Artifacts and Transmogrification: Blood Death Knight and Demonology Warlock

I’ve talked before about how some of the Legion artifacts just don’t work for my characters, but sometimes the issues go even deeper.

With Legion, Blizzard declared that they were pushing the idea of “class fantasy:” your druid should feel like a druid and your mage should feel like a mage, not just interchangeable combinations of game mechanics. In many ways, they’ve done an excellent job of bringing flavor and distinctiveness back into the classes we play. But what if Blizzard’s idea of what your class is all about doesn’t fit with your idea, either about the class as a whole or your individual character themselves? That’s what’s happened with a couple of my characters this expansion: my blood death knight and my demonology warlock.

Now, death knights and warlocks have always been “dark” classes. In the game’s story, death knights are the corpses of fallen fighters reanimated by the nefarious Lich King, who then reclaimed their individual will by force. Warlocks are spellcasters who summon demons to do their bidding and dabble in forbidden magic. It’s easy to play both of them as edgy, angst-ridden characters, but before Legion there were other ways you could approach the classes.

Though not an active role-player, I generally have some vague sense of backstory and personality for my characters. My death knight chose to stand strong in the face of the darkness and reclaim her past identity as a righteous defender of the innocent. My warlock was a sort of magical naturalist who viewed her demon minions as interesting specimens to be studied and put to good use, but carefully managed and controlled.

With Legion, it’s gotten harder to maintain those distinct perspectives under the weight of Blizzard’s “class fantasy” push. For both classes, Blizzard has been ramping up the dark, grim, angsty aspects of these classes, and that comes through in the artifact weapons. I’ve used my transmog to push back and reassert how I see my characters and how I want to play them.

For my death knight, I’ve shunned the dark, spiky, skull-heavy style that Blizzard seems to love and put her in glorious golden armor with touches of blue and purple. The artifact axe that blood death knights get does not suit the look at all, so I’ve transmogged over the axe with a gleaming silver and blue mace that feels much better for her.

(Here’s what the weapon looks like un-mogged. Bleah.)

My warlock has been more of a problem. The demonology artifact is a floating skull that follows you around. (Someone at Blizzard is really in love with skulls.) The trouble is that the demonology artifact, unlike all the rest, cannot be transmogrified. It’s either walk around followed by a hideous floating skull or just not use the artifact. (I could, of course, change her spec, but she has always been a demonologist and she always will be, no matter how ugly Blizzard tries to make the spec.)

So, she has simply not used the artifact this expansion. I know that makes her very underpowered and means she misses out on most of the character advancement in this expansion, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to make her look the way I want. She carries a staff which I have transmogged to one of the most beautiful and extraordinary appearances in my collection. She’s not a character I try to do challenging or group content with, so it’s good enough for me.

How are you feeling about Blizzard’s attempt at class fantasy? It it working for you? Are you rebelling against it? Share your thoughts (and your transmogs!).

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

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Human Mistweaver Monk Transmog

My approach to transmogging is decidedly free-form: I typically dislike Blizzard’s ready-made sets and prefer to make my own, usually completely from scratch. The approach has both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, my mix-and-match style is limited by the design changes Blizzard has implemented over the 13 years (gosh!) of World of Warcraft. They show both in the quality of the graphics and in the style and color of the gear designs. On the other, I don’t need to hunt down every single piece in a pre-made set in order to build a transmog.

So far, the approach has worked pretty well for me; I like both the challenge and the freedom. Every now and then, however, I run into a conundrum.

Transmogging my mistweaver monk is problematic because I don’t have a clear idea of what I’d like to do with her. Well, except for one thing: I tend not to like the look of the Legion artifacts (see Erik’s quick primer here), so I pretty much always mog them.

I’ve tried several different looks for her, only to grow unhappy with them. The only constant between them has been color—the sets have been based on yellow or golden brown tones to go with my toon’s blonde hair. The most recent iteration is also color-driven, but this time I tweaked the golden browns into a clearly browner direction and added turquoise details.

WoW Transmog Human Mistw Monk Turq Golden Brown

Often when I don’t have a clear idea or a concept for a transmog, I browse through my wardrobe looking for interesting pieces of armor and try building a set around them. That was also the case with this current brown-turquoise set.

I first noticed the distinctive-looking shoulder armor. Once I found a belt and gloves that matched the shades almost perfectly, I knew I had a working solution. I deliberately picked more non-descript pants and boots, plus a simple staff for the artifact, to draw attention to the colorful armor pieces.

The final touch came from the combination of a chest armor that leaves my monk’s upper arms bare with a turquoise short-sleeved shirt underneath it, so that the shirt covers the bare arms and provides an additional pop of color.

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room. (Oddly, the pants don’t show in full. Hm.)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Artifacts and Transmogrification: Retribution Paladin and Arms Warrior

In my last post about transmogrifying with artifact weapons, I mentioned how, with my elemental shaman and arcane mage, I got lucky and the base artifact appearance fit very well with the looks I had already created for the characters. In other cases, the base appearance doesn’t suit my existing look, but one of the unlockable color variants does.

Here, for instance, is my retribution paladin. I had her in a blue and gold set that the red base weapon didn’t match, but the blue alternative suits perfectly.

My arms warrior, on the other hand, wanted the red alternative color to match his red and purple set.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Wonder Woman Transmog

I loved Wonder Woman so much that I decided to try my hand at putting together a Diana-themed transmog. Here’s what my protection paladin is sporting now:

It may not be perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the results.

Here’s a link to the set, if anyone’s curious about the pieces. Anybody got any better suggestions? I’d love to see someone else’s take on it!

(And, of course, she has a horse.)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Roman Dice Tower

People have been playing games with dice for a very long time, and for as longs as we’ve been playing with dice we’ve been worrying about how to make sure we (and everybody else we’re playing with) get a fair throw. One solution to this problem is the dice tower, a box you can toss your dice into and have them rattle out the bottom. Dice towers are nothing new, either. Here’s a Roman version.

Dice tower, photograph by Rheinisches Landesmuseum via Wikimedia (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn; 4th c. CE; copper alloy)

This tower was found on a villa in Germany, near the Rhine River. Dice tossed in the top cascaded through a series of baffles to randomize them and then down a series of steps a the bottom. On their way out, they would have knocked and rung thee little bells (only one of which survives).

The Latin text on the step face reads: “The Picts are defeated. The enemy is destroyed. Play in peace.” This text helps date the tower to the fourth century, when the Picts first emerged as a power on the Roman frontier in Scotland. The Rhine was an important trade route that connected across the North Sea to Britain, so it is no surprise that people in the German provinces might want to celebrate a victory over the Picts with a game of dice.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Artifacts and Transmogrification: Arcane Mage and Elemental Shaman

When I last shared some of my transmogrifications, I talked about how I transmogged over my guardian druid’s fist weapons and adapted my holy priest’s look to suit his new staff. Sometimes, though, you just get lucky. With my arcane mage and my elemental shaman, the artifact just happened to fit nicely with their existing look.

Here’s the shaman. I was going for a nature-y, raindrops-on-leaves look, with a brown and green base accented with blue gems. The artifact fist weapon and shield go nicely, each having a big shimmering blue center.

170223shaman170223shaman2My mage has been rocking a purple set with turquoise accents for a while now and the purple crystals in the arcane staff go beautifully with it.

170223mage170223magesideSometimes, things just work out.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Ancient d20s

If you’re a role-playing gamer, you probably recognize the profile of a twenty-sided die, or d20, right away: the collection of triangles making up a bumpy sphere by which we invoke the capricious god of random numbers. This shape (technically known as an “icosahedron”) has been in use a lot longer than Dungeons & Dragons has been around. Here’s an example from Roman-period Egypt which has the names of Egyptian gods marked on its faces in demotic, an Egyptian script.

161103dakhleh
Dakhleh die showing “Isis” face via Martina Minas-Nerpel, “ A Demotic Inscribed Icosahedron from Dakhleh Oasis,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 93 (2007), 137-48 (Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, currently Valley Museum, Kharga, Egypt; 1st c. CE; limestone)

Here’s another example from Egypt. This one has Greek letters on each of its faces.

Icosahedron via Metropolitan Museum of Art (Egypt, currently Metropolitan Museum; 2nd c. BCE - 4th c. CE; serpentine)
Icosahedron via Metropolitan Museum of Art (Egypt, currently Metropolitan Museum; 2nd c. BCE – 4th c. CE; serpentine)

It’s possible that these dice were used for some kind of game, but more likely they were used for divination. The die with the names of gods may have been used to determine which god a person should pray to for help. The Greek letters probably corresponded to a list of pre-written oracular responses: ask your question, roll the die, and consult the table for the answer, sort of like the ancient version of a magic 8-ball.

Some might say the uses of the twenty-sided die haven’t changed much in a couple thousand years.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Artifacts and Transmogrification: Guardian Druid and Holy Priest

Legion, the latest World of Warcraft expansion, has a new feature: artifacts. Instead of replacing your weapons with more powerful weapons as you level up, you get an artifact weapon that increases in power as you play. Artifacts put a new wrinkle in the transmogrification game.

(Quick primer for those of you not playing World of Warcraft: as you play the game, your character acquires new gear—weapons and armor—which make your character more effective. They also appear on your character’s model in the game. Transmogrification is a system that lets you change the appearance of your character’s gear so you can make your character look how you want.)

The artifacts all have brand-new, unique models and its clear that a lot of time and design effort went into them. In some cases, the results are beautiful. In other cases, not so much. Some are real works of art, but they may not fit your character’s aesthetic. I find I react very differently to artifacts on different characters.

My guardian druid, for example, doesn’t like her new fist weapons, not one little bit. On the left below is what her gear looks like in its natural state. Her artifacts are now transmogrified to a pair of colorful, jewel-like weapons and I’ve built the rest of her set around their colors.

160929druigua

My holy priest, on the other hand, loves his new staff. His previous set, on the left, was based on dusty reds and bronzes. With his new artifact staff on the right, he’s totally getting his blue on.

160929prihol

I’ve got lots more characters in different specs with different styles still to level up and get transmogged. I’ll drop some more pictures when I get there. Are you using the artifacts? Transmogging over them? Transmogging in response to them? Share your thoughts.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Why Wouldn’t Playing Games Get You a Job?

This wall ad by the Finnish game house Remedy deserves wider circulation:

NYT Jussi Pullinen Remedy Wall Ad

“Mom always said that playing games won’t get you a job. From Espoo with love since 1995. Thank you Remedy crew, friends, families, Finnish dev community, fans and gamers around the world. This one is for you.”

Remedy (of the Max Payne and Alan Wake fame) designed this ad to celebrate their April 05, 2016, launch of a new game, Quantum Break, reportedly the most expensive entertainment production ever made in Finland.

The ad’s irony at one’s own expense sounds very Finnish to me. In Finland, it’s a little embarrassing to be successful or rich, and Finns don’t tend to draw attention to their achievements. At the same time, as a Finn, it’s very satisfying to see Finnish game companies grow up into mature businesses with large, world-wide audiences.

It’s also high time for people to recognize that storytelling is an integral part of human nature and that games are just as viable a medium for telling stories as are myths, songs, novels, image-based art, and the like.

Image by Jussi Pullinen via Nyt.

Disclosure: A friend of mine works at Remedy, but this post is in no way compensated or even requested by them.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.