Starts and Stops

•March 8, 2013 • 1 Comment

And so, Patch 5.2 arrived with much fanfare and dinosaur murder and…pugging.

Crap.

So, business as usual on the raid front, as we were gimped by two missing raiders. One got hacked, and used the opportunity to make his exit from WoW (for now), and the other had a work obligation. Stupid real life; can’t they see that we’re trying to kill bosses here?!

After a bit of discussion, we decided to hit trade chat to fill the holes. It isn’t like it would the first time we pugged for something, right? Not the start we wanted, but still a start. An opening week start.

Night one yielded a resto shaman and a lock. I find that it is both wonderful and terrible to pug a DPS that we already have in the group. It is wonderful in that our DPS usually wipes the floor with the pug, making me grateful once again that we’ve got good murderers. It is terrible…well, not for us, for the groups they have to go back to. >.>

*ahem*

Anyway…we killed Jin’rokh.

See?(Click to enlarge)

See?
(Click to enlarge)

And then…and then bridge trash.

Let’s talk about trash for a minute, you guys. The trash in Throne of Thunder is made by angry people. Angry, angry people. People who don’t get hugged, or eat chocolate, or get invited to parties. People whose underthings are too tight, who are pantsed and swirlied and wedgied and stuffed into lockers with alarming frequency, despite being well out of high school. They pay that anguish forward. They design trash with massive healing debuffs, and things you can’t kill that shoot you over the side of a bridge into an abyss, and wind, and surprise pythons with poisons that stack crazy high and can’t be dispelled. SURPRISE PYTHONS. Surprise pythons that make your death knight squeal like Muletia at a Gnome and Waggle convention, but with much less delight.

I’m saying it was bad. I’m saying it took us the better part of 45 minutes to clear it that first night.

Sadly, night two was more of the same. Pugged DPS who had to leave, to be replaced half an hour later by another DPS that also had to leave. Thus ended our raid week. Two nights ended early, one boss kill, and everyone hates Horridon (seriously, everyone felt the need to reiterate this, many, many, MANY times).

All told, we had some good moments in all that mess. We got to keep the resto shaman (we pug people and they want to stay; it’s freakin’ magical!), actually killed something, that trash only took 20 minutes on night two (with minimal deaths!) and despite everyone being pretty peeved by the end, we did learn some things. Next week we’ll have a full guild group, and it’ll be a bit easier. We’re pretty good at turning wipes into changes that produce kills. I’m optimistic for next week. I just wish I didn’t have to do it again on my paladin this weekend. Yay for tanking a second group…but that is another post for another time.

Elsewhere in the world…

As we began, another ended. My former guild, Anduins Fist, decided to close up shop this week, after years of raids and a lot of good memories made. The tag I wore when I really learned how to be a tank, surrounded by people who knew me when I was just a scrubby little hunter with a lot of drive to learn. It may not have been my home anymore, but I still stopped by the old neighborhood as often as I was able. It was a nice little place, and it will be missed by many. I wish all of my former guildmates the best of luck as they go their separate ways, and that they all find new places that they can learn to love.

Until next time…

The Story So Far…

•February 26, 2013 • 3 Comments

About a year ago, five people got together in Stormwind in the middle of the night, mostly on alts, to sign a guild charter. It was kind of a big deal, the culmination of a lot of long vent conversations beginning somewhere around “We need a new guild,” and ending at “So what are we going to call this thing, anyway?” And thus, Cinnamon Challenge got born.

For the next nine months, we leveled and leveled and server transferred and leveled some more, and professions were professed, and farms were farmed, and dailies, dailies, heroics, dailies (haaaate). We recruited and recruited and Pleth was awesome and leveled a druid and then leveled a monk because we really didn’t need a druid and then more recruiting. Gems were cut, food was cooked, flowers were picked, more food was cooked, and then food stopped getting cooked because we had no place to put it.

Then we started raiding, and miracle of miracles, stuff died and we went, “Hey, this might work after all!” so we killed more stuff and then I didn’t have internet and gravely ill Aussie hunter and more recruiting and pugging and recruiting. And then I came back and more kills and screenshots and videos and loot and blog posts and controversy and Amber Shaper and table flipping and then we totally cleared Terrace of Endless Spring in four hours (yes, I’m proud of it).

Sha of Fear

Lowmaine: Oh, we’re putting text on the screenshots now? Me: Yes. Yes we are. (Click to enlarge.)

And then more loot and Pleth was awesome again and leveled a shaman and we still have a ton of food and we’re not broke and whoa, we’re server 50th and man that’s a lot of Blood Spirits.

*phew!*

I think that’s it.

Happy Birthday Cinnamon Challenge, and thank you everyone who made our first year pretty freakin’ spectacular.

The end beginning.

On Dropping the Ball, Consequences, and Drawing Lines

•January 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This post…I thought long and hard about whether or not I should put it up. Unlike most days, I’m not gushing about my guild, or how well we’ve pulled it together, or any of that jazz. Nope, today is something a lot different: that perilous navigation of the parting of the ways. It was the first time that it really mattered, and emotions were raw, and things got mishandled, on a lot of people’s parts. The other thing I worried about was that it would be seen as some sort of justification of officer actions, that it would look like I was standing over here going “Guys, guys! Here’s what REALLY happened!!”

But then I remembered something important. I said that my intention was to talk about the business of running the guild, among other things. It’s not always victories. Sometimes there are stumbles. Sometimes uglier things happen. They’re just as important. So I’m going to talk about it. Maybe someone else can learn from our misstep. If it looks like I’m making excuses to some, so be it. In the end, I think I’d rather say, “Yep, that happened,” than put my head in the sand. The loss of one of our number, no matter what the circumstances, is impossible not to see, so we might as well look at it.

Much has been said about how difficult it is to help put this whole thing together. There is one bit of this deal that works for us most of the time, and that is the fact that the original members of the group were friends, or at least well acquainted. We lucked out on that point, as a bunch of people that we knew were in groups that were disintegrating, or simply unsatisfactory, and were looking for something new at the time that we were looking to build. This has been a blessing, largely. We understood what to expect from one another, and that made the experience fun, because somehow, despite all the little ways we can drive one another bonkers, it is familiar and liveable. And 99% of the time, it works.

Then there is that other percent. Where friendship is a stumbling block, largely because it keeps you tolerating things you shouldn’t probably a little longer than is healthy.

It begins with our healing corps.

Truth is, it became clear rather quickly that one of our healers was lagging a bit behind the others. We expected that might be the case, due to the relative inexperience of the person playing vs. the rest of our people. We thought nothing of it. People can learn. We figured time, heroics, and helpful advice from others who played the class would begin to bolster things where we were sagging. Unfortunately, this turned out to not be the case, as the healer in question…basically did nothing. No real attempts at improvement, no LFR, no anything, really. And the numbers were getting worse. It was a problem. Unsure of where to start first, we pulled them aside during off-time and tried to approach things quietly. We pointed to some things that could be improved, and offered help and suggestions. We volunteered to help run things, craft things, gather things, help in whatever way we could. It seemed to be a good exchange, and we walked away feeling optimistic.

Weeks passed, with little improvement, and worse, few visible attempts at any. Soon enough, others were noticing things, and began to bring their concerns to us. At this point, a problem shifts into liability territory. Progression became more difficult, in part because I was absent, and in part because we were now in a position where two healing anything for extra output was all but impossible, as we had a healer that was more like half of one, and had no viable off-spec. Utility in 10s is nigh inescapable, and a 10 man group with one person essentially missing is crippled.

In our posted raid rules, I have a statement nestled in rule #2: “You may pay your $14.95, but you’re still on $134.55 of other people’s time; please respect it.” The rule itself is about staying on task during raids, but it fit here too. This is where we were, asking people to carry someone who wasn’t respecting their time. This was the muddled part. How long do you say nothing? How long do you ask your raiders, who put in overtime, who look for every tiny way to squeeze out just a little bit more, and who have been great about offering every hand they can to someone who needs it only to be brushed back, to continue to take along someone who doesn’t even seem to be bothered to do the bare minimum? Honestly, I still don’t know, only to say that it was probably too long. This was the first place we dropped the ball. We disrespected our raiders by allowing one of our raiders to disrespect the rest.

And so, faced with that reality, we began to recruit. It was simpler at this juncture, because one of our healers was tanking in my stead, so we had the open spot anyway. People came, a few applied, none panned out, though we did get achingly close. But it was also where we made the biggest of the screw-ups. We had an applicant was awesome on paper, and we wanted to get him into a raid. We decided that we would sit our problematic healer for the night and invite the applicant instead. That worked well…except for the part where we neglected to tell the person being sat. It came up, and we even said, “Someone should tell [them],” but then no one did.

As you might have guessed, when this came to light during invites that week, it was messy. Because really, even after everything, we still should have given that courtesy. We copped to our error, and the healer gquit. I will spare the ensuing conversation. it strays a little too far into tabloid territory for my tastes. There were angry things said, and there were things said that made us angry. Everyone felt jerked around, them because of the raid spot, and us because we basically felt as though we’d been jerked around for a while now.

This story really resolves with a whimper, as opposed to a bang, which is a good thing, I think. It is rare that a dramasplosion is positive for a guild, even one that is as tightly knit as ours. The healer decided to go to another guild, and we continue to look for a replacement. I bear them no ill will. Perhaps a new environment will inspire growth that we couldn’t. For our part, we learned that as much as we hate doing the hard parts, they still must be done, and that as much as it pains us to do it, we have to draw that line in the sand between friendship and raids. It seems so harsh and cold to say, “This is business,” but it really is. And the way that the three of us can be completely hardline with one another (even if we end up logging off in a huff), we have to do the same with our “employees”. After all, a cut may seem cruel on its face, but it can be the decision that saves the body in the end.

Until next time…

Cheap Tuesday Post, Ahoy!

•January 22, 2013 • 2 Comments

Hey, I’m just happy to be posting twice in a month. It’s a freakin’ Christmas miracle.

I’m actually working on something a bit heavy, but until I get it done, please enjoy this short film of us killing Elegon last week. Lowmaine PoV.

Not pictured: Lowmaine falling down the hole on the pull before this one, or us all loudly telling him in vent to get off the platform during this kill.

Bear(‘s) Back, or Moment of Profitability

•January 12, 2013 • 3 Comments

At last, I have something to talk about that isn’t dailies (too many, totally over them, hatehatehate) or my suck ass connection (it sucked ass). And I’m going to talk a LOT. But there will also be pictures. Just note that you have been warned.

Last time I posted, Cinnamon Challenge had finally gotten it together enough to field a raid. That week, we went 4/6 in Mogu’shan Vaults, the first instance in our 3-raid, 16-boss tier. Following this magical entry week, my suck ass connection went to new heights, effectively blocking me from raids of any kind. Chagrined, I stepped away, not even doing dailies for several weeks until a former guildmate exploited that perfect nexus of mount lust, competitiveness, and psychological voodoo to get me back on the wagon. It was a rough time. Posts began about my daily hatred (and the strange masochism that drives me to do them anyway) and how much it blew to sit on the sidelines and watch, and all sit, abandoned in my drafts. At some point, I may trot out my favorite bits of those entries just for giggles. Wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for that, though.

The time did not pass idly – or without frustration – for my crew. We came up with a plan for my absence, rebalanced the group, and pugged a lot. Nearly every raid. The problem with being new on the scene is twofold: One, reaching the stability point is tenuous, because two, everyone seems to equate new guild with new raiders. The second part is the most irksome, for sure. The majority of our raiders have been at this a long time, going back to BC or farther. We all have standards and a more hardcore mentality. We read constantly, spend time looking at numbers, gem and enchant and overhaul reforging and argue best practices and all of it. Lowmaine, my co-tank and co-GM, just got a prot warrior guide stickied on the WoW forums. (If you haven’t been the to blog that he co-authors, Die By the Sword, you should remedy that, even if you aren’t a warrior. AFTER you finish this post. It’s not going anywhere.) We are new, but we are not fresh. But some of the apps we get…welcome to amateur hour. Did you even bother to investigate us before you decided you wanted to join?

Anyway, despite the fact that at least one spot was pugged each raid, the group managed to finish MSV and kill the first two bosses in Heart of Fear: Yo Dawg, We Heard You Wanted More Bugs. All things considered, they moved along at a pretty good clip. And if we manage to go 8/16 in about 6 weeks without a full guild group, imagine what we can do WITH one.

Well, this past week, we got a bit closer to that. My internet issues were finally remedied in the form of a new apartment with shiny new services. Two tanks meant a more stable healing crew, as my stand-in was able to move back to her primary role. This was a very big week for me, in more ways than one. For this was the week I achieved the moment of profitability.

Simply put, the moment of profitability is that moment where the place you are is officially better than the place you left. You may always know this place is better. But now you have something to point to so that other people with stuff to say can shut up. I find it to be a universally applicable thing. After all, when your new business finally MAKES money instead of just hemorrhaging it, that feels pretty sweet. I’ve had moments like that in guilds before, but none quite like this.

You see, unlike my co-GMs, leaving my former guild was hard. The guys were in an insanely, hilariously bad situation. Achieving profitability is easy there; the bar is set so low you can step over it. But AF actually isn’t that bad.  We made a respectable showing, but we weren’t big time. And that was fine. I was there for two years, held in place by my officer’s post and the raid group I thought of as game family. Several of them were people I’d raided with way back in Resurrected, my first raiding guild, so it was doubly comfortable to me. And it was on Aggramar, where I’d lived and played since beginning the game in 2007. I messed around on other servers, but Aggramar was home. Despite any discontentment, this was the place where I belonged.

So leaving was a closed-eyed leap. And even though I knew I was in a better place…well, you know. It’s the scary newness again. And with the place I left still doing its thing, reaching that moment of profitability was going to be a real push. It was, and yet it wasn’t. As of the start of my first lockout back, both this guild and my former guild sat at 8/16 bosses. And with me being back…well, I’m rusty. I got my face beaten in by Devastating Combos on Wednesday. It got a little better on Thursday. I suppose I can still learn how to do stuff.

By any standards, Thursday was a good night for us. We had a full guild group, though it was not without its disconnection and small child issues. I was calmer and a little more relaxed (Wednesday night had featured me eating someone’s face about 20 minutes in; nervous bears are cranky!), and with a couple of hours of work, Garalon bit it, pretty much right at enrage. Literally; he had turned big and red and was rearing back to deliver his insta-wipe when he keeled over. And then screenshots. It had been so long since I’d done it that Low had to remind me.  It seemed to please him to do so, though.

You would not believe how many screenshots I have have to take just to get one where Murdos is looking at the damn camera. Sheesh. (Click to enlarge.)

You would not believe how many screenshots I have have to take just to get one where Murdos is looking at the camera. Sheesh. (Click to enlarge.)

Heartened, and with two hours left to raid, we ran off to the next boss. And we killed him. It was messy. Oh so messy. And again, it was right at enrage, not to mention twenty minutes past the official end of raid time.

Des is pouting because I told her to move her Jade Dragon out of the middle of the shot. (Click to enlarge.)

Des is pouting because I told her to move her Jade Dragon out of the middle of the shot. (Click to enlarge.)

And just like that, 10/16. A great way to spend my first week back. Turning a profit.

Or as someone put it when I told him, “Um…are you guys recruiting?”

Until next time!

OH GOD FINALLY

•November 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

I want to say something witty here, but all I can think of is “Putting the dogs down.” I hate myself. (Click to enlarge.)

People always tell you that starting up your own guild thing is hard. But that’s generally all they say. “Hey, it’s hard”. But they don’t tell you how. They don’t mention that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know that the people you have talked into coming in with you on this crazy adventure are looking to you for answers and you have nothing. Or when someone goes out of town or a freakin’ hurricane hits the East Coast and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it and great, there’s yet another week (or two, or three) that you have to push back your start. It is frustrating, and completely out of your hands.

Many an evening was spent in conference, going Pollyanna all over the place. We can DO this. It’ll happen. And that’s the part that just kills, you know? Deep down, you know you can pull this off. Your group is solid, you’ve thought of just about everything, you’re approaching it all with a level head and a sense of humor. When stuff happens, you huff and puff and admit you’re mad and then get on with it. Meanwhile, you’re watching people patiently waiting and preparing, diligently running heroics and LFR and leveling professions and stockpiling materials and doing dailies until they’re blue in the face and up to their eyebrows in hate. Everyone is cooperating, offering their time and pulling together and making each other laugh and you know, this is going to happen. You know it HAS to happen, because you’re sitting on enough food to feed a guild three times your size for a year. Sometimes the only thing that keeps you pushing forward is that moment where you stand in front of the guild bank, and someone says,  if we don’t pull this off, what the fuck are we going to do with all these banquets?

The thing that they don’t tell you is that when you have spent so long in a holding pattern, something as innocuous as killing a single boss feels like taking world first. There is a strange sense of pride that comes from that first raid. It is, in some ways, the most important raid you will ever run, because you get to finally see if all the flashes of brilliance you’ve seen can become something big enough and together enough to make things die.

It wasn’t perfect, of course. We had to take a pretty big break mid-raid, and my current connection gets quite perturbed when I attempt to tank Feng the Accursed. The latter is particularly hard, not because I don’t think my back-up can do the job, but because dammit, I’m a tank and I’d rather be tanking. But the Stone Guard only took us ten pulls, as opposed to another guild that I can think of  that blew two weeks worth of raids on that kill. (It’s our petty competitiveness that makes us awesome!) We learned fast, we recovered quickly, and we got the job done. We didn’t get a crazy number of pulls on Feng, but we got fairly fair. It’s quite doable.

If nothing else gave me heart about last night, this certainly would have: Facing a fairly persistent hole in our DPS roster, we were forced to pug. We managed to get a hold of a hunter; very smart, very solid player, and recently unguilded. It’s a little weird picking up someone and saying, by the way, this is our first run as a guild ever! Still, he stuck with us, even through the intermission (where he happily participated in the murder of some flagged Horde with us outside the instance), and was highly instrumental in our progress. He seemed to fit right in. And apparently he agreed, because by the end of the raid, he and his wife had joined the guild. I think that might be what actual winning looks like.

It gave me great pleasure to wake up this morning to our first realm ranking. We are currently the 124th-ranked server on Proudmoore – US. All things considered, I’m damn proud of that ranking.

And seriously, don’t put any more banquets in the gbank right now.

You Can Go Home Again, Because Home is In a Different Place

•September 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I like the expansion so far. The quests are fun (though Jade Forest is looooooong) and there are a lot of tiny touches here and there that are just giggle- and groan-inducing in the extreme. I’m pulling together bits here and there to post after I reach 90. That should be fun. I think my favorite to this point is a gorgeous screenshot I took in Jade Forest, overlooking the Temple of the Jade Serpent. Less than an hour after, the landscape had been altered considerably. I’m glad I happened to turn around when I did.

Funny thing is that my best moment in-game wasn’t in Pandaria…well, not exactly. I will explain. Thursday afternoon brought restarts. I did errands all day, and when I finally got a chance to log back in, there were 8 minutes to restart. Boo. So I hopped over to Aggramar, hoping that maybe they were on a different part of the cycle. (They were. An earlier part. >.>) There were about 10 people on, though.

It was also super quiet.

Not a shred of conversation. No one was talking. No one was grouping. Everyone was just questing. Which is fine, really. It was what I was used to, and even six weeks before it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. That’s just how some guilds are. Conversation happens in quiet places and spaces. Mostly there’s focus, and everyone just does their thing. Some are perfectly happy with that experience.

I, on the other hand, found myself rather unsettled. I didn’t realize it until right then, but my Cinnamon Challenge is a house full of people at dinnertime. Conversation is constant. Dungeon groups randomly form. We kid and pick on each other and laugh and complain about things and just generally have a good time. And I have become accustomed to it. We have equal numbers of people on in both places, but the atmospheres are so very different. And I was homesick.

We should see 4 90s today. I will not be one of them (I’m on pace to finish some time late tomorrow.) We are probably going to have to have to push back our raid start while we gear up and fill out the group (we could use a DPS Shaman and a hunter – tell a friend!) But I’m not worried. We’re having a blast, and clearly enjoying each other’s company. Tier 14 is mostly about making this group a team, but if watching the leveling process is any indication, we’ll be just fine.

Until next time!

 
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