Wednesday, November 17, 2010

People Watching in Stormwind

I am gifted with foresight. Shortly after 4.0.1 dropped, I read the writing on the wall and reset my hearthstone to Stormwind, where I am a guest at the Gilded Rose Tavern (conveniently located in the heart of the Trade District! Great Rates!). There I could wait for the coming Cataclysm and not get stuck in Dalaran when the portals are replaced with profession trainers. My tabard of the Argent Crusade allows me to teleport quickly to the Tournament grounds in Icecrown so that I can still be the first one to the Citadel summoning stone on raid nights, even though everyone else starts out much closer (grumble).

I admit it, I am a bit smug about it all. When Phase I of the elemental invasion began, there I was, spitting distance from the Earthen Ring questgiver – not that I would spit on him, mind you, but I could if I wanted to. Not that I wanted to.

It’s been a while since I last spent any appreciable time in Stormwind. My largely abandoned (and soon to be deleted to make room for a worgen) bank alt was only online for seconds at a time; in fact, I was on him so infrequently that the Jack O’Lantern head he got last year at Hallows’ End stayed in place for over a month! My Warlock alt has lately been spending more time in Ironforge, which provides slightly more convenient access to Stratholme where he’s been trying to land Baron Rivendare’s goat horse (unsuccessfully, though he did get exalted with the Argent Dawn). Even my Paladin tends to go to Ironforge when the Auction House calls, I’m not quite sure why.

What I had forgotten in my absence is how rich Stormwind; how much stuff is happening in the background. There’s people everywhere and, unlike Ironforge and Darnassus, they’re actually doing things (I confess I haven’t been to Exodar enough to observe the folks there; Exodar gives me a headache, and I get lost every year during Children’s Week). The things that people say and do make it worth your while to watch them and listen – err, read their chat bubbles – to them while you’re going about your business. Instead of sitting on a mammoth in the center of the Trade District while waiting for the next invasion to begin, I suggest you walk around a bit and find them. Here are some of my favorites:

Lisa Pierce, Janey Anship and Suzanne. These ladies are frequently found sitting at the foot of the tower or roaming around between the mage quarter and the Cathredral District. They have a wide-ranging discussion on matters of the arcane which includes a Ghostbusters reference. Apparently they’re attempting to concoct a love potion.

Roman, Brandon and Justin. These kids fish in the canals and have some amusing conversations about monsters, orcs, crocolisks and worm guts.

William and Donna are a little more obnoxious than most. William steals Donna’s dolly and they run all around the city. Energetic little buggers, but a little tiresome.

Aedis Brom and Christoph Faral. You’ve got to love two guys who walk around the city with tankards in hand. These two fast friends and drinking buddies have some hilarious conversations about past military campaigns, war wounds, and the Glustewelt twins. They frequent the trade district before bellying up to the bar in the Pig and Whistle in Old Town. I happened to notice them for the first time shortly after stalking my current personal favorites: Karlee and Paige Chaddis, and Gil.

I ran into this trio quite by accident, noticing first Karlee’s eye-catching red and blue ensemble (Yeah, it sounds a little weird, I know). Paige Chaddis and Gil are rather ordinary children: Paige skips along like the little girl in Grizzly Hills that you have to escort to the Westfall Brigade, and Gil looks like my squire. Or the Prince. Gil is the only one who talks, and when he asked ‘Where we going?’, I found myself wondering right along with him, so I followed them. From Old Town, through the Trade District, a quick swing past the Cathedral district and on into the Mage Quarter. All the while, Gil keeps up a running commentary (‘My feet hurt’, ‘Why do we always go the same way?’, ‘Are we there yet?’). Paige and Karlee are silent. Eventually they arrive at their final destination: Ancient Curios, in the mage district, where Karlee asks for everything on the list, ‘especially the last ingredient.’ Hmmm, the last time I looked, the 'last ingredient' that Charys Yserian, the proprietor of the shop, had was either Corpse Dust or, more ominously, this.

By this time, I was quite curious, and my kids were actually wondering what was going on. I had already noticed something odd: Karlee and Paige are both identified as ‘Chaddis’, as in ‘Karlee Chaddis’ and ‘Paige Chaddis.’ Gil is just…Gil. Was he just some random boy tagging along? An illegitimate son? An orphan of Stormwind? And what is that last ingredient? Interestingly enough, in the shop, Karlee talks to Paige – but not to Gil. When business is finished, they walk out and continue their journey, looping around Stormwind and back to Old Town, while Gil's comments and complaints are ignored.

Very mysterious, all of it, and something I hope to get to the bottom of someday. Following Karlee, Paige and Gil inspired me to follow Aedis and Christoph. I’ve also started peeking in and following other NPC’s around Stormwind, and have to say I feel a bit like a creepy stalker. I’m sure there’s more of them out there that will provide some amusement, that I’ve never noticed before, and I hope to find them.

I do have to say I’m concerned, though. What happens when Deathwing comes along and wrecks half of Stormwind? Will Karlee, Paige and Gil still be able to get to Ancient Curios? Will Janey, Suzanne and Lisa have someplace to discuss love potions? What about Christoph and Aedis? Will they still enjoy drinking, and will they have a new story to add to the repertoire? ‘Deathwing burned me all over my body!’ ‘Hehe, wimp’, perhaps?

It’s been fun watching and listening to these folks, one of the nice touches that Blizzard has put into the game. Time may be running out for some of them, however. Here’s hoping Blizzard finds a way to keep them in the game and entertaining. And maybe throws some more of them into the other cities.

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