It’s been a while since I’ve said how things have been going for me in game. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but I just haven’t.
Right now, Jana’s the only toon I do any actual PvE content with. If everything works right, I raid Throne of Thunder with her on Sunday and Monday nights for a total of about 5-6 hours. We’ve gotten 6/12 down, but in the past week (and probably the next week as well) we’ve hit roadblocks because people have been unavailable. This is the downside of not having so many people in the guild willing to raid, but it’s one I’ve learned to live with.
Throne of Thunder has been a frustrating raid experience. A big part of it is the boss fights themselves. We have yet to run across a boss that we could figure out how to down with less than, say, ten separate attempts; progression has been at best one boss a week (Jin’rokh _may_ have been an exception to this, as it might have just been a gear issue at first). Some of the bosses seem to be complicated for the sake of complications. Horridon, for instance, has four different add phases, each with different adds that do different things and require different treatment. The top kill priority changes from position to position and the reason I don’t repeat it here is because I’m not at all certain I remember it correctly. This is on top of all of the normal boss mechanics that everyone has to deal with.
The problem with the boss fights, as I see them, are that they are complicated but not interesting. Once one knows what to do and how to execute it, the fight becomes relatively easy. It’s the process of learning the complicated mechanics and priorities, not on skillful execution of basic principles. Consider the Lich King normal fight in Wrath, one of the most complicated fights in that expansion. That fight could be reduced to five stages, with each stage having a couple different things (e.g., defile, val’kyr) that required reaction and execution. My experience with that fight was that, both as a tank and a dps, you had to go beyond understanding the principles of the fight and actually figure out how to do your best at executing those principles. The principles were generally easier to get but the execution harder. Fights in MoP seem to be the opposite; the principles seem to be very difficult to pick up, but once you do, execution is a breeze.
The real problem with Throne of Thunder, though, is the trash. There is just too damned much of it, a lot of it serving no real purpose at all. For some reason Blizzard has decided to give trash mobs zillions of health, so each fight instead of taking maybe fifteen seconds as it did in Wrath, now takes minutes. There are now mini-bosses that don’t drop any loot of any sort, provide mechanics along the lines of a typical dungeon boss, and take a long time to kill. None of it is terribly interesting, but it takes up far too much raid time to do. I don’t mind trash if it is interesting, illustrates a boss mechanic or is relatively slight in number (hopefully all three). But the trash in Throne of Thunder reminds me of those “fun loops” those people, who were trying to argue that Blizzard was being unethical in Warcraft, were using as the basis for their argument. They’re not fun, they’re just pains in the asses and it’s the sort of thing that makes me nod when I hear about subscriber loss.
Note: I’m not saying that any significant amount of WoW subscriber loss is because of raid trash. Rather, I look at the raid trash and I wonder if Blizzard has forgotten how to make something fun, which probably extends to a lot of other elements of the game.
So PvE is frustrating. I have a few specific frustrations (one, for instance, is that the best weapon for me in ToT has spirit on it. Why?) I feel like I’m playing very badly of late, in that I can’t execute things, lag is getting to me, and I can never get a crit when I need one. If PvE were all I was doing, I may well have quit by now.
But I don’t. I RP also, and here’s some updates on that. Note that some of these stories contain more mature topics, so if you’re not interested in RP or that sort of thing, stop reading now.
My RP of late has also focused on Jana. She’s easily my most developed character and the one with the best description, so it’s fun to play off that with new people. One of the minor frustrations I’ve had is that a lot of her RP tends to be of the revolving door variety. I can have a lot of fun with one RP with one person but then we never RP again for whatever reason. I can’t quite pick it out and I’m sure it has more to do with me than with them. There just didn’t seem to be much reason to return to the RP and it was more interesting to see how Jana works with a new person than to develop any specific RP.
I’m trying to break that cycle though, in part because I do actually want to get further than one day’s RP and in part because I want to develop Jana as a character. So one thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is what I think of as “storyteller RP”. That’s where I, as Jana, control a couple of different characters that form the basis of the story and other people play parts within that story. I generally control the development of the story.
The RP involves a former love of Jana’s named Bronlissa. If you follow my deviantart page, you have some idea of who Bronlissa is. She is an extraordinarily powerful Sayaad. The story behind their relationship is one that I’ve always thought to be interesting.
About five and a half years ago, Jana encountered a warlock named Illadra that took an interest to her. Jana was not at all interested in him: he was at best a two-bit warlock who thought too much of himself, was otherwise socially awkward and wasn’t that handsome either. Unfortunately for Jana, Illadra became fascinated with Jana and had the extreme luck of getting Bronlissa for a succubus when he summoned one. Bronlissa was much more powerful than Illadra (and more powerful than Jana, even then), but was forced by the warlock spell into serving him. Illadra ordered Bronlissa to seduce Jana and she did, very effectively, by warping her mind when Jana was sleeping and becoming able to control her memories, pain and pleasure centers.
Illadra had fun with this for a month, often forcing Bronlissa to force Jana into embarrassing situations, or just watching Bronlissa perform. The problem for Illadra was that Bronlissa was chafing about being under the control of someone so petty minded, and that while Illadra controlled Bronlissa and Bronlissa controlled Jana, Illadra did not control Jana directly. This allowed Bronlissa to hatch a plan, one in which she would control Jana in order to kill Illadra. A month after her introduction to Jana, Jana and Bronlissa succeeded in killing Illadra. This freed Bronlissa, but she maintained her control over Jana.
For the next four months, Bronlissa went on a spree against warlocks, using Jana both as bait and to ensure that she could not be ensnared by a warlock’s power. Thus her power grew and grew, while Jana’s spirit began to fade. While Illadra was alive, Bronlissa and Jana had formed a bond as partners against a common enemy, and this bond continued even as Bronlissa maintained Jana under her thrall. At the end of the four months, Jana was desperate and hatched a plan designed to gain her freedom back.
Jana told Bronlissa that she loved her, and she wanted to be with her for the rest of their lives. This had the virtue of being true; perhaps Jana was suffering from Stockholm syndrome, or perhaps she just admired Bronlissa’s admitted beauty, strength, intelligence and persistence. Either way, Jana told Bronlissa that she wanted to be her partner and wanted to love her as an equal, which would mean freeing Jana from Bronlissa’s mechanisms of control. Bronlissa was skeptical at first, but then revealed that she too was in love with Jana, something rarely experienced by a Sayaad. She freed Jana from her control, promising to love her as an equal.
Jana then killed Bronlissa with a vicious fireball, reducing Bronlissa to ashes. Jana would justify this bit to herself and others by claiming that she could never trust Bronlissa not to retake control and that it was the only way to ensure her independence.
Fast forward five years. Jana has not had any relationship success in all that time. She has been successful in other endeavors but hasn’t found a partner. She thinks about Bronlissa a lot and has come to believe that she made a mistake when she killed her; living under her control would have been better than not having her at all.
Bronlissa, meanwhile, has done what many denizens of the Warcraft universe do when they get killed: she razzed and bided her time, bruised by Jana’s rejection and considering her next move.
The RP I’m currently working on is one in which Bronlissa makes her next move, reappearing in Jana’s life. As you might imagine, Bronlissa’s a bit peeved at Jana. In order for the RP to work, though, Bronlissa can’t just simply want to kill Jana. I am wavering between having her really care deep down for Jana and want some sort of reconciliation on her terms, or just wanting to torture her into a very painful submission and death.
Jana is similarly conflicted. On the one hand, her fears were very real when she made that decision to kill Bronlissa. But as the years have gone by, Jana’s gotten lonely and no one has really measured up. She’s come to feel a great deal of regret for what she did, and even if it were justified she recognizes that it was a pretty wicked thing to do to someone you loved. Jana’s very conflicted and will feel that she’s about to get the punishment that is due her.
So this is where I began with this scenario, and I’ve tried it out with a few people to varying degrees of success. One problem that I have noted is that a few people just can’t abide an RP where someone else is more powerful than they are. This is true despite the RP never getting adversarial to any extent, and the person never being put at risk of anything. For a few people, the focus of the RP became about how to defeat Bronlissa, something I never really intended at all. The RP is about the relationship between Bronlissa and Jana and how that develops. At one point I thought part of the fun would be for Bronlissa to use other people to turn against Jana, but that requires a bit of depth or a bit of humility on the part of the other person, because people are naturally more sympathetic to Jana than they are to Bronlissa the demon. (This is true despite the fact that Jana is very clearly, IMO, in the wrong in this relationship.)
Fortunately there have been a few people that have a more progressive outlook on the RP and I’ve managed to bring it along with them. I think it’s been quite fun for me, and quite different in parts where I’m essentially telling a story rather than having an interaction with another person out there (during the times in which Jana and Bronlissa are acting and reacting to each other. And I do have some direction where I think I can take it, though I’m not sure how far I could get with just one person and whether I can meaningfully include other people along the ride. I hope I can.
Anyway, that’s what has been going on. I’m looking forward to the continuation of the Bronlissa RP, because it’s been a lot of fun and I feel it will help Jana develop as a character. As for the raiding stuff, I really hope it gets better. Right now I have the sense that we’re one bad week away from our raid team breaking up, and that’s a bad feeling.