Monthly Archives: August 2011

On Preening


I need to remind myself that this is a notebook. Things don’t have to be complete or finished.

I spent time on Durotan tonight, cleaning out my banker’s guild bank, organizing crap. It’s not a bad thing to do, if not terribly interesting. I was trying to stay awake so that I wouldn’t miss a phone call.

The call came in, I was chatting a bit, when I noticed an Ashes flapping around in front of the SW AH. (My normal banking takes place in the Dwarven District, but I moved my banker back to the Trade District because she needed access to the enchanting/inscription trainers.)

I looked at it for a few seconds, noted the similarities to the Dark Phoenix (Ashes of Al’ar is still much nicer looking), then moved on to shuttling some Thick Bronze Necklaces out of the bank and on to the open market. The Trade District has a very different feel from the Dwarven District; busier, with more people rushing about, but also less purposeful. DD is for efficiency. TD is for mingling.

A little while later, I snapped the screenshot of the gnome mage above, AFK on his rated battleground mount wearing T12, his Field Marshall title proudly displayed, goggles on.

Wait a minute. I know goggles, what are those? Is he really wearing Green Tinted Goggles? Wait, no, those aren’t GTG, those are Safety Goggles – that’s a quest reward, looks like it’s another pair of non-engineer goggles.

Wait, the goggles, they’re there for … eye protection? On top of T12? Carefully posed?

AFK preening in front of the AH?

Does it get more cliched than this?

I grinned a little behind the screen and moved on, but I thought about what I’d seen there.

See, I can really respect the effort it takes to get these titles, and these mounts. And the feeling of accomplishment that goes with them is real and valid and the major reason so many people play this game.

But when you AFK in front of the AH, you’re trying too hard. It changes the motivation behind the accomplishment from personal achievement, to seeking the approval of others. Walking around SW with your titles and achievements and mounts is actually different, socially, than picking the highest traffic spot and parking there to let people gawk at them. And while I would extend a “major grats, man!” to someone in the first situation, in the second, I start going… wait, do you really need my approval? Congrats and all that, but you’re being silly. And a little insecure. (It’s okay, we’re all insecure like that.)

I honestly don’t want this to come off like I’m picking on this gnome, or that I’m rabidly jealous and trying to tear him down. I’m not. Well, that’s not true, I probably am a little jealous, I’d like the fancy mount and the RBG experience and be in HM FL, but I also like being married and being a good parent, and for me, right now, these are mutually exclusive propositions. So I’m okay with it, if a little wistful.

But I do think there’s something here, something that I can’t quite let go of yet. It’s … it’s like the achievement point thing. Why is that number important? Why can it be used as a measurement of how “good” a character is, when really it’s a measurement of something very different, and more specific (how good they are at getting achievements). They’re related, but not tied together. Going back and killing Akumai might get you the BFD points, but if you don’t do them at level, they don’t have the same value.

Related: I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with my spouse about mental illnesses, especially anxiety disorders, and involvement in things on the internet. We’ve both seen that a lot of people turn to the internet during periods of mental stress and issues – be it playing a video game, working on a wiki, writing a blog, setting up a website, getting involved in a forum – internet activities can provide a healthy outlet for people with anxiety or depression. It also helps with a lot of PhD students, too. There’s something HUGELY satisfying about working on a wiki page or blog post and being able to complete a task – any task – when you’re depressed. I may have trouble getting out of bed today, but god damnit, I got *something* done. It might have just been leveling JC, but I made progress. I don’t think you need to be depressed, btw, to get that feeling. I got shit done! It might be virtual shit, but the emotions are real.

Sometimes, those small victories are very, very important.

So there are two threads running around my head tonight. Warcraft, and internet stuff in general, allows people to both socially interact in a non-threatening way, as well as provide a set of achievable goals and projects with a solid, reinforcing positive feedback loop.

The other thread is that you can preen in front of the AH and just look… well, you look like you need the approval of other folks.

(I believe this is called stroking the e-peen.)

Why does it matter that we have all the achievements? I say this as someone who struggles with this, mind you – but are the accomplishments meaningful? Were they fun? Or did you do them for the points? And if you did them for the points, why, exactly? Is it for you, or for other people?

I wrestle with this a lot. I’m by no means perfect, or even close. I’d like a higher number. I’d like ALL THE THINGS on Cynwise.

But is that drive for me, or is it to show off to others?

Sobering thought.

I have a feeling that if I look at it too deeply, my desire – for more cheesy points – is really more akin to standing in front of the AH than I might care to admit. That chasing after titles and mounts might make you feel accomplished, but is that for me, or for people’s around you?

I don’t know.

There’s a line here, a line between preening in SW/Org and doing things because they make you feel good (and getting public accolades for them). I don’t know which side I’m even on anymore.

Why do we set the goals we set?

Notebook post. I’m probably going to regret this post in the morning. Night, folks.


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Five Crackpot Theories on why the Tanking Change is a Hotfix and not a Patch

Ghostcrawler has an interesting post up today about some radical changes to threat that are going to be applied in two parts – first as a hotfix this week, and more substantial changes in the next patch.

I don’t have much to say about the change, given that I’ve yet to run a single Cataclysm dungeon, let alone heroics, and that my occasional forays into raiding have been as subs for people who have to leave or are no-shows. My opinion is generally favorable, but I’m by no means versed in the subject matter – therefore, this isn’t about whether it’s a good change or bad.

I do find it highly curious that they’re doing this as a hotfix, though.

Five theories why, some crackpotish, some not. I’ll let you decide.

Theory 1: School starts in the next 1-3 weeks. This move is to recapture players who have been away on break.

This should be pretty self-explanatory, but summer is almost over. It’s been so beastly hot that it’s easy to forget that, but – September is almost here. Dang.

If there’s a lot of players who have stepped away for the summer, making it easier for them to get back into the swing of things (gearing up for Firelands, etc.) will help keep them active and engaged.

Theory 2: Middle of the 3rd Quarter; Blizzard management says sub numbers HAVE to go up in Q3/Q4.

Pretty standard timing theory here. ATVI stock price is down a buck from their earnings call, and $1.40 from the high hit in July (I expect there was some selloff with insider knowledge there) DESPITE having posted solid numbers. My personal opinion is that the PR issue of subs leaving WoW is actually bigger than the financial one, but I could see management stepping in and saying that you need to fix the product to prevent it from being an issue again.

Given that there are only 6 weeks left in Q3, coupled with theory 1 above, there isn’t time for long patch cycles.

Theory 3: LFD is too brutal.

I think there’s a lot of focus on the heroic dungeon finder at Blizzard, as it’s something a lot of endgame players do (even moreso than raiding.) Fixing the tank shortage and making it fun for everyone affects a lot of the player base – not just tanks, but DPS and healers, too.

If done well, removing threat as an issue benefits everyone. DPS as a group don’t have to worry about throttling. DPS without aggro dumps don’t have to worry about substantially outgearing the tank. Tanks don’t have to worry about overzealous DPS. Healers don’t have to try to save DPS who screwed up on threat.

If done poorly, then it’s like nothing has really changed.

Theory 4: This was planned cover for another gaming industry announcement.

Blizzard’s PR department keeps tabs on the industry, and there was an EA press conference today. Some pretty substantial stuff got announced – more SW:TOR demos, ME3 trailers, a new MMO, FIFA 2012, lots of stuff.

Blizzard had two things in the can to keep WoW players focused on WoW today – RealID cross-server grouping to remain free, and massive tanking changes.

Guess what the WoW community is talking about today?

Theory 5: This is an easy change to make via hotfix, and gets them feedback NOW that they can’t simulate in the PTR.

The only change actually being made via hotfix is:

The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.

This is a relatively simple change – you’re adjusting the threat modifier on 4 abilities, nothing more. The Vengeance changes are more complicated, and may require reworking of several abilities. Blizzard wants the changes to go in quickly, both to make an impact (perhaps for the other reasons stated above), but also to start gathering real data about how it affects the LFD.

I suspect LFD testing is somewhat flawed in the PTR. I don’t have any evidence to really prove this, but I can imagine that the social changes they’re trying to effect are limited by the small, self-selected sample size of PTR testers.Notice how GC asks for feedback eleventy-million times in his post? They want to see what happens. This is the direction they want to go in, may as well start easy and see how it works out.

Okay, those are my theories about why this is a hotfix and not a patch – how about yours?


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On Titles, Character Uniqueness, and the Collecting Instinct


Ashwalker, my level 70 warrior twink, became “Ashwalker the Argent Champion” tonight. I’m pretty happy with this, because it was in WPL/EPL where I clicked with Ash, where I did every single quest I could find, where her character started to take shape.

Even though this is a title from Wrath of the Lich King, it isn’t the hardest title to get, especially not if you do all the quests in the Plaguelands first. You’ll be in good shape both with the Argent Dawn and the Argent Crusade – Revered with the Dawn and Honored with the Crusade – which can then be finished off with some repeatable quests or commendation turnins. It took about 2 hours of play time to knock it all out once I decided I was going to do it this weekend – that’s after the questing, of course.

The most heavily revamped zones in Cataclysm that I’ve done all share one strong characteristic – they tend to tell a linear story centered entirely upon your character, and that story becomes definitional for your character. There’s not really a lot of good ways to repeat the zone and have the story feel that much different – the zones define a character. I talked about this a little while ago in Replay Value, and I haven’t seen a lot that has changed my mind. If you take the story of a zone seriously – by saying yes, these things are actually happening to my character, they are affecting him or her, they matter – then they won’t really work well when you run through them on an alt.

Interestingly, the zones that came to define Ashwalker were WPL, EPL, and Swamp of Sorrows. Those are the zones she quested solidly in, where she saw the story through to the end (despite quests turning green and gray) and where she didn’t skip out all the time for PvP or LFD. (This is also why she never ran Stratholme at level.)


I wouldn’t have expected those zones, which are either very heavily anti-Scourge (Plaguelands) or Alliance-Horde conflict (Swamp of Sorrows), to feature so prominently in my night elf warrior’s life. I thought she’d take more to Ashenvale (which didn’t click at all) or Duskwood/STV (which were okay, but didn’t compel me to finish.)

I thought about getting Ash the Argent Champion title at level 49, when I froze her XP the first time. I knew it was possible. But I didn’t, because – at the time – I was adamant that I was going to break out of the cycle which kept me from getting to the endgame with characters, and that I was really only going to lock XP until I’d gotten comfortable with all the new keybinds, get my UI straightened out, and then move on. (I also considered Ambassador.) So, I gave up on that idea and went back to leveling, which was still fun – I enjoyed SoS more than I thought I would – but eventually the call of Alterac Valley and endless Ramps runs proved too much to resist.

Cynwise has the Argent Champion title, too, but she rarely wears it. She has a lot of titles, but often runs around with the simple “of Stormwind,” “Crusader” (for ICC), “Chef” and “Salty,” because they’re ridiculous and I love them. They don’t define her, they’re kind of tacked on. I could show up without a title and be just fine. Cynwise kind of exists without a title, which is interesting. The titles I’d use for her (Colonel) doesn’t exist in game – it was deliberately chosen to be outside the Alliance ranks to indicate that she was a different branch of the armed services – in this case, a mercenary – yet to still indicate that she was the highest rank while still being allowed to be out in the field. ‘wise is a rich character, and I don’t think I need to have the title to remind me of that though.

Cynderblock, on the other hand, is Ambassador Cynderblock, and she’s going to hold that title for a long time, no matter what else I get on her. That title means something to me, it holds importance that no level of nerfing will ever reduce. I had a huge amount of fun getting that title. I spent time with friends who are moving on from WoW working on it. It’s the signifier of a good memory, and even Explorer or of the Alliance won’t replace it for long.

Different approaches to characterization are a good thing. I find Poetry’s take on the matter really interesting – instead of trying to collect titles and mounts, pick a single title that fits the character concept and go with just that one. Instead of getting 30 mounts, figure out the right flying and ground mount for the character and just use them. If it doesn’t fit the character concept or look and feel, skip it.

I find this interesting because in many ways it smartly anticipates what I’m figuring out as I fumble my way through getting titles on my alts – namely, that titles need to fit, to make a character unique, or they aren’t really all that important. Argent Champion matters to Ash, not because it was terribly hard, but because it’s an external signifier for something which was important and unique to me, that she and I had a blast questing through the Plaguelands together.


At the same time, there’s a definite tension between this idea of character uniqueness and my desire to collect everything, which I indulge on more than just Cynwise. Cynwise is my mount and pet collector, in as much as I collect them, but I collect all kinds of lowbie gear on Cynderblock, pretty dresses on my blood elf priestess and human rogue, gadgets on Cynwulf – I collect things. And I feel the pressure to get achievements, and the pets, and all the things.

Vidyala talked a lot about this pressure to reacquire all the achievements when she switched mains, and I really feel it too. Whatever I’m playing right now, I want them to be awesome, and that includes those cheesy points. And mounts. And pets. And 50 suits of armor – for screenshots, I guess, because I don’t even play on an RP realm. Why the heck do I feel these are necessary? I don’t know, but I do.

Sometimes, chasing achievements can be really neat. I know I’m out of the worldwide running for achievement points on Cynderblock (you need about 2500 to be considered truly serious, she has like… 1100?), but getting some achievements on her can really be satisfying. Killing the Whale Shark – which no, Cynwise doesn’t even have – was a pretty neat experience, even if I didn’t kill it per se – c’mon, level 19 warriors just don’t have the tools to solo it. It’s nice having that achievement to point to and say, don’t talk to me about limits, I’m a scrub and if I can kill the Whale Shark at 19, you can do just about anything. But again, it’s a fond memory.

But other times, I wonder – am I chasing these things on Cynwise so that I can have a higher “score”? So that the number that appears next to her name is bigger? Why should I go back and run all those dungeons I missed while leveling? It’s not like BFD is going to give me any phat lewt; it’s just checking a box on the way to Classic Dungeoneer.

She’s already about as unique a character as I can make. She’s more than the sum of her mount collection or achievement points.

Yet, I still feel compelled to push onward, collect everything I can on her.

There are two very different viewpoints being expressed here. On the one side there’s uniqueness, even if expressed via commonly-accessible items. A character is a character, this is who they are, they aren’t all things to all people.

On the other side, there’s the character as a respresentation of ourselves, of our sum accomplishments in game. Tension happens when we invest ourselves in a character like this, but also great things can happen with deep investment.

I’m glad I got Ashwalker the Argent Champion title. It’s fitting, somehow. I would consider getting her the Argent Tournament mounts, as well, but I don’t think that’s possible at level 70. So I am still searching for just the right mount (she’s using the Celestial Steed in the meantime.) I don’t feel compelled to get her any other titles right now.

But it leaves me wondering about all the titles I’ve collected on Cynwise, and who she is, really.


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On Trying To Figure Out What The Heck To Roll Next


After watching mages in the level 70 bracket, I’m kinda torn about what I want to do next.

On the one hand, still having a lot of fun on Ashwalker.

On the other hand, she’s fun but I’m at the point of grinding out things (professions, etc) on her, and that’s kinda boring. If 70 is her final cap (which I haven’t decided yet), then there’s a lot of things to do – but I’ve got the itch to level other characters now, too.

Damnit, itches!

I bring up mages because I don’t have one, and that’s kinda weird given how good I am at playing one at low levels. My first twink was a mage twink (and I loved her) – but I ended up deleting her. I had a level 10 mage, she was an awesome twink – but I deleted her, too. 

And Mages look like they’re awesome fun at level 70. I believe the kids these days call them “OP,” which I think means ohmygoodness pewpew or something like that.

I kinda want a mage. But I don’t know what to roll. Or even if I should roll, or if I should resurrect one of my deleted twinks and start off with some HKs and achievements, if nothing else.

So I’m sitting here, trying to figure out what to roll, or if I want to roll, and I start making a chart in my notebook (above). Who do I have right now? What are my preferences, really? What do I really want to roll?

See, Dechion had a neat post up about racial preferences this morning that got me thinking. Do I prefer a given race, or not? I have a lot of Humans, and now I have a little cluster of night elves – what happened to all the gnomes and draenei? What about Horde? I’ve only really played two races with any seriousness – tauren and blood elf – what would I like to roll, if given the chance?

Maybe if I look at what I’ve got, I can figure this out.

Looking at the toons I’ve managed to get above 50 and not delete, I’ve got 5 alliance and 1 horde toon. That’s not a lot of red team coverage, is it. If I was going to level to see new things, leveling Hordeside probably is a good idea. But then there are server issues, heirloom issues, and getting lost going everywhere issues. I could do it without heirlooms or gold, but… I mean I have 20k gold sitting on an empty Horde server. I should probably use it for more than vanity outfits for my level 54 priestess.

So I started scribbling notes. What don’t I use? What don’t I roll, class and race wise, that maybe I should? 

Then I hit upon a field that I wasn’t sure I should include: PURPOSE. Yikes. Why does this character exist? What’s their primary purpose? WHY DO I NEED YOU?

For Cynwise, she’s the one I want to experience the endgame with. Cynwulf? Let’s be frank, he’s a gathering toon right now. My druid is also a gatherer, but could be a PvP twink. (I think it would be better to relearn the class from the ground up, though.) Ash? PvP twink for 70 for now, maybe leveling up to 85 for professions? Cynderblock? 19 twink.

I’m struck by how hard it can be to say, this is your primary purpose, toon. You exist so I can do X with you. If two things can do X, that’s wasted effort. 

Then there are professions, the last refuge of a leveled character! If you’re not going to be my endgame character, maybe you can provide me with a maxed profession!

Except… I think I’d rather keep people at level 70 to PvP right now, and that only gets you to 450 professions. Man. 😦

Okay, races, maybe I can make some headway with races! What would I like to play? Well, it all depends. The more I look over the list the more I want to change it. Should I try for maximum spread of races? (If so, I should race change my druid.) Or should I say, you know, I really like playing humans, what’s wrong with rolling another 4 or 5? 

This is actually relevant to the Mage discussion, because if I am okay with a human or spacegoat, I should just get a GM to undelete the toon and save myself a few hours of work.


Do other people go through this when deciding how to scratch the alt itch? I’ve done it both ways – sometimes I sketch out what I have (like here), sometimes I just load up the character selection screen and see what I end up making. 

Man, I hate trying to figure out what to roll next.


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Five Things My Main Snarks About Hellfire Pennisula

Cynwise, fill us in on everyone’s favorite DK training ground, will you?

  1. “Okay, listen. I’m not saying that walls have to be your highest priority when the ground itself isn’t entirely solid. But Honor Hold, seriously – look across the way. The Horde have managed to keep their walls together. We have unemployment in Westfall. You have holes in your walls you can fly a dragon through (trust me, I’ve done it.) Here’s a Stormwind Labor Requisition Form. You can connect these dots, right?”
  2. “Sure am glad my Factor sent me out here for that Runed Adamantine Rod reicpe, always nice to come back to sunny Hellfire WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S BIND ON PICKUP!”
  3. “Wow, there sure is a lot of pork on the menu here. Do you have a pig problem or something?”
  4. “Explain to me again the strategic importance of the Stadium. Uhhuh. Okay. Right. You realize that what you said made no sense, right? Are you planning on holding a game there soon? No? Okay, then it’s just an empty stadium.”

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Five Things My Main Snarks About Arathi Highlands

  1. Really, Princess Myzrael? You were trapped in there by giants and now you want to be freed? You think I free captured Princesses every day? You are going to pay me for setting you free, right? I didn’t think so.
  2. Listen, you dumb Great Plains Creepers; I’m here for your Spider’s Silk. I have sisters who need your silk for … boots. And capes. We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Drop. Your. Silk.
  3. League of Arathor! I have a personal question for you. You have like 350 people wandering around in a … gully, for lack of a better term. But there are like 2 tents. Where does everyone sleep?
  4. Hey, Prince Nazjak! Thanks for dropping that sweet Tidal Charm, it was my first trinket, like, ever. Pity I had no idea how to use it. Dumb trinket.
  5. Stromgarde! Oh, you mighty fortress! I hope you don’t mind that I took that Mageweave Bandage recipe and sold the rights to it on the open market. Now, everyone can learn it, and I’m rich. Good luck getting your fortress back!


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On The Forsaken


Those of you who’ve read my fiction pieces on CBM (especially Homecoming) know that my main character has issues with the Scourge and the Forsaken. Cynwise’s issues with the Forsaken are less poltical and more personal than simply that they’re the bad guys of the Horde; Homecoming gives a personal reason to hate, but her disgust stems from many of the events she went through in Wrath; the Wrathgate, the Battle for Undercity, and fighting in ICC. She doesn’t see a lot of difference between the Scourge and the Forsaken, and she’s pretty much in support of any campaign to rid the world of either or both of them. (She and Greymane would get on fabulously together.)

That’s my main character, though – not me, Cyn. While much of my own attitues are reflected in her behavior, I’ve struggled to keep separation between player and character. I’m not a mercenary in real life (though I tend to be somewhat nonemotional in business transactions.) I switch between factions without compunction, though I am more familiar with playing Alliance, I don’t look at them as a morally superior choice. There’s the Blue team and the Red team, the game is designed so that they look to be about equivalent as faction choices, play what you like.

But in this case, I share Cynwise’s very real dislike for the Forsaken.

It all started with Cynderblock, the Ambassador, and over 10 years of playing Vampire: the Masquerade.


For a while, ‘block was a Tauren Warrior, a sweet-faced cowgirl who enjoyed bashing in the heads of the enemies of the Horde. I enjoyed being a Tauren, to be honest; there’s a certain moral simplicity to the race, simplicity coupled with depth. I found it easy to flow along with the stories of Mulgore and the Barrens, Eversong and Ghostlands.

But it was in Undercity that Cynderblock met Theresa, the mindslave.

That’s how she appears in game: <Gerald’s Mindslave>. I watched her go back and forth between Gerald and Lazarus, Gerald prattling on about how he was able to completely enslave this woman to his will, to break her spirit and leave her completely dominated. Torture, invasive surgery (while she was awake), alchemy – all in the name of utterly possessing someone.

I watched Theresa go through her eternal motions, and let the impact of what I was feeling wash over me. It’s not just that the Forsaken keep living, sentient creatures caged to experiment upon, or enslave them – it’s that they were willing to go further than mere slavery. They are willing to completely destroy someone’s free will, to leave them aware of what has been done, screaming silently in horror through the end of her days, but unable to change any part of it.

I watched Theresa pace back and forth. Mere feet from the throne room, captives wailed as the RAS continued their experiments. Back. Forth. Slavery, unending. Complete domination of free will.

It was then that my peaceful Tauren knew the rage of the Brujah. If she could have, she would have assaulted Gerald right there. She would have stopped at nothing to tear down the Forsaken, allies of the Horde or no.


The Brujah are one of the original 13 clans of Vampire: the Masquerade, a game I started playing in 1994. I played the LARP version – Mind’s Eye Theater – with over 100 people in a large, independent game which ran for more than 10 years (and is probably still running, in a smaller format.) And I played a Brujah.

The Brujah are a study in contradictions. They were originally the scholars, the intellectuals, the rational and logical thinkers – but due to their curse, as their bloodline thinned they turned into the brutes, the thugs, the anarchists. Their particular weakness is anger – overwhelming anger, barely contained at times by the most placid elder, often left unchecked by the young.

But no matter if they are old or young, the Brujah prize freedom above all else – sometimes to the point of absurdity. Intellectual freedom, freedom of action, freedom of expression – freedom is essential to understanding the Brujah ethos. The Brujah are often misguided, easily led astray, and deeply flawed – but their hearts burn with the idea of Freedom.

The Brujah are one of many clans in V:tM, where the central tenet of the game is monsters we are, lest monsters we become. You do bad things to prevent worse things from happening. You have to go out and feed, and you try to feed in such a way so that you don’t freak out and slaughter a shopping mall – and blow everyone’s cover. Vampire is a horror RPG, not fantasy, and the central struggle is always between your character’s humanity and the Beast, of resisting the base urges of your condition. The more powerful you become, the harder it is to hold on to your humanity, and later, even your sanity.

This is the backdrop with which I view the Forsaken; not just through the eyes of the Tauren, or citizens of Stormwind, but rather through the eyes of Vampire. The horror of undeath is magnified by retaining free will and memories of your life. You are you, but you are this rotting, undead … thing, cursed for eternity. How do you deal with it? How do you spend the long nights, stretching through the years? Is it a curse, or a blessing?

Because WoW is a fantasy RPG, not horror, the concept of the Beast Within isn’t part of the Forsaken, either through lore or through game mechanics. Generally speaking there’s not a spiral towards evil that all Forsaken characters have to fight against, if they choose not to.

In the absence of a mechanics-mandated ravening beast of the psyche, I have to assume that the Forsaken are normal people, in full possession of their faculties, confronted with a horrific situation and trying to make the best of it.

So far, this sounds like a great place to start role playing, to be honest.

But it also provides no excuses for the behavior of the Forsaken we witness. There is no moral excuse of Blood Frenzy to explain why you killed your family. There is no special justification for inhuman acts; just a terrifying void of the horror of what you’ve become, and of acting in fear of what might be done to you in return.

I’ve played other clans in Vampire – you should see me play a Ventrue, for reals – but I’ve played that same Brujah, in some form or another, since I started the game in 1994. I’ve had a lot of time to play through that struggle with the Beast, of what it means to be free but also a productive member of Vampire society, of staying strong against those who hate and fear you and not giving in.

And it was with the righteous fury of the Brujah that my Tauren wanted to tear the bricks of the Undercity apart.



Let’s talk about freedom and the Forsaken for a bit.

The Forsaken were born out of the dead humans of Lordaeron who were raised by they Lich King to serve in the armies of the Scourge. When Illidan assaulted Northrend, the Lich King’s control over his distant armies weakend, allowing many of them to regain their free will. The Lich King sent Dreadlords to take command of the newly-freed masses of undead, but they rallied under the leadership of Sylvanas and secured their liberty.

The newly-christened Forsaken remembered what they’d done in life, and what they’d done as mindless automatons of the Scourge. Every horror they’d inflicted was theirs to bear, and the realization drove many mad.

But those who survived, sane, were the first generation of Forsaken. As a race, they tend to be fanatically devoted to their Queen and an equally fanatic desire to kill the Lich King. They had their freedom, and they would fight for their right to exist – no matter who tried to kill them, no matter what methods they had to employ, they would remain free.

Cynderblock looked at the slave pens of the Undercity, the experimental cages, the mindslave Theresa – and she saw dead humans who saw no problems with inflicting the exact same cruelties upon others as were inflicted upon them. In the name of their right to exist as free, sentient beings, they would take away that right from other living creatures. And not just take it away by killing them – they would take it away by enslaving them.

There is a difference between killing someone and enslaving them. There is a difference between degrading someone and treating them with respect. There is a difference between fighting to protect yourself and your ideals and fighting to exterminate all life.

On every single one of these moral boundries, the first generation Forsaken saw no difference. The hate, the rage, the fear of being exterminated – all of the past atrocities commited to the people of Lordaeron by the Scourge and Scarlet Crusade would be used to justify the unjustifable. Genocide was acceptable because their neighbors wanted to kill them – better develop a Plauge to be used against their allies. Physical enslavement of the living is acceptable because it furthered their genocidal research. The living are subhumans, to be experimented upon without hesitation.

Back and forth walks Theresa, a living condemnation of every value of freedom the Forsaken could hope to espouse.

Questing through the Forsaken areas in Wrath, it struck me that they wanted to kill the living not to be left alone, but at best for breathing room – and at worse simply for the joy of homicide.

I remember watching the Wrathgate for the first time, in shock at Putress.

Did you think we had forgotten? Did you think we had forgiven? Behold, now, the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken! Death to the Scourge! And death to the living!

Here, the aims of the Forsaken are made plain. Sylvanas would have likely been more patient, focusing on the Lich King, knowing that the Horde made useful allies against the Alliance – but while her timing was more paitent, her goals were the same as Putress’s.

Use the New Plague against the living.

Wipe them all out.

Freedom? The Forsaken aren’t fighting for freedom. They’re fighting for revenge, and they don’t care if you had anything at all to do with their current position. They will kill every living being they can, out of hate and anger. Responsibility doesn’t matter. The innocent will eventually be guilty, so they should die.

That was Wrath, though.

Maybe Cataclysm changed things up a bit.


The genesis of this post had nothing to do with some sort of deep-seated grudge against the Forsaken. It had to do with me rolling an alt on Drenden to check out the guild of some Twitter friends of mine. I don’t have a lot of Horde alts, so I figured I’d roll one, maybe move some heirlooms over if it looked like a good place to level.

I was staring at the screen, trying to decide what to roll, when I thought to myself – I should do something I don’t normally do, something new, something I have had trouble with in the past.

So I rolled a blood elf paladin.

(Wait, what?)

At the time, I thought this was a good idea – I’ve struggled with Pallies for ages – but then I realized that I’ve done this before, and the last thing I need is another blood elf paly.

So I deleted her, thought some more, then realized I could roll a Forsaken.

See, the guild I was checking out is also the home of Rades, of Orcish Army Knife fame, who is a known advocate of the Forsaken. He finds them interesting, and challenging, he enjoys their lore, and finds depth in their stories. Surely, with someone like Rades around, I’d have a good chance of at least tolerating the Forsaken?  Maybe finding out what it is that makes them SO popular (and make no mistake, they are very popular.)

So I rolled Cynwise, a Forsaken Warlock, shuddered at my shilouette on the screen, and started questing.


It was in Trisifal that I met two people who really helped me understand the Forsaken: Lilian Voss, and the Dark Queen.

The second generation of Forsaken are being raised by the Lich King’s Val’kyr under Sylvanas’ command. I’m going to point you over to Rades’ site for more on this, where he’s covered this in amazing amounts of detail, including a great conspiracy post which rings far too true. But, suffice to say, Sylvanas has now taken on the role of the Lich King, bringing people back from the dead to serve in her army. Like the original Forsaken, they have free will and their full mental abilities (with some exceptions), but unlike the first generation, they’ve not been slaves to the Scourge. The horror of that experience is gone, replaced by… what, exactly?

One of your first quests as a Forsaken ask you to talk to three recently awakened folks: Valdred Moray, Marshall Redpath, and Lilian Voss. Valdred reluctantly joins the Forsaken, Redpath leads an assault against them, and Lilian Voss runs away in horror.

Those are pretty much the three responses you can have – if you don’t go mad or suicide right away – flee, fight, or accept your fate.

As a PC, I found it interesting that you’d already accepted that you were going to join the Dark Lady. Listen to your conversation with Lilian – you’re calm and reasonable about being undead, while she’s freaking out. Who were you in your previous life that you can be so calm about your current situation?

You’re already one of the Forsaken, that’s who you are.

But why?

Every few quests, I listened to someone tell me about the Dark Lady in reverential tones. But who is she to me, the newly-risen dead? She’s some lady, some figure. If I died before the fall of Lordaeron, I wouldn’t know Sylvanas Windrunner from a hole in my head. If I died afterwards, I’d probably not trust her one bit – so why should I revere her?

The first generation Forsaken – I get the reverence. If nothing else, you can sit there and say, I was there, she fought for me.

But now, she’s the one who has done this to me – ripped me back from whatever resting place I had, into a shambling, decaying body. All to serve her.

The very lady who led the Forsaken out of bondage has no compunctions about putting others into it, should it suit her needs.

And her needs right now are a really, really big army.

The statue of the Dark Lady in Brill really made it all click for me.

The Forsaken is a cult of personality directed towards Sylvanas Windrunner.

I look at that big statue, and think about Max Weber’s writings on charismatic authority. About how the power of the state derives from the image of a single indivudal, giving a totalitarian regime legitimacy and focus, of assigning all that goes right to the heroic leader, and all that goes wrong to the enemies of the state.

Forsaken really love their Dark Queen. I don’t think I’m talking just about the characters, either – one characteristic about players who really like the Forsaken like the character of Sylvanas. And there’s a lot to like, in all seriousness! She’s ruthless, strong, interesting, fighting for her people’s place in the world. I think it bothers some people that she’s basically turned into the Lich King in Cataclysm with her current methods, but in other cases that’s turned into a positive, not a negative.

I looked up at that statue, and I realized what I’d seen over the last 10 levels; a systematic campaign to get me to adopt the Dark Queen as my savior and leader. Are you worthy to serve the Dark Lady? Deathguard Shimmer asks me. Dark Lady watch over you. Will you serve the Dark Lady, Lilian? Will you serve the Dark Lady, Cynwise?

The RP potential of a cult of personality is really, really big. The storylines it opens up, the twisted motivations it introduces in people – it’s good, meaty stuff.

But when I sit down to make a character, I’m wondering why I should go along with this. The notes ring hollow and false. I find myself more in agreement with Lilian Voss – who are you people, why are you doing this, the Dark Who?, OMG GROSS WHAT IS THAT  THING – than I do with Valdred, who accepts that hey, he’s got new hands, so it can’t be all that bad.

Quest after quest, I’m told to do something that I might not have done as a human, but that the Dark Lady’s will is that I do these things. I’m a monster now, so it’s okay. If I want favor with the Dark Lady, I will do these things.

The combination of being raised by Sylvanas to serve her, and then seeing the indoctination techniques used by the Forsaken to encourage her worship, is one of the biggest problems I have with the Forsaken post-Cataclysm.


The alienization of humans by the Forsaken is really interesting to observe. Watch the languge that the Forsaken use to describe humans, and you’ll see phrases in use to (for lack of a better term) dehumanize them. “Humans are notoriously fickle creatures,” says Deathguard Shimmer on a quest where he tells you to go kill 10 farmers – because someone might come along and recruit them.

Humans are not aliens to Forsaken. No matter how the Forsaken spin it, they are mentally and spiritually still humans (or elves). That’s the horror of their situation.

This mental disassociation with their past is really interesting, and certainly at the root of their capacity for cruelty to the living. In Vampire, mortals were known as kine, a flock of animals to be fed upon. The effect of the food chain dehumanized mortal humanity in that game, moreso than the super powers granted to the Kindred.

Forsaken have none of those advantages, nor do they assume a different place in the food chain because of their condition. They are not zombies, driven to eat braaaaains. They don’t have to eat people or drink their blood to stay moving. (What do they eat, anyways?)

No, the dehumanization of their past selves is both a coping mechanism, and a societal norm to justify the hypocricy of the Forsaken movement. We must kill everyone around us, because they might turn against us. Someday.

We must develop a plague not only to kill the Scarlet Crusade, but to kill every single living thing.

Only then will we be safe.


Dark Lady, watch over me.

The near-religious reverence with which the Forsaken treat their Queen is astonishing. For people who are supposedly less emotional than their living counterparts, the Forsaken display a great deal of emotion towards her – and towards the Scourge.

The Forsaken are a bundle of contradictions; the living dead, the religious scientists, the freed slave who chooses to return to slavery.

I know why I don’t like them as a player, now. I don’t like someone who is freed from bondage turning around and enslaving people. I don’t like someone who is hurt lashing out and inflicting the same pain on other people. Saying “X did Y to me, so I am justified in doing Y to Z” makes no sense, but it is the core of the Forsaken movement.

I look at the Forsaken, and go: you were free, and you choose to enslave others. You were free, and yet you choose to return to bondage.

Why don’t I like the Forsaken? Because they turn freedom into a mockery of itself.

They may be the most interesting race in the game right now – I think they definitely have more going on than most of the Alliance races – and that if you find the dichotomy of a Forsaken interesting, then you can have a great time playing one.

But they offend this old Brujah.


After writing all this – and staying true to the CFN ethos, there will be no editing, no going back, no wondering if I should post this or not, damn the torpedoes – I am left in a quandry.

I think the best leveling in the Forsaken zones is yet to come. I have actually enjoyed my time leveling in Trisifal, and fully intend to hit Silverpine and Hillsbrad on the Forsaken Cynwise, so I can see it firsthand, with my warlock’s hunched shoulders and creepy gait. (Too many PvP instincts to suppress.)

None of this, none at all, should be a condemnation of your desire to play a Forsaken. I honestly think they’re an interesting race, and in choosing to play them I don’t somehow think you’re an evil person, or into bondage, or anything like that. I play a warlock, but I sincerely hope people don’t think that’s a reflection on me as a person – same thing holds for the Forsaken.

But I don’t like the Forsaken. I really don’t. I don’t have sympathy for them as a faction, and I have little sympathy for the followers of the Dark Lady. They are choosing their own dark path, and dragging the Horde down with them.

Time will tell if Silverpine and Hillsbrad’s story lines change my opinion on the Forsaken.


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

On the Heirloom Conundrum


I’m starting to think that Heirlooms cause more problems than they solve. Or, more correctly, the current implementation of them causes problems.

Above is my banker’s bank on Durotan. These are the heirlooms I have which aren’t currently in use on that server. That’s 27 heirlooms, just sitting around, because I’m not leveling a character of a certain type on my main server. My druid, death knight, and two warriors also have heirlooms on D’tan. If I hadn’t lost my caster leather set, there would be even more.

My secondary “red team” server, Medivh, has another set of heirlooms, sent over when my blood Priestess transfered over there to hang out with folks when my friends went looking for another server to roll Horde upon. But that was before guild heirlooms (helm and cloak) were available, so they’re not complete sets. And, I’m also rolling both Alliance and Horde on that server to hang with different folks, so the whole “red team” thing isn’t really working out.

I’m also rolling alts on other servers, just to check them out.

Yet that bank of unused heirlooms weighs on my mind.

Heirlooms serve two primary purposes, right?

  • Accelerated leveling
  • Competitive PvP through level 69

Like most folks, I wrestle with both of these purposes.

My priestess leveled primarily through healing dungeons without the XP boost heirlooms, but with the trinkets and staff, for a few reasons. The cloth heirlooms lack Spirit, and the blue gear I was getting in dungeons seemed to consistenly outperform the Tattered Dreadmist set for stats. I enjoyed the changing look, of finding outfits which were both interesting and potent.

The trinkets and DHC (with +22 Intellect), though, consistently outperformed everything I found. And they made me a more powerful healer, more effective, more able to put up with the rush of Troll Bears and Tauren Pallys who rushed through the LFD in the early days of 4.0.1.

In PvP, though, which pretty much every toon I roll partakes in at one time or another, the Stamina-laden cloth heirlooms shine. Yes, I had mana problems during serious fights, but I also was better able to handle attacks when I inevitably got focus fired.

The gap between heirlooms and regular gear diminshes 1) the higher you level, and 2) the more you run dungeons/quest smartly. I have to remember the jerk mage I saw in 65-69 AB only had the weapon and trinket heirlooms, nothing else, and he pwned the place. By the time you hit 70, I’m of the firm opinion that only the PvP shoulders should even be considered – everything else needs to have Resilience.

(But then again, I’m a PvP gear snob when it comes to gearing my own toons.)

So here’s the heirloom conundrum: they’re a benefit tied to your account, but also tied to a single server. They’re optional benefits, to be sure – and how necessary they are depends entirely upon your feelings towards them, your goals with your characters, and your playstyle.

Someone asked me once on a video how long it took me to grind out the BoAs I had on Cynderblock, and those calculations made me shudder. To think about how much time I invested in getting 45 or so for everyone? Yikes.

But that time is an investment, or you feel that it is, and so there’s a sense of, hey, I should be able to use these on my entire account, not just on a single server. The lack of cross-server mailing leaves you wondering about whether the time spent was worth it. I find myself going, don’t be an idiot, Cyn, level all your toons on Durotan where the heirlooms are. Why pay $25 dollars to move heirlooms from server to server?

Then the other part of me goes, because time is money, and if I’m really going to level a character, I don’t want to waste time. And Durotan-H is really quiet for me, and there are other guilds I enjoy poking in on, even if I’m just there for the green chat.

Then the cynical part of me says: there is no direct economic incentive for Blizzard to implement cross-server heirloom transfers, and the indirect incentive – general customer satisfaction – will likely not overcome the non-trivial revenue stream Blizzard gets from character transfers just to move digital items around.

If there are multiple reasons why the status quo should be maintained (difficult to implement technology that would erase a revenue stream that doesn’t require further investment, i.e. pure profit/recoup of development spend), and very nebulous reasons why it should be changed (“because it would be nice” is valid, but difficult to quantify), I don’t get my hopes up that things will change any time soon. That’s okay, I guess. I may not like it much, but at least I can get it.

I don’t want this to come off like I’m whining about the lack of cross-server mailing. Oh no, I have a lot of heirlooms and can’t send them to other servers to play with friends at a moment’s notice, boo hoo! I realize how it can sound.

But I really think it’s interesting to take a legitimate customer complaint – if these are bound to my account, why can’t I send them between servers? – and go, wait, what would happen if we had no heirlooms at all anymore?

What if the XP bonus was independent of gear – perhaps it was an XP option that you could unlock after a certain amount of reputation or VP/CP or something – so that after you’d gotten to the endgame once, or twice, or three times, you could visit an Experience Accelerator, pay 10g, and get the XP bonus without the uber gear? Maybe the more toons you got to level cap, the bigger your potential XP bonus you could unlock on all your toons?

Suddenly, you’d have three options – play with fast XP, normal XP, or XP off. You’d still have to go out and get the same gear everyone else has while leveing, but that allows you to experience the gear progression part of the game, which does get lost when playing with heirlooms. Battlegrounds even out early on, too, since the disparity of a character leveling with BoAs versus quest gear would vanish. Twinks would move to non-binding white gear – Psynister’s Hand Me Downs – but that would be far less prevalent than heirlooms are now.

But you can’t go back. You can’t take the BoA gear away and replace it with Experience Accelerators. You can’t yank gear that takes days of effort to acquire, has the promise of never needing to be replaced, holding expensive enchants, and being useful across multiple characters – and not replace it with something. The genie is out of the bottle.

So, like a lot of other players, I sit here and wonder, is it worth loading up a mule with another set of heirlooms and sending her over to another server? How many character transfers would it take, really, to get my heirlooms distributed the way I would want? $25 here and there adds up, is it really worth it?

Don’t get me wrong – I love heirlooms.

But I hate the heirloom conundrum.


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

Getting Exalted with Northrend Factions through PvP

One of the interesting effects of having an unified Honor Point/Justice Point currency in Warcraft is that it becomes possible to get unrelated rewards to the activity you did to earn the points themselves. You can PvP for PvE rewards, and vice versa. Things that you never considered when the currencies were separate are now possible; you might just have to look for ways to make it happen.

Like, reaching Exalted with five different Northrend factions while leveling, without doing any of their quests. You may never even come in contact with them!

Currently, Honor and Justice points can be exchanged for a 3:2 ratio at the Honor Trade Good Vendors and Justice Trade Goods Vendors in Stormwind and Orgrimmar. You can trade 375 Honor Points  for 250 Justice Points at the Honor vendor, and vice versa at the Justice vendor. This allows you to fund either PvE or PvP purchases with your preferred activity.

Honor Points are rewarded starting at level 10, while Justice Points don’t show up as a reward until around level 70. Generally speaking, Honor Points are easier to get than Justice Points while leveling. (At level 70, you can get 100-200 Honor Points from a single battleground, while a Northrend Dungeon awards 12 Justice Points. And that’s only for the first 7 you do each week.)

Because the award rate of Justice Points while leveling is so low, it’s much faster to play Battlegrounds for Honor Points and convert them to Justice Points for use. If you’re leveling to 85 to join in the endgame fun quickly, you can build up a large store of Justice Points and be ready to get 3 epic pieces of Justice gear as soon as you ding through smart conversion – and this is a good thing.

Now, an unrelated fact: late in Wrath, you could purchase Commendation Badges for five of the neutral factions with rep rewards with Emblems of Triumph. These Commendation Badges were introduced to help gear up alts, and they were a godsend for getting shoulder and helm enchants.

These commendations are:

Each one of these grants 520 reputation for the appropriate faction, up from the original 250. Humans get 10% more, so 572 for Diplomacy. (Pilgrim’s Bounty has a buff which can give you an additional 10%. Yes, it stacks with Diplomacy.)

When these Commendations were available for Emblems of Triumph, they were only available by running Northrend dungeons. But since the Emblem system was removed and replaced with Justice Points, these are now cheap.

How cheap? Each Commendation is 16 Justice Points or – thanks to the conversion – 24 Honor Points.

That’s dirt cheap.

Neutral to Exalted for any faction is 42,000 reputation points:

  • Neutral to Friendly: 3,000
  • Friendly to Honored: 6,000
  • Honored to Revered: 12,000
  • Revered to Exalted: 21,000

Since each Commendation rewards 520, you’ll need 81 of ’em, which will in turn cost you 1296 Justice Points.  Or, 1944 Honor Points.

That’s less than a PvP mount costs!

Keep in mind that this can be done at any level; level 19 achievement twinks have used this method to get toons who can’t even have a mount Exalted with the Knights of the Ebon Blade et al.. All it takes is Honor Points.

I know that this isn’t something that everyone will want to do. But it’s an interesting example of the things that can happen when you unify a currency system. It’s not unbalancing, and it can add a lot of flavor to your character. Heroic Death Knights can be exalted the Ebon Blade well before reaching level 85; same for Mages with the Kirin Tor.

And, most importantly, keep your eyes open for other items you might be able to get now through PvP.

Northrend Commendations can be purchased from Arcanist Miluria and Magistrix Vesara in Dalaran.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

On Revisiting Northrend Dungeons as a Level 70 Twink


I am working on a larger post for CBM about level 70 twinking in PvP, but there are some funny things I’m learning along the way in PvE.

Like, gear. I’m in Brutal Gladiator’s gear for PvP, which actually looks pretty cool (but very different from the level 60 gear, no doubts there.) I got a set of the Cobalt tanking gear made for me so I could keep my tanking chops in shape, and maybe even improve on them.

Introductory tanking gear does not look as impressive as end-of-xpac PvP gear. AT ALL.

I was checking Ash out, trying to find the right tabard to pull the outfit together, seeing if the helm was decent enough to display, that sort of thing. And it struck me – she looks far less solid in her tank gear than PvP gear. More … delicate. It’s the oddest thing, because it seems backwards to the purpose of each type of gear.

I had to look at it for a while to see why I was getting this impression. It’s little visual cues, like:

  • Lower neckline (full neck visible, even with tabard)
  • Gauntlets and vambraces are thinner, making arms seem skinnier/weaker
  • Shoulders smaller, more rounded
  • Boots less chunky
  • Helm open faced, rides high on head, so lots of neck/face exposed

Many of these cues I see on my (male) DK’s Cata armor, too, which presents a look of fragility when you examine it too closely. The neckline especially bothers me – if I can see a lot of exposed neck, I don’t think they’re heavily armored.

So I’m actually kinda reluctant to tank in my tank set, even though I know it’s got a lot more Dodge in it. It just doesn’t LOOK that impressive.

Compare the above picture with this, and you’ll see what I mean.


(I mentioned I’m vain, right?)


So I hit the LFD last night, because, hey, why not, right? And I got to choose between Northrend regulars and BC Heroics. I chose Northrend because it’s been a little while since I tanked, let’s see how this gear does now, right? Looks aren’t everything, right?

Utgarde Keep. Ugh. So tired of UK from leveling my DK. It’s like level 70-74 is nothing but mind-numbing UK runs. Pull, pull, up the stairs. Pull, pull, up the stairs. I may have liked it once upon a time, but I’ve done UK a lot now. Whatever, just keep pulling, Cyn.

I had two overzealous melee, one DK who pulled everything I didn’t (gee, thanks) and a rogue who attacked mobs I wasn’t even looking at. Typical story. We didn’t wipe or anything, everyone was nice, and I hope the DK grows up to be a good, aggro-conscious member of endgame society someday.

I digress.

I was looking at the rewards for my efforts, what did I get out of the run?

12 Justice Points.


I picked up an axe, sure, but it’s worse than the PvP one I can get for like 300 honor points. Don’t need the axe.

12 JP for a random run.

I get between 100-200 Honor Points for most of my PvP play at level 70, which at 3/2 conversion rate is about 65-130 JP per match.

Murmurs reminded me that I can also only get that 12 JP 7 times a week now. That’s the daily bonus, not an every time sort of thing.

I was stunned. Northrend Dungeons are apparently only for xp and drops, not for building up a store of useful PvE points for the endgame.

I have a different CBM post I’ve been working on in fits and starts for a while about the dangers of a unified currency, and this is one of them. PvP is a better way to farm JP while leveling due to conversions than PvE.

This isn’t a case of too many HP, it’s that JP is too low for leveling. I expect that the reason Blizzard made the reward so low was to prevent high level toons from farming JP by chain running northrend dungeons. But there’s already a limit in place – you can only run 7 – and the goal should be to reward players for doing the things they want to do, not force them to do things they don’t to optimize rewards!

Two things from this:

1) I should finish up that currency post.

2) PvP is the WAY TO GO through Northrend! And Outland! And the mid to late 50s!



Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes