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“So Marshal Dughan sent us to the other side of the forest to investigate this Murloc business,” I ask. I do this because sometimes I stop paying attention when master is doing something really, really stupid.

“Yes. He said the reports of Murlocs are ‘sketchy.'”

“Even though he could walk around back of the building where he’s standing and see Murlocs?”

“Yes. But remember, we’re talking about the other side of the forest, here. He won’t send troops until he can be sure.”

We reach the edge of the the forest and find Guard Thomas stationed at one end of a wooden bridge. Norman explains the deal.

“Yes,” Guard Thomas tells us. “Murlocs have settled around the streams of the forest.”

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“Okay,” says Norman. “Just write that down and I can take it back to Marshal Dughan, and he can send you some troops.”

“Well, see …” Guard Thomas wavers.

“What?” says Norman. “You need a pen? I’ve got paper here. You’re illiterate? I’ll write it for you if you tell me what to say. But the sooner this report gets delivered, the sooner you get reinforcements.”

“The thing is, a few days ago I sent two guards, Rolf and Malakai, to investigate along the river, and they have not yet returned.”

“Oookay,” Norman says slowly. “I guess you can write that down too. Whatever. It’s your report, I’m just here to deliver it.”

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“No, to complete my report, I need to know what became of them.”

“Why?” Norman asks irritatedly. “I mean, what do you think happened to them? They ran off and got married? Just say you sent two guys and they didn’t come back. Then Dughan will send you more men.”

“Oh, I would never turn in an incomplete report like that. I need someone to find out what happened to them.”

Norman slams his face into the palm of his hand and makes little man-baby noises. “Dughan won’t send help until you send your report, and you won’t send your report until you get some help. Do you see the problem here?”

“Yes?” Thomas replies.

“And do you see what needs to be done to fix it?” Norman asks hopefully.

“I think so,” Guard Thomas says slowly.

“So what are you going to do?”

“I guess,” Guard Thomas says, looking down at his incomplete paperwork. “That the only thing to do … is to have you scout for Rolf and Malakai so I can finish my report.”

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“Guard Thomas,” Norman says patiently. “Can I call you Guard? Okay, Guard. What you are proposing here is to send one civilian to do a job where two soldiers failed.”

“There’s more than one of you,” Thomas says indignantly. “What about that ugly little Gnome you’ve got with you?”

Norman looks down at me. I shrug. I’ve been called worse.

The icing on this particular cake of crazy is that right beside Guard Thomas is a job board with a bounty to kill ten Murlocs. In true MMO lazy-quest logic, you need to collect body parts as proof of the killing, and the body parts are not a 100% drop.

The quest calls for “torn Murloc fins.” Now, Murlocs are depicted as having several fins on their backs, but they never drop more than one when killed, and often they don’t drop any. Where things get really stupid is that Murlocs also sometimes drop “Murloc fins”, that is, not torn. The non-torn fins are used in cooking Murloc soup. You can’t cook with torn fins, and the guard won’t accept non-torn fins as proof of a kill.

Of course, this only provokes objections from frustrated players. Why can’t I turn in non-torn fins as proof? What the hell is wrong with this guard? I mean, I had to kill a Murloc to get this. Barring that, why can’t I just tear these non-torn fins myself? Why do Murlocs have five fins each but often drop none at all? Why can’t I make soup from torn fins? It’s SOUP! And why am I throwing away this great big carcass and making soup from just a single fin, anyway? What possible flavor or nutrition can there be in a fin? And so on. It’s fractal nonsense: If you examine any aspect of the quest, you’ll find it’s just as absurd as the whole, and filled with other, smaller absurdities, all the way down.

And now back to our story …

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Norman and I follow the-

Actually, one more thing, just so people don’t rage out on me in the comments:

I realize this is how a lot of MMO games work, but laziness like this is easy to correct. Have the bounty objects be spears, or heads, or necklaces, or some other non-edible type object. There. Done. Make the ingredient for Murloc soup be a leg, or a bit of meat, or whatever.

I don’t think WoW needs to be some complex simulation, and I’m prepared to swallow all sorts of absurd contrivances for the sake of fun gameplay, but it’s like the author went out of their way to make something that can’t possibly make sense and will punish you for reading quest text and attempting to enjoy the flavor of the world. This flavor text is spiked with stupidity. This is especially noticeable since most of the rest of the world was re-worked for Cataclysm to fix exactly these sorts of quests, and I think this one is new.

One final note: What is the deal with Murlocs in this game? Pre-Cataclysm, Murlocs were the bane of my questing experience. In Westfall (the next questing area after the forest we’re in now) there was a recipe that called for Murloc eyes. The drop rate on the eyes was insulting. I remember wiping out an entire village of Murlocs and finding not a single eyeball among them. That quest has now been completely fixed, but I still carry the scars. Someone at Blizzard apparently really loves their Murlocs and hates players who hunt them.

And now back to our story, for real this time …

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Norman and I follow the river for some distance and eventually find a few small, un-eaten morsels of Guard Malakai.

“I think it’s safe to say this wasn’t self-inflicted,” I point out.

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“Ugh. Even his armor is gone. Those guys must have been really hungry. Let’s find the other guy. The tracks lead off to the east.”

We walk a bit east, and eventually we discover …

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An entire metropolis of Murlocian life, a bustling nation which we name “Murlocistan”. Rolf’s leftovers are sitting in the middle of town, surrounded by high-capacity Murloc condos. Sure, we could just tell Guard Thomas that his men died hilariously and deliciously in the bellies of a thousand Murlocs, but if we did that then we would miss out on this unique opportunity for Norman to try and feed us both to the Murloc nation.

It makes for a very messy conflagration of fire, blood, gurgling, profanity, and tears.

“Well, we had to kill fifty Murlocs to do it, but we finally got proof that there are Murlocs in the woods,” Norman says, then thinks about what he just said, and then gnashes his teeth a bit.

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“It’s tough, isn’t it?” I ask.

“What?”

“Being good.”

“I guess,” Norman admits. “I mean, it seems simple. People want help. I want to help them. Why does this have to be so hard?”

“See, that’s your problem. You don’t really want to help people. If all you wanted was to help people you could just sell yourself into slavery. Boom. Now you’re helping people all day. No, you don’t want to help people. You want people to be worthy of help. Welcome to the real world, son. People are bastards.”

“Not all of them!” Norman protests, weakly.

“You’ve basically been doing Marshal Dughan’s job since you got into town. You’ve saved the lives of the people he’s supposed to be guarding while he stood back and taken the credit. And yet, if you were to stand in front of him and burst into flames, do you think he’d even be willing to walk across the room to piss on you?”

“I don’t know,” says Norman, looking at the ground.

“Yes you do! You know the truth!”

Norman sniffles a little, “I hate being a hero.”

“C’mon, say it. How do you feel about Marshal Dughan?”

“I don’t …”

“SAY IT!”

“I HATE HIM!” Norman screams at last, before he breaks down sobbing.

“There you go, buddy. Let it all out.”

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We get back to Guard Thomas and Norman turns in the medallions. Thomas then thanks him.

“That’s it?” says Norman. “Thanks? Is that all you’re going to do?”

“Oh, right,” the guard says, “Here’s an armor marker. Take it to the Eastvale Lumber camp and redeem it for a free piece of armor.”

“But what about your report? The Murlocs? Are you going to turn it in? Are you going to send troops? According to a guy in Goldshire, these guys have attacked merchants. You lost two guards.”

Guard Thomas gives this little shrug, “Enjoy the armor, citizen.”

Yup. That’s the end of the quest chain. Kind of odd. There’s no closure. You’re asked to look into the Murloc problem and you never go back to Remy or Dughan. Although, I guess the Murloc bounty sort of counts as you doing something about it.

“Oh, and while you’re in the logging camp …” Guard Thomas adds.

“Yes?” Norman says warily.

“Wild animals are growing more and more aggressive the farther we get from Goldshire, and the Eastvale Logging Camp suffers nearly constant attacks from wolves and bears!”

“That sounds exactly like the sort of thing you should mention in YOUR REPORT TO DUGHAN.”

“Anyway. If you could kill eight wolves and five bears, that would really help,” Guard Thomas says before turning back to watching the road.

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“Stupid guards,” says Norman as we walk towards the camp. “I think they cause more problems than they solve.”

“Your parents were paladins. You have no room to talk.”

“I never said my parents were paladins. Just mother. In fact, dad was a Warlock.”

“Ohh! This is good. So dad was a warlock like you, eh?”

“Well, not like me. From what I gather he was a regular warlock. Evil and such.”

“So how did those two end up having you? Wait, let me guess: Mom was into the whole ‘bad boy’ image and at the same time she thought she could ‘save’ him from evil. That’s always a good one.”

“I never asked, to be honest.”

“Or maybe daddy was attracted to strict women in chainmail corsets. Like, maybe he was into-“

“I certainly wouldn’t know anything about that side of things!” he says.

“Well my money would be on your dad wanting a good-“

And I don’t want to know, thank you!

“Okay, fine. Take it easy. Just trying to give you a proper education.”

NEXT WEEK: What? More work?

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