Yesterday we did some poaching, murdered a family pet, accidentally pinned the blame on some other guy, then killed him, then got paid for it. That’s a pretty good day in my book, but now Norman thinks we need to flee the region for a while. So now we’re in the human city of Stormwind. Norman is here to gather his things and get ready to leave for good. He also stops at the shops and puts some of his hard-won adventuring money to use.
“Hey, you got yourself a new dress!” I tell him.
“It’s not a dress, it’s a robe!” he argues.
I dunno. I think Norman could pull this off if he ditched the shoulderpads and matched it with a really good hat.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I tell him, “It’s pretty no matter what you call it.”
“It’s hard to be fearsome when you have to dress like this.”
“So why do it?” I ask.
“I thought… This is part of being a warlock. It’s in the rules. I just assumed it was something demons wanted.”
“Nah. You idiots came up with that on your own.”
“Oh,” Norman says with obvious disappointment.
“Look, the only thing we demons care about is devouring souls and destroying worlds. The dark robes, midnight gatherings, virgin sacrifice, cutting yourselves, memorizing oaths to fallen gods… that’s all stuff mortals added so they could feel like they were doing something really dangerous and illicit. You guys have to make everything so complicated. Power for souls. That’s our business. You guys can dress it up however you like.”
“I guess I feel sort of stupid wearing this robe then.”
“There’s a good reason for that.”
We leave town and head west. We’re headed for Westfall, where Norman hopes he will find people in need of help.
We`re leaving the starting area. At this point a character is probably around level 10-ish.
Along the way, Norman runs off the path and starts digging around in the weeds.
“Why are you picking flowers?” I ask.
“They’re not flowers, they’re herbs. I’ve studied a bit of herbalism.”
I`m trying to get my herbalism skill up to level 420.
“And alchemy. Picked it up in mage school.”
“Wow. You know Alchemy?” I’m actually kind of impressed by this news. “What kind of potions can you make?” I ask.
“A few. I can make one that sort of heals you a bit.”
Back when I wrote this series, I found the gathering-type professions to be AMAZINGLY lucrative. A huge section of the playerbase was at the level cap. Often these high-level players would decide they wanted to max out (say) alchemy. Rather than going to the newbie zones and gathering for hours, they would go to the auction house and just buy all of the herbs they needed outright. It might set them back 100 gold or so, but what’s 100 gold to a high-level player? Not a big deal.
Meanwhile, just 1 gold is a fortune to someone at Norman’s level. Which means the high level characters were basically paying us low-level characters to gather stuff. Originally you had to save for a while to get enough money for your first mount at level 40, but by this point in WoW’s history, by the time I was high enough for a mount I could afford several.
It was optimal to take two gathering professions, such as herbalism and mining. But for this series Norman is going to be burning through all of his gathered herbs to level his alchemy. It doesn’t matter. I set up alchemy as part of Norman’s character but then I never used it for any jokes and it never came up again.
“Let’s say you got impaled on a spear,” he explains. “This potion would reduce the redness and irritation around the entry point, at least until you can find someone to pull it out. I’ve also got another one that hardens your skin, so if someone wanted to impale you they would have to push 1% harder.”
I shake my head, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were horrible at other things before you went on to be horrible at magic. You’re a real jack-of-sucking-at-all-trades.”
“You sound like my mother,” he whines. “She’s never been happy with anything I’ve done since I decided not to become a paladin.”
“I’m not here to help you with your family problems. Let’s find someone to set on fire.”
“We don’t need to immolate everyone we meet, you know.”
“Hey, if people didn’t want to be set on fire, then why do they make such hilarious sounds when you do it? That’s practically asking for it.”
“I don’t think they make those sounds to entertain us.”
“Well, I appreciate the effort they put into it anyway.”
Don`t bother trying to decipher the sign. It`s gibberish on purpose.
On the edge of Elwynn forest we come to a garrison.
“Maybe we should see if they have any jobs posted,” Norman mutters to himself. “You know, before we leave Elwynn for good.”
Well waddaya know? There is a job:
Guys, Hogger is thirty yards from the sign. Just walk over there and stab him. He`s like 10 levels below you.
Kind of odd. Still, Hogger is a handful and taking him on solo would be very foolish.
“Looks good, we’ll do it,” Norman says.
“What’s a Gnoll?” I ask.
“Erm. I think it’s kinda like a pig-man,” Norman says. “They’re not too dangerous. They’re only about waist high.”
We plunge into the forest and slaughter our way to Hogger’s camp. It turns out he’s a good bit taller than “waist high”.
It`s hard to tell at this cowardly distance, but he`s almost human height.
“He’s very large,” Norman says nervously. “Ah well, I’m sure the guards wouldn’t have posted it if it was too big a job.”
Norman formulates a detailed battle plan and draws it into the dirt:
1) He sets Hogger on fire.
2) I distract Hogger with a fireball.
3) Norman begins rending Hogger with tendrils of malignant shadow magic.
4) I continue to confuse Hogger with fireballs.
5) Norman heals himself by draining away the last of Hogger’s life energy.
We edge around Hogger’s camp and find a good defensive position. Then Norman launches the attack. It goes something like this:
1) Hogger runs over and begins stabbing Norman.
2) Norman closes his eyes and swings his staff around while making little-girl noises.
3) See number two.
Somehow Hogger gets slightly injured by this process. So he calls for help.
Oh great. Now we`ll have to fight this Yipe fellow.
So now we have a little cluster of tiny Hoglings to fight. Things start to look grim. I won’t get credit for Norman if he dies before turning to evil, and I’d hate to see all of my half-assed efforts go to waste.
Mister Scott. Three to beam down.
Just before things turn bad, a bunch of guys teleport in.
1. The pure cinematics. (Awesome.)
2. The in-game cinematics where the game grabs the camera and shows you a voice-acted scene. (Rare, and usually short.)
3. The in-world “scenes”, where a bunch of NPC’s stand around and emote and type to each other. These are a nice try at making the world immersive, although they don’t really work for me. The text bubbles hang around long after you’re done reading them, which takes an epic moment and makes it stiff and poorly paced. And the bubbles tend to overlap. And it’s not always clear where you should be looking. It’s like being the cameraman when you don’t know the script.
“What? Who?” Norman says.
Some high-ranking general has come, along with a couple of mages. Also, a couple of kids came along, so they could cheer him on.
No, you guys are thinking of SPECIFIC Marcus Jonathan.
“You brought your underage fans into battle with you?!?” Norman shouts to the guy.
The General ignores him, and captures Hogger.
Holy shit. I just noticed that ribcage. What was that?
“You’re arresting a GNOLL?!?!” Norman shouts. He is red-faced with rage. “Yesterday the job board had me killing a human for… something. Don’t worry what it was for. The point is, he was probably a bad guy but nowhere near as bad as this demon-gnoll you’re trying to arrest. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Seriously, were you guys TRYING to make this look like Star Trek?
The general, his prisoner, his mage backup dancers, and his adoring fanboys all teleport away, leaving us alone in Hogger’s camp.
“What the hell just happened?” Norman asks.
“Looks like the General came in and ninja’d your kill, boss.”
“We’ll see about this!” he says with fury. And then he marches us back to Goldshire. He elbows his way through the crowd, shouting at the idiots that get in our way, “Move it, freak. No thanks, I don’t duel people that drool on themselves. Put some clothes on, you degenerate.”
We meet again, dumbass.
“Greetings, citizen,” says Marshal Dughan, “How can I-“
“So the general can teleport in, arrest people, and then teleport them directly to the stockades?” Norman cries angrily.
“I don’t know, maybe,” Dughan stammers.
“So WHY did you post Hogger to the job board, then? Why waste my time if the general was just going to arrest him?”
“He did WHAT? Great, now we have a bloodthirsty beast right beneath the streets of Stormwind, with a whole army of gnolls at his command. Definitely an improvement, I feel safer already. Here’s your reward. But promise me you’ll check in with the Stockades guards in Stormwind at some point, just to ensure that things are going smoothly.”
But... but... but...
“Waaaait a second,” Norman says slowly. “Are you saying Hogger is TOO DANGEROUS to be kept in our own stockades?”
Dughan gives one of his little shrugs.
“THEN WHY DID YOU POST IT TO THE JOB BOARD? You’re telling me this job was piss-easy for the general, and too dangerous for me, and it’s a pointless waste of time anyway since he’ll just escape!”
“Here is your reward,” Dughan says calmly.
“Thank you. I hope you die in an avalanche of Kodo waste.”
We leave town in a hurry. Someone stops us along the road to ask for help, and Norman cracks them on the shins with his staff as we jog by.
“Nice follow-through on that one, boss.”
We head west, making for Westfall.
The region surrounding Goldshire Asylum for the Criminally Over-Leveled.
The Forbidding Sea? Is it really bossy? Did you mean "Foreboding"?
All of this is now outdated. WoW has been printing geography for the last few years so the world keeps getting bigger. I`ll bet it`s hell on the real estate markets.
All of these zones have vivid and unique scenery. Okay, buildings and types of trees get re-used from time to time, but there’s a lot of variety and I’ve never really felt like one place was just a recycled version of another. In our story with Norman and Gobstab, we probably won’t see more than three or four zones in the game. Speaking of which, they’ve just arrived at our second zone…
It smells bad, the monsters are stronger, and the locals are as dumb as ever, but we`re miles from Marshal Dughan so I`m happy.
Westfall. For some reason, crossing the river has moved us from eternal summer to eternal autumn. Whatever. Not my problem.
Looks like there’s a crashed cart here. And some dead people. I like this place already.
Next week: CSI: Westfall