Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

It’s not going to come as a shocker to anyone that I am closely connected to my characters. Coming from a roleplaying background, who they are and why they do what they do is very important to me. To varying degrees of detail, all the characters have a story of their own. I find that the characters without a story are usually the ones who get left behind, deleted or otherwise neglected. Case-in-point – my shaman. She never really had much of an RP story or a personality. She’s languishing at level 80, not because the class isn’t interesting (I got her to 80, after all) but because after she was leveled during Wrath I just didn’t feel any connection to her.

Tzufit wrote a really interesting post about Dragon Soul as a raid this week and whether or not it’s a good raid and why. Ultimately I have to agree with her; without knowing the story behind something (or feeling that the story is disjointed) it’s hard to feel a strong investment in it. So I started thinking about this as it relates to Millya, Ms. Magepants, specifically.

I started playing just at the very end of Burning Crusade, so I don’t have any Vanilla cred, and also it explains why my main character is a draenei. (More old-school people often have humans, gnomes, etc!) I only had a vague idea of Millya’s story initially. She wasn’t born on Draenor, but she was just a baby when her father fled Argus along with the small contingent of eredar who would come to call themselves draenei. Important threads of her story defined themselves as she leveled and I crafted the story around her. She’s a jewelcrafter because her father was and he taught her the ‘family trade.’ Later, when precious metals and stones weren’t really feasible to find, she learned to sew out of necessity. She and her father had fled Farahlon to take refuge in Shattrath. She helped them and the other refugees make clothes. She was one of the ones who left Shattrath before its (mostly) destruction. Her father wasn’t. All of this happened before any of the events of the Burning Crusade itself, and provided a backdrop for the character to grow. Relatively alone on an alien world, I documented her struggle to learn Common and adapt to the culture as she forged a life for herself that would allow her to go back to Draenor and help those who hadn’t been lucky enough to escape.

The Burning Crusade makes it really clear from the beginning draenei starting zone that your overarching goal IS to return to Draenor and assist in the fight against the Burning Legion. It’s both alluded to and outright stated. So while she was “growing up,” that’s what Millya was aiming to do. She started out uncertainly, speaking broken Common (something that I was later derided for by other draenei players; I know some would prefer to imagine that especially old/smart people can just magically assimilate a language, I don’t believe you can really do that.) So it was fun that she learned as she went, and I made a conscious effort to vary her speech patterns until they were mostly ‘normal’ over a period of months. I had an interesting real-life parallel for this in the form of Vosskah, whose native language is French. When we first met he was obviously fluent in English, but he still occasionally makes mistakes in English that are unique to his linguistic background, and I find them fascinating and endearing. Likewise, Millya adjusted to cultural norms she wasn’t used to. Old Draenei (Argus-era) culture always seemed fairly ostentatious to me, so she also initially used to wear ALL the jewelry she’d managed to save. She did this because 1) easiest way to keep track of it, 2) significant personal meaning because of its connection to her father and 3) she didn’t realize that wearing it all at once was unusual and/or “tacky.” When she did realize, she stopped wearing it all.

So Millya “came of age” during this time. She leveled up in enough time to join a party of adventurers who ventured into Karazhan, and also to go to Zul’Aman, but that’s it. As far as her personal chronology goes, I don’t consider her a hero of the Sunwell or anything, because she simply wasn’t there. That time had already passed. Wrath of the Lich King was another story. She was one of the first to venture to the “new” continent. Eager to help the people of her adopted homeland, she saw a threat in the Scourge easily equal to the Burning Legion. She’d honed her skills in battle to the point where she knew her magic could prove useful, and she made sure to have her hooves on that boat. Wrath set the tone from the very beginning, too. The recruiters in Borean Tundra know that you’re not a green adventurer at that point and they say as much. “No waiting in line for you!” causing an outburst of complaints from the red shirts that DO have to wait in line. I liked that. It recognized that you were a “seasoned” adventurer. You hadn’t gone straight from Elwynn to Northrend, you had to earn your right to help in this dangerous and hostile land.

On my server, I was also one of the first people to make it to Dalaran (if you recall, mages could learn to teleport themselves there sooner than other classes could). An obscure battleground trick could allow you to “cheat” your friends there, too, but I remember going there when it was completely new and nearly empty. The only people there were mages; I fished in the fountain, I explored around, I was dazzled. An entire city of MAGES. Millya felt the same way, an extremely strong kinship with the mages of Dalaran. She had no memory of Argus or the cities there where magic was commonplace and even a part of the fabric of life itself. The Draenei had fallen a long way, inhabiting the broken wreck of a ship not of their own design. I felt the strongest connection to the events of Wrath, because I was mostly in the thick of them. (Disregard here for a moment that I did play a few different characters to raid during Wrath; the character’s story still holds). During Wrath was the time when Millya met Vosskah; a hardened warrior who’d never really stopped fighting from the time of Shattrath on. She met the group of adventurers that she would fight alongside for years. She truly established herself. Meantime, she lived in Dalaran in an apartment she finished and enchanted with all kinds of magical amenities, a respite from the battles that seemed never ending. She had a hand in helping to bring down the Lich King. This is always a sticky subject among RPers, by the way – I always imagine for the sake of reality that an ARMY of people killed the Lich King; not just ten, not just twenty-five, but maybe ten times that number, and she was there. I always try to tread a careful line. Obviously my character has some power, but she isn’t the greatest mage who ever lived, no magical glowing purple eyes or mysterious scars or anything. Basically, she’s a regular person who has sometimes been involved in extraordinary things, but at the end of the day she likes to curl up with a book and a cup of tea as much as any bookish introvert would. She has to keep the things she’s done and who she is somewhat separate, because they aren’t the same thing.

So, we come to Cataclysm. You can see (I hope) that up until this point I have a pretty good idea of where my character has been and what she’s been doing. Much of this was played out in “actual” RP, some written in short stories, etc. I didn’t anticipate how completely Cataclysm would floor my RP. Voss and I talked about it, you know, “What are our characters doing now?” And we honestly had very little idea. “Did they move to Stormwind? Everyone’s always in Stormwind, I guess maybe they did?” Except there are no draenei NPCs in Stormwind. There’s no district where you can imagine they live (we settled on the Mage district for obvious reasons, but even that felt a bit thin). Cataclysm left me scrambling a little bit, feeling like I had nothing to sink my teeth into. It sounds ridiculous, because after all, the entire world had changed. Draenei in particular have witnessed the shattering of a world – what would this mean to them to see the same happen to Azeroth? In the end, for us personally – I never really got into it. I can tell you where Millya was and what she was doing from pre-Burning Crusade all the way up until the end of Wrath, but if you ask me how she felt about the Cataclysm I can’t tell you. She went to Deepholm and [World Pillar something something]. She went to Uldum and [weird human adventurer artifacts Nazi paralells something else]. The only story that truly stands out for me is that of the Firelands, the revitalization of Hyjal, and the ongoing story with Tarecgosa. Except a lot of the stuff with the blue dragons happened in Coldarra/The Nexus – familiar territory for Millya and a story with meaning for her personally. She’d seen what Malygos’ madness had done, what happened when the Blue Flight tried to deny access to magic from the rest of the sentient races, and knew how important it was to ensure that they had a leader who wasn’t crazy. I’m not going to say much more because Tarecgosa spoilers, although it’s a bit after the fact now.

So it turns out that the only story of strong significance to me is one that’s connected to Wrath. I’m also uncertain about my character during the whole of this expansion. She raided every raid there was to do. But I’m not sure that she cared, and I’m not sure that I did either. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast raiding with my guild (as always), but the story of Cataclysm itself doesn’t seem to have any personal significance. I’m not sure if this is a personal failure of mine, or simply because we stopped RPing. But then, we weren’t RPing (or writing short stories, what have you) because it didn’t seem to matter. The only stories that came out of Cataclysm, for me, are not of earth-shattering importance. The stories of finding family you thought you’d lost, the story of understanding what family means outside of blood ties, and how to negotiate that when you have no choice but to get along. I suppose the backdrop of Cata itself mattered a lot less, which seems disappointing to me. Shouldn’t Millya have cared? Shouldn’t it have affected her?

I wonder if this isn’t due in some part to the lead-up event. As others have noted, we all pulled a “Rip Van Winkle” in the weeks leading up to the Cataclysm. It was like we went to sleep one night, and the next we woke up and BAM – the world was broken. The end result for me is that I feel as if Millya’s story has been suspended in something of a limbo, and I find it’s actually making me more excited for Mists. I can easily envision Millya journeying to a new continent on Azeroth, experiencing a strange and new isolated people and culture. The acquisition of knowledge and experience is a pretty strong motivator for her. I’m not even kidding about those waterfalls…Maybe I’ll take screenshots of them, too. So I’m excited for Mists because it seems to promise a continuation for the character I love, and an evolving story. It’s okay that there’s no “big bad.” Sometimes all the war in Warcraft gets a little tiring for a character any way. Voss and I have joked about when we someday “retire” and our characters can do the same, spending the rest of their days peaceably somewhere. Maybe Mists suggests that possibility, or at least something of a reprieve so that we can experience the world and then live to fight another day.

What do you think? Did you “connect” differently with the various expansions, or did any of them have particular meaning for your character or for you? Tzufit’s post really made me think about Millya’s story as it has continued throughout the expansions, and also caused me to realize that she hadn’t “done” much in Cataclysm. I don’t have any answers as to why that is, only observations about how each expansion has felt to me.

 

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Comments on: "The Cataclysm Conundrum and Character Connection" (13)

  1. Keltyr and I talked a bit about what would happen to Keltyr and Dorri’tow. We moved them to Orgrimmar, but things stalled there. We actually had more fun doing some of the revamped old areas than with the new Cataclysm areas. (With the exception of Twilight Highlands for which I have copious notes and then failed to write the story that makes Keltyr look almost romantic, probably have to write that he falls of a ledge or something.)

    I’ve had a lot of discussions with the RPers in our circle and the consensus was that Cataclysm lacked cohesive storytelling. Yes Deathwing shattered the world, but the story was so disjointed, so large, that it was hard to make a real connection with it. So Dorri’tow and Keltyr have spent two years as part of Ambassador Dawnsinger’s honor guard. Sent there to keep them out of trouble and to add a bit of flash to the Ambassador’s retinue (since they were both at the Seige of Icecrown).

    We’re both looking forward to Mists, just to try and hit our stride again.

  2. /ooc on

    This is what I wrote on this subject seven months ago:
    “Last year Blizzard shattered Azeroth. Volcanoes and earthquakes ripped the land apart, entire towns were wiped out, even the pillar that supported the world was broken. Yet it all happened behind the scenes, while the servers were down. We logged out one night, and when we logged in the next morning it was all over. What was the worst thing that happened to us players? Having to look for where they moved the Org AH to? I strongly believe that the gaming experience is enhanced when our characters are at risk, when they feel real pain, when they suffer real loss. So, since Blizzard denied that to us, I have tried to write some stories to explore and experience what it must have been like for this group of square pegs I am so fond of. They have suffered and lost, but there has also been humor and, in the end, some opportunities for payback.”

    Since then, I have relished the opportunity that LFR provided to have, not just one or two raiding toons get a crack at the big bad, but ALL of them. Well, okay, not all, but hopefully a full 10-man raid’s worth by the time the next expansion lands. And with any luck I’ll manage to make myself write up the story that ties them all together.

    /ooc off

    That glubbernugger drove a volcano through me home. He’s gonna pay.

  3. One of the difficulties I have with connecting to my character in the Cataclysm stories is that the Cataclysm stories firmly frame you as The One, The Chosen, The Hero, even that’s not really who you want to be.

    In the Original Game and in Burning Crusade, you are mainly a “helper”. You collect harpy feathers or kill boars, and you are thanked for your assistance but you are not the center of the questgiver’s life.

    In Wrath, things started to shift – the game begins to portray you as the central hero. Borean Tundra says “no waiting in line for you”. The Drakuru quest line in Grizzly Hills and Zul’Drak casts you as a person who single-handedly changes zones.

    In Cataclysm, the iron grasp of your hero status grips you tighter. Everywhere you step, you change the world around you.

    This isn’t who I want to be, and I don’t know how to connect to this.

  4. I hadn’t really thought what “The Shattering” would mean to a Draenei, even though I do have one myself—up until now I hadn’t considered why he’d be interested in the fight against Deathwing. While I’m not really an RP person, I like to have a little bit of meaning to why my characters act the way they do and why they make the choices they do. I have a slew of alts, but they all sort of have meaning to them.

    When the “Shattering” happened, I imagined that many took a vested interest because their homelands were damaged…but these toons came from Azeroth, where the Draenei did not. So the fact that Southshore was lost probably had less impact on a Draenei than a human who often visited or originated there. The same with Auberdine, where many Night Elves have fond memories. Now, gone forever. Even the dwarves and gnomes have stories and lives that were dramatically changed as a result of the Cataclysm.

    The fact that the Draenei starting zones were not redone or harmed by Deathwing probably accounts for disconnect.

    I would also blame the portal concept of the Cataclysm. The zones feel too disconnected from the mainland…except save Twilight Highlands and Mt. Hyjal. Because they were so far apart from each other, progression felt choppy and two disjoined. There wasn’t some overlaying progression across a continent to reach the final threats like there was in Outland and Lich King. It didn’t feel like a warfront like Outland and LK did. There was no Citadel or Temple where the big bad boss was hiding that we were all working our way towards.

  5. snackerston said:

    I started playing at the tail end of Burning Crusade, and struggled through a bit to figure out how to play – unfortunately, spending more time trying to figure “push X, to do Y” and missed out on opportunities to play and try to do more with the initial warrior I rolled.

    To talk about Cataclysm’s questing, we do have to break it into two, and we have to recognize the great (the revamped 1-60 content) and the not-so-great (the 80-85 questing content) – the great stuff showed a world that was recovering from years of adventurer exploits: Westfall, in particular, choked me up, because it was a zone I had been in, and quested, and loved prior to the Cataclysm. This was an area that you spend levels questing in to make a difference, to drive out the Defias Brotherhood from their stranglehold on it, only slowly unraveling what was going on, and seeing that there was a bigger picture overall: many years later, you not only see that maybe the Defias were right, but that they were back with a vengeance.

    It’s unfortunate, then, that this questline kind of drops, and Vanessa gets unceremoniously axed at the end of H Deadmines… I guess nobody’s really dead unless we take their head to a quest giver, but it seemed a waste to end a revitalized Defias storyline so early.

    Looking ahead at later questlines, there’s Mount Hyjal, where YOU, , AND YOU ALONE ARE THE HERALDED HERO OF LEGEND THAT WAS PASSED DOWN IN LEGEND FROM. UH. THIS GUY. AND ALSO JEFF. YOU KNOW JEFF.

    I don’t know Jeff. And also, I see like, seven other dudes collecting your same bullcrap to build some stupid staff that’s on fire to douse some other fiery jerk.

    In Cataclysm, instead of being a part of an effort (as the war in Northrend/Wrath of the Lich King was very much a war, was very much “every effort matters!”) it was every player was The Hero.

    RP-wise? My DK, Visper, she doesn’t feel very heroic. She never set out to be the new hero of a dawning era, and as a player, I’m going to call BS on any magic deer saying she was destined to save the world tree from Ragnaros’ fiery mini-legs.

    This isn’t to say the stories in Cataclysm stank, even though a lot of them did, a lot of them were great. They spoke of recovery, of change. Of a world tipping precariously on the brink of all out war, where faction lines weren’t so clear all of a sudden, where an Alliance that prided itself on dying for the world had a Horde with axes and swords at their throats to make them prove it. The greatest stories in Cataclysm had nothing to do with the Big Nasty Dragon, even though he was the center piece.

    The shame of Cataclysm, was that the star of the show was a bit player in his own expansion.

    Deathwing’s machinations were evil, okay, sure. He was a force to be reckoned with, he was an evil sort, wracked with madness and insanity, paranoid about the powers he held, and corrupted by the lingering whispers of the old gods, of N’zoth’s constant prying and poking and twisting. And instead of seeing the effects of it, we saw a villain who… well, remember Dr. Claw from “Inspector Gadget?” We joked and laughed about Arthas shaking his fist like “I’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, ADVENTURERS!” as he escaped through his magic Death Gate, but, he was a villain who actively wanted us to challenge his might – Deathwing was “lol evil” and then in the Dragon Soul raid, the World Breaker himself is flying around… to do what? Spit fire at drakes? Instead of handling us, and the Aspects, himself he summons… Ultraxion, who “FOR THIS MOMENT ALONE, I WAS MADE.”

    All of a sudden, Deathwing has the corny villain ball, and instead of being an impeding, instant, serious threat to life and limb and all of Azeroth, he’s… twirling his mustache and flying away when we challenge his plan.

    (I’m rambling, sorry)

    Let’s look at the last half of Dragon Soul: Ultraxion, Warmaster Blackhorn, Deathwing, and Deathwingthulhu.

    Instead of Ultraxion, we’re fighting Deathwing on his suicide mission – he’s going to explode the world if he hits his enrage timer, but bringing down his life means Thrall can nuke him with the Dragon Soul.

    Instead of Warmaster Blackhorn, we’re in an add-wave fight on the deck of the Skyfire, as Thrall preps to nuke Deathwing again with the Dragon Soul.

    Spine exists as is, and Thrall, again, nukes him with the Dragon Soul.

    Instead of Deathwing coming out of the Maelstrom, we see N’zoth – perhaps, the Old God wearing Deathwing’s jaw as his face, a complete revulsing corruption: we’re running out of Old Gods on Azeroth, but in this, there is closure: we have accomplished something.

    The problem with Cataclysm and Dragon Soul is the ending is really lackluster, and we’re left to judge the entire expansion knowing that was the ending: that Deathwing turned into Cthulhu, and we killed him, but N’zoth is still out there, and still lingering, still waiting for the next well meaning (if suddenly “idiot ball’d”) character to corrupt. We’ve killed Deathwing, but N’zoth was the real menace that drove Deathwing to it. What’s to say N’zoth can’t grab another strong dragon, and do the same thing again? We’ve done really nothing, but we’ve slowed down what N’zoth was planning: we’ve merely served to throw up a speed bump in a plan that was forcibly speeding Azeroth to it’s doom.

    Cataclysm’s questing wanted us to be the greatest heroes Azeroth had ever seen, but instead, we really haven’t accomplished anything: we haven’t saved the world, because it’s a world that constantly needs our help to un-eff itself, but, we’ve done the least we’ve ever done to save the world, ever, and we’re being pat on the back by the greater beings and told “you break it you buy it.”

    I feel very unnerved by what we’ve done this expansion, and all I can do is hope the ramifications of our raiding actions don’t get shrugged away by the developers.

  6. As much as I enjoyed my guild raid nights in DS I too didn’t feel any real connection to the expansion. I started wow beginning of Wrath and absolutely loved and felt connected to that expansion. Having played Warcraft 3, I’m sure contributed to my connection with 3.0.

    Ffpmmarc :)

  7. Thanks for the post. I’m finding that, as a newbie that came in around the shattering and just getting into Lore now, the whole world is open to me and I find myself wanting to change races just because of the lore. (like my undead warlock needs to become orc)

    You put some great things in perspective for me.. things I haven’t come to yet, in my reading of the story. Now I fully understand and I agree with you even tho I wasn’t “there” I see the issue. Even in the beginning of the story, things were building up for BC and Wrath.. Both of them had a storyline that seemed to work wonderfully with the story. But Thrall vs Deathwing? It never seemed to really make sense to me. Khadgar vs Deathwing maybe? Then again.. I’m missing some lore… just got to the first encounter between those two on Draenor. Still Uldum never made sense to me, Deepholm as well. There was nothing there that said “Deathwing”

    Im sorta fearful this will be the same for MoP.

  8. If I do MoP –I’m still kind of on the fence, right now– I may start off with a different main. If you go by the amount of time played, then I’ve changed mains from Wrath to Cata, although I’ll always think of Q as my true “main.”

    This concept of switching mains works well when you consider that a toon’s story is “finished” at the end of an expac, and then the next toon comes along to take up the fight. It’d be kind of like Saurfang or Rhonin taking a breather and letting the younger folks take up the mantle of ‘hero’.

  9. Shintar’s roleplaying story actually fell apart back in Wrath, around the time dual spec was introduced. While levelling up and during Burning Crusade, it was a big part of her identity that she was a shadow priest. At the end of BC, I respecced to holy permanently and again I had an in-character explanation for that. But then dual spec came around and my character’s very essence of being began to get changed back and forth at the switch of a button, and I just started to feel completely lost. I guess the moral of the story is to never rely on something in game for characterisation that Blizzard is likely to change dramatically on you from one patch to the next. :/

  10. I also felt very disconnected with Cataclysm’s story.

    I finally was able to work it out, and hope to get Cynwise’s story down on paper before Mists comes out, but it was really hard. I regret leveling her past 80. I feel like I should have started fresh and embraced the idea of “iterative twinking” – make someone great for the expansion they’re in, lock XP, start over again.

    The only upside to not being very connected to Cataclysm is that I don’t really feel the need to lock anyone at 85. I didn’t really do very much at the endgame this time around.

  11. I agree with these comments–since I came into the game in very much limbo times in terms of Blizzard’s narratives, I got to make up my own, and that was fun for me. It hasn’t been until recently how much my silly stories must enrage true lore masters. But hey, it’s my story, my time, and I have fun doing it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Millya’s tale–very sweet. It reminded me, on a silly note, of an anecdote I heard about one of the old Gabor sisters who wore all their jewelry all the time. Those little touches make stories enchanting – thank you.

  12. This may have been covered in other comments, but I’m both too lazy and limited on time to read.

    Anyway, my thoughts in the form of questions: Do you think this had something to do with the “train track” effect of the story telling through Cataclysm? Maybe there wasn’t much room for RP because you’re essentially forced through the story in a very specific, unwaivering manner?

    Hrrrm? HRRRRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMMMM?

    (PS: Looking forward to seeing you kids in just over two weeks! <3 )

  13. Throm - Jaedenar said:

    Cataclysm was… a difficult expansion to believe storywise. Deathwing and the Twilight’s Hammer didn’t feel like these big overbear threats like the Scourge, Burning Legion or the Illidari. The whole ‘THEY COULD BE AMONG US’ angle was done with the Cult of the Damned, so seeing it again but ‘THIS TIME THEY HAVE TENTACLES OOOOOOOO’ didn’t really do it for me.

    More than that, my main character is a human death knight, so there was even more of a disconnect there. The problem is I consider all my Alliance characters, including that Death Knight, to be very loyal and patriotic; which made working alongside and having to constantly bow to Thrall and the Earthen Ring hard to swallow.

    I can’t wait for Mists for a real chance to have some Alliance heroes to step up again, ones that I’m damn proud to follow.

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