A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine

So, I like to drink quite a bit. I like to grab some friends and family and head down to my local and eat their delicious, delicious greasy food and drink beer and scotch until it comes out my ears. That is a fabulous time in my opinion. However, when we do such things, we usually take it in turn to decide who will be the responsible person for the evening – and it’s not so much fun when it’s me.

It’s not that I miss drinking, it’s that I hate having to shepherd and corral and manage 17 people who behave for all the world like small children. It’s wearying. It has its moments – seeing someone miss their mouth entirely and splot their drink in the centre of their shirts is (usually) well worth the hassle of spending the night herding people who are working on a three minute, closed-loop memory. (Where am I? How did I get here? Whose pineapple is this?)

The converse, however is pretty entertaining, too. Having one drunk person in a crowd of sober people can be quite a lot of fun. Well, for the sober people, I guess. I know that I sure enjoy teasing and laughing at (in a friendly way, of course) those people I know who are brave (or foolish) enough to come drunk to a sober gathering.

After I logged off on Saturday night (and well into the wee hours of Sunday morning) a guildie of mine (one of our tanks – a drunk tank! punny!) came home from a birthday party absolutely shittered – and decided the best thing to do was to get onto vent. While I am so very grateful that he made the decision to display his drunk ass for our entertainment, I’m even more indebted to the kind and clever soul who decided to record the vent conversation.

And post it on the forums.

Mondays being what they are, I was surly and miserable when I finllally oozed into the office. After I did all my normal Monday start up things, I checked the guild forums and decided to download the file. It was 58 minutes of absolute bliss. I laughed loud enough that a few people poked their heads into my cubicle to see just what the heck was going on. I was tempted to link the recordings here, but I don’t know how entertaining they’d be to people who don’t know the guild or recognize the voices. You’ll just have to trust me that listening to an absolutely plastered man with the Bostonian accent howling “heroic throw, heroooooic throoooowwwww” like an abandonded wolf pup is pretty much the bestest thing evar. It was exactly what I needed first thing in the morning. It’s exactly what I need a lot of the time.

I know this may make me sound like Nerdly McNerderson, Mayor For Life of Nerdtown, Nerdvania, but I was actually mopey when the recording was over. For a little while there, it was like being at home, online, (virtually) surrounded by my friends. A couple of times while I was listening, my fingers twitched a little, unconsciously typing /g in preparation to reply to something I heard. It wasn’t just that my guildies were having fun laughing at our very very drunk warrior tank (they made a drinking game out of his drunken ramblings. If he says “what planet am I on?” – everybody drinks! If he says “I’m soooo hammahhed” – everybody drinks!) but that they were together and having fun. I love that so, so much about my guild. I love the way that I feel like a part of a community – a family almost (OMG someone call the cliche police!)

For all they drive me bugnutz insane sometimes, I really do love my guild. Actually, I think that’s why they have the power to make me so crazy – and to cut me so deeply. I care for them so much, and that means that I leave myself very vulnerable to being hurt by their indifference or their scorn.

Drak, Sora, Undi, Chiclet, Jett, Ama, Thunder and everyone who was online – I enjoyed your company on Monday morning. Impossibilium – I quite honestly and truly love you guys.

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!

It’s a Whole New Game

So, I’ve dinged.

Somewhere this weekend in between being horrifically ill and sleeping so much I thought I was a teenager again, I managed to hit 80 with my hunter. It was, in my opinion, the Perfect Ding.

I remeber when I hit 60. I was in Silithus, farming the Twilight Cultists for rep. I knew it was coming and every kill came faster than the one before. This was long before pets had any real tanking abilities, and I asked so much of Crisavec the Tallstrider as we killed more, and more and more cultists.

And then I dinged.

It was kind of shocking, I wasn’t really expecting it quite at that moment. The purple bar had buried itself under the nose of the little gryphon on the right, so the exact time I hit 60 came as a small, but deeply satisfying surprise. Most of the guild I was in at the time was online, and after I announced “DING 60!” over guild chat, I recieved a gratifying flurry of well-wishes. It was, in all respects, very nice.

I also remember when I dinged 70. I was in Netherstorm, doing the Kirin’Var ghosts quests. I had a friend of mine with me, who was helping me pound out the last few quests. I turned one in and the Magic Moment happened. I also happened to be standing in a small circle of people who were questing there as well,many of them who I knew just from being around on the server. It gave me a nice warm glow to have all sorts of caring people standing around me and /cheering and /applauding.

And on to 80. This time, I was counting down every one of the last few ‘bars’ of xp I needed. “Two more bars!” “One more bar!” I was announcing it over guild chat and recieving cheers and well wishes and encouragement from everyone. I finally dinged turning in a quest to the Bone Witch in Icecrown. There wasa few random folks there who cheered me, and because it was announced over guild chat via the Achievement system, everyone who was on sent me congratulations. I had been chatting with a friend of mine over whispers, and he must have been doing a /who oriniwen every few minutes or so because he knew right away and also sent his warm wishes.

I prefer to quest and farm and do everything but instances and raids by myself, so I was happy to just be puttering around the Vrykul village all by myself. It was nice to have the contact with my friends via whispers and guild chat, though I had logged off vent to focus on what I was doing. I felt warm and happy and comforatbly nestled in the collective bosom of my guild family. It was so nice, so much the epitome of the moments that I log in for. Perfection.

However, it’s a whole new game now. I bounced into 80 with the bow from Kara, a few trinkets from Brewfest and some odds and sods of TBC rings that need to be replaced. I have been to maxdps.com and planned out my gear map. Looks like I’ll be grinding Knights of the Ebon Blade rep like mad, and King Ymiron from Heroic Utegarde Pinnacle is basically a hunter loot pinata.

It wearies me a little, looking at all those rep grinds and all that badge farming and endlessly running heroics. I feel like I didn’t get to experience enough of the WotLK quest and lore content, even though I took my sweet time leveling and questing. I feel a little out of sorts, a little disoriented now that I’m 80 and looking at what basically amounts to starting the game all over again. I’m a raider, first and foremost, and all the leveling and gearing and badges and (ugh) farming is just sort of the ‘training ground’ for the real deal, the game that counts, which is played out in the instances.

However, my first few heroics this weekend have taught me I am still that level 8 hunter piddling about meleeing things while I wonder how long I have to wait until I can get a pet. Maybe it’s because I was falling asleep at the keyboard, or maybe some of my lolkara gear needs to be replaced now, but I wasn’t keeping up with the Big Boys on the dps metres this weekend, so as much as I am loathe to, I have to get my pointy elven ears out there and farm primals and rep till my mouse clicky fingers go numb.

I might be 80, but I still have a lot of Warcraft yet to play.

ha-DING!

Can you go home again?

So, I’m back.

I’m done my field project for the summer, not much left to do but wrap up some testing in the lab here in the city and then off to the office to finish up the computer work. Enough to keep me busy until my Christmas holidays, but no more of the ‘out of town, living in a bush camp, working 12 hour days for 20 days straight’ that I have been doing since April. And thank God for that. I am so relieved to be done, so happy to know that I can spend some quality time here at home with my family and of course my critters. It’s a beautiful thing.

Oh, and I can raid again!

I’ve missed being with my guild. I’ve missed out on every major boss kill this summer. I was absent for Lurker, for Tidewalker and Leo, for Rage, for A’lar and Solarian. Some of those I haven’t even seen the fights for yet, let alone the boss kills. I’ve missed out on so much of the day-to-day stuff with my guild too. Folks leaving, folks joining, people’s lives changing as time passes. The family type stuff that creates the sense of community that we have and that means so much to me. I’ve been able to be present on my time off from the mine, but its been like looking at a photo album. I see a snapshot of the guild, then I leave for the better part of a month, and I see another snapshot. It’s a very saltatory connection with with flow of guild life and it’s not very fulfilling. I get news feeds from the website, and sometimes after work when I’m not too tired, but I’m disconnected now. I’ve been out of the main stream of events in the guild for so long that I’m just an addendum now, a footnote.

And it hurts. I hurts to know that my guild continued to kill bosses and have fun and make new friends and do all the wonderful things that we do, and did it all just fine without me. I feel a little like I’m a figurehead, superfluous. Someone to maybe think about from time to time, but certainly not someone who makes any sort of difference to the living, changing, growing organism that is the guild.

It’s not a heck of a lot different at home. I have been so disconnected from the things going on here that I fed the cats dog food, forgetting we had moved the food containers. My better half is so used to sleeping alone that he takes up the whole bed by habit now, and my sister has lost an incredible 25lbs since I last saw her. 25lbs! She’s a shadow of the woman she was! When I saw her it was a very graphic reminder of how much has gone on here in the city while I was up playing in the tar. It’s saddening, too. I feel almost transparent sometimes, a little like I am haunting my former life, my family, my guild.

I am making very concerted efforts to reconnect with my life here in the city. I am scheduling time away from WoW, from work, from everything just to see my family and friends and show the people that I love I didn’t stop loving them while I was away. I am trying to do the same thing with my guild, but it’s difficult. Life changes a little faster in the Warcraft world.

I am working away behind the scenes to get us ready for Lich King by cleaning out the Guild Vault and stocking up herbs. I am making lists of Achievements that I want to see our new recruits have. I am partnering people up so they can instance their way to 80 together and perhaps create some new dynamics and new friendships in our lvl 80 raids. I am trying. I am getting in as much face time as I can so folks remember me, or even get to know me all over again and realize that in a great many ways I live for this guild. I’m trying to be subtle, I’m trying to go about stepping back into leadership with a gentle touch. There’s no use me yelling and screaming and demanding that folks obey me. I need to earn that respect back and I think it will be a long road.

I know it will. I lost my temper in my first raid back because folks were jabbering over vent while my raid leader was giving orders. I yelled at someone who was not new to the guild, but had joined while I was away. And when I told him to shut up, I got told right back “No you shut up. And lick my b**** too!” Which was a sobering experience, to be sure. I’m known as the Bad Cop raid leader, and shouting at folks who step out of line, especially doing something like that is not unheard of from me. Or at least it wasn’t. It only ever worked because my raids understood I wanted my raiders to focus, do their best, and respect each other, including the raid leader. And I would not deal with anyone who was out of line. But it will take me time to re-establish that respect, that trust that my raiders have. I will need to work dilligently to ensure that they see I am a competant and dedicated raid leader and Guild Leader.

My co-guild leader and I had a big love-in when I logged back on for my first raid and that was encouraging. My officers are happy to see me back and my core team of raiders has grown, but the old familiar faces are for the most part there. I am encouraged by their support and I am optimistic that I can take this guild to 80 with their help.

As long as I can just stay put for a while!

Bellepheron

So, I wanted to write today about the announcement of the WotLK release date. I wanted to be able to describe the *squeeeee*-ing and the excitement that has swept through the guild as we realized that all those amorphous what-ifs and maybe-whens and speculations and wild rumours have now crystallized into something as tangible and solid as a date. It’s really happening, and we’d better be prepared.

But I’m not going to.

When I logged on last evening after work, I was told that Bellepheron, one of our paladin tanks had passed away in the night. He was young – late 30’s – with a wife and two children. His wife and his oldest are also in our guild. He suffered a massive stroke and I am told his passing was swift and painless.

Belle embodied the family spirit that permeates this guild and which I hold so dear. Not only did he bring his own family to our guild, but he was connected to a whole host of real-life friends that either were or eventually became guildies as well. And wherever he went, whatever instance he did or time he took to help or just chat, he forged new friendships. Bringing Belle to a raid made it feel less like going on a mission to some foreign and hostile territory, and more like we were all sitting down to a nice Sunday dinner with the family.

I will miss him terribly, and my heart aches for his wife and son and all his good friends. His family has suffered so many hardships in the past year, and I can only imagine how hard this blow must have hit.

Our guild mood was very subuded last night. When I logged on, I just hung out in Shatt and chatted to folks. Eventually more people wandered by, and we all just stood around, subdued and taking comfort in each other’s company. It was good to see all those familiar faces. It was good to know that we still have a family, even if one of our number has left us forever.

I think I will go for a walk this afternoon, leave work and the computer and everything behind. I will likely end up down at the frog pond, which is remote and quiet. I think I will take some time to just be, and contemplate the cat-tail reeds which are heading for their winter sleep right now, turning a mellow brown-gold against the scrub pine and muskeg grass.

I will pray for those lost. And I will pray for those left behind.