Ten years of World of Warcraft and Flinthammer Hall

OOC | November 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »


Ringo and Beli back in 2004On Sunday, Ringo and Beli hit level 100, 10 years to the day after the characters were created on the live Silver Hand US server back in 2004.

We have been playing World of Warcraft since the very first push (humans only, limited to level 10, as I recall) of Friends and Family alpha, back in November 2003. Well, sort of: Beli made a character and ran around, but the night Ringo was sitting down to do so, there was an announcement that the server was coming down, to prepare for the next phase of alpha, the dwarf push.

This was fitting, since his interest in Azeroth stemmed from Warcraft III, specifically the dwarven rifleman. Of course, we then had to wait many long months before the hunter finally debuted during beta. We already knew we liked WoW at that point, having faded away from EverQuest once we started playing.

By the time the game officially launched, we’d played every class and every race that existed up to that point and were excited to make our characters and guild the first day Silver Hand went live, one of the two roleplaying servers that initially launched in the United States. (Argent Dawn and Silver Hand were soon joined by others throughout the day, as Blizzard got walloped by greater-than-expected demand, proving that some things never change.)

By the time the game started, though, this blog was already underway, in the form of fanfic by Ringo, at first posted by Ringo on game forums, and Beli starting a blog for art and her own journal of her character’s adventures. We decided to merge forces, bought the Flinthammer.org domain in the never-realized hope that WoW would get surnames like EverQuest had, and we were off and running.

The first year and change of posts were sort of formless: in-character accounts of what was happening in the game. It wasn’t until the build-up to the opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj that this blog really started to take shape, telling the adventures of World of Warcraft characters experienced alongside those of readers. Then the lead-up to Burning Crusade began, establishing a long tradition of Ringo and Beli being completely in the dark about what’s happening in their world — they don’t have access to MMO Champion, WoW Insider or Twitter, after all.

The blog has chugged along for 10 years, documenting the birth of our son (who has his own account now), and going almost weekly during Wrath of the Lich King. Although I’d thought we’d hit a creative peak previously, during the Isle of Quel’Danas campaign, based on reader feedback over the years, the Fall of the Lich King story line is what most resonates with people.

Ringo likes to thinks he’s a pretty happy-go-lucky guy in real life, but people seem to like his tearjerker stories the most, especially Fathers Day, Letter from the Front and The Bear Necessities, proving that our readers are a bunch of old softies, apparently.

The initial plan wasn’t to turn Ringo’s in-game story into one about what it’s like to be a multiply deployed soldier, but between the nature of World of Warcraft and personal and professional interaction with real-life veterans (including Ringo’s father, the inspiration for Magnus Flinthammer, although he happily returned intact from his real-life deployment), that’s what it’s evolved into, warts and all. We hope that it does real-life veterans justice.

Our posting has slowed down a lot over the years, Beli’s especially. (Beli’s great art, aided by both WoW Model Viewer and her hardcore Photoshop skills, has slowed down even more.) Our son grew older and needed more attention, Cataclysm underwhelmed, Ringo got a better and more demanding job (which isn’t anything to complain about, in this economy) and we had another child, a girl, who’s going to be two years old in the spring.

But Flinthammer Hall is still here, we’re still playing WoW, although Bioware’s siren call will likely peel Beli away from Draenor in the near future, and still having fun. We’re very grateful to all of those who’ve read our stories over the year, including those who’ve reached out to us in-game and said hello — even if you killed us in a battleground first and had to switch to an alt to say hello after, which has happened more than once.

Ringo regularly jokes that he’ll be playing WoW when it’s time to turn the server off once and for all. (Beli would really like to see dwarven children models added to the game before that point, though, Blizzard.) We’ll see you in Azeroth and here at Flinthammer Hall.

FOR KHAZ MODAN!

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Lost in transition

23. Age of Iron, Ringo's Tale | November 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The Tanaan Jungle

He opened one eye, staring upwards. Green.

He blinked the eye several times, and the green swam into focus: leaves, a jungle canopy.

Jungle?

Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer sat up, then wished he hadn’t: He was so dizzy, he thought he might pass out. When he took his hand away from his temple, there was blood on it.

“Khaz’goroth on a cracker, what happened?”

There was a roaring noise from somewhere nearby in the jungle, but the ringing in Ringo’s ears made it hard to determine what it was, or where it was coming from.

A wolf, a large one with an empty saddle on its back, raced by. Someone nearby called out a name.

Ringo turned his head, and wished he hadn’t — the pain was excruciating.

There was metal debris everywhere, twisted and burned. Patches of ground were burning — no, not ground, corpses.

Ringo remembered entering the red field that now filled the Dark Portal and — nothing. His memories stopped there. He slapped at a mosquito and climbed unsteadily to his feet.

A dwarf’s leg stuck out from under a pile of twisted scrap. It wasn’t moving, but it still had good color — its owner hadn’t bled out yet, might even still be alive. Feeling he ought to do something, Ringo staggered over and tried to move the debris off the dwarf.

There was that noise again. A roaring or maybe a grinding. An iron star?

“You don’t seem afraid at all,” someone nearby said. “I don’t understand that.”

Ringo nodded.

“Fear’s a funny thing,” he said, attempting to shift the metal. When he saw he might crush whoever was trapped underneath, he moved around, and tried to lift it. The other person moved to the far side, doing the same. “Ah make a choice: Ah let the fear in, let it take over, let it do it’s thing, but only fer five seconds. That’s all Ah give it. So, one, two, three, four, five.”

On “five,” he and the other person lifted the metal, revealing the prone form of Baelan Grimaxe. Of course: He’d borne the brunt of the blast when the Iron Horde …

When they crossed through the Dark Portal, the Iron Horde had been waiting for them, had unleashed guns, cannons, throwing axes and more.

“Are you OK, Ringo?” Sgt. Widge Gearloose looked concerned, lowering his half of the debris to the rich red clay beside Baelan’s body. Another gnome, Vamen D’barr, knelt beside the fallen dwarf paladin, checking for a pulse. “You’ve got a nasty head wound there.”

Before Ringo could answer, there was that noise again and a large white bear, streaked with gray smoke and blood, burst out of the forest, almost bowling Ringo over.

“Frostmaw!” Ringo clung to the bear, hugging him tightly, without embarrassment.

“Dude,” Baelan groaned, sitting slowly up. “This isn’t Hellfire Peninsula.”

“Guys,” Vamen asked, his expression a mix of confusion and frustration as he looked around the jungle here on the far side of the Dark Portal. “Where are we?

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The Age of Iron

23. Age of Iron | November 13th, 2014 | No Comments »

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The Dark Portal

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | November 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The now-red Dark Portal

“So,” Sgt. Widge Gearloose said, tugging on a pair of heavy gloves and slipping a pair of goggles over his eyes, “Everyone ready?”

“The Naaru know I’m not opposed to a suicide mission,” Baelan Grimaxe muttered, adjusting himself gingerly atop a rocket aimed at the Dark Portal, just visible across the red plains of the Blasted Lands, “But straddlin’ a giant bomb seems a bit much.”

“You can’t argue with the classics,” Widge said. “This worked for Khadgar once, it’ll work again.”

Knight-Captain Ringo Flinthammer finished buckling a deeply unsure Frostmaw onto another rocket. The bear looked as uncertain as Baelan did.

Ringo climbed onto the front of the rocket he shared with Frostmaw, which seemed much less unstable than Baelan’s and like it would be harder to steer.

“There’s not going to be an overt signal to tip off the Iron Horde to what we’re doing. We wait for our troops to engage the Mag’har and get them occupied. Khadgar said he thinks he can get the Horde to attack at the same time — and, there they go. Fire rockets — NOW!”

The passenger rockets thundered to life, sending out sprays of yellow, purple, blue and green sparks as their passengers raced toward the Dark Portal.

“What’s that?” Widge yelled over the roar of the rockets.

“Ah said,” Ringo yelled back, “‘Ah jus’ wish we knew why the bloody portal had turned red!’”

It had been years since Ringo had thought about the Dark Portal. The Burning Legion had tried to invade through it years ago, at the apparent behest of Illidan Stormrage and Kael’thas Sunstrider. But the Alliance — including Ringo and his wife Beli — had helped push them back through and both tyrants were eventually slain, although Kael’thas got as far as Quel’Danas before meeting his end. Before that, it had been dormant for years, ever since Khadgar’s plan had worked the first time.

The Iron Horde Mag’har the Alliance had captured hadn’t been able to explain what had happened to the portal — they had seem baffled by the question, as though they were unaware that the portal had previously been green.

“Ringo, you and Baelan have to just buy us enough time to set the charges on the far side,” Widge yelled over the wind. “We’ll have about 30 seconds after I set the timer, then we have to get back through immediately, or we’ll be stuck in Outland when the Dark Portal gets destroyed — again.”

Which, by itself, would slow the Iron Horde down by a few decades, if history was any guide. And this time, the Alliance would destroy the Dark Portal on the Azeroth side as well, once they had cut off the Iron Horde’s reinforcements and mopped up the few Mag’har who would be trapped on this side of the portal. With any luck, the Mag’har would never be able to reestablish the connection between the two worlds ever again.

The rockets were racing over the heads of the battling forces now and the glowing red portal glowed like an ember beyond them.

“Ah jus’ feel like we’re missin’ somethin’ important,” Ringo yelled. “This blasted portal must o’ turned red fer a —”

And then they passed through the portal, and out of Azeroth.

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For Nethergarde!

22. The Iron Tide, Ringo's Tale | November 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The ruins of Nethergarde Keep

“Knight-Captain Flinthammer? Sir? Sir?”

“Step aside, soldier, I’ve got this.”

“As you wish, Sgt. Gearloose.”

In the darkness, Ringo found himself getting prodded with something, over and over again.

“Ringo, knock it off, we’ve got work to do!”

Ringo Flinthammer swatted at the poking object, then closed his hand on it.

“What the hell is this?” he snarled, propping himself up on one elbow, looking blearily at the strange weapon-thing he’d taken away from his tormentor.

“It’s a Pandaren spell-sickle,” Widge Gearloose said, snatching it back from Ringo. “It’s not important.”

“More importantly,” said a second gnome, appearing behind Widge in the blue tent, “You’re awake at last!”

Ringo’s next question what drowned out by a high-pitched whistling, a mechanical whirring and the sound of a distant explosion.

“Yes, you’re still in the Blasted Lands,” Widge nodded. “Specifically, the Alliance’s foothold, if you can call it that, on the beach.”

Ringo asked another question, which was drowned out by the sound of another iron star being launched somewhere nearby.

“We can’t,” Vamen D’barr, the second gnome, shook his head sorrowfully. “The Iron Horde has smashed Nethergarde Keep to bits.”

“Ah’m ne’er going to get one of their tabards now,” Ringo muttered sadly.

“Ye’re awake!” a dwarven voice boomed. A black-bearded dwarf on a cot on the far side of the gnomes sat up with a groan. “This time, ye’re the one unconscious longer!”

“Vamen and I were working in Nethergarde when the Iron Horde attacked. Lady Proudmoore wants to re-integrate Dalaran into the Alliance military structure, and we were here to evaluate the magical needs of Nethergarde Keep when the Dark Portal turned red.”

“And I was stationed there,” Baelan Grimaxe said. “Hadn’t gotten my tabard yet, though.”

“They really were nice tabards,” Ringo muttered, turning and putting his feet on the red sandy floor. “Haven’t see ye, Vamen and Baelan, since the war against the Lich King.”

“Nothing reunites everyone like a potential apocalypse,” Widge said, pulling Ringo to his feet. “Come on, let’s go: We’re preparing for a counter-attack on the Dark Portal. We’re going to push the Mag’har back into Outland.”

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