Observing Schrodinger’s Dragon

The “Nozdormu is really Prospector Remtravel” idea didn’t work out. Well, I did say I didn’t really believe it.  Now that the Dragon Soul raid is out, and the End Time dungeon as one of the five mans leading up to it, I’ve seen quite a few people asking if Nozdormu can still become Murozond since the Aspects have all become mortal.

I’m not caught up on everything that’s happened on the official forums, WoWInsider, or blogs during December. It’s been a busy month for me getting ready for Christmas, and I’ve been having fun babbling about bears at Precious and Soft when I have had some free time.

Yes, that’s right. I neglected to read your blog because I thought bears were more important. And I’m not sorry.

My point is that I’ve seen the questions. I haven’t seen much in the way of answers that go beyond, “You know… No. That doesn’t make sense to me, either.” That doesn’t mean the attempts at answering this aren’t out there. It does mean I’m not taking them into account as I write this because… well, do you usually take things you’re completely unaware of into account? Didn’t think so.

Who do we blame for this?

One assumption I keep seeing is that there’s a problem with the Aspects being created to prevent the Hour of Twilight because the Hour of Twilight wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for them. I think this idea could be flawed.

In the story Charge of the Aspects, Alextrasza and Nozdormu have a nice little chat about what, exactly, they are supposed to do. She says at one point, “Eonar charged me with preserving life.” She also asks Nozdormu, “[D]id Aman’Thul grant you dominion over time just so you could watch this world die?” And then there’s the moment where we seem to find out why the Aspects were created:

“Time is your charge just as life is mine, but what is our duty?” Alexstrasza said.

“To preserve thisss world at… all costs. To prevent the Hour of Twilight,” Nozdormu whispered.

I’m not convinced that was their only purpose. It could very well have been an additional task. Something along the lines of, “Each of you will be the guardian of an aspect of Azeroth… hey, that’s a good word… you’ll BE the Aspects! Okay, each of you will be the Aspect of an aspect… um… Look, you’re each in charge of something! And, in addition to that, you’re going to have to prevent the Hour of Twilight. At all costs. Because the rest of it isn’t going to matter if that happens. The bad news is that you don’t get to be an Aspect anymore after that. But I’m warning you now… you don’t get to be an Aspect anymore if you don’t prevent it, and everything else will have been a waste!”

If there are two things we know for sure, it’s that 1. the Titans have backup systems for the backup systems, and 2. Brann Bronzebeard can disable them. Blizzard, however, did not choose to make Brann part of this.

You see, there seems to be a lot of assuming that the Hour of Twilight could have only come about one way… the way it has played out.  Rades does a great job of making Deathwing’s insanity sound perfectly reasonable. It’s easy to look at the story and ask yourself, “Yeah, really… how the hell did they not see that he could end up this way?” Maybe they did. Maybe not that it would be Neltharion, but that it could be one of them. Or maybe they didn’t expect the Hour of Twilight to come about because of an Aspect being corrupted at all.  Just because you start at point A and head for point B doesn’t mean there’s only one possible route to get there.

Personally, I’m wondering what system they’ve got in place in case this happens again. Or maybe there isn’t one. It’s been shown that things can happen that the Titans failed to consider. Just ask Algalon. Or maybe it could only possibly happen once before the Titans would return to check on things. Look how long it took to come to this point, and they know more than we do about what’s on their schedule.

Would you believe I can just grab a couple of things off a shelf in my house and have a picture of Nozdormu?

But it’s all over now. The Aspects are mortal.

You say that like it matters. Okay, that was a rude response. The truth is, I think it does matter. I think it plays a huge part in why Nozdormu will go crazy.

It sounded like a clever response when Daxxari replied to “Nozdormu is both dead and alive” with, “Schrödinger’s dragon.” I think there’s quite a bit of truth to it. Something I’ve always liked about how Blizzard handles the Bronze Flight is that they’re something like a quantum superpositioned flight. From our point of view, there’s time travel. We leave our present time and go into the past when we do things in the Caverns of Time. Like the real world, the races of Azeroth experience linear time.

The bronze dragons aren’t experiencing things this way. Why is Chromie always confused about whether or not you’ve met before, yet also seems to think it doesn’t really matter? Because unlike most NPCs, it actually does make sense for Pally McLightbringer to be talking to Chromie in the Plaguelands while Stabby McRoguesauce talks to Chromie at Wyrmrest Temple. Chromie isn’t just in both places, but in both times.

What does Nozdormu tell you after you defeat Murozond?

At last it has come to pass. The moment of my demise. The loop is closed. My future self will cause no more harm from this day on. Still, in the future, I will… fall to madness. And you, heroes… will vanquish me. The cycle will repeat. So it goes.

And what did I just say about there being multiple ways to get from point A to point B?

Just because you defeated Murozond doesn’t mean Nozdormu’s fate is radically altered. If his fate is to go crazy and have to be killed, that door is still very wide open. Not just because “anything’s possible”, but because of the way Dragon Soul ends.

So… who do we blame for this?

Let’s review Schrödinger’s cat real quick. It was a thought experiment. No actual cats were harmed in this (as far as we have observed), and people often mistake it for Erwin Schrödinger saying this is how quantum mechanics works. Actually, it’s how the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics says it works, and Schrödinger was pointing out a problem with trying to apply that to the classical world.

Put a cat in a box.

Put a flask of radioactive poison in the box.

Close the box.

If radiation is detected, the flask is broken and there’s no way the cat survived that… it’s dead.

Isn’t it? How do you know? You haven’t seen whether or not the cat is dead. Therefore, because the cat could not have possibly survived but you haven’t seen any evidence that’s dead, the cat is both alive and dead until you open the box and observe that it is one or the other.

Schrödinger knew that cat wasn’t alive and dead. He was making a point. And now I’m going to make a point.

There’s a certain blessing in having a closed box. You get to make the choice to open it or leave it closed. Until you make the choice to open it, you still have that choice. If you walk away and leave it closed, you can always decide to come back and open it another day. Once that box is open, though, there’s nothing you can do about it. You could close it again. That won’t change the fact that you once opened it and found out what was inside.

Nozdormu has had an open box all this time. He didn’t know what could happen… he knew what would happen. I was discussing this with my husband, and he pointed out how Muad’dib saw The Golden Path… all possible outcomes… but didn’t know for certain which would happen. I think we could say that’s a broad view, and that Nozdormu has had a very long view. It seems the fracturing of timelines caused Nozdormu quite a bit of upset, and I think that resulted in him seeing something more like The Golden Path.

Nozdormu knows what will hapopen because he’s already there. It’s already real for him. Your past, present, and future are all his present. He is everywhen. Think of the times Chromie said the Bronze Flight couldn’t find him because, even though they knew where to look, they just didn’t know when he was. Time itself is a place for Nozdormu.

Take someone like that and lock them into a linear experience. Make The Timeless One be at the mercy of the very thing he once had dominion over. Make him a slave to every grain of sand in an hourglass, every tick of whatever timepiece an engineer can dream up. Make him not just grow old, but simply experience the passage of time. Make every passing second press down on him like a millenium.

Make him take in everything happening around him and not even be able to fully realize what he’s seen until it’s over.

Give him a closed box and tell him to make choices when he doesn’t know what’s inside.

Make him be mortal.

Sounds like the kind of thing that could drive him insane, doesn’t it?

 

Posted in Lore

Bear Tanking the Greench

“No, no, no. The Greench IS Yetimus. Hillsbrad was only a setback.” –@Vrykerion

I’ve been amazingly busy getting ready for Christmas and didn’t get to start on Winter Veil until last night. So I didn’t know the Greench had been changed this year until I saw Rades mention on Twitter a few days ago that he was working on a guide for soloing the Greench as a BM hunter. When I found out the Greench had been changed from a lower level yeti to something resembling YETIMUS! for 85s, I knew I could do this! I studied for this! Something occured to me once I got out there for the Greench (or GREENCHIMUS!) fight, though. I didn’t do my homework as a bear. I did it as a frost DK. I don’t know if you know this, but bears are precious and soft not frost DKs.

-dramatic elf entrance-

My name is Magritte and I’ll be tanking GREENCHIMUS! for you today. To keep up the pretense that this blog still has anything to do with healing, I’d like to point out that there were fights while doing research for this post in which the only healing I got came from Frenzied Regeneration and Leader of the Pack.

It amuses me that transmogrification allows me to tank in a skirt. Don’t worry… I look more like this during a fight.

The Dun Morogh Cub is my off-tank.

It’s entirely possible that you won’t have to fight the Greench. I hear he’s often dead already and you can just loot what’s needed to free Metzen and go on your merry way. (Poor Metzen! After years of being kidnapped by Dark Irons, now he gets kidnapped by a giant yeti. Why is no one keeping a closer watch on this reindeer?) I keep finding people hanging around to kill the Greench when he respawns. In fact, I couldn’t get a decent screenshot of him because of this. Go read the post from Rades to see a really nice picture.

This is the best I could do. This is also the one fight I didn’t tank because I obviously wasn’t needed. They already had a Tauren bear.  There are a few things I want you to take note of in this shot, so I’ve made some notes…

You see how much bigger the Greench is than the bear? Look how much bigger he is than that drake! And those are SKELETONS littering the ground! The ground was littered with them when I was out there last night (I was one of them at one point) and new ones were there this morning. I’m not entirely convinced that’s snow on the ground. It could be the crushed bones of doomed adventurers. These aren’t innocent or foolish lowbies. These are brave heroes who have faced many trials and been hardened in battle. They now lie dead outside the cave of a giant yeti who will JUMP ON YOU AND SMASH YOUR BONES!

Yetis are srs bsns, folks.

Because I’m foolish, I didn’t actually read Rades’s post before I went out there. I didn’t know about the snowman or the tree. If you don’t know either, I’m not explaining it. The truth is, I still don’t know what he’s talking about. I’ve done this three times now and I have no clue what’s going on.

Here’s a rundown of how I handled it the first time -

I let the Tauren paladin who was there pull. This is because I’m a coward. If I show up and find a Tauren and a blood elf standing around, I’m afraid that I’ll pull and they’ll stand there and let me die. If I wait until they start fighting him then I assume they’re committed to killing him. And maybe I can escape having to tank this because maybe the Tauren will hold the aggro.

I moved in and said, “RAWR!” The Greench responded with a “RAWR!” and the aggro said, “O HAI, MAGRITTE!” I replied to this with a hearty, “OH NOEZ!”, but there was a translation issue. Since I was in bear form at the time, it came out in Bear… so it sounded like I said, “RAWR!”

At this point, I have no clue where the Tauren and blood elf were, but the Greench was not happy about me biting his crotch! I was using all my defensive cooldowns and making use of Berserk + Enrage to get the most out of manglespam. A draenei shaman showed up somewhere in all that, but there was no healing going on. Or summoning of elementals. Or running up and beating on anything with a melee weapon. In fact, I think they just stood there.

I found the Tauren. He was dead.

I got thrown up in the air and joined the Tauren in death when I came back down.

But I ran right back out there, grabbed my body, shifted to Gromsblood form for a few seconds, and then I was right back in the fight! Aggro was really happy to see me again.

We killed him. I don’t know how. Maybe this would be different if I was actually in a group with people, rather than a loose collective of individuals who all happen to be trying to kill the same yeti.

I can tell you this… USE YOUR DEFENSIVE COOLDOWNS!

When I went back out there this morning to take screenshots, I found some squishy looking blood elves standing around. The Greench spawned and the blood elves looked at me. I looked at the blood elves. We all looked at the Greench and the Greench… well, he didn’t look back at us. We were standing far enough away that he couldn’t see anything except the Winter Veil gifts dangling from his own horns.

I moved up and said, “RAWR!” And I just can’t tell you how happy the aggro was to see me again! (I’m still not used to this. I’m used to not even making something blink when I attack it because somebody else is tanking and I’m shooting at it from halfway across a room. ) Like YETIMUS!, the Greench will jump up into the air and come crashing down on somebody. Apparently, it doesn’t matter who “somebody” is as long as they are not the tank.

Guess what I learned. I CAN’T TAUNT HIM BACK!

At this point, I would like to thank Rhii for the enchant she gave me for my boots. The speed boost is nice when my big furry self has to run after the guy who is trying to turn a mage into Arcane Dust.

I only got thrown into the air once, and I didn’t die when I came down. A dwarf shaman had come along and did NOT just stand there. I got real heals today! I hear rumors from other people that I’m easy to heal. This may be due to the fact that I don’t believe having a healer is any excuse for not using cooldowns. So I kept doing that, and the Greench was deprived of more skeletons. Thank you, random dwarf shaman!

I took the best pics I could while the group with the Tauren bear was there. Afterwards, another group showed up. I handled GREENCHIMUS! one more time before taking off for Ironforge. There was no healer there. Or, if there was, they couldn’t heal me. (Blood elves again.) They were doing great dps, though, and using Frenzied Regeneration about halfway through the fight was enough to keep me from dying. I was also a little better at chasing him down after he jumped on one of them. I also got stunned less.

If you learn nothing else from this story, learn this – USE YOUR COOLDOWNS!

Posted in Chillin' With Yetimus, Druid, Holidays | 4 Comments

Strength from Weakness

Angry Hyjal squirrel

I want to do my part, but sometimes it just isn’t enough if I do it alone. So I hold onto my acorn and wait. Trust me… I will fight by your side!

 

Hyjal bear cubsI may get scared sometimes. I may run away and try to hide. Show me some kindness, though, and I will do everything I can to protect you! And when you face your greatest fears, I will throw myself in front of those monsters. That same stubborn nature that made me hide until you came for me will push me to say, “You have to go through me first!”

 

Child of TortollaI want to be remembered as someone who truly lived… right up until her last breath left her. But it won’t matter that I fought every battle if that’s what costs me the war. All I can do sometimes is pull myself into my shell and hope things let up soon. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It means I’m surviving so that I can fight another day.

 

Hyjal Alpine SongbirdSometimes all I can offer is my story or my song. It may not seem like much, but I will sing it as beautifully as I can and inspire my flock! I will tell tales that make you believe you can be a hero! And when you are one, I will tell your tale. And when you tire of being the one who always saves the day, I will tell you stories and sing you songs to comfort you. Or I will let you tell me your tales for a while. With my stories and my songs, I will make you immortal.

And the Meek Shall Inherit Kalimdor

Posted in Lore, Real Life

Brotherhood

I did write a story for the Blizzard Global Writing Contest. I just didn’t get it cleaned up and submitted in time. I admit I didn’t make a huge effort to meet the deadline. Working it in between everything else going on would have put a big strain on me, and it mattered more to me that I actually write the story than win the contest, anyway.  I’m putting it here now so it can be read. It’s about the Trias family. I’ve talked about them before. About how there’s enough there to make them very interesting, but not nearly enough lore to really know what’s going on.  That left me a lot of room to play with.

Brotherhood

Coin in hand, the traveler stood at the fountain and told himself again to just make the wish and let it go already. It seemed ridiculous to be doing this. Not that the money was any great loss — merely a copper coin — but that the entire idea of masquerading as traveling nobility and walking right into a city full of mages seemed ridiculous. Wouldn’t there be at least some of them who could tell the traveler and his companion weren’t at all what they seemed?

This had been the topic of discussion with his companion late into the night before, long after they should have been asleep to prepare for the trip. “It’s not about fooling any of them,” his companion, who was also his elder brother and in charge of their operations in Hillsbrad, told him. “It’s about presenting a believable reason for our being there so as not to upset their city. The Archmage has agreed to let us meet our informant there.” The oldest brother sighed after explaining this yet again. “I don’t know what you’re nervous about. I never know what you’re nervous about! You were outstanding in the training, but you’re always second guessing yourself in the field. Just… get some sleep. We’ve got a long ride come dawn. If everything goes well, we’ve got a long ride after that to the next safe house, as well.”

The traveler reminded himself that his brother would be walking up any minute now, and it wouldn’t do to be seen standing in front of a fountain being indecisive about something as simple as making a silly wish. “But maybe it won’t be a silly wish,” he told himself. “This is Dalaran. Maybe my wish could come true if it’s a wish made in a city of magic.” He kept an eye on the agent across the street who’d been watching him for several minutes, though to passersby the agent may have simply seemed  to be a mage tending flowers, and thought once more what he would wish for.

Clutching the copper coin tightly for just a few seconds more, he thought to himself, “Being a rogue is hard work. One day, I hope to pursue my life’s one true passion…” and let the coin fall into the fountain.

———-

“I don’t know where Ma went wrong with you!”

“What makes you think myself’s the one she went wrong with?”

The laughter from the two men drinking around the campfire was loud enough that any travelers on the road would have known someone had made camp a little way up ahead. There weren’t many travelers on the roads in this area, though, and the little camping spot was one of the few places the two brothers had left to just be themselves. Even so, they never drank enough to completely lose control of their senses when they took these camping trips together. They were too well-trained to ever truly be carefree. Even in their own homes they slept with an ear turned to the door and an eye on the windows.

“Honestly, I do wish to know. What is it with the cheese?”

The younger brother thought for a moment before explaining. “I got tired of eating the same stuff, I reckon. I was walking through the Dwarven District one day and stopped by a tavern –”

“This may be something I can relate to, after all.”

“– and I ended up having something new. That’s all there was to it. I never realized before how similar all the cheeses we make are, and that it really takes a different people… such as our dwarven allies… to bring something new to the table. So to speak.”

“I wouldn’t eat gnomish cheese. I’ve heard a few stories about Gnomeregan. Good of them to give us support in a war, but I don’t know how I’d feel about clockwork cheese with dynamite filling.”

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been offered gnomish cheese. Not that I’ve even seen many gnomes. But dwarves would be likely to have some, aye? They’ve got closer
relations.”

“I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you to pass me that flask there. No, the full one. I’m going to hit you in the head with it and then empty it myself so you don’t go on about cheese all night!”

———

“I just don’t understand why the two of you have to run off together. Some boys grow up and stop shadowing their big brother, you know.”

He sighed, passing his hand over his face both out of instinctive reaction and to hide the clench of his jaw for a few seconds while he forced himself to relax. It would do no good to leave tomorrow having just had a fight with his wife. For as much as she worried that he might not come back alive one day, he was the one who knew what those chances truly were. He did his best never to leave on bad terms with her.

“I know it’s not what you expected when you married me, dearest one. It’s not even what I expected when you married me.” He offered a half-smile. “I’ve always been as honest with you as I can be, and just kept quiet when I can’t tell you the truth. You know that, aye?”

She nodded but didn’t speak. Her facial expression had softened a bit, though, so there was still hope of resolving this if he didn’t say anything stupid.

“I’m thankful that I didn’t expect this. If I had, I wouldn’t have married. I would have figured a family would be too much of a risk. Light knows I’m a man who needs a family, though. I need to be able to come home and feel you next to me after the things I’ve seen. A month of travel with my brother will drive any man back home as fast as he can get there!”

She just looked at him for another few seconds, as if waiting for what he would say next, before the full meaning of his words dawned on her. Then she broke into a grin and sat down at the table across from him. “Now you’re just having fun with me! Shame on you!”

He relaxed a bit and chuckled. “Parts of it are true. I wouldn’t have married if I’d expected things to be as they are. And that would have been a damned shame, because you’re the finest woman I could have married. And you do bring me so much comfort when I come back. You keep me grounded. What I do carries a certain risk of losing yourself. It’s something I can’t explain. I can’t find the words for it, and I shouldn’t say them even if I could. But you keep me… human.”

Elaine Trias frowned a bit, but it wasn’t the angry scowl it had been before. “Truly, darling, does it have to be the both of you each time? What’s this family going to do if neither of you came home one day?”

“That’s exactly why it has to be the two of us… so that we do keep coming home. We work better together than either of us could with anyone else. Better than either of us could on our own. He’s my brother, and that counts for more than I expect even other agents realize. As long as I go with him, I’ll always come back home.”

———-

They were three days outside of Andorhal when the run-ins with the undead started making Elling nervous. It was his job not to be nervous. No one fulfilled their duty by getting shaky and slipping on the basics of the task. His duty was to get in, get what they’d been sent for, and get out again. For that matter, they shouldn’t even be having “run-ins” with these creatures. He and his brother should be doing what they were trained to do… move unseen and unheard, strike quickly when necessary. But it seemed like the Scourge always knew where they were. These were not men, even though they had been at one time. These were… creatures. Not beasts, but something unnatural and abhorrent. They had no place in any living world Elling could imagine.

There was nothing left of the land that could be recognized as Northern Lordaeron. The Scourge had claimed everything as far as either of them could see, then destroyed it all. What stood in place of the forests and trees that had once filled the space between towns was a sick, putrid mockery of life. It was as if disease itself had risen up and tried to take the shape of life. Not that it had failed horribly, but that it had never intended to be a substitute. Everything was just there to mock them. To make sure that, no matter which way they turned, they were reminded that this would never be home to the living again.

As boys, they’d heard traveling merchants tell tales of people having picnics beside the lakes out here, living within just a few days’ ride of Capital City. It took longer to travel from place to place now than it had then, and not many were making the trip. Besides those who’d been transformed into the horrifying Scourge, there were those who’d managed to get out and weren’t likely to return. The few who had any reason to pass this way were forced to take twisting paths that would never have been taken before, adding time to the journey.

David Trias and his brother Elling were here for an artifact of some sort. Probably magical, as no one had identified it beyond “artifact” and told them how to recognize it and where it was likely to be. It sounded plain and uninteresting, yet was important enough to send specially trained agents in to recover from a place that was best forgotten, with the exception of driving the Scourge out. That translated into “magical artifact” for him.

Not that he’d ask any questions about it. It wasn’t his job to ask questions he didn’t need to know the answers to, and he wasn’t paid to do so. If anything, he resented having to speak with informants when they met with them because it was his brother who would do so much better with that aspect of the job. It seemed like it had been a lifetime ago that they’d made a journey this way before and stopped to meet an informant in Dalaran, but he knew it could have only been a few years. It stuck in his mind because he’d been nervous the entire time they were in the city, but knew not to show it, and his brother had been standing next to a fountain making wishes on coins and tossing them in. Elling probably thought that had escaped his brother’s notice, but very little did.

Moving through the shadows in a disease-rotted building – becoming part of the shadows themselves – David glanced quickly at his brother. Not much escaped Elling’s notice, either. They were a fine team. Neither of them was better at the job than the other. They simply had different skills, different strengths, that complimented each other. They’d always been that way, even as children.

———-

“When I find out what you boys are up to, one or the both of you is getting the business end of this belt! Have either of you got enough brains in your head to understand me?”

“You hush! Standing at the door and yelling ain’t going to do much except tell the folks down the road in town that you’ve got no idea where your own sons are!”

The boys perching on the roof of what passed for a small, empty stable looked down at the house where their father stood in the doorway. They could see their mother behind him, but her words had been more difficult to make out. They’d learned to follow the shapes of words from her lips for the times that she spoke too softly. It was a skill that came in handy now, as well. Neither of them spoke until their parents were back inside and the door firmly shut.

“Don’t go back until time for dinner. Ma ain’t taking up for us. She’s just hushing Pa,” David commanded his little brother.

“I don’t have to go back for dinner. I got plenty to eat right here.” The younger brother unfolded a piece of tattered cloth to display a small piece of hard bread and handful of squishy-looking berries. It wouldn’t have fed one child for half a day, but the two of them together viewed it as a grand feast they could take on the road with them.

“We ain’t making it to Goldshire by night, anyhow. This was a dumb idea, El!”

“There’s nothing wrong with the idea. It’s just not… well, it ain’t working the way I thought. We just need a better plan for the idea!”

———-

“You’re the dumbest kid this side of the Redridge Mountains!”

“How’s I supposed to know there was a hole in here? You said we were checking the cave on account of nobody said they knew what was here!”

David lowered the rope into the hole his brother had fallen down and saw that it came up just a couple of feet short. “This ain’t going to work. I can’t pull you up on my own. Had to tie the rope around a rock up here and now it’s too short to reach you.”

“There’s some rocks down here. Maybe I can pile them up and stand on them.”

“Maybe. Pile them up good, though! Don’t fall off and break your leg!”

The two sat next to each other at the cave entrance after Elling had made his way back up. “We’re going to get in trouble for getting home late again. But I’m not dumb! There’s no way I could have known!”

“No, you’re not dumb. You’re just not as smart as me. That’s okay, though. I’m two years older than you, so you have to get two years older before you can be this smart.”

“But then won’t you be two more years older and be smarter than me again?”

David laughed as he stood and extended a hand to pull his little brother up. “See, El? You’re getting smarter already!”

———

The walls around them used to be wood, but neither could have said for certain what they were made of now. Some folks who’d never seen the effects of the plague thought of it as something that just turned people into Scourge, but it felt like it changed everything. They weren’t just making their way through buildings where the undead hid, but through undead buildings. There was no safety in being indoors, and David reached into a calm place inside himself to stifle the urge to hurry the job just to be back outside again.

His brother was behind him, the two of them turned back to back and moving along through the shadows so silently that very few living beings could have detected their
presence. Not that there were any living things here besides them. The undead varied in their ability to detect the pair. There were undead creatures that seemed to have no mind or observation skills of their own anymore. They had to be alerted or run right into something before they knew it was there. Other creatures seemed to have more awareness, and were the ones that presented the greatest threat.

The artifact was supposed to be in this building unless the undead had moved it. That was a risk, and one that meant the mission would be a failure. The only reason for moving the artifact would be that something higher up in the Scourge heiarchy knew what it was and had ordered it moved to another location. The brothers had to find it here, or go back and report that it was gone.

David took another step and did not sense Elling moving with him. Carefully, he turned his head enough to glance behind him and saw his brother standing as still as a statue. If it were not for his own training, David might have thought his brother had simply disappeared. He’d moved into the darkest recess along the wall and flattened himself against it. Even the sound of his breathing was so faint that it did not break the silence, the room seeming too quiet. The sounds of ghouls could be heard outside the room, though. Wet grunting, limbs shuffling. David focused on the sounds and recognized that they were growing louder as the ghouls moved up the stairs and through the rotted building. If the two of them held their positions for a few moments, the ghouls would not be alerted to their presence.

———-

For a time – it couldn’t have said how long, nor did it particularly care – the creature had very little awareness of who it had once been or what it had become. There was something in the back of what was left of its mind that held impressions of a life it couldn’t be entirely certain had been its own. Flashes of what seemed they might be memories came with smells, or seeing flowers just before they were trampled and the land around them drained of all life. It tore the flesh from bodies that reeked of fear and gushed hot blood, and thought that it had seen itself in their place once.

These memories never lasted long and didn’t matter. It didn’t know exactly where it was or how long it had been there. That didn’t matter, either. It had orders. Not some slip of parchment telling it where to go and who to report to, but orders that were a part of its very being. It felt something pull it, calling it to move on. To go where the others went. To rise up and cover the land as part of the Scourge.

And then the feeling disappeared.

Awareness started to return, and he knew those things that had seemed almost like memories were, in fact, pieces of his former life. That he had once been human and alive. That he now was… something not what he’d been before. Whatever he was could not be called human, but he was no longer a slave and minion of the Scourge forces. He was not alive. He was not dead. Word was spreading among others of his kind that the Dark Lady called them the Forsaken. It was an accurate term. Others spoke of having been forsaken by the Light, but he had never been particularly devout and figured the Light’s blessings were fine and good, but he could survive without them. The truth was that they’d been forsaken by everything. They would no longer be welcome in their own homes. Life itself rejected them and pulled away, leaving nothing but rot and disease when they walked across the land.

They were truly Forsaken, and the Dark Lady was their salvation.

The underground dungeons of Capital City were being converted into a refuge for them, and he spent quite a bit of time scouting the darkest twist and turns down there. It gave him plenty of time to think about what he could recall of how he’d died. It wasn’t the ghouls that found them. He’d been right about those mindless things. It was the necromancer the ghouls had been following.

———

Three ghouls had made it most of the way up the stairs when a fourth rushed in like a rabid beast, punching its way through rotted boards. Elling lost his footing and tumbled away from the wall. Everything they were trained for told David to carefully move on. Elling knew the risks, and the mission was to get the artifact. If that meant one of them had to become a distraction so the other could get away, that was simply how things had to happen. It wouldn’t be the first time they had done things that way, though it was usually more of a planned tactic than a complete accident. Accidents shouldn’t happen, but the only thing to do with them when they did was turn them around and create an opportunity out of it.

This mission didn’t carry the same risks other missions had, though. Death was not the worst that could happen to them here. There was no training to prepare anyone for this. David stared at the ghoul dragging his brother by the feet, heard the shrieks of terror coming from Elling, and leapt into action.

There was no hope of fighting the ghouls off and both of them getting out. Even if there had been a slight chance, David saw the necromancer standing in the rotting hallway, waiting for them to die, and knew it would just call for more minions. There was a slim chance one of them could make it out, but only if the other sacrificed himself. Elling had a wife. Elling had dreams for his life beyond being an agent. Most importantly, Elling was his brother. He would pay any price for his brother’s life and exploit any possible opportunity to buy his brother’s freedom.

David gave the silent signal that meant “retreat” to the two of them. Elling kept fighting. David hissed at his brother, “Out! Out now, damn you!” Still, Elling would not let up on his attack against the putrid, formerly human thing that clawed and bit at him. Finally, David turned from the ghoul he’d been slashing at and launched himself onto the one that was attacking his brother. His dagger sunk into the back of the thing’s head, yet it kept flailing and scratching. With his other arm, David knocked Elling away and glared at him.

Elling meant to throw himself back into the fight, but if they made it out there would be hell to pay later for not following David’s orders. They were no longer small children, but his brother was still leading. David was the agent in charge of this operation. Elling had already disobeyed the order once, and doing so again could mean lasting consequences that would strain personal and professional relations for some time, depending on just how fired up David stayed about it. All Elling had to do was jump from the window and make it back to the spot they’d named as the rendevous point in the event that they got split up.

How could he do that with these things attacking, though? People didn’t just walk away from the creatures born from the plague. If he left now, there would be no meeting up. There would be no second attempt at finding the artifact. There would be no reporting back that the artifact could not be recovered, either. David could not be left to —

The last thing Elling remembered seeing before he hit the ground was his brother barreling toward him, knocking him through the window, and the ghouls still grabbing at his brother’s legs.

———-

Elling bolted straight up, the blankets twisted around his body and the stench of his own sweat filling the dark room. He shrieked in terror and started cursing and fighting against the blankets. He reached for his daggers but couldn’t find them, so he tore the blankets into shreads with his bare hands. Then he pressed himself against a wall and began to sob.

The small room he was in was something like a prison cell, but with an iron door instead of bars. There were agents on the other side of the door, peeking in and listening at the tiny barred window that existed for just that reason. “Get Shaw,” one of them said.

It was an eternity before the door opened and a lone figure loomed in the doorway. Elling knew who it was. He knew this was his friend, and no threat to him. But each step the man took rang like the pounding of steel in Elling’s ears, and he could smell him. He would have sworn he could smell the man’s blood pumping through his body as he stood on the other side of the room, and Elling let out a low growl as he tried to press himself even tighter against the wall.

“You aren’t there, Elling. You aren’t where you think you are.” The man spoke in a low, soothing tone. “You are in Stormwind. You are among your brothers. You are safe.”

“Brothers?” The word sounded like an accusation when Elling spat it at the man in the doorway. “I only have one brother! Do you know what they did to him? Do you know how they–” His words cut off and a sound woven of howls of pain, sobs of grief, and screams of bloodthirst erupted from him.

“I can’t let you out of here until you stop doing that, Elling. You do not have the plague, thank the Light. There are folks who want to help you get past this. Your wife wants to see you. But I can’t let you out until you can act like a man instead of a rabid animal. Think about that, Elling. Think about your wife.” The door behind the man opened and he stepped back out. When the door shut, Elling heard him speak through the window. “I am sorry, my friend.”

They said it was days later that Elling was let out of the room, but he’d lost all sense of time. Everything that had happened since he and his brother set foot in Andorhal could have happened within minutes, or he could have lived ten lives since then.

And none of it mattered anymore.

———-

The shop in Stormwind was at an excellent location. Folks going in and out through the front gates had to walk right past the Trias Cheese Shop, and they often stopped in
to buy food for the road or bring news from outside the city. It was, in fact, the reason Elling had bargained for the building. Location was everything when it came to being a merchant, and it certainly was true when it came to collecting information, as well. Elling Trias wanted to be the first to know if there was even a whisper of a rumor about the undead.

Recovering from what happened in Andorhal was a long road, and one Elling didn’t expect to finish walking until the day he breathed his last breath. Recovering from his brother’s death wasn’t such a process. It was something that would simply never happen. Shaw had nearly begged Elling to get his head back on straight so he could return to work.

“I’m not going to pretend to understand what you’re going through. I have more respect for you that that,” he’d said. “But we’re going to need people with your knowledge and experience. Last I checked, there’s only one of you.”

It just wasn’t something Elling could do. He’d be a liability to other agents, and his heart and mind were always somewhere else.

It might have been different if he could have known for sure that his brother was with the Light and his body was resting properly buried. There’d been a necromancer, though, and now the only question was whether the thing that used to be his brother was still out there, or had been destroyed in battle. The rise of the Forsaken in Tirisfal Glades gave him reason to believe it was possible that David was no longer a Scourge slave, but he would still be something that shouldn’t exist.

Yet, perhaps there was something of his brother left in that thing.

The very idea gave Elling enough nightmares to last him the rest of his life and then some. It was also his reason for opening the cheese shop. Everyone could believe Elling Trias had retired from whatever line of work he’d been in before and decided to open a shop in Stormwind. They didn’t need to know that he’d planned carefully to be able to use the shop as a means of collecting information from travellers, or that he spent hours each night pouring over rumors and maps and trying to work out where that thing that had been his brother might be.

Part of him knew that if he ever found what was left of his brother, he should destroy it and finally release David’s soul to be at peace. But if his brother was one of the undead, that might mean he was still very much like he’d been in life. Not one of the mindless ghouls, but still capable of reasoning and, though it might be far too much to expect, the ability to love his family. Elling did not know that he could destroy such a creature.

———-

Deathknell was a quiet town most of the time. Not that time had the same meaning it once did. David Trias didn’t feel time pass the way he had when he was alive. It had become a somewhat arbitrary thing, measured on calenders that only truly mattered to those who changed with the passage of months and years. Time only mattered to him in the sense of comparing the tasks he must carry out to what the living would be doing. Weeks and months became checkpoints along the way, such as passing a certain formation of the landscape.

He had been sent to Deathknell to train some of his fellow Forsaken in using the skills he’d learned in life. He taught them to slip through the shadows by becoming part of the shadows themselves. Some of them had to be taught the proper way to hold a dagger. It annoyed him, which let him know he was still capable of emotion. He’d trained several agents over the years. He’d taken them on missions with him so they could see firsthand how much the training mattered in the field. He’d never had to teach one that you “don’t hold the pointy end” before.

He would do whatever the Dark Lady asked of him. She had given the Forsaken purpose again, as well as freedom. Wasn’t that what “life” was? She was their salvation. If the Dark Lady wanted him to teach his brethren to milk cows, he would have taught them that, as well.

Staying in one place, even if it was Deathknell, allowed him the leisure of planning for personal projects. If the man he had once called “brother” had made it back to Stormwind alive, they would face each other again one day. It would be such a shame to have to slit Elling Trias’s throat too soon.

When night fell over Deathknell and David had time to simply sit and think, he sometimes thought it would be a shame to slit Elling Trias’s throat at all. This man had meant something to him once. It wasn’t that David had forgotten that. It simply didn’t matter anymore. Even his own name didn’t matter the way it once had. In life, it had marked him as being himself. Perhaps the most difficult thing he had faced in becoming an agent was accepting that, officially, he didn’t exist. He’d never completely accepted it… only that it was necessary to do things that way. Now, he found peace in shedding what it meant to be David Trias. Being undead was the very essence of existing in spite of the fact that he didn’t exist.

The only thing left of the living David Trias was locked away in Elling Trias’s memory. Some nights, sitting on the roof of the Church of the Shadow, David plotted how it could be kept that way. How he could make certain that Elling Trias had either no reason or no ability to act on those memories and whatever foolish emotions fed them. Other nights, David wondered if it meant Elling was the only thing keeping any part of him alive. It was on those nights that he was least offended by having to stay in Deathknell and teach beings who’d been farmers in life how to be deadly spies in undeath. Confronting the metaphorical
ghosts of one’s past and present could be upsetting and he saw no useful reason to do it. Explaining to beings who were once farmers that having pitched hay doesn’t make one an expert in the fine art of weilding a blade was much easier.

———-

“I’ve supported you in this as best I can. I love running the shop, and I sleep better knowing you’re here with me. But I don’t see what good is going to come of expanding things this way. Mark my words, Elling Trias, you’ll only cause yourself more heartbreak!”

Elling’s wife was near tears. She wondered if she should have put her foot down long ago and said a cheese shop was a fine idea, but the other idea could do no good. It hadn’t seemed like it could do any harm then, and she’d been desperate to believe something could bring some peace to her husband’s troubled soul.

When Shaw informed her that Elling had come back alone from that last mission, she thought nothing could be more terrible than the loss of his brother. She’d prepared herself for helping him through the grief and accepted that it could be a long, painful road.

It had been worse than that, though, and part of being married to Elling was not asking too many questions. At the very least, not expecting to get too many questions answered. She knew they’d had a run-in of some sort with the undead. She knew they’d gotten David, and that there was very little chance that he had not become one of them. She’d been forced to wait far too long to see her husband, and never really been given what she believed was a straight-forward, honest answer about why it was “too dangerous right now”. Elling had
filled in some of the holes later, so she knew he hadn’t been entirely of sound mind when he made it back, but that he didn’t have the plague. Even he would never really tell her why she couldn’t have taken care of him through that.

In some ways, she suspected, that was why she’d been willing to allow him a way of trying to keep track of rumors and speculation about the undead. She couldn’t be there with him through the worst of it, and the fact that it wasn’t her fault didn’t stop her from feeling like she’d failed him somehow. But now he wanted to expand the business so he’d have eyes and ears in Dalaran!

“Look, Elling… no one who has come into the shop has ever given you a solid lead. They almost got you mixed up in that mess with the Defias Brotherhood, and I know someone came and talked to you when the king was missing. I’ve never asked you about it, and I’m not asking you now, but don’t you try to tell me any lies about it, either. I’m not blind or stupid. Someone tried to pull you into that! I understand the Kirin Tor are opening the city to help with the war up there. How they moved a whole city to Northrend, I don’t understand. Nor do I want to! But if our business here in Stormwind has been any kind of example, that tells me you won’t find what you’re looking for, we’ll sell plenty of cheese, and someone will try to recruit you to go stick a dagger in Arthas Menthil’s kidney.”

“Elaine,” Elling began, but she cut him off before he could say more.

“No. I’m not sending you off to Northrend. You’re retired. You did more of a service for your king and country than most folks will ever know. You are not going.”

“No, I’m not,” he agreed. “I thought Lucien might want to try his hand at the business. Ben’s got things under–”

“Lucien? Elling, you’ve lost your mind! Lucien wouldn’t sell cheese or collect information! He’d spend all his time looking at women!”

Elaine couldn’t find it in herself to be outraged over the idea anymore, and knew that in another couple of days she’d just end up giving her blessing. As long as Elling was at home with her, maybe there really was very little harm in it. And it would be good for business. With the Alliance forces heading off to war, there wouldn’t be as many folks dropping by the shop in Stormwind anymore. Dalaran was supposed to be fairly neutral politically… more concerned about the business of mages than anything going on among the less arcane-oriented people… so maybe they could even make a few copper now and then from the Horde. Assuming Lucien could keep a civil tongue in his mouth and not get himself locked up for inciting a riot.

Maybe Elling could find some answers this way. If there was anything left of David, surely he’d be involved in war. If they opened a shop in Dalaran, he might walk right in one day. Elaine couldn’t be sure that would be the best thing, but any answers were better than Elling searching forever.

———-

A spider skittered across the wood floor, making the only sound David Trias had heard in several days. Deathknell was a ghost town. There had been some construction in Brill and the surrounding areas that put the power of the Forsaken on display for anyone who passed through. Deathknell had remained the same as ever so far, and David preferred it that way. It wasn’t necessarily that he preferred the rotted wood and overgrown vines, or that he clung to this reminder that the buildings, like the people who’d lived in them, were no longer part of the living world. He just liked the familiarty of it all. He knew every ledge, corner, and shadow of the town by now. He knew where the creaky boards were, and how fast or slow he could open something before the squeaky hinges squeaked. The town had become something of an extension of himself, and he wasn’t in any hurry to be rebuilt again.

As time went by and the number of Forsaken seeking training tapered off, David had found ways to amuse himself and been rewarded with more important tasks to carry out for
the Dark Lady. He’d sometimes assisted members of the Royal Apothecary Society. Their knowledge of poisons was impressive, and he was suprised to find there were a few
tricks he’d never learned that would have been a great help to him in life. Undeath had given him an edge.

An injury in the field had resulted in a leg that couldn’t be properly sewn up or replaced, though, and he’d returned to Deathknell. The Horde was sending their brave Tauren and orc sons and daughters off to fight in Northrend, with trolls and sin’dorei following. David respected the trolls a bit. They knew the value of biding one’s time in the shadows. And, of course, he’d never be found speaking against the Dark Lady’s former people. The Tauren and orcs, however, were fools who rushed off to find their death, inviting it to come to them with their shouts and thundering marches onto the battlefield. David had no inclination to suffer fools.

It wasn’t the battle against the Lich King that had emptied Deathknell, though. That had simply been inevitable. There were no new Forsaken. Where would they have come
from? Everyone who had been set free by the Dark Lady’s clever turning on the Lich King had either found their way to Tirisfal Glades, or just wasn’t going to show up. Now and then, some lost traveler would almost make a turn in at the graveyard before they realized where they were going and turned around. It happened less and less, though. Deathknell was mostly forgotten. David Trias was content to be forgotten with it.

Every now and again, the rotting flesh of his face attempted to stretch into a grin as he considered that this was exactly where he’d been headed all his life.

———

“I’m only going to tell you this once,” the SI:7 agent in charge said. “From this day forward, you do not exist. You are a shadow. A ghost. If you are captured, we don’t know what you were doing out there. For that matter, the entire brotherhood doesn’t exist. We won’t have to answer questions about you because there’s no reason anyone should ask us. There are no second chances. This is your single warning. You do not exist.”

David Trias nodded once, took his daggers, and stepped into the shadows.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Closed Comments Early

I’ve always kept comments open for two weeks after I post something, then they close automatically.  Today, I closed comments early on my post from yesterday.

No one said or did anything wrong. I didn’t have to do anything except hit approve on people who had never commented here before, and I didn’t have to unapprove anything. As usual, my commenters are very well-behaved.

I just can’t handle keeping up with comments. I didn’t think I’d have to when I started this blog. I didn’t think anyone would read it except a handful of people on Twitter who helped me out when I first asked about healing.

Okay, so people read this blog. I don’t know why. I spend a lot of time complaining about the behavior of the WoW population. PvPers are assholes, people in random dungeons are assholes, elitist roleplayers are assholes, raiders are assholes with entitlement issues… Except my friends, of course. I don’t mean ALL PvPers/raiders/etc. Just, you know… THOSE kind. Some of my best friends raid! I am not a raidcist!

Really, though, the blog grew a bit from what I expected. And then I just couldn’t handle spending that much of my day focused on WoW. I cut back a lot of the out-of-game discussion. I took a bunch of people off of Twitter, but I kept them on G+. I kept people that I don’t really have any other way of keeping in touch with, and people that I still end up talking to so often that there’s no reason to take them off my follow list just because they talk about WoW. I dropped a lot of people that I genuinely like and wish I was still following, but I needed to create some space in my life where WoW doesn’t try to mix into everything else I do.

I still have the blog because sometimes I still want to put my thoughts out here and the blog provides the best way to do it. Like yesterday. But I started getting nervous and ill just thinking about having to keep up with comments. I spent two hours writing the damned post. I don’t want to spend another three or four days moderating comments. I don’t want to keep talking about it. That takes time away from the rest of my life, and I have a metric assload of stuff I need to take care of and/or want to do that has nothing to do with WoW.

There’s a reason I don’t braodcast on Twitter that I have a new post anymore. I’m not trying to attract readers. If someone wants to link to a post, or I link to someone else’s posts, and that draws in a few people… well, they’re welcome to stay if they want to. But I’m not recruiting people. I always wanted a small audience. Not so much an “audience”, but a small circle of discussion.

It’s not going to be a discussion anymore, though. I’m sorry. I just can’t do it. I know a one-way conversation isn’t a conversation at all. If you find what I say interesting enough to read it even when you can’t comment, stick around. If not, I understand.

Posted in Real Life, WoW Blogs

Nerfs, Story, and Doing It Wrong

I’m not usually one to say that people are “doing it wrong” in how the play the game unless they are just REALLY “doing it wrong”. A death knight tanking for a pug in intellect gear is “doing it wrong”, and you won’t convince me otherwise. I don’t generally care, though, if you play PvE, PvP, run dungeons, don’t run dungeons, roleplay, play the auction house, or pay for a subscription just to be able to log in and talk to friends without ever moving out of the starter zone. I don’t care if you are VP capped, aren’t VP capped, which spec you chose, or what your cooking skill is at. It’s a game. Play it the way you enjoy.

I think there are different ways of looking at what qualifies as “doing it wrong”, though. There’s the “this isn’t at all how your class is designed, and it makes you a severe liability to anyone you party with unless you party just to go to the Barber Shop” aspect. (Again, death knight tanking in intellect gear.) There’s “what you’ve done isn’t optimal”. (“Not optimal” isn’t necessarily the same as “not viable”, folks.) There’s “you aren’t doing it the way I prefer, even though you are doing it well within what the developers say they intend”. (A sure sign that I don’t want to meet this person outside of the game, as I probably don’t live my life the way they prefer, either.) And there’s “something other than what the developers intend, but they haven’t done anything to stop you”.

I want to look at that last one. I think there may be a lot of displeasure with the game because of that. People doing something that is entirely possible, doesn’t even take any special effort to do it, but not quite fitting the vision Blizzard has for the game.

Disclaimer

I want to say before I go on that I am not happy with everything in the game. There are things I’m not happy with simply because they aren’t designed in a way that fits my ability to play, but I accept that it’s good for the game as a whole. There are things I’m not happy with that other people don’t have a problem with, but I think a few tweaks would make more people happy than unhappy. There are places where I think Blizzard isn’t bridging the gap well between what they intend and how the player recieves it, both in game mechanics and storytelling. My point with this post is NOT to say everything in the game is just fine and no reasonable person should have any complaints. I want that to be clear from the beginning.

We’re all “doing it wrong” at least some of the time.

Here’s the thing… if you aren’t invested in the story, I think you may be doing it wrong.

That isn’t a judgement I’m passing down based on my own love of the lore. In that respect, it comes under the heading of “It’s a game. Play it the way you enjoy.” It doesn’t get in the way of me enjoying the story if you don’t know who Grom Hellscream was, or look at Alexstrasza and all you can think is, “Why is that dragon wearing earrings?” What I’m saying is that Blizzard’s intention is to tell a story. If you aren’t invested in the story, or if you seperate your interest in the story from playing the game, then I’m not so sure you’re doing what the developers intend.

This isn’t a porn flick. They aren’t stringing together just enough story to connect the scenes. (“Hero! Head to BOOTY BAY! A ship full of female pirates has gotten stuck in a huge pit of mud conjured up by a cult of warlock, and we need someone to help get them out of there! You’ll find the female pirates climbing all over each other to try to get out, and some of them have probably already had to shed their clothing… poor things. Help them quickly before you miss it– er… before they die!”) Blizzard has put a lot of effort into the story, and I think a large part of why the questing experience has been redone the way it is in Cataclysm is because players were ignoring the story.

Now, I can’t blame some people. Some of the differences in the past were very small. (The female orc who gives you quests at the Crossroads would treat a female Forsaken very differently from how she’d treat a female Tauren or orc, and she treated females in general different than males.) If someone had already done this once or twice (or more) there just comes a point where you don’t want to do the same thing all over again. But what about all the people who just don’t care about story and were more focused on levelling? And what about people who would get part of the way through a zone and then lose interest? Or get tired of how long it was taking to move through that zone and figure, “I’ll just come back and finish this someday when I’m working on Loremaster”? Or the people who insist on playing only Alliance or Horde and have never seen the story from the other side? (I swear, I can’t remember now where it was, but I saw someone asking last year if it would be worth it to go through the Horde quests before Cataclysm, or if the story just the same as it is for the Alliance.) In many zones, I fell into the “I’ll come back and do the rest of this someday when I’m finished levelling” group. So I got parts of the story out of order. And  not what the developers intended. In that way, I was doing it wrong.

Blizzard said, going into Cataclysm, that they were putting more of the focus back on the story. We now have a questing system that herds you through the story, making it more likely that you see it all in order. The story has (in most zones) been updated, the quests have been streamlined, and the rewards from quests make it more worth it to turn in a quest that’s green for you than to just farm mobs that are yellow or orange. There are a lot more requirements that you finish X quest before you can move on to Y quest. In many cases, the story from one zone will bleed over into the next zone so that you feel like your character is experiencing an on-going story, rather than each zone standing on it’s own. They’ve also made some zones so that you need to see it from both factions to really understand what’s going on there. It’s the same basic story, but each faction only gets half of it.

I’ve said many times in the past that, coming into the game in Wrath, the Vanilla dungeons looked to me like they were the equivalent of watching Exorcist II. (Exorcist III is my favorite, but you need to see The Exorcist to understand it. Exorcist II only matters if you just REALLY want to know what happened in the girl from the first movie’s life when she got older.) Story lines seemed to wrap up during the quests, and the dungeon was just sort of there if you wanted a little more. Not all dungeons have been redone, but there are more of them that now are the wrap-up at the end of the questline, rather than being an epilogue. And raids aren’t just sitting there for people who love to raid. People who are following the story, whether they want to raid or not, aren’t getting the whole story without doing raids.

It’s not just the land that changed.

I have seen many, many people in Cataclysm who don’t want to quest while levelling an alt because they’ve “done them all before and hated it”. But these people haven’t done the quests since Cataclsym came out. So, no, they HAVEN’T “done them all before”. I’ve come across people who have avoided certain zones in Cataclysm because they hated struggling through that zone before Cataclysm, or felt it had very little for their faction. (Alliance in Stonetalon Mountains is a big one.) It’s not just the land that changed! Blizzard wants you to roll an alt or two and go see the story.

Personally, I think they’ve done a wonderful job with Duskwood. The land hasn’t changed. For that matter, the quests haven’t really changed. They are a little easier to do. The Legend of Stalvan questline doesn’t have you running all over several zones anymore. The thing that makes me feel it’s so well done is that there are explantions for why these same quests need to be done again. There’s a reason the Town Hall no longer has the papers that tell the story of Stalvan Mistmantle. They acknowledge that some adventurer already solved this problem for them before, but it’s a problem again. These are the same problems because the problems have come back… not because no one bothered to update things.

On the Alliance side, your quest experience will differ depending on your race pretty much up until it’s time to go to the Plaguelands. Horde is still more of an Eastern Kingdoms/Kalimdor split, though the trolls do have their own unique starting experience now. (Blood elves and draenei, I’m sorry… I know your pain. I’ve tried doing those starting experiences in Cataclsym, and it sucks to be left behind.) My biggest complaint about the racial differences in the story is that worgen get spit out into the Night Elf storyline, but Duskwood is part of the human storyline. Duskwood is a great story for worgen, and I think they should have made sure worgen get sent there.

“Once upon a time, there was this bloody elf…”

Blizzard isn’t just making this up as they go along. The story is planned, and they have a lore bible. (If you don’t believe me, ask Anne Stickney to tell you who Evelyn Fredericksen is.) Now, I don’t know how much is in the lore bible, but I don’t believe every-freakin’-detail of the story is planned ahead of time. But I’d say it’s entirely possible that they always intended to bring the Shen’dralar back, for example, as so they decided along the way that this presented an opportunity to make Night Elf mages playable instead of just being NPCs. As opposed to, say, just stuffing in bringing back the Shen’dralar to have Night Elf mages covered in the lore.

My point is that the story isn’t a side thing for people who are interested. The story is what drives the rest of the game. Blizzard wants people to see the story.

Keeping that in mind… yes, the levelling experience is easier now. If I were Blizzard, I would have done the same thing. I would not expect people to devote a year or two of playing the game to levelling just one character when I’m also expecting them to see the story from the point of view of multiple characters. I’d want players to be able to move through that story relatively quickly so they can see it from multiple points of view while certain content is still current. Are there some issues with doing it this way? Absolutely. Does that mean it needs to be “harder” in order to be “better”. Only if you lack imagination. (Which, by the way, is my complaint about raids. I think Blizzard’s developers could add “challenge” to raids without it always being a numbers game. I can do challenging things. That doesn’t mean I can race against a timer well, or that I have quick reflexes.) I think a certain amount of unpredictability could make the experience more engaging, and many of us would consider that “better”.

What about the nerfs? The title said there would be nerfs.

I haven’t watched blogs as closely in the past couple of months as I did before, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely out of touch. I have not been able to miss the nerf drama.  I’ve seen people get outraged over the nerfs. I’ve seen people accept that the nerfs would be a good thing for them. Today, I saw Fannon get so disappointed over the nerfs that I feel like he’s missed the point.

I’m picking on Fannon specifically, but it comes from seeing a lot of views about the nerfs that he doesn’t exactly express in his post, in addition to ones that he does. I gave him a heads-up that this post is partially a response to his. I single him out because I feel like I can disagree very strongly with him and not run the risk of a flame war breaking out. Fannon’s awesome. My wolpertinger is named Fannon the Invisible Bunny Monster.

Ghostcrawler has explained that they look at how many people they intend to be at a certain point in the content, then look at how many actually are, and make a decision on nerfs. They weren’t seeing anywhere near the number of people at the point they intended for them to be at in Firelands. A lot of people are taking this as Blizzard saying “you failed”. It could just as easily be Blizzard saying “we failed”. It doesn’t have to mean you weren’t good enough for the challenge. It could mean Blizzard didn’t get the challenge where they meant to have it in the first place.

I’ve also had it explained to me (because, as much as I would like to do raids, it’s just not happening) that the gear and progression has changed. That, in the past, clearing normal mode in one tier of content gave you the gear you needed to be ready for normal mode in the next tier. What was explained to me is that Blizzard made it so that clearing normal mode gets you ready for heroic mode, and clearing heroic mode gets you ready for normal mode in the next tier. And that a lot of people missed that change and went into normal mode Firelands thinking they were ready when they really weren’t. That seems to me to be a failure on Blizzard’s part in communicating the change well. Either that, or they communicated it just fine and there are a bunch of people who decided they didn’t want to do it that way and got their asses handed to them. I don’t know which.

At any rate, the point becomes that Blizzard intends for people to be moving through content at a certain rate, and boatloads of people are behind now. So the nerf isn’t necessarily to put the challenge level where Blizzard meant for it to be all along, but to put it where it needs to be at this point for the appropriate number of people to catch up to where Blizzard wants them to be in content. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be this easy, but is seen as being necessary to get people caught up. This is not your guild’s failure, and cleaning up a mess is rarely glamorous.

Hopefully, you aren’t reading this. I ran out of titles for sub-sections.

The game has changed. Tales of “back in my day” are great for reminiscing, but rarely considered a standard that people should return to. Really… try applying it to real life. Back in my grandmother’s day, people didn’t name a baby right when it was born. There was a fairly good chance it wouldn’t live very long, and cemetaries have plenty of tiny graves marked “Baby Surname”. Back when I was a kid, VCRs were pretty new-fangled, and not everybody could afford one. We watched a show when it came on, or we waited until the summer when re-runs started. If it was something special that wasn’t going to be re-run, we watched it THEN. And no-damned-body better call while it was on, either, because not everybody had one of those new “answering machines” to catch the call. People still answered the phone when it rang.

This isn’t Vanilla. It’s not Burning Crusade. It’s not Wrath. There’s a gap, apparently, between what Blizzard intends for Cataclysm and what people expect. Blizzard is making the game, so I say it’s their responsibility to bridge that gap. They’ve gone to great lengths to put the focus back on the story and open raiding to as many people as possible, but the dungeon finder still makes it possible to skip the story while leveling. They’ve also neglected to make PvP tie into the story well. (It could. There’s a reason the Alliance and Horde are still fighting – or, perhaps, fighting again – in Warsong Gulch. Maybe winning Warsong Gulch in PvP should give your faction a buff in Ashenvale. Or something. Make PvP matter in the story experience.) At the same time, they don’t go through and put a stop to everything that can be done outside of what they intend. They aren’t putting an end to twinking, even though they’ve said they aren’t making the effort to support that style of play. So maybe the lesson is that you don’t HAVE to approach the game in a way that matches their intentions, but if you don’t like how the game works when you aren’t in step with them, you have to accept that. Or ask yourself if you want to keep playing WoW… if it’s really the right game for you.

I did take issue with this part of Fannon’s post:

I know that there are quite a number of people who are happy with these changes to the raids because it gives them a chance to finally see the content. But I think that there is a difference between seeing the content and experiencing the content.  The idea of merely seeing the content reminds me of a tourist: Someone who comes to visit and see the sights, but wants to have a good, relaxing time and not really get their hands dirty. While experiencing the content implies slogging through the worst that the raid can throw at you and working through the inevitable failures and hardships. These are two very different types of players who want two completely different types of gaming experiences.
However, nerfing current content when there is no alternative, higher-end content available means turning everyone into the Tourist.

I think that assumes quite a bit about what a person is looking for in the content. It may very well be true for people who are more focused on raiding for the sake of raiding, but it certainly wouldn’t be true for me. Even with the nerfs, I can’t go into the raids. I could even get together a group of nine people that I’m comfortable with and the fact is I would just fail. At least for a while. When I stopped failing, my performance still wouldn’t be considered acceptable for most raiding groups. It’s not because I’m stupid or need to L2p. It’s because my brain processes things in a way that makes the mechanics of fights extremely difficult for me. And I don’t want to raid for the sake of raiding, anyway. I want to get the story. So I would still have a real challenge to get through in order to see the story I want so badly. I would definitely feel like my character was part of something truly historic in Azeroth’s history. I would not be a tourist.

I take on challenges that aren’t part of the intended way of playing not because I’m bored with what is intended, but because those are challenges I can handle. Doing things like two-manning a five man dungeon while at the level for it is actually EASIER for me. Not just because it elimnates the need for strangers and soothes my social anxiety. It also means things move at the pace I need to be good at what I’m doing, and gives me the opportunity to do things I’m quite good at that aren’t my job when five people are present.

Maybe WoW finally got too big. Maybe we’ve just kind of become “the general populace”, and there’s no good way to make even most of us happy with the game design. But, again, the game has changed. We can either change with it, find our happy place within it and accept how that limits the experience, or just leave. Making that decision should probably start with acknowledging that one aspect of the game is just that… one aspect. Raiding is not the whole point. PvP is not the whole point. Playing the auction house is…

Geez, can’t somebody just make a game where you are an auctioneer? And don’t make it a Facebook game!

P.S. I’d love to write a post at some point on changes I think they could make to the game. I’m not making any promises on when that would happen. Maybe next week, maybe next month, maybe next year. I still haven’t finished the Brann Bronzebeard post. Go read Boozekin while you wait for it.

Posted in Catering to the Casuals | 7 Comments

What am I doing if I’m not blogging?

Before I get into the post, go see the picture Kamalia drew of the Khaz Modan Cheese of the Month Club! It’s the most awesome thing ever! Those of you who have read the stories I’ve written as Fizzy Stouthammer will recognize a lot of things. Besides all the cheese, there’s Glorwynn with her shield, Friginne with his two-handed mace and an Argent Crusade tabard, Little Brann climbing halfway onto the table (Fizzy never has managed to teach him not to steal cheese), and Serhilde is right there at Fizzy’s side. I cannot possibly say how happy it makes me every time I look at the picture!

I didn’t really intend to take a break from writing this blog. I just meant to not push myself to keep blogging about things just because they are there to blog about, and I needed to cut back on how much time I spend socializing about WoW. (Twitter, blog comments, etc.) I still have posts to write, but I was going to write them on my own time. It seems that by giving myself permission not to feel like I have to do it, though, I’ve chosen not to do it at all for a little while now. I guess that means I really wanted to be doing other things.

I’ve been leveling a druid. I started doing the WoW Ironman Challenge with a druid. Not being able to choose a spec kind of forced me into fighting in cat form, and I started wondering if maybe this was the solution to my “Can’t Make It to Flight Form” problem. I’ve always gone with balance. I always lose interest somewhere between level 20 and level 50. I rolled up a troll druid once Cataclysm came out and didn’t feel like the things that made balance so unpleasant for me had really been addressed in all the changes.

I just don’t feel like a balance druid is really A Balance Druid until I have moonkin form, and it’s a long road to get there when, well… I don’t have moonkin form. It seems even worse to me now. At level 10, a Holy Paladin really is A Holy Paladin. At level 10, a fire mage really is A Fire Mage. At level 10, a demonology warlock really is… um… some gal or guy in a robe who follows around the felguard. (Demonology used to be the only spec I had a chance of playing well as a warlock. Now I struggle with “Do I just not use the felguard, or do I walk around bored while he kills everything?”) But at level 10, a balance druid feels like a very crippled spellcaster to me. And moonkin form still seems so far away.

So, being inspired by my Iron Cat, I rolled up another druid so I could level as feral. I just haven’t made it back to the druid I started for the challenge. My feral druid is a night elf because worgen aren’t purple. This doesn’t mean I’m happy about the pointy ears, bouncing while standing at the bank, or the /cheering for Elune. Darnassus is bloody well NOT my home! This isn’t really a night elf… it’s a purple cat. A purple bird when flying. Sometimes a brown bear, and I wish Blizzard would let me have a purple bear. But definitely not a night elf.  I named her Magritte to make this clear.

I did take resto as my off spec, but I haven’t done much healing. Actually, I’ve done plenty of healing. I just haven’t done it in dungeons. Not dungeons with five people in them, anyway. I’ve helped my husband with some of the group quests that still linger in Outland by healing him while he did all the rest of the work. (Take that, Terrok!) We made slow progress through about half of Magister’s Terrace that way until Apple came in and made it go faster. Hey… the two of us were the actual level to be doing it with a group. That slow progress was still something of an accomplishment. It was quite beautiful to see Apple’s 85 holy paladin just spewing Light all over a room full of mobs when us druids died, though. Somebody forgot to tell the mobs that healing isn’t ALL holy paladins can do!

I convinced a couple of guildies that you don’t actually need five people to do Halls of Stone, and that Brann Bronzebeard gets a little overhwlmed by too many visitors when he’s working. So the three of us went in with a level 80 warrior, a level 78 prot paladin, and a level 76 purple cat…um… druid. The paladin, Light bless him, didn’t really think we could do it and was more comfortable having me be a tree on the boss fights. So I healed on all the boss fights and mangled the trash. And I was wearing my feral gear the whole time. I won the roll on Brann’s Lost Mining Helmet, and I think I got the most awesome loot in the dungeon… even if I can’t equip it!

The paladin, by the way, has decided he wants to be a paladin for Elune, which I have taken to calling “an Elunadin”. I think everyone should go give him a hard time about that. Nah… he’s okay for a elf-lover. Don’t give him a hard time, but do read his blog. He’s awesome.

Now I’m considering abandoning being a cat. No, not to become a full-time healer. I’m not really handling druid healing well. Healing with HoTs is very different from holy pally healing for me. I just seem to know which heal to use when as a holy pally. As a druid, I’m having to keep in mind the mana cost, how much it will intially heal for, how much it’ll heal for over time, how fast it will heal and how fast the target needs to be healed, what talents I have that modify the healing of any particular ability… Gah! If I want to heal, I want to heal. Not stand around and diddle numbers until they get excited and start multiplying!

No… I want to be a bear.

First, it was necessity. I was way too squishy as a cat to make it through Northrend, but I was awesome questing as a bear! Cat survivability got better when I got to the quests in Hyjal. I’m doing fine as a cat. But… I want to be a bear. I keep looking for a chance to be a bear. I love bears. I love every kind of bear.

Magritte and the baby bear it took two guildies to get for me. Awesome guildies are awesome!

I’ve always said I don’t want to tank, though. I don’t know that I could handle it. With the changes to threat, being a bear means tanking if I do stuff with other people. What’s that? You say it was that way even before the threat changes because bear is the druid tanking spec? I say you lack imagination.

I’m not talking about the standard “five people doing a five man dungeon at the appropriate level” mode of play. Quite honestly, if you’ve read my posts before you should know that’s rarely ever the way I play. I’m talking about things like TWO people doing a five man dungeon at the appropriate level. Or two people doing a raid that was designed for 20 people to do ten levels ago. Cases where a dps bear was perfectly viable. Possibly even preferable at times. That just means playing ping-pong with the aggro now. And I’ve never been terribly good at ping-pong.

So maybe I’ll have to suck it up and decide to be a tank. My other option is suck it up and be a cat or the healer every time I’m with someone else. Cats are not bears. Healers are not bears. And I DO love bears. LACERATE ALL THE THINGS!

I’ve also taken more time off from playing WoW lately than I had intended. Not the way I haven’t been blogging, but my WoW time has been rather sporadic. I’ve been getting a lot of drawing done, and I’m in the middle of a zombie piece that Apple was kind enough to pose for. If you’d like to follow the progress on that (and/or the rest of my work) or vote on a name for said zombie, I do have an official Facebook page for my work. I also have Google+, but I haven’t mentally adjusted to it yet.

I’ve also been getting quite a bit of crochet done! Nymphy – one half of Nymphy and Orv – is getting a yarn demon out of it, and my neice and nephews will be getting even more Toys You Just Don’t Find in a Store for Christmas this year. I’ve gotten a hat that looks like gingerbread people exploded on my head. I didn’t realize that’s how it would turn out with the yarn I chose. Maybe “CSI: Gingerbread House” will be a hot look this fall.

With less time spent on WoW and WoW-related things, I’ve finally gotten to play through a good chunk of Dragon Age: Origins. And I am FINALLY, after knowing all about the game for the past few years, getting to actually experience Portal! I’ve told my husband before that the problem is not that WoW is the only game I’m interested in, but that it’s the only one I have time for.

I’ve been using 750 Words to help me do some writing every day, and I highly recommend it for anyone who finds themself saying, “I really ought to start writing stuff again…”  I wrote a review shortly after I started using it, and I’m just as happy with it now. I haven’t missed a day yet, and that’s really surprising for me!

I have written a story for Blizzard’s Global Writing Contest. Whether or not I get it edited and submitted in time is a different animal. I’m not worried, though. I’m happy that I wrote it. If I miss the deadline, I’ll post the story here instead.

The fact is, blogging is a hobby. I’m a very busy person. I don’t really have time for more hobbies. But I do get that urge to write a post about something now and then, and I want the option to be here when I need it. So my blog silence doesn’t come from me having disappeared… it comes from me being too busy doing stuff to have time to blog about it. Whether you’re blogging or not, I hope you have plenty of fulfilling stuff to do. :)

Posted in Druid, Dungeons, Real Life | 2 Comments