Last Thursday, I got called in to help finish up the last few bosses in Ulduar. Not a big deal...one of the great perks of Real ID and cross-realm raiding is being able to help out your friends. So I hopped on my Alliance hunter and headed in.
However, I should point out that this was a very remarkable, noteworthy occasion. The person I was helping was my good friend Rosaa (of Heavy Wool Bandage, and @rosaamarilla on Twitter). She'd always wanted to finish Ulduar, but had never been able to, due to some really paralyzing social anxiety issues (I don't say that lightly). Running group content has always been a struggle for her, and raiding, of course, was even more intimidating. She's written about this in more detail in this post.
About a month ago, she wrote a really poignant Letter to Brann Bronzebeard explaining what Ulduar meant to her. It's written by Fizzy, her old character, but like most of us, the line between Rosaa's main and Rosaa IRL overlaps pretty closely. I really recommend reading it, for a reminder of what this "game" can really mean to people, beneath the veneer of loot and drops and shinies.
Here's a snippet:
Sometimes we need a reminder that deviation from the plan isn't necessarily a bad thing.
That's how I ended up wanting to follow you into Ulduar for personal reasons.
I was in Dalaran one night and heard Rhonin talking to you, and... well, I jumped out of a window to follow you. It's okay. I was a druid, and catform always lands on its feet. I stood there and watched the two of you send the reply code, and I heard Rhonin say this:
"Algalon was sent here to judge the fate of our world. He found a planet whose races had deviated from the titans' blueprints. A planet where not everything had gone according to plan. Cold logic deemed our world not worth saving. Cold logic however does not account for the power of free will! It's up to each of us to prove this is a world worth saving! That our lives... our lives are worth living!"
It's been a hard few years, Brann. Parts of me are breaking down long before they should, and other parts are breaking down in ways that aren't normal. It's often painful to be me, physically and emotionally. The thing that keeps me going somedays is insisting to myself that "different" is NOT "wrong". That it's okay when I can't explain to someone why I have the idea I do, or why I can be so damned smart in one way and so damned useless in another way. Why I am not broken just because I can't do some of the basic things people think everyone can do. That maybe I'm not following "the plan", but that doesn't mean I'm a waste. That I have so much to offer, and if other people don't want those gifts then I will just enjoy them myself by being the me that I am!
So I cried when Rhonin made that speech. And I decided that the most important thing to me was to see Ulduar myself.
It almost happened once. I asked for it for my birthday, but then everyone sort of forgot and made other plans. My husband took me in there anyway, though. I have a picture here. Remember us? I bet you'd remember us if you saw Flame Leviathan crushing that one siege vehicle we were attacking him with.
You saw us again not too long ago. We made it past Flame Leviathan that time, but no further. It turns out gear and levels of experience with high-stress combat environments may explain why one feral druid can get through Ulduar alone, but two other feral druids can't manage it together. We tried, though. We tried hard. And I'm sorry I'll never turn in the reply code myself, but I'm not sorry we tried.
You see, I'm leaving Azeroth. It's time for my path to take me somewhere else. But I do not regret the time I spent here. I learned things I needed to know about myself. I did some crazy things I've been told you "can't do", and even did some of them successfully. I followed your trail all over the world and, in many ways, found myself.
Fizzy - aka Rosaa - had sort of resigned herself to the fact that, despite her aspirations of saving Azeroth alongside her hero, Brann Bronzebeard, it was simply not meant to be...that Ulduar was one of those things that she "can't do." She'd reached this disappointing but logical conclusion, and had come to terms with it.
Which is why I'm so proud of her for overcoming these fears, giving them the middle finger, and tossing them out the window so she could realize her dream.
When I joined them, it was her, her husband, and our friend Apple (of Azeroth Apple), with just Yogg and Algalon to go. (They had been in here on previous nights with other people, from what I understand.) This was also the first time we had ever grouped up together cross-realm, which made it even more exciting!
We hurled ourselves at Yogg once or twice, before realizing that we had forgotten to talk to any of the Keepers (haha whoops accidental Alone in the Darkness attempts). We fixed that, with a little extra strategy discussion by Rosaa, who was bear-tanking the fight:
I also changed something on my end - I'd been using the inimitable POWERSAURUS, but decided to change things up and switch to my Spirit Beast bear.............Bootypants.
(Look, I didn't name him.)
Our strategy worked! (That and turning off Alone in the Darkness.) Yogg went down, despite his lack of balls.
And then we headed to Algalon.
We took a few goes at it, before realizing we'd need at least one other person to help share the healing load - Apple was doing a great job, but it was just too much for one person. So we enlisted Big Bear Butt's priest, and then, IT HAPPENED. Alg died, and he dropped the Reply Code, and Rosaa was finally, finally able to save Azeroth with Brann, something she'd wanted to do since Ulduar came out.
Joyously, we all hearthed back to Dal, and she talked to Rhonin, and they started doing the RP walk down to the fountain to send the Titan signal. The other four were all on the same server, but I was on a different one, so I couldn't be there with them. At least, not exactly.
...I don't really care if this sounds silly, or if other players in Dalaran on my realm were confused why I was RP walking down the street, alone, for seemingly no reason. This was more than just a boss kill. Finishing Ulduar and handing in the Reply Code was so much more for her, and so important on a personal level. And even as awesome as the lore is, and seeing Brann, and saving Azeroth...it was more than those elements, as well.
Ulduar...it represented so many things for Rosaa, about personal challenges, so-called limitations, and goals that would forever remain out of reach because of measures beyond your control. This Algalon kill wasn't about loot, or Brann, or lore. It was about refusing to give in, about standing firm and refusing to accept the limits life had given you.
I was so proud of my friend for overcoming these obstacles. So dammit, I was going to be there with her.
And so we walked together, reveling in the moment. I watched their minimap dots head toward the fountain, and paced them, knowing how special an event this was for her. I couldn't hear Rhonin's speech, but I heard it in my head. I couldn't see the signal beam into space, but I looked up at the stars and knew that at that very moment, they were watching Algalon's cosmic lightshow. And I was so happy to be there with them.
I think Rosaa said it best.
"Friends don't let friends RP walk alone."
That wasn't my first Algalon kill, nor will it be my last. But I think it'll definitely be my most cherished.
I highly recommend reading Rosaa's post about the experience, Apple's added thoughts to Rosaa's post, and Apple's own post over at Azeroth Apple.