The Truth about Challe

Witchcraft has been on my mind these last few days. In part because of the rowan tree laden with berries in my new back garden but also due to the chaos of moving which always makes you look at your possessions in a new light.

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This was a post I started almost a year ago but took no further. I think my intention was to write about the Jade Witch, Hallows End and my favourite Warlock trainer but can’t be too sure but my original working title seems to have been The Witches of Warcraft. Today however inspired by something I discovered on the beta, I thought I’d resurrect it.

One of my all time favourite stories as a child was that of Baba Yaga, my Grandmother and Great Grandmama could tell it in such a way to have shivers racing down your spine. I still don’t like dark forests when the mist comes in because for all you know, that scratching sound, the wind on bark perhaps could be the chicken feet of Baba Yaga’s hut watching and waiting. So there I was riding around Nagrand on an Orc Hunter, exploring and looking for new pets to tame when I came across this rather creepy looking cave.

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I mean fairy stories should teach us all that people who hang wind catchers made of skulls outside their caves have to be approached with caution.
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Inside the cave turned out to be even more creepy, I mean who puts that many nails in a poppet?
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It was the woman inside who caught my attention though. She’s not the first Challe to be encountered in the hills of Nagrand after all. At first because I hadn’t done any quests here I thought perhaps it’s just a mistake or laziness on Blizzard’s part but somehow it kept nagging at my brain. To that point that I even logged on to live and flew to Nagrand to confirm that my memory wasn’t playing tricks.

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Of course on discovering that Challe on Live was Troll, I thought it must just be coincidence but my over active imagination wouldn’t let it drop and instead of logging back onto my Nightelf, I thought I’d do a spot of Orcish questing and with hindsight, I’m so glad I did. A couple of very sad quests later of which I won’t go into details because it spoils the emotional impact of doing them yourself, it seems that Miss Challe, she of the isolated orphanage isn’t quite so charitable and kind after all. In fact, she’s the sort of face eating monster who lurks in the shadows and really shouldn’t be trusted with children. In fact she really deserved having “her” face eaten by my pet cat as displayed in the picture below.
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Of course this helps put certain things about her Home for Little Tykes into perspective, the little Orc boy caged in bones for example and the large quantity of red meat and bones in the kennel take on whole new sinister meaning but that’s what I love about Warcraft and this particular expansion in general. As it gives us the ability to see beyond face value, to engage with characters who have fascinated or interested us for years and potentially to kill them, adding another dimension to the game.

For those of you wishing to see the chain for yourself on the Beta, it’s Horde only (sadly) and can be picked up straight away in Nagrand on a Level 100 Premade or a Lv 98 if leveling through. Gar’rok, the quest giver can be found by the Throne of the Elements, if you’re standing in front of the Giant Elemental types, he’s off to the right hand side up a little path overlooking the lake. The Wowhead link shows a map with his exact position on it.

 

A Few of my Favourite Things: Mr and Mrs WoW’s Community Project

Mr and Mrs WoW have proposed an interesting community project to combat the negativity bouncing around as we slowly drift through the doldrums. They are asking the community at large to inform them what we love doing in Warcraft in these slow days before the expansion is released.

For me it’s a fairly simple list and I hope my little diagram gives a few hints!

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Up there at number one is Archaeology because it gives me the opportunity to wander around Azeroth just as I used to do whilst herbing in the original game. It’s an excuse to relax, look at the scenario and perhaps kill a few mobs or do a spot of fishing as you meander past. On top of that, you also make things which provide the opportunity for either toys or grey items to muse over, perhaps sparking a story or two.

My second choice is exploring old dungeons, the ones I’ve run a thousand times before but never used to stop and take in the scenery. Blackrock Depths is a definite favourite because I like hanging out in the Grim Guzzler picking up Dark Iron Dwarf outfits (my old raid leader really hated these) and the odd pickled egg. The music isn’t too bad either and you can always pick up a few items of clothing to help transform your latest outfit into something even better.

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Third I’ve picked Festivals, those annual excuses to get out of the cities and wander about visiting zones you haven’t seen in ages, dressing up and generally being silly. My favourite of these is Hallows End with it’s broomsticks, headless horseman and candy but really I’m a sucker for all of them, even the weekly Wanderer’s Festival.

My final choice is a bit a cheat really. It’s not so much something I do in WoW but something I do in between playing and that’s catching up on what the rest of the community are doing and saying. Sometimes it takes someone else’s perspective of something like Pet Battling to change your own perception of it (Thanks Navimie and Cymre). I hated archaeology when it was first introduced but I remember reading someone’s almost ode to the wonders of digging in Azeroth’s fertile soil (can’t remember who wrote it) and became hooked. The Godmother helped alter my feelings towards Garrisons and so on. Playing a multi player game is one thing, but diving into the community shows a whole new world out there.

Pre Warlords to do List – It’s Panic Time!

So we have three months almost to the day and it’s time to start panicking in this neck of the woods.

My list can essentially be broken down into 2 parts:

  • Things which having played the Beta I feel are things I want to have achieved
  • Things which would be nice to have but won’t make a huge difference either way

I am however trying to keep both lists relatively short to save myself getting distracted.

  1. Level a Warlock to 90 and attempt to get Green Fire. I’ve no idea how possible this is, leveling itself won’t be an issue as I have multiple Warlocks to choose from but whether I can level, gear to a decent enough standard and beat the boss in time I’m not sure.
  2. Acquire as many of the items on the Toy Box List as possible. Due to the sheer size of this, I’ll probably do a separate post or series chronicling my attempts to achieve this.
  3. Sort out Snowflower’s transmogrification requiring items from UBRS asap as the dungeon will clearly be changing prior to Warlords being released.
  4. Attempt to get Dulcamara to the end of the Brawler’s Guild. She’s rank 7 at the moment but has received a few upgrades since my last attempt at beating the fight she was stuck on. If I keep failing as a Mistweaver, I will try speccing dps to have a go.

My focus with List Two is more to keep things ticking over, for example when I’m running UBRS I’ll try and remember to use a tabard to finish up my Panda Rep and whenever the Faire rolls into town, I’ll do a couple of dailies and my profession quests.

  1. 60 exalted reputations on Snowflower. Whilst this would be great before November, there are new reputations coming with the expansion and I’m not missing that many.
  2. Enough Darkmoon Faire tokens tucked away to purchase the new clothing coming with the expansion.
  3. Farm the other 8000 Dinosaur bones I need for the White Raptor. Riding it on the Beta has shown me how lovely it is.
  4. Farm around 300 Oshu’gun Crystal Powder to get the two Halaa mounts. I have the kill tokens I need so slaughtering some Ogres in practice for the expansion should be easy enough.

I’m sure there are a thousand and one other things but to begin with at least, these eight should keep me out of mischief.

ALT:ernative Chat’s 10 years, 10 questions: Looking Back at the Last 10 Years

Just before I went away for the weekend, the Godmother raised an interesting set of questions on our WoW experiences over the last 10 years and whilst wandering around an art festival and trying not to be sick on people for the last two days, I’ve been mulling over my answers.

 

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

Wandering the aisles of our local supermarket, Mr Harpy picked up WoW from the shelf and suggested we give it a try. We weren’t long back from almost a year of travelling and were looking for some sort of distraction to help us readjust back. He had played all the previous Warcraft games and was a big fan of the franchise. I on the other hand had only played Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne which we had picked up whilst travelling through Canada the previous year. I had no idea what a MMO was and certainly no clue what we were getting ourselves into. At first we just bought one copy to see if we liked it and at first, I quickly bored of the whole thing. In fact it was only by level 10 or so that my interest was sparked again and I think that was by the sheer size of the game, oh and the sea monsters off the coast of Darkshore. In my absence Mr Harpy had managed to join a Guild full of Female Nightelves and imagine my surprise when I discovered that 99 percent of them were played by guys (I may have been slightly more naive at that point) and once I got over the shock of chatting to “real” people through a game, I started to enjoy myself more and more. In the end buying my own copy seemed like the right thing to do and we did, driving an hour to track down another copy.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

The first character I rolled on my own account was a Human Female Warlock. I still have her and by coincidence she was on the realm which was recently joined to my current server so ideally I would like to level her from 62 to the cap at some point.

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She reached Knight-Captain in those early days of the Honor system before being abandoned for a Priest and a  PvP server, thus wears her PvP gear with pride and a certain amount of snark, reminding me that she could have gone all the way had I not left her for bloodier pastures. Her bags do make for an interesting time capsule with their Darkspear Troll Mojo (apparently I really didn’t like Trolls) and her Thrash Blade though. Whilst I did love playing a Warlock, the whole soul shard thing in world pvp was a pain especially given that you had to travel quite a distance to find high enough level mobs from both Hillsbrad and the Barrens plus the summons whispers… grrrr.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

 So whilst Mr Harpy was busy installing our first copy of World of Warcraft, I was flicking through the manual making important decisions like faction, race etc etc. I wanted us to roll a Druid and looking at the pictures, Nightelf catform beat Tauren catform hands down. I know, I know…..  We have since then played both factions and I am rather partial to the Forsaken but we still play Alliance primarily.
4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

After lots of reflection, I think three person healing the end of Anub’arak 25 man Heroic to our first kill has to be the most memorable. Killing C’thun at the time was amazing but we had weeks and weeks of preparation leading up to a sensible kill, clearing Ulduar and getting our Proto-drakes was pretty good as was getting my legendary and of course my Benediction but Anub’arak wins out because it was such a close run thing. Half our healers were dead and people were thinking it’s wipe but somehow, the three of us managed to keep ourselves, the two tanks and enough DPS alive in order for us to get a kill. My hands were shaking so much that around 8 seconds after the giant undead bug keeled over, I died too having too excited to bother healing my debuff any more. Although beating an Arms warrior in vanilla on my Priest for control of the mine in Arathi Basin was pretty sweet too.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

The sheer scale of it. Feel like Healing, join a battleground or dungeon queue. Feel like wandering around by yourself, go for it, there’s plenty of places to go. There was a time when I would have instinctively picked Healing as an answer to this and I do still love it but my anxieties mean that I have increasingly found it hard to partake in this social aspect of the game. I’m hoping that with this new expansion I’ll be able to conquer that, but the truth is, I suspect that I’m just too emotional fragile at the moment.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

Duskwood has held a fascination for me since I first set foot across that rickety bridge almost 9 and a half years ago. I hang out in the Scarlet Raven or wander it’s boneyards visiting old friends. I especially love to visit at Hallows End when all the spooky decorations are out.

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On the Horde side, I’d say Silverpine Forest is a clear favourite again especially at Hallows End.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

On my mostly main Snowflower I have 197 days played although I suspect if I logged every alt and added it all up, the total would be far more scary. It hasn’t been continuous as unfortunately I’ve witnessed more than I’d argue my fair share of in-game Drama. What with Guild leaders who hacked their own websites to read private messages, GMs who did a fair impression of Jekyll and Hyde, turning from a good laugh into a psychopath kicking people for nothing more serious than a slight mistake which they apologized for and just other general nastiness. There was a time when Mr Harpy ran a guild and was accused of running a Cult of Personality by the other officers because the rest of the guild didn’t respect them enough. This would have been funny if it wasn’t for the fact that rather than approach him, said officers thought that coming to me accusing him of being unfair made more sense. Sometimes you just need to run away before the madness gets to you. That’s before I even get into the loot drama, the general rows and spending most of vanilla in a top end raiding guild where everyone hated everyone else and healers were on par with Mages in Dragon Age, useful but best locked up somewhere and denied any loot which might encourage them into unholy ways.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Always and much to the annoyance of Mr Harpy who doesn’t care about lore but just wants to know that he can aoe grind and get healed, not die whilst my nose is buried into quest text. To me the game is a bit like a choose your own adventure game and therefore you have to read the quest text otherwise you’re blundering around in the dark killing for fun and gold and fancy clothes not because X is bad and deserves to have their head cut off and carried back to Stormwind.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

There are a few occasions when I should have spoken up sooner and louder. On the whole though, there might be a lot of blood on my hands but I think my Nightelf Priest would be semi proud at least of the way in which I have carried her through Azeroth.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming? 

Very little. My parents, my Mother in particular see gaming as some satanic ritual guaranteed to condemn you into a life of sin so discussing it with family is completely out. I have after all, enough to argue with my Mother about already. Blogging about the game has helped me keep my hand in with writing, something which was always a massive part of my life and I do have a Wind-rider club guarding my monitor.

The Return of the Good Old Days – Thoughts on Southshore v Tarren Mill

Tarren Mill versus Southshore was the home of my first forays into PvP as first a Warlock in those halycon days* before the Honor system was introduced when the only people you encountered PvPing actually wanted to be doing it (PvE server) and then whilst leveling my Night Elf Priest on a PvP server. I quickly grew to know every inch of that territory, where you could shadowmeld amongst the trees and hide from rampaging Horde and the easiest way to drop Line of Sight. I still remember clearly the feeling of satisfaction when level 45 or so wearing the Mageweave set and Whitemane’s Chapeau I escaped from a level 60 Enhancement Shaman making all the way from the road to the safety of Southshore much to his annoyance expressed loudly on IRC. It was also where I grew to hate engineering when my Gnomish Net-o-Matic backfired and netted both me and the exceedingly large and angry Tauren Warrior trying to kill me side by side. In the aftermath of that little incident I promptly dropped it and leveled Tailoring instead.

It was there I learnt to PvP, learned to deal with res timers and tried to avoid dying as much as possible. The pattern was always the same, one side would gain ground to the point of entering the opposing side’s town and then would promptly be overwhelmed with guards. The trick being to try and avoid dying in downtown Tarren Mill unless you wanted to spend the next 40 minutes ressing, dying to more guards etc over and over again. The guard spawn would give impetus to the currently losing faction and back you’d go again. Some bright spark would always try and kill the Flight Master to stop people escaping and bring down angry animals all over you. Rogues would always sneak into the Inns and try and kill those licking their wounds and eating up. In many ways it’s predictability helped make it even more fun. We had a Mage guildmate whose favourite trick was to lure the Horde up to the cliffs and promptly slowfall off, much to our surprise, he got away with this time after time after time. It became part of the routine as did the comedy runs around the tower and the Warlocks all wandering off mid battle in search of soul shards.

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Unlike Battlegrounds though, there was a lot less of the hate and venom you see being thrown around these days. Perhaps because everyone was participating because they wanted to rather than searching for some carrot on a stick like the legendary cloak. Yes, not everyone liked losing and there was the odd whiny message on IRC but in most cases, everyone took it in good humour. As the picture above shows (the only one I have left from back then), after the PvP there was silly things like cross faction unarmed boxing matches where everyone played by the rules and no one resorted to using spells or swords.

Therefore I’m sure it comes as no great surprise to anyone that I’m super excited by this announcement by Blizzard.

Tarren Mill vs. Southshore: The Rematch

If you engaged in PvP early on in WoW, you might have fond memories of—and perhaps a few scars from—the endless tug-of-war between Horde and Alliance players at Tarren Mill and Southshore. To recapture that feeling, we’ll be opening a Team Deathmatch–style Battleground based on that timeless struggle. However, unlike the old days of Tarren Mill vs. Southshore, there will be a clearly defined victor, so you’ll need to work as a team or face crushing defeat.

I am of course interested in just how they intend to pull it off. Deathmatch suggests that you start with 100 v 100 but that dying means just that which I admit does take away some of the old school feeling because everyone should experience ressing inside a Tauren mounted on a Kodo somewhere near that Tower between the two towns at least once. However I suspect I’ll be happy regardless although I’d prefer it if they didn’t make the Yeti cave, the farms and the mine count for anything just keep it focused on pure slaughter and of course have the guard spawns because it needs the guard spawns for realism.

As for it only being available for a limited period, I suspect that this could be a good thing. Taking 200 people from the Battleground pool all the time for 1 game would I imagine be problematic and with everything nostalgic it’s probably best to throw yourself in deep for a a month or so until you’re so sick of it, the very mention of it’s name has you gagging rather than want to drag it out. As with all PvP endeavors it probably won’t be for everyone however I hope people give it the benefit of the doubt and try it at least once.

I am of course happy at the thought of a Core Hound mount and a corgi on fire but for me, the reason I’ll be logging during the anniversary is 100 percent the chance to recreate old memories and make some new ones somewhere between Southshore and Tarren Mill.

*This is most certainly tongue in cheek.

Sea and Sand

We live in a beautiful part of the country, although I’m biased because this close to the sea everything is beautiful in my eyes. However for various reasons, I’m trying to combat years of spending 11 hours a day either at my desk or commuting to work and this involves lots of walks regardless of the weather. It also involves trying to get to know the local landscape a lot more, after all, we’ve only lived here a year next weekend so there is still lots to explore from ruined villages on beaches and the bare bones of castles clung to cliffs like nesting birds.

This weekend we went to two places, both rather close to our house. The first was a bird reserve with a lovely waterfall and thousands of birds.
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If you follow the path away from the reserve you end up here with lots of rocks and the pools of all different colours.
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Then on Sunday because despite the forecast, there wasn’t any torrential rain, we went to our local beach.

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Getting down onto the sand requires a slightly precarious trip down the side of a cliff. Hand rails aren’t something we seem particularly good at, perhaps the authorities assume everyone who lives around here had a previous life as a mountain goat.
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The beach ends with yet another waterfall and lots of rocks. There is an old fisherman’s cottage just peeking out amongst the rocks at the foot of the waterfall which must have been a fabulous if slightly scary place to live once upon a time.

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This one is for Matty.
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I have a slight obsession with driftwood, there is something pure about it’s bleached whiteness and this piece with it’s fishing twine and weeds caught up in, suggests that Mother Nature sees art in the strangest things.
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The beach might look empty but someone had obviously been here before us. At this time of year, lots of jellyfish wash up but there is something creepy yet beautiful about the fact that someone placed this egg shaped stone on top of this one.

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The rocks are made up of various materials including slate but I just liked the contrast of this rusty piece of metal, hot orange against that blue sky with the dark grey rocks tinged with green.
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So, we’re climbing a cliff along a path where there has clearly been a landslide at some point in recent history and we come across this sign. Do we automatically retreat? Of course not, the incorrect spelling of the first word surely makes the rest of the text immaterial.  To be fair, whilst I wouldn’t have wanted to attempt it in the rain or even on damp ground, the path was no more dangerous than the one we came down in the first place but I just liked the sign and the fact that it had been brutally thrust aside by someone else.
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Finally, this is the view from just above the dangerous sign, showing the rocks stretching away into the distance.
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A Vision-wrapped attempt at a personal WoW revamp

I’m in a funny place with WoW at the moment. I want to play, in fact I even have a mini list in my head of things I want to do but when I log in I find myself randomly staring into space and doing nothing at all. Today for example I logged my Monk and went Timeless Isle. Once there, I rode around aimlessly for a bit, had a go at killing something and discovered I’d completely forgotten my keybinds. Smarting slightly from my narrow escape, I logged my Priest and attempted to do some archaeology. This to be fair, was marginally more successful but now I’m in the “interesting” position of making rares on almost every type and they take too long for my current WoW attention span.

  • I want to level a Warlock to 90 but questing feels stale.
  • I want more achievement points
  • I want to become exalted with 60 reputations on Snowflower.
  • I want to make a Horde character now that our server has been merged and level it to 90 in preparation for the expansion.
  • I want to make more gold because I never enter expansions with enough

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things I want to achieve when it comes WoW and yet I just can’t find the enthusiasm to push myself forward. In some ways I feel I’ve spoilt the current game for myself by dabbling away in the Beta.

So rather than sink into self pity, I decided that what I needed was transmogrification to cheer me up.

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I’ve tried to pick items that require dungeon runs or quest chains that Snowflower hasn’t completed yet like the Chillwind chain in the Plaguelands and of course the Polychromatic Visionwrap since UBRS is being revamped in the expansion. The plan therefore is to attempt to farm these or similar items over the next fortnight and hope at the same time that this re-wakes my enjoyment in the game.

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