The Crossroads

Previous chapter

The settlement they call the Crossroads is busy, packed with soldiers. Their reasons for loitering here are diverse and contradictory.

When I arrived at the inn, late at night after spending the day in my patch of shade, a group of rowdy orcs accosted me. ‘Join us! Drink!’ and things like that.

They were all quite young, and their leader was exceptionally muscular, wearing little more than a leather harness. He slung his arm around my shoulders and led me to his friends’ table, where I spent the rest of the night perched on his knee, his arm around my hips, food and drink coming in a constant stream, and more passersby being drawn into the festivities. They were celebrating Theramore’s annihilation.

What did we want?
What did we give them?
Why do we fight?
For the Horde!
(And so on.)

Any form of intoxication can be funny like that. This orc rejoiced in the death of humans with a dead human in his lap. I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult, so I mostly simply grinned. It was, after all, the warmest greeting I’ve ever had from strangers, since I’ve been this carcass anyway.

Maybe this is the duality of drink. It makes your current passion reveal itself in bright, bright colours, but it also leads everyone to doubt the validity of what you’re doing. It lets you cheer on your bloodlust and hug someone you’d normally hate. Or I assume he would, most do, especially when I’m in my robes – which I wasn’t, they were folded up in my pack, safe and hidden.

I did not put them on when the young orcs’ party was over, either, and everyone was sleeping. In my travelling leathers I left the hut, and there was the mild, clear light of morning outside, with the Crossroads so quiet I could hear the grasses shivering across the plain for miles around, or so it seemed.

But there were also voices, low and hushed. I found them under the guard tower on the western side of camp. Two tauren, a cow and bull, and a troll, in Horde-styled mail with shaman trinkets braided into her aquamarine hair.

All three were subdued. They made no eye contact with one another, watching the savannah instead, and they sat slack, not at all ready for combat, so presumably they were not guards on duty, or if they were they were bad at it.

I sat down with them without introduction, and they did not seem to mind. Staying quiet, staring out, it was as though they had initiated me into this little pocket of contemplation or gloom. I found myself drawn in.

‘It is not my place to contradict,’ said the troll, in the strong accent that is typical of the Darkspear. ‘But sometimes the feeling, it picks you up and it carries you, and there you are all the sudden, out in the open with all your complaints.’

‘Nobody would fault you for that,’ said the bull.

‘They would,’ said the cow, ‘you know they would. That is the greatest problem here: so many have been drawn into the frenzy.’

‘It picks them up and carries them, just like my doubt does me,’ said the troll.

I have read the Forsaken literature on something I think is quite like this phenomenon she was trying to describe. Crowd rage, swarmer mentality, compounded by lifetimes of war and, for the undead, bodily disfigurement. That goes for the orcs as well, with their green skin. I wonder if the orcs see fel corruption when they look at their brethren, like I do when I look at mine?

I said some of this aloud: the part about the swarmer mindsets and wartime conditioning.

‘Are those the excuses your people fall upon?’ asked the bull.

‘There were not so many of the walking dead in the siege, I did notice that,’ said the troll.

‘Some of my people have learned,’ I told them.

‘Only some! Should we expect your newest atrocity soon enough!’ The bull glared at me, his nostrils wide, the tiny hairs within surging in and out.

‘As much as you expect the same from those people in the inn,’ I said, ‘and those who are like them.’

His gaze dropped, then. He snorted helplessly at the dust beneath knees.

‘The Horde has entered a time of sickness,’ said the cow.

So we sat and thought about that for a while, and there was nothing good to say, so no-one said anything at all.

Next chapter


Making friends with the Tillers

Tiller farmland.

The Tillers are a faction of farmers based in the Valley of the Four Winds, beset by the virmen and the hozen and entrenched in an anti-newcomer mindset. Reputation with the Tillers is granted every time you harvest a crop at ninety, and through completion of several dailies available at Halfhill (again at ninety).

Alongside the main faction reputation bar, there are also individual Tillers to befriend, and note that by “befriend” I mean “ply with food and trinkets.” Each Tiller has a favourite meal you can cook for them (or rope a friend into cooking for you) and a special item found in pockets of Dark Soil all over Pandaria, most abundantly around the farms in the Valley of the Four Winds, and less reliably as extra loot when you harvest a crop.

Befriending the Tillers at maximum speed is all about knowing what to give to whom. In aid of this, this post is split into four parts for your convenience:

  1. A screenshot overview of locations, meals and gift preferences.
  2. The meals and their materials.
  3. The gifts and how to hunt them.
  4. Information about each Tiller in alphabetical order by name.

The overview: click for full size

Tillers location in Valley of the Four Winds

Back up top.

The meals

For a full meal run, you'll need to create five of every meal. This will require the following materials:

35x Juicy Crunch Carrots
25x Scallions
25x Striped Melon
5x Giant Mantis Shrimp
10x Jade Lungfish
10x Krasarang Paddlefish
5x Reef Octopus
5x Raw Tiger Steak
5x Raw Turtle Meat
10x Wildfowl Breast

Pull these together to make the following:

Braised Turtle
For: Old Hillpaw
Materials: 1 Raw Turtle Meat and 5 Juicycrunch Carrots per dish; 5 meat and 25 carrots total.

Charbroiled Tiger Steak
For: Haohan
Materials: 1 Raw Tiger Steak per dish; 5 steaks total.

Eternal Blossom Fish
For: Sho
Materials: 1 Jade Lungfish and 5 Striped Melon per dish; 5 fish and 25 melons total.

Fire Spirit Salmon
For: Tina Mudclaw
Materials: 1 Emperor Salmon and 5 Scallions per dish; 5 fish and 25 scallions total.

Sautéed Carrots
For: Jogu the Drunk
Materials: 2 Juicycrunch Carrots per dish; 10 carrots total.

Shrimp Dumplings
For: Ella
Materials: 1 Giant Mantis Shrimp per dish; 5 shrimp total.

Swirling Mist Soup
For: Gina Mudclaw
Materials: 1 Jade Lungfish per dish; 5 fish total.

Twin Fish Platter
For: Fish Fellreed
Materials: 2 Khasarang Paddlefish per dish; 10 fish total.

Valley Stir Fry
For: Chee Chee
Materials: 1 Reef Octopus and 1 Wildfowl Breast per dish; 5 octopuses and 5 birdy breasts total.

Wildfowl Roast
For: Farmer Fung
Materials: 1 Wildfowl Breast per dish; 5 total.

Back up top.

The gifts

Match these to the best recipient for a full 990 reputation, or pass them around as you like for 584 instead.

Blue Feather
Jade Cat
Lovely Apple
Marsh Lily
Ruby Shard
Chee Chee
Old Hillpaw
Fish Fellreed
Jogu the Drunk
Farmer Fung
Gina Mudclaw
Haohan Mudclaw
Tina Mudclaw

Gifts can be found all over Pandaria in patches of Dark Soil, and you can see the exact places where these spawn here at Wowhead.

Rate of Dark Soil pickupIf you're looking to grind reputation quickly, your best bet will be to search around the farms in the Valley of Four Winds. The soil's extremely abundant there. Even if you have competition, it's not unusual to loot flurries of the gifts, as you can see from my time stamps to the right.

That said, there's a lot going on down on the ground amongst the farms, which can turn a gift-grind into a squintfest. Look how obscuring all those vegetables can be, an issue that's only compounded when you're doing a speedy fly-by on the epic mount:

Ground clutter in action

There is, however, a good way to ease visibility.

Hit Escape and bring up the game menu. Click System and look down toward the bottom left section of the System Settings panel. Change Ground Clutter to Low.

Turn down ground clutter

Observe the difference!

Veggidisappearo, a spell much-coveted by the under twelves.

If competition is getting you down, the spawn rate of soil is apparently quite good around the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun-Lai Summit, mostly around gazebos and under trees. You can also try out this addon, which modifies TomTom to show you the exact locations of Dark Soil spawn spots.

Back up top.

The Tiller characters

Chee Chee Tillers Chee Chee
Eats: Valley Stir Fry
Likes: Blue Feather
Provides: Sheep on your farm, and Chee Chee's Goodie Bag in the post.
Ella Tillers Ella
Eats: Shrimp Dumplings
Likes: Jade Cat
Provides: Luna the cat on your farm, and a Tree Seed Pack in the post.
Farmer Fung
Eats: Wildfowl Roast
Likes: Marsh Lily
Provides: A shaggy prized yak on your farm, and an Enigma Seed in the post.
Fish Fellreed
Eats: Twin Fish Platter
Likes: Jade Cat
Provides: A trio of pigs for your farm, and a Special Seed Pack in the post.
Gina Mudclaw
Eats: Swirling Mist Soup
Likes: Marsh Lily
Provides: A mailbox for your farm, and a Celebration Gift of fireworks in the post.
Eats: Charbroiled Tiger Steak
Likes: Ruby Shard
Provides: Songbell Seeds in the post. These grow into Motes of Harmony.
Jogu the Drunk
Eats: Sautéed Carrots
Likes: Lovely Apple
Provides: A Secret Stash of alcohol in the post, and free crop forecasts.
Old Hillpaw
Eats: Braised Turtle
Likes: Blue Feather
Provides: A flock of chickens for your farm, and a Straw Hat in the post.
Eats: Eternal Blossom Fish
Likes: Lovely Apple
Provides: An orange tree for your farm, and a Red Cricket pet.
Tina Mudclaw
Eats: Fire Spirit Salmon
Likes: Ruby Shard
Provides: Furniture for the farmhouse and a Nicely Packed Lunch, full of food.

Back up top.

Thus concludeth the guide. Edited 30/12/12 for all those people finding my blog while looking for the elusive Farmer Fung!


Being ex-human in the Horde...

...tends to make you feel very small.

WTB stepstool, PST.


Newly ninety monkling

I meant to head this post with a fantastic level-up screenshot of Nyxrinne hitting ninety. Instead, out in the Dread Wastes, I was enshrouded in sonic weaponry and hurled at the ground by one of the Klaxxi. I missed all the mobs I was aiming for, plummeted into a section of the zone I had yet to visit, and levelled up on impact.

You'd think this might make a dramatic ding shot, but instead it's mostly a monk sprawled on her back and a lot of perplexed mobs hanging around in the background, unharmed. So here's Nyxrinne and a chicken instead. Ta-da.

It took me just over three days worth of /played time to reach this level cap, including all the usual AFKs and RP-related slowdowns and... Mogit. (Mogit.)

I found the monk class extremely enjoyable out in the world, for the movement-related reasons outlined here, which provided a constant sense of precision and speed; the burst capabilities of the windwalker spec; and Enlightenment, which I was going to discuss here but in fact deserves its own post.

What I will say is that I have enjoyed MoP questing a great deal. The vast majority of the storylines are good, the world is beautiful, and there's a strong sense of pace throughout that carried me forward effortlessly, even though I was replaying some of the earlier content as I'd levelled my paladin to eighty-eight before starting on Nyxrinne. I have quite a lot to say on all of it, so posts ahoy!


A new book

all battered and churned up. Garrosh used the desecration of this place as an excuse to go for Theramore, as I hear it, but the army from Mulgore marched so close by the ruins that Taurajo’s even more of a mess than before.

It’s not normal behaviour for the tauren, I think it’s been forced. I couldn’t bring myself to honour the place in their custom after seeing that, so I made a wreath of wildflowers in human fashion and set that by one of the burned tents instead.

Even empty, the place charges me.

That’s not clear. As Forsaken I pick up on bad tension, I see bad things and I hear bad sentiment and I take it in more than anything good. There’s been a lot more of that sort of thing about lately. I get a kind of pressure between my eyes everytime someone speaks bitterly about our movements, or when I see things like this: Taurajo in ruins and the marks of peaceful hooves all pressed in close for the war-march.

What I mean is that the state of the Horde makes me uneasy, and my own state of undeath turns that uneasiness into nervous energy: lots of it.

After the Wrathgate, Horde and Alliance and Legion alike poured into the Undercity and killed indiscriminately. Our brutality was mirrored right back to us from all those sources. Has Garrosh forgotten? I think his orc honour has blinded him to the similarities. Anything can be justified when your creed is one of warfare. Or, not warfare, I mean anger.

Wrathgate was down to anger: the rage of my people against all that has happened to us. I wonder if Garrosh would like that thought, the thought that he now wears the mantle of Putress. His shoulders will soon bear the weight of his Horde’s severed souls.

Anyway, this is a fresh book for my journal so I should introduce myself again. I find my thoughts of me make a good approximation of where I am in my own life, or in my own head, if that makes sense.

I am Nyxrinne, once called Corinne in life. I am a Forsaken apothecary, and eighteen months ago I was sent to Feralas by Master Apothecary Lydon to be forgotten (deliberately, because Lydon has what is called an eidetic memory, so he won’t have forgotten at all, but presumably Faranell and the others will do, or have done already).

Out in Feralas I grew to know my tauren hosts at Mojache. They claim I’m in the state of owa’hane, which loosely translates as a loss of the whole of which I should be a part; the loss of a strong cause.

There is some truth to it, but, despite the increased corruption of Lydon, who was my mentor, and the crescendo of warmongering behaviour from the Horde, I don’t think I have lost my way particularly: I am still working toward the defeat of the plague of undeath, and though the path is more overgrown and strewn with troubles than ever, I will keep to it.

Out there in Feralas, anyway, I met with Alliance contacts: three dwarves who are herbalists and alchemists, and a gnome, who is an arcanist. I wore traveller’s clothes instead of my robes and pleaded old notes of humanity, which washed, and we worked together on cataloguing the precise makeup of plants, which is mostly about all the different liquids and solids that go together to make a thing.

With the flattening of Theramore this alliance has been broken; the sentinels from Feathermoon looked ready to make sure of it so I left before they could. I’m on my way back to Orgrimmar, because I feel I need to witness as many corrupt cores of power as possible.

I have seen Faranell and Sylvanas, I felt the weight of the Lich King on my own mind, and I worked at the foot of the Icecrown Citadel, so I am curious to see how Orgrimmar fares. Perhaps there is a unified darkness to them that could be picked apart and understood. Perhaps it could be broken into its component parts and cured, bit by bit, like I hope the plague will be cured, bit by bit, body by body.

I am near the Crossroads now, I am resting in some shade, because I will not make it before noon, and the heat will swell my body if I try to press on under the full blast of the sun. It will not be long before I am amongst the orcs, and I can begin my diagnosis.

Next chapter


Lowbie windwalkers: fighting with flowers

The high-level mantra: Rising Sun Kick, maintain Tiger Power, Fists of Fury, Blackout Kick. Levelling windwalkers may have noticed just how lacklustre a monk's DPS will be if they stick to that, even on single-target pulls where the tank stands still and lets you maul away. Blackout Kick lacks any oomf.

There is a cure. It may make you feel like a florist rather than a martial artist, but thems the breaks. It's Spinning Fire Blossom.

Even Icy Veins' levelling guide fails to touch on this one, stating that 'you will not find much use for this ability as you level up.' But it doesn't take much testing to notice the way SFB hits for more than Blackout Kick even in melee range, and a helluva lot more at range. It does this for half the resource cost, and continues to dominate all the way through Northrend. You will do more DPS in instances if you forsake Blackout Kick for this skill, and you will mow through mobs more quickly on your own as well. Often you will kill things before they even reach you.

This is all down to a basic scaling issue with Blackout Kick, compounded by a secondary issue of convenience. Low level content is always a blitzfest. You can mow through things without stopping, in an instance or out questing. Keeping on top of the meter at this stage is more a matter of speed than style: if you've some decent burst, you're going to dominate. If your DPS requires a bit of setup... well, even at the top of your game you probably won't manage much more than 'keeping up'.

Blackout Kick becomes more powerful when you precede its use with Rising Sun Kick and three stacks of Tiger Power. RSK is a powerful ability in its own right, but Tiger Palm might be better named Tiger Pat on the Head for all the damage it deals. And let's not forget Jab, better named Poke Softly. In fact, let's not forget Jab, let's consider it.

Before Blackout Kick, you will need:

  • Four Jabs (two chi for RSK, three chi for three Tiger Palms, two chi for Blackout Kick itself);
  • Eight global cooldowns (four Jabs, one RSK, three Tiger Palms);
  • Melee range.

For Blackout Kick itself, you'll also want to be behind the target so as to apply the DoT effect. So, eight GCDs, and the ninth will be a fully-powered Blackout Kick. Meanwhile, how to use each of those eight preparatory GCDs with SFB:

  1. Jab.
  2. Jab.
  3. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  4. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  5. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  6. Jab to avoid energy capping.
  7. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  8. Spinning Fire Blossom.

In the space of time it took to set up Blackout Kick, a florist will already discharged five SFB, a skill that deals more damage than Blackout Kick even when all the buffs and debuffs are applied. SFB gains nothing from Tiger Power, so you can cut the Tiger Palms from your attack pattern altogether. Not only that, but if you have chi left over from the previous fight, or if you're keeping it up between packs through liberal use of Expel Harm, you can be smashing mobs for even more powerful SFBs when you're still some fifty yards away. The range on it is truly beautiful.

You should be aware, mind you, that your flowers have tiny flower minds of their own. Unless you've picked up the Glyph of Spinning Fire Blossom, the skill won't lock on in quite the same way other spells do. With the right combination of lag and a tank who likes running, you may find it blasting straight past the mobs you meant to hit as you were racing in... and straight into another pack.

Another downside is that, in melee range, it won't necessarily hit the mob you're targeting, or even turned toward: it could well decide it just wants to pummel that mob's neighbour instead. This is especially irksome if you're trying to nuke down a healer mob and your blossoms keep going for something else. What you can do, of course, is keep repositioning until all is working as intended, or switch back to your other skills for the sake of precision.

In my eyes, mind you, the biggest downside of all is that the power of this skill reduces lowbie windwalkers to spamming two, maybe three spells (if you include Rising Sun Kick or Spinning Crane Kick) and completely ignoring their end-game rotation.

I generally feel it is poor design for the numbers to teach observant players a completely different playstyle while levelling up to the one they'll use from 80 onward. To get a feel for the way your class will work at level cap, maintaining stacks of Tiger Power and keeping up the SFK debuff, a levelling monk will have to use a suboptimal range of spells. There's no real sense of being good at your class either way, as you'll be doing low damage if you stick to Blackout Kick, or you'll be doing high damage with SFB but feeling this is only because you happened to cotton on to the trick.

From a roleplaying perspective, meanwhile, my character has been learning to throw chi as fire flowers all this time: how is it she's so good at close-range martial arts all of a sudden when she reaches Hyjal? She hasn't been practising much of that at all. There's no solid sense of progression in the way this works.

I suppose levelling monks will have to take solace in dealing massive crits, dealt via hyacinth.


What can levelling do for you?

Earn your guild a metric arsetonne of experience, that's what. I mean really.


The levelling experience: movement

Full disclosure: I am a raving altoholic. Group sessions and focus exercises and shiny, shiny purples have all failed to keep me away from that Create Character button. As a result, I've levelled a lot, and I'm good at levelling quickly and efficiently.

I suspect most people know that the best way to level fast is through optimised quest circuits. Hell, Blizzard seem to have cottoned on to that: compare the compact quest hubs we have now to the sprawling mess of objectives and travel time that made classic levelling such a time sink and you'll see what I mean.

These days most quests run together; you finish them all in the same general area; moving from target to target happens naturally; and creating an optimised circuit is mostly just a matter of making sure you pick up all the quests and take note of any quest starter items you find. But it is still important to plan just a little if you want to to push your speed to maximum.

That wider issue - moving between different quest areas effectively - is mirrored small-scale in basic movement between each of those scattered tablets you need to loot, or those mobs you need to kill. If you want to level really bloody fast, you will be doing two things: you will be looking for the next target as you're dispatching or looting the current one, and you will make sure you cover the ground between here and there as swiftly as possible.

With that in mind, there is one thing I hate above all others. The peripheral mob.

The peripheral mob is a dick, and don't let it argue otherwise. This sucker is out of range of your usual pulling skills: your spells, your taunt, your bow. It's sufficiently far that you're going to have to run a bit to get there. But it's actually a pretty big bit to run, you know, I mean, should that really be taken on foot, or is it worth mounting up to get there? Is it worth mounting up to get there? There's a 1.5 second cast time on my mount, will the speed of the mount make up for that pause while I summon it? Would I have pegged it into range by then if I'd gone in on foot? Will I be shedding precious seconds if I do, or if I don't?

By this time I have wasted precious seconds on mental contortions, of course. If I'm feeling particularly twitchy, I may have busted out some maths.

This is one of the reasons I adore the monk class. Roll is sufficient to bypass this whole problem. If you find yourself surrounded by peripheral mobs, all loitering at the kind of distance that suggests they all hate their neighbours, there's no need for tears or calculators. You roll. Maybe you roll twice. If you've specced into Celerity, maybe you roll three times. If you've specced into Momentum, you're practically sprinting. And if you're a windwalker monk, you fly across the questing zone and kick that peripheral mob in the face.

It's very satisfying. Not just because of the face-kick, no: because the cooldown timers on roll and flying serpent kick are such that one or both will be done ticking down when you finish killing and looting, but not so fast that there's the niggling feeling that you're wasting potential rolls.

And yes, alright, both skills are probably tuned for PvP and the PvE endgame, not ridiculous people like me with my, er, eccentricities. Still, when a class has such tools as Enlightenment to boost them through the world, I have to wonder if it's all a big conspiracy to make monks especially addictive to level. I can only approve.


A bit about me

I suppose the first thing to do at the start of a new project is to say hullo, so here I am. Hullo! I'm a veteran WoW-player who plays on the EU realms. I didn't make it onto the Mists beta so I've been improvising an awful lot with my new monk, and it occurred to me that, hey, perhaps I finally have something to write about.

So this blog happened. The leading lady is Nyxrinne, Forsaken monk. She's presently a brewmaster/windwalker, and hopefully everything else will trickle through in her diary entries and my sillier posts. I intend this blog to deal with immersion gaming, the Forsaken faction and the monk class - although I'm still levelling up and puzzling things out at the moment, so any sort of theorycrafting is a looong way off.

For now I'll see about fixing up the layout, and maybe later I'll refashion this post into something slightly more engaging!