Monthly Archives: August 2013

I can’t believe that just happened

Your most memorable experience in World of Warcraft… GO.

When I first read the title, an event popped into my mind. I often tell that story as the coolest thing that ever happened to me in WoW. The more I thought about it, the more events that popped into my mind. How could I chose just one?

I have been playing WoW since the fall of 2005. That’s alot of time to cover. That’s alot of playing. Every expansion, raiding, pvp, soloing, nearly every class… I have built a large number of WoW experiences, many of them quite memorable.

I’ve talked about the Corrupted Blood Plague before. I also talked about the Zombie Invasion. Both of those were amazing events. I will never forget going to Ironforge to see this “plague” that was killing everyone, then dying to it myself. (I was level 30-ish.) The sea of bones, the spam of messages in trade. What a day. I will never forget forming the raid of zombies and going into Stormwind and turning it into a scene from 28 Days Later.

I’ve been to the Crypts of Kara three times, and I am seriously considering yet another venture.

I invaded the Outlands. I tanked Illidan. I defeated Vashji, Kael’thas, Arthas, Kel’thuzad, and even Deathwing. I have seen the natural beauty of Kalimdor, the burning wastes of Silithus, and the lush tropics of Stranglethorn. I have flown with Val’kyir, I raised dragons, I saved orphans.

The first story that always pops to mind though… it’s nothing a designer sat down and planned though. In game design there is always the argument of systems versus scripting. Do you script and plan every event, or do you create systems that then interact? Player Stories vs. Designer Stories and all that.

I was playing on a PVP server, with friends, during Vanilla WoW. I was a priest, level 32. Of course, I was specced holy, since I was generally running dungeons to level. World PVP is the worst, and so I generally avoided it.

One afternoon, I was killing trolls in Stranglethorn for their ears. There are three camps of trolls, but I was at the largest one. You have to collect 25 ears, and not every troll has them apparently, so it usually takes 50-60 troll kills to get them. I was merrily smiting trolls to death, when a warrior ran up and attacked me. He was Horde, I was Alliance, this is how these things go. I successfully defended myself and defeated him. I hugged his still warm corpse, and continued killing trolls. A few minutes later, he showed back up, then sat and drank while watching me sit and drink. Of course, as soon as I pulled another troll, he attacked once more. It’s a good tactic. Now I have to fight him and the troll. But sadly for him, I am an amazing priest. I defeated them both.

Despite the fact I was on a pvp server, I had no desire for battle. I am not terribly aggressive when out leveling. But after a few months on a pvp server, I knew exactly what would happen. This warrior was determined to beat me. As he couldn’t on his warrior, he would be back. With friends. Or maybe with another one of his own characters. The troll camp didn’t mean that much to me, there were two others after all. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and headed west, towards the coast, for one of the other camps. As I was passing by tigers, another player rode up from the south.

This player was level 60. Raid geared. And epic. You can tell, as the raid gear matches, and looks quite impressive. His skeletal horse had armor, mean he had epic riding. The gear immediately tipped me off that he was a mage. I was dead. Oh, he hadn’t killed me… yet… but I knew I was a dead priest walking. The chances of me even fighting him off were nil. I only had one chance. The chance that he would decide I wasn’t worth the effort to kill.

No luck. He dismounted right next to me, and used his Frost Nova ability. (It freezes enemies in place.) I pressed my Psychic Scream ability. (It causes enemies to be feared – they run in random directions for 4-10 seconds.) In WoW, players have the ability to resist spells cast at them. Miraculously, I resisted his Frost Nova. Even more miraculously, he did NOT resist my scream. This had to have been a one in a million shot. At his level, his resist should have been so high, my spells should never land. At my level, there should have been nothing more than a sliver of hope that I wouldn’t be frozen in place.

But he did fail to resist, and I succeeded, so while he was running about like a chicken with it’s head cut off, I ran the opposite direction. I rounded one of the huge trees and hit Shadowmeld. Shadowmeld is a racial ability that let’s a Night Elf “fade” into the shadows. It’s a stealth. The mage appeared mere moments later, spamming is aoe attack. He knew I had likely shadowmelded. The only way to find me was to break the meld by doing damage. The thing was, he was too far forward. I was too close to the tree.

After several minutes, he finally gave up, and moved on. Leaving me hiding. I immediately crowed about my accomplishment in general chat. Ninja priest for the win!

This encounter could not have been scripted. But because of the systems in place, well designed, I was able to do something extraordinary, that I tell people about all the time.

Black Wings

I needed to be away for a while. To not be where people knew me. My studies were important, but I found my spirit flagging. Even normal magic became difficult to cast in my deepening sadness. I needed to leave.

I thought I had more roots, but it took less than a week to deal with my worldly possessions. My mentor and friend, Joren took most of my books and supplies. Clothes were donated to the city temples. Everything quickly cleaned and sold. Suddenly my cluttered laboratory was empty of all but furniture. A friend would be taking over the space. I imagine Ayen will do good work here.

After decades of a sedentary life, all my worldly possessions fit in a single leather pack. A common brown horse, named Nomad, laden with two saddlebags filled with items I knew to be useful to life on the road.

I am afraid. It’s a new feeling, and one I welcome. As a child I was never afraid. My parents supported my every study and dream. As a young adult, I moved to this city to study magic with the human Wizards. I was apprenticed to Joren, and life became a clouded haze of learning, study, and experimentation. I lived in constant amazement of Joren’s power, confidence, and knowledge. The most archaic bits of knowledge he loved to throw out like tidbits to children. The most complex spells and rituals were all within his grasp, though he rarely had cause to use them. He taught me much. Even his presence and friendship is not enough to keep the darkness at bay. My spirit knows it’s time to leave.

It took two weeks to get beyond the fields and hamlets. To the wilderness. I was not as prepared as I had anticipated. There are things that one cannot learn from books.

Several months later, I found myself at an abandoned watchtower. The door had rotted away, and inside the derelict building was filled with dirt, leaves, and the remains of past campfires. I pushed aside some built up piles of plant material, when I noticed the blue slate floor. It was the color of sky. Surely an odd thing, in a watchtower in the middle of nowhere. It must be a native stone.

A quick trip outside and I returned with a leafy branch, the appropriate length for sweeping. An hour later and the floor was cleared. I discovered in my labor, a well designed firepit, lined with stone. It took me a bit to find a nearby stream, but once I did, a floating disc spell carried water back to wash clean the floor. By nightfall, I had cleaned the room to the standards of any innkeep. A small fire crackled in the pit.

The night still held a chill, despite being late spring, so pulled my traveling cloak tight and made sure to cover Nomad with my winter blanket.

“It’s going to smell like horse now.” I said, patting the gelding’s nose. He wickered back, and nuzzled me. His lead was tied to the side of the window, so I was sure he was nearby and safe. As I turned to reenter the watchtower, I noticed a large raven on a branch watching me intently.

“Hello my friend. You’re a pretty fellow aren’t you?” He cocked his head to the side, as if in response, to preen slightly.

“I will share my bread with you, if you are hungry, friend.” I beckoned the bird inside. As soon as my foot crossed the threshold, the flutter of wings sounded, a breeze passed my cheek, as the raven flew past to land on the saddle I had removed from Nomad.

“Chirp.”

“Alright, I am getting it.” I opened the bag as the raven adjusted his perch. A fine white loaf of bread wrapped in oil cloth soon served as dinner to me and my new feathered friend.

“What say you, Corvo? A bit of water, then to rest?”

“Chirp.” I held out my hand, and poured water from my waterskin into it. The raven eyed me suspiciously, but jumped to my hand to drink.

Once he was done, I settled down to mediate. I had only used a single spell, so I wasn’t concerned with restoring my magics. A simple trance would refresh me and I could once more be on my way.

I passed into the trance. As I rested, I felt something on my leg. When I once more awakened, there sat the raven, perched on my leg, resting as well.

I returned the raven to the saddle, then headed outside to relieve myself. When I returned, the raven had departed.

I doused the coals, re-saddled Nomad, and prepared to leave. As I mounted, I called out, “Good bye Corvo, may you be blessed friend.”

That evening I once more stopped alongside the road, simply pitching my tent within the trees. I set up a small fire, and made some tea.

“Chirp.” I looked up and there he was. Perched on Nomad’s saddle.

“Well this is quite the surprise my friend. How did you get here?” The raven flapped his wings a few times and looked at me once more.

“I swear… I think you can understand me.” I held out a bit of bread. The raven fluttered down and ate.

“What is your name then my friend?” I asked.

“Corvo.” The bird replied. I blinked exactly twice. I had always been told ravens were devilishly intelligent but I had never seen it in reality.

I spent the evening talking to Corvo. He frequently replied with just a chirp, or would mimic words I would say. By morning, I no longer felt like I could leave him behind. I plied him with food, and he perched on my shoulder as I rode away from the campsite.

Throughout the day, Corvo would take flight, off to peck at something, or simply just fly about, but he frequently returned to my side.

That evening I stopped early. Corvo sat on my shoulder, playfully pecking at my hair ornaments. I searched through my spellbook until I found the incantations. Corvo certainly fit the bill for being a familiar.

“Corvo, would you like to be even more intelligent?”

“Chirp.”

“It would mean being my familiar. I’m a wizard you know.”

“Chirp.”

“So… yes then?”

“Chirp.”

“Okay.” I set about preparing the campsite for the ritual. It takes a full 24 hours of incantations. I took the time to gather some nuts and berries, as well as plenty of firewood and water. Corvo followed me around, watching intently.

For the first hour or so of the incantation, nothing seemed to be happening. But over time, I began to feel… odd. I felt… a sense of excitement. Not normal excitement, but the entire world was changing excitement. I probed the feeling and dwelled on it. It was so different from my pervasive sadness I wanted to crawl inside it.

“Why sad?” Corvo asked, his voice very pitched and chirpy.

“I don’t know. Something is missing.”

Corvo hopped forward, and rested his wing along my thigh.

“Wait… You can speak?”

“Words. Meaning. You… did this thing. The words… I know now.”

“The spell, it makes you a familiar. I guess it allows you to speak.”

“Familiar?”

“Friend, companion, a magical creature bound to me.”

“Wing sister?” His words were paired with a feeling of flying in a group of ravens.

“Yes!”

“I like you. You … different.”

“I like you too Corvo.”

“What is… Corvo mean?”

“Corvo is draconic for raven. I was just calling you raven.”

“Corvo. Understand. Names…” I could feel his confusion. Ravens don’t have names for each other, though they know specific ravens.

“My name is Riatha… But you should call me Rain.” I said as he pondered it.

“Rain?” My mind was filled with the feeling of rain pattering down on extended wings.

“Yes, it’s my hatchling name.”

“You Rain. I Corvo.”

I continued with the ritual. Corvo flew around the circle I had inscribed in the dirt. He fluttered happily as the bond between us grew. I could feel his excitement. All his life he had watched humans and wondered about them. Now, through the bond, he had his answers. So clever, and so intelligent. I wondered if all familiars were like this. Was this the reason I had been so dissatisfied? Was Corvo the piece I had been missing?

The ritual took a full 24 hours. The sun was near setting by the time it was done. I fed Corvo some bread (he loves bread) and settled down to meditate. Corvo settled on my thigh once more and rested as well.

I rested 8 hours instead of my normal 4, then got up to prepare to leave.

“Where go?” Corvo asked, and for the first time, I realized he spoke in Elvish. So weird.

“I don’t know. Somewhere else. Somewhere interesting and adventuresome.”

“Fly Rain!” Corvo chirped and took off. I mounted Nomad and followed at a quick walk.

The next few weeks were filled with odd conversations with Corvo, and learning how to speak with one another through our empathic link. I taught him to scout and what to look for as far as ambushes, geographical hazards, and cities. When we first came to a city, I explained that he needed to stay close by, so he wouldn’t end up in some farmer’s stew pot.

Ravens have no concept of stealing. Unless you have eaten it, it’s fair game. I learned from him, as much as he learned from me.

I also learned to keep him from talking. The first time he spoke in front of people, they tried to drag us off to a temple to be “cleansed” of our demons, which would likely have led to his death.

“Corvo… Do you regret joining up with me?” I asked one night, in our tent as rain poured down.

“Regret?” He didn’t understand the emotion. I tried to explain in feeling, but even so, he didn’t understand. To him, there was no past, only now. Only the joy of food, flight, and wing siblings. One day, maybe the joy of a mate. Maybe the joy of hatchlings.

As we sat listening to the rain, I finished carving the outline of a raven into my quarterstaff. Corvo fluttered up to sit on my shoulder and peck at the silver chains threaded through my hair. My raven black locks blended quite well with his feathers. We were clearly a matched set.

I had set out to find adventure and ease the restlessness in my soul, and in doing so, found a bit of it, in this lovely friend. As far as Corvo was concerned, we were both ravens, and that was simply how life was. I am surprised I was willing to accept it.