Monday, November 29, 2010

Katsuko: Guardian of Dalaran

A pall has fallen over Northrend. A nameless dread, a constant reminder of what we had and what is no longer. So much joy, so many celebrations, so many friends made and promises kept.

Naxxramas is destroyed.

Ulduar lies in ruins.

Even the Lich King, our hated nemesis, has been bested.


Now there are only memories of faded glory. A ghost of the greatness that was, and what never will be again.

The heroes have moved on, left the once-glorious floating city to its own devices. In their place, only the desperate, the corrupt, the forgotten remain. Organized crime, petty thieves, rapists, murderers...they are legion within the city, now.

My city. My beautiful, wonderful metropolis. I spent so many happy hours here. Yes...happy. Me, of all people. I was happy here. Content. At peace.

But now...

I cannot look at the shell of this place and not feel...rage. Rage against the people who sully it. Rage against those who abandoned it. Rage for all those that must remain and deal with the daily despair of life.

And that rage needs victims.

So while you heroes of the frozen north run back to Azeroth...

While you succumb to the consumerism of the Bilgewater Cartel...

While you quibble over useless theological debates between Thrall's followers and Hellscreams'...

I will remain as I always have. I will stay and defend those who cannot defend themselves. I will be the guardian they no longer have.

I am a poor champion, I admit. But if I am all they have, then so be it. The darkness that rules Dalaran now has an enemy. The people have a guardian.

Because for them I can be what I never have been. What I never tried to be. What I never wanted to be.

A hero.

(with apologies to Batman, Daredevil, and The Maxx)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Tonight, Deathwing Returns…And Now Here’s Bob with the Weather

So patch 4.0.3 hit last night and everyone is either a) up in arms because their portals/favorite spec/damage/heals/old tree form/cappuccino bar is gone, or b) very pleased with the changes in the world landscape/questlines/race-class combinations/guild mechanics. Personally, I’m a little of both of these. Am I happy that Warriors got hit with the ugly stick yet again? Not at all. Do I like the cosmetic changes to the old world setting? Absolutely. Do I want my portals back? Hells yes…well, except for my mage. Katsuko is raking in portal tip cash by the bucketful. I’ve already had to go get more portal reagents twice in the last 2 days (normally I only need to buy them once every few weeks…guess I need to rememorize the location of reagent vendors in Org and Dal again). Am I having fun? Dude, I’m having a blast. This is just what the doctor ordered for this game.

So like one of my favorite blogging compatriots, Dechion, the first thing I did after getting the kids fed and put away for the night was log on and roll up my undead hunter, which was THE thing I was most looking forward to. Had a name picked out, bags and gold ready on my trusty bank alt, and even knew where I was going to train his main pet (a Lion that will be getting named “Akodo,” naturally). Ergo, Shigetoshi was born…or died…or both; and let me just say that the new “awakening” portion of the Undead creation process is fantastic. Levels 1-10 are completely updated with very compelling vignette stories, which I certainly appreciate, and immediately immerses you into the game experience. Compared to early leveling before, this feels much more like you inserting yourself into the canon story rather than playing an FPS until you get to Silverpine/Barrens/Westfall/wherever. For now, Shigs has a Darkhound pet, which is very not bad for leveling as far as ferocity pets are concerned.

Also, the scenery! The beauty of the environment is outstanding, and I was very happy with the way the early Brill/Tirisfal questlines were arranged. No more running halfway across the continent to do inane things with/to Gnolls or grinding 200 mobs for 8 moldy fingernails. Quest item drop rates are much higher, at least early on, which can only increase your sense of accomplishment if you’re just now picking up the game.

I could go on and on, but let me just finish up with a few nice things I’ve noticed:

The faction-specific quartermasters. This is an outstanding addition. For 10 silver, you can buy a tabard for each faction in their major cities. Like the LK factions, these tabards will allow you to grind rep for that faction while in any dungeon. Once you hit Exalted, which shouldn’t take too long with your home city, there are a number of excellent blue BOP items for sale at low prices, and a 16-slot bag that runs a little over 1G is available at Revered.

FPs in starter cities. Brill, Razor Hill, and the cow city all now have FPs to the capitol a la the Space Goat and Blood Elf baby pools.

Cosmetic baby gear improvements. Your starting gear looks much more like a military uniform or Nordstrom’s off-the-rack stuff, rather than something from the Homeless-Crackhead-of-the-Month-Club catalogue.

Hellscream's Temporary Staffing Services, Inc. I mostly just found this amusing. However, I'm interested in seeing what odd jobs for heroes get tossed up there in the future. Maybe unique weeklies? Special quests that hand out Feat of Strength achievements? Envelope stuffing for the Argent Crusade's membership drive?

New Orgrimmar. My God, Blizzard outdid themselves here. I really wish Undercity would have gotten a facelift like this, but Orgrimmar is a beautiful sight to behold. It can almost make me forget that Hellscream’s dumbest progeny is now running the place. Almost.

Dude, valium. Speaking of, I talked to Hellscream last night just for fun and HE STILL TALKS LIKE THIS NO MATTER WHAT HE IS SAYING! CAN I BORROW A CUP OF SUGAR! I'M MAKING PIE AND NEED SUGAR! GIVE ME SUGAR OR I WILL DESTROY ALL YOU LOVE! I miss Thrall already...

OK, time to go. Need to jump back on my hunter for a bit. Remembrancer: Part II is in the can and being edited. Be prepared for a time jump.

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Feature! Random Screenshot Thursday!

Because, "Work sucks and I have no idea what to post and Rembrancer: Part II is still at the shop getting new tires, so I can't do that," didn't have the same catchy marketing title to it.

Yes, a 40-man raid defense of Orgrimmar from the forces of elemental destruction infesting the world; because that's how we Silver Hand Horde roll. If there's a problem, yo, we'll solve it.

Having never been in a 40-man raid, I really don't know how you old-school folks did it back in the day. It's total chaos...but with more running and screaming.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And Now for a Word About Characters

So, my wife is currently waiting to have her traitorous galbladder removed. I am scamming the hospital wi-fi, trying to think of things to do to keep myself occupied, and not going batshit crazy with worst-case scenarios. It's a simple procedure, but I had the same thing done 3 years ago and they had to do it the old-fashioned way...with a chainsaw and a baseball bat, apparently.

But that's as it may be. I'll try to keep off that. I wanted to go into how I choose and develop characters a little bit, since this is a question I get with a fair amount of regularity IRL.

So, I've been playing various RPGs for a really long time. In fact, I remember the old West End Games Star Wars System. Loved it; roll far too many D6's for no good reason. Yeah, I'm getting grey, I know. I've played AD&D 2nd, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, L5R, Rifts, Doctor Who, B5, WoT, V:TM, and so on. I go to GenCon every year, half to play the Legend of the Five Rings CCG, but half to see the weird new RPG tabletop experiments that are coming out. So I've got a fair amount of experience playing make-believe.

All those systems varied wildly from each other, for the most part. But the one thing that remained constant was the characters. Any RPG, no matter how poorly designed or executed, can be a really good time if you have interesting characters you like, care about, and enjoy playing. Conversely, the best-designed system in the world will fall absolutely flat if you don't give a damn about what happens to the main players (The Phantom Menace, anyone?).

That being the case, I go out of my way to build and play characters that are not just fun, but have history, personailty quirks, annoying habits, hopes, dreams, goals, character short, I try to make them as close to real people as I possibly can, because that makes for interesting dialogue and game play.

What do you do, for instance, when your main group of characters has been hired by the mob to do a smash-and-grab at a local jewlery store, which sounds fine, but one of the PC's uncles owns the store and actually was a huge influence in his or her life? Maybe got him or her into NYU through his connections with the geology department? Or if another of the PC's was busted for petty theft 6 months ago and has been turned into a narc to avoid prosecution. How does he react to this? Does he do the job on the down-low, or does he stoolie out and run to the cops? Or how about a third who is naturally conceited and can't helping bragging to a few of his buddies after the job, and is overheard by a friend of the jeweler's?

See? Good, rich characters can make something that seems pretty ordinary on the surface (listen to the bit about the sandwich) and make it, if not epic, then so much more realistic, deep, and fun.

The same rules translate over to WoW, as far as I am concerned. Arthas, Sylvanas, Varian Wynn, Tirion, Thrall...these are all fantastic characters with rich, meaningful storylines. To create characters that are any less than 3-dimensional then, to my way of thinking, is an affront to the people who imagined up this awesome world. Therefore, my three flagship characters, Kusamoto, Tsurii, and Katsuko, have been developed over the course of months, even years.

Kusamoto, in particular, has a rich history, as he is my L5R alterego. I've been playing that game so long, in fact, they folks at AEG decided to give in and make him, and I, a part of canon. It's a nod at my peserverance and in a really strange way gives him, and therefore me, a kind of immortality most people can only dream of, so I am immensely humbled by the honor Shawn Carman and company have done me. So, here's my alterego, Kusamoto, in the card game:

Naturally, who else could I have chosen to create for my flagship WoW character? Since I play horde almost exclusively, the racial choice wasn't much of one (Blood Elf was the only thing that came close) and class was similarly chosen for me (Pally, of course). So I roll him up along the same lines as my card game character, and here's what I come up with:

You can see the similarities in type, which is why I was immensely pleased at how he turned out in game, and was really looking forward to playing the hell out of him. Only one minor problem:

I didn't like him.

In fact, he sat on the shelf for about 4 months before I started grinding away at the Blood Elf starting quests, but I still wasn't having any fun with him (and I'm certain the reverse was true). I couldn't figure it out at all. Until one day, in SFK, I chose DPS or healer, got in as a healer, and realized my mistake.

THIS Kusamoto was NOT entirely "my" Kusamoto. He preferred healing over righteous fury, and more "white collar" pursuits, like Inscription and Herbalism, over the down-and-dirty professions like engineering or mining. While this originally came as quite a shock, it made perfect sense with the background I had in my head of a mid-level functionary's son forced into a role and profession he never really wanted. And now, he finds himself, by virtue of his skills in writing and oratory, as the political figurehead of an organization he is more than glad to let Katsuko run behind the scenes while playing straight man to a undead warrior.

Even though I had built the character along the same lines as my true alterego, he changed and grew before my eyes in surprising ways because of the same rules I follow when building characters, not in spite of them. It's frightening when that happens; when a character you have made, played, and were both mother and father to, suddenly matures into something you never expected. Frightening, but also very exciting. It means you've done your job in creating and raising him well, and now you are simply along for the ride.

So, this has been pretty wall-of-textish, but I hope I got my point across. WoW is, for all intents and purposes, a tabletop RPG in a lot of ways. Character creation and development is similar, and if you go out of your way to make interesting characters with breadth and depth, it will never get old, no matter what changes are made to the game, and you will always enjoy playing it.

OK, back to the really real world of waiting for my wife to be out of surgery. But let me ask everyone: Who is your favorite WoW character (NPC, your own, or someone else's) and why? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I must thank Ratshag for the cool addon he linked from his blog, even if it was just peripherally. I suspect it will make my life a lot easier. Plus I can catch important moments in the Corps' life much more grandly, like this:

Ginawa got a horse!

Or this:

DK Space Goat levels right in front of King Varian Wynn. Courtiers aghast. Film at 11.

And action shots like this:

That's a lot of fwoosh.

But I am very glad I was able to get this one. Kats would have never forgiven me if I'd missed this huge milestone in her quest for vengeance:

Teaser alert! More on Kats' first journey into ICC to come!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The End is Nigh...

The Local 405 of the Doomsayers Union needed some new representatives for the Orgrimmar division. Recruitment and members willing to sow the seeds of chaos and disorder were apparently lagging in the face of political adversity from the local fascists. Plus, they pay well, and no one has to die...right now, anyways.

I have just one thing to say to any potential affiliates:

Repent, bitches.