Of Noses and Fists

So, I read a lot of Heinlein when I was growing up (read: young and impressionable). I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed all of his works (or their derivatives – there is a special place in hell for everyone associated with the Starship Troopers movie) or even agreed with all of his thoughts and stances. But for someone like me, coming from a deeply religious family and going to a hard-line Roman Catholic school, there were certainly some eye-opening premises postulated.

One of his hobbyhorse topics was the limits of individual freedoms by society and government and one of his most memorable quotes on that topic is:

Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.

This is something that I really took to heart long ago and far away when I first read it, and something that I have to remind myself and others of from time to time. I’m sure I’ve even posted it here and there in the blogsphere. I found myself with cause to preach that message to my guild over the last little while – mostly due to some conversations over the forums and over our vent and chat channels* With the political and economic situation in North America being what it is, there have been a few heated discussions about it over vent and some of our chat channels. My ERP post generated some interesting conversations too. And we had some issues with people brining those conversations into the raid – which, no matter how enlightening and edifying they are, do not belong in our raid chat.

I don’t like to make rules for no reason, but I figured that perhaps if I could spell out exactly what was allowed in each vent and chat channel, as well as defining who was the final moderator for each and what exactly the repercussion for someone who refuses to follow the rules would be – maybe that would help us continue to have engaging and interesting conversations as well as to help people feel more free to voice their thoughts. The other thing I wanted to do was to provide clear delineations so that people who do not want to hear conversations on matters outside of Azeroth would have a place to be where they could enjoy their game unsullied.

So, here are the guidelines I posted.

1. Raid Vent Channel/Chat Channel
(Please note that this only applies during an actual raid – be it scheduled (ie for EP) or not. If you just happen to find yourself in a raid vent or chat channel ‘hanging out’ and there isn’t a raid going on in that channel, please treat it the same as the General Chat Channel below.) These channels are reserved for on-topic raid discussion only. If you are in a raid, you are expected to be in these chat channels, so please respect the raid leadership, the membership that is trying to listen to raid directions and those specific members who may need to communicate certain information at critical raid times (i.e mind controllers during the Raz fight.) Off-topic chatter over both vent and chat channels should be kept to an absolute minimum. Posting damage (or other) meters over raid chat channel is not allowed. Moderator of these channels is the raid leader and raid assist, with final moderation being given to any officer, and preference for that final moderation being given to officers in these channels.

2. Class/Role Specific Chat Channels (i.e impossheals)
These channels are for the flow of raid-critical information. If you are not a member of the class/role that the channel is designed for, you are still more than welcome to join, but you are not allowed to disrupt, side-track, spam, hijack, troll or otherwise interrupt the flow of information on these channels. The responsibility for moderation within these channels is given to whatever officer is in them. If there are no officers present in the channel, then self-moderation is expected of the members within that channel, with the option to call in any officer to mediate any problems that arise.

3. Party and PvP Vent and Chat Channels.
These channels are by default on-topic channels. If you are in one of them for a specific purpose (i.e Battleground or 5 man instance), the default topic of conversation should be that purpose. Beyond that, off-topic discussions are done at the discretion of those within the channel, with final moderaton given to the officers that may be present in the channel, or any officer if needs be. Any member of the specific group that is in that channel for that specific purpose may request that the topic of conversation be brought back to the original purpose of the group and this is a general call to all guild members to respect those requests if they are made. If you decide to join a vent channel and are not a member of the group that is gathered there for a specific purpose, then you must defer to them on matters of conversation topics and speaking order at all times. As with the class-specific chat channels above, you are not allowed to disrupt the conversation in any way that will hinder the members of the group from accomplishing their purpose for being in the channel. If guild members are in these chat or vent channels for non-specific purposes, then these are considered to be General Chat channels, and should be treated as such.

4. Class Forums.
These forums are for the use of all of the members of the guild, but the topic should be of relevance to the class or the roles of the class that these forums are designed for. Extremely off-topic discussion and any spam/trolling/disruptive posts will not be allowed and will be removed. All officers will have final moderation privledges.

5. The 2 Channels (vent) and Private Chat Channels (whispers or created chat channels).
These channels are entirely moderated by the people within them. Should abusive or otherwise unacceptable behaviour occurr within these channels, please contact an officer and we will deal with that behaviour, but we will not be moderating what are in essence private channels.

6. General Discussion forums, General Vent Channels (The Lobby and The Cafe) and Guild Chat Channel.
These are general avenues for general discussion on any topic. There are no restrictions on discussion topics, language or images. These channels are by no means mandatory and participation in them is up to the discretion of the individual member. Because participation in the guild forums as a whole (but not specific posts) is a requirement of our members, subject lines of posts should be as descriptive as possible so that people may choose to avoid posts that are of a controversial nature. Officers reserve the right to moderate posts as we see fit and this includes but is not limited to locking, deleting or editing posts. A good rule of thumb is to put a small warning or a descriptive word in the subject of your post if you feel it may be on a sensitive topic (for example politics or religion). Officers are the final moderators for all general channels, and reserve the right to call an end to any topic at any given time, should the need arise.

Interestingly enough, when I posted these guidelines on the guild forums, I opened the floor to conversation and debate about them. I wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to comment on what they thought were the appropriate uses for all of our vent and chat channels. And I didn’t get a single response. Not one.

These guidelines were moved into the “Important Info” forums and are now part of the canon of rules that we have for Imposs. It saddens me a little to think that people had nothing to say about them – but then again maybe no news is good news. I am glad that we have a specific set of rules for use of our chat channels, but again I’m kind of annoyed that we had to set out those specific rules. If we could all abide by the simple rule regarding noses and fists, it would mean a lot less fussy administration sort of work for us. But I guess it’s true what they say about ‘common sense’ these days.

*when I say ‘chat channel’ I mean any text-based channel like /g or /r or whatnot, as opposed to a vent channel.

Do You Feel Motivated, Punk?

So, we’ve been having some trouble with Malygos. It’s a bugger of a fight, the timer is always against us, we wipe a lot and people have gotten really discouraged. Maylgos is the first fight in WotLK that has been a true challenge for us, and it seems that since Patch 3.0 came out, some people in Impossibilium have forgotten what it feels like and what it means to really have to work to see content. We’ve steamrolled through Naxx and Sartharion and come to a full stop up against the massive blue roadblock that is Malygos.

We tweaked some strats and found some videos and begged, pleaded and cajoled our members into reading the strats, watching the vids and doing the Aces High! daily every day. And still, last night we went into Eye of Eternity and there were raiders who hadn’t taken the time to do any of that. And we’ve been working on Maly for three weeks now. There have been guild MotD posted about the vids and the importance of doing the Aces High! quest. There has been forum post after forum post after forum post about the importance of the daily quest and the strat videos and people just talking about the fight in general and still there are people who don’t care enough to come to raids prepared.

At least everybody flasked and food buffed last night. Thank god for small mercies.

So lasts weeks’ wipes were characterized by a complete lack of focus. People were using vanity trinkets and noncom pets and mounts and a very silly (but highly entertaining) mod called Gag instead of paying attention to the fight. Too many afks, too many DCs and just a complete and utter lack of dedication and motivation for success. It was frustrating. It was disenheartening. And people have stopped signing up for our Malygos runs. We’ll readily have over 30 signups for Naxx, any day of the week. But post a Malygos run and the signups vanish into thin air. And of the people who actually sign up – an even smaller fraction deign to show.

There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And loss of EP.

I thought about it, and I realized that the old school raiding mentality where you would toss yourself at the immovable object of a difficult boss fight over and over and over and blow through a week’s worth of gold in consumeables and repairs just because you were a raiding guild and that was what you did – well, those days are gone. That raiding mentality can go hand in hand with a lot of feelings of arrgoance, superiority, and a generally negative >”50 DKP minus!!!!1oneone” sort of leadership that is something we did not (and do not!) want for Imposs. Yelling and screaming and ranting and raving and shaming and punishing people was (in my mind) not going to work to get us a dead dragon.

What I did was go to our forums and post this:

Now I know that 100g isn’t a huge amount. I thought it would be enough to take the sting off of a night’s worth of repairs. (I also didn’t want to bankrupt the guild vault – any amount of gold I handed out would have to be multiplied by 25!) However, 1000 EP is an enormous amount of EP. In a good night of raiding Naxx, where we get three wings clear the average raider will earn between 600 and 700 EP. And a truly awesome item – like my sweet new gun or my beloved Black Ice – will set you back around 300 EP. So earning 1000 EP in one big chunk on top of the regular raid time and boss kill EP is something that I hoped would make people sit up and take notice.

It did.

I put that wanted poster on the forums on Friday morning. On Saturday night he was dead in 10 man. ON Monday night – 25 man. 2 Nights of raiding, 2 dead dragons!

So thank you Impossibilium. Thank you for putting in the effort, thank you for staying for wipe after wipe, thank you for doing your dailies and watching your strat vids and tweaking your gear and spec and trying a little bit harder after every wipe. (And thank you for your generosity in carrying those rare few who didn’t put in as much effort as you did.) The vast majority of this guild is made up of capable, competant, hardworking, wonderful players and I am very proud to be part of your successes!

WTB ERP

So, I’ve learned a few things from ERP. I’ve learned a few techniques about how to write a good erotic scene. I’ve also learned (through some very cringe-worthy moments) about what does not constitute a good erotic scene or even good writing period. I’ve learned a bit about the spectrum of people that play Warcraft (or at least the subsection of players that are willing to take on a role-play scene involving romance and/or eroticism.) But the most important thing I’ve learned, and certainly the thing that I wish to distill into this week’s Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Azeroth broadcast is about communication.

Blizzard has by design limited the explictiness of sexual encounters possible in the game. Mods aside, your character cannot achieve true nudity and the animated emotes and the pre-programmed sounds that go along with them are written to be risque but certainly not offensive. (None of which I disagree with, just to set the record straight. This is a game that younger children can and do play, and I completely agree that Blizzard is responsible to keep their product acceptable to the parents of those children.) So, if you and an of-age and willing role play partner decide to engage in some adult recreation, your possibilites for body language are limited. You are, for the most part, restricted to writing out your scene, your reactions, your thoughts, your wants – in short almost everything that matters in an erotic encounter. (Yes, I realize that the restrictions in terms of body language apply to almost every in-character encounter, erotic or not. Keep reading, I promise I’ll get to a point eventually!)

When my single-and-looking gnome finds an acceptable playmate for the evening, she is limited to the boundaries of my writing capabilities to communicate to that playmate exactly what she wants and how she wants it. She needs to be explicit in her actions and reactions for the scene to have any meaning or purposefullness at all. While there may be a certain amount of ‘chemistry’-driven spontenatiety, there is very little room for mind-reading. To get what you want you have to say what you want, clearly and possibly in great detail.

So, with all the people out there role-playing (and erotically role playing) with fun and satisfaction had on both sides, how is there such poor communication skills in our daily lives and our at-home relationships?

I understand that there are socialization forces at work here. Men are told they are “less manly” if they don’t know what they want and get in there and get it. Women are told they are “unladylike” if they voice their thoughts on what they want and demand they get it. We are told that people who are together should “just know” what the other person wants and that saying explicitly what you want or want to try or are even just thinking about makes a relationship seem less sexy. Toss in a healthy measure of Puritanistic thinking about sex and you ceratinly don’t get an atmosphere that is in any way conducive to frank conversation.

I also understand that there is an element of fear here. If you turn to your partner and say “I want to try X, with Y and some of Z” then you’ve given them a very specific way to say no to you. To reject you and your wants. It’s frightening to open yourself to that kind of rejection from someone you are close to. What if they say no? What if they think you’re a deviant for even suggesting it? What if they tell someone else? What if they mock you? It’s a leap of faith, to be sure.

When you add in Internet Anonymity, a lot of those obstacles disappear. Gender and sexual orientation boundaries become blurred, the emotional investments lessen and the great warm security blankie of the internet whispers us the promise that if things turn really nasty, we can just disappear back into the crowd. Free from the frightening realities of having to look someone in the face and say “what I want is this” we are given a safer environment in which to hone our skills in terms of exploring the boundaries and possibilities of human interaction – sexual and otherwise.

I know that I have the skills to properly, clearly, conscisely and effectively communicate my thoughts on any matter up to and including sexual encounters. Just by some of the comments I get on this blog, I know that I am capable of making my point known and understood. I can also see concrete examples of other bloggers and other role-players, having the skill set to communicate the most exquisite nuances of human thought and interaction. We need to start trusting in those skills. We need to trust in the relationships that are closest to us. We need to be able to trust our friends and our partners to treat our emotional nakedness with tenderness and dignity. We need to be able to go to our guildies and speak our minds and be heard and understood. We need to go to our partners and express our wants and our desires, our insecurities, our hopes, our curiosities and trust that because they are there with us, they will understand us.

There needs to be less fear and more open emotional honesty in all of our human interactions. Yes, you might be ridiculed. Yes you might be hurt. But someone, somewhere needs to extend that first hand of openness. Every guild, every partnership, every relationship out there can benefit from better lines of communication. Trust me. Try it.

I.W.I.N

So, I’ve got this thing:

and I think I know how it works! (Worked. It’s broken now.)

In much the same way that “failing at life” seems to be easier to define than “winning at life”, winning Warcraft is a very slippery thing to pin down. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what truly winning means. Never one to leave my two copper out of the equation, regardless of how much good it could or could not do, here are some very easy to follow guidelines if you’re looking to Win at WoW. (Sorry, can’t help you with winning at life, this isn’t that kind of blog)

1. Roll a toon, any toon. (Really, you can Win at WoW with any race/class/faction combo you want!)

2. Level to max level. (could be 60, 70, 80 … 90! Whatever the max is. I certainly don’t want people starting today to think they cannot Win at WoW!)

3. Get all your best-in-slot items. Get them for all the specs available to your class. (Yes, it’s harder for hyrbrids to Win at WoW, but that’s half of the fun of playing a hybrid spec!)

4. Get all your achievements. All of them. (I’m leaving out achievements that cannot be repeated by anyone. Like server firsts or Blizzcon. It’s not fair to tell a brand new player they can’t Win at WoW too. BUt if you already have those achievements, A+!)

5. Get the best Arena Rating and the highest PvP title available. (Someone has to have an Arena Rating of 1, it could be you!)

6. Kill every boss. All of them. (I know this will repeat some of the ground covered under getting all your achievements, but raiding is a very important part of Winning at WoW!)

7. Achieve the gold cap for your charcter! (Be the greediest goblin you can be!)

See? By following these seven very simple steps, you and your friends and family can Win at WoW!!

Bonus Credit: Do all of the above with one of every class.

My Mother Was Right

So, you know those those pithy sayings your mother is always spewing at you while you’re growing up? Things like “eat all your vegetables” and “don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll go blind” and “you’ll understand when you’re older” and “get that out of your mouth! Dear god where did you even get that?”

(Ok, so maybe I was the only kid who felt they could eat their way through the natural world. And for the record, basalt pebbles go down nicer than sandstone ones.)

Of all the pearls of wisdom my mother tried to instill in my developing mind two of them stand out the most. The first being “you’ll appreciate your family more when you’re grown.” I was the typical rebellious teenager, dressing in tattered clothes and listening to angry loud music. (Why does every generation think they invented rebellion and know that this time, The Man really is against them?) I hated being forced to spend time with my hopelessly clueless parents, my annoying and generally dirty and/or boogery younger cousins and my tag-along younger sisters. Now that I’m older and I’m away from home and family for long stretches of time, I appreciate my family so much more. I’m thrilled to see my sisters, I lurk on Facebook longing for snippets of information about my cousins and their families and my mother is one of my closest friends. Who knew she was right all along?

The second thing she told me is that “the grass is always greener on the other side.” It really, really is. I’m the type of person who if you tell me that I absolutely cannot have something, I develop an insatiable, consuming desire for that thing above all else. My life is not complete until I get my hands on that forbidden fruit. This is something I know about myself and that I can take steps to deal with when I feel that familiar “zomg gotta HAVE IT!” feeling creeping in. It could be my ongoing attempts to not sabotage my diet and eat an entire bag of pecan snacks, it could be telling myself that I absolutely have to stop surfing blogs and get some work done, it could be me telling myself that dawn on Sunday is way, way too late to be up and I should log off and get some sleep.

Hey, that's me!

When we were wrapping up our TBC raiding, I know that I was really wearied by healing. I was tired of healing, I was tired of thinking about healing, I was tired of reading about healing I was tired of feeling like healing was my job, my only contribution to the guild and that I was obliged to do nothing else but. I barely saw any boss fights in TBC, I was too busy watching green bars bounce up and down. I would spare a glance now and then at a boss and imagine myself filling it so full of arrows it looked like a pine tree. I would prowl WWS and imagine that I was looking at dps stats instead of healing stats. I longed to pewpew. I really do enjoy healing, but I just passed a limit there at the end of TBC. I was done.

I switched my main to my hunter when WotLK came out. It was not (by far!) an easy decision to make and actually ended up setting me on a very rocky road to start my Northrend experience. I flew through quest content, exhilarated to be able to do things without a meat shield. Just me and my pet, the way WoW was meant to be. I wriggled like a happy puppy the first WotLK raid I finished. There I was, topping the dps charts! Look at me go! Listening to the thwap thwap auuuugh! noises that trash and bosses alike make when they are faced with the awesomeness that is my dps! It was glorious.

And then came the hunter theorycrafting. The tweaking of specs, of pets, of shot rotations. The responsibility of being not just a dps but a dps that is determined to excell. Raid consumeables are raid consumeables, whether your buff food gives you MP5 or agility, and they suck to farm either way. Raid mechanics and positioning that at first were a whole new world when seen through my dps glasses have since become routine and boring. I took a bit of a break and started leveling my priest.

I dinged her to 80 and have been healing heroics and a few Naxx10 runs. I have found my love for healing again. I like standing in the back, I like watching green bars. I like that feeling of being important and needed and not just another number on the charts. I like wearing pretty dresses and wielding sexy maces. I’m starting to get a longing to collect some of the T7.5 gear and there is always the promise of that legendary mace on the horizon. I’m starting to want to raid more and more on my priest and I’m wondering if I need to go so far as to switch my main again.

So is the dps grass greener than the healing grass? Or is it just a trick of the light, looking the same no matter which side of the fence I’m on? I love huntering. Love love love love it. It’s my first choice when it comes to playing and I know it will always be the thing I want to do the most. But healing is a close second. I love healing, I’m really loving priest healing and I hope that I can find a way to fit that love into my guild’s raiding schedule. I think that if I can balance myself properly where I don’t feel trapped into one role I won’t feel like some other role is my forbidden fruit. I also know that if I can do a little of both healing and dps, I won’t get burnt out on either. And in the end, if I’m not wearied by my roles, not feeling trapped or cornered, not feeling like I’m just here to do a job but to contribute in a unique way, then I’m happy.

The grass on both sides is equally green as long as I’m bringing something to the guild.

Bag it, Tag it, Save it for Later

So, I’ve been caught! Yakra over at Mirror Shield has tagged me in this blog-meme-gone-viral. The Screenshot Wars have come for me. I’ve been watching this fad make it’s rounds and really enoying some of the posts, though I have to admit I was starting to feel like the last kid picked for the dodge ball team.

And without furthur ado, here is my six tags. Glad to feel I am helping to keep the virus alive! I would like to tag:

1. Tigerfeet over at Secret Agent Cat
2. Jive at Bringing the Wood
3. Altoholicmom up in Altaholics Are Us (yes it’s after the fact, but yay for being included!)
4. The Author of Groups of Words. Please! Before you go! And best of luck with your family.
5. Valkure of Valkure Unbound
6. Shieke! You thought you’d get out of this one, didn’t you!!??

Business out of the way, I delved deep into my screenshot folder despite the fact that I never bothered to organize them in any way more complicated than the default chronological order. So I opened up the sixth screenshot in that folder and found that it was back from the days when my better half and I were sharing the same account and he accidentally keybound screenshot to one of the letter keys. I thought I had removed all his screenshot spam, but that one got through. For the record, it was of a VC run, immediately after a wipe, with some PuGed noob saying “can u rez plz??????”

So I didn’t post that one.

Instead I excavated furthur and found the 36th screenshot in my folder. It’s the sixth of the sixth after a fashion, I guess. But I’m happy that I picked that method because I came up with this beauty.

I'm flying!

This is shortly after I realized that there was an artform to screenshots. I had started taking them not as a dispassionate, stark record of conversations and events, but as a way to capture mood and feeling and atmosphere. This screenshot is the day Maegwen dinged 70, and myself and a friend taking our brand new wings out for a test drive.

I know that in my first round of leveling to 70, Nagrand was a memorable experience for me. I loved the quests, I loved the savannah-esq look and feel of the place, the spacegoat NPCs made me giggle and I very quickly became enamaroued of the talbuks (goat-raffes). I used to look up into the broken sky of Nagrand with longing, waiting for the day I would be able to take flight and make my way up to explore the floating shattered remnants of the land and the diaphanous, ethereal hanging waterfalls. So once I finally obtained my wings, I headed like a homing pigeon for the floating islands of Nagrand.

Maegwen isn’t the only person in this screenshot. Her companion is the rogue Cyclonus. Looking at this screenshot I was able to not only reflect on the way that the visual splendor of TBC initally affected me, but also on the life cycle on friendships in WoW and perhaps friendships in general. If you look close at this shot, neither Cyc nor I are wearing Impossibilium tabbards. This is us in our Sempiterna incarnation – one of the two guilds that merged to become Imposs. Cyc is a real-life pal of the person who initially formed Sempiterna. At this point in the life cycle of the guild, that person had retired from guild leading and I was in charge, so it was nice to see someone like Cyc sticking by me as my fledgling leadership struggled to soar despite it’s down and pinfeathers.

I like to have one of those people who is always online as an officer, or an officer’s advisor. Typically this means there is always someone around to solve problems, to talk to people, to observe and report on guild conditons to the rest of the officers and to grab stuff from the guild bank for folks. Cyc filled this role nicely, as well as being a generally friendly, helpful, caring sort of person. Our guild at the time was very much not a hardcore, progression focused sort of place, so a genial, open officer base was a good thing for us. Our guild had its factions however, and through the ups and downs of guild development, Cyc was always someone I considered to be on “my” side. When I felt that the balance of power was tipping beyond my control, I felt safe knowing that through thick and thin, Cyc at least would always be a voice for my PoV. Maybe not the healthiest relationship for a guild leader and an officer, but one that was a nice security blanket for me nonetheless.

Cyc also lives quite close to me, though in another city. He was the first Azerothian that I met up with outside of the game, which was a big leap of faith for someone as staunchly misanthropic as I am. He stuck with me and with the guild through a great deal of drama and through our merger and subsequent re-inventions. Over the years that we knew each other, we developed a close friendship that was rooted in WoW, but had branched through other areas of our lives and leafed out into something much more robust. He visited me here in my city several times and became a good family friend. He crashed at my parent’s house once or twice. He even gave me a cat!

But everything in this world has a life cycle. Cyc was involved in a bad car accident, and because of that and the complications it caused in his life, he spent alot of time away from WoW. I started a new job and had less time for all forms of socialization. He went back to school after he had recovered from his injuries and spent even more time away from the guild. Our goals and interests diverged. The guild changed and grew. Members came and went and Imposs was not the place that either of us remembered.

Because I was actively involved in the guild, I was – for the most part -able to roll with the changes. Becaues the time that Cyc spent in game was intermittant, when he did reconnect with us from time to time, he did not see a guild that he knew. He saw a house that stood where his old home was, filled with people he didn’t know, doing things he didn’t identify with or even understand. Our friendship, our connection to each other had drifted, and rather than chaging and growing, it had dissolved. These are things that happen to everyone at one time or another, and it’s saddening for me to examine our friendship in retrospect and see that its life span is done.

Sometimes closure comes quietly, summing up an episode in your life with quiet, almost karmic neatness. Sometimes the end of a point in your life becomes a ragged, ugly sore that refuses to heal. It was the latter that characterises the end of my friendship with Cyc and the end of his time with Imposs. He dealt with the changes to the guild by being angry and bitter, chaging himself from an officer and a leader to a demanding martinet. Everything that was said, every change that the guild underwent became a deep and personal insult to the guild he used to know, the guild he had helped to build. And I was so involved with my job and my home life and forging ahead with our plans to become an ever better raiding guild, that I wasn’t as understanding about his confusion and sense of dislocation as I could have been.

I don’t even know the full story of what happened to Cyc. I don’t know where he’s living right now, how school and work has been to him, how his family and his pets are. I do know that he turned control of his account over to his brother, and then he quietly /gquit late one evening. I wish him all the best, and I am regretful that someone who brought so much to the formation and foundation of this guild could not have grown with it in a way that benefited both the guild and the player.

I don’t mean to be morose. I look back on all of the friendships I have had with all of the players I have met with great fondness, even those that ended sourly. Everyone I have known and interacted with has been a factor in creating the player and the leader I am today.

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

J.Lennon

Mulligan

So, if I could go back in time and change one thing about my life, I would take calculus in high school. When I look back at my school career and my work career, I can observe the cascade of events that followed my decision to not take that math class. I can see how it affected my choice of classes in University, the progression of my degrees and the effect it eventually, inevitably had on my undergrad thesis and my prospects for a Master’s degree. I can also quite clearly see how it affected my choice of industries, of companies, even the projects I am working on today. Some of the roughest times I have had in school and in work can be traced back to my lack of calculus in high school. That decision that I made well over a decade ago was not unfounded, was not random and the series of events it caused were to a large extent predictable. So, if I was magically given a do-over, if my life was rewound back to the point where I started making decisions that would have far-reaching effects on my life, I would do that one thing differently.

Tobold asks if you were given a do-over for your WoW character would you take it or would you walk away? Would you do everything in your power to reunite your guild or would you take the opportunity to quietly exit stage left? I know for me, once I got over the shock and outrage at Blizzard for screwing things up, I would keep playing. I would make efforts to at least contact my guild members, even if we didn’t re-form. I would re-roll and I would happily re-level. Or happily enough I suppose. With the crush of everyone trying to level again, Azuremyst Isle would go back to the way it was the day TBC came out and Teldrassil would be sinking under the weight of brand new toons. The competition for quest creatures and items in every starting zone would be like Howling Fjord or Borean Tundra was the day WotLK came out. And likely twice as cutthroat as everyone would be leveling not with an eye to enjoying new and beautiful content, but with a surly scowl, a chip on their shoulder and a grim determination to regain their former glory as fast as possible. The flavour of levelling would be different, but I would still do it. This likely only proves that I play more WoW than is healthy for me, but I already knew that.

As interesting as that scenario and the responses it generated is, what I want to know is if you were given a magical do-over by the gods of video games, would you start playing WoW again, knowing what you know now? What was the impetus behind the decision to obtain those game discs, to install and to start up that first toon? Would you do it again? Would you do it exactly the same? What changes would you make? Knowing what the patches and the expansions had in store what would you do differently?

My better half was addicted to WoW long before I ever even bothered to pay attention to what it was. He was an old-time Warcraft player, having played them since the very first one came out. I was getting frustrated with the amount of time he spent with his nose in Azeroth, and so he offered to show me what it was all about. One viewing of the (original) trailer was all I needed to convince me this was something I should try out, and 10 levels in I was ready to mainline Warcraft for the rest of my life. If I had the chance, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I don’t regret one single second of the time that I have taken from my life and given to my characters.

What I would do different is roll Horde instead. I was a little shocked when that thought flitted through my mind, seeing as I’m a really hard-core Alliance player. I love my elves, my dwarf, my little gnomes. I even love my spacegoat bank alt. I love Stormwind. I love Teldrassil. Not just that, but going back and chaning myself from an Alliance player to a Horde player means I would never have met the people that came to make up the guild I’m a part of. I might never have ended up as a guild leader.

It’s kind of a frightening thing to imagine. Playing WoW without my guild? Playing without the people that I have come to love as much as I love any of my friends (and some of my family!). Potentially giving up the opportunity to guild lead and definately giving up the opportunity to lead the fantastic group of people I am with now. The reason behind this is even though I don’t regret the time I’ve given to WoW, over the years it has caused me some conflict within my personal life. Chosing to go Horde would mean chosing to spend more time with my better half, rather than the situation we have now where I play Alliance and he plays Horde. I imagine that with both of us playing together, there would be less strife, less arguing, more understanding. I imagine as well that I would still develop into the raider I am today, but that he would develop along with me. There has been too many arguements in my house about me giving more of myself to my guild and my raids than to anything else. Perhaps if we were playing and raiding together none of that would have ever happened.

The thought of playing without my guild as it is now brings me almost physical pain. I cannot even begin to talk about the love and the support, the good times, the bad times, the drama, the boss kills – everything we have together and everything we have meant to each other over the years. We have grown so much as a guild, as players and as friends, I know that it would be excruciating to start over again knowing I might never see them again. I think that if I did start back at the day I began playing WoW, knowing that my guildies were out there somewhere I would try to contact them, to see if they wanted to play Horde, or even just to keep in touch. I would also hope that I would run into a similarly wonderful group of people Horde side.

And, if I did get this magical do-over, if I did get to start all over again at the very first day of my WoW experience, knowing all that I know now about how to play, how to raid and what the patches and expansions would bring – I’d use that knowledge to become very, very rich.

For the Horde!

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch.

So, I’m going to complain. I’m going to whine, to QQ, to make a big stink and kick up a fuss. I know the world isn’t perfect, I know life isn’t fair, I know not everything is made of sunshine and rainbows and I know full well that no one (other than my mother) is under any obligation to be nice to me for any reason whatsoever. In the end, I’m an adult, I’m in charge of my own life, responsible for my own actions and should ultimately have the final say in what my own feelings are.

Be that as it may.

I’m a flawed human being. I have days where nothing goes right. Where everyone’s head looks like an excuse for batting practice, where the world is against me and everything I touch turns to shit. Now I know that’s not carte blanche to take it out on the world around me, I know that’s not a license to scream and yell at everyone who crosses my path and I know that just because I had a thoroughly miserable day at work doesn’t mean I can get in a raid and tear someone a new one.

Be that as it may.

When you screw up in a raid (or in some other manner relating to my guild) I will be patient. I will be understanding. I will try to gently and clearly and non-judgementally explain to you what you did wrong, why it was wrong, what effect it had on the rest of the guild and how you can do better next time you’re in that situation. I do indeed know the rules to conflict resolution. Hell, I wrote them.

Be that as it may (again).

When you consitantly do the same stupid, ignorant, lazy or rude action over and over with no signs of remorse, with no attempt to understand the effects of your actions on your guild and/or it’s raid, when you act like a spoiled, whiny, self-centered baby, when you think the raid revolves around you or when you behave like a complete and utter hypocrite, you’re going to hear it from me. And you may hear it loudly. You may hear it at length. You may hear it with the kind of curse words that will make the paint peel off your headphones.

Now if your over-inflated ego allows you to get so butthurt over me calling you out for being a jackass, that you feel the need to tell me that I’m “just being a bitch” or “need to go get some dick” or that I’m a “pathetic failure of a guild leader” or “being disrespectful” or god forbid “over reacting” then you can get the hell out. Out of my raid, off of my vent server and out of the guild if needs be.

I will take a lot of shit and abuse, it’s my job as a guild leader. I will listen to you whine about how someone hates you and stole your loot. I will listen to you whine about how someone hates you and deliberately ignores you. I will listen to you cry that your undergeared BFF can’t get into raids. I will be sympathetic when you think that the someones friend/brother/cousin/wife/family member gets to come to raids because of who they are not how they play. I will listen patiently and make soothing noises to all of your silly complaints and tribulations. I will do likewise for your genuine concerns and I will do everything in my power to make this guild as friendly and successful for everyone in it as I and the other officers (and raiders!) can do.

But when the carrot fails, and you get the stick – suck it up and find your game face. If you have the gall to abuse me when you finally cross the line and get torn the new asshole you so patently deserve then you need to stop and think about what you’re actually doing. To your fellow raiders and to your leadership. I’m not a punching bag. I’m not your dumping ground for all of your shit and abuse. I have a job to do – and that is to look out for the whole guild, not just your unique and special butterfly self. If you can’t handle that part of being on a team is having someone to dish out the lumps to those who won’t toe the line, then you need to rethink your team skills. You need to look beyond the end of your own selfish nose and thank your lucky stars that you’re not the one who has to take on the responsibility of not only listening to the whine and the QQ but the real concerns, to sift through everything and sort out the honest mistakes from the asshattery, to tell someone they can’t raid, to tell someone they need to find a new guild, to make sure that everyone gets everything they want all of the time, that everyone plays nicely with everyone else and that each individual player gets the most out of their $15 every month.

Guild Leading is my job here in the WoW universe. I don’t expect you to kiss my ass, I don’t expect you to feel bad for me because my job is sooooooo hard, I don’t even expect you to like me. I do however expect you to respect me as a human being and I do ask you to realize that who I am is seperate from the Guild Leader (with a capital G and L) that I need to be.

Post Scriptum: If this post offends you, because of the language I understand and I’m sorry. If this post offends you because you don’t think I (or anyone who takes this sort of stance) is doing a good job at guild eading – I don’t care. If you think I’m being the same sort of whiny baby that I’m bashing in this post – well, maybe I am. But it’s my blog so I can QQ here all I like.

I (still) Fight Like a Girl

So, I’m a girl. A really real girl with an adorable matching set of X chromosomes and everything.

If you’ve been reading along with me for a while, you’ll know that I am also a scientist. I’m actually a scientist twice over, holding degrees in Zoology and Geology. While I was in school, I paid for important things like heat in my house and booze (and less important things like books and my bus pass) by working as a butcher in a local grocery store. All told, I’m pretty much at home in an environment where the sex ratio is against me. Even here at the mine, by boss is a male, more than half of my co-workers are male and the entire drilling crew I’m looking after is, of course, all male.

It was certainly not a shock to me when I started playing MMOs that most of the people I met were also male. My first friend was a male and so were most of the folks in the first guild I joined. Most. But not all. Very slowly I came to realize that I had gone into gaming with a discriminatory attitude – against myself. I had assumed that I would be in the minority. But there are more female players out there than I had anticipated. It wasn’t long at all before I ran into my first female Guild Leader. I had sought out what I thought to be a male-dominated environment and had my own prejudices shattered.

Larisa is talking about whether or not there is still sexual discrimination within the WoW community. Are women gamers still a minority? Are we discriminated against? Are we treated differently – be that difference negative (discrimination) or postive (worship as a rare and elusive creature). Well, over at Blog Azeroth a poll was posted that asked bloggers what sex they were. The poll was created because it was suggested by Phaelia that because women are more contemplative, we blog more, and while the percentage of male players might be higher, the percentage of male bloggers is likely lower. At the time of writing this, the poll was 53% male and 46% female, out of a response from 41 people.

What I would like to suggest here is that the poll is not only representative of Warcraft bloggers, but of Warcraft itself. The gender split is about equal. I called up my guild roster and did a count. We’re around 90 players, with more than a third of them being women. And when you think that myself, my co-leader, one of my officers and at least three of my core raiders are female, there seems to be a myth in need of busting. There is no longer a paucity of women gamers. There is even a running joke in our guild about it. When it seems like there is a lot of girls on, or especially when Adi (my partner in crime) and I get a little girly, someone will say “there are no girls on the internet” which is a cue for all the female voices to chime in “oh no, nope, no girls on the internet.” And giggle, of course.

So we’re not rare. Are we treated differently? I’d have to say that we are, but not because we ‘act like girls’. I’m well known as being both the loveable drunk and the vicious, angry, 50 dkp minus!!! style raid leader, when needs be – neither of which are sterotypically female traits. Neither Adi nor I nor any of the other women in our guild are girl-y girls who want everyone to love each other and hold hands and look at the pretty ponies. But what I think is that Adi and I as women automatically get a little more respect, a little bit of old fashioned chivalry from our male raiders and that puts us a little bit ahead of the game compared to men who are guild leaders. I’d certainly say that we as women guild leaders are treated differently by our raiders – but I do not believe that it is a negative thing. I’m happy being me – all aspects of me including my gender. And if that gives me a tool that I can use to create a more successful raiding guild, then I’m all over it. I don’t want to be one of the guys, I don’t want to be some pampered “aww it’s so cute you can game” princess. I want to be Ori, Guild Leader of Imposs, a sucessful and happy raiding guild on Thorium Brotherhood.

Folks have left our guild and then come back, saying that the wide world out there is a lot different than it was safe at home with Adi and Ori. I know that I’ve had more than a few folks tell us that there is no guild quite like ours, and I believe it! So what I think is that women are doing quite well in the online gaming world. We are who we are. We can’t change that we’re female, and we can’t change that people will treat us differently. But I think that we shouldn’t be treated exactly the same because we’re not. We bring something unique to the gaming community -something that makes it different and better. I know that if my guild was run by two men, or even myself and another man, it wouldn’t have the same feeling it does with Adi and I at the helm. This is the guild it is in part because of the fact that we have women running it and a good deal of women in it. In my mind it is a more balanced and comfortable sort of environment than a guild that is skewed too far towards either sex. (You couldn’t pay me enough to be in a guild of all women.)

The point I am doing a drunkard’s walk around is simple – vive le difference. Acknowledging and appreciating the difference between the sexes, and the different things that they bring to a gaming (or any) community isn’t discrimination, it isn’t a ‘bad thing’. It’s just the way things are. And I’m glad of it.

Post Scritpum: This is a recycled post from the very first week that I was blogging. It both holds true today and fits it with the prevailing theme of the Warcraft blogsphere, so I thought I’d tweak it a bit and re-post. I’m still a girl. I still game. And it still puts me at no disadvantage – in fact, I think that it gives me several advantages in terms of guild-leading.

A very special thanks to J!nx for the title of this post.

I Smell Casserole, is it a Raid Night?

So, this is actually a phrase that has been uttered in my house.

An overarching theme of these blog posts is balance. Not the feathery, oomkin iz 4 cuddlez type, but the way I balance WoW and life. The balancing is mostly done on the work side of things, because I just happen to have One of Those Jobs that keep my work schedule in a permanent state of flux. I barely know from one day to another what city I’m going to be working in, let alone what building. It’s a little quieter these days, but not by much.

I live the in western part of Canada. Anyone with a population density map can tell you that the east coast of North America is much, much more populous and our guild is a nicely fractal reflection of that distribution. Most of my guildies are from the east, so we raid at a time that is good for them. It is not a time that is great for me. Our raid start time is exactly the time that my better half is getting home from work – dirty, tired and hungry. And that is an issue for me, because part of my responsibilities around the house include putting a dinner on the table every day. (No need to cry sexist. We have a pretty even distribution of chores around the house. And I love to cook. And he just can’t. Just … don’t go there. Trust me. You don’t want to know what he’s done to something as simple as a poached egg.)

So raid nights have become casserole nights. I have an amazing repertoire of meals that I can prepare ahead of time and leave in the oven, ready for him to come home to. My crock pot, tabletop grill and rice cooker are as essential to my raids as Omen and Deadly Boss Mods. For something completely different, I felt the need to share with the blogging world some of my raid-night staples. Be warned these are not low-cal or low fat or low anything. These are from my traditional, home-style, tried and true school of Irish cooking. Also known as More Ways to Cook Potatoes and Organ Meats.

Ancona Chicken Curry

brrr-GAWK!4-6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. (Boneless works, but they tend to disintegrate a bit. White meat works too, just cut a whole breast in half transversely.)
1 can cream of mushroom soup.
0.5 – 1.0 cups of firm cheese, grated. (Any kind is ok, I like a nice sharp cheddar, but you could use gouda or anything that doesn’t get too stringy when it melts. Mozza is not a good choice. Trust me.)
1-2 tsp curry powder.
1 cup mushrooms. (Canned, rehydrated, fresh chopped, whatever you like. Porcini are a bit too earthy for this recipe, brown button work nicely. You can sautee fresh ones in some garlic and ginger first for a bit of extra zing.)
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350F. Empty soup into casserole dish. Add desired amount of cheese, mushrooms, curry powder, salt and pepper. Stir. Add a small amount of milk, cream or water to thin the sauce slightly if necessary. Add chicken pieces and stir again. Cover casserole dish and bake for 30-45 minutes.

At about 20 minutes left to cook, I fire up the rice cooker. I like a light, jasmine rice with a teeny bit of sesame seeds and oil added to the cooking water. Then I fill a cereal bowl halfway with rice, add my two chicken pieces and a generous amount of sauce. One pot to wash after I’m done pwing bosses for four hours, plus two small bowls. Perfect.

Legendary Lamb Stew
(It’s better than epic!)

lolwarglaives(generous) 1/2 cup pitted prunes.
1 1/2 cups hot tea.
1 kg braising lamb, cubed. (shoulder works nicely)
1 chopped onion.
1/2 tsp ground ginger.
1/2 tsp curry powder.
Pinch of nutmeg.
2 tsp ground cinnamon.
5 tbsp clear liquid honey.
1 cup near boiling beef or lamb stock.
Salt and pepper.
Slivered almonds to garnish.

Put the prunes in a heat-proof bowl and pour the tea over them. Allow to soak. Brown the lamb cubes in a non-stick frying pan, using a very small amount of olive oil if necessary. Drain and place in the crock pot. Add onion to the frying pan and brown until the begin to soften. Stir in the spices, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add to the crock pot with the meat. Drain the prunes and add the soaking liquid to the crock pot. Add the honey and stock, cover the crock pot and cook on high (or auto) for 1 hour. Reduce temperature to low and cook for another 5-7 hours, or until lamb is very tender. Add prunes and stir to mix, cook for another 30 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with slivered almonds.

This smells *fantastic* while it is cooking, and is a joy to come home to. You can keep the crock pot on nice and low and race back for seconds while loots are being handed out or if the raid leader is generous enough to call a five minute time out. It goes especially well with:

Kael’thas’ Mom’s Cornbread

1 1/4 cups stone ground cornmeal.
3/4 cups all-purpose flour.
2 tbsp sugar.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp salt.
2 large eggs.
2/3 cup buttermilk.
2/3 cup milk.
2 to 3 tbsp warm melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil.

Grease a loaf pan or muffin tray and preheat your oven to 400F. Combine the dry ingredients and sift well. Whisk together in a seperate bowl eggs, milk and buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Fold in butter or oil. Turn into loaf pan or muffin tray and bake 20-25 or until a knife blade inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve hot with butter, soup or stew.

If you don’t have buttermilk, add a few tsp of lemon juice to 2/3 cup of milk and let it sit and curdle for 10 minutes or so. Plain yoghurt works too. This is a really light and fluffy cakey type of bread, rather than a denser, crunchy corn bread. There’s a lot of fun variations on this too. You can add 1/2 cup drained canned corn kernels. Or 1/2 cup chopped pine nuts and 1/2 tsp rosemary. Or 1/3 cup chopped green or black olives. Or a few thinly sliced and chopped chilies. It’s a lot of fun to experiment!

Dalaran Clam Chowder
chowdah!1 can succulent clam meat.
3-4 slices of bacon (I like the thick cut, double smoked stuff).
1 small onion, chopped.
1 large potato, peeled and cubed.
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated.
1 cup scalded milk.
1 cup boiling water.
1 tbsp butter, cut into two equal parts.
1 tbsp flour.
Salt and pepper.

Drain and thoroughly (they get a little sandy) wash clams and save the juice. Dice bacon and sautee in a non-stick frying pan until golden. Add chopped onion and sautee until onion is tender. Tip into crock pot or large soup pot. Add carrot, clams, potato and salt and pepper to taste. Add boiling water, cover and cook on low heat until potatoes are tender. Add milk and half of butter. Let simmer another 20 minutes. Thicken reserved clam liquid with flour and other half of butter and mix in just before serving.

For me, this is the ultimate in home-cooked comfort food. This was a rare treat in my house when I was growing up, usually served with a fresh batch of buttermilk biscuits. Which, when cooled became dessert if you added a jar of jam to the table. This is quick and easy to prepare, and can be left to burble away for hours, even if the potatoes start to disintegrate, so don’t worry if you get so invloved in your raid you forget about it for a while. This recipe also freezes nicely, so you can save the leftovers too!

I hope you try these, or at least got a giggle when you surfed over here and thought maybe there’d be a rant or guide or some hunter theorycrafting or some such. This was a lot of fun to write, even though I’m no Gordon Ramsay.

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