Be careful out there

Time for another round of weekly reading goodness:

Offtopic post of the week: the Sports Guys on supporting officially tortured teams. Anyone in Sydney will empathise when I say the North Sydney Bears are my team, and they more than qualify. Sigh.

Every game needs Tauren

A friend recently decided to (re)start a Dungeon & Dragons group (using the Pathfinder ruleset). Having had a fairly lengthy break from roleplaying, it’s refreshing and inspiring to read through the core rulebook and dream up characters and classes. Should I play a straight-up Fighter? Or mix it up with a little Barbarian action? Or maybe stretch out and introduce the religious power of the Paladin or Cleric. Can the basic Fighter class really be balanced when compared to all the extra goodies the other melee roles bring?

Good stuff. But there was one problem: you can’t play a Tauren.

Humans, pah. Half-orcs, elves, halflings, gnomes, zzzz. A dwarven warrior, hmm, maybe. But what I really wanted was a Tauren. Blizzard absolutely nailed it when they designed the mighty hooved ones, creating an iconic and emotionally involving new race. And one that doesn’t have it roots in the brilliant but saturated Tolkein racial templates.

Their homeland of Mulgore is beautiful, and perfectly fits the spiritual and ethical nature of the Tauren philosophy. Rolling plains filled with roaming wildlife and epic sunsets over towering cliffs.  And Thunder Bluff, standing tall in the midst of the plains of Mulgore, is a unique and special place, certainly the most racially ‘right’ city (with the possible exception of Ironforge).

RPing a Tauren is a dream, as it is so easy to bond with the race, with the history, the leaders, and the aesthetic. Creating a toon that has only a Kodo to ride, a prairie dog non-combat pet, and (if you’re a Hunter) Mazzranache as a pet instantly makes you part of the rich Tauren history.

In fact the only thing Blizzard did wrong was remove the fabled Plainsrunning racial from the Tauren, which sounds like it would have been the icing on an already delicious cake.

The Panzercow clearly thinks the same – he’s trying to work out how to make a Tauren Trekkie. Alas for Pathfinder, I guess a Dwarf will have to do. Unless I can convince the GM to let me roll up a Minotaur…

‘It’s very rude of him,’ she said, `To come and spoil the fun!’

Question of the day: do you watch the LK cinematic or not?

On the yea side of the argument, our Guild is so far from actually doing this encounter ingame that it may as well be a different game. By the time we do get there, there’s not going to be anything to spoil, because it will all have been out in the open for months. So why not watch it now, while the buzz is alive.

On the nay side, seeing the Wrathgate cinematic while levelling was epic and great. I didn’t get to it until way after most, but managed to quarantine any advance info or spoilers. The problem is that the Fall of the LK is a much bigger deal, and I can’t imagine it not being common knowledge no matter how hard you try. Kind of like trying to not find out the winner of the Superbowl until you’ve watched it a day later.

Luckily, for now anyway, Blizzard have pulled the video on copyright grounds, so I can ponder a little longer (before giving in!).

For the Hoard

I’ve been running chain instances on my Rogue, starting with normal modes and just now graduating to Heroics. The Icecrown 5 mans drop so much epic stuff in regular mode that Heroics are almost not required. But there is still some gear that is best farmed from Heroics.

And of course the flood of emblems is irresistible. Because Stroeb is just fooling around, I’m not driven or fussed by getting BiS, she’s just looking for enough to hold her own in 5 mans. Which is nice as it means guilt free Heirloom purchases, rather than feeling like it must be spent on Tier gear. I can feel a nice Lava Dredger incoming for my Druid.

One problem I encountered was my woeful DPS. Despite upping my gear, I was still only putting out 1200-1500 deeps. Luckily I was running non-heroics, and all the random groups were encouraging rather than dismissive.

So I went in search of the reason, and found a great post on Slice and Dice on just this topic – how to ramp up your Heroic trash DPS. My main problem was saving all the cooldowns for bosses, and using the EJ boss rotation religiously, rather than being looser on trash, using cooldowns, and adapting the rotation based on what was happening. Good lessons all.

I followed Sam’s advice, and bingo! 2000+ DPS instantly, with the same gear.

In think that the reluctance to use cooldowns, trinkets, and consumables actually goes back to pen and paper role playing. In DnD, you tend to save the good stuff for when you really need it, when you need the GM to give you a break or reward for using a special item. You’re lucky to have a potion in your bag, or a spell to save everyone, so you use it judiciously.

This is as opposed to WoW where there are more or less bottomless pits of food, buffs, and 30 second cooldowns. My bags tend to be full of consumables and my action bars full of cooled down specials, all of which I’m saving for that urgent moment. And it’s not just Warcraft – I have the same hoarding mentality in all single player games.

No more! From now on, it’s use it or lose it. For the HoardHorde!

Kings of Dire Maul

Last weeks’ level 60 Guild run saw us challenge the Ogres of Dire Maul, a 3 wing zone in mid Feralas.

We’ve all turned off our XP, so we’re running vaguely on level and as designed, albeit with all the player buffs and instance nerfs in play. It was fun having to be a little cautious on our pulls, as the big Ogre guards hit like trucks. Not that we never looked like wiping, even on an accidental fear pull, but still.

Dire Maul has one brilliant design feature – the Tribute Run.

The idea is to work your way through the North zone without killing any of the named mobs – completely contrary to instinct. Once you defeat the final boss, hence becoming the King of Dire Maul, each mob you left standing pays loot tribute to their new King – i.e. you!

This means all sorts of neat tricks as you move through the instance. There is a trap you set to freeze one boss in a block of ice, you can craft an Ogre suit mid instance to fool another, we used Seaforium Charges to blow up doors rather than killing bosses for the keys, and stealth to loot keys from chests under the bosses nose. We had to vamoosh out of the instance several times after accidentally agroing a named mob or two (Guard Fengus was particularly tricky to avoid) to keep the Tribute alive.

It’s a great little twist from Blizzard, and definitely worth running if you have a level 60 group available.

There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man

Interesting articles of the week:

And completely /offtopic, a beautifully designed site that captures Movie title screens.

Learning to Tank

I ran my second Oculus ever the other day (it’s truly not as bad as everyone says – as long as at least someone in the party knows what they’re doing) with a 79 Prot Paladin rolling tank. After buffs and a few quick hellos (I decided to always open random dungeons with a hello, and it seems to help set a friendly tone) we started on the first trash mobs.

And almost wiped.

The Pally barely managed to maintain agro on a single mob, let alone the group. And this was on normal mode. He quickly /p’d the group to explain he’d forgotten to put on his tanking gear. Next pull – same thing. This time he chimed in with a “rofl I didn’t have RA up” (Retribution Aura causes holy damage when you’re hit). A few others dropped group, someone new joined, rinse, repeat.

It was clearly a hopeless case, I felt bad for the guy as he was clearly trying to learn, and mentioned he thought this was good practice for when he was MTing for his Guild. I shudder to think how that would go!

So after the group had disbanded to just the two of us, I took the opportunity to give a bit of tank coaching. I don’t know thing one about Pally tanking, but the 101 of tanking is the same no matter what class:

  • Your job is to focus the attention of all the bad guys on you;
  • Your job isn’t to do damage, except as a by-product of keeping that attention;
  • Don’t just target a single mob and stay on it until it dies – you need to tab or click through the mobs to make sure you have their focus, and get it back if not;
  • Get the casters first, especially if they heal;
  • If you’re new to tanking, don’t use random LFD. Pick a dungeon you know, and run that. Learn how to tank with something you’re familiar with so you don’t get surprised;
  • And try to do it with friends first, so you can take your time and not get discouraged.

It may be a bit rich to be dishing out tanking advice when I was playing on my DPS toon due to fear of PUG tanking, but he seemed to appreciate it and the problem here wasn’t bad tanking, it was learning the fundamentals. He was clearly discouraged by everyone dropping, and there was no chance he was going to get any better without some constructive criticism. Hopefully he can find a Paladin mentor, or a really good Pally blog.

You need a safe and encouraging environment to learn, and Warcraft doesn’t really provide that unless you’re grouped with some friends. Or you’re very good at metagaming.

The other side

I’ve unretired my 80 Rogue Stroeb, freed her from Black Tabby stalking to have a crack at random LFD. I’ve never been a pugger, I think mainly because I find the idea of pugging and tanking terrifying and stressful – not exactly what you’re looking for in a game!

Stroeb was my first toon, and played a lot of level 70 endgame content but I haven’t played her at all at 80. I did a quick refresher of the current vogue for Rogues, promptly ignored the max-dps route of Mutliate builds to stick with the familiar Combat Swords, applied poisons and queued up in my quest greens and crafted blues for a normal mode random dungeon.

And quickly realised LFD is indeed great.

The very first random to come up was Trial of the Crusader. I immediately had a sinking feeling – I haven’t ever been here on any toon, have no idea what to do, panic! But then I realised I just needed to /assist the tank, pop Tricks of Trade on them, and away we go. Luckily I had done some jousting with Bane so knew the start of the fight, and the rest followed. Or, I followed the tank.

It was very refreshing to not be leading, to not have to know what comes next, and to not have to worry about picking up straying mobs. On the other hand it was a whole new challenge to remember that it was my job to maximise my DPS whilst managing threat generation, how to dump agro when I mismanaged it, getting my rotation right, managing my own health bars rather than relying on a healer, and realising that I really can’t afford to get hit even once (or, ahem, stand in the purple pools of ultimate damage).

And most interestingly, it made me realise that seeing it from the other side is a great way to learn the new dungeons so that when I was tanking it, I’d know what to expect. I’ve run the (fantastic) new Icecrown 5 mans on normal mode now a few times, and am starting to see what the tank tactics are and feel confident that I could run them with the Guild. Good stuff, and an unexpected bonus result of getting Stroeb back in the swing of things.

Oh and the epic drops don’t hurt either.

Pen & Paper Healers

Our DnD group is rolling up a new party for a fresh campaign, using the Pathfinder rules – euphemistically referred to as Dungeons & Dragons 3.75, as it was created by the disenchanted/disenfranchised writers of the of the official game, which went all MMO with its 4th Ed.

Given the WoW situation, it’s been funny to see that instead of a healer shortage, we’ve had a glut. After a call for a healer to be in the party, three of the five players are duelling over who will be the Cleric, another is a Pally, and yet another is rolling Bard – think Shaman in WoW terms. In other words, all can heal to some degree.

Why? Probably because in a pen & paper RPG you really get to play. Clerics get their power from gods. The gods are part of the world, the Gamemaster lets you interact with them, and you can be as creative as you like about how the powers manifest.

My Dwarf Cleric, for example, draws his powers from the very earth around him. Kneeling down with one fist planted to the earth, he pulls the healing power directly from the ground beneath his feet, and channels the might of the deep bedrock to unleash a devastating shockwave through his undead foes. The ley lines in the earth glow as the godlike power delivered by Torag surges through his chosen follower – me!

Epic stuff, and all from the imagination of the player and GM, not coded into the rules (other than the actual impact of the spell). Plus playing a Healer in DnD can still be largely about hitting stuff, squeezing in some healing and turning undead when the moment comes.

In Warcraft you can roleplay the same kind of thing, but you don’t really get the chance to flesh out a healer with other roles mid fight. Dual spec allows some flexibility, but realistically during a fight you Heal and that’s it. Druids probably come closest to giving the flexibility to make a difference, popping in and out of form to take different roles.

WoW can’t have the same freedom as RL roleplaying, and as a consequence healing isn’t as popular as it could be. If, as Tobold put it, “The most important addons for a healer in heroics are becoming Peggle and Bejeweled”, then something needs to be done to give the Healer role more flexibility during the fighting.

Salty #3

Another week, another valiant attempt. I had a chance to try the Stranglethorn Extravaganza today, managed to hook 31 Speckled Tastyfish before the (Alliance!) winner had their 40. Which is not too bad I guess, given an appalling start where I had bag rage, a pestering croc, and a dancing lure.

I also managed to hook a rare Keefer’s Angelfish, which rewards a very fashionable Lucky Fishing Hat – the new fishing outfit must be helping!

What more can you ask for? Other than 9 more Tastyfish...