There had been rumors in the air about an attack. Distant sounds of cavalry, moving around at the Highlands. The smell of death was in the air, and it wasn't from the Defilers. They would come tonight. Slavers.
Hammerfall was a thorn in the humans' behinds. The empty cages swayed quietly in the wind, as a reminder of what was. The guards were sharpening their blades, and a single thought was apparent on everyone's faces. Never again. It had been a prison. A place where the orcish race would wither away, out of sight, out of mind. A place of utter and complete defeat. In mind, soul and body. Especially soul. It had worked for a while. Until..
The sound of hooves interrupted my thoughts. My spyglass revealed their frontman. And.. oh crap. The pointman is heading straight towards the gates, too quickly for the guards to close it. The others were not far behind. Humans, with some gnomes, dwarves and even elves. This spearhead charge has no doubt been preceded by hours of talks of camadaderie, virtue and justice. The humans are no strangers to bloodlust. They just have prettier words for it. No matter. Spears can be broken and their morale can be shattered by killing their pointman. A sudden reminder of their mortality will take the force out of their charge.
And here he comes, straight into my trap. Now I'll just..
I awoke moments later with my face in the dirt. I felt I had been stepped upon, repeatedly. They had descended upon me like a swarm of wasps. I smell smoke. And I hear screams. It's not yet over. Good. I lift myself up. The ground is filled with hoofprints. I must have underestimated their speed. Their main force seems to be busy with the wyverns, but the hospital seems untouched. I run to the hospital while the enemies are still busy with the rest of the guards. Doctor Victor seems worried. It's only a matter of time before they are spotted. The patients wouldn't even have a chance of dying in battle. It would just be a slaughter. No doubt a messenger has already been sent to Tarren Mill. All I need to do is to keep them occupied long enough. I sneak out of the main gate, past the dead guards.
Ah, there. Hubris was quickly taking hold of them. While the others were busy slaughtering everyone at the inn, a single warrior was left at the back gate. Easy prey. Others had already started to arrive, and the gnome's life was forfeit in mere seconds. Her screams would attract the rest, so I circled around the main building, looking for my next target. And yet another slowpoke felt the chill of death. Confusion is starting to take hold of them. I snuck inside the empty inn, knowing that they would see me.
Predictably, they followed me in. I backed away, luring two of them after me while the others were delayed by the patrons. With cold steel swinging right above my head and arrows being deflected by my protective barrier, I ran to the top floor. And they followed me. Perfect. Before they could react, I leaped over the railing and back to the first floor. The main group didn't even react when I made my way through the battle.
The cat and mouse -game seemed to last for hours, but eventually they were forced to regroup outside the gates. Several of their more foolhardy comrades were cut down by the barrage of spells and arrows. It was almost time to end this. A final charge to shatter their spirits. With spinechilling battlecries, the orcs took the point, with me following right behind them. I danced among the chaos. And then.. I was cut down.
When I regained conciousness, it was already over. I limped back inside the walls and let the others drag the bodies back. The doctor was busy counting the dead at the courtyard. He was already in a fouler mood than usual, so I did not want to bother him. I leaned against the inner metal fence and started bandaging my wounds. Too many died, but at least Hammerfall stands.
There had been rumors in the air about an attack. Distant sounds of cavalry, moving around at the Highlands. The smell of death was in the air, and it wasn't from the Defilers. They would come tonight. Slavers.
Apparently Elüna was right. Slashdot is reporting that other people are also quite unhappy about the cost of the in-game benefits available by collecting the cards.
240 copper, 120 bronze, 40 iron, 60 mithril, 255 thorium, 110 gold, 30 truesilver, 50 flask of mojo, 10 large fang, 30 malachite/tigerseye, 30 lesser moonstone, 100 shadowgem, 35 jade, 40 citrine, 45 star ruby, 35 aquamarine, 40 large opal, 20 azerothian diamond, and 20 huge emerald.
While I'm not switching from Engineering to Jewelcrafting, the information about new ores is useful to all miners. Unfortunately I have smelt all my thorium already, so, I can't take advantage of all those people buying stuff to powerlevel their new professions.
As everyone has probably heard by now, the Burning Crusade release date has been postponed. However, Blizzard is planning to release a patch before Christmas, which includes the new honor system among other things.
WoW Insider has the scoop on new talents. Arcane tree gets a quite intersting 30-point talent called Spell Power, which increases critical strike damage bonus by 50% on all spells. Combined with Ice Shards, that means +150% crits. I suddenly feel tempted to reconsider my deep frost spec..
After listening to the latest Farm Status, I started to wonder about the tactics and coordination required for Burning Crusade endgame raid instances.
Currently the level progression, tactics progression and gear progression goes hand in hand when you go through the game. The first instances are fairly simple and require only basic coordination to complete. When you level up, you'll be able to access harder instances, get better gear and be able to handle more complicated encounters. This progression continues up to level 60.
At level 60, the levels cease to matter. Instances continue to progress through better itemization and more difficult encounters. First tries in Molten Core always seem to be quite complex if you are used to 5-mans or UBRS. When you master Molten Core, your guild has the gear required for Blackwing Lair, and knows how to arrange healing for multiple tanks. When you get better gear, you also learn how to handle more complicated encounters. This holds true all the way to Naxxramas.
Then let's add the expansion into the equation. Obviously the level progression starts again, and so does the gear progression. According to preliminary reports, simple quest rewards rival or exceed Molten Core and Blackwing Lair gear. This means that the vast majority of players will skip the current 20-man and 40-man instances altogether, because they can get better gear easier and faster in Outland. But what about tactics? How hard will the Burning Crusade endgame boss encounters be? Will the 5-man instances teach new raiders the skills they will need in endgame? I would feel pity for the guild master who tries to convince his guild to go back to Ahn'Qiraj to learn group coordination and caster tanking, for example.
The Burning Crusade Closed Beta is now in progress. Although I didn't get a beta key (hint hint), I did some digging. Apparently the expansion contains about 4.4h of new music, compared to the 2.2h of the original WoW. This should help alleviate some weariness players have with the soundtrack. All of the new zones have several different themes and have different themes for night and day. Although Zangar Marsh does sound very similar to Ahn'Qiraj..
In other news, it seems that we'll be seeing Gul'dan again. He got his own theme music in a folder called "Musical Moments". While the first orc warlock is quite dead, there is one place where he probably will be seen. One of the scenarios in Caverns of Time is the first opening of the Dark Portal. Medivh worked on the Azeroth side, while Gul'dan worked at Draenor. My hunch is that when the scenario is completed and the portal is succesfully opened, Gul'dan will be among the first to step through it. This will be a boon to lore freaks such as myself, because it has never been seen in any of the Warcraft games. Even the events of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans take place 15 years after the opening.
Where is he? The meeting is supposed to start soon, and there's no sight of him. Considering that Beggar's Haunt is probably the best known secret location, it won't take long before I'm spotted. The one couple I saw at the grove probably doesn't want to attract attention either, so they should leave me alone as well.
Ah, there he is. Melnerag should reconsider his wardrobe, though. Monk robes don't fit well with a Dreadsteed. My outfit is a bit flashier. Regal, yet not too intimidating. A show of power, but not overtly so. Still, I wanted them to think twice even if they decide to attack me, so I brought my staff along.
I could not understand what he was saying at first, and he didn't understand me either. Judging from his face, he had anticipated that this would happen. After he gave me a magical necklace to aid with the translation, he explained. An artifact that had been used to form the mental link had been shattered. The cultists that he was formerly affiliated with had called it the Dark Sphere. Apparently his master had returned and reclaimed his property. But the fate of some telepathy-inducing artifact was not why I was here. We started to ride west, avoiding the town of Darkshire. At this time, the road would be completely empty.
After some riding, we arrived to the keep. Melnerag assures me that the guards had been bribed to let me in, but I don't want to take any chances. Protected by a layer of translucent ice, I carefully stepped inside the keep and made my way to the dining hall.
After waiting for a short while, a human female walks in. She is dressed in a light orangish robe. Melnerag introduces her as Gwealyn. I smell.. the faint stench of felfire. Apparently it is a fairly common practice among humans to dress nicely when not dabbling in damonic arts. I imagine it helps other sleep better at night. Out of sight, out of mind.
I hear several people rising up the stairs and walking towards the dining hall. The first one to enter the room is Syskae in full armor, looking around nervously. He is certainly expecting trouble. He is followed by a few gnomes and a few humans. I recognise one of them. I think I.. yes. He was the paladin that confessed to serving a demon at the road to Hearthglen. I think they called him Maelmoor. The gnomes don't seem to be anything noteworthy, but one of the female humans wears a similar robe to Melnerag's own.
And then Seiken appears. This may yet turn out just like I predicted. The already tense atmosphere of the room is amplified by his arrival. He tried to capture me and Melnerag months ago, but failed miserably. However, this time.. I do not detect any of his "companions". He says something angrily, with perhaps.. a hint of disappointment in his voice. And then he leaves. Melnerag explains that he was indeed disappointed that the Council was meeting with an enemy. What enemy? While I did make some preparations, I'm hardly a threat. Unless they consider truth to be threatening, that is.
From the seating around the meeting table, it was obvious that sides were being taken. The gnomish observers stayed at the side, but the rest moved opposite to me. However, I do not see any of the "moderates" Melnerag assured would be here. This whole charade would be pointless if nobody would witness the zealots in action. To top it off, Maelmoor positioned himself halfway, apparently taking the leader's role.
As expected, the accusations started flying quickly. The woman in monk's outfit was clearly highly excitable and begins shouting something about me. She is clearly winding herself up for a nice rage before Melnerag can even translate his first sentences. Syskae is forced to step in to calm her. If my mere presence can agitate them so, what about my responses? A few well-placed words and her rants will echo all the way to Stormwind.
Maelmoor steps in and changes the topic from whatever it was to something he refers to as "Dark Pact". Melnerag clarifies that he must mean Gul'Dan's betrayal. Finally, a good topic. I use easy words and simple concepts, but it soon becomes apparent that I'm not telling them what they want to hear. As I tell them about the deception and corruption perpetrated upon the orcs, their shouts become more and more vocal and angry. They had already made up their minds. They refuse to acknowledge anything that proves that the orcs weren't all rampaging demon-worshipping monsters.
Knowing that they cannot refute the truth, they decide to ignore it. The topic is quickly shifted to the Forsaken and they try to put me on the defensive. They start off with a clumsy accusation about the Apotechary. Perfect. I effortlessly strike it back at them by reminding them of the torture chambers and orc bones in the Cathedral. Unwilling to argue the point further, they move into the topic of Forsaken offensives. I retort by reminding that northern parts belong to Lordaeron, not Stormwind. While the citizens of Lordaeron might not be alive, they are still there. If a dead human can decide via a will what happens to his land, why can't an undead human do the same?
Seeing that the have yet another defeat in their hands, they move into more direct methods. Finally. A silent human priestess from the back row tried to throw something at me, but it was deflected by Gwealyn. The female monk is shouting something again, and I hear a pair of metal-plated boots on the stairs. A human in full plate runs in, hesitates for a moment and tries to smite me with his hammer. Amateur. Before his hammer can reach me, it is blocked by my barrier. A follower, doing whatever others want. So be it. A short incantation later and he is ready to be sheared. I allow the polymorphing spell to wear off, and he still tries to hit me. Slowed by the ice protecting me, I could dodge his blows in my sleep. He is not a problem. But if the others join in.. I have to take this outside. He swings at me once again, but this time his hammer smashes down on the wooden floor harmlessly. I am already out of the keep.
I hear the clumsy assassin's heavy steps echoing in the keep. He is coming after me. He runs out of the main gate, shouting profanities. I lure him to the edge of the forest. I glance around my shoulder at him. He has a victorious glee on his face. Perfect.
The glee turns into disbelief and he almost falls over. His boots are frozen into the ground, and his eyes meet mine. And there I see it. The one thing I love most about combat. It's that look of a man that just realizes that he's about to die. Right here, right now. Everything seems to slow down. He tries to look away from me, but cannot. His other hand is reaching towards his shield, but it is much too late. Poor fly, caught in a web. The winds seem to die down.
Together with a bolt of ice, freezing winds blow from my hands. Tiny shards of ice puncture the joints of his armor. The bolt hits him right in his chestplate. I hear him gasping for air. He falls backwards and tries to crawl away. His eyes are still locked into mine. I raise my right hand in front of my face to show him the flame that dances on my fingertips. And then..
I allow him to crawl back up. Syskae runs out of the keep, sword in hand. I smile. There's no need for knights in shining armor here. We both got what we needed. I got my.. satisfaction and he got an important lesson in mortality. For the rest of his life, he knows that the only reason he lives is.. that I let him.
The clumsy assassin heals himself, only to be confronted by Syskae. He makes some feeble excuses of me calling him fat, but we all know he is lying. He was sent here by someone. Someone that he would now have to go back to to explain his failure. Or run and be hunted down by someone more skilled than him. He leaves, and so must I. There is no point playing a charade if the intended audience is not present. Melnerag can use this incident as proof of his.. "prophecies", so at least someone got what they wanted from this. I grab my whistle from my pocket and use it. A few minutes later Windclaw runs out of the woods to greet me. I say farewell to Syskae and ride south.
It was yet another cold morning in Silithus. Shalkis rode back into Cenarion Hold, stained with goo and blood as usual. The guards paid little attention to her, for she has been coming and going for the past month. And as usual, the female troll waited patiently while the elven tailors sew together tears in her clothes. During the weeks, they had even grown accustomed to the everpresent smell of combat around the troll. After they were done, she walked to the one called Baristolth and gave him a gooey sack.
"Here's yer fragments. I'll bring more in a few hours. Bye."
"That won't be necessary."
"Wat? Will yer master finally speak to me?"
"It is time, Shalkis. I must apologize for keeping so much in secret. Enemies abound, even under our very noses. Please, read from this tome and learn. Take the knowledge I give to you and seek out our master."
"A book? Freshly inked.. If I read dis, will Anachronos finally speak to me?"
"Yes. However, I cannot understand why you insisted on doing this. Others had already assembled the Scepter. The gates have been open for months."
"I have to see, I have to know. I have to know why they waited for so long. Why wasn't dis threat dealt wit earlier?"
"Be careful what you wish for, troll. Now go. Even the Timeless Ones' patience has limits."
Shalkis closed the book and put it into her backpack. The way to Tanaris was long, and she wasn't exactly presentable. Minds and actions of dragons werre often incomprehensible for mortals. The Bronze dragons even more so. Even a slightest insult could jeopardise months of work. She could not risk offending him in any way.
At the hot springs of Un'Goro, Shalkis opened the book. It told the tale of the War of the Shifting Sands. She already knew much of this from decrypted cultists' texts and the tales of the dwarven geologist. However, other sources focused on the actions of mortals. This told of a plan to close the gates, using the powers of the four Dragonflights. It was a desperate plan for a desperate time. She already knew that the Night Elven forces had lost morale when Falstann was slain and retreated to Un'Goro. But she didn't know that the advancing Qiraji forces had bypassed the "Gods' Land" and the hiding Elven forces. They reached Tanaris. They had even arranged a raid against the Caverns of Time themselves. Although the attack was repelled, it showed the Timeless One that he could not count on the Elves to repel the threat.
He had sent his own offspring, Anachronos to the fray. He was soon joined by Caelestrasz of the Red Flight, Merithra of the Dream and Arygos of the Blue Flight. Each of them had brought many of their younger brethren with them. Even the Night Elves regained some degree of fighting spirit and rejoined the battle after seeing the skies darken from the very numbers of the Flights. Although losses were devastating, the book mentions that they did mow a way to the Scarab Wall to seal the Gate. And then.. the story ends.
The Caverns of Time. Dressed in her finest, Shalkis carefully avoided the three drakes guarding the way. Having Bronze Dragon blood on her would not make a good impression. Anachronos was waiting. She could already feel his eyes on her, and the sandstorm seemed to be strengthening. Eventually the shape of a great dragon formed among the storm.
"In the southern desert of Silithus, near the sacred barrier, exists a single crystalline tear. This tear serves as a symbol of the great losses beset upon us during the War of the Shifting Sands. Locate this tear and gaze into its depths to gain enlightenment."
The shape seemed to dissolve back into the storm.
Just like the dragon had said, there was a brilliant red crystal shard half-buried into the ground. Shalkis kneeled down and touched it.
"And now you know all that there is to know, mortal.."
Anachronos' words echoed within her mind. Some crimes cannot go unpunished. Even Staghelm cannot avoid the sins of the past forever.
Recently, I finally got a chance to catch up on WoW Radio's Farm Status show. One of the topics discussed was endgame guilds inviting people to instances and selling them epics.
On my server (EU Defias Brotherhood, RP/PvP), there's plenty of players who have no access to Molten Core. Not because they don't know how to play, but mainly because they don't apply to endgame guilds at all. Why? Roleplaying. Many guilds on our server were founded for that. For example, a tauren-only guild would lack the numbers, attendance, interest and the classes required to do endgame. However, there are always some players that like their RP guild atmosphere and their events, but would like to see endgame.
I was one of them. I started in a troll-only guild Second Gurubashi Empire at day 1 when the server went online. Because the guild had been planned for a while, it was one of the largest for quite some time. Because trolls have access to most classes (except druids and warlocks), we were planning to do at least Zul'Gurub on our own. However, problems started arising when the first people dinged 60. While they were happy doing other instances for a while, they eventually got the gear. Endgame was the only way to go to progress in PvE. Because not all of us were level 60, doing endgame in-guild was not an option. Eventually, they got frustrated waiting for the rest of us and joined endgame guilds, one by one. When a few more people dinged 60, some other 60ies left. We were almost able to do Zul'Gurub for several months.
The inability of the guild doing even the planned endgame (Zul'Gurub) was creating a lot of guild drama, causing tempers to flare. In-character grievances got mixed up with out-of-character grievances. Nasty stuff. Eventually, a solution was worked out. Raiding alliances. Find a few other large roleplaying guilds and do endgame with them. Raiding alliances have their own problems, so I'm not going to discuss them at length. Raiding alliances are not an option to everyone. Very small guilds would get rejected from raiding alliances, and managing a big alliance is hard due to incompatible egos and guild dynamics (how much weight should a small guild's voice have?).
At the same time, some endgame guilds on the server were getting bored doing Molten Core. Some people still needed one or two pieces of gear from there, but doing a full clear felt pointless for just a few items and a bunch of Nexus Crystals. Attendance suffered.
So there were plenty of good players interested in endgame scattered around the realm, but would not want to leave their current guilds due to various reasons. At the same time, there were endgame guilds with a temporary shortage of players.
Some time ago, one of the major endgame guilds (Last Stand) on our server started inviting people with them to Molten Core. Write a good application, and you can join them and pick up any epics they don't need. The guild gets a little temporary help and still gets plenty of core leather, fiery and lava cores, the loot they still need and other stuff. The lucky applicants get gear they couldn't even dream of, and valuable experience. They also get to stay in their own guilds and not "compromise" their characters' personality by giving up IC principles. Win-win.
AFK Gamer tells us about one of the most interesting ways to steal a guild bank.
Tobold raises an interesting point about the fairness of DKP. In my opinion, no loot system is perfect, and you need to take everything into account about your guild when choosing a loot system. Mine uses a loot council. While it can take into account a lot of different things, it's not perfect either. It's just better than the alternatives for us.