might as well stick my nose in there, since my other two L70s that I intend to play in Wrath Classic were already fairly well geared, and Cardwyn 2.0 wasn't quite to L70 yet. After all, I discovered that OG Cardwyn's Tier 3 set had far more spellpower than a Mage in Outland quest gear reaching max level, so why not use it in Alterac Valley? 

I made sure I had all of her T3
gear on for this screencap. Check
out the 631 SP...

...compared to Neve's. Alas that
this isn't a perfect match, as I'd
apparently deleted her bracers already.

If nothing else, the biggest drawback is that Resilience, the thing that keeps Mages from being ultra squishy in Battlegrounds, is only found on PvP gear, so I'd have to deal with that no matter what gear I chose to take into Alterac Valley.

TL/DR; I was gonna die a lot.

Here's the proof that yes, OG Cardwyn
was in Alterac Valley. This screencap was
originally for some of the guild names, but...

What I wasn't prepared for, however, were the comments.

That first Alterac Valley match I followed the crowd and then piled into one of the first towers with a group to try to capture it.* I'd restored my mana, put up my shield again, and was watching just outside the tower for the counterattack that I knew the Horde had to be getting ready for, when I saw someone /say out loud:


I was kind of shocked and surprised by that; so much so that I forgot to take a screencap. After all, quite a few progression raiding teams did make it to the end to kill Kel'Thuzad in WoW Classic; far more than ever did in Vanilla. 

"Oh," I replied, remembering my manners, "thanks! This was my old main, hence the set."

"Yeah, but that's awesome!"

It was then that I realized that I had a skewed viewpoint of how WoW Classic ended. Because I was on a progression raiding team that did complete Naxx, I was still in elite company despite appearances --and YouTube videos-- because a lot of people never got to the end of Naxxramas even in Classic. 

"Well," I added, "it was surprisingly good all the way through to L70, much better than quest greens."

"Makes sense."

I figured that was just a one-off comment by a person who'd never had a chance to get into Naxx, until the next Alterac Valley match.

"Wow, nice gear!" a Warrior said.

And the next.

"Nice set," a Priest told me.

And so on and so forth.

A few people were curious as to what my main in TBC Classic was, and once they found out it was an Enhancement Shaman they just wanted to "talk shop" about all things Shamans. That was fine with me, since it meant they weren't drooling over my T3 set.

I told him I didn't know, but probably so.
The big thing for Shamans in Wrath is
one-click four totem throwdown.

Still, I should have known that this would probably happen, but I guess it was going to happen no matter where I took OG Cardwyn, since she was going to need gear regardless.

"What about your... Oh.
Well, you are an adult, so if you
like it, I guess that's fine..."

::sigh:: "You make a very valid point.
Having watched my own children become
adults, however, I have to acknowledge that
they have their own choices of clothing
that are frequently sexier than I am used to.
So it would only make sense that you, Card,
would have similar opinions."

As well as Deuce.

Oh. Crap.

*If you're not used to Alterac Valley, the ultimate goal is to win by either a) killing the enemy General or b) wearing the other side down by eliminating upwards of 600 reinforcements (player kills). You can essentially kill two birds with one stone by capturing a tower or bunker: each tower has an elite mini-boss associated with it in the end room where the enemy general is, and each tower/bunker is worth about 60-80 reinforcements. So if you capture a tower, you kill off the mini-boss AND you eliminate a bunch of reinforcements. Since there are four towers/bunkers to a side, there's plenty of ground to cover in a 40 v 40 match if you want to capture and/or defend the fortifications.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Meme Monday: Memes the First

I've been collecting memes that tickle my funny bone --yes, I do have one, and no, it doesn't need to be tickled any more than it usually is-- and I've been trying to come up with a way to share them. Sure, there's Twitter and Facebook and other social media, but I'm not really fond of either. 

So... I've come up with an occasional series called "Meme Monday".

It's not that catchy of a title, but at least better than some other ideas I had.*

So, without further ado, here's a few memes for your Monday:

I can get behind this.
From Pinterest.

I think of this every time someone
creates a gigantic theorycrafting post.
From Pinterest (again).
And Ranker.

Bob, don't ever change.

*No, you don't need to know what they were.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A Sunday Ponderable

Scenes like this in Winterspring remind me that going back in time in Star Trek became so easy that it became a low end joke among Trekkies.  

In this case, the WoW equivalent is... if you run into a bunch of Queldorei in the middle of nowhere, odds are pretty good that there's at least one dragon among them. Or, looking at this screen cap, they all are...

"Well, they look like Queldorei to me."

Makes you wonder if there are any Queldorei left in Azeroth, since it seems like they're all dragons in disguise.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Game Goes Ever On

Looking back on my history playing MMOs, I'm surprised I lasted as long as I have.

Oh, not from the "does this game interest me" perspective; after all, I still play Civ IV a lot and do get my feet wet in Baldur's Gate from time to time. What I meant was truly how ignorant I was for the first several months of playing MMOs, and how that didn't deter me from playing despite not knowing jack shit about how to play MMOs.

Okay, let me step back a second and explain a few things.

The concept of talking to people and getting quests in a computer game isn't new. After all, you see that in just about every RPG computer game, even in the old Ultima IV days. In the same vein as opening each freaking cabinet or chest in a video game might earn a player some gold (or in the case of Link smashing vases and amphorae, rupees), talking to everybody you see in a game is critically important when you're trying to figure out what to do and where to go. 

That's the case even in Stardew Valley.

Even in pencil and paper RPGs, talking to NPCs is frequently how you find out plotlines and adventure hooks, but in a pencil-and-paper game the GM is free to redo their adventure hooks to make it relevant to the group. Is the group going to the wrong inn, or the wrong town? Never fear! The hooks just swapped names, that's all. In fact, one of the hallmarks of a "meh" GM is one that can't adapt their campaign to accommodate players' various whims and flights of fancy.*

But I digress.

The basic cadence of questing, I understood. And after a disastrous misunderstanding that a Priest != a D&D style Cleric, I adapted to what I was presented with. 

Understanding gearing and how to pick out gear, however? Well....

Let me put it this way: pencil and paper RPGs are a LOT easier to understand than MMOs as far as gear is concerned. And while Pathfinder and D&D 3.0 have all sorts of crunch for min/maxing Classes and Feats and Skills, they don't have anything on the complexity of MMOs for all that.

Probably the biggest difference between the two is that a significant portion of people who play pencil and paper RPGs probably don't care quite so much about min/maxing or making optimal choices for your character as they do in MMOs. When the goal is raiding and killing the big bad, MMOs are pretty unforgiving about numbers. In pencil-and-paper RPGs, GMs have far more flexibility to adjust things on the fly as needed. They can also read the room and make decisions because, well, the GM is the ultimate arbiter of things, and if there's a conflict with what is in game versus the rules, the GM's rule is law.

MMOs simply can't compete like that, so raids become a test of skill. And gear. And talents. And other options such as enchants, potions, glyphs, etc. 

And there's that small matter of physical dexterity as well.  


When I started playing WoW back in 2009, I was ignorant of all of that. I was ignorant of even where to go and what to do, as far as gearing goes. I knew Mail (and then Plate once it became available) for my Paladin was good (because armor), but what stats were good was a completely different thing. After all, Paladins do cast spells, and their abilities rely on mana, so Intelligence is good, right?

Well... Not really.

I mean, not even Blizzard had a good handle on things like that in Vanilla Classic, since the gear that comprises your class tier set is frequently not as good for your role as individual pieces cobbled together. And while leveling, you're likely to not even run into gear such as bonuses to Hit and Expertise. You actually have to go out of your way to find such gear, which is why such guides exist.

This screencap is from Wowhead's TBC
Classic Ret Paladin Guide.

Take a look at the listing above, which not only shows the BiS gear for pre-raid Ret Paladins in TBC Classic, but specifically if your raid doesn't have a Boomkin with Improved Faerie Fire. There's a lone piece of Green gear there, which I chose to highlight, that has Expertise. So without looking that up and going down that rabbit hole, the piece likely a quest reward or a random drop as part of a quest chain. That's something that unless you were clued in using a guide, you'd likely have replaced with a Blue or Purple piece at earliest opportunity.

Oh, and the goggles? Yeah, you should have chosen to level Engineering, noob.

This is what I was talking about being ignorant of. 

I had no clue that anything like this existed back when I started WoW in 2009. Sure, I knew of print guides for video games, and I did have a few myself**, but websites that crunched numbers and somehow figured out the math behind the game so they could reliably tell players what they should do to min/max their characters? No, I didn't know that at all. 

Not until Soul and I had a chat in-game while hanging around Org, and he pointed out a Ret Paladin nearby. He told me to inspect that person's gear --I was pretty ignorant of how to do that, even-- and said that this is the sort of gear that I should be aiming for. He then pointed me in the direction of Elitist Jerks and their guides. 

This was in 2010, a month or two after I reached max level in a game that I'd already been playing for months, and I was wondering why I was still struggling to kill mobs when other Ret Paladins were just cruising through them.*** After all, I was finally running dungeons by myself and accumulating Blue gear.

When I finally opened up the guides, they were a revelation.

There it was, in one summary, what I needed to do to properly gem and enchant items for my use. What gear to focus on. What rotation to use.**** And why it was okay to ignore gem bonuses and just go all out on gemming Strength. 

And almost immediately my DPS output leapt upward.

Back then, I immediately became a believer in the usefulness of these guides to make me a player better, and while I can appreciate the work behind the scenes, I'm glad I wasn't involved in creating those guides. That would have taken a lot more work --and free time-- than what I had available to me.

So, when All-Trades Jack talks about the hoops you must go through to raid in WoW in his This Game Wasn't Made For You video, and how a new player would be completely ignorant of all this unless someone points them in that direction, I get it because I've lived it.


In retrospect, I was lucky.

I mean, I had Soul to point me to the guides rather than being ripped on or called out in group content*****, and he was nice about it. Given that I didn't have any aspirations to raiding, I wasn't trying to do anything more than simply not embarrass myself in an instance. The Quel'Delar questline alone was worth it not simply because it was the best non-raid weapon in the game at the time, it had a fantastic story in the quest chain. Gearing for T9 and then T10 may have started with simply gaining access to better gear than found running heroic 5-person instances, but because the gear looked so damn cool it became a reward in itself.

I don't have the fashion sense that
Kamalia does, but I do like the look
of a well designed set of gear.

Even when I quit WoW back at the end of Wrath, it had more to do with dealing with bots and whatnot in battlegrounds more than anything else. Because of those guides, I could at least hold my own compared to other people, even when I transitioned to other MMOs over the years. 

But if I had nobody there to tell me where to look for guidance, it's not exactly a given that I'd ever have stumbled on those external guides at all before I gave up the game. As much as I found WoW fun and interesting, I felt that there was a level of skill and understanding that separated the end game raiders from me that I couldn't match. Even when I began to get what was supposedly "good" gear, the Blue and Purple varieties, I lagged in output. How much of that poor output being due to a lack of understanding what was important for the role I had chosen --first as a Healer and then melee DPS-- is likely pretty significant. 

What was also immediately apparent once I began reading those guides was the lack of such guides on the official Blizzard website. You'd think that information such as this would be available on the website, or at least the game would have identified as such and oriented certain bonuses (such as gem bonuses) toward what was considered optimal for a player's class and spec. 

Over time, some things were fixed by Blizzard, such as using Reforging to correct gear, and aligning gear stats/drops to better match classes and roles, but also due to the hiring of some of those Elitist Jerk theorycrafters on the development staff. However, the accompanying mindset that brought about those changes reinforced other aspects of WoW (raiding/PvP focus) at the expense of others (older expacs, story, the world). 


I can't go back and relive the past, because my experiences helped shape who I am. I can't erase memories, such as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and because of that I know what the answers are likely to be. 

The joy of discovery is gone, because that was a one time event. I never got to experience the Marshal Windsor storyline back in the day, so it was new and epic to me in 2019/2020. Raiding was new and fresh to me, even though it wasn't to most people I have encountered in Classic. Looking ahead to the Wrath Classic release, there will be no fumbling around, trying to figure things out, and getting frustrated when I hit a DPS/healing wall. I know where to go and what to do to discover what the meta should be. 
From all over the internet.

However, I will feel constrained by the chains of doing things the "right way", knowing that most people will simply accept them as the cost of doing business, without stopping to wonder what it would have been like to look upon the game with fresh eyes, with all the joys and frustrations contained therein. 

Will the tolerance be there for those people, I wonder?

*I should know, since I was in a campaign with one for 20+ years. I only found out when it blew up this past Spring that we "missed all sorts of encounters" along the way. Which is pretty silly, given that we had no idea we missed that stuff.

**Such as the in-depth understanding behind the original Sid Meier's Civilization and the first Master of Orion games.

***I went hunting to try and find a post on the matter back in the day, but either I'm just looking in the wrong place or it's simply not coming up. Kind of a bummer.

****In the case of Ret Paladins in Wrath, there wasn't one. I breathed a big sigh of relief that I was actually doing it right for a change.

*****Okay, that happened too, back when I was still leveling as a Holy Paladin, which directly led to me switching to Ret.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Hell Just Happened?

A little over two weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my fellow "Leftovers" (aka the Leveling Shamans left behind in the Old World when the Dark Portal opened back in June 2020), which between the two of us became a grousing session on how TBC Classic went down, raid-wise. Given that the two of us were the only people online in Valhalla at the time*, we had a good long rant session in Guild Chat. 

I was kind of busy helping get
a waylaid pilgrm to Falcon Watch
at the time.

A day or two later, I got pinged in Discord by him. Would I be interested in joining a 10-person raiding team for Wrath led by himself and another of the Leftovers?

Given that my job situation is such that I could now raid at night, I was initially receptive to the idea, but I needed to know more about what they were looking at. And as I was not planning on joining the franken-guild in Atiesh, I definitely wanted to make sure that joining the guild wasn't a requirement.

Narrator: It wasn't a requirement.

The more we chatted, the more interested I became. I think the clincher was when he asked what level Deuce was and whether I'd be interested in using her in the raid team. 

  • Getting a chance to raid on one of the two toons I'd consider taking into a raid**? Check.
  • Me not having to raid lead? Check.
  • Wanting a raid team that is "more chill" than having the same 2-3 people talking all the time? Check.
  • A raid that has a built-in rotation and bench where everybody sits at one point or another? Check.
  • A raid not built on either DKP or Loot Council, but instead a Loot Reserve system***? Check.
  • A raid that they are reaching out to people they personally liked to group with? check.
  • A raid that --unlike our experience with TBC Classic-- people aren't going to have deadlines to get toons leveled so raiding can begin ASAP? Check.
  • A raid that won't harass you about getting your gear the optimal gems/enchants ASAP? Check.
They pretty much had me at the first item on the list, but still the entire thing read like a dream. The thing was, I wasn't totally sure if I was going to want to do this again. I didn't want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed by having someone I personally didn't like on the raid team. While I get that I have to tolerate such things at work, I don't consider playing games to be at that level. I'm not interested in dealing with people I dislike just because I want to see content.


The people they were bringing on board read like a who's who of people I've missed playing with in WoW Classic. And it included my questing buddy!


Okay, what's the catch?

Well, that's what I was wondering, and I waited for that shoe to drop in a meeting on Discord last night. 

As far as that meeting went, I can safely say that everybody there was on board with the concept of 10 person raids with 2 more --maybe 3-- for a rotational basis. We have 8 already, and it's a matter of recruiting 4 more to round out our list. My questing buddy is currently bringing her Priest, and I my Mage, but we are both flexible as to whom we bring. I'm fine with switching to Ret, and she's fine swapping to Warlock, but we both want to make sure we have those holes plugged before we do so. Others are fine with moving a bit as-needed, but we all want to see this group succeed. 

My questing buddy already informed me that she will torpedo any attempt on my part to try to level another toon --a Shaman, perhaps-- from scratch. "You are NOT doing that again," she informed me.

One obstacle that I can mention is that the franken-guild isn't quite as enthusiastic about this raid's existence, because "blah-blah-blah it will take away from 25 person teams blah-blah-blah", but I'm pretty sure the act of trying to compress 3 25-person raids down to 2 will do that on its own. As my questing buddy pointed out to me later, when people discover that they're going to be on the bench --and clearing up to the first boss so that the real raiders can take over from that point onward-- they'll do a "peace out" quicker than you can say "The hell going on..."

Okay, so this is referencing
the NFL's bizarre offseason player
moves this past summer, but it still
is appropriate. From

Regardless, it was pulling teeth to apparently get a chat channel created in the franken-guild's Discord to even discuss the thing, so one of the orders of business last night was to have us move our discussions to a separate Discord without being concerned about any snooping going on by said franken-guild's leadership.

To be perfectly honest, I felt immeasurably better with that having happened, because I did not want to have to be in that Discord any more than absolutely necessary. I'd had one of the people in that guild reach out to me in-game to ask if I was going to join them on Atiesh, and I rather bluntly said "Not planning on it."

And I'm still not.

I don't want to be there when the drama goes down, and I don't want to be there when I know that the questions about "Why move and merge at the same time?" start showing up when people begin complaining about the excessive people signing up to raid. I don't want to be there when the clash of guild cultures ends and the other guild's culture wins.****

Not exactly the clash I was
thinking of. (From Twitch.)

And now my Horde guild is thinking of dipping it's collective toes into raiding in Wrath. Nobody there has asked me yet if I want to raid with them, but given that there aren't a lot of L70 Mages in the guild, I'm kind of expecting to be asked at some point. I'm not sure what to do there, exactly. I'd not mind raiding on Neve, but I also know I don't have the time for multi-day raids beyond what I've already committed to. So, I guess you could say that all that's old is new again.

"Did someone say something about Northrend?"
"Don't worry, Neve. We'll get to you soon."

*There are a few of us that are still in Valhalla on Myzrael-US. There's a ton of alts that never migrated --and I doubt they will-- as well as the people who burned out and left. I keep a close eye on who logs in on a regular basis, just to see if getting any groups together for things are a viable option on Myz.

**The other would be a Ret Paladin. Could be Linnawyn 2.0, or another Ret Pally. Not sure yet.

***I've run Loot Reserve systems in the past, particularly in AQ20 and Zul'Gurub, where people are allowed one soft reserve. It's worked out very well. This particular iteration allows people to take turns on who gets loot, so it's not a Soft Reserve with rolls to see who gets loot if there's more than one reserve, but instead each person who reserved an item --if it drops-- gets a turn at getting their loot. That way the entire raid gets gear together, rather than one person with lucky dice gets the lion's share of gear and the rest are left with scraps.

****What I've been told, that has pretty much happened already. I've been involved in too many corporate mergers over the years to not know how the culture clash will end: there's always a winner and a loser, and the corporate culture I've been on has typically been on the losing side. The lines from Pink Floyd's Time come to mind...

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun