Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Know Your Rogue Lore: Gnomeregan Covert Ops

Way back in July of last year I speculated about the changes Cataclysm might bring to some of the established Rogue organizations, not even realizing that an entirely new one was being formed right under our collective noses. The irony is that there is nothing subtle about the Gnomeregan Covert Ops. They state quite clearly what they are all about and wear their name with pride. However trying to discover any information about them is no easy task. The trick is that they hide in plain sight.

When High Tinker Mekkatorque put out the call for Operation Gnomeregan he quickly discovered that as a leader in exile, he didn't really have authority over anyone in the Alliance.  In addition, much of his reconnaissance information came to him through the human filter of SI:7. Sure they got a lot of would be heroes to show up and volunteer to help, however in the end their efforts were unsuccessful. Mekkatorque needed to rethink his strategy on not only on how to retake his home city, but how to make it livable once again. So he started by looking for the best and the brightest in each of the fields he needed.

One of Mekkatorque's recruits was Kelsey Steelspark, a former operative of SI:7, who he made the head of GCO. Unlike her counterpart Mathias Shaw, Kelsey does not display her title, in fact she assumes the guise of a low level rogue trainer. It is only by paying close attention that her TRUE status is revealed. First notice her presence at the advisory table in New Tinkertown. Take a moment to listen to her conversation with the others and it is quickly clear she has the authority to request back up from political allies as well as order all those new gnome rogues around. Kelsey has undergone a couple of costume changes which lead to some additional confusion regarding her status early on. When she was first introduced in Beta she had a two handed sword leading the casual passerby to mistake her for a warrior, now she displays duel daggers.

Like Master Shaw, Kelsey had to create an organization completely from scratch, but used what she already knew worked in SI:7. However hers is one that has some very steep debts to pay at its very conception. The High Tinker wants an organization that will focus on the interests of the Gnomish people verses SI:7's more militarily advantageous intelligence directives under King Varian. For the past many years the Gnomes have lived in exile, harbored by their neighbors the Dwarves at Ironforge. Kelsey needs to build on getting the information her people need to retake their former home, rebuild relationship with their once trusted allies, as well as further the knowledge of the their recently discovered history. This is no easy task to accomplish in the middle of a toxic clean up site.

With the recent death of Magni, and almost Dwarven Civil War, many Gnomes found themselves caught in the middle of what was best for the Alliance as a whole and them as a people. The newly created Council of Three Hammers and the Gnomish people don't share the comfortable relationship once felt in the halls of Ironforge. Many of the Gnomish citizens have been replaced by Dark Iron refugees, this could potentially create distrust and resentment. Muradin while known to the Gnomes has been away so long and through so much that past relationships can no longer be counted. Falstad is another relative unknown as the Wildhammer clans have pretty much kept to themselves and don't usually cooperate even with each other. Moira on the other hand has proven herself to be hostile towards the Gnomish people, even imprisoning some of them shortly after her return to Ironforge during her attempt to cement her claim to the throne. The need for GCO is very clear.

Kelsey's second in command is another gnome by the name of Jarvi Shadowstep, it is he who works most closely with the dwarves and gains their assistance cleaning out some of the remaining troubles on the surface around Gnomeregan. In exchange the Gnomes offer equal aid to their Dwaven "cousins" with their Troll problem just outside Kharanos. Jarvi's larger team of operatives are in the trenches getting dirty and building on those former trust relationships. In typical gnomish fashion this involves a great many devices which make you question your safety and sanity. The majority of the Gnomeregan covert ops personnel just go by "Covert Ops Agent" but a few have names and some interesting stories to tell if you are lucky enough to find them.

Delber Cranktoggle is responsible for the "The Ultrasafe Personnel Launcher", as a rogue you are generally ok as we have feather fall...all others? Lets just say bodies falling seems to be the order of the day with this device. Much fun can be had however if you enjoy projecting yourself all over the map.  If you manage to survive (or not chicken out and just walk) you may discover his colleagues Slamp Wobblecog and Snevik the Blade.  Snevik believes in equality for all gnomes and that if everyone saw the world from the gnomish point of view all fighting would cease. Interesting theory, you need to see how it works on trolls for yourself. 

The only other named member of Gnomeregan Covert Ops that I have been able to locate is Ration Officer Flexgear. Unlike the other members of GCO, Flexgear is not working near either Gnomeregan or Kharanos. In fact, Flexgear is not even in the Eastern Kingdoms. She and her small band of operatives, who consist of one male and two other females, are located at small outpost just north of Land's End Beech in Tanaris called Steelspark Station.

Steelspark? Where have we heard THAT name before? Oh that is right, she is the the head of GCO.  For such a young organization to have managed to already have gotten an outpost in Tanaris is impressive. Why are they there? Uldum. Remember what the Gnomes discovered about themselves in Northrend? That they were created by the Titans? Now suddenly more Titan artifacts are turning up and where the Dwarves were looking for their history, the Gnomes are interested in the technology. Kelsey and her crew need to be there to make sure that the scientist and engineers report back to the High Tinker, not only that, if anything goes wrong, someone needs to report that as well. It will be interesting to see how this new group plays out but so far I have been impressed with Ms Steelspark and her people. They are a nice addition to rogue organization lore.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anduin and I

By now if you have a max level Alliance character you are familiar with the quest chain in Stormwind that sends you off to the Twilight Highlands.  For those who are not, you get the opportunity to spend a little quality time with Prince Anduin Wrynn wandering around uncovering a plot by the Twilight Hammer. What many people may NOT realize is that even after you complete the chain you can go back to visit Anduin at anytime and take him about Stormwind. I like to think he enjoys these visits as he always greets me with "I thought you had forgotten me!"

One of the things I always enjoyed about Blizzard games was their lore or "story telling". They make compelling characters and Anduin is one that has a special place in may heart, not just because he is so close in age to my own sons. It was as the direct result of Anduin that I made a rather enlightening discovery. In Cata some of the quest givers will respond to you differently based upon your class and/or gender.

When the Plate wearer went to do My Son, the Prince, Anduin greeted him by saying "Your a Paladin? Highlord Fordragon was, as well. He taught me a great deal. I...I still miss him." This got me asking around and sure enough Harrison Jones is extremely flirtatious with the females, while the males are treated more like lackeys. So I wanted to see what more I could find...which lead to a problem. With Blizzards new questing design you can't just go and find the chain that you want the lore for and do it. Instead you have to pretty much do the entire zone. And in some cases, you have to do it on a specific race. It has been extremely frustrating.

Places you once could go for accurate information like books, and websites such as Wowwikki and even Wowhead may not be up to date either, as they have completely revamped old content and are continuing to do so. On one hand I like this as individuals we once considered lost in time are coming back into prominence, like Commander Jarod Shadowsong,  Garona Halforcen, and of course his confused Druid self Malfurion Stormrage. Players often have a better idea who the major figures are, what roles they play in the greater picture and how they relate to the over all theme of the game. On the down side, the only variation you have from character to character maybe in how the npc greets you. You no longer have as much freedom of movement within a zone, especially in relation to gaining access to specific factions.

For a Lore monger like myself, I have found I often out level a zone before I complete the quests in it. This with out using Heirloom pieces. Add on guild perks and you can find yourself struggling to stay "level appropriate" and not find yourself locked out of some phased area.

Phasing is another thing I am finding myself loving and hating at the same time. I love that it changes the environment so that you see your actions impacting the world around you. It helps to advance the story, that "lore" I love so much. At the same time it can be such a pain in the butt when you are trying to do simple things like pick herbs, mine or just help out a friend when they are in one phase and your in another. Northrend was a big enough bear, now we have the entire world covered in phasing, the only zones I can think of that DO NOT have phasing in them are Silithus (because they haven't gotten around to it yet), and the Draenei and Blood Elf zones (because they are still tied into the Burning Crusade expansion).

Cata has been such a mixed bag for me. There are some things that I have greatly enjoyed and others that I question what they were thinking. We all have those times I suppose. Perhaps it says a lot that beyond the dungeon redesigns one of the things that they did this expansion that I was happy about was they finally updated poor Anduin.

Anduin has been my role play companion while I do my cooking daily, as well as occasionally accompanying me on blackmailing expeditions. I had always felt sorry for him when he looked like every other snot nosed little kid running around Stormwind, yet he was stuck up in that Keep with Miss Congeniality herself.  At least he had Bolvar to balance things out. Now he has Mr Split Personality as a house mate, I figure the least I can do is give him a break and let him spread his wings from time to time. Auntie Jania can only let him visit so often since the last time he took a road trip he managed to get kidnapped. I can understand his Father's over protective nature, being a parent myself but I would prefer that the next King of Stormwind be sane. So each day I do my small part by giving him a little break from his royal duties of keeping an eye on his Dad. Taking him out amongst the general populace and inviting him to just be a kid.  I'm sure he would appreciate more than lessons on how to take money from the auctioneer or picking locks. Though those are VERY useful things to know.