Friday, February 27, 2009



Spiderheart hit level 80 this afternoon while doing quests for the Brunhildvar in Storm Peaks, an area and set of quests I continue to love.

Later in the day, I did my first heroic-level tanking, for acquaintance sin the Nexus. At first I stank. Then I stank some more. Gradually I didn't stink quite so much. We finished up downright okay.

I have a lot to master yet.

Watching the PTR Go By

Yeah, as most WoW players know by now, the public test realms are active and people are poking at the material lined up for patch 3.1. (We're currently at 3.0.8, for the rest of you; Blizzard's practice is that .0, .1, .2, and so on are the substantial ones, with new dungeons and stuff.) I'm letting them pass by, as part of my philosophy of focusing on what's most rewarding to me. Others can hassle the technical problems, the sheer volume of participants, and the ongoing changes; I'll pay attention, some, as we get close to a release date.

If you want to see PTR fun (and it can be a lot of fun), go check out Eleanor Holmes or someone. I'll be here chuggin' along.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Felcloth Farming Tip

I know there's not particularly a lot of call for felcloth anymore, but I wanted to make shard bags for a couple warlocks in Red Harvest, so went to rustle some up. Remembering a previous bit of advice I'd encountered, I went to the east wing of Dire Maul, going in through the back door at Lariss Pavilion and just hitting the satyr-infested part. I scored 24 pieces in two passes, and got to admire the scenery as I went.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Victory Through Firepower

The big priority of Red Harvest as a guild is to do fun stuff. Recently joined-up friends transferred over some existing characters, and we've been helping fill out their gear, quests, and so on. Today three of us (Spiderheart; 78 death knight; Jaldorn, 77 shaman; Akaa, 73 holy paladin) took Radovan (63 rogue) through Hellfire Ramparts and Blood Furnace.

Now, I write about Akaa from time to time. Her player has this feature: she is really at her best when she feels excited and challenged. It's tedium that drives her quality of play down. She's been reading Banana Shoulders (and incorporating advice in e-mail from Elle, for which much thanks), and poking at advice and accounts of play, and she really wanted to try pushing it a bit.

So we pushed it.


This is all the enemies in the room with the switch that unleashes Broggok, the big floating eye boss in Blood Furnace. Other roundups I didn't get good screenshots of included sets like "everyone in that big platform in Ramparts before the paths to the last two bosses". The only one we really had trouble with was "everyone in the curving hallway with fel orc transformation booths"; the stuns + the silences added up to significant trouble, and Jaldorn saved the day with timely self-rez and healing. Apart from that, more or less everything fell without a lot of fuss, but with enough workout for Akaa that she felt it was really worth the effort to come along.

That was so much fun. I was already looking forward to taking part in Jaldorn's long-held goal of working through all the Outland instances, but now I'm doing so even more.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The reputation grind continues

As you can see:

Spi - 10 exalted.jpg

I owe my non-WoW-playing readers a post about the achievement system, along with other stuff. The short form is that you get these points for accomplishing discrete tasks. Thus I got 15 points when Spider earned exalted status with the Kurenai, and simultaneously earned another 10 because it was the tenth group she'd gotten exalted with.

The Kurenai are one of the groups that sell mounts to those exalted with them. Check out Spider on her new cobalt war talbuk:

Spi - talbuk.jpg

I can't remember right now if this is actually the first time I completed the Kurenai grind, or the second. Still a novelty, in any event, and one I'm happy to have done.

Red Harvest

Let me tell you about my guild. I'm really happy with it.

We are a small group: we have, right now, seven folks who put in some significant play time each day and an eighth who plays as his work schedule allows. (I'm told that growing a small business from "just me" to "me plus a couple of employees" is a whole lot of work. I believe it.) We span a couple of decades in age and the mainland US's three time zones.

One of the great pleasures of my life is making connections between people I like who hadn't known each other. Red Harvest is becoming sort of a core sample of my years playing WoW, with people I've known anywhere from a few months to several years, plus at least one I knew for a long time before WoW came along. And people seem to be enjoying each others' company.

What we all share...well, one of the things we all share is an appreciation for the fragility of camaraderie. We know, for instance, not to invite in friends of friends without some prior screening. We know that it's very hard to make any decisions at all on a basis of equal footing with more than, oh, a dozen or so members. We know that we're fortunate in being able to foist the work of raid organization off onto the raid alliance, leaving us free to be social and thinking about 5- and 10-person challenges only.

The name is a Dashiell Hammett allusion because that's the way I roll. :)

We operate in a way that is, I think, distinctive to the mature part of a successful game's lifespan. All of us already have at least one level 80 character, and we've done most—not all—of the instances and raids available so far. We know how this stuff works. So now we all feel at leisure to take these characters and do exactly what we want with them at exactly the pace we want. Making progress at it, too.

Feels good.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Learning to Fly

Death knights get their own special mounts. I'm really happy with Spiderheart's, as seen here over Shattrath City in the company of guildmate Jaldorn:

Spi and Jaldorn.jpg

Saturday, February 14, 2009

They Love Me In That Tunnel

So I wrote the other day that Spiderheart would soon be exalted with the furbolgs of Timbermaw Hold.


Spi - Timbermaw.jpg

Characters who reach exalted then get a quest to smoke out the demon tormenting High Chief Winterfall. That done, they're asked to carry a message of peaceful intentions to King Magni Bronzebeard of Ironforge. He is pleased:

Spi - Magni.jpg

I don't know as how I'll ever want to do it again, necessarily, but I am very happy indeed to have done it this time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Single-Character Play

Something unexpected has come up in my WoW play since I went on hiatus from <Archon>: I've become more of a single-character than I have ever been before. (There is one category of exception, which I'll write about in another post.) This intrigues me enough that I'm going to write a post about it.

There's an interesting conjunction of factors. I have a character class that I like as much as liked hunters before the current wave of tweakings: the combination of melee and magic, the horror-rich background, the way cool abilities, it's just great. Furthermore, it gave me the chance to bring back a favorite old character in a way that makes complete sense for the world and gives me plenty of roleplaying opportunities whenever I feel like it.

Socially, I have a best-of-both-worlds environment. I have a small guild—six members right now, and it seems unlikely that we'd ever get beyond eight or perhaps ten or so. But I also have a couple channels' worth of overlapping friends, some going back three years and more now in real time, and one of the current incarnations of Earthen Ring's amazingly strong and productive cross-guild not-necessarily-raiding kind-of-an-alliance. For instance: random pick-up groups will not in general be glad to take level 75 tanks to, say, the Halls of Stone. But groups who include people who know me, or just who've seen me around in chat and have a sense of my style, will. And do. (Tanking Halls of Stone at 75 is some tough but fun work, lemme tell ya.)

So there's a combo of factors at work:

Performance. Death knights can do a whole lot, and I like watching Spiderheart in action, and I'm with people willing to help me do my best playing her.

Comfort. I just plain feel safer and more relaxed where I am. I am at, as nearly as I know, no risk of insult or recrimination for advancing faster than anyone else. There's a large continent who are already at 80 and thoroughly entrenched in the existing raiding, so I don't threaten anyone's need to be at the top—I'm not going to be at the top anytime soon, so I don't court a repetition of the emotional trouble that made maxing out Tivara turn so bad. But then people I am advancing with don't feel threatened by my progress in that way, either. They aren't worrying if I get to 75 while their character's at 73, or whatever. They're happy that I'm happy, and when our paths cross, we collaborate.

The biggest single gain for me out of all this is, slightly to my surprise, reputation. Here comes the primer for my non-WoW-playing readers.

Reputation. Once your character makes contact with any member of a faction, they have a reputation with that group. The spectrum runs from Hated, to Hostile, to Unfriendly, to Neutral, to Friendly, to Honored, to Revered, to Exalted. You earn reputation points by performing quests for the faction, and for killing their enemies. The rewards for these range from a single point (for killing trivial enemies) up to thousands (for completing the final steps in long quest chains and killing major bosses). Going up, it takes 3,000 points to go from just barely neutral to friendly status, 6,000 to go from friendly to honored, 12,000 to go from honored to revered, and 21,000 to go from revered to exalted. Going down, it takes 3,000 points to get from neutral to unfriendly, another 3,000 to get from unfriendly to hostile, and 36,000 to max out hostility. (You won't often want to do that, but it can come up.)

Some reputations stand alone: the Argent Dawn doesn't care what others think of a character, and vice versa. Others come in pairs: the Steamwheedle Cartel cares very much what the Bloodsail Buccaneers think of your character, and vice versa, and your character loses as much (or more) rep with one as they gain with the other.

Why bother? Well, several reasons.

First of all, some factions (by no means all) have rewards at various levels. Every one of your faction's base groups gives a price break with rising rep rank. Arms and armor, recipes for different kinds of crafting, consumables like potions and foods with special restorative abilities, even pets (this one's going to be mine for Spiderheart in just a few days) are scattered all through the lists of rep-based rewards. Honored rep with various factions lets you buy keys to get into related dungeons' heroic mode.

Then there are other rewards for some. Notice that in the screenshots below, it's "Ambassador Spiderheart". That's because she has exalted status with all five of the Alliance's core groups: the humans of Stormwind, the dwarves of Ironforge, the elves of Darnassus, the gnomes of the Gnomeregan Exiles, and the draenei of the Exodar. When she's exalted with the furbolg of Timbermaw Hold, the Kalu'ak, and the Sporeggar, she'll have the option of displaying the title "Diplomat Spiderheart" instead.

(Note to my knowledgeable readers: these screenshots were taken early on the 9th, when I started writing this. Now, as I finish it up, it's the morning of the 12th, and I've made progress on several.)

Spi - Rep 1.jpg

Spi - Rep 2.jpg

Rep grinding is just what it sounds like: performing a set of tasks repeatedly. Sometimes it's a daily quest, like the one I wrote about where Spiderheart has to help a confused sea lion bull find his way to true love with an equally perplexed sea lion cow. Sometimes it's a task that can be performed as often as you can get it done; Spiderheart is in the midst of earning the trust of the Timbermaw Hold furbolg by bringing them ceremonial feathers taken from the bodies of enemy tribes' members, with 300 rep for each set of 5 feathers.

Some go fast—it can take just a few days' dedicated effort to get to exalted with a faction like Stormwind or Orgrimmar, because many, many quests give rep with them and a high-level character can recapitulate philogeny, I mean, start with the level 1-10 quests and go from there, and zoom. Some are, by design, slow—I may be at the Wintersaber Trainers one for weeks or months yet.

They all take time, though. And what I'm really liking most, I think, about the single-character play is making all this progress on goals I've always been interested in, but always distracted away from. I have, for instance, never had a character get to revered with Timbermaw Hold before. But Spider has, and exalted isn't that far away. This is fun.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Spiderheart Miscellany, With Tree Moods

Yeah, it's another grab bag.

I've mentioned the kalu'ak several times lately. Here, as a reminder, is what they look like:

Spi - Kaluak.jpg

Part of WoW's success is its wonderful attention to detail. Take, for instance, the kalu'ak method of lighting their roads:

Spi - Fish Light.jpg

What's this? This is all the abominations in Slaughter Square, just outside Baron Rivendare's place, killed in one fell swoop. Admittedly I didn't do it solo; Spider had help from guildmates Linsey (druid, 57), Jaldorn (shaman, 62), and Desix (paladin, 60). Even so, was giddy excessive fun.

Spi - Abominations.jpg

Druids in WoW get to change shape. They learn a growing variety of forms: bear for warrior-like combat, cat for stealth and rogue-like meleeing, a sea lion form for fast swimming, and so on. Restoration-specced druids, the ones who focus on healing talents, get a tree form, in which their healing power is boosted substantially. Here's Linsey as a tree:

Spi - Tree basic.jpg

Originally, tree form didn't offer much scope for animated action. But they've been adding to it. Check out a tree cheering, waving, crying, and sleeping:

Spi - Tree happy.jpg

Spi - tree waving.jpg

Spi - Tree sad.jpg

Spi - Tree sleepy.jpg

And that's all for this time!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sunshine (OK, Torchlight) On My Shoulders

I really, really like the look of the Tundra Pauldrons:

Spi - Shoulders.jpg

This is right about dead center for my tastes in medieval-ish fantasy armoring. It's not realistic. (Of course, neither is night elf physiology, and I make no secret of the fact that I do like playing implausibly thin characters. My escapism, let me share my thoughts.) But it conveys—to me, at least—a dramatic appropriateness. Yes, this is the sort of thing that the peoples of cold, undead-haunted lands should make to defend themselves, and it takes a hero with strength and experience to make good use of what she's taken from her fallen enemies' persons and treasure chambers.

Innovative? Nope. Classic and entertaining? Yup.