All I want for Hallows End is ….

Tomorrow heralds the start of my favourite WoW holiday, Hallows End and I’ve got my fingers crossed that these two little no longer alive kittens have made into the festivities. I know the game is already loaded with cats, especially when compared to dogs but still.. you can’t have too many ghost cats can you?

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In fact I could forgo all the other bits and bobs, the apple ducking, the skeletons hanging on cupboards and even the Headless Horseman if only they make it into the game this year. Please Blizzard, after all I’ve been a good little Priest (honest!).

#WoWscreenshotaday: The October Diaries

Tycertank that temptress is yet again running her #WoWscreenshotaday prompt. I admit it feels somewhat fortuitous because I seem to have stopped taking and posting screenshots with anywhere near the frequency I used to. However whether or not I make it to the end of the month still remains to be seen. I particularly like the prompt this time around though because it seems to me at least to give way more scope.

A is for Apple Tree.

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B is for Boat.

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C is for Carriage or Coach.

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D is for Downpour, Drenched and Drowned which most of Menethil is these days.

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E is for  Éboulement. Now this might seem like cheating to some however you can use it in English although you might get called pretentious.

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F is for Fishing.

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G is for Ghost.

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Fandom Friday – Gateway Fandoms That Made Me Who I Am Today

Flicking through Twitter yesterday I noticed that Neri of Mama Needs Mana had tweeted what looked like an interesting link to a blog I’d never heard of before. Needless to say I went to have a look and immediately loved the idea proposed by the Nerdy Girlie. Lists are one of my great passions, it’s not that I’m particularly organised but something about an ordered and bullet pointed collection of words which just sings to me. Plus I found the idea of Gateway Fandoms intriguing because I never identified as Geek during my childhood / teenage years despite having some truly geeky interests. So to start at the beginning:

1. 2000AD

My Father thought that Televisions make you fat and lazy, thus we didn’t have one (although the second I left for University… what did they buy?). Instead I played outside, I built things (mostly forts), I sewed and I read anything I could get my hands on. I quickly decided that Mandy and other “girl” comics were too juvenile for me and aged around 8 or 9 I spread my comic reading wings and fell head over heels in love with 2000AD. Luckily other than making pronouncements like TVs are bad, my parents paid very little attention to my choice in reading matter because reading = good regardless of subject or quality. It wasn’t just Judge Dread or Judge Anderson although I had definite crushes on both at various points but the art work and the whole feel of the comic. It inspired me in the art work I submitted at school and pushed me think outside the bubble in which I existed. I still have most of my comics from that period because I just can’t bring myself to throw them out and of course I’ve watched both Judge Dread movies although I was disappointed about the portrayal of Anderson in the last one.

2. Star Trek

As my father was in the Air Force, the only colour which mattered was Blue and I think the world which Roddenberry envisioned had many similarities to the one I thought I grew up in. A world where women could be pilots and where you came from was less important in the grand scheme when compared with the choices you made. Then when I discovered the harsh reality of the world around us, Star Trek made even more sense to me. I grew up in Germany and given that we lived in a German town not on an Air Force base had a variety of friends. These were other Service kids, local Germans and the children of Turkish workers. Now unsupervised we all got on fine but add in parents and things got messy fast. Most of the German parents didn’t want their children hanging out with the Turkish children and most of the Turkish parents didn’t want their children hanging out with anyone who wasn’t Turkish. To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement and of course had us children wishing for a world where being human was enough, thus we searched for sanctuary amongst the many worlds of Star Trek and got good at deceiving authority, after all.. the needs of the many (us) outweighed the needs of the few (the parents who had issues).

3. Gothic Literature

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Dracula, Carmilla, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights.. These novels heavily influenced my early forays into dating as well as fascinating me on much deeper level. Was Stoker’s attempt at creating a monster who feeds of  the life blood of his peasants before retreating to the safety of his castle a dig at the Angl0-Irish landowners for example or is it just what it’s presented as.. either way it’s a brilliant read and has spawned so many wonderful things. At Halloween, I still like to bring my battered old copy of Dracula out and read it even though I know exactly what’s going to happen. I think those early reading experiences also had a marked impression on what I like to read today, as I’m drawn to books like Kim Harrison’s The Hollows collection and well anything with ghosts or vampires in it. I think I owe my fascination with the Day of the Dead and with Halloween to my love of the Gothic too. Without these stories I wouldn’t have carted a five foot wooden skeleton across the Atlantic nor have almost as many Halloween decorations as I do Christmas ones.

4. Pre-Raphaelite  Art

In many ways this is similar I suppose to my love of the Gothic but those paintings get inside your head and make you see the world differently, at least they did for me. They made me realise that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and that all too often we don’t see what’s right in front of us. The four core and founding beliefs behind the movement should inspire us still today:

  1. to have genuine ideas to express
  2. to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them
  3. to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote
  4. most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues

and they certainly played a role in my development.

5. World of Warcraft

Without WoW this blog wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have encountered so many interesting and passionate people. The game has pushed me creatively and mentally in so many ways, from sewing my own Tree of Life and managing to sustain writing which despite my love of it has proved remarkably hard given my mental state over the last few years.

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.

Dorrie and the Quest for Green Fire

As the next patch draws closer I’m ever so slightly in panic mode. There is one thing I’d love to do before every changes once again and that’s level my little Warlock to 90 and give the Green Fire quest a shot. So in the next month can I get a level 39 Gnome to 90 plus acquire enough gear and then learn to play her well enough to get shiny green flames? I suspect not but there is no harm in trying.

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Also if you didn’t read the Dorrie books whilst growing up, keep an eye out for them because they are wonderful. Thanks to them I spent my childhood wishing I could ride a broomstick and have my very own cauldron.

Nostalgia – That Bittersweet Pill

Nostalgia is a funny thing. In someways those first few years playing WoW were my happiest, playing with a stable group of people, raiding high end content and generally enjoying myself.Yet when I unpick those memories most of them aren’t hugely happy ones. I’ve certainly been left wary of trusting others, of fully engaging with my current guild because of things which have gone before.

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I’ve just spent the afternoon running UBRS remembering how much I loathed the place when it was current content, when the General only dropped one blood and therefore you had to run it over and over again to get your whole raid attuned for Blackwing Lair. I remember having to solo heal it one day in a raid of 15 because the other Priest took offense when someone linked the healing meter (not me) and set out to smite the rest of the run. The wipes because people adored hugging the whelps or being knocked off various ledges and edges. The fights we would have to convince the rest of the group that they’d should do Solakar Flamewreath because Priests deserved a shot at their dungeon set shoulders just like everyone else. Then there was the night we had to go and rescue a guildmate who joined an UBRS raid three or four hours before hand so that he could raid with us the following night and when he finally asked for help, they’d only made it as far as the Rookery… I think I still have nightmares about that PuG.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of WoW, I find myself questioning why I’m still here, why I haven’t learnt from past mistakes and run away as fast as my legs would carry me.  There are plenty of decisions the Developers have made which have left me rolling my eyes but the flip side of that is they’ve also done things I love, Hallows End and Ulduar being prime examples. Besides if they always got it right for me, they would be no doubt a fairly large subsection of people criticizing that because they just don’t like or enjoy the same things as me. Yes it’s a balancing act but it’s not as simple as say deciding not to read a book because either things contained within the text revolt you or you just think a five year old could produce more literary merit. Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example, a friend gave me the first one stating I’d love it. I read the first few chapters in a mix of disgust and horror, imagining Thomas Hardy rolling in his grave and made a conscious decision not to purchase any of her books. WoW on the other hand is more than just a game, it’s a community, something which inspires and pushes me. Do the pluses out way the negatives, I’d argue yes they do at least in my current circumstances as I sit here trying to figure out a way of coping with ante-natal depression and what comes after. Besides, I think there is hope for WoW. People can and do change their minds and their perspectives, it’s just about keeping the dialogue going in such a way that everyone can engage with it. After all, when someone creates something and pushes it out into the Public view then they have to expect criticism. I read English Literature at University and that’s pretty much all we did, unpick other people’s words trying to get inside their heads. Art History contains a fairly hefty criticism component. We have book reviews, Food critics and people who write about the Theatre so why should the Gaming Industry expect to be any different?

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.

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