April 26, 2010

I have come to enjoy it when the DPS or healer pulls for me.

This may seem to be in rather stark contrast to the below post, but it all goes back to my original point: what is important is not my health pool, but how well I can control the fight. I DO have the health and the mitigation to survive pulls much larger than the vanilla dungeons are tuned for- and like I said, the limitation is on how well I can build and maintain threat over that pack when the DPS isn’t focusing and the healer has to throw big heals.

I CAN hold that threat, and hold it easily- provided the DPS and/or healer know what the hell they’re doing rather than mindlessly counting on me to haul them through. Don’t grab everything in the room all at once, wait for me to grab a pack and have enough control over them (including positioning for casters) that I have some free GCDs to do something else. Don’t expect me to run around the entire room pulling everything and pulling the random thing in the corner you decided to focus on, grab them and bring them in range of me when I have those GCDs, without front-loading any more threat on them than necessary to make them move. If the DPS aren’t needing big heals and I don’t need to be constantly turning my back on a pack of melee to need them myself, the healer doesn’t get eaten, the DPS are able to open up their whoopass cans, and everybody has as much fun as they hoped.

Last night I had a crazy run in Uldaman with a druid healing in Boomkin spec and doing as I described- waiting a few seconds for me to have my mobs’ *full* attention, and occassionally facepulling packs in for thunderclap as needed. Things rounded up, things only paid attention to me, and he got to spend his time throwing his own thunder instead of nodding off. Everything died very fast and I had as much fun as he did.

The difference between him and the fellow who inspired the last rant? He waited until he was sure I could handle it, waited until he was sure the DPS were capable of not acting like epileptic squirrels, asked instead of whining and nagging me to entertain him, and made sure he helped in such a way that it was fun for me instead of just stressful.

I’m not opposed to blendering my way through- just opposed to being asked to run myself ragged on the demand of someone who has no idea what I do and no interest in helping me do it when he asks for something extra.


Dear LFD Healers

April 23, 2010

I am aware you are bored, and would be even without your puppylike whining as I heal as well when I’m not tanking. The only time I always have something to do as a healer is when the tank is inexperienced, undergeared, or both, and I’m not any of these things on any of my tanking toons. Hell, if I’m trailing along after one of the other raid tanks in the guild, I might as well have a Sudoku puzzle out in between refreshing Beacon, Sacred Shield, and Judgment of Light, because the only way I’m going to have something else to do is if one of the DPS pulls threat.

That said, the limitation on the number of mobs I pull at any given time is not my health bar. Having a big health bar and a lot of avoidance and mitigation is my reason for existence as a tank. They are there to make sure I’m easy to keep up through high boss damage and cases in which Everything Has Gone To Hell. I’m NOT nervous about dying- I’m well aware that the odds are, if indeed everything has gone to hell, I will be the last one standing.

The limitation on the size of my pulls isn’t how much you have to heal me, it’s how many mobs I can control. In a dungeon with casters, which is all of them, and a dungeon with linking mobs that run away to find help when they’re low on health, which is most of them, I can’t count on being able to round up a truly large pack and keep them there and keep their attention firmly fixated on me. I do have some control abilities to stop runners and to silence casters long enough to get them to me, but my ability to use these tools is strongly limited by cooldowns and how many varyingly located mobs I can pay attention to at once.

The more I’m running around trying to keep my plates spinning, the more confused the DPS is and likewise running around. The bigger the pull, the more likely it is that none of them are attacking the same thing, let alone attacking something I safely have a big threat lead on. This means most if not all the DPS will be pulling threat, which means big heals for them as well as for me as I turn my back to a large pack of following melee as I try to catch casters and pick up incoming mobs that runners have pulled.

The key point that I’m leading up to here is that, once a pull has gotten large enough that the healer is really challenged, the only person in the room consistently gaining threat on all the mobs in combat is the healer. I know you’re not watching a threat meter, because you don’t have the mobs targeted, you have the party targeted. It’s not the healer’s job to watch threat, because it’s the tank’s job to make sure to stay ahead of the healer on threat. If you’re used to your boring job healing a tank doing his or her job correctly, you’ve never had to watch threat at all, so you probably have no idea how much you generate doing constant big, exciting heals, or how little the tank is generating when they can’t stand still and build it over a smaller pack. I do have some emergency tools to pick up everything at once, but they are meant for emergencies and thus have way too long cooldowns to be useful as a standard pulling tool- and they fail anyway if I have no means of immediately applying more threat, ahead of the healing aggro that will still be ongoing until they’re dead.

If I pull as much as you apparently feel would be fun for you, the mobs will eat you and you will change your whining about my boring pulls to shrieking about how I failed to do my job while, once again, I stand there as the only person who had the health pool and the cooldowns to survive a pack that large.

If you have a need to be constantly doing something important at every moment of an instance in order to have fun, do me and the DPS a favor and go roll a fucking tank.

(Needless to say, this is not directed at all healers, just the ones yipping at me to PULL MORE TANK I’M BORED I ONLY HAVE TO USE MY LITTLE HEALS OMFG PULL PULL. I spoke way too soon about running into fewer douchebags in there.)

Gchat Quote of the Day

April 20, 2010

From one of our rogues, who is also the mother of a seven-month-old:

“My daughter has officially the learned the ‘drop a toy, then knock mommy out of stealth when she reaches for it’ game.”

Guild consensus: roll a hunter for the kid.

Things I Have Learned In LFD

April 20, 2010

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time with the loved/feared/loathed/ Dungeon Finder. On Juujube, I’ve been working off an obsession with getting all three Paladin roles geared out enough to shore up the raid as needed- we’re working on training new tanks so that Ossifer Bear and I can take nights off or play with other roles/characters, and the flexibility is suddenly appealing. Being almost always the only plate-wearer, and only strength-based melee DPS in the raid, I’ve gotten a number of ICC drops for those offspecs- but the rest of the stuff, especially the healer set, requires badges, so away for triumphs I went. If that weren’t enough mixing with the primordial soup of the playerbase, I’ve been having a mad dungeon-running flirtation with my warrior alt, to the point that I’m actually toying with the idea of pushing her to 80 in order to have the option of changing mains in Cataclysm if I really don’t like where protection paladins have gone. (Or just really like where prot warriors have- tell me heroic leap doesn’t look like more fun than a bucket of kittens.)

1. Not only do people treat me differently depending on whether I’m tanking or healing, I act differently. I don’t just mean the generic ways in which one treats tanks or healers- I mean people are much more likely to assume I’m a man or a woman, and I act more or less feminine depending on which role I’m in. Not dramatically- my basic personality doesn’t change- but I emote more, use more smilies, and am less likely to give someone being stupid a verbal crack across the chops if I’m wearing my healing kit than my sword and shield. Everybody assumes the female blood elf holy paladin is a woman; no one assumes the female tauren prot warrior is, and this both significantly changes the way I am treated and the way I behave. I don’t know whether I find this fascinating or unsettling.

2. It is possible for someone not the tank to pull for the tank and have this actually be helpful to the tank. I don’t mean a DPS tagging a mob heading for a healer and bringing it to the tank, I mean, in this specific case, a healer running out, facepulling mobs that were nowhere near the pull, and bringing them to me to tank. This has always driven me COMPLETELY FROTHING when running heroics on Juuju, largely because healers assume that the limiting factor on the size of my pulls is my health bar rather than my ability to generate threat*.

This healer, however, would wait until I had the mobs I pulled firmly on me, then run out and grab another when I could easily taunt and apply some quick attention-getting. It kept my rage bar about half full, so that getting firm threat over the next pack I pulled for myself was easy and I was able to pull faster and more smoothly with fewer breakoffs. I have no idea if the guy played a rage-based class himself or what, but it was a Bizarro world of helpful pulling. Is your mind blown? I know mine was.

3. There actually seem to be fewer douchebags around lately. It seemed like there was a peak a few weeks after LFD was introduced during which every asshole tactic in the book came out of the woodwork, but all my “terrible horrible rude pugger” stories date back to pretty much that period. I haven’t had someone gogogogo at me in weeks if not months. Other than the aforementioned example, I’ve only had one person pull for me that wasn’t a guildie using tricks or misdirect. Things are still as silent as ever, but nobody’s been getting up my nose. It’s weird. I think other people are getting all the asshats for me.

4. There must still be asshats, because on Holly the warrior tank, there’s a very marked difference in attitude in groups I zone in to start an instance fresh with, and groups where I zone in midway. The former take it for granted that things are going to run fast and safe; the latter are downright cuddly with me just for doing my job in the exact same fashion. There must be at least one other tank in the 28-32 level range that’s a real prize of a jackass…

5. Despite the fact that I now run as a tank or a healer depending on my mood and the character, I still do some of the things as a tank that make me a bit crazy as a healer. The other night our healer in Gnomeregan disconnected, and I didn’t notice until three pulls later because the shadow priest had taken over for him. I preach about making sure you know where your healer is and that he has mana before pull, but I’m as guilty as falling into that rhythm as anyone… at least I wait at the beginning to make sure everyone is buffed and fed before I’m off to the races.

6. I take both deaths and any intimation of poor performance *far* more personally as a healer than I do as a tank. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m not that experienced yet and I’m more worried that something actually WAS my fault, but when someone manages to rip aggro despite my best efforts or facepull and die when I’m tanking, I usually have the “well don’t do stupid shit, I’m the tank, not your personal savior” reaction. When it happens when I’m healing, I feel like I’ve failed. I also wonder if this ties into point 1 at all.

*Yes, paladins have good AoE threat. However, as I have ranted before, we have good AoE threat over packs of up to about four mobs- beyond that, unless we’re frantically tabbing around, the only thing holding them is consecrate, and at 80 consecrate is the weakest multi-target threat generator we have, not a golden patch of aggro velcro.


April 14, 2010

Cross-posted between here and Atomic Nerds since it’s a pretty general post rather than being at all WoW-specific. Original kerffufle found at Ophelie’s and commented further upon by Tam. Since this post was written more with the other site in mind, rest assured that absolutely nobody involved with the original inspiration is being referred to in code. This wandered far from my original thoughts more specific to the situation.

It is not uncommonly observed that people shrieking “I’m OFFENDED by that!” are a general boil upon the ass of society, as they use the tactic to shut down any speech, expression, institution, or even person that they dislike. Any and all conflict with their worldview is treated as personal assault and satisfaction is demanded, always in the form of the removal of the “offensive” sentiment or person- preferably after a meek apology has been extracted. It’s a bully’s tactic for muzzling people and opinions the bully doesn’t like, and it is indeed quite commonly abused.

As a consequence, there are a great number of people out there, trying NOT to be bullies, that question themselves extensively when they ARE offended by something someone does or says. Most people do not want to be the jerk in any given social situation, and even if someone said or did something flagrantly assholish, people are frequently reluctant to make waves by saying they were offended at all, let alone calling the other person out on their behavior.

Further along the line are people who are sick of the scolds and make no bones about their willingness to say exactly as they think no matter whom it might offend. Some even go so far as to make being offensive a point of pride in and of itself- and to react to anyone who complains that they were offended by telling them to grow a thicker skin, not be a wuss, not be a bleeding heart, and generally not react.

Where it gets interesting is that it’s also not uncommon for this opposite-end-of-the-spectrum attitude to be used to bully in the exact same fashion as the sensitivity screecher: as a tool to define the conversation exclusively on their own terms. Most people don’t particularly want to put on a suit of metaphorical armor as a precondition of social interaction- and would prefer to be treated well with people they interact with- and will choose not interacting over attempting to become more competitively combative. The person willing to be most boorish controls all terms of interaction, every bit as effectively and selfishly.

This has its place; when a space is yours, you get to set the rules. I can and do say whatever the hell I like on this blog, and I’m not terribly concerned about who might find the language or my opinions offensive. I don’t generally go out of my way to stomp on toes because I get no particular joy out of toe-stomping, but I’m also not afraid to fight with my commentariat over one of those opinions- or tell them to get the hell off my porch, as this is indeed my space, owned and paid for. You don’t get to come and dictate to me how to act with that space. If I want to convert this space to a gallery of baboon asses it’s no one’s business but mine.

If I adopted the attitude that I should be able to set the terms of interaction so completely in someone else’s space that they owned, I would be the asshole, not anyone who was offended. I will not go to my grandmother’s house and use the same language I do here, or discuss some of the same topics, because that would be fucking rude and she would be completely justified in telling me to get my little ass sorted out or to get out of her home. Grandma’s house, grandma’s rules. If grandma and I were to, say, join the same book club, that’s not anyone’s owned space in particular- but the rules of interaction are tacitly sorted out by the people who make up the social system of the club. This is a pretty normal social-species thing; the rules aren’t written down and constitutions aren’t established because making cultures and setting social norms is something we’ve been doing since before fire.

In the book club, things might trend more toward grandma’s tastes and we might be skipping Titus Andronicus and doing Jane Austen instead, or it might trend more my way and grandma will just have to live with the rape and cannibalism being included in the discussion, but neither grandma nor I has any more right than the other- or the other members- in deciding what’s appropriate. Attempting to exert control anyway, either by my turning up in a “FUCK PIG” t-shirt and telling anyone who’s bothered to grow a thicker skin or grandma telling the rest of us we’re going to hell for torturing little old ladies and making baby Jesus cry, would be bullying.

Anyone who wants to start a FUCK PIG, or G-rated book club is of course free to do so- and also free to set their own terms with the like-minded. But trying to bend the terms of acceptable interaction in order to get out of having to see anything you don’t like OR having to exert any self-control is being an asshole, not upholding any kind of principle- and hiding behind that principle is just plain cowardly. If you take satisfaction from being an asshole and just don’t want to censor yourself for anyone for any reason, just own up to it. If you really don’t care what other people think, you shouldn’t have any need at all to waste your time telling them to think differently- unless, of course, you care enough to want to be validated for your behavior anyway.

Wrath Is Wrapping Up- My To-Do List Runneth Over

April 8, 2010

And no, I’m not talking about Loremaster, which Stingray is doing but looks like the world’s most efficient way to kill off all my brain cells one at a time to me. I’ve seen enough of the old world quest lines, from both factions, to not be terribly exercised that it’s changing; I suspect that when Cataclysm hits I’ll feel it’s not changed enough for my tastes.

No, what’s getting to me is my perennial altitis. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being a paladin, and I enjoy the hell out of being main tank; it’s that for me, a great deal of the fun in any game is exploring the mechanics and trying on a little bit of everything until I find my absolute best match. Having some obligation to stay within level range of Stingray (who rolled a rogue because he was quite secure in his self-identification as a person who most enjoys stabbing things in the kidneys and is every bit as confident in that now) meant that that process, which quite likely would have led to me having ten characters in the 30-70 range, was rather arrested. I picked a hunter, and then a paladin, because they were considered easy to level, and stuck with them because I got into raiding- I only swapped over to Juuju from my hunter because I had the other 80 left over from my time on the Alliance side and we badly needed a tank.

Cataclysm, and the gear reset that all expansions represent, offers the opportunity, if I want it and if I put in the 1-80 work, to switch mains without giving up a lot of work in terms of end-game gearing. If Cataclysm weren’t on the horizon, I’d have to have a pretty strong motivation to set Juuju, who is quite healthily geared as a main tank, aside. My shaman is stalled out at level 71 with Stingray having mostly lost interest in his warrior, and if I wanted to I could push her up the other nine levels, use her as a crafting mule, and then maybe take another look at her when the expansion hits and see if I don’t really have a healer in my heart after all. (Actually enhancement is looking a lot more tempting- it’s just so SHINY.)

I have a ton of fun playing my prot-specced lowbie warriors. I know I’m a tank at heart, but I’ve only played the one tanking class at end-game. What if I’d like to stay tank, but I’d really rather be a reactive, zoomy, doesn’t-need-to-cope-with-mana warrior, instead of a rotation-bound stationary paladin? I’ve always hated being so dependent on mana, it really feels like the wrong flavor for a tank. On the other hand, it would take me a lot less time to level a Death Knight, and the rune system intrigues me, and the self-healing mechanic of blood just looks so freakin’ cool, as well as being a balls-to-the-wall two-haded smasher rather than ducking behind a shield every few seconds. And druids. Man, druids. I could be a BEAR. RAWR. And a kitty, RAWR, for offpsec. And bears will actually get some buttons in Cataclysm! What I wouldn’t give to be able to test-run an 80 of each for a few weeks…

I’d kinda like to hop on my 22 warrior and go tank some lowbie instance right now. But I have to have dinner within an hour, and it might dump me into Wailing Caverns, and then I’ve got another thing I have to do not too long after dinner that’ll take hours, and when it comes to WoW time I really should be farming stuff to switch professions from mining to Jewelcrafting because my bank is absolutely STUFFED with ore and I just need to get it done…

Wrath may nearly be over, but I don’t have nearly enough time to get everything done I want to.

Pretty In Plate: Why Are Female Tanks Rare?

April 2, 2010

It’s been widely observed, and been the subject of no small amount of ad hoc stereotyping and evo-psych, that broadly speaking, female players prefer to heal, and male players prefer to tank. Up to a point, this isn’t quite true; lots of male players like healing, and our own healer corps is just about fifty-fifty divided between men and women. Likewise, there seems little notable gender difference in DPS; if DPS are majority male, it seems to reflect nothing more than that male players are the majority period and DPS itself is the majority role.

However, much to my irritation, there does seem to be a marked gender imbalance in tanking; a strong majority of main-spec, main-toon tanks are men. At this point enough players are female that “girls don’t play WoW” is now a tongue-in-cheek /trade joke rather than accepted truth, but so relatively few tanks are women that it really IS relatively striking to find out the tank is a chick. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if there weren’t more male players playing female avatars that tank than there were actual women playing tanks. A great deal of this is my own prejudices- I’ve actually never seen any specific demographic breakdown for real-world gender and role choices. Class choices and demographic choices in general have been analyzed repeatedly, but not with any attempt that I’ve seen to differentiate between male and female players and their preferences for class X that can DPS or tank or heal and which they choose. I’m going off the fact that so relatively few other tanks I meet seem to be women; there’s one or two on my blogroll, and I know at least one other dedicated tank lady on my server, but most of the women I know who do tank do so as an offspec- frequently as off to a healing spec.

Lots of reasons are thrown around for why this seems to be. One is that none of the tanking races/classes look “feminine”, which is not only a pretty shallow assumption about female players’ need to feel pretty in an MMO, but rather easily refuted by the existence of the wildly popular Fruit Blood Elves as the only Horde paladin choice, not to mention women seem to have no problem at all playing female tauren in herds when it comes to druids. Another is that tanking is just too high-pressure for the delicate sensibilities of women, which is also rather easily refuted by the undeniable bias to healing classes- it may just be my own bias, but healing has always struck me as a much higher pressure task in raids than tanking. Unless I have a job chasing down a lot of bitchy adds, I’m pretty much just standing there 969ing with a wide threat lead while I look for opportunities to use my utility abilities and occasionally move the boss out of fire. I have my Grid frames set up in a healerish fashion just because I like having the information, and chasing those health indicators looks like a far more stressful job to me than the one I have. I spend the entire fight in control, and it’s usually a surprise to me when something happens that put something normally controllable by me out of that control.

Another common theory is that women are drawn inexorably by their ovaries into the “nurturing” role of healing while men are drawn likewise by the testes to the “protecting” role of tanking. This has never made too much sense to me, given that both roles are two different ways of looking after the raid rather than killing the hell out of something, and women and men seem about equally drawn to the “killing the hell out of it” side of things. That, and my healers and I seem to be about equally of the same feelings toward the people under our care, especially as regards their tendency to stand in fire, watch DPS meters rather than threat meters, and so forth- and it’s not with sweet nurturing adoration. We both spend our game time “saving” people; most of the difference lies in whether we’re staring at boss crotch or raid frames. Healing isn’t a gentle activity like raising a child, it’s even more reactive than tanking is. I’ll grant more potential “grain of truth” to this whole school of thought than any of the preceding reasons, but the fact that men seem just as attracted to healing as women still makes it fail overall for me. It’s “why don’t women want to be tanks as often” that requires explaining, not “why is there this gender polarity in healing and tanking (that doesn’t exist for healing)”.

The best theory I can come up with is that while healing is a high-pressure job that often involves leadership skill (the latter most needed in raids), it’s not nearly so visible as tanking. Especially in dungeons where everybody is often a stranger, everybody expects the tank to lead the way, and if the tank screws up, it’s incredibly visible. Everyone expects tanks to walk into the instance fully formed from the head of Grom Hellscream, and especially since the advent of the random dungeon system, woe betide the tank if he or she is still learning their craft or doesn’t have such great gear. Tanking brings out your inner control freak whether you thought you had one or not, because it’s your job, fundamentally, to be in control at all times. Men get a fair amount of social reinforcement to appear tough and confident and even cocky, while the social description for women that act the same way often comes along with some variant on the theme of “bitch”. Women and men both have defined cultural templates for leadership, but for women it tends to be more “let’s team-build” than “Okay, I’m here, here’s how we’re going to do it”- and tanking, especially when one is playing with people they don’t know well, falls much more into the latter category. Men fall more easily into the role because they’ve received a lot more cultural training and a lot less discouragement to act the way tanks are “supposed” to act.

Of course, all of this is coming from an acknowledged tomboy whose only concessions to girliness are occasionally painting my nails for good luck on raid night and long hair, so maybe my ovaries just haven’t had a chance to tell me how much happier I’d be as a healer the way they do for other female gamers. I DO have that holy set I’ve been building…