Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Buckboard Bounce


The plethora of pictures I posted a few days ago tells the story. I really enjoyed riding with the vulpera on their alpaca-drawn caravan. 

I liked the way the caravan moved, the heft of it as it careened around cormers, the roll and lurch. A landship crossing a desert sea. 

I liked the banter between the driver and the passengers, the humor and the wit. I liked the song.

Perhaps most of all, I liked the way my character was pictured, perched a little precariously on the boards at the back, looking out over the trail as it vanished into the distance. It felt oddly like travelling and I wished it had lasted longer.

Yesterday, my vulpera hunter found herself in Eastern Plaguelands. Or maybe it was Western Plaguelands. One plagueland looks much like another, as we've all discovered, to our misfortune, this long year. 

I'd had absolutely no plans to go anywhere so unpleasant. I'd been happily roaming around the traditional tauren hunting grounds in Mulgore, doing this and that for anyone who'd ask me, but I'd been a little too eager and the work had dried up. I had just one quest left in my journal, so I took it and somehow ended up exactly where I hadn't wanted to go, back in Orgrimmar.

From there, one thing led to another and somehow I found myself being shipped out to shore up operations against the remnants of the Scourge. Or something like that. 

Honestly, levelling up in World of Warcraft is now so insanely convoluted and tangled, often as not I genuinely don't know where I am or why I'm there. I know it sounds like an exaggeration but the combination of my normal playstyle, running off in all directions like an over-excited toddler in a playground, grabbing every quest I see, combined with the palimpsest of overlapping times and dimensions that is WoW after sixteen years of iterative design, does frequently leave me with no real understanding of what I'm doing or who I'm doing it for.

Which is fine. I do, in fact, like it that way. I prefer it, even. It means plenty of surprises.

Finding myself in the Plaguelands was certainly that. I have an indelible image of those zones as quite difficult and fairly dour. I did a fair bit there on my original run a decade ago and I was back for a while last year in Classic. I absolutely would not have thought to go there at level fifteen but, somehow, there I was. 

I'm very much still not used to the way levels work. I look at the map and see a zone flagged "10-30" and in my head I'm imagining it has mobs of all those levels, maybe mixed in together, maybe hanging out in different areas. It's not like that at all.

I think the way it works is this: whatever level your character is, the mobs are the same level. Exactly. All of them. Except that one time they were all one level below me because... no, I got nothing.

I think you have to stay inside the designated bandwidth. If you go one level above the upper limit for the zone the mobs go all Lost Boys on you and refuse to grow up any more. I saw that happen for a couple of levels the other day. It was nice. Nostalgic, even.

What happens if you go to a zone when you're below the minimum height to ride? I don't know. Let's find out, shall we? I just happen to have an unplayed level two hanging around. Meet back here in, oh, ten minutes?

Okay, that didn't go quite how I imagined. I logged in my level two Night Elf bank mule and he turned out to be standing on the Stormwind docks. I have no idea why. Probably the best part of ten years since I last had him out. Perhaps he got bored. Being a bank mule's not much of a life.


Since I was there, I thought I might as well take the boat to Borean Tundra, these days flagged for levels ten to thirty. (Unless you have Chromie Time running, in which case it looks very much as though all zones, not just the ones from the expansion you picked, get flagged 10-50. That's what my 45 hunter sees and I can't think why else it would be).

The night elf (yet another hunter although one as yet without a pet to his name) dinged on discovery xp just stepping off the boat. All the npcs were level ten and my guess was the mobs would be, too. I ran him to the gates, where the guards seemed to be involved in a pitched battle with a bunch of giant beetles. No idea why. I don't recall ever being here before. I had no idea what was going on. As usual.

I conned the beetles. As expected they were all exactly level ten. Having played a few mmorpgs in my time it immediately occured to me to wonder if I could leech xp by pinging a few arrows into a mob while the guards killed it. In many games, of course, a level three wouldn't even be able to hit a level ten, far less get xp from it, but you never know until you try.

So I tried. And I got xp. I got what looked very much like the xp you'd expect a level three to get from a level three mob. As I was standing there, one of the beetles decided to spit at me. I thought I'd be dead in a couple of hits but no, it barely hurt at all. I backed off until a guard aggroed on the beetle and then we finished it off together.

Thoroughly curious now, I began to wonder if I even needed to hide behind the coat-tails of the city watch. I picked a beetle currently unengaged and started to pepper it with arrows. It retaliated by spitting dark shadows at me and we exchanged fire for a few seconds until the beetle keeled over. I was at about half health.

I tried it again a few times with the same result. It seemed to be pretty much exactly as easy or hard as you'd expect fighting an at-level mob with a totally unequipped character in WoW to be. The number against the beetle's name said "10" but it might just as well have said "3".


All of which just makes everything even less clear than ever and makes me want to go out and run more tests. I'm not sure this is what the developers had in mind but it's my idea of entertainment.

Anyway, getting back to the plot...

So, there I was, happily questing away in the Plaguelands, which seemed to have been somewhat improved by the Cataclysm. Quest flow was certainly much better, everything was much easier to kill than I remembered and the whole enterprise seemed more entertaining than it had been. There were even some jokes.

My vulpera hunter happily quested through several levels, roaming from hub to hub, criss-crossing her own path often, generally doing whatever she thought might be fun. There was one quest she'd picked up right at the begining, go see what this party of three Alliance weirdos was up to, that she'd left in her book for later, and now it was later, so she started on that.

To cut to the carriage ride, after a whole lot of getting the gang back together, what did it turn out to be but another... oh, I kind of spoiled my own punchline there, didn't I? Oh, well, the pictures probably gave it away anyway.

I was delighted and also impressed. If anything this was a better road trip than Vol'Dun. The banter was non-stop and there were two of us hanging onto the buckboard. Best of all, when the carriage came to a halt it was only to take a break. I haven't don't the next part yet but it looks very much as though the journey carries on.


Now I'm wondering if there are more of these carriage quests out there. I have a faint memory there might have been something similar in the worgen starting area and this one was presumably added with Cataclysm. THere could be others. If I knew where there were others I'd go seek them out.

Or maybe I wouldn't. The joy is in the surprise, I guess. And in how these pick-ups remind me of my hitch-hiking days. Although, I never managed to hitch a lift with a horse-drawn carriage. More's the pity.

Tomorrow's the Scourge invasion (oh, hey, them again) so I guess I might be busy. Better get that carriage rolling while there's still time.


  1. That Eastern Plaguelands questline was put in place during Cataclysm. Actually, it's one of the better questlines in the game.

    1. I did the second part after I wrote the post. I love the dialog and the characters. It carries on after that and I'm looking forward to doing the whole thing. I'd like to see a whole game that used this kind of episodic journey structure. One that wasn't Book of Travels, which ha a vibe that creeps me out just like Glitch did...

  2. The only other wagon ride I can recall is the intro quest for Uldum, which was also part of the Cataclysm expansion.


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