Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Use it or lose it.


Haven't played WoW for years...

Not about to start again. It was cool at the time, but life moves on; situations change, plans change, interests change...

But there are a few things going on that I would like to put up in a blog and I remembered that I had one already set up. I could do one that's more appropriate to the topics, but, sod it - I'm too lazy for that.

So, things that I'm going to use this blog for are pretty much going to revolve around miniatures wargaming.

I've rediscovered my childhood hobby. From the age of 12, I was painting, collecting and playing with toy soldiers. That was what I did. Wargames, board games, role-playing games - a hobby that lasted several years.

Going to university can rob you of your childhood friends if you let it and I did. Not having the usual folks around to play with tends to kill off that hobby.

Fast forward many, many years...

I remembered that I used to like painting miniatures as a teenager, I wanted to do something creative to balance my life. I bought new minis, new paints and new brushes; I dabbled in the male equivalent of knitting. I also discovered websites, podcasts and blogs devoted to the hobby - things had changed since I were a lad!

A couple of years of this have culminated in playing the X-Wing miniatures game as well as (possibly) the greatest game of all - Infinity by Corvus Belli.

I'm having fun collecting, building, converting and playing with toy soldiers again; I've learned a lot about this hobby over the past few years, got "better" at it and come to an understanding of why I do it, in ways that would have been impossible twenty years ago.

I'm going to use this blog to encourage me to take photos of things that I've painted and converted. I'd like to put some effort into taking decent photographs rather than awful camera-phone shots with horrendous backgrounds and godawful lighting. I'd like somewhere to stick the results - here is as good a place as any.

Maybe, I'll write a few things about games of Infinity that I've played. Battle reports, they will not be, but maybe a couple of observations and lessons learned - with photos!

Which leads us to the next thing that I'd like to dabble in: Frostgrave.

A fantasy, skirmish, wargame played with a handful of miniatures in relatively simple way that takes me back to my early days of this hobby. I'm not pretending that I'm going to be getting super deep into it (that level of obsession is reserved for Infinity), but it might be fun.

I will be using various undead models for my band of treasure hunters in Frostgrave... that's why the blog title gets to stay the way it is.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Didn't see that one coming...

Okay, first of all, I have just one thing to say:


Okay, time for a bit of an explanation.

Back when I started playing WoW, I turned to various sources of information to try to get an idea of what this game was all about - one of those sources was the Wowinsider podcast. This podcast regularly featured a guest known as BigRedKitty, aka BRK, aka Daniel Howell; you always knew that you were going to get a fun and informative show if he was on. A bit of internet searching led me to his own podcast and blog, which to be frank, were pure internet gold.

The writing/podcasting style was spot on and the humour the kind of thing that would leave me in hysterics at times. Yes, he was a hunter, and yes, I only do plate-wearers, but the only reason that I have ever dabbled with anything other than a Death Knight/Warrior/Paladin is because BRK made huntering sound so much fun.

Some of those podcasts, in my opinion should be essential listening to all WoW players, especially episode 3 where he explains how the threat mechanic works. BRK was committed to ridding the World of Warcraft from all manner of huntardism.

Alas, nothing lasts forever and about a year ago, BRK announced his retirement from WoW blogging, podcasting and the game itself. It was a sad day indeed, and I can still remember the Tribute to BRK video that people put together. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, however and real-life priorities must come before playing WoW.

Daniel still maintained his regular blog, which focused on cooking, cars, Airman Howell stories and most importantly, his son; the same humour and writing style was still there, even without the WoW. If anyone happens to see a particular weapon drop from ToC25 heroic, namely the BRK-1000, you know who it's named after. Great as his blog is, WoW hasn't been the same since he retired.

Over the past few days, several cryptic and confusing blog posts have arisen on his site, but the gist of is seems to be that his presence has been requested on the WoW Cataclysm Alpha. Now, whilst this does not mean that he's coming back to play WoW, just a bit of blogging and the odd video here and there, it's going to be fun getting his perspective on some in-game things again.

It's just like Bryant dragging Deckard in for one last job...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Hulk Smash!

I know... I always make fun of the silly little DPSers and their odd ways. The way that they attack targets before the tank does; the way that they go off and do their own thing and aggro mobs that you were going to leave well alone; the way that they try to keep themselves warm by standing in the fire; or even the infuriating inability to switch targets at a moments notice before the horrible exploding add wipes the raid.

Well, guess what? Now I'm one of them...

Let me tell you, it's hell down here.

I'd managed to get myself used to raid tanking. You hold threat, make sure that your target is stood where you want it to be, that it's facing the right direction, and you try to not die. You do all of those things and and you're a good tank. Okay sure, you're usually stood near to the end of the boss that has teeth, claws and fire coming out of it, but that's what healers are for, right? At most, you have to share your personal space with another tank, but at least you can see what's going on.

As a melee DPS, you don't get your own little personal space and personal healer. You're hanging around the bosses' backside with all manner of Warriors, Rogues, Ghouls, Hunter Pets and Ret Paladins. All you can see is people waving weapons around and explosions. Slime pool? What slime pool?



So, I'm having a little bit more sympathy for the melee DPS, who have to scurry around, trying to keep up with the boss that's being kited around a room, whilst trying to maintain some semblance of a rotation/spell priority. If tanks are the generals; calling the shots and determining when and where things happen, and healers are the support crew; keeping everything going and stopping things from going pear-shaped, then DPS are the troops; there to get the job done.

For all the chaos and change of focus, I'm loving it!

I get to see things from a different perspective, do some more gearing up, research and fine-tune priority systems, hammer away at target dummies, and basically try to hone the old Death Knight into the best damage dealing weapon that I can.

Conveniently, Skeleton Jack has just put up a post about Mr Robot, a DPS simulator. I like it. I've had a look  at it and played around with it; I can see it becoming something I refer back to quite a lot.

So there you have it. Rachkalos goes DPS, hits things, things die. Maybe he makes less fun of the poor guys who have to chase after the boss and hit it.

Don't think that changing my view of you squishies on the back row, though. What are you guys up to... sitting around there, 30 yards away? Are you guys having a picnic over there, or something?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Rach's UI

Okay, this isn't actually a real post. It's just the quickest and easiest way that I could think of to get a UI screenshot uploaded!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Gone Fishing

Yeah, that place is cold.

So very, very cold.

After running around in Frost Presence with that Chill of the Throne thing for the past five months, Rachkalos needs a holiday. Instead of getting beaten up and drinking the blood of his enemies, he's fishing and drinking mojitos.

The peace and tranquility won't last long... never does; sooner or later, some ugly, plague spraying, blood sucking, soul freezing freak is going to have to have the rules read to them... again.

And Rach is just the Death Knight for the job.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Ghoul School

ghoul [guːl]
1. a malevolent spirit or ghost
2. a person interested in morbid or disgusting things
3. a person who robs graves
4. (Myth & Legend / Non-European Myth & Legend) (in Muslim legend) an evil demon thought to eat human bodies, either stolen corpses or children
[from Arabic ghūl, from ghāla he seized]

But, I'm obviously more interested in the Death Knight versions of these guys. All WoW players will have encountered ghouls in one form or another, usually they're the type that do their best to eat your brains as soon as they notice you, but no need to fear! Ghouls can be our friends.

Ghouls, simply put are temporary, or in some cases permanent Death Knight pets and are summoned via a number of spells. I will attempt to categorise each ghoul species as best I can:

The Temp-Ghoul (necrovates familiaris): Summoned via Raise Dead, this is basically an uncontrolled minion that will do a bit of extra damage - short attention span and tend to go to pieces after one minute.

The Perma-Ghoul (necrovates superioris): Again summoned by Raise Dead, but Unholy Death Knights will have specced into Master of Ghouls, resulting in a far stronger, more resilient ghoul with far less attention span issues. This ghoul acts like a hunter's pet, with all the commands and settings that go with it.

The Army-Ghoul (necrovates vulgaris): A far more sociable ghoul, these chaps like to hang out with seven of their best mates and cause absolute chaos and mayhem wherever they go. They are summoned with Army of the Dead, cause trouble, get bored and disappear after 40 seconds. Those 40 seconds will feel like an eternity, though.

The Clueless-Ghoul (necrovates larisasis): This species differs from all of the others in that it was once a fellow raid member that forgot to move out of the fire. Raise Ally allows a Death Knight to give this raid member a chance to redeem themselves for the next 5 minutes and put some DPS on the boss.

In theory...

Larisa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn has confessed to not being as comfortable playing a ghoul as she is a gnome. Who can blame her? The world must seem a very strange place when suddenly you're the height of a normal person... vertigo must start to kick in, I guess...

But, in all seriousness, she isn't alone and it's quite understandable. One minute you're alive and doing what you do best, the next you're lying on the floor wondering what happened and a few seconds later you've become the superior lifeform with a completely different spell-bar... much like a vehicle for all intents and purposes. It's oddly reminiscent of phase 3 of Malygos, where all of a sudden you're given a whole new set of spells and no time at all to work out what you're supposed to do.

Faced with this, on the rare occasion that Raise Ally is used, the result is quite often a stationary ghoul who doesn't do much to say the least. Because of this, not many DKs are going to bother with it at all -  which is a shame because whilst the ghoul is not going to be anywhere near as useful as a Druid's battle-rez, any extra DPS is better than nothing and it gives the player something to contribute to the raid.

One of things that I'm always conscious of is, "who am I trying to raise?" Melee DPS are prime candidates, because they're unlikely to get a battle-rez and are used to the melee carnage. Next candidates are your ranged DPS and as for healers... I don't tend to Raise them. If a healer is down, they need a Druid to battle-rez them, otherwise they can't do their job and the extra little bit of DPS that they may or may not contribute isn't really worth it. Anyway, if a healer goes down, just wait a few seconds - I'm sure you'll end up with a few more suitable corpses on the ground soon.

So, I'm going to run through some of the impediments to Raise Ally being used effectively both from the Death Knight's perspective and his victim's.

Reasons That the Death Knight Doesn't Cast Raise Ally:

1) They don't know that they have the spell: 

Sorry... can't help with that.

2) They don't know that someone has died:

I have Healbot running on every character that I play, no matter what. If I'm in a group and someone dies, then I know about it.

3) They can't find the body in the middle of all the chaos:

Again, not a problem with Healbot - I see a box go dark, then I click on it and Raise Ally gets cast on that character.

4) Don't have time to spend a global cooldown on a daft spell.

I'm aware that sometimes you have 0.5 seconds to get those diseases refreshed or the rotation will fall apart badly, but you do get the occasional gap due to rune cooldowns, fight movement or whatever. If you have DPS tunnel vision, you'll miss these opportunities to do something rather clever. One advantage of tanking on a Death Knight is that you get the odd second to assess the raid situation to correct or tidy things up.

5) Target Not in Range.

That one's a bit trickier. If you're a DK, you're going to be close and personal with the boss, half the time your dead target is a squishie on the back row. Sometimes that 30 yard range isn't going to cut it; best bet is to wait until some boss movement or a phase change happens - it's very rare to have static Patchwerk fights these days, so hopefully an opportunity will present itself.

Reasons That the Victim Doesn't Do Anything When They're Raised:

1) They Don't Know What to do.

As soon as Raise Ally is cast, the target is informed that their soul has been transferred into a ghoul - don't worry all you RPing Paladins and Priests, we haven't messed with your body - it's still on the ground where you thoughtlessly left it.

One important thing to realise when you're running around a leaping like a mad thing, is that you are still dead, your body is still on the floor, Healbot still shows an empty box and, most importantly you can still be rezzed. That body that I keep mentioning? Your Druid can still battle-rez it. You will still get your normal "Accept Resurrection?" window popping up. Raise Ally is not going to mess things up if the Raid Leader decrees you worthy of a proper resurrection mid-fight.

Your primary actionbar is replaced with the one seen in the screenshot below:

You now have a self-replenishing energy bar (100 energy points) and the following abilities at your disposal:

1] Claw - 40 energy. Causes damage and builds one Frenzy Point.
2] Thrash - 35 energy. Causes damage based on the number of Frenzy Points you have to a maximum of 5.
3] Gnaw - 30 energy. Causes damage and stuns the target for 3 seconds.
4] Leap - 10 energy. Leap behind the targeted enemy. 5-30 yard range.
5] Huddle - 10 energy. Channeled. Go into a defensive crouch and take 50% less damage whilst active.
6] Explode - 10 energy. Time to be a suicide bomber! Explode causing damage equal to to 25% of your maximum health in a 5 yard radius.

So, let me get this straight: You attack from behind, have an energy bar, build combo points, use a finisher, stun targets and blow yourself up? You're basically a rogue.

A suicide bomber rogue.

You are, in fact Ahmed the Dead Rogue...



2) They're AFK.

Yeah... well... if I spent as much time being dead as some players do, then I'd get bored and make coffee, too.

3) Melee is a Scary Place!

This obviously not an issue for Fury Warriors, who revel in the carnage that ensues when you're standing on the hotspot; for the the folks on the back row who like their personal space, just take a deep breath and relax. All you need to do is stand behind your target and press 1-1-1-1-1-2, repeat as long as is required. Mages should have a natural aptitude for this...

One thing that can be done to make the victim's ghoul time a little more productive is to send a whisper to the target when Raise Ally is cast. A simple set of instructions could be:

"Ghoul Control Instructions: Select target, press 4. Spam 1-1-1-1-1-2. When low on health, press 6. Have fun!"

If you're using something like Healbot, it's very simple to add that to your spell cast, just via the Healbot interface. If you prefer to do it manually, a macro may be called for:

(Edit: Blueberrytotem politely pointed out that the original macro was a bit of a dog's dinner - this one is far simpler)

/cast Raise Ally
w %t"Ghoul Control Instructions: Select target, press 4. Spam 1-1-1-1-1-2. When low on health, press 6. Have fun!" 

This advice is not going to result in players running around as ghouls in every fight, but hopefully it will give the odd player a chance to feel like they contributed to a raid. It's fun, it helps the raid and I always giggle when I see a ghoul running around and think "I made that!"

In summary: the most important thing to remember whilst playing a ghoul?

Neeeed more brainnnnssssssss...

Monday, 26 April 2010

How to be the Best Tank Ever*

This tanking business can be a bit hectic at times. I've said before that it requires assimilating and processing a lot of information at once, prioritising this and getting round to doing something about it in the correct order in approximately 0.5 seconds.

My poor little brain can't cope with this. I like to use the occasional addon to take the strain and there's none better than Tidy Plates.

What Tidy Plates does is replace the standard Blizzard nameplates that appear above each target; I have heard that not everyone who plays WoW has even the standard nameplates set to show. I can't imagine how anyone can play without them, although that would go a long way to explaining why a lot of people seem to be completely incapable of seeing or applying DPS/threat to slimes/oozes/gas clouds/overcharged Tempest Minions. Without the nameplates, you either have to randomly click on an indistinct mob, tab-target or set up some inane targeting macro. With nameplates activated, you see the plate, you click on it, you go to work.

As I've said, Tidy Plates replaces the default plates with something more appropriate to your tastes, several different skins have been developed, but the one that I'm most interested in is Threat Plates .

Ever been tanking a pack of mobs and not have a clue if any of them is about to take off after that DPS (90% of the time it's a hunter) because they wouldn't know a "/assist" macro if it smacked them in their squishy face? Skada is only going to show you how much of a threat lead you have on your current target, not the other six that you're trying to hang onto. Now, fair enough, normally if a DPS pulls, I'll let them eat it...  but sometimes I'm in a benevolent mood and I'll save them occasionally.

Here's my friend, Mr. Reanimated Crusader, seen from afar. Small nameplate, white border... he's no threat to anyone, just minding his own business.

Let's see what happens when we give him a bit of a poke, shall we?

Okay, I don't think that he liked that...

The small bar shows that I have aggro on him, the green outline is showing that I've got him targeted. I know that the red hit box appears as default on my main target, but it's on the ground and I can never see it when there's a pack of mobs surrounding me. I've got it set up so that if my target is casting something, I get a cast bar too; if it's all yellow I can interrupt it, if it's stripey like the one above there's no sense wasting my time and I'll just have to suck it up.

Mr. Reanimated Crusader decides to bring one of his mates along to the party...

I've not targeted him and I don't have aggro on him. Result? Big, spiky nameplate. This serves two purposes: Firstly, it's totally unsubtle and lets you know that you might want to do something about it, secondly it's easier to mouseover and click the larger plate so you can put some threat on it. There is an inbetween plate that gives you a little hint that you might be about to lose aggro, slightly larger so you can pre-empt problems and generally look totally awesome.

The first time that I used this was in a Culling of Stratholme run and it made the job so easy that it almost seemed like cheating. It doesn't do all the work for you though, if there's another tank in the raid, you are going to be seeing big spiky plates all over the place - you're still going to have to check them out and look at the threat table to see if the other tank has them or if it's that hunter playing silly buggers again...

Threat plates can also be set to work in reverse if you're DPS, big and spiky means that you've pulled the target and you might want to stop attacking it and Feign Death or something. Small plate means that you can do what you do best - just keep an eye on the threat level, okay?

Oh yeah: 4418. Apparently the Addon That Shall Not Be Named thinks that I can do ToC10 now.

*Exclusions apply. Rachkalos Defense Industries accepts no liability should the information presented not result in the reader becoming "The Best Tank Ever". Exclusions include, but are not restricted to: Failure so setup and use addon correctly, lag, hardware performance issues, mouse turning, incompetence and/or being a gnome.