Among the many things that really sucked about bedlamhouse moving to Indiana was no longer being able to game with him every week. The D&D campaign soldiered on without him, but I really missed his presence at the table. I’m pretty sure he missed us too, because when the D&D group decided to shift from weekly to irregular status, he suggested that perhaps we could set up an MMO night so he could get in on some gaming fun.
After some discussion back and forth with the four of us who were interested, we decided on World of Warcraft as our venue (I admit to prodding this strongly, as that’s where I already have most of my gaming time invested), and we rolled up a party, as followed:
The original plan had been to start in the Draenei starting area, as they have the best quests, but it turned out Bill hadn’t picked up the Burning Crusade disks, and couldn’t get into those areas, so we ended up questing in the Dwarven starting area for our first night, before moving over to Azuremyst Isle the second week. With four players teamed up on content originally designed to be soloable, we fairly well ripped through the starting area in just 3 sessions. On the third session, we were joined by Sivala, a Night Elf Hunter played by our guild leader, who thought we were having too much fun to be left unsupervised.
Having a full party of five means that we don’t need to pick up anyone to round out the party for the five-man instanced dungeons. Getting parties together for these is really frustrating on many servers, especially ones like mine with fairly low population. There just aren’t enough people who need to do them, and even when there are, it’s hard to get the proper combination of classes to make a truly effective party. We, on the other hand, have a pretty much ideal party composition for any dungeon we care to take on, so we planned to do them all.
At eighteen, we ventured into the Deadmines, the first five man dungeon that most Alliance characters see. The instance is actually the culmination of a plotline that Human characters have been following since level one, but since none of us were human, we mostly just wanted the loot. Overall, the run went pretty well, though it was bumpy in places, as everyone was learning their new roles and only two of us were veterans of WoW, though all five of us were no strangers to MMOs in general. Sivala, having the most experience with the instance, became the de facto leader, and kept us on track as we made ou through mines. We finally got to the pirate ship and faced down Edwin VanCleef, where we suffered our only full party wipe of the night: we downed the boss, but his adds managed to wipe us out. Luckily, we got back in time to loot the body and finish the evening on a high note.
The following week, we ventured up into Silverpine forest to tackle Shadowfang Keep. Alliance actually have no quests in SFK, except for one, a class quest specifically for Paladins. Kirene was happy to get one more piece for his hammer quest, and Eucheron, the skinner in the party, was tickled that the castle was filled with skinnable enemies in the form of the worgen, wolf-like creatures summoned into this world by the wizard Aragul, who now lives in the haunted castle and provides the final challenge in the instance. This run went much better than Deadmines, in that we only had a partial wipe on the final boss. Two of us died, but there were three standing when Aragul was defeated.
Instance number three on our list was Wailing Caverns, an enclave of renegade druids which, like Shadowfang Keep, sits smack in the middle of enemy territory.. Since we are on a PvP server, that’s actually something that one must be mindful of. Wailing Caverns is not a dungeon that most Alliance do, for the same reason as they rarely do SFK — it’s primarily a Horde dungeon and Alliance haven’t really any quests there. Our thief was out of town this week, but gave us the green light to play without him, so our fifth spot was filled by another guildmate’s lowbie warrior. This was actually a great boon for us, as Zurond spent many many months playing Hordeside, and knew Wailing Caverns “like the back of his hand”. He ended up taking the lead for the party, and guided us expertly through the challenges. As luck would have it, a very nice set of blue gloves dropped which were not Bind on Pick Up, so the rogue got a nice bit of gear from the instance he didn’t get to attend. (This is profoundly rare, as the large majority of blue quality items are BoP and thus you must be present to win.)
The fourth instance on our list was the Stormwind Stockades, where the Kingdom of Stormwind keeps its most treacherous criminals. Unlike the previous two weeks, Stockades is entirely an Alliance dungeon, and there are a number of quests for the having. We were able to get all but one, which required us to be higher level than we were to take (and which really should be submitted as a bug, as the minimum level to take the quest is higher than the level you’d ideally do the instance. We did have to reset the instance after completing it, because the drop quest we needed to complete hadn’t quite provided us with enough drops to go around, but we quickly got the last few items we needed when we ventured in again. (One amusing moment at the beginning of the run, when our hunter momentarily forget that she wasn’t soloing this with her level 70 druid, and started to just run in and pull the first four rooms at once. Luckily, she caught herself in time.)
Week five found us venturing out to the west coast of Kalimdor to assay the ruins of the Night Elf temple to Elune known as Blackfathom Deeps. As I promised the party in my coordination email that week: “Murlocs. Naga. Evil Cultists. Good times.” By this stage, the team has really been learning how to work together, and we clear our way all the way to the end of the instance with no real problems at all. We were a bit annoyed, however, at the Twilight Hammer drop quest. If they’re going to make everyone collect 10 shadow pendants, then there should be at least 50 pendants in the dungeon to loot, random tables be damned. We ended up having to clear our way through the entire dungeon again after resetting it, since the cultists that drop the pendants are all the way in the back of the instance. On the plus side, the turtle boss dropped the nice mail breastplate for the Paladin on the second kill, so it wasn’t all for naught.
This week saw us back in the Barrens for Razorfen Kraul. Alliance only have four quests for this instance (two of which are picked up inside the dungeon), but neither of the two outside quests are sharable, which meant everyone had to make the trek down from Ratchet through Thousand Needles to Feralas on their own to grab the quests. Getting the quests is pretty important, because the astute reader might notice that for the last six weeks, we’ve done nothing but run instances. A few of us have run class quests on our own time, but for the most part, every experience point the five of us have gotten since level 18 has come from running these dungeons the way they were intended to be run, with five level appropriate characters. RFK is another one that alliance characters often skip, and none of us were intimately familiar with the place. We used this as an excuse to let the Pally tank learn how to mark mobs, since being the meat shield means you get to have a bigger say in the target priority. He did a pretty good job of marking, though, and we have plenty of crowd control thanks to our ideal party make up. We did, however, have our second real wipe of our short careers, when we discovered that the gophers you were given to dig up Blueleaf tubers will in fact aggro nearby mobs. We ended up with about 8 or 9 boars tearing us to pieces, and at the end of the scuffle only the rogue, who had managed to get out of combat and into stealth, was left standing. We ran back from the graveyard, cleared our way back to the point we had died, picked up the escort quest, and headed back to the front, detouring afterwards to kill a few more Quilboars until the pendant that completed the fourth and final quest dropped.
At the end of the night, our party found itself right around level 29 and thirty. Next week, we venture into the sprawling and quest-rich Gnomeregan, after which we shall see if we are prepared for the Scarlet Monastery or if we have to finally venture out into the real world for some level-boosting quests.
I’m having the time of my life. This is what games should be about.