Okay, You may Be Losing a Bear

Back in the day, there was this pen and paper role playing game named Cyberpunk 2020.

I played that game in this real tight window, about 6 really intense months where I had source materials, time and a group willing to take a chance on playing in a world inspired by William Gibson and the explosion of the cyberpunk vibe.

It came, it hit, and aside from a lingering love of books like Snow Crash, movies like Hackers and Nemesis, and pumping dance music, it all faded away and got absorbed into popular culture.

I love Cyberpunk 2020, and I’m not alone. The character creation system was polarizing. The world was close enough to touch, to make connections fire in your head, inspire you to try something personal.

I loved seeing what people made for characters. More often than you might think, you’d see someone come up with a character concept that seemed to really say something about about some inner desire or dream. There was more there than ‘roll 3d6 for stats and come up with a name’. Shit was revealing.

Well, here we go. There is a Cyberpunk game in the works, Cyberpunk 2077, and it’s a collaboration between the original creator of the Cyberpunk 2020 game, Mike Pondsmith, and game developers CD Projekt RED.

Just, wow.

Right out of the gate, they give us something that tells old hands at the original game like me that we’re in for a wild ride.

Just like Tycho said at Penny Arcade, to tackle cyberpsychosis in the first teaser trailer sets a mark, states that this is not going to be a watered down, kinder, gentler Night City. The 57 years that have passed since the original setting have not seen a sudden proliferation of peace, love and fresh bacon sandwiches.

Talk about a hardcore way to tell us where they’re coming from with the game. They’re pulling no punches.

And thank you to IGN for taking the time to really look at the trailer, and explore some of what’s going on with the game.

If the game can live up to that promise, you might just be losing me when this comes out. Just saying.

I haven’t been this excited for a new game, in… well, shit. Huh, I can’t remember.

Excuse me, off to watch that again.

A Novice’s Mistake

So, there I was.

Doing a bit of questing.

I’m finally pursuing my dream, a goal I have wished to take part in from the first day I dinged 60 on my first character.

I’m following the lengthy quest chains needed to transform a Rogue’s Shadowcraft Armor Dungeon Set 1 into the Darkmantle Dungeon Set 2.

This is a very lengthy chain, as I believe I mentioned already.

It is in the finest tradition of level 60 Vanilla WoW time wasting quest chains, when the goal was to give casual non-raiding players something to keep them occupied for months on end.

In this case, you begin by running certain level 60ish instances and raids over, and over, and over, and over, and over until you get each of 8 pieces of your Dungeon Set 1.

Three items CAN be found on the Auction House, being Bind on Equip, except that the Shadowcraft Gloves drop only from Shadow Hunter Vosh’gajin in LBRS, a boss and an instance not exactly known for it’s frequent clears these days. As an example of the fun of drop rates, let me tell you that I ran LBRS back to back on my Druid a few nights ago, using stealth and skill, and it took no less than 12 kills before the Gloves dropped. In the meantime… 9 sets of Demonic Runed Spaulders, a bow and a crossbow. Nine sets of shoulders.

Imagine for a moment, if you weren’t there at the time, how much fun it must have been when level 60 was the max, when gear was pretty skimpy with stats, to want a piece of your set oh so very bad, and run LBRS in full no less than 11 times without ever having seen the Gloves. I say in full, because who would leave a group in disgust when the only item they truly cared for didn’t drop? I know I’ve never heard of it happening.

And when they drop… God help you if it was a pug with a Druid in it, because Ferals wanted those pieces JUST as bad, and if it was a pug, they’d ninja them in a heartbeat. Oh, the drama. Oh the galactic levels of drama.

I bet that out there, if you look, there are still ancient forum flamewars between Rogues demanding the Shadowcraft pieces as theirs alone because only Rogues can upgrade them and wear them as Darkmantle, and Druids claiming they have equl right because Shadowcraft is optimised for Ferals in the day, and the Shadowcraft is NOT restricted to any one class.

The flames from those wars shall not die, nay, not though a thousand years shall pass… which, in internet time, is next week. 

Now consider this… the chest piece for every set for every class drops from the same boss, General Drakkisath in UBRS. That was quite easy to keep back then… until your guild geared past UBRS and wanted to kill Onyxia and take on Molten Core. After that, max level 60 pugged UBRS.

And again… pugged Druids grabbing the chest, even if there is a Rogue.

Hey, I AM a Druid on my main… and I was there. I was Feral, and I was right there hoping and praying the armor bits would drop, and any Rogue along would say, ‘Oh no, I’m fine, I’ll pass.” Hoping… My friends, hope in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first. So much for hope.


Just take a moment. Consider the horror, or reminisce about it if you lived it.

I took on the challenge for my Druid, the Wildheart Raiment, and never finished it. I just never could get those damn birdie shoulders to drop from Gizrul (the Slavener.. whatever the hell THAT is) in LBRS.

Many back then took the Dungeon Set 1 to 2 challenge on, I think everyone back then harbored some aspiration of completing the entire chain.

So few completed it. So many were lost along the wayside, doomed by poor drop rates and progressive raiding guilds that had no time in their 7 night a week raid schedule to do old crap like UBRS or LBRS clears.

But I’m doing it now. And if my Rogue can solo to Cannon Master Willy in search of the set shoulders 10 times without seeing them drop, so what? They’ll drop eventually, and at least I’m not wasting an entire groups’ time.

But the quest chain. Ah yes.

Even IF you had somehow managed to run every instance and raid often enough at level 60 to get all eight pieces of your class set, you weren’t done. Not by a long shot.

You had to follow a quest chain that, as I said, was meant to keep you busy for a long, long, long time while the special people raided.

I’ll leave the entire Sillythis end part of the chain out of the discussion for now, because I have yet to hit it at this point, and I have a strong feeling that when it does, additional fodder for blog posts will be born in the fires of drop frustration.

What I will touch on, what’s relevant to the post, is that the way Blizzard created a time consuming quest chain, in part, was to send you to the farthest reaches of the globe, there to ride to the farthest reaches of the zone, and kill a bunch of mobs for a drop. And then return for the next step, rinse and repeat.

This, I am proud to say, I’m doing, mostly by cheating.

I’m a Rogue. I’m an Engineer. I got Sprint, I got an epic mount, I got Rocket Boots, I’ve got a Teleport Trinket to Gadgetzan, I’ve got a Teleport item for Northrend, I’ve got a Dalaran hearth point set with a 30 minute cooldown, Dalaran even has a port straight to Tenaris… In one day I can get my ass around Azeroth back and forth to Gadgetzan pretty darn fast.

This fine evening, I’d used ALL of it in the following of the quest that requires you to travel to Silithis and get 12 ghost ectoplasms, then travel to Winterspring and get 12 ghost ectoplasms, and then to Eastern Plaguelands and get 12 ghost ectoplasms.

These would be undead thingies I’m killing. Just thought I’d mention it, since, y’know, ghosts and ectoplasms… you mighta been confused and thought I was hunting wabbits.

The quest started in Gadgetzan, and I have to return the 36 ectoplasms (I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!) back to Gadgetzan.

I do this thing. I turn in the ghost goo. He seems grateful to GET the ghost goo. Woo!

I open up the next part of the chain, and see that, sure enough, the next step, surprise surprise, is to travel across the world and kill some dude for some drop, and then bring it all the way the hell back here. And all my hooyahs are on cooldown, so damnit, time to get on the flight to Theramore and get on a boat and then fly to Burning Steppes. Time to pick up my “in flight” book. If I was smart, I’d have an in flight movie playing, and I’d tab in and out while on fights, but this is a good book. Gene Wolfe has me hooked.

I haven’t watched Immortal Beloved for a few years, I feel the urge. Maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer, I see where I have to go, I run down and hop a flight, read until I’m at the dock, read until the boat comes, read until the boat docks, read until the flight lands in Burning Steppes, and then once I’m there I pop open my quest log to see who is marked for extermination….

I have no quest in my quest log.

Hmmm. Did I? Did I really? Why yes, yes I did.

See, I neglected, in my ennui and haste (if there is such a thing as rushed boredom, I experienced it) to actually click on the little “Accept” button when I was reading the quest description.

I’ve been playing this game HOW long, exactly, and I didn’t click the stupid little accept button? Isn’t that reflex, like, hard wired in by now? Somebody rings a bell, I salivate and click “Accept Quest”?

But yes. Yes, I did that. Or failed to do that, which is more completely accurate.

Guess what? Hearth was off cooldown. I’m not ashamed to admit I used it. Why look, a portal to Tanaris in the Violet Hold? Oh, you shouldnt have!

Can I get frequent porting miles? Is there an in-port beverage service?

Why hello there, handsome, and don’t YOU look familiar? Hey, gotta quest? You do? I’m /shocked!

And now to return to reading/flying/reading/flying/riding/killing/riding/flying/reading….

The Ghost Pet Posse

Ghost Pet Posse

I’ve been feeling the love for my Hunter lately, and I’ve been playing her quite often.

And yes, all the new Hunter news does excite me. Can I help it? I like playing with my pet! New pet Talents? Nothing but joy!

Of course, I don’t know that I’ll ever actually get a different pet. I’ve had Moonclaw since the first time I tamed him, and aside from the necessary taming of a new pet to learn a new skill, which was just to help make Moonclaw more powerful anyway, we’ve been a team ever since. 

BRK’s assessment of Cats as losers in WotLK saddens me, but I don’t play my Hunter or have my Pet to provide MQoSRDPS, I play my hunter and have my Pet for fun! And I could never be disloyal to Moonclaw. Plus, Stealth for normal pets may not be considered great, but have you ever tried to see a stealthed Ghost Saber in a furious scrum? Yeah, good luck with that.

I do care about Moonclaw’s feelings, though.

For example, it can’t be easy being the only ghost kitty surrounded by all those living beasts the other Hunters have when we are in Ironforge.

But things have changed! Thanks to a few runs (or five) in Heroic Old Hillsbrad,  I have my hat, and thanks to Doodlebug I have the complete Haliscan outfit… and I even hunted down the Dress Shoes pattern for Windburn so I’d have shoes to match!

My sartorial splendor aside, now Moonclaw has a new friend! A friend that won’t look down on him for being breathing-challenged, and more to the point, a friend that won’t need to be taken for walks to the Ironforge Fire Hydrant.

Ghost Pets mean never having to carry a pooper scooper or clean a litter box. Just sayin’. 

I love having my own Ghost Pet Posse to follow me around… a ghost coyote is the perfect companion for a level 70 Ghost Saber.

And last night really was full of Hunter and Pet love. Graimerin was gushing about his new addon that brought life and fun to his pet, and thanks to his talking it up (and answering my questions) in guild chat, I finally downloaded and installed the PetEmote addon.

I had read about PetEmote on BRKs site before, of course… many times. But somehow, from the description, I had the erroneous idea that I had to trigger the emotes manually. I just didn’t reallize that it really does, at random, spontaneously add life to your pet’s personality. And lets you add your own emotes to it’s list, I think. Haven’t had time to try that yet. I know the first time I saw something like “Moonclaw stretches and begins vigorously licking himself”, I fell in love with the addon.

So there you have it folks. Windstar and the Ghost Pet Posse.

We be haunting up Ironforge in style!

Edit/Addition abuot PetEmote and it’s explosion in the blog community:

Okay, now that I wrote my post and sent it out into the world, I took the time over a break to read some blogs, and check out WoW Insider… and I found that over the last few days WoW Insider and Mania both decided that Great Green Hunter’s Pet Emote tips and fun were well worth posting about. And I bet that Graimerin saw one of those posts and that sparked his sudden use of the Addon. Or at least his talking about it. And then that made me go get it. And then since I was already writing about ghost pets and hunter fun and such, I added the PetEmote bit to my post…

So all this PetEmote stuff has run around just like a snake eating it’s own… oh, sorry, still thinking about Great Green Hunter’s blog. But yeah, looks like he started it. It’s Great Green Hunter’s world, we just blog in it.

You know, Ouroboros might be a fun name for a Wind Serpent pet. 

By the way, DO check out Snake in the Grass (Great Green Hunter’s blog) if you haven’t already, it’s just awesome. VERY well written, fun, informative, and did I mention it’s very well written? Yeah, it’s worth saying twice.

Oh, and of course if you love Hunters you already read Mania’s Arcania. Right? I mean, like, isn’t there a law or something? 

Anyway… damn, now I have TONS of PetEmote customizations to imagine and implement… this is gonna be AWESOME.

What Shakespeare taught me about RP

Shakespeare movies, anyway.

What, did you think I was gonna be all cultured?

You musta forgot which blog you were at. Ratshag is ====> thataway.

So, Shakespeare.

Having been a player of tabletop RPGs most of my adult life (and before), I have always been interested to some extent in acting.

My interest is, of course, more in the improvisation end of things than in repeating someone else’s written lines, but the technique of trying to put yourself in the mind of a  different character and ‘make believe’ is at the heart of roleplaying.

It’s acting without a stage, for the shared delight of the actors themselves.

And since this is what I’ve been thinking about, this is the topic you get today.

Don’t ask where I get this stuff from, my head is a cluttered attic of junk, and it seems everything is piled on top of everything else. Every morning I climb into the attic looking for something to drag onto the yard sale of the blog, and lucky you, you get whatever is nearest to the attic door at the time.

Two movies. Two movies that are relevant to the discussion.

The first is Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson.

The second is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

For those of you unfamiliar with Shakespeare in general or the story of Hamlet in particular…

Hamlet is the name of the lead character in a wonderfully light-hearted romantic comedy about the fun loving royal family of Denmark, and their lives and loves…


Y’know, if I could follow that line up with a straight face, I’d have a future in comedy.

Seriously though, Hamlet is the name of the lead character in a play by Wm. Shakespeare. The story follows his point of view almost exclusively, and thus you see the events of the story from his perspective.

It is a tragedy, in that in the end, no one has a happy ending.

A morally just one, perhaps, in certain respects, since everyone that dies in the end has tried in some way to screw everyone else, and along the way killed innocent people while trying to get revenge for being done wrong, thus earning their own share of justice for hurting innocents while trying to get revenge, etc etc.

The play ends ina grand guignol scene of utter carnage, dead bodies everywhere…

The movie Hamlet, which cast Mel Gibson in the lead role, is, to me, a wonderfully acted version of the play.

I say that, because not only has great care been made to capture the feel and atmosphere of the settings, but because when each actor speaks their lines, they speak them as though this is the everyday language which they are used to. It is just how they talk. It seems natural. Unforced. Smooth.

There are scenes where Mel Gibson is speaking some of the trippingly fast dialogue of Hamlet in a manic phase that is so unearthly natural that you forget that you are hearnig archaic dialogue, in much the same way that, when you’re totally absorbed in a foreign film, that afterwords you find it hard to remember that you were reading subtitles, in thinking back over the film you remember the words the actors spoke as though you understood the language. For me, Brotherhood of the Wolf in french with subtitles is much like that. Looking back I forgot that I didn’t understand what they were actually saying.

So Hamlet with Mel Gibson, to me, is an excellent example of the film and the story and is mentioned here to point out that the story focuses on the events, as seen through the eyes of the main character, Hamlet, the mover and shaker. He is the person around whom everything pivots.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, however, is also Hamlet.

It is.

It is the story of Hamlet, from beginning to end. And if you haven’t actually ever SEEN or read Hamlet in any form, much of the humor of the situation will be lost on you.

But you can still appreciate it for what it is, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a film that still drives me crazy because I can’t reconcile it’s existence with a greedy Hollywood out for a fast buck. I just don’t see how any greedy corporation could have heard the pitch for this film, and thought “That there will make me some big money. I want to invest in a piece of that.”

God bless the ones that did, though.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is Hamlet… but it is Hamlet, shown from the point of view of two small, very small, almost nonexistent minor characters of the story of Hamlet, and never from Hamlet himself.

You see the story of Hamlet from the point of view of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two characters that appear from time to time in the play.

So far, nothing so unique, yes?

Ah, but let me delve into the joys of this film.

First, the two lead roles, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are played by Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.

And when I say that these are Gary Oldman from The Fifth Element (the main villain) and The Professional (the corrupt police lieutenant), and Tim Roth from Pulp Fiction (one of the two crooks in the diner) and Reservoir Dogs (the undercover police officer), THAT level of brilliant dialogue and timing, then you should be excited. Very, very excited.

And second, the two characters only exist within the confines of the Hamlet story, in and around the scenes in which they take part… and they themselves have no memory of who they are or what they were doing prior to the first scene in which they appear, on a mountain trail in Denmark.

The movie is almost a detective story in philosophical discourse, as the two try to reason with each other, trying to puzzle out with logic and debate who they are, why they are where they are, why they would have no memory of their past, and what these crazy people they keep bumping into expect of them.

It is a rich movie, and a very fun one, as these two incredibly small bit parts of the play are brought to vivid life, where you start to really love these two guys and admire the hell out of them… they are people, not cardboard cutouts, and if you know the play, you know what’s coming.

I bring these two films up, because in many ways the lesson they teach is the heart of roleplaying, whether in pen and paper RPG settings or in WoW.

We play in a large world filled with what can be called ‘the lore’ (dun dun dun), or what is really just the fictional setting that exists at this time. There are main characters, great events, timelines and locales. It is a static story, in that we are told what has happeend in the past, and then we play in a never-ending ‘present’, where we seem to advance through the stories as we quest and level, but once you reach the end game, the present goes ever on and on, with no ultimate resolution or change.

And we play in this setting, making our own homes and stories, knowing that we cannot interact with or continue writing our own version of the major aspects of the story, because it’s not one we control.

We are bit players, without control over the events we are rushing towards, wondering what the writers of Blizzard will do to bring the main characters forward, and advance the present into a new static future that we will begin to quest towards again. 

We don’t play Arthas. WE have no input to what Thrall may decide to do next. We do not craft policy for the Alliance. We do not play one of these main characters.

We play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, small parts in the grand drama. We are but supporting players who may not even get a mention in the credits.

But even though it is Hamlet that gets top billing, and that everyone will know about, and whose story will be familiar, it is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that teaches us there is a ton of room for the bit characters to have their own rich history, their own depth and drama, to perhaps touch in only the smallest way on such mythic figures as Thrall or Arthas or Jaina Proudmoore, but to have grand adventures in other parts of the world that are no less exciting or important to us. 

I love Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It is a wonderful example of how you can be your own star of your own story, even as your position in lore and history is unrecognised and unremarked amidst the grand destinies of thrones and the royal prerogatives that swirl on all around you.

And of course, the moral of the story is, you don’t have to be the bastard stepson of the main character or the secret lover of the Queen that was the real reason for massive event ‘X’, in order to be a part of the setting.

I hope, somewhere in all this, there was something that was worth writing, and worth reading.

If nothing else, I hope I have enticed you into watching Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

By the way, if you like the whole ‘different take on Shakespeare’ thing, I heartily, strongly, voraciously recommend you read or see a traditional version of the Taming of the Shrew, and then get the Moonlighting tv episode ‘Atomic Shakespeare’, from Season 3 (Episode 7, btw), which is a brilliantly funny take on it. God, I love that episide. Just classic.