Today, while I was up to my neck in the gubbins of an uncooperative database server, the pre-purchase program for WoD went live. A few things of note:
- The cost of the pre-purchase will be $70.00.
- We have context for a release date, and this is unprecedented this far out from the actual release – Blizz tends to play close to the vest. To wit: "Before 12/20/2014", or, "Fall 2012", which frames it as Sep-Dec 2014.
- The cost of a level 90 boost is, indeed, $60.00. I am not surprise.
I am also not surprised at the release date itself – somebody once asked me if I expected everyone to wait several months for new content, and my answer was that basically I’m just saying that that’s when I think it’s going to be. New expansions have traditionally been released in the 4Q time frame, with one exception .
I realize that Blizz have said that they "want" to iterate more frequently, but "want" isn’t "can do", and they have a lousy record for being able to accomplish what they "want" to do unless it brings money to the table. Hiss invective at me all you want, but it’s an observation that’s pretty well bankable at this point. It just is.
I’m sure that Blizz knows that this will probably mark a pretty drastic bleed-off of subs for the summer months. Too many people are bored with with SoO content already, and even more are fed up with Timeless Isle. There are too many opportunities for enjoyment out there that do NOT require endless grinding on old content. I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure they’re about to take a hit, and I’m pretty sure they’re not deluded enough to not expect it.
(I also have a very strong suspicion that they weren’t planning on it being this long when they announced WoD, but they’ve revised deadlines.)
I know a lot of people that are going to be very disheartened by this announcement’s implications. I’m not too happy about it myself, but at least I have the familiar embrace of low expectations to fall back on. Sadly, I think I have to fall back into that a bit too much. A premier software company can afford the resources to eliminate this kind of recurring disappointment. But it has to have the will to do so.
"Want" isn’t will.
There is a gigantic disparity between how lore is presented in WoW, and how it would actually go if the key players were allowed for a moment to make decisions of their own.
Right now, in this period after the downfall of Garrosh Hellscream, is one of those times.
Look at the situation. The Alliance has gathered the entirety of its military might to crash the gates of Orgrimmar and end the reign of Warchief Hellscream. At their side are the Trolls, the Tauren, the Sindorei, and maybe the
Would the Horde forces have been able to pull this off without the Alliance’s aid? Canonically, no. It took the help Alliance to pull this off, "by the book", and that’s what we end up with; the alliance virtually has its boot on the Horde’s neck, and at the last minute – shows mercy.
Now, in any sanely constructed world …
- The following day would have revealed that there was only one real power in Azeroth, that being Alliance.
- On Day 2, the Horde would have been pushed out of all the places it invaded during the Cataclysm years, such as Ashenvale.
- Day Three would see outposts constructed all over the planet where Alliance could keep an eye on the Horde.
- Day 4 might possibly see the restoration of Gilneas.
And so forth.
Bottom line is, in a relatively short period of time we’d see Alliance supremacy asserted throughout the land. While I doubt Wrynn would invade Horde holdings outright, I’m pretty sure he’d be keeping an eye on them and pushing back in areas that were overtly invaded by the Horde previously.
In this more reasonable world, we’d see long term plans forming to retake Lorderon. The Sindorei might read the writing on the wall and petition to reunite with their Kaledorei bretheren.
This is the kind of world that would be nigh inevitable with the Alliance at this level of superiority over the broken Horde.
But that’s not going to happen.
"War"craft implies that peace or even an uneasy occupation are simply not in the books. Few want to play a marginalized faction; the overall presentation of WoW is that there are two main factions of nearly equal power. This is what is being sold and, by gum, it’s what WILL be sold.
The lore designers simply can not drive their characters realistically in this particular case. They have to sell games for people to play them, so the lore stops cold when it comes to permanent change affecting the faction balance.
As much as they make peaceable noises, the Sindorei will never join the Alliance. As much as Wrynn makes threatening noise, the Alliance will NEVER retake Lorderon. The lore-writers’ hands are simply tied when it comes to this sort of thing. The only time we will EVER see a change in factions is when new races / factions are added to the mix.
If you’re into "the lore", if you’re into telling of stories, you have to remember this: as the story approaches the boundaries of faction balance, it will cease to make sense. You have to turn off your brain and press the "I Believe" button. Even for your own internal Head Canon, you will have to build little loops and alleyways around this anomaly in order to make it work.
If Blizzard really wants to impress us, they can try something really bold in this regard. But it’s obvious that they won’t even kill off flying mounts, as much as they say that they want to, so I doubt they have the metaphorical backbone to do something as breathtakingly bold as to merge Sindorei and Kaledorei factions in-game and substitute something new. Won’t happen. The player upheaval would leave them gibbering.
I think we all understand this, but sometimes you need to remind yourself. Don’t cross Sales. They’ll cut ya.
This needs to be said, because sometimes we forget that Lore doesn’t HAVE to make sense if it gets in the way of selling games, and when you’re trying to predict where it might be headed – don’t delude yourself into thinking that "reason" and "plot" and "consistency" have any power over the game’s design.
Speculation is running wild in the wind up to WoD, so, have fun with that. But try to keep a level head.
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This quote from Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas infuriates me.
"In terms of the pricing, honestly a big part of that is not wanting to devalue the accomplishment of levelling."
I hate to take one line out of a conversation like this, but this highlights the disingenuous approach that Blizz has taken on the topic of "leveling" zones since they started nerfing everything that wasn’t current content with gay abandon.
Somewhere near the end of Wrath, they started doing this; reducing the amount of XP required to level; boosting the amount of XP you get from each kill, each quest, each turnin. Giving huge amounts of XP for digging up ore or picking flowers or skinning beasties. Granting bonus XP from certain holiday items and buffs. Offering items that you could use to bypass entire swathes of leveling zones. Making zones provide so much XP and requiring so little XP to get to the next level that you routinely ran out of green-or-better quests and leave huge bits of the lore untold unless you deliberately chose to stop leveling for a while. You can’t even level in current content and see all the zones without loitering.
All these things have been done to the leveling game, but Blizzard "doesn’t want to devalue the accomplishment of leveling".
Forgive me for being vulgar, but how does a company that has spent the better part of a decade devaluing the accomplishment of leveling get off saying things like this? The devaluation has already occurred. Leveling, in our current state of affairs, serves one purpose: it gets you to max level. Only people that deliberately want to soak in the lore, or get Achievements, will spend any more time leveling than they have to – and most of those throwbacks aren’t actually leveling per se, but going back and picking up the remaining quests they need for the achievement, completely over-leveling it.
There is no value left to lose.
The only way this gets less annoying for me is if we hear in later press events that what they meant to say was that they were re-valuing the leveling game and didn’t want to cheapen it with cheap L90s. But somehow, I get the strong feeling that that is not what they meant and that they’re going to blithely continue on as if they have no responsibility for the state of the leveling game now, and that anything that they do with the Boost feature in any way changes that (it doesn’t).
The other little disingenuous nugget of fail in that interview was the assertion that they didn’t want people to have to buy a second game just to get that second boost. But they’re quite happy to charge you as much as buying the second game would cost you! More, if WoD isn’t a requirement for the boost – in which case five bucks will get a second game and another free boost. AND it gets worse when you realize that even WoD will deflate in value after the first quarter of release. Aside from the aisles of Wal-Mart, you’ll be able to get the game for probably $40 or less after the first quarter, and that’s a $20 saving on every boost.
Maybe Ghostcrawler left because he saw the writing on the wall.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into this. But I’m not liking what I’m seeing.
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If you were awake this past weekend, you probably saw the news that in WoD, there are a few design changes that will ultimately culminate in the requirement of a silver medal in the Proving Grounds before you can randomly queue for a Heroic 5-man instance.
That is an outstanding solution for a problem that we don’t actually have.
Let me quantify this with a pie chart.
I think I’m turning Japanese
Let’s let the blue part of that chart represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was incapable of playing his or her class. Let the red part represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was an asshole.
I think you’re starting to get the picture.
Now, I immediately point out that data is not the plural of anecdote, so my personal experience is not by definition the experience others have. But I will also point out that no man is an island, and we all share an experience here, so what I hear from other players can be used as a guide to help determine if I’m whistling in the dark here.
Well, the majority of what I see people complaining about online – other than the forums is assholes. Or, rather, if they’re complaining about the person not performing, it’s because that person is being an asshole. Or otherwise coupled with the person being an asshole, in some way.
Well, assume Blizz is starting small. Let’s have a look at how the poor performers break down.
The red part is people that are complaining about poor performers as an excuse for their groups’ failures. The blue part is those people which would see improvement in their Heroic5 experience if only a silver medal was required for entry into a random Heroic5.
Okay, I’m full of shit and making those numbers up out of whole cloth, because I really don’t need a formal survey of the forums to form an opinion on this.
Of all the people having problems with randoms of any sort now, performance is rarely given as the cause of the failure. More times than not I’m reading about the seven healers that are left after all the DPS prima donnas left because they felt like effort was something they would like to avoid, and the tanks left out of disgust at that, and the healers are busy discussing who gets to be the biggest martyr this time. It wasn’t performance. It was personality.
I really don’t care at the meta level. I’m not running random Heroic 5s, not because I don’t think people know how to play, but because I’m fed up with assholes. And nothing Blizz is doing here is going to change an asshole’s opportunity to make LFD an unholy shithole of gaming society.
When Blizz comes up with social controls on trollish behavior, I’ll be more interested.
Meanwhile, Blizz is wasting time and resources on something that won’t make any difference. They could have done that on the dance studio and at least made people genuinely happy.
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I normally don’t let a false sense of obligation drive my behavior. If I follow you on Twitter, I don’t expect you to reciprocate. Likewise, if you follow me, I don’t feel obligated to return the favor. I’ll have a look, but if it’s mostly Pokemon tweets, I won’t be following your stream, and you should be fine with that. It’s not a contest.
But there is one segment of our community that I do feel a bit of guilt towards, because I don’t generally follow them, ever. That segment is our fine collection of WoW podcasters.
It isn’t that I don’t want to. I don’t have a thing about this. But what I DO have is a very bad case of ADHD. Example: I can listen to someone talk in a podcast, and give it its proper level of attention. Or I can do my work, and do it right. But not both. And the only time I have to listen to things on my headphonaPod is when I’m sitting in front of a keyboard, writing software or hacking server configs or writing blog articles and so forth.
So my moments of opportunity are nil.
The only time I generally listen to a podcast all the way through is (a) when it’s a music podcast (i.e. the "Above and Beyond" podcasts) or when I’m there to listen and nothing else.
Such was the case this past Sunday, as I sat myself down and listened to the Twisted Nether podcast with Alas. Hey, she was there for me when they were hard up enough to ask me on, so I was going to return the favor. And while I was there I chatted along with the peeps there, and had a great time! The fact that I was up until 2AM is irrelevant. It was a blast.
I’ll be doing it again this weekend since they’re having Godmother on, someone that I have great respect and affection for. The poor lady’s going to be up at (mumble mumble add add add) something in between 5 AM and 7AM to do this, there’s just no way I’m not going to show a friendly face after that kind of effort on her part.
But in general, I don’t do podcasts, and it’s nothing personal. And since I would only recommend something I knew something about, I generally don’t endorse and/or retweet or whatever for podcasters, and that’s again not because I hate the podcasts, but because I’ll never recommend something I know nothing about. As my author friends will attest, I won’t even recommend their book until I read it!
So there’s my secret podcasty guilt, for all to see. I hope you will understand!
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An article on WoW Insider takes one of my points about the character boost to 90 issue and expands it way the hells out to a mathematically precise word count of "large". Anne states far more effectively than I have about one of the unpleasant side effects of the leveling "squish" – the way that the "story" of the game loses its cohesiveness due to the way that people are rushed through levels most expeditiously.
Anne provides a lot of good suggestions to address this self-inflicted wound, though the possible solution that Anne’s article leaves out is this: stop messing with the older levels. Stop messing with the XP scaling, stop messing with XP returns, stop dropping level requirements.
In short, don’t compress the leveling process at lower levels. Anyone that wants to rush through the 1-90 (or whatever) experience can go buy a boost. This is my primary reason for wanting the boost in the first place. I really don’t give two damns about anything else, I just want to see the lore of the game coupled back with the leveling experience.
Unfortunately, that’ll never happen. The first reason is that Blizz just doesn’t have the PR capacity to handle the negative feedback without making a mess of things. They can’t even announcing an expansion without offending 1/2 the population of the gaming world, so let’s assume they just won’t be able to manage the awareness and deft touch required to make an unpopular decision and then weather the storm.
The other reason is that resources would be required in order to reset the leveling experience back to that which it was in the first place. In the case of the 1-60 process, they don’t even have an "original" setting to go back to, since they were redesigned in the first place to provide an accelerated leveling experience. The old 1-60 leveling process was eliminated in toto when they were redesigned more or less completely from the ground up.
And those resources are just not going to be provided. They’re already pushing things with something as fundamental as introducing new character models with an expansion based on previously established lore (rewrit). They don’t have the bandwidth to also re-adjust and re-write all the old leveling content. There is no big red lever marked "reset to previous status", and, even so, they’d still need to test it, and they probably don’t have time or resources for that, either.
But Anne’s article truly does illustrate the folly of trying to mask a defect in design with workarounds. Eventually they pile up to the point where you can’t help but notice the flaws, no matter what your skill or perception level is. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that you can get from 1-60 without seeing but 3/4 of a single continent (rather than all of two continents).
Maybe somebody’s watching that will be implementing the next generation MMO that we all go to play, and they’ll not make the same fundamental mistakes that Blizzard has made. Maybe they’ll offer level boosts to the "threshold" at the very first expansion, rather than five in.
Or, if it’s Blizzard and "Titan", maybe they’ll make all the same mistakes all over again.
Won’t that be fun.
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I’m not going to say this again, so pay attention – I’m totally not harshing on any particular people. I have an alternative viewpoint, and I want to share it.
Blogging often introduces us to new people that we really connect with. A lot of times these connections sink in, wrapping you in a cozy blanket of fellowship. I can’t count how many people have wandered into my orbit, or I into theirs, and we found commonality between us.
Belghast would contend that this is not a “community” per se , but something else that just seems like it. These people whith whom I’ve met, formed connections with both on the blog and outside of it, who’s guilds I’ve joined and with whom I’ve slayed internet dragons – this is not, strictly speaking, in his mind, a community.
Now, to be fair, he’s focusing outside of the WoW “community” (I’ll call it that for the sake of argument). And yet things he points out about the larger “MMO community” ring true for the WoW blogging community as well.
One of his first examples focuses on how so many people on Twitter have stopped following him over the years. I have to wonder why they don’t. I also have to wonder why he didn’t follow up on that, if twitter follows are something of importance. My point, the unfollows themselves are meaningless without context.
See, the thing that was missing in this case was effort. And no, before anyone thinks it, I’m not dissing Belghast for being lazy. What I’m saying is that twitter follows are a two-way thing. The person that unfollowed did so for a reason. The person that was unfollowed was unfollowed for a reason. Until those reasons are actually KNOWN, everything else is just empty speculation.
However, Twitter isn’t the best of examples, nor is Facebook or even LiveJournal. What they have in common is a built-in framework that forms a false sense of “community”. You have “followed” ergo you are part of that “community”. The implication here – and an incorrect lesson that many may learn to their misfortune – is that communities are “built” in software and have a tangible “framework” that you can monitor the “health” of. A guild, your follow lists on FB, Twitter, LJ, etc. Your mailing lists. Your PHP-BB site. All of these are constructs that can call themselves “community” by dint of having a “box” within which the “community” is found.
But “community” in the “real world” is a lot harder.
When you move into a new house, you don’t automatically become friends with the people next door and across the street. You can’t go borrow a fiver from Bob next door on your first day. He won’t let you watch his kids while he and Mrs Bob go out for dinner. No, you have to earn each others’ trust and friendship. Your “community” is only geographical on the first look – after that, it’s a web of trust and caring, battles won and lost together, crises managed and averted, and so forth.
And that’s the proper analogy for blogging communities. We don’t just “fall together” into a box marked “WoW Blogger community”. That’s just our “geographical location” in greater Blogostan and says nothing about the web of trust (or distrust) that we have constructed.
And, unlike Twitter, you have no means to find out who’s “following” you (other than that “follow” thing in Blogger, and that’s hardly universal). So, people that you used to “follow” stop blogging, and unless you make the effort to follow up, you’ll never know why.
The question becomes, if a person stops blogging, is that person no longer part of your “community”?
The real world analogy is if your neighbor Bob’s kid grows up and he no longer shows up at the Little League games you umpire for, is Bob no longer part of your community? Well, he lives next door, surely not! But if your only interaction with Bob is at those ball games, you may feel estranged.
Now, in the real world, first links (Little League) forge longer chains. Chances are, if you and Bob connected at the games, you’re probably interacting in other areas as well. As persons, you both put effort into forging a friendship. You do so with many people, and the commonality of it is what forms a very real and lasting community.
And that’s the bottom line of the WoW, or even game blog community. It isn’t that we all play a game and blog about it. That is insufficient to form any real community. But a number of people care enough to reach out and interact and get to know each other. Those people then interact in other areas as well, and form real friendships. In fact, I can say that I consider many former WoW bloggers to be friends. I still consider them to be part of the “community” even if the first link in that chain’s now broken. Other links have taken up the slack.
A blogroll is not a community.
A group of blogs is not a community.
Nor is Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, or Google Groups.
Even Blog Azeroth is not, strictly speaking, a community on its own.
People are what make a community. Nothing else. The people within those frameworks make it work.
If you’re part of a “community” that started or still orbits around a commonality of blogging, so be it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I like to think communities are an organic thing. You can’t really force them via artificial social networking frameworks. Retweeting your latest blog entry doesn’t enhance anything regarding “community” – that’s just advertising, and that doesn’t help form “communities” either. But it can bring eyes to your site, and that can get the ball rolling.
That’s only the start, of course. Community isn’t a fire-and-forget thing. Your job isn’t done when you hit “publish”. If you have no further interactions, you won’t have a “community”, either.
Belghast may not feel part of a community at this point. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s not automatic, and it can’t be forced. Sometimes even hard work won’t help.
But it won’t happen if you don’t keep trying, either. So keep at it.
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Well, they’ve finally done something I’ve been asking for for a long time – it is likely that Blizz will offer paid "boosts" to level 90 for the toons of your choice once WoD launches. Naturally, there are those that claim that this will ruin the game, but I’ll counter – and have been for years – that the LACK of this paid service has ruined a lot of the game for a lot of people.
I want to get something out of the way, first. I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for people that are in a hurry to get to max level. None. Zip. Nada. I am happy for this paid service not on their behalf, but on behalf of everyone that has had to endure the after-effects of these people.
Blizzard has, in the past, altered the game in many ways to accommodate people that were ‘bored’ of leveling yet-another-alt to max level. They have nerfed the entire leveling game.
There are zones that you cannot get XP from all quests because the final ones go gray before you’re done!
Entire expansions have been nerfed so that you spend minimal time in them – My Rogue completed ONE zone on Northrend before he dinged 80! He had done maybe 3/4 of Sholazar! My DK barely finished Deepholm before she dinged 85. The assumption has been made that if you want to do all the quests, you’ll do so anyway, regardless of any XP you might get, and otherwise you just want to be gone as fast as you can.
There are pretty much NO challenges left. Coming up in Vanilla pre-Cata, you could count on a few tough runs out there, some elites hanging around outside of instances, some big rares that required some teamwork to take down. All gone. Even Stiches is a pushover.
So, overall, the way that Blizz was trying to accommodate the speed-levelers pretty much subverted anything interesting about the lower level areas – and rather than help, that just made it worse, because now the power levelers were trying to get through areas that were pretty much as interesting as naval lint and about as attractive. Leveling went from being tediously annoying to annoyingly annoying.
The biggest tragedy of them all is how much time and manpower that Blizz has invested in these changes that had no good effect, that pretty much subverted everything about the lower level zones, and pretty much rendered 90% of the game’s content irrelevant to a large subset of the playerbase.
The lower level areas are not the problem. The people that want to get OUT of them are the problem. They wasted time and money on the wrong solution.
Boosting to max-for-last-expansion level is the RIGHT solution. It has a minimal footprint. It doesn’t give max level away for free. They enhance their revenue on the impatience of impatient people. Those that wish to level the traditional way get some peace from the miserable hordes of people that would rather be somewhere else. Everybody wins.
This marginalizes nobody. It isn’t "pay to win" – you still have whatever the current expansion is go level through. If you get any gear from it it’ll be inferior to anything you get in the expansion, so who cares?
When I saw the WoD reveal mention a free boost for one toon, I had hoped that it would lead to this. I’m so very pleased to see that it has.
I have absolutely no plans to avail myself of this. I see paying to bypass content that you’re paying to see to be a non-sequitorian concept. But I have no reason to hate on those that will. Go in peace, kill some dragons, and tell Garrosh I said hello.
See ya in Draenor.
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Two years ago today, this little white ball of fur trundled across the parking lot right in front of our car. We stopped and took custody. I named her Jaina in tribute to what I hoped would be the fighting spirit we would see from our own Ms. Proudmoore. Also the white hair kinda brought her to mind.
So today we celebrate Jaina Finding Day!
Cold and alone in the word … no more!
We initially had bad news from the vet; they said she had FIP and had weeks to live at most. We determined that those weeks would have warmth and love in store for her.
She didn’t act like she was dying. Within a short period of time, she was Airborne Kitty, flying through the air to attack what she might consider attackable (such as crotches and fingers), and terrorizing all the other cats.
Surprise Finger Noms!
Over time she showed no sign of slowing down, and by the end of the first year she was flourishing. Her white fur had given way to a more chocolately hue, but it was soft as kitten down still. And she had plenty of it.
Over time, she’s developed a cuddly side, especially with whoever is on the couch. The couch is her favorite place.
We don’t even try to keep her off of it.
Here we are at the end of her second year with us. We know her second birthday was probably around 10 weeks ago, but this is the day we celebrate, because it’s when we found her.
Happy 2nd Jaina Finding Day!
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If you’re like me, you have an addon that lets you know when a rare NPC appears in your vicinity, such as NPCScan. I’m not into killing every rare that appears on my scope, but I’m always on the lookout for special ones such as Time Lost Proto-Drake or Poseidus, both which drop unique mounts.
Achievements add another layer to the activity. There are at least three achievements in Pandaria that require killing all of one or another type of rare NPC … in the case of this one, ALL of them.
Perhaps I’m mistaken, though, but Pandaria is also where we started to see Neutral Rares … in most of these cases they are friendly or neutral humanoids – Pandarens, Jinyu, and Hozen.
Now, it’s one thing to kill a hostile … it’ll attack you given the opportunity. Or if it’s a neutral of a normally hostile race or faction, for example a Tauren as seen by Alliance.
But Pandaren and Jinyu are usually friendly, don’t attack on sight, and are generally just minding their own business when BANG! Some huntard comes along and puts a bullet in its head!
(I’m ignoring any implied commentary on mogging here.)
Now, I ask you: is this the action of a good person? I mean, what if they were random Night Elves, Dwarves, and Worgen scattered over Kaz Modan? Has the act of PK’ing *ever* been considered anything other than evil?
It’s so obvious when you see it: achievements are evil, in that they make us do evil things to get them.
Might as well add one for killing your own faction leaders in a raid, while you’re at it.
I’d be a lot less annoyed at this if there were obvious penalties – such as a loss of rep with the relevant factions. But, just like the undead invasion at the start of WotLK, Blizz has copped out and refused to attach any real consequences to actions that would otherwise be considered immoral or evil. I guess if it’s "cool" it’s okay, right?
To date, I’ve avoided killing any of the relevant rares that are neutral. It’s simply too far out of character; it breaks immersion. None of my toons are the sort of people that would go out and kill a non-hostile for no good reason, and something as meta as an "achievement" is no good reason.
I have a strong suspicion that there will be more of this to come in WoD. I’m pretty sure I won’t like that, either. But I’d love to be wrong.
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