A ghost Moose makes mount number 191

I want to like archaeology more than I do. In the real world, I love wandering around museums and ancient sites. Recently I saw the Westray Wife otherwise known as the Orkney Venus in the flesh or so to speak. Although I admit I expected her to be bigger than the fridge magnet version someone gave me but instead it turns out the magnet was to scale. In game though especially in Legion, it seems such a chore. I did enough digs to get the 600 bones I needed and then hightailed it out of Highmountain. Luckily enough it also gave me all of the Highmountain display items so now I have no reason to go back, no reason to dig there. I know I have discovered everything and that takes away the magic, takes away what I imagine archaeology is really about. That sense of discovery, of learning something that was once known but is now forgotten.

 

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Filling the Toybox – Part 1

One of my favourite new additions to Warcraft is the Toy Box. I find myself almost wishing that I didn’t have to wait another few days for the next patch before this feature is released into my hot little hands. It’s first of all a list plus it’s going to free up beautiful and desperately needed bag space across so many of my characters so what’s not to love.

toybox1
I’ve tried to be a bit systematic here, things I’m currently attempting to farm are green, items which aren’t yet available in game are red and items which come from Trading Cards are purple. Anything which is purchasable for any sort of currency whether gold, Timeless Coins or some sort of token is orange.

 

So to sum up page 1, that’s currently 8 items definitely not obtainable until the expansion starts in earnest with a further one item as a maybe. Then we have three things from varying branches of Archaeology, 5 drops from various mobs currently in-game and one item purchasable for Champion’s Seals. As things stand out of these 18, I possess a whopping four items, although I do have enough seals to purchase the Argent Crusader’s Banner so I suppose my current score for page 1 is 5/18.

toybox2

 

toybox3

 

toybox4

 

Well based on the first four pages, it’s going to be while before I get my hands on the achievement and reward for 150 toys. So far I have twenty two of these out of a possible 74 with a further 22 unavailable until Draenor aligns itself once again with Azeroth.

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!

wordle

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.

WoWScrnShot_082014_173540

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.

On boxes for Toys – Thoughts on Toyboxes in Warlords

This is my toybox. It’s traveled across Europe and the UK and is currently housed in our attic. These days it no longer holds toys but it’s one of those pieces of furniture which encapsulates so much about my childhood, I don’t see myself ever managing to throw it out. I’ve hidden inside it, turned it into a massive dolls house and stored my study notes for my degree in it. It currently holds winter clothes and is just waiting for me to finish scrapping off all those stickers.

Therefore it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that one of the things I’m most interested in with the Warlords Alpha is Blizzard’s long promised toy box. So far we have only seen screen caps but just having a fraction of the items currently littering up my bags safely stored elsewhere can only be a massive upgrade for the game. I did a bit of testing across various characters and discovered that I have far too many bag slots taken up by vanity items, with the vast majority of Snowflower’s bank slots being consumed by items like Gnomeregan Pride and Direbrew’s remote. On Dulcamara alone, my Monk made a year ago I have over 16 slots filled with fun but mostly pointless stuff.  Obviously until the game goes live and we get the final list, we can’t be sure how many of these items will vanish from our bags but I’ve reached the point where I’ll be grateful for any returned bag slots.

The other reason I’m looking forward to this feature is a slightly more practical one, there are plenty of these items out there, whether quest rewards or random drops that I might not know about and having a handy list whilst taking that serendipitous feeling out of acquiring things, helps ensure you track down everything you are interested in.

Obviously this is still the Alpha and we are potentially along away off the final toybox, I would like to see quest rewards like Jin Warmkeg’s Brew and the Cooking School Bell make it onto the list. However having a place to store all the Archaeological items and the items from the Timeless Isle will be a massive advantage alone. I’m also glad that items like the Mushroom Chair from Cataclysm and the Rituals of the New Moon from Wrath have also made the box because it would have been too easy just to put in bits and bobs from MoP onwards. The fact that the first engineering transportation trinkets have made the list gives me hope that the rest will follow suit and with any luck between now and launch, we can work with Blizzard to put together a comprehensive list of things which should be tucked away in the toybox.

A complete list of items encluded so far can be found in this thread on MMO-Champion or here on WoWhead.

Endgame: The Monk’s Gambit

So I bit the bullet and leveled. My monk is now 90 and having a surprisingly large amount of fun. Ever contrary it seems that as everyone else is losing that WoW feeling, I’ve got my groove back.

This weekend I found myself uttering the words I never expected to slip past my lips, “Let’s just queue to Strand of the Ancients because it’s the call to arms and it’s amazing”. As it turns out, on monks it is a great place to pvp because of all the utility which comes as a standard regardless of spec. No one else slowing vehicles, fine, I can do it myself at no mana or chi cost to myself. No one else cc’ing chasing opponents, no problem, slow one, paralyze one, silence one, disarm one and rinse and repeat. Finally I have the control my control freak nature appreciates.

I’ve also being doing a lot of Tol Barad as it’s an easy five hundred honor per game. It’s just a shame that the Horde on my server don’t see the point of queuing up. This is one zone that I really wish was cross realm as I miss the massive battles with three raid groups we had the start of Cataclysm when it was new and shiny and gave semi useful rewards.

tol barad
In between PvP, I’ve started leveling archaeology. My goal for this week is to cap it out and also hopefully acquire as many of the interesting items as possible. The pick up, put down nature of it suits being interwoven in between battleground queues and the screenshot opportunities it provides suits me down to the ground.

wetlands

I’m almost completely geared in the current honor set and my conquest point count is climbing nicely so the next thing on the agenda will be to run those scenarios so I can experience the Battlefield which has become the Barrens prior to the patch. Given all those happy days I spent pvping in the Barrens it seems only fitting that my journey should take me there again.

 

Pygmalion Complex – Building the Perfect Woman

The idea of men searching for the perfect mate and then having to resort to building their own is ancient one. As we search through literature, it’s a concept we encounter time and time again and now it’s found it’s way into WoW.

When Pygmalion saw these women spending their lives in criminal pursuits, shocked at the vices which Nature had so plentifully imparted to the female disposition, he lived a single life without a wife, and for a long time was without a partner of his bed. In the meantime, he ingeniously carved a statue of snow-white ivory with wondrous skill; and gave it a beauty with which no woman can be born; and then conceived a passion for his own workmanship. The appearance was that of a real virgin, whom you might suppose to be alive, and if modesty did not hinder her, to be desirous to move; so much did art lie concealed under his skill. Pygmalion admires it; and entertains, within his breast, a flame for this fictitious body.

Ovid (Metamorphoses X)

Sound familiar? Well if you’re been following the discussion on the Thunder King’s most precious possessions, the Twin Consorts, it should.

Players who look closely at the models of these celestial twins will note that they seem quite literally carved out of stone. Indeed, these were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a direct reflection of his will rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole.

To say Blizzard handled this badly would be an understatement. A fairly large and vocal percentage of the community (rightly so) have been protesting about the lack of female models for more than half the races for years and once again, Blizzard fell head first into the trap. However I’m not going to go into that because Nyxrinne, Apple Cider and Navimie have already covered it. What I want to talk about instead is the missed opportunities Blizzard have let saunter past them once again.

Stories don’t exist in a vacuum and with games like WoW, Blizzard have the perfect opportunity to drop hints and clues long in advance. We know from the various quests that MoP launched with that the Thunder King was always going to be brought back so far more preparation could have been done.  We also know that the Mogu themselves came from stone, brought to flesh and blood by the same curse which gave us Gnomes (basically it’s all the Old Gods fault!).

Their ancient research delivered to them methods of turning flesh to stone, and back again. Lifeless rock could be animated, providing a willing (or unwilling) soul could be captured within. These dark rituals created the Stoneborn, soldiers of jade and dark magic forged from the living essence of conquered victims. These creations were powerful… terrible to behold, and above all else, one hundred percent loyal to their mogu masters. (from Wowpedia).

There are a number of potential avenues that they could have utilized, archaeology, the Lorewalkers faction and of course the storylines on the Isle of Thunder itself. Archaeology has a Mogu branch but there is no mention of the Twins in any of the artifacts which given that they are meant to be pride and joy seems strange. Adding twin fans, one of anger and one of solitude which needed uniting to create perhaps a boe blue fist weapon set would have been a nice touch. Even a grey item, perhaps a painting of the sun and the moon with flavour text implying it represented the Thunder King’s greatest treasure would have been a start.

Then when we look at the Lorewalkers, they tell the tale of Lao-Fe:

Even by mogu standards, Emperor Lao-Fe was a monster among beasts. His favored punishment among pandaren slaves was to separate families. Slaves who displeased him would have their children sent to the Serpent’s Spine, to suffer and die as fodder for the mantid swarms.

This was the fate that befell a young pandaren monk named Kang. Kang was so grief-stricken over the loss of his cub that he chose to wear all black. In a moment of clarity, he saw the mogu overlords for what they were: weak.

Re-writing that to suggest the origins of these two female Mogu would have worked. Perhaps Lei Shen surrounded by his wealth and his power with his palaces and his wall was jealous of the relationships between male and female Pandarens. Maybe he watched and listened and finally decided that like the Titans who created his race, that he too could play God. Imagine what sort of punishment for rebellion that would be, forced to watch the essence of your sister or wife forced into silent rock, powerless to save them and then dying at their hands as the Thunder King sits on his throne, his laugh booming through his halls. As one of those little stories told through pictures and the words of Lorewalker Cho it would have worked wonderfully.

Finally though, I came across this:

vu

What a shame then, that this “famous saga” doesn’t seem to have stood the test of time. Of course, this raises all sorts of questions such as if this was prior to the creation of the Twins, what sort of woman did they allegedly quarrel over? Based on everything we know about the Thunder King, it seems unlikely he would have “consorted” with a woman from what he would deem a “lesser” race (i.e. everything which wasn’t his own). The writers could have had so much fun with this, adding extra dimensions to not only the Twins but Lei Shen too. Investing the player base with their story so that when we’re knocking on his door with murder and loot in mind we actually know why we’re there. Of course, it would be easy to argue that Blizzard tend not to invest time in creating a back story for many if any of the interim bosses in a raid instance so why should these two ladies be any different? I’d like to think they shouldn’t be and that Blizzard should be using every opportunity they can grasp to both answer questions and create new ones in the minds of the player base (at least those amongst us who actually read flavour and quest text). We should know the story behind each and every of the bosses we encounter as we slice and dice our way across the continents. Surely that’s the whole point of grey items, archaeology and lore.

Instead though, Blizzard decided that a few quick lines explaining “everything” would suffice. Of course that’s ignoring the fact that we’re back to the whole “Madonna” and “Whore” thing again, the soft sad serene sister who clearly isn’t happy killing people and her angry twin who appears to glorify in it. The women in WoW don’t seem to come in any other flavours other than victim or mad. What they really need is Carol Anne Duffy writing the lore for them.

“What will survive of us is love”: A Tragedy in Three Acts

I’m going to blame Navi and  Matty for this post.

To start, I’m not really romantic in the slightest. I hate chick lit and chick flicks with a passion I normally reserve for brussel sprouts and bad drivers. I got my worst ever mark in English Literature for an essay on Romeo and Juliet because I couldn’t imagine anything crazier than killing yourself for love.  Killing your parents for denying it made far more sense to my teenage brain (yes, I might have had a few issues back then). It was a B and I was grumpy for weeks and then to add insult to injury I had to read the part of Juliet as we acted out the play in class. Which brings me to Pyramus and Thisbe, the lovers who inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and their Azerothian equivalents Pyramond and Theleste.

As much as I’d love to re-write lore (and to be honest, my version was better :p), I’m not Blizzard so to make amends for my essay back then (and all the stony looks I directed at my teacher), here is my take on the achievement <A Tragedy in Three Acts> via Ovid, Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams.

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie.

Archaeology is all about piecing together a story via the bits and pieces we dig up and this achievement is no different. All we know about these “star-crossed lovers” is what they left behind and should we get the context wrong, then we’re left with nothing more than “illusion that has the appearance of truth”. I think there are two possible solutions to this puzzle but as with every mystery, figuring out the order of the clues is important. So what do we know?

We have the two introductory pieces, the ones which set the stage and pave the way for what comes after. A piece belonging to each of the protagonists. For Theleste that’s a malachite and silver hair pin.

Engraved beneath the setting for the precious stone are the words ‘To Theleste, on her twenty-fourth birth year.’

There is no clue who gave her this, it could have been Pyramond or it could have been her parents or a whole host of other characters lost in the mists of time.

For Pyramond, it’s a cloak clasp.

This clasp is fashioned of lacquered wood carved to resemble stag antlers. On the reverse is engraved the name ‘Pyramond’ in Darnassian.

From that we can deduce that either Pyramond’s family name had something to do with a stag, perhaps he was another doomed relative of  poor Fandral. Alternatively perhaps the clasp was a gift from his parents when he started training to become a Druid. These items have to come first because they’re the only two without emotion invested in them. Every story needs a beginning and these are clearly ours.

So the scene is set, the characters introduced but where do we go from here. There are a couple of possible steps depending on how we read the story. A relationship has to be established between them, which leads towards the delicate music box.

This box is of sandalwood with a tiny clockwork elf and nightsaber within. Although the winding mechanism is no longer functional, you can imagine the two would dance together while music played. Engraved on the bottom: ‘To my dearest Theleste.’

Now as I’ve already mentioned, I’m no expert in romance but I do have a music box or two. One contains a slightly dejected looking Ballerina and the other contains two lovers waltzing together for all eternity. One you give a child or a friend, the other you give the object of your affections. So what’s in Theleste’s music box? An Elf dancing with a nightsaber… now that sounds more humorous than anything else. Is that really something you give the love of your life? Unless they’re a nightsaber I’m erring towards no. Then there is the inscription, “dearest”. That’s not the most expressive or emotionally driven language. It is however perhaps something that someone else would write on your behalf. Could Theleste be a suitable girl chosen by Pyramond’s parents, one he feels no real affection for and is just going through the motions.

On the other hand, we know that nightsabers are close to revered in Night Elf society. They function as both pets and mounts so perhaps Theleste had a nightsaber she was fond of and that’s why Pyramond chose this particular model. Of course, he might just have been as lousy a gift buyer as my father who has almost been divorced many many times on Christmas day for his “interesting” choice of presents for my mother. In the original story as told by Ovid, it’s a lioness who is the cataclysm for our lover’s deaths so perhaps the nightsaber is a play on that.

But a lioness fresh from the kill, her jaws foaming, smeared with the blood of cattle, came to slake her thirst at the nearby spring. 

It could have been his mistake in having the name engraved that led to their discovery and inevitable doom.  So it’s here things start to get interesting.

Once the relationship is established, we move on to the first point of conflict.

While this elven scroll case is graced with much ornamentation, it is the message inside, written in Darnassian, that is of the most interest: ‘Pyramond, under no circumstances are you to spend time with that tavern wench. Your mother and I forbid it. She is far beneath your station.’

Now the obvious conclusion is that Theleste is the “tavern wench” but does the hairpin point at someone far below his station? The flavour text indicates a “precious” stone and this clearly expensive scroll case is made of silver too so would the hair pin belong to a girl who waits tables in a tavern? Possibly because we don’t know who gave her the pin, it could have easily been one of the tavern’s richer customers, possibly even Pyramond’s dad. In my experience when people say “Your mother/father and I forbid it”, it’s usually one parent speaking for both and trying to give their words extra authority by adding in the silent partner. This leads us to two possible conclusions. Either way Theleste is a victim in all of this but she could be either the tavern wench his parents were so dismissive of or she’s the woman he’s supposed to marry. She’s Paris to Pyramond’s Juliet.

Remarkably, you managed to find an entire menagerie of these elven glass animals in their original storage container. While some of the animals have understandably suffered cracks and chips, it is clear that the head of the stag has been deliberately severed. The initial ‘T’ is carved on the bottom of the chest.

Here we deviate slightly from the traditional story of thwarted love as shown by Ovid and Shakespeare. It’s clear that this item is a reference to The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. So if the stag represents Pyramond just like the unicorn represents Laura in the play what does that tell us? Well if Theleste is the tavern wench, then I imagine that perhaps Pyramond, who had finally given in to his parents demands went to see her one last time. To tell her that it was over, had to be  over and just like Laura and Jim, just like the Elf and the Nightsaber, they danced to the music box. Somehow in the process, the stag got knocked over and lost his head.

It strikes against the shelf of Laura’s glass collection, and there is a tinkle of shattering glass. Laura cries out as if wounded.

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

However accidental damage doesn’t really fit in with “deliberately severed” so who broke it and why? Did Theleste wait until he was gone, running home to his parents and to the life he was meant to have from birth before carefully separating the head from the body? Did Pyramond in a fit of frustration as he realised that he wasn’t quite the man he wanted to be break it himself? Either are possible. In the original play, once the unicorn loses it’s horn, Laura becomes normal, nothing special, “Now it’s just like the other horses” so how could that translate into this story? Well since it’s Jim who breaks the unicorn which stands for Laura, perhaps it’s Theleste who ruins the stag because she can’t quite bring herself to hurt the man it represents. According to Ovid, Pyramus was meant to be very attractive so perhaps destroying the head was her way of ruining the face that had brought her nothing but misery. The fantasy of their happy life together was over, reality had once again managed to intrude.

Finally we come to the end piece, a cracked crystal vase. I found the choice of words here interesting. At first I thought it was cracked from it’s years in the ground waiting for us to come along and dig it up but none of the other items indicate wear and tear. Their buried years haven’t effected them, the hair pin isn’t tarnished, the cloak clasp isn’t chipped. Which suggests the crack happened before the vial got lost in the dirt and the dust.

A note in rich vellum is tied to the bottle. ‘Dearest P, now that I know we can never be together, it is my wish to drink this draught of spider venom. If this note finds you, my hope is that you might do the same. May Elune watch over our souls.’

Perhaps it cracked as it fell from Theleste’s lifeless fingers but in that case why write “If this note finds you“? If you’re killing yourself for love surely you’d do it somewhere that the objection of your affections would find you. Both Romeo and Pyramus didn’t need to write down their instructions because their loves found them, bloody and dying. So how else could it have been broken? Maybe Pyramond’s father (who is clearly the villain of the piece) found the vial before his son and dropped it in his disdain. Perhaps Pyramond himself, proving Friar Laurence correct,

So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies 
 Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. 

decided that he could after all live without Theleste cracked it as he disposed of it.

Separating illusion from truth and truth from illusion is impossible, unless Blizzard decide to write their own short story concerning the “real” fate of these lovers, all we’re left with are fragments of illusion filled in by our own experiences. The romantics amongst us, I’m sure will have these two entwined in death as in life, echoing Larkin’s words.

Time has transfigures them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

To the cynics this story probably has a very different ending. Pyramond never seeing that last letter from his love or perhaps choosing life over death. There are after all plenty of other fish in the sea. Another possible scenario and one I have have to admit appeals to me would see a vengeful and abandoned Theleste seeking revenge. Without bodies we can’t even be sure that either of them died of anything, let alone spider venom. A note and poison doesn’t prove anything so  perhaps she sent the poison hoping to play on his guilt for abandoning her. Thinking that perhaps that last vestige of love he had for her would push him into drinking the venom.

In the end we’ll never know the truth but I like to think that doesn’t matter. At the risk of sounding like a certain British high street bank, it’s the journey not the destination which is important. Pyramond and Theleste regardless of what happened to them have proved food for thought, have been discussed and have  inspired people. I spent last night re-reading Ovid, Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams because of them and that’s pretty good going for two characters who are barely a footnote in a game like WoW. I wish people who are so dismissive of computer games would see them properly rather than just “through a glass, darkly“.