Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update on Fable:The Lost Chapters

Tonight my "Assassin" looked at the Quest Table in the Heroes Guild and there was just one Quest available. Last night I'd seen that quest and taken it to be the opposite of the one I actually took, which was to free some Trader hostages from the Bandits' camp. That would be the same camp which I'd just infiltrated in order to talk to the mysterious Seeress, who was rumored to have information on my long ago abducted sister.

*LONG SPOILER*

Once I got inside the Bandit camp it turned out that the Seeress didn't just have information on my sister, she was my sister. Apparently our mother was a powerful Hero and both Sis and I inherited our powers from her. In Sis's case, because she dared to defy the Bandits and silently stared at them, refusing to answer their questions, they cut her eyes out and left her for dead. She was found by another group of bandits and taken in by them, and when her injuries had healed it was discovered that with the distraction of visual sight gone, Sis's ability to see the future had emerged. Because I was a Hero the Bandit Chief challenged me to a duel, and I soundly defeated him, but as he stood there gasping, he pitifully begged for his life. I listened to his appeal, "Please, spare me. The bandits will never follow me now. Isn't that punishment enough?"

I looked around at the circle of bandits whose flashing blades I'd seen behind me, more than once, as I'd dodged their Chief's own blades during our earlier duel. "Please, spare me." I heard the Chief say again. I backed up into the entrance of his tent, drew my crossbow, took aim, and dispatched the nearest bandit. Perhaps fearing he'd be next (and he was right) his neighbor charged me, and fell to my blades. It took several seconds for all of the bandits to realize what was happening, and like a bad Kung Fu movie they charged towards me in ones and twos, and I quickly dispatched them, and then it was just me and Twinblade, the Bandit Chief, who still pathetically begged for his life. Although he'd saved my sister's life so long ago when she'd been left for dead, I did not show him the same kindness.

After apparently destroying the Bandit's camp I returned to the Guild where I saw the two quests. One to rescue three Traders from the Bandits, the other (what I figured the evil, flip side of the rescue quest) was to kill the Guards and Traders in another village. Hmm, I'm supposed to be getting in with the Bandits in order to find my sister...but...it looks like she's doing just fine on her own now, so...let's rescue those Traders. Believing I'd just wiped out their camp I figured this mission would be a cakewalk, but when I returned to the camp I found it still occupied. So more bandits died and the Traders were freed.

That was when I noticed the quest to kill the guards and traders in the other village was still on the table. Hmm, so it wasn't the "evil" choice of the two after all. Feeling particularly evil I accepted the quest, and went and slew some Guards and helpless Traders. This would not be my only "evil" act of the night, because returning to the Quest Table I found it empty, but then remembered I still had a Quest in my Log.

The Arena.

The place where Heroes become Legends.

I entered the Arena and with a combination of Sword and Spell (& quaffing numerous potions) I defeated round after round of beasties, and then Whisper appeared, my childhood rival from the Heroes Guild. Only now she was fighting beside me as we slew numerous beasts, skeletons, trolls, and finally, a giant scorpion creature, and then it was just Whisper and me.

Whisper.

Whose claims that she was the superior Hero, despite the results of our training day duels, seemed more than just sour grapes.

Whisper.

Whose big brother, Thunder, was seen badmouthing me in town, was heard putting down my heroic feats. "Come to play with the other children, have you?" he said to me derisively.

Whisper.

Who foolishly said to me, as we stood there facing each other, "I won't kill you. I refuse to kill you."

Whisper, I don't share your compassion.

Fable actually makes it very easy for a normally altruistic person to cross the line. And cross it I did.

When Whisper finally stood before me, head bowed, pleading for me to just walk away, that I didn't have to do this...I did it anyway, and the crowd roared my name as I stood over her broken body. And it was GLORIOUS!!!

This could explain why I loved playing a Rogue in WoW's PvP ;)

When I exited the Arena the only thing between Thunder and I was Lady Grey, the Mayor of Bowerstone.

For some reason Thunder seemed to feel that my killing his sister, in the Arena, in a fight to the death, somehow amounted to Murder.

Lady Grey disagreed, and saved Thunder's life by not letting the big brute make a mistake he'd regret, but I just know I'll be helping him reunite with his sister before this game is done. I can feel it. Oh yes, I can!

I took my Arena Champion's purse containing over 30,000 gold (enough to buy a house in Bowerstone, if I'm not mistaken) and left the Arena where I was greeted by my adoring fans.

Murderer? Moi? Thunder, you are gravely mistaken, and if you persist in spreading such rumors I'm afraid we'll have to settle this in the Arena.

To paraphrase Ash, "Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the sword."

What an opener

Let's see that imitation Aussie top this!
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you...
Hugh Jackman's opening performance of the 2009 Oscars!

Anne Hathaway isn't half bad, either ;)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fable, and moral choices in PC games

I got Fable:The Lost Chapters on the weekend. Like Fallout 3, F:TLC (and Fable II) offers the player a moral choice. "How do you want to play the game?" But unlike F3, F:TLC appears to offer a more realistic choice.

In F3 when you entered Megaton and encountered the Sheriff your conversation responses ranged from polite and respectful to arrogant ass. IMO a non-response doesn't really qualify as an "evil" response, it could also mean you're the strong, silent type.

But with F:TLC you have a real choice.

I wish I could remember the post I read on someone's Blog (or I'd link it here) about how people with strong, moral compasses may have trouble playing F3 with an evil character, choosing "evil" responses. Games like Grand Theft Auto are easier to play because they give you little to no choice. You're Tommy Vercetti, a mafioso who just got out of prison and is being asked to run the Vice City syndicate. If you want to progress through the game, you don't really have a choice as to how you play it. You follow linear quests and the story unfolds.

F:TLC, however, offers you a choice, starting with your very first quests.

A young girl asks you to find her bear, and when you do, you're given a choice of siding with the bully who's already mentioned he planned to pull the bear's head off, or siding with a younger child who has the bear, and beating up the bully.

When a villager asks you to guard his wares another child wanders up and encourages you to smash the unguarded barrels to see what's in them.

When you find a philandering husband you're given a choice of accepting a gold piece to keep quiet, or telling the cheater's wife what you saw.

All very real choices, and almost opposite sides of the coin. Not goody two shoes versus ass, but good guy versus bad guy.

Then when you find yourself in the Guild of Heroes, choosing your first quest for them, you're again presented with a very real choice. You actually have a choice of two quests but you can only accept one because the goal of each is contrary to the other.

A local Farmer has some valuable stones in his possession and is being attacked by Bandits intent on stealing them. You have a choice of defending the farm and fighting off the bandits, or protecting the bandits while they steal the stones. Interestingly (IMO) the person behind the quest to steal the stones is none other than a local Mayor.

I chose to defend the farm, and as I've leveled up I've been putting points into martial combat and physical strength. But having played Fallout3 through as a "good guy" and been unable to restart it playing through as an ass, I've decided to restart F:TLC and play the "evil" side first, focusing on becoming more of an Assassin-style character.

Why?

Because F:TLC has a key plot device which makes it easy for someone with a strong moral compass to play the bad side.

*SPOILER* Very early in the game your village is attacked by Bandits, your father is slain, and your mother and sister are taken prisoner. You are rescued by Maze who takes you to the Guild of Heroes, which is where the meat & potatoes of the game starts. How does this help a "good" person play an evil character in F:TLC? Quite simply, you're going to do whatever it takes to rescue your sister. As Bandits are the ones who took her away, it could be argued that the best way to rescue your sister is to become a Bandit yourself, infiltrate their network, and eventually destroy them from within. And if you happen to become corrupted by the dark side along the way, that's only to be expected.

It's like the post I made about the Torture Quest in WoW. You could have been presented with two Quests, one to torture the prisoner to extract the desired information, and one to help him escape, gain his trust, and get the information that way. That's a real choice, and F:TLC offers you choices like that.

While F:TLC may not have the polish of WoW, it's still a very good looking game, and combat is fun (at least in the early stages) without being a nightmare. But as far as offering the player choices on how to proceed through the game and develop their character, F:TLC wins hands down. All this, for a shade more than the price of one month of WoW. Bargain!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Motivation

I'll admit it, I may be a bloody genius but I'm also a lazy bastard, and sometimes I need a kick in the pants to get me going. So I made myself a motivational poster, and damned if it doesn't get the job done. Being a considerate, lazy genius, I thought I'd share, in case anyone else needs a slap upside the head, too ;)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NCIS

Yeah, I'm an NCIS Fanbois, and a dorky one at that, with my satchel strap across my chest. (Idiot! Take your bag off next time! Whadda ya trying to do? Ruin an excellent fan pic?)

Gibb's famous black Dodger Charger

He was driving it earlier that day, Mark Harmon was, that is. He drives just like Gibbs too, which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Per Crucifer's request here's more on my NCIS encounter.

* * *

On Tuesday our HR Rep forwarded a Memo from Building Mgmt. about filming that would be taking place in our building the next day. A month or two back the Heroes crew had been by so I opened this one to see if they were back or....NCIS??? OMG!!!!

Yep, it was kind of like that ;)

Actually when I'd arrived for work that morning a crew was already setting up, and it didn't occur to me later when I got the Memo that NCIS were already here because big productions rarely shoot for just one day.

I was in a late afternoon meeting when I heard a pitched gun battle from the alley. Easily 10 or 12 shots were fired, which is unusual for NCIS. Up until that point none of NCIS' gun fights (at least none I'd seen) had run that long, most were over after the exchange of just a few shots. (*edit* They were filming ep. 6.20 Dead Reckoning, and this was the opening scene's gun fight involving Trent Kort)

Today Liz came into downtown to join me for lunch (& hopefully see someone ;) so when she called to tell me she was almost there I headed downstairs where I found a crew out on the sidewalk. From where I stood I could see Michael Weatherly (aka DiNozzo) chatting with a couple of folks. A minute or so later a crew member came over and asked me and a couple of other people standing next to the alley to move back, because Mark Harmon was going to be driving into the alley hard & fast, just like his alter-ego 'Gibbs' :)

Sure enough Mark emerged from the alley and as a cop directed traffic around them he walked out and got into the familiar black Dodge Charger. When they were ready the cop stopped a couple of cars to give them room and with that "Gibbs" emerged, the Charger roared, and with tires screeching it hammered into and down the alley and out of view.

I chatted with the crew member and found out they were about to break for lunch themselves, but he told me where they'd be shooting afterward, which was just a couple of blocks from where I'd be catching my bus.

Liz arrived as they were getting ready for another take, and she actually drove past Mark & Michael in their car. If she'd come along a minute or so earlier or later she would have been stopped by the cop and had an excellent view of Gibbs doing what he does best: driving like a maniac :P

Instead she picked me up then did a "Gibbs U-Turn" of her own, right in front of the man himself.

Without enough room for her Highlander to get all the way around in one shot and with oncoming traffic quickly approaching, Liz was forced to drive up onto the sidewalk to complete her U-turn. As she pulled back out onto the road we passed Michael and Mark still sitting on the other side of the road. The driver's window was down and Mark was looking right at us.

In Liz's words, "I didn't know until I made the turn and I was facing him when I was finished. He flashed his famous grin at me. *swoon*"

I don't know if Michael made a comment to him about how "she drives just like you", but Mark really was looking right at Liz and he had a big grin on his face.

After lunch Liz dropped me back at work. The crew were still on their own lunch break so Liz went on home.

At the end of the day I swung by the second location and while walking down the street I saw the Charger first, then Cote de Pablo (Ziva) chatting with a few guys. When I got closer and was finally able to take my eyes off her :P I realized Michael was standing beside her. On meeting Cote in person it was very hard to picture her as diamond-hard Ziva. She is a strikingly attractive woman.

I had to interrupt their conversation with two crew members (who I found out later were Donald Bellisario and his assistant) but they were really good about me intruding on their work. When I asked if I could get a photo Donald said sure, waved his hand and stood back.

Suddenly nervous I stammered & stuttered but managed to convey that I wanted my picture taken with Cote and Michael. Thinking back I have the impression that Donald knew what I wanted all along and was just messing with me. I handed over my camera but he passed it on to his assistant. When I stepped up to Cote and Michael they parted so I could stand between them, and when I did, Cote put her arm around my waist. I'm not joking. Seriously! Look how she's leaning into me! So I returned the favor and did the same to both her and Michael ;) I'm not sure what he thought about that, although it shouldn't have come as a surprise to him, I mean he is a good looking guy ;) We may be the same age but he's aged a heck of a lot better than I have :D

After the photo was taken Cote demanded photo-approval rights before letting me go, which got her a ribbing and a friendly shove from Michael. Clearly their onscreen chemistry is mirrored off screen as well, although rumor has it that while Cote would like their characters to hook up, Michael is averse to that idea.

I asked if Mark was still around and was told he'd already left. I mentioned that I'd seen him driving into the alley near my work that morning and told Michael he was taking his life in his hands when he rode with Mark. (Yeah, my nerves were calm now. I was shooting the breeze with Ziva and DiNozzo ;)

"Every day," Michael said with a laugh. "Every single day!"

And that was it. Off I went to catch my bus, and send Liz a text message: "No Gibbs, he'd already left. But I did get a photo of his car. I also got a photo of me with DiNozzo...and ZIVA!!!"

Her reply was short and direct: "U sux!"

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

It's official

Ever wondered what I sound like? Do I really talk like a Pirate? Ever wanted to fall asleep as I read you a bedtime story? (Please don't say Yes to that last one. That would be kind of creepy.)

In conjunction with Saylah of Mystic Worlds, (& a couple of other Bloggers), we're putting together a series of Podcasts where we'll be doing readings of our own stories.

So if you've a mind to hear my voice so maybe you can imagine me reading my Blog entries to you (again with the creepy), just head on over to the temporary home of our Podcasts and click the links you find there.

And in case you're wondering, yes, I will also (eventually) be doing a reading of my last entry, "Becoming the Hunter". I'm also currently working on another Kwazimoto story. Got to have material for the Podcasts, you know.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Becoming the Hunter

A post/story from Pike about her Hunter finding the Raptor she'd set free so long ago prompted me to write this fictional piece on my own Hunter, Kwazimoto, as he learns the basic skills of the Hunter class, then sets out to find the animal that would become his lifelong companion.

As in Kwazimoto and the Demon, I've used actual names and places from the World of Warcraft to recreate this story of how Kwazimoto became a Hunter.

* * *

The young Dwarf seemed proud of himself as he trotted up the hill towards Grif Wildheart. The old Hunter looked down at his latest student who, like many of those that had preceded him, now had an Ice Bear cub hot on his heels.

Although just a cub the Ice Bear was still big enough and strong enough to be capable of dispatching a young Dwarf, like the very one which led it to the old Hunter, but the dazed look in the bear’s eyes told Grif it didn't fully understand what had happened to it, or what compelled it to follow the young Hunter who, although half its size, had somehow bent it to his will.

In any Pack there can be only one Alpha, Grif mused to himself, although most folks will look at a pack and say, 'There's the Alpha Male, and his mate, the Alpha Female.' But truth is only one of them is the Alpha. If the Alpha is the Male then the Female is not a true Alpha, for like the rest of the pack she too must bow to the Male, and if the Female is the Alpha, then the Male must submit to her as does the rest of the pack.

Prior to sending his student out, Grif had passed on these words of wisdom: The secret to Taming a Beast is that in each pack there can be only one Alpha. You must challenge the Beast, and stand firm against its attacks. If you stand firm long enough then the Beast has no choice but to concede victory to you. But you must stand firm! The Beast must be made to see that its attacks are futile, for you are stronger, because you are Alpha.

With the dazed Ice Bear cub in tow Grif could see that this young Dwarf...What was his name again? Kawasaki? Kozimodo? Kwazimoto! That was it. This Kwazimoto (strange name for a Dwarf) he had what it took to be a Hunter. He was an Alpha, and the Ice Bear behind him was testament to that.

"Ye've done well, Kwazimoto," said Grif. "Ye've proved yer have a way with animals, and ye've tamed the three beasties just as I asked yer to. Yer well on yer way to becoming a Hunter, but afore you go rushing off, Taming Beast willy nilly, stop by Ironforge first. Ye'll be lookin' to speak to Belia Thundergranite. If she's not in the Military Ward, she'll probably be talking shop with Bretta Goldfury. Actually, it wouldn't hurt for ye to get to know Bretta, either. I've a feeling you'll be wanting to stop by and visit Ms. Goldfury most every time yer in Ironforge." Grif winked at the young and confused Dwarf, before continuing. "Very popular lady with the Hunters, she is. Now, off you go. NO! NOT YOU, YOUNG CUB!"

Grif's voice changed so suddenly, became so powerful, and so commanding, that Kwazi stopped dead in his tracks, as did the Ice Bear cub, which was the real target of Grif's order.

"Yah!" Grif yelled, and both Dwarf and Bear looked up at him in astonishment.

"Gwan! Giddouttaheah!" Grif clapped his hands and the sharp sound was like a peal of thunder to the two mesmerized creatures, and they both took off as fast as their legs could carry them. While the Bear galloped south into the hills, the young Dwarf bolted north out of Kharanos towards Ironforge, Belia Thundergranite, and his next lesson on the road to becoming a Hunter.

* * *

"So ye see, young man," said Belia, "because yer the Alpha, yer companion relies on you. He looks up to you not just for leadership, but for life. He relies on you for food, shelter, and protection. And if yer not going to look after yer animal companion, I've just wasted the better part of three hours with ye, so ye might as well just head on over there to him *snort* and become a warrior." Belia blew through her nose as she shrugged and looked in the direction of Kelv Sternhammer. "How about it? Ye want to mingle with the likes of him? Or do ye want to be a Hunter? Now go! I've taught ye all ye need to know...for now."

* * *

Kwazi sat just outside Steelgrill's Depot, looking down on the Steam Tanks. Although a light snow was falling on him the warm body curled up next to the dwarf kept him quite warm, and his hand absently stroked the Snow Wolf's fur. The Wolf was the third beast Kwazi had befriended this day, but it, like the Bear and the Snow Leopard before it, just didn't feel right. He enjoyed having the animals beside him; he could feel the call of the wild. He knew he was destined to be a Hunter, not a muscle bound oaf of a Warrior, but he needed to find the right animal for him. Kwazi needed his kindred spirit.

"Go, boy!" he ordered the Wolf, and it looked up at him, confused. The Wolf also enjoyed being with the Dwarf, its new Alpha, and the sense of belonging it got from being with the Dwarf gave it a feeling of security it hadn't known while living in the foothills of Dun Morogh. And now its Alpha wanted to send it away? The Wolf looked to where Kwazimoto was pointing and at that instant, a white rabbit burst out of a snow bank and bounded away.

"Go!" Kwazi repeated, and the Wolf's predator instincts took over and it leaped to its feet and began loping after the rabbit. Kwazi watched the chase for several seconds, until both animals disappeared among the swirling snow drifts, then he climbed to his feet and strode off in the opposite direction. Before too long the dark shape of the Kharanos Inn loomed into view, and Kwazi's belly rumbled.

“Time for a big bowl of rabbit stew,” he said to himself, “and maybe a pint or three of Thunder Ale.”

Perhaps his friend Jarven would be in, he could use the company. Perhaps? Kwazi, chuckled to himself. When was Jarven not in the Kharanos Inn? Why, he practically lived off the Inn's Thunder Ale.

Sure enough, Kwazi entered the Inn and a smile creased his face as he heard Jarven's booming voice ring out, "Hey there, Belm! Give me a mug of Thunder Ale, and one for my good friend...Kwazimoto?"

"Better make that two, Belm," laughed Kwazi. "You know how Jarven loves his Thunder Ale."

The two friends sat down at a table in front of the fire, clinked mugs, and Kwazi took a long pull. "Ah, that sure does hit the spot," he said. He lowered his mug to see Jarven pushing another one his way, while looking at Kwazi's half full mug with disgust.

"Come on! Drink up, man!" said Jarven, as he raised his own second mug of Thunder Ale. Kwazi took another long pull, slammed his empty mug down on the table, and heard Jarven call for two more mugs.

"Slow down, Jarven," said Kwazi, "I've not even touched my second mug yet."

"Aye, yer gettin' slow in yer old age, Kwazi." said his friend.

Kwazi gasped. "Old? Who are you calling old? You've got two seasons on me, you old coot!"

"Ha ha, it's good to see you again, Kwazi," laughed Jarven. "So, what brings you back to Kharanos? I didn’t expect to see you for at least another ten-day."

Kwazi explained his morning's actions to his friend. How he'd tamed several beasts but none of them had seemed quite right for him.

"Now this!" stated Jarven. "This sounds like a problem I can help you with! There's no problem too big, or too small, that cannot be solved by a liberal application of more Thunder Ale!" Jarven positively bellowed the last three words, and Belm rushed over to keep his best customer happy.

"Belm," said Kwazi, "bring me a bowl of stew, and some cornbread while you're at it."

"Bah! Stew and cornbread?" snorted Jarven. "What do ya want to go filling your belly with that stuff for, when there's still plenty more Thunder Ale."

Ignoring Jarven, Kwazi continued, "And Belm? A couple of plates of those Boar Ribs, too."

"Now those I can appreciate!" said Jarven. "There's nothing better than me brother's famous Beer Basted Boar Ribs, except maybe..."

Kwazi joined Jarven in finishing his sentence, "...more Thunder Ale!"

The two friends laughed then settled in for an afternoon of eating and drinking, while outside the storm picked up, adding even more snow to the almost constant layer of white powder covering the ground, for in this part of the country it almost always seemed to be snowing, regardless of the time of year.

* * *

It was late into the evening when Kwazi signaled Belm. "I think I'm going to be needing a bed for the night," he said. He smiled at Jarven, who lay asleep with his head on the table, surrounded by dozens of empty, foam-covered mugs. "You'll be paying for that lot in the morning," he said as he stood. The room spun, and he almost sat straight back down again. "Woah! As I will be too!" he added, catching the edge of the table and hanging on for dear life. When the room had stopped spinning Kwazi wobbled off through the kitchen and downstairs, to where a soft bed and a warm fire waited for him.

And with his Hunter lessons still fresh in his mind, is it any surprise that Kwazi's dreams were filled with countless Beasts, all clamoring for his attention? All except one, that is.

As the beasts of his dream pushed around him and fought with each other, one magnificent animal sat back from the rest. And while all the other animals growled and yipped and howled and roared and tried to catch his eye, the one beast that had Kwazi’s undivided attention ignored him, as it licked a huge orange paw and brushed it over one black and orange ear. Then switching paws it washed the other ear. And all the while it ignored the Hunter.

The other animals fell silent, then, as is the way of dreams when you pay them no mind, they vanished. Not with a pop, or a bang, or in a flash of smoke; they simply ceased to be. And then there was just the Hunter, and the Tiger, which stopped washing itself to stare at Kwazi for several, very long seconds, before dismissing him and resuming its bath.

A loud roar from behind the Hunter finally accomplished what he could not. Something behind Kwazi finally had the Tiger's attention.

"Just a dream, just a dream, just a dream," Kwazi told himself, as he tried to will himself awake. But he remained in his dream land. As he stared at the Tiger in front of him he felt the very warm, almost moist air of something breathing down the back of his neck. Literally down. Whatever was behind the Dwarf was tall enough that its hot breath was coming from at least a full foot above his head.

A second roar from behind Kwazi coated the back and top of his head with warm spittle. "What's...behind me...Tiger?" muttered Kwazi. The Tiger looked at Kwazi, then looked up behind him, and from the look in its eyes Kwazi figured whatever was behind him was big. Really big. He reached for his rifle but his dream self appeared to have misplaced it.

And then the Tiger leaped.

Kwazi ducked as the Tiger flew over his head and crashed into the something behind him, which let out more roars. Higher pitched “I'm in pain!” roars. Kwazi turned to discover the ‘something’ was a Raptor. His Tiger had the lizard by the throat, preventing it from bringing its own fearsome jaws into play, but the claws from both animals still raked at each other, and fur and leathery hide was shredded and running with blood.

Kwazi took a step back then raised his rifle to his shoulder. He didn’t ask where it had come from, this was a dream, and these things just are. Pulling his rifle in tight he looked down the barrel, waiting for his shot. The fight in front of him was chaotic and brutal, as both animals twisted and turned trying to gain the upper hand. Despite the blood covering their bodies the Tiger’s black and orange coloring stood out against the iridescent purple sheen of the Raptor, and it was the purple Kwazi needed to focus on.

Not the orange, focus on the purple. That’s where your shot is, he told himself. And then, after several long, agonizing seconds, there it was. For a heartbeat he had a clear shot, but that was all the time he needed. His rifle roared, flame belched from the muzzle, and black smoke obliterated both beasts, and when it finally cleared the Tiger was sitting there, alone, again ignoring Kwazi as it calmly and methodically washed itself.

* * *

Kwazi opened his eyes and sat up. The fire in his room had died down, but the room was still warm. He yawned and stretched and looked around. Some time during the night Jarven had found his way downstairs and into the other bed. Kwazi’s internal clock told him it was early, that the sun was not yet up although dawn was not far away.

As he quietly dressed he thought about the animal in his dream. A Tiger? It was a magnificent beast, and you never saw any of them this far north. Down south, though. In the jungles on the other side of Duskwood, now there be Tigers. But the tigers of Stranglethorn were huge beasts, and Kwazi was just a young Hunter with a lot to learn; he was not yet ready to venture into the Vale.

The only other place Kwazi knew where such tigers could be found was even further away than Stranglethorn. Across the ocean, the Echo Isles off the coast of Durotar was home to a small pride of Tigers. With their island being so small, and with such limited food supply, the tigers of Echo Isles were not as big as their Stranglethorn cousins; they’d be perfect for a young Hunter with the heart of a Tiger.

Kwazi muttered to himself, “I guess it’s time to see Kalimdor, see how the other half lives. Let’s see now. Boat from Menethil Harbor, come down through the Elfs’ lands and into the Barrens. Head down to Ratchet, then slip up the coast to the Echo Isles. Couldn’t be any easier, even if I were a Rogue.”

“Whazzat? Say sumppin?” Jarven mumbled.

“Go back to sleep, old friend. I’ll be seein’ ya later.”

“Hey. Who you callin’ old?” Jarven muttered, even as he rolled over and resumed snoring.

Kwazi slipped quietly from the room and out of the Inn, and headed east, towards the North Gate Pass, to Loch Modan, the Wetlands, and Menethil Harbor, where he’d catch the ship that would take him far from his homeland, and into the wild, Horde-controlled lands of Kalimdor.

Maybe I’ll stop off at Darnassus first, he mused to himself. See what all the fuss is over these Night Elf women. And all over some silly dance they do.
(Click here for part II)

Fun (& grouping) in W101

Other than in the handful of Instances in each zone, W101 doesn't really let you group up, which is why it's amusing (to me) that this weekend I did more grouping in W101 than I have during the entire game. Don't get me wrong, I've ran a couple of Instances with other players, I even PUGd The Sunken City, but this weekend was something different.
For once I saw quite a few folks running around Moo Shu & Hametsu Village, I even befriended a couple of them, and because they were able to hold a decent conversation during combat (thus proving their maturity level), I even let them stay on my Friends List. I make it a habit to prune out people on my (& JE's) Friends' List who look like slackers. They'd be the ones who are very low level and so probably want a free ride to Marleybone or Moo Shu, or whose extra information cannot be access from the Friends List (highlight a Friend in your List, then click that little left-pointing arrow in the bottom left corner of their Friend Frame), which I assume implies they're on a Trial Account. I don't know if that's true or not, but they get deleted anyway.

Late last week I'd quested briefly with one player, Joseph, then offered to beat a minor Boss with him but he'd had to log off; him I let stay on my Friends List. On Saturday I ran into another new Friend, Jacob, and by coincidence, we were up to the same Questing stage in that area. We chatted and discovered we needed to kill the same Mobs, farm the same Quest Drops, beat the same minor Boss, etc. So Jacob and I ran around together for a couple of hours double-teaming all our quests, which not only made things a little more pleasant than solo killing, but also sped up the process, too. If you need to kill 12 Mobs for a Quest, on your own you'll be fighting 2 Mobs, but with a partner you face 3 Mobs. That's 4 fights with a partner compared to 6 on your own, and with a partner the Odds are tipped a little more in your favor, too. 3 vs 2 is still not a fair fight, but it's more fair than 2 on 1.

So Jacob and I ran around questing together and during the course of conversation it came out that he's married like me, and also has a son who plays W101. Like most MMOs, W101 is a lot more fun when you have a mature (not necessarily older, just mature) player to hang out with.

Later Jacob logged out to go to a Superbowl Party, but I stayed on, quested a bit more, and got a bit ahead of him. Liz and I had the game on ourselves but I wasn't too attached to either the Steelers or the Cardinals, so, meh. Interesting commercial? Sure, I'll watch for a few seconds. Interception? 100-yard TD Return? Show me the replay! But the entire game? Meh.

The kids came home and JE jumped into the game but he's discovered the new PvP Arena, so I indulged him and joined him for a Duel. For some reason we signed up for 3v3, even though it was just the two of us, meaning we needed a PUG for a 3rd...and we got your stereotypical MMO PUG player.

While a player on the other team apologized to her team mates for bringing her PvE Deck, our PUG guy was talking Trash. Another one of their players was decked out similar to Saylah in her new Kitty Cat Cap, so I complimented her on her outfit. Our PUG guy thought that was hilarious.

With our opponents being in Oni gear they all had well over 2,000HP, and two of them were even close to 3,000. By contrast I was the only Wizard on our team with over 2,000HP, and I wasn't over by a lot. I didn't like our chances of winning, but I figured we were here to have fun (well I was) so let's give it our best!

After several rounds of buffing & debuffing, and various attacks, both JE and our opponents' lowest HP Wizard were knocked out and reeling. (Players reduced to zero HP can still be revived if they don't Flee and another Player can Heal them.) Our PUG guy threw a HOT onto JE bringing him back into the game, for about 2 seconds until one of their Wizards hit us with Meteor, an AOE, which took JE straight back out again.

"We're going to lose," our PUG guy whined.

Then he Fled.

Leaving me to face two Wizards, both with close to 3,000HP. And then they brought their third player back.

Meanwhile our PUG guy ran around the Arena as a spectator, jeering at us, and cheering for our (& his former) opponents. I took the high ground and made the observation that Fleeing disrespects both your team mates and your opponents. That won me brownie points with my opponents, although it didn't stop them trying to defeat me :P

And of course with it now being a Three on One I didn't last long, but I did last a while, and they were attacking too; they weren't sitting back trying to Buff up and one-shot me with a 2K+ attack. In fact I survived long enough to make me wonder if we might have had a chance of winning, if our PUG guy hadn't Fled on us.

When the inevitable happened and I got hit with a DOT that was going to knock me out before I could take my turn, I congratulated our opponents.

Then I left JE in the Arena and resumed Questing. The little guy kept me appraised of his progress, and damned if he didn't go and win several matches on his own :)

I'd been questing for a bit when a third one of my new Friends messaged me, asking what I was doing. I didn't know if she wanted to Teleport to my location, or needed help with something. It was the latter so I ported to her and found her fighting the War Oni at the end of the Crimson Fields Instance. I called out to John and he teleported to me and between the three of us we took the War Oni down.

Later that night I'd find myself fighting the War Oni again, when Jacob returned from his Superbowl Game and we tackled the Crimson Fields together. The big surprise of Crimson Fields was raising 4 Banners, which seemed to do nothing until later in the Instance, when a 5,000HP Fire Boss spawned from out of nowhere. JE was in bed by this time so I quickly logged on his account and 'ported his Wizard to us, and it still wasn't a cakewalk. That Boss was tough, a lot tougher than the War Oni.

And speaking of the War Oni, as we approached his lair Joseph messaged me asking for help. I told him I was about to fight the War Oni, so if he wanted to port to me and help Jacob and I then I'd help with his Boss when we were done. Between the three of us we made short work of the War Oni, then I helped Joseph with his Boss, which moved him in to the area that Jacob and I were just finishing up. Previously I'd had a very long chat with Joseph, and apparently W101 is his first MMO. Which is odd but I can only assume means he has a young child who plays as well (or he's a very mature, younger player himself). He even claimed not to know what AFK meant, which blew my mind.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon/evening. I just wish W101 had something like WoW's Guilds, so players like Jacob and Joseph could more easily meet up with Saylah, Ronan, and the other mature W101 players I know.