September 25, 2012 – 8:15 am
With Pandaria launching today, we’re experiencing a lot of shifts in our WoW universe. There’s a new race and class available, a new continent to explore – and a whole new set of bad guys to fight.
The bad guys are the most important part.
In any video game (or story), without a good villain, you end up in a boring, repetitive feedback loop. I think this happened to a lot of us in Cataclysm, as Deathwing provided both an untouchable bad guy (randomly torching zones) and one that we just couldn’t relate to (off in his own little world). He was a bad guy out of nowhere, a random villain that didn’t have a lot of player connection. An end boss, but not a true supervillain that we all couldn’t wait to have killed so we could stick his head on a pike. While he did bad things, it mostly seemed like “bad things” were distant from us as characters – he lit things on fire, and he let loose the elemental lords, but he was never intimately involved in the high level content (low level content had better connection, especially in specific zones), and there was never the sense that he had chosen to do evil, horrible things to a group/groups of people specifically. He was just out-of-his-brain crazy and mad.
Deathwing also had the odd position of being an enemy that we couldn’t defeat on our own – the Aspects played a huge role in his defeat, which didn’t endear me to Deathwing as an enemy. It was cool to help the Aspects, certainly, but in the end, it felt like this was more about them than it was about us.
The need for a villain is also true in RP, and I think the lack of something to truly work against left a lot of RPers feeling stagnant in this expansion. Deathwing didn’t set himself up as the kind of enemy you could write into stories – he was too distant – and his cultists were largely just another group of nutcases. Sure, we have the option of creating our own content, but it’s hard when you don’t have a collective enemy to work against the way we all worked against Arthas and the Scourge.
With Pandaria, though, we have a different sort of bad guy. There’s the Sha, which I don’t know much of anything about (I’ve avoided lore spoilers as much as possible, and would like to continue to do so, so no spoilers in comments), but there’s also the Horde. And Garrosh is setting himself up to be the kind of villain that really polarizes people. Plus I’m sure a number of other, smaller bad guys will crop up for us to work against.
But the big thing that Pandaria is trying to promote, the big new villain we’re all going to work against?
Is each other.
Blog, meet Malkavet. Malkavet, meet blog. (HI MALKAVET, WANNA WRITE A GUEST POST?)
The advantage of RP, at least in a good sized group where there are cross-faction opportunities, is that you can create your own bad guys. Right now the Feathermoon RP community is setting up for war, a war that will involve being foils for each other. Malkavet (and his guild) is certainly top on the list of Alliance targets at the moment. And the Riders, especially certain Riders, are turning themselves into targets for the Horde as well.
As players, we all need something to work against. Something from which we draw inspiration; something to challenge our characters and bring out the best, and worst, in them. We define our characters both by what they are and by what they are not, and having a good villain around gives you the “are not” part in a really fun way. The things you fight can be things that define you; which battles are worth fighting? What things are worth fighting for?
Stories are driven by conflict.
The beauty of a conflict like that between the Alliance and the Horde, as much as it can seem cliche, is that when you get a bunch of creative minds working on either side, you have a lot of story opportunities to work through. Does your character want peace? If so why? Is your character angry about current events? How do they plan to attack the growing problem that is the Horde/Alliance?
What makes for good cross-faction enemies though?
In general, you want a villain to be both believable and conceivably beatable. Evil for the sake of evil only gets you so far, but pride, lust, greed and revenge each (and often, all) feed into a bad guy’s reputation for being “real”. You also don’t want someone that is so superamazingly overpowered that they steamroll all the RP into one long string of how awesomely evil they are. That might be fun for the bad guy, but it’s pretty un-fun for everyone else, and eventually you’ll run out of people interested in being steamrolled.
A villain also needs to be intimately connected to your character – or at least to characters that your character cares about. This is a lot easier with RP, because you’re not working with millions of subscribers, you’re working with a community of RPers on one server together (generally). You can’t develop true hatred without being directly involved with other characters, and a server community has the advantage of server-lore to build on and work from, guild connections to strengthen alliances or feuds, and old grudges to keep alive.
And, of course, you need communication. Leave the hatred for the opposite faction to your characters – if you’re going to work on cross-faction RP, you need to be communicating. Sure it’s fun to have surprises, and not everything needs to be scripted, but both teams need to be on the same page most of the time. Otherwise it stops being fun for one side or the other.
The goal of RP is, of course, to have fun. It’s fun to beat a character down and watch them put themself back together. It’s fun to have someone chasing you, with the intent to bring you down. It’s fun to chase someone else as part of a team of assassins. It’s fun to develop personal enemies and rivalries and work those out in new ways. It’s fun to work with PCs or shared NPC’s that get kidnapped or killed or turn traitor and inform the other side of your secrets.
It’s not fun to have someone else decide what happens to your character. Doubly not fun when “what happens” can conceivably be “permanent character death/disfigurement.”
**A short note on character death. All of our characters visit the spirit healer now and again – that’s part of the world in which we get to play. That sort of death is VERY different from permanent character death, which is the topic of an entirely different post. For this post, let me just warn that you need to tread VERY lightly when dealing with permanent character death, and let the person whose character is going to die and go away do the majority of the decision making. I’ll have more on this in the future. **
Collaborative kind of RP is all about give and take – the balance can swing one way or the other for a little while, but keeping it from becoming overly one-sided takes a lot of communication and a commitment to both sides having a good time. Especially as you’re both trying at all costs to destroy the other guy. It’s a fun balance to keep!
So don’t be afraid to work cross faction – through writing, PVP, forums, twitter, or whatever other means you find to roleplay. But remember to keep the lines of communication open, and let your character get a beat down as often as they beat someone else down. In a lot of ways, the losses provide longer-lasting stories anyway.
And remember. When we’re fighting against each other?
Everyone has a chance to be the bad guy.
September 20, 2012 – 1:45 pm
News of the Kalimdor blockade broke over Stormwind like the tide. The first people to hear it spread the word, and the reports came in ever increasing waves. The boats were dry docked, flight paths were nonfunctional. Reagent vendors were running out of portal tokens as the substantial elven population tried to contact family in Darnassus. The worst reports were out of Feathermoon Stronghold. Rumors flew – they had wyverns, were taking out gryphons and hippogryphs, there was a mana bomb on one of the boats, they were firing incendiary missiles into the town.
Feathermoon. The one place in this whole stupid planet Angoleth could really say was home. And after what happened at Theramore? She grimaced and spat. Time to see if she could get back there and help protect the place. First step? Getting there.
Panicked travelers filled the Stormwind docks, but the boat was most definitely not running. In fact, things looked downright grim, as the dock master and her associates tried to keep people calm.
“No, the boats aren’t running. I’m sorry, ma’am, but if we depart today, there’s a good chance we’ll be sunk before we get to Lordanel. I know your son is there, but you’ll have to take a portal, or rely on other means of transport. The Alliance isn’t going to run a blockade for a shipment of Alterac Swiss, not even if you were Elling Trias himself.”
The excuses ran endlessly. Angoleth didn’t even try. After a few moments’ thought, she picked up her gryphon and set flight to Booty Bay, hoping that a little discretion would pay off. The goblins of the Steamwheedle Cartel generally looked the other way, if you had the right goals in mind. She packed a large purse.
Several hours later Booty Bay was bustling with travelers, the Cartel raking in cash on boat fares as they realized they were now THE major waterway into Kalimdor. The fees were exorbitant, but Angoleth didn’t argue. At least not until she noticed the huge, heavily armored orcs guarding the boat ramp.
“It’s for extra security’s sake, Lady. You don’t want to pay it, find a mage and buy a portal.” The goblin in front of her seemed impatient, looking at the line of potential travelers behind. To her right, the orcs were checking everyone’s traveling papers, one of them keeping a running list of people on the boat.
“Right, thanks, nevermind.”
The person behind her neatly shoved forward, and the elf lost her footing on the dock, regaining it as she wracked her brain for another, less trackable way to get to Kalimdor. Her eyes settled on the Gnomish Engineer’s Guild sign, high above Booty Bay’s main dock.
“We can’t promise anything. Generally we only allow transport by interdimensional ripper to qualified and certified engineers, Madam Elf. I do not know what will happen if you attempt to travel to Gadgetzan from here, and you may not arrive in one piece.”
Angoleth growled at the gnome. “If I take the boat, I WILL not arrive in one piece. I’m willing to pay. You’re willing to send me through that… thing, with some reasonable assurance that I’ll end up in Tanaris, right?”
“Er… yes. Though you need to sign these contingency papers, in the event of adverse conditions in the twisting nether, and to prevent the possibility of damage litigation should you …”
“Give me the fucking papers and shut up.”
“Eep! Yes ma’am.” The gnome handed her a stack. “You’ll need to sign here, and here. Initial these four pages. Then sign here and date it, and print your name, and your next of kin.”
“… next of kin?”
“Yes. Just… in case of … ”
“Right.” Angoleth thought about it for a minute, wrote in Feliche Nightshade, and prayed wherever the hell Feliche was, he wouldn’t get bothered about this.
Fourteen and a half minutes later, having signed her name enough times to get an arm cramp, Engineer Cogwhistle started bustling around the odd machine in the corner, setting dials and talking to himself. “Two cranks on the technobob, set the whizmaster to Gadgetzan, size “Elf” on the dimensionater…”
“Oh, Hey Cogwhistle.”
“Do not interrupt me, I am assuring your safety in transport. Fractionation speed “Normal”… ” He rattled on for several minutes. “Yes Madam Elf, you had something you wanted?”
“Yeah. I want you to not tell anyone I was here. I’d like to make a large donation to the Engineer’s Guild of Booty Bay, but I’d like it to remain anonymous.”
He looked at the sack of gold on the table. Truth be told, it was less than the Goblin downstairs was charging for a boat fare, but she didn’t think he would know that. He didn’t. “Yes, Madam Elf, I think we can arrange for the suitable amount of discretion. Though I can not promise what will happen should you transport into Gadgetzan itself.”
“Can I transport just NORTH of Gadgetzan then?”
“Er… well…” She put another bag of gold on the table. “Yes, that location setting is available.”
“Oh, and you’re transporting my gryphon as well.”
The feeling of being ripped through interdimensional space was not a pleasant one. The feeling of being dropped from 10 feet above the sand dunes of Tanaris was even less so.
“Fuck.” Angoleth checked around her, making sure that she was all there. “Fuck!” She was, but her boots weren’t. “How the bloody nether do you transport someone through interdimensional space and lose their fucking boots?!”
About thirty seconds later, Rylin appeared, also ten feet above the sand. Unlike his elven master, he spread his big wings and gently flapped to the ground, seemingly unphased by his dimensional ripping. He pecked at her stockinged toes, and she aimed a kick at him in return. He simply ducked out of the way and chirruped at her.
“Right. You want to go on an adventure, you big feathery oaf. Well, it’s about to get fun.” She climbed on his broad back. “Let’s go run a blockade.”
They flew low over the verdant Ferelas forest, staying just below the treeline and well off the paths. There were Horde here, and while she knew she could pick off a patrol from the air, if they were shooting down riders at Feathermoon, she didn’t want to risk it where a fall would mean a broken neck. Things seemed utterly still and quiet, the way that Ferelas always did. They set course well south of the docks to Feathermoon. “Hopefully the fuckers are just watching the main path.”
As they broke tree-cover, Feathermoon Stronghold came into view. The entire fort was surrounded by Horde destroyers, all formed up around any possible exit point, and she suspected they were under cover in the forest as well. The air was filled with packs of wyvern riders, three to a formation as they looped around. “Fuck again.” Still, she knew she needed to get in and get to Shandris. Because it had been a long damn time since she’d had a job to do, and breaking a Horde blockade on her home seemed like a damn good place to start. Besides, if she could get in, there was a possibility that they could get out.
Night was falling around them, so there was a chance of some cover. She could barely make out the buildings of Feathermoon Stronghold, which was apparently under some kind of blackout at night. “Alright, featherhead. Let’s bust some orcs.” Rylin chirruped again and flexed his claws.
From well south of the Stronghold, they headed out to sea, making for the islands, and then turned back. She made it two-thirds of the way across the Feathermoon Straits without attracting any attention. From her vantage point, Angoleth made out that most of the boats were simply manned with heavy troops and canons. One was carrying something large and sat much lower in the water, but she couldn’t see anything specific from the air. Then, from the nearest boat, a shout rang out and a flare went up. Rylin wheeled away from the flare, the elf clinging low to his back, loosing her bow and carrying it against his wing. She’d hoped for the element of surprise, but now the orcs knew she was there, even in the dark. A pack of wyvern riders came out of the east, flying in formation, and from somewhere below a heavy artillery shot flew past them.
She whispered a prayer to the Moon that hung heavy in the sky above them, strung her bow, and fired.
The first wyvern took the hit in the wing, falling away to one side, the other two closing fast. Rylin dropped low and to the south, taking them back out of range of the boats, but the wyverns were flying fast. She banked hard, firing over her shoulder behind them, but missed.
A crossbow bolt came flying out of the darkness and embedded itself in her shoulder, the point blunted by the heavy mail, but not the force of impact. Angoleth scrambled for a solid hand hold on the gryphon, watching as another artillery shell flew past them in the sky and exploded somewhere behind them. Tightening her grip, she fired again, and this time hit the frontmost rider square in the chest. He plummeted, and his wyvern flew after him. She heard the splash below.
The last rider dove after Rylin, huge claws extended, and the two great flying beasts met in the air, riders hanging on and scrambling for close weapons. She knew she was outmatched in a knife fight, but Rylin couldn’t shake the wyvern. She drew a shortsword just as the tangle of claws, teeth, and wings lost enough aerodynamics to start freefalling.
Angoleth aimed a kick at the wyvern’s head, but without boots her foot mostly just glanced off its face. The orc laughed and said something guttural that she didn’t need to understand to get the basic gist of. She hacked out with the sword and caught the orc in the leg, just as the wyvern let go of Rylin in an attempt to keep itself from falling into the straight. The orc yelled, and she let the sword go for lost, drawing her bow to shoot again
Rylin scrambled for flight, reorienting himself and getting the wind back beneath his massive wings, only to shriek in pain and tumble sharply to the left, veering them back towards the boats. Angoleth scrambled to stay with him, only to feel, as if in slow motion, an artillery shell impact with the gryphon’s chest, and they both plummeted into the inky blackness of the sea.
September 19, 2012 – 9:30 am
This takes place after the events of Forgebreaking and after the fall of Theramore.
Aely stood in the little washroom of their apartment, hands over the sink, ripping the remains of a glass out of the palm of her hand. It hurt, but not enough. The tumbler had shattered satisfactorily against the bar, but Kyraine had to go and get Verne, and he had to go and try to heal it.
Numbly, she looked at the little glittering shards in the sink, washed pink with blood and warm water. She spat, tasting the sour remnants of bad whiskey, and dug the last bit of glass out of her palm. It fell with a clink against its brothers. Her hand oozed red down the side of the sink.
Look at yirself. Na better than fuckin’ Bittertongue. Go oan. Wallow in it.
She wrapped a linen bandage tightly around her hand, gritting her teeth. No better than Bittertongue indeed. She wasn’t sure where the line was – The utter catastrophe of the summit. Malkavet and the condition of Shaila on her rescue. Having razed a fortress to the ground, only to find that Beltar wasn’t there. The loss of the freed slaves she’d tried so hard to give a better chance to. The destruction of everyone and everything in Theramore, the last remaining stronghold with ties to the North.
But it didn’t really matter where the line was, this crossed it.
Sensless bloody loss ay life. What a fuckin’ waste.
She briefly fought a battle not to attack the wall behind her, gave up, and slammed her hands into it anyway. Neither gave way, and the low gutteral growl in the back of her throat turned to a full blown scream, turned to deep, wracking sobs. She collapsed into the wall, beating against it weakly with her bandaged hand, reopening the wounds. The white linen turned red. Aely gave herself up to the sobbing, sliding down and sitting on the floor, letting the hurt and loss and hatred pour out of her like water.
Eventually there was nothing left. Nothing but the still, small voice of her own mind.
Wir at war, Aely Caltrains. Ye’ve been ta war before. Time ta start actin’ like it.
She sat for a moment, thinking about that. And then she took a deep breath, stood up, swept the glass shards out of the sink into the trash, splashed some water on her face, and left.