#IntPiPoMo 2014 – Theramore before and afterwards

Once again November has rolled around bringing with it IntPiPoMo which was originally started by Angelya of Revive & Rejuventate but is now hosted by Jojo of Admiring Azeroth. The idea behind IntPiPoMo is to post fifty screenshots/pictures across the month with no set themes or rigid rules however given that we are a week away from the latest Warcraft expansion, I suspect the vast majority of mine will be WoW related.

Theramore 

Before.. there were tradespeople bustling around and guards watching, their hands brushing their sword hilts.

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Before.. there were buildings, white stone tamed into Inns and Keeps. Wood carved into lintels and doorways, everything serving a purpose.

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Before.. there was life. Vivid green grass trapped between cobbled pathways  and bird song fluting down from the walls.

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Afterwards.. there were graves, so tidy hiding the truth about those entombed below the earth, none of those who lie beneath were ever this neat in life.

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Afterwards.. there was broken rock and twisted wood, the remains of the buildings shattered like the bones of those who inhabited them. Spiral staircases rearing up to the sky like jagged spines ending in emptiness and burns smeared across the pale stone.

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Afterwards.. there was death. Craters tinged with blood and raw angry magic bubbling up with hatred.

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With thanks to Zidormi who lifts the veil between past and present so that we will not forget and we will not forgive.

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On a Quest for the Best Quests : Dustwallow Marsh Alliance

Edit: Thanks to @spacebard for pointing out my Freudian slip with the name of the zone, as I prefer the place at twilight or dusk I have a terrible habit of calling it Duskwallow plus I suspect the correct name annoys me on some basic level because it’s not dusty in the slightest.

Leveling my Warlock has made me realise one fairly important fact, well two if you count that it highlights just how much I’m a creature of habit. Each zone seems to have at least two or three attractions within it, things which even if I’m just passing through I tend to be lured towards. Obviously this comes down to personal opinion and preferences but now I find myself wondering if this is true of every zone in game. Is there something  whether it’s because of the lore, the rewards or just the quirkiness which makes each individual zone interesting and worth repeating?

Well there is only one way to find out!

Today I want to look at Dustwallow Marsh, a zone I’ve always loved even back in the days when the Alliance barely had any quests here apart from the wonderfully convoluted “The Missing Diplomat” which had you running around Azeroth in search of the missing King. I know we could hardly be hunting Varian when he’s standing brooding in the Keep, but I wish when they redesigned the zone, they had left in the bit where Jaina and the Archmage port in to capture the bad guys.

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The one quest chain I always complete when I wander through the Marsh is that tragic tale of Smiling Jim and his unlucky family. There is something about Jim with his broken mind, perhaps the one person in the walled city for whom the destruction of Theramore was a blessing which always inspires me onwards to track down those responsible and of course to lay a wreath on the grave of his wife and son.

Flicking through my archives, I wrote about this chain way back in 2010 before Cataclysm ripped everything asunder and it’s interesting that unlike most quests in Azeroth it hasn’t actually changed much between now and then. The bread crumb from the Wetlands is gone but the essence of the chain remains the same.

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The second quest I tend to make a bee-line for is that terrible tale of a sea monster  named Tethyr. The chain begins with a quest to help a curious Gnome restart the Theramore Lighthouse and then once  you’ve got it going again, you learn from Nat Pagle that not only are legends of a sea monster off Theramore real but that Tethyr was the real reason they closed the lighthouse in the first place.

Yes, Tethyr is certainly real, and he lives in the waters off Theramore.

Has a thing for bright lights. He’s the reason they shut down the lighthouse in the first place, you know…

And if you light it up again, he’ll come right back. But no one in their right mind would do that.

Everyone’s favourite in-game fisherman and of course giant monsters with huge teeth are always going to be a winning combination.
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The Marsh is also the location of my favourite escort quest in the whole of Azeroth although to be fair that’s not particularly hard since I hate the rest of them with a passion.  Escorting Stinky through the marshlands as he pauses searching for what you assume the first time around is some tiny little flower hidden in the long grasses and swamp waters and saving him from angry crocodiles is fun enough by itself but that moment when you realise that plant which has taken him five minutes to find is actually the giant root you can see for miles…

The last thing I always do is pay Oxynia a visit in her lair and ponder the issue which has bothered me since the first time I killed her way back when, exactly who is the father of all those whelps? Our Priest chat* at the time decided it was either Bolvar or Marshal Windsor (well he knew she was Dragon…) although there are exceedingly dodgy theories out there on the internet if you are feeling brave enough to search for them.

*No one actually talked about Priesting, unless you count loot.

50 Shades of Grey: The IntPiPoMo edition

Karazhan in the rain

Incy wincy spider

A Tree

The Theramore Graveyard

Sunday Storytime: The Aftermath of Theramore

Just three little stories charting the reaction of my three very different Priests to the events of Theramore.

Night Elf

Twisting the soft shining fabric of her robes, the Nightelf Priestess lent against the Temple Garden walls. Eyes closed she tried to bring peace to her turbulent thoughts. Every time she felt she was winning the battle, pushing her unchecked emotions back into the pool of her subconscious, the image of a dark blue haired elf rose like a drowning woman, gasping for air and vengeance. As a tide of rage washed over the Priestess, her magic rose to answer it’s song and for a moment everything felt right. Then opening her eyes, she glanced down to see instead of the familiar golden light bathing her hands, ribbons of shadows twisting around them. For the first time in her long life, fear enveloped her in it’s dark embrace. An alien emotion, it sat smugly on her tongue like a toad, poisoning her mind. She could taste it’s sourness every time she swallowed and in response, the shadows weaved around her like a shroud.

Forsaken

The heat of Orgrimmar was just as oppressive as it’s walls, rich red sand coated everything and turned even the finest food to ashes on your tongue. Not that particular issue was a problem to  the Forsaken Priest surveying the city from her vantage point by the waterfall, watching the Orcs below as if they were ants on the dust. Stretching her aching bones, she moved to the shade, Garrosh was keeping them waiting on purpose, probably hoping the sun and the implied insults would push their tongues over the edge. He had a lot to learn, no one does patience like the dead. In dark crypts and in dusty coffins it pays to turn a blind eye to the passing of time, no point in measuring it out in cobwebs or decaying flesh. Hearing heavy footsteps, she looked up to see her escort heading her way, clearly it was time. Wrapping her long dark cloak around her boney shoulders, the Priest acknowledged their salutes and stalked towards her meeting with the Warchief. Once a soldier, always a soldier and for a brief second imagining the conflict to come, she felt almost alive again.

Gnome

Scurrying through the Mage quarter, wrapped in her heavy cloak, the Gnome slid from shadow to shadow, drawing no attention. Past the increased military patrols and past the gossiping Mages sitting outside the Blue Recluse she hurried. Up the winding staircase she ran, stopping only in the safety of her own little apartment on the top floor. It was only then, in private as she unwrapped herself from the woolly cloak, discarding her gloves and scarf that she allowed herself to weep. Spilling hot salty tears for those considered friends now nothing more than dust in the wind. Poor Cassa Crimsonwing who had wanted nothing more than to fly with her gryphons and Spot, whose excited barking would no longer echo through the stone passage ways of Theramore Keep. Eyes red and sore from crying, she started to collect her bits and pieces. Spell books, herbs, warm clothes, cool clothes, dried Heaven Peaches from Darnassus and a jar of pickled eggs all disappeared into the travelling bag. Throwing her tiny green ragdoll on top, the Gnome proceeded to bounce up and down on the case until protestingly it shut. Justice and revenge, when it comes down to it, they’re sisters under the skin and in that moment, Sprout didn’t care which she got.

The Destruction of Theramore: How I would have designed it.

I know I and quite a few others have been pretty critical of the Theramore event so I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and describe how I would played out the destruction had I been in charge of the design team. On the plus side it would have been epic but on the negative, MoP might have had half the budget but omelette/broken eggs and all that.

There will be some spoilers for the Tides of War so if you haven’t read the book feel free to look away now.

An event as momentous as the destruction of Theramore should be available to more than just those players at the level cap, therefore I would have made the first stages available to everyone of a level high enough to play in Dustwallow Marsh. Hitting level 35 especially after the changes they made to the level sizes would be easily within reach of everyone. The final “world event” bits would be available to everyone regardless of level.

So in the Beginning (Phase 1): This would have started around five weeks before the expansion start date.

Horde: Start with a spot of bullying in Orgrimmar helping Malkorok  (if you haven’t read the book lets just say he’s a really nasty Orc) weed out some of the more “misguided” of it’s citizens. After all, Garrosh needs to know he can trust you and what better way of discovering if you’re made of the right stuff by sending you out to do his dirty work. Once Garrosh felt you were loyal to the cause, you would be despatched to Dalaran to pass on a secret message to certain Bloodelf.

Alliance: Theramore is in danger and the heroes of the Alliance are once again called to Stormwind. Despite being battle hardened, you know little about spycraft and spend a few hours learning from the master himself, Mattias Shaw. From sneaking around the Palace learning a few dubious facts about Harrison Jones (I always knew he was a bad man!) to weeding out a Horde spy in the basement of the Blue Recluse you have to prove your mettle to the best S1: 7 has to offer.

Rewards:

Horde - Mind-forg’d Manacles (five hour cooldown, not usable in combat): A vanity item equipped in the bracer slot which allows the wearer to disappear in a cloud of smoke a la vanish. A must for all good spies and anyone fancying a career in the circus. Unfortunately where you reappear can’t always be relied on, 98.3 percent of the time it’s twenty yards away, other times it might be on a different continent. Wearer beware and all that.

Alliance – Binded Briars (five hour cooldown, not usable in combat): Basically the same as the Horde version only with a more flowery name.

Phase 2: Around three weeks before the expansion start date.

Would have seen both sides head towards Dustwallow Marsh. The Alliance to Theramore itself and the Horde to  a zeppelin parked in the hills between the Barrens and Theramore. This phase would involve a daily style hub, one for each faction with a range of quests involving both subtle spying and actual skirmishes. Everything from aerial missions to try and discover what the opposing faction are actually up to, a spot of deep sea diving to plant mines/defuse them depending on your faction and collecting ingredients to weave magic spells to either weaken or strengthen the city walls. If you were Alliance that might involve going out alongside Shandris Feathermoon or General Marcus Jonathan or as Horde you might find yourself standing next to Baine in the battle lines.

In general though, there would be an increase in troop movements with the Alliance and Horde armies amassing ready for battle. In the cities, even those of the Eastern Kingdoms there would have a been a larger martial presence than normal too as both factions geared up for full out war.

Phase 3: A week before the expansion start date.

For the Alliance the actual explosion would come as the end of a daily. Players would complete the quest as normal but at the end would be shown a cut scene of the zeppelin flying over Theramore, Kalecgos trying to fight it off and then the huge purple glow as what was once a thriving city became nothing but a few burnt out buildings and a massive flickering crater.

At this point the Scenario would become available for characters in their 85th season.

On the Horde side, things would be slightly different. On the completion of your daily if you were 85, you would be offered the chance to queue for the Scenario and when that was over, you’d see the same cut scene as the Alliance. Players lower than 85 would just see the cutscene, the same as the Alliance.

Scenario: Basically as is currently is, rewarding the mini mana bomb and the tabard respectively.

Phase 4: The aftermath. Starting one day after the Scenario became available.

This would be a bit of a world event. It and it’s rewards would be available to everyone regardless of level and regardless of whether or not they’d completed the scenario. So for example lev 1s could take part and get involved.

In Orgrimmar the Horde would be celebrating the destruction of Theramore with victory marches, fireworks and speeches. Tables laden with food, roasted clefthoof imported from Outland and other expensive and delicious foods transported from the far reaches of Azeroth. Baine and Vol’jin would be noticeably absent. Just like with the Wickerman festival, things would kick off with a speech from Garrosh every night at 7.00pm server time. During the day, drunken celebrating soldiers would be sprawled around their benches sleeping off the excesses of the night before or talking up their part in the war effort.

In Stormwind the civilian population of Theramore (at least those who were safely evacuated) would be set up in a small refugee camp within the city walls. A new statue would be erected in the graveyard to give remembrance to those that died bravely defending their home. Instead of a victory march, there would be a vigil in the cemetery with candles and speeches from Jaina and Varian, remembering the dead and spurring on the living into seeking justice for their friends and loved ones. Again, things would begin at 7.00 pm only this time the event would start with the refugees moving slowly from their camp to the graveyard, in single file with their candles in hand.

Once players had witnessed these events, they would receive a “reward package” containing various vanity items.

Rewards:

Alliance:

  • A wand which is usable by everyone which conjures the smokey golden image of little giggling Gnome girl. At night if you’re by any street lamps which aren’t currently lit, as she floats past, they would automatically light. A permanent version of the one mentioned in the book which made me cry so much.
  • A trinket which allows you to summon a blue haired Nightelf warrior to fight alongside you for five minutes.

Horde:

  • A wand which summons the image of a blackrock Orc, despite him only being there as a shadow any NPC Horde characters in the vicinity will immediately start talking about their allegiance to Garrosh and how he’s ten times the Warchief that Thrall was.
  • A trinket which allows you to summon a Bloodelf Mage in a Sunreaver outfit to fight alongside you for five minutes.

When all four fade into nothingness, the last thing they would say is “Remember Theramore”.

Basically I’d want the scenario to feel like a chapter from the story rather than just a random event dropped into the game. I also think that the game world working more closely with the book would have the added and extra benefit of then making people who perhaps wouldn’t normally buy tie in books decide that yes, they would like to read the whole story to help put things completely into context.

How would you have done it?

Theramore: The Aftermath

99 red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells it’s red alert
There’s something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky as 99 red balloons go by

From ’99 Luftballons

Much has already been written about Theramore and I suspect the deluge is far from over.

Scenarios: In principle I love the concept of scenarios, quick little bites which you and two others can run through picking up shinies and having fun and when looked at purely in that light, Theramore is fine. You kill some Orcs, blow up a few ships and help Jaina, great I had a blast as Mr Harpy and a random hunter competed to pull as many mobs as possible. In practise, I agree with those who have already stated that Theramore was the wrong story for a scenario.  Without having read the book, there is a huge crater sized hole in your knowledge (and yes, my book “review” with Victorian overtones will be coming soon) and that to me is wrong. Too much of the plot recently has taken place in pages rather than in pixels, Deathwing destroying Auberdine for example or the Forsaken overrunning Southshore. We as players who are invested in this world, in these characters are powerless to do anything as some deus ex machina wrecks havoc on all we hold dear. That is a hard pill to swallow time and time again.

On the destruction of a much loved city: I am still grumpy about this. Theramore was always a home from home for many of my characters, in part because of it’s outstanding sunsets and sunrises. I’m also disappointed with Jaina’s character development as seen through the Tides of War (something I will cover in later post). However that I find myself wondering whether perhaps it was necessary.

You see, despite thinking I had lost the hunger to raid, thinking that I was happy running around collecting pets and pvping, I find Theramore has created a shift in that perception. Now I want to march on Orgrimmar, I want to see Garrosh fall and then I want to spit on his corpse and plant my Theramore banner on it. I want to dance on his face with my cute little Gnome feet and I want to see him burn just like Theramore did. Do I rate the book, no not really and do I like the scenario, no but it’s had a physical and emotional effect on me. I didn’t want to kill Deathwing even though he destroyed a plethora of my favourite places, but Garrosh….. oh he’s going down. In the end, that’s all storytelling is meant to do isn’t it.

Screenshot Saturday – A farewell to Theramore

Two factions, both alike in dignity,
In fair Theramore, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

With apologises to Mr Shakespeare but I’m sure he’d understand

Theramore as it currently exists is one of my favourite cities, a place which holds many happy memories for me. From my first and rather pathetic foray into dubious RP with long forgotten Nightelves in the Inn to pvp on the long and twisting road through the marshes. Disembarking on the dock having sailed from the Wetlands to take on a dragon in her lair and sitting fishing on the pier watching the sun sink behind the horizon, painting the waves pink in it’s wake, so many things spring to mind when I think of Theramore.

The scene is set and the players assembled. Soon the Marsh will never be the same again.

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