PBeM: Lauchlin Section 2 Part 5

Pushing the Limits

Jessie looked at the confident, reassuring face of Gavin, and then glanced around the field, taking in the very convincingly real looking, unfamiliar gymnastic equipment that was scattered all around.

She looked around to see where the incredibly strange, armored figure Gavin had introduced as Master Katarese may have gotten to.

She spotted the armored figure of Katarese standing, apparently lost in thought and gazing, unmoving, into the rift that led to the Dreamtime. Just standing there, watching the chaotic motion of floating islands and distant figures.

It occurred to Jessie that Katarese stood in what Gavin called her mind, staring through a rift that separated her mind and should from that floating place… that suddenly felt like a part of hell itself, just a few steps away.

Was this her mind that she stood inside, or her soul? How could she be standing within herself? Was she only dreaming a point of view, a focus for her outward thoughts turned deep inside to what was going on?

She looked around her once more, and really tried to take it all in.

The entire area was most convincingly real, from the strangely fashioned structures of the gymnastics equipment, some standing nearly as high as the tallest building of Keep MacQuarrie, to the smallest blade of grass. She could feel the wind whispering past her cheek, the warmth of an unseen sun on the side of her body, the push of the air when she shifted her balance.

And yet, Gavin said that everything here was the result of imposing your own vision on the world around you. From your own self image, to the clothes you wore, to forging a sword out of nothing more than a mental image and your own will to make it real.

Here she stood. She could feel the softness of the ground under her booted feet.

What kind of mind could imagine all of this, in such detail, and make it real? Who could have such strength of will and breadth of imagination?

It suddenly, finally got through to Jessie. She stood within her own mind, and this being standing in front of her was imposing his own will on her, not on the Dreamtime. Everything she saw, and everything she heard, her every impression was being manipulated and controlled by Gavin, and he was displaying an imagination and will that she frankly didn’t think it possible she could ever come close to holding strong, no matter how many years she would be trapped in such an environment.

Her, or anyone else human.

She was completely and totally under his control. Or was she?

If he was in control, would she be able to think these thoughts? Would she be given the time to think, and reason, realize her position and come to suspect him?

She shuddered as she felt her mind race away from her in fear. She actually felt the moment her paranoia and doubt took hold, as the entire field shuddered around her in sympathy to her racing emotions.

She watched from within herself, staring at the warm sky and the green field and the reassuring woods around them, as everything began to crack apart, splintering like a reflection in a broken mirror, everything shifting crazily at different angles, strange purple and black flashes of light pulsed through everything as if lighting the world from behind a thin curtain.

Everything tilted crazily, down was no longer under her feet, and she knew she floated and moved in different directions at the whim of her own panic as the world of her mind spun out of control.

She knew, knew she was panicking, but knowing it did nothing to stop it. She felt completely out of control of herself, and in that one moment realized the truth of what Gavin had said.

She really was in her own mind. And she wasn’t used to being herself. She didn’t even know if she could be herself, anymore. She had spent her whole life yearning to be something she wasn’t, and tried to show everyone what they expected to see, while working in secret with Fergus to get what she told herself she wanted.

She had lived her whole life keeping her outward face showing what she wanted others to see… and she did it by exerting continuous, rigid control.

But in here, in her mind… to lose control of herself for a second was to let slip everything she kept restrained.

All the fear. All the terror. All the grief at losing her father, her mother, her brother…

All the rage.

And here, in her mind, in this world, to lose control was to let the rage run free and wild, until she regained control.

Regained control. She had to regain control.

But it was impossible! This wasn’t the same as standing in the real world, in the midst of calm and still woods while she tried to get a hold of herself and her emotions when they ran wild!

She never imagined how much she relied on the world around her being calm while she struggled to rein herself in.

The world around her seemed to dissolve into a mad storm of winds and rain, lit only by constant raging flashes of lightning and the constant purple and black pulses.

There was nothing, nothing but the storm in her mind, and her within the storm.

It wouldn’t stop! Her panic grew, as she fought and clawed to regain control. She fought, growing increasingly frantic until she felt herself unable to hold a single thought, the rage outside feeding the panic within, spiraling out of control.

She lost herself in madness. She felt it as she slipped away, lost the very ability to think, and was left with feelings, pain, fear, terror and a punishing stress as if the weight of the earth pushed down on her from all sides, smothering her, keeping her from breathing, panicking even harder at needing to breathed desperate to get just one breathe, clawing at the earth, and then she slipped, and lost even that, and vanished into the blackness.

And then, for one brief, flickering moment of relief, she felt the pressure become more than she could expect even herself to withstand, and she accepted it. She gave up, and let go.

And then she slipped away and was gone.

~o~

She felt, for a moment, totally at peace.

She knew she was lying in a warm, soft blanket, her eyes closed, the clamminess and chill of an early fall morning pushing on her face.

The sounds of a young woman chanting in a strange tongue came to her as if from a great distance, strange words whose meaning were unknowable but the tone was comforting, and gentle. She knew Bane was with her, and watched over her as she slept, and she smiled as she slipped once more into the darkness of dreams.

~o~

She awoke again, and knew she was still dreaming.

And she was calm enough to enjoy the strangeness of the thought. “To awake into dreaming, how strange it is. How could I describe this to Lauchlin, without him laughing at the clumsy words?”

She sat up, using her hands to twist around and push herself up from the stone beneath her.

She had been lying on the cold stone floor of the main hall of her father’s keep, in the corner nearest his chair at the table, and she knew why. When she was a babe still in swaddling, her mother had told her how, when she was taken with night terrors, nothing could calm her and let her rest except being brought in a basket to her father’s side, and in those days he often worked late into the night, in the great hall, lit by torches and surrounded by his men.

Her mother enjoyed telling her how her father would work long hours, with her there sleeping peacefully in basket on the floor by his side, the air filled with smoke from pipes and the fire and talk of hard men fighting to claim this valley as their own.
And here she was, back in the hall, lying on the hard stone floor.

And feeling utterly at ease.

“Thank you, Da,” She said, as she rested her hand on the back of her father’s chair for a moment. She felt them coming, and let them come, the tears welling up and falling like a gentle rain.

She just let it happen, and it all came out in a steady stream, all the pain and fear and horror she had felt from the very first time she saw, from her secret place deep in the woods, the glow of the fires rising over the walls of the great keep.

She just let it come, and saw around her all her family and everyone she had loved, coming into being out of the air and walking as if still alive in the hall, but she knew it was just her memory of them that made them real, and she was grateful, oh so grateful that she could remember them all like this, hale and hearty as she had last seen them, and without the wounds that death had brought.

It was the thing she had feared the most, when she buried her family the next days after the Orc attack. that she would never be able to remember them as they had been, but would be forced to remember them as they were where they lay in the ruins and the smoked and charred ash.

It was only because she trained with Fergus in secret, learning the secrets of the sword that her father had said was not proper for a woman with the future she had before her, that she had not been in the Keep on the night of the attack, and that she had survived when all others had been slain.

It was only due to her disobedience that she was alive, and had not fallen with her family like she should have.

But the tears came down, and though she still felt the deep pain of having somehow betrayed her family by still being alive, she felt, deep in her heart, that her father and mother would forgive her for staying behind.

She stood straight and looked around the hall. She felt the tears continue to fall, and felt they might never end, but they felt clean. Fresh. She felt them fall, and take with them some of the poison she had kept in her heart since the fall.

And as the poison left, there was more room in her heart for the strength to fill her. the strength to do what she knew was right.

To take back this hall, and this valley, and continue the work her father had started, making this a home for their line. It had always been the dream of her parents, to secure this land as the home for their family and loved ones. This valley had been in her family’s heart since her grandfather had first found it while scouting back in his youth, and something here had burned in heir heart ever since.

And Jessie would make it their home once again. Nothing would stop her from keeping the dream alive. Nothing.

She let the hall fade around her, and let nothing fill the space in it’s passing. She imagined a calm, clean light all around her, without ground or sky, just a peaceful light, and so that is what surrounded her as she cried, proud and alone. She relaxed for a moment, and then, as if giving in to a duty that must be done, determined that it was time to see the rift once again.

As her determination grew, she felt as much as saw the rift she had been shown in the valley appear, looking the same as before.

She gazed into it calmly, just standing before it and passively gazing into it. nothing she saw registered on her. She was, for the moment, in some mental state where she felt at peace, and she tried to stay in that state, a little afraid to think abut it too much in case all the anxiety and self awareness would begin the cycle of stress and fear all over again. She felt fragile, like the slightest stress would pop the feeling of peace she had like a bubble, and even as she idly thought these things, she knew that the feelings she had were somehow precious, and could not be expected to last, and so she should enjoy the feeling while she could.

She stood thus for what felt like a long time, although she made no effort to try and judge the passing of minutes. It was enough to stand, and let the tears flow, and just be. Nothing on the other side of the rift registered on her eyes, it was simply a riot of color and light that changed and flickered and helped her thoughts to drift. She remembered her brother, and how proud he made their father with his skills at the sword and lance, and how he dreamed of someday being good enough to be tested by the Masters and bringing fame to their family name.  She remembered her mother, and her gentle smile, and how she somehow could always see through the confusion of any problem, but always let their father think he was the one that made the decisions, by deftly asking simple questions that helped focus their father’s attention on the parts of a problem that really mattered. She could see things so clearly, no matter how confusing they seemed.

And she remembered her father, his strength, his determination, and his patience with her. Jessie knew he had loved her, even when he forbade her from learning the sword. She even knew he had understood her, knew he had recognized the burning fire within her to learn and master it, because she had seen he had that same fire himself. As good as Lauchlin had been, it was Jessie that had inherited her father’s burning love of the fight and the blade and the absolute commitment to the dance.

He had forbidden her to learn the blade, because she would need to be approved by the Duke as an appropriate bride for one of the leading lords, and it just wasn’t appropriate for a high lady to also be a blade master. but it was also her father that had taken Fergus aside, and given him permission to teach her in secret, and then pretended that he didn’t see the strength grow in her arms and legs, the calluses grow on her hands, the inevitable scars on her hands and wrists.

She loved her father, she loved her family… and always would. And she missed them terribly, and always would. But maybe… maybe it would not be a betrayal of them, if she continued to work towards the goal. If she continued to work towards making their dream a reality, and regained control of the valley once and for all.

She thought of the hatred in her heart of the Orcs, the raging hatred she felt towards them for what they had done. And she thought about how she felt, now that she knew that whatever else the Orcs were, their raging hatred of humans had been forced on them by the dryad.

but even though she knew the dryad was the true cause f her families’ death, and the real one to blame in this, she didn’t hate the dryad. She still hated the Orcs. She could feel the anger, low and hot and simmering, just thinking about the Orcs. They may have just been the tool the dryad used, and she knew, knew that it was stupid to blame the tool for the work of the hand that wielded it, but she couldn’t help it. The Orcs did the deed, and she hated them for it, and would gladly see every last one of them die.

But, as she gazed into the rift, she could tell herself that as long as she didn’t act on that hatred, and o something that her father would disapprove of, then she could live with it. Like so much else, she had to do what was right, not what she wanted. If she was lucky, truly lucky, then maybe someday what she wanted naturally would be the right thing to do. Wasn’t that part of what Gavin had said she must be? A person that did what came naturally, without struggle?

~o~

How long she spent, thinking these thoughts, she had no idea. She let her mind wander where it would, and drifted in her moment of peace. Since the moment she had let go, she had felt this way, and she nurtured it as best she cold.

But finally there came a time when she knew that she had stood idle long enough. She stirred, and turned her head away from the rift, and gazed around her to see if all remained calm and white.

Standing there, not to far away but not too close, were Gavin and Katarese, looking none the worse for their experiences.

With what Jessie know knew, she looked intently at Katarese.

The figure was definitely that of a man, tall and with a strong frame under the exceptionally heavy steel armor he wore. Every inch of him was covered in black steel armor that moved and shifted as if alive, growing spikes and blades one moment, developing overlapping plates the next, constantly shifting, but never, ever exposing the man, not for one second. the only feature that never changed was the slash across the covering of his head, whether helm or hood or mesh, a gap always existed that was filled with darkness, fro which two brightly burning pits of blue flame danced. Katarese seemed to be always in motion, but Jessie saw that the impression was misleading, because it was the armor that was constantly in motion. Katarese himself remained almost preternaturally still, and when he did move from place to place, it was with a truly unearthly grace and economy o motion, as if his bones were joined by liquid fire at the joints rather than honest muscle or ligament.

Gavin was the one that finally drew her attention, however. Something about Katarese had a timeless quality to it, as if he just wasn’t all there anymore. Katarese just seemed too distracted by something only he could see, to be completely in the present.

but Gavin, Gavin was here, and what Jessie finally noticed as his key feature, was that whatever Gavin looked at, he gave his complete attention. He did not drift away in thought, he did gaze at the sky, his mind and focus never wandered. his focus remained strong and constant at all times, and she cold tell that this was his normal way. He somehow knew all that went on around him, and was aware of it, but his focus was always centered on what he felt was the most important thing of the moment.

And at the moment, that focus was on her.

“It’s sorry I am that I lost control, Lord Gavin. I’m right glad to see you weren’t harmed none by the storm. I thought you might both have gone through the rift, or maybe been lost yourself in my panic.”

Gavin smiled gently. ‘No, milady, you need have no fear for us. We have weathered far worse in our time, I’m sorry to say.”

Jessie felt a chair be where she wished it beside her, and moved to sit in it. She noted, idly, that it was the same design as the chairs in her fathers hall, strong wood dovetail jointed and pegged, and covered in long wearing brown leather.

She watched Gavin closely as he looked to his side and noticed the chair that had appeared there, a twin to the one Jessie sat in, and smiled as he moved to sit down.

“I’ve been doing a good piece of thinking, Lord Gavin. About all of this, and of you and the walking cheese grater over yonder. I really think I need to know. Why are you offering to help me? No offense intended, but what’s in it for you?”

Gavin sat back in his chair, and thought for moment. Jessie could almost see his thoughts flow, as he considered and decided just how much he should choose to tell her. And she knew that, whatever he might say next, while it would be the truth as he knew it, it would be a far cry from the complete truth, or the whole story he could tell.

Gavin finally leaned forward, and with a gravely troubled expression, said, “That you ask that question is really one of the main reasons, Jessie.”

“You shouldn’t trust me or Katarese. I’m glad you are watchful. You need to be watchful of everything. The hard part will be learning who to trust, and letting yourself trust those you finally decide have earned it. But you must be careful, and I’m glad you aren’t just walking blindly into anything, with me or with bane.”

“But when Katarese and I put your soul back together, in the process we learned everything that you had ever seen, everything you had ever heard, and everything you have ever known, from the time you were born.”

“Although you may not be able to consciously recall it, everything that has ever happened around you since you were born is still a part of you. As you grow, and learn, and widen your horizons, you will constantly be reinterpreting things that you thought you knew in the light of new knowledge and understanding. But we were able to see everything from the moment of your birth, every conversation held around you, and we had an adult perspective with which to pay attention.”

“Things have changed, a great deal, since I last walked your world.”

“Since the time I died at the hands of that axe, and my essence was sent into the chained prison of the Dreamtime, the entire continent of my birth went from a single Empire loosely forged from a scattering of feudal fiefdoms paying loose allegiance to Emperor Ricardon, through the upheaval of Ricardon’s invasion of the north, the Elven counterattack and absolute defeat of the human empire at their hands, the following hundreds of years of elfish judgment of the human empire, the fall and the pheasant revolution, the rise of the middle class the reforming of the empire to control the entire land, and then the sudden and complete destruction of everything by the forces of death and darkness, and the fleeing of your ancestors, the survivors, to the northern shores, where they remained for hundreds of years as refugees, on the very banks of the land that they had tried to conquer, and where they lived on the sufferance of the elves that ruled their.”

“At least a thousand years have passed in the mortal word wince I was chained to the Dreamtime. Your ancestors grew into a coastal community, and the few scattered nobles that had survived the journey to live in exile there forged the noble houses, while those that had protected them on the journey, and the members of the army of light tasked with guarding them grew into the permanent force of protectors that serve4d them.”

“It was inevitable that, with the north permanently under the control of the elves, the nobles houses would refuse to lose their grip n the only land that they could ever call their won, and seek to return to this doomed land.”

“This world you live in, this land you and your people continuously seek to reclaim from the Orcs, pushing ever farther into the mountains. This all used to be under one human Empire, before the fall and the Diaspora. And while the ruins of the coastal cities were reclaimed by the noble houses, and are now the coastal kingdoms you and your people refuse to have anything to do with, you and the rest of the borderlanders are all descended from the guards and soldiers that protected the civilians on your journey. Protecting the people, fighting threats to peace, and working to reclaim the lands that were lost to you is bred into your very blood and bone.”

“But you know nothing of so much. You had, in all your life, never heard of the Loremasters, or of Paladines, or indeed of any gods other than Tyr. And you have said you and your family worship and respect Tyr, but there has never been any thought to receiving guidance fro yr as an actual voice or insight to help guide you on a path.”

“You know of the Orcs, of course, and why they are so unlike the Orcs I know from my time is explained by the tampering of that fel wood witch, but you have, in all your life, living here in the very heart of the mountains along the spine of the land, never heard of the Dwarven peoples, or the Centauri, or the Shakkarans, or even of he world gates.”

“It confuses me greatly. And it worries me more than I could possibly say.”

“I can understand, in the confusion and the long years, that so much of knowledge could be lost. But I cannot, in any way, understand what could have happened that would still the voice of Tyr.”

“Tyr has two principles that we who serve him abide by.”

“We protect the innocent against all who would harm them, and we uplift the innocent until they are capable of protecting themselves.”

“That is what we do. That is the very heart of it, and all else has grown out of it. the trappings and additions that came, over the years, to fill in the gaps. Rules of law about this or that, fine lines and judgments, and such that get written down or added. But at the heart of it are those two principles; protect until they can protect themselves, then stand back and let them get to it while we search out someone else that needs protecting.”

And all the time, the voice of Tyr guiding us along the path.

“When I was ripped from the world, I came here, where the voice of Tyr cannot be heard. But at least I was content knowing that there would always be others to listen to and heed Tyrs call.”

“Now you have come, and Bane tore you free from the anchor in the Dreamtime, plunged your soul and the fragments of so many others back into your body in the land of the living, and brought Katarese and me along with you.”

“And still, I hear not the voice of Tyr, in a land that screams out for his guidance and his strong hand.”

“Jessie, what I get out of helping you is the fulfillment of my sworn duty, gladly performed. To protect you form the dangers of the Dreamtime, until such a time as you can protect yourself jsu8t fine.”

“And the moment you are able to stand alone on firm footing and hold your own against the Dreamtime, I can promise you I will be doing all I can to leave you, and find out what has happened to my lord to silence his voice, and to pick up the threads of the church and put things right. And not past time, either.”

“Now, you have endured enough, and more than enough for one night. It’s long past the time you should have risen, and I can feel the concern of your friend bane as she sits over you. there will be time in the coming nights to worry about learning. For now, all I can offer you is the assurance that we will be here, and we won’t interfere with you or anything you do. We will stand watch here at the rift, and guard until next we meet.”

“Now go. It’s time to rise. You have plenty to deal with in the light of day.”

~o~

Jessie held on to her place for a few moments. It felt important, somehow, to make a point of showing that she was capable of deciding on her own when she was ready to leave.

After a few minutes silence, however, she realized that while her feeling of peace was still somewhat there, she did feel a bit silly, and even a little petty, sitting there to make a point about who was in charge.

She laughed aloud, startling herself, and let herself relax….

And woke up, once more, in the warm blankets, the morning dew cold on her face.

Pulling the blankets closer, she sat up, and smelled the welcome aroma of fresh pan biscuits, and uncured bacon frying nearby.

Feeling remarkably strong, she scrambled out of the blankets, and scurrying around in the tight tent, got dressed and poked her head out to look around.

There, kneeling by the fire not too far away, was bane, working at keeping one pan moving over the fire while another was pushed up into the coals.

Without looking around, Bane said, “I was beginning to think you were never going to wake up. it’s good to now that the smell of bacon can get through to you. now come and get some food in you. We’ve got a big day ahead of us.”

Bane kept the bacon pan over the fire, but used the dagger she’d been stirring with to point back down the trail.

“I’ve seen signs that an Orc party are headed up the trail. We’re on limited time if we’re going to get you ready to get through the wards before they get here.”

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Yes, Virginia, there is PBeM!

It is just going to take me a while.

See, this real life thing keeps kicking in. And playing the game. And working.

I have all the plotting, and the few rolls, and such for Manny’s next turn, I just gots to write it.

But it might or might not go up this afternoon.

But I ain’t posting another thing on this here blog until it goes up. My commitment to you, bud.

Come hell or high water, you’ll get a PBeM turn today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have to go get ready to pick Alex up from school, and then probably go shopping, adn tonight is trick or treating…

Sigh.

Are they smoking crack over there?

Okay, I’m gonna make this short. It doesn’t deserve more.

This just in, true believers….

Nethaera posted a thread called “Class Forum Change” in which it is revealed that the existing class forums at the official WoW Forums are going to be deleted….

                                      … and replaced with just three forums.

That’s right. And they’re already up and being posted in.

(Don’t panic, the old class forums are still available, at the time of this posting).

I’ll give you a second or two to mull that one over.

The listed reasons, which you can see in far more detail in Nethaeras’ post, are to establish a common ground for those who play common roles, celebrate diversity, and help the developers and communication managers see and respond to concerns.

Okay.

You got that? Had a chance to think that one over?

I’m not even going to waste much of my time on this one.

This is such an incredibly stupid idea.

I’m not talking about the act of adding Tanking, Damage Dealing or Healing forums. No, I’m fine with that. I LIKE that idea.

No, I’m talking about the idea that you can delete the existing class forums entirely and replace them with this crap, and bingo! All requirements met!

Yeah, because when I’m looking to discuss some fun shapeshifting macros for my HYBRID CLASS that has shared mechanics across three specs, the place I’m going to discuss them is…. wait! Is it Tanking? Damage Dealing? Healing? Or maybe, all bloody three?!? Where do I put my post so my fellow members of the Druid community know where to find it? Do I cross post in all three now? If I do, how do I track all the different threads of conversation on my one topic?

Where do we go to talk about the Swift Flight Form quest chain, or the appearance of our forms, or neat links to class info and resources, or discussion about neat Druid events…

Wait, did I say Druid Community? Well, I guess maybe we aren’t supposed to be so narrow minded.

Or maybe we’re not supposed to care about the mechanics or specific fun of a class.

Maybe the only thing that matters is PvE progression and how to perform in our one chosen role in a raid, or maybe PvP. So give us forums for just those four topics to cover class discussion. Then we’re good. Yeah!

After all, I’ve only been talking about Druids for over a year now, and God knows I’ve never had a Druid topic stray from the three main categories of Tanking, Damage Dealing, or Healing.

/facepalm

Add the three new forums, sure. 

I would truly welcome a place to talk exclusively about tanking across class lines. I really would.

It’s an idea whose time has come… so long as we can somehow avoid the lessons of Fora past, where we learned that people love QQing in a forum about how overpowered or unfair someone else’s class is. Or how much they love gloating over another classes’ nerf.

Because that certainly wouldn’t happen MORE with shared class forums and a more limited venue for class discussion. Nahhhh.

But fine. Add them. By all means.

But you don’t get rid of a place to talk with other people who play your same class, you stupid $#!+s! That’s what helps foster a community! The whole point of the class forums was to share our discussion about our shared experiences with our shared class in the game we are all playing!

Ghostcrawler shares some shifty thoughts

Well, it has been a surprising couple of days for Druid rumors.

Ghostcrawler has apparently taken a break from placating the frantic Paladin masses to talk, at length, to the Druid community about where we are and what they’re thinking.

And since I know some of you read my RSS feed because gaming sites are blocked, I’ve put together a nice roundup of the latest juicy GC news for you.

First, in response to a big roundup of one players’ concerns, we have this massive outpouring of info;


Q u o t e:
1. Feral Mana Pools are very limited, is there a planned fix for this?


GC: It’s something we are still looking at. The way mana regens now when you’re in a form feels like it’s enough to let you occasionally use that mana for something. We think you will probably still go dry quickly if you’re healing a lot (which ultimately isn’t something we want Feral to do a lot) or if you’re chain shapeshifting (which is also something we don’t want you ideally doing a lot, but recognize sometimes you need to — dealing with a Frost mage perhaps.)


Q u o t e:
2. Protector of the Pack limitation mechanic – not very fun, what was the thinking behind this and can the limitation be removed?




GC: I’ve avoided this debate for a long time because it seems to really, really upset people that they can’t do something they really, really want to do in a very niche case. Bear isn’t designed to be something you run around solo to kill things in, and even if you want to do so anyway, your damage reduction shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s designed as a tanking talent and “solo tanking” is sort of nonsensical. Bear itself works fine without it, and in fact you can even tank just fine without it as long as you aren’t doing progression raiding. (If it affected your dps or something, I’d be a lot more convinced.)


Q u o t e:
3. Feral talent point usage in resto tree, means we have to focus too many points on a non-feral tree, also very difficult to get all the “tanking” talents offered, no room for pvp choices in a tanking build – is this intended?




GC: We designed the new Feral tree with Omen as a trade-off. If we ever moved Omen around, we would also juggle Feral talents. We don’t want you to be able to get all Feral talents and OoC. You can be a good bear, good cat, get good PvP talents or get Omen. But you can’t do it all with one build.


Q u o t e:
4. Swipe / Thorns combo (360′) Aoe. Is it possible to get a 360′ upgrade to our bear form aoe ability?




GC: We don’t think too many druids are having trouble using Swipe in its new form. A little difference among class abilities that are otherwise very similar is probably good for the game.


Q u o t e:
5. Feral Itemization issue 1: Too much Armor on some earlier tanking weapons compared to 25 man naxx gear is this intended?




GC: Do you mean you’re going to keep using the older weapon instead of the Naxx bear staff?


Q u o t e:
6. Feral Itemization issue 2: Not enough “Armor” trinkets in game making them invaluable to druids, basically once you have these trinkets you will not grab anything else unless you reach armor cap. – Can more armor trinkets be added, with different usage stats?




GC: My suspicion is you are still over-valuing armor compared to other defensive stats. I realize you don’t want block or parry but that doesn’t mean it’s armor or nothing.


Q u o t e:
7. Feral Itemization issue 3: Tanking gear – PVP gear seems to be better for tanking, more stam, why is this the case?




GC: PvP gear pays a lot more of its item budget on resilience than it did in BC so you’re going to be giving up something else (like Agi) to use it. Also make sure you are comparing PvP gear to PvE gear of the same item level.


Q u o t e:
8. Kitty AOE – Kitty form basically has no aoe ability, which limits damage output in multiple mob situations – we would have to switch to bear / caster which would mean taking a chance on pulling aggro or doing minimal damage with hurricane. Are there plans to add kitty form aoe?




GC: Hurricane and Swipe do pretty good AE, certainly better than rogues have (on which cat was modeled).


Q u o t e:
9. Cat charge being linked to Bear charge. – Why is this the intended mechanic for these two attacks?




GC: We think this would encourage quickly shifting from one form to another, which is something we have actually taken pains to discourage (RIP powershifting).


Q u o t e:
10. Berserk – The current version of Berserk feels weak now that the immunity to all snares has been removed, and its cooldown is too long. – Is there any way the snares functionality of berserk can be restored?




GC: We thought it was too good if it broke all snares and granted such a great dps increase.


Q u o t e:
11. Savage Roar – Is it possible to have it persist through shifting?




GC: Same answer. We don’t want to add anything else to the class that encourages you to say go cat, use an ability, then go back to bear. Changing forms is cool. Changing forms to buff yourself in one form then going to another isn’t what we’re going for. If you’re a cat and shift to humanoid to heal or decurse or bear to survive when being attacked — that’s cool and what the Feral design is all about. It’s when you start to chain several shifts together that we get uncomfortable.


Q u o t e:
I use cat in short bursts when I feel like the opportunity to survive is there, but this seems to indicate you want people staying in cat OR bear for extended periods.


GC: No, that’s not exactly it. Using cat in short bursts is awesome. Shifting out of feral to Innervate or Rebirth is cool, even if you immediately go feral again. Where it starts to cross the line is being a bear, going cat to hit a button, then going back to bear to benefit from the cat button. Doing feral charge bear, shifting and doing feral charge cat is not what we want. Anything that starts to feel like the old powershifting (changing just to generate mana) is what we’re trying to avoid. If it helps, think about it this way: shifting once in a small window is cool. Shifting several times in a small window is less cool.


Q u o t e:
So we will pay a penalty for having versatility that we can only use to poor effect, occasionally. Nice!




GC: We considered a model where the druid was the jack of all trades and master of all, but decided that might cause problems.


Q u o t e:
GC, this is simply not true. PvP gear at the same ilvl of PvE gear has at least as much and often more stamina and agility as that PvE gear. What it gives up is AP, armor pen, haste and crit rating – which is not all that special for tanking right now. I’ve done this comparison a number of times, but if you look at the same ilvl items in PvE and PvP for the belt/boots/bracer slots and include gems, the PvP gear comes out better for tanking than the PvE gear.




GC: If you can give me a few specific examples, I can look into it.


Q u o t e:
The Beast Within is too good? The Beast Within is a raw increase of damage at about the same level with the changes to BM, 10 points lower in the tree, on a talented/glyphed cooldown of about 35% of Berserk’s cooldown. How is that significantly less powerful than Berserk?




GC: You can’t just compare abilities between two different classes. I’m sure hunters would gladly trade Freezing Arrow for Cyclone or the ability to shapeshift to break CC (or heal, or Inneverate, or…).


Q u o t e:
Basically its a mechanic which hurts us in smaller, non-optimal parties doing heroics.




GC: I get that, but you must admit that is a pretty niche situation – not that you’d be doing small heroics, but the fact that being a bear really hurt you when trying to do so. My take on it is that the people who hate the limitation on the talent just hate the idea of the limitation, not for how it actually limits them (which is still a totally valid way to feel). It would be similar if the talent said “You gain damage reduction but only while wearing a ridiculous green hat.” It is in there just for flavor, but it has been controversial enough that we have talked about removing it. I’m not sure if we will yet, but I believe we understand your concerns.


Q u o t e:
One comment though .. on beta, it a niche situation. On live it is an almost every raid situation. Is it earth shattering? No, of course not. It is just an annoyance — and you are right that it is perception (not restating issues, you know them).


GC: I just want to understand – how is it almost every raid situation? We have tried valiantly to give all 4 tanks very similar tools. They aren’t identical, and we don’t want players to have the expectation that they will be identical. I don’t think this is necessarily the ability in which to put a stake in the ground, because we might end up changing this one, but you get my point.


Q u o t e:
Hateful Glad Robes vs. Heroes’ DW Raiments – ilvl 200
73 Agi 74 Agi
103 Stam 90 Stam
44 Crit 54 Crit
90 AP 132 AP
35 Exp
59 Res
Again, Glad has -1 Agi, +13 Stam. Dreamwalker has +10 Crit, +42 AP, +35 Exp.


GC: Okay, yes I have seen these examples before. If you are willing to give up 42 AP and 35 Exp (which is a nominal mitigation stat), then you can increase your health by 130 (plus modifiers). I don’t predict many tanks will take that trade, but we’ll see. I am sure there are other situations in which you could take an even lower item level that grants you more Stam than that. You are giving up an awful lot of threat stats though. If we start getting a lot of reports about how bears can’t hold aggro, I’m going to immediately look to see if they are wearing resilience gear. 🙂


And finally, a little more talk about graphics from Ghostcrawler;

GC: New art for forms, customization per form, and even the possibility of showing some gear in a form is all stuff we are talking about. When we have a firm plan we’re ready to unveil, I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

Okay, let me give you my impressions about this whole ‘shifting’ thing.

My greatest love for the Feral Druid class has always been the versatility.  The flexibility.

The thought that, live or die, it’s not all about standing still and mashing buttons. That maybe we can do that, stand there and mash buttons and play as ‘normal’, but for those of us willing to be aware of the flow of battle, of the events unfolding around us, and be poised to respond to changing events, we are capable of doing more. Much more.

To be able to tank a boss while the adds are swirling around you, like in the fight against Moroes when it was fresh and new and everyone was still in Blues, quest rewards and Heroic epics, learning the fight.

Tank Moroes knowing that you must stand your ground, keep aggro up at number one or two so Moroes always comes back at you, and know you have to trust each member of your raid to perform splendidly.

Tank Moroes knowing that, during the actual fight itself, the only variables you have to work with are Frenzied Regeneration and FFF and Threat rotations….

But that, for those willing to stay flexible, you can master moving your camera around that big bear butt to keep an eye on placement and member activity, and mana and health levels, and range to player targets, and be poised. 

Poised to take advantage of that split second when Moroes vanishes, and you are not about to get pounded as a tank, where you could shift to caster, and use your judgment to decide what is more valuable to the raid; throw an Innervate to who it would be most valuable to, or perhaps throw down a battle resurrection, or to pop a Lifebloom or Rejuvenation instant cast on someone Garotted, and then pop back into Bear to pick Moroes back up on the run.

The feeling that being prepared and on top of things and able to perform at that level was being a better Feral Druid than anticipated… doing something a little out of the ordinary you could take pride in. 

With what I keep reading from Ghostcrawler about where they plan mana levels to be, and how they position Talents in trees, and what they want to work when and in what form, and get tied to what….

I have lately been feeling like, we are no longer expected to be at one level, and how far we push ourselves past that determines how far we can take it.

Instead I feel like we are being balanced around the idea that we will always be flexible and taking advantage of every situation where it is possible for us to shift to another form for a planned, specific purpose, and we are being balanced to specifically limit how often, and in what way, we can shift. That how we shift and what we do when we shift is a standard, planned-for routine application of our core abilities, and using them beyond what was originally planned is not approved of.

And that using our shifting in this way is an intended function, and that our stats and abilities are being balanced with that in mind.

That we are, as a class, intended to have (purely as an example) lower DPS in Cat form than other melee DPS classes or lower Threat generation and survivability in Bear than other tank classes, to compensate for having the capability of shifting and throwing down an Innervate or instant cast HoT during the rare fight where there is a 1 to 2 second window.  

Is it a big deal?

No.

So long as all Feral Druids are aware of it, and use their shifting opportunities every time the arise. Because if you’ve been balanced around shifting for HoTs and Battle Rez and Innervate and you do not shift, then you are performing below expectations, aren’t you? 

You’re not comparable.

I think the uncertainty over where we are balanced is unfortunately an opportunity for some to whine about lower DPS or survivability or threat, and others to howl ‘unfair OP!’, depending on what our eventual numbers look like, and whether it is clearly understood by everyone that our shifting and using off-spec abilities is working as intended and balanced in.

I am truly grateful I don’t have to try and balance a ton of classes for both PvE and PvP, and keep everyone happy, and put up with second guessing on what this, that or the other could do. I can’t even imagine how they have gotten things as awesome as they are. The sheer number of input variables and counters and output scenarios are ridiculous.

I can certainly see the point of trying to anticipate what we could do, and I can also see why they would try to take that into account and move against it or adjust for it.

But let’s also be honest… if we are going to be balanced across the board based on a playstyle that they are using as an example of how we are ‘intended’ to do things…

Wouldn’t it be nice if they shared that baseline playstyle with us, so we knew what the hell they were thinking we are supposed to be able to do?

Because I bet if they described the way they expected a Feral Druid to be able to perform during a single, 8 minute long multi-phase boss fight, it would open a lot of eyes to our capabilites, and what we can do… and what is balanced in. 

And please, dear Lord, please don’t let us find out that how they expect every Feral Druid to play is based off their observations of how one Feral Druid player in one of the most elite and capable world-class raiding guilds, taking on the highest difficulty of end game content, performs in battle.

Meet the Bear? Really?

This is your (sorta) two week notice!

I’m going to be at Gamestop from 10 PM until Midnight for the midnight release of Wrath of the Lich King on the night of November 12th.

GameStop #531
Maplewood Commons
1900 County Road D E.
Maplewood MN, 55109 US
6517799669

That’s the Gamestop next to Circuit City, not the Gamestop two blocks away next to Cartridge World. Just so you know.

Why do they have two Gamestops in the same block?

Umm… because if we had one more Starbucks in the world, we’d collapse into a singularity… and Gamestop is taking the hit for us?

No, really, I dunno. The one next to Cartridge World used to be an EB Games, and came in all bright and shiny and new in an attempt to crush Gamestop, steal their clientele, and make them go under.

Next thing we knew, it was a Gamestop.

Assimilate or die!

Anyway…

Unlike those other meet and greets you may have heard about, mine will be unique, in that I am just some idiot that writes crap who will be waiting patiently with everyone else to get the game, race home, and install for 4 hours and 10 gig of patches just so I can play. Those other folks put out quality websites, and write awesome, helpful stuffs. Fo’Shizzle.

I won’t have any merchandise for sale, there will be no microphones for interviews, and in fact, I might just show up drunk. 

You’ve been warned!

 sloth-bear.jpg 

Okay, now that the shameless plug is out of the way, let’s talk seriously about this thing for a minute.

The closer it gets to the Wrath release, the stupider I think my idea was.

I mean, seriously, the whole thing is based on the concept that there is someone reading this blog in the Twin Cities area that would actually drive out of their way to visit with me.

Looking at it put that way, I have an extremely good idea of how arrogant that sounds.

I flash on something out of VH1’s Surreal Life, the Bear sitting there at a folding table with a big goofy grin, a pile of photos of bear butts and autograph pens waiting, saying “Hi! I’m a blogger that writes about WoW! Have you heard of me? I’m e-famous! Oh dear God, please, have you heard of me? Please read the blog! Oh, please!”

Oh. My. God.

The horror. Seriously.

I just thought that, since I was gonna be like, buying the game there anyway, and waiting around until midnight, that if there were some folks in the local area that had the same idea and hadn’t bought the game yet, we could get together, maybe have some wings and a beer in the Buffalo Wild Wings next door, then pop over and grab our games, say “Bye! Take it easy!”, and hit the road in anticipation of expansion bliss.


Maybe the trouble really started when I thought it might be fun to have some buttons made. I thought it would make for a fun memento of the night. Like, hey, I showed up, and I have something to show for it, so years later I can laugh and remember when I played this video game, and was so into it I actually went to go meet some blogger that wrote about it. And I can haz button! Woo!

Andrige actually put together a sweet button out of the BBB logo he created. That’s how blissfully ignorant I was.

It sounded fun, in a “Why the hell not” kind of way.

But… I don’t want to sit there at some table handing out buttons to every strange person that has never heard of me that shows up at Gamestop, like I’m freaking advertising, or a campaigning politician.

It’s just… it’s the wierdest damn feeling.

It’s almost like I’m headed, with the best of intentions, towards one of those moments where the news camera comes up, films some group of people standing in line, mocks them as loser gamers for the entertainment of the people at home that think “60 Minutes” is unbiased quality journalism, and then zooms in on the one guy they choose to spotlight as the shining example of ultimate lameness of today’s youth; “And here we have John Patricelli, a blogger who writes about playing video games. Isn’t that precious. Well, I’m sure it keeps him busy, and it’s nice to see him out of his mom’s basement, even if it is too late for him to see the Sun. And now, without any context to muddy up your weak little minds, we go back to the studio. Bob?”

I keep falling back on the basic facts that, first, I generally don’t like people, and second, no, I’m serious, I really don’t like people.

It’s the difference between vast crowds of bored asshat gamers looking to troll forums while they are stuck at work or school, and my friends here at the blog.

I’d like to meet my blog friends, chat, relax and have a beer or two for 15 minutes. If you think I do tricks, or that I’m actually funny in real life, well, everyone has to get used to disappointment at some point in their life. 

God knows Cassie has.

But I have zero interest in standing around meeting total strangers that play WoW, that are just going to show up at Gamestop, introducing myself as a WoW Blogger™.

“As seen on WoW Insider! He slices, he dices, he makes Julienne fries!”

You know, for the longest time I didn’t know what a julienne fry was?

I’m just having a very hard time finding some way to imagine a conversation with a total stranger, where I am asked to explain cold what the buttons are all about, and therefore why I would think someone would have wanted a button, and therefore who I am and what I do. Because it just seems self-aggrandizing.

In the end, why would any stranger care? The only people I thought might give a hoot in the first place would be long time readers here, who are pretty close to family with all the stuff Cassie and I have dumped on you over the last year and a half.

I’m wondering if it might not be better to hide over in Buffalo Wild Wings for the first hour and a half, wearing a distinctive jacket and shirt and ball cap, and let people know that if they want to meet me and hang out for a few before getting in line for the game, that’s where you’ll find me.

Just keep it all on the down low. Keeping it real.

And this is, in no way, my desperate attempt to scam a night of eating wings and drinking beer out of Cassie.

Not at all, in any way. No! Nyet!

When, oh when will I get new skins?

Edited! See bottom for details.

As long as I’m thinking about it…

Remember when we saw the Blizzard World Wide Invitational conference notes, and the statement that there would be a Dire Cat form?

Remember how excited we all were?

And then it vanished.

Well, that was disappointing, sure, but we had some hope that when Inscription went live, we would have some Minor Glyphs that we could use for cosmetic changes, such as a Glyph to let us look like a Polar Bear or a different kind of Cat model when we shift. 

We weren’t promised that, but it sounded like it could happen.

At the time, some folks were very excited at the idea, some folks were irritated at the thought of everyone using the same ‘flavor of the month’ Glyph and still looking the same as everyone else, and still others were irritated at the idea of ‘wasting’ a Glyph slot that could be used for a game mechanic-changing Glyph, just for a graphic change.

Interesting points, all of them, and there were some nice discussions in the WotLK forums about it.

The Devs have said quite a few times though, that they would love to do some kind of reskinning or give us options for customization, but they still aren’t sure of the best way to do it.

Sadly, we know we’re not going to have new skins in time for the Wrath of the Lich King release.

But we have been told we deserve new skins (which we knew), and the welcome news that we will get them soon, and the bar they are setting is the one they raised when they designed and implemented the Swift Flight Form.

Now, that’s awesome. It really is.

The one question I have… continuously…

Why do they keep complaining about the difficulty of designing the skins to look right, when Andrige already did it? It’s in the can, man!

Is it simply some level of pissiness, that if they didn’t do it, it must not be worth looking at? Or do they honestly think Andrige’s stuff isn’t good enough?

I mean seriously, look at his Night Elf Tree of Life form design!

nightelf_tree_of_life_form_by_andrige.jpg

/sigh. Simply beautiful.

Or take a look at his other form skins, in such a lovely format

Like the kitty skins!

andrige-catpreviewbothraces.jpg

Is that incredible? Huh? Aren’t they?

Oh, well.

Regardless, we can hope that sometime in the future, someday, we will get to have some new appearances in our forms. Even if it’s not as gorgeous as Andrige’s work.

Ghostcrawler has said they really, really, honestly and for true want to do something.

We just won’t get it in time for Wrath.

How long after? Right away? The next content patch?

I can only hope.

Maybe.

At this rate, anyone laying odds we’ll see new form skins just in time for the Emerald Dream expansion in two years?

EDIT!

To follow up on Pixiedarks’ comments, the three Glyphs that Wowhead added are;

That is all I know! No idea where Wowhead got these. Might just be stuff pulled out of datamined files, that were left over from the Beta testing. So please, don’t jump to conclusions just yet, my friends.

Oh, and edited again, for the heck of it.

As far as the issue of using a Minor Glyph for different cosmetic appearance changes.

As far as I’m concerned, I think the first step should be a cleaned up, freshened skin for each of our forms. A new baseline. And yes, I absolutely feel that there should be distinctions between male and female forms, in mane design and general aesthetics. More distinction between Horde and Alliance, in each form, and male and female versions. Baseline.

Once that is done, which is I think the core issue that has been ongoing for years, THEN we could realistically expect to see cosmetic changes to our forms, as voluntary modifications in the Barber Shop for straight gold, OR from equipping a Minor Glyph.

As it is purely cosmetic, I think that using a Minor Glyph is perfectly justifiable on Blizzards’ part. Mages, after all, have the Minor Glyph of the Penguin, and most of the ones I know use it, and if that’s not a cosmetic choice for pure fun, I don’t know what is.

What I would PREFER, would be a ‘Pet Salon’ addition to the game, alongside the Barbershops, that would allow you to take your Hunter Combat Pets and your Druid and Shaman shapeshifted forms, and give them cosmetic tweaks there.

Oh, come on.

Tell me you honestly wouldn’t like to be able to take your pet Core Hound, Fluffy, to the Pet Salon, and fit him out with your own choice of studded or spiked collars, dog tags, or even seasonal costume.

Okay, maybe the seasonal costume is going too far. I saw one of those ‘pet dogs in halloween costume’ emails going around the office today, and each pet looks sullen, angry and bitter. So okay, I’ll pass on that.

But yes, I do think that, as a very small, but very cute addition, taking our Pets and Forms to the Salon for a bit of customization would be a fun thing. 

I’m Big Bear Butt, and I approve this message.

Communications breakdown!

As I pine for the absence of Dammy and Wulfa and the Orclette, who are journeying cross country to their new home, I sat myself down with many, many plans for blogging.

Yes, sad to say that I never find myself at a loss for things to write about. No, I find myself at a loss for TIME!

Time, time… ask me for anything but time!

Anyway, today I had a simple plan.

I’d throw up an early morning post shining the spotlight on some really neat pictures a few readers sent me of their fun and happiness at Blizzcon. I meant to do it when I got them, and then, things kept getting posted. So today, I’d do it!

And then, once the fires of postage were satisfied, I could spend some leisure time writing the next PBeM post to put up today, kind of a late ‘last week’ thing, and get a start on this Friday.

So I went to my email, to go get those photos…

Did you know I get over a hundred emails a day?

And that I read every single one, delete the ones that are spam (which are damn few), and then, inevitably, say to myself, “I am short on time right now, but just as soon as I get some free time, I am totally going to answer those.”

Well, I realized that I had not actually replied to some of my emails. So I decided to go to the beginning of the emails in my Inbox, and start deleting anything that was obviously junk, leaving only serious stuff for my keepfile (like Photobucket registration confirmations and other stuff), and reader mail. Then I could go through it all and get caught up!

How long could it possibly take?

*ahem*

For those of you that were nice enough to email me, beginning last December, who never heard a reply, all the way through to now, I offer my most sincere apologies.

I have spent over an hour clearing email now… not reading it yet, just clearing away the weeds.

And it has become obvious to me that for the most part that I have not answered the majority of reader mail I have gotten since December.

I still have it all, it just got… pushed back. By the next days’ deluge.

A hundred a day. With spikes on WoW Insider days.

I have spent an hour… and I have several thousand more to clear, before I can even start reading them.

*sigh*

Just unbelieveable. I knew I was horrible, but that’s just stupid. How the hell can someone not answer email like that?

But you all have such great comments and questions, that I just never felt right about sending a stupid form “thanks for writing!” reply, I meant to sit down and answer each and every one of you in depth.

Ah, well.

Let the record show that my client, the Big Bear Butt, sucks, your honor. Fo’Shizzle!

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to get to the photos from Blizzcon.

HEY! I know!

While I’m dealing with this, here is a reader challenge!

A two parter!

Blizzcon Photo request!

If you went to Blizzcon and took pics, send ’em to me (or a link to them in photobucket or wherever you stored them), and an accompanying story, and I’ll try to include them all tomorrow!

So the deadline on sending me pics for a Blizzcon reader roundup is 5 AM Central Time tomorrow.

Halloween Costume photo request!

With Friday being Halloween, if any of you are dressing up as a WoW-related character (or dare I say wish it, in Tree form or Cat form or Bear form), then take some pics and send those to me afterwards, and I’ll do a reader costume contest with Poll!

Deadline on that would be next Monday morning by 5 AM Central.

I can’t promise there will be prizes for the best costume per reader poll, but I think I should be able to swing a shirt for the winner.

Yeah, yeah, I know. “Dude, where’s my car?” Sorry, shirts are the best I can do.

Yeah, this is totally not my way of casting /Distracting Shot at all of you whose emails I blew off. Not at all.

So send those photos in from Blizzcon with a writeup, and also think about whether you want to send me pics of your Halloween costume.

And if you made a gaming-related or fantasy/sci-fi costume you think is uber neat that you’re going to wear, but it ain’t WoW related, send that in too. I’d prefer to do a post admiring your WoW awesomeness, but I love neat costumes, so don’t be shy. I figure WoW costumes should be the ones competing for the prize, though.

And now, to see if anybody actually sends me any pics at all, and to get back at that email.

Somebody hand me a machete, I gots some hacking to do!