Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 09, 2016
Zeitgeist: The Dying Skyseer - Session 15

In the previous session the constables of the Royal Homeland Constabulary attempted to search the manor of Mayor Reed Macbannin. But an earthquake prompted a fight in which they managed to arrest the mayor. This session started with the mayor agreeing to help them, in order to prevent an industrial catastrophe. He told them that he had a hidden basement in the Shadowfell parallel plane, in which he was creating and storing large amounts of witchoil. The earthquake damage might cause this witchoil to spill down Cauldron Hill into the Nettles quarter and cause countless deaths.

He led the constables to the garden shed, where they found a woman apparently half sunk into the stone floor, dead. She was holding iron amulets, which the mayor told them were necessary to see and use the entrance to the basement. Putting on an amulet, Merian saw that the woman had in fact come up a staircase when she succumbed to her injuries, and that there was an elevator further on. Taking the staircase the group descended into the basement.

The mayor explained that the whole complex was powered by an engine which ran on witchoil, but apparently the earthquake had shut down that engine. The danger was that another device, magical in nature, tapped the Shadowfell energy for an endless stream of witchoil. Normally a pump emptied the reservoir and pumped the content further into the mountain (the mayor refused to say what for), but it wouldn't run without the engine powering it. So the reservoir could run over and spill witchoil, which caused damage on contact, down the mountain.

The group advanced towards the engine, but in the engine room they were attacked by Creed, the killer with whom they had had several encounters. Prompted by the constables the mayor tried to get Creed to give up, but to no avail. A fight ensued with Creed, two rogues from Lorcan Kell's thieves guild, and three flayed jaguars.

Unlike the first fight against the jaguars, this time the group remembered the option to try a strength check to rip off their chest plate and expose the witchoil-powered heart. With some lucky rolls all three of the jaguars died very quickly. The rogues and Creed took longer to kill, and Creed did some serious damage, but in the end the group prevailed. At that point we ended the session, leaving the final cleanup of the adventure for next year.


Thursday, December 01, 2016
Quiet revolution at Netflix

Netflix has revolutionized its service this week. You might well have missed it, because there was very little communication about it. Since the latest update of the app on iOS and Android, you can now download part of the Netflix offer of films and TV shows on your mobile device to watch them later.

While there are more and more places offering WiFi, watching Netflix on the go was a problem up to now. Half of the hotels I visited on private or business travel over the last few years either had a WiFi connection too slow to watch films on Netflix smoothly, or they downright blocked access to the Netflix service in order to preserve bandwith for other customers. I once experimented with watching Netflix over a 4G connection, which worked surprisingly well, but then I got hit with a €60 bill for using far more than my data limit. There are still very few planes with any WiFi at all, and certainly not broadband WiFi, and WiFi service in trains is also spotty to non-existant. We are still decades away from having broadband WiFi service available everywhere.

The new Netflix app solves that problem by allowing you to download the films you want to see at home and then watch them in the plane without needing an internet connection. Only part of the catalogue is downloadable, and there are some weird restrictions: There doesn't seem to be a limit how long you can keep the movie you downloaded, but once you started watching it there is a little warning label that the downloaded file will expire within 48 hours. I don't see why, it looks like a feature from Mission Impossible to me: "This video will self-destruct in 48 hours. If you get caught we will deny having given it to you.".

As a change of business model this is rather huge. A movie downloading service and a movie streaming service are two very different things. Not only for travelers, but also for people with slower internet connections, which makes Netflix now far more attractive globally. But the elephant in the room that Netflix is so silent about that they barely announced the change is piracy. Of course I am perfectly aware that software exists to rip streaming movies. But having the movie downloaded as a video file somewhere on your device presumably needs a lot less work to pirate it. Which is also presumably the reason why the download functionality only works on mobile devices, and not on home computers.

Personally I am a strong believer in the idea that a large part of piracy is due to content not being available legally for a reasonable price. That is an explanation, not an excuse to break the law. But if I have access to a movie via Netflix for a low monthly flatrate, there is no reason for me to pirate that movie. Being able to download the movie on my mobile device makes the pirated copy *less* attractive and valuable to me. However Netflix still has a big problem with their US catalogue of films and TV shows being so much superior to their global offer, so I can see how this change could facilitate Netflix content being normally available only in the US to migrate via the darker side of the internet to other countries.

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Playing at your own pace: Priceless

Before Mastercard sues me I'll have to admit that I borrowed my title from their ads. Specifically it was an add that suggested that the freedom of traveling where you want when you want is priceless. And that struck a chord with me regarding the way I play MMORPGs these day. Because it answers the old question of why somebody would play a "massively multiplayer" game solo.

I am clearly missing out on both content and the best rewards by playing World of Warcraft solo instead of organized in a guild. I can do normal and heroic dungeons with the LFG functionality, but haven't even tried mythics, where you either need friends/guildmates or a more complex version of the group finder. And I have only done one raid in LFR mode for a quest. So there are several raid dungeons and mythic dungeons which I haven't seen yet, because they aren't available (yet) for LFG/LFR.

It isn't a problem of skill or gear. My three level 110 characters are all above 840, and the main in above iLevel 850. I have found two legendaries already, albeit on two different characters. And while my dps skills have always been mediocre, my healing skills are pretty good because in spite of many changes group healing is still very similar to what it was when I was playing in a top notch raiding guild years ago.

Rather the problem for me with organized play in a guild or with friends is that it puts me under a certain amount of pressure. I'd want to keep my gear level up to par with the other guild members. And I'd have to be there at certain times for a certain number of hours to play with the guild, especially if you explicitly sign up for some raid. And I don't want to feel compelled to play any more. I want to decide at any given moment whether I feel like playing or not, and what I feel like doing. I don't want to measure my progress against others. I want to play at my own pace.

And while World of Warcraft sometimes feels like it is designed for people doing raid content, in some other ways it feels as if it was designed for my slower pace as well. Even if expansions are now coming slightly faster than once ever two years, and there are slightly more content patches, World of Warcraft is still far away from expansions that really offer two years worth of content. I can play as slow as I want, and there is still zero danger that one day the next expansion comes out before I have finished Legion. I already have three level 110 characters, and my main reached exalted with the Nightfallen and is now on the most current chapter of the Suramar storyline, Insurrection. Unless patch 7.1.5 and 7.2 come soon, I'll run out of content before Christmas. Playing at my own, slower pace seems to be a better fit with the speed with which Blizzard can add new content. Missing out on running the same raid dungeons over and over again to me seems a small price to pay for the priceless freedom and better story pacing that solo play gives me.

Thursday, November 24, 2016
A disappointed liberal

Since I was old enough to form a political opinion, I have been a liberal in the European sense of the word. That has never been an easy position in a political world that has mostly been about the left fighting against the right, as both sides were half liberal and half anti-liberal: The right was liberal on economics, but anti-liberal on social issues; the left was socially liberal, but anti-liberal on economics. If you wanted the state out of your wallet *and* out of your bed, you didn't have much of a team behind you.

But then around the end of the 80's something curious happened: Economic liberalism won. Well, mainly the alternative of a communist economics catastrophically lost, but the effect was the same. Suddenly we got left wing leaders who were fiscally responsible economic liberals. And then some sort of truce developed: Left wing politicians coming into power advanced social liberalism while leaving economic liberalism alone. Right wing politicians coming into power advanced economic liberalism while leaving social liberalism alone. Some countries ended up being governed by coalitions of center left and center right parties, who agreed on a common platform. Liberalism went only ever forward for decades, and a sort of great liberal consensus developed.

It is when your side wins that the flaws of your position become obvious. Liberalism isn't perfect. Economic liberalism was proven to be great at wealth creation, but relied on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. It didn't, some boats were left behind and the rising tide gave them the impression of sinking. Globally the wealth creation did happen, and literally billions of people were saved from abject "less than $1 per day" poverty, and ambitious "Millennium Development Goals" on poverty reduction were reached early. But in the already rich countries the created wealth went only to a small elite, while a middle class majority profited very little from economic liberalism and globalisation. Even minor efforts to distribute the wealth a bit more fairly in the rich countries were decried as anti-liberal and met strong opposition.

Social liberalism developed two failure zones: Religion and nationality. The ultimate liberal position is one in which neither your religion nor your nationality matters at all any more, and we are all free to believe whatever we want and live wherever we want. But on the religion side that means that religion simply doesn't matter at all any more, which wasn't really a position that religious types could support. And even within itself liberalism failed to provide an answer to the question whether granting religious freedom to somebody whose religion had strong anti-liberal elements should be done. Political systems that were based on nation states developed issues with the free movement of labor and capital. Liberalism clashed with patriotism and nationalism, and couldn't provide answers to pressing questions like how to responsibly handle immigration. Liberalism completely failed to even acknowledge that the talk about immigration wasn't just xenophobia and racism, but a very fundamental question on what exactly the advantages of being a citizen of a nation state should be, compared to being a foreigner in that same nation state. I personally experienced a situation where I as an immigrant received preferential treatment over the locals, and I have fullest understanding for people who think that this isn't the way it should be.

On the political front the recent electoral defeats of liberalism against anti-liberal forces like Brexit and Trump are clearly mostly related to the inability of liberalism to give answers to the burning questions of the voters. It isn't as if the Brexiteers or Trump appear to have those answers, but at least they aren't denying the importance of the questions. What advantages does economic liberalism bring to the middle class voters? What should the contributions and benefits of foreigners be compared to citizens? As long as liberalism refuses to even acknowledge these questions, it doesn't stand a chance in elections.

For me as a liberal, the greatest betrayal of the liberal movement to its core values is how the movement became overly obsessed with language to the detriment of the value of freedom of speech. Today the liberal movement is one that is perceived as being more concerned with policing the thoughts and language of others than it is with freedom. People are being told that they don't have the right to be offended by a guy in a dress entering a girl's public toilet, and they don't even have the right to make a joke about that guy because *he* might be offended by that. Pretty much any sort of joke has become a target of the liberal movement. That not only makes them look like sourpusses, but is also psychologically unwise. Since language was invented, making jokes about something has been a relief valve for people to deal with situations they don't fully understand. Closing that relief valve only risks to increase the psychological pressure, until people react with harsher means than words. The obsession of the liberal movement with language becomes downright embarrassing when you have to watch the naive belief that somehow the problem of Trump becoming president can be solved by calling him a fascist. As if that would change anything.

My hope as a liberal is that the cultural hegemony of liberalism dies out in favor of free speech and true political discourse on the advantages of economic and social liberalism. Liberalism can be a force for good, but only if it is a position from which compromise can be found. The complete annihilation of religion and the nation state are not viable goals, and liberalism needs to find answers for voters who believe in religion and the nation state. On immigration the unrestricted movement of labor and internment camps are not the only alternatives, and compromise has to be found on what exactly the contributions of immigrants to their host nation should be, and what benefits they should be given in comparison to native citizens. Liberalism needs to find answers on how the wealth of nations should be distributed among its citizens. And maybe liberalism needs some more electoral defeats to get to that point.

Monday, November 21, 2016
Zeitgeist: The Dying Skyseer - Session 14

After the previous session filled with investigation, this session had a bit more action, even if it took us two hours of discussion to get there. Their investigation had clearly identified a prime suspect, Reed Macbannin, mayor of the Nettles quarter of Flint. And their boss had provided them with a search warrant for Macbannin's manor, so the path forward was very clear. But two of the players just wanted to avoid any direct confrontation.

So the group first talked again to Julien Lebrix, head of security of the Danoran consulate. Lebrix had previously been prevented by the consul himself of pursuing his investigation further. Asked whether he knew who was behind this, Lebrix could only speculate that it might have to do with the person who had been visiting the consul that morning, and who had shot Nilasa (a fact that Lebrix had tried to conceal at their first visit on order of the consul). That visitor was Cillian Creed, and Eldion remembered that name as being Macbannin's butler.

So after a long discussion and having run out of other clues to follow up, the group finally went up Cauldron Hill to search Macbannin's manor. They were greeted by the mayor himself in a friendly fashion, but there were quite a lot of Macbannin's staff around. While the constables were still discussing with Macbannin, suddenly there was an earthquake. The city had experienced minor earthquakes in the days before, but this was a bigger one. At that point the group and Macbannin were in the garden of the manor, and at a random location in that garden a sinkhole opened up and started to fill with witchoil. Macbannin shouted to Creed to "check the reservoir", while he himself and his staff turned to attack the constables.

Now Macbannin was using a form of black magic which linked his life to the lives of his staff. For every 11 points of damage he took, one member of his staff died, while he remained unharmed. The staff was otherwise not too dangerous, just throwing bricks and using makeshift weapons, although during one turn in which the dice rolls for the staff attacks were unusually high, that ended up doing noticeable damage. Besides Macbannin there were two of Lorcan Kell's gangsters disguised as gardeners.

The fight was made more interesting by the earthquake: At the start of each round another sinkhole opened up in the area where the group was fighting. At one point a sinkhole opened up right in the middle of the group, with 4 group members falling in. But they all managed to get out before the hole filled with witchoil and started to damage them. Macbannin was casting rather nasty black magic curses on James, but between saving throws and Eldion dispelling the black magic with religious chants the curses were countered. After killing the two gardeners and all the staff, Aria asked the mayor to surrender, and he did. As it was already rather late at that point, we stopped the session there.


Friday, November 11, 2016
Assassin's Warcraft

I finally got around to try and do all the quests in Suramar, of which there are a lot. I liked the quests that take place further into the city, where the game gets a sort of Assassin's Creed feel: I sneak around, trying to avoid detection, and I climb up buildings (although only at specific grapple points, WoW doesn't have real climbing).

Unfortunately after one afternoon of having fun in Suramar, the fun suddenly stopped very abruptly: The next two quests in the series require me to kill specific mobs in specific dungeons. On mythic difficulty!!! Which means no LFG functionality. Hey, Blizzard, if I had a large group of friends to do mythic dungeons and raids with, I wouldn't be doing your quest content! It really annoys me that Blizzard can't keep their content separated, but must always try to force people into content they don't want to play.

Apparently there is a workaround to still get the Good Suramaritan achievement, which at some point in time will be needed for flying. But that workaround required exalted reputation, which as I have run out of quests requires grinding world quests for a long time. And then I still need to do a raid, although I can wait until that raid is available in LFR mode. So right now the story line of how the resistance movement in Suramar is faring is closed to me. Which at least brings me to the point where I can see the end of Legion, with every content available to me done. I had hoped Legion would last longer than that.

Thursday, November 10, 2016
All values are not created equal

I do not share many values with Donald Trump, not that I had a vote in that. Personally I believe that immigration has more benefits than drawbacks, and women should be seen and treated as equal to men. However I would also say that not all values that I hold are of equal importance. For example I consider democracy to rank much higher in importance than immigration or polite language. And because of that I am opposed to the "not my president" idea and movement.

Democracy is an absolute value: The will of the people is to be respected, regardless of whether I hold the same opinion or a different opinion. There is nothing liberal about saying that people can't vote for the non-liberal option, or not accepting the vote if it goes against liberal values. I would say that both the Brexit and Donald Trump were the less good option in a choice between two flawed options. But the people who now try to reverse those results get no support from me. Believing in democracy means believing that the majority is always right, or at the very least the majority has the right to be wrong.

And don't start splitting hairs and finding numerous reasons why this or that election wasn't valid. The popular vote simply doesn't count in a presidential election. Feel free to lobby for a change in how the president of the United States is elected, but don't tell me that Donald Trump doesn't have a mandate. And democracy is for the people who participate, so speculations of what the millions of non-voters would have wanted are equally futile.

From the time of Reagan ("Tear down this wall. ... The wall cannot withstand freedom.") to Donald Trump ("I will build a great wall") we lived in an age of growing liberalism. But that liberalism (especially the economic liberalism) mostly benefited an elite, who went on and told everybody else what they could say and what was good for them. Democracy means that the majority has the right to disagree with the results of decades of liberal consensus. Maybe the majority is "wrong", but then you also need to admit that the liberals were wrong not share the wealth more widely and not to address the valid concerns of the other side. In the end we will need a compromise on many of the issues and flaws of the liberal consensus of the last decades, and we will never arrive at a compromise if the other side is never in power. Sometimes the people who tear down walls are in power, and sometimes the people who build walls are in power. The back and forth swing of democracy results in that eventually arriving at a good compromise on the number of walls out there. And that is the greater good, the greater value in this instance.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016
When the veneer of political correctness comes off

Political correctness at its core is a system to encourage people to not say what they think. The idea behind is that preventing people from expressing sexist or racist thoughts will ultimately reduce sexism and racism. That works about as well as the idea that not talking about sex will reduce teenage pregnancies, that is to say not at all. A brilliant proof of that comes in the polls for the US presidential election: Not only were the polls very wrong, but it also turns out that the polls that were most wrong were the ones conducted by human pollsters. A lot of people, undoubtedly influenced by the prevailing culture of political correctness, did not want to admit to another human being that they were voting for Trump. But in the voting booth, where they were alone and had no finger wagging at them, they followed their core beliefs and voted Trump.

It is not as if Trump supporters do not believe that Trump groped women and then bragged about it; while they would probably deny it when asked, deep in their heart they believe that this isn't something that should disqualify Trump from becoming president. Political correctness might suppress their freedom of expression, but it doesn't suppress their freedom of thought or their freedom to vote. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "silent majority". Which for me means that political correctness as a tool to make the world a better place completely failed. And is probably very much on the way out under president Trump.

The other big loser in this election is globalization. I sincerely believe that globalization as an extreme form of free market capitalism is the best system for overall maximum wealth creation. Unfortunately free market capitalism is only good at wealth creation, while being lousy at wealth distribution. We have reached a point where the average Joe is so enraged about inequality that he prefers less overall wealth creation, even if it hurts himself, as long as it hurts the fat cats even more. The dramatic stockmarket crash of today is not because of the likely damage that Trump will do to the overall GDP, but because of the much larger damage that he will do to the free movement of trade and capital, which will dis-proportionally hurt the rich.

Overall we can wish the Americans only that they "may live in interesting times". While most of the preposterous things Trump promised simply won't happen, and the US won't erect a wall a quarter of a century after the Germans pulled theirs down, the next 4 years are certain to be tumultuous. Possibly to the detriment of the winning Republican party, because in government and total control of all houses the rift between their anti-establishment leader and the pro-establishment party will become ever more evident.

Sunday, November 06, 2016
Zeitgeist: The Dying Skyseer - Session 13

In the previous session the constables of the Royal Homeland Constabulary saved the dying skyseer from an attack on Dawn Square, so that he could proclaim his vision of the threat coming from Cauldron Hill. That raised their prestige with the city of Flint, but didn't bring them much forward with their investigation on who was behind the various crimes they had uncovered. So this session was very much about investigation.

In computer games people frequently discuss about the merits of sandbox games versus games in which you follow a story. In Dungeons & Dragons you can have both. So this session was very much sandbox mode, with me just reacting to the various ideas of the players based on my background knowledge of the city and the villains.

Having been somewhat damaged in the Dawn Square battle, the group recovered over night and really started the investigation the next morning with their usual 8 am status meeting with their boss. Their boss commended them for having saved the skyseer, but was a bit puzzled about what exactly was going on. Initially this had been a hunt for the eco-terrorist Gale, but even Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft could see that these reanimated jaguar monsters weren't something Gale would use, and that Nevard the skyseer was a friend rather than an enemy to Gale.

Remember the start of the adventure, where the group investigated the death of a young girl that had died flying out of a window of the Danoran consulate and landing on the spiked fence? Over the course of the adventure the group had found out that the girl, Nilasa, with her dying breath had entrusted a bunch of documents to a foreign doctor who had come to her aid. The group had saved that doctor and received the documents from him. Now another constable (NPC) had analyzed them, and found that they were financial documents showing that the factories that had been damaged by arson had subsequently been bought up by henchmen of Lorcan Kell, a gangster boss. But the money had come from elsewhere. So the constables went to the bank, succeeded a diplomacy check and managed to find out that the money originally had come from Mayor Reed Macbannin. That was their second clue implicating the mayor of the Nettles quarter.

Next the constables searched Parity Lake to see whether only those factories had witchoil in them. But they found that witchoil flasks were hidden in many places where people died, not just in factories with their high rate of industrial accidents, but also in hospitals. So they lay in wait at one hospital where the witchoil flask appeared to be full of captured souls from the dying, to find out who would get the flask. After some hours, in the evening, a gangster from Lorcan Kell's crew appeared and took the full flask, exchanging it for a fresh one. They followed the man to the lake, where in a warehouse he put all the flasks that he had collected in a runed crate and loaded that crate onto a barge. The group followed the barge, and found that under the sixth bridge the crate suddenly disappeared. Searching under the bridge for a secret tunnel, they found instead a rusty iron portal etched with runes. From previous events they knew that with the right magic rusty iron rings could be used as portals into the Shadowfell, the parallel plane of the death. As they didn't have means to go into the Shadowfell, and it would have been unwise to try anyway, they only checked out the warehouse and found that other goods than the witchoil flasks were also smuggled into the Shadowfell the same way.

They then found the previous owner of one of the factories who under questioning revealed that he had been under pressure before by gangsters to either deliver goods secretly or sell his factory, and that they had come back after the arson and threatened him more. Seeing how serious they were and that they were actually offering market value for the factory, he had sold his property and kept quiet about it.

The next morning the group presented this information to Stover Delft, who agreed that they should look into Mayor Reed Macbannin. But first the group sought out Julien Lebrix, the security chief of the Danoran Consulate. Having arrested the two dragonborn arsonists that wanted to kill Lebrix since their last encounter, the group hoped he would be a bit more talkative this time around. But as it was getting late we stopped the session at that point.


Saturday, November 05, 2016
Messed up economy

I find the player economy of Legion to be rather messed up. It isn't as if you couldn't craft useful items; but everything is so damned expensive that few people buy or bother with crafting and selling. A flask that gives you a 2-hour stat bonus on my server costs 3000 gold, and very few people other than high-end raiders spend that sort of money for a short term buff. And the high price isn't a profit margin of the crafters, but comes nearly exclusively from the high price of the gathered raw materials like herbs and ores.

The culprit probably is the previous expansion, where the garrison gave everybody herbs and ores without needing the skill, so many people unlearned their gathering professions. And although you can gather in Legion with low skill, apparently not many people switched back. Maybe because skill isn't the determining factor any more, you need to do a lot of gathering to find quest items that give you quests that increase your gathering skills. Without those every node only yields little. Thus you can find basic ores or herbs going for 50 to over 100 gold for a single one. Stacks of 200 ores or herbs cost more than BoE epics.

Another reason why few people bother with crafting is that there are other alternatives. You can get a set of class armor and upgrade it to high iLevel using order resources. And if you do a lot of world quests, you'll also find a lot of good gear. I just recently discovered that you can buy bonus roll loot items that work on the weekly purple world bosses, giving you a chance of an iLevel 860 item without ever needing to enter a dungeon.

My warrior has mining and smithing, my mage has herbalism and alchemy, and my priest has tailoring and jewelcrafting. I haven't found any great money makers yet in these professions. Some people said stirrups would sell, but I found few buyers that would pay more than the cost of the materials for those on my server. And unless gathered materials become a lot cheaper, I don't see myself crafting flasks or turning crafted items into obliterum.

Sunday, October 30, 2016
Zeitgeist: The Dying Skyseer - Session 12

In the previous session the constables of the Royal Homeland Constabulary had found a warehouse in which apparently monsters had been created by ripping out the hearts of jaguars and replacing them with vessels full of witchoil, an evil substance powered by capturing the souls of the dying. Examining the evidence left behind, Eldion made a discovery: From his politician background he had worked some time for Mayor Reed Macbannin, and so he could identify some handwritten notes about the witchoil of being in Macbannin's handwriting. Very suspicious given the substance in question, but hardly proof that would stand up in a court of law.

In any case, the group had a different task to perform first. The dying skyseer Nevard Sechim had announced that he would proclaim the vision he had when the group helped him to spend the night on Cauldron Hill to the population of Flint that day at noon on Dawn Square. In fact finding the warehouse had been part of the group providing security for that event. So now the constables returned to Dawn Square and found that a large number of citizens had gathered to hear the proclamation, and the whole thing had turned into some sort of festival with vendors selling food and drink. There was a platform from which Nevard would speak, with some of his followers setting up a podium. There were also two groups of druids with porcelain masks drawing two small chariots to left and right of the platform.

While the constables were clearly suspicious of those masked druids, the arrival of Nevard and his entourage made them rather escort the skyseer than going after those druids. But when Nevard had reached the platform, something happened: The chariots, which had rusty iron arcs to hold up a tarpaulin (like a wagon in the Wild West) and the fountain which had a rusty iron ring as a decoration all served as portals to the Shadowfell plane. From these portals 5 of the flayed jaguars that had been created in the warehouse emerged, and the 10 masked druids turned out to be skeletons that joined the attack.

Most of the group took up a defensive position around Nevard on the platform. To everybody's surprise Aria chose to remain on the square and cast spells at the enemies. That was very unusual for the player, who has a long history of playing glass cannon classes and hiding behind his fellow group members. And it clearly wasn't a good tactic, because he went down after one round, when the flayed jaguars attacked him as the closest target. Luckily he was only knocked unconscious, not dying, but it took several rounds before somebody from the group could come to his aid and revive him.

The skeletons were just minions, who went down quickly. But the flayed jaguars were rather tough. Now the idea behind that was that the group had learned that the jaguars had a heart of witchoil protected by a steel plate. And I told the players that they could instead of a regular attack try a strength check to rip off that steel plate. But in this campaign all the characters had chosen more exotic character classes which worked with other stats than strength, even the tanks. So they didn't really feel confident about strength checks, and only one of them tried and rolled low, so they gave up on that idea. They never found out that once the steel plate was removed, the flayed jaguars could be killed by a single blow, so the fight was a bit tougher than planned and took a while.

Nevard survived the fight and made his proclamation, declaring that his vision had clearly shown a danger to the city of Flint coming from Cauldron Hill. So he offered refuge in the Cloudwood to the people living close to Cauldron Hill. His vision was full of dark images, like a dark figure towering over the city, being controlled by others, and three birds, one of black silk, one of black steel, and one made of stars. The group not having enough information to decode this vision further, we ended the session at this point.


Saturday, October 29, 2016
Leveling a holy priest in Legion

Once upon a time I was a hardcore raider in World of Warcraft. That turned into casual raiding, then casual dungeoneering, until at some point I lost interest in group content. I tried different classes and roles, but it turned out that I was at best mediocre as a tank or damage dealer, while I had a knack for raid / dungeon healing. So while my warrior was the first character I created on the European servers, my priest was for the longest time my "main". And I hated it when a new expansion came out, because I hated leveling him. In many expansions leveling as holy simply wasn't feasible, so I always leveled in shadow spec until the level cap, and then switched to holy for the raid content. And I don't like shadow spec very much.

In Legion at the start I didn't even try to level my priest. I hadn't done much group content in the previous couple of expansions, so I didn't really see the need for a healer. But while I leveled my warrior and mage to 110, I reluctantly did some dungeon content for quests, and found that the dungeons in Legion are fun. So I started to consider the priest as third character to level up. Now as I said before, I don't consider Legion to be very alt-friendly. Every character goes through the same four zones while leveling up, and while you can choose the order, you still need to do every zone until you gain friendly reputation in order to unlock world quests.

And then of course I still didn't like shadow spec very much. And because in Legion you early on need to decide your spec for your artifact weapon, and it takes some time before you get an artifact weapon for a second spec, I didn't want to choose shadow and then be unable to do holy for several levels. So I was wondering whether it was feasible to level in Legion with holy spec, mostly doing dungeons. And it turns out that works better than expected. One big plus was the quest you have to do to gain your first artifact weapon (and you can't do Legion dungeons without doing that): For the holy spec the scenario in which you get your artifact is very much based around you healing a group of NPCs. At some points you need to deal damage yourself, but mostly it is about healing, and that is a nice change from the artifact weapon scenarios I did up to now.

Then I started to join dungeon groups using the looking for group dungeon finder. One thing hasn't changed in WoW: There are too many DPS and too few healers. So the dungeon finder in which my DPS characters had to wait up to half an hour to get a group provided a group for my healer within a couple of minutes every time. At level 100 the dungeon loot is iLevel 700, which isn't great. But half a dozen dungeons later I was level 101, at which point your order hall really starts working and you can get better gear by various ways, including crafting.

Now for crafting I had to do some quests in the Legion zones and couldn't just stay in dungeons. And that turned out to be a big surprise: Provided you take Censure and Surge of Light as talents, leveling a holy priest in Legion through quests is also perfectly viable. I'd even say that the holy priest is performing much better than my frost mage. The frost mage is more fun, with more buttons to press, and more movement. But the holy priest is the epitome of the principle that if you don't lose, you'll eventually win. Between Renew and the occasional instant Flash of Light provided by Surge of Light, the priest is basically unkillable. I even fought gold border elites with barely a scratch, it just takes forever. Even tactics that really, really shouldn't work, like running through a murloc village spamming Holy Nova, work perfectly well for the holy priest. In spite of wearing the same cloth armor as the mage, the priest feels much less like a glass cannon, and much more like the plate-armored warrior. The disadvantage is only that the priest mostly spams three button, Smite, Holy Fire, and Chastise, and that there is very little interactivity in that. Works great, just sometimes feels a bit grindy.

Nevertheless I still think I'll stick to my original idea and level the priest mostly by doing dungeon content. The obvious downside of that strategy is that he'll end up being level 110 one day with no reputation with the various factions, and thus far away from being able to do world quests. But I do think there could be some advantage to putting him on ice for some time at that point, patiently collecting artifact knowledge for several weeks, before going out with him doing quests for reputation. And I can probably gear him up using heroic dungeons, unless those turn out to be populated with unpleasant "go, go, go" types that stand in the fire and then blame the healer.


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