Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Death and Skillups

So, in pursuing the first item on my list, I used a simple solution... with mixed results.

I formed a party by stubbornly shouting in Lower Jeuno for an hour and picking up 4 level 70 somethings who also needed to skillup their alternate weapons. We were having trouble finding a healer or at least a refresher for the Paladin, so I asked my linkshell if anyone was up for it. Aura/Kelda responded, although she didn't seem to want to do it to gain any sort of weapon skill, just to help. After a few more conversations with her, I realized Aura/Kelda was in fact none other than 'Lady Gunda,' the matron of the linkshell... literally a 60 year old grandmother who plays the game sporadically and selflessly volunteers help for our shell on many occasions.

I was flattered to have her in my party, but also a bit wary, since she has a habit of not paying full attention to what is going on. Her heart is in the right place, but her focus is sometimes elsewhere. And this can be a liability at times. Case in point: she took nearly 25 minutes to get to Jeuno from San D'Oria because she insisted on taking an Airship and apparently narrowly missed the liftoff. I assumed she would bloodport if she could, but didn't ... at the end of the night, she used Warp and ended up in Lower Jeuno, which leads me to believe she doesn't know about bloodporting or forgot about it. Bear in mind that she has a level 55 White Mage and a level 57 Red Mage.

We arrived at Kuftal Tunnel, ready for action. Lady asked everyone repeatedly to 'please wait' for her, although we were basically just milling around at the agro-less first chamber and bottom of the first tunnel. She didn't seem to know this location very well, and I grew a little worried for her.

We wandered out to the main chamber where EXP parties carry out their killings. And we started to skillup at a fair clip, pulling crabs frequently and killing them as slowly as possible to maximize hits (and the chance of skillup). I used Aggressor, cheap accuracy food (Rice Dumplings), Venerer Ring, and Life Belt, and used tanking equipment for the rest of the slots. I made it from 175 to 176, and the party was feeling confident.

I've come to learn that this is where Skillup parties can get in trouble; when they get confident...and cocky.

The Paladin wandered further north to find another camp (why? dunno). He pulled a crab and expected us all to be there immediately... Most of us made it there (hastily using Sneak or Silent Oil) relatively quickly and we engaged the crab. But about halfway through the battle I noticed Kelda wasn't around, and saw her hit points quickly dwindle to nothing; she apparently wasn't present when we decided to move camp and panicked... running without Sneak through several crabs. I started to feel guilty about accepting her help, since she didn't really know what she was getting into.

The Paladin now had no refresher and was running out of patience, and he didn't notice an Air Elemental milling about us as he hastily healed himself. The crab died quickly, but we now had another problem. The elemental violently reacted to the Paladin's healing, and began to lay into him. A check by a level 70 member revealed the Elemental is a Decent Challenge to him (all elementals in this area are between levels 68 and 70 and can easily kill a party of level 75 characters). I privately fumed at the foolhardiness of the Paladin, both in pointlessly moving the camp so quickly and in choosing such an asinine location. Apparently, people in the upper levels can forget the dangers here.

At this point, I did something very much out of character for a Warrior. I panicked. I stood there without engaging the enemy, and without any knowledge of what to do as I watched the other members futilely attack it. I had no hopes of even hitting it, nor damaging it if I did somehow manage to hit it. My gut said "RUN!", but my misplaced Warrior training told me to "Grow a sack and take it". And I did nothing. I noticed the Dark Knight had already entered Cape Terrigan, an entrance quite a few strides away... he must have fled as soon as he saw the Elemental engage us; in retrospect, this is what I should have done as well. For some reason, Kelda suddenly noticed she was dead, and told the party matter-of-factly. "I'm dead." I laughed, since it looked like we were about to join her. The rest of the party decided, much too late, that it was time to run. And we all died with the exception of the Dark Knight, and possibly the Paladin (hazy on this, in any case it was someone with Raise).

The Dark Knight had no silent oil and couldn't get close enough to the corpses to tow them to a safer location for Raise. I got resurrected, consumed a Silent Oil, and ran over to the north (Cape Terrigan) entrance. Kelda also got a raise, and decided to gun it through what were possibly the same crabs that initially killed her. She died... again. The person who raised her was also killed. At this point two people left the party, one of them because they disliked the Dark Knight for neglecting to tow us in, the other due to general impatience. I gave half a stack of Silent Oils to the unprepared Dark Knight and he ran over to the corpses and towed them all to the Cape Terrigan entrance.

After a long wait we eventually got raises for everyone and proceeded to kill more crabs, without a Paladin and no main healer. We all did fairly well, and no further death was experienced by any in our party that night. But the going was slow, and around 1:00 AM we decided to call it quits.

End result: I lost approximately 1000 experience points (about 6 enemies worth of battling), but gained 4 levels in Great Axe, now at 179. Notwithstanding my unflattering moment of panic, I felt like this was an acceptable trade-off. If anything, I should have had the Great Axe beyond this level much more that 1000 experience points ago, so it almost feels like 'come-uppance' for neglecting it for so long.

And as for Kelda, I sincerely thanked her. She lost quite a bit of experience points, partially due to her lack of skill/attention, but mostly due to the fact that she was willing to blindly come out to Kuftal, just to help a Linkshell member and his ragtag party of cocky 70-somethings. There was absolutely nothing in it for her, and she did it anyway, and didn't so much as wince when she died. She stuck with us until the end. Thank you, Lady Gunda.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Immediate Goals

I've pondered my options and have decided there are a few things I need to do before proceeding with the Limit Break quest and moving onward beyond level 60.

First of all, I need to seriously hone my Great Axe skill. During the Dual Viking Axes and post-Rampage binge from level 55 onward, I neglected to equip my Great Axe in parties, mostly because I didn't want to compromise the chosen skillchain, but also because I'd grown increasingly wary of the high delay of this weapon when compared to the evasion capabilities of the enemies we were killing. A miss with this type of weapon really hurts, and at 55 I was already missing a bit with my Axes, even with somewhere between 27 or 29 bonus points to my accuracy in addition to eating Sole Sushi. I shuddered to think how badly I would miss without the +10 accuracy on each Axe. In hindsight, I should have sucked it up and equipped the Executioner anyway. My skill is at 175, and current maximum is 203 for my level. I've got work to do. Warriors... don't let this happen to you.

I need to complete my Artifact Armour set. Granted the 2 that I'm missing, the Fighters Cuisses and Fighters Lorica aren't entirely necessary, but I won't feel like I've graduated into upper 'warriorhood' until I have the full set ;)

I need to get my Ninja subjob to level 37 once and for all. I stopped at 32, mostly out of embarrasment at my gear (no Emperor Hairpin), but also because I needed to complete a couple of additional Ninjutsu quests that would assist me in keeping the enemies' attention during battle. I've completed both quests, using my Warrior's higher level to wander freely through Yhoator and Yuhtunga Jungles without fear of meddling beastmen. And at this point in my career, I don't really care about being the best Ninja I can be. I'll be as functional as I need to be, and that doesn't require an Emperor Hairpin. If people scoff, let them scoff. 80% of the parties in the 32-37 areas are first timers anyway; they don't really know what lies ahead, and most of them have purchased their gil, so their gear snobbery is a bit hollow to me.

I need to get my Thief subjob (level 26) up to par as well, since using Sneak Attack and various weapon skills can greatly assist parties and allows more flexibility with skillchaining. In my drive for the Haubergeon, I sold all of my Thief gear, so this will take some time and preparation. I'll put it on the back burner.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In Medias Res

Why am I starting this now, almost a full two years since I first created the character of Frohike, back in April of 2004?

I decided upon this a few nights ago, as I paused on the bridge over the great canyon in North Gustaberg, staring at the huge waterfall that feeds it, and quietly removing my linkshell pearl for the first time in years. It was around 1AM, and I was exhausted after a long key and treasure chest hunt in Oldton Movalpolos. But the exhaustion felt different this time, greater than the immediate quest warranted. It seemed to encompass all that I had done since I began, and the recent accomplishments I had been aiming to achieve since I had decided to take my job as Warrior "all the way."

I had recently reached level 60 as Warrior. And a few days before that, I had finally aquired the Haubergeon armor, a multi-million-gil piece of equipment that took months of saving, and at the very end still required the kindess of a veteran level 75 Warrior to acquire. These were two milestones that, on many gloomy nights, I felt I would never reach. With a full-time job, a beautiful wife, and an incredible son, I just didn't have the time that this game ruthlessly requires to progress at anything faster than a glacial rate. And I was resolved to not allow my time spent in Vana'diel to impinge upon my family or the quality of my life. So I went the glacial route, giving 3-4 hours a night and trying to accomplish as much as possible and stay the course.

I was a tired Warrior, resolved to watching friends progress beyond my levels in less time, aqcuiring more gil more quickly, wearing armour I can never hope to save enough for, and never really quite understanding nor caring about the real-world commitments that kept poor Frohike in such a tired rut (you can tell them you're a Dad until you're blue in the face, but most of them are in environments where the concept of true parenthood and dedicated parenting are completely foreign, whether due to actual age or just chronic immaturity).

I was a tired Dad, resolved to wake up with his son at 6:30 AM again the next day and play with him and raise him like none of this had happened or mattered. Resigned to not being able to fully explain the weight of my in-game accomplishments to anyone in my real environment, just as I was unable to convey my pride in these same accomplishments to those who had passed these milestones in half the time in the game.

I realized I was doing this all for myself, alone, in some strange, private Sisyphean challenge. And I just stood there in the quiet thrum of the falling stream, collecting these thoughts, releasing them, remembering where I came from, and having absolutely no idea where to go next...

I wonder how philosophically peculiar this meditative moment must have been, seriously pondering and evaluating the trajectory and the meaning of a semi-virtual existence in a virtual world, one that has required more than a month's worth of cumulative real-time hours to develop; inhabiting the character, making his decisions, socializing, competing with other characters for resources, sightseeing.

In a sense, I feel I'm at an impasse with this game. I'm confronting the exhaustion of someone who is clearly not 'supposed' to progress as far as I have but doggedly continues to do so. And in another sense it seems Frohike is just poised. Ready for anything, but confused about where to begin.

And what better place to start a journal than on the verge of something?