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I feel for the poor guy, but…

With three weeks to go until Cataclysm drops, this is the time where people start looking back at the epic two-year ride that Blizzard’s given us with Wrath of the Lich King. And what a ride it was.  Blizzard, in my opinion, did an excellent job with Wrath. Sure, there were some clunkers (hello, Icecrown County Fair and Trial of the Big Round Room!), but in general, Wrath was great.  Even the quests were awesome.  Well, mostly…

The poor bastard in the picture above is Crusader Bridenbrad.  We first hear about Bridenbrad from Highlord Tirion Fordring of the Argent Crusade after we’ve helped the Crusade cleanse and secure Crusader’s Pinnacle in Icecrown.  Apparently, during the fierce battle on the Broken Front, Bridenbrad distinguished himself by dragging “more than a dozen” Argents to safety after their column was scattered.  Fordring wants you to go find Bridenbrad, up in the northeast of Icecrown, and bring him back so he can be honored for his bravery.

Thus begins one of the more interesting–and, for some of us, maddening–questlines in Wrath of the Lich King.  First you find Bridenbrad alone in a small cul-de-sac in northeast Icecrown (the subzone is called “Silent Vigil”).  Unfortunately, Bridenbrad was wounded by Scourge, and is dying of some sort of Scourge taint.  He sends you back to Tirion with his best Jewish-grandmother impersation, something like, “no, you just go, you kids go and have your fun, I’ll be fine.  Really.  I’ll be OK, just go.  I’ll stay here.  Alone.  In the snow.  Turning into a ghoul that you’ll never call or come visit.  But I’ll be fine, no, really, it’s OK, I’ll learn to like eating brains.”  Tirion, upon your return to Crusader’s Pinnacle, says “fuck that noise” (not in so many words) and sends you on a world-spanning fly-and-fetch questline to bring back something to save the noble Crusader.

Your first stop will be Moonglade, where Keeper Remulos will have you enter the Nightmare to gather some acorns.  He will then make the acorns into some sort of chicken soup that he thinks may be able to save Bridenbrad, although he doesn’t sound too optimistic.  You go back to Icecrown, Fordring sends you back out to Silent Vigil, and you give Bridenbrad the chicken soup.  It’s yummy, and it makes him feel a little better, but he’s still, unfortunately, on the express train to Ghoulville.

Fordring, upon your return to the Pinnacle, then decides to escalate the problem to higher management…that would be Alexstrasza, the Life-Binder, her own twelve-foot-tall bikini-clad self, who agrees to help you if you go to the Ruby Dragonshrine and pick up a Dahlia’s Tear for her.  She takes the Tear and creates the Breath of Alexstrasza (which, by the way, Blizz, would be a great name for seriously hot hot sauce–Mr. Morhaime, you can pay me for that idea later), sends you back to Fordring, and he sends you back to Bridenbrad.  He takes the hot sauce, which is so spicy that it actually melts the snow and makes flowers grow around him…but all the Scoville units in the world aren’t going to burn the Scourge taint out of him.  So far the score is Cooties 2, Major Lore Figures 0.

Tirion, however, won’t give up.  He pulls his trump card and sends you to speak to A’dal, the chief naaru in Shattrath.  The naaru, after all, are literally personifications of the Light…if anyone would know how to remove the plague of impending undeath from a man, it would be A’dal. So you head to Shattrath and speak with A’dal.  A’dal, being the somewhat annoying NPC that he is, says he knows why you’ve come (don’t they always?), and then says this:

I am pleased that you have come to me, Linedan. I know of Crusader Bridenbrad, and of your travels in hope of saving him. Bridenbrad’s valor has sparked remarkable selflessness in you, and this is a miracle unto itself.

The Light will take care of its own. I will extend my blessing to Bridenbrad and he shall not endure the corruption of undeath. I shall return you to Dalaran, and you shall return to him. Know that I remain with you.

This is great news.  Sounds like Fordring’s persistence has paid off, right?  You catch a portal back to Dalaran (empty-handed) and fly back out to Bridenbrad.  By that time, the poor Crusader is very close to death.  He thanks you for your Herculean efforts on his behalf, and then…

You have returned to me, warrior. I must admit… it is good to see you again… your face renews my hope that this land will be free of Arthas’s grasp one day soon. I’m proud to have met you…

Bridenbrad’s words trail off, a dim smile on his face. As life seems to slip from him, a gentle ringing fills your ears.

At that point, A’dal and his two sidekicks K’uri and M’ori appear floating over Bridenbrad’s dying body.  Instead of the Crusader being healed and standing up, Bridenbrad’s spirit floats out of his body and ascends in a pillar of light as A’dal speaks:

A’dal says: Fear not, young one, for this crusader shall not taste death.
A’dal says: In life, Bridenbrad was the bearer of great deeds. Now, in passing, he shall taste only paradise.
A’dal says: The light does not abandon its champions.

And that’s it.  The naaru wink out.  Bridenbrad’s dead body disappears.  You’re left standing in a snowy wasteland with a dying campfire and a box of possessions that you then take back to Tirion, and receive one of them as a reward.

The first time I did this quest, on Linedan, I just stood there blinking for a minute.  I was confused.  Apparently A’dal, the most powerful of the naaru, the slightly creepy Shattrath windchimes that basically are the material representation of the vaunted Light, couldn’t be arsed to de-Scourgify Bridenbrad?  Or perhaps the taint is so strong that not even A’dal could save him?  OK, that makes more sense then.  Can’t save the guy, A’dal figured, so why not just vacuum the spirit out of his body so he won’t have to experience being a mindless servant of Arthas?

That sound you heard was the top popping on a big ol’ fresh can of worms.

First of all, one of A’dal’s lines…“in passing, he shall taste only paradise.” I’ve been digging around all day when I could get time, and I can’t find anything on followers of the Light (be they mainline Church of the Holy Light or spin-offs like the Argents or Scarlets) holding a belief in an afterlife or paradise.  Shamans talk about the “spirit world,” where there are departed spirits of all kinds running around; troll priests have their Loas, and there are references here and there to ghosts and spirits and such, that’s all well-known.  But I can’t find a single thing talking about any sort of afterlife, especially a “paradise,” for Light-worshippers.  Maybe I missed it, I don’t know.  Maybe Bridenbrad is just so special that he gets into the VIP room in the back of Club Naaru, where the Dom Perignon flows like water and the playahs and ballahs chill with their groupies, while the garden-variety good people are waiting in line out front under the watchful eye of Aldor bouncers in black T-shirts.  Something about the whole thing just does not seem to fit into Light lore, at least in my fairly limited view of it.  I admit, my knowledge of Warcraftish lore is not all that great–I have access to the usual Internet sources, but don’t own any of the Warcraft d20 sourcebooks or anything like that.

But then, we get to the real kicker…when A’dal says, “The Light does not abandon its champions.”

Reeeealllly.

Then please explain to the court, Mr. A’dal, why there are a metric asston of former Argent paladins walking around Scourgeholme as skeletons, bouncing Hammers of Injustice off my dome willy-nilly.  Please explain what happened to the thousands of good, solid, Light-worshipping folk in Lordaeron and environs who did not get the Heavenly Elevator but instead got a few days’ rest in the clay of Tirisfal before rising back up as Arthas’ infantry.  Please explain why you can’t swing a dead gnome in north central Icecrown without hitting a Converted Hero, doomed to wander in anguish until somebody on a daily quest to get Valiants’ Seals comes along and puts them out of their misery.  Were they not “champions of the Light?”  No one’s doubting that Crusader Bridenbrad is an exceptional hero.  But haven’t a lot of heroes fallen before the Scourge and been doomed to serve it?  Why didn’t they get to “taste only paradise?”

And on top of the potential lore-bending, and the issues caused by the “why him and not them” question, there’s an even more ridiculous element to it.  When Bridenbrad was put into the game initially in Wrath, there was nothing up in his neck of the woods but Sindragosa’s Fall, meaning his nearest neighbors were vry’kul and creepy cultists.  But with the subsequent 3.1 and 3.2 patches, Blizzard gave us the Argent Tournament (or, as I like to call it, the Icecrown County Fair).  And they happened to put it right over the rise from Bridenbrad’s campfire.

So you can imagine…here’s this poor sod, dying out in the snow, leagues from nowhere…and now he sees this steady stream of gryphons and windriders flying north and south over him.  He hears on the wind the sounds of hammering, the shouts of workers, the clang of arms…and then the sounds of cheering from the Tournament proper.  Hey, maybe if there was an onshore northerly wind, he could even get a whiff of the concessions.  A three-minute stagger north of him, hundreds of Argents and adventurers are gathered in what became for a while the focal point of the assault on the Lich King.  And there was poor Bridenbrad, alone and forgotten (assuming you hadn’t already done the quests and phased him out).

Ridiculous?  Yeah, maybe I’m being ridiculous, or picky, or whatever.  But something about that questline has never completely sat right with me.  I’ve had trouble articulating it, which is why I haven’t ranted about it until now.  Maybe it weirds me out because of my own Christian beliefs, and I’m not comfortable with A’dal pretending to be God and Bridenbrad pretending to be Enoch.  The whole thing seemed to bend lore in directions that I didn’t think it should be bent.

But it wasn’t until this morning, when doing some research for this post, that the Wowpedia entry for Bridenbrad snapped this whole thing into focus for me:

Bridenbrad is named for Bradford C. Bridenbecker, the brother of Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s Vice President of Online Technologies. He was the city manager of La Habra, California, not far from Blizzard’s offices in Irvine, from 2002 until his death from cancer in 2007. He was also an avid player of World of Warcraft. In the Wrath of the Lich King manual, he is listed under “Special Thanks” as “Bradford C. Bridenbecker R.I.P. 6.18.2007”.

Robert Bridenbecker revealed in the World of Warcraft 5th anniversary interviews that shortly after his brother’s death, he sent an e-mail to Blizzard to request a character be created in his honor. Chris Metzen, who had attended Brad Bridenbecker’s funeral, heard of this and offered one of two ways: To add him as part of the main storyline for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, or to give him his own epic quest chain. Under the direction of Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi, the Bridenbrad quest chain was created in tribute to Brad Bridenbecker’s battle against his illness.

I never knew that.  Now it all makes sense.  This isn’t some silly thing that was casually thrown in…it’s a real tribute, to a real man, who fought a real battle against a real disease, and lost. Knowing that, all my worries about lore and continuity and such things seem rather petty.  I still have issues with the way the questline was put into the game, but honestly, they don’t really matter all that much now that I know the real story behind Crusader Bridenbrad.

I hope and pray that the real “Bridenbrad”–Bradford Bridenbecker–just like his fictional counterpart, was able, in the end, to “taste only paradise.”  After all, in my own beliefs, the Light doesn’t abandon its fallen champions, either.

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Next stop, frozen hell

Welp.  This is it.  Today is the day that patch 3.3 drops…and after the obligatory extended expanded extended maintenance, we might even be able to actually play tonight.  (Currently, servers are one hour late coming up and the clock is ticking.)  Of course, after you factor in the hours of time it’ll take for some of us to make our heavily customized UIs workable again, the obligatory server wobblies, and the massive lag, we won’t be doing much more than chilling and RPing anyway.  Which, honestly, is just fine!  Tuesday is our informal Wildfire Riders roleplay night in Stormwind anyhow, and there’s Things to be discussed…so as Anna says, why not take patch night to roleplay instead of fighting the lag, instability, and addon hell of trying to instance or raid in Icecrown Citadel?

Anyhoo.  I guess I’m in a bit of a burnout period on WoW, either that or all the crazy stuff going on in Real Life at the moment–demanding job, house move, four-year-old daughter, etc.–is doing a pretty good job of making me feel like I’m in a WoW burnout.  While I’m looking forward to 3.3 and Icecrown, I’m not ZOMGHOLYCRAP enthused about it.  Yes, I want out of Trial of the Big Round Room, badly. I need 41 more badges to get Linedan his fourth piece of T9.25 (the helm) and after that, the place can basically burn down for all I care.  And the only reason I care about that is because the warrior T9 four-piece set bonus reduces the cooldown on Shield Block by 10 seconds.  Shield Block up for 10 out of 30 instead of 10 out of 40?  That’s just sexy right there.  I’m on that like Tiger Woods on a cocktail waitress.

Icecrown Citadel itself, honestly, I know little about except for what Blizzard posted about the “gating” setup for it.  I have not researched any of the fights in advance.  I’m one of these weirdos that can watch videos and read strategies all day, but until I actually get in there and experience the fight, it’s not going to stick.  (My raid officers are going to read this and /facepalm considering I’m a tank–sorry, guys, it’s the truth.)  We’re going to walk in there at some point this week, and I’m probably going to be coming in pretty cold.  And that’s OK.  I pick stuff up fast.

And then there’s this new cross-server PUG dungeon tool whatchamacallit thang.  I’m not so sure about that.  Yes, Blizzard is offering some pretty big carrots to randomly pitch yourself into a group with four people not only from your server, but your battlegroup. But do you remember the last time you went into Alterac Valley and found yourself listening to Istabbdurmom and Mastablasta having an all-caps textspeak argument about strategy (“ALL ON O RUSH DB!!1!”  “LOL STFU NOOB CAP SF FURST”) while Poosniffa sexually harassed your female toon and Neerdraaage kept whispering you “lolololol rp server nurd u sux”?  Imagine that set in the middle of Oculus.  You will have to decide if the title of “the Patient” and a Perky Pug pet is worth running the risk of that.

OK, maybe that’s a worst-case scenario.  The pool of PUG recruits should improve dramatically in quality because of the significant rewards Blizzard is offering to subject yourself to cross-server instancing.  But still, it’s a total crapshoot.  You might end up in a group with a solid bunch of people and have an easy run.  You might end up feeling like you landed in the middle of “Beavis and Butt-Head Play World of Warcraft” and realize all four of your groupmates are probably the result of inbreeding.  Such are the vagaries of random numbers, and such will be your life in cross-server PUGs.  I might not do them on Linedan, since I don’t like PUG tanking in general due to the stress level.  But my DPS alts?  Sure, why not?  I raid with Beltar rarely, and the others never, so this would be a good way to slowly build badges and money.

There are, of course, a ton of other things in the patch–class changes, profession changes, PvP changes, etc.  But really, just like patch 3.1 was about Ulduar and patch 3.2 was about the Trial of the Art Department Originality Fail, patch 3.3 is about Icecrown Citadel.  It’s about closing the storyline of Warcraft III–Arthas Menethil’s betrayal, the fall of the North to the Scourge, the destruction of Silvermoon, Arthas’ flight to Northrend and his becoming the Lich King.  It’s the third reel.  It’s Act V.  It’s time, after all the effort, to mount the final assault upon the stronghold of the Lich King and eradicate the leader of the Scourge from Azeroth once and for all…

…at least until the next raid reset.


The Zombiepocalypse, One Year On

This time last year in WoW, we were fighting for our lives.  Or, maybe running for our lives might’ve been more appropriate.  Our towns and cities were overrun by gigantic hordes of shambling, terrifying zombies, and they only wanted one thing…braaaaaiiiinnnnss.

Yep.  Last year, in the runup to Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard decided to give us a world event we’d never forget.  Forget the 2008 recycle of the 2006 Naxxramas opening event, where you got to go out to various zones and then get camps of undead stolen from you so you couldn’t get those l33t [Jockstraps of Undead Slaying].  No, Arthas had a little more in mind this time than sitting there and waiting for us to smash up some crystals and scream at people for jacking our mobs.

Remember how it started?  Boxes of tainted food started appearing, mysteriously, in towns.  And then came the zombies…well, OK, ghouls, but they were called zombies, because zombies are cooler than ghouls.  If a zombie bit you, or you messed with a food box, or you splattered a tainted bug or rat, you got cooties.  If you didn’t get cured by the time the cootie timer ran out, you became a zombie, with a whole new set of abilities…including having to fight nearly-constantly or your health would drain away and you’d die.  Zombies aren’t exactly known for just standing around and chillaxin’, y’know?  They feel the need…the need to feed.

At first, the disease timer was 10 minutes and it was easy to cure…no worries.  Then the disease timer dropped to 5 minutes, and then two minutes, and then one minute.  By that time, it was World War Z time, baby.  There were zombies everyfrickinwhere, man.  Cities became deathtraps as guards and NPCs got zombified by the dozens.  Death and undeath were spread across Azeroth and Outland.

And just like that, it was over.  Grand Apothecary Putress came up with the cure, and the Argent Dawn delivered it…and all that was left was to clean up the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, burn the bodies, and count the cost.

There’s no doubt that Blizzard absolutely swung for the fences with what we’ve termed the “Zombiepocalypse.”  This was not just another holiday, or some optional event for certain levels.  This was specifically designed to get the point across that the Lich King wants your ass dead.  Yes, you.  And he doesn’t much care about your daily quest grind or your current assignment to retrieve eight [Bear Asses] for some idiot in Thelsamar.  This is total war, son.

There’s also no doubt that the Zombiepocalypse was the most contentious and divisive world event Blizzard’s ever done.  It affected almost everyone who played during that week last October, whether you wanted to be affected or not.  The only way to “opt out” was not to play.  The potency of the disease in the last few days, plus the ease of catching and spreading it, made Hakkar’s old Corrupted Blood look like a minor sniffle.  You either loved the Zombie Invasion of 2008, or you hated it.  There was no in between.

Well, except for me.  I can find the in-between on anything.  (Yes, I am the world’s only wishy-washy tank.)

Let’s take a look at the bad, and then the good, that came out of the Zombiepocalypse, and what lessons Blizzard can hopefully take away from it for any world-shattering–literally–events they may want to try for Cataclysm’s ramp-up.  First, the bad:

– Griefing.  The Zombiepocalypse proved that there’s a population of people on every server who are nothing but raving assholes who get a good laugh out of ruining other people’s fun…but can’t handle it when their own plans get thwarted.  Stories ran rife of groups of level 70 player zombies tearing a swath through newbie towns, infecting the guards, causing level 1-5 characters to get one-shotted again and again.  Questgivers and flightmasters were dead or undead for extended periods.  Auction house bombing (run into an AH and zombie-explode, thus infecting everyone around) became an art form.  Protests from the affected parties brought forth streams of “lololol cry more noob.”  And yet, when a paladin or priest would “fight back” by actually, y’know, cleansing the disease off the zombie, oh, the four- and five- and twelve-letter bombs that flew from the newly de-zombified!  Newsflash, Griefer Boy:  If you get to run around and make life miserable for level 10s, then we get to cure you back from zombie form into douchebag form, even though your spelling and grammar is better when you’re screaming “braaaaiiiinnnnsss lol.”  Yes, I know the event was designed to force people out of a comfort zone–I get that (see below).  But like every other thing that griefers get a hold of, many times, zombiedom was turned into nothing more than an excuse to be a dong.

– Non-consensual PvP.  Here you are, Joe Noob, level 11 mage, rolling around Westfall wondering why the hell Old Blanchy can’t just graze her own oats and HAY WTF LEVEL 70 ZOMBIE ZOMG I’M DED.  Zombies, see, know not of your PvP flags.  A zombie could attack, and be attacked by, anybody, anytime.  They were, effectively, their own faction…and you were always flagged to them.  Don’t want to PvP?  Tough toenails.  If a player zombie wants to PvP with you, you can outrun him, yeah, because he’s a zombie, but other than that, you’re PvPing regardless.

– Shattrath.  Nowhere did the problems with the event loom larger than Shattrath City.  Shattrath, of course, is a Sanctuary–no PvP combat allowed.  This included zombies.  Which means that once a player turned into a zombie, they were, for all intents, immune from attack from other players.  Similarly, player zombies could not infect other players directly…but they could chain the infection among the hordes of Aldor and Scryer and refugee NPCs running around, and those NPC zombie swarms could zombify or kill a player in short order, because of the additive nature of zombie bites–the more you get hit, the more it cuts the timer down.  As long as the player zombies could find the occasional NPC to nomnomnom, there wasn’t a damned thing zombie-fighters could do to stop the root cause of the problem.  It was a gaping hole in the “ruleset” for Zombiepocalypse, if you will, and it was exploited to the utmost.

– Melee need not apply.  That week was an awesome time to be a priest, or especially a paladin.  Everybody snuggled up close to you because, hey, hordes of undead are what you live for, right?  You can heal the sick, or you can protect the innocent, or you can just ret up and kick massive zombie ass.  Well, conversely, trust me, it was a shitty time to be a warrior.  The last couple days of the plague, the infection timer was a mere one minute…and each zombie bite cut it down by something like ten seconds.  Just a few nibbles and you were a zombie, whether you wanted to be or not.  There was no place for warriors in particular (although I’m not sure shamans could clear it off themselves, or if rogues could CoS out of it).  Even if I had a paladin behind me spamming cleansing on me while fighting a zombie horde, all it’d take is one resist or one lag spike, and poof, Zombiepanzercow.  I had really wanted to play Linedan through the end of the Zombie Invasion, but it quickly became so obviously pointless that my fearless Panzercow ended up not logging on for the last two days of the fight.  Beltar, my dwarf hunter, became my primary character, and I had a much better time.

Now, all that said, do I think Zombiepocalypse was a failure?  Hell no.  Here’s the good stuff:

– Arthas wants to eat your face.  Nothing drives home the fact that Arthas is the Big Bad like having your entire city overrun by brain-eating zombies.  We, as players of WoW (especially if we never played any of the Warcraft RTS games, as I didn’t), will never really feel the despair and desperation of the Third War, of the loss of Lordaeron and Stratholme and Darrowshire, the scouring of the Ghostlands and Eversong and the desperate stand at the gates of Silvermoon.  That one week, a week of increasing disruption and violence and vicious fighting in the streets, is the closest we’ll get.  If you’re a bit of a lore nerd like I am, that alone makes putting up with the negatives a ton easier.

– The RP was awesome.  Since I ended up on my dwarf for most of the latter half of the Zombiepocalypse, I ended up fighting in Stormwind along with his guild, the Wildfire Riders.  And there was crazy fighting going on.  The zombie-lovers were constantly infecting the Trade District and Old Town.  There were pitched battles in the streets all that last night, literally for hours.  Zombies were popping out of every building as vendors got infected.  The “front” shifted constantly, from the Trade District to the Harbor to Old Town and back to the Trade District.  We gave it a name…”The Longest Night.”  And the roleplay and stories that came out of the last night of the event still resonate among us to this day, so much that we’re having a little in-game get-together soon to remember the night that the Pig and Whistle became Old Town’s last redoubt against the forces of undeath.

– You got to be a zombie!  I had a rule of thumb.  I’d fight like hell against any zombie I saw, but if they got me, they got me fair, and I proceeded to go all-out as a zombie.  (My exception was Shattrath…the situation was so screwed up there thanks to the Sanctuary rules, I’d just go off in a corner and suicide.)  Why not?  Being a zombie, if you’re reasonable about it, is hella fun.  You can control NPC zombies, you can lurch around yelling “BRAAAAAIIIIINS,” you eat tasty human fase to regain health.  What’s not to like about it?

– Beltar got to pretend he was Bruce Campbell.  Sort of.  Shooting zombies in the middle of the Trade District while ripping off one-liners in /say?  Hell yeah.

I really hope that Blizzard has something as epic as the Zombiepocalypse planned for the Cataclysm rollout.  I just hope that if they do, they take a hard look at what went wrong last year (and there was a lot) and don’t just dismiss the legitimate complaints as “a bunch of noob carebear whiners,” like a lot of the forum idiots do.  Obviously you can’t have something like this without disrupting people’s play, at least some.  But with some thought, they should be able to at least mitigate some of the griefing and make it more enjoyable for more people, of all levels.


Patch 3.2: All Argents, all the time

Random Friday afternoon thoughts as I try to make it through my last hour and a half at work this week, laying low with the Robert Earl Keen turned up to 11…

So this week, the WoWosphere exploded with the release of the first round of release 3.2 PTR patch notes.  Now I’m not going to go over them bit by bit by bit here; everybody’s already dissected those notes like a frog in biology class.  I don’t get too bent about class changes in preliminary PTR notes like these, because they always get tweaked, at least a little, based on testing on the test realm.  I’m not even going to go into the mount changes except to say “woot!”, or the badge changes except to say “boy, the Blizzard general forums are full of tardburgers.”

No, my thoughts today are about everybody’s favorite Scourge-slaying, scrupulously-neutral, joust-loving party animals, the Argent Crusade.  More specifically, about the little place that they’ve put up on the ass end of Northrend…yup, the Argent Tournament, or as I call it sometimes, the Icecrown County Fair.

When I read the 3.1 patch description talking about the Argent Tournament, I’ll admit it, my WTFometer pegged.  Not because of anything to do with the actual game itself, mind you–even though jousting could, IMO, be done better, and I despise the “before the gate” dailies, especially the Champion version.  No, the mechanics were fine.  My bogglement at the Argent Tournament was strictly, I assure you, rooted in roleplay and lore.

Think about it.  The Argent Crusade, Horde, and Alliance are standing before the seat of the Lich King’s power.  Icecrown requires a massive cleansing that will require an immense amount of effort and the blood, sweat, and lives of thousands of heroes.  The Crusade’s job is made more complicated by escalating tensions between the Horde and Alliance in the wake of the Wrathgate (thanks ever so much, Putress and Varian), forcing the Crusade to rely more and more on the death knights of the Ebon Blade, their own smaller armies, and free agents–that’d be us, kids–and less on the elite forces of Thrall and Varian.  The financial and logistical strain is immense…the personal one, even more so.

So with this incredibly daunting task ahead of them, the leadership of the Argent Crusade decides to take their precious, limited resources…

…and build a fucking jousting tournament.  On the wrong end of the glacier from both their own base, and from Arthas’ doorstep.  Sweet jumping holy goblin Jesus on a friggin’ pogo stick, are you kidding me?

Excuse me, folks, but exactly how is this going to kick Arthas’ undead ass?  “Oh, but we’re seeing who the greatest champions of the Horde and Alliance are!”, you might respond.  Riiiiight.  Sitting on the back of a wolf or kodo or chicken, beating each other over the head with a blunt lance (that does 0.3 dps, by the way), is going to show you who’s capable of leading the charge against the Lich King.  Boy howdy, I know I’d be scared of seeing a line of Argent Jousters, pennants flying, riding their mighty war chickens toward the gates of Icecrown Citadel.

Actually, no.  I’d be laughing my ass off right before Scourge Happened and I’d have both new ghoul soldiers for my army and Kentucky Fried Hawkstrider for dinner.

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much.  Do you see why I thought (and think) the concept of the Argent Tournament made no sense?  It’s jarring to me to put this thing in Icecrown given everything else that’s going on.  It doesn’t fit.  You’re engaged in, literally, a life and death struggle for the future of the entire world against Azeroth’s biggest home-grown evil Big Bad and his endless armies, and you’re taking time out to freaking joust?  Do you seriously think that Thrall wouldn’t take one look at this and laugh himself silly?  Tirion Fordring is really going to buy into this fluff?

(Now this hasn’t stopped me from getting Linedan involved, because hey, excellence in combat–any kind–is what the Panzercow is about, so he’s a Champion of Thunder Bluff and is currently working on Silvermoon.  If I ever ratchet up any more interest in the daily grind-a-thon, he’ll eventually be an Exalted Champion or whatever the title is for five Champions and all factions exalted.)

Enter patch 3.2.  The Icecrown County Fairgrounds expand with a new big arena, and I somehow think it’s not going to be used to hold L70ETC concerts.  All the new content in this patch centers around the Tournament.  A new 5-man instance.  A new raid instance involving the Colosseum–or as Anna called it, “Onyxia v4.0.”  New dailies.  A Cult of the Damned camp attacking the Tournament (took ’em long enough).  The return of the Black Knight!  (Uh…woo.)  Other than defensive operations against the Cult of the Damned, I haven’t yet seen anything to indicate that any of this content actually involves…wait for it…a substantive fight against the Scourge.

Please note that as far as we know, the war against the Lich King hasn’t moved forward much at all.  Arthas sits inviolate in the Citadel.  He’s still holding us off at Corp’rethar.  The forges at Malykriss are still producing.  The Vrykul still hold Ymirheim and new slaves trickle into the saronite mines, no matter how many we free.  The only real success you see as you proceed through Icecrown’s questlines, after the establishment of Crusader’s Pinnacle, are the opening of the Shadow Vault and the destruction of the Fleshwerks…and both of those were courtesy of the Ebon Blade, who seem to be out doing the actual dirty work while the Argent Crusade goes into the fourth month of their little Ren Faire on the north coast.

Maybe it’s me.  I dunno.  But from a lore standpoint, the whole Argent Tournament concept just doesn’t fit, and dumping all this extra content into it for patch 3.2 makes it even worse.  It may well be because I only have one character who, from a roleplay standpoint, gives a damn about the Tournament.  Beltar, my dwarf, has not done a single AT quest and may never; he’s old, he’s crotchety, and he would much prefer blowing a jouster’s head off at thirty paces than running the risk of getting unseated from a ram.  Illithanis would be offended that they won’t let her use her wasp pet, and Moktor’s never met a fair fight in her entire life and subsequent unlife.

Maybe my sense of lore and roleplay is offended.  Or it could be that it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and DAMMIT I WANT HOMETIEMS NAO.  I dunno.

Discuss among yourselves.  Peace out.


Good and evil

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!)