Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving Sprout would like to say a few heartfelt words in thanks.

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First of all to the Godmother of Alternative Chat fame (or possibly infamy depending on your stance on flying mounts on Draenor) who offered a stable and friendly home to Sprout and her associates.

Then to all those wonderful people I’ve encountered through playing WoW and through blogging about it. To Seph without whom I may well never have taken the plunge into writing on such a public medium. Also to Saga, Tome, Matty, Navi and Cymre who were some of my first readers and commentators when I finally managed to go public. I suffer rather badly from anxiety and to say my self esteem is low would be an understatement. Recently in particular things have been extremely bad, to the point where I’ve struggled to do anything socially at all because I’ve felt the “mask” is paper thin, that everyone else can see the flaws within. Just knowing there are people out there within the blogging community who don’t think I’m total waste of space helps and so thank you again to all of you, readers, commentators, lurkers and ships which pass in the night. Prinnie also warrants a special mention because no matter how bad I’m feeling, her posts can usually manage to raise a smile so thank you (and believe me, it’s hard for Sprout to thank Goblins!).

I also want to thank Amerance for hosting the first Blog Azeroth Thanksgiving two years ago which was the catalyst behind my twitter account and I’ve learnt so much from twitter (including the fact that you can lick your own nipple*).Thanksgiving-turkey-2

Thank you also to Mr Harpy who has the patience of a saint for putting up with me, even if he is a photo bombing bouncy green haired pest.

In closing, words can’t quite express just how grateful I am to each and everyone one of you. Thank you once more.

*I’ve been told this is common knowledge, clearly I skipped all the interesting classes at school.

The Reason for the Season – All Hallows Eve and the Day of the Dead

It’s that time of year again when autumn starts to bleed into winter, when the nights get longer and the damp foggy air smells of apples and burning wood. I’ve always been a Halloween girl, addicted to scary stories and tales about things which go bump in the night so I suppose it comes as no surprise that Hallows End and the Day of the Dead are my favourite WoW festivals of all.

Long before I played WoW, I learned all about the rituals of both albeit from two completely different sources. All Hallows Eve from family, time spent in the garden learning how to twist a handful of plants into a “wickerman” as well as ghost stories around the fire and pumpkin carving, the candles kept burning until morning. My knowledge of the Day of the Dead came from backpacking across Mexico armed with a dog eared Spanish dictionary and bucketfuls of curiosity. We spent the Day of the Dead at Teotihuacan before returning to a Puebla lit by candles and full of marigolds.

Hallows End

The Gilneans and the Forsaken

When Hallows End was revamped, I was glad that Blizzard chose the Gilneans as the perfect counterparts to the Forsaken. As neighbours, it’s entirely possible that they would have had similar beliefs and customs so both burning a Wickerman, albeit for ever so slightly different purposes makes perfect sense.

This time of year celebrates the end of the Harvest, the bringing in the fruits of the summer and the slaughtering of livestock to keep the cold winter days at bay. Even as everything begins to die, it brings with it the promise of rebirth, of a new start and that’s precisely what the Wickerman quest offers.

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The idea of a Wickerman has been around for centuries, Julius Caesar wrote about it, claiming that the Druids burnt their enemies inside it (although he did have a reason for wanting to paint them in a savage and dangerous light) and in more modern times it’s featured in books and films.

Dooking for Apples

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Apples have long been associated with fertility and certainly when I “dooked” for apples as a child, we would peel them, throw the peel over your shoulder and then frantically try and read the initial of our future husbands from the mess on the floor. Surprisingly though, I didn’t marry anyone called “S”, the shape that apple peel tends to squiggle into when thrown from a great height.

Guising

The roots of disguising yourself as something else and going door to door seem to have many possible origins. As far back as Celtic times, people would dress up as those recently deceased in an attempt to confuse evil spirits.

Pumpkins and Jack o’lanterns

The term Jack o’lantern was originally coined to describe a will o’the wisp, those creepy balls of marsh gas blamed for leading many travelers to a sticky end in soggy ground. Family tradition has it that they were carved out of sturdier stuff than pumpkin once upon a time and that modern generations have never had it so good. Placed in windows, their candles should keep evil spirits away until dawn and the safety of All Saints Day.

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The Day of the Dead

La Calavera Catrina

Appearing in many guises, like on the decorative plate seen here next to one of Frida Kahlo, La Calavera Catrina is one of the enduring symbols of the Day of the Dead. “Catrina” used to mean a wealthy or well dressed Lady and you don’t need to spend long in Mexico around October/November to discover that “Calavera” means skull. So essentially, at least on paper, she’s a skull in an expensive hat but in reality, she’s so much more.

san miguel to puerto vallarta 101

So next time you dance with Catrina, remember you are staring the “skull beneath the skin” in the face, the reminder that all us, regardless of money, power and gear score, will die.

Bread of the Dead

Otherwise known as Pan de Muerto, folklore has it that the dead ask for bread and sugar to help them on their journey and this sweet bread provides the perfect sustenance for the soul on it’s final trip.

Marigolds

The Aztec flower of the Dead, Cempasúchil plays a massive part in the Day of the Dead celebrations, adorning altars and forming a path of petals to enable the souls of the dead to return to spend precious time with the living. So it seems only fitting then in Azeroth, they aid us to see both the spirits of our ancestors but also hidden secrets like these forgotten ghosts haunting Raven Hill.

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Tradition has to be important to all of us, but blindly following without understanding is both pointless and potentially dangerous. Don’t eat your own wedding cake, never leave a cloth on a table over night, no shoes on the table, always smash an egg shell into tiny pieces… rituals that you grow up with, so familiar they’re apart of you, actions your body takes without your brain engaging.

Happy Halloween

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Day 15 – A Screenshot A Day

Today’s prompt is Season.

Now this time of year actually happens to be my favourite. That slow slide into autumn, golden leaves falling from the trees, toffee apples and Halloween.

For my shot, I thought I’d pick that somewhat forgotten and neglected Blizzard festival, Harvest  which as it happens is taking place right now.

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Trick or Treat!

As the nights draw in and all Hallows Eve slides through the shadows, getting closer and closer, Ambermist of Battlechicken challenged us to describe how our characters would dress up for a spot of candy acquiring.

If your character were going Trick or Treating in Azeroth, Tyria, or wherever they call home, what would their costume be? Tell me all about the what and the why and if you can find a picture of it or something similar, please post that with it–I’d love to see!

We tend to dress up as what scares us the most and for Sprout, the bogeyman under the bed and the monster lurking beneath the bridge has always been a Troll. Thus this Hallows End, she will be found cavorting around demanding sweeties whilst dressed as an evil little Troll creature, complete with pet snake to hiss on demand if people aren’t generous enough in their candy sharing.

Give me sugary snacks or I’ll let my snake hug you!

The Angel of the North

Just  come back from a long weekend trip down south to see family and take them their Christmas presents. Now because sitting in car for 6 hours is nothing but boring we stopped a couple of times. First in Edinburgh for a late breakfast, then in Alnwick for a quick run around the Castle gardens and finally in Newcastle for a closer look at the Angel himself.

Ignoring the fact that the sun setting at 4pm is horrible, I love the fact that this photograph completely manages to hide the fact that a freezing icy wind was blowing straight across the hillside. I have mixed feelings about the statue itself, I can’t help but feel the wings should be more rounded and softer but on the whole, seeing up close with the sun behind it, it was almost beautiful.

Back on WoW, I logged on to find a cute little whelping from Blizzard. The deep breath animation is adorable if somewhat pathetic. Would have been so much more fun if you could incinerate lowbies with it.

Then there is the new Pilgrim’s Bounty festival. Food, a reason to visit old familiar places and more clothes to fill up my bags. The perfect remedy for a spot of WoW grumpiness. Plus, shooting rogues…. how awesome is that.

Bringing the harvest home

Today the Harvest festival ends and I have to admit its a bit of a non event. On my server, one of the largest in the EU hardly anyone bothered to pay a visit to the tomb of Uther the Lightbringer.

The Tomb of the Lightbringer

So what could they do to improve the proceedings?

The obvious achievements would be take the existing bits and pieces and convert them as a starting point.

Honoring a hero

  • Alliance – “Honour the Lightbringer”: Carry a candle to the tomb of Uther the Lightbringer and sit for a moment to contemplate his life and death.
  • Horde – “Honour Hellscream”: Carry an offering to the grave of Grom Hellscream and sit for a moment to contemplate his life and death.
  • Both – “Break the Harvest bread”: Sit at the Harvest table and sample all the produce available.

However all proper festivals should present a reason to run around half of Azeroth visiting random locations and the Harvest Festival should be no exception.

Visiting the graves of Hellscream/Uther are fine and well but there are lots of dead heroes whose corpses lie six foot beneath the soil, sand and stone of Azeroth and Outlands. So I would add an achievement to visit around 10-15 different burial grounds candle in hand to hear the stories of the brave but restless dead. Examples would include:

azshara beachside

  • The beachside Nightelf style graveyard in Azshara.
  • The island graveyard outside Menethil Harbour
  • One of the Oracle graveyards in Sholazar Basin
  • Raven Hill

The Dwarf outside Ironforge, the only living alliance  celebrant of the festival tells us the Harvest Festival is about honoring the fallen and feasting. In order to do the latter there must be food so another achievement would require our heroes to complete a treasure hunt collecting foodstuffs from different areas, examples would include:

  • Pumpkins from the Tirisfal Glades
  • Apples from Elwynn Forest
  • Freshly baked harvest bread from either Mulgore/Westfall depending on your faction.
  • Carrot cupcakes from Dalaran

After all, keeping the tables well stocked is the least we can do.

Once the table is groaning under the weight of all this fresh produce, we need to find something to do with it. Take a Harvest Bounty package to parents/widows/widowers/orphans of the fallen in each of your faction capitals. This would allow some of these random NPCs who aren’t interactable with  to finally have a voice, a purpose and a back story.

Rewards/items.

The theme of the festival is food so the rewards should reflect this.

  • A picnic hamper similar to the romantic one handed out when “Love is in the Air”. However more muted autumnal colours possibly with pumpkins or falling leaves on the umbrella. Unlike the romantic version this would seat five (handy for doing 5 mans) and would provide food for the party. It would also be usable indoors (unlike the valentine’s day one…. wonder if using an umbrella indoors brings badluck in game) so parties could utilise them properly especially when there are no mages around.
  • Cooking recipes. A variety of recipes for all levels of cooking and all levels of players. This would include a new feast recipe which would give the same stats as the fish feast but uses different materials, mainly meat (yes, my priest is tired of eating fish with oranges 20 times a time a night).
  • An updated version of the Bounty of the Harvest which proves more than 4 loaves of bread and also restores mana as well as health.
  • A harvest reaper mini pet, similar to the compact harvest reaper kit made by engineers only it doesnt fight for you. Visually I would like something which looks like a smaller version of the Foe Reaper 4000.

There would also be corn dollies that can be picked up from the Harvest Tables and kept for the winter. In the spring, possibly during the “Love is the in Air” festival you would take them to farming land, Mulgore for the Horde and Westfall for the Alliance and return them to the soil to bless the crops for the forthcoming season.

The biggest problem the Harvest Festival suffers from is the sheer number of festivals currently filling up our calendar. The addition of “The Day of the Dead” and the “Pilgrim’s Bounty” just adds to the issue.

The reason for the season

The Harvest is about food, but by the sound of it, so is the Pilgrim’s Bounty” according to the new achievements. Its also about honoring the dead.. which is precisely what the “Day of the Dead” is about. So rather than fixing the existing Harvest Festival, it seems that Blizzard are just adding two new festivals which stand on its toes.

As a festival this year it offers nothing unique, nothing exciting and that I feel is a terrible shame. Thats before we even get into the lack of advertising. You can’t move at the moment without falling over a brewfest sign with its pretzels, beer and bubbles yet there is nothing pushing the Harvest Festival. I would be surprised if everyone even knew it was taking place right now.

In terms of cultural importance surely honoring the dead and bringing home the harvest is far more important than getting drunk and racing rams. Its also more believable from a lore standpoint. There are farms the length and breadth of Azeroth, the Tirisfal Glades, Silverpine, Hillbrad, Ellwyn, Westfall, Darkshire, Mulgore and Durotar all spring to mind as farming country and there have been enough wars to provide fallen heroes to honor. It makes sense as a in-game festival that all the races would choose to celebrate at least one aspect of it if not both.

I just wish Blizzard would concentrate on the festivals which fit in with the game world rather than trying to shoehorn real world celebrations into Azeroth.

Summer Holiday

Where would you holiday in WoW and why? For some reason last night I started thinking about this (my mind wanders when Im tired). So thanks to the Azerothian Travel Company I would like to offer some destinations for your consideration.

You want a beach holiday? Well have you thought about Stranglethorn Vale. We are currently offering two week breaks to this paradise on Azeroth. You will be staying in Booty Bay, a town well known for its fine cuisine and even finer Junglevine Wine and Rum. Your base will be the Salty Sailor Tavern, which is located right in the centre of town. The sea, shops and other amenitities are all within walking distance.

We offer a wide range of activities once you arrive in Stranglethorn.

  1. The coast around STV teems with sealife and as such fishing is a very popular activity, both with locals and guests. Who knows you might even manage to net a giant shark. Any fish you do catch can be cooked for you back at the Tavern.
  2. For the more adventurous we have diving or snorkling trips to the Vile Reef where you can explore sunken ships and the drowned Troll city. As a souvenir of this you can even collect your own blue pearl to prove to your friends that you dived those crystal clear waters.
  3. We also offer many trips to the variety of ruins that litter the landscape. Ask an Azerothian Travel Company Goblin for more details.
  4. Our safaris are also very popular, we take you out to see all the wonderful animal species that bless our landscape from tigers, panthers to gorillas and basiliks. If you want, for slightly more gold you can hunt any or all of them.
  5. Another daytrip which has proved popular in the past is the chance to visit a reallife, active Pirate ship. As part of this deal, you get snuff, rum and the opportunity to ask the pirates any questions you might have about their lifestyle. Its a must really.
  6. For those of you interested in animal life, a trip to Jaguero Isle is an experience like no other. You get to see the largest Gorilla in existance (at least on Azeroth). Marvel at his size as you watch him from our cunningly concealed hides.
  7. We can also offer daytrips to Ratchet for duty free booze.

This is only a small selection of what is available. If you have gold, we can arrange pretty much anything you might want to do or try, dancing girls included.

Caveat: Like any paradise STV has its hidden dangers, but we havent lost a tourist since, well, last week.

The dangers of the Real World

Just come back from a weekend away. In 3 days absence from my computer i have managed to burn my chest and arms, (my peely wally skin didnt take to well to the sunshine) and got a hole in my foot (a long story, but has something to do with the Gnome and a kitchen knife, once a rogue, always a rogue).

For my own safety the next time the Gnomeling thinks we need a break, im going to suggest we go to Winterspring.

Which got me thinking. Where in WoW would you choose to go on holiday and why?

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