A Paladin of the Blue Dragonflight

With Dragonflight on the horizon, I’ve been messing around with some dragon-themed transmogs. Hopefully the next expansion will give us some great new dragony appearances, but in the meantime, here’s my set for a paladin of the blue dragonflight.

The shield even breathes fire! Here’s the Wowhead dressing room link if you want to look up any of the pieces.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

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

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Trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I had completely missed the news that there was a big budget D&D movie in the making! On the basis of this trailer, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves looks kinda bad, but fun kind of bad. Take a look yourself:

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – Official Trailer | Comic Con 2022 by IGN on YouTube

I’ve been playing so much World of Warcraft in recent years that I’m woefully out of date with D&D, but I think I spotted familiar things in the trailer. Also handsome, at least on a quick view; they sure churn out decent special effects these days.

At this writing, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is expected to release in theaters on March 03, 2023.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

World of Warcraft Dragonflight Talent Calculator

Wowhead has made available a talent calculator for Dragonflight on the basis of preliminary info on the upcoming expansion. Hooray, we get to dink around with test builds ahead of time!

At this writing, there are only a limited selection of classes to try: death knight, druid, hunter, priest, and rogue. In addition, the new race / class combo, Dracthyr evoker, is available for preview. Excitement! Below are some thoughts from the point of view of my main toon, a balance druid.

Wowhead Dragonflight Talent Tree Balance Druid

On one hand, there still isn’t quite enough information available. For example, on the Druid Tree, I’d like to pick Frenzied Regeneration, but the description doesn’t say whether it’ll pop you into bear form immediately upon use, which would make it less useable for me. (I assume it does, but the button doesn’t say.)

It’s great, however, that you can elect to skip certain spells. For example, I’ve never taken to Typhoon or Cyclone; they’ve always felt awkward and unconducive to my playing preferences or our joint style when Erik and I play together.

So, assuming that I’ll skip a number of lower-tree talents due to personal preferences, I’m having a hard time assigning enough points to reach the 20 required level. If this tree configuration is retained for the release, I’ll just have to hold my nose, pick talents I’d rather skip, and just not drag them onto my action bars.

On the other hand, I love that a balance druid gets more healing spells than is available in Shadowlands. When we play our druids together, we have quite a bit of staying power. I used to play a healer when we raided, but when it’s just the two of us it’s more beneficial to have a tank + dps combo. At times, though, I could use a bit more heals—the tanks are more than fine—and now I’m going to get it. Yay!

In the Balance Tree, it’s especially delightful that we can choose Convoke the Spirits, a Shadowlands covenant ability. A huge surprise was that they’re moving one of my favorite spells, Fury of Elune, to an end-tree position.

What remains to be seen is how the spells and talents become available as you progress, but so far it doesn’t look too awful. 🙂

Image: screencap from Wowhead

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

Dwarven Windwalker Monk Transmog Tweak

Besides the Blood Elf subtlety rogue transmog update I already shared, I’ve also tweaked my Dwarven windwalker monk’s mog for Shadowlands. This new look is more sombre and subdued in color as befits the expansion’s theme.

Shadowlands F Dwarf Windwalker Monk Transmog

As before, the head and shirt slots are hidden and the bracers aren’t visible. I also retained the two fist weapons mogs (Silithid Claw).

The update is built around the Bronzebeard Heritage Armor set. Since I tend to find the pre-made sets often a bit lifeless, however, I only used the shoulders, chest, hands, and feet, and filled out my new transmog with Dignitary’s Traveling Cloak, Stygian Belt, and Harvester’s Court Leggings. I was suprised how well the diamond-patterned quilting in the Revendreth pants fit with the diamonds in the Bronzebeard shoulders, and the red in the belt exactly matches the pants.

Finally, I added some red tattoos (Gryphon pattern) to match the pants color and the detailing on the shoulders.

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

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

Venthyr Shaman Transmog

I’ll admit, Venthyr is not one of my favorite covenants. The gothic vampire vibe just doesn’t do it for me. But when I saw that the Venthyr mail set has candles on the shoulders, I knew I had to have it for my Tauren shaman.

Here’s a transmog set based around those shoulders. For obvious reasons, I call the set Playing with Fire.

Image: Screenshot from World of Warcraft

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

Azerothvision Song Contest: Shadowlands

Have you ever asked yourself: “I wonder what it would be like if there were a Eurovision-style song contest in Azeroth?” No? Just us? Well, okay then.

If you’re not familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s an annual competition in which countries around Europe (and a few beyond) present songs in a wide variety of styles and genres. It’s good for inventive songs, wild stage shows, and good-spirited competition among nations. What if we had the same thing in the lands of World of Warcraft? Here are our ideas of what songs might represent the various realms and lands of the Shadowlands.

Oribos – La Forza by Elina Nechayeva (Estonia, 2018)

Elina Nechayeva – La Forza – Estonia – LIVE – Grand Final – Eurovision 2018 by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

An ethereal, soaring, operatic melody from Estonia in 2018 befitting the mystical city surrounded by The Inbetween. (Probably helps if you like opera.)

In English, the Italian lyrics start something like “You know in the night for me / There is a star / It lights up my way / For eternity / It is my guide / In the immensity / That never leaves me” (someone else’s translation). Very apt!

Bastion – Visionary Dream by Sopho Khalvashi (Georgia, 2007)

Visionary Dream, Sopho Khalvashi, Georgia, Eurovision 2007 via OkazakiYoko on YouTube

Georgia’s Eurovision contribution from 2007 is a hypnotic song. Among its lyrics: “I will fly away / To reach the heights I’ve ever dreamed / Beneath the sun / No sense of time and space.” Sounds like Bastion to us.

Maldraxxus – Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland, 2006)

Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland) 2006 Eurovision Song Contest Winner by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

Finland won in 2006 with this hard rock song. It’s got monsters, pyrotechnics, and a head-banging beat. What else could you hope for from the Necrolords of Maldraxxus?

Ardenweald – Spirit in the Sky by KEiiNO (Norway, 2019)

KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky – Norway 🇳🇴 – Official Music Video – Eurovision 2019 by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

Norway’s song from 2019 has a magical fairy-tale feel and features a yoik performance evoking the spirits of the northern lights. It feels like something the Night Fae of Ardenweald would be into.

Revendreth – It’s My Life by Cezar (Romania, 2013)

Cezar – It’s My Life (Romania) – LIVE – 2013 Semi-Final (2) by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

In 2013, Romania blessed us with this levitating falsetto vampire drama king. If that’s not right for the Venthyr of Revendreth, I don’t know what could be.

The Maw – Hatrið mun sigra by Hatari (Iceland, 2019)

Content note: The Icelandic group Hatari is described on the official Eurovision site as “Award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective”. The music pretty much matches that description—in English, the song name apparently translates “hate will prevail”. Be warned.

Iceland – LIVE – Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra – Grand Final – Eurovision 2019 by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

The lyrics start with “The revelry was unrestrained / The hangover is endless / Life is meaningless / The void will get us all” (someone else’s translation), and the stage show includes chains and spikes. Yep; as bleak as playing through The Maw.

Torghast – Warrior by Nina Sublatti (Georgia, 2015)

Nina Sublatti – Warrior (Georgia) – LIVE at Eurovision 2015 Grand Final by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

Representing Georgia for the 2015 contest we find another Eurovision song where the lyrics and stage show seem to fit WoW uncannily well (Sublatti’s outfit certainly does!) and certainly suit the desolation of Torghast.

Korthia – Higher Ground by Rasmussen (Denmark, 2018)

Rasmussen – Higher Ground – Denmark – Official Video – Eurovision 2018 by Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube

A pensive Danish song from 2018 about departures and the potential of either victory, failure, or passing seems appropriate for Korthia.

Zereth Mortis – Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium, 2003)

Eurovision 2003 22 Belgium *Urban Trad* *Sanomi* 16:9 HQ via 2000ESC2003 on YouTube

The Belgian entry from 2003 is sung in an imaginary language and also has a bit of an otherworldly quality to it, making it the perfect song for Zereth Mortis.

Finally, as an honorable mention, if there is a Eurovision song for the Shadowlands expansion as a whole, it’s Sweden’s Heroes from 2015.

Shadowlands – Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden, 2015)

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes (Official Video) by Warner Music Sweden on YouTube

Any favorites among these or other Eurovision songs, or suggestions for additional WoW zone pairings? Do share!

P.S. The 2022 Eurovision Song Contest semifinals are finished, and the final is held this Saturday, May 14, in Turin, Italy, should you want to follow along.

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

Blood Elf Subtlety Rogue Transmog Tweak

It was time to re-do some of my World of Warcraft transmogs. Among others, I updated my Blood Elf rogue’s look. I still like her previous shadow concept mog a lot, so this update was more a teeny tweak than a grand change.

WoW Shadowlands BE Rogue in Bastion

Her chest remains mogged to Ghostclaw Tunic, but I updated her legs to Jadefire Pants and hid her belt. Then I dinked around with her weapons and ended up with Enchanted Azsharite Felbane Dagger as a partner to the ever-gorgeous Ethereum Phase Blade.

Here is the outfit in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Image: screenshot from World of Warcraft

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

DM-ing Past an Impasse

One of the difficult situations you can find yourself in when acting as Dungeon Master / Game Master for a tabletop role-playing game is when your players find themselves stuck. An adventure is about forward movement, whether it’s fighting the next band of goblins so you can take their loot, discovering the secret door that leads into the hidden underground facility, or navigating through the asteroid field to get to safety. When your players feel like their characters aren’t making progress, that can sap the fun out of your game. What can you do as a DM to help your players get past an impasse?

Sometimes, you don’t have to do anything. Remember that your players are not the same as the characters they play. Being on an adventure is often not a lot of fun for the characters as they face danger, uncertainty, and the possibility of death. Sometimes even though the characters may be stuck, the players are still having a good time. They may be relishing the chance to role-play how their characters deal with failure or enjoy the prompt to think outside the box and come up with wacky new schemes so crazy they just might work. Some players want a game that plays strictly by the rules, even if that means they “lose.” When the characters run into trouble, watch how your players react. If they’re still having fun, you can just let them keep at it, but if the characters’ frustration leads to your players being frustrated, then it is time for you to step in as DM. In that case, here are some things to think about.

Break the DM Wall

As DMs, we have a barrier between us and the players, not just the physical barrier of the DM screen (for those who use them), but the distance between ourselves, who know all the secrets of the adventure, and the players, who do not. When your players are feeling stuck, it can help to open that barrier a little.

Suppose your players’ characters are trying to get into a castle to stop the evil duke from doing an evil ritual with an ancient artifact of evil. They try to get through the front gate and are stopped by the guards. They decide there are too many guards to fight, so they try to bluff their way in. The bluffing doesn’t work, but the players are committed this plan and keep trying to argue and make rolls to get through the gate.

Try saying something like: “I’m stepping in as DM to let you know that the guard just isn’t going to budge, no matter what you say or how well you roll. You’ll have to find another way in.” Giving the players this out-of-game information can help in several ways. It lets the players know that they weren’t on the right track so they can focus their energies on something else. It reassures the players that you are playing fair with them—they didn’t do something wrong, this approach was just never viable, and there is a way forward if they can figure it out. It also helps everyone take a step back from the characters’ frustrations to refocus on the fun of the game.

If your players like to actively role-play their characters and speak for them, it can help to shift perspective and speak about them instead. If you can get your players from “I’ve tried everything I can think of, but this guard captain is just stonewalling” to “Whiteleaf the bard is feeling frustrated and at a loss because her skills aren’t helping her group accomplish their mission,” that can help your players reframe their problem and work toward a solution.

No, but

You may have heard of the rule that in improv you always want to say “Yes, and.” “Yes, and” means you accept whatever ideas someone else brought to the scene and add your own contribution to develop it further. DM-ing is a kind of improv, but an adventure is also constrained by rules, rolls, and the story you have built for your players to explore. Sometimes the best thing to do is just throw out the other stuff and go with your players’ ideas, but if you always ignore the rules and the story, then you leave your players without a structure to work within. So there’s a corollary to the “Yes, and” rule: the “No, but” rule.

“No, but” means that when you say no to something your players want to do, you nudge them toward an alternative. This could be anything from a subtle hint on how to sway the current encounter successfully to a neon arrow pointing at the next plot point.

In the example above, you could “No, but” as you play the castle guard with a grouchy reply: “Look, His Grace said no one gets into the castle but Merchant Severan’s crew with the monthly wine shipment. I don’t see any wine barrels, so you’re not getting in here.” Alternatively, you could step out of character and say: “As you continue to argue with the guard, you notice that the northern wall of the castle overhangs a sheer cliff; there are no guards there, for obvious reasons.” These options give your players a hook for a way forward without interrupting the scene.

It’s up to your players to pick up on the “No, but” and figure out how they want to take advantage of it, but it allows you to steer them out of a dead end and back into the adventure without breaking the immersion of the game.

Change something

If your players just keep trying something that won’t work, you have the option as DM to change the rules and make it work. If necessary, you can always just say: “Okay, ignore that last roll. You succeeded. Move on,” but it’s better if you can fit the change into the story. If the situation the players’ characters find themselves in is a deadlock, you’ll want to either add something or take something away to break the stalemate.

Adding something may mean a new character comes on the scene, an event occurs to disrupt the current stalemate, or the characters get new information that gives them a way forward. For instance, perhaps the evil duke himself comes out to see what the fuss is and decides to invite the characters in so he has someone to gloat at as he does his evil thing. Perhaps a band of marauders swarms out of the nearby woods, giving the castle guards something more important to focus on and letting the characters take advantage of the chaos.

Instead of adding something, you might take away one of the things causing the impasse. Perhaps the guard captain gets frustrated and walks away to let her subordinate handle the characters, and that subordinate turns out to be much more gullible or a secret ally to the party. Perhaps several of the guards get called away to handle another problem elsewhere in the castle leaving a smaller number that the player characters can take in a fight.

In the end, remember that a role-playing game is a collaboration between players and DM. The most important thing is that everyone, including you, gets to have a good experience. Sometimes your players are going to get themselves into places where they aren’t having fun, but as a DM you have options for helping them get out.

Image by Erik Jensen

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

Nerdy Achievement: One Million Gold Pieces Total

For quite some time, I’ve been planning to buy a stack of game time tokens, which of course means gold farming and saving. So, I was very pleased when I hit the mythical sum of one million earlier this month.

WoW One Million Gold Pieces

I bought a stack of tokens a few years ago, too, but as the going rate was much lower, I never came near a million then.

Of course it’s all imaginary, and of course it’s all gone again, but it was neat for a while to be a millionaire—even in a computer game. 🙂

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