THE USE OF MORAL AMBIGUITY IN WARCRAFT, WAR IS ALL HELL

There’s a long-standing rumor that Winston Churchill allowed the bombing of Coventry, even though he could have prevented it via intelligence gathered by cracking German war codes, in order to preserve the advantage of having cracked those codes. Is it true? I have no idea. More important for our discussion, however, is the idea of that decision. Imagine a leader having to decide to sacrifice civilians in order to preserve an advantage that might well win the entire conflict. It’s often called the brutal algebra of warfare – you lose 10 million here, so that 20 million will live over there. You send a company off to die so that a regiment can survive and accomplish its mission. One of the great horrors of war is not just that people die, but that other people have to countenance their deaths.
One of my biggest problems with the Alliance/Horde conflict is that so far, it hasn’t really demonstrated this idea. We’ve gotten to see the consequences of war – the survivors crying out for vengeance, settlements and towns destroyed, cities bombed, even the ruthless pragmatism of a leader willing to find and use any weapon he can to destroy his enemies. But while Garrosh Hellscream has played the role of relentless aggressor to the hilt, his opposite number hasn’t shown how far he’s willing to go. Varian Wrynn’s participation in the ‘A Little Patience’ scenario shows that he’s a more measured and contemplative leader than he once was, but we’ve yet to see just how extreme the measures he’s willing to countenance are. So far, the only time the Alliance was willing to make morally questionable choices to win was in Dalaran, actions that were clearly the work of Jaina Proudmoore and Vereesa Windrunner. However you personally found those actions, it can’t be denied that they not only advanced the story but showed a new side to Alliance leadership.

The reason I find myself musing about this is that I think that the 5.1 Dalaran quests did more to move the game’s story forward than we’ve seen in some time, and they did so by making this war one where either side can and will do what is necessary to win. And it is that embodiment of that brutal alchemy – kill X to save Y and accomplish Z, even if X is your own – that makes for a compelling story. Absolutely, there were innocents whose only crime was being Sunreavers, who had nothing to do with the Divine Bell or its theft, who ended up in the Violet Hold for no other reason than that they got in the way. However you feel about the morality of that decision, the narrative weight of it resonates long after.We need more of this. We specifically need more of it from the Alliance, who have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to be good and honorable.
William Tecumseh Sherman was infamous for his pioneering of the concept of total war. During the American Civil War, Sherman deliberately marched a Union army into the very heart of the Confederacy, and his goal was to make war on civilian population centers and destroy the South’s means of waging war. In the process, he waged a terror campaign against the entire Confederacy, burning cities, destroying railways, stealing food and supplies. He did this not in spite of the fact that it was barbaric and inhumane, but because of it. We could sit and discuss how Sherman did in fact give orders to minimize the suffering of the civilians to his own troops, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the entire Atlanta campaign, and those that followed it, we designed first and foremost to win the war. This is where all wars ultimately go. Honor is a fine word and a noble sentiment, but in the end war demands nothing less than total commitment to victory.
The Horde has clearly displayed a mastery of this concept. For all the talk of honor, the battle cry of the Horde is Lok’tar Ogar – Victory or Death. When we first saw Garrosh Hellscream as a warchief, he still cared about honor. But he has since apparently moved past this concern, going so far as to Sha-taint his own people in order to try and harness the power of the Divine Bell, because without such measures victory is in doubt. From a narrative perspective, this is exactly the progression we might expect to see. As the Horde extends its battle-lines further, the war becomes ever more costly to prosecute, and the Horde simply doesn’t have the resources to wage prolonged worldwide war against the Alliance in so many disparate locales. The entire Pandaria campaign is in fact aimed at gaining those resources, because without them, victory is impossible. The Horde fights a total war because the only alternative is defeat, surrender or encirclement and a slow death by strangulation as the Alliance cuts off their resources. 

WHAT IF ALL RAIDS WERE END GAME RAIDS

Sometimes the forums come up with some interesting discussions. Poster Locomonkey over on the EU forums posted this doozy of an idea, which Taepsilum then responded to in detail. They both have me thinking about the idea as well — what if every raid, from the original 60 raids to the Cataclysm level 85 raids, was updated to level 90? What if, when the next expansion came out, all the Mists of Pandaria raids as well as all those previous raids were in some fashion made current with level 95, or 100, or whatever current endgame happens to be? What are the pros and cons of this idea?
I’m not going to dredge over every point already made, you can go read Locomonkey’s original post, and Taepsilum’s well reasoned list of what the pitfalls to avoid in such a system would be. Instead, I’m going to speculate on how you could address those pitfalls. How do you make a system with so many potential raids tuned and balanced, deal with all the updated loot from those instances, and keep from drowning raid groups in choices? My suggestions are as follows:

1 – Don’t allow every raid every raid week
Back at the end of Cataclysm, Blizzard introduced a series of Summer Challenges, the purpose of which was to challenge the players to go back to older content. In my opinion, this kind of activity would be a perfect way to make use of an updated older raid. Imagine if Blizzard updated the current level 60 raids (MC, BWL, and the two AQ’s) to level 90 10- and 25-man raids, and then opened each raid in turn over the course of a month. So for April, you’d have Molten Core Challenge Month, with an updated MC available for your raid group to go explore. Then in May, Blackwing Lair would get the same treatment, followed by Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, and then Temple of Ahn’Qiraj. By rotating the updated raids in and out of circulation, you prevent guilds from feeling that they have to try and run 16 raids in one week, and by leaving the raid accessible for a month you give groups time to schedule a run or two inside the updated raid.
This could continue, month by month, until we’d gotten through the BC, Wrath and finally Cataclysm raids. It’s likely that this kind of process wouldn’t be completed before the next expansion started — which is fine, because it just means you’d plan out which raids to update to 90, and which ones to hold back to update to 95 or whatever max level in the next expansion will be.
2 – Don’t make the gear cutting edge
There’s no reason the gear in these updated instances has to be as good as the current raid, either. To make an example, let us suppose they had the four original raids ready to roll out under this system right now. Why itemize them as equal to Throne of Thunder? If they were merely as good as MSV or even HoF/ToES, they’d be compelling enough for people to go get gear for alts, offspecs, or just for guilds that are behind the gearing curve and would like another option a week to gear up for newer content.
For that matter, see number four on this list.
3 – Don’t worry about heroic modes or making the mechanics as challenging as modern raids
As long as the numbers line up, just let Garr and Geddon work as best you can with the current raid numbers. Leave perfect tuning and balancing to the current tier of raiding, and let these nostalgic older raids be updated so that modern groups can go in, get a sense of what they were like, and move on. I mean, not many raids are going to have the number of tanks and warlocks necessary to banish or offtank all of Garr’s adds, so don’t worry about keeping that mechanic alive. Close is good enough for this kind of content, and leaving it undertuned is fine, since it’ll only be around for a month or so before it’s replaced with the next one in the calendar. Think of them as bigger, flashier, nicer versions of holiday bosses.
4 – Do include them in LFR
In fact, you might even want this to be LFR only. That way, you don’t need a 10- and 25-man version of it. You’d just scale everything up to 25-man, and you’d only have to worry about tuning the mechanics to that grouping. Similarly, making them LFR special events means you could even keep them around after the month is over by making them a Random LFR feature, letting people run a random old raid as a bonus shot at LFR gear for the week.
In fact, making this a part and parcel of LFR from the get go solves a lot of problems. It allows people to run this content without having to convince a bunch of other people to run it with them, it means that once you had a sizable chunk of older raids converted you could keep them going by cycling them through a random LFR feature, and it makes transmog runs easier because you could run the raid with your friends on normal, and then go to LFR if you didn’t get your drop this week (like, say, when I killed Gluth and the Four Horsemen this week and my sword didn’t drop arrrgh.)
These are just some ideas for how this kind of system could work, and by far they’re not the only ones, nor do I claim they’re the best ones. How about you? Do you have ideas on how to keep such a system from becoming overly cumbersome and a drain on current endgame resources? I do like the idea, but I also think it would definitely need to be watched to keep from becoming a quagmire. Nice job, Locomonkey. 

WHAT IF ALL RAIDS WERE END GAME RAIDS

Sometimes the forums come up with some interesting discussions. Poster Locomonkey over on the EU forums posted this doozy of an idea, which Taepsilum then responded to in detail. They both have me thinking about the idea as well — what if every raid, from the original 60 raids to the Cataclysm level 85 raids, was updated to level 90? What if, when the next expansion came out, all the Mists of Pandaria raids as well as all those previous raids were in some fashion made current with level 95, or 100, or whatever current endgame happens to be? What are the pros and cons of this idea?
I’m not going to dredge over every point already made, you can go read Locomonkey’s original post, and Taepsilum’s well reasoned list of what the pitfalls to avoid in such a system would be. Instead, I’m going to speculate on how you could address those pitfalls. How do you make a system with so many potential raids tuned and balanced, deal with all the updated loot from those instances, and keep from drowning raid groups in choices? My suggestions are as follows:

1 – Don’t allow every raid every raid week
Back at the end of Cataclysm, Blizzard introduced a series of Summer Challenges, the purpose of which was to challenge the players to go back to older content. In my opinion, this kind of activity would be a perfect way to make use of an updated older raid. Imagine if Blizzard updated the current level 60 raids (MC, BWL, and the two AQ’s) to level 90 10- and 25-man raids, and then opened each raid in turn over the course of a month. So for April, you’d have Molten Core Challenge Month, with an updated MC available for your raid group to go explore. Then in May, Blackwing Lair would get the same treatment, followed by Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, and then Temple of Ahn’Qiraj. By rotating the updated raids in and out of circulation, you prevent guilds from feeling that they have to try and run 16 raids in one week, and by leaving the raid accessible for a month you give groups time to schedule a run or two inside the updated raid.
This could continue, month by month, until we’d gotten through the BC, Wrath and finally Cataclysm raids. It’s likely that this kind of process wouldn’t be completed before the next expansion started — which is fine, because it just means you’d plan out which raids to update to 90, and which ones to hold back to update to 95 or whatever max level in the next expansion will be.
2 – Don’t make the gear cutting edge
There’s no reason the gear in these updated instances has to be as good as the current raid, either. To make an example, let us suppose they had the four original raids ready to roll out under this system right now. Why itemize them as equal to Throne of Thunder? If they were merely as good as MSV or even HoF/ToES, they’d be compelling enough for people to go get gear for alts, offspecs, or just for guilds that are behind the gearing curve and would like another option a week to gear up for newer content.
For that matter, see number four on this list.
3 – Don’t worry about heroic modes or making the mechanics as challenging as modern raids
As long as the numbers line up, just let Garr and Geddon work as best you can with the current raid numbers. Leave perfect tuning and balancing to the current tier of raiding, and let these nostalgic older raids be updated so that modern groups can go in, get a sense of what they were like, and move on. I mean, not many raids are going to have the number of tanks and warlocks necessary to banish or offtank all of Garr’s adds, so don’t worry about keeping that mechanic alive. Close is good enough for this kind of content, and leaving it undertuned is fine, since it’ll only be around for a month or so before it’s replaced with the next one in the calendar. Think of them as bigger, flashier, nicer versions of holiday bosses.
4 – Do include them in LFR
In fact, you might even want this to be LFR only. That way, you don’t need a 10- and 25-man version of it. You’d just scale everything up to 25-man, and you’d only have to worry about tuning the mechanics to that grouping. Similarly, making them LFR special events means you could even keep them around after the month is over by making them a Random LFR feature, letting people run a random old raid as a bonus shot at LFR gear for the week.
In fact, making this a part and parcel of LFR from the get go solves a lot of problems. It allows people to run this content without having to convince a bunch of other people to run it with them, it means that once you had a sizable chunk of older raids converted you could keep them going by cycling them through a random LFR feature, and it makes transmog runs easier because you could run the raid with your friends on normal, and then go to LFR if you didn’t get your drop this week (like, say, when I killed Gluth and the Four Horsemen this week and my sword didn’t drop arrrgh.)
These are just some ideas for how this kind of system could work, and by far they’re not the only ones, nor do I claim they’re the best ones. How about you? Do you have ideas on how to keep such a system from becoming overly cumbersome and a drain on current endgame resources? I do like the idea, but I also think it would definitely need to be watched to keep from becoming a quagmire. Nice job, Locomonkey. 

A GUIDE TO LOOTING THE TROVES OF THE THUNDER KING

Along with a new raid, patch 5.2 introduced several solo scenarios into the mix. Some are purely for furthering the plot, but one is far more interesting than that. The Troves of the Thunder King allows you to walk into Lei Shen’s treasure vaults, steal as many items and as much gold as you can, and get out. Unlike other scenarios, the Troves of the Thunder King is timed — you aren’t allowed to loiter around aimlessly in there.
While some players may be confused as to the relative difficulty level of this particular scenario, there’s no reason to be. This scenario is not a walk in the park. It will not allow you to grab everything in one run. It contains elements that will in fact kill you if you aren’t paying attention. But it will also test every sneaky skill you have as a solo player, making the thing ridiculous amounts of fun if you approach it the right way.
And that’s where we come in. Let’s take a brief look at the Troves of the Thunder King and how best to plunder all that plunder!

Getting started
In order to enter the scenario, you’ll need a Key to the Palace of Lei Shen. There are few different ways to get your hands on a key. If you happen to find a gold chest while wandering around the Isle of Thunder, these chests have a chance of carrying a key. In addition, rare mobs — both those wandering around the Isle and those that are summoned, have a chance of dropping a key. And if you’re completing all your daily quests every day, the cache you receive as a reward for completing the final quest also has a small chance of containing a key.
There are some things to remember, however — you can only get a key off of a rare mob once per week. Similarly, you’ll only find one gold chest on the Isle of Thunder per week. Is it possible to get more than one key a week? Absolutely. But it’s rare. In addition to these three methods, you can also rarely nab another key from inside the treasure chests in the solo scenario — it’s possible to chain a couple of runs that way.
Once you’ve got your key, head to Taoshi in the Diremoor and speak with her to start the solo instance. When the solo queue pops, you’ll arrive in a preparation room of sorts. Before you go any further, check your buffs — if you need to reapply, do so now. Also, make sure you have auto-loot enabled, as it makes nabbing chests that much faster. And if you have any special class talents that will enable you to run faster, jump higher, levitate, stealth, or avoid damage, enable those talents before you begin!