You got your sillyness in my serious!

Been working crazy this week, getting things fixed that went belly up.

Today, I had a moment of pure ‘wtf did he just say’ that I wanted to share.

Had a machine get erratic a few days ago. Nailed down what the core issue was, a mixture of operators that are untrained but ordered to run the machine anyway, and a shaft that was slightly bent because, well, see reason number 1.

Folks in management ‘wanted to be sure’, so they insisted we fly in the manufacturer’s tech to troubleshoot the system for us.

I was all for that, seeing as how that way I can take the opportunity to have the manufacturer’s tech train the operators on the RIGHT way to do things. Sometimes, the ‘pro from Dover’ really is damn handy to have come into town.

The tech flew in yesterday, and what do you know, he found the shaft was slightly bent. He also spent over two hours doing training with our best operator, and corrected just a MASSIVE amount of training misconceptions. I did a brief write up afterwards, but the final result wasn’t very flattering. I’ll put it this way, there was a very good reason this particular machine was never able to run at top speeds, even when brand new.

On the positive side, I went over our maintenance procedures with him and he was quite complimentary about how well we take care of the machine. Aside from, you know, people who put massive weights on 3″ steel shafts unsupported on one end and then expect them to maintain true balance.

So I pulled the shaft this morning, crated it up and shipped it out the door. Manufacturer will receive it tomorrow, straighten it out and ship it back, we’ll get it on Monday. No worries.

The shaft is about 7′ long, 3″ diameter and solid steel. Things only weighs 150 lbs, but it’s an awkward bundle to ship once wrapped up.

I send out all of my email notifications, and then I contact the manufacturer to get pricing and availability on a replacement shaft to have in stock for backup, so if we have this same issue crop up again in the future, which God forbid will never happen again but wasn’t supposed to happen the FIRST time, at least I’m not down three days on shaft repair turnarounds.

Here’s what I get told.

Dead serious.

“Oh sure, I’ll get with the home office and request a quote on that. But I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to hear back on Monday. The offices in the UK are all closed tomorrow for the wedding.”

Wait, what? What wedding?

Is your company owner getting married?


What wedding?



Okay, well, thanks, I’ll wait to hear back on Monday then.

Geez, you woulda thought something important was happening tomorrow or something.

Closed the offices? REALLY?

Seriously? “we could be making some money right now, but to hell with that, we’ve got a wedding to watch!”

And people ask me why the economy is in the shitter.

If the boot fits…

Once upon a time, there was a jarhead. This jarhead, we’ll call him Bear, was issued a set of uniforms in boot camp. Parris Island, oorah.

Amongst this uniform issue were a pair of boots.

Bear wore those boots day and night. Through mud, sleet, icy rain, sand fleas and scorching heat, those boots wore in and then wore on. 

For years, those boots were THE boots. The leather got scuffed up to the point that they couldn’t be spit-shined for inspection anymore, but crawling in the boonies will do that, no matter how well you service the leather. Even when I retired them from my ‘inspection kit’, they remained the boots I wore every single day.

There came the inevitable jokes, as new Marines would join the unit, and this old salty Sergeant would laugh about his boots having more time in the field than they had in the Corps.

I didn’t give those old boots much thought. I cleaned them and polished them and kept them in good repair, but I took them for granted. I put ’em on in the morning and took them off at night, and if I thought of them at all it was to be grateful I didn’t have to drop money on more boots. When the heels got worn down, I’d take them into town and get new heels mounted at a cobblers, and kept on marching. They were just boots, you put them on your feet and got about the business of the day.

There finally came a time when those boots just weren’t serviceable anymore. The toes was too roughed up to pass inspection, the leather sides were saturated with the white salt that comes from years of sweat soaking through despite the best care. Bear had to get new boots. 😦

The new style of boots now had canvas sides instead of leather. I mourned the passing of my leather-sided boots even as I clung desperately to my last serviceable set of faded cotton camouflage utilities.  At the time, they were just switching over to rip-stop poplin cammies, but if your original issue were still serviceable and in good repair, you could wear them. This meant that if you were a salty old Marine, you damn well took care of those original issue, just to have something to wear to drive officers bugshit crazy at inspections. (FYI, cammies aren’t supposed to be faded almost white from years in the sun.)

I bought my new boots, worked some saddle soap in good and strong, polished ’em up, and went out for a quick run to ‘break them in’.

I limped back broke down and sore. It felt like the damn things were trying to kill me with an almost malicious animosity. I could understand how rumors get started about shit being possessed, because those boots tried to kill me. 

I’d thought my feet had toughened up in my old boots to the point I could run like wearing boots was nothing, but all along I just had a real well-broken in pair of boots. They were so perfectly suited to me that I never noticed how awesome they were.

They’d faded into the background.

I sure as heck didn’t take my new boots for granted. Those things had my full, complete, and undivided attention. I lavished hours on those pieces of shit trying to break them in before they broke ME in. Fun runs became a misery, simple troop movements became a kind of hell. It took months to break those things in, and I learned a lot about how to heal (heel?) damage done to feet in the meantime. I also learned that when your feet are trashed, everything else gets that much harder to do.

What does any of this have to do with anything?

For one thing, it’s a true story. I always like those.

For another thing, we’ve got a big patch coming out in World of Warcraft tomorrow.

This one is going to be a big one. A lot is going to change. I know Blizzard has said they want to do small patches with great frequency, but you couldn’t prove it by me. People are going to be pleased for the most part, I think, but I’m sure there will be some grumpiness. There always is, and sometimes with good reason.

When a patch first gets announced, everyone goes running off to see what’s inside. What’s changing, what do we get, how will my class look tomorrow, aw damn they’re nerfing cut green gem vendor prices, oh look we get new instances, oh wow are bears really getting Swipe at that level? What new shiny? What?

What I’d like everyone to do, as a favor to me, is to take a deep breath tonight, before it goes live. Take a minute not to think about the changes that lie ahead, not to plan on what you wanna see FIRST, but instead reflect on all the things in the game that are so right, so perfect just the way they are, that we don’t even notice them anymore. Things we take for granted like a pair of comfy old boots.

I know for me, one of those things is simply playing within a game world where I can fly from sea to shining sea, sunrise to sunset, and glory in a seamless world of beauty and wonder.

Azeroth in all of it’s brilliant complexity is a vibrant world, full of rich ecosystems that live and breathe to their own rhythyms. It’s the first game world I ever encountered where I didn’t have a loading screen every 15 minutes when trying to go somewhere. I didn’t have to ‘zone in’ to walk from town to town… I just walked, and the world was there, unfolding before me. Even crazier, there were other people already there!

That town up ahead? People! Real people! Sure, if it was Crossroads, they were probably asshats, but they were still real people! Okay, if it was Crossroads, that’s debatable, but they were not bots! Wait a second… shit, I’m not doing this so well, am I? 

You can talk about so much else in the game, but for me, that’s the one key thing that is so easy to take for granted, the one part of the game that is invisible to see. But it’s there for me, and it’s what makes everything else work for me. It’s what the whole game hangs on; my ability to suspend disbelief for the biggest whopper of the game, that the world is real, and huge, and exists somewhere in entirety.

It is a persistent world, and even now when I step back and think about that, it gives me a little thrill of geekdom. Azeroth is an entire persistant virtual world, and at any time in some far-off corner of the globe, someone is doing something for reals. Taming beasts, mining ore, fishing lakes and streams, discovering new villages and exploring secret mountain peaks.

It’s so easy to quibble about the little shit, and after a while of that, it can feel that the entire game is about all these itty bitty little changes and tweaks, with some folks happy and others pissed off.

No matter what happens, for today there is an entire world waiting out there to be discovered… and once explored, to be mastered. There are people from all over the world IN the world, people to be met, people to befriend, people to /ignore and /spit on if that’s what floats your boat.

And I can do it all without having to go out and get in the car, where gas costs $4 bucks a gallon. Screw that.

Maybe you’re tired of the game, and after all these years I wouldn’t blame you a bit.

For me, sometimes, I just gotta step back and do my best Keanu Reeves “Whoa” impersonation. tonight I plan on doing just that.

See you in Neverland!

Oh, and if you made it this far, you deserve a cookie.

Here’s a picture of me with my gaming pal and surfing buddy Sgt Wasson, with me in my faded old school cammies that used to drive the butterbars nuts. You’ll notice that I didn’t even have to have the nametapes on! Look at that smartass grin. Yep, that much ain’t changed. Now that’s old school, baby. Enjoy!

The urge to tank is strong with this one

Playing a Beastmaster Hunter is so much fun when you’re leveling.

Along with the normal joys of picking what you want your companion to look like, naming him or her, and getting to choose what buff you’d like to run with, you get to keep your eyes peeled for those ‘gotta catch em all’ rares to tame.

You long time PvP enthusiasts also know the joys of having so many control options you can easily lose track.

Of all the times that I’ve played a Hunter, I know I’ve never really scratched the surface.

I’ve never gone into PvP with a carefuly planned out spec or pet, or practised all those situational player control and escape techniques.

I’ve also never really tried to build a spec and use a pet as a tank for content that was specifically designed with tanks in mind.

Molten Core is on my mind lately. I have soloed it with my Fury Warrior, but my Hunter is climbing the levels. Can I solo it with her as well?

Can I solo it even easier?

I decided to begin working on answering that tanking question for myself. I’m sure other people can do it; other people can solo two Cataclysm raid bosses. Other people have crazy mad skills.

I’m not other people, I want to know if I can do it.

It turns out I’m in a wonderful place to begin.

I’m in Dragonblight.

For those fortunates among you that don’t know what Dragonblight is like from playing characters through there 10 times, Dragonblight is a zone in Northrend for characters around levels 73-75, and it is famous for having a lot of “Gather a group of friends and go kill wandering boss X” style quests.

Just off the top of my head, there are these group kill quests;

  • An emerald bird boss (that I wish I could tame)
  • A Wolvar Shaman you have to knock off surrounded by some friends that come when you call.
  • A Scarlet Crusade General in a cathedral of worshippers
  • Another Scarlet Crusade Captain (or some such) standing at the top of a lonely watchtower still under construction.
  • A massive behemoth named Kreug Oathbreaker that wanders around in the middle of undead territory and LOVES to fear attackers.
  • An entire chain of Magnataur wandering bosses to take down, 5 in all if I remember right, maybe 6.

 I think there are others in the zone as well, I’m just kinda blanking right now.

That’s a real great zone to start thinking about having your pet tank this stuff for you. I mean, really tank it.

What I did was set a baseline. I took my kitty pet, Munchkin, and went after the emerald bird boss. I remember that one as a particular bitch to solo without heals.

Birdbrain has over 100,000 health, and although we gave it a good run, I couldn’t keep the pet alive and get the birt below 25,000 health on my first try.

Remember, the goal wasn’t to keep trying in a myriad of ways to do it; the goal was to set a baseline. “Here’s where I am with a kitty pet.”

I then went to Petopia to browse unfamiliar territory; the Tenacity Pets category.

My first instinct, of course, is to have a Bear. I’ve run with Bear pets before, they’re lots of fun. Not since the new patch revamp, though.

What I looked for were the pet skills. If I was going with a pet for tanking of group content, I wanted skills that would aid the pets survivability or mitigation, not do more damage. It’s MY job to control my aggro and stay under the pet. The pet has to live for me to win.

Perusing the list of pet skills, I was struck by how, of all of the Tenacity pets, only Beetles, Turtles and Bears had an actual damage mitigation or avoidance skill. Bears have Demoralyzing Roar to reduce enemy damage output by 10% for 15 seconds (with a 10 second cooldown, effectively up all the time), while Beetles and Turtles have a 50% damage reduction lasting 12 seconds, with a 42 second cooldown (in BM spec).

Decisions. A Bear with an always-on 10% damage reduction, or a Beetle or Turtle with a 50% reduction for burst use?

I decided to come out of my shell and try a Turtle. 🙂

I originally trained a sand-colored Turtle on the western shores of Borean Tundra to test the Talent Spec out, and once I knew I kinda liked the spiky little guy, I went to Dustwallow Marsh, where I tamed a very attractive Grey Turtle, the ones with a coral hue to their shell trim.

I leveled the pet up a little (can’t wait for the patch to remove THAT pain in the butt) and then went to the same Emerald Birdie, to test my new pet out.

My BM spec stayed the same, I just specced the Turtle into increased Dodge, Armor, Health and Growl to improve health and happiness.

I also shut off Cower.

I don’t run with Cower on my kitty, because I’m switching targets on the run ALL the time and don’t ever feel I need the damage reduction. Cower slows your pet down a LOT.

I wanted the test to be fair. In actual boss tanking, I would have Cower on auto for that 40% damage reduction for 6 seconds at a 45 second cooldown (costs no Focus), and I’d trigger Shell Shield to fire immediately after instead of overlapping. 

Anyway, my test on the Emerald Birdie.

I’d like to build it up to something impressive, but I can’t. It was no contest. My new buddy Koopa the Turtle was still at 100% full health when the Big Green Bird died. 

I’ve also gone and taken down a few of the magnataurs, the Scarlet Crusade Captain up on top of his watchtower, that sort of thing. No worries.

My next test is going to be Kreug. I’m looking forward to working out a way to handle those fears. 🙂

I’m pretty impressed. I messed around with a Bear pet back in the old days, but it seems to me there wasn’t such a sharp difference in performance back then.

Now, with the pet Talent trees, Shell Shield, all these customization choices, it’s pretty sweet.

What next? Dare I go into Karazhan and Molten Core for reals, me and Koopa?

If soloing with a Hunter Pet is your thing, can you tell me what kind of challenges at the 85 level you’ve had fun working out?

Editors… the unsung heroes

As work progresses on cleaning and editing Converging Forces, I’ve been in a very unfamiliar position.

I’m not the one that has done any of the real work so far. Cassie has.

She’s using the track changes function, of course, and inserting notes, so I see and evaluate all her changes. Which, when it comes to grammar and spelling, are always dead on. The notes are more to point out to me things that seem long, wierdly placed, could use more information, that kind of thing.

She’s been working very hard on it, and it’s been great for me in one key respect; Cassie does NOT read fantasy or sci-fi fiction.

So, all the time I’ve been writing these, she’s never read them before.

She’s reading them now. And for the most part, she likes it. I’m not going to speak for her, but she seems to have really been engaged by and enjoyed Jessies story, and Terins story has been… well, I knew there were issues with it at the beginning. I had played with Manny plenty of times before, I knew I could throw him in the deep end and know he’d swim. I hadn’t really had James as a player before, so I really started out slow and established the groundwork, something that’s fine for a PBeM role playing game, and not so entertaining for a story to read.

I’m so happy with the progress, I can’t really tell you. They were just SO rough, so ‘not ready to read’, but I’ve been very happy with them as turns in a PBeM story.

Now, as the balance I always envisioned is being introduced, I’m getting to be very happy with how this is all working out. 

None of this is probably of any interest to you, but it’s what we’ve been doing lately. It’s why there isn’t blog postage. Who has time to think about WoW when I’m thinking of the Converging Forces story? I’ve been writing the next chapters in my head so I can get cranking.

The drawback to having your wife hooked on your writing? She wants you to KEEP WRITING. Specifically, to get it back to Jessie.

The conversations we’re having over the writing mistakes she’s corrected so far really make me feel bad. She’s the one finding and correcting them, and if I was a skilled writer, they wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

The single biggest thing that has come out, however, is truly, I do not use apostrophes right. I need to go back in time and slap the shit out of my english teacher, because she taught specific rules on the use of the apostrophe that turn out to be, well, bullshit. Flat out lies. I didn’t make those damn rules up, either. I was in class that day!

I truly need to make a shirt that says,

“What I do to the apostrophe is an offence against God and nature.”

John Ringo’s ‘Troy Rising’ series = WOOT!

This isn’t going to be a review of the books, because I’m totally biased in favor of this series.

What I’ll focus on instead are some of the reasons why I think you should want to read these books if the name John Ringo didn’t already make it a done deal.

What books? Why, Live Free or Die and Citadel, books 1 and 2 of Troy Rising by John Ringo. Didn’t I say?

The reasons I think you should read them.

First, the language in these books is PG. I know, I know, you’re familiar with John Ringo, and he’s pretty well known for having his characters, especially military characters, freely use language best called ‘salty’.

I can assure you, after reading both of the books currently released, he’s used none of the usual salty language, while still retaining that John Ringo action style and quick pace. If that’s something that concerns you, for yourself or your children, then you can rest assured that the language is cool.

When I think of other situations where I’ve felt rough language added to the experience, the Die Hard movies come immediately to mind. I love those movies, and Bruce Willis spouting lines like “Yippee Ki Yay, M&*F&*^” are burned into my enjoyment of them.

I would have said before reading these that if you stripped out the vulgarity in his writing style, something would be lost. 

The truth is quite different. It reminds me of when I was in boot camp back in the day, and the drill instructors weren’t allowed to use actual ‘swear’ words when talking to you.

Did that prevent drill instructors from insulting you or yelling at you with passion and enthusiasm?


On the contrary, they amazed and impressed me with their ability to rip you a new defecation oriface without using any ‘bad words’ at all. It was more as if the limitation inspired them to rise to new heights of inventiveness.

John Ringo doesn’t use any salty language in this series… by the letter, OR by the spirit. He writes the language clean, letting the situations, action and sheer scope of destructive potential get the message across for him. He doesn’t mess around trying to slide one by you. When he wants to be colorful, he does it through solid, inventive writing without using any crude shortcuts, and it was a lot of fun.

Does he ever specify why he did this? Not that I know of, not in the foreward or afterward, but I’m going to hazard a guess and wager that it’s out of respect for the author he was inspired by for this series.

Here we come to the second huge reason for you to read this series. The books of Troy Rising are written by John Ringo, and it’s a story entirely of his own creation, but it was inspired by one of John Ringo’s favorite webcomics of all time, and takes place in that other author’s universe.

Troy Rising takes place in the universe of Schlock Mercenary, created by brilliant science fiction author and artist Howard Taylor.

Oh, have I finally captured your attention? You’ve heard of Schlock Mercenary, have you?

I should hope so.

In the foreward of the first book in the series, Live Free or Die, Howard Taylor makes it pretty clear that while he might not have had this exact story in mind for how Earth entered the politics of the galaxy, it very well could be… and might be retroactively inserted as his new ‘that’s how it always was’ plan.

Are the names of races likethe  Glatun and Horvath familiar to you? Do you not only know who the Gatekeepers are, but understand why having them show up in monkey space was a bad thing?

Have you ever wondered what kind of insane introduction to the universe would motivate the Earth to develop the Battleplate as a weapons platform? A battleplate, for those that are not familiar with Schlock Mercenary, is a spacefaring warship roughly in the shape of an equalateral triangle, if each side of the triangle was about 6 kilometers long. 

Have you ever wondered, if earth uses battleplates to send outside the system, what did we use to protect our own space? And was it even scarier? 

John Ringo not only plays in Howard Taylor’s Schlockverse, but he pays incredible respect to the rules and spirit of the series, does his homework, and then thinks big in the best tradition of the golden age of science fiction. And no matter how crazy it all gets, it still fits.

Have you ever read that someone is going to take something you love, and then go back thousands of years? What’s your first thought?

When I heard that they were taking Star Trek and doing the Enterprise show, my first thought wasn’t excitement about the series.

No, my first thought was, “I already know the limits of technological development in the current universe. If they go back to an earlier point in the storyline, they’re going to have to stay constrained by what was shown to be the limits of tech. Will they be able to handle that and still have great stories?”

Well, if this series had a theme, it would be ‘go big or go home’.

Oh yes, let your mind be settled on that score. John Ringo goes big, in fact I think he took pride in thinking, “Should I do that? No. No, it’s too bloody small. I can go bigger. I can go bigger than anyone ever dreamed. Let’s crank this pig to eleven, and then cube it. And then lets cube THAT.” 

There is one point where enemy aliens ripe on destroying our planet get their first look at what we built for a defense… and one of them goes insane, right there on the bridge of their battleship. Just loses it. Has a fit, has to be put down.

It’s Howard Taylor’s universe with John Ringo’s action and characterization, and a story that is a gigglefest of “Oh, he did not just…”

So, I’ve given you two reason to read.

There are two books out in Troy Rising right now, the first book is “Live Free or Die“, and the second book is called “Citadel“. The third book, titled “The Hot Gate”, is due out May 3rd, 2011.

Now, if that was not enough, I’m going to give you a third reason to go read them.

I’m in them.

Specifically, John Patricelli is a character in the second book, “Citadel”.

That’s right. The most incredible geek fanboy confluence I can imagine has occured. I am a character in a John Ringo story set in the Howard Taylor Schlockverse.

I’m not going to give out any spoilers, of course. If you haven’t read it, then all I’m going to say is that a very minor character in the story, who just happens to be a Space Marine, is named John Patricelli, and might see a little action. Just a little.

Come on, that’s gotta be enough to get you to go check it out, right? If only to see if I die a horrible, violent, gruesome death. Hey, it’s space, I might have simultaneously frozen while blowing up. You can only hope.

I wasn’t going to say anything about it at first, because the point isn’t that I’m in the story, the point is that this is some awesome science fiction from two author/creators I love dearly. 

But you know, just because I write some articles that people read doesn’t mean I’m somehow above being a squeeing little geek fanboy. Does anyone ever get above that kind of thing? I sure as heck hope not. 

So get on out there, get the books and enjoy a great read.

If you feel like being generous, and you’re thinking about buying the books anyway, may I suggest you visit my website Library. If you click through to from the links there, and you end up buying a book, I eventually will get a little kickback from it. I think. 

I don’t know how it works exactly, I just know that when I went and bought Citadel in hardcover from Amazon, I had $16 in credit there, and the only way I can figure that I got it is from awesome folks like you buying books through my website.

And while I’m on the subject, that you very much for that. I never expected to ever see someone buy a book through the website, so I was completely stunned to get most of a hardcover book from free, thanks entirely to your generosity. That was amazing. 

If you love science fiction, I just hope you read them, no matter how you lay your hands on them. Buy them, get them from your local library, borrow them from a friend, whatever. Lounge around in your local Barnes and Noble reading them on a couch while drinking a coffee. However you get your geek on.

But do yourself a favor, go check them out!

Moving the story forward

Things are moving along nicely, my friends.

In the game, my Hunter is already level 74. Isn’t that crazy?

I have decided to set for myself a new goal. It’s a stupid goal, but it’s one that can’t be ground out, it’s pure luck; to forge a Legendary.

To that end, I’m going to solo Molten Core each week to shoot for either the Eye or the Bindings.

Considering how many times I ran that place in the old days without seeing any of them drop, ever, I’m not all that worried about not getting them.

It’s just fun to have that sense of “Maybe this time? Could be!”

I ran it on my Worgen Warrior this last weekend, and soloed everything in my blues and greens except for Ragnaros himself. Just couldn’t keep myself alive solo. I’m apparently a fail Warrior, I made it to the first submerge and the adds ate me. 😦

I had to ask Matheo to step in and heal me… and he said I really am a fail tank, he ran outta mana keeping me alive.

I told him that the reason was probably that I wasn’t in defense stance or tank gear… I was pure Fury Warrior spec and gear. /facepalm.

On the plus side, in one run I almost got all the Cores and Dark Iron I need to craft Sulfuras, and I got the bar and bought the recipe to craft it. My Warrior is a Blacksmith, so it’s fun to think that, no matter who ever eventually gets an Eye, I’ll be able to craft the hammer for it. 

I really wanted to craft one for Fal back in the day, and if I ever do see the Eye, I’ll be thinking of him when it happens.

What kind of impossible or long term goals do you set for yourself? Do you find having some kind of big goal helps keep you interested?

Or do you prefer not having something planned that would be like an itch you couldn’t scratch? Do you like being able to shut the game off and walk away without ever caring that you didn’t finish X goal in your game life?

On the personal side, I don’t have any announcements or anything, but Cassie and I are working on improving and editing Converging Forces, bringing it out of the very rough cut state and turning it into a novel. It’s going to take some more time, but I’m really very pleased with how far we’ve gone already. I’m also learning a lot about writing in the process, Cassie is teaching me a great deal.

She worries that I’m going to get defensive when she shows me things I’m doing wrong in my writing, but the fact is, I’m loving it. It’s wonderful to have someone that I love and trust looking at the story, and telling me “This part is good, but this phrase is unclear, I don’t know what this word is, and what you do to apostrophes is an offense against God and nature. Stop it.”

Seriously, its very positive for me.

The first thing I hear that she tells me is, “This part is good.” I don’t ignore that to obsess about what’s wrong. 

I hear what she’s telling me, that I have things I need to correct to improve my writing. I may have lots of bad writing habits to break, but the core of a story is in there. The most important thing I want to start with is a story that is going in an interesting direction, and characters that you come to care about. I can learn how to fix the rest.

PBeM: Terin Section 7 Chapter 7

Terin’s mind raced as he tried to recall all the questions that had come to him while the spirit was speaking through Redwulf. This could be an unforeseen opportunity to learn whether or not an elf really was living amidst the mountain clans, and if so, what it’s motives might be. If the loremaster could see and learn so much of Terin from afar, what else might he know of?

Terin took the time to organize his thoughts with care. He knew this chance was too special to waste, that he had to cut to what was important and leave the rest behind.  

Just like a battle. Don’t let yourself get bogged down, use what you have the best you know how, seize any opportunities chance puts in your path and be properly grateful for the gift.  

Just that fast, Terin balanced duty to Duke Arneghast against what the spirit was asking of him, and decided on what was most crucial to ask first.

He held the spirit’s green eyes with his own, and asked, “Once I face them, how do I fight the wizards? What are their weaknesses? Will I have time to get within reach, or do I have to engage them at range as soon as they see me?” 

Redwulf’s jaw dropped in a very canine grin as the spirit of the loremaster spoke through him. “Baron, you cut to the heart, as I expected. There is no time for vagueness, no time for games. Have patience with me, and I will arm you with the knowledge you will need to be the wielder of the weapon, and not the tool in others hands.”

“My name was, is, Bala’duin. In the histories you’ve studied, I am indeed what the legends call a loremaster. I won’t waste time with stories, you’ve read what the legends ascribe to us.”

“Those you call wizards have read the legends as well, read them with envy and lust. They care nothing for why we did what we did, only the how, seeking to duplicate what they think were our great works. They strive always for greater control, a clearer focus, any means that will allow them to seize more power from the world around us and shape it to their desires. Even so, the strongest willed amongst them cannot come close to matching our efforts in legend or song.”

“We of the Called serve Gaia directly. We do not seek to rip power from the fabric of the world, or impose our will on others. We were chosen by Gaia for her own reasons to serve as her protectors against threats from outside the celestial sphere and from unnatural influences that may grow from the world within. We often wondered what single trait was the strongest reason for being Called, and over the years, I have come to believe that it was empathy. We who were chosen were in general more sensitive to the lives around us, and able to feel them as if they were a part of ourselves. We did not seek power or crave it; it was forced on us, in some cases literally. Power so great that without a conscious act of will, the risk we faced was not that we would lack power for whatever task we undertook, but instead that we would burn ourselves to ash and dust by using too much, too swiftly.”

“The wizards share with us an ability to feel the presence of power, power within us and all around us, power in all it’s shapes and forms. They have discovered how to touch the power that they find in abundance all around them, to shape it and focus it into a tool to bend to their wills.”

“What they do not grasp is that the power they can sense, and touch, and that they take and bend to their will is fabric taken from the living soul of the feeling world. When the wizards are reaching out and taking power, they are ripping it from Gaia’s soul.”

“In the days before the last battle, there were many loremasters traveling the world, sensitive to exactly such violations, and quick to hunt down those who injure Gaia in that way and destroy them. To protect themselves from our sensing their actions, those who craved power would instead take the soul of another living person, or even of themselves, and use that as raw power to fuel their desires. It’s nothing new, it’s one of the oldest evils that keeps being rediscovered, and grows and spreads until rooted out and those who use it are destroyed. You would find mention of it in your oldest legends as necromancy.”

“With all of the other loremasters dead or outside the boundaries of our world since the last battle and the Empire’s fall, there have been none to sense the first fledgling steps the wizards took in turning the arts of necromancy towards raping the soul of the earth. With the vast soul of Gaia to draw upon, they are limited now only by how strong their will is to grasp and tear loose what they can hold.”

“Even still, it is not enough for them. The wizards have the legends of the loremasters to compare their own works against, and to goad them on to greater effort. They can see the craftings we made that still ensure, know the limits of what they can manage, and seek feverishly to learn what secret we must have had to draw the power we used. They cannot conceive of a mutual pact, of power given freely and used only sparingly, and at great need.”

“For the duration of the diaspora the wizards sought in study for the key to our power. They are the ones that pushed hardest behind the scenes for the retaking of Felwaithe, and it is they and their agents that have often been in the forefront of the expansion, searching all ruins and structures for signs of our work.”

“The wizards that serve the bloodline of your Duke Hope knew that the Fastness of Mountainfall was once the home of a loremaster, though they knew not my name. They are the ones that supported the Hope bloodline in the passion for conquest, and encouraged the founding of Mordant Keep right at the very base of my home to begin their explorations. They have used the power they take from Gaia to extend their own lives, but as the years go by they are finding it harder to resist the natural order, to purge themselves of the toxins and corruption, the breaking down that is a normal part of things. They are growing desperate.”

“They have spent years encouraging the continual excavation of the lower chambers of Mordant Keep, digging ever deeper into the mountain’s heart. When workers broke into a passage that finally led to the wellspring, they sealed off the passage and have claimed it for themselves, telling not even Duke Hope of their findings. They believe they have found our secret at long last, a secret that will give them the key to true power over the land and eternal life. And they might be right.”

“The wellspring is, essentially, a place where the soul of Gaia has been focused, concentrated and refined. To be within it’s presence is to be immersed in the distilled essence that are all the natural gifts that being at one with Gaia can bring.”

“The wellspring was intended to strengthen the few remnants of the Imperial armies as they journeyed on their way to the final battle with Korontec’s Avatar, Lord Steffan. The armies were of course nowhere near my fastness, but I created a stepping stone that could bring them quickly across the miles directly to a chamber I hollowed out especial for the purpose, and from thence back to their line of march.”

“When the exhausted survivors of the war, the few men and women who remained of the Army of Light and the household guards of the five kings passed through the wellspring, the actual effects were… more than I anticipated. Much more.”

“Worse yet, the effects bred true. Most of the Army of Light perished at the last battle, as you know, but some of the household guards survived to serve as guard and escort to those refugees that fled to the north. Those of you that are descended from those survivors still sometimes are born with gifts that come from the Wellspring of Gaia. The Scout bloodline is what you thought of first, I know, but there are other gifts. The keen eyesight you possess comes from the gift of Gaia. One of your own ancestors once stood within the Wellspring of Gaia before marching off to face Lord Steffan and his Nine Steel Generals.”

“When I crafted the wellspring, I never dreamed… I never thought that such changes would breed true. It was my last desperate attempt to give your people a chance to survive, when I and the other loremasters could not be there to stand beside you. We had our own war to fight, as we struggled to defend the world from Dearclanus, he and the horde of demons he unleashed upon the world at Lord Steffan’s bidding.”

“Here is the final part. The wizards have found the wellspring, yes. They believe it to be the true source of magic in the world, perhaps coming through a portal fro another celestial sphere. They are certain that, if they can but find a way to touch and use the wellspring, they would have all of the power of a loremaster, and perhaps more, for in our age there were many of us to share it and few of them. So they believe.”

“For months they have been engaging in experiments, using the arts of necromancy to find the secret that will let them touch the power directly, to bond to it, and to shape and use it. They still do not understand that it is designed to transform others, it is not the raw power itself. They still do not grasp that what they touch is not some raw power from another world spilling into ours, but the living soul of the entire world, all that is born that has no individual soul of it’s own. The lifeblood of the grass, the trees, stone and sky, wind and rain.”

“No matter what happens next, whatever they do it won’t be of benefit to the world. At best, they will learn how to harness the results of the transformation, and be able to shape the living creatures of earth into whatever form they wish. How long after that would it take such men to create their own monsters to fuel Duke Hopes’ war machine?”

“What I dread is how far they might go in their ignorance to bind the power of the wellspring to them. My greatest fear is that one of them will find a way to bind their own soul to the wellspring, linking each to the other in a permanent bond.”

“If even one of the wizards were to attempt such a thing and succeed, I cannot imagine what consequences there would be. The soul of Gaia is vast beyond imagining, and she has no true memory or consciousness, but she feels, she feels very deeply, and we all of us are a part of her and dwell within her presence at all times. If a wizard were to bind his soul, possessed of all of his malign intent, envy and greed directly to Gaia, and to still possess a living body with a conscious mind to focus and direct his will, it could very well poison the soul of the planet. I just… I cannot imagine what would happen then. I’ve faced a fallen loremaster driven by a mad god to destruction and ruin, but even then what happened was limited to what power mortal flesh could withstand. The greater destruction by far was caused by the demons he unleashed without constraint upon the world. What it would be like to live in a world where every living thing was possessed of evil intent…  my imagination cannot grasp the scope of such horror. It’s too big for me to see.”

Terin leaned back for a moment as he tried to memorize all that had been said, and was surprised to discover that all the while the spirit had been talking, he’d been retreating all unknowing until his back was almost pressing against the door.

“I can see that this is good to know, but I still need something I can use to fight the wizards. Who leads them? You said Duke Hope was unaware of what they do, are you sure of that?”

The golden glow emanating from Redwulf seemed to brighten again, nearly as strong as its first appearance. “I tell you true, Baron Trendel, Duke Hope has no knowledge of what his wizards do. He is the true power in Mordant, stronger than all of them, and that is one of the goads that drives them on. They none of them have a single leader. There are five of them, and they call themselves the Circle of the Ebon Flame, a name taken from the legends of, irritatingly enough, one of the working circles I had once been a part of. The five of them each work together, none trusting the others, and none will bow to one of the others as a leader. They are not the only wizards in Felwaithe by far, Malvoris in the next room is as foul as any of them, but these five have been more successful than any others in empowering themselves.”

“I have watched you for a long time, Baron. I know you as well as anyone could. I cannot touch anyone with my power directly unless I act through one with a pure soul that has been blessed with Gaia’s touch, such as Redwulf, but I can see from my crystal chamber. I know you well indeed. From what I have told you of the wizards, what are your thoughts on how to approach them in battle?”

Terin had already been turning things over in his mind, and answered absently as he continued to work it out. “If they don’t have the power unless they use force of will, then they must concentrate. They have to focus, as well, and have a clear vision of exactly what they intend to do. And if the power itself fights them, then they must not be able to improvise all that well. So, they don’t move much, do they? And I’ll wager that anything that might break their concentration will interrupt whatever they’d been starting, force them to begin again.”

The dog nodded it’s head, a strangely human gesture. “Very good. That’s true. They also can only bind into objects what power they can hold themselves, and if they do the binding themselves at the same time that weakens what they can do even more. It’s one of the reasons the five began working in a circle together in the beginning at Argent’s Landing. Still, the power they can seize and bind is enough to burn a man to a crisp if he were to touch it unawares, and breaking a prepared reliquary could unleash enough power to shatter stone. Given enough time, they can make of any place a fortified deathtrap.”

Terin blinked, and said, ‘They can’t improvise at all, can they? They have to rely on previously prepared, painstakingly practiced craftings. That, or bind power into an object to be used at need. Don’t they?”

Redwulf’s jaw dropped open again in an unmistakable grin. “Exactly right, Baron. They cannot improvise. When startled, their first instinct is to reach for an object that has been prepared… and who can prepare for every eventuality?”

“Baron, time is truly short. I have given you my best understanding of what is happening, and what is truly at stake. Redwulf can guide you to the place where his escape took him. Once I am no longer with him, he will gain in health and strength. The earth mother’s gifts will aid him in a swift recovery; he will not delay your journey. Your destination is the ancient stepping stone that I crafted to bring the Army of Light directly to the Wellspring, one small strike force at a time. It is still there, and though overgrown and long forgotten by everyone else, it still works as it did the day I crafted it. All it takes is one who is held close within Gaia’s blessing to open the way, and Redwulf can do so easily.”

“There is one last thing that I can offer you, but it may give you more trouble than aid. I offer this as my last gift to you, to take or not as you choose.”

“When I pass on, I will never again be able to walk upon this world I love, not even as pure spirit. I will be barred from ever again returning. What I can do, however, is share with you some of the images of my life, visions of events I have been present for, trials and changes that I have witnessed.”

“I know your deep thirst for knowledge of the history of your world, and your many reasons for it, but I hesitate in offering this to you. If you accept, what I share with you will rise up during your dreams, but there will be no context to aid in understanding. What you see and hear will be what I saw and heard, but I will not be there to tell you when such events happened, or how they might fit in or even contradict anything that you already think you know.”

“But it is your decision to make. For what is to come, I know that I have given you enough background on what is happening that you will have the chance to work your tactics out to your own satisfaction well before the time comes that you will need to use them.”

“Make your decision swiftly, Baron of Mosley Vale. My grip on this world is loosening rapidly, and when I am gone, the shields I am holding that are preventing Malvoris from listening to us will fall.”

Bearwall has acquired a new meaning

I have completed the collecting and reorganizing of the Converging Forces chapters into one Word document.

My plan is to go over the whole thing once, correcting spelling errors and egregious grammatical mistakes, the stuff that leaps out at me, and then save it as a PDF locked against changes, with a disclaimer at the beginning that it’s a rough unfinished draft of my work, yadda yadda.

I have mixed thoughts about it. If it’s not in a finished state, why ask you to read it? If it’s not the final polished writing, then I shouldn’t let it out there.

On the other hand, the whole idea was to run a play by email game as if it were an ongoing story, and it turned into an interactive story almost in novel form. So, the condition it’s in is sort of the point, in a way. If looked at sideways in poor lighting.

I collected it all, as I said, and saved it as a word file.

I happened to glance down to see how many pages I had to proofread, just to get an idea of the size of it, estimate how long it’ll take.

Next to the page count, was a Word Count total.

Upon seeing the word count, my first reaction was “bullshit”.

My second was to wonder how it is that I thought I was being agile in writing these, and yet still managed to turn the novel into a massive bearwall.

My word count on Converging Forces so far is over 106,000 words.

I needed to double check my frame of reference, so I visited wikipedia to see if they had anything to say about word counts.

According to wikipedia, a novel is anything over 40,000 words. Mysteries may be around 60,000 words, while a thriller may be around 100,000 words.

You’ll note that they don’t say, “100,000 words is a good place to be when you’re about 2/3rds of the way through.”

Now, I’ll grant you I’m probably closer to 4/5ths of the way through, but that’s still a LOT more than I dreamed of. It doesn’t feel that damn long to me. It feels like nothings HAPPENED in the story yet! We haven’t gotten to any of the BIG stuff we’re building up to! It’s been all intro to characters and build up!

Omigod, I’m on the failboat.

Of course, me being who I am, in my heart I’m saying, “Ah, screw it, I’ve been happy with it so far… so what if it’s one of those manuscripts that would be thrown out of any sensible publishers office, we’ve been having a lot of fun along the way, right guys?”

106,000 words. Well, damn. With a build up like that, I’m going to make damn certain that there is a payoff of epic proportions.

So much for quality, not quantity.

Blog… not hit back

Trying to write when your mind is clouded… it’s not fun.

I’ve been trying to continue with Terin’s story in Converging Forces for, no lie, two weeks now. I’ve written reams of pages, none of which I thought, even at the time, was right.

How can it not be right? Because my voice was all wrong.

Get that? When I looked at what I wrote afterwards, it didn’t sound like me, let alone like the characters who were supposed to be talking or acting.

People talk about voices in your head, but that’s just funny. What, you get sick and you become a different person?

I’ve been writing on the blog during this time, and even then, it didn’t feel like I was hitting resistance… reaching for a coherent thought felt more like trying to catch a cloud. Nothing much there to grab a hold of, just some arms flailingly wildly.

Anyway, I can tell I’m finally start to feel better, because I sat down to begin writing the Converging Forces chapter all over again, and for the first time… it looks clear to me.

Hallelujah! I’m back, baby! I’m 100% solidly in the game!

(BBB would like to take this opportunity to thank his readers posthumously, knowing as he writes this that a meteor will be striking his house and hitting him in the head about 30 seconds after publishing the post. It was nice knowing you.)

Playing with the Big Leagues

As I continue leveling my Hunter on Azuremyst, it’s certainly giving me a perspective on the game I haven’t had before, or at least in a very long time.

My Hunter dinged level 60 last weekend, and with only a little messing with the Auction House, I had 1007 gold at the moment that little Achievement spam lit up.

That seemed pretty amazing to me, because I had that gold even after paying to learn all the recipes for Jewelcrafting and Mining up to the max levels you could reach before hitting 65.

More than that, though, was running and gunning through old Azeroth without a sugar daddy, or Heirlooms, or any other support except the emotional support I had from my new guildies.

That… and also the benefits of being in a high level guild.

I’ll touch on that again in a bit, but for now I wanted to say that once I hit Outlands, everything changed.

I do not like leveling in Outlands. Northrend will be bearable, but even so, too many alts too recently. Just, do not want.

I’ve reached the point where I have a system that has worked like clockwork to minimize my time in zones I hate.

I do 100% of Hellfire, which is usually good enough to reach level 63. I go to Zangarmarsh, and go directly to Orebor Harbor, where I do every quest that gives Kurenai rep. That should get me to Friendly, and once Friendly and 64 you can get a quest introducing you to the Kurenai in Nagrand. If I’m not quite 64 yet, I’ll go putz around in Terokkar Forest just long enough to ding, and then it’s back to get the Intro to Nagrand quest, and off to Nagrand.

From there, I milk Nagrand for all it’s worth. It’s the only zone in all of Outlands that I still like. In fact, I’ll find myself just hanging out there, tooling around and seeing the wonderful lush scenery.

Blizzard I think could benefit by taking a poll of players concerning our favorite zones… based not just on quest flow or story, but also on mood. On appearance. I’m sure I do NOT represent all or even most WoW players, but I much prefer playing in zones that feel comfortable and healthy. Zones that have a warm and inviting lighting scheme and a feeling of welcome.

Nagrand fits that bill, as does Un’goro Crater and Northern Stranglethorn. Even Duskwood, to a certain extent, is nice once in a while for that dark emo vibe. The wastelands and deserts and plague-ridden marshes, not so much. Again, that’s just me. I’m curious what the results of a poll like that would be.

Anyway, I hit Nagrand and take my time through it, and then it’s time for the tough choices. I’ve done Blades Edge, Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley too damn many times. No matter where I go, it’s gonna be a drag.

I think this time I might go to Shadowmoon as soon as I can, and see if I can grind a Drake. I haven’t done that on anyone except my Druid Main during the early days of BC. I haven’t walloped a peon with a Booterang in a long, long time.

Too long.

Getting back to my point, when I hit 60, everything changed.

I didn’t want to grind through Outlands or Northrend. So, I server transferred my 85 warrior over to Azuremyst. Along with him came… yeah, my Hunter Heirlooms. The shoulders, vest, bow, two daggers with Agi enchants, the works. That’s certainly sped things up.

I’m now level 65, and I’m in trouble, because Nagrand is starting to feel tiresome. If I lose my enthusiasm for Nagrand, that doesn’t bode well for any more alts in my future, yo.

Here’s the biggest strange change I’ve had in my playstyle, though.

The guild I’m in on Azuremyst, Band of Misfits, is a very large guild.

Like, large. They’ve got three 10-person raid teams on three different schedules. Some are more aggressive on the calendar than others, but all of them are very successful. The guild is a hair’s breadth away from dinging the last boss kill they need to get the Cata Raiding mount.

They’re also guild level 21. They might even be 22 by now, I was pretty sick last night.

I… I feel strange being in such a high level guild.

On the one hand, the rewards, even if you’re only Neutral on a level 1, are very helpful to you.

If you’re dead, your spirit moves it’s ass. That’s very nice. You’re hearth has a 15 minute cooldown. That’s pretty sweet. You get a bonus 10% XP gain, which I might have liked to have been able to turn off in the old Azeroth world, but that I’m loving now.

Even more… you get +10% to Reputation gains.

Therin probably lies the secret behind my relatively painless Exalted with both Stormwind and Darnassus.

Potentially cooler, if I get in a party somewhere with another guildie, we could summon each other to where we are. I haven’t tested it, maybe there are level limits preventing a guildie in Northrend from joining group with me and summoning my level 65 butt there, but hey… that’s still pretty cool. It’s not just for raiding.

So, lots of nice rewards just for being in the guild and leveling, right?

The thing is, I haven’t done anything to deserve any of these benefits. I still haven’t played with anyone in the guild, I’ve been leveling solo. Sure, someday I will, but not yet. And if I were to leave the guild before I reach 85 and run with them, I’ll have gotten something for nothing.

On the surface, it seems like a strange system.

It does make sense, of course. The benefits help a low level character level up faster, gain rep for rewards needed for raiding faster, and move where needed quicker so as to get in the groove with the other, long established guild members.

The neat stuff that doesn’t actually work to get you into the upper levels faster or help in raids like a quick run speed while dead, things like pets and mounts, require rep with the guild.

What it leaves me wondering, though, are two things.

First, if it’s divided amongst what gets you to the raiding level, and what is a fine but essentially useless perk, then why do the guild-only Heirlooms require guild rep? By the time my Hunter will be able to buy them, she won’t need them. Maybe they’re specifically for your alts in the guild, and alts only. But then why the built-in 10% XP bonus available without guild rep? It’s just wierd. But that’s cool, I can’t afford them anyway, I gotta save for fast flight.

The second thing is, it really does feel as if it’s been solidly thought out for raiding guilds to advance… but for leveling guilds, and friend and family guilds, I can’t really see why the system chokes the guild rep gain so badly based on level. 

I know intellectually that Blizzard has had comments published before, stating that the point is to be part of a large community. To be in big guilds, to take part in what makes the game “Massive”.

I get that.

I also know that there are plenty of folks that don’t WANT that.

What WoW has excelled at, for me, is being a cooperative game.

Sure, I’ve felt a huge thrill at big raids, at the Massive element. I still remember with fondness 40 person raids on Onyxia and Molten Core. Raids so big, in such an early age of the game, that it was nearly impossible to tell who was doing what, or in some cases… who to blame for that massive screw up that wiped the raid.

Moar dots? Whelps? Many whelps? DEAL WITH IT!

But to counterbalance that feeling is the more frequent pleasure of having a game world that you can play in cooperatively, just you and a few friends, or with the significant other in your life.

When you think of WoW, is your mental picture of the game about something that you play with huge gobs of people, is it a solo experience in a huge world, or is it a cooperative game?

For me, when I think of it, the draw has never been to play with gobs of people (gob = new word of the day. It pays to enrich your goofy word power.) It’s been to have a deep, rich, engaging game world to explore cooperatively with my friends and significant other.

Some programs Blizzard has implemented has seemed to reflect an understanding of that. Recruit-a-friend, for example. Come to glorious Azeroth, and bring a friend to play with you!

As much as I like the guild leveling concept, and the rewards are neat, and all that… it makes me sad to feel that the people who play the game in a purely cooperative way with a limited number of friends, friends who may have limited playtime, will never get the chance to experience those rewards.

Guild Levels have been out for a while. I imagine most folks have already made their decision. They’ve chosen to either stay with their small guild and accept no rewards because they don’t raid or play enough, or split and join a larger guild.

I don’t feel that I’ve made that decision, myself. I’ve still got my main characters in our small guild, just Cassie and I. These are new characters in a new land, and I’m doing what Blizzard seemed to want; meeting new people, developing new friendships. All that good stuff.

I’ve never been opposed to meeting new people, making new friends, or being part of a large group. It’s been a lot of fun. Blackbear the Warrior (no, really, I’m serious), Matheo, Hedwig and Crosshair all seem like really nice folks, and I’ve been getting to know some others as well.

I just think it’s unfortunate that when making your decision, it comes down to saying, “You don’t HAVE to join a big guild… but then again, we don’t HAVE to give smaller guilds any benefits, either.”

If this seems particularly unreadable… I am sicker than hell at the moment. It feels like my head is going to explode. And I’m holding crisis at work together as I write this in spurts, so I can’t just leave. I apologize for the blargh.