World of Warcraft – Why the Alliance is boring.

I’m going to assume that every single person reading this has at least heard of World of Warcraft, or is proficient enough in google-fu to get the cliffnotes on it. If you haven’t and/or can’t, what rock have you been living under?!

I’m not going to beat around the bush with this: The Horde is just more bloody interesting than the Alliance. Until recently though, I had no idea why. Sure, the Horde’s got interesting backstories for each of its factions, a (mostly) unique flavor for each of them, they were (mostly) the villians in the original Warcrafts, and they have a very devoted playerbase. But the thing I never understood was why the Alliance felt so boring in comparison.

Now, I can understand it starting out that way – the Horde was more interesting to me when I started playing WoW because they had the Tauren and the Tauren are awesome (yeah, entirely subjective there, go figure) but when I left, I found myself with a lingering affection for the Horde and a resounding ‘meh’ for the Alliance, despite the fact that I’d been playing Alliance almost exclusively for years. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t hate the Alliance, they have some good characters, good questlines and some great moments. The Horde was just more fun to me, and until recently I couldn’t figure out why.

Nerfnow posted a comic expressing the author’s frustration with the lack of an Alliance/Horde conflict within WoW, a conflict that was supposed to be at the core of Warcraft. I was intrigued by the idea, but that was a reason for the game’s (alleged) decline, not for the Alliance boring me. So I thought back to all of my favorite moments in WoW and Warcraft 3 (sadly, the only two I’ve played 😦 ), and I think I know why the Alliance is so boring: There is so little wrong with the Alliance compared to the Horde that it is almost staggering.

Hear me out.

The Alliance has it’s share of problems, true, but how many of them deal with how the outside world treats them? How many of their problems have to do with how the factions relate to one another? The Dwarves, Humans and Gnomes have been friends basically forever, the Night Elves and Worgen are bound by their link to the Worgen curse, the Dranei worship the Light just like most of the rest of the Alliance… this is a worldwide union of races with little problem with each other. Sure, the Dwarves had to form a council of three hammers after their king was frozen, the dranei are refugees, Night elves have to deal with mages, etc etc… But between the factions themselves, what kind of conflict do we really see? I can’t think of anything, and certainly nothing that takes center stage for half an expansion.

Compare that to the Horde. The side that (in WoW) has always been about separate, disparate races banding together because the world hates them. Garrosh killed the leader of the Tauren through treachery at the hands of the Grimtotem, Vol’jin told Garrosh TO HIS FACE that he was going to assassinate him one day. The Forsaken are becoming more and more monstrous by the day, to the point that even the Horde doesn’t trust them any more despite their alliance.

The problem Nerfnow noted was that the Alliance and Horde rarely conflict in major ways anymore: the Alliance and Horde are working together to take down Hellscream, when the Alliance should be siezeing the opportunity to destroy the Forsaken and push away the Horde’s foothold in Lordaeron. And ya know what? I find it hard to disagree. The conflict has become Garrosh vs the World in Mists of Pandaria, and the Horde/Alliance conflict feels like it is almost gone. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Alliance had major problems other than the Horde… but (discounting problems the Horde also has) it really doesn’t.

Hell, even in the Alliance’s own stories, the Horde is more interesting than they are. Look at the Worgen origin quests – specifically, when Sylvanas lies to the orc sent to oversee her. I was more interested in what the Forsaken were doing at that point than I was the Worgen – they were LIEING to the people they pay lip service to. Meanwhile the Alliance instantly trusts the savage half-wolf things… for almost no reason. I can see the Night Elves doing it, but come on, at least give us a sidequest where a human in Stormwind is like ‘waaah wolf people suck, ima kill ’em’ or something!! Is there a quest like that that I just missed or something?! Come on, Blizzard…

The Horde is more interesting not only because is it still trying to destroy the Alliance, its own factions are in conflict too. Conflict makes the story, my friends, and the Alliance has lacked inner conflict for a long time. (To be clear, I mean faction-to-faction, like humans vs dwarves vs night elves, etc.)

That’s my theory, anyway. What do you think?

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RWBY Headcanon – Weiss and Ruby’s Families

…Okay, I said five minutes, and it’s been like 3 hours… sorry, i kinda messed up the scheduling thing. So here ya go, a second Ruby headcanon.

(WARNING: Contains spoilers up to episode 10, the Badge and the Burden part 2. I try to keep details on the actual plot of each episode scarce, so you shouldn’t be spoiled too much, but… well, you’ve been warned =P)

Let me pitch an idea to you here: Weiss has no mom and Ruby has no parents, period.

Hear me out.

First, some canon and WoG: Monty has gone on record that Yang and Ruby are not blood-relatives. This means either a friendship close enough to call each other ‘sister’ or adoption. Personally, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, since Ruby has said she’s got a mom and dad who told her how to live her life… also, assuming both her parents are dead, she was adopted by somebody and it might as well have been in the family of the person who calls her ‘sister’. It’s also possible that Yang lost one of her parents and the remaining parent married Ruby’s dad… but that seems a little convoluted, imho.

In addition, Red Like Roses Part 2 (the song that played when team RWBY fought the Nevermore and team JNPR fought the Deathstalker) heavily implies that Ruby lost someone important in her life, and in the Red trailer, Ruby visits a grave before fighting a pack of Beowolves. I’d be lieing if I said I was certain it was her mother’s grave, but it does seem likely.

A bit more subtle is that the first Red Like Roses mentions the titular “Red likes roses” as being Ruby’s motivation for going to “the place you rest”, and Red like Roses part 2 implies that said redness (please bear with me) makes her feel “emptiness and sadness” that came to take the place of whomever she lost.

Weiss is where things require a bit more headcanon. Now, we do have WoG that the reason Weiss wears her ponytail to the side like she does is that that was the most rebellious thing she could get away with under her family’s watch. From the white trailer we also know that, for whatever reason, she thinks she is ‘the loneliest of all’. Now, this could refer to the idea that ultimately, she can’t connect with anyone because she’s always tightly under control and manipulative (see her conversation with Pyrrha and Professor “Awesome-mustache”) and suffers from the dread disease I like to call “I’m-in-a-crowd-of-strangers” syndrome, where a person is in a crowd but still feels lonely because there’s little communication between her and the crowd.

Now, my headcanon for Weiss’ situation is as such: Weiss’ mother (we’ll call her Mrs.Schnee) was very close to Weiss, and gave her pretty much her only source of love and support in a world that either hated her or wanted her controlled. Mrs.Schnee suffered a terrible accident when Weiss was young. Weiss was involved in the accident (possibly Mrs.Schnee dove in to save her or something?) and was scarred across her eye. Mrs.Schnee died from this accident, and Weiss has since felt isolated and alone. Her father (we’ll call him Mr.Jackweed) became over-protective after this tragedy. In a misguided effort to keep Weiss safe and happy, he essentially isolated her, meaning Weiss had few friends (if any) and most of the friends she did have, she had ulterior motives for making (again, see Pyrrha). However, Mr.Jackweed also gave Weiss thorough self-defense training (hence her skill with a blade and her magic circle thingies), and Weiss found herself liking combat. To make a long story short, Weiss then went to Beacon to learn the skills of the greatest warriors Vale has – the huntsman and huntresses – so that she would always be safe.

My thought is that at some point, Weiss and Ruby will learn of the deaths of each others’ parents. This will lead them to think they may have had more in common than they thought, and warm up to each other.

Now, admittedly, Weiss’ basic history there is mostly speculation since we know very little about her. However, Weiss and Ruby have been butting heads and arguing pretty much from the moment they met. If both Ruby and Weiss had lost their mother, there would be some real opportunity for growth and development between the two.

Granted, the theory isn’t perfect – Weiss’ past and Ruby’s family have remained largely unexplored so far throughout the series, and two characters with dead parents might not work very well. But these characters need some common ground to build on if they’re going to be friends, and since it would also inform their previous behavior I think this would be a great way to do it.

So those are my thoughts on Ruby and Weiss’ families. Leave comments, like, reblog, link to your friends, whatever you feel like doing.

BUT I NEEEEEEED FOLLOWERS @_@ DO EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET

Seriously, thanks for reading and I hope you liked this enough to pass it on =)

Exalted Commentary – Abyssals and Resonance

I like to think about ways a story or idea could be made better with as few changes to the original as I can manage. The original doesn’t neccessarily have to be bad enough to need the change, it just needs to be an improvement. I had a rather nice one recently regarding Abyssals from Exalted.

Before I get into the dirty details, a little background for the uninitiated (you can probably skip past the next section if you’re already familiar with Exalted):

Abyssals, or Deathknights, are a type of character class in the roleplaying game Exalted. They are the black knights, champions of darkness and death itself. Their powers originally were Solar, of light and life, but were stolen and turned into powers of darkness and death. (it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’ll do for now) A Deathknight gains their powers when they’re about to die: a Deathlord (or Neverborn, I’ve never been clear on which) speaks to them and offers a deal: give up your name to serve Oblivion and bring about the end of all Creation, or die. The Deathknights are the ones who decided that yes, their life was more important than the entire rest of Creation and their very identity.

Of course, this makes it utterly impossible to be a hero with a Deathknight, since you’re basically a slave to the Deathlords, who are themselves slaves to the Neverborn (Dead Titans, basically – we’ll skip over them for now) who want nothing but Oblivion for all the world. So there’s also the option to play a Renegade deathknight – an Abyssal that decided Oblivion wasn’t worth serving and ran off.

Of course, this incurs the wrath of your masters, building a stat called Resonance. Resonance builds whenever you do something to Creation that has an overall positive effect on it and doesn’t help further the cause of Oblivion. It essentially causes any friendship, love or even just acquaintanceship you have with anyone that isn’t a servant of Oblivion (or your Lunar bondmate, but don’t get me started on Lunars) to turn sour and things around you to suffer and die. The exact effect varies from GM to GM, but they include things such as animals dropping dead, a blight spreading wherever you walk, a cloud of darkness filled with screams, ice freezing everything you touch… Ya know, typical champion of death stuff.

Now, there’s only one chance for an Abyssal to be redeemed: it’s possible, after a fashion, for an Abyssal to turn into a Solar (champion of light, law and life). However, canonically, it hasn’t happened yet, so your character would be the first, and it is a very difficult journey. In the meantime pretty much anything you do to try and be a hero will result in everyone you care about (and everything around you) suffering.

(Ok, Exalted fans, you can tune back in now)

One criticism I’ve heard levied at Deathknights in Exalted is that they basically have only two options: journey to redemption, or omnicidal monster. I disagree with this but I understand the argument, and especially why this would be a problem: Exalted is supposed to be a universe where heroes and heroism matter, but why would an Abyssal’s acts be worth anything if you’re playing out the same two paths as anyone else? A solar could start a kingdom, save all of Creation, go on a personal journey of redemption, restore the first age… pretty much anything a hero from our own world’s legends could do. An Abyssal’s storylines, however, (so goes the argument) are limited to omnicidal monster… and trying to gain redemption to become a Solar in which case you might as well have built a Solar in the first place.

We’ll ignore for the moment that becoming a Renegade Deathknight, breaking the bonds of slavery, (oh yeah, forgot to mention, the Deathknights are basically slaves in 2e) as could being a dark knight for Creation, or fighting the Deathlords on their own turf, or a myriad number of other characters and storylines could be heroic in their own way. Let’s look at the other major complaint: Resonance.

A big problem with Resonance is just how easy it is to gain. You have a track of 10 for Resonance, which is supposed to go up when the Neverborn get pissed at you. That much is fine – Limit has a 10 track too, and with no Great Curse (which I won’t get into here) the Abyssals need something to balance it out. The problem is that, by strict word of the story, Resonance can be gained by sneezing in a crowd of people because you’re not killing that crowd of people.

Exalted’s 3rd edition (yay Onyx Path!) has altered the Deathknight’s relationship with the Deathlords to master/apprentice, and that works fine in my opinion (Gives the Deathknights more breathing room to carve out their own story while keeping the whole ‘dark solar’ feel) but I had another idea that I felt at least deserved a mention: Houserule that  Deathknights have their knowledge about Resonance sealed away by a dormant spell that activates when they turn renegade, so that Renegades don’t know about Resonance.

Hear me out.

Resonance, at its core, is supposed to represent how an Abyssal is trapped by their destiny as a creature of unending death and destruction, right? And the (alleged) problem with Abyssals is that they have only two real storylines, right? Well, losing the knowledge that their actions are being watched and reprimanded by the Neverborn means that the Abyssals lose incentive to work for them. This means that, if your Deathknight goes renegade, he doesn’t have to seek redemption or be an omnicidal jerk if he doesn’t want to. So a deathknight not only can go for the redemption or omnicide storylines, but can also be a dark knight in service of good, a warrior who uses the tactics of the enemy… it gives the character a lot more room to act, to be! It also implies that each deathknight knew that Resonance would harm those around them and chose to leave before the knowledge was sealed anyway (meaning they either trusted themselves to find redemption or just didn’t care… and the latter’s already there with the way abyssals are chosen).

But there’s one other storyline opportunity that this opens up with plenty of room for drama, and it’s the main reason I’d like to see this done.

Imagine this scenario, if you will: A deathknight has been fighting for a city or village or something for years. Found friends, found love, found a place to protect and call home, a la a standard superhero. But the universe itself seems out to corrupt, destroy or just plain hurt everything she cares about. Everywhere she goes, despite all the people she helps, tragedy befalls her and her friends, and the darkness swells in her heart. We’re talking Spiderman levels of suffering here: people she cares about die, suffer, are turned evil or even have their souls eaten, and usually through her own actions (albeit indirectly and by accident). She’s constantly tormented by the desire to do evil, but she tries her damndest to be a hero. She assumes that the massive releases that come from Resonance are just side-effects of her death powers, and she does her best to minimize their impact.

Now picture her defeating another Deathknight, with similar powers and the whole omnicidal maniac thing. And during the fight, she learns that because of her powers, everything good she’s ever done has caused harm around her.

As long as she has her powers (and once Exalted it can’t be taken away, save through death) she will either serve Oblivion or everyone and everything she cares about will suffer and die right before her eyes.

Now, Deathknights become deathknights by basically saying that their life is more important than everything else in Creation. So she suddenly knows now that not only is she an utter monster, but it is her fault that everyone she loves is suffering and dieing around her. And whenever she tries to help, her Resonance will only grow, which will just make the situation worse.

Imagine the sheer horror of this kind of revelation to a character. The Deathknight would be shocked to her core.

So, you may ask, what happens next?

I don’t know. And that’s what I love about this idea.

The character will show so much about who she is and what she wants by how she responds to this revelation. Will she go back to the deathlords, her last hope shattered? Will she go into self-imposed exile, afraid to so much as touch the people she loves? Will she go onto the road of redemption at long last, desperately trying to make herself into something other than a spectre of death? Will she not change her lifestyle at all, showing she much prefers the thrill and glamor of heroism to the reality? Will she commit suicide, unable to cope with the utter lack of- Okay probably not that one, since you’d have to roll a new character, but you get the idea! There’s so much room for drama and growth there, imho.

Of course, I have little experience with Exalted or Abyssals (definitely less than I’d like =( ), so maybe this idea is actually incredibly stupid/impossible because of some other detail i missed.

I’d love to here your thoughts on this, too. What ideas would you implement to help Abyssal mechanics/characters? What problems to Abyssals have in your games? Does 3e look to be fixing those problems? Do the Abyssals not have any problems at all and I’m a dumbass for even bringing up that they might (look, I’m just countering an argument presented to me, okay?! 😛 )

(Also, something funny i noticed: ‘General Motors’ is one of the recommended tags for this post.)

RWBY Headcanon – Why the Impractical Outfits?

I have a theory on why Jaune is the only character in the entire series (that we’ve seen fight) that fights wearing armor. Or more accurately, why everyone else (except maybe Pyrrha) goes into battle dressed in cloth that offers little to no protection.

We’ve been told that Aura is a manifestation of one’s soul, and that you “project your soul and your self when fighting”. We’ve also been told that the creatures of Grimm are soulless and the “manifestation of anonymity”. Pyrrha also claims “they are the darkness, and [humans] are the light” but everyone has a little of both. It stands to reason that anonymity is also closely tied with darkness, and that individuality (or whatever you would call anonymity’s opposite) is tied to the light.

If light is tied to individuality and anonymity to darkness, then it’s plausible that anything that reinforced that you were an individual would strengthen your soul’s light side and anything that reinforced anonymity would strengthen the dark. And when you strengthen your soul, your Aura strengthens. Since all of the characters’ weapons and equipment are conduits for Aura, this means that their weaponry becomes stronger and more useful. And as we witnessed personally, Aura can also shield you from harm and heal your wounds. So the stronger your aura, the stronger you are.

To make a long story short (too late): Aura users dress in impractical-looking ways because it’s actually very practical – it makes their “magic force field”, their weaponry AND their ability to heal stronger by reinforcing who they are. Such an enhancement to their abilities, both offense and defense, does more to protect them than armor ever could. Jaune wears armor because he doesn’t know how to use his aura.