Tips for the New Tank

If you’re thinking of being the tank for a group, either for a team of your friends, a raid, or in a pug, I’ve got a few small suggestions that may help you out.

1) Be consistent.

When you get together with any group of people, you have to keep in mind that even if someone else is directing the overall strategy for the run, everyone else takes their cue from the tank. Everyone will be watching how you do things, NOT to judge whether you know what you’re doing, but to see HOW you will be doing things, so they can adapt themselves to your style.

There are so many ways, so many styles you can have as a tank. Each has it’s good points. But whatever you do, be consistent in how you perform each type of pull, so that your DPS and heals can adjust themselves to your flow.

I do not mean always pull every group the same way… but you should have one common way you do things, and then some variations depending on the opposing group’s makeup.

An example. If you prefer to charge into a group of mobs, and then drag them around so you are facing the rest of the party, providing melee DPS with a straight up-the-kilt shot as they run up… do that every time, not just some of the time. If the melee get used to running in after you and NOT having to maneuver around behind the mobs… if you suddenly change styles in mid stream, and stop dragging them around to put their back’s to the party, it will throw the flow off. And if you swap your style every other pull, it’s gonna annoy the shit out of them.

Being consistent in how you pull and how you position yourself allows the rest of the group to get an intuitive feel for how you do things, and they will respond by moving confidently to the attack without wasted motion, and your healers will be better tuned in to what your final range from them will end up being so they can position themselves well.

2) Encourage focus fire on targets with Raid Icons.

Most of the time, whether in Heroics or on raid trash, nobody uses CC anymore. Ulduar, of course, is a different story, but for the most part the normal sequence is pull, generate aggro, kill ’em all, next pull.

Marking targets for Crowd Control or a detailed kill order really isn’t necessary, but there are advantages to marking a primary kill target to encourage everyone else to focus their attacks on that one target.

If you have a good group who know how to play they’re classes, then those with fast cast time attacks or insane burst damage will target your primary kill target while those with slow cast time attacks or powerful DoTs will know to take the initiative and work on some of the other unmarked mobs.

The fast cast burst damage will blow away the focus fire mob so quickly that the slow cast or DoT player wouldn’t have contributed much to that kill… but he will have done great damage against one of the other targets during that time. Everyone wins.

To encourage this, rather than stopping and marking everything up prior to engaging normal trash, instead use either an Addon such as Quickmark that lets you fast click a mark on your current target, or create a macro to let you mark a target with one keypress.

I don’t have a preference. If you like keybindings for macros and are comfortable with them, it can be a nice time savings in the middle of a pull to mark with one key press. If you are used to clicking the screen, then Quickmark is a great addon.

For a macro to mark a Skull over your currently selected target, I recommend the following line of code;

/script SetRaidTarget (“target”, 8)

Make the macro and then move it to your bottom left  button or whatever your “1” is, and as long as you are the party leader or raid leader or assistant, then by tapping the “1” once you’ll put a Skull up on your current target automatically.

Alternatively, you can make a mouseover macro that will let you put a Skull over any mob, just mouseover it and tap your “1”. I don’t use it myself, simply because I want the majority of damage to be hitting my current main threat target, but your mileage may vary.

The code for a mouseover version is as follows;

/script SetRaidTarget (“mouseover”, 8)

As with any text you copy/paste from the internet into the game, copy it into Notepad or some other text editor that strips the hidden HTML code out, and then copy THAT and paste it into WoW.

And yes, of course you can keybind that to other things, I’m just using the “1” as an example.

Quickmarks gives you greater flexibility with what marks to use and when, but it takes some screen clicking distracting time to get ’em up. Still a lot better than right-clicking an enemy portrait and using the drop down menu to assign marks.

Whatever way you choose, marking a kill target on the fly, and selecting another as soon as the first one is dead leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind WHO exactly you intend to focus your main attention on.

Many players will, without a kill target, assume that your current target is your main threat target.

The problem with that is, you might not stay on one target all the time. Most tanks will, at least occasionally, tab-target off the main threat mob to apply some good housekeeping Mauls of approval on some of the others, just for that extra wiggle room, and then go back to the main target.

Maybe on your initial pull, you decide to use a ranged DoT like Moonfire to start some threat on a target that you intend to take second. You Moonfire, the group comes, and then you switch to another target to be the one you blow the shit out of.

If the DPS is going off of your current target, they might not have noticed you moved off your initial target… and will be going all out on the wrong target and pull threat away.

No big worries, just a helpful tip that using a Raid Icon to mark your primary threat target on the fly, every time your main target changes, helps keep everyone on track.

3)  Be mindful of lines of sight.

Some instances have terrain that rises or lowers, such as hills or stairs, and there are the ever-present doorways.

Keep in mind that, when fighting, if you are positioned at the peak of such a terrain feature, the healer and ranged DPS  are likely below and behind you… and the melee DPS and pets are in front of you, over the rise, getting behind your opponent.

This can leave your melee DPS and the pet out of line of sight of the healer. Violet Hold is infamous for these types of fights, with portal spawn points being at the top of rubble piles or being at a platform above a long flight of stairs.

Be mindful at all times of your position relative to the party, and ensure that you are not only keeping yourself within healing line of sight, but also the ones doing the fighting at the mob’s rear.

Never be afraid to grab your mob at the top of the terrain feature, and then drag him/them back far enough so the pet is within line of sight, too.

4) Knowledge is power.

One of the simplest things that will make any tank’s life easier is knowing what to expect.

For boss fights, this is obvious. Knowing what the boss does helps you devise your tactics against him.

When trying to tank a run as smoothly as possible, it’s just as important to know the characteristics of the trash you will face.

At the most basic level, is knowing who is a caster, and who is melee. Knowing who will heal, and who will net you in place and then run away to shoot at range.

If you know a group is melee, then you can just do a standard pull and everybody comes running. If one of them is a caster, however, knowing it in advance can let you target him for a sheep to get him out of the way, or inspire you to do a line of sight pull around a corner to make him run to you and get clumped in with the melee.

It should be your goal, when dealing with trash, to find a way to either clump them all up so your threat generating abilities will easily tag them all, or to get those that won’t come into your range out of the fight temporarily.

Sometimes you don’t want to run up to the group to make sure you engage the ranged attackers in melee range. The group might be close to a boss, or another pack of elites, or some other issue may come up.

So keep in mind that if you run out of line of sight of a group after you aggro them, even the ranged will come running after. Also keep in mind that your taunt abilities can be used at range, and so long as nobody is dealing damage to the ranged attacker, your taunt will keep them from attacking anyone except the healer’s global aggro.

A tip? If you have a GOOD working relationship with some ranged DPS, you can have your DPS friend damage the ranged mob a bit while you build initial aggro on the melee group… and then when he gets aggro and takes a few shots, he can switch over to your normal target… and you can Taunt the ranged mob, bumping your threat on that target up to match your DPS friend… WAY over the healer’s global threat. You won’t have to worry so much about reapplying Taunt after that.

The point is, knowing what to expect from the mobs you encounter will help you pull in such a way as to get them all clumped up in your threat range without pulling additional mobs, and without letting any run free to harm the rest of your group.

5) The first rule of martial arts; The board does not hit back.

When you are preparing to be a tank, what you should focus on, first and foremost, is being able to take being hit, not your DPS output.

Everyone tries to stack their armor, avoidance and health that is always active.

But you’ve got a host of other abilities to help keep you alive, and knowing when to use them is key to going from an okay tank to a good tank.

Tip? PvP duels can be great ways to practise your ‘oh shit’ techniques.

Are you a Druid Bear Tank? Then arranging your sequences so it’s easy to trigger Survival Instincts/Frenzied Regeneration (and an optional Lifeblood) when necesary is great, but being practised in USING them when the shit hits the fan, at exactly the right moment, is much better. Especially when you can tell your healer that you’re good at the moment; go heal someone else for 10 seconds.

Knowing how much you can expect to recover from this manuever, by actually having a friend beat the heck out of you in PvP down to bare bones, and then triggering your ‘oh shit’ technique and getting a feel for how much Health you will recover, how much damage you will avoid using Barkskin or Evasion, how much of a hit your bear bubble will eat on a Crit, all these things help you better prepare for when you’re in deep trouble..and will help prevent you from looking at your ghost form, and think “Oh yeah, I should have used my Healthstone/Healing Pot/Lifeblood/Shield Wall/Survival Instincts/Evasion/Bubble.”

Come on. How many of you, with a straight face, can tell me you never died with a Healthstone still active in your inventory.

It won’t be second nature to use your ‘oh shit’ buttons, if you normally aren’t in ‘oh shit’ situations.

So practise it!

And what the hey, while you’re at it, practise your bubble/self heal, or your quick-shift/self heals, and get a feel for how long your cast time leaves you vulnerable, versus how much health you get back.

Practising as a Bear Tank to see how fast you can pop out of Bear, throw down two insta-cast HoTs and pop back into Bear can give you some good skills.

I know that when fighting Moroes in less than full groups, being able to self-heal during a Vanish is a wonderful thing… but leaving yourself in caster too long while trying to get greedy with the heals on long casts is embarrasing.

Your goal is to absorb damage and stay alive first, aggro everything second. If one mob gets loose, you might only lose one person. If you die, you will probably wipe the run.

Priorities, cheena. Priorities. You first, healer second, the DPS gets a rock.

6) Never assume.

For better or worse, the main tank is often looked to as the raid or party leader for group events.

If you have run something a thousand times, that’s great. When you are tanking a run though, you have to remember, just because YOU know what to do, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Remember that knowledge thing up above? Yeah, if you know what to expect, and there is a trick to keep things going smoothly… share the trick with your group.

Communicate clearly to the group your expectations for a fight… and be open to suggestions on different things to try. Please, for all that is holy, don’t tell other people how to play their class or character. But DO suggest a tactic that has worked in the past, things you’ve seen or asked other classes to do before, and ask if the other players can try the same thing.

Again, don’t tell other players how to play, and do be open to constructive suggestions after you’ve said your piece.

You know the portal to the upper left in Violet Hold that is going to spawn a group that splits up in two? Well, when it spawns, don’t just run around in silence, tell the Hunter that you’d like a Misdirect if possible onto you for the left pair, or that you want everyone to move back to the stairs to give yuo more time to round ’em all up, or explain that you feel suicidal and you’re gonna bear dance and let the team wipe.

Don’t act in silence.

Likewise, don’t assume that the current boss is ‘ezmode’, so you don’t need to explain your intentions on a boss fight or your expectations of the team.

I get a LOT of crap in my guild, because every time we do a raid, I ask if there is anyone on a boss fight that doesn’t know what to do… and if I get an affirmative, then I take the time to explain what is going to happen, and make sure that person and anyone else is clear on what we will do.

I get a load of crap… but our runs are always pretty smooth, even when we are learning a fight for the first time.

I’ve been on raids before where the raid leader apparently thought that being master looter meant he was a leader. That’s great, but when you have folks just blindly shooting at whatever comes along, and hoping they don’t screw up, afraid to speak up and ask questions because they’ll ‘slow down the run’, then I call that a massive failure on the raid leader’s part.

If you invited them on the run, then you are responsible for making sure they know what to do, and aren’t treated with derision for having the temerity to ask questions.

If you want everyone to have studied their role in an upcoming raid in detail before you ever set foot inside… make sure that expectation is communicated ahead of time. And then feel free to rearrange your raid if that was your rule, and someone showed up unprepared.

You can have a speed run where no words are exchanged the whole fight and everything died anyway, awesome loot, kick ass, no deaths… and if one person on that run felt that if they spoke up, they’d be mocked for not knowing what is going on, and spent the whole run tense and confused and unhappy and fearful of screwing up, I consider that a crappy fail of a run.

But then, that’s just me.

The fish wrap-up.

I hope some of this can prove helpful if you’re just starting out as a tank, and wondering what kind of things to think about to help make your runs go smoothly.

Until next time, have fun!

PBeM?!? Manny paid you off, didn't he?

The title says it all. Months of nothing, and out of nowhere lots of comments wondering where the PBeM went to.

I find this highly suspicious.

Especially since I know Manny, and this is exactly the kind of thing he’d find a way to pull off.

The PBeM went quiet for three reasons.

1) I lost my job and got both very stressed, and very focused on work. To write at the level of the story creatively and keep everything balanced, I gotta be both relaxed and happy. 

2) I try to keep the story following the two main protagonists, played by Manny and James, balanced chronologically to some extent as well as by character development. It may bounce a little differently than you’d expect, but the travel times of James from the academy to the mountains mirrors to some degree the amount of time Manny fought, struggled, and then lay dead on a mountain pass before returning to life.

At the moment, Manny is preparing to enter a mountain cavern, passing through some pretty vicious barriers. He is at the doorstep, and readying a great big knocker. James is weeks of travel away… so I need to write more James story, for development and for catching up to current events, before Manny’s story proceeds very much further.

3) James is going to heavy duty business school at the same time as he works full time. He really hasn’t had any time to write replies.

So it’s been on hold. I HATE to cheat and fast forward people through the story, such as I did to get James where he is now. You already lost a lot of opportunity to see his new squire through his eyes during the trip, which pisses me off. I can’t do that at all with the next section. I HAVE to follow James for at least a couple weeks.

So, yeah. It’s been on hold.

That I got so many comments about the PBeM, something I figured you all forgot about, makes me wonder if I can’t find a way to get it going again, despite James’ schedule.

I’ll see what I can do.

Storytime – The Artiste

Once upon a time, about the time I was midway through high school, I was fascinated with the subject of magic.

I loved the idea of an entire field of serious study surrounding mystery, suspense, danger, thrills, and wonder.

I know now, of course, that there are many different ‘varieties’ of magic. From the street magician with his portable tricks, to the stage magician with his large set pieces, to the huge spectacles that amaze and delight… or did, before visual wizardry through technology made the majority of folks feel that if something is too good to be true… it’s faked.

I also know, quite well indeed, that while often mistakenly called magic, there is an entire culture that overlaps but is seperate from magic, and that is the world of the escape artist.

I learned much more about magic, later on in life. When I was in the Marines, my best friend developed his own fascination with magic, the magic of the personal, one-on-one street performer, and I spent many an hour with him watching his endless practise with cards.

I had the pleasure, once, of seeing one of his “impromptu” tricks go off flawlessly.

Now, there are no such things as impromptu tricks. Every single one is painstakingly practised until it’s flawless… and until you can perform it and make it seem as though you just pulled it out of your butt. That’s part of the amazement when a face to face performer does one of these things.

In this case, Bob “just happened to have” a deck of cards on him. We were… hmm, where the hell were we? Ah right, we were in Bardufoss, Norway, after taking part in training exercises with the Norwegian 139th Air Wing. God, this was a long time ago, if I got the unit designation wrong, please, don’t kill me.

We had set up an Air Traffic Control section for MACS-5 on top of a mountain, a mountain whose other face was also used as a ski resort, and our base camp was way down below on top of a frozen lake.

It was very heavy winter weather in Bardufoss, very heavy snows, and the road to get to the top of the mountain was more of a single lane goat path. We had some heavily loaded 5 ton trucks that were hauling equipment up and down, and we coordinated the transport with two comm section guys using PRC-77s to make sure nobody started coming down after a truck started heading up. Seriously, single lane, mountain trail, and NO guard or barrier or anything preventing a drop down the mountain, and no room at all for movement if two trucks went nose to nose halfway up.

Sure enough, the comm guys get screwed up, one truck heads down as another heads up, and they meet in the middle beneath that old Georgia pine… umm, I mean on the slick one lane goat trail.

Everything shut down, as Marines headed up and Marines headed down on foot to figure out what to do. Backing down the mountain was the obvious option, a long and nasty drive to back down, inevitably wasting a few hours.

Marines often figure, if you get enough bodies into it, and find a lever big enough and a place to stick it, you can move anything. Maybe we could figure a place to get ’em to pass.

So there we are, a bunch of Jarheads standing halfway up a mountain on a goat trail, heavy deep snow as far as the eye could see, and two trucks nose to nose.

The view up there was beautiful, Norway rocks. Sorry, wanted to throw that in there. I’d love to go back someday… when it’s not the middle of winter.

Anyway, right as we get there, a Lieutenant that had made good time and was first on the scene ordered the driver of the downhill truck to back and scoot towards the mountain as far as he could go, and then ordered the driver of the uphill truck to squish on by.

As I’m standing there watching, the uphill truck moves over slightly next to the other truck, pulls up and onto the pack snow on the side of the road to move over… and flips over and vanishes without a trace, straight down.

It was one hell of a magic trick. *Poof!* One second there was a truck, next second nothing. Not even a puff of snow. Voila!

We ALL rush over, and there at the side of the road, in what seemed to be part of the road itself, in a piled up snowbank, was a 5 ton truck sized hole, going straight down.

It turns out that the snow was SO deep, and blown up on the side of the mountain so well, that what the Lieutenant thought was a snow bank on the side of the goat trail covering more road was really just snow on top of snow, on top of snow, over a sheer drop of more snow.

I stood there, with my buddies Kit Carson and Willie Ames standing there next to me, and we looked down the dark hole in the snow.

Somewhere down there, we were sure, was a truck. Couldn’t prove it by me.

As with any man-made military disaster, we were then treated to the sight of an ever-increasing number of Officers descending on the scene like flies to a corpse.

It seemed nobody could quite believe the reports they were getting from the team on the road, and so more Lieutenants, then a few Captains, then a Major, and it just kept going on.

Pretty soon folks from the Norwegian Air Force started showing up, And then that group grew.

While the Officers congregated, we wee NCOs had our own coffee klatch going, and we got the hoist going off the other truck, and lowered it, with a Marine hanging on, down the hole to see how deep it went, and where the hell our Marine driver went, and provide medical attention if necessary.

Turned out it wasn’t THAT far down, the winch reached far enough at maximum, and the driver was fine. We hauled him up, and everybody began contemplating how, exactly, to drag a heavily laden 5 ton truck back up to the road. I mean goat fuc… I mean, goat trail.

That was a fun hour, I tell ya. You learn a LOT about how “proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance” when you see a Lieutenant make a single snap decision, give an order, watch it get carried out, and then see everybody from the CO on down chew him a new asshole.

I’ll cut this story within a story within a story short short by telling you how we got the truck out; heavy lift helicopter.

Okay, so let’s move on from the case of the vanishing truck, and on to our other, more planned magic act, Bob and his astonishing deck of cards.

We’re at the end of the deployment, we’ve packed up all our stuff, we’re down to seabags and alice packs, and we’re in temporary quarters, real four walls and roof type barracks stuff, because the tents we’d pitched over the lake were all shipped out already.

For a change, we had 30 minutes of dead time while we awaited transport out.

People are bored. Spades games are already popping up, sleeping is going on, etc, and Bob pulls out a deck of cards and starts doing a one hand shuffle, some fanning, limbering up the wrists.

Somebody starts pressuring Bob to do a trick… real twisting of the arm there. Because it was obviously all off the spur of the moment…

He says sure, takes the deck still in his hand, shuffles holy heck out of it, fans it out and asks the guy the infamous line, “Pick a card, any card”. Dude picks a card, Bob tells him not to show it to him, just look at it and tuck it back into the deck.

Then he pulls a rubber band out of his pocket, wraps it a few times around the deck, twists the deck around at the middle so the rubber band tightens up like a spring… and with a sudden, startling motion, SLAMS the card deck underhand towards the ceiling, where it impacts with a crash, shaking the walls and making people yell and jump wondering what the heck happened.

The deck had, of course, spun in midair due to the rubber band, and cards rained down from the sky… we all looked up, and there, stuck to the ceiling, face down, was a card.

Bob says to the Marine, “So, was that your card?”

Needless to say, everybody just looked at the card stuck to the ceiling, looked at Bob, and started saying such ego-deflating things as “Holy shit! How in the hell did you do that? That’s impossible! I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life!”

What an amazing trick to pull off. I knew he spent hours working on each trick, but it was still nothing less than amazing.

So, magic.

I spent a lot of time around magic in the Marines, Bob would take me along to magic shops throughout the Southern California area, sometimes we’d eat at a very cool resteraunt in San Diego that had tableside magicians that would perform tricks for each table while they waited for their food. We went to that one often, it was very cool.

He even made me watch and got me into this old TV series “The Magician”, starring Bill Bixby, that showcased Bill Bixby as a professional magician that ended up having to solve ‘impossible’ murders by exposing the trick the murderer tried to use to get away with it. It was much like a magician version of Columbo.

But my education in the world of magic did not begin with Bob. I had gotten interested in it, as I said, as far back as High School.

Now, it’s nearly impossible to study the history of magic without hearing of, or reading about, Harry Houdini.

I have read many biographies of Harry Houdini, and I’ve read his autobiography, and of course I learned many things, such as his real name as opposed to his stage name, the amazing fact that he had a nearly lifelong close friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, along with an ongoing disagreement concerning life after death and spiritual visitations, and many other awesome things.

But the single most surprising thing I learned was that Harry Houdini wasn’t a magician at all, he was an escape artist.

It was his ability to slip bonds, traps, restraints and containment that brought him his fame, not magic tricks with card and cup and ball.

I won’t go into that any more, since I would hope that if you had any more interest in the subject, you’d go and find some books about Houdini yourself.

I’ll just say that, in High School, reading about Harry Houdini inspired me not to try to learn how to fool people with card tricks, dice and sleight of hand, but instead to slip bonds and restraints.

My father, as I may have mentioned previously, was a police officer, so one of the obvious starting points was learning all the ins and outs of handcuffs.

One of the first things I learned was that the style of Smith and Wesson handcuffs the BRPD used had a pushpin double lock. By pushing in a small pin with the top part of a handcuff key, you could prevent the cuffs from being tightened further, locking them in place… but also making it much harder to unlock them without a key. MUCH harder.

The other thing about the handcuffs, of course, was that the key hole is in the face of the cuff. And if the hole is facing your hand, why, there is plenty of opportunity to get your carefully bent and filed down paper clip into the hole and manipulate it.

If, however, the smartass turns the key hole to face your wrists, and locks the cuff very tight, you REALLY don’t have much chance to get at the keyhole at all, even with a key.

My dad had seen me reading up and practising with the cuffs, so he interfered before I had much chance to practise, and started locking me into the cuffs to “see how good I was at getting out”.

As I was also doing a lot of leatherworking with Tandy tools and dies at the time, the obvious solution was for me to stitch a hidden pocket in the middle of the back of my belt where I tucked an extra handcuff key.

He’d cuff my hands behind my back, and I’d slip the extra handcuff key out of the pocket in the belt and uncuff myself. It’s amazing how I have never had a handcuff on me, not once, in all the long years since High school. Go figure. Who said those skills don’t come in handy?

I made the mistake of being a smug smartass myself by slipping the cuffs off nearly as quick as he put them on, even double-locked… so he turned them around on me so the keyholes were at my wrists. My little concealed key didn’t do squat for me then.

So, figuring out ways to slip cuffs was fun for a while, but the best way to get out of cuffs is to control the way they will be put on or the model used… a fine idea for a stage show, not so realistic if you get cuffed and tossed in the back of a squad car.

I moved on to the next traditional escape artist situation… being all tied up with a heavily knotted, large rough rope, and then getting out of it incredibly fast moments after being out of sight behind a curtain or in a box.

Acquiring a book on rope techniques for escape artists, some rope, and some time, I set out to learn how to make an impressive escape.

Now, one of the first tricks (at least in the book I was using) was to use a tall-backed wooden chair, with narrow slats of wood as supports, with plenty of room for the rope to weave in and out.

When you are tied to such a chair, it looks very impressive, the rope weaving in and out of the chair, many knots and coils and loops clearly restraining the person so there is hardly room for him to breathe, let alone wiggle free.

The key there is that there are many knots. And what is knotted isn’t the rope to the person, but the rope to the chair. The knots look real impressive, but when done right they are designed to act almost as a vest or harness, letting the person be coiled up and restrained and tied in dozens of places, but all of those coils meet at knots that are accessible and cascade down. You undo one key knot and that frees one section, letting you quickly get to the next section. Once free, you retie the knots in the correct order, and it looks as though you vanished, and the ropes fell in place behind you.

A wonderful plan. It sounded very cool. I could totally do that.

One key element I had not taken into account was that most of the tricks required a skilled accomplice to tie you up just right, and of course to assist in the case of any problems.

Problems? What possible problems could there be? I’m INVINCIBLE!

Moving right along…

I practised tying and untying knots for a while, making my rope harness built on the framework of the chair good and solid, slipping it on and slipping it off, and making sure I understand the order of untying and that I can actually reach all the knots once this thing is on.

Then, with nobody home of course, I place my artfully roped up chair in the center of my bedroom, with the door shut, and nobody at home. I might be banging around this first try, and don’t want to alert anybody that something’s up.

After all, this is all a secret. The handcuff thing showed me that, if you reveal your plans before YOU are ready, other people love to get in the middle and screw it all up.

Much better to work in secret, get the trick just NAILED, and then have an amazing escape to perform.

I sit down, get my ankles, legs and waist properly tied in, working my way up the knots until I’m twisting to get the last few tied up all the way back to my wrists.

Woot! I am now all tied up like a freaking mummy to a high backed wooden chair, and it is clearly impossible that anyone could escape from such a fiendish trap.

I calm myself and get ready to do the internal count, pretending that my lovely assistant had JUST slipped the curtain over my closet so that I was concealed from view.

The test was to see how quickly I could untie myself, stand up in a minimum of space (as if I was in that concealed closet) and then tie the harness back up behind me.

How long was it going to take me? What time would I have to work at beating? The longer it takes, the less impressive the whole thing would be.

I run through the steps in my head, and begin the count. I twist and squirm to reach the first knot… and realize that, once I had actually tied the knot, my loops were just slack enough behind my back that it dropped out of reach after I finished. I couldn’t reach the first knot.

Oh, hell no. This is NOT happening. Nope. I will be smashing the chair to splinters before somebody catches me tied to a damn chair in my bedroom. Kiss my white ass.

But really, there has got to be a way to reach that damn knot. This is the real world, this crap doesn’t happen in the real world.

Stretching to reach it succeeded only in tightening the whole damn thing. Surprise! The knots were designed to slide. And slide they did… they got a little tighter. Yay. Smooth move.

Okay, how about gravity. My hands are up here, the knot fell down there. If I rock forward, let the chair fall to where I am on my knees… my face will hit the hardwood floor. Okay, let’s rethink that plan just a bit.

If I fall backwards, I’ll land ON my hands… and the knot will not fall UPWARDS towards my hands anyway.

Hmmm, ropes actually suck pretty bad, don’t they? I never quite realized that heavy rope left such interesting burns on skin, either.

Okay, so. How about if I inhale deeply, putting tension on the ropes, so that they stay put. Then, I carefully undulate my body to make the ropes move gradually up towards my hands. A little squirming, a little twisting, a little scraping against the wall…

No, no that’s not working. The damn chair frame is preventing any actual control of the ropes.

Fine. Screw it. I’ll have to buy my dad a new f’ing chair out of the pittance I make at my after school jobs, because this freaking chair is getting smashed.

JUST like the guys in the movies do it. You make the chair fall over, and the weight of your body smashes the wood all up, relieving the tension on the ropes.

So I lean the chair back on the back legs, and start bouncing to get the legs to break off.

Did I mention that the floor was hardwood? Nice, smooth hardwood?

You know that feeling you get, when you are sitting in the chair at the back of the class, leaning back, and you lean just a little too far and you, the chair, the whole shebang goes ass over teakettle backwards, and you can’t stop it?

Yeah, it’s worse when you’re tied to the chair. With your hands and arms behind the frame.

F’ing chair didn’t break, either, the sturdy piece of shit.

Who the hell makes these things, anyway? Don’t they know the damn things are supposed to break at the slightest sign of stress?

Fine. Now I’m down on the floor, still tied to a chair, a chair which, I might add, is quite intact… and I hear the front door open.

Oh, son of a….

Hmmm. If I remain very, very quiet, maybe they will go away.

I hear my step-moms’ voice call out from the living room downstairs, “John? Are you home?”

Wisely, I remain quiet.


Footsteps coming up the stairs.

I’m not answering, so why, dear lord why, in the name of all that is holy and just in the world, why is she coming to look? There was no answer, if I was here, I would answer, wouldn’t I?

Well… I would, if I didn’t spend all my time listening to Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Rush, Styx, Pink Floyd and Shadowfax on headphones in my room.


Oh, crap.

The sound of footsteps come the rest of the way upstairs, and stop, of course, outside my door.

My closed door.

I am a teenager. My door is closed. Please, dear lord, please assume I am jacking off and do not open that door.

She opened the f’ing door.

And behold! There before her wondering eyes, for her consideration, the following tableau;

Her son, fully dressed (thank god), tied oh-so-tightly to a chair from ankles to neck, cocooned like a mummy in bright, BRIGHT yellow rope, fallen to the floor in the middle of his room. Nobody else present. Front and back doors securely locked.

She looked at me.

I turned my head and looked at her.

Now, my dad was a police officer of many years, so as you might imagine he had, quite literally, seen it all. But my step-mother, god bless her, was not only one of, if not THE first female fire fighter in the state of Florida (I really have to check that statistic someday) but worked at the time as the night shift 911 fire dispatcher.

And in Boca Raton, at that time, she was the ONLY night dispatcher.

You would be surprised at the kind of batshit insane trouble calls she would get from people, that would have absolutely nothing to do with fires.

She was just as jaded as my dad. And of course, they liked to compare notes on what crazy shit was the latest crazy shit in the city, to top each others’ stories.

She opened her mouth to say something, but I’ll never know what it was going to be.

Because I cut her off and said, with quite a bit of dignity I thought, “Please get me loose of these f’ing ropes. And not one word to dad. Not one word.”

You know your mom is a treasure when, 24 years later, you have still never, ever heard a single word, ever, about the day you were found tied to a chair in your bedroom. From anyone.

The moral of the story is… magic is pretty cool, escape artists are very trusting souls, and if somebody ever were to ask me if I was interested in bondage, the answer is GET THE F^(# AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT G#))&MN ROPE!

Thank you for your responses to Cassies post

I appreciate the emotional support and kind words you’ve shared.

I didn’t know Cassie was going to post anything, although I have a fairly good idea why she did, in hindsight.

I posted what I did about Noblegarden, not because I was inflamed so much at one person, but because as I said, he represents to me every immature asshat that I encounter that makes me wonder why I play this game in the first place.

I love the game of WoW. It’s magnificent. The depth, the sheer massive weight of content, the layers of involvement. It’s a stunning edifice within which we roam free, always finding something new in some previously unexplored room.

I love the people in my guild. I know I am biased, but each and every one of them is a nice person, a person that I enjoy saying hello to and meeting anew when I log in. Sometimes I feel pressured by my position as a guild leader, but never by the people within the guild. Only by my own sense that there are responsibilities as a guild leader that require my frequent presence, even during those times when I don’t feel like being around anyone else at all.

But I despise the aspect of the game that requires me to have to interact with immature little dolts that I would never bother talking to in real life. Strangers who have the power to annoy, to grief, to be asshats and revel in it.

I am now over 40 years old, and I feel I’m a little past the point in my life where dealing with that crap makes any kind of sense.

I choose to play a video game for enjoyment… and I wonder with growing frequency why, exactly, I am in effect sticking MYSELF in High School with the idiots and immature morons.

It constantly amazes me. This is an internet comunity on the blog, and an internet community in WoW. You have the power to be judged SOLELY on how you present your ideas, how you communicate with others.

Judged not by race, sex or sexual orientation, age, financial status, what school you went to or what side of the tracks you’re from. None of that bullshit matters here.

Nothing but pure communication of your ideas. How you choose to act. How you choose to type. 

In what voice you choose, of your own free will, to create your online persona.

That so many people choose to be asshats when given this incredible freedom. It baffles the living shit outta me.  

It seriously makes me wonder what the hell I’m doing writing here or playing WoW. I didn’t like the majority of the idiots I went to High School with the first time, why in the world would I want to go back and roll around in it?

Someone asked why I needed Cassie to play the heavy, or something like that. 

Cute, smartass.

I didn’t need Cassie to “play the heavy” for me, I told Cassie last night that I was done with it. The blog, the game, the whole damn thing. 

Apparently, she got tired of my having lost sight of what’s important, and posted something to wake my ass up to what is real.

The vast majority of people I meet, both in the game and on the blog, are NOT asshats.

Most of you don’t comment, and you shouldn’t ever feel you have to.

Some folks comment nice stuff frequently, and I come to know them and look forward to seeing these friendly souls and hearing their thoughts and opinions.

And some asshats come by to dump their crap, and think that this is a public forum where they have the right to do so, and by God don’t they get outraged if I dump their idiocy in the spam filter.

It is so very, very hard to keep in mind sometimes that the silent majority that read and move on are not represented by the asshats.

Which, of course, is what Cassie was trying to remind me.

Amongst other things.

I had decided to quit, both the blog and WoW.

And saying “Don’t give the prick the satisfaction”, much as I love that sentiment, isn’t really a rebuttal. There is no one idiot that can take credit for chasing me away.

It’s the very nature of the game that is the issue.

And what I needed to come to grips with, is the fact that there will always be emotionally stunted idiots and flamebait in the game, and I need to decide for myself whether or not dealing with these kids occasionally is an acceptable price to pay, to be able to spend time with my friends in the guild, and do all the other little things I love.

Reading your comments, spending time with my guildies tonight… I have to say that yes, yes it is worth it. The harassment of fools and children is minor when compared to having fun with friends.

It’s still there, it’s just minor shit.

Cassie Post

Ok, as usual, BBB felt like posting something that irritated him about a game that used to bring enjoyment to our lives, but lately has been bringing nothing but frustration and reflections about whether this is really how we want to spend our free time.

And before I start my actual post, I want to make it clear that this is ALL me.  BBB is at work and has no idea what I’m about to say or that I’m posting at all.  But since this blog is part of my life too and affects my family daily, I get to have an opinion (even if someone will then complain about the blog having too many “guest” posts and tell us they are leaving in disgust – yes, that has happened recently.)

So here goes.

Instead of people who didn’t agree with his Noblegarden post just moving on or politely sharing a different opinion or possible solution, the majority choose to send (and continue to send) comments that were vicious, ugly, filled with name calling, and several who announced that because this blog no longer focused on druids and had lost all of its “former glory”, they would be moving on and hoped BBB was happy to know that he had lost readers because he a) needed to grow up b) needed to stop whining, c) needed to only write about druids and not hunters, guild stuff or anything RL or d) he was ___ (fill in with an objectionable and childish name calling word of your choice since we pretty much received them all)

So once again, people seem to have the impression that this blog OWES them something.  That BBB is REQUIRED to spend all of his free time doing druid research and posting long step-by-step instructions about how to gear/spec/play a druid so that someone else who plays a druid tank or dps doesn’t have to do any research or think themselves about what makes sense for their class. They can go to a blog and get instructions on what to do instead and that it should be this blog.

And while BBB does sometimes do those types of posts, he also said LONG ago and has said frequently, that this blog was about anything he wanted to do write about.  Maybe one day it’s about a hunter, another day it’s about a guild leadership issue that we’re having, or about something in RL that he felt passionate about to share.  We receive many emails and comments from people telling us they enjoy that type of post.  That his story days are their favorite times. That they don’t even play WoW anymore, but they stop by to check things out and see what’s on his mind.  Those are the people that this blog is here for.  You are the people that BBB keeps writing for.

For those who feel that you are owed a certain type of content, that feel they have to right to offer “constructive criticism about content” (their term for nastiness about being entitled to different posts) or who feel the need to be vicious and nasty, I have a simple solution for you – GO AWAY and DON’T COME BACK.  You are not who this blog is for and if you write to say that BBB has just lost a reader, know that we are generally not sad or upset.  Instead we are thrilled to know that yet another person who feels it’s ok to be childish and demanding has left and won’t be commenting any more.

At the time this blog was started BBB, friends of ours were the ones that thought he should start a public blog since they were having so much fun with a yahoo group that was started among themselves where he’d share stories or rants or RL stuff.  So he started the blog and as he wanted to write posts, he realized that there wasn’t really anyone out there writing specifically about feral druids and he personally did SO much research and figuring things out so that he could better himself as a tank that he’d share that with others in case people were looking for help OR could make suggestions to him.  People began flocking to the blog and he somehow ended up the official “Big Bear Butt Blogger” and then got recruited to write for WoW Insider for the feral perspective. He wrote fantastic, long detailed class column posts that were not the norm for that publication and people loved it.  What they don’t know or often care about is that those posts for which he was paid very little, took, in some cases, 5 or 10 hours of writing and research for a single post. Instead of logging on to play the game, he would be spending hours doing math and linking to wowhead stuff and not enjoying the game that he was writing about because he’s naturally an overachiever who felt people deserved the best information; the information that he couldn’t find when he started.

However, over time, game play changes for everyone.  He started playing other types of classes and learning things about those (hunter, shadow priest, etc) and being the genuinely helpful person that he is, wanted to share that information here too.  Then we had guild issues and ended up forming our guild and we thought, “hey people might have advice along the way” so we wrote posts about that too.  And being a person who served in the military and has strong knowledge and passion for American history and issues, BBB would occasionally share posts in that area too.  And then since he’s led a crazy life (in the past), he thought he’d share some personal stories that had made that original group of friends suggest the blog in the first place.

That’s what this blog is about.  Anything that BBB feels passion about at the moment.  If that’s not what you want, go find it somewhere else. Or even better, if you can’t find it, do it yourself.  Start your own blog and get to say what you want whenever you want in whatever manner you want.

But don’t come here and feel that you have the right to be nasty, name-call or just be a jerk to my family.  In the past, we’ve literally had people get so wound up about a post, that someone took the time to figure out where we live, posted a google map to our house and the park where our son plays and say maybe someone should stop by and have a talk with us.  Yes, an actual threat to my family because of opinions about a virtual world and how they didn’t like what BBB said about something about that pretend world.

I’m all for free speech and I don’t and won’t censor opinions because they don’t agree with us, but there’s an adult way to share a difference of opinion and for the most part, we’re not seeing it happen in that way lately.  If you share something in a hateful, nasty way in the space that we PAY to have here and you threaten, demean or hurt us, we (ok, I because I’m much less tolerant about stuff like that than BBB is) WILL take away the ability to make comments and/or will yank this whole blog from the internet entirely.  You don’t get to hurt my family and call it “constructive” commenting.  You just don’t.

And if that offends someone and they leave the blog forever, delete it from their RSS, and move on, well then, I’m ok with that.  I totally am.


PS – Yes, I’ve used my moderation abilities and I’ve locked comments on the other post because we get the point — lots of people disagreed, some did it politely, others didn’t.  But it’s a dead issue. BBB long ago moved on from his frustration about the event (like by the time he had posted the issue) and it’s time others do too, instead of just stirring up the hate and venom for weeks to come.

Arthas Book Contest update

I just wanted to let you know, I have received the books for the international winners, and will be mailing them out this week.

Hopefully, that means the US winners have already received their books, and are happily enjoying them!

Congratulations again, and thank you to everyone that participated.

Another holiday, another bunch of asshats

Lady Jess said it well just this morning, when Noblegarden started around midnight.

“People in the guild are so nice, I started to forget what asshats there are in the game. Now I remember.”

So, Noblegarden is active.

Eggs are out there, but only in the race starter zones. There are many spawn areas in each starter village, but as you might expect, with spawn sites the way they are… asshats have a lot of power to be themselves. I’m sure many of you have found this out, and met with some frustrating moments.

It says a lot about the game that there are so many opportunities to run across asshats. There really is a lot that’s going on, all the time. It’s pretty cool to have such a vital community, still, after so many years.

The asshats are just the dandruff that won’t go away, no matter how much Selsun Blue you use.

Tonight, I have for your entertainment, a story of one of our own. A Druid.

A Druid that proves that asshats can be of any class or race, even the Night Elf Druid. Shocking, but true.

Ah, and what a petty little asshat he is, too.

Sadly, I do not have an epic tale of woe to share with you all.

He is nothing special. Just a lame little asshat worthy of little else in this life but the random abuse the world will assuredly bring him. But he does serve as a target for me to share with you, someone that you can take pleasure at seeing called out, to represent for us all this particular holiday’s inevitable tools.

Feel free to think about your own meetings with asshats, and pretend that Voltarius the Pathetic of Kael’thas was the one that annoyed you, and let loose with a little giggle as he shows us all his /fail.

Let me set the stage.

It was a night like any other, and the eggs were there to be found.

I’d traveled from the cramped villages of Goldshire and Dun Morogh in search of a place less frequented than most. The Night Elves seemed to be the most open of the choices I visited, and so I decided to tarry there a while.

I saw that most folks that were there were either camping remote ares, or were taking routes around the village.

As I didn’t want to interfere with others, I found a quiet spot under the bridge, and proceeded to await my eggs. They spawned about once a minute on the average, which was fine with me. I had 30 minutes before I must away, and so I might luckily see 30 eggs all told before I left the WoW in search of my bed. It was nice sitting there, out of the way of others. Nobody came to bother me, for the village was pretty wide open for spawn points.

I just sat there, got about 20 eggs, and listened to Lewis Black on iTunes, until he came along.

The lame little immature asshat.

Of course. It is WoW, and a publicly accessible event, after all. To people like Voltarius, that just spells another opportunity to make someone else HAVE to recognise he exists. God knows nobody in the real world does. (That is just an assumption… but I’d have to say, based on the evidence, it seems like a reasonable guess. Allow me the poetic license this once.)

I don’t really have to tell you, do I? Of course not.

In a village full of spawn points, where it was actually fairly empty compared to all the other areas, he comes over, stands next to me in cheetah form, and spends the next 10 minutes frantically clicking every egg spawn that comes along, and with a 1 minute spawn rate, and many other open areas in the village, that takes a determination to do one thing and one thing only… be an asshat and inconvenience someone else. After all, assuming I get half, that’s a net waste of his time, right?

I didn’t race to try and get them from him, though. I didn’t bother. I kept clicking on egg spawns at my own pace, and surprisingly, I did get one.

I could just see him in my minds eye, desperately clicking the spawn point, hoping against hope that he’d get it first, the saliva dangling from the corner of his lips, his slack, mouth-breathing face aglow with the ecstasy of my imagined frustration.

They’re eggs. It’s a week long event. I only need 100 (or a lucky hit) to get my bunny pet, which is all I want. I can get up a half hour early a couple times and be assured of no competition at all. So… moron alert, but other than that… so what?

But I’m curious, as usual. The mind of the immature asshat is a fairly foreign thing to me. He’s got good gear, clearly he is able to pretend to be mature or reliable enough to be part of a raiding guild that has success… so what is going through his head right now? It’s not about the eggs, so what is it?

Before I just come here to the blog and dump a screenshot and some invective upon him, is there a chance I could converse peaceably? Ask him politely if he would allow me to continue getting the eggs from this spot I’d been at alone for the last 20 minutes? There are plenty of other spots that are open, after all, and I’m leaving in 10 minutes anyway. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy, after all. Maybe, my being in pink bunny form confuses the poor, wee lad. Maybe my hopping up and down and dropping eggs out the back is mistaken as part of the celebration!

And maybe bunny form will sprout wings and fly.

Okay, sure, he just wants that little recognition to satisfy his childish soul, something to satisfy that desperate craving to be seen, to matter to somebody, that heartfelt longing to touch someone. Most asshats seem to feed off attention, to draw strength from it, to revel in knowing they have finally touched someone, anyone. But maybe, if I talk to him, it will pacify his inner child, full of selfish nerd rage.

What the heck, no matter what happens, it can only make for a better eventual blog post, amiright? And I have been surprised in the past. Sometimes, someone stops after having done something like raced up to a mining node that I was standing at fighting a mob, grabbed it, raced off… and then come back, apologised, saying they hadn’t seen me there until too late, and actually opened a trade window to give me the ore.

I always decline the ore, because consideration like that deserves a reward, but it HAS happened. So why just assume? Maybe something magical will occur!

So, I asked him, very politely, as politely as you could possibly wish, if he would please, pretty please let me have the spot I’d been at for the last twenty minutes, as I had limited time, and had to leave in a few minutes. I just wanted a couple more eggs before logging. Please?

His response? “Waaaaaaah”.

I thanked him kindly for his response, and he actually replied “np”. Oh yes, yes he did.

Well, nobody can say that I didn’t try.

So I hereby present to you, my friends and collegues, my second nomination for the Kael’thas Hall of Shame; Voltarius, of The Ebon School guild.


As I said, there is nothing special about him. He has no special gift of imagination, he makes no special example of being exceptionally rude or offensive. There is in fact nothing exceptional about him whatsoever.

He is completely mediocre in every way, just a lame little asshat that wanted to inspire some emotion in others, who craved attention, who wanted to try and hurt someone else… over Noblegarden Eggs.

Well, he did inspire some emotion in me, and he did get some attention, but I doubt either was what he had in mind.

I mean, really. Noblegarden Eggs? What a hero.

Not exactly the all time villain of the month, here.

But I feel his lack of effort, his lazy, casual asshattery deserves to be recognised. To me, he truly represents the asshat you all know and encounter, all the time.

Not the grand villain, not the imaginative effort, not the vile loot ninja from Ulduar pugs or the race-hate spewing toad from general chat, not even that guy in a PUG that talked trash and then bailed on a heroic when he didn’t win a loot roll.

Just a common, ordinary, asshat. A person that might not go too far out of their way to be a dick… but when presented with a chance to spread some sorrow or annoyance, to hurt someone else, no matter how petty, to shoplift the CD when nobody is looking or snag five bucks from his mom’s purse when he thinks he won’t get caught… takes the opportunity.

It’s not the grand villains that cause the problems, not really. Even if you get totally served by one, at least you’ve got a funny story to tell.

It’s the whiny little sad sacks like Voltarius, the ones that have no qualms about being a dick in passing to strangers. They are the ones that annoy folks the most. Because it’s just a little, teeny annoyance. You know, you KNOW it’s nothing worth getting worked up about.

You know that all they want is to get a rise out of you, so you say nothing. You just go on about your business, whether you meet them in WoW or in real life. But you’re annoyed just the same, if only for a moment. Just a teeny little grinding away at your good mood, a little harshing of your fun.

The spiritual equivalent of dog poop on your sneakers, you know?

So by all means, if you happen to be on Kael’thas (US), and you have a moment, be sure and say “Hi!” to our own resident asshat, Voltarius.

He plays a vital role in our community, and we appreciate it.

After all, every village needs it’s idiot.

EDIT: I’ve had a few people whisper in to let me know they think I was upset when I wrote this, and by posting it, the asshats win. If I had been upset, you’d be totally right, but I was actually laughing pretty hard. I had a great deal of fun writing it… I kept getting hung up on the ludicrous nature of people trying to grief egg gathering. They’re eggs, tough guy! Awww, didums want a pretty pink dress? roflmao.

My one regret is that, while I was having fun being snarky, I did not offer any solutions. This is a terrible miscarriage of justice on my part!

That is why I direct you to go read this post by Medivh Gold. After all, it’s always better to take action than to walk away muttering.