Overmix: Taste the Back of My Crystal Fist

Okay, brief backstory: my buddy @Ventain on Twitter decided to run a contest for folks to design their own heroes for Overwatch. Since I’d just spent a bunch of brainspace trying to suss out who the next hero was going to be based on the trickles of information during a brief social media campaign, my creative juices were flowing and I decided to submit. Another artist I follow, @Faebelina, entered as well, and tweeted out her entry, and because I really like this hobby of critiquing OW hero designs from a gameplay standpoint, I asked Faeb if I could post my thoughts up here.

So let’s get started!

Artwork and design credit: @Faebelina

Basics:

  • Role: Support (Healer)
  • Shard Projectiles: Mira shoots shards from her crystal gauntlet that damage enemies.
  • Healing Aura: Mira’s crystal gauntlet heals allies in a cone in front of her.
  • Crystal Traps: Mira places a crystal trap that effects a small area, healing allies and slowing enemies (3 charges).
  • Diamond Skin: In difficult situations, Mira can coat herself in a shield of diamond to escape, making her immune to damage but also preventing her from using any other abilities.
  • (Ultimate) Prismatic Shield: Mira drops a large crystal creating a prismatic barrier reflecting incoming damage back to enemies for 4 seconds.

Review:

Shard Projectiles: Because of the range Mira will be sitting at, and because she doesn’t have any movement abilities, I’m initially thinking that Mira’s primary/secondary fire should allow her to have some ability to threaten targets at a distance. But when you consider that all of the other support-healers have got accurate long-distance threat abilities, there’s value in having a support-healer who is more dangerous up close, especially given her Diamond Skin escape.

So all that said, LMB feels like a crystal shot that fires a projectile similar to Mei’s alt-fire, but with less lead time, less accuracy, and faster reload. Since she will generally be facing her allies in order to heal them, she’s generally going to be spraying into the pack in order to get hits in. I imagine her having a fairly small clip and a moderate reload time, because the idea of her holding up that gauntlet and having it kinda accumulate energy that crystallizes around it sounds pretty awesome visually.

For her RMB, though, I really like the idea of it being a brutal punch with that crystal gauntlet that’s like shotgun damage at close range (consequently requiring her to reload more frequently). Her melee (Mouse4) would still be the slash with that crystal sliver in her left hand, but this RMB hit would just punish anyone who closes with her. Would really diversify her from other healer-supports (aside from Lucio’s boop).

Healing Aura: Depending on the dimensions of the cone, Mira is going to be a fairly mid-line support, which places her close to the pack (like Lucio) but generally not as close as Mercy or as far back as Ana (Zenyatta can be anywhere in LoS after he drops his orbs, so he’s a wildcard). Part of the challenge is going to be how well she can keep a moving pack healed when she needs to be aimed at her allies for her passive healing to work.

Crystal Traps: To an extent, I think you could drop the slow component and just amp up the healing aura around the trap. I say this because when you combine this trap with Symmetra’s turrets (which already slow a target) you’ve basically got a reason for allies to run into Symmetra’s turret nest to get healed (and draw in enemies looking for the kill who then get carwashed). What’s great about dropping these on the payload is that it’ll amp up the passive healing folks get from pushing the payload, which Mira would be sitting behind anyway for cover. It’s a perfect payload-focused build.

Diamond Skin: Part of me sees this as too similar to Reaper’s Wraith Form or Mei’s Ice Block, which makes me want to add a different component to it. Generally speaking, though, a Support who has a get-out-of-death-free card can be really sticky if she’s still got someone else around to heal when the effect ends. There’s probably a need to differentiate it more from Zenyatta’s ult, but it’s a great starting point for an ability. Off the cuff: shorten the immunity time frame, and give her an AoE damage explosion when the ability expires (b/c crystal shards are flying off of her). This doubles down on her being dangerous to have in melee range.

Prismatic Barrier: I love a damage-reflecting barrier, especially since it will straight-up murder folks like Roadhog, Reaper, or Pharah with big AoE damage ults that are hard to aim or cancel. I also love it because it’s a fresh mechanism and those are going to get harder to come by as more heroes get added to the game (though Orisa is a demonstration that you don’t need fresh mechanics to put together a hero, natch).

Assessment: 

Mira’s got a wonderful kit to complement her art. She fills a niche of a melee support hero who’s got some tools to survive toe-to-toe against other brawlers, and her ult punishes heroes who fire blindly into it. Drawbacks are that her only escape is Diamond Skin and her ult can whiff if people get wise to the damage reflection, and if her allies are too spread out then her healing is more limited than Lucio’s and she’s got no way to catch up to them.

Overall, that’s exactly the kind of rock/paper/scissors design that works in Overwatch as a game (aka “easy to learn, difficult to master”). This is one of the more grounded and reasonable designs I’ve seen for hero concepts so far, and you can’t beat the kind of heart that Faeb is able to instill in her artwork. So count me as being reasonably pleased with this design; if my own entry in this contest ends up not winning because Mira wins the prize, I ain’t even gonna be mad. ^_^

More Reasons Why Med’an is Awful and Why I’m Glad He’s Gone

Something that emerged from the the WoW Q&A at BlizzCon 2016 was a statement from Alex Afrasiabi that Med’an’s tenure as the Guardian of Tirisfal is no longer canon.

Now I want to clarify a few things here:

  • This, on its own, doesn’t mean that Med’an as a character is no longer canon. Afrasiabi dances around this a bit, but the impression I get is that what’s being retconned here is ONLY Med’an becoming the Guardian, and nothing else. The broad strokes of the comic book story arc focusing on Med’an can still happen even if all of the story’s details don’t happen or happen in an as-yet-undisclosed manner.
  • However, a lot of information has come out since then to indicate that Med’an MIGHT be getting deleted from the canon. Which is why I’m here writing about it, natch.
  • Now, in addition, I’m revisiting this topic because the original is easily the most popular post out of everything I’ve written on this blog, and yes I think the Buzzfeed-esque clickbait title plays a role in that. Sorry not sorry.
  • Final note: yeah I got pretty bombastic and hyperbolic in the original, and while I haven’t really calmed down re: my feelings on Med’an, I still want to be a bit more sober in my speech about him now.

Reason #5: Khadgar

The best place to start with additional reasons why Med’an is awful is by talking about the guy who has most clearly usurped his place in the narrative: Medivh’s former apprentice Khadgar.

Khadgar, both in his original role from the WC2 and The Last Guardian narratives and his resurgence in Warlords of Draenor and Legion, is patently more interesting than Med’an. His past as a nervous young apprentice sent effectively as a pawn of the Kirin Tor to spy on Medivh is already more compelling than Med’an’s contrived childhood.

That’s not to say that Med’an’s background doesn’t have the potential to be a great story. The narrative of a child who is trapped between worlds by virtue of his heritage is a great starting point, but the problem is that a) it’s already been done better with Thrall, and b) the way Med’an was sequestered with only Meryl for contact with other sentient life completely defangs the narrative. If Med’an doesn’t really ever have to confront his nature as an outcast with no tribe to call his own, then it makes his mixed heritage a complete footnote. Put another way, it doesn’t matter that Medivh is his father and Garona is his mother, because his worldview isn’t impacted by his parents being those particular people.

Who are Khadgar’s parents? It doesn’t matter. They’re of no consequence to the story, so they never come up. The fact that Med’an’s parents are characters who are important to the narrative, but whose narratives hardly impact the arc of Med’an’s narrative (his parents could be literally anyone else and it would change his arc very little) just drives home an awful truth: Med’an’s parentage is used as a kludge to artificially make him appear more important to the narrative than he really is.

Khadgar becomes important to the narrative specifically because of what he does, not what he is. He becomes Medivh’s apprentice, learns that his master is responsible for the Dark Portal, and ultimately aids in killing Medivh. He gets his youth stolen from him specifically because Medivh/Sargeras is spiting him for his ingenuity.We care about Khadgar because he did the right thing but paid a price for it. Throughout the Second War and the Alliance expedition beyond the Dark Portal, this mechanism of Khadgar doing the right thing even when he has to give something up for it continues.

Medan, however, becomes important to the narrative specifically because of what he is: a macguffin spawned from two significant characters, someone “foretold by prophecy” to be important. He is pursued specifically because he’s the Special, and he ultimately only succeeds because he’s the Special.

Reason #6: Garona

Something notable about the second volume of the Blizzard/Dark Horse collaboration called Chronicle is that it gives us a pretty good picture of what was going on with Garona, in addition to some clarifications about her nature.

  • She is no longer the daughter of Maraad’s sister. The timeline of Garona’s birth and childhood, and the capture and death of Leran (Maraad’s sister) doesn’t allow her to be born and grow up in time to join the Shadow Council’s shenanigans prior to the First War. So the filial connection with Maraad (used in the comic as a way to give Maraad a reason to drop science on Garona’s origins and guide Med’an) is basically wiped out at this point.
  • While Garona still spends time at Karazhan with Medivh, nothing is mentioned about the notion of a budding romance between them. The omniscient narration of Chronicles allows for information to be skipped over, so there’s room for the two of them to have possibly coupled up at some point, but nothing about Garona producing a child shows up at any point later in the narrative, and her role in the background of the Second War is greatly expanded.
  • Meryl, a key individual for Med’an’s upbringing in the comic, doesn’t warrant a mention in this volume. Khadgar is specified to be the only person Garona trusts, however, so it seems more likely that if Garona DID bear Medivh’s child but didn’t feel confident in caring for that child, it’s Khadgar who most likely would have been trusted with the baby. If this happened, it would likely have impacted Khadgar’s motivations in the later Second War and the Draenor campaign, but nothing about that is changed.

Now again, just because Med’an’s birth isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Principally, what his exclusion most likely means is that he wasn’t relevant to the narratives being told in Vol. 2. Could he become relevant in a later volume? It’s possible, because the narrative space still exists for his conception to take place. But critical details of his background and childhood are missing, which fundamentally alter his interactions with particular characters in the comic.

Reason #7: LEGION & Harbingers

The introduction of the class order halls in Legion brought a veritable TON of supporting characters from the lore of the game out of the woodwork to play supporting roles for the player. Med’an is notably absent from all of these order halls. It could be argued that because his narrative was based on him taking on the magical paths of a bunch of different classes, he doesn’t really fit into one versus another. However, it could also be argued that Med’an, as a cross-class, cross-factional character, would have made perfect sense to involve in the class campaigns or even the Light’s Heart campaign, and yet he’s completely absent.

For an expansion that really plumbed the depths of the game’s history to bring in characters for the class narratives, Med’an’s absence speaks volumes. He’s a character that SHOULD be involved if Blizzard wants him to have any relevance going forward, and yet he’s nowhere to be seen.

What’s more, you’ve got the Harbingers animated short that focuses on Khadgar, which was released as part of the lead-up to Legion‘s release.

Something specifically called out by Khadgar during his interactions with “Medivh” is that the Council of Tirisfal shut down the Guardian role following Medivh’s downfall, specifically because that much power residing in one person was a terrible risk. This position would essentially undo the entire Guardian narrative that was the foundation of Med’an’s powercreep in the comic: namely, that his nature as Medivh’s son and his heritage as an orc/draenei/human hybrid made him well-suited to wielding all the various colors of magic that he got from the New Council of Tirisfal, which Khadgar condoned but did not join.

Why I’m Glad This Kid Is Out

When you put all of these details together, combined with all of the glaring flaws of the World of Warcraft comic series that I called out in the original, what you’ve got is a situation where Blizzard seems to be very quietly shuffling Med’an off the canon history of Warcraft.

I, for one, am most pleased. This whole project has been about discussing that Med’an is superfluous at best and damaging to the canon’s integrity at the worst. While I always struggle with situations where a piece of work has to be decanonized, I think in this case I’m okay with cutting off the warped, unrecoverable branch that Med’an represents on the overall tree of Warcraft lore.

Of course, if anything about Med’an shows up (either cementing his removal from the canon or the unlikely event that he shows up again) I’m certain to write more about it here, so stay tuned. ^_^

Uniformity and (Un)skilled Labor

It occurred to me while ordering my Sausage McMuffins this morning. The looping video on the menu showed an egg being cracked into a circular frame on a hot griddle to form the egg portion of the sandwich. This wasn’t much of a realization on its own; I’d seen the process and even done it a few times myself. What it connected to, unexpectedly, was the notion of how foolproof it is, and how devious.

The bakery provides sliced muffins, which sit at room temperature in a breadbox. The halves get warmed up in a toaster, or perhaps on the griddle. Stylistic choice, really.

You’re provided a frozen sausage patty, along with a purpose-built microwave that warms the whole thing in a short window of time to a very heavily-researched temperature that a) ensures there are no dangerous microbes, b) will melt the slice of processed cheese to a pleasing degree, and c) will be warm enough to be appetizing to the average consumer.

You’re then tasked with the straightforward duty of cracking an egg into a frame on a pre-oiled griddle, waiting a specified amount of time, and then scooping this cooked egg puck into the prescribed stack of ingredients (muffin bottom, freshly-cooked egg puck, warmed-up sausage patty, melt-ready cheese slice, muffin top) before wrapping it up in paper and dropping it onto the heat racks to maintain that pleasing temperature before the front-side staff package the order and pass it off to the waiting customer.

Once you’ve done this specific procedure a few times, it becomes rote. Automated. The reason machines don’t do the whole job is because it’s cheaper to pay a teenager minimum wage then it is to develop and refine the machine. If it weren’t for child labor laws, you could probably get toddlers to do the work if you were okay putting them in front of a hot griddle, and you could pay the toddler less than the teenager.

The process is so simple because it requires no skill. All it requires is the attention to place Tab A into Slot B, wait X seconds, and then assemble the parts in the right sequence. It is straightforward to teach, and to execute, but most importantly it creates uniformity in the delivered product.

[Now, yes, what complicates the job for line cooks in fast food is that they’re not responsible for making only one sandwich over and over. There are dozens of items on the menu with differing complexities, and then you get into customers making special orders, which drives the complexity up even further. The skill isn’t in the act itself, but the agility of the line cook to call up and execute the right procedure (with the right modifications if necessary) with minimal time wasted. And under no circumstances do I want to get into the debate about how much money this line cook should be compensated for this agility, because that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.]

I want to establish the process to describe its simplicity so that I comment on the uniformity that such a process produces.

You can walk into any McDonald’s anywhere in the US, and the Sausage McMuffin you ask for will be effectively identical. Which in turn means that you can always rely on a McDonald’s to deliver a product with no surprises. You, as the customer walking into a McDonald’s, know what you want, and you will be able to reliably get it.

You don’t have to think about whether the restaurant has something you like on the menu, because you already know the menu. The decision fatigue of the menu is a non-factor.

At the end of the day, fast food restaurants create an environment where you don’t have to think, or more importantly, you can reserve the resources you’d spend on thinking about what to eat for thinking about other stuff instead. But the way that they do this is they remove the innovations involved in the art of cooking SO FAR from the act of cooking that the people creating your product don’t have to think either. The people making your food invest the barest effort they’re allowed to deploy.

In a world where what we eat has such an impact on our wellness, shouldn’t we be thinking MORE about what we eat, not less? If that consequently creates a demand for more people who can spend time innovating in the kitchen, does that not elevate the art and science of cooking?

Hmm.

Lotta thoughts from a bad breakfast.

 

The Rundown

something something long hiatus, something something new plan. Let’s skip all this for now and focus on what’s up at the moment.

Games I’m Playing

  • World of Warcraft: LEGION – Just joined up with a cool new guild called <smol pupper> on US-Proudmoore-A. Casual raiding with a bunch of ex-hardcore raiders, chill environment, cool people.
  • Final Fantasy Record Keeper – Mobile gacha-style game, totally an indulgence of my Final Fantasy nostalgia. Sadly keeping me from other mobile games right now.
  • Fire Emblem Fates [IN PROGRESS] – I’ve got a lot to say about this game, but I think I need to write a post talking about the FE series here. Bottom line is that I REALLY want to have more knowledge about this series, but it takes some time investment.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End [COMPLETE] – Review forthcoming, even though I know it’s a pretty old game by this point.
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn [COMING SOON] – Picked it up, haven’t started it yet, prolly should. ^_^
  • Overwatch (S4 Rank 1862) – Orisa is such a joy to play, but when she’s not working, I can always fall back to D.va. Crow r murdertank. ^_^

Books I’m Reading

  • Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes [COMPLETE] – Again, review is on the way. Easily 9.5/10 though, it was such a pleasure to read.
  • Sabaa Tahir, A Torch in the Darkness [COMING SOON] – The sequel to the above, and planning to eat through it pretty quickly if the first book was any indication.
  • Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows [QUEUED] – Loved the first lines, loved the title, fits with my initiative on reading YA written by women and POC this year, and really looks promising.
  • World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 2 [COMPLETE] – Lots to say about this entry, but it does everything that the first volume did last year with stuff that’s more relevant to the more recent history of the game. Which is fantastic.

Movies & TV

  • Iron Fist [QUEUED] – Been hearing a ton about this that doesn’t fill me with lots of hope, but after Daredevil S1/S2, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, I think something that was less than stellar was kinda due up.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 [DELAYED] – Basically missed the third episode of the season and was never able to catch up with it, so I guess I’m waiting until the season will be fully streamable before we get to pick it up. But dude: GHOST RIDER.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender [IN PROGRESS] – Man this show is a pleasure. Trying to stretch the experience out a bit, even with the second season now available, because I’m remembering how awful it felt to wait on subsequent seasons of Legend of Korra. But MAN is this a great show.
  • Logan: I’ve got a lot to say about this film and the X-men franchise as a whole, but short of all that, this is an excellent, excellent film. Wonderfully acted, invisible effects, and I really want to see Dafne Keen murder people in the future.

Reddit Remix: 3/24/17, Jediwatch

My response:

Reflecting beams: the reason why Genji’s bullet deflection works from a design standpoint is because the trajectory of the projectile is changed from one value to another. That logic doesn’t work for the beam weapons, because they don’t adhere to the same logic. Specifically, Zarya’s beam has a fixed endpoint (reflecting that endpoint somewhere else would just read VERY weird visually), while Symm and Winston’s beams latch onto a nearby target and deal damage while that target is in range.

I could see an ability that spawns an energy singularity that acts as a decoy target for Symm/Winston’s beams and maybe draws Zarya’s beam into it while in range, but that doesn’t mesh with the Jedi kit you’re prescribing here. TL;DR: There’s no way to do a Jedi trick that duplicates Genji’s deflect for beam weapons.

Force Push: I don’t see this being functionally different from Lucio’s RMB or Pharah’s E. It matches the kit, but it’s not particularly unique.

Force Lightning: This could be pretty visually spectacular, and fits the kit. I could see a mechanism where the damage dealt is distributed across enemy targets (aka: the fewer enemy targets, the more damage they take) and perhaps an additional part where allies get a temporary lightning aura that acts like Winston’s beam weapon for a brief period after leaving the Ult area.

Force Jump: I like the idea of being able to do an enhanced jump, but I don’t think it needs to be Genji’s double jump. Maybe holding down SPACE lets you charge up a jump, and releasing it launches you up?

Saber Slash: Short range, fast melee attack, no ammo… nothing wrong with this if you can build the rest of the kit to support it.

Saber Toss: Medium range, deals damage in both directions… I don’t get the self-damage component, that doesn’t make any sense if the weapon flies back to you anyway.

So to review: yeah, all of the abilities generally match a complete kit of replicating a Jedi-like character, but mechanically some of the abilities range from flat-out not working to simply not really bringing anything interesting to the table.

What role were you thinking of? Offense? Defense? That might give some more guidelines on what you want the hero to, which could influence the abilities.

For example, let’s kit this hero out for Defense, meaning that the greater objective is denying an area to the enemy.

  • E: Singularity – Spawns a black hole (fixed location) that draws nearby enemy fire (including beam weapons) into it for 2s. (It’s like a fixed Defense Matrix, but has a shorter duration and can eat beam weapons.)
  • Shift: Vortex – Spawns a wind tunnel in the direction you’re aiming for 5s. Heroes in the path of the tunnel are pushed in the tunnel’s direction. (So aim it up and it can work as a launchpad to move friendly heroes to a higher location, but aim it along the ground and it will push heroes who walk into it away from the source.)
  • LMB: Saber Slash – Melee range, deals aggravated damage to energy shields.
  • RMB: Saber Toss – Mid range, deals damage to targets while in flight.
  • Q: Lightning Field – Short range area around hero deals lightning damage to enemy heroes. Ally heroes in the field gain a lightning damage attack that strikes a nearby enemy within 3s from leaving the field.

This hero operates on area denial by being able to absorb fire using E, move enemies (and/or allies) using Shift, threaten enemies with LMB/RMB at short/midrange, and can turn a chokepoint into a very deadly area using Q. The aggravated damage to energy shields makes the hero especially dangerous to Symmetra and Zarya, but also to Winston’s bubble, Reinhardt’s shield, Orisa’s shield, and enemies defended by Symmetra’s Shield Generator, Zarya’s bubble or Lucio’s ult.

Taken from a high level, it’s like a defense version of OG D.va with a few tweaks and a modified version of Mei’s Ice Wall.

The Lost Drafts: Sheralya and Gram

So way back in the day, I played a lot of Earthdawn with my friends. I came across this piece that I haven’t looked at in years, and realized that it actually tells something of a complete story. As in it’s a complete scene in and of itself. 

That it, y’know, kinda doesn’t suck. So yeah, something decidedly different from the Warcraft stuff that’s usually here, but maybe you’ll enjoy it. ^_^


Gram’s blond hair was held back with a scrap of cloth as he hammered away at the unruly steel. Someday it would be a sword, but Gram knew it would take a lot of work to get it there.

His magic tickled the nape of his neck with the sense that someone bearing steel was drawing close. He looked over his shoulder to see Sheralya pulling aside the canvas that covered the entrance to the makeshift forge. The sound of flapping wings, barely audible over the crackling fire, told Gram that the beastmaster’s owl didn’t like the idea of an enclosed, hot space.

“Everything all right, Sheralya?” He drew an arm across his face to rid himself of sweat, streaking his cheeks with soot.

“All is well. I came to ask a question or two of you, if I may.”

“At your service, m’lady,” Gram said with what he hoped was a charming grin. He hefted the steel hulk from the anvil and made for his cooling trough. ”Let me just put this pig-iron away and…”

“No, please,” she said, “I’ve never seen an Adept of your Discipline work his skill before. Might I watch?”

Gram blinked, but then grinned amiably in response. “Oh, certainly…” He lay the unshaped steel back on the anvil and struck true with his hammer. For some reason, the sound of his tool striking the metal felt infinitely louder. He winced and looked back at the elfin woman, who had found a stool to sit on. “Sorry for, well, the noise…”

She waved a hand to dismiss his words. “Do not worry yourself. Please! I do not wish to distract you!”

Gram nodded sheepishly and set back to hammering.  His growing frustration about the obstinate metal soon absorbed his attention again, as every strike he made seemed to sour the shape of it more than what he intended. After some time, he finally muttered a curse or two and thrust the metal back into the forge.

“The metal troubles you?” Sheralya said from the stool as Gram pulled up another and sat across from her, drawing the scrap of cloth across his forehead. He nodded in reply, trying not to voice his frustration too loudly. He was about to open his mouth to speak to that effect when Sheralya spoke again:

“What does the metal say to you?”

Gram’s head tilted, like when a cat is confused. Sheralya must have understood, as she sat up and continued.

“As a beastmaster, I speak with animals. They do not speak in a language that only beastmasters can hear, but their thoughts, their feelings… I can read those. I think many Adepts speak with their Discipline: Sabree speaks with spirits, Atsuko speaks with the hearts of those who hear him, Seiryuu and Chi speak with the elements. Does a weaponsmith not speak with the material that makes up his weapons?”

Gram shook his head. “I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t believe it works for all kinds of Adepts. What does a thief like John speak with? Ultimately, metal doesn’t have thoughts for me to read. Even an animal has a mind, and has a will, even if it doesn’t have speech. Metal doesn’t have a desire.”

“It doesn’t?” Sheralya looked pensive for a moment. “Part of what a beastmaster does is train animals to perform tricks or tasks. Obviously some animals will be better at certain tasks than others.”

“Well, of course,” said Gram. “You’d send an owl to scout ahead, but you’d ride the thundra beast into battle.”

“But perhaps you might find that unique thundra beast that is skilled with scouting. Or an owl who is fearless and doesn’t shy away from battle. Every animal has a nature of their own, just as people do, just as the world has varied places of varied natures. Why is metal so different? Perhaps you have found metal that does not wish to be a sword, so it resists you.”

Gram looked thoughtful for a moment as the thought rolled about his mind. With a grin, he looked back up at Sheralya and said, “Funny, I thought I was teaching you about my Discipline, but I think you might have told me something even Cesus didn’t know!”

“You have shown me much, my friend.” She rose from the stool, gripping Gram’s shoulder as she did so, and pushed aside the canvas to re-enter the day outside the forge. Gram stood and watched her go, holding the canvas up. He saw the owl flit down and land on her shoulder gingerly.

He chuckled as he let the canvas drop back into the place. Pulling his heavy gloves back on, he picked up the red-hot metal from the coals and set it back on the anvil. With a smile spreading over his face, he regarded the twisted, misshappen steel and said, “so then. What do you want to be?”

Remixing Draenor’s History Part 3

Wanted to call out Cho’gall in particular here. Enjoy.


Cho’gall and the Twilight’s Hammer

The Forgers shaped a great ball of fire and made it into the world. From the clay of that world, they made the ogres, and gave them power over stone and earth. All of the strength and authority of the ogre dynasties throughout the world’s history stem from this single idea: they were crafted in order to rule. It’s something that draws power from the creation of the world itself.

It makes perfect sense that you’d see a counter-culture movement arise that draws power from the end of the world that ogres were intended to rule. It also makes sense that one of the primary tools involved with creation, a hammer, is also closely associated with destruction since it can be employed as a weapon. So to a great extent, the concept of the Twilight’s Hammer existing as a nihilistic fringe group within the great culture of Gorian society makes sense.

(As a side note, it’s notable to point out that the influence of ogre society on the orcs can be easily identified by looking at the Doomhammer. Even if the prophecy around the weapon never turned out to be true, or gets constantly reinterpreted whenever the Doomhammer changes hands, the fact that the apocalypse legends of Draenor center around a hammer, and that orcs would create a legend about a hammer that brings doom, is no coincidence.)

Of course, the Twilight’s Hammer would naturally have to be something that the the ogre dynasties would attempt to quash. Cells would rise up, convinced that they had found access to whatever trigger would bring about the end of the world, and the empire would destroy it. Cho’gall, then, is the latest in a long line of ogre magisters who delved too deep into the maddening secrets of the cult and came out the other side convinced that it was all true. Cho’gall, as a result, turned out to be much more cunning and capable than many of his predecessors, which you can see from his long career.

The key is this: Cho’gall predicted correctly that whatever Gul’dan was doing with his campaign to butcher the draenei, it had something to do with destroying the world. It’s part of why Mar’gok and the rest of “proper” ogre society considered Cho’gall a traitor: he willingly aligned himself with the orcs and essentially advertised that they were going to merrily destroy the world that the Gorians claimed ownership over.

Now the problem is that it’s hard to tell exactly how Cho’gall was working for the Old Gods on Draenor, since he clearly transitioned into working for them on Azeroth after the Second War. Aside from the “ancient and powerful evil” that the Sketh’lon were trying to summon in SMV during BC, and the part where the Pale are speaking something that sounds similar to Shath’yar, we don’t really have overt evidence of the Old Gods on Draenor itself. Volume One of Chronicles helps to explain the diaspora of the Old Gods across the Great Dark Beyond as agents of the Void Lords, but the repeated notions that Draenor is younger than Azeroth and that it hadn’t been struck by any living asteroids of meat make one question how close they got to the planet.

That leaves us in a weird position where yeah, we expect that Cho’gall is working for the Old Gods because that’s what he did all through Cataclysm and the WoW comic series, and because working for Gul’dan’s Horde in the First/Second Wars serves the objective of destroying at least one world… but without any direct evidence to indicate that the Old Gods are actually on Draenor, it’s hard to tell exactly how Cho’gall ends up getting these marching orders in the first place.

The bottom line? Cho’gall was only willing to work for Gul’dan so long as a) it let Cho’gall remain alive to fulfill his goal of destroying everything and b) it granted access to a feasible scenario where Cho’gall got to be at least partly responsible for destroying everything. His cooperation with Deathwing during Cataclysm echoes this sentiment. The fact that he was willing to betray Gul’dan once Cho’gall had gained control of K’ure and the Pale drives the point home that the Shadow Council was always only a stepping stone for him. But what makes Cho’gall wily is the part where he was able to convince Gul’dan that he was loyal and dedicated to Gul’dan and Gul’dan’s goals for years.


Yeah, I know Warlords is old hat at this point but I’m holding out hope that it’s something we go back to someday. And there are a lot of ways to do that, which is why I’m writing all this down. So let me know what you think in the comments.

Remixing Draenor’s History Part 2

I know it’s been a bit since Part 1 but stay with me on this journey.

More of this will be a bit more freeform rather than the earlier delineation I made between in-universe accounts and external analysis.


The Long Decline of the Gorian Empire

Let’s be honest, the Gorian patricians were spanked by the draenei. And between everything they spent trying to conquer the draenei, and the part where they lost their entire enslaved population of orcs as a result, it meant that the empire could no longer sustain itself. The empire fractured, everyone trying to use whatever resources they could to subjugate some other clan in order to claim resources and get their working class back. The War of the Exiles ends when the draenei withdraw and the orcs claim their freedom on the northern continent, but the fighting across the empire doesn’t stop for decades.

Highmaul’s existence in Nagrand stems from the collapse of the empire, in fact. It’s been centuries since the war, and some imperator gets it in his skull to restore the ancient metropolis of Highmaul, making it his seat of power, and striking up a trade with the remnants of the empire on the southern continent with goods crafted in the north. There’s also an underground slave trade, fed by ogre privateers who prey on orcish coastal villages. (This details also feeds into the orcs’ resentment of the draenei, since the draenei navy was supposed to be strong enough to combat the ogres’, and yet everyone suffers for it.) It’s nothing like the subjugation of an entire race, but the Highmaul elites are able to profit off selling orcs for drudge work, outcast arakkoa for craftsmanship, the occasional draenei as an exotic trophy piece, and all of the above including saberon for bloodsports. (Hence, this is where Kargath’s origin story as a gladiator comes into play in the MU canon.)

This is also where the Warsong campaigns against the ogres in Nagrand come from, and part of why the Warsong are among the fiercest warrior clans among the orcs: they had the greatest amount of combat against organized, military opposition (as opposed to the Thunderlords hunting the gronn, or the Bleeding Hollow battling outcast arakkoa and saberon in Tanaan). This is also the part where Grom Hellscream gets his initial glory from tearing an imperator’s throat out with his bare teeth. The Blackrock Clan’s battles against ogres in Gorgrond have similar echoes.

For their part, the draenei don’t turn a blind eye to this; part of the reason they were blind-sided by the orcish uprising is because they were preparing a military reprisal against Highmaul. More of the rangari were monitoring ogre shipping lanes and troop concentrations and simply didn’t see the Horde coming until it was too late.

The imperator (let’s just assume it’s Mar’gok), witnessing the Horde’s massacre of the draenei, decides that he’s interested in a piece of the action, or simply that he wants to claim the ancient magic of the draenei that his predecessors in the War of the Exiles failed to get. But this is where the true ferocity of the fel-powered Horde comes into play: the ogres don’t stand a chance. Highmaul is obliterated. Rogue bands of ogres (remember Turok from Warcraft: Orcs and Humans or the ogres who aided in the assault on Shattrath?) even end up being recruited into the Horde as shock troops to be used against imperial centuries and draenei holdouts, because ogres respect strength and the Empire simply no longer had it. Once the fragments of the empire on the southern continent heard about what happened, the ogres were galvanized and united against the Horde, for all the good it ended up doing them.

In turn, this helps to explain why those orcs with a strong history of battling ogres, like Grom and Kargath, aren’t involved in the First War. They’re busy protecting the Horde’s flanks from the reconstituted Gorian forces who are trying to sweep in and claim the Dark Portal for themselves. This is also why you end up seeing more ogres deployed in the Second War: the Gorians have been defeated so soundly that more ogres are joining the Horde in order to stay on the winning team.

Ultimately, the Gorian Empire dies with the rest of Draenor, and principally because they failed to react well to any of the paradigm shifts that were introduced into their domain: they couldn’t deal with the draenei without trying to subjugate them, and they couldn’t deal with the orcs once they’d been empowered by the Legion. And with no arsenal to call on against these forces and no one to broker a deal with a higher power of some kind (as we’ll see with Cho’gall), all that was left of them were the dregs that were either dominated by Gruul and his sons or discovered the Apexis monuments and founded Ogri’la.

Clearly, another one the blades of grass that differentiates the timeline of Warlords of Draenor from the MU is that Mar’gok doesn’t have any luck discovering Titan relics that he can use against the Horde’s fel magic. Because hot-diggity would some of that come in handy.


More to come. 

The Lost Drafts: Scions of the Black Empire

Look, I really want to see the nerubians, mantid, and qiraji team up again. And that’s really where this came from.


To himself, Arix’anub silently repeated the final warning of his mentor: You must not fail. You must not fail. In you resides our last hope of freedom. 

As the great spiderlord emerged from his burrow into the great crystal-lit cavern, he took in the sight before him and suppressed a shiver. Silithid drones swarmed so thickly in three great pits that the piles of them looked like singular, pulsating masses. Such behavior was not unfamiliar to him given spiderling young, but these drones were the size of boulders.

The swarms were so thick that Arix’anub couldn’t tell what the drones were at work on. He imagined, however, given the nature of the summons, that this was something that would be revealed to him. Indeed, his mentor has sensed that such a revelation was the reason that someone from the tattered remnants of Azjol-Nerub was summoned in the first place.

At the center of the cavern, an obelisk of elementium hovered over the ground, with great black chains trailing off of it to moor at different points on the walls of the cavern. It was not unlike a spider’s web, only made of something far colder, far crueler, and far more permanent; a fitting place for the servants of the Old Gods to congregate.

A flight of swarmguards approached, the buzz of their gossamer wings sounding alien to Arix’anub. The scholars of his people had spoken often of ancient times, during the height of the Black Empire, when there was no distinction between qiraji, or nerubian, or mantid. They were as one race, enthralled to the Old Gods and their faceless enforcers, but nonetheless kindred.

Arix’anub could find nothing of his kindred in the veiled faces of the swarmguards as they chittered at him to follow. He accepted the escort begrudgingly but wordlessly. It would not serve to be a rude guest, even to such as these.

Beneath the hum of the great floating obelisk awaited those whom the spiderlord has been summoned to meet. To one side, a mantid war master stood, twin blades of hardened amber strapped to the back of his thorax, two massive upper arms resting atop the lower pincer arms, which were blackened by something Arix’anub couldn’t identify without closer inspection. The war master’s triangular head dipped in mild respect as his compound eyes took in the spiderlord, and Arix’anub bowed his own horn in response.

At the center of everything, before the obelisk, a great qiraji prophet stood, suspended on eight great hairy legs banded in gold and silver, silk robes flowing like new, yellow eyes in a shadowy band on the upper half of his head. Those eyes settled on Arix’anub as he approached, and the great sleeves of the robe rose to join together before the towering thorax while revealing nothing of their contents.

“So Ixit is a coward, then,” intoned the prophet.

Arix’anub measured his outrage carefully, though he did not completely conceal it. “The Seer is no coward. Our kingdom needs his guidance if we are to rebuild our strength. I am Prince Arix’anub, and the Seer has empowered me to speak for Azjol-Nerub in this congress.”

“‘Congress,'” chuckled the prophet bitterly. “How droll. Our masters do not believe in congress, spider-prince. Our masters direct, and we obey. Such is the way of the aqir.”

“Such was the way,” Arix’anub replied, his wings fluttering in irritation.

“With respect, Prophet Skall’iz,” came the mantid’s higher-pitched chitter, “let us not bicker. Prince Arix’anub represents his people, just as I represent the Klaxxi and the nascent Empress. He is not wrong; we are a congress of equals, even if we wait upon the will of the Ancient Ones.”

“A will that will never come,” said Arix’anub. “Yogg-Saron’s influence is a fading memory. C’Thun is a lifeless husk. The final breaths of Y’shaarj have been scattered to nothingness by the usurpers’ children. Only N’Zoth remains, and all of N’Zoth’s gambles with the children and the Earthwarder’s brood have come to nothing.”

“Heresy,” Skall’iz breathed wispily. Arix’anub didn’t know if it was shock or amusement on the qiraji prophet’s inscrutable face, but he refused to back down.

“The usurpers defeated the Ancient Ones, and imprisoned them. In Nerub, my ancestors recognized this was an opportunity for freedom. A chance to make our own destiny rather than being fodder for the chaos of their unknowable will. Ever since have my people fought for that freedom, against the trolls, against the Scourge, and against the Faceless.”

“A drone lacks purpose without the command of his empress,” said the war master, his tone even, “and are we scions of the Aqir not merely drones before the Old Ones?”

“We are not drones,” said Arix’anub, “because we possess our individual will. Is it not the way of the mantid that the strongest drones of the swarm return from battle while the weak are culled by their enemies? Is that strength born merely from brawn, or is it a matter of will as well?”

“Is this why Ixit send you, spider-prince?” said Skall’iz, chortling as he cut off the mantid’s response. “To argue heretic philosophy with us instead of offering servitude to our masters?”

“Ixit sent me to speak for Nerub, prophet, and so I speak. I answered the summons to hear and see and know what takes place here.”

“If you stop speaking, then you will hear, see, and know all that you wish.”

Arix’anub bit back a retort, but bowed his horn to the prophet in submission.

“The ‘games’ of N’zoth, as you call them, are not yet done, spider-prince. The Emerald Dream succumbs to the master’s control as we speak. The children are distracted with the Legion’s latest advance. And most importantly, we have finally uncovered the key that we need to truly turn the tide of this war in our favor.” The prophet paused dramatically, his sleeves parting in a grand gesture. “Xal’atath.”

Arix’anub did not contain his laughter, listening to it echo weirdly off the distant walls of the cavern around them. “You called this meeting over that accursed trinket? The very least of the tools of the Ancient Ones? Even as a servant of chaos, to think that there is any power in that castoff fragment is a delusion!”

“You see, Xan’tik?” said Skall’iz said to the war master, irritation filtered behind a cloying air of superiority: “For all their vaunted reputation as scholars and historians, even the Nerubians are ignorant to the truth.”

Arix’anub looked to the war master for confirmation. “What is this truth, then? Xal’atath is a toy, nothing more. Something to dupe the children into believing they had uncovered power when it was intended only to make them destroy themselves.”

“The whispers of the Heart of Y’shaarj confirmed this truth when the Klaxxi doubted it, as you do,” said the war master softly. “The Black Blade was never so simple an object as you describe, prince.”

The prophet chortled, but said nothing.

Moments later, after Xan’tik the Igniter had laid bare the truth of Xal’atath, Arix’anub’s hulking body sagged under the weight of it.

“Do you see now, spider-prince?” Skall’iz opened his sleeves again, and in response the drones in the three great pits below halted their work, withdrawing to reveal what they labored upon. Nestled in each pit was a hulking mass of flesh, shot through in places with glimmering black elementium. The shape of the three beings was immediately evident to Arix’anub: all where c’thraxxi, the great Faceless generals who had been the terrifying taskmasters set upon the aqir of old by the Ancient Ones. The Nerubians believed they had accounted for all of the c’thraxxi, and Ixit had personally rejoiced upon hearing of the deaths of Vezax, Erudax, and Zon’ozz, each in their turn.

And yet in these pits, Arix’anub saw three more of the creatures of nightmare, empowered with the primal elementium, and awaiting only one critical ingredient before they would live again to menace all of Azeroth.

An ingredient that would be provided by the Black Blade, should Skall’iz ever get hold of it.

Master, Arix’anub thought, I have failed, and we are all truly doomed. There can be no freedom, even in death, from the will of the Ancient Ones.

 

Had to say one thing on voting third party and it’s this

There’s a couple different ways to look at this.

First and foremost, your vote is your right, and it’s an expression that is protected by the First Amendment as readily as it’s defended by the Constitution itself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t vote for Gary Johnson. That includes anyone saying “I could vote for myself or a potato” yeah you could, but that would be stupid, because no one else is voting for you or a potato. Voting for a third party candidate because you believe that person is the best for the job is 100% valid as a choice.

Another way to look at it (which doesn’t invalidate the part where your vote is your right) is recognizing all of the other players in the game of the election process. Folks disregard Johnson and Jill Stein as candidates because they aren’t buying up gobs of ad time, and when the media DOES give them free publicity by covering them, it’s usually to ridicule them in some manner that deflates their candidacy (Johnson’s ignorance re: Aleppo and Stein’s desire to make Trump president in order to teach the electorate a lesson are singular examples). And the chief reason that the media at large (on both left and right) seems interested in doing this is because the electorate wants a Red vs. Blue race. By and large, third party candidates lack support and lack an installed base to draw from because of how entrenched the Democrats and the GOP have been for the last 40+ years.

The two-party system is a self-perpetuating engine, because rising politicians entrench themselves within the coalition that stands the greater chance of getting them elected, and the media continues to prop up Red vs. Blue because it’s a story that reads far easier to an audience that really isn’t interested in nuance. Most candidates who claim they want to upend that system get written off by the media (unless they’re able to seduce the media like Trump and Ross Perot were able to do) and consequently don’t get elected because they never find their base (because the media obscures it), so the system perpetuates itself.

So after saying all this, I’m not going to say that voting for Johnson is useless. It’s not useless. You think he’s the right guy for the job, or you think he’s a better option vs Trump or Clinton, or you’re protesting the two-party system that you feel isn’t representing you as a citizen. Your empowerment to do that is important, and you should always vote and always vote your conscience.

The media, however, is only going to pay attention to votes for Clinton and Trump, because they want the World Series of politics for an audience that’s hungry for an entertaining show, not an audience that’s actively engaged in the nation’s actual political character. And that’s something that’s ultimately solved only by a real revolution of thought, where the media recognizes that the game can be made more complex because the audience is in fact capable of understanding more than two opposing teams.

Takeaways: vote with a clear conscience. It’s a right that people lived and died to provide to us as citizens of this country, so it’s our responsibility to follow that spirit properly. But to affect change in the oligarchical structures that have perverted that spirit into a sideshow in the name of ad revenue and engagement numbers instead of actual engagement, it’s going to take a lot more than a vote. It’s going to take a movement.