Excuse the Hiatus. Exciting Developments

24 Sep

My apologies for taking some time.  I’m a very busy lady, and the time needed to run and keep happy a large guild can be taxing.  I love it, and I love the culture and the people, but sometimes life catches up with you.  When “real life” and “guild life” both add intensity, “blog time” (my recreation and downtime) gets lost in the shuffle.  Rest assured, I will be posting with more regularity soon.

What isn’t exciting about WoW right now?  I mean, other than Icecrown Citadel (which we’ve farmed to death), bugs in beta and on the PTR (drowning in no water, for the win!), and the still missing release date for Cata.  Other than those things, game looks great, right?

Shadow on the PTR

Spriests have a few things to look forward to in the coming 4.0.1 patch.  Our shadowfiends should have higher overall uptime, our damage will come from a few additional sources, and we’ll have a risky but powerful execute move, in the form of a buffed Shadow Word: Death.

Level 80 is not balanced.  We’re OP at some things, and our mana regeneration feels off.  Blizzard is comfortable with this, as tuning is build around the new cap, of level 85.

Disc/Holy on the PTR

I dueled for a few hours with a retribution paladin friend of mine on the PTR.  Holy can win duels, and the new Holy Word series is exciting.  It was at this point that I decided to have Holy be my offspec.

And then I tried out Power Word: Barrier.  Let me just say that this spell is a visual masterpiece.  The detailing is perfect, and it makes the discipline priests–the specialization often seen as unnoticed in the meters and raids–bright and shiny in the middle of the action.

Mana management is more of a mini-game, but if the fights allow for it without giving healers a heart attack, I’m all for the change.  Beta reports so far are sketchy.

The Guild

I haven’t been responsible for the transition between expansions before.  I’ve put a lot of plans into place, recruited players with an eye to their long-term prospects in the guild, and kept the space as drama-free as possible.

But I haven’t led raids through a ton of new progression content.  That is, I’ve always had Tankspot.com, wowwiki, and a host of Youtube videos to go over first.  Tackling new Heroic modes with the guild has tested my abilities, but I’ve always gone in having has someone else teach the major parts of the basic fights.

I’m nervous, but excited.  More to follow.

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How to Build a Drama-free Guild

6 Sep

I was discussing at our weekly officer meeting the other night how happy some of our new recruits are in the guild. One of the major factors for a lot of them is the lack of drama. Our officers concluded that the guild has been almost completely drama free for most of the summer, and almost all of the expansion. How do we manage that? Well, it isn’t magic. The guild has been raiding for almost four and a half years, so we’ve learnt the right way to handle a number of situations.

Use a Fair and Upfront System for Loot Distribution

We use a system called EP / GP with aggressive decay and a fairly low threshold. If you’re not familiar with the system, I’d recommend checking it out. Our new members are quickly given the option of obtaining loot, but usually end up getting major upgrades and do not deny longstanding players the few upgrades they still need. EP/GP rewards attendance, and when we had challenges working on the LK we increased the EP awarded every 15 minutes. Attendance increases followed naturally.

In a big guild with some slight fluctuation in regular roster, this system works perfectly for us. I does not work nearly as well for some guilds, so the solution is to chose a loot system that aids in furthering the goals of the guild. Our goals are progression, so giving the best items to the highest attending players is important, as is a reasonable distribution of these upgrades. Beyond this, moral is a big deal. With EP/GP a night of progression where you win no items feels like an accomplishment.

Being completely upfront about a loot system is critical to avoiding drama. Selecting the right one for your guild is perhaps even more important. Loot matters to a player, and it should. It is both a measure of accomplishment, and a tool toward maximizing your character’s potential. Do not overlook something so important to so many of your team members.

Clear Direction from Officers

Drama is created when folks assume the worst. That’s human nature, and its hard to fault people for their fears. If a guild member needs to be kicks, explain why. If you’re taking X raider over Y, give folks the reason (and ideally, a reason that can be worked upon by the at-fault member).

“Okay, we have 28 attending raiders, so we’re going to need a few players to be on standby tonight. We’re taking Bill over Ted, because he has a viable off-healing set for The Excellent Adventure fight.”

“Srubbalicious recently got hacked and asked the Officer Team to remove him from the guild until its all sorted out. Just an FYI—we still like him.” /gkick

The name of the game is transparency. A good officer team makes changes for the good of the guild. If you make this obvious by being clear in your actions, you’ll garner respect, if not always consensus.

Guild Culture and Age Restriction

This has been a hot topic over the history of our guild. I originally disagreed with it, and slowly came to agree with the policy. We do not accept raiders to core raid positions who are under the age of 18. Let me explain.

The I am involved in has a mix of adult and middle aged players. As a 24-year-old, I’m one of the younger players (although many are close to my age). We behave a certain way in vent, guild chat is relatively uncensored, and raid attendance is an expectation.

Historically, younger players do not have enough control over their own lives to meet a tight raid shift. There are players in this age grouping that can, but they’re not the rule. Be it a mother insisting homework be done, a videocard needing replaced that is unaffordable, or the countless social obligations of high-school, folk under 18 are in a different life situation to those of us with control over our own lives.

Queue objections. I’m aware that some adults don’t have a lot of control over their lives. I know some kids do amazing dps and have 200% raid attendance. I am not (despite what it seems) advocating that the solution to drama is pruning yourselves of the kiddies (although it sure helps). I am saying, take a read of your guild.

Know what your guild members are all about. What sort of absence is “completely understandable.” One of our priest recently had emergency surgery, and everyone in the guild encouraged and thought nothing of her taking a few days (although she raided that week, on pain meds. Fucking hardcore). On the other hand, suddenly not showing up for weeks ’cause you got your first girlfriend makes everyone /sigh.

I don’t promise or even begin to suggest I know everything about coordinating and keeping happy a large group of people. I do know what has worked well for us in the past, and I’m beginning to explore the “why” of that success. Join me later in the week for a discussing of cultivating forums use, and the pitfalls associated with such a medium.

Friday Q & A Series

3 Sep

I’ve decided I’m going to officially set aside Friday as a day to answer any and all questions you guys email me or ask more generally.  If you have a burning question you want answered (that you can wait a week for the answer to) post it as a comment here or email me.

WordPress tracks the google searches folks use to get to my blog.  A number of them imply questions, and I thought I should answer a few.  (some just make me giggle).

Google Search: vampiric touch dispel damage in cata

In Cataclysm the talent Sin and Punishment is slated to add a horror effect to dispelling our Vampiric Touch.  They have also removed the damage component from dispelling the horror.  The jury is deliberating on if this will be a run horror, like death coil, or a cower horror, like our Psychic Horror

Google Search: what achievement do you need for icc

I get this search hit often, and the basic answer is none.  Pug will ask you to link as far as you’ve gotten, and honestly is your best policy.  If you’ve accomplished nothing, not even the lower spire, explain that you’ve watched the fights (assuming you have) and offer your services politely.  You might well be taken!

Google Search: world warcraft lesbian

I have a suspicion that the individual making this search was disappointed to find my blog.  First off, I’m only bisexual; my girlfriend is gay.  Sadly, she doesn’t even play WoW (and doesn’t think she’d get into it).  I do know a number of openly gay (and closeted) players in game and on my server.  We form a distinct little community, and I’m always excited to connect with these players (men and women alike)

Email: My gearscore is 5600 and I’m hitcapped.  What should my DPS be?

A lot of the items a shadow priest is going to prioritize are not the top gearscored ones.  This is especially true for trinkets, but choosing correctly itemized pieces of gear in every slot is important.  As an example, I recently helped a priest remove Shard of the Crystal Heart to replace it with Abyssal Rune.  That’s a significant drop in item level, but a major increase in DPS (assuming one remains hitcapped, or finds it in a better way).  Short answer, I don’t know.  Send me your armory link and I can make suggestions.

Email: I notice you’ve been less active with your blog lately.  I’ve enjoyed reading Mind Spike, and hope you haven’t given up on it.

Fair criticism.  I’ve been remarkably busy keeping track of my read life, and my wow-life.  The 4plex I rent had a flood, so major clean-ups and challenges presented themselves.  My guild also recruited a big batch of new players, and I’ve put some time and attention into making them feel like they have a home.  Rest assured, Mind Spike will pick up as soon as my schedule dies down a little.

Patch Day Ponderings

24 Aug

Image by SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations via Flickr

Raiding

… is a team sport.  And having a full team in our guild now, rocking steady with a fleshed out core, feel great.  When getting nostalgic about old content we tend to block out the bad and recall only the good.  Our roster for this stage of ICC work will be something I remember going into Cata.  I like our people, and they know what they’re doing.

Arena

At least one of the best players I’ve arena-ed with is having a baby soon.  While that’s fantastic (babies are cool and his relationship with his wife is likely to improve) I will miss being about to play regularly with him.  I haven’t met many of my significant personal arena goals, but I feel like I will–some day.  I’ve learned a ton!

Property Ownership

Isn’t always fun.  My roommate flooded our kitchen and it leaked into the drywall of the folks downstairs.  Only two pieces of insulation and some ceiling fell victim to this week’s biblical disaster, but fixing any damage costs money.  /sigh

That is all for today.  This week I hope to have time to meet my WoW goals, blog on a few interesting topics, and go see a concert in Vancouver (Vampire Weekend.  Yay!)

They tend to see right through us

22 Aug
Cults and new religious movements

Image via Wikipedia

Its been a while since I’ve participated in a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.  Anea of Obeying the Muse brings us this week’s topic.  She’s asked:

How do you think your class is viewed/treated by NPCs?

This stemmed from a pondering about how my rogue might be viewed/treated by NPCs – after all, if someone calls you “roguish” it really usually isn’t a comment. Would a warlock be treated with a sneer? A priest/paladin with extra respect?

Might this depend on the NPC (a guard, a vendor, flight master, quest giver) and the circumstances?

Now I’m going to take this opportunity to dig up some shadow priest lore for you folks.  Wouldn’t you know, I’m a closet lore junkie.  Anyone know what Dranosh means?

The classes page on the official Blizzard website has this to say:

Priests are the masters of healing and preservation, restoring their wounded allies, shielding them in battle, and even resurrecting their fallen comrades. While they have a variety of protective and enhancement spells to bolster their allies, priests can also wreak terrible vengeance on their enemies, using the powers of shadow or holy light to destroy them. They are a diverse and powerful class, highly desirable in any group, capable of fulfilling multiple roles.

This really doesn’t go far enough into the nature of the class.  Beyond this, priests are the lorekeepers and arbiters of Warcraft.  In the traditions of the trolls, Witch Doctors are often priests–cultural icons worthy of fear and respect.  Sen’jin, friend of Thrall and leader of the Darkspear tribe, was a priest of much power.  All priests worship an aspect or deity relevant to their particular race.  As such, folks seek priests for guidance through tough times, and for rulings on matters of morality and higher power.

Where then does the tradition of the shadow fall into this paradigm?  While troll shadow hunters like Vol’jin seem to have many shadow priest-like powers, the true progenitors of the shadow are the Forsaken and their Cult of the Forgotten Shadow.  The faith recognizes the power of faith and discipline, and seeks power by swaying such beliefs.  

Discipline priests renew hope while shadow priests blast the mind with the grim reality and darkness of life.

In life a human priest might have warded an ally against fear, but in death a Forsaken priest focuses on the Existential scream that forces enemies to run in terror.

The nature of a priest’s shadow magic is psychological.  Understanding faith implies knowledge of the danger of having no belief at all.  Without strong belief, or by playing on doubt, a priest can even control the mind of a weak enemy.

As the Forsaken teach a need to constantly understand the light–to thwart it–it seems natural that the other races would discover and seek to understand this atheistic power of un-belief.  Shadow priests exist now across all priest races, and will even spread their numbers to a few new races in the Cataclysm.

So how do you react to such a being?  I’d posit that a shadow priest is something like a very well-respected lawyer or judge who, with their extreme understanding of the law, has turned to using its nuances and intricacies to gain power.

In a culture like that of the Forsaken, I expect such a turn would garner extreme respect.  The Forsaken believe life has played a cruel trick on them, and any cruel trickery they can return is completely justified.  Using the light cases extreme pain for undead priests, so a shadow priest’s understanding of it evidences much personal devotion.

Humans and dwarves, both people of strong beliefs and history, must have mixed feeling toward a priest of the shadow specialization.  While an obviously powerful ally, the priest’s flirtation with disloyalty to the light might call into question all their beliefs.  The more opportunistic humans may only see a source of power, but the stubborn Bronzebeard clan would expect such a cleric to earn trust.

Blood elves and Trolls, despite their history of bloody conflict, are both opportunistic, dualistic, and cutthroat–when the situation warrants it.  Here shadow priests would command significant respect as lorekeepers and leaders.  When your history is deceit, trickery, and re-interpretation of past misdeeds, who better to keep it than a priest of darkness?  Trolls fear and respect the Voodoo, and Blood elves are wise enough to show deference to their shadowy icons.

Nights elves draw priestly powers from Elune, the moon deity.  As a night goddess, exploiting fears and doubts might seem natural.  Nevertheless, I posit that priests of Darnassus are as out-of-place as warlocks in the orcish horde.  For the nocturnal elves, day is night and night is day.  Belief is strongest under the light of the moon.  Here, in relative darkness, the powers of doubt and shadow hold little cultural sway.  Nevertheless, despite Tyrande’s leaning toward the light, her power as a priest implies a significant understand of the shadows.  Such priests are certainly given at least mild deference to their mastery of a strange craft.

As for the gnome priests, shadow tauren, and goblins–we still have much to see about how they’ll play out.  There are examples of all three in-game already, but I leave them for you players to explore.

Holy Bologna: What the Devs are telling us

21 Aug

The newest beta build has hit and I wanted to take a few moments to discuss how the priest Holy spec is shaping up. Like all good priests, I stay as current as possible in all three trees. While my love is shadow, I boast at least proficiency at both Holy and Discipline. Before I get into the meat of the changes, this makes me happy:

Darkness now increases Spell haste by 1/2/3% instead of increasing Shadow damage by 2/4/6%

I know what you’re thinking. “But Calsong, isn’t a boost to haste for three talents points just an indirect damage increase, and therefor still a boring and passive talent?” Not so, good readers. Couple this with the trends of late WotLK and the new haste aura associated with shadowform, and we become slippery agents of darkness, favoring reckless destruction over carefully placed killing blows.

It carves out a niche without overly complicating the rotation, which is a good thing.

Now let’s talk Holy.

The biggest news on the block is the new “specialization ability”: Holy Word: Chastise. I have three immediate reactions to this ability. First, its supported in the lore for a “holy word” framework. Priests are billed as the quintessential lore-keepers of both horde and alliance, filling a key role of arbitration and oral tradition. If the nature of “shadow words” is calling upon the dark secrets of this lore to weaken resolve and test faith, and the nature of “power words” is to draw forth the strength from within someone, then our new “holy word” is about the daunting, effervescent power of the Light.

What’s the point? Doesn’t Holy do fine already?

Holy Word: Chastise *New* – Chastise the target for 563.9 to 632.71 Holy damage, and Immobilizing them for 2 sec. 15% of base mana, 30 yd range, Instant cast, 45 sec cooldown

That looks to me like the instant cast, “oh shit” button that every Holy priest needs while leveling. It also appears to be another effort to get Holy priests involved in PvP, at least in the new rated battlegrounds. Interesting!

“Alas, alack,” say the QQers (this is a dramatic reinterpretation. They actually said “QQ”) “we want holy’s signature ability to be an awesome healing spell.” Blizzard thought of this, folks:

Revelations (Tier 5) *New* – While in a Chakra state, your Holy Word: Chastise ability will transform into a different ability depending on which state you are in. Holy Word: Serenity (Heal) – Instantly heals the target for 3161.85 to 3730.47, and increases the critical effect chance of your healing spells on the target by 25% for until cancelled. 45 sec cooldown. Holy Word: Aspire (Renew) – Instantly heals the target for 2363.56 and another 4471.99 over until cancelled. 15 sec cooldown. Holy Word: Sanctuary (Prayer of Healing) – Blesses the ground with Divine light, healing all within it for 298.75 to 355.32 every 2 for 15 sec. Only one Sanctuary can be active at any one time.

That talent is a mouthful, but here’s the punchline: Holy Word is going to be the long CD powerful healing effect you need it to be, in the situation you need it.

Current WotLK has holy priests being the “jack of all trades, master of none” healer. If we’re short a druid, I assign a renew speced holy priest to pick up the slack. The power of a Prayer of Healing build can rival the chain healing of a shaman, and I’ve even seen Holy priests use Flash healing to push the HPS of a paladin.

Chakra promises to only magnify this. That’s a good thing. For those of you who only read beta changes on my blog (who are you?) Chakra has been in the beta for a while. The latest version is a pop-able cooldown:

Chakra – When activated, your next Heal, Renew, Prayer of Healing or Smite spell will put you into a corresponding Chakra state. Lasts for 30 sec.

Heal – Increases the critical effect chance of your Heal spell by 10%, and your Heal refreshes the duration of your Renew on the target.

Renew – Increases the healing done by your Renew spell by 10%, and reduces the global cooldown of your Renew spell by .5 sec.

Prayer of Healing – Increases the healing done by your area of effect spells by 10% and reduces the cooldown of your Circle of Healing by 2 sec.

Smite – Increases your total damage done by Shadow and Holy spells by 15%

Holy seems geared up for long talent descriptions this time around. The ability basically says “you want to be awesome at using renew? Fine, here’s a reduced global cooldown and more HPS to help you out.” To increase the uptime on Chakra, Holy also has:

State of Mind – Your successful Heal, Renew, Prayer of Healing or Smite spell casts increase the duration of your corresponding Chakra state by 4 sec.

This means that, with a little forethought, a priest can stay in a Chakra state for as long as is needed. With mana being a bigger issue in Cataclysm, this won’t be forever.

So Holy is shaping up to be an interesting jack-of-all-trades. My questions (and they really can’t be answered without testing raid content) are: will the healing of holy be tuned for Chakra? Will one Chakra state be obviously and consistently better? Will Holy ever truly be PvP viable?

When are they giving us the promised racial changes?

Patch Day Ponderings

17 Aug

Starcraft 2

I’ve been playing with some WoW friends and some real friends.  Our GM created a vent channel, and its seeing some action.  Custom maps are a blast, and I’m slowly developing the skills to be half decent at this game.

My friend over at Pugnacious Priest already talked about Nexus Wars, and I’ve been loving it.  I’ve also been playing Income Wars and Battlecraft, although the map for Battlecraft appears to have wandered away.

Arenas

The biggest challenge of 5v5s seems to be scheduling.  We can put together an amazing team and still get in only a few hours a week.  You can’t hit 2200 with a few hours a week.  That’s the bottom line.

Is it just me, or are serious PvPers more flaky than raiders?  The certainly tend to put more emphasis on individual skill over team efforts.

Raiding

Yes, we’re still doing it.  We threw a 10 player group together last night that got a few hard modes done with some people who had never seen them.  I forget that our guild is much farther progressed than most of the server.  We’re an establish and strong core of talented players, even if there are a few guilds who have more boss kills than us.  Its easy to evaluate a guild based exclusively on boss kill progression, but I feel like that leaves something out.

Those are my un-constructed thoughts for patch day.  I intent to (and have partially written) three new posts for later this week.  My work schedule will dictate the pace at which they get posted.