Sort Dragon Returns to the CSM

It doesn’t feel like a real CSM unless somebody gets asked to leave, gets the heave ho, or just steps away I suppose.  CSM13 was a little different, with Brisc Rubal getting the big ban, only to later be exonerated.  But then he resigned.  So it goes.  And now we have a change with CSM14.

Space politics

CCP announced earlier today that Killah Bee from Northern Coalition has decided to step down from the CSM for personal reasons.  He has this statement about his departure.

In the past, I’ve always said that the CSM can only be effective if its members are some of the most active members of the community. I’ve had some great success in real life lately but with that success goes the time that I am able to devote into EVE and the CSM. This is why I have decided to resign my membership to the CSM effective immediately to make room for someone with more time on their hands. I want to thank CCP and all the other CSM members for a great time I’ve had and I’ll see you again soon.

As part of their statement CCP thanked him for his service on the CSM and made it clear that he is able to run for the council again should he so desire.  Given that some have described the CSM as like having an additional job (a description that has been applied to EVE Online in general), it is easy to understand why Killah Bee might wish to step away.  That he could not make it to the summit in Iceland was probably foreshadowing.   And it is better that he did this proactively rather than being asked to leave for lack of participation, as happened with Vince Draken on CSM12, though he is also eligible to run again should he so desire.

In an odd coincidence, both Vince Draken and Killah Bee’s departures from the CSM benefited the same person, Sort Dragon.

Sort Dragon, who had been on CSM10, did not make the cut for the CSM12 elections, but was elevated to the council with Vince Draken’s removal.

He managed to get elected and served on CSM13, but when the results for the CSM14 election came out he fell just 12 votes shy of being re-elected, Steve Ronuken coming out just ahead of him in the count.  With Killah Bee stepping down, Sort Dragon will once again be on the CSM, this being his fifth time on the council.

So CSM14 now looks like this:

  • Aryth – Goonswarm Federation (inc)
  • Merkelchen – Goonswarm Federation (inc)
  • Innominate – Goonswarm Federation (inc)
  • Steve Ronuken – Fuzzwork Enterprises (inc)
  • Gobbins – Pandemic Horde
  • Vily – Test Alliance Please Ignore
  • Dunk Dinkle – Brave Newbies
  • ExookiZ – Scary Wormhole People
  • Olmeca Gold – Delve Pest Control Inc
  • Sort Dragon – Darkness

We will see if his presence changes anything

Blizzard Speaks

Friday at approximately 5:20pm Pacific time Blizzard start pointing towards a statement “Regarding Last Weekend’s Hearthstone Grandmasters Tournament” on their various social media accounts.  I saw it just as it popped up on Twitter where it appears just ahead of when the press release site was ready to serve it up, leading to about a minute of people getting the amusing Murloc 404 error for Blizzard’s site.

Just looking at the timing of the press release made me a bit skeptical.  There is a long tradition in US business and politics of making announcements you think will damaging or not be received well after business hours on a Friday.  The hope is that the story will get lost in the mix before Monday comes around.  I’ve poked Daybreak about doing this in the past.  But the internet news cycle knows no weekends and Blizzard has a much larger profile than Daybreak, so the timing of the release probably doesn’t have much of a message in it unless Blizzard expects everything to die down.  It won’t.

Going to the statement, the changes that were announced:

  • Blitzchung’s winnings will not be “rescinded,” so he gets to keep any prize money he won
  • Blitzchung’s suspension has been reduced from a year to six months.  He will be able to compete in the 2020 Grandmasters tournament if he so desires
  • The two casters of the show are suspended from working on Blizzard tournament for six months, reduced from “forever” I guess, for failing to keep the show on topic

The first covers what I felt was the most egregiously unfair aspect of the affair.  So good on Blizz for that.

The second… well… I’m not happy, but it is better.

And the third, if you’re running a broadcast for Blizzard you’d best be running on a delay and be ready to cut out the feed if things get out of hand I guess.  But at that point you’re a Blizz contractor, so you serve at their pleasure.

Blizzard also strongly reiterated its stance that when you play in their league you agree to their rules.  If you express views within the context of the tournament, they had better remain focused on the game.  Some people have tried to make hash out of the fact that Blizzard, as a company, can express political views, and has done so about “controversial” things like being against discrimination in the work place, but that doesn’t mean that Blizz has to provide a forum for political speech for anybody under its own banner.  Blizzard can speak for Blizzard.  But when you speak under the Blizzard banner at a Blizzard event, you too are speaking for Blizzard and they get to make the rules.

When it comes down to it, we liked Blitzchung’s message, so we feel he shouldn’t be punished. But it doesn’t take much mental rigor to imagine other messages we would not agree with.  You think if somebody got up and echoed Ward Churchill we would be having this issue?  We love free speech when we agree with the speaker, but lose our minds when we do not.

That Blizzard did not similarly ban a US team for holding up sign supporting Hong Kong late last week remains problematic.  You are sending a message if rules are not enforced uniformly.

And Blizzard failed completely to address the statements made in China by their partner NetEase on the Weibo platform about respecting and defending the pride of China.  Therein lays the rub for many.  As I noted elsewhere, to business in China you must partner with a Chinese company in a joint venture.  For Blizzard their partner is NetEase.  That partner must have a controlling stake in the venture.  To do business in China you have to hand over the rights to your product and messaging there.  So Blizz may not have any control over what NetEase says in their name and certainly no control over what NetEase says under its own banner.

But, as I wrote on Friday, I am not sure that matters.  When you make the deal you get what comes of it, good and bad.  So while Blizzard says Blitzchung’s ban was not specifically due to his message and that Blizzard’s relationship with the government of China had nothing to do with the ban, the words of their partner do not line up with that.  I do not think it is excessive to insist that Blizzard reconcile what they are saying to their Western audience with what is being said in their name in China.

Given all of this, am I happy?  No.  But I wrote on Friday that I doubted Blizzard could to anything that would make anybody happy, much less everybody.

And if you were already angry at Blizzard for whatever reason before this occurred, it is very easy to mine their statement for more flaws.  You can see perennial axe grinder and self-promoter Mark Kern out there on Twitter trying to make himself the head of the anti-Blizzard faction.  That he goes to such ridiculous lengths to find fault (How dare Blizzard describe what a shout caster is!) makes him look like a buffoon yet again, diluting his message with the trivial.  But I expect no less from him.  Mark Kern is just going to be Mark Kern.

Anyway, Blitzhchung getting his prize money makes me feel better, as does the reduction in his suspension, which will allow him to compete in next year’s tournament.  We will see if he has the liberty in Hong Kong to do so a year down the road.  Chinese President for Life Xi Jinping was ratcheting up the rhetoric this past weekend in what sounded very much like a warning that repression was coming.  We’ll see who wants to do business in China if that comes to pass.

I am not happy with Blizzard’s failure to own up to the dichotomy of its China situation.  I don’t expect them to divest fully from China right now, as I have seen some demand.  China is alleged to be only 5% of Blizz’s revenue, but you may have noticed that Acti-Blizz has been selling Monthly Active Users as its success metric since they decided never to speak of subscription numbers again, and China is a very large source for that metric when it comes to games like Hearthstone.

But some clarification of the situation and some ownership of what it means might be helpful… or it might not.  I’m not sure most people get the reality of doing business in China.  Seeing just how compromised Blizz is may not help.

So, after their statement, have I run back and re-subscribed?  No.

Blizzard hasn’t done anything to earn my adoration with this, but I still have some time to think about it.  Certainly what comes to pass at BlizzCon will influence my thoughts, and that is less than three weeks away.  Some people already have plans it seems.

A Wormhole Home from Cache

In one of those moments of extreme good timing, about 30 seconds after I launched Jabber last night a ping from Asher popped up saying that if anybody wanted to head home early there was a wormhole up in Cache that led Amarr low sec space, which is conveniently close to Delve.

I immediately logged on my main and alt, joined Asher’s fleet, followed the instructions in the MOTD, jumped through the wormhole, and found myself about a dozen gates from Delve.  In about 20 minutes I traveled from the far east of New Eden to the far west with both of my Guardians tethered up outside a Keepstar.

Waiting at the back door

Doing that route the hard way, going gate to gate, would involve passing through 55 gates and 8 regions before arriving in Delve.  Even the expected move op home, which might get to use Legacy Coalition Ansiblex jump gates, as we did on the way out, will likely have to make more jumps than I did.

As for why we are headed home, participation has been low.  A bunch of people made it out with the original move op, but interest has tapered off and anybody who missed the move out faced a long and hazardous trip to get to us.  That is one downside of living out of mobile depots in hostile space as opposed to basing out of NPCs stations.

So I am back home in Delve.  Now I have to figure out how to move all of my stuff.  While we were away there was a change to which Keepstar was going to be the staging point and market for Delve.  It is in the same system, but moving all of the crap I have collected over the last year or two is going to be either awkward or expensive… or both.

Daybreak Lays off More Staff

The news from Daybreak is grim again as it came out yesterday that the company was experiencing another layoff.

Oh, Daybreak…

The word began to leak out on social media, which is the usual course of events these days.  The fact that there was a layoff was later confirmed.  The number of people laid off was estimated to be close to 70, though there is no official word on that.

The PlanetSide team was reportedly hit the hardest, while the team responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II seemed to have been largely spared.  Of course, EverQuest II has a big anniversary coming up next month and both games have expansions slated to come out before the end of the year.

The future of the company remains in question.  PlanetSide Arena, which went into early access last month, has not obtained a strong following, while earlier this year Daybreak registered some new company trademarks and created Twitter accounts that seemed to indicate a possible change in structure or sell off of the company.


China Reckoning

The integrity of China was more important than [the people] in Tiananmen Square.

-Muammar al-Gaddafi, in an insightful moment

Well, here we are.

Just so you know, I’ll get to this eventually

China certainly has been in the news of late for its noxious behavior, not that noxious behavior is anything new from the authoritarian government that runs the country.  Its legitimacy is built on a foundation of things like the Cultural Revolution and Tienanmen Square.  And while they’ve ditched most of the economic aspect of Mao’s teachings, they’re are still big on the repressive state thing.

As a rule, the government of China has also been pretty intolerant of any criticism, express or implied.  For example, if another country mentions Tibet or meets with, or even allows into their territory, the Dalai Lama, they can expect an official diplomatic protest from China.  Make a map that doesn’t show Taiwan as part of China or, even worse, refers to Taiwan as a country and you can expect an angry response from China.

Internally, in addition to the usual level of arbitrary police state activities, there is the Orwellian social credit system, which will soon be mandatory, that rewards pro-government activities with perks, while denying things to people doing things that the government does not like… which includes merely being connected to anybody the government does not like.  A social network that rewards you for ostracizing non-conformists… more so.

More recently they have been sending their citizens to “re-education” camps for the crime of being Muslim and battling a now nearly 18 week long series of protest in Hong Kong over an extradition law that would allow residents of the special administrative region to be extradited to China proper, where the rule of law is what the government says it is at any given moment.

That is the foundation on which the last week or so has been laid.

Then there is the trade war.  Our president, who says trade wars are good and easy to win, has been actively pursuing one with China for some time now.  The president has been quite vocal about China, saying we do not need them and that US companies should go elsewhere.  Of course, he also promised China he wouldn’t mention the protest in Hong Kong either, so not a lot of moral high ground there. (He also praised the strength of the Chinese government for gunning down students in Tienanmen Square back when it happened, so he never had any moral high group to begin with.)  But he has highlighted the long simmering perception that US companies are shipping jobs to China in exchange for higher profits.

Then in the last week or so we had things like John Oliver… don’t mention him in China… reporting on China’s one child policy, which is now a two child policy, double the children allowed but all the same government abuse remains, and the South Park episode “Band in China,” which went after US companies willing to do just about anything to make China happy in order to make more money.

That brings up to last Friday when the General Manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey tweeted a message in support of the protesters in Hong Kong.  This drew an immediate response from the Chinese government, saying the tweet had outraged fans in China which cancelled all future interactions with the team.

By Monday the NBA was apologizing, the owner of the Rockets expressed his regret, and Morey himself was on Twitter apologizing for causing any offense.  The NBA is in full on appease China mode.  NBA fans were not happy about this and started holding up signs that would no doubt offend the Chinese government, so the NBA began ejecting fans from games.  There is even a fun video you can find of somebody holding up a pro Hong Kong sign on the public sidewalk outside of the NBA headquarters being told by the security guard that they would have him arrested if he didn’t move along.

We’re used to companies like Apple or Google doing what China says for years.  They’ve both been pulling apps from their stores in China that the government does not like, including one that tracks police activity and another that merely allowed access to a new source that mentioned the problems in Hong Kong.  But now China has moved to dictating what can go on at NBA games being played in the United States.

And Blizzard stepped right into this already flaming bag of dog shit on Tuesday when they announced that the professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, who is from Hong Kong, would be suspended from play for one year and have all of his prize money “rescinded” for saying, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” on a post game stream where he was being interviewed.  Blizzard also cut ties with the two broadcasters who were doing the interview despite neither of them doing anything beyond looking doomed by what was just said.  They knew China.

And now people outside of China are rightfully pissed off at Blizzard.

I heard the argument that NetEase runs Blizzard’s operations in China and that it was they who actually precipitated the action and released the noxious statement afterwards, but that doesn’t really matter, true or not.  Whoever did it, did so in Blizzard’s name, and Blizzard went along with it, so it might as well have all come straight from J. Allen Brack’s.  He gets the power, he gets the money, and he gets the blame.

So now we are into the #BoycottBlizzard era.

It has become a time to pressure the company to try and do the right thing.  I am not sure exactly what that “right thing” is.  I doubt Blizzard will be able to do something… will be able to do anything… that will make everybody happy.  But even the NBA stood up just a bit… or pretended to, anyway… and said they wouldn’t regulate what players or team owners said, not officially, though that still doesn’t apply to fans. (And given player and team official comments since that statement, the NBA has clearly told them what to avoid saying.  And after GSW coach Steve Kerr defended China’s human rights record, the NBA cancelled all press interaction.  No doubt they need to get all their stories straight and cleared by Beijing.)

People have been cancelling WoW subscriptions to let Blizzard know how they feel about their actions.  I have cancelled mine, putting “Hong Kong” in the text field on the exit survey.  My account still has some time left to run, and I’ll keep playing WoW Classic as that runs down, both because I paid for that time and because I hold out hope that Blizzard will do something, sooner rather than later.  Ongoing silence could change that, and worse behavior certainly will, but I’ll give them at least until BlizzCon.  They need to do something before BlizzCon or they might be looking back longingly at the Diablo Immortal announcement.  It has been suggested that they might even cancel BlizzCon.  We shall see.  Still, I have sent them the economic message, the only message that counts:  No more money from me.

That is the nice thing about a subscription based game.  You can effectively vote with your wallet.  That stings more than a petition, but you can sign that too if you want. (There are a few of those, that was just the most popular one I saw.)  Players of their free to play titles have taken to deleting their accounts, since not paying is the default behavior. (Rumors that Blizz was blocking account deletion at one point do not seem to hold water.  Somebody had a problem and it quickly turned into a conspiracy theory from what I can tell. Your mileage may vary.)

But I am not kidding myself.  I am not changing the world here.  Withholding financial support only punishes Blizzard, not China, and any real effects will likely be felt by employees, some of who are equally unhappy with Blizzard’s actions, who may end up getting laid off.  J. Allen Brack or Bobby Kotick or whoever else makes these sorts of decisions will keep their jobs.  But maybe they’ll make better choices going forward.

Remember that.  The goal ought to be to change Blizzard’s behavior.  If your goal is to destroy Blizzard, a US company largely staffed in the US by US workers, I’m not on your side. (Some people shouting the loudest were already angry at Blizzard well before this, so I am suspicious of some motivations.)  And if you’re harassing Blizzard employees, well fuck you.

One of the protest efforts has been the attempt to adopt the character Mei from Overwatch as a symbol of the Hong Kong protests, no doubt with an eye to getting the gamed banned in China the way Winnie the Pooh was.  But this might have the odd side effect of making Blizzard more likely to do what China says.  It is all the easier for the government of China to ban Overwatch if it does become a symbol, so Blizzard may be all that much more motivated to stay in its good graces.  Nothing is ever simple.

And all of effort against Blizzard does nothing for Hong Kong, which I fear is without much hope.  When push comes to shove, China will roll the tanks, as they have done in the past, before they will relinquish any control.  The government of China likes having Hong Kong, rich and successful and semi-free, as a part of their country.  It makes them look good.  But their tolerance of protests so far is, to my mind, largely a lure to get Taiwan back.  But if Hong Kong gets too far out of control, China will use force.  They play a long game, and if keeping control of what they have pushes out getting Taiwan back by another 50 years, they’ll still make that choice.

But maybe public push back on companies like Blizzard or the NBA will cost enough to make other companies put a little more emphasis on what their current customers here are worth when they considering prostituting their values… like those values out in front of Blizzard’s headquarters, covered up by employees embarrassed at the company’s behavior… to curry favor with a dystopian dictatorship that is so thin skinned that it cannot stand any criticism.

I am a cynic, yet somehow I always find room for hope.  We shall see.

Other related items:

In Search of VanCleef in the Deadmines

We left off yesterday in the Deadmines with Mr. Smite in the distance.

Mr. Smite awaits at the top of the gangplank… you can just see him

Back in the day Mr. Smite was the first boss to keep us from advancing in the Deadmines, the first one to send us home to try again later.  But that was back in 2006 when we were pretty bad at working as a group.  This time around we were hoping things would go better on our first try.

As usual, we relied on memory rather than looking up the fight.  It is amazing how many little details linger in the backs of our brains.  As with the first boss, Smite comes with a pair of assistants, which we decided to take down first, our new group rule becoming “Sheep left, fight right.”

This seemed to work.  Mr. Smite is not a particularly complex fight.  He has a routine of stunning everybody so he can go swap weapons from his big chest on the dock (which you can also just make out in the screen shot above) but otherwise isn’t very tricky.

We’re stunned for a weapon swap

He is, in the end, a DPS check.  If you can put out enough damage, you win.  If you cannot, you go home.  We were putting out more than enough damage and Smite went down.  He dropped Smite’s Reaver, a 1h axe.  Unfortunately, Viniki, the only axe wielder, was already holding better.  Something else to vendor.

It was at that point, with Mr. Smite down and the ship ahead of us, that the additional complicating factor to which I alluded in the previous chapter, came into play: Wife aggro.

Worse, wife and mom aggro.  At that point Moronae’s wife, also Obama’s mother, told Obama that it was time to get off the computer.  He said we only had 5-10 minutes left… an optimistic assessment by any measure… but we were on notice.  We had to get this finished up as soon as possible or be prepared to do it all again another day.  The race was on.

We went up the ramp and started clearing the pirates on the first deck.  We decided to simply skip Cookie, the murloc that wanders off to the left on the first deck, but he wandered into aggro range, so we took him, looting his tenderizer.

Then it was to the right to keep clearing, arriving at the series of ramps that lead up to the main deck and VanCleef.  We were edging towards recklessness in pulling mobs, but seemed able to handle the extras we go, settling out a group on the first platform up the ramp.

On the first platform

As you might be able to discern in this screen grab from video Ula was taking, Skronk is standing very close to the edge of the platform.  As the fight ended he both leveled up and fell off the platform into the water.  Ula says the video makes it look like a gold comet is flashing past.

This was not ideal timing.

To get back to us he would have to swim to shore and run around to get back on the wooden platforms leading to the ship.  It was a good thing we took out some of the goblins along the shore as we passed through, but we didn’t get them all.  So Skronk had to run past one.  His health and mana had been restored by leveling up, but he wasn’t going to solo the mob, so we ran around and back down the gang plank to meet him and knock down his new friend.

Skronk rescued, we headed back up onto the ship to take on the next ramp in order to get on to the final platform from which we could access the main deck where the final fight takes place.

In the press to get up to that platform we took on a few pirates.  Obama was being asked why he wasn’t off the computer yet, so we dove in.  But we were up for that.  Then we once again lost track of a runner who fled the fight and, before they could be taken down at range, brought Captain Greenskin, the penultimate boss in the instance, into our melee already in progress.  That gave us five or six active mobs, including a boss, so things looked bad.

And they got even more glum when Moronae ended up dying mid fight, remove his DPS and extra heals from the equation.

I don’t know if Skronk said his usual “everybody remain calm,” as he was pretty busy, but it played in my head and I knew that we had to knock down as many of these guys as we could before we succumbed.  So I just kept hitting the current target mob while turning to taunt mobs off of Skronk as tried to keep people alive.  Skronk even whipped out a heavy linen bandage to do first aid on me as we stood and fought, waiting for what we knew had to be the inevitable end of the fight, with us all down.

Only we didn’t wipe.  The last mob was down and four of us were still standing.

Ressing Moronae after the fight

What seemed like to be a disaster actually ended up speeding us along a bit.  We now only had VanCleef waiting for us.  We headed up onto the main deck and got ready for the final fight.

We see you in there VanCleef

Like some of the other bosses, including the recently dispatched Captain Greenskin, VanCleef comes with a pair of helpers.  He also gets a second pair part way into the fight.  So our plan was the new standard for the group, sheep left, fight right.

This started a bit precariously as I took a lot of damage right up front and had to use a health potion right away.  After that though things settled down and we knocked out first one helper, then the other, before focusing on VanCleef.

When the second pair of helpers appears it was the same routine… sort of.  Somebody didn’t switch because VanCleef went down before his final helper did.

Erm, why is he dead already?

Still, the helper didn’t survive VanCleef by very long and we were done.  We had finished the Deadmines on our first go.  Just time for a victory shot.

VanCleef defeated

After that we decided it was best to rush for the exit so as to keep Moronae and Obama out of as much hot water as possible.

However, jumping off the far side of the deck towards the exit meant running through a few more mobs.  But they were manageable in fairly short order.  Then it was straight for the out portal.

This way out

Once out of the instance, Obama and Moronae logged off while Skronk, Ula, and I headed back towards Sentinel Hill and Gryan Stoutmantle in order to collect a reward and have our names shouted to the zone.

Cheers for Skronk

The instance itself did not drop any upgrades for me, but at least the quest gave me a decent pants upgrade.

Blue pants, best pants

Overall I think we did pretty well.

Posing with Gryan after the run

During the run I ran the Recount addon, which is, among other things, a damage meter, which means people hate it.  But it supplies so much information about your fights, not just DPS but which attacks were used and how much damage they did, both by players and NPCs, as well as healing stats and such.  I don’t/won’t use it to name and shame people, but I like to see the data.

I seemed to do okay as tank.  The mechanics of the Deadmines are not exactly complex, so holding aggro and staying alive was probably enough.  I think a large part of our success was due to the fact that two members of the team were in their long established, Skronk as healer and Ula as mage for DPS and crowd control.  They contributed mightily to our success.

Which is not to downplay Obama and Moronae.  Lacking cat for for real DPS, Moronae spent a lot of time casting moonfire then hitting things with his staff, which limited the amount of damage he could put out.  On the other hand, having a few extra heals and a buff around was very nice, and the thorns buff on Viniki ended up being the second highest damage contribution from him.

I was wondering if the imp, with its blood pact buff, would have been a better pet for Obama.  The void walker is very good at picking up and off tanking, but it doesn’t contribute much to damage.  But, being new to WoW, Obama hadn’t realized there were pet skills to be purchased and upgraded.  An imp with blood pact and fire shield might have been worth it, but with what we had available to us the voidwalker suited us fine.

And so it goes.  We made it to my minimum group goal for WoW Classic, running the Deadmines.

Next up on the list is Wailing Caverns out in The Barrens.  Or it might be.  The obvious bad Blizz behavior has me considering the future of the group. But I’ll get to that tomorrow.

Into the Deadmines at Last

At last!  We made it to the Deadmines in WoW Classic.  It took us long enough.

The problem with getting the band back together is that the lives of all of its members have changed over the years.  As I have noted previously, we’re still waiting for Earl to get settled in Japan, so there may be a B group of alts on standby to run instances with until he catches up.

But, with the addition of a member of the younger generation in the form of Bung’s son, we were able to fill out the group.  And so our lineup for the night was:

  • Ula – level 21 gnome mage
  • Viniki – level 20 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 18 dwarf priest
  • Obama – level 18 human warlock
  • Moronae – level 18 night elf druid

That is not far off the group we first finished the Deadmines with just about 13 years back.  Some names/classes are even the same.

We were not certain exactly when things would kick off, but when Bung and his son, appearing as Moronae and Obama in the group, made it online we set about getting started.  Of course, there is always something to do first.  Obama and Moronae had to go over to Moonbrook to find the Defias Messenger.  On a Sunday afternoon his dance card was pretty full and he wasn’t wandering far from his spawn point before being slain for his drop.  Our guys joined another group waiting for the messenger and, having slaughtered him, were able to meet us back at Sentinel Hill for the next stage.

The Defias traitor.

Viniki and the Defias Traitor

In a fit of paranoia I had done the Defias Traitor quest already.  I have bad memories of that quest in Razorfen Kraul where you speak to that one quest give and unless you’re all right on the button he runs off without the whole group being on the quest.  Skronk wasn’t worried, but I got it out of the way all the same.

We got everybody around the traitor and Skronk explained how one person was going to get the quest and that then the game should prompt everybody else in the group to accept the quest as well (except Viniki of who had it out of the way) right away so we could do this all in one run.  Ula was the designated quest person and everybody else would accept off of her action.

And then, as we stood there, just about ready to start, somebody else ran up, got the quest from the Defias Traitor, and took off with him.  We would have to wait for them to finish, which takes about five minutes by my calculation.  During that time there was chiding to keep people from wandering too far afield, as the range of quest sharing is pretty small.

He popped back up in about five minutes, Ula grabbed the quest, everybody was in range and accepted, and off we went.  And I will say this about the Defias Traitor, he doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet.  Unlike Sarah Oakheart of LOTRO infamy, he moves off at a run headed for Moonbrook.  Once he gets there he slows to walk through town, and goes a bit Pengail on you, running after any Defias that gets within line of sight, but the final stretch is short and soon the Defias Hideout was revealed to us.

The Defias Hideout

Of course, then everybody besides Viniki had to run back to Sentinel Hill to turn that quest in and get the dungeon quest from Gryan Stoutmantle.  We met up again in Moonbrook and settled our potions and food and whatnot.

In Moonbrook getting set

Everybody was handing things out except Obama, who was back to his hobby of extreme planking.

You need a strong neck for that

Getting into the Deadmines isn’t as easy as all that.  The actual entry to the instance is at the far end of some caves populated by hostile elites, so just getting there can be a fight and the potential for getting lost exists.  We followed the time honored lore of following the right wall.  Also, another group went in ahead of us, so we figured they would clear for us.  Skronk put a big orange target marker on Viniki and I led the way in.

Of course, the group ahead of us was careless and we caught up to them not too far from the instance to find them dragging a train of hostile elite miners, more than enough to ruin our fun.  Shouting our usual battle cry of “Don’t make eye contact!” then “Follow me!” I raced ahead for the instance, the group in tow.

All out for the instance portal

Everybody made it in okay.  We took a moment for a bio break and to get buffs set, then we were ready to go.

Viniki looking eager

Of course, “ready” is a relative term.  I was ready to start, but how things would work were largely theoretical on my part.  I have rarely played a warrior in WoW, and I have only played them as DPS really.  My only experience as a tank has been as a druid in bear form, and that was only in the post-Cataclysm level 1-40 dungeons, which were all dumbed down so much that you could run a couple an hour to level up with much effort.

Actually tanking in WoW Classic with old school warrior skills, this was a whole new thing for me.  Not helping things was that defensive stance doesn’t allow some of the skills I am used to, like charge and hamstring.  Still, I had something of a plan.  I had practice a bit with defensive stand and I had trained up the gun skill, bought a gun, and stuck some ammo in my bag for long distance pulls.  Otherwise I would be trotting up to things to engage.  My plan was to use bloodrage to build up some of that all important rage, then hit the first target with sunder armor, which the tool tip says generates a lot of aggro, using taunt if something started to get away from me.

The start was not entirely encouraging.  There are groups of nomal miners mobs around, and I was getting those in twos and threes and wasn’t holding them all.  But normal mobs were easy enough and Obama had his voidwalker out to off tank while Moronae was dropping into bear mode now and then, trying to decide his best method for DPS in the group.

Elite mobs came as singles and I was able to hold them.  We moved on down the line until we got the first boss, Rhahk’Zor, in sight.

Rhahk’Zor awaits

He has two mobs with him, and something in the back of my head said that we could get him alone if we did things right.  But, to be safe, we decided to follow the time tested tactic of taking down the adds then focusing on the main boss.

That seemed to work, and we were soon standing over Rhahk’Zor’s corpse.  However, we had forgotten to set the group for master looter to allow Skronk to dole out boss bind on pick up items, and Obama looted the corpse.  Fortunately, he only had his crappy common hammer on him, but looting was changed up at that point.  The patrol that shows up once you’ve killed him was a bit of a surprise.  I had forgotten that part of the tunnels.  Once you kill one of the early bosses a three or four mob elite group wanders up behind you.  We survived, but it we were caught unawares.

Then it was a door through which more caves and miners and wandering elite Defias waited.  We worked our way through that, only veering off to see if the elusive Miner Johnson was there.  He was not.  He is never there for us.

We worked our way to the next door, through which we knew Sneed awaited.

Sneed is one of those fights that can go wrong if you don’t clear thoroughly first.  So I set out to get every single goblin helper of his.  That took a bit of patience, as you have to pull around his wandering.  The only problem was the tendency for people waiting for you to pull to follow you into the room to see what you are up to.  With lower level player who have a larger aggro radius, this can lead to surprises, but we managed to avoid that.  Once I had Sneed’s room picked clean, we went in to get him.

Sneed alone in his shredder

The fight at that point wasn’t a problem.  There was nobody around to run into if you got hit by his fear.  The only thing was, despite the fact that I know it is a two part fight, that once you defeat the shredder you have to fight Sneed, I am always surprised when he jumps out and the battle carries on.  Still, he was down quickly enough.

His big drop was a blue axe.  But it was a 2H axe, which nobody could use.  We rolled on who got to vendor it.

After that is was back to mixing it up in the tunnels until we reached the foundry.

Goblins at work here

Here is where things got a little shaky.

We were able to pull and deal with groups on the ramp down.  The goblin engineers release their own mechanical helpers which are full blow adds, but they were manageable.  But once down the ramp we had some problems around the platform.

One of those summoned adds on the platform

First, we got a pull with an unexpected add.  A goblin engineer, who created an additional add as part of the mix.  Then, we were fighting down at the bottom of the ramp, but at one point a goblin went to flee when it his low health… how I missed hamsting at that moment… and hopped up onto the platform and broke line of sight.  Nobody could hit him unless they ran after him.  He, of course, brought back another add.  Obama went down and things were starting to come off the rails.  But I just kept taunting mobs off of Skronk so he could keep healing while Ula and Moronae kept burning things down.

Eventually all the hostiles were down, and by virtue of this chaos we had almost finished clearing before the boss, but it felt like a near run thing.  We took down the final stragglers, then went after Gilnid, who was not a tough fight.  We looted the Smelting Pants from him, which went to Moronae.

After that I was all keyed up for the follow on patrol, remembering us getting the worst from a similar situation back in the day.  Oddly, that patrol was very slow in coming.  I was wandering up and down the ramp waiting for them for a few minutes before they showed up.  There were four this time, but we had no problem dealing with them.

Once that was down, it was down deeper into the tunnels, clearing miners and getting to the cannon, which Ula fired for us once the gunpowder was collect from the side tunnel.

The door comes down

We had to warn Obama, they new kid… almost literally… not to run through the door once it came down.  As usual, the pirates were waiting on the other side.

And then we were out on the boardwalk. where we cleared the pirates as well as some goblins who were lurking off to either side.  That last would turn out to have been a boon.  Then we sat a minute to take stock.

The group takes a rest

Nothing lay between us and the next boss, sitting up at the top of the ship’s gangplank.  There he stood, the aptly named Mr. Smite.

Mr. Smite awaits

And that is where this chapter will close.  I’m already past the two thousand word mark… also I’m home sick, so need a break… and I have a lot more to go as this is where things get interesting, for we had to face not only Mr. Smite and the remaining bosses, but a danger from an unexpected angle.  Tune in for part two tomorrow.