Without Burdens

Of Holiday Parties

This morning I am slowly eating my oatmeal and trying to make my head stop throbbing.  I feel like I have a “hangover” but I didn’t even drink last night.  I think this means I am now officially “old”.  Last night was the Christmas party for my group at work.  I think I said it yesterday, but we are the only group that actually likes each other enough to hold a party.  It has been years since I have felt the way about a group of people that I do about these people.  Quite honestly I probably never have felt exactly the same, but my very first work environment was a similar “family” feel.

The highlight of the evening was dirty santa, which for folks who do not know what that means.  Gift exchange with the ability to steal from others.  The best gift was…  a large thing of crown royal, a pair of captain america underoos, and a package of fake moustaches.  I cannot and nor do I really want to picture the scenario that was planned with that combination of items…  but it was needless to say hillarious.  Even better… someone had inadvertedly brought a Captain America mask and shield…  the underoos were donated to the winner for the full effect.  I brought some legos, and they were hotly contested… as were the call of duty mega blocks that were brought.

Probably the coolest item of the night was one I ended up winning initially but then was quickly stolen from me.  The “Boozequet” was a floral bouquet made up of individual shots.  The creator had hot glued the individually sealed shot drinks onto floral wire and then arranged all of them in a bouquet.  Extremely clever, I told the creator that she should market it and I am sure during this time of the year she would get a lot of business.  She even made a cute little “drunk santa” tub for the base of the arrangement.  The whole night was pretty amazing.  I go through this “I don’t want to go” phase right before any party, because my body rejects being around lots of people.  However when I actually do go I have a blast.’

Without Burdens

Wow-64 2013-12-15 10-33-29-58

I really do not have a lot of gaming news today.  When you have a big event going on in the evening the entirety of the day tends to be dominated by planning and preparing for it.  My day yesterday was either planning or waiting to play for the holiday party.  As a result I didn’t get into anything that I could not rapidly exit if needed.  That meant my only real options were LFR.  After some moving stuff around I managed to get my ilevel high enough to queue for Vale of the Eternal Spring, the first section of Siege of Orgrimmar. In fact currently I am sitting at 502 with a 450 ring still equipped that I have not been able to replace.  I am proud of myself because I got there on this alt without “actual raiding” and without leaning on Burden of Eternity gear at all.

Why does this matter?  Well a Burden of Eternity is one of those things from the timeless isle that is either a super rare drop, or super costly (50,000 timeless coins).  When you apply it to the gear tokens that drop from the island it transforms what would have been a 496 ilevel item to a 535 ilevel item.  The problem is, just like the normal tokens there is no control whatsoever on what stat package you will get.  This creates a lot of odd situations like tanking items with no avoidance stats on them.  I personally find the burden gear to be a bit of a crutch, and what I mean by that is… I cannot seem to make my brain ignore the fact that it is higher ilevel and instead evaluate the stats of an item.  Many 502 items will be better for your character than these 535 items just because of the particular stat distribution and the inclusion of gem slots.

Having these extremely high ilevel but not very optimized items just confuses the mix for me.  I have or have had quite a few of these on Belgrave my main, and in each case I find it really hard to make myself abandon them for a better itemized but lower ilevel item.  This is the double edged sword of ilevel after all… the number does not adequately represent how well a player is geared.  I could have a bunch of extremely high ilevel items equipped that are functionally useless for my class.  On my shaman I admit that I equipped a healing trinket that I got from a random loot bag… just to get my ilevel up high enough to be able to run Vale of the Eternal spring.  I am sure there are lots of other people out there doing the same.  I like the feeling of seeing my gear score going up incrementally, but I feel like as a gauge of quality it has never really been valid.

A Quiet Day

This has to be the slowest I have taken to eat my oatmeal in the morning.  I blame the multiple directions my head seems to be spinning right now.  As a result of my present state… I am hoping for an extremely quiet day.  Far as I know we don’t really have much of anything to do today, so my hope is that other than doing laundry I can pretty much sit on my comfy couch and relax.  Said relaxation is probably going to involve a lot of LFR for a shot at shiny shiny loot drops.  Now that my paladin can queue for Siege I want to get him all the way through to Downfall.  I also should run my shaman, dk and druid through as well.  Who knows how much I will actually get accomplished but needless to say I will be enjoying my day today.

Mentorship Matters

Hot BBQ Sauce

This is one of those mornings where I have consumed breakfast and am really struggling to get started on the whole writing thing.  At least when I was doing NaNoWriMo there was a clear point to begin with again.  However in the case of thinking thoughts about things…  I don’t have the clear starting place.  It is still cold as hell here in Oklahoma.  I really wish that my Canadian friends would take this weather back.  Cyfer one of the many Canadians in my life said it was an early Christmas present… and no re-gifting.  I keep wondering what the postage is on a tornado.

Today is a bit messed up and I think that might be part of the problem.  We have my group at work’s Christmas party tonight.  It is a minor miracle that we actually like each other enough to have annual get-togethers like this.  I am pretty  certain we are the only group in our department that has one.  Since that is looming over my head it makes everything else I do today feel like I can’t really get involved in much of anything.  I had to wake up relatively early this morning and handle raw pork so that they could have pulled pork this evening.  Nothing says cold like handing meat fresh from the refrigerator.

Actually doing something potentially cool this year.  We got a 3 mini crock pot thingy with individual temperature settings.  Since I prefer my pulled pork with hot bbq sauce, it bums me out a bit when I have to shoot down the middle and go for a mild and sweet sauce when I am making it for guests.  So this time I am using our biggest crockpot to cook the pork and then am going to divide it up into the smaller pots.  Will have one flavored with hot, one with regular and one with hickory bbq sauce for a variety.  This way each of us can have a flavor of our choice, and it will let the timid easily experiment without committing to too much heat.

Mentorship Matters

Yesterday in the comments of the blog one of my good friends Scarybooster made an excellent suggestion, and then later Athelia added some tweaks.  In raid guilds it is common to have class officers that see to the tutelage of new members of that class to make sure they are doing things as they should.  This works great in the case of a raid guild, because winning is generally the ultimate goal.  However in the case of House Stalwart, a social guild this paradigm doesn’t exactly work.  Most of our members don’t want someone telling them how to play their class, and for good reason.  However I still see a specific need for someone to turn to that is able to answer core questions about their spec.

So I took the ideas they provided and spun it around a bit.  Last night I introduced the Mentor Program on the forums.  For those without Stalwart Online forum accounts, I will preface it here.

How to Qualify

  • Be a Member of House Stalwart of at least Stalwart rank or higher.
  • Be maximum level in a given spec (this is currently level 90 in World of Warcraft)
  • Be willing to answer questions from players and explain the inner workings of your class and spec in simple terms
  • Be willing to provide outside resources that the players can study
  • Be extremely patient

What Benefits do You Get?

  • A Sense of Accomplishment From Watching Players Improve In Your Chosen Spec
  • Admiration and Respect of Your Guild Members for Giving of Your Time
  • A Special Mentor Rank (pending you are not already of higher rank)

I have taken what is normally a hierarchy system in raid guilds and turned it into an opt in service.  As a result the mentors get recognized easily by the special guild rank, and in the guild note it would say what specific spec they are a mentor for.  Ultimately my whole goal with a lot of my changes is to encourage engagement between the members of the guild.  The more engaged a player is the more involved they are in the guild as a whole.

Looking for Scribes

Additionally yesterday I announced that we were looking for guild scribes.  I can’t be everywhere all of the time.  As a result I have requested help in keeping the guild front page updated with nifty things that people are doing.  Doesn’t matter if it is a raid victory, random farming of world bosses, soloing a raid, or hosting an in game event.  If House Stalwart members are involved I want to know about it.  My hope is that folks will write a paragraph or two blurb and send along with it some screenshots that I can then use to adorn the frontpage.

One of our newer members Gueraloca has been helping me out with trying to gather up a census of our guild.  When you have almost 900 characters in the guild, everything becomes daunting.  As a result Guera is helping me connect the dots between alts and mains.  If you are a member of Stalwart please check out her thread on the forums and fill in the alt/main information.  The final goal of this process is to have neatly organized guild notes.  That in itself will be a pretty massive undertaking, but the goal is to build them in a way so the addons that link alts and mains can work off of them.

Viva La Artisan

Rebuilding the Core

Last night I tackled one of the harder aspects of getting a guild back on its feet, at least as far as infrastructure is concerned.  Stalwart of course had been trucking along without much of a formal structure, but there were signs of stress as many fractures had formed over the years I had been gone.  One of my first steps in trying to right the ship was trying to build a coalition of officers representing different parts of the guild and pulling them together into one team.  Essentially I was looking for the players that were already reaching out and engaging other guild members.  At the same time I was looking for individuals with keen insight and a level head.

After much consternation about my choices, I finally developed a strategy.  Essentially in House Stalwart there are two major raid groups that represent the thrust of where the guild is going.  Unfortunately many times these two teams are going in completely opposite directions.  My hope was to find a way to represent both forces equally on this officers council of sort that I was building.  From Team “Nothing Can Go Wrong” I have tagged Athelia and Arria, both of which are extremely positive forces in the guild.  Additionally both have shown a level head and extremely excellent judgment skills.  They are constantly engaging other players and the wealth of their game experience is something we can always use.

Then from Team “Leftovers” I brought in Gamad and Shorty.  Shorty and I have a long history together, and he has always been one of those players that is willing to give the shirt off his own back to help someone out.  Additionally he is a whizkid with the auction house and will be helping liquidate some of our overstuffed guild bank to help buffer our repair money.  Gamad is relatively new to the guild, in the grand scheme of things, but in that time I have seen her continued to grow and reach out to new players.  She has always been willing to step in and help when help is needed.  Additionally I have seen that she is a peacemaker and mediator, and will help out greatly in smoothing over the rough spots.

Finally you have myself and Rylacus the person who so valiantly “kept the lights on” over the last year or so.  Together we represent the legacy player, the folks who have been around since vanilla and most of them in House Stalwart since that time or at least Burning Crusade.  We are the ones who remember the way things used to be, and have the roadmap to return us to glory.  This mix of newer voices and older voices should mesh together to create something greater than the individual parts.  There is still a lot more work to be done, but I feel more confident in moving forward now that I have the key pieces in place.  There is another one of these “legacy” officers that I still need to talk to, to gauge if they still want to fill that role or not.  But last night made me quite a bit more confident about the total outcome of these changes.

Viva La Artisan

Another big change that I am wanting to implement in the next few days is the Artisan rank.  At one point I had one of these, but it never really worked out quite like I had wanted it to.  Essentially back then I would choose a single crafter for each profession, but that process ended up ignoring a lot of people who want to contribute to the guild.  My plan is to make the entire process much more transparent and open this time around.  My goal is to create an application process through our forums that allows individuals to sign up to fill the duty of “crafting for the guild”.  What I mean by this is that they would have expanded access to the guild crafting coffers, but have the responsibility of filling in the gaps when someone needs gear.  The artisan rank would make it clear to identify just who could craft gear for players.

The other major responsibility that comes with the rank is to create a “shop” of sorts on the forums.  It will be the responsibility of guild crafters to create a post outlining the major things they can create with their professions.  Additionally I expect these Artisans to watch the forums for any item requests and then respond back in a timely fashion as to whether or not they can provide the service.  I am going to have to figure out the logistics of this whole program, but over the years I have had more guild members wanting to know how they can help out.  Buffering the leveling process by providing new gear, especially as someone reaches the level cap is a massively valuable service.  I know Shorty for example already provides new players “care packages” of things like bags… and this has been entirely of his own initiative.  I can only imagine what could come of a more organized system.

Bring on the Warband

Finally I am wanting to work out the details of organizing the raid groups within the guild.  I am staunchly against a “raider” rank, because singling someone out just because they raid as somehow better just feels morally wrong.  What I do want to create however is transparency in who is actually organizing and leading the raids.  As a result one of the various guild ranks will be turned into a “Raid Leader” designation.  This serves two very simple purposes.  Firstly it will control access to the raid materials tab in the guild bank.  However more importantly this will clearly identify who a guild member can approach about joining in the raid.  Additionally I would like to get someone from each raid to maintain a thread on the forums outlining what the raid does, when they raid, who exactly someone can talk to about joining.

Additionally I want there to be a clear “you must be this tall” line drawn for each group.  Item level is a double edged razor, but with it you can size up some basic requirements as to how well geared someone needs to be to be able to compete in the content.  I am by no means saying that there needs to be an automatic system of entry.  I do not want to get into the business of determining who can raid and who can not.  I do however want the raid groups within House Stalwart to be much more transparent on how one gains entry.  Additionally  I feel as though if you enter one of the raid groups in good faith that you should remain loyal to that team. 

There has been some bad blood in the past as various individuals have transitioned between the teams without adequately informing the leadership of their previous team.  I want this to stop, we are one guild with a shared mission of trying to make the game a better place for all of us.  My hope is that by exposing the raid groups and the processes for entry, that it will be extremely clear how transitions should work.  Additionally I would like to see rosters posted of the current members of each raid, that way there can be no doubt in when someone is encroaching on the domain of the other raid.  I am not saying there can be no transfers of lineup… I just want the entire process to work more transparently.

And Then I Actually Played…


I won’t lie… most of my night last night was spent dealing with various guild business in trying to create this new vision.  Additionally I spent more than a bit of my time counseling players and trying to smooth over rough spots.  Shortly after I had talked to Arria and brought him into he council he designed to run a heroic scenario.  I took a break from leveling Gloam to do so, as my Paladin still had not finished the quest that guarantees a 500+ epic of some sort.  The biggest struggle in gearing my alts has been on trying to get a weapon.  I had heard from many friends that weapons DO actually drop from the loot bag you get from your daily heroic scenario.  Problem is so far in all of the scenarios I had run I had not actually seen this happen.

So I went into the run expecting to get a few valor points, but not really expecting much from it.  I am so thankful I took the break from my rogue because I walked out with a shiny Immaculate Pandaren Hammer of the Earthshaker.  This actually is about the ideal weapon for a retribution Paladin, so I can finally stop sucking it up with my 450 weapon in LFR.  It was a fun little run but I failed miserably at tanking the pirate boss with the saber.  I had never actually used it, and I was trying to move out of the fire while hitting the cooldown and just got oneshot.  On my deathknight I never use the saber and simply move out of range.  So we missed the bonus by a few seconds, and I feel bad about it… but everyone that was with me was fine with it.  They were happy to see I managed to pull a weapon.  Now I just need to get the same success with my shaman… twice.

Faffing Pays Off



As part of my return to the leadership of House Stalwart, there is a ton of base level clean-up that I need to do.  One of the first pieces I decided to tackle was shifting any character that has not been online in the last year to “retired” status.  So many guilds kick the inactive, but I have never really liked that concept.  It feels harsh since in my experience so many people renew their subscription on a whim.  Logging back in to a friendly guild that has missed them, is a much more enjoyable experience than finding out they have been booted out into the cold.

This is compounded now by the concept of guild faction, that was added in with Cataclysm.  Booting a character from a guild has serious repercussions for the player.  It takes awhile to get to exalted with a guild, especially at maximum level…  so punting folks out and making them potentially redo all that faction work just seems cruel.  Setting them to retired rank seems like a good solution, since I have stripped that rank of all bank privileges to protect the guild from someone getting hacked, but if someone does return for a length of time I can bump them back up to an active rank. 

I had originally planned on doing this for anyone that had been gone for over 6 months… but ended up calling it quits after finishing with the “1 year” folks.  It took me what felt like an hour to get that far through the list.  I can only imagine what it is going to be line when I redo every single one of the almost 900 characters guild notes.  One of my goals is to do a guild census of sorts… get to know every single person that is in the guild that joined during my 2 year absence.  Part of this is to set accurate guild notes that follow a pattern so that you can use addons like Prat to merge the two in chat.

WoW Bucket List

One of the concepts that I have latched on over the last few weeks is the idea of a WoW Bucket List.  The first time I had actually seen this in a formalized form was over on Cuppyville, where she proudly lists her WoW Bucket List in the top menu of her site.  I don’t quite have my formalized enough for that, but I have started a Google Docs Spreadsheet and as I think of things have begun adding them to it.  Always in the past when I have left WoW, it has been because I “ran out of things to do”.  I say that in quotes, because really that was never the case in actuality.  There are far too many things to do to have ever been “done” with the game.

What happened instead is I got frustrated and lost sight of the things I wanted to do once upon a time… but have long forgotten about.  My theory is that in keeping this bucket list, I will be able to pick things off of it on those rainy days when I can’t think of anything worth doing.  Now several of them do require lots of people to complete, like finishing off my Glory of the Icecrown Raider achievements that I am missing only a couple of sub achievements on.  But I had a conversation with a guild member last night and we talked about having some sort of a rotating raid achievement night for old school content.  I love ticking off these things, and its even better when you can help a whole group full of people check those goals off as well.

Some examples from mine are…

Bucket List Saves Day


One of the most amazing bloggers/podcasters@AlternativeChat constantly extolls the virtues of “Faffing about”, that is doing the piddly little things that only really matter to you.  After my hour of wrestling with the guild roster, I was not really in the mood to focus on anything much.  I had originally planned on working on questing my way through Hyjal on Gloam, but as I logged in to do just that everything felt “hazy”.  Normally this might have been one of those times that I logged out frustrated with not feeling like making “real progress”.  However It was at this point my WoW Bucket List paid off.   I looked at my long list of objectives and decided that last night would be a mount farming night, as I could chat freely while doing it.

Soloing old content is one of my biggest enjoyments in any game.  There is so much nostalgia wrapped up in making your way through content that used to require a large group.  You feel epic as you trounce monsters that used to trounce you regularly.  Had I not raided every last bit of this content, I doubt I would have the massive shot of nostalgia that this gives me…  but it almost always guarantees a smile on my face.  As a result I started the evening in Tempest Keep, as a friend of mine and I made a contest of it over on our Mumble server.  We started at roughly the same time and tried to see who could clear the dungeon first.  Neither of us managed to get the fabled Ashes of Al’ar to drop… but last week another guild member did so it has renewed our interests.

From there I took a trip over to Utgarde Pinnacle to battle my old nemesis Skadi the Rutheless.  Across the board the protodrake model is one of my favorite mount designs, and to the best of my knowledge the only two that are still available that I am missing… are the blue and yellow.  While the concept of the Time-Lost Proto Drake intrigues me… and every time I have occasion to be in the area I fly the circuit of spawn points “just in case”… I do not have the fortitude to farm it.  Instead I battle my old nemesis in an attempt to steal his mount whenever I have downtime.  I both love and hate the fact that it is heroic, because it limits the amount of grinding I can realistically do in one sitting.

Faffing Pays Off


Upon failing once again to walk away with that ever elusive proto drake, I moved on to the next target which was The Stonecore.  The second boss of the instance, Slabhide has an equal chance of dropping Reins of the Vitreous Stone Drake on both Heroic and Normal.  As a result I tend to farm this mount resetting the instance over and over until I reach the instance lockout timer.  Honestly this is one of the least frustrating farms I have done in a game, as there is a warp gate immediately after the boss that can take you right back to the instance.  So you clear your way down, fight Slabhide and warp back up to the start, zoning out and resetting it.  It was on my fourth clear of the night that luck smiled upon me and I got to tick something off of my Bucket List.


  Here is a gratuitous shot of me riding my new prize immediately after exiting The Stonecore.  This is my very first of the “stone drake” mounts, as I never managed to complete the heroic achievement for Cataclysm.  I ended up leaving only a few months into the expansion, and at that point achievements were just not a priority.  I have quite a few of the things ticked off however, so it is on my bucket list of things to finish up.  I have to say… the Stone Drake model may give the Proto Drake a run for its money.  My absolute least favorite however is the Cloud Serpent model, which has seriously harmed my progress on all of the Pandaria achievements. 

The moment I got my drake I had to tweet @AlternativeChat to share my moment of faffing paying off.  My hope is that tonight I can return to progressing on Gloam, but if not I am sure I will just grab another thing from the list.  Tuesday I had every intent to work on gloam as well but instead wound up running around the world with a pack of guildies farming the Zandalari Warbringers for an attempt at their mount.  So to be honest… my primary plan is to work on Gloam, but I will as always be open to suggestions of alternative paths.  Whatever option we end up choosing is completely fine by me, so long as we have fun doing it.

The Rebirth

The Founding

Back in 2004 House Stalwart was born out of a bunch of friends getting together and planning a community for the launch of the newest up and coming MMO…  the World of Warcraft.  Over those years we’ve had a somewhat bumpy and often storied past, but at the core the guild remained based on a few core tenets and a shared sense of ethics.  It was a set of values that spanned from game to game, and some of my proudest moments were when one of my random guild members would do something awesome out in the world… and news of it would get back to me.  I had built a really awesome thing, and people were happy in it.

The problem was that at the time I was not really happy in the game any longer.  The yoke of leadership was chafing, and towards the tail end of Wrath of the Lich King, the guild pretty much went on autopilot.  With the release of Cataclysm we went through a lot of major changes, as the shift of focus went away from a non guild based raid, to actually raiding as a guild.  In the process we gobbled up four or five different guilds that had been feeding the Duranub Raiding Company.  As a result of this upheaval was a lot of social strife, as various groups that were not entirely used to sharing the same guild had to cohabitate.

The Fracture

As this happened I got more distant myself, because I simply was not enjoying the game anymore.  When I got into the beta of a game called Rift I grabbed on with both hands, and tried my damnedest to recreate the magic of House Stalwart over there as well.  There was a big leaving as folks flaked off to join me in Rift.  It didn’t last of course, but it was enough to pull a good number of people away form the WoW guild.  When Star Wars the Old Republic released another big chunk of players flaked away, and each time something new came out the cycle would happen again.  I had set the events in motion and it had left the guild in a state of chaos.

In many ways House Stalwart was somewhat of a failed state when I returned for my brief stint during the launch of Mists of Pandaria.  Guild chat was deathly quiet, there was a significant fracture in the guild forming that I talked about the other day, and as a whole the entire place was filled with people that did not know who I was.  The number of things I would need to do to fix what was wrong with the guild just felt staggering.  I did a few minor adjustments, but for the most part I assumed that since the guild was running itself, that this must be what the players had come to expect.  The place no longer felt like home, so after a few months of personally getting bored with WoW again… I left.

The Hope

When I came back recently something had changed, either in me or in the guild itself.  I saw a glimmer of the greatness we once had.  Additionally I saw a lot of problems that I thought could be fixed.  I was reluctant to take back the yoke of leadership, because quite simply I was not sure if I would be around for long.  I expected this stint in the game to go much like the last, with me getting tired of it all and going elsewhere.  I had daily conversations with Rylacus the steward I had placed over the guild after my return during Pandaria, and almost always they ended up with some discussion of me taking back the leadership.  To be truthful when he handed back the highest rank on Monday I was still very reluctant to do so.

When Rylacus agreed to take over, it was to keep the lights on and things moving forward.  We had an agreement that if any of the heavy lifting needed to be done, or any drama arose that it would be me that dealt with it.  Over the year of him at the helm, he did a phenomenal job of maintaining the status quo and keeping the guild moving forward.  I would honestly say that the guild itself experienced a bit of a renaissance with his hands off approach, and we are more active now than I have seen in years.  However as a guild on autopilot for over two years, there has also been a lot of discord and resentment that had set in.

The Problem

The other night a long time guild member sent me a tell in game and wanted to talk to me, as the founder about the guild policies.  He said that he wondered about the recruitment policy, and whether or not we ever looked back and reflected upon whether or not an invite was a good one.  I spouted off the well rehearsed lines I have always said, but as I was saying them… I realized that no really we did not any more.  Then he hit me with a statement that cut through to my heart like a razor.  He wanted to talk to me about the “falling guild standards”, and I guess I had realized this was happening but until he came to me and talked to me about it… I was in a bit of a state of denial.  Things were in fact far worse than I had let myself believe.

In particularly a lot of the recent strife has centered around a recent invite, the nephew of a long time member.  Generally what happens in this case is that I bring up the issue with the sponsor, and if they cannot deal with it we remove the person from the guild.  I had gotten lax to be honest, and without that guild master tag… I imagined that it is no longer my duty to police the guild.  The reason why I took up the tag in the first place all those years ago, is because no one else was going to create the type of guild I wanted to exist in.  As I sat there over the weekend, I realized that once again… no one was going to step in to fix the wrongs in the guild if I did not step up and do it myself.

The Solution

After much soul searching, I accepted the guild leadership of House Stalwart in World of Warcraft on Monday night.  I had originally intended to ease my reforms into the guild, but last night things reached a crescendo ending with the quitting of a long time member.  I managed to talk the member back from the brink and they rejoined… but as a result my first act was to lock down a few of the functions in the guild at least temporarily, and to remove the most negative of the influences from the guild.  Over the coming weeks I will be identifying every single one of our  869 current members.  I want to know who they are, where they came from, who they are connected to… and most importantly if they are a positive influence in the guild.

I had already been working hard with mixed results on trying to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, but I feel like there is a lot more work to be done on that front.  I am trying to exist in both worlds and get the two sides talking and interacting regularly… and in some ways this is working, but in others… there is still a lot of resentment to work through.  When I kicked the questionable member from the guild last night, I had a chorus of private messages thanking me.  Many of the members simply thought that no one cared about that sort of thing anymore.  No one had been complaining about anything to myself or Rylacus until that one brave member stood up and said “this is a problem” and shook me back to reality.

The Rebirth

My ultimate hope is that we can turn the tide and bring back House Stalwart to its glory days.  The chapters in the various other games that I have founded have clung tightly to the original tenets, but the original guild strayed from the path.  My biggest hope is that in writing this, and reaching out to the members… is that they now know that I do care, and I do want things to be better.  I want players to interact and communicate regularly filling my screen with happy green spam.  I think last night I took the first steps along a long path that will usher several positive changes.  I hope that folks now realize that my door is always open, and if they have any issue… be it game related or otherwise that they can talk to me at any time.

We used to jokingly call ourselves the “Little Guild that Could”, and over the years that “Little” part changed drastically, but I feel that spirit remained in place.  It felt like as a whole we were pulling towards some shared goal.  This is the magic that I want to revitalize in the guild, the fact that we are not just a tag to wear over our heads but instead a large extended family.  This tapestry is woven out of so many different personalities and play styles… but together we have always been something more.  I am back, because I love these people and I have missed them.  I want to be the leader I used to be, the leader they deserve.  I played WoW for over 7 years without fail… and after two years of wandering around nomadic… I have simply gotten tired of all the jumping.  I feel like I have come home, but there is going to be a lot of work to return the guild to the home I want it to be for us all.

The Messy Breakup

Winter Wonderland

Over the night we got another dusting of snow, and as a result I had to once again dig my jeep out before coming to work.  Firstly… Cold is not one of those things that Belghasts do best… especially a 70 lb lighter Belghast.  This morning as I was getting ready the weatherman said something to the effect that it has been over 150 hours since we had been above freezing.  As I was clearing my vehicle it was 20* outside with a wind chill of significantly less.  I realize this is nothing like the –27* that my Canadian friends have been experiencing this week, but still…  it is in the realm of “effing cold”.  I have been wearing a fleece jacket and then a big winter coat on top of that.

All of the car clearing caused me to get up and around significantly later than I had planned, and as a result I am getting this started significantly later.  Supposedly we will experience some melt this afternoon as temperatures finally go above freezing.  Thursday is supposed to be in the 40s… which seriously feels like short and t-shirt weather as compared to this.  There is no way I could actually survive in a Winter climate.  The irony is… as much as I dislike snow in real life, I tend to love zones that have a winter theme in games.  I love Winterspring, Icecrown and Storm Peaks.  I feel like I would enjoy snow if it were not for that whole cold thing.

The Messy Breakup

The other day I talked about how I may have been wrong to avoid the looking for group tool and pugging in general.  From 71 to 80 I had a really great run of 26 dungeons without much issue at all.  It was a clean and efficient way to level.  However upon entering the Cataclysm dungeon queue system that all changed.  The first group I got was Blackrock Caverns.  Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and was more than geared enough for the content.  As a result it went quickly and smoothly and I thought that maybe just maybe my luck would hold until I was able to level into the Pandaria content.  This however was not the case, or at least not the case for very long.

My next queue was Throne of the Tides, and within moments of stepping through the doors we began a horrific wipe fest that ended with most of the party rage quitting after the tank failed miserably at the first boss encounter.  As a rogue I ended up tanking most of the adds, and was able to pop cooldowns and all that wonderful stuff to at least down both of the casters.  However the tank just seemed to lack the hitpoints and avoidance/mitigation to survive in the instance.  It was not until the third, fourth and fifth bad queue of Throne of the Tides that I started to notice a pattern.  They were all wearing the 1-80 Heirloom gear.

Public Service Announcement

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Simply put… the heirloom gear that caps out at level 80 is simply not viable for tanking the cataclysm instances.  The problem is that Heirloom gear is itemized for the previous expansion.  At 80 it is itemized like it is a low ilevel Wrath of the Lich King blue, which is significantly worse than the lowest ilevel Cataclysm green.  Essentially the quested gear you get early on will be better than anything but epic gear from Wrath, and even then on most of my characters I was changing put purples for greens left and right, especially for tanking where the stamina matters so much.  The above image shows the Polished Breastplate of Valor as compared to Hardened Obsidium Breastplate.

Taking away the fact that the Valor breastplate contains zero tanking stats, it has 391 less armor and 100 less stamina than a Cataclysm tanking green.  The tanks that I see rolling into the level 80 dungeons wearing full heirloom gear simply do not have enough hit points to survive the level of damage that is being dealt by the encounters.  That is even with getting out of all the things they are supposed to be getting out of.  Essentially if you are reading this blog and leveling an up and coming tank, please god do not queue as a tank until you have switched out your level 80 heirloom gear with green quest gear at a minimum.  Granted I am generally more diligent than the average player, and I did not queue at all for ANY dungeons until I had swapped my heirlooms out for quested items. 

Gear Changing

To be truthful I logged in my leatherworker and crafted a full set of gear, and logged in my smith and made two blue axes…  but that is probably going above and beyond what anyone should be expected to do.  However in each expansion, that first zone gives you a complete set of gear including weapons and trinkets within the first few quests.  Over the course of the evening you can go from relatively crappy gear to greens that are better than most of the raid content gear from the previous expansion.  You can maybe limp by as a dps, but especially as a tank, the Cataclysm content is brutal on anyone who has not shifted out their entire set of items. 

I seriously doubt that any of the offending tanks I ran into will actually read my blog, but here is hoping that maybe I catch a few people who simply did not realize that heirlooms are not itemized as the new expansion until you ding 61/71/81/86 etc.  This is the problem with the “mudflation” that has set into blizzards system, there is always a massive jump in stats between expansions, and in the case of Wrath to Cataclysm… it is simply not sustainable for dungeon running.  Hopefully in the post “Item Squish” world the change between expansions will not be nearly as traumatic to the player base.  I am hoping once I managed to get to the next tier of dungeons this problem will for the most part go away, and I can once again return to leveling through instances.  However in the meantime… I am questing my way through Hyjal for what feels like the billionth time.

A Tale of Two Raids

Ending Hibernation

I had to vary up my morning routine today, as today is the first day back after snowmageddon.  Until yesterday afternoon we had not left the house since Thursday evening.  Mostly we got out yesterday just to see how the main roads were.  If we based things on our neighborhood we would think the world was still under a solid sheet of ice.  However as we got out and about we saw that the majority of the major roads were well travelled.  That is not to say that I did not drive slightly under the speed limit on the way in, and not to say that I still did not slip and slide quite a bit.  However I made it into the office without issue.

It is funny how quiet the office is.  I expected to see more people here, however it is just me and one of the server techs.  The irony is that while we are both in the office, we have been chatting over our in office instant messenger rather than face to face.  I guess that is a sign of our lines of work, we are used to doing everything remotely.  Had they not made a big deal about having “no remote work” policy, I would have simply worked remotely on Friday, and potentially this morning as well.  However as to not give the impression that I was getting away with something untoward… I simply took a day of vacation on Friday.  Not wanting to take a second one, I made the commute in this morning.

A Tale of Two Raids

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Last night was a pretty interesting night.  Since we had not really left the house since Thursday, I lost all touch with what day of the week it was.  I had been living in a haze slowly poking away at leveling my rogue, which ended the long weekend almost 82.  So when I was messaged by my raid leader to ask if I would be attending the raid, it was honestly a bit shocking.  I had completely lost track of the fact that it was in fact Sunday, a night that we normally raid.  Earlier in the week it was uncertain if we would even be able to make the raid happen, but we managed to pull in a friend of mine to dps for us.  While a bit rusty she is improving with every single boss fight.

Stalwart has had something odd going on with raiding for some time.  Essentially the guild has been a Tale of Two Raids.  The non-guild-based raid group Duranub, had a pretty even mix of extremely high performing serious players, and not serious at all players that just wanted to raid for the sake of having fun.  This lead to more than a few dramatic moments, so as 25 man raiding dissolved the groups fractured along those lines.  During Cataclysm, we had no less than 5 ten mans that ranged from the super hardcore to the super casual.  As attendance waned and folks left the game, myself included… the two groups that managed to hold together were that of the super hardcore, and the super casual.

When Pandaria released I quickly leveled Belgrave and Belgarou, and when it came time to raid I chose to bolster the super casual raid with my dps.  The problem with that notion was the fact that the super casual raid lacked any form of reliable tanking.  That unfortunately is one of those roles where you need your most talented players.  Without a solid tank you get nowhere at all, and that is precisely what happened… they made little to no progression for a very long time.  Seeing this floundering from a distance was a bit heartbreaking, but at that point I just did not have the patience to stick around and try and help out.  I left wow once again, but this group persevered through sheer will of heart alone.

Warrior Returns

In the time I was away from the game, the Leftovers as they call themselves managed to recruit a stable tank Gamad, and the progress they have made was entirely thanks to her determination… and much drinking to manage to get through the struggles of working with the non-effective tank.  Upon coming back I thought to myself… of all the groups that could use my help it was the Leftovers.  So I have worked my little butt off to get geared enough to take a primary tanking slot.  At this point I am sitting at 522 ilevel and for the most part can handle tanking almost anything out there right now.  In the time I have been tanking with the group we have now cleared two new bosses, and are starting too work on a fourth.  While we are still working our way through Throne of Thunder, it is nice to see steady movement forward again.  At this point we are now done with the first wave of the dungeon and started work on the Tortos encounter last night.

This progress however might not have been.  The under performing tank is back and available for raiding… and due to seniority and the fact that Gamad can out dps a good number of our dps…   the Raid leader decided to put me with the under-performing tank for the night.  Now I have to say, that the tank has some medical issues and is heavily medicated at all times.  That said… it was still like trying to tank an instance with an easily distracted toddler.  He was always off doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and when it came time to do the first tank swap on the Troll Council fight… he was off dpsing something else.  I have so much renewed appreciation for Gamad and what she has struggled with to this point.  I have to say that if I have to co-tank with the other warrior very often, I will probably stop raiding.  I knew it was bad, but I guess I had forgotten just how bad it was.

Slow But Steady

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Thankfully the raid leader also saw how untenable the situation was, and quickly swapped the warrior to dps and Gamad back to tanking.  From there we made a few attempts, each with their own adjustments and managed to kill the Troll Council.  During this time sadly, the warrior had swapped specs but not gear… and ended up fury dpsing with a sword and shield.  Basically when you are this inattentive it is time to just hang up your spurs and bow out of raiding for the good of the group.  The leader whoever has struggled to make the group about family and friends, but there comes a point where keeping certain individuals hurts the overall spirit and morale of the whole.  This is the sticky stuff that made me hate being a raid leader.  There were many nights when I slotted people I didn’t really want to slot for the sake of social reason… not wanting to make a wife raid without her husband etc.

To be truthful this level of stress over variables you cannot quite control is much of the reason why I refuse to be a raid leader anymore.  I got my fill of it over the three years I did it, and I commend the raid leader of Leftovers for his diligence to this point.  That said the warriors return was a comedy of errors, and essentially if he is unable to pay enough attention to keep from charging headlong into the boss while we are clearing trash, it is probably time for him to stop raiding.  That is not to say that I don’t think we should start doing something else that he CAN attend.  I am thinking maybe a world boss night would fight the bill of letting the people who just do not have the ability to pay attention during raids, to feel like they are making progress along with family and friends.  I don’t think we will ever be a progression based raid group, but without two stable tanks we might as well just do something else with our evenings.

A Positive Note

I feel like I have dwelled a lot on the bad during this post, but I want to end it on a positive note.  Since my time in the raid we have completed two brand new encounters, and while we failed miserably at the fourth, we will do some adjusting next Friday and hopefully beat it in the face.  Each of the wins has felt like it was sustainable.  On the try we downed the council, no one actually died other than the hapless warrior.  We completed it a man down, and everything felt very maintainable.  This is a testament to just how good the high performing players in Leftovers are.  I have no doubt that we will continue to progress our way through Throne of Thunder and hopefully complete the instance, gearing each of us to a state where we are ready to take on Seige of Orgrimmar before the expansion is released.  I am personally pretty happy where we are, and how successful we have been.

Matter of Perspective

Unexpected Route

Yesterday I set out with the mission of running the rest of my characters through LFR, but after some frustrations with a couple of bad tanks… I decided to retreat into the comfort of leveling.  The problem is…  leveling through Wrath content feels extremely slow.  The way they lay quests out just is not conducive to burning through them.  I began the day at 71 and after a  few hours I had finally dinged 72, so I figured I would take a break and run a dungeon.  Apparently somewhere along the way I had forgotten just how good Wrath era dungeon experience was.  I quickly shifted from questing my way across north rend to chain running dungeons.

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I am generally the most anti-pug person you could imagine, but for whatever reason as I said the other day… if I am dpsing I have the patience of a saint generally.  What I found surprising however was just how painless the whole event was.  We had one tank rage quit because we did not clear the optimal number of mobs, and someone aggro’d one pack too many.  After calling us all noobs and leaving we got another tank within seconds and completely the dungeon without issues.  We had another tank that did not know which way he was going in Gundrak and after going swimming with the angry fishes for an extended period of time several of the people afk’d out of the dungeon, and I joined them.  Other than those two instances… I had 26 instances of success.

At times the group was chatty, other times they were utterly silent.  In all cases however we succeeded without much effort.  It feels like they have nerfed the dungeons to the point at which anyone can run them without much thought.  As a rogue I pretty much spammed Fan of Knives as we pulled huge packs of mobs.  I found it surprising how quickly I hit 80.  Thanks to the handy dandy statistics inside of World of Warcraft I know I ran exactly 26 dungeons to get from 72 to 80, which was the better part of a day.  However this is definitely the express elevator through wrath content, and I feel like I will do this with pretty much all of my alts that have yet to clear that hurdle.  In fact I am considering today once I have gotten a bit of gear, to do the same with the 80-85 climb.

Matter of Perspective

Maybe my fear and loathing of pugs is unfounded?  Maybe it really is a simple and efficient way to level?  Maybe chain running LFR has just given me a perspective on what I should expect from others?   In any case it was not nearly the traumatic experience I had expected.  I figured I could stomach anything for a single group, however I found the experience rather refreshing.  It may simply be that at this point everyone knows the wrath instances like the back of their hand, and can pretty much run them on autopilot.  In any case I might have to revise my opinion of pick-up groups.  That’s one of my good traits however is that none of my opinions are so intractable that they cannot be changed.  After all I had sworn off World of Warcraft for years, and now find myself enjoying the hell out of it again.  Just like everything in life, I feel that it is all a matter of perspective.


Trolls of Thunder

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Yesterday went pretty much as I had intended it.  I hung out around the house and ran first my Paladin and then my Shaman through a bunch of LFR.  Things went a bit slower than intended since I kept getting in on the end of a run and having to queue again to catch the first boss or two.  I managed to get both characters up into the 480ish range.  Still no real luck with the weapon drops, which seem to be the issue with catching characters up enough to be able to do Siege of Orgrimmar.  As a result my warrior, paladin and shaman are all using 450 level weapons still, and I have not really had much luck with getting spirits of harmony on the smith to be able to bump those up to 463.

Of the options I have at my disposal for weapons, none of them really seem palatable.  I could queue for heroic dungeons and have a random chance of getting the dungeon that drops a weapon… and a random chance on top of that of getting the weapon to drop.  This would only take me to 463, so not really great in the grand scheme of things.  I could farm timeless isle coins, but it takes 10,000-20,000 to be able to purchase a weapon…  and in those cases the weapon is only 476 which really doesn’t help that much.  So the best option still seems to be to queue for Throne of Thunder each week and hope, all the while trying to accumulate Spirits of Harmony for the smith.


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With all of my crafters going, I have really felt the lack of my alchemist.  There are some pretty sweet items you can make as a blacksmith that are 502 ilvl but they require lots and lots of Living Steel.  Once again the only way to get living steel is to get it transmuted by an alchemist.  As a result I have been directing my extra effort towards leveling Gloam my rogue high enough to be able to raise his way through the Pandaria alchemy.  Currently he is capped out at 450 and cannot progress again until I level 75.  As a result I have been working on quests out in Borean Tundra and I almost have him up to 72.  Thinking about just making a serious push to try and get him to 90.

Rogues are way squishier than I remember, and while they have recuperate it doesn’t seem to offer the level of survival I am used to with my other characters.  As a result leveling the rogue has been less than enjoyable.  I am not really a stealthy person, and I have always played my rogues more like a swashbuckler than an assassin.  However the only time combat goes really smoothly is if I make sure I stealth up and get my opening attack.  Hopefully with time I will get back into the swing of playing one, as in the past… burning crusade especially my rogue was my favorite alt.

The thing I find most humorous is that Paladins now kinda play like rogues.  I have been doing a lot of Retribution paladin, and the mechanics are almost exactly like a rogue.  Thing is in many ways it works better.  Instead of everything being based on 5 combo points, all of the attacks seem to be based on 3 even though your bar can fill to 5.  I keep thinking that rogues as a whole would benefit if most of the combo point dumpers capped at 3 as well.  I think this is why I enjoyed my warrior in rift so much as opposed to my rogue.  The three mechanic just seemed to work better, it made the game play feel more “in the moment”.

Too Many Choices

Right now I feel absolutely deluged with choices anytime I play the game.  At this point i have yet to run Siege of Orgrimmar LFR on Belgrave or Belgarou my two best geared characters.  I am 4 coins away from getting all of my sigils of power and wisdom, so I would not mind finishing that off so I can continue down the legendary cloak line.   I have not even begun to work on Belghast, so in theory I could get his gear in order and start doing heart of fear or something like that to get him high enough to queue for Throne of Thunder.  Additionally I really do want to get my rogue up so I can have a transmute spec person again.  I spent a good amount of last night prior to our 10 man catching his herbalism up so he can now at least harvest whatever I come across in northrend.

In the past when I have quit the game I feel like it has been because I lost sight of the things I wanted to complete.  I feel like I almost need to create a World of Warcraft Bucket List.  There are so many little things that I forget about that I do want to complete.  There are so many pets and mounts that I could be spending my time farming.  The entirety of all of this is really almost overwhelming.  I have never completely loremaster for example, and that’s a thing I have always wanted to do.  I doubt I will ever work on the Insane title like Rylacus, but I am sure there are hundred of other little bullet points that I would actually enjoy.  I feel as though if I had a list of these all, it would be much harder for me to lose sight of the progress I am making towards the total.

As a result I think I am going to add a new section to my site, similar to my beta list for my WoW Bucket list.  As I think of more items I will add them to the list and then as I complete them…  I will check them off the list.  Probably will keep it as a google spreadsheet for ease of use.  I’ve seen a few other players with these and I thought they were pretty cool.  All I know for certain is that I am having a blast with all the players that seem to be back from their own hiatus.  It is wierd to see my battletag/realid lighting up with players I have not seen in years.  At the end of the day, this game really is about the people you play it with.

Hot Coffee and LFR

Snowed In

Good morning everyone, hopefully you are staying warm out there.  Here in the central part of the country we had a mass of ice and snow dropped on us.  Generally my point of reference is when two school districts on opposite corners of town call schools the next day, I decide I am going to stay home.  Since this happened I put in a day of vacation for today and slept in.  Apparently my absence was noticed, since I have already received tweets saying that a snowstorm was no excuse for not posting.

I think we probably got an inch or two of ice last night and then over night that got covered up by three to four inches of snow.  Which to the northerners probably doesn’t sound like much, but here in Oklahoma we get glaze ice that is nearly impossible to drive on.  Additionally we really do not have the infrastructure to remove large volumes of ice and snow…  since we only go through this at most once a year.  Over the last three years we have had really mild winters that never really produced much in the way of an ice storm.  While this is nothing like the 2007 or 2011 storms, it is far more significant than anything we have seen in years.

Hot Coffee and LFR

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As a result I am snuggled up on the sofa with my fuzzy pants and my fuzzy blanket and a thermal shirt blogging away on my laptop.  I just finished off hot oatmeal and some hot coffee, and the only thing of any substance I really have planned today is to play some World of Warcraft.  I have five 90s in various states of gear and the easiest way to get upgrades for them is through the LFR system.  As much as I have railed against pugging in the past, something odd happens if I pug as DPS.  I simply stop caring much about the success or failure of the group.  As a DPS I can compartmentalize things and focus only on what I am doing and stop caring that the group is burning down around my shoulders.

As a Tank or a Healer… I simply cannot do this.  I have to care about the group and how stupid they might be acting.  My job relies on them doing their jobs.  When playing one of those group roles I simply cannot stomach pugging or lfr, it ends up stressing me out way too much.  However apparently as a DPS I have the patience of a saint.  I keep plugging forward towards the goal and right click reporting anyone who is too abusive.  It all seems simple and pure, and in an odd sense relaxing.  It’s like I have reached into my brain and flipping me into DPS empties me of “fucks to give”.  That is not to say that I don’t care about me keeping up my end of the bargain, but I simply don’t care as much about others not doing so.

So my intent today is to run as many LFR instances as I can this week to try and get my tribe of alts gear.  The hardest thing seems to be weapons, and as a nice side benefit from these runs my blacksmith seems to be getting quite a few motes which will help him upgrade the weapons of those who have not gotten their turn at the LFR treadmill.  That is still one of my biggest frustrations that I hope they will address in WoD.  Crafting resources like Spirits of Harmory should be bind on account.  I like the feeling of all of my characters working towards a bigger goal, its like I have my own little imaginary guild.  Anything that adds to this feeling is a positive for me, since you have earned the item on one character already.

Trove Patch

I am sure at some point today I will be hopping into trove.  Yesterday they seem to have had another patch.  I am really impressed at the speed at which they do updates.  This one seems to be mostly a patch full of tweaks but one of the more interesting points is that the block destroyer is no longer an item and no longer works in adventure mode.  This could have some odd ramifications since I know I used it in adventure mode quite a lot.  Another needed note is that they reduced the quantity of treasure chest spawns in the desert and frost biomes.  Normally nerfs like this meet a groan, but this one was really needed.  There were times I could see 6 treasure chests on screen at a single time. 

I wasted so much time chasing these down because seriously…  you cannot bypass a treasure chest.  I figure at some point over the next few days I will be making a new video as I am sure the server has reset again and I will have to collect more weapons and gear.  If there is anything you would like to see me cover let me know.  I am not above having a purpose for my videos even though they are mostly just me roaming aimlessly around the wasteland.  I hope you all are safe and happy and warm, and that if you did get the snow and ice I did, you also had the presence of mind to take a vacation day.