Friday, June 25, 2010

Pulling Weeds

When I take a walk at the facility at work, I often find myself pulling weeds in the sidewalk cracks.  Yes, I'll be walking along in my black dress skirt, black and white patterned blouse, dangly earrings, and 2 3/4-inch patent heels, and I'll be pulling weeds.

I've learned that there are some weeds which are not easy to pull.  Some of the varieties of grass, for example, become firmly ensconced and spread their roots wide, while keeping the length of its leaves low.  I know if I try to pull those, the tops of the leaves will be broken off and my fingers will end up scraped on the pavement, while the roots will remain, ready to produce more leaves the next day.

Other weeds, however, have a single root and come up easily, even if we have had no rain.  Some stand up straight and are simple to grasp.  Others have leaves which spread, but which are easily removed by simply gathering the leaves together to show where the central root is located.  When I spot one of those weeds, I cannot pass it without removing it.  (The landscaping crew would be grateful, I'm sure, because if the weeds are left too long, they have to come by with weed killer.)

Some of my co-workers think I am crazy or have OCD.  I call it "taking pride in the facility."  After all, a little effort on my part which doesn't take an appreciable amount of my time helps to polish the place and create a good impression for visitors.

I'm sure my husband would like it if I paid as much attention to detail in my housekeeping . . .

So what does this have to do with WoW?

Just like the weeds, problems can be pulled out of the cracks early and prevented to become large and unsightly, with deep roots.  This applies to either personal, social issues (like the time some time ago where someone had an unreasonable expectation that I really wanted his off-color whispers), or to leadership matters (such as the time some time ago when the guild leadership stopped a conversation in raid bordering on harrassment about my religion, because the guild has a "no harrassment" policy.)

This can also be applied to performance issues.  Is that new healer just not "getting" it?  An experienced player giving them some advice can set them on the road to good habits, if they are willing to listen and learn.  Just discovered that you don't know as much about your class as you think you did?  Stop, do some reading, and start moving in the right direction before you become so ingrained in the wrong one that changing directions is cumbersome.

It is no surprise that problems are a lot easier to solve when they are small than to wait until they become large.  If you have to call in the weed killer, there could be collateral damage.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


So I've started on my next big adventure in World of Warcraft: being a responsible part of an officer corps.

To be honest, I've held the rank of officer in a previous guild--more a social guild than a raiding one--but I do not really think that counts. My promotion to officer there was more an acknowledgement that I had earned seniority, rather than because I had any sort of duty to perform. That doesn't mean I did nothing at all. I tended to be the behind-the-scenes counselor, helping guildies work out issues, passing on concerns to the guild master, etc. I had stuck by the guild through at least three splinterings, watching people break off en masse to form their own guilds and then come sheepishly back when they realized that running a guild was not as easy as it looked. (It was a point of pride for the guild master that, "They always come back.")

Because of that experience and because of the things I have read on the Guild Relations forum, I have become a strong believer that guild officers need jobs, and if there isn't a job to be done, a promotion to officer is not necessary. This is why, whenever someone would tell me, "They should make you an officer," I would laugh and tell them that seniority was not a good reason to make someone an officer.

But for the last few weeks, I have had a job. I am the healing officer, in charge of organizing the healers, helping them, making recommendations, etc.

The idea was a little scary at first, but only because it was new. I knew I could do it, and I knew that once I got some practice, I would settle into the position well. Part of me was concerned, simply because I did not have a bunch of level 80 healing alts, so I did not intuitively know all the abilities of each class, as Dreg used to be able to do. But self-confidence and self-esteem come from meeting and surpassing challenges, not from sitting back with one's feet propped up, drinking hot chocolate. (Yum!)

I have heard and I believe that hard work can make up for lack of natural talent. And so I determined to overcome my lack of natural talent by hard work.

In addition to the research I have done (and still do), I have a couple of people in the guild whose suggestions have been invaluable.  I truly appreciate their insights in helping me understand their classes better.  After all, many minds working on the same problem can bring more ideas and more possibilities to the table.  And I think it is working out, so far.  (It will get better from here . . .)

I know there is more to being in a leadership position than the obvious.  Recently I caught a glimpse of another side of officership: the part where you have to put up with the less desirable traits of people you cannot ignore.

I had a particular person whispering me over and over, telling me that so-and-so obviously was having a bad night and was not performing as well as he should be, so I should sit him and bring in the whisperer, who would, basically, shine and save the day . . . I finally told him the truth: that while I can offer suggestions, I'm not the one who ultimately decides who is brought in to the raid.  Then he stopped whispering me about it.

What does this tell me?

1. It tells me that the whisperer thinks I obviously need help to see that someone is not performing well.  This indicates to me that the whisperer does not particularly respect my abilities, which, admittedly, cuts a bit into my pride, but which is more annoying than insulting.

Now, as I've said, I don't mind suggestions from people who can offer insights.  But please, offer help directly and in a manner which will benefit the entire raid, even if it does not involve you.  My most valued advisor will sometimes suggest that he be sat for an encounter to bring in a player with an ability which may possibly be more helpful in downing the boss.  This is the kind of attitude which lets an officer know you really are trying to help the raid, not just working for your own ends.

2. It tells me that the whisperer is not above cutting down his fellow guildies to get what he wants.  This disgusts, rather than impresses me.  Cream rises naturally to the top; it doesn't have to beat the milk to the bottom.

Later on in the evening, I vented a little about this to my husband, who is the director of a training facility with something around 70 employees.  He laughed and said, "Welcome to command, Honey!"

I stuck my tongue out at him.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wannabe Bullies IRL

Yes, I play on PVP servers.  I started on a PVP server not because I had any desire to run around PVPing, but because that was the server chosen by my husband and his brother when we first signed on to the game.  As I've written before, I learned to not worry too much when I was ganked, as long as people were reasonably fair about it.  ("OK, you got your honor kill, now don't be a bully.")

Today, I met someone who honestly has to be a "wannabe bully in real life."

My little Blood Elf hunter had fallen behind in her leatherworking and had to return to a zone she had already completed to pick up some medium leather.  Boring, boring work.

As she sat there, juggling Serpent Sting pulls and letting Kittykitty tear bears apart, a high-level Alliance hunter arrived on the scene.

I fully expected him to one-shot me, maybe laugh, and go his merry way.  As a character something to the effect of 31 levels above me, he wouldn't even be credited with an honor kill, but some people just like to do that, anyway.  So I just stopped moving, awaiting the inevitable.  But he didn't act as I expected.

Oh, sure, he attacked my little hunter, but he took a different tack.  He killed Kittykitty, but he did not kill my hunter.  He hit her so that her health was about five percent, then mounted and left.

That act could have had no other intent than to just make life difficult for my hunter and make himself feel powerful.  That is all he could have gotten out of it.  Sure, it would have been a pain to ghost run back to my body, but this course of action meant I had to rez my pet, feed my pet, heal my pet, bandage myself, and generally take much more trouble recovering from the situation.

Well, what else could I do?  I recovered and continued farming my leather.

About an hour or so later, the same Alliance hunter showed up on the scene again, where he proceeded to do the exact same thing.  Then he laughed.

This time, I got mad.  (Bad idea, I know . . . it means he won, in a fashion.  After all, what else do bullies want but to feel they have controlled someone else?)

I logged my hunter out and logged on my Druid.  As their names are the same, saving one letter, he could have no mistake who was speaking with him.  I whispered to him, "Odd way to get one's kicks, picking on lowbie hunters."  I waited, but he did not reply, so I logged back out and returned to my hunter, who headed to Undercity to raise her leatherworking.

I have heard it said that the measure of a man's character is how he treats those who can do nothing for him.  (On a related note, the measure of a man's character can be taken by how he treats those who are helpless.)  I remember your name, S*****E**, and I will remember the measure of your character.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Nervous Raider

To say I was nervous when I first started raiding would be an understatement.

I had always labored under the fear of disappointing people.  Leveling my Druid, I had never grouped with anyone who wasn't a relative, because I was afraid I would be inadequate and let the people of my group down.  (Why I worried so much about people I not only did not know in real life, but might possibly never meet again in-game is a bit of a mystery to me now, but there it is.)

So when I first started raiding in 20-man groups, I found myself facing the dilemma I had avoided for 60 levels: I was absolutely terrified that I would do something wrong and not be able to hold up my end.  I would be letting down 19 other players, wasting time, wasting repair gold, and generally making a fool of myself.

I suppose it isn't too unusual to be nervous at a new venture, but in my case, it went a little too far.  It got to the point where it was affecting me physically.  About a half hour before raid was to start, I would be clutching my stomach, willing the sharp cramping to go away.  Fortunately, it always managed to work its way out of my system before the actual start of raid.  I recognized that this was a disproportionate response to the situation, but I could do nothing about it.

Over a few months, as a Moonkin and then as a failed Feral tank, I continued to experience this physical phenomenon.  Why did I keep raiding, if it was causing me pain?  I liked raiding, as a general rule, and I wanted to do it.  It was as simple as that.

It took me a few months in my current guild as a healer to finally get to the point where I was confident enough in my abilities where the fear diminished.  I studied fights more closely and learned more about how to heal well, and as I saw success with my guild, I found the physical reaction going away.  I could face the challenge and relax, knowing that the entire responsibility of the raid's success was not on my shoulders, as long as I did what I could do.

I recognize this was my own personal problem, but this brings up a question:  what can a new raider do to increase her confidence in her raiding abilities?  I have a few ideas:

1.  Become familiar with your class and spec.  I know, you've already leveled your class through 79 levels; you know what abilities are in your toolbox.  However, do you know which of those abilities are the most effective in a raiding situation?  If you are a dps class, do you know the most efficient rotation or when to use cooldowns?  If you are a healer, what talents should you pick up to benefit you the most as a raider?  Raiding is not like questing or even like running 5-man Heroic instances.

You can start by reading up on your class forums at the World of Warcraft website.  Then, when you think you have the basics down, take a little trip to Elitist Jerks.

2.  Maximize your gear.  Read about and obtain the best enchants or gem combinations for your spec.  Again, a lot of good information on this subject can be found on the WoW forums or at Elitist Jerks.

3.  Study the fights.  Go hit Bosskillers, Tankspot, or even YouTube to get some information and a basic feel for the encounters you will be facing.  I have heard it said, "If you are prepared, you shall not fear."  This bit of preparation will not only calm your nerves, it may mean the difference for your entire raid between a wipe and a kill.  Whether you are a tank, whose positioning of the boss can make all the difference for an encounter, a dps, who needs to know when to run out of the fire, or a healer, who should be aware when the tank is about to get clobbered, this step helps to ensure your raid will be successful.

4.  Learn about addons.  You can get a lot of good information about these with a few inquiries on the World of Warcraft forum for your class.  One addon which many consider absolutely mandatory is Deadly Boss Mods or some such similar addon.  Getting Deadly Boss Mods helps notify you of boss abilities, so you can react quickly and correctly or even so you can be prepared to act, seconds before the ability is actually cast.  Another one necessary for a dps, at least, is some sort of threatmeter, such as Omen, which can be downloaded at Curse.  If you do not want the boss coming in your direction and pounding you into the dirt, instead of the tank, who is equipped to handle this sort of hit, you do not want to draw the boss' attention (or aggro) from the tank.

It is highly recommended that everyone have some sort of raid/unit frame addon.  One such is Grid, which can be downloaded at Curse, as well. Grid is highly customizable, which is an advantage, but which is also its disadvantage, because it means the initial set-up takes some love and care.  There are walkthroughs on YouTube which explain how to configure Grid.

5.  Practice, practice, practice.  When you are in a 5-man, practice your dps rotation, even though it may not be strictly necessary.  If you are a healer, go to a battleground, pick a plate-wearer, and practice healing.  (Then practice healing anyone within range . . .)  This will help you become more skilled using your toolset and addons, freeing your mind from the basics of operating your character, so you will be able to focus on the additional elements a boss fight brings.

6.  Learn to work as a team member.  This one is a little harder to practice before actually raiding.  With the implementation of random Heroics, a lot of overgeared players are running in 5-mans on a regular basis.  While I realize this makes it simpler for those who are gearing up to find groups, a rather unfortunate side effect is that people can frequently afford to be a bit more sloppy in their group play.  Healers can dps on the side (*ahem*) and dps can open up and throw their abilities without worrying whether or not they will be pulling aggro from the tank.  But in a raid, it is important that each member learn to trust the other members to do their roles and not think they have to be the hero all the time.

There may be an encounter where a particular dps is assigned to interrupt something.  This may affect the amount of dps he can record, but that interrupt may mean the difference between success and failure.  There may be an encounter where a healer is assigned a particular person to heal.  It can be tempting as a healer to step away from a healing assignment just a little, when it looks like something is going wrong, but that can spell disaster if the assigned person is not kept alive.  Be disciplined if you are given an assignment.  (Even experienced healers need to be reminded of this every so often . . .)

7.  Forgive yourself.  Remember that a raid wipe is not always because of you.  (It might be, sometimes.  It happens.)  Most raid encounters require a sort of balance, and if something becomes unbalanced, it can frequently be overcome.  It is usually through a series of events that the attempt becomes unrecoverable.  And it is most likely not all your fault.  Even if it was, pick yourself up, get over it, and try again.

The game is supposed to be fun.  So prepare, do not fear, and kill bosses.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Hero (Sort Of)

The other day, I had a new experience.  I got to play hero . . . sort of . . .

Leveling characters on PVP servers acclimated me to random deaths from characters of the other faction.  (Ganking . . .)  When I was leveling my main, it used to make me mad.  Then I began looking upon gankers with a certain amount of scorn, figuring they were wannabe bullies in real life.  Then I became somewhat resigned to the inevitability of being ganked.  I'd run back to my body and continue on with my business.

But the other day, a friend of mine who had never before leveled a character on a PVP server whispered me.

"I just got killed by this Horde twice in Duskwallow Marsh."

"Oh?  Is he camping?"

"He's the same level as me, and he's waiting." (She was 44.)

"Ok, let me log onto my mage.  I can port right into Theramore."

Now, I'll be frank.  If someone had just ganked my friend and gone on his merry way, I wouldn't have bothered.  But I hate people who camp.  I want to say, "Hey, you've had your fun and you've collected your honor kill, now don't be a bully."

So I logged onto my mage and ported to Theramore, then invited my friend to group.  I followed her ghost as she returned to her body.  We found that her aggressor had apparently decided to finally quit the scene, but just in case, I stood guard while she finished her quest in that area.

I'm not skilled enough at PVP to be able to take on an equal level character one on one.  But I can certainly stand there and look scary if any level 44 bullies try to bug my friend.  (And if one is silly enough to try to take a swipe at her while I'm there, I'll obliterate him with an Arcane Blast.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Challenge

Usually, when I am thrown randomly into Heroic Azjol-Nerub with a Paladin tank sporting 41k health points, I look forward to having fun throwing the occasional Rejuvenation while dpsing my little heart out.

But the other day, I found that even a Pally tank sporting 41k health points can test my healing skills in an Heroic instance.

I have never, in a random Heroic instance, seen a more reckless tank.  Aggro was everywhere.  Yes, he was running Righteous Fury.  Yes, he was in Protection spec.  I began to wonder if he was taking it as a personal insult that I was healing in Night Elf form, instead of going into Tree of Life form.  This would be odd, as most tanks view it a compliment that the healer trusts they will do well and not take much damage.  But there was no way I was going to give him the satisfaction of making me shift forms, so I stubbornly remained a Night Elf.

After the first boss, he literally jumped off the ramp and was swarmed by mobs, before most of us even entered the room.  I saw his health dropping low from the previous room, hit cat form and dashed into range to throw a Rejuvenation and Swiftmend and keep the guy from killing himself and us with him.

Somewhere along the instance, he suddenly started chatting.

"So how is Tempest doing these days?"  Oh, he's from my server.  Hadn't noticed that.  Hadn't heard of his guild, either.

"So far, so good.  :)"

Apparently that answer wasn't good enough for him.  "?/12 HM ICC25"

"6"  Simple truth.  He could have known it himself if he had taken the time to look it up on wowprogress.

"Almost everyone has that now."

There was no more chatting.  It seemed to me to be a deliberate provocation.  Part of me wanted to answer something to the effect of, "Everyone except your guild," but I knew that would be childish and unbecoming in an officer of Tempest.  Another part of me wondered if he was an alt from some elitist guild or if he was just a teenager who hadn't learned better manners.  I wondered if he had applied to Tempest and had not been offered an invitation. (He hasn't on his Pally, anyway; I looked.)

In the last analysis, I decided it just didn't matter.  I finished the Heroic with no deaths and, if I never had the time to throw more than one Moonfire, I also never went into Tree of Life form.  I thanked the group for the run, and I put the Pally tank's name on my Ignore list.  I never have to play with him again.

He wasn't that good of a tank, anyway.

Everyone Is Writing About Cataclysm

It seems these days everyone with a World of Warcraft-related blog is writing about Cataclysm.  Some are speculating how the new talents and abilities will work out.  Others are deciding which character will be their main in the new expansion.  Still others are making plans for the time between now and the next release, tagging achievements they hope to finish before the world is shaken to its core and a good number of them disappear.

At this point, I'm not too worried about the talents and abilities.  I understand that Blizzard is not giving the Resto Druids a new spell, figuring we have a large enough toolbox already.  However, according to the information available at this point, the Resto talent tree will be reassembled in such a fashion as to require us to take talents which would be seemingly worthless by today's abilities and requirements.  This indicates to me that some of our spells will be reworked a bit, requiring us to adapt our healing style to maximize our potential according to new rules.  This isn't unusual.  They've done it for every expansion.  As one of the guilds on my server likes to say, "Adapt or die."  (Well, in this case, it's more like, "Adapt or don't get invited to the raids while we replace you with someone who really cares about playing their best.")

There is no question for me which character I will be playing through the expansion.  The only real contenders would be my Druid or my mage, and I enjoy playing the Druid much, much more.  I wonder how many people who are running around with five to eight level 80 characters will actually change their mains come Cataclysm.  Of the raiders who were in my guild at the end of Burning Crusade, I think only about three or four changed their mains, and one of them didn't change his until after T8 content.

As far as achievements go, I'm not sure I really have a big goal.  I could work on getting my Vanilla dungeons finished (stealthed into Ogrimmar the other day so I could get the Ragefire Chasm achievment . . .)  I do not know how many (if any) of these dungeons will disappear.  I could work on getting my Vanilla raid achievments, but to be honest, they just aren't that important to me.  BGs will most likely still be there, and the grind to get the BG achievements is too tiring to consider at the moment.  And there is NO WAY I am going to run around getting all the low-level quests for any achievements in that area.  (Sorry.  Tried it once and quit after about 15 minutes of sheer boredom.  Just isn't happening.)

So what am I going to do between now and Cataclysm?  Well, I will continue raiding on my Druid.  I will still continue doing random heroics on my mage, for badges and for the variety.  When my RL friend levels her pally high enough, I will probably run things with her.  And when I am bored, wondering what on earth I can do, now that I've run my random, done my fishing, cooked up fish feasts, mixed up flasks, and generally prepared myself for the next raid, I will sneak over to the Horde side and do low-level questing on my hunter.  (/wink)