Posted by: Sean | September 8, 2008


Oh, man. I’ve been waiting to do this post for ages. Yes, ladies and gentleman, it’s time to discuss futbol in World of Warcraft. I couldn’t be more excited.

Let’s talk about the stars to begin with, the Night Elves. With their long legs and height, they’re natural goal scor–

Blogatelle: That’s enough of that. You know damn well that when you got given this assignment you were to write about goalposts and have been deliberately misinterpreting the e-mail for days. You will damn well write what you were assigned to.

Sigh. Apparently I will have to wait for the soccer superstar post.

That said, the concept of goalposts is an essential one in World of Warcraft role-playing if you ask me. The logic goes like this – There is no win/lose mechanic in World of Warcraft about achieving personal goals or resolving plot-lines. So your only real way of deciding that your particular endeavor succeeds or fails is basically to arbitrarily state it one way or the other, reducing your role-play to collaborative fiction at best and flat-out god-moding at worst. Declaring that you’ve accomplished amazing things is liable to upset your fellow players.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say you suddenly declare, “My acute physical training at the hands of the master has turned me into the best goalie in–

Blogatelle: Last warning.

Erm, I mean, if you suddenly declare, “Oh, and now I succeed in perfecting my celestial potion of eternal youth, I will never age again,” then you’re pretty much just god-moding. There’s nothing wrong with the plot, per se, if nothing else, the idea of an eternal youth mechanic is a nice way around one of the limitations of the game. (And no, there’s nothing wrong with playing big.) But your fellow players are likely to get a bit upset about your stating this incredible ability.

Goalposts are a way to shift the balance, and make your achievement more plausible. The idea is to look at the game mechanics and, ahead of time, indicate to your fellow players that accomplishing this particular game feat, or perhaps a list of these particular feats, is what you need to do before you can succeed in your other objective, the one that can’t be adjudicated by the game’s mechanics. The only cardinal rule is that the difficulty of the in-game goal must match the difficulty of the role-playing objective.

I think these sorts of objectives come in three different flavors, each of which requires a different kind of goalpost.

  1. Progressive objective. Our ritual example would fall into this, as would developing an invention, researching the origins of a Titanic relic, or anything else that lacks major opposition and can’t really fail, per se, only can either be eventually accomplished or else be abandoned. An example might be our potion above, or at a smaller level, a gnomish engineer deciding to build her own mechanostrider rather than just buying one. The latter case I actually did myself, and the goalposts that were set were: Achieve Artisan Engineering (we figured that you should be able to build an epic mechanostrider with master engineering, so artisan made sense for a regular one,) and that I had to buy two mechanostrider if I wanted a painted one. (I finished it unpainted, and then had to paint it once it was finished and tested.)
  2. Opposed objective. This is the kind of thing that can either succeed or fail, without the chance of a follow-up attempt. The most common way for this to play out is when you have an NPC enemy, whom you’re trying to (as an example,) either apprehend or kill. Here, there needs to be a goalpost that has a win/lose condition as well, and the standard way to do this would be to set a goalpost that must be achieved on the first go. As an example, let’s say you’re playing the daughter of a prominent Westfall farmer, determined to avenge her father. She learns that her mark is hiding in the Deadmines. Your goalpost is therefore: Clear the Deadmines on the first go. If you succeed, she finds the murderer of her father; (I’d make him one of Van Cleef’s bodyguards,) and you can, over his bruised and bloodied, but alive, body, debate whether to kill him or bring him to Stormwind for trial. It’s worth noting here that if you fail, (by wiping on Deadmines) promptly rule that he escaped to another instance. Perhaps he was picked up for an unrelated crime in his escape and was promptly imprisoned in… yup… the Stockades. There’s no rule saying you can’t change the goalposts, you just can’t use the same goalpost twice.
  3. Timed objective. It’s a race! Two inventors are racing for the same invention. Your guild master is dying of a slow-acting poison and you need to find the exotic trollish cure before they die! More a variant on either of the above two than its own goalpost, this one asks that you succeed in your goalpost before an agreed upon time-limit. The first example might be, first of us to learn the [x], [y] and [z] schematics or first one to max out engineering. The latter might be, one of our guild must max out herbalism and alchemy, and the guild has to clear out Zul’Gurub within one month.

So, looking back at our potion of eternal youth, we might first argue that this is clearly a progressive objective. That would probably be the most obvious choice. However, since it’s a pretty big accomplishment, we might want to make the goalpost pretty difficult to achieve, something along the lines of, max out enchantment and alchemy. Now that’s tricky to do, and might justify the accomplishment. Or you could make it instead a timed objective; you must max out alchemy and herbalism, and then clear Karazhan before the next lunar eclipse (which will happen in, say, two weeks), when the potion must be created. If you delay longer than that, the herbs will spoil and it’s too late. If you’re far enough away from being able to handle Karazhan and/or max out alchemy, this might be acceptable.

That said, it’s always worth including the two standard disclaimers: One, know your audience. Your role-playing guild or standard role-playing buddies may well have participated in your plot, supporting or even opposing you along the way. They’re invested. But your pickup group may not. You need to judge whether or not to disclose this plot-line to them, or weasel away from it and just let it lay fallow so as not to spark their bullshit fuse.

And two, never bet against the Gnomes! Gnomeregan 2010 for the World Cup! Wooo!

Blogatelle: That’s it. This post is done.



  1. sounds like life….hold WoW IS life 🙂

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