Re-exploring Night Elf Lands

Once again, much faster than I expected actually, I've hit the milestone of reaching level 30. Does that mean that I'll lose my drive again soon? Hopefully not... I do have plans for the near future at least, such as revisiting Razorfen Kraul. I've seen enough LFG requests for it in world chat that I think it might actually be possible to get a pug for it.

I've been surprised by how much I've been enjoying redoing those low level night elf zones on Kalimdor. It's been long enough that my memory is very fuzzy and it feels exciting to re-visit all those stories, even if at times I've wanted to slap myself for making the exact same mistakes I made back in the day all over again (such as searching for a quest item in the wrong place and not realising it until I brought up a guide).

Stonetalon Mountains in particular has been a pleasant surprise. My memories of it back in the day mostly have it feeling very empty. It wasn't until I rolled my first Horde alt that I even realised that Sun Rock Retreat existed. As Alliance I don't really remember doing any quests there, just being confused by my druid friend being able to talk to an NPC that wouldn't interact with me, probably because she had found a breadcrumb somewhere that I had missed.

This time around I engaged in a whole chain around the Venture Co. loggers that had me fetching magical ingredients for a gnome all the way from Stormwind, and I could hardly believe my own eyes when I ventured forth into the Charred Vale with something like five different missions in my log that pretty much required me to kill everything in sight.

I think once I wrap up Ashenvale however, I'll probably want to switch over to the Eastern Kingdoms for a while. My memory of Desolace is relatively fresh thanks to questing there on my paladin, but I never did much on her in Hillsbrad and Arathi...

I also got into Gnomeregan already, once again as a healer. That run was kind of funny in a way, as I realised pretty much the moment we set foot into the instance that there was no way we were going to complete it with that particular group composition, as the last boss is level 34 and we only had a single damage dealer above 30 - a warlock who didn't really seem to understand English very well and kept meleeing things with his staff. The tank eventually got sufficiently annoyed with him to kick him from the group. (I get why someone like that might end up in your group in an average MMO... but on a private server for a ten-year-old game it's rather bewildering.)

However, that same tank was also very determined to finish the dungeon despite of being only level 29 and pushed onward with great care. I swear I've never killed this much trash in Gnomeregan just to avoid pulling it by accident. We found a treasure chest behind a pillar relatively near the entrance that I didn't even know existed. And remember those tunnels with walkways on two different elevations, where you'd traditionally take the upper path while sticking as close to the wall as possible to avoid pulling the mobs on the lower half? We tried that at first and after it didn't work out for us, we kept jumping back and forth between the two lanes to clear both of them in their entirety.

We did remarkably well like that (the kicked warlock was quickly replaced by a rogue), but the final tunnel with the Dark Iron dwarves did us in one too many times. I mentioned that during my previous visit they didn't appear to be laying mines as they should, but this has clearly been fixed in the meantime so we kept dying to too much damage. (I'm still not sure the mines were behaving entirely as intended though... I had to laugh when at one point after I died, a mine "ran away" from me back towards the remaining dwarves.)

After the third wipe on the same pull or so, the replacement rogue abandoned us, but this actually worked out in our favour as we somehow ended up with a level 35 paladin tank instead (6 levels higher than anyone else in the party) who managed to carry us through that last bit until the end. In the end the run took up the entirety of my afternoon, but at least I managed to finish all my Gnomer quests in one go, including the escort. Of course one of them has a follow-up that asks you to go right back in there...


Tirri's Dungeon Journal

Just like during my previous nostalgia trips back to Vanilla WoW, I only really find the time to do dungeons on the weekends, which strongly limits how many of them I can do, but even so I've managed to squeeze in four runs on my druid so far. I thought I'd make a short post about them, since in Vanilla WoW, no two dungeon runs feel the same and it's always interesting to talk about your pugs.

Part of the idea of rolling a druid this time around was that I would have an easier time getting into groups, since tanks seemed to be in much higher demand than healers while I was levelling my priest. It hasn't quite worked out as expected.

I tried to put my first Deadmines group together myself, but despite of my (what I thought were) inviting shouts that a tank OR healer would be fine for the last spot, nobody took the bait. Suddenly a level 60 night elf hunter whispered me and offered to simply run us through. I've never been a fan of dungeon boosts, as they kind of defeat the point of having fun with the group gameplay, but at that point I was getting sufficiently tired of spamming LF1M that I accepted his offer (once I had checked with the rest of the group that they were OK with it too). The result wasn't very exciting and gave little XP, but I did get all my quests done in record time and the last boss dropped his Blackened Defias Armor for me, so I called it a win.

Later I joined another run as tank, and things went well enough until our healer suddenly disconnected while we were on the pirate ship and then never came back. We managed to clear a couple more trash pulls with the use of crowd control and by having me back off to heal myself when needed, but Captain Greenskin proved too much for us without a healer, which eventually forced us to call it a day. I would have been more disappointed if I hadn't already completed all my quests and also scored Smite's Mighty Hammer on this run.

Up next was Blackfathom Deeps, this time as a healer. Fortunately I do enjoy healing as well and had made a point of starting a set of healing gear early. This was a very smooth and fun run with a pleasant group, with the only disappointment being the realisation that the quest Twilight Falls is simply impossible to complete as a healer. I had the same issue on my dwarf priest earlier in the year. The problem is that quest items for some reason seem to ignore the normal loot rules on this server and are always treated as free for all, which means that they inevitably get picked up by the tank and melee dps before anyone else can get to the dead mob, and there aren't enough cultists in the instance to produce drops for a full party all on the same quest. If I happen to get into another run I'll give it another go (maybe if I can tank that one so I can hog all the drops for myself), but if not I'll just have to dump it - again.

Finally I picked up all the quests for the Stockade except the one from the Wetlands that has a prerequisite chain. The nice thing about the Stockade is that due to how short and easily accessible it is, people run it all the time and at all times of day. I actually logged on with only about an hour to go until bedtime and simply watched general chat for a few minutes - and what do you know, "Anyone for the Stockade?" popped up within five minutes. I was initially asked to heal again, but then the party leader (a paladin) suddenly decided that he'd rather heal himself, and we already had a tank, so I actually ended up doing kitty dps! Not my favourite thing ever, but if it gets the job done...

It amuses me that with a character specifically designed to make use of the apparent tank shortage I experienced previously, I only actually tanked one out of four runs so far. But then that's part of the beauty of rolling a druid - being able to play whatever role is needed.


Druid Life

As I expected, with things in my life calming down a little after the summer, I eventually found myself bitten by the WoW nostalgia bug again (admittedly watching a lot of YouTube videos about the game hasn't helped). Somehow I had no interest in revisiting my dwarf priest however, so I decided to roll up new druid on Darrowshire instead. She's somewhat reminiscent - but not a complete clone - of a night elf druid I used to play on retail, mostly during late Burning Crusade and Wrath.

While I never played one in Vanilla, I consider druids one of my favourite classes, because I like both their role versatility as well as the whole guardian of nature theme. Also, while I didn't play druid myself until later in my time with WoW, the class had a strong impact on my early days in the game as my first levelling partner was a druid, and her class quests were constantly driving both of us forward. I still remember when I was told that we really had to get to Westfall (for her seal form quest) without even knowing where that was on the world map...

I think I've said it before, but one of the nice things about Vanilla WoW is that rolling an alt is just such a totally different experience. Class balance was poor back then, that's true, but on the plus side both the play style as well as the race/class-specific narrative for each one (not to mention professions) made levelling each new character distinctly different from the last.

To learn how to shapeshift and how to cure poisons, druids for example have to go through separate quests chains for each one, because how could you expect something this core to your class to simply be trained via the press of a button (or worse, like in current WoW, to just appear on your bar without explanation)? I enjoyed the bear form quest in particular - I initially had to retreat in shame after my first attempt, because the moonkins around the cave I had to enter were too strong for me, but once I had gained another level, I managed to make it through - you bet that I felt that I had truly earned the strength of a bear after all that! It's best not to think too much about the seal form quest though... if this is really a test that all young druids have to undergo (as one of the quest givers explicitly states), the Cenarion Circle must be expending a stupendous amount of effort and resources on hiding precious treasure in faraway and hard to access underwater locations over and over again...

My talents gave me reason to pause because I had forgotten how confused druid talents were in Vanilla. I know that I want to be feral first and that's fine, but I'm used to it having great synergy with the resto tree... except that before BC sorted things out, several of those really nice talents were actually tucked away under balance, making me unsure of which one would be the better secondary. I also can't believe anyone ever thought that it would be a good idea to give a healer a dot as a high-level talent. Insect swarm in the resto tree, really!

As my primary professions I chose herbalism and alchemy this time, which turned out to be an even better fit for the class than I expected/remembered, as one of the steps of the quest to learn how to cure poisons requires you to fetch some herbs - the quest giver even says something along the lines of how unlucky it would be if you weren't a herbalist yourself, hah. It also makes levelling seem faster somehow, since there are herbs everywhere and you end up running all over the place and killing lots of extra mobs just because you really want to pick that flower. At this point my druid's already halfway through level 18 and I only just started picking up the Deadmines pre-quests (because night elf or not, you've got to go to the Deadmines).

Aside from that I've been happy to ignore unrelated quest givers in those areas though, as my current plan is to stick to Kalimdor as much as possible, because neither my paladin nor my priest have done much there, so it's all still pretty fuzzy in terms of memory and will feel much fresher. At the same time I also feel a lot of nostalgia for Darkshore, Ashenvale and Stonetalon in particular, as these zones left strong impressions on me during my formative first weeks in WoW.

As for the general state of the server (since several commenters on my last post asked about this), it still seems healthy. Things have of course calmed down since the craziness surrounding the launch (and thank god for that), but /who still shows over a thousand players per faction online seemingly at any time of day, which I would consider quite a thriving community. I was just surprised by how quiet chat seemed initially, until I remembered to join the custom world channel. For some reason people really don't seem to care much for talking in general chat on Darrowshire.