February 4, 2010 – 4:31 pm
As most of you know, I recently “revived” my very neglected 80 Troll Priest and turned her into an Aely dual-class priest Alliance side. This put me with a fresh level 80 discipline priest, a class I’ve not actively healed with since Karazhan. Needless to say I was both rusty and horrendously geared in a smattering of level 70 epics, quest blues/greens, a few BoE pieces from the auction house, and even some *wince* BoE greens of the sorceror.
Even with that, I was pretty sure I could heal a level 78-80 dungeon without too much hassle. So I decided to start running some normal dungeons, got myself a proper spec… and after a really frustrating first evening of healing, realized I was probably doing it wrong when it came to setting up a learning run.
Of course, some folks really LIKE a trial by fire, seat of the pants, OH GOD DON’T DIE, wiping-on-trash run.
I don’t mind those once I know what I’m getting myself into, but right off the bat? It was stressful and not very fun, most of which I could’ve prevented by doing a couple of simple things in advance. These will work whether you’re just hitting level 80 or are trying out a new healing spec but are old hat at the game.
Setting up your first instance run as a healer
- Make sure you have your UI set up properly and your keybindings are done.
If you’re not a healer normally, this will be a little more work, but with two other level 80 healers, I’ve got a pretty good idea where I want things. I just… didn’t realize I’d not done any of that until AFTER the first pull. Also, make sure your keybound spells are your highest trained ranks. If you leveled with dual specs, your “invisible” second spec bars will NOT update with you automatically. (We wiped.)
- Talk to someone who plays your class and get a quick rundown of how things work.
Knowing not to rely too much on Renew and that Flash Heal would be my bread and butter helped a lot… but I didn’t learn that until after a fated evening of runs, and I was OOM a lot. If you don’t know anyone else that plays your class, check out any of a number of excellent blogs or forums around the internet. (I watched the tank die during at least one Greater Heal cast… oops)
- Even if you’re pugging some of the group, try to pick your tank beforehand.
You don’t need someone decked out in 264-Icecrown Epix. But someone that’s never tanked before isn’t really a good idea either. (Finding out afterwards that my tank, though level 80 and a skilled player, hadn’t tanked with that class before and still hadn’t trained his level 80 skills? /facepalm). Basically, you want someone that will at least not make your job harder than it needs to be. (We wiped… more than once.)
- Pick an instance or two that you are familiar with.
Never been to Halls of Lightning, but you’ve run Gun’drak and Utgarde Pinnacle a lot? Run those first, to get the “feel” of how your new healing spec is going to work. That way you can concentrate on being the healer, and not on what’s going on around you. You’ll also be less likely to get blindsided by unexpected boss mechanics. (I got lost.)
- If you’re building the group from people you know, try to get a mixture of DPS
Having all melee or all ranged can make some fights harder than others. Ideally, your first few healing jobs should be for balanced groups, rather than you, a tank, and 4 rogues (for example). A balanced group will let you get used to things like melee damage or running out of fires or keeping ranged alive – without having to stress too much if you screw up and the mage bites it in the AOE. (I don’t want to know what the melee DPS repair bill was.)
Of course, you can always just go by the seat of your pants, but I like to have at least a little bit of a break-in period before I get thrown into the fire!
None of these fixes are particularly difficult. Even if you can’t do all of them, just one or two will go a long way towards helping you get used to your new healing role, whether it’s with a new class, or you’ve never been in charge of the green bars before.
Particularly the part where you make sure your highest ranks of healing spells are the ones you’re using…
(who is totally not immune to noobcake mistakes)
February 3, 2010 – 7:53 am
Collective nouns are the specific words that indicate a group of something, like a school of fish or a herd of deer or a flock of sheep.
Those are pretty common, but some collective nouns are really quite cool:
- a murder of crows
- a wake of buzzards
- a parliament of owls
- a prickle of hedgehogs
- an ambush of tigers
- an implausibility of gnuus
- a horde of gerbils
The list goes on, and it’s pretty fun to go digging around for them. Last night, however, we started talking about collective nouns for warcraft classes and races. Someone mentioned that “gang” was a really lousy collective noun for a group of Paladins, and thus the game was born!
After posing the question to twitter and my guildmates, we came up with the following:
- A Bubble of Paladins
- A Volley of Hunters
- A Hearth of Paladins (Bubbles‘ idea)
- A Glitter of Blood Elves (from Skulley)
- A Faceplant of Fury Warriors (from Teuthida)
- A Beard of Male Dwarves and a Braid of Female Dwarves (with help from Teuthida here too)
- A Murder, a Mischief, an Ambush, or a Nuisance of Rogues – depending…
- A Pact of Warlocks, or possibly a Hell of Warlocks (thanks Tarq)
- An Apocalypse of Forsaken (that’s Arrens)
- A Buffet of Mages (from Bubbles)
- An Apostrophe of Northmen (Tarquin again)
- A Wrath of Moonkin (more from Arrens)
- A Cult of Warlocks (Krizzlybear for this one)
- A Tantrum of Forum Posters (The Daily Blink)
- A Shudder of Death Knights (Angelya)
- An Orgy of Darkfallen (Krizzlybear – that’s going to get me some fun google hits)
- A Litter of Feral Druids (The Pugnacious Priest)
And this is actually just a selection of them. If you think of others, leave ’em in comments!
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February 1, 2010 – 10:12 am
You can read Dark Summonings, Into the Nether, and Into the Nether part 2 (which is new this morning, and should be read before you read this bit – go read it first!) over at Arrens’ blog.
Aelflaed jumped off her charger, the sharp winter wind tearing at her cloak, blowing snow into and under her armor.
She screamed his name into the gale, running across the frozen fields.
“JOLSTRAER TABORWYNN, CAN YE HEAR?!”
“Th’ hell are ye, Jol? I’m here. I’m back. Ye told me t’ bring ‘im, an’ I’m tryin’, an’ damn ye f’r all that ye laid on me about it. F’r makin’ me do it alone, an’ wha’ I couldna tell ye.”
There was no response, only an angry fire that started deep in her belly and felt like it would swallow her whole that subsided quickly into utter desperation. Sobs overtook her as she half-collapsed, sinking down into the snowy, sooty remains of his house.
“Damn ye, Jol Taborwynn. F’r all ay this. F’r leavin’. I cannae e’en let ye meet ‘im. Ligh’ but ye’d have made fun – a professor. Ye hear that? A teacher, Jols, nae a soldier. An’ I love ‘im. I love ‘im like ye said, an’ I’m no’ lettin’ go. Ligh’, Jol… please…”
The wind ripped at her face, turning tears into tiny icicles on her cheeks; it howled but had no words. She dug her fingers into the snow, ignoring the cold, until she found what was left of his charred hearth.
“He’s gone, Jol. Taken – like ye. Ligh’, an’ he’s gone.”
From deep within her chest she heard her name again – clearer this time, though soft. Her mind flashed to Dragonblight, to Jol diving out of the sky, his voice on the wind, searching for her. But this wasn’t Jol’s voice.
This voice was unmistakably Arrens.
“Arrens?” Aely looked around frantically before having a flash of realization. “Sweet Ligh’… Arrens! Love? Do ye hear me?” Her skin prickled and pain flashed through her mind briefly, before subsiding back to a dull ache.
And then his voice again, weak and hurting. “Aely.”
Aely blinked. “Ye… live?”
January 29, 2010 – 9:16 am
Though the author seems mild mannered and well intentioned, watch out for this post. It’s written by Uthas, Feathermoon’s own personal evil incarnate (mostly), and when it comes to making a really awesome bad guy, Uthas does it well, particularly since he frequently plays those bad guys in game (rather than making them into fiction foes or rarely played alts for the sake of the story). As expected, this post is as much about creating a really believable, well rounded character as it is about creating the next iteration of really good Bad Guys, which makes it all that much better! Enjoy!
When I was a kid, one of my favorite games was So You Want to Be a Hero? I loved the idea of some official body of heroes that was taken only halfway seriously by everyone in the world. It had a meta-humor that appealed to me, but I was always disappointed that there wasn’t a companion game series called So You Want to Be a Villain?
I have always been far more fascinated with villains in stories than in the heroes.
This is a bit strange because I was a straightlaced Momma’s Boy growing up, always afraid of breaking the Rules. I don’t think that my fascination even comes from any desire to shrug off the shackles of conservative behavior and vicariously let my hair down. No, I think it’s because the villains were ACTIVE.
In the stories I read and movies I watched, the villains were always the ones with a plan, taking an active role in how the universe around them was shaped. The heroic side was always merely reacting to the bad guys, and because of this were often less fully realized than their black-hatted counterparts. The good guys were not only kind of boring, but even worse, they were PASSIVE. Think about the most popular of the heroes of the Star Wars trilogy – Han Solo. Why is he the most popular? He’s active and knowledgeable, because he’s just a little bit bad.
When I hit an age where I began to craft my own stories, it was often easier for me to focus on the antagonist of a piece than the protagonist, because in the common tropes of speculative fiction, it’s the antagonist that is actually be PROactive. They kick the story off and drive it to the necessary places. While occasionally stories appear in which the good guys are the driving force, this is far rarer than the reverse. They are generally just trying to get the world back to normal. As a writer, it was easier for me to guide a story through the eyes of the person shaping events, and in time, I (hopefully) became good at it.
My first real story based character in the World of Warcraft was a villain.
I rolled on an rp server a few weeks after the game came out in ’04, and quickly got involved in the forum rp scene developing there. There were many stabs at villainy back in those days, but I quickly became frustrated with them, because I thought they were all BAD. Not bad as in evil, but bad as in poorly done. My frustration led me to challenging myself to see if I could do better, and one epic storyline and a few thousands screams of exasperation from my victims later, I feel that I may have some tips for people when it comes to crafting villains.
Without further ado, here are my basic steps to crafting villainy.
1. There is no such thing as a villain.
Whatever character you are designing is first and foremost a person. They had parents, acquaintances, some type of life prior to the story that defines them as a person. Very few people in life define themselves as villains. The good guy or bad guy in a situation often depends entirely on who has the best PR. Don’t think of the character as a villain, think of them as a person with a role to fill in a narrative. Make them human, so that people will care when you kill them.
2. Give your villain a goal.
An overarching goal is possibly the single most defining feature any antagonist can have. It is what separates them from the rest of the flock of generic heroes out there. The villain has a goal, and possible a plan to achieve it. They do not exist to drywash their hands and laugh evilly. They want to accomplish SOMETHING.
3. Make your villain comparable in power to the threat they are posed by anyone trying to stop them.
Stories are boring if one side of a struggle is vastly over or under powered. Bells and whistles are not what will make your villain cool. It is their backing character that people will latch onto, not their fancy black Cape of Head-Shrinking. It’s important to note that power does not always come in the form of a magic sword or huge fireball. Just being smart, or tenacious, or willful can often give someone great power in a situation.
4. Eschew the evil laughter.
Unless your story is firmly rooted in the campy adventure style of the 30s and 40s, you don’t need to identify your antagonist as a villain by making them give off peals of laughter like lightning. That is one of the worst forms of telling and not showing that is possible for an antagonist. If you do your job well in telling the antagonist’s story, while people may identify with them, there will be no doubt in their minds what role the character has fulfilled.
5. No evil for evil’s sake.
If you have followed step 1, your villain has a goal. Make sure that every action they take sticks to that goal somehow. If they are despoiling the countryside, or putting the hero into an elaborate deathtrap, make sure those actions actually serve some kind of commonsensical end. If the motivation behind a villain’s actions isn’t clear, or is just non-existent, your villain becomes a cape-wearing caricature. That is not to say that every villain needs to be obvious in what they do, which leads us into . . .
6. Give us a little bit of mystery.
Never make a villain completely obvious. A good story is often the slow revelation of the villain. Just avoid mystery for mystery’s sake. The art of the reveal is a difficult skill to pick up, and is done poorly all over the place. 90% of long arc television shows have adopted this mystery for mystery’s sake writing style, and it’s terrible. Be more Count of Monte Cristo, less smoke monster from Lost.
7. Be ok with losing.
Villains are defeated. Most of the time, anyway. That is part of their role within the structure of a story, and it is very important never to forget it. At some point, your extremely cool dark character of forbidding terror will be foiled either by their own folly, or by the wits and strength of a do-gooder. Them’s just the breaks, and if you accept it, you can make that defeat just as compelling as every single other part of your villain.
Armed with this set of basic thinking points, pretty much anyone can come up with and narrate a compelling villain. Remember that the best villains are not the ones that are completely inscrutable in their evil, but rather the ones that we can all relate to. There is far too much darkness in the human soul to need to invent any extra.