The Moms of Guild Wars

What if your mom looked like this...

Liore of Herding Cats notes in an interesting post that the Moms of Azeroth appear to be typecast as baby-making machines, appearing long enough to pop out a famous heir and getting shunted back out of the spotlight.

Or they become drama engines, fueled by a tragic death that conveniently removes them from the story while leaving their offspring motherless and bereft of a functional family unit.

Automatically, I think about the game I’m playing. Are there any famous mothers in Guild Wars lore?

This is, of course, a game that has had some criticism thrown its way for the efficiency of materials usage in female light armor designs (ie. very little cloth or leather required.)

Would their character stories potentially be any less sexist?

On the surface, looking at the famous characters of Destiny’s Edge, it’s hard to say. No one mentions the mothers of Zojja, Rytlock, and so on. We know Logan has had a famous great-great-however-many-greats grandmom in the form of Gwen, is about it. Those NPCs may as well have sprung up from the brow of Athena for all that their mothers are referenced.

(The Sylvari as a race, are right out of the runnning, of course,  since they don’t have mothers per se. The Pale Tree is as close as it gets, and she’s more of a… steward, caretaker, guardian figure?)

Then again, is it simply a case of being too ordinary an origin and unnecessary to trace back and mention the lineage of every famous character?

On further deep thinking, I managed to locate a number of notable mothers in the GW lore.

eir

In the Living Story, Eir is revealed to be a mom herself.

The relationship between her son Braham and her is an estranged one, but neither party is dead, so I guess that’s something.

In fact, both are leading their own lives and fighting their own separate fights, rather than the mother being overshadowed by the son.

There are likely to be some abandonment issues to be resolved in the future – their relationship is a promising character story to learn more about, at any rate.

almorra

Almorra Soulkeeper, the head of the Vigil, is also a mother.

(Spoilers for one part of the Vigil storyline follow.)

Her son turns out to be Ajax Anvilburn, the leader of the renegades disrupting the human-charr peace treaty talks near Ebonhawke. That relationship is buried rather abruptly when she gives or approves the order to protect the talks at all costs, including over the dead body of her son.

Who’d have thunk? A mother that thinks some causes are greater than flesh and blood, and willing to make sacrifices for it. “Like many in the legions, Ajax never looked beyond the charr. I will grieve for my son, but I will not look back.”

(End of spoiler.)

Moving back in time to Guild Wars, we have a non-human mother, Glint.

glintandeggs

Considered a dragon back in GW1, but apparently an enslaved champion of the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik, she has a long history of being a mover and a shaker, heavily involved with the GW1 player heroes and then with Destiny’s Edge up to the point of her death.

No disappearing out of the spotlight for this mom.

In GW1, players had a challenge mission to protect one of her offspring, a baby dragon. It’s rumored that the child may have been hidden and still lives to this very day – a lore thread that should be pretty promising if ever picked up again (assuming that joker Scarlet doesn’t get her hands all over it.)

And finally, back to humanity and the most famous character in GW lore, Gwen.

The girl we see grow up from the ashes of a charr invasion and get romantically involved over the course of one game and three expansions. We know, of course, that she marries Keiran Thackeray and spawns a whole line of descendants down to the current less-than-impressive Logan, so she’s technically quite the uber-mom.

But that’s not who I want to highlight today.

No, let’s talk about HER mom.

Sarah.

While she does suffer a tragic death from the Searing of Ascalon and leave Gwen orphaned at an early age, does this mom quietly fade away?

Hell no, it turns out she’s quite a lively ghost in the Underworld.

gwenandsarah

And if you bring Gwen in your party along with you when visiting, they engage in some rather delightful dialogue.

Fer instance:

Sarah: “Husband? By the six! My little girl is all grown up now! Keiran is it? Come, come, tell me about yourself. I want to know everything!”
Gwen: “Everything mom? That might take a while.”
Sarah: “Sweetheart, I’ve got all the time in the world.”

Now that’s one mom you’re not going to get away from in a hurry.

Those are the major moms that I can think up offhand in the Guild Wars universe.

Have I missed out any others?

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GW: The Lonely Vigil

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818

All right, all right, so it’s really a female warrior statue known as The Lonely Vigil. Maybe Turai Ossa (aka the Ghostly Hero) can be Ozy.

And when you get up closer, it ostensibly falls and collapses to form a bridge, though the wiki says one never sees it actually happen.

With that, the Wayfarer’s Reverie of Tyria ends. Being an opportunist, I poked my head into the Crystal Overlook to pick up the teleporter waypoint for the Elona quest too, getting fantastic screenshots along the way.

I love the Crystal Desert and the Arid Sea. Besides it being the place of Ascension, which makes it feel especially memorable, it is wide and flat and open, making loop backs and cursing and swearing less likely. And despite it being desert, there’s so much to see.

The gorgeous sky, the bones, the ancient ruins that keep calling to mind Ozymandias and wonder about this specific set of fantastical ancient peoples whose civilization has been lost to the sands, not to mention, Forgotten (pun intended.)

Oh, and hydras. (Ancient farming memories, anyone?)

GW: And Other Tyrian Tales…

Here’s a whirlwind screenshot tour of the rest of the Wayfarer’s Reverie: Tyria.

Base of Anvil Rock

Picturesque minotaur corpse contributed by a friendly volunteer who jumped me with heroes flagged away, while I was in the midst of waiting for snow wolves to wander into the frame. None of the wolf shots were too great, but he was perfect.

The view from Anvil Rock

Makes me want to scream “Dovahkiin!” at the top of my lungs. Yes, it does. It’s no Throat of the World, but comes pretty close.

Can you spot it?

Again, the tiniest of immersive details struck me while in the snowy landscape. Your breath mists.

There’s no real game reason why one would need to establish that this map is cold, snowy and that you’re at high altitude. Who the hell turns to look at their mouth while coming across and fighting a swarm of red dots  every minute? But the detail is there anyway.

If you are still, as I was, with the interface hidden away and waiting to take a screenshot, you may also notice, as I did, that the trees in this area move. They sway ever so subtly in the wind.

I truly wonder how much subconsciously this creates an impact in our minds, that leaves us with the impression that this landscape is… hyper-real, almost, with that beautiful fantasy acrylic painting look.

On the way to the Falls, we said hi to Ventari in his Refuge.

I wonder how much of the overarcing story was known then during Prophecies. Whether he was just a random NPC in a teeny outpost that someone later decided to give extra meaning to, or if he already had some manner of grand destiny from the get go.

I managed to stitch two screenshots together (somewhat) to show The Falls from top to base. It’s nice, but honestly, imo, not worth the trouble to get here. The jungle sucks, with all that necessity to double back and climb on non-obvious tree trunks to get from place to place. There’s a better waterfall in Pre-Searing, if I recall. Perhaps we’ll go there one of these days.

Cool immersion detail: check the featured image of The Falls at the top of this post to see the little carnivorous plant in the lower right corner. Jungle. So yep, carnivorous plant. Flytrap of some sort, no doubt.

I wonder what these are for…

If you ask me, these are much nicer to look at in the jungle areas. I keep wondering what they are. Are they the alien dwellings of some strange race in the jungle? But you don’t see much of anything besides lots and lots of spiders, scarabs and oakhearts.

On the other hand, they are distinctly plant-like, they look like they’re growing from that gigantic root/stem/branch thing, and have sundew like structures on the “roof.”

Could it be?

In this jungle of carnivorous plants, have these things adapted their traps to capture -humans- that wander in, attracted like moths by the light, seeking shelter?

Off to the Ice Cave to find the Temple of Lyssa.

Interior of the Ice Cave. What a stark contrast to the outside.

ArenaNet is in love with god rays, but you gotta admit, they use them to such stunning effect.

The other twin. Perspective from the back of the temple.

I couldn’t resist jumping the Ice Beast at the back of the cave, and it took some wiki’ing to remember what the Spectral Essence it dropped was for. Oh, armor infusion! How long ago it was since I needed to worry about that. I normally infuse with the story mission, but it was good to see there was an alternative.

Cool detail moment. Besides an awesome story on the altar:

And it was, that a stranger came to the village of Wren seeking shelter and employment. Though young in years, her body was stooped and twisted, her flesh eaten by disease. “Ye have the mark of plague upon ye,” said the citizen named Gallrick. “Leave this place lest you sicken our people.”

“I’ve lost my family and my home,” cried the desperate woman. “Have you no heart?”

Yet each person, in turn, did look away.

Then from the crowd came a young woman, Sara. She looked upon the woman with pity. “If you need help,” said Sara, “I will give it.” And Sara did approach the gnarled, bent woman and did offer her a helping hand.

Then the sickened woman pulled from her body the robes of plague, revealing Herself to be the goddess Lyssa.

The people of Wren fell to their knees, begging Lyssa’s mercy. But lifting Sara gently, saith She, “True beauty is measured not by appearance but by actions and deeds. Many have eyes, but few have seen. Of all here, you saw the beauty behind the illusion. And you alone shall be blessed with My gifts.”

Scriptures of Lyssa: 45 BE

I knelt to invoke the avatar of Lyssa, since I couldn’t remember what it looked like any longer.

The beauty behind the illusion

Well, it morphs. From something feline-like, to that of a woman’s face. And suddenly, I realized that the face on the pillars that I wondered about two or three posts earlier, well, it’s probably Lyssa. Perhaps this was a ruined temple of Lyssa’s once upon a time.

Coming up, one of my favorite places in Tyria, the Arid Sea and the Crystal Desert.

GW: The Majesty of Rotscale

Ah, Rotscale.

I have no Ancient Times stories about Rotscale. I doubt I explored that far.

Even if I did eventually wander into Majesty’s Rest, it was generally a case of “I came, I saw, I died. Repeatedly.”

But I do have tremendous respect for him. How could you not? He sits up on a rise, the King of the Dracoliches, flanked by the most scary-looking Council of Undead Dragons of Way Higher Level Than 20, ready to challenge all comers.

The flaming Balthazar statue and the entourage of smoke phantoms herald the path toward him.

It was probably only a couple years ago that I felt ready to attempt taking on Rotscale, with a more sturdy Paragon and slightly better built heroes. There were a lot of solo experiments, failed attempts to pull, many deaths, frustration with Frozen Soil, much Googling of ancient forum posts dating back to 2006-2007 and in the end, maybe a 25-50% chance of defeating him and his gang on Normal Mode, don’t even begin to talk about Hard Mode.

There were vague memories of having a much easier time during the Halloween festival. At the time, I wasn’t sure why, but the next Halloween refreshed my memory as to why. One got a whole contingent of Candy Corn Men to help out.

Somewhere through the painful learning process, it eventually hit me that the statue of Balthazar might be there for a reason, and there was such a thing as /kneeling in front of altars. Oh hey, a buff! Many buffs!

I might have wanted to prove that I could do it without ‘outside’ help at the time. These days, my advice to anyone wanting to fight Rotscale. Take the buff. Take all the buffs you need. It’s a lot less painful. The key is not to let anyone die and Frozen Soil screw you over, so buff up those heroes’ hp and their regen (and your own) by any means necessary.

A year ago, in 2011, I decided it was finally time for the ultimate test. A Majesty’s Rest vanquish. Yep, Hard Mode Rotscale. He still kicked my ass around the place, so eventually, sometime during Halloween, this happened:

Note the insane number of buffs I threw on. Consets, the altar buff, probably candy of various sorts or whatever. The Candy Corn Men came along for the vanquish too, but I think they all wiped during the big push. Even my heroes have been downed twice somewhere along the way.

The fight was pretty colossal and raid-like in scope for me being by my lonesome. Literally minutes went by as we kept stalemating his hp and trying to drive it ever so slightly lower.

Eventually, it gave out and I was the happy owner of a golden icon signifying a successful area vanquish. Epic.

I gotta admit in retrospect that my hero builds were still not as good as they could be. Their gear is not entirely ideal. And didn’t have Panic yet, for example.

These days, I take Gwen and Vekk around as double mesmers, able to switch between panic or energy surge builds as needed and very interrupty. (I take Vekk for a number of reasons: I spent quite a while kitting out his gear with ludicrous amounts of +energy, I hate the look of the other mesmer heroes, and who can resist a snotty Asura? He can also switch to searing flames elementalist as needed.)

But hey, a win is a win, even if it’s 5 years after others have done it and with more effort than thou.

For the Wayfarer’s Reverie, I went in Normal Mode, something I was confident of getting done with just altar buffs and no need for strange confluences of buffs and overkill.

While taking screenshots, in extreme nostalgia mode and thus paying close attention to the scenery, I noticed something I never took conscious note of before.

Can you spot them?

Bugs. Red bugs. In the grasses off the road, if you walk into them, there are huge swarms of little red bugs flying around, and if you listen to the ambient sound, there are distinct cricket-like insect-y sounds.

Close up of the critters

They’re tiny little sprites at best, but, I mean, wow. Someone went through the trouble of putting such tiny barely noticeable detail into the map. Just for… I dunno, subconscious ambience?

Seriously, who pays attention to itty bitty red beetles when one is worrying about how to best place oneself to defeat Rotscale?

But they’re there. Just because.

Talk about immersion and ArenaNet not doing things halfway. Mad props and kudos.

One hectic fight later, where happily, no one died, it was time to claim the quest waypoint in style.

Thus passes the dracolich…

GW: The Villainy of Galrath, Then and Now

Continuing on our Wayfarer’s Reverie tour of Tyria, we have a representative image that never fails to send a little thrill of memory through me:

What? A swamp? Yep, along with the shrill neighs of Necrid Horsemen, and the ominous robed skeletal silhouettes of Zombie Warlocks and Damned Clerics.

You see, I’ve always thought of Villainy of Galrath as one of those oldschool fiendishly epic marathon quests. The problem stemmed from its introduction. You can get the quest in Lion’s Arch, the moment you arrive in town somewhere near the first third of the Prophecies chapter. You’re probably not even level 20 yet. Certainly not Ascended nor done with the main story yet.

And if you were as ignorant as I was, you’d never even heard of the Temple of the Ages – which is the best outpost to hit the Wizard’s Tower with.

No elaborate Guild Wars wiki to explain everything in those newbie days either.

And like a trusting fool, you assume that if you can get the quest, that means the game and MMO think you’re ready for the attempt. And so you collect your henchmen (heroes? what are those?) and follow the green arrow directly out of Lion’s Arch. (It’s where you got the quest from, after all.)

And it turns out that if you do it that way, you have to cross North Kryta Province, Nebo Terrace, Cursed Lands and the Black Curtain, before even hitting Kessex Peak where Galrath is.

With only five level 10 henchmen to assist you.

And in those days, your skill bar only had Core/Prophecies skills available to you, and probably only half of those since you hadn’t even gotten through the entire chapter or skill captured much yet. (There was the old way of skill capture too, where you had to wait for the mob to begin casting the spell you wanted, and then and only then hit the signet of capture.)

In other words, it was a grand adventure of epic proportions and much death penalty.

June 2005 – Ranger/monk with ridiculous random build, and henchies – doomed to fail

The pastoral countryside was never really much of a problem. Yeah, there were many accidental aggros of Tengu hordes since one never had the patience or the knowledge to wait for patrols to separate. There was the occasional whupping by fire imps (damn elementalist dps.) But one got through it.

It was in the swamps of Cursed Lands that things started getting hard. Crossing two zones was already quite marathon-y, and now one plunged into the slough of grim plague green despair. Trying to fight undead with levels all in the mid-teens with level 10 henchmen is not the easiest thing in the world. No such thing as flagging the party either, so one ran ahead and hoped for the best.

Many a time the attempt to reach Galrath died stillborn in those black marshes.

Gritting one’s teeth and steeling oneself, one would force oneself to run through the two precursor zones again, wondering when it would ever be possible to push through the fog of this swamp, and how many more zones it could be before reaching the tower?

I honestly don’t remember if I ever reached it that way.

I do remember once teaming up with another player or two and we got much much further into the Cursed Lands than I had ever gone by myself. At the time, it was an absolute thrill to be exploring virgin territory, so to speak. We may even have made it into the Black Curtain. Where I think we subsequently got lost, turned around and wiped. The group broke up shortly after, and I was back to hitting my head against the mud with too low level henchmen.

Several years down the road, after conquering Thunderhead Keep which I had stalled at, running through various chapters, I must have taken on Villainy of Galrath and succeeded. With heroes, better skill builds and knowledge, it was a non-event, I don’t even recall any specifics, just getting it done and marveling at the difference between then and the old beta days.

And then there is now.

Map to Temple of the Ages, load up on 7 heroes, tapdance through Black Curtain and jog through Kessex Peak, fondly remembering trying to pop Shadowy Essences off Fog Nightmares for Nicholas the Traveler.

This corner turn is etched into my memory. Too much farming, I’d say.

See the horde of red dots on the radar.

Shrug and charge like a madman into the whole morass shouting “There’s Nothing to Fear!” and “Save Yourselves!” while flinging Pain Inverter left and right and let the heroes do their thing. Normal mode, after all.

Their reaction? “!!!” (Thanks, Gwen.)

Then proceed to happily rotate 360 degrees on the hilltop like a National Geographic cameraman, wondering what the best angle would be and whether a panorama shot was possible. (Alas, it wasn’t. GW imposes some kind of perspective angle when looking up or down, making it impossible to overlap screenshots in its entirety. This and the featured image above will have to do.)