(This story came out of the convergence of two things. One is the Feathermoon Peace Summit, a bit of RP that’s happening tonight, Friday 7 September, in Dalaran; a group of PCs from both factions will be meeting to attempt to broker at least a tenuous peace and time to heal in the wake of Deathwing’s destruction and the end of the Cataclysm. It will, of course, all go spectacularly wrong in two weeks or so…but the characters don’t know that.
The second is trying to explain the fact that I haven’t played World of Warcraft for going on six months now, and hadn’t played my dwarf hunter Beltar for a few months before that. He’s been absent for almost a year. I offhandedly mentioned something about this on Twitter one day a few weeks back and Marty–the guy behind Bricu Bittertongue, driving force behind the Peace Summit, world’s most ascerbic paladin and Number Two of the Wildfire Riders–came up with this idea. I took it and ran with it. Combine the dwarf’s newfound love of archaeology and the heightened state of tension between the Horde and Alliance, and season it with my tendency to do horrible things to my own characters, and, well, here you are.
There are several other parts to the story, which will come in due time as I write them. And yes, this means that I hope to get back to WoW blogging, and blogging about other games as well, on a more consistent basis. I don’t know if I’m over my critical WoW burnout, and my head is still kind of fucked up in a lot of ways, but with a new job and living in a new town taking some of the pressure off things, I am somewhat optimistic–a rarity for me–that I can get my poop collected enough to get my blog groove back.
Oh, this story is rated “R” for language, thick dwarven accents, and exploding heads.)
Beltar Forgebreaker had never been very good with numbers.
Mathematics, advanced or otherwise, had never been a subject that the School of Hard Living had bothered to teach him. He could do what he termed “simple cipherin’,” if he had quill and paper, or perhaps charcoal and rock, or even stick and dirt, to hand. He tended to count on his fingers a lot, out loud. Someone had once told him that if he’d apply himself to learning some sort of bizarre form of science he only remembered as “trigganawhatthfuckever,” it would make him a better shot. But that was pigshit, he knew. He didn’t think about being lethal behind the stock of a gun, he just was. He sighted, he fired, things died, and he didn’t waste time or effort worrying about the whys and wherefores of it. “Why mess it up with thinkin’?” was his reply.
Fact was, he simply didn’t need to be good with numbers. He could count the coin in a purse given to him after killing a target or completing a job as a bodyguard, and when that was empty, he went on to the next one. The nuances of finance, of computing compound interest or balancing a ledger, that was best left to others. As long as he had enough to eat and drink and whore and buy what he needed, with a little stuffed away in a sock for emergencies, that was fine.
But there was one number, now, that Beltar never lost track of, and never forgot. He carried it with him, every waking second, and he knew exactly how to cipher it and how he had arrived at the result. That number was precisely three hundred and sixteen.
It was the number of days since the orcs had captured him.
(The Pig and Whistle, just shy of a year earlier.)
Taverns like the Pig don’t operate on the same schedule as the rest of Stormwind, or even the rest of Old Town. The quietest time inside the Pig isn’t the darkest part of the night, just before dawn, but instead is the brightest part of mid-morning, when the good citizens of Old Town (there are a few, believe it or not) are at work, and everyone else is still sleeping off the previous night’s adventures.
This sunny, quiet morning inside the Pig’s main room, there were just two people up and about. One was Reese Langston, doing what Reese had gone for gods alone knew how many years, even before the Wildfire Riders had come along and taken over…cleaning mugs, arranging taps, preparing the tavern for the day ahead. The other was Beltar Forgebreaker, perched awkwardly in a chair too tall for his dwarven frame as always, gun propped against the table and bulging pack taking up another chair nearby. He was enthusiastically polishing off the last of an egg-and-steak breakfast, letting fly with a huge belch as he put down his fork.
“You knock the mugs off my shelf burpin’ like that, Forgebreaker, they’re coming out of your beard,” Reese growled without even looking up.
“Bah,” Beltar replied. “This little trip o’ mine works out, I’d get ya sommat fancy glass t’replace ‘em…y’know, fer ‘em tea-drinkin’ mage types.” He wiggled his fingers at Reese.
The barkeep snorted. “You ain’t said where you’re goin’ on this trip, anyhow.”
Beltar eased down off the chair and began arranging items in his pack. “Kalimdor, ain’t as sure ‘zactly where yet. Hirin’ on w’ Explorer’s League, doin’ some ruins diggin’ over ‘ere. Turns out Deathwing, in addition t’damn near destroyin’ th’ world an’ all, cracked open a few ol’ night elf an’ dwarf ruins, an’ th’ League’s been lookin’ fer folks t’, ah, ‘freelance,’ shall we say. Y’know, workin’ fer ‘em but not quite workin’ fer ‘em, case th’ locals git techy ’bout it. ‘Plausible deniawhatsit,’ one ‘em perfesser types called it.”
“Never pictured you as the archaeologist type, Forgebreaker,” Reese said, putting down the mug he’d been polishing. “I always thought you’d use artifacts for target practice.”
Now it was Beltar’s turn to snort. “I ain’t no pointy-headed Harrison Jones-type what can’t tie ‘is boots, lad. But…Nether, I dunno. Gotta have somethin’ t’do what with peace breakin’ out like a rash, aye? ‘At Jones ponce gave me a coupla books, I read ‘em, dig some diggin’, found out I kinda liked it and apparently I ain’t ‘arf bad at it.” A shrug. “Must be in our blood ‘r’ somethin’, dwarves diggin’ up ancient shit.”
“You told Tarquin or Annie?”
“Nah. They don’t need t’know.” Beltar went back to arranging his pack.
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong.” Beltar didn’t turn around but kept working on the pack.
“Horseshit. Don’t lie to a bartender, Forgebreaker. You oughta know by now that never works.”
“Ain’t nothin’ what needs t’be talked about, Reese,” Beltar replied shortly, still not making eye contact.
The dwarf stopped working on the pack, hung his head, and sighed before looking back up at Reese. “Aright, lad. Y’want yer answer? The short of it is, it ain’t like they need me ’round here noway.”
“What are you on about?”
“Take a look ’round, Reese. Deathwing’s done. Shaw’s backed down. Boss’s turned legit, as close as that boy’ll ever git. Riders got ever’thin’ under control ’round here. Sevens ain’t even fuckin’ wi’ us no more, on account’a th’ Riders bein’ dragonslayers ‘n’ shit. I ain’t no dragonslayer. They didn’t need me fer any ovvit.” He turned back around and started yanking on straps and drawstrings on the bulging backpack. “Ain’t but three things I ever been good at, Reese—used t’be four but I’m gettin’ on too old fer ‘at one. Number one’s killin’, number two’s drinkin’, an’ turns out, number three’s diggin’. Got ’nuff people ’round here t’handle number one, an’ it ain’t like y’can make a livin’ outta number two. So I’mma go dig. Might help git m’head right, might not, who knows? But hangin’ ’round here w’ fuck all t’do surely ain’t.”
Beltar awkwardly hoisted the pack onto his back and began strapping it on. “Figger they all might notice I ain’t been ’round in a few days, ‘r maybe not. Reckon if they don’t, ain’t no loss on either side, aye? ‘S all covered either way. I ain’t left no notes ‘r’ nothin’, figger y’can tell anybody askin’.”
Reese stood there with his mouth half-open as the dwarf finished adjusting his backpack and started walking for the door. “That sounds damned final, Forgebreaker. You are comin’ back, right?”
Beltar shrugged as he picked up Black Death, his rifle. “Prolly. I ain’t plannin’ t’git m’self killed, if that’s what yer askin’. Guess…I dunno. Guess a change o’ scenery might do me some good, I reckon. Feel like I’m actually part o’ somethin’ again, y’know, ‘stead o’ just th’ ol’ dwarf in th’ corner wi’ a pig an’ a ale.”
He stopped and turned back as he reached the threshold and stared out into the bright Stormwind morning. “Take care o’ yerself, Reese. I’mma miss yer cookin’.” A forced grin. “An’ mornin’s like ‘is. Yer…yer a good man, lad. See ya soon.” He stepped forward and disappeared into the dusty sunlight of the street outside.
“You too, Forgebreaker,” Reese Langston said softly.
That afternoon, when Reese went back around to the stable, he saw a familiar black shape standing in a stall to greet him. Squealer oinked once, seemingly pleased at Reese’s expression of stunned exasperation. There was a note pinned to a string around the boar’s neck:
Reese. Take care of the fat bastard for me, Jolly the drool factory too. Dog’s downstairs, he knows to go out to pee and shit. Not so sure about Squealer even after all these years. He ain’t bacon so don’t even. Beltar.
(Stonetalon Mountains. Nine days later.)
The view, Beltar had to admit, was worth the trip it had taken to get here.
The cliff to the north dropped a hundred feet or more into a green valley, dotted with scrubby trees. Beltar knew that the sea was off to the northwest, but a wall of rocky hills similar to the one that surrounded him blocked sight of it. No one seemed to live down there, which was odd to him; he knew the soil in the Stonetalon Mountains was generally too poor for farming, but he also knew the Tauren were hunters, and he’d seen signs of game when they had explored down there a few days earlier. Ain’t bad country fer Kalimdor, he thought. Beats all outta Desolace fer damn sure, least until th’ Cenarions get done with ‘er.
He turned back around and looked at the ruins that had brought them out here to this northwestern corner of Stonetalon, a place that was so damned remote that the maps didn’t even bother to name it. The Cataclysm had partially opened up the high valley in which he now stood and revealed what might have been some sort of pre-Sundering elven town or outpost—so the “perfessers” said. To Beltar, the columns did resemble some ruins he’d seen while flying over Azshara years earlier, but that was about as far as his knowledge of architecture went.
He, two archaeologists, and two Explorer’s League guards had been here for three days, digging and cataloguing the old elven ruins. They’d ridden in following the lead of a goblin that they’d paid a damned exorbitant sum to lead them through a tortuous pass in the mountains up from Desolace. The journey had cost them one of the pack rams that had been shipped in special from Loch Modan, and that had just been the beginning. Their erstwhile guide, the day after he’d gotten them to the valley, had up and disappeared. Beltar had a good eye for terrain, and thought he could get them back out to Desolace when they broke camp tomorrow, but the goblin’s sudden vanishing act had him nervous. These lands, he knew, were not only wild, but a war zone between the orcs and the Alliance. And as near as he could figure, the Horde was winning.
The sounds of an animated discussion carried over to him. Beltar looked over at the great white worg next to him and sighed. “Fuckin’ eggheads, Furball,” he shook his head. “Better see what’s what afore the perfessers stab each other w’quill ‘r’ sommat.” He picked up his rifle and walked over to the other side of the ruins, Furball casually padding along behind.
The “perfessers”–Dolwin Longstride of the Explorer’s League, and a Kal’dorei from Darnassus who had just introduced himself as “Carnelius” and hardly said six words to Beltar since—were standing over a half-buried piece of statuary, having a heated argument.
“I’m telling you, Professor,” Carnelius said, drawing the title out in a way that made it quite clear what he thought of it. “This is not what you think it is. There is no possible way that this could have been used in elven worship. It is a simple ornamental house statue from a period no further back than two hundred years before the Sundering, and has no real historical value whatsoever!”
“Far be it from me to correct ye, Professor, about yer own people’s history, but yer full o’ dung!”, Longstride roared back. “I read every history yer own scholars wrote on late Azsharan religious practices, an’ I’d bet a week’s bar tab in Ironforge that this here is a temple offerin’ statue. An’ see those jewelry carvings? That went out of fashion five hundred years earlier than what you said. This is a find, ye stuffy ponce!”
“Um…”, Beltar interrupted, straddling the statue to stand between the two academics. “I don’t rightly know whether ‘is bit o’ furniture’s from a temple house ‘r a house house ‘r a fuckin’ shithouse. What I do know izzat twilight’s comin’ on, and y’d best keep yer damned voices down! Sound carries a ways off those rocks up there, and in case y’ hadn’t heard, there’s about a shitload o’ orcs two valleys over what ain’t gonna take kindly t’us furtherin’ yer academic study. So pack yer shit up, an’ be ready t’ ride outta here at first light, ‘cuz we’re pushin’ our luck bein’ up here. Unnerstand?”
In the tense, echoing silence that followed, the only sounds were the chirping of the birds and the suppressed snicker from one of the caravan guards.
“Now see here, dwarf,” Carnelius finally managed to grit out through clenched teeth. “I do not take orders from…”
“Fine, lad,” Beltar cut him off. “Y’ don’t take orders from th’ likes o’me? Tell Garrosh Hellscream all ’bout yer ornamental house statue while th’ rest of us ‘r halfway back t’Theramore. This ain’t a classroom, y’ poncy git! This…”
Beltar stopped. Furball was staring up into the rocks to the east, growling. His fur began to bristle.
“Fuck,” Beltar hissed, and that one word had a weight of meaning behind it.
“What’s…” Beltar cut Longstride off. “’That there worg can hear ‘n’ see better’n any of us, an’ th’ way he’s actin’, I’d say we got company.” He glanced up and saw that the guards had already drawn their blunderbusses and moved near some defensive positions. Good lads. He reached down beside the statue, where he’d set Black Death down when he’d first come over. “Find yerselves a place t’hide if y’ain’t innerested in gettin’ in a fight, lads. I’d say this might be ’bout t’git ugly.” Fuck, why am I not wearing my armor? Because you can’t dig in armor, dumbass, that’s why…
There was a hissing sound near Beltar’s right ear, just over his head, from behind him. Reflexively, he turned and brought Black Death to his shoulder. The sight settled on a red-clad troll that had just stood up from behind a rock forty paces up the shoulder of the valley to the west, the other direction from where Furball had been looking. The troll’s arm was extended forward. Details burned into his mind—teal skin, green hair, yellow tusks—as Beltar stroked the rifle’s trigger once. The crack of the gun boomed off the walls around them as the troll flung his arms wide and disappeared back behind his rock.
Beltar spun back around to see Carnelius still standing there looking down…not at Beltar, not at the statue, not at Longstride. He was looking at the throwing axe protruding out of his breastbone. He touched it, eyeing it with what could have almost been academic interest had it been buried in someone else‘s chest. He looked to the rock where the troll had stood, coughed once, and collapsed in a heap.
“Move!”, Beltar screamed, and dove for the excavated area around the statue, trying to find some cover. The others did the same, and even as they did, the hills around them—all around them—erupted in shouts and screams. A throwing spear clanked off the statue as the old dwarf landed awkwardly and rolled behind it. Booms from the guards’ guns mingled with battle cries as Beltar stuck his head up and tried to come to grips with what was going on.
Orcs, and the odd troll, were pouring down off the ledges overlooking the digsite. A couple dozen, maybe more, Beltar guessed, all wearing identical spiked brown shoulderguards and matching breastplates. Some were throwing spears, others were waving swords and axes. All of them had bloodlust in their eyes and curses on their lips.
Beltar felt no fear…there wasn’t time. Time slowed down and his actions became automatic, honed by decades of training and experience.
Find a target. He peeked up from cover and picked out a particularly large orc near the front of a group of five clambering down the western slope toward him.
Aim. Black Death’s unwieldy barrel and bayonet cleared the lip of the pit and the sight settled on the orc’s massive head.
Fire. One gentle squeeze of the trigger, a flash and crack, and the top of the orc’s head exploded as he turned to urge on the ones behind him. Bone and brains sprayed as the orc’s neck and shoulders snapped backward while his legs, improbably, carried forward another step. The net result was an almost laughable cartwheel, the orc’s bare feet flailing in mid-air for a split-second before his lifeless body, pitched parallel to the ground, crashed straight down into the rock. Beltar didn’t see it. He was already behind the top of the pit again, jacking another round into the chamber.
A scream from his right…the orcs had reached the column one of the two guards had been using for cover. He had thrown down his blunderbuss and drawn two hand axes to try and defend himself, but there were four of them and but one of him. One orc rolled on the ground in front of him clutching his stomach, but another smashed an axe through the young dwarf’s helmet and on into his skull even as a troll speared him through the gut so hard the guard’s feet left the ground.
Beltar aimed and fired again. The orc he’d picked out fell forward, dead before his face met rock, and the one behind him clutched his shoulder and spun backward—not dead but at least wounded. But still they kept coming, apparently not slowed by any fear of death.
A yelp, from his left this time. He saw Furball covered in blood—some his, some not, judging by the two motionless orcs in front of him. He leapt onto a third, driving him to the ground with fangs sunk into the orc’s huge neck. Then he disappeared under a wave of green skin, brown armor, and flashing blades.
No time to mourn. The fourth orc went down to a shot in the gut, and then the fifth was upon him with no time to reload. Beltar was no lover of close-quarters fighting, fair or unfair, but he wasn’t entirely unskilled at it. He couldn’t match the orc strength for strength, even in his younger days, and he was far from those. So he wasn’t even going to try.
The orc bellowed a war cry and brought his great two-handed axe down, trying for a single killing blow. Beltar side-rolled to one knee as best he could, using Black Death to parry the downstroke. Sparks flew and metal screeched as the parry pushed the axe aside just enough to send it sticking into the soft dirt at the edge of the pit. The orc, still carrying some forward momentum from his charge down the hill, couldn’t stop and went ass-over-elbows down the slope, crashing into the base of the statue leaving the axe stuck in the ground. Beltar staggered to his feet and bayoneted the orc in the throat before he had a chance to recover.
He dropped back to one knee and grabbed another round to reload. He faintly heard the noise of movement behind him, and turned around as he brought the rifle up to firing position.
He saw a huge orc with brown skin. He saw the flash of a hammer. And then he saw nothing.
…’cause Beltar’s got a gun. (Sorry, Aerosmith fans.)
Beltar, my poor somewhat-neglected dwarf marksman hunter, like guns. A lot. No surprise there, right…after all, he is a dwarf, and he’s been single-spec marksman since day one. But he’s also not so set in his ways that he’d turn down an upgrade. So on one of his rare forays into Icecrown Citadel in a 10-man a few months ago, when a Njorndar Bone Bow dropped to replace his beloved rifle from the Big Round Room, The Diplomat, he took it–albeit reluctantly.
When 4.0 dropped, he had enough Justice Points saved up (thanks to a stack of over 240 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog) to immediately upgrade to four-piece T10 (one of them ilevel 264, the rest basic ilevel 251). But obviously, there’s no guns available with badges. The bow has done him well, but it just didn’t look right to see this old fart who’d been humping a gun of some sort around the Eastern Kingdoms forever throwing his shoulder out of joint to use a bow…not even a crossbow, a stinking elfy bow. As Beltar might say, “dammit, ain’t proper fer a dwarf t’be seen w’a stick an’ a string, ‘cept in emergencies, o’course.”
Well, I was chatting with Rilgon from Stabilized Effort Scope–a guy who lives, breathes, eats, pees, poops, and probably has carnal thoughts about marks huntering when he’s not having them about gnomes–on Twitter a couple days ago, and when I mentioned something about wanting to replace that bow with a gun but being very short on options due to Beltar not having access to any raids on Alliance-side Feathermoon, he suggested that I look at the Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle. This is the ilevel 264 version of the season 8 arena reward weapon. During the arena season, it required an arena rating of 1800 to purchase. I don’t do arenas, so I hadn’t paid PvP rewards any mind. Rilgon said that the lower Wrathful items, the ilevel 264 versions, could now be bought with honor only, 2550 points to be precise…this despite the fact that when I checked, they still had a big red blurb on the tooltip that said “requires a personal or team arena rating of 1800.”
Thanks to a stupidly huge number of Stone Keeper’s Shards he’d built up, Beltar had something like 1700 honor saved up. He needed 2550 for the gun. And I said to myself five fateful words that I just know I should never say, but I always do it anyway…
“How hard can it be?”
The correct answer is “plenty,” when you’re on the Alliance side in the Cyclone battlegroup (where Horde tend to dominate most battlegrounds except Alterac Valley), and you’re an MM hunter with zero resilience in ilevel 245/251/264 PvE gear, and you have no damn idea how to PvP on a hunter because you’ve got maybe 400 lifetime HKs to start with, and you’ve never even been in Strand of the Ancients or Isle of Conquest.
There’s a word for people like me. That word is “noob.”
I won my first-ever trip to Isle of Conquest by following my normal AV strategy–find the biggest group of friendlies I can, stay in the middle of them, and shoot stuff with a red tag. Could be a healer, could be a warrior, could be a water elemental, could be a cat, could be a felguard–doesn’t matter. Hit “tab” and open up like Rambo with an M60 (including the guttural yelling) on the first thing that I randomly target, that’s how I roll. (Hey, I said I was bad at this.) I then stand there and shoot until either it dies or its friends show up, I completely forget where Disengage and Deterrence and all my trap keys are, and I die.
It was, in a word, a painful two days. With everybody stacking huge resilience, that bow might as well have been shooting Nerf arrows…while with my zero resilience, I was all but two-shotted by mages more than once. (Seriously, frost mages, wtf. 15k and 11k simultaneous crits? Daaaamn.) I was in the first AV I’ve ever seen where the Horde actually out-zerged the Alliance. Normally, if both sides bumrush to the opposite end of the map without stopping, the Alliance always wins. Well, that doesn’t work when you get 15 people into Drek’s room, the tank pulls…and nobody heals him, either because there’s no healers there or the healers are all standing around looking at each other saying, “I thought you were going to do it.” We spawn all the way back at the north end of the map, Horde kill Vandar, gee gee noob, here’s your consolation-prize 15 honor instead of 45 because you were afflicted with teh dumb.
And that chat. Oh dear sweet zombie Arthas, battleground chat is so stupid it hurts. Especially in AV, when all the amateur Pattons and Rommels get into arguments first about strategy, then about parentage. “ALL ON O RUSH RUSH RUSH” followed by “NO NEED D AT STONEHEARTH AND BALINDA” followed by “stfu noob, ur mom neds d lol”…do you guys on PvP servers have to put up with this level of dumbass constantly? If you do, my God, I feel for you and can’t believe you can stand it.
The only thing that saved me from giving up on the upgrade was a Feathermoon peculiarity–the Alliance own Lake Wintergrasp probably 95% of the time. It’s really rather ridiculous. There are a ton of very good Horde PvPers on Feathermoon, but they just don’t care much about Wintergrasp any more. So as Alliance, it’s relatively easy to go into a WG, rip out a few quests, tear up the towers, sponge a bit of honor, retain the fort, sponge more honor, and come out with 100-125 quick and easy honor points for very little effort.
So after two days of frustration and idiocy, I finally cracked 2550 honor, and immediately ran to the vendor under Dalaran. And lo and behold, tooltip be damned, Beltar could buy and equip his new Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle. The dwarf had a gun, and all was right with the world.
Now, all it needed was a name. His old rifle from Karazhan had picked up the name “Black Death.” So this charming little boomstick, with its huge stock and spikes sticking everywhere, needed a name too. I thought for a few seconds, and then remembered how generally unpleasant getting it had been, how stupid the chat had been in all the battlegrounds, and how tactically moronic so many of the losing sides had been, and I had my answer.
Say hello…to the Durpinator.
At roughly 7:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time last night, the Latisha Experiment reached the conclusion of its first stage when Miss Latisha Morganson, twenty-year-old disowned rich daughter of a noble and unscrupulous Stormwind merchant family, hit level 80. She did it while talking to a dead gnome (Arly, the gnome DK questgiver at Blackwatch in Icecrown). Despite being level 80, Latisha is still squicked by dead gnomes, and still washes her hands frequently after interacting with them. (She’d totally be carrying around a giant bottle of Purel, if the stuff had been invented by fellow dead-gnome-germophobes yet.)
Regular readers of Achtung Panzercow know that I rolled Latisha last year as an experiment to use my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides to actually level a warrior as hardcore Protection all the way from 1 to 80. The goals were to validate my own guides; to prove that it was not only viable, but fun, to level solo as Prot; and so I had a tank Alliance-side on Feathermoon just in case I ever needed her.
Based on the results, I’d say all three goals were fully met and then some. I used my own talent suggestions with only two minor variations (taking Improved Disarm early and not shifting out of it to pick up Vigilance until the mid-60s, and shifting the two points in Cruelty over to Shield Specialization to end up with a 15/3/53 build instead of 15/5/51). She actually required virtually no outside money from Beltar while leveling. I gave her some gold for bags to start with, and funded one 30-40 gold AH buying spree in her 20s, but other than that, she’s been completely self-sufficient, getting by on quest rewards, drops, and the money from mining and skinning auctions. She arrived at level 80 with about 2600 gold to her name, and that was without really trying to stop the leveling process just to make gold. She’s still only got a slow flying mount, and no dual-spec, but those were personal choices–I could’ve easily ground the money for either one, but I wanted to save the maximum amount to kit her out once she got her special present in the mail from Rhonin Sue.
As for leveling her, it was easy. Yes, there were bumps, and yes, I’m still hearing the female human “not enough rage!” in my sleep, but quite honestly, I found it much easier leveling her than I did leveling my enhancement shaman Sakula last year. I don’t know if that means I’m really good at Prot warriors or that I’m utter fail at enhancement shamaning (more likely the latter), but getting Latisha to 80 was really pretty unspectacular. I borrowed some help from friends at times to hammer out group quests like the ones in Dragonblight (teaming with my wife’s 80 Draenei enhancement shaman to do every group quest in Dragonblight, Grizzly Hills, and Zul’Gurub in one run) and used the LFD tool extensively once she got into Northrend. In terms of leveling, it’s still far faster to grind quests than dungeons, but the dungeons are where the loot is.
Actually, by level 79, thanks to the LFD tool and some trips to the AH, she was pretty well set for tanking normal instances. She had several pieces of Tempered Saronite crafted armor off the AH, a Riot Shield from Violet Hold, various other blue bits from dungeons, topped off with a Crusader’s Resolution from questing in Icecrown, and the Crescent of Brooding Fury from killing Ragemane in Zul’drak. She could get herself over 21,000 health with Commanding Shout up and had around 505 Defense. I never had any significant issues with her tanking a Northrend regular dungeon.
Heroics, however, are quite another matter. So as soon as she dinged 80, I immediately headed to Ironforge on a spending spree…and spend I did. A Titansteel Shield Wall. A Tempered Titansteel Helm. A Tempered Saronite Belt to replace her Cobalt Belt. Some gems (and thanks a ton, Arrens, for sending me those Enduring Eyes of Zul–a big help!) and enchants. Then I flew around and picked up all of the faction tabards I’d need and did more shopping–grabbing the Special Issue Legplates from the Argent Crusade, and swapping that very slow (speed 2.60) axe for a nice fast (speed 1.50) Fang of Truth from the Wyrmrest Accord; even though it cost me Defense points, I’m far more used to tanking with a fast weapon and very much prefer it in instances. (Plus, she desperately needed the +hit.) By the time I was done, she’d gone from 2600+ gold to less than 10…and still only 527 Defense. Not the 535 she needed to be crit-immune in heroics.
Accepting her non-heroic status, I ran a normal Utgarde Pinnacle to get some money. Interestingly, from doing the quests in there, I picked up the Silver-Plated Battlechest. Between that, and her raw Defense skill finally hitting 400…she had 537 Defense. Y halo thar, magic number.
Unbuffed: 21,251 health. 22,450 armor. 537 Defense. 17.1% dodge, 15.46% parry, 14.48% block. A Gearscore well south of 2900.
So of course, I queued to tank a heroic.
And the Wheel of Suck came up…Halls of Motherfucking Stone. Oh great.
Now I freely admit, I expected what sometimes happens when a low-geared fresh 80 tank shows up at an random instance…a chorus of “wtf?? u tank?” from DPS or healers with 6000+ Gearscores and egos to match, followed by some insults and group-dropping (or kicking). Instead, to my utter astonishment, I found that my group was perfectly cool with me being there. I had more health than everybody but the death nugget, and he only beat me by about 1200. We were all roughly around the same gear level, give or take a bit. For once, the LFD tool actually matched five people who realistically belonged in the same instance!
And thus, we ended up taking a 45-minute jaunt through Halls of Stone…but we did it. Killed all four bosses with just one wipe (totally my fault when I screwed up a pull and got three groups) plus one extra death on Sjonnir. No deaths on the Tribunal of Ages. Let me tell you, I don’t work that hard when Linedan is tanking Arthas. It was crazy, it was hard work, and it was stupidly fun to tank that place on a character that could’ve rolled need on half the loot that might drop.
So there you have it. A tank, with no heroic or badge loot whatsoever, who bought her own gear and got herself to the point where she could tank heroic dungeons with very little outside help. The only “gift” in all that loot are two of those Eyes of Zul from Arrens. The rest, she’s earned via questing, drops, or bought on the AH with her own gold.
I know that life is harder for a tank at 80 than for a DPS or healer. DPS can walk straight into heroics and get carried to an extent and gear up that way (I’ve done it, several times). A healer needs to work a bit harder at it but can still move into the world of badge collection with not a huge amount of effort. But a tank, at least a warrior tank, takes a lot of effort to get ready for heroic tanking. But here’s the proof, guys, you can do it. Don’t despair if you’ve got a baby tank in the 70s and you don’t know how you’re going to get her into Badgeland. I’ve done it. Here’s proof. It takes a bit of a judicious eye about loot, minimal faction grinding, and some gold (or friends willing to help you out).
At this point, life for Latisha diverges into two separate paths. On Feathermoon, I will continue to tank with her, probably normals and heroics, and gear her up a bit. In fact, she’s got 28 Badgers of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, so she’ll be able to get a piece of T9 very soon. (Had I run more instances while leveling in Northrend, she’d already have at least one.) Her “other” life will soon find her on Lost Isles, in the Cataclysm beta, just as she is right now as I write this, with no tier gear, no badge gear, and nothing over ilevel 200. I already know how leveling is over there with a highly-geared raider…let’s see how it is with a fresh-faced 80 who’s never set foot inside a 10- or 25-man.
Maybe I can slow down and even get some roleplay in with her now. We’ll see. One thing’s for sure, I’ve grown attached to my six-foot-one poor little rich girl. She may be my sixth character to level 80, but she’s definitely a keeper.
Linedan is my main–he always has been and barring catastrophe, he always will be. But my “Alliance main,” the dwarf hunter Beltar Forgebreaker, is probably my most fun character to roleplay.
On the surface, he looks like your typical fantasy dwarf…irascible, sarcastic, a bit on the greedy side, inordinately in love with his guns. But dig deeper and you’ll find that Beltar’s not exactly a stout-hearted dwarven hero in the Gimli mode. For over a hundred years, he’s wandered the Eastern Kingdoms as a gun for hire, on both sides of the law (sometimes simultaneously), not settling in any one place for long. He’s been a mercenary, an assassin, a guard, a hitman, a bodyguard, and more. His idea of a fair fight has always been one where he shoots his opponent in the head without ever being seen. And now, late in his life, he’s found his calling as an adventurer and general ne’er-do-well with the Wildfire Riders.
But even anti-heroes have to start somewhere. And in a fashion typical of the accidental nature of his wanderings, Beltar’s first steps on his wandering path didn’t happen the way you’d envision they might.
“Redemption” was a story that I wrote in late 2005, a few months after Beltar’s creation in August. I don’t remember how this backstory came to me, really It just popped into my head and I had to take some time out and write it right now dammit…so I did. I always knew Beltar was oldish, and a wanderer, but until this story body-checked me out of nowhere, I had no clue as to what started him on his lifelong odyssey of the gun.
It’s below a cut, because it’s hella long–4400 words. In case you haven’t noticed, I do tend to run on a bit.
I hope you enjoy it.
I have to give a major shout-out here…big congratulations to the Wildfire Riders, my dwarf Beltar’s guild on Feathermoon. The Riders have been chosen as WoW Insider’s Guild of the Month, and let me tell you, they deserve it. There aren’t that many guilds out there that can deliver great roleplay one night and then go kick Ulduar in the nuts the next, and I’m damn fortunate to be in two–the Riders on Beltar, and Noxilite on Linedan.
Some really interesting thoughts about Alliance vs. Horde and “good” vs. evil over at Going Bearfoot. It’ll make you stop and think about just who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are in WoW.
(Hat Tip: Varenna over at Binary Colors. Enjoy that new T8 paladin belly-shirt armor!)
This morning, after wiping on the Insomnia boss, I got my blood elf hunter Illithanis through the last part of the Wrathgate questline, saw the Cutscene of Cool (SPOILER ALERT!!), and completed the Battle for the Undercity (gaining level 75 in the process). Illy is the third character I’ve run through the Wrathgate (now two Horde, one Alliance) and it’s still pretty much made of awesome. But as I helped Thrall clean up the mess in Undercity, my sleep-deprived mind started wandering, as it is wont to do, and got me to thinking…
(CAUTION: Spoilers lie under the cut. If you are one of the, eh, fourteen or so people out of 11+ million who don’t know how the whole Wrathgate/Undercity event goes and want to wait until you see it for yourself, then you may want to skip this and read some of the other fine content on this here blog thang or check out the blogroll.)
Continuing my character introduction series, next we have my second WoW character on Feathermoon, my Alliance-side main, the cranky old hunter with a heart of bronze and a liver of steel…Beltar.
- Full name: Beltar Forgebreaker
- Created: August 2005
- Level/race/class: Level 77 dwarf hunter
- Spec: Marksmanship (currently 16/52/0)
- Age: 127 (human equivalent ~55)
Beltar is a fairly stereotypical dwarf. He’s cranky, he’s curmudgeonly, he’s loud, he’s profane, he’s often drunk, and he occasionally smells faintly like stale beer and pig. Physically he’s not imposing–a bit on the scrawny side for a dwarf, maybe an inch shorter than average, with a craggy, wrinkled face, hazel eyes, bad teeth, and mostly-gray hair that hangs straight to below his shoulders. His skin is weathered from a lifetime outdoors. He likes hats, and has a garish red fedora (Mirren’s Drinking Hat) that he often wears with dark-colored shirts and pants when not geared up for killing.
When I wrote Beltar’s history, I knew basically nothing about Blizzard canon history in the Warcraft universe prior to WoW. So I left it very vague. For the past century or so, after leaving home (the circumstances of which are explained in a story here), Beltar wandered all over the Eastern Kingdoms selling his skill with an axe or a gun. At various times, he was a merchant guard, bandit, hired killer, bodyguard, mercenary soldier, watchman, and much more. Because of his work with various merchants, he managed to miss both the First and Second War; before the Third War, he was grievously injured while bodyguarding someone, and ended up stuck in Anvilmar recuperating. By the time he was up and around again, it was years later, and he had to start regaining his skills again…from level 1.
Beltar’s one constant is his pet boar, Squealer. He tamed Squealer in Dun Morogh at level 10 and he’s had him ever since. He’s dabbled in other pets (he currently has an as-yet-unnamed Sholazar dreadsaber as a DPS pet) but keeps coming back to the big black crag boar, lousy DPS and all.
Beltar is simultaneously fun and frustrating to play. He’s my favorite character to roleplay, above and beyond even Linedan. Lin is quiet, he’s serious, he blends in to backgrounds. Beltar, at times, is loud, abrasive, profane, insulting–generally socially inept, and what’s more, he doesn’t give a damn. On those relatively rare occasions where I can just lay back and have fun being a drunk-ass crotchety gun-toting dwarven redneck, he’s an absolute hoot. And, unlike the basically noble and decent Linedan, Beltar is an amoral little son of a gun. He doesn’t really get the chance to show it off, but I’ve always envisioned him as being a perfect Mafia hitman. He’s not into dark magic, he’s not really into torture for the sake of torture, he likes puppies and kittens and rainbows well enough. But cross him or those he considers his–like his guild, the Wildfire Riders–and he’ll castrate you, nail you to a barn door, pull your guts out through your throat, and feed them to his dreadsaber while you watch…then head down to the Pig and Whistle in Old Town Stormwind and pound back some ale like nothing ever happened.
Even his accent is fun. His accent isn’t quite the normal faux-Scottish Blizzard-standard Dwarven; I figured his speech patterns in Common have gotten munged up by a century of exposure to humans from Lordaeron to Stormwind and everywhere in between. So his accent is similarly twisted; inside my head, it’s a bizarre mixture of Blizzard Dwarven, combined with some occasionally swallowed vowels and clipped endings (so “y’r” instead of “your,” “findin'” instead of “finding”), a bit of Minnesotan or Canadian prairie thrown in (he tends to pronounce things like “house” as almost “heouse,” if that makes any sense–it’s a linguistic thing peculiar to the part of Virginia I grew up in), and grammar patterns based off folks I grew up with in rural Virginia and those I knew in South Carolina.
The frustration part comes more from actually trying to play him. He’s always been a marks hunter, and always will be; I have Illithanis, my blood elf, to scratch my beastmastery hunter itch. Beltar is a gunbunny. It’s what he does. But marks hunters are generally inferior to BM hunters in a lot of circumstances, without any real “oh shit” buttons like Bestial Wrath if things go sideways, and they’re harder to level solo because their pets are much less effective. And with most of my time being taken up by Lin, Beltar almost exclusively solos. One look at his craptacular Armory tells you that; at 77, he’s still wearing lots of Karazhan pieces. He’s done exactly one instance run since entering Northrend. With only being able to play him a few nights a week, and with the majority of his acquaintances already long since 80 and gone onto heroics, he’s lagging, and his low gear level makes leveling him a bit of a slog. Beltar may make me break my “I don’t pickup group” pledge just to get the massive backlog of low-level instance quests out of his quest log.
I’d love to be able to put more time into him. But there aren’t enough hours in the day, really. So I roleplay with him when I can, and grind out a few hundred thousand xp when I can, and keep hoping I can pick up some instance runs or help with group quests, usually without too much luck. But as befits a dwarf who’s led a rough life on the road for over a century, I keep on keeping on.