Dispelling Myths; Heroics and Raids…

I have a presentation I’m due to give next Friday which revolves around automated testing and some of my experiences with it over the years and what I’ve learned from the various courses or books I’ve read. Yes, I actually read books about testing and automation – it’s what I do for a living and most of the time, I find it reaffirms directions or some of my own thoughts on testing. One of the underlying themes is dispelling the myth that “you can just automate it” or that automation is the solution to all the problems a test team might be facing.

But I’m not going to talk about automation here, I’m saving that for later. I’m going to talk about dispelling the myth about hitting the level cap in WoW.

There has been a fair assumption that once you hit 80, you can jump right into running Heroics and even Raiding. I can say, from experience, how untrue this is. This also isn’t new, this was the case for level 70 in WoW as well.

If you’re hitting Heroics you need to have certain levels of gear on you. You need to have nearly every piece targeting your role in the group and it should be at least blue. You need to have (just about) every piece enchanted in some fashion. All your gem slots filled to further bolster your role.

And then you might stand a chance at completing a Heroic. That’s if the rest of your party has done the same for their character that you did.

That’s right, you have a chance. It’s not a guarantee, it’s a chance.

If anyone in the party hasn’t enhanced their role’s capabilities to the point of the best they possibly can you need someone that has above average gear and enchants to compensate in that same role. Even then, that’s like putting all your eggs in one basket because if they die or get CCed some how your group is now significantly hampered.

I’m not kidding either.

The boss fights in Heroics become do or die. Do in the sense that if you don’t do something, you’re going to die and the group will probably wipe. What you have to do isn’t always obvious either or easy to coordinate. On the bright side, things get easier once you’ve done them a few times and understand what is required. Well, until you go in with a new group of people that may or may not have done it before.

Back to gearing up to a level where you can hit the high minimum needed for your role (be it health, durability, damage output or healing). This sounds harder than it is, but it will require some effort and dedication on your part – no one else can do this for you. That said, there have been people that have done it before you and will have left some bread crumbs for you to follow, you just have to find the trail.

Personally, I hit up the Elitist Jerks class forum and saw a sticky thread for both Protection spec (tank) and Retribution spec (DPS) Paladins. It listed the types of faction I should work on for what rewards and items. It listed ideal enchants for various gear slots and also ideal gems for any slotted items.

In order to gear up, I ran quests for blue rewards, I ran dailies for reputation with factions I needed items from, I ran level 80 dungeons with specific Tabards on to gain rep when dailies weren’t available and I watched the Auction House carefully for cheap components for enchants, gems and other crafted items that I needed. This is one place guilds can help out if they have Jewelcrafters, Enchanters and other crafters – you get the materials together and they make the end product for you. This often saves you a lot of cash buying enchants off the Auction House.

You can do that too. It isn’t hard, but like I said above, no one else can do that for you. If you’re not up to doing that little bit of legwork, maybe you don’t really want to be running Heroics or raiding?

Here’s the painful part. Once you get geared up for Heroics, you then have to replace that gear with stuff you find in the Heroics in order to prepare for raiding.

Again, others in the raid that are highly geared and out put enough to make up for what you don’t can work, but it’s best to have at least the minimum so, once again, the raid isn’t guaranteed to fail if they lose that person that is compensating for people not hitting the minimums.

All that gear you collected, enchanted and slotted is now going to get replaced with better gear that will also need to be enchanted and slotted. Fun, no?

The good news is that if you’re able to run Heroics without anyone compensating for your role output/capabilities, you’re not too far off being able to raid. Adjust a few pieces and you should be able to hit raids. If you’re lucky and your raid group has a lot of experience/gear you might even be able to skip over Heroics with some choice gear picks and enchants. This is less likely to be the case for tank and healer roles, sorry!

Back to Heroics.

The typical Heroic group make up is 1 tank, 1 healer and 3 damage classes (DPS). People who have run instances before might think ‘recommended’ but it is what you need, at least when starting out – you might be able to handle some different group make ups if your group is filled with top-geared folks.

The reasoning behind this is: DPS is key.

NOTE: When I talk about tank, healer or DPS, I mean the character’s talent spec is set for that type of role. A Warrior speced for damage works for DPS, just like a Druid speced for DPS works. Yeah, you could run a Heroic with five Druids if you had Feral-tank, Resto, and three more speced for nukes or feral-dps.

Unlike raids, there are no timers on Heroics other than the mana and health your healer and tank have. In raids, if you don’t kill certain targets before a given amount of time they’ll wipe the raid out. Pretty crazy, no? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t lost anyone and everyone is full health, if you take to long some bosses will just blow you up.

In a Heroic, this isn’t the case but the more DPS you have, the better chance you have to killing the boss you’re fighting (or will be fighting) before your healer goes OOM and your tank dies off.

That’s the basic reason. If you have two tanks, your missing a DPS type so your DPS will be lower. Same deal with having two healers.

Heroic bosses have more tricks up their sleeves than they did when they were the bosses in the normal instance. These tricks tend to really hurt and are less forgiving, that’s what makes it Heroic. It’s not simply that the mobs have tons of health or dish out a lot of damage, although that is a pretty good portion of it, it’s that the bosses are so bloody deadly.

Here’s an example of one Heroic boss that was a lot of fun; it took me, some guildies and a PUG several tries to kill this guy, but when we figured it out.. I was happy.  The final boss in Gun’drak takes a fair bit of coordination to kill. This boss has two very vicious abilities.

The first is the good old spinnerama where he’ll spin and move slowly about after who ever has agro. He does some pretty insane damage so you have to run away from him when he’s doing this.

He also shifts into a Rhino at various points in the fight. When he does this, you have to pull everyone in to melee range of him. If you don’t, he’ll randomly charge targets that aren’t in melee range. This charge attack can kill cloth and leather types outright, nearly killed mail types and put a serious dent into plate wearers. The tough part is that he might stick around and munch on the person he charged, then charge back to the tank. That gets messy.

On top of that, he randomly calls some Rhino spirits to impale targets – this is a temp stun with some damage and is unavoidable.

Oh, did I mention he also has a knock back? When he knocks the tank back, you have to make sure everyone advances with the Rhino.

Sound rough? It is. Especially when he drops Rhino form and goes into spinnerama mode while the party is piled in around him. That gets really messy.

Bottom line is, you want this guy dead as fast as possible because it’s only a matter of time before someone screws up or the healer runs out of mana.

That said, running Heroics and playing part in a Raid can be a lot of fun! It’s definitely more challenging when you don’t know what to expect.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Gear up before hitting heroics! (rep items, auction house world drops, quest rewards, and crafted goods)
  • Do your homework or directly ask someone who has done it before, they might be able to direct you or give you advice.
  • Take ownership over your character and the role you want it to play.
  • Use Heroics for gearing up for Raids!
  • There are sites that will evaluate your character and tell you where you can get gear from and what areas you should be able to handle – use them!

NOTE: I use be.imba.hu which tells you suggested enchants, ideal slot gems, gear levels and tells you what is ‘wrong’ with your character. Tough pill to swallow, but take it as constructive criticism.

Good luck and have fun!

Oops… I PVP’ed Myself!

What do you do at level 80?

Run heroics, hit some raid content, cap out your skills, cap reputation and bully other players. 

I popped on pretty late Saturday night and discovered Celem was being ganked by a level 80 Warrior. I dropped my Prot spec and switched over to Retribution and headed over to Grizzly Hills. Yes, it’s a PVP area. Yes, we’re on a PVE server. Yes, you could turn of your PVP flag, but Celem was doing some PVP quests.

And he was a level 74 Mage getting attacked by a level 80 Warrior. It’s just not right.

Before I got there, he grouped up with some others and took the Warrior out, but the Warrior was still hanging about and a level 80 Deathknight showed up too. 

Then I showed up followed shortly by Fourbit (level 80 Enhancement Shaman from our guild). We found the DK and spanked him. Three times. We found the Warrior and spanked him once. We then started running escort for Celem to make sure he wasn’t harassed by any more level 80s.

In comes the unmistakable sound of a Warrior’s Charge ability followed up with that sound again. Two Warriors and a Shadow Priest decided they’d get into it with us. Caught off by surprise they managed to get us. We took cover and rezzed near the bodies and got ganked again. 

Okay. We took better cover, rezzed, healed and buffed up then went looking for them. 

They didn’t stand a chance. They tried one more time and we smoked them again. It was so one sided they didn’t come back.

Later on in the evening, some more level 80s were harassing folks by the Airstrip in Borean so I zipped over there to see what was happening. A Blood Elf Paladin and a Hunter were harassing lowbies. If you attack a NPC you get flagged so they did that but they picked a quest giver. Apparently if you try to use that quest giver you get flagged too (or perhaps the folks buffed or healed it, dunno). So you have to level 80s ganking lowbies (I mean level 68-71 folks).

Not for long. 

I showed up with some other Aftermath folks (74 Priest, 80 Rogue) and we spanked them and corpse camp the Hunter a bit. Normally I don’t corpse camp, but if you’re going to be an asswipe then you’re going to get shit on. The Paladin then starts diving bombing to get our attention (drops low on his mount, gets nuked, flies up) so the Hunter can sneak away. Fine. It’s obvious what they’re doing, but who cares, it looks like they’re going to leave. 

They don’t. They catch a pair of level 70s in the nearby field and start trying to kill them. 

Say hello to my sneaky friend!

Chillessa appears behind them and starts laying into them. I come in stunning and blasting them, switching to the Hunter when I see the Paladin bubbles himself. Neferati (the Priest) is in there nuking and DoTing them and Chillessa dies (Neferati gets some bonus points for this). Hunter down, I switch to the Paladin and he drops too.

There is a little more harassing but eventually the bugger off – the Paladin bubbles and hearths out hehe. I spent the rest of the evening helping the level 71 Paladin from our guild who called us in (well, mentioned there was ganking and we headed right over) get to level 72.

Then I crashed for the night.

All in all, good fun. I’m going to have to get into some BGs or Arena matches.

It’s a Good Thing I Like Coffee…

Anyone who reads this for the next little while is going to notice a pattern. Monday morning, and possible Tuesday morning, I’ll be posting something about coffee.

Why?

We raid on Sunday (and Monday) night. Last night didn’t end too late, about 11:30pm Eastern which is early because we tend to go until 11:00pm Central (server), so we called it 30 minutes early. Why? Well, unlike last week we had 9/10 spots in the raid filled with Aftermath people and we kicked ass. We cleared Spider, Plague and Construct quarters with little problem. Only Thaddius gave us some issues due to some small mistakes like moving into position next to him before the main tank even agro’ed him. Then there was the main tank forgetting to turn on his agro stance – I was wondering why I was hearing Omen Threat Meter spaz out on me? Once we sorted that out, we spanked him.

What about the coffee? Tell us about the coffee! We want coffee!

Me too!

It’s a good thing I like coffee because I have no idea which type of coffee I made this morning. I was on autopilot and just put whatever pod was in front of me in the machine and fired it up. I’m drinking it and I’m not sure what it is. It’s not a flavoured one. It doesn’t seem too stong. Ah well. It is coffee.

I was bad last night. Even though the raid finished early, I stayed online to get my new polearm enchanted and then headed out to Feralas to raise my Skinning skill (along with my Polearm skill). Skinning is now up to 300 and I’m parked in the Outlands for more skinning fun. My Polearms skill is now up to about 350/400 – I hope to get it higher before tonight, but I’m not sure I’ll have time to get it there.

Ugh… with dropping Inscription (for Skinning) I now have to work on Sons of Hodir rep so I can by shoulder inscriptions from there. Fortunately, I’ve got my T7 shoulders so it should be awhile before I replace them.

Why did I drop Inscriptions? 

Too many other people were doing it, the results of the material use weren’t making more money than the materials would and there was too much random nature to it (research and darkmoon card creation). Now I’ll just sell everything I gather and Skinning goes well with Cooking since I can skin the stuff I farm for cooking materials. Hopefully, that will mean I can finally save up and earn the cash for my epic flying mount!

EA/Mythic WAR Getting Desperate?

To be fair, it makes good sense to do what they’re doing, but I’m not sure it will work. Here’s part of an email they sent me (they neglected me on Valentines Day):

Sindaena of Destruction

You are ordered by Tchar’zanek himself to return to the front lines! As a loyal soldier in the armies of Destruction, your strength is needed once again! There is no time for rest at rank 23. Speed your journey to the campaign with increased experience in Tier 3. Your friends Zech, Dalayxia and Silvarn are still in the battle! Rise now, and bear the standard of Casualties of WAR to the very heart of Altdorf! To arms, and to glory!

Despite the fact that several co-workers are playing, some real life friends are playing and Casualties of War are still playing, I’m not going back.

Due to the present state of the economy (that’s becoming cliché), I’m being more selective about my purchases. A lot of the typical bonuses I get from work have been cut in order to reduce costs. I’m glad they did, I’d prefer that over more lay offs. But still, I don’t feel any desire to waste my money. And that’s what subscribing to WAR would be for me.

I understand people like it, they’re having fun, it’s been patched and it’s more stable. That’s cool. I respect that, but the game isn’t for me.

“Because you’re a carebear!”

Nope. I’ve spent more time on WoW open PVP servers than PVE servers. I can PVP with most of them. It’s not my current focus (if you look at my Kills statistics you’ll see I currently have one lonely honorable kill), but it will soon be something I’ll do.

I’m not ditching WAR only, I’ve unsubscribed from Wizard 101 despite actually liking the game and having had a good experience with their product. I unsubscribed because my oldest wasn’t playing it anymore. He was my main motivation for playing it. My youngest plays it from time to time, but his idea of playing it is making a new wizard then playing hide and seek in the game. You should hear him laugh when I find him. :)

I’m sticking with WoW. It’s my main focus and I’m not deviating. I’m even surprised I’ve been as focused as I have been. Usually I’d have a bunch of alts that aren’t too far behind in levels but the highest alt (aside from the level 59 DK that is parked in Stormwind who plays the auction house for my main) is a level 16 Dwarf Hunter who I haven’t touched in months.

I decided I didn’t really like being a Dwarf so I went with a Night Elf (female) Hunter. Personally, I prefer the Horde races for the Hunter class, but I settled on the Night Elf because I thought it’d be fun to have a stealth cat and hide, then pounce on people. She’s level 1 and named “Sindaena”. I’ve also got a Gnome Mage (Melkorandis) that is level 1 – when I log him in, I’ll get the intro movie for Dwarves and Gnomes. Yup, that’s right, I created him and didn’t so much as log in with him. I also have a Night Elf Durid :) that is level two but I don’t think I’ll do much with her. I’m just not into Durids.

I’ll admit, added bonus of going with a Night Elf is that Hud hates Night Elf Hunters… he has a general loathing for Hunters, but Night Elves seem to be at the top of his threat list.

:)

Death Doesn’t Have To Be Bad…

At least not in games. It can always open up other opportunities for a player. One of the coolest quests I saw in WoW involved actually needing to be dead and walking the spirit world to get it. The result was a key to help you get around Blackrock Depths a little easier, but it was still a really cool idea!

I talked with the player of the Cleric (Kevin) a bit yesterday and made plans for bringing him back into the game in short order. While he will be taking a step back in XP (he probably would have hit level 11 last session if he didn’t die) to the beginning of the level, he’s getting the opportunity to do something cool and apply some of what is happening in the campaign to his character in a very cool way – or so I think.

I’ve been dropping some behind the scenes type things to players so they get a feel for what is happening elsewhere, where people have gone and what might be coming. I debated posting what will happen for them there, but I’m not sure I want to spoil it… but it is big. :D

The funny part, at least for me, is that it seems to have a similarity to what is happening in WoW.

Do you think WoW is influencing me? Perhaps a little. I admit I will integrate things I like if I think it would work, but no. I’m not being influenced by WoW in this case. There are definitely some similarities.

WoW has the Lich King while Eberron has the Lich Queen. WoW has Northrend while Eberron has a similar continent, Frostfall – I think? Although Eberron’s nothern continent is mostly unexplored, novels that I’ve read suggest there is something big and dark living there and it is plagued by frozen undead. WoW has Dalaran while Eberron has Sharn. They’re pretty different though and I’d have to say Sharn was around before Dalaran was torn out of the Alterac region and moved to Northrend.

No, most of the things that are happening to the PCs are of my own design and things I’ve had planned for years now.

Still, it’s difficult not to draw the connections.

Now, I just have to sort out what Gord the Sorcerer (in game) will be doing…

Death is Never Easy…

But I think we take it too seriously when it happens in a RPG.

I’ll include myself in that. My best (or worst depending on your point of view) lawyering comes out when my character is looking at death. I’ll try to squeeze every last bit of context out of a rule or several rules to ensure there wasn’t an out or mistake that could save me from losing a level or having to come in with a new character.

Last night we had two deaths in the ‘evil’ campaign. The group was fighting a Quori (evil outsider from the plane of dreams/nightmares). This is normally a nasty creature, but I bumped it up a bit to compensate for the group having more than the expected four players (in 3.5e) and for there being slightly higher in level than intended for the encounter. When it appeared it nabbed a party artifact from one of the Clerics – it was a really powerful banner that was an ancient artifact from the time when House Vol existed in all its glory.

The banner was an experiment based on a treasure item I noticed in one of the 4e books. It also seemed somewhat inspired by WAR’s banner idea – I’m not sure which came first, 4e’s magic item or WAR’s banner. I actually posted about it and asked people to help me create it back here. In the end, it just added way too much for far too little so I had to get rid of it.

I used the Quori since it was a creature of nightmares (surprisingly, it was Lawful Evil… I would expect something ‘nightmarish’ to be more chaotic) so it was an unknown for the group. Next round it consumed the banner and absorbed the power. This made it grow in size one step (from large to huge) however, the only size adjustment I made was reach and more HPs. I did not increment the dice for it’s attacks and I didn’t increase strength but I also didn’t reduce the AC. I think it was a fair trade off, I simple wanted the creature to be more durable because the group can really dish out the damage.

After another round of combat, it charmed the party’s Sorcerer and telepathically asked him to unleash his power and destroy everything. Remember, the group is mainly evil aligned, the Sorcerer was that was charmed was Neutral Evil. I figured given the tensions between the party members, previous accidental explosion of party members and his alignment, destroying his party members was well within character and didn’t require a Charisma check.

The combined actions of the Quori and the Sorcerer weakened the party significantly, but they drop the Quori and turn their attention to the Sorcerer. The Sorcerer took semi-defensive action and put a wall of fire up between him and the group. The group’s resident Chaotic Evil stepped through and took some swings at him. As Murphey’s Law dictates, he critically hit the Sorcerer. Now the Chaotic Evil guy is a Psychic Warrior who had used a power to increase his size to Huge. That scaled the damage dice from his Great Axe from 1d12 to 4d6 and being a Great Axe, it’s crit modifier is three – so he was taking 12d6 + 3*a sick amount of strength + 3*double the power attack penalty the PW took+ fire damage. End result was over 100 damage which dropped the Sorcerer who had already taken a bit of a beating.

The wall of fire did enough damage to knock out one of the Clerics (the owner of the banner) who was taking burning damage every round. The other Cleric acted as fast as he could by pulling out a Wand of Cure Moderate Wounds and using a charge on the other Cleric. He rolls up eight points of positive energy healing.

Unfortunately, he forgot the other Cleric was under some odd effect where positive and negative energy seemed to have reverse effects – almost like the Cleric was undead. That heal ended up damaging the dying Cleric and killed him.**

On the Quori’s death, it unleashed an Id Insinuation effect (two round duration) which most of the group resisted, except the Shifter Barbarian/Ranger/Weretouched Master. Id Insinuation is like a Confusion spell and sure enough, the Shifter rolled the “attack nearest creature” so he did… he pounced on the group’s Artificer. The Artificer with a brutish and protective Warforged Juggernaut (PrC) friend.

I could see the campaign might come to an end right there. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed as the confusion effect wore off.

The remaining Cleric rifled through the dead Cleric’s stuff and pulled out two scrolls of Raise Dead. He cast the first one on the other Cleric – to no effect. Then cast it on the Sorcerer after taking a group vote.

We stopped there. The group has to figure out what is wrong with the other Cleric and try to sort him out and the Sorcerer’s player is debating whether to come back or not.

The death of the Cleric, who was the first living Elf to possess the long lost Mark of Death was also used to breed a new House Vol. His children (aged and trained through time differences on another plane) were poised to off him in hopes of taking his spot of leader of the House now don’t have to do that so there will be some politics and in fighting. Vol, herself, was captured and taken by dragons who were displeased at her return so she’s not around to sort things out – even if she was, she might have left things to be sorted out – natural selection of sorts.

There is a number of things to clean up for next week and still a number of thing that have to happen – like the spirit of the Sarlonian adventurer manifesting and piecing together some of what is going on…

** Ken adds another classic moment to our gaming group’s funny moments. His previous oops involved a Fiendish Dire Shark, Water Walking, carrying a Halfling on his shoulders and putting the Halfling down so he could get at his weapon. The Halfling was on his shoulders because it didn’t have Water Walking so putting it ‘down’ meant it submerged into the lake we were walking on making it a great target for the Fiendish Dire Shark that was attacking us.