Tales from the Truckstop: WTF R U Thinking?

This morning as I headed into work on our wonderful Interstate highway system, I found myself behind a little Honda that scared the crap outta me.

Having been trained as a professional driver, one of the things I constantly do while driving is scan the area around me, the other drivers and vehicles and terrain, for potential road hazards. I also scan for emergency routes.

If something happens unexpectedly, you need to see it coming and you need to know where you can safely go.

As an example, say you’re in the center lane of a three lane highway in medium traffic. If a car on your left decides NOW is the perfect time to merge into your lane without a signal and without looking to see that you are there, you CANNOT count on honking to save your ass. Honking is a passive warning trusting in the other driver to realize they are being stupid and to respond in time. No, YOU need to be the one to take action to achieve safety.

So, you have to know where stuff is. Is the car behind you back far enough that it’s safe to slam on the brakes without causing a rear end collision? Is there enough room in front of you to floor it out of the way? Are you able to accelerate fast enough? Is the area to your right clear right this second for you to safely swerve, or is someone there? Is there a gravel shoulder, or would you flip your car if you swerve off the paved road? Is there a stanchoin or bridge abutment coming up that you’d crash into?

You have no time to check all these things at the precise moment that car is swerving into your lane. You have to know what act you can take NOW that will safely get you out of harms way without killing someone.

Here’s a chilling thought: It used to be that some states had an ‘at fault’ policy, where if you hit another car from behind, no matter the situation or speeds or following distance involved, the person that drove the car that hit another from behind was automatically at fault. I don’t know if some still do, I don’t know the traffic laws of all 50 states. Most I do know of have swutched to ‘no fault’ policies now, though.

Anyway, people actually took advantage of this to set up teams of drivers, usually using three cars, to box you in. One car in front of you, one to the side and one behind. They’d box you in with a concrete divider to your side so you’d have nowhere to go, creep up to you so there was no safe place to swerve to or brake to, and then the driver in front of you would slam their brakes on, forcing you to ram SOMEONE in trying to avoid an accident.

Then they’d sue you for rear ending ’em.

It’s a crazy world out there. I wish it were simply paranoia, but when your job is to drive full time, you learn just how scary it can be.

This post isn’t about how to avoid being mousetrapped or how to drive safely. It’s about how when I drive, I’m looking around me all the time, checking everything out.

As I said, I pull behind this Honda this morning, and what I see is the right rear tire on the car is wobbling. WOBBLING. Like, the other tires are clearly spinning just fine, a smooth rotation, but this one tire is wobbling side to side with at least an inch of play at the hub.

WTF?

Have you ever driven by a vehicle parked on the side of the road, and one axle is jacked up missing a tire, but there ain’t even a hub there to mount a tire rim to? You ever wonder how that happens?

THIS is how that happens! Some dumb son of a bitch driving in a car with a tire that is either completely loose on it’s lug nuts, or with a hub about to come right off the damn shaft! With a wobble like that, at 60 mph his car had to have been shaking inside like he was sitting on a jackhammer, AND HE WAS STILL GOING!

In the middle lane at full speed, no less!

Just, WTF R U thinking?

When that tire goes, we’re not talking about a flat that you limp over to the side of the road. We’re talking about losing the tire at the hub, having the car drop a foot and a half to the axle on that side, and tearing into the asphalt or concrete.

I saw that, and I immediately got out of that lane and slowed down, I put a LOT of space between me and that fruitcake.

Seeing that reminded me of some of the other WTF things I’ve seen on the road over the years, and thought it would be fun to share just a few.

The first one that comes to mind is the car I saw with four bed mattresses strapped onto it’s roof with bungie cords. The car was a green hatchback Gremlin, and the stacked mattresses were both taller than the car, and longer/wider than the top of the car’s roof. Much longer than the car’s roof.

I saw this in South Florida on I-90 just north of Miami, doing about 80 mph, and about 30 seconds after I saw this and moved the HELL out of the same lane, the mattresses (that were being pushed up by the wind) suddenly got pushed DOWN… blocking the windshield. The driver, suddenly blind as a bat doing 80 mph, spun out and then OFF the road onto the gravel shoulder and down into the ditch.

To this day I wonder how the heck the bungie cords held that long, but once off the road the magic was gone, and mattresses went flying.

Another one. I was driving my semi in Wyoming, on I-80, past Laramie headed east for Cheyenne.

Strait stretch of highway, lots of ranches out that way. I saw an old pickup truck come up an onramp behind me, with a bed stacked high with hay bales. And I mean high. The top hay bales on the stack were about 6 bales above the level of the bed.

Yeah, you know where this is going.

The hay bales were clearly lashed down to the bed with plenty of twine, because while the whole stack was listing to the left, they weren’t falling off. Instead, I started wondering what was keeping the truck from flipping over onto it’s side.

I sped up, because I wanted to keep that pickup WELL behind me. Maybe that driver knew something I didn’t know, maybe those wise old ranchers are just flat out smarter than me, but to my eye, it looked like those hay bales were eyeing freedom, baby.

About 30 seconds after the pickup got onto the interstate and up to top speed, the twine must have broke, because hay bales EXPLODED off the back of that truck, raining down on the road and the cars that were right behind him. Kaboom! 

Now, here’s the kicker.

By that time, I was about a half mile ahead of the action. I couldn’t exactly turn around on the interstate and go back, and that stretch of road has few offramps. There was plenty of traffic behind the scene, so I wasn’t concerned that people weren’t gonna stop. Fact it, people weren’t going to have a choice but to stop until the road got cleared.

I saw the hay explode off the pickup bed, and I had seen that there were several cars immediately behind the pickup right before it happened, and then the road was obstructed by a mountain of hay.

The pickup truck KEPT GOING. Never even slowed. Those bales came off and detonated on cars and highway like depth charges on dry land, and that bastard just kept right on going.

You understand, I’m not recounting all the times I’ve seen people driving the wrong way on a highway, or doing U-turns in the middle of the highway, or anything like that. I saw that stuff so often that it’s not even worth mentioning.

No, what blows my mind is knowing that each one of these incidents and others just like them represent someone thinking, “This sounds like a good idea”, then spending time and sweat muscling that crap up there onto their vehicles, lashing it down, looking at it and thinking “Yep, that will be just fine”, and then going out on the road like that!

For something like going the wrong way, hey, it can take a millisecond distraction, didn’t see a sign, and boom, wrong way on the road. Then yo’re just trying like hell to get back off without dying.

For these, there were multiple opportunities for sense to smack them in the face. Plenty of chances to stop, take a good long look, and say to themselves, “You know… that kinda looks stupid. Maybe I need to rethink this plan.”

What scares me most is the idea that the next thought they had was, “Nah, fuck it. If something happens and someone else dies, what do I care?”

Just, really… WTF R U THINKING?

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The Crowd Control, it is a Changin’

Amongst the patch notes for Patch 4.2, there was an interesting morsel about proposed changes to Crowd Control functionality.

The news release was a bit ago, has everyone had a chance to think about this yet?

  • Crowd Control
    • Many crowd control abilities no longer cause creatures to attack players when they are cast. The creature will not attack the player when the crowd control wears off, and nearby creatures will not become hostile to the player either. However, if a visible player gets too close to the target creature, the creature will remember and attack the player when the crowd control effect wears off. The intent is to make it easier for dungeon groups to manage crowd control assignments and pulling packs of hostile NPCs. The abilities affected by this change are: Hibernate, Entangling Roots, Wyvern Sting (will still cause hostility when it begins to deal damage), Freezing Trap, Polymorph, Repentance, Shackle Undead, Blind, Hex, Bind Elemental, Banish, Seduction.

This was followed by a hue and cry that momentarily baffled me. Then I remembered that people will whine about bloody well anything, so why not this too?

Reading the comments by the outraged elitist asshats, one thing seemed pretty clear to me. The outraged elitist asshats sound pretty pathetic. At their best, they’re whining like little bitches that mommy Blizz is being nice to some other kids and they don’t like it, it’s not fair.

Any time someone starts complaining about things getting changed, and the subtext of what they’re saying is that it’s not fair how easy/hard something is going to be, I just stop paying attention. Fair? Wah. Suck it up and soldier on, bitch. You don’t like it, Rift is =====> thataway.

If you have a constructive reason why you think a design change will cause issues with balance or whatever, that’s fine, but just bitching that something’s not fair? In a video game? Oh, grow the hell up.

I don’t really feel like trying to figure out how this is bad, or unfair, or whatever. I usually try to put myself in the other person’s position and understand their point of view, but on this one, I can’t be bothered. It’s a stupid thing to bitch about.

The changes to Crowd Control will only affect PvE, and it’ll streamline the mechanics of crowd control so they all affect mobs in the same way.

They won’t all CAST the same way, they won’t LOOK the same way, they won’t have the same durations. You’ll still have melee-range CC, ranged slow cast to instant activation CC, instant cast to stationary trap CC, all sorts of variety.

What is changing is how the mobs react to the player that caused the CC. That’s it. All CC mechanics that result in immobilizing a mob will take the ‘awareness’ aspect off the table.

Why is this something that changes your game? Whats this all about? Why should you even care?

I’m glad you asked. This gives me the opportunity to revisit the fundamentals of Threat.

I love talking about Threat. Why? Because so many people in the groups I see don’t seem to understand the mechanic, and those that do seem to think that this makes them special. You know, as if having read the breakdown on a website made them uber or something. Just like copying a spec, rotation and gear/stat priority off Elitist Jerks made them special.

If reading something someone else explained on the internet can make you uber, well then, by all means, let’s have all of you who read my blog be uber. Why the hell not.

The first thing to know about dealing with groups of mobs is that there is Threat and there is Awareness.

Threat is measured, with numbers, and that means you can compare it between different characters. Threat starts at zero and goes on up. Threat is developed on a mob when that mob suffers damage, or when a character the mob is aware of has damage healed, OR has abilities/stats increased through some other means such as potions/flasks. Threat from damage and Threat from healing are tied to the person that caused the damage or healing.

Awareness is not measured. Awareness is equal to a Threat of zero. A sneeze by a tank will pull aggro away from you.

You gain Awareness when you do something like walk up close to a mob. He physically sees you, and comes charging after you. You didn’t damage the mob, heal damage from yourself, or drink anything that modified/boosted your power, but the mob is coming after you anyway. That is Awareness, with a Threat value of zero.

You also gain Awareness when you generate Threat in a mob that is linked to others in a group.

Mobs can be linked to other nearby mobs, forming a group. A link means that any status change you make to one mob is communicated to the others it is linked to, regardless of YOUR proximity to the other mobs.

I will give you two examples of the difference between linked and unlinked.

When you are very high level, the range at which you’ll face pull a mob gets very small. At 85 you can wander the halls of Blackrock Depths with near impunity.

In most doorways, there will be two mobs standing guard, one on either side. If you walk up to one, you can kill it and the other won’t even see you.

In some doorways, however, the two mobs are linked. Even though you don’t face pull the other mob from physical proximity, the other mob is linked, and when you whack the one, the other comes running.

There is a hallway in BRD that has Fire Elementals lining the length of the hall in linked pairs. It’s on the way to one of the Fire Elemental bosses, where that black anvil thingie is. The mobs are very far apart, opposite sides of the hall and far out of face pull range, but when you tag one, the other is linked, and you have to run over and get it too.

So. Face pulling (physical proximity) causes Awareness. Dealing Threat or face pulling a linked mob causes Awareness in all other mobs it’s linked to.

Most forms of Crowd Control also cause Awareness. A Rogue’s Sap ability does NOT.

Right now, your Rogue can enter stealth, toss a distraction, walk up to melee range of a mob from behind or close to it, and Sap it. Doing this places the mob in a stunned/locked down state for a short period of time. No linked mobs gain Awareness, and if the Sap wears off without action from anyone else, the mob just wakes up and thinks nothing of it.

No Awareness risk at all.

Not so for other forms of Crowd Control. Sheep a mob, Drop a trap to freeze one, and that mob plus all linked mobs gain Awareness of the person that initiated the crowd control… and come running for the person. With a Threat value of zero.

Seems pretty simple, right?

Right now, you’ve got two forms of pull using Crowd Control.

You’ve got the Rogue pull, where the tank marks a Sap target, the Rogue sneaks in and Saps it at their leisure, and then the tank decides when to engage and pull the mobs away from Sap so it doesn’t get broken.

Then you’ve got the “all else” pull, where the tank marks a target and waits for a player to cast crowd control… which pulls all the rest of the mobs to HIM. The tank then intercepts the oncoming group, and if the tank doesn’t have group AoE ready, or misses one, then the poor CC caster gets a face full of mob.

Another potential challenge for the CC pulling method is Healer aggro. If the group is pulling frequently and ignoring the Healer, then you can have the Healer still topping people off when the next pull is made.

What did I say causes actual Threat? Damage done to a mob… and the mob being Aware of someone getting Healed. 

I’ve seen groups where the tank and DPS are charging from mob to mob, and the Healer is isolated and alone, running after them casting heals to top up and then sitting to drink every chance they get. It’s like watching two groups, and sometimes the healer is still casting HoTs to top off people right as they’re firing off Sheep or Freezing Trap… and the mobs head in one direction, then make a 90° direction change to head for the healer instead.

Healing Threat is neat.

Damage Threat is simple; damage done to a mob is Threat on that mob. If you didn’t hit a mob, it doesn’t even know you’re there unless you hit one he’s linked to. You do a point of damage, you get a point of threat. Basically. If this is too complicated, I ain’t getting into the amount of Overthreat needed to pull aggro, or the increased Threat generation from melee DPS as opposed to ranged DPS.

Healing Threat is shared out based on Awareness. Every mob that is Aware of the Healer gets Threat built up… but it’s divided among them all. If there are ten mobs in the group and you toss the tank a heal, only the amount of damage that was actually healed causes Threat, and that Threat is divided up amongst all ten mobs. Like, say as pure example the tank took a hit for 1000 damage. You toss a Flash heal that heals for 10 million. You don’t get 10 million threat, you get 1000 threat, the amount actually healed, divided by ten mobs, for a paltry 100 threat per mob. As the mobs die, the Threat is divided up amongst fewer targets, so technically the fewer mobs, the more Threat per mob the healer generates. Of course, that is usually countered by the longer the fight goes on, the more AoE Threat the tank does.

As long as the mobs are getting hit by the Tank, or someone else.

I love that mechanic. It’s so elegant.

With this Patch 4.2 change, the tank will be able to mark a target for Crowd Control, and not have to worry that the player will fire it off immediately, pulling the group before the tank was prepared. If they fire it off early, the mob will just be CC’d. Oh well.

People are upset about this, and I just don’t get it.

I keep seeing folks saying that now people will be able to have three mobs CC’d, and just faceroll them one at a time.

Yeah? You could do that now with multiple Rogues, whats your point? Or with a Rogue and any other CC activating a pull, which is what I typically see now.

If you’re concerned that this removes your chance to show off how skilled you are in PUGs, let me put that notion to rest, maynard.

I have yet to see anyone chain trap in a normal pug. I have yet to see anyone offer to perform a Misdirect pull on a mob to a tank out of line of sight in a normal pug. I have yet to see any of the CC/DPS juggling that was the heart and soul of doing Moroes in Karazhan, or in Shattered Halls for that matter.

If you think you have these amazing Crowd Control skills, then I am sure you will still have your chance to display them in your heroic pugs. Most players show no sign of ever having HEARD of kiting up to and including level 85 normals. If you break that shit out, you’ll have jaws dropping all over the room.

I can’t even imagine what kind of reaction you’d get if you offered to Misdirect pull onto the LOS tank while having a dropped trap ready to grab the leader at the corner. Someone might Youtube it, and post it with a caption, “SKILL NOT DEAD YET”.

Have I just been playing this game for too long? Have I become the grumpy old man that screams at the young punks whining about their iPhones and Androids that back in my day we had two tin cans and a piece of string, and we didn’t even get new string, we had to cut it off the package of meat dad got at the butchers?

Just, WTF. This is really what you’ve got to bitch about?

I bet there’s a thread somewhere that Rogues are bitching that now nobody will want to use them because they will be the only class that has to get to melee range to use CC.

You know, bitching that now they are the only class that has to show skill, and why can’t they get THEIR game dumbed down, it’s not fair!

Grrr, just grrr.

BBB’s BM Hunter experiences in Omnotron

Hi folks! Today we’re going to talk about raiding.

No, you’re not confused. Get back here! This IS the Big Bear Butt, I’m just gonna talk about raiding.

No, really. Stop laughing, damnit, I’m serious.

Last night I joined an ‘alt run’ raid in Band of Misfits – Azuremyst with my quickly rising Hunter, Beartrap.

Since I write a blog, surprise surprise, you get to read about it the day after. Hopefully, this will be more entertaining and informative than a “look at me, I raided, see my loots’ style thing.

Hopefully. I make no promises.

The alt run was done in fine Band of Misfits fashion, as in, everyone but me seemed to be drinking heavily before we even started. At least the ones on vent were. Okay, the raid leader was, and the rest didn’t seem far behind.  

We started out by going to Bastion of Twilight. My first Cataclysm raid experience began with me asking, “Hey, where the hell IS Bastion of Twilight, anyway?”

Go figure, it’s in Twilight Highlands, on a platform waaaay up in the sky over that mountain all the Twilight Cultist goons hang out at.

Now, how am I supposed to be expected to know that a Twilight raid entrance was in the Twilight zone at the Twilight mountains over the Twilight Cultist hangouts? I mean seriously, who would have thought to look there? Cut me some slack.

We entered as a brave ten person group, and I proudly brought AnnCoulter the Devilsaur to display my Beast Master heritage for all and sundry. If you’re gonna piss someone off, I figure I might as well get it out of the way before we get too far in.

Surprisingly enough, nobody said anything about it. Perhaps the drinking had gone far enough that they couldn’t tell what that thing was I had with me?

We smashed our way quickly to this big platform open to the sky, and with joy I saw that there were lots and lots of internet dragons. And whelps! Oh my, this was gonna be fun.

I hurriedly checked on the most important part of my rotation… yep, my Misdirect macro was ready to go, all I had to do was add in the name of the healer and set it next to my Multi-Shot and I was all set for a Whelp fight.

Hey, you prepare your way, I’ll prepare mine.

This boss encounter turned out to be what you experienced types call Halfus Wyrmbreaker.

I’d like to tell you how I did in this one, but it went by so fast that all I remember is there were many whelps, there were internet dragons, and then there was some loot. Huzzah!

After Halfus we went to tackle the second set of bosses in BoT, a pair of dragons called Valiona and Tharalion. More internet dragons! Blizzard loves us, this I know, because the dragons tell me so…..

The raid leader gave all sorts of instructions for this fight, but it all boiled down to ‘run inside, run back out, run in circles, scream and shout’. I followed these instructions to the letter, but I kindly refrained from keying my mike during the ‘scream and shout’ portion. I was, apparently, the only one.

After two or three highly entertaining wipes and a VERY close up view of a purple dragon poop chute (Run under the tail! Run under the tail! Jeez, okay, I should at least get double crits for where I’m sticking my arrows, man, c’mon) we decided to shift direction to Blackwing Descent, and to shift our drinking to shots.

As a Hunter, I’m highly proficient in many different types of shots. I can offer up just about any kind of shot you could imagine. Except for Steady Shot, I don’t have much use for Steady Shot.

Blackwing Descent, here we come!

This time, I knew I could find the entrance. Umm, I think. Huh, not in the mountain? Really? It’s got to be in the mountain, Blackwing is always in this one damn mountain. Oh looky, I took so long they tossed me a pity summon. Sweet!

We entered, ran in and beat up Magmaw like the squirming squirtle snake thing that he is. It went by so fast that, again, I really can’t say much more about my experience than that it involved a lot of shooting, a lot of running back and forth with the rest of the ranged peoples, and a bunch of staying out of the bad. It tested my abilities to focus on shot prioritization to their limits, but I came through okay. I’m happy to report I didn’t spill a drop.

I said I didn’t have much use for Steady Shot. I never said I didn’t know how to use it. 

(That’s a Quigley Down Under joke, btw. In case you’re a real hunter wondering wtf I’d be doing using Steady Shot for reals and all)

After the one shot Magmaw kill came the truly entertaining part of the evening; Omnotron Defense System.

Even I, as intentionally clueless as anyone that plays WoW can be about group raids, has heard of Omnomnomotron.

I did not know anything whatsoever about this fight before we pulled. I have tried my best, since Cataclysm was released, to remain spoiler free and worry free about the instances and raids. I know that I have to study them now that I’m going to be doing them, really study, but I wanted to stay clean as long as possible. Last night, I was as noobish as you can be about what to expect.

I was paying attention in vent to any possible instructions, and you know, damned if I recall anyone even mentioning what was gonna happen or what to do before we pulled.

That first pull was a LOT of fun!

It turns out that there ain’t just ONE critter in there… there’s bunches! And it turns out there ain’t jest one mechanic… it’s like, a collection of every ‘get out of the bad’ mechanic I’ve ever seen in the game, all rolled into one encounter, and then thrown out in stages over and over.

It’s WONDERFUL!!!

Shit, I had so much fun I was grinning ear to ear.

Now, we wiped the first few times, but I learned a lot.

The biggest thing I learned was that the folks who’ve programmed Deadly Boss Mods deserve some serious thanks and your money. WTF, over. I can see learning the fight and doing it without DBM, but sure as hell not without a LOT of teamwork and confusion first. And never as part of the first time walking in.

There are all sorts of things to avoid, there’s things not to step in, there are things you SHOULD step in, there are adds that spawn, there are times you really don’t want to be doing damage on the dude you were just whacking… it’s most excellent.

Okay, let me paint you a picture of what it was like from a Beartrap point of view, if you’ve never seen Omnotron before.

We walk up some stairs and stand there on a landing, looking into a large chamber, It’s all dwarven styled architecture, so square blocks and granite walls and right angle shapes.

At the far end of the room are several large stone giant statues of the kind you are used to seeing guarding dwarf areas. Think the stone golem bouncer in the Grim Guzzler, but larger. All of them seem dead or deactivated.

Okay, so we stand there, we buff up, and then the raid leader yells “Go!”

I go running in with the group, and one of the stone giants comes to life. It’s got a name. It has a health bar. It has as much health as a full raid boss all on it’s own. Therefore, this must be the infamous Omnotron, right? Funny, name says Toxitron, I must have missed something. Wow, a simple tank and spank fight? Well, okay. I’ll have to stay on my toes in case something else happens.

The stone giant dumps a cloud of green shit that hangs in the air. Okay, so get out of the green bad stuff. That’s cool. I can do that. Is that it?

Then DBM announces “Poison Protocol”, and Toxitron spews a stream of green stuff on the floor like it’s peeing on the tank. Peeing green? Ewwww. Dude, one word; penicillin.

From out of the green puddle, little green toxic oozes pop up. What, he has crabs, too? Oh look, adds! Cool, switch targeting to take down the adds. Raid leader tells people to run if they’re Fixated. I store that nugget of wisdom for later.

We’re burning him down and then DBM tells me to switch my target right the hell NOW!

Wait, what?

Oh shit, there’s another of those stone bastards! OMIGOD HE’S GOT A GAZILLION HEALTH TOO!

Okay, this guy is throwing fire around in an AoE, and I can’t get out of it. Grrr. Hey, what the hell is that, a laser beam? GET IT OFF GET IT OFF… oh shit, I bet he blows up everyone around the target, I gotta run the hell away from everyone else…

I hear the raid leader say ‘Don’t leave the room’, so I come back into range of heals… and sure as hell, big badda boom on me, but at least I ain’t near anyone else.

DBM says to switch target right NOW! Oh shit, again?

WTF IS WITH THE HEALTH ON THESE PRICKS?!?!

Arcano… oh shit, he dropped a big purple circle on the floor, run away, run a… hey, everyone else ran INTO the circle, RUN IN, RUN IN…. oooh, damage boost! Yummy!

Lemme guess… right on time, yeah yeah, switch targets, fine, whatever… Electron? Lemme guess… yep, that there would be lightning. Chain lightning. Yawn.

Okay, what the hell is that on me, I’m sparking like an incipient blue flame generator… oh shit, that’s gonna be one of those ‘you blow up the rest of the raid near you, but you live’ kinda things, ain’t it? RUN AWAY FROM THE RAID, RUN AWAY!

Oh damn, I pooped ball lightning… oh, okay, I don’t have to run out, I can just run away from the raid and run in circles pooping lightning, I can do that. Oh, and ewwwww.

All right, we’re back on the green dude again! Okay, switching…

And then there was this big kaboom, and we wiped.

Here are a few actual mechanics things I picked up over the course of the evening, which thankfully contributed to my still being alive and useful when we downed the encounter and got our loots on the third go around.

The first thing I learned (from our first wipe) is that if you do NOT switch off of the mob you had been targeting when the next one gets activated, then what you’re doing is whittling away at the mob’s damage shield, and if you break through, the mob blows up, killing folks. So when DBM was telling me to switch, that ain’t a suggestion that your own particular raid leader might not want to follow. Nope, that’s what you do. So do eet!

In order to adjust my game to that little factoid, I made sure to HASTEN my retargeting as soon as the new mob got activated, commanded my pet to change targets just as fast, and also stopped refreshing my Serpent Sting dot at the ten second warning DBM gives you prior to the next guy activating. I didn’t want that dot ticking away at the shield. I also made sure to fire off my Explosive Trap at the beginning of each activation so it would have faded before it was bubble time. DoTs ticking away at shield = not good.

The second thing I learned was, the four things share health. You do not want to stay on one that’s almost gone and ride it down and hope the bubble doesn’t pop… you switch targets. They all have one big shared health pool. Hey, that wasn’t readily apparent the first go around, and knowing it made me breathe a sigh of relief.

The third thing I learned was it’s very, very good that I was burning down the adds. It looked like they did hellacious damage if they hit who they were fixated on. Oh yeah, didn’t I mention? Those oozes weren’t just random adds. They all fixate on someone like a guided missile, little green bombs, and they slowly make their way towards their targets. Burn them bad boys down.

That purple circle Arcano drops? Yep, good to stand in, bad to leave boss in. Note to self, watch fer those suckas and love the extra damage.

We wiped a few times, and you know how I finally found the entrance to the raid? By following a long, long, LONG stream of dead players all making their way back up to the landing. Must have been a rough night, man.

We killed ’em all and sorted the loot, and I walked away from the fight with a shiny new Voltage Source Chestguard. Oh wow, raid loots!

Now, if you expected a real guide to any of this, well, sorry to disappoint. I was having fun flying by the seat of my pants.

If you really want a serious guide to this encounter, you’re not going to find it here. Instead, I’d recommend you pay a visit to Tankspot, the home of some truly wonderful narrated video guides. Now that I’m stopping my intentional ignoring of strats and spoiler videos, you’ll be able to find me there. That’s my first stop for resources on how things work and what to expect.

Aside from researching individual boss and mechanic functions on Wowhead, of course.

Have a great weekend everyone, get out and see Thor! It was awesome!

How Bear got his groove back

Last night, hold onto your bacon folks, last night Beartrap ran… a heroic instance!

Crazy, cats, simply craaaazy.

My first heroic instance since the expansion shipped!

Well, the first one I did where the group finished the run, and my first attempt to join one in over four months, so it still qualifies. I think.

What made me do something that out of character?

Why, having friends to play with, of course!

Beartrap the mighty hunter ventured forth, set to wage war in partnership with Hedwig and Matheo, because… well, because they felt like doing a heroic and asked me along.

What, you expected something more? Sorry, they wanted to play and I think I’m finally heroic ready, so I went with ’em.

Picture this, if you will. Beartrap the Beastmaster Hunter enters the random queue for a heroic with Matheo the Bear Tank and Hedwig the Healing Priest.

*I* get to follow along and watch a Bear Tank lead through a heroic. A heroic where two other players, NOT the tank or healer, are pugged in.

This has all the possibilities needed for postworthy drama, don’t it?

Where we ended up was Vortex Pinnacle.

I’d like to say that if other instances are anything like Vortex Pinnacle, I am going to have myself a mighty fun time in WoW from now on.

Vortex Pinnacle, under the talented paws of Matheo and with good healing from Hedwig, called to mind all the best memories I have of running heroic instances from both Burning Crusade AND Wrath of the Lich King.

Bold words, I know, but lemme explain.

When I think of Burning Crusade heroic instances at level, what memories do I call forth?

One thing that I loved was that the intelligent use of crowd control was not just an option, but an understood necessity. Not just that CC was needed, but that the group walked in KNOWING that it would be needed, and worked together accordingly.

I liked that because I felt more involved as part of the team when I went as DPS, that I had to be prepared to bring the Ice Trap skillz.

Likewise on having things that needed to be removed, such as curses. Having Static Cling on the final boss fight in Vortex Pinnacle, and needing it to be cleansed off so I could move again made me VERY aware of how much we needed Hedwig in the fight, and not just as a healbot.

I liked that feeling in Vortex Pinnacle. We had mobs marked for traps, I was given the go ahead to trap ’em, and boy howdy did I! We also had a tank that used Skulls and Xes and Squares to mark mobs, and I always love seeing that in a run.

Another thing I liked was the architecture provided plenty of opportunity for line of sight pulls, and they were taken advantage of. That was great fun as well.

There was tension, there were mobs off the aggro table running around as a free for all, there were interesting boss fights, it had it all.

But what it also had was the shortness of Wrath of the Lich King heroic instances.

Even with the CC and mechanics, and the hopping from tornado to tornado, it only took a half hour to complete the instance.

I loved how short Wrath of the Lich King instances were, but I felt that they achieved that by being straight line runs from group to group with little in the way of tactical variety. Charge in, AoE, burn fast, next group, rinse and repeat. The uber-heroics in ICC were an improvement, but groups had been trained out of how to play by that point. Why look, the unfun!

What we had last night had the complexity and teamwork requirements of Burning Crusade, the interesting variety and lessons learned from both expansions, and the quickness of Wrath of the Lich King.

There was just one more element that was needed for me to feel rejuvenated and eager to begin playing group content again, and I got it;

An entertaining conversation with friends over Ventrilo.

Nothing is more fun to me than chatting with friends about the fights AS you are doing them.

Where else do you get the opportunity for such awesomeness as saying, “Wow Mat, you almost bit it on that pull”, and having Hedwig reply, “Oh, I wasn’t really paying attention on healing him.”

When you’re having such a good time chatting that you forget how to play, you know you’re doing it right.

I know that the heroic instances have a reputation for being incredibly long, so I’m not assuming that a sample size of one represents anything.

Vortex Pinnacle may have been great, but heroic Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep or Zul’Aman may be three hour slugfests for all I know.

But that’s all right. What I know is, I had a lot of fun in a group last night, and I didn’t expect to see that happen again. Even if the other heroics suck in comparison, if the fun in group is there, if the great conversation with friends is there… why, we’ll have fun despite it all.

Oh yeah, and tank aggro with the changes to Swipe? Much, much smoother response time on grabbing large groups. Matheo reported enjoying life a lot more than before as a tank. 

Geez, if I keep having friends to play with, the next thing you know I’m going to transfer my Druid over and start tanking for groups again!

Of course, if I did that, then I’d have to start developing gear lists, and I’d have to work out the math on stat priorities…. on second thought, maybe I’d be better off taking a hammer to my hard drive now and just going fishing.

Looking for More – Advice on Waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells

Hi folks, I’m looking for advice from anyone that has vacationed at a waterpark in the Wisconsin Dells recently, or who is familiar with the area. I’m asking you instead of relying on comments in tourism websites, because to be honest, I value your opinions more than those of other people, even on stuff that has nothing to do with WoW.

Here’s the deal. We’re trying to plan a quick weekend get-away, heading out right after our son’s school lets out in June. 

We haven’t been to the Wisconsin Dells in almost 2 years, but Alex keeps asking when we’re going back. He loves the waterparks there. Specifically, he loves the wave pool and the toddler/under 48″ mini-slides at Great Wolf Lodge.

The last few times we’ve visited, we’ve stayed at Great Wolf Lodge, so that is what he is most familiar with. 

Here’s where asking for your advice comes in.

Alex is 8-years-old now, but he is very anxious about trying new things. He is not very adventurous, and he doesn’t like ‘scary’ rides or attractions. Dark tubes or tunnels, super high slides, and loud noises are all out. He also doesn’t like the big 750 gallon dumping buckets most resorts have over their play areas. I’m hoping that he’s grown out of that fear in the last two years.

He does like big wave pools he can float on a tube in, and he likes small castle or climbing structures that have smallish slides into shallow water. 

What we’re concerned about is if we go to Great Wolf Lodge again, now that he’s 51″ tall he might be ordered to stay out of the toddler area that has a 48″ height restriction. The lifeguards at Great Wolf are good, but they are also literal.

If that happens, and if he also still won’t go in the climbing area because of the big bucket o’ dumpin’ doom overhead, then the only thing he will be willing to do for three days will be float on a tube in the wave pool.  

Now, we could do something else for a vacation for three days. Sure. But we are both very conscious of how precious these early years of his life are. He’s going to be a jaded teenager in no time at all, so we want him to have as much chance to enjoy the things he loves most now while he still can.

Call it my desire that he doesn’t have a childhood that sucks as much as mine did, if you’d like.

What we’re doing is looking at other waterparks, trying to find one that will have a very warm (read – indoor) area that will be intended for kids bigger than 48″ max toddlers, but is not intended to scare the shit out of teenagers. We’re looking for that middle ground.

We’ve checked out one waterpark, The Wilderness Resort, and it looks like they might have more “little” kid areas and don’t seem to have as strict a height maximum set for those play areas.  However, Cassie has done a ton of research and the Wilderness gets slammed pretty hard in consumer reviews for having incredibly lousy customer service, rooms badly in need of repair, very loud hall noise all night, having way too many people in a waterpark to even make it fun, having way too much walking from one park to another for adults, let alone smaller children, etc, etc.

Does that bother us? In answer I shall refer you to my above statement about wanting him to have fun NOW, and learn how much life sucks LATER.

So, we’re stuck in this weird stage between him being too big for the areas he likes, but not interested yet in going on the wilder stuff that he is height appropriate for. 

We’re hoping some of you out there may have hands-on experience with the Wilderness Resort, and could let us know if you think it might work for what we’re looking for, or clue us in if the reviews we’ve read really are accurate about the state of the place.

If not the Wilderness, maybe you have stayed at a different waterpark that aimed at satisfying the very picky interests of a bigger-than-a-toddler but not yet a crazy teen like Alex and could give us an idea how your stay went.

Thanks in advance!

In the Shadow of Osama

It was announced over the weekend that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by American special forces personnel in a carefully planned operation.

Reactions to the news have been interesting to watch.

The reactions of people shown in the media here in the USA were initially joyous, images of cheering crowds, delighted citizens of all ages in the papers and on TV.

As the week goes on, I’m seeing more people stand forward to respond not to the death of Osama itself, but instead to those joyous reactions. Responses from those sad to see anyone celebrating the death of anyone, no matter what they may have done. 

I’m going to raise the issue briefly, just to touch on some of these points.

I’d like to go directly at the heart of this concern; the celebration of the death of a human being.

It sounds like a very laudable thing, wonderfully sensitive and compassionate, to so love your fellow man that you are pained to see anyone celebrate death rather than life. To feel sadness that others would find joy in the misery or ending of another human life.

The death of Osama bin Laden can’t be broken down that easily, as the simple death of a man like any other.

This was more than that for many people. This was not just the death of a man, but of a symbol.

I’m going to make a comparison that I hope will show more clearly what I mean. Please bear with me for a moment.

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, when Glinda the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that her falling house has crushed and killed the Wicked Witch of the East, we have never been shown the wicked witch or heard of her deeds, so her death holds little meaning for us. 

Upon hearing this news, the Munchkins come out of hiding. They spontaneously burst into song, singing “Ding dong! The witch is dead” and dance in celebration.

Is this fiction? Of course it is. But it’s also a scene that I think many of us can understand when watching from the outside. The munchkins lived in fear under the shadow of the Wicked Witch of the East. They cowered in their homes, afraid of what evil she might do to them next. They feared standing out, for it might bring them to her notice, attract her attention to them.

When they knew that she was dead, their celebration spoke to me not of joy at the death of a person, but instead of a joyous reaction to the passing of fear, a fear they had lived under for a very long time, a fear they were powerless to do anything about.

The munchkins were not evil. They did not glory in the death of another human being, assuming the witches were human. But they had been afraid, and had been unable to strike back or even to defend themselves against the power of the Wicked Witch of the East. Once the Witch was dead, they looked around, and slowly came to the realization that they were free of that which they feared the most. Their hearts were gladdened and full of joy, so full they had to sing and dance to let it all out.

Analogies are always flawed things, but I see a lot of reasons for comparing the two situations.

From the moment the Twin Towers fell, America passed under the shadow of Osama bin Laden. For good or ill he was turned into a living symbol of terror. We lived our lives knowing that there was a man out there in the world bent on the death and destruction of American innocents, what the government calls non-combatants.

Here in America, we structured our lives around terror alerts and color codes and protective measures. In those first few months, we were told to seal our homes in pastic wrap, to watch our mail for anthrax dust, to watch our neighbors and the strangers on the street for anyone at any time could be seeking to kill us. We went to war to strike at the source, we took actions to hunt him down, we were told that at any moment the next attack may come.

We watched the media talk about how any large gathering, any event where Americans would gather together was now a potential target, a preferred target. The Super Bowl, the Democratic National Convention, a Barbara Streisand concert, all of these became ‘ideal targets for terrorism’.

We went about our lives anyway, because that’s who we are. We’re Americans, and while the normal stereotype of the American is of a loud, arrogant, violent cowboy, one thing is certainly true; we don’t cower in our holes or go into hiding. We take action. It may be the wrong action, but we do something, or we want to see that our government is doing something about it.

On September 11th 2001, a tension entered the lives of all Americans, whether we are willing to admit it or not. Osama bin Laden was turned into a symbol for terrorism, the face of those that want to kill our families, our children. The face of an enemy that did not want to face soldiers on the battlefield, but instead place bombs in schools and churches, to strike at the innocent and the defenseless.

For almost ten years, all Americans that choose to enlist in the armed forces know exactly who Osama bin Laden is, and what role he has had to play in our awareness of terrorism. 

The symbol of terrorism is dead, killed by an American warrior in an intentionally planned strike. That’s a very powerful symbol, too.

Do I think people cheering and celebrating are ghouls, delighting in the death of a human being? Do I feel sadness for them?

No. I think we are seeing people who are celebrating that the symbol of terror we have known for almost ten years is dead. The bogeyman is gone. The Wicked Witch of the East got a house dropped on her, and for the moment, we can dance in the streets and cheer Dorothy and pretend that all is well.

We know in our hearts that the Wicked Witch of the West is still out there intending to get us, and our little dog too. A symbol of terrorism is dead, but terrorism itself is not. We all know this, we’re not idiots.

This was a victory, and it is right and just to celebrate a victory, to acknowledge what we have suffered, to remember those that we loved that have been lost along the way, and to show our gratitude and appreciation to the warriors that volunteered to seek out the source of our fears and destroy them, and who remain pledged to destroy all others that would continue to serve him and his cause.

God bless all those who continue to fight on behalf of the American people, and who place themselves in harms way to protect the innocent. God bless you from the bottom of my heart.

PBeM: Terin Section 7 Chapter 8

“Yes. No! I’m not interested in your bloody damned gift, I want to know more about…” The golden glow from Redwulf flared brightly once more, cutting Terin off mid-sentence. Terin felt the familiar pain in his head return with stunning force, like being struck by a sharp spike directly to the forehead. The pain had fled when he heard that the Bleeding Bear had been found, and he’d dared hope it was gone for good.

Against his will, he slumped forward slightly, and clutched at his head as if he could grab the imagined spike and claw it out.

He raised the other hand frantically to Bala’duin, trying to wave him to silence for a moment as he came to grips with the sudden pain. For a few moments, he was lost to the pain, unaware of what happened around him. The only thing Terin could focus on was the pain in his skull that came close to unmanning him.

No! There’s no time to be weak, not when it’s all in my head. Damn it, it’s only pain, it’s not real, and I will not give in to it. I cannot waste this chance!

Terin forced his head up again, pushing past the pain to focus on the eyes of Bala’duin. The intense golden glare hurt to look into, but he stayed locked on the eyes of the loremaster. He wanted to grab Redwulf by the arms and shake him to get the answers he desperately needed, but he forced his body to stillness.

“That’s the second time you’ve hinted about passing on, as if you know, not just think but know what will happen once you’re dead. I’ll not move one step further until I get a straight answer. Do you know where the soul goes when we die? What really happens? I wasn’t there when they needed me. I’ve had to deal with that, but it’s the not knowing that’s tearing me apart. Will I ever see Milia and Alise again? If you really know, then for the love of Tyr, tell me!” 

The spirit of Bala’duin still shone through Redwulfs eyes, but they seemed suddenly sad, hesitant. Terin’s hopes instantly died half-born within him. I knew it. I knew it was too easy to expect a simple answer, damn him!

“Baron, if I could tell you what you wanted to know, I would, I promise you. I know why you need to know. I know. The truth is, nobody that I have read of, nobody that I have spoken with or watched has ever revealed any sign of truly knowing what happens to a mortal soul after the body has died. Nobody, Terin, not god or spirit or man. Do you understand me?”

“The soul is real, it exists, you know that much, you can touch your own in the centering so you believe in it. Now listen when I tell you that everything that has ever been done with the soul was accomplished while the soul was still bound to the living. Everything. Once a person dies, unless the soul was bound or severed before the body’s death, the soul is freed and gone. Just gone, beyond any means of finding or touching, ever again. Past that point no power that I know of can bring a soul back, hold it or chain it.”

“I don’t know if you will ever see your family again, Terin. I’m sorry, but I don’t have that answer. I don’t even know if a soul travels to some other realm and continues on as a new form of life or awareness, or if it is immediately reborn in flesh again elsewhere in this world. I don’t know if there is a place of judgment for the souls of the dead, or who would be that final judge if there is one”

“All I can offer you is hope, Baron. I can tell you as truth that the people you loved lived on after they died, and they went somewhere else, somewhere beyond the reach of any pain of this world. At least you know that they did not suffer a final death. All you can do is hold on to that, and take comfort in knowing that they do live on.”

None of this was what Terin wanted to hear, but somehow, it did help. It helped to think of Milia in some other place, holding close to Alise and teaching her of the things that she did not have the time or chance to learn while she lived. I hope you both are somewhere full of light, and love. Somewhere that you can’t see the things I’ve done to avenge you since you’ve gone.

In his heart, Terin knew that Bala’duin had been right before when he said that Terin had lost his faith in Tyr. He didn’t believe anymore, not in his heart. He hoped, but he did not believe. When he was being honest with himself, he thought that Tyr might have been real once in ages long past, and he may have done great things, but if so he was dead or gone now. Terin no longer believed that Tyr watched over the souls of the living and the dead, but it didn’t change how he lived his life. He still believed in the central message of the teachings of Tyr; to defend those that could not defend themselves, to train the defenseless to stand for themselves, and to step aside when the strong were determined to follow their own path. That was enough for him.

As much as he believed in the mission of the Order, his lack of trust in any afterlife involving Tyr had left a massive hollow pit in his heart whenever his thoughts turned to his family. Just thinking of them caused his stomach to drop, forced him to think of something, anything else just to get a grip and find his center again.

Terin stood, lost in thought. The pain was still there, but maybe just knowing that they lived on in some way could be enough. He felt a little lighter in some way he couldn’t yet explain to himself. The pain was still in his skull, stronger than it had ever been, but something within him had changed.

Is this what hope feels like?

Redwulf cleared his throat, breaking through Terin’s reverie. “I have heard the words, but I still do not understand, Baron. I’ve seen stronger, faster, deadlier men than you in the court of the Duke of the Sun, all vying for favor. Why would the loremaster choose you for such a desperate task?”

Terin looked up blankly at this, before he grasped the fact that it wasn’t the rich, rolling voice of Bala’duin, but the weaker breathy voice of Redwulf himself that spoke. The golden glow was all but gone, with only a small glimmer showing from the palm of his upraised paw.

Bala’duin is gone? What have I done? What blessed chances have I squandered in my selfishness?

It took a few moments for the question to penetrate his distress, his life since learning of the loss of his family still fresh in his thoughts.

“He didn’t want the best or the brightest, Redwulf. He didn’t seek the fastest or the strongest. He wanted a man that he knew would do what had to be done to see things through to the end.”

Terin turned and walked the few paces to the door before stopping to look back. “I have a question for you, Redwulf. What was it like, when your mind was touched by Malvoris? What did you learn of the man’s heart?”

Redwulf dropped his gaze, but not before Terin could see his eyes had returned to their natural hazel shades. “Want, Baron. Malvoris is an empty hole, and nothing can fill him up. He wants everything. Respect. Power. Control. Love. Those things, and the chattel that come with them, wealth, and servants, titles and land. He craves all the outward signs of power. He’s filled with a hunger for these things he cannot satisfy. He is filled with want… and hate, as well. When he looks on another, he sees a thief, holding the things he wants, things that should belong to him. He hates them for it, for having what he does not. Touching his mind was like bathing in a nest of vipers, Baron, cold and cruel and deadly at a whim. Why? What do you plan to do?”

Terin stared at Redwulf until the great furry beast raised his eyes to Terin once more. “I’m not going to do anything to him, for now. Not yet. He is sworn to serve the Duke, not to me. I’ll not be the one to speak poison of another, and I trust Arneghast’s judgment.”

He turned aside to face the door, gathering his strength. Having the pain to deal with once again was somehow worse after thinking it had gone.

“Just the same, this would be a bad night for Malvoris to turn snake on me. I’m not feeling in a forgiving mood.” He pushed the door open, stepping through and out into the hall.

Terin waited there with the door open as the last of the golden glow finally faded and died behind him. He expected… he didn’t know what to expect.

Will Malvoris leap out of his room and demand to know what just happened? Did he find a way to listen to any of that after all? Or does he sit there in the dark, cowering, having reached out for knowledge and felt a power greater than his? Does he sit there afraid for his life? He is wise if he does. Very wise.