Garrison Choices I Wish I’d Made

Alternate Title: Suggestions for People Who Haven’t Played Yet That Will Only Be Read By People Who’ve Played.

Off Broadway Title: A Garrison for Algernon

Vaudeville Title: The Amazing Bearwallzini

I love the Warlords of Draenor expansion. It’s holding my interest, keeping me moving, and I’m still so addicted to Followers that I’m logging in morning, noon and night to manage my Garrison missions.

Last time something had me this wrapped up in the game was my obsession to ‘catch ’em all’ with Non Combat Pets, camping rare spawns and checking at all hours for that rare white elk to appear. “OMG, a Fel Flame, RUN!!! It’s 2 AM and I gotta beat the nine other people here camping it to tame it first!”

Okay, so I might be a bit deranged.

Side note, with our Garrisons and the pet building, I love that our favorited Non Combat Pets wander around on their own. Sometimes one will come on over and follow me for a bit, clearly happy to see me. Seeing my Fel Flame pet, named “Jackpot”, wandering around as I move from building to building brings back all those memories. I really like that.

I’ve leveled my raiding Warlock and my Feral Druid to 100, and my Rogue is just about there. I might have seven other alts with level 2 Garrisons, just for the different profession buildings and daily profession cooldowns/resource generation. I’ve learned a thing or too since launch.

Along the way, I’ve made mistakes with my Garrison. I’ve made a LOT of mistakes with my garrisons across characters. I’ve constructed more pylons, I mean erected buildings only to tear them down because damnit I should have done something else first.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is out there, but I’ve learned a lot I wish I’d known the first time around.

Some of the things that I do with alts now I do not for efficient resource management, but simply because it’s fun and different. Can’t beat a new feeling when playing alts, right?

My friend James suggested he was considering coming back for Warlords of Draenor, maybe, possibly, probably not. Since he’s been away for a little bit, I started thinking about what I would have wished I’d known before I’d really started playing the expansion.

It comes down to a lot of little things that are between the lines. Not any of the guide stuff, the wonderful nuts and bolts dataz that sites like Wowhead and Icy Veins have already covered so well. Those sites have in depth guides for the what, the who, and the “where do I find it?”

I can do my own research through the database sites and get a ton out of reading Perculia’s hard work. And Tritox, whoever that is who wrote their Follower guide on Wowhead that is the ultimate to-die-for guide.

But I would have loved to have known, well… the stuff I’m going to write about here.

It’s going to be one hell of a long bearwall. Why? Well, why not? I’m not into clickbait and this isn’t a business for money. Why break it all up into a dozen little pages spread out over two weeks? I want to write it so here it is. If it’s too long to wade through, I understand. I sympathize! But I also don’t care. Wade on in and if it’s too many words for you, stay in the kiddie pool or drown.

Level 2 Garrisons

The VERY first thing I’ve learned is that you can get your level 2 Garrison quicker than you might expect. Once you’ve got your level 1 Garrison and can begin questing in your faction starter zone, there is a specific series of quests that are considered ‘core’ Garrison quests for the zone. If you run through those and only those without side questing, you will quickly reach a point where you get the breadcrumb to go back to your Garrison and unlock level 2.

All zones are like this. There are many side quests, but there will be one core Garrison or Outpost quest chain that you can focus on moving through to reach the reward. In the starting zone, that reward is a level 2 Garrison. In later zones, the reward is usually a new Follower and a book that you can turn in for a free Garrison building blueprint of your choice which you can immediately use to upgrade a building. These are precious rewards, so they are worth pursuing quickly on alts.

A level 2 Garrison gives you more plots to build on, including an extra profession plot, so it’s excellent for all of your alts even if you’re not actively playing them to level.

Side note: Professions. I personally leveled blacksmith and tailor alts just so I could craft weapon and armor upgrades. You do NOT need to have more than level 1 in a profession to use that profession with a small profession building in your Garrison, either. You can’t get any of the rewards associated with that profession except for the Warlords of Draenor stuff, and some things like the Leatherworking wolf mount require max level in a profession to craft it, but for most Warlords gear you can craft it JUST with the profession building, and craft it faster if you have at least skill 1 in the profession for the daily mats cooldown. I know, it sounds crazy. I know! But it’s true. Professions JUST for gear is optional. Professions just speed it up, and unlock cooler stuff if you have them.

So unlocking your Garrison. If you check the quests on Wowhead, you should be able to nail down which ones are core for garrison progression pretty easily. Once you know which to do, you can unlock level 2 long before reaching 92, even with rested XP. I know that for your first playthrough on your main, you’ll want to enjoy everything and have fun exploring. On your alts, you can focus on just the core quests and unlock the upgrades fast. It is NOT gated by level, my Priest is level 91 with a level 2 Garrison.

The bible of guides for everything Garrison buildings is of course on Wowhead.

What Buildings to Choose First? SO MANY CHOICES!

The next thing I’ve learned is some Garrison Buildings are great for early leveling, and others are only truly useful at end game.

The first one that bit me on the butt was the Stables. Who doesn’t want the Stables? It promises the ability to capture, tame and train a wide variety of new mounts native to Draenor, including an awesome looking wolf. I was eager to make one, and since the mounts are all Bind to Account now, it doesn’t matter which character of mine had a Stables or did the quests. Right?

The answer to that, of course, is that it does matter. Because the majority of quests take you into the final leveling zone, Nagrand, and have you fight high level mobs that are in remote areas. To actually complete the mount training quests and get your new mount, you’re going to most likely want to be level 100 when you start. You don’t have to be, no. You can certainly fight to make your way to each of these locations, and you can complete the quests with other people, including ungrouped strangers. If you really, really wanted to complete these quests as a level 92 character, it seems possible, especially if you can stealth and have vast patience and wait for other people to attack the quest mobs before you join in.

But it also sounds like a lot of pain and wasted time every day for no good reason. Much better to wait until you are level 100 to create a Stables, and then begin the quests.

Wish I’d known that before I made a Stables on my level 92 Hunter that I have yet to do anything with. Wasted time, wasted resources.

Before I move on, the other thing to know about the Stables is that there are two additional bonus mounts you can get from achievements. There are two items you can carry in your bags (you don’t equip them), and while carrying one of those items and doing the daily quest, you are nerfed by 25% DPS/healing/Health or by 50% depending on the item. If you defeat each of a certain list of enemy bosses once while riding each mount and carrying the item, you get a bonus mount for finishing it.

Let me try and be clear. You pick up an item at the Stables, lying on some hay. Say, the Black Claw. While you are on your whistle-summoned training mount fighting a boss and carrying that item, you are nerfed by either 25% or 50%. You have to defeat each of a certain number of bosses, while carrying the item, and riding every single mount. There are six bosses, six mounts, so you’ve got 36 fights ahead of you per item.

You CAN choose to just pick up the item and carry it with you all the time while doing daily quests right from the beginning. UGH, hell no. A better solution is to do them all at once. For example, for the Black Claw achieve, the very first time you have all mount daily quest whistles available go do it. You see, while on a daily quest, you can use a summons whistle as often as you like. And you can chain kill the same boss over and over, they have a super fast respawn. AND, you get credit for the achieve even if other people are helping you kill it.

So, as soon as you unlock all daily mount quests and can summon all six mounts, you can track the achievement, visit each of the bosses in sequence, and kill that boss six times in a row, summon mount, kill boss, get off mount and summon different mount, kill boss, get off mount, etc. The Black Claw achieve can be completed before ever getting the first regular quest mount unlocked.

The second achieve can only be done once you unlock the 50% nerf item, which only happens once you’ve earned all the daily quest mounts. So it takes a little longer.

But there is no reason to fear the mount achieve. Just get the item and all your whistles and go have a fun afternoon chain killing bosses. Bring a friend! Your friend doesn’t even have to be on a mount to chip in and help kill them. Seriously, go do it and end up with all eight mounts and have fun. The hard decision comes after you’ve got all eight mounts. Keep the Stables or replace it with something else? it does take a Large building slot…

So, the Stables. A Large building that sounds wonderful, MUST have, want those mounts… but you should have patience. Leave that one for when you’re level 100 and have a level 3 Garrison with more room. maybe for when you get that second unlocked Large plot and want to put something there. You could use it for a Stables, burn through all the mount quests, then replace it with something else. Just a thought.

Okay, so what buildings do I recommend you start with, then?

Your level 2 Garrison will have one Large plot, one Medium plot and two Small plots.

The first one I recommend is that you keep your Barracks, the first Large building the game makes you build. The Barracks is lovely for two reasons. First, at level 2 you can assign a Follower with the Bodyguard ability to it so you’ve got a leveling buddy all the time. You can’t possibly get that one until level 94, but it’s so fun. At level 3, it lets you have 25 Followers active instead of only 20.

“So what”, you ask? Level 94 is a long way down the road, and ditto to having a level 3 Barracks in the future. But wait, there’s more!

Artillery Strike Incoming

Okay, so people have reminded me that the following ain’t true. I got the idea that you needed the Barracks to have the Call to Arms ability from beta, but you don’t. It comes from your Outpost choices, and as far as I can tell you just get it in your starter zone. I have a Barracks for everyone right now so I don’t have anything rubbing my nose in the way it really works.

So! You get a new action button in Warlords of Draenor and it doesn’t have shit to do with a Barracks. It’s related to your Outpost choices, and has nothing to do with your class and spec. And it’s cool! It’s also oh so easy to forget you have it.

I’m talking about the Call to Arms ability, an action button that dues something different depending on what Draenor zone you are in. In every Draenor zone after your starting one, you build a little Outpost, and you are given a choice between two buildings. Each building can give you different benefits, access to different quests, different Follower rewards and a different ‘Call to Arms’ oh shit ability.

The Outpost choices can bite you on the butt, too. Are you a leatherworker? Do you have a Barn building and want to assign a Follower to it so you get more resources each time? Then for Alliance choose the brewery in Spires of Arak for your Outpost, because the Follower you eventually get from it is a Skinner to be put in the Barn. Complicated, right?

Well, WoWhead has a wonderful guide to all Followers, what they can do, where they can go, how you can find them. One read through of that and every question is answered. So, it’s not that bad. Oh, I suggested you go read a guide on Wowhead? You’re shocked, I know.

The Call to Arms ability. This is so easy to forget to use, but it is a game changer if you use it. Fighting a rare mob in the world? About to die? Hit that button and have a shot and living to tell the tale of how, um, someone else totally saved your ass.

As an example, for Alliance trying to complete the quest to unlock Protector Illona, an awesome Protection Paladin tank Bodyguard Follower, you have to defeat two spirits that are pretty powerful. Just one killed my butt when I tried it on my Rogue. Ah, but then I remembered that Call to Arms ability, and the next attempt I made I used that to call in an Artillery Strike on the two mobs and cleaned their clock. Just, destroyed them. It’s really very powerful and useful in a tough fight. And oh so incredibly easy to forget you have it.

So that’s Call to Arms. Nothing to do with the Barracks, just something to love. A special little snowflake of an ability.

back to the Barracks. That was supposedly what i was talking about and explaining why I recommend taking it while leveling. Having the Barracks gives you special Patrol Follower missions. You can tell which ones they are in the mission list, they have the picture of a Spyglass next to them. Doing a bunch of those is how you unlock the level 3 Barracks blueprint. Patrol missions typically give better XP bonuses than regular missions, so yeah. YUM.

Barracks, what’s not to love?

Bodyguards

The second answer to why to have a Barracks while leveling is Bodyguards. There are several Followers that have the Bodyguard trait built in, five at the time of this writing but next patch who knows, one of which you unlock immediately after upgrading your Garrison to level 2.

You want that Bodyguard? Yeah, not so fast chum! You can’t assign a Follower to your Barracks until it is level 2, and you can’t upgrade Large buildings until you reach level 100, OR level 94 and use the Outpost quest chain reward from Talador.

That’s right, there is a way to get it at level 94! One of your rewards for completing each leveling zone Outpost quest chain after the starter zone is a book that you can turn in for the Garrison Building blueprint of your choice. Completing Gorgrond gives you a book for smaller buildings, but completing the Outpost quest chain in Talador (and being level 94) gets you a book you can use to upgrade a Large building. Like your Barracks.

So, if you keep your Barracks and you use your Comprehensive Outpost Construction Guide from Talador on the Barracks to reach level 2, then at character level 94 you can immediately assign someone to be your companion, your Bodyguard, your buddy in the foxholes of life.

This is a freaking game changer for any class that ain’t a tank or doesn’t have a tank pet. HOLY SHITSKI.

Bodyguard Followers are NOT all tanks. Don’t let the term bodyguard fool you, they are really your companions. Some of them serve as threat-generating tanks, but others are DPS or healers.

As an example, I have been playing my Rogue a lot since my Warlock and Druid reached max. I intentionally set out to get the Barracks to level 2 and get Protector Illona as my tank at level 94.

Having Illona as a tank while you are a DPS class is amazing. It’s just… there are no words. Especially if you remember to call for Artillery when you’re about to get overwhelmed.

Does a Bodyguard sometimes get overwhelmed? Sure. Do they sometimes pull things you perhaps might have left unbothered? Unfortunately. But usually, if the situation is dire enough taht your bodyguard is about to die, you were gonna be hosed regardless. As a Rogue, I was delighted to learn that when I enter stealth, bodyguards do also. I also found out that if your stealthed bodyguard walks over a mob, the mob notices and attacks. You have to pay attention to where your bodyguard is if you’re stealthing all over the place. But the feel of stealthing into a camp and then unleashing a tank in the midst of them, OMG, so fun.

No, really.

Remember, not all bodyguards are tanks. Some are healers or DPS as well. I love my bodyguards on my Warlock as well, but I use Tormmok, an optional Follower from Gorgrond anyone can obtain. Tormmok is a straight up melee DPS, and he’s very powerful. Bodyguards scale with your level, so don’t worry about what level they are when sending them on missions. As your bodyguard, they are not only the same level as you in the field, but they also scale in power with your ilevel.

When I’m questing on my Destruction Warlock, I prefer to have my Grimoire of Supremacy Abyssal pet out as my AoE tank, and Tormmok as my single target melee DPS. That way I can control my tank pet with the extra DPS Tormmok gives me. Also, having two giant companions with me everywhere I go is an experience all to itself.

If you prefer leveling and playing as a tank, there are Healing bodyguards as well.

You’ve got options in bodyguards to match your playstyle. Maybe managing them and where they are and what they will aggro is an added challenge… but if you’re gonna whine about having Tormmok aggro something once in a while, not much I can say to that except shit happens, lead your forces better maybe?

FOLLOWER MISSIONS

Third, and the REALLY biggie for the Barracks is it increases the likelihood you will succeed with your Follower missions by increasing your pool of talent.

If you don’t really raid, or hell even if you do, a MAJOR source of gear upgrades comes from your Follower missions. It’s really quite amazing the amount of gear you will get thrown at you in these missions. My Druid had an almost full set of 615 gear just from missions by the time I was level 100.

One of the keys to completing Follower missions is to have a variety of Followers with a wide range of abilities that can counter mission objectives. The more Followers you have available to you, the more mission objectives you are capable of countering perfectly, and the more missions you can have active at once.

Follower missions frequently come up with 8 or 10 hour durations that award iLevel 615 or 630 loot, and higher. Each Follower of green or blue quality can counter one mission objective. Epic quality Followers can counter TWO at the same time. And whatever rarity your Followers are, once they are leveled to 100 all XP they gain is applied to improve their rarity. Eventually, if you keep sending them on missions, they will ALL be Epic.

Trust me on this. Right now I have 30 Epic Followers at level 100, all at 645 ilevel or higher. Only 25 are active, but maybe they’ll increase that cap someday? Maybe?

I like leveling Followers, but every time I want to level one I have to temporarily deactivate one of my epics. It’s horrible. Who to choose? How can I be asked to make Sophie’s Choice? I love them like my own children! Well, I love them like I would my own children if Alex ever brought me back some epic loot. Maybe I love them better. Just saying. Kid needs to step it up. I might have to send him to Clean the Latrine. perhaps he can bring me the epic Donut of Coffee Absorption.

The point is, if you send your Followers on missions as often as possible, they will continue to level. Once they are 100 and Epic, each one can counter two different objectives. Once you’ve got several to 100 and Epic, then the chance you can perfectly match ALL of a high level reward mission’s objectives goes way up. And the more of those that you get at high item levels, the better your chance to max out your best loot missions with 100% chances.

So you want many active Followers, you want to level them by sending them on MANY missions, and you want to be able to upgrade their armor and weapons a lot.

Which leads me away from the Barracks and on to the next Large building… the Dwarven Bunker/War Mill.

Dwarven Bunker/War Mill

The Dwarven Bunker is another great building, and a direct competitor with the Barracks for that lone leveling Large Building plot.

Why have the Barracks while leveling? All those answers I gave up there.

Why replace it with a Dwarven Bunker instead?

First, maybe you don’t want a Bodyguard. Maybe you want to keep ALL of your Followers away on missions and leveling as you quest so they’re all at max and epic and useful as soon as possible.

Also, maybe you know that you can wait for that increased Follower cap to go to 25, that as you level your character in the game 20 Follower spots are enough all the way through to Nagrand. Sure, you’re not doing high XP Patrol missions and moving towards unlocking the level 3 blueprint until later, but maybe you are okay with that…

Because with a Dwarven Bunker, and upgraded to level 2 as soon as you hit level 94 in Talador, you can spend Garrison Resources on work orders to frequently get armor and weapon upgrades for your Followers.

That’s right. The trick with the Dwarven Bunker is to get it to level 2, and dump Garrison Resources into it to get Follower gear upgrade tokens. The higher your Followers ilevels, the better the gear rewards you get offered from some Follower missions. They start at ilevel 600, and the cutoffs for gear missions are 600, 615, 630 and 645. Oh, and all the Followers sent on a mission have to have the minimum ilevel for that mission or that follower doesn’t even count towards it.

So yay! Not only do you want Followers to be level 100 and epic, but you also really want to push the ones with a good variety of talents to ilevel 645 as fast as you can.

Cassie is still working on this. She gets her highmaul raid missions with only a 78% chance of success. When the reward is a piece of 645 loot, that SUCKS. She has the followers, she is still working on the ilevels.

It’s a hard choice to make, which to do first. Both have advantages and benefits to choosing it.

I personally chose the Dwarven Bunker when I started out on my main, and the Barracks for all the others. I know that, compared to every other character I’m playing, it’s made a HUGE impact to my Follower ilevels. Like I said, my main has 30+ at epic and 645. Hell, most are above 650 now. None of my other characters have a team of followers that high in ilevel.

But the downside to having a Dwarven bunker was, I was ALWAYS starved for Garrison Resources. I spent so many resources on leveling buildings, sending all of my Followers on every mission that was ever offered, and buying Dwarven Bunker work orders that every day saw me desperate for new sources of Resources. It sucked.

I got to the point, I think I mentioned it in a previous post, that I went out searching for every single treasure in every zone, because many of them reward Garrison Resources. I also hunted down and killed every rare because they also reward some resources when killed. There are treasure maps you can buy which show where treasures are, but you can only get them after completing the zone’s quests. I finally just started using an addon that shows them all regardless of quest status. What addon? I did say I mentioned it in a previous post. You read that one, right?

In hindsight I wish I would have started with the Barracks while questing, got my bodyguard, and waited until level 100 to add the Dwarven Bunker. I think it would have been more fun having a bodyguard, and I would have been less stressed about Garrison Resources. But on the other hand, shit, I like having a 100% success rate for every mission in my log, and sending them out in waves to bring me back my gold and loot to disenchant. And the need for resouces DID serve to spur me on to finding every treasure and rare mob in every zone. That was really fun having that need driving me on.

There is one other way to get these Follower upgrades other than as mission rewards; a Small building;

The Salvage Yard.

All I can really say about the Salvage Yard is, it uses a small profession plot, and you don’t unlock it until midway through Spires of Arak, your level 96 – 98 questing zone. So it’s up to you if you fill both of your small plots early with profession buildings/Storehouse and wait until level 100 to add a Salvage Yard, or if you burn your way through Spires of Arak and try to build it right at 96/97.

Why the rush?

The Salvage Yard is another of those buildings that seems like a must-have.

If you have a Salvage Yard, every Follower Mission has a chance to give you a bag (or box) of random shit. Scraps. Trash. Vendor junk.

With a level 2 Salvage Yard, those bags have a chance to have Follower upgrade items JUST like the Dwarven Bunker/War Mill work order… and also a chance to have ilevel 610 gear for your class and spec, transmog items that sell well, and even ilevel 655 BoE gear that sells for thousands of gold if you’re lucky to get one! I’ve only gotten one of those, but I sold it for enough to buy a 655 BoE off hand weapon, so I count myself DAMN lucky.

So an upgraded Salvage Yard gives you even more Follower Upgrade items, to get them up there and ready to bring you back that raid loot! And it costs you nothing, you get the bags and boxes from missions you would have sent your Followers on anyway.

Of course, it’s also another incentive besides XP to send your Followers on every mission you’ve got, flood the mission log with them, don’t save your missions because every mission completed is a chance for a Follower upgrade from salvage.

Resource Management

So, why was I so starved in my resources? Shit, do you have to wonder? Everything I’ve done on my main involved spending Garrison Resources like I was trying to fill up a flock of seagulls with bread. You will never have enough bread, man.

Fortunately, your level 2 Garrison has a Medium building plot on it, and there are two Medium buildings you can choose from to build that can give you extra resources each day.

The two that give you resources every day are the Trading Post and the Lumber Mill. I strongly advise you get one of these as your starter Medium building.

Don’t do what I did and get an Inn because it sounded so cool, like the Stables. The Inn is another of those buildings that sounds awesome at first, but only really shines at end game.

The Lumber Mill requires you to go out and gather some wood from trees in the world, come back and use it to start work orders. You only get 20 resources per work order, unless you assign a Follower to help and then you get 30.

The Trading Post also gives you Garrison Resources, and each work order is worth the full 30. No Follower required. Sounds like a good deal, right? Why choose a Lumber Mill over a Trading Post?

It all depends on where you are in the leveling game.

A Lumber Mill uses lumber you gather in the world to fill the work orders. Once you have a level 3 Lumber Mill, you can unlock a new Follower, a really cool tree dude that you can then assign to the Lumber Mill to get more resources per work order… or to just keep forever.

A Trading Post has a faction reputation associated with it, and at level 3 increases your reputation gains by 20%. Very cool. It also has a vendor you can SPEND your Garrison Resources on to buy crafting mats. Always have too many Garrison Resources on your alts? Blow them on the Trading Post for useful crafting stuff like Draenic Dust!

BUT, to get your work orders at a Trading Post filled, each day it asks for a random material. Usually a raw crafting item like cloth, enchanting dust, a specific herb, ore, that kind of thing.

So, a Lumber Mill is great if you are brand new and have no resources. You can gather Lumber for free while questing and get Garrison Resources to spend immediately on missions and building upgrades. You can be working towards getting your tree Follower, too.

Once you’re max level and have the tree Follower though, hell, you’ve probably got plenty of ore and herbs coming from the mine and herb garden on your Garrison. You’ve got resources coming out your ears. NOW you can consider switching to a Trading Post so you have a place to spend extra crafting mats and Garrison Resources for useful stuff, and get that 20% reputation buff.

With all the ore and herbs my characters gather every day, I have personally switched to Trading Posts on everyone. It just makes sense. It gives me a use for excess herbs and ore, and since you can start more work orders at a time than will complete in one day, if they ask for a crafting material I don’t want to spend, I can usually just wait until the next day to file more orders. Odds are they’ll want an herb or ore before I run out of my last batch.

Inn Due Time

once you reach level 100, upgrade your Garrison to level 3 and unlock that second Medium building, I strongly recommend you build an Inn.

The Inn is a medium building that is vying for your attention amidst other cool sounding buildings. The barn is awesome for leather and cloth, offers a pet (The Pygmy Cow, so cute!) and at max level you can get some epic item crafting mats out of it. But if you can, go for the Inn at first. You can always change it later.

Why?

Because the Inn is another building like the Stables you don’t necessarily have to keep forever.

At level 1, you unlock Inn/Tavern missions. Miss Dungeons and Dragons much? Yeah, how many adventures start in a bar? Same thing.

Every day, there will be two random quests available at your level 1 Inn… quests to be completed inside normal and heroic dungeons. these quests reward things like toys, a Follower, some transmog gear and other stuff. The biggest reward to crave though is Avianas Feather. This item, in a Draenor outdoor zone, throws you miles into the air and then let’s you glide like you’re on a goblin glider for, shit, across over half the damn zone. I am NOT joking. It’s brilliant, and if you don’t have it this item alone is reason enough to get an Inn. Seriously.

So get the Inn at level 100, because you can’t really get any use out of it until you can run dungeons.

upgrade it to level 2, and once a week you can recruit a new Follower. A brand new, crude, unleveled 90 Follower. Why want a level 90 Follower? To shore up those gaps in your mission objectives that we talked about earlier. Once you are level 100 and pretty much have your 20 Followers, you can see which mission objectives you lack coverage in, and use the Inn to recruit some help. Also, you can just choose to recruit Scavangers and Epic mount Followers to level to epic and cut down on your mission turnaround time.

At level 3… you unlock treasure missions. Like the Barracks Patrol missions, these special missions are only offered to you if you have a level 3 Inn/Tavern, and the missions reward you with gold. A decent amount of gold. Like, hundreds of gold a day if you’re doing the missions all the time like clockwork.

But wait! What about all these other buildings? What about those? Who the hell wants to have some same old same old cookie cutter building layout?

Exactly. And that is why some of these buildings are brilliant. Like the Stables. yes, there is an advantage to having it at level 3, but you can live without it if you want to. Or keep the mount speed increase with a clear conscience. And the Inn. Yes, gold missions are nice, but once you have all the dungeon quests done and don’t need more Followers, it’s only gold. Why not try the Gladiator’s Sanctum and have some fun?

And as far as a Stables or Trading Post, you don’t even HAVE to have either of those. You can only stack up to 10,000 Garrison Resources and you get more every day. If you get that high up, and you’re happy with your building choices, why not dump them both to mess around with something else? You can! YOU ARE FREE TO DO IT ALL!

But something things help you a lot more in the early days and early weeks of leveling and then reaching level 100 than others.

FISHWRAP TIME

It’s funny, but if you look at this post, none of it is about questing, or raiding, or playing characters. It’s all about having fun with and increasing the power and usefulness of your Followers.

I think that says a lot about what I’m finding the most engaging and rewarding of all the content in the game. The treasure scattered throughout all of the zones, the many, MANY rares, the wonderful world bosses that drop mounts, the Outposts and the way they help add in more quest variety, all of the other available buildings… it’s all wonderful.

But the Follower and mission system has captured my love and my imagination. That is what I’m thinking about now, and where my interests lie.

Well, that, and soloing old raids for transmog gear and mounts. My Rogue looks dead sexy, yo. And my Druid be looking mighty fine, mighty fine. Too bad you can’t see it as feral when I’m eating your face. You don’t know this, but while I was chewing your arm off I was looking pretty sexy. You’ll have to take it on faith.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible. I left out most of the buildings, for the love of Elune! It’s crazy.

That just tells you, this is only MY point of view. The buildings I wish I’d built the first time around so I didn’t waste thousands of resources and gold tearing them down to build something else. The ones I did build the first time and why I’m grateful.

There are so many other possibilities, and I just know lots of people are using buildings that do other things I haven’t even tried yet, things that may be even more fun.

Still, James, if you’re reading this… I can promise you one thing, if you get sucked back in, you’ll find it’ll take a while before you run out of things to do THIS time.

At this time, reading over the post, I see I’ve hit 6000 words.

So.

Fuckit, if you went this far, BONUS ROUND.

Things I think are cool as shit I didn’t mention above.

Bodyguard Followers have their own buddy rep with you. You can level them and retire them and bring them back out and level some more, you never lose rep with one. There are only three ranks of rep, so it’s not bad, and if you can AoE tank (like, say, Bears or Warlocks with an Abyssal pet) then at level 100 walk around the corner from your Garrison (or fly across the continent my poor Horde friends) to Gloomshade Grove in Shadowmoon Valley and make some sweeps through the podlings. It took me less than an hour to complete max level with Tormmok using this method. Plus, revenge on podlings. Little pricks. At max rep level, each bodyguard has some kind of extra quest to do that unlocks their final form. For Tormmok, he gets a brand new badass evil looking sword. SO damn cool. Defender Illona gets a total revamp of her armor. So awesome.

When you use the Call to Arms Barracks extra action button, there are different things it does in different zones. In Gorgrond, the shredder lets you drive a functional goblin shredder… and it has rockets and can fly! So nice for getting to hard to reach areas sometimes. IF you remember to use it.

The Small Profession buildings can have a Follower assigned to them at level 2. Most Followers have some kind of special thing they can do for you, if you just ask them. Inscription Followers can make you some invoices that you can try to combine for extra gold.

The BEST extra Follower profession perk, to my mind, is that the Enchanting Follower will offer to put a glow illusion on your weapon. This is so cool. There is a long list of enchants, including having the appearance of NO enchant on your weapons. I actually have an Enchanting Building with assigned Follower for my Rogue for no other reason than that I want a matching enchant for my transmog, and I’m TOO DAMN LAZY to ask a friend to let me visit their garrison. I am getting serious about my Rogue transmogs. As you can see from the following picture, a bright glowing red dagger just would not do! I’m sneaky. I needed sneaky colored enchants.

Kittiana-businesstime

Okay, I like that. I love the new wolf mounts, too. Like, really love.

Kittiana-wolfie

There is treasure in every zone, and if you get low you can go out and find some that gives you Garrison Resources. I spent many hours scouring the world for Garrison Resources, and I consider it time well spent. It was a lot of fun getting into all the nooks and crannies. That addon I mentioned before to help find treasures? Just kidding, you don’t have to look at my old posts. It’s called HandyNotes and HandyNotes_DraenorTreasures. They’re on Curse. Well worth your time.

On the subject of addons, I also really love Master Plan for managing follower missions. Also, thanks be to friends on Twitter, I now use SavedInstances to help me track all my raid lockouts across all my characters, because I lose track of who did Firelands and which difficulty.

Finally… thank you to everyone that has been reading this blog for all these years, or who have only checked it out once or twice. Your feedback and chatting with me in comments, on Twitter or in the game has always been the biggest joy I’ve had from it. As much as I like writing, the best thing about the entire blogging experience has been meeting folks, talking with you and paying with you. Whether it was in ICC, Firelands or the occasional run in anything it’s been a delight. Thank you, all of you.

What is an expansion?

Midst the flood of news recently came a little woolgathering from Ghostcrawler, as he told Digital Spy that they would like to put expansions out more frequently, and as often as once a year or so “would be a good rate”.

I noticed he didn’t say they were going to put them out once a year, or commit to doing them once a year. He only said that they know new expansions bring more people back than a content patch, and they’d like to do them more often.

“We really want to get to a cadence where we can release expansions more quickly. Once a year I think would be a good rate. I think the best thing we can do for new players is to keep coming out with regular content updates.” – Ghostcrawler.

I’m not seeing a promise to put out a new expansion every year, although I have seen folks rephrase it as though this is the new moose. Will we see people yelling at Blizzard years in the future, “But you promised you’d put out a new expansion each year!”

Undoubtedly. Reading comprehension is a fading skill.

But so what? What IS an expansion, anyway?

How does a new expansion differ from a content patch?

To me, an expansion is an entire story arc coupled with new technology upgrades, added mechanics and features.

The story arc is the part I love the most, but the technology upgrades probably have the most impact on my everyday gameplay.

I do not expect the same updates or upgrades to the engine each expansion, or the same bumps in character capability. I just expect that there be some improvements to the software, some technology upgrades, some under-the-hood tinkering.

So, like with Warlords of Draenor. I am hearing people complain and saying how disappointed they are that there aren’t new classes or races announced. “It’s not an expansion without at least one new class or race.”

I can see why you could think that. Burning Crusade brought Blood Elves and Draenei, Wrath of the Lich King brought Death Knights, Cataclysm brought Worgen and Goblins, Mists of Pandaria gave us Monks and Pandaren.

It’s a fair point to make.

I don’t personally subscribe to the belief that what was done once must be done always, until the end of days, world without end amen. So they’re not doing a new class or race this time. Okay.

They ARE, however, committed to updating the character models and animations of every single race out there, and I have heard it said they are adding more hair styles and color options.

I don’t have this mythical new class or race, but what I do have are eleven full character slots on my main server, with five character at max level and more on the way, each and every one of whom could benefit from looking prettier.

New Garrisons. New world PVP. New elite PVP modes for those who want the PVP version of Challenge Modes, skill instead of gear. Item Squishes, gear that changes primary stats based on your current specialization, Heirlooms on a UI and out of the bags, Garrisons, more class levels and new class talents.

Yes, this upcoming expansion is bringing tech and mechanic improvements. So to me, that checkbox is filled.

And we’re getting a new story arc. Warlords of Draenor. Going to old Draenor and taking the fight to the Horde… before they were a Horde, and before they ever did anything to us. So, basically, we’re getting our revenge in first. Preemptive Revenge.

So, if we invade Draenor and kick all kinds of snot out of the Orc tribes, in the years to come will they nurse their anger and thirst for revenge against us? After all, Han Shot First and all that.

What I personally want to see is the part of the story arc after the initial rush. That first content patch after the expansion has been out for three months, when we’ve killed most of the male Orc tribal leaders… and their wives seize control of the clans, swear vengeance and set out to make us pay.

Then we can have a great slog in the mud as everything gets all twisted. The Orcs were manipulated into attacking their former friends, the Draenei. But they didn’t drink Mannoroth’s blood, they still possess free will, and here came these invaders from another world who tore into the Iron Horde and slaughtered their leaders before they had the chance to make their own decision to turn back to the path of justice.

The Iron Horde are not inherently evil, they cannot be, for they are the living parents of our own Orc peoples.

So what happens when we get ours in first, and they respond to that? When they rise to this unexpected challenge? When the Warlords that were duped fall and new leaders rise in their place, leaders that may not have fully bought into this whole “let’s go kill the Draenei and wear their skins as clothes” bullshit, but sure as HELL aren’t going to let us just waltz in and kill their families.

It’s going to be interesting as all hell. Where will it go? Where will it end? Blood feuds will come from this. And what of the Orcs of our Azeroth, going back to fight their own ancestors, once lost to them?

This isn’t that long ago, what of Orcs facing otherworld versions of themselves…

Will the Orcs of the Iron Horde think of themselves as the superior race because they did NOT weaken themselves by drinking the blood of a demon? A master race?

Will they be a people capable of both atrocity and compassion, or cardboard cutouts? Are we looking at Orc Socialism on the move?

I am excited as hell because Blizzard has ALWAYS satisfied me with their storytelling and their intricate plots. Go  back and take a look at Mists of Pandaria, track how we started with a lost prince on a mysterious island, grew through discovery of ancient peoples and fascinating cultures, fought a massive war against the Mogu and the overall insidious nature of the Sha poisoning everything, and finally culminating in a faction leader trying to take some of that power and seize his chance at ultimate victory over everyone he sees as an enemy.

Which turns out to be everyone not exactly like him, or the mercenary Goblins he hires.

This new story arc is so full of potential I’m squeeing in glee. So many ways to take this Warlords of Draenor thing over an entire expansion arc filled with multiple content patches.

So much potential for fun.

What is an expansion?

It’s lots of new game features and improvements, and a big honking story arc.

Can they do a new expansion every year?

Sure, as long as they tighten up how long the planned story arc will be to one year in length with the content patches coming  every two to three months. And as long as they continue to have new features and improvements in the pipeline that seem significant when they are unveiled each year.

I know it sounds silly but while I do like having content coming out sooner, I don’t want tons of new content coming out quite that fast.

I think most of Mists of Pandaria hit me at just the right pace. Maybe a few weeks of free time after I had absorbed each one before the next came out.

How fast we play the content is different for each person. For every player that has best in slot gear and has already completed Siege of Ogrimmar on normal, there are probably 50 that are still collecting Sigils or Valor for their Legendary cloak quest.

Just as there has to be new content for us to get excited over, there has to be a codetta afterwards to give us space to breath. We enjoy the content, work hard to reach levels or reputations or gear points, unlock content, and then we take a moment to look upon our works and relax before tearing into it once more.

I would actually like to see something different than a traditional expansion each year.

What I would like to see is one true expansion with the technological marvels and new features with the big story arc lasting a year of smaller content patches as chapters…

And then the second year would focus on another big story arc, new areas to explore and adventures to go on. The Burning Crusade storyline, zones, dungeons and raids without the programming time spent working in two new races, more levels and above all the time spent trying to re-balance it all in playtesting.

Yes, the art assets, quest design, all of that would be just as intense as ever, massive amounts of work for Blizzard to prepare. But without the balancing that new levels or classes impose on us, I think we could get to the new storylines sooner.

Anyway.

What do you think? What features or improvements do you feel are necessary to take something from a content patch and make it a real expansion worth purchasing a box?

And how fast do you really want them to come? Has Mists of Pandaria left you feeling bored between content patches, overwhelmed by all the new things to do that hit before you’re done with the last chunk, or has it been just right?

The Road to Adventure

I ask myself sometimes what it is about World of Warcraft that sunk it’s teeth so firmly into my butt and won’t let go.

What is it, that one thing you think of when you play the association game.

Sure, there may be a hundred different things something means to you, but what is that one thing you smell, the picture you see, when you first call World of Warcraft to mind.

For me, World of Warcraft has nothing to do with guilds, gear, raids, leveling or even quests as a ‘dude had an exclamation point over his head’ thing.

It’s all about the adventure.

The image, the feelings that come to my mind are the sensations I had as a young Night Elf Druid, in cat form, prowling over the mountain trail from Desolace into the northern jungles of Feralas.

In that first year of World of Warcraft, all of my first impressions were formed. Alone in the game, no real guild, rarely any friends on, just me, a Druid, and an entire unknown world of vast size to explore.

Adventure lay around every corner. New things to see, new lands, new peoples, new enemies to fight. Ruins and caverns and ancient temples. The worshippers of old gods to thwart, the vitality of the Horde to face down, cultures at war and a new experience at hand every time I logged in.

In those early days where Thottbot gave hints on where to find the solution to your quest, you were mostly on your own. You never knew what you were going to run into around the next corner, you didn’t even know who controlled the land you were prowling into next. An Alliance fortress? A lost Tauren stronghold? Pirates, Ogres, an island of serpent people assaulting Night Elves, who could possibly guess?

That is what World of Warcraft truly means to me. When I think of the game, I still flash back to that Night Elf Druid boldly exploring a world where anything could lie around the next corner, and it’s nameplate could be red for “OMG RUN RUN RUN AWAY AAAAHHHHHH, dead, one shot, that bastard, who the hell put a 56 elite there and holy shit look at how close they spawn to each other, gack.”

It has been a very long time since those days, right? Now there are a thousand voices screaming to be heard, all desperate to tell you all about what lies around that corner, what rare will spawn there, what the frequency is, what is in it’s loot list and how you can map it in TomTom so you can farm them as efficiently as possible.

For me, those long lost days of exploration are about to come around once again.

I have managed, mostly through withdrawing from all media, to avoid all spoilers about the new Timeless Isle.

I know where it will appear, and I know there will be rares, and bosses, and Celestials, and coins to collect, and a Celestial Tournament for pet battling, and all sorts of events.

Yeah, that sentence about sums up my total knowledge of the Timeless Isle. Oh yeah, and Ordos the legendary locked boss.

It sometimes feels as though the Lets Play group has taken over, and people aren’t interested in playing a game themselves, experiencing things for the first time on their own. They want to watch someone else have fun on a Twitch streaming channel.

I just don’t understand that, and it’s okay. I don’t get the point of passively watching other people have fun playing sports, either. I can either play and have fun, or go do something else. I don’t get the point of watching someone else have fun playing a game. But other people do, and that’s cool. For them, there are plenty of streaming channels where you can watch other people have fun playing video games.

Me, I’m about to step foot into the Timeless Isle tonight. I will be striking out, exploring, no idea what lies around the next bend.

I don’t give a shit if someone wrote a guide, I don’t need a guide, I’m a badass and I WILL explore this new land and pry it’s secrets from the charred, skeletal hands of it’s soon-to-be-dead masters.

I will not be following in anyones footsteps. I will be the one forging a trail in search of the lost temple of gold, the fountain of eternal youth, or the altar of the timeless gods. Which will I find? All, some, none of the above? Will I be destroyed for my foolishness in meddling with forces beyond my mortal ken?

I will not be the most efficient. I will not obtain the most coins or potential drops or rare kills in the least amount of time. I will not be dinging Celestial boss kills as fast as they can spawn. And I’m okay with that.

For the first time in years, something is being unleashed that I can take the time to enjoy for myself, at my own pace, and really not give a shit if there is loot to be found that will make me more powerful for raids. I suck in raids anyway, another piece of loot ain’t gonna change that.

I can already feel that tension, just thinking about logging in. What will I find? What will be there, around the next corner?

My only fear is simple. Will the Timeless Isle be so small that it feels not like I am an adventurous explorer, but more like I am just one more body lost amidst the ravening horde?

I look forward to seeing what happens. I want to be alone, lost amidst the teeming forest, pushing aside the fronds with my machete in search of something no man or woman has set eyes on in a thousand years.

There will be time enough for people when the Flex Raid comes around.

Every Dog Has His Day

The next chapter of the World of Warcraft story is setting both ‘factions’, Horde and Alliance, to the task of invading Orgrimmar and slaying our own homegrown big bad, Garrosh.

We knew Garrosh from his days as an emo punk in Outlands, where we had to jolly him out of his funk and convince him that his dear old dad Grommash “Grom” Hellscream wasn’t really such a bad guy, for an orc that willingly drank the blood of a demon to gain the power to crush his foes, and inspired others to do the same.

Hold that thought.

Since those humble beginnings, we have seen Garrosh become the fiery hothead, rising as a trusted if impulsive hero in Northrend. One jarring note to his heroism, though, was the way he put his personal pride before duty to his people. When the threat of the Old Gods rose in Ulduar, it was Garrosh that refused to work together with any Alliance that held Varian Wrynn. All that lived might have been at risk of death and destruction, but Garrosh would not waver. He would rather die than join forces with Varian and the Alliance. Yes, even in the face of an Old God rising in Ulduar.

From this history, Garrosh has now risen as a fascist tyrant, expelling the ‘lesser’ races from his Horde.

It is his people that Garrosh sees as the only true Horde. The orcs are to be the masters, and all others are tools to serve his purpose, only to be cast aside once broken or useless to his needs.

To further his goal, he has even gone so far as to use the remains of an Old God to empower the orcs of the Horde.

Where his father drunk the blood of the demon Mannoroth to gain power for himself and his people, the son takes in the power of the Old Gods themselves.

When we were teaching Garrosh of the heroic history of his father, which was the lesson he learned?

Did he focus on what Thrall felt the heart of the story was, the redemption and freedom Grommash bought his people at the cost of his death, slaying Mannoroth?

Or did he instead focus on the goal of his father, the empowering of the Horde through supernatural means, and decide that the real problem was Grom chose the wrong source to gain his power from?

I know that there are ambivalent feelings concerning the story. First, once again we the players are not the core of the story driving it forward. We’re the bit players brought in to act for the protagonists. Also, the Alliance is not taking much of an active role in the story, we are merely helping out our new friends, the Trolls.

They’re not heavy, they be our bruddas.

It seems pretty reasonable to me. As horribly jarring as the bloodthirsty, impatient portrayal of Tyrande was in “A Little Patience”, the scenario went to great lengths to show Varian as a war leader who had finally learned to make a cold, clear assessment of what is best for his people, and act accordingly, putting personal feelings aside.

For the King we are introduced to in that scenario, and for the King who feels his incredible sorrow and rage at what happens to his son with the Divine Bell but manages to control his feelings, it makes sense.

For the Alliance, the smart thing is to seek allies, allow the Trolls and other cast-aside enemy races of the Horde to bear the brunt of the war, and be prepared to take advantage of how things play out, one way or another, without overcommitting his own people.

Will we see Varian the statesman emerge, ready to join with the Trolls and Tauren in the aftermath, help them rebuild? Extend the hand of friendship, help ease their pain?

Or will Varian take advantage of their moment of greatest weakness?

It doesn’t matter. This isn’t a story to highlight the personalities of the Alliance, we’ll see that when it’s all said and done in Orgrimmar.

This is all about the fracture within the Horde leadership, and what is driving it is the insecurity of the orcs within the Horde itself, es evidenced by the most insecure orc leader of them all, Garrosh.

When we the players stepped foot in Azeroth, the Horde were the underdogs, scratching out an existence and bound to each other for survival against the threat of the mighty Alliance who lay just over the horizon, ready to fall upon them in vast fleets and crush the life from their families, their children.

Each of the races of the Horde, individually, had to choose to hang together or surely they would fall apart.

The persecuted and the mongrels, yes. The unwanted, or the feared. But these underdogs weren’t laying down waiting for master to come and kick them. They were junkyard dogs ready to tear the throat out of anyone that came uninvited to their patch of dirt.

At the heart of this Horde, this band of misfits, were the orcs, a people who had been subjugated by the Burning Legion, uprooted from their homeland and dumped in a new world to slaughter and burn, and when the Burning Legion failed, were scattered and lost in Azeroth.

The remains of the fallen orcs were lost, on another world, without hope for the future, no chance to return home or ever know what became of families or kin. Existing without purpose or design, under the iron heel of the Alliance boot.

And then Thrall came, Thrall who had been a slave in the truest sense, treated not as an equal but as a dog that could be taught to do tricks and take scraps from the hand of the master.

Thrall proved that no man was his master, and his passion revived the orcs. He brought them hope, took them to a land they could try to make their own, with nothing but the strength in their backs and hope.

Hope that in this strange, alien world they could make a life for their families on their own terms, and be slaves to nobody and nothing ever again.

Not the Burning Legion, not the Alliance. Live free or die.

Look at where things have gone since that beginning.

Thrall took the Horde from being the underdogs, and made them a true equal with the Alliance. Equal enough to force a peace. One or the other faction may at times have held the upper hand in Alterac Valley, but in the end a balance was maintained.

Then Deathwing shattered the world, and Thrall left.

Thrall was a statesman. Passionate, full of grief and rage and loss, he still placed himself and his life in the service of the Horde as a collection of families, as a whole people, and directed his efforts towards safeguarding the future of these his adopted peoples and trying to accomodate all of their varied goals and needs.

When the world was threatened with destruction, Thrall left to do what he could, for if the world was destroyed so too would be the Horde. And sure, the Alliance too, so I guess he was saving them as well. But whatever, it’s not like he could only save the bits that he liked.

But what he did when he left was choose to place a fiery, passionate warrior in the position of Warchief of the Horde. He had others he trusted he could have chosen, but he chose a brother orc, one that was proven to be a hothead with a hatred for the Alliance who could inspire, and gave him an advisor with a cooler head to restrain his wilder impulses.

He chose someone that would never be satisfied with passive acceptance. He chose someone that would never sit idle under the watchful eye of the Alliance.

He chose someone that would push the Alliance, work to build stronger safeguards for the Horde, expand territory, protect borders, and lead with passion.

He chose someone to lead the Horde that was the exact opposite of what the orcs had been when interned in their concentration camps. Someone that would never, ever revert to that state once Thrall was gone.

Did Thrall choose Garrosh not because he trusted Garrosh more than the other leaders, but because he feared the effect passive leadership might have on his people? Does Thrall fear a return to the days of hopelessness and apathy?

Does Thrall, in his heart, think the orcs of Azeroth lack spirit and passion? Does he place greater faith in the passion and heart of the orcs who remained behind on Draenor?

Is that partly why he placed Garrosh in power as Warchief of the Horde, and found true love in an orc from Draenor who had never lived a life beyond the Dark Portal, lost and spiritless?

Thrall led the orcs of Azeroth, but did he fail, in his heart, to place his faith in them?

Now, the Horde have come full circle.

The Horde were founded by a band of refugees who formed alliances with a scattering of strong races, each outside of the human “Alliance”.

That has all changed. The orcs stand strong, proclaiming themselves as the only true Horde, full of pride and rage, determined to stand supreme, and their former allies are cast out and abused, treated as tools, nothing more.

Whatever else you may say about Garrosh, he has strengthed, inspired and expanded the orc empire in Kalimdor.

He has sought with an ever-growing frenzy to find some source of power to ensure the survival of the orcs and the Horde, a survival against a threat only Garrosh seems to see.

Has Garrosh done all this because he is still working from what he learned about the fate of his father?

Is the reason that Garrosh wants all of this power under his control, that he fears the one thing strong enough to kill his father, the return of the Burning Legion?

I wonder about why Garrosh is counting on all the armies of Azeroth coming to him, to kill him in Orgrimmar. Is he hoping to use the power of the Old Gods and his new allies to corrupt all the finest warriors of the world, place them under his command as the one who controls the Heart, and thereby prepare the planet for the arrival of the Burning Legion?

Or, maybe he’s just a crazy mo-fo, standing on top of the tallest hill in the junkyard, screaming at the world, “Come at me, bro!”

Feeding Frenzy

Ah, you feel that?

That wonderful time dwellnig in the trough between the waves.

A new patch comes, content gets dumped in the water like chum and we scramble to tear it up and get it all down…

That’s over now.

Now we glide idly through the game taking a nibble or two, relaxed and happy, digesting the last big meal, letting off a burp or two knowing we’re going to get another dump of chum in just a few weeks.

Maybe you’re in a different place right now, but that’s how the cycle feels to me. A patch comes, new stuff to do and shinies to pursue, and the server slams the twin Evinrudes full throttle chasing after it. We all thrash around overfishing the same small holes until everyone hits their limit for the season, and then we get to relax a bit before the next tourney.

Perfect pacing, thank you. Having just a little time to enjoy our success gives us a palate cleanser before the next patch brings fresh fish.

Patch 5.2 has been good, but the thrill has trailed off. The raid is out in full and it’s been good… but it has lost that new raid smell.

New raid smell. Need to get me a can of that, spray it on the seat cushions.

I like where we are at because we know the lull will definitely end, and soon. We don’t have the empty wasteland of nothing to do for the next eight months staring us in the face.

I’m spending my time chilling out and finishing off some of those Pandaria reps that were so two patches ago. I’ve been doing the farm assignments to get reputation each day, and I had the bright idea of patrolling the Valley of the Four Winds for Dark Soil, to try and get Best Friends with everyone.

I figured by this point, everyone who just had to have everyone as Best Friends did, so I wouldn’t have much competition for the Dark Soils.

The result? Yep, true story. Some nights, I’d do a pass and end up with 15 Dark Soil items to turn in before going back for another round. Only took a week of flying around to get ’em all. My farm looks mighty purty now, and I like the chickens. Wish I could click one, kill it and have chicken to fry for my dinner. Ah well, as long as Dog gets to have a fresh chicken snack pack, it’s all good.

I just completed exalted with both Golden Lotus and Shado Pan last night, too. Yes, both. It was the first time any of my characters reached exalted with either of them.

Completed Cloud Serpent a few weeks ago, too. After all, why not? I’ve got some time now that the Isle of Thunder is completely unlocked.

Now that I have the rep, sooner or later I’ll have all of those tigers, cloud serpents, cranes and goats. New mounts are a grand thing. My low level alts will look nice on the back of a blue Shado Pan tiger.

I’ll tell you something. As nice as pet battles and scenarios are, I love having those faction reputations to pursue in my free time.

It’s not the Valor or Justice gear. Those are a joke. They are perishable items, and most of them were stale at their price points on the day they were released.

No, the reputations are fresh and tasty because most of them have FUN stuff to get, stuff that has nothing to do with gear or game performance.

By all means, Blizzard. Give me some factions with a cool story arc and daily quests, and a quartermaster with pets, mounts or attractive transmog gear.

You can keep all the Valor and Justice gear, get that off the faction quartermasters. Stick that somewhere else. Just put a gear vendor in a capitol city that isn’t gated by reputation levels. Valor Points are gated by a weekly cap anyway, so why put a rep level gate on top of it? Just put all the new Valor gear for a tier there at once, and let me decide which single piece I’m saving my Valor for first. I don’t think that having all the items available to pick from is unbalanced when you are still limited to only one item per two to three weeks of capping Valor. Oh no, if all the gear is available from the beginning, then in twenty weeks I could have it all without grinding Rep! Oh noes! Yep, that’s too damn OP. For sure, dude.

The game should feel challenging and reward a certain amount of dedication without feeling gratuitously punishing. What feels punishing is subjective, but I said my piece on Valor Gear vendors, and now I’ll drop it.

Back to the point of factions, daily quests and reputation.

I love having these in the game as filler, without being tied to necessary gear upgrades. I like not feeling that I have to grind that rep every day to stay on top of where my gear should be at.

I might not do the faction today, I might not spend every waking moment grinding rep. I might have a raid instead, or real life, or whatever. A week long family vacation, maybe.

But when I’m queued and flying around bored waiting for something to pop, I’ll go to your faction hub and do some quests, smack some Mogu around and take their fruity pebbles.

I know I said it at the beginning of the expansion, and it’s holding true. I love having faction daily quest hubs that are story driven with actual arcs and new quests at various rep levels along the way, and end in some kind of story reveal or special quest that wraps it all up for you.

A new mount, pet or transmog item for a final reward is the sweetest prize ever. That Onyx Cloud Serpent for Shado Pan? Beautiful mount, and getting it felt like a prize that enhanced an already great final faction quest rather than being something I ground to get for a better ilevel.

I’ve even come around to appreciating the Order of the Cloud Serpent gating the training required to fly one. Although I still think the training should be account bound. You raise one yourself, it’s special, and you fly it for a while, but there are other, special cloud serpents out there waiting for you.

I haven’t reached exalted with August Celestial on anyone, but I’m looking forward to that as well.

I like the direction Blizzard has gone with Factions. My only worry is whether they can maintain the quality of the faction quests and story arcs. They have set the standard very, very high.

The completion of each Faction story arc have become some of the best moments in the game for me. The final Klaxxi reveal, the defense of the Black Ox for Shado Pan, the defeat of the Bloodletter and the battle on the steps of Mogushan Palace for the Golden Lotus. The whole sequence with Operation: Shieldwall.

I find myself doing the factions to see what will happen next. And isn’t that what you want from the people playing your game or reading your story? To keep them looking forward to finding out what happens next?

Oh, and the final ceremony of the Order of the Cloud Serpent! That was steller! Alex loved it, too, when he completed it. And the fact he could go tame serpent hatchlings. :)

That is what it all comes down to. That is the cycle I’m enjoying, all boiled down.

A new patch comes with content for boosting your gear and power. We tear into it and burn through as fast as we can to stay on the leading edge of Valor gear and LFR drops. But when the patch is been and gone, when we enter the lull, it is the faction daily quest hub that I fall back on, with progression at my pace, a story to look forward to, and a cute fun reward at the end of it.

Please Blizzard, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Only more so.

:)

Say Hello To My Little Friend

Everyone, please say hello to the newest member of my family, Barry!

Because he's blue... yeah, I know, I don't care, I LOVE the name, so bite me, or gore me, but just don't bore me.

The one thing I really wanted when this patch went live was to visit Dinosaur Island.

Okay, sure, they’re calling it the Isle of Giants, but we all know what we’re getting, and the island doesn’t disappoint.

What I didn’t have a clear idea of when I logged in was just how to get there, or what to do when I did.

I had a breadcrumb quest to send me to the Island of Thunder, but other than that, nothing.

Well, kiss my furry butt, I saw someone mention the Isle of Giants was north of Kun Lai Summit, so I figured if I flew far enough, well, I could figure it out.

Sure enough, I flew due north of the center of Kun Lai, and there across some fatigue-laden water was an island… and it must be the right one because I was dismounted and dropped into the ocean before I reached shore.

When I did come ashore, there were flight points centrally located on the southern shore where I swam up, and a bunch of big honking elite dinosaurs.

Score!

So… first order of business, how do I get me hands on one of them suckers?

Well, the REAL first order of business was to get a rare drop book which will teach me How To Tame My Dragon… er, I mean Dinosaur.

The dinos here aren’t exotic, so you don’t have to be a Beastmaster like me to tame one… but all hunters have to get the book first.

Technically, it’s the Big Book of Dinos, or the Ancient Tome Of Dinomancy, or something.

It does not drop from the dinos, it drops from the trolls that are worshipping the dinos… the Zandalari Dinomancers.

The same Dinomancers that have a chance to drop one of the four possible battle pet drops on the island.

I shall present to you a map. These are pictures, here on my blog, so be properly appreciative. I hate adding graphics to my blog, it feels so, so dirty. Pandering to the man. Damn the man! I don’t care if ‘the book’ says you need pictures on your blog to catch the eye. Telling me what I ‘should’ do is the perfect way to get me not to do it.

But I still like pretty pictures. I’m so torn! Conflicted bear is conflicted. :(

damn there are a lot of freaking elite badass dinosaurs on this island. I'm so happy!

The way this works is, I landed where the red trail begins, and worked my way left. Where the red trail ends, at the arrowhead, is a cave, and within the cave is the vendor to whom you can give the Giant Dinosaur Bones you collect.

I found the hatchlings dropped between 7 and 9 bones per kill, and the trolls dropped one, yes ONE per kill. I did not live through any of my solo attempts at the big dinos, so I have no idea what they drop.

I only came across three Dinomancers along my red route, so I continued on with the yellow route, exploring. I found lots and lots of awesome colored dinosaurs that made me grateful to have Camouflage, and I got ate a lot, but   no trolls.

Let me tell you, the feel was of Vanilla Un’goro Crater on CRACK. I’d pull a hatchling and be fighting it, and huge honking T-rex comes stomping up from behind without my noticing, and next thing I see is a foot bigger than I was stomping on me, and boom! Dead ass panda.

It was awesome. Stealth T-Rexes are BACK!

Anyway, I followed the yellow route through the black tar pits and along the edge of the cliffs until I came to where I have the yellow trail ending, and the orange area circled.

That there is a Dinomancer village, about 6 to 8 spawn points of Zandalari Dinomancers, and it felt remote enough that I could farm some trolls to try and get my book in peace.

My biggest fear was drop rates, and mob rarity. I have a feeling everyone is digging into the Isle of Thunder dailies right now, and before too long every hunter in the game is going to come here to farm their own Books of Dinosaur Awesomeness.

My family and I are leaving for a weeks vacation tonight, and will be offline for the entire week. I could feel the window of opportunity racing to pass me by. I figure, I come back, and this is going to be the Island of Overfarmed Trolls.

I did mention they drop pets too, right? Yeah. Cute ones.

So I dug in and decided I wasn’t going to quit until I had the book, and had tamed my two favorite dinos, the blue Direhorn pictured above and the black t-rex with golden stripes that can be found in the central tar pit area.

Obviously, I got the book. Spoiler alert.

What isn’t obvious is how long it took me.

Fighting the trolls solo, just me and my Decoy pet, it took 155 Dinomancer kills before a book dropped.

In that time, I had 19 of the new Zandalari Hatchling style pets drop for me. Enough that I had the complete set of 4 for myself, mailed the Cub and Cassie each their own complete sets, and still had, um, LOTS to put on the Auction House.

I also, and this was funny to me, got 100 Red Blossom Leaks and 100 Juicycrunch Carrots as drops. No meat. Troll Dinomancers are vegetarians!

That drop rate was what I experienced, your mileage WILL vary. Tamiel told me his team averaged about 40 minutes per book drop, so just remember… random drops are still random. Patience, hopeful Dinomaster, patience.

Dinomaster should totally be a title for taming one of every type of Dinosaur on the island.

A word on the Zandalari Dinomancers.

When you’re fighting them, they can cast a dark mending-style self heal that is interruptible… and they shapechange mid-fight into a dinosaur from the island and fight with a +50% damage buff!

So if your pet suddenly has his health dropping like a stone, now you know why. Don’t forget how easy it is to flip any pet into Tenacity mode.

If my Druid were able to get a book drop that taught me how to turn into a Direhorn for my tanking form, or a T-Rex/Raptor for my DPS form, I would absolutely return to my Druid, whether the playstyle was fun or not. Just saying.

In all of this wandering, I never did run across any quests or anything. I know a Primal Egg can drop from the dinos (including hatchlings) that will grow into a mount, Pumpken got one and is happily waiting for it to hatch as we speak. And the Cub knows that you can get a beautiful mount by farming 9,999 Giant Dinosaur Bones, to which I said, “pack a lunch.”

Still, other than pure fun and flavor items, and hey, GIANT DINOSAURS, and Oondasta someday, I don’t see any other purpose to the Isle of Giants.

God bles you, Blizzard. It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Fight fight fight wait, wtf ARGH GIANT T-REX!!!!

God, I love Blizzard.

I want to be the Big Dino Butt.

The Art of Persuasion revisited

Talk about firing up the wayback machine!

I mentioned the torture quest from Borean Tundra yesterday, just as an example, and it brought forth a few comments and a few ideas.

Rohan wrote a post about it years ago that stuck with me, and I think he represents most of the players like me that say, “Hey! My character wouldn’t do that! Screw the Kirin Tor!”

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone come out and say they think it was a good quest from an RP point of view, because your choice is to torture, or walk away and abadon the quest, implying that you left the Kirin Tor to find someone else to torture the guy. There are no real choices involved, the prisoner will still be tortured one way or the other, and you knew about it and did nothing to stop it.

When I mentioned the idea of having raid hard modes represent harder moral choices, the Art of Persuasion quest was one that I still think of as a lost chance at letting the player make a pesonal choice.

To fight and struggle against an implacable foe can seem very heroic on the face of it. Armor plated warrior queen facing off against fire breathing drag0n, you know the battle is either gonna be brutal, or extra crispy.

But when the choice you’re given is to have a target strapped to a chair, people standing all around you, and one of them hands you a knife and says, “Get carving”, that’s not making a choice so much as taking the path of least resistance.

But what about having quests with decision points? A quest that follows a certain chain, and then at a certain critical point offers you two choices, and each choice has a couple different quests that, regardless of which path you choose, rejoin once again into the one chain?

Let’s take “The Art of Persuasion” chain as an example.

You are a hero trying to aid the Kirin Tor out in Borean Tundra. The Mages have a problem, and it’s a big one. Mages are being abducted!

You are first tasked by the quest “Prison Break” with rescuing an abducted Kirin Tor mage. You are sent to where the mage prisons are, tasked with killing a guard to get a prison key and freeing a Mage. Good!

Once you’ve freed the Mage, your are given the “Abduction” quest. Lady Evanor, one of the Dalaran Archmages, was captured and the most likely suspects are these mage hunters and their Beryl Sorcerer allies. Time is of the essence if we are to find and rescue her!

You are to go back down there, subdue a Beryl Sorcerer, chain him up and drag him back in for questioning.

After you have brought back your Beryl Sorcerer prisoner, you are given the quest “The Borean Inquisition”. The prisoner is being prepared for questioning, mostly involving a chair with straps. You are sent to go and be ready to help in the questioning, in case you are needed.

Okay, so far so good, right? Mages are being abducted, you go free one, then word comes down that a senior senator or archmage or some other high muckety-muck just got captured, this is an emergency, we have to act fast to enact a rescue!

So you go and grab a prisoner to bring back for questioning. Since you picked the person to capture and brought them back in chains, the well being of that prisoner is your responsibility. Whatever they were before, they are helpless now in your hands.

Yes, there are questions that need answers. Yes, in the heat of battle they might have died anyway. But this changes the dynamic.

Where is Lady Evanor? What are they planning to do to her? How can we free her from her magical chains? We need answers before it’s too late! But at the same time, the prisoner cannot defend themselves. whatever you do to them is being done to someone as helpless as a babe. How do you feel about that? No worries, who cares, I’d have bathed in his blood anyway, or is it different now that he is utterly helpless and at your mercy?

So you’re sent to the tower, where the prisoner has been strapped helpless in a chair, and there is clearly going to be some torturing for information going on.

It is fortunate you’re here, <race>.

You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain ‘extreme’ measures – even in desperate times such as these.

You, however, as an outsider, are not bound by such restrictions and could take any steps necessary in the retrieval of information.

Do what you must. We need to know where Lady Evanor is being held at once!

I’ll just busy myself organizing these shelves here. Oh, and here, perhaps you’ll find this old thing useful….

[You receive  [Neural Needler].]

Now, this is the perfect point where a choice could have been offered. Instead of a single “Accept” button to choose to take the quest as offered, there could have been two lines of text describing your reaction, each leading to one of two branching quests.

The decision point.

One of the lines could have said, <You take the Neural Needler.>, indicating you intend to do exactly as asked, and torture the prisoner. That could have led to the normal two follow up quests, actually performing the torture, and then the follow up of taking your information to Librarian Donathan.

But what if the other line of text read, <No! There has to be another way! Wait, I have an idea.>

By selecting that choice, you could then be sent to talk to Librarian Donathan outside, and complete that quest by saying, “You of the Kirin Tor are powerful mages. Can you make me look like one of the Beryl Sorcerers for a few minutes, make a loud noise to the north and clear your people from the tower?”

The conclusion of that quest could be Librarian Donathan casting an illusion on you to make you look like a Beryl Sorcerer.

The follow up quest? There is a loud “boom!” to the north, a cloud od dust, the tower shakes a little, and you go in the tower, conveniently empty of Kirin Tor, to “break” the prisoner out. As you grab him and do a traditional escort quest to lead him out of the tower, he could let drop pieces of info along the way, such as thanking you, and telling you he’ll meet you on the platform where Lady Evanor is held as soon as he checks in with the person who holds her key, naming him.

That would give you two quests for each decision, but the end result would be the same.

However you got it, you have information to pass on to Librarian Donathan so you know where to go and what to do to free Lady Evanor in the quest chain.

Same quest count, so there is no advantage to one or the other in terms of exploring. And the follow up quests in the chain from that point would be the same. It would all be about which you felt more approapriate to your character.

The point is, for one brief moment lasting two quests long, you could choose whether you were the kind of person who chose expedience, pragmatism, ruthlessness or outride bloodthirstiness as their character personality, or if you were the kind of character that will try to find another way, any other way than torturing a prisoner, even if that means you fail to save someone else.

On a bonus? Screw the kirin Tor and their holier than thou bullshit. How much more fun would it be to listen to them tell you how special and precious their rules make them that they won’t torture the prisoner, tell you that YOU have to get your hands bloody, there is no other way, here is your torture device we just happen to have laying around, and then YOU tell THEM that you refuse and then find a better way that could have been taken all along, if they hadn’t been so quick to decide, in their worry or concern over the fate of Lady Evanor, to jump at torturing the prisoner..

Take your neural needler, shove it up your ass, because maybe it’s time you asked yourselves some pointed questions about how committed you are to the intent behind your rules and not just the letter of the law.

Yes, my description of how to impersonate a Beryl Sorcerer and the odds you’d really get your answers is far-fetched in a real detailed novel, but for a fast-paced quest chain I think it would be satisying. 

You could get the job done, but take one of two drastically different routes to do it, and while your choice would affect nothing but your personal relationship with your character, it would still be a meaningful RP decision. 

Blizzard almost did this later on, with Cataclysm in Mount Hyjal. There is a quest given by Thisalee Crow called ‘A Bird in Hand”.

In it, you are to use a signal fire to draw the attention of Marion Wormwing, and after you distract her by beating on her for a while, Thisalee sneaks up behind her and grapples her.

You then get to do some quick interrogating.

What’s interesting to me with this quest is, you aren’t given a choice of questioning her or not, but once you’ve gotten your info, you ARE given a choice… of whether to let her go, or kill her in cold blood.

Line of text: <Order Thisalee to kill the harpy.>
Thisalee Crow says: You’re my kind of mage, <name>! We’re finished with this filth.

Line of text: <Ask Thisalee to release the harpy.>
Thisalee Crow says: You’re a better person than I, <name>. But I suppose the harpies are just pawns here.

As you can see, this is exactly what I was talking about before. You still did the questioning and, yes, torture beforehand, but afterwards you’re given two choices, two lines of text, and what will happen differs depending on what you choose.

I’m suggesting that this same kind of “two options” thing could be used to offer decision points leading to quests, just one or two quests deep, that rejoined the same quest chain when done, but would give you a choice in how your character would approach things.

What do you think? Are there other quests in the game that you think could have a very different emotional impact if you’re just given a small choice?