Bored? Try Lore!

We’ve still got a pain-stakingly long two weeks (roughly) until Cataclysm drops. 4.0.3a will bring a wealth of opportunities to see the new zones and play with the race/combo changes, but how else is your time being spent?  Here’s what I’ve seen a lot of in Trade Chat:

Player1: What’s going on in SW?

Player2: Pre-Cata Event

Player1: What do you do for it?

Player3: It’s 5 quests and that’s it.

Player1: What do you get for it?

Player4: Nothing.

Player1: Lame.

Now that the new Elemental Invasion is underway, I saw a lot of this:

Player1: What’s going on in IF?

Player2: Elemental Invasion for Pre-Cata

Player1: Grr… I can’t do anything here right now.

Player3: You have to kill the elementals and rescue civilians.

Player1: What do I get for it?

Player4: ilevel 251 epics from some dungeons.

Player1: Awesome!

I gotta say, this makes me sad. I’m well aware of the addictive nature of seeing a shiny new purple epic show up in your inventory, but the complete shunning of anything potentially entertaining in the game baffles me. Of course, not everyone is going to like every little nuance in the game. Blizzard has tried to do a thorough job of making the game diverse enough for everyone. In the 4 years I’ve been playing WoW, I think they’ve done a bang-up job, too.

Give your eyes some exercise!

I’ll be the first to admit that throughout most of my WoW career I read only the objectives, then looked to QuestHelper (or the new WoW version) to guide me on my way. I paid no attention to the text or lore of the quests.

Wrath of the Lich King changed that for me. In Burning Crusade, I didn’t have any passion to see Illidan dead. Yeah, I knew he was the last boss, but I didn’t harbour a pure hatred for him. Arthas was a different story. The way we saw Arthas throughout this latest expansion instilled a desire to annihilate him when Icecrown Citadel was opened. We got to play as him, we were taunted by him, and we were at times aligned with him. In short, we became invested in the story and its outcome.

When Cataclysm was announced, I immediately started to thirst for knowledge. Who was Deathwing? How did he get to be so horrible? Why is he so mad? What other forces might we fight against? My first homework was to check out WoWpedia for an overview. It gave me a decent amount, but not enough. I then decided to go to the books. Christie Golden’s The Shattering is a quick and easy read. I tore through it in a day. There are other books that give you more history on Deathwing and the Dragon/Demon Soul, and it’s on my nightstand as I write this.

Also, I took the time to read the quests in the pre-Cataclysm event. Following the Doomsayers, visiting the Twilight Hammer’s camp, seeing the image of Cho’gall, all driving me further towards my passion of seeing Deathwing dead. Not for “epic lewtz”, but just to see the antagonist dead.

What can I do to get involved?

  • Take time to read the quests. They’re 2 paragraphs at most, and take no more than 30 seconds to read.
  • Check out WoWpedia. Search for Deathwing and get “click-happy”. I found myself on so many different wikis learning about the characters we’re spending the next ~2 years with. (The combination of Thrall and Magni Bronzebeard made me decide to race change my Shaman to Dwarf)
  • Read some of the novels! Across the board, people have recommended Lord of the Clans as a great place to start. From there, if you’re gearing up for Cataclysm, read The Shattering right after. Both are quick reads and really enjoyable (though I have issues with some of Golden’s writing choices).

Think of it this way: Why do people get so involved in movies and TV shows? It’s because we get invested in them. We learn to love the protagonists and hate that antagonists. Maybe it’s the other way around! Either way, you become attached to the characters in the story. The same exists with video games. Some of the best video games out there have compelling storylines with deep characters. WoW, in my opinion, is no different. I look at my playtime as “living through a story.”

I know that in Cataclysm, I’ll be trying to get my main up as fast as possible, while using an alt to actually read the quests along the way. I want Deathwing’s head on a platter, including his metal chinny-CHIN-CHIN!!

Shamanism Part Deux

Shamanism Part Deux

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Lodur here again, this time with the second installment of Shamanism. This week I’d like to talk about my favorite area of Shamanism, Norse Shamanism. To give you a bit of background before we start, my love of Norse mythology was born in college in my classics class. The epic stories always seemed to resonate with me. I carried this over in the naming of my Characters

Here’s a little background on the name Lodur

Lodur, (Icelandic, Scandinavian) In the Norse Edda, one of the creative divine trinity who endowed nascent humanity with their own properties, thus creating a thinking kingdom of beings out of the ashtree and the alder. Lodurr’s gifts were la and laeti (skill and manner, also translated as blood and keen senses), while his brother deities Odin and Honer gave them respectively spirit and discernment.

The name Lodur is also an obscure reference to the first shaman of Odin, who carried the burden of Odin by tearing out one of his own eyes in ritualistic fashion to become closer to the god and earn his favor.

My other toon Sigrdrifa is named after one of the Valkyre’s, the one which acted as mentor to Sigurd, who is one of the Norse heroes. As you can start to see that my interest in norse mythology goes a long way.

Norse spiritual leaders had two schools. Shamanism was practiced mainly by females, a group known as the Völva. You can find reference to them in many of the texts of Norse mythology. The Völva practiced a form of magic called seiðr. This magic involved the invocation of spells to invoke spirts, manipulate the environment and seek visions.

They could work on the spirits of the wild animals and were responsible for the good luck in the hunt, executed the correct rituals in order to ensure the fertility of the earth, knew how to tune the spirits of their ancestors benevolently an more. In trances they contacted the ancestors, could be possessed by them, giving their body and their voice to the spirits in order to let them act in the world of the living . They knew how to cure diseases on a spiritual, psychological and physical level. Long before modern medicine, they had a broad knowledge about the interactions between body, soul and spirit. They also had a commanding knowledge of the available herbs and how to use them to great effect in both rituals and healing.

You can see this in Northrend in Warcraft. Lets take a gander at the Howling Fjord. You travel into the spirit world in the Quest chain that starts with Into the World of Spirits. The chain has you bring a shaman his goodies and then he sends you into the spirit world to gleam information from the spirits past. The chain follows up with The Echo of Ymiron and  finishes with the Anguish of Nifflevar.I think this is pretty darn cool. (and a little cookie if you didnt already know, when you’re in the spirit world if you head over to Utgarde Keep where the ramp leads up and in you’ll be treated to a visit from the Lich King and a discussion of Shaman magic. )

You can also see this particular item in some of the NPC’s. Dragonflayer Seer’s are female magic users, throwing lightning and healing their party members, Dragonflayer Spiritualist is another form of this NPC. (You can also see Valkrye type NPCs like Annhylde the Caller and Svala Sorrowgrave.) Take a look around Northrend and see what you find. You’ll see a ton of Norse spiritualist influence there.

Until next time, Happy Healing.
~Lodur

P.S. At the goading of Matticus I’ve reinstated my twitter, Feel free to check it out

http://twitter.com/LodurZJ

On Lore, Culture, and Religion in Azeroth

On Lore, Culture, and Religion in Azeroth

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Sometimes when I’m scrolling through MMO Champion’s Blue Tracker I find something that just astounds me. This particular post and blue response have absolutely nothing to do with WoW gameplay, but nonetheless, they weigh in on an issue of great interest to me–the level of detail used to evoke the universe of Warcraft.

Unfortunately, the issue of Warcraft culture is couched in incredibly bigoted and small-minded terms. Let’s take a look at the original player rant:

All races exept gnomes and orcs can be a priest, druid or paladin. Priests and paladins cherish and worship the divine and holy, whilst druids are in contact with the ancient spirits. This of course, is fine. Not all races can have all classes. The thing I reacted against, and so should you all; the lore clearly states the gnomes as the most intelligent of races. They have advanced the furthest in technology, and have a passive racial that gives them more intellect. So, being an atheist, and a slave of Satan gives you a greater mind, eh?

The fact that the “most intelligent” race in WoW does not have a religion is like a stab in the back for me. To me, Blizzards message is “Oh, but intelligent people don’t believe in God”. I am vastly offended by this, and would like to see a change in the lore, where human missionaries convert the gnomes into believing in the divine, thus making them able to create a priest or paladin.

Yes, I am aware that my main character is a gnome, but after finding this shocking discovery I will most certainly reroll. Those little blasphemers will no longer be a part of my life. Any christians out there will and should agree with me.

As a caveat, let me just say that I think the player’s actual complaint about the lack of a gnomish religion is utter crap. As an educated person, I advocate religious tolerance in all situations, for all people. And by “tolerance,” I mean not just “putting up with” many different religious traditions, but celebrating their difference and encouraging dialogue among them. Tolerance includes virtual worlds–whether or not the player is a participant in a particular religion should not affect his or her experience of gameplay, and I think Blizzard does a pretty good job of being religion-neutral. However, even a bigoted post can sometimes bring up an interesting issue.

Blizzard’s response, of course, was to lock the thread. However, in among the dribble and insults, there were some interesting ideas.

One gnome poster, responding to the question of whether gnomes have a religious faith, asked: “How do you know they don’t?”

How indeed. This would have been exactly my response (except that I have sometimes suspected that gnomes might be intended to have things in common with Jewish culture–diaspora, a reputation for intelligence, discrimination in the form of gnome jokes–but that’s a topic for another post). In his misguided way, this hostile poster who calls gnomes “atheist servants of Satan” is actually hinting at a real problem in the World of Warcraft.

The Lore

The issue here is that the way The Lore (capitals intended) is handled conflicts with the nature of gameplay in an MMO. Most of the information that is released to the players about The Lore, either through previous games, graphic novels, novelizations, and Major Lore Quest Chains focuses on the famous figures of Azeroth. It’s not hard to find out something about Arthas, Jaina, Sylvanas, Varian Wrynn, or Medivh. These folks are major players. However, the vast majority of quest content has players interacting with nobodies–level 17 farmers, craftsmen, clerics, and ne’er-do-wells. What I want to know is what the peoples of Azeroth do when they’re not busy being heroic. We get bits and pieces of the history of Azeroth on that small scale–the Darrowshire quests are a very good example of this. However, we really don’t get to learn a darn thing about how Draenai education works, why dwarves tend to go exploring, or what it would be like to go to a troll wedding.

I think someone knows all of this. In fact, I bet the developers have a Big Book of Azerothian Cultural History–well, probably a giant scrapbook or stack of file folders. They would have to if they cared about making coherent quest content–which they certainly do. However, I bet it’s a hodgepodge of information, written by many different people, and I also bet that it doesn’t cover everything.

Maybe gnomes cherish small household gods that are closely associated with the family, like the Roman Larës.

Maybe gnomes get their best ideas while they’re meditating on the nature of life–or mechanical parts–for half an hour a day.

Maybe the gnomes hide their religion from the Big People in order to head off discrimination.

I bet Blizzard knows this, or could use that Big Book to come up with a logical answer.

The Solution

People love the World of Warcraft, and I think they would eat it up if Blizzard released some of their unpublished material on Azerothian culture. What they should do is set up a website for such questions–perhaps a blog–and employ a professional writer to maintain it. And I might mention that if they’re ever hiring this job, I’m applying. I love fantasy and fantasy worlds. Warcraft makes for an interesting universe, but most of The Lore is deadly dull. It focuses on Great Deeds of the Past and tends to be communicated in a very monotonous tone in Blizzard’s official publications. Have you seen some of those sentences? Someone should start charging the writers a 15c fine for each subordinate clause in excess of three. I’d hazard a guess that they didn’t hire a professional fantasy writer to produce their paragraphs about Arthas. Do I think that I could do a better job? Heck yes. And the number one question I would ask myself is–what about the little people? No, not just gnomes. All of those Westfall farmers, Southshore fur traders, and Feathermoon scholars–what makes them tick? That to me is very interesting.