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Leveling an alt in today's pre-expansion era is an exercise in nostalgia: "Last time we'll ever search for Mankrik's wife" and "Last time we'll have to run back and forth to the red crystal." Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. The game world will be changed forever, even for players who do not purchase the expansion. Will even Barrens chat survive? (/gasp)
Into this volatile atmosphere steps a guild with a purpose: <There and Back Again>. This Alliance-side group of rerollers on US Thorium Brotherhood is devoted to romping through all the content that will be gone, gone, gone come Cataclysm. It's a quest that innumerable alts across Azeroth are undoubtedly pursuing on their own -- but these folks are doing it together in one happy, sprawling effort. "While I'd love to have great numbers of new people come over and join us for our fun little endeavor, I don't want to oversell what it is: we're having a good time and seeing things that some people will miss entirely once the new expansion hits -- not much more than that," notes GM Mistigris modestly. "Still, it's a great group of people and a fairly unique reason for coming together."
Characters Mistigris and Serissa, husband-wife team and GMs
Guild <There and Back Again>
Server US Thorium Brotherhood-A
WoWstyle Casual with some roleplaying
Main characters Zekryt and Briarthorn, <Imminent Rueage>, US Thorium Brotherhood-H
15 Minutes of Fame: <There and Back Again> ... That sounds pretty epic! What's the premise?
Mistigris: TaBA is dedicated to seeing as much of vanilla Azeroth Alliance-side content as possible before the Cataclysm changes kick in. Once that happens, there are going to be huge chunks of WoW that will be gone forever. Many of our friends on Horde-side TB have either never set foot in an Alliance city (except to kill their leaders, of course) or have created Alliance characters in the past and given them up for inertia. This last romp was conceived as a way to see the quests and zones of old Azeroth from a fresh perspective, in the company of friends and on a casual schedule before Deathwing has his (her? its?) way with the world.
Our Horde-side guild, <Imminent Rueage>, has been around since Day Two of the launch of Thorium Brotherhood, and we've always tried to hold interesting side events that bolster fun and cooperation within the player community. We ran Horde Assistance Days early on, showing up in a specific starting zone for a day of helping newbies with quests/tradeskills/equipment -- nothing like a couple dozen high-level characters making sure That Annoying Quest™ is completable with no worries. (These days, with the early game being nerfed, there is less call for such intervention.) IR has also done our own take on the reality TV show The Amazing Race, filled with racing from place to place and performing tasks along the way.
What's the current level range of all the new characters?
The guild is still quite new. We had our first outing this past Sunday, and our characters are capped at level 18. It's still very easy to roll up an alt and join in the fun. The only hard and fast rule is that all characters stay at or below the current guild listed level cap. This is currently 18 and gets boosted every Sunday. For example, this coming Sunday (April 4), the cap will bump up to 22.
How fast you get there is completely up to the individual player. Some folks have only a couple of hours to spare and so take advantage of heirloom items to help speed their way along. Others have a more casual approach. We're only gathering en masse on Sundays, but you can find guildies online here and there during the week, working on trade skills or finishing up quests and levels in preparation for the weekend.
TaBA meets on Sundays starting around noon server time (Central). Our initial day had three full groups questing in Loch Modan and Westfall, as well as side trips to grab Mazzranache from Mulgore for one of our hunters and the first random dungeon groups (Ragefire Chasm, what a surprise).
Who's joining in? Is this strictly an Alliance version of your Hordeside guild, or is it open to anyone?
We aren't doing it alone, and this isn't just for IR members. There are a number of other Horde guilds, like <Razor Hill Dragoons> and the <Zephyr Crew>, who are also helping organize our Sunday outings. We've announced our new guild on the realm forums and via city channels on Sunday mornings and had a number of people come join us. Currently we have around 30 guildies, and we're hoping there will be more folks wanting to jump on the nostalgia train.
Are you giving priority to zones that will be changing?
Future zones/events will hit on some of the more atmospheric Alliance zones like Duskwood and Ashenvale, as well as some of the more obscure or famous quest lines like The Missing Diplomat and Raene's Cleansing (where you get the rod of furbolg transformation). We'll have some fun like a mass cliff-diving race from the Thandol Span (while doing MacKreel's Moonshine quest) to Southshore. We'll be collecting Thunderbrew's Boot Flasks and other Alliance-only knick-knacks. We're going to explore some of the base lore regarding Cataclysm via trips to Blackfathom Deeps (Twilight Cultists) and Blackrock Depths (the Black Dragonflight).
Nothing is ever really declared out of bounds. We are all free to determine what is worth pursuing within the game -- in this case, the pursuit of that which will disappear forever. <There and Back Again> is happy to celebrate the quests that soon enough will be only memories to the old-school players of WoW.
Now that leveling goes by so quickly, are you working your way up zone by zone rather than level by level in order to ensure that you see all the areas that are slated for updates while you're still vaguely near the appropriate level range? Do you anticipate being able to work through everything by the time Cataclysm hits?
Given the ease of leveling, we expect to be at or near 80 by the time the expansion is released. My vague estimate is that we'll be finishing up in Azeroth at 60 around the end of July and then perhaps moving on into Burning Crusade content. The focus is old-school vanilla WoW, however; we'll cross the Dark Portal question when we get to it.
Do you plan to re-roll yet again when Cataclysm comes out? If so, Horde or Alliance?
We'll see what the guild membership wants to do. Some might transfer back to Horde-side or use these characters as roleplaying foils for ongoing cross-faction storylines. Some folks are already making long-term plans to collect certain titles like Loremaster and Explorer. These are hard to do with a level cap in place, but sweeping back through zones to finish off quests is the general plan.
What Cataclysm changes (outside of the new content) are you most looking forward to?
I personally can't wait to see the geographical changes to the world once Cataclysm hits. It's mind-boggling to think of The Barrens wrecked in twain, or Thousand Needles completely flooded, or taking the plague out of the Western Plaguelands. Blizzard does an amazing job with the immersive feel of Azeroth. I have no doubt that the way the old world is being changed will be spectacular for all to see.
Visit <There and Back Again> for more information about joining the retrospective.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a rising pop singer ... from a quadriplegic player to a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and raiding in person every week.