How many dungeons can a Death Knight do all by herself?  The “Riglee Does Dungeons” series of blogs is my attempt to find out.  Riglee, my Gnome Death Knight, was Level 67 when she entered Scholomance.  I’d gone through it once before, on a different character.  My memory of it included a room full of “zombies” to kill and I was looking forward to seeing my DK slaughter them.

The screenshots you see in this blog were taken on August 8, 2014.  My original intent was to post the blog right away, but that did not end up happening.  Riglee went into Scholomance long before the Warlords of Draenor expansion was released and before the character upgrades happened.

NOTE: Both Scholomance, and this blog, require a trigger warning for scenes that include violence against a female non-player character (NPC).  The type of violence is not something one would encounter in a typical battle, and it is not something that would have happened if the NPC were male.

Here’s Riglee in Moonbrook, after completing Deadmines.  I couldn’t remember where Scholomance was located, so I used the in-game dungeon information guide thing.  It comes in handy!  The chat says “Welcome to Patch 5.4.8: Siege of Orgrimmar!”

Scholomance is located in the Western Plaguelands on the Eastern Kingdoms continent.  This dungeon has its very own island!

The first time I went to Scholomance, I got myself to the Western Plaguelands and headed towards it.  I remembered that the way I got there last time was to jump in the water and swim around towards the dock.  It worked, so I just did that again.  As I’m writing this blog, it occurs to me that I probably should have flown there instead.

The creepiness of Scholomance becomes obvious right away.  You have to walk through what looks like an abandoned keep before you can get to the entrance of the dungeon.  I think you could drop this scenery right into Diablo III and it would fit.

This is the entrance to Scholomance, sort of.  You have to find the instance before you are really in this dungeon.

Somewhere in there, I came across a room full of bones.

Take this purple portal to get into Scholomance.

There is a Talking Skull in Scholomance who gives players two quests.  Last time I was here, there were a series of NPCs (non-player characters) who were all in a row.  Each one had a quest or two for the player.  Things have changed.  The Talking Skull gives a brief explanation before giving out quests.

Talking Skull: I and my family fell victim to this place what seems like ages ago.  Let our fate serve as a warning to those who would meddle in necromancy. Help me to lift the curse, death knight.  Destroy Darkmaster Gandling.

The Four Tomes quest gives players a reason to go running around Scholomance and to investigate all of the rooms.  You have to find the tomes!

Talking Skull: There are four tomes of great necromantic evil studied in Scholomance: “In the Shadow of the Light”, “Kel-Thuzad’s Deep Knowledge”, “Forbidden Rites and other Rituals Necromantic” and “The Dark Grimoire”.  

As we make our way through this cursed place, find and destroy each book so that no other fool can come along later and learn their vile secrets.

The second quest is called: An End to the Suffering.  I think the purpose of this quest is to point players towards the “Big Bad” of the dungeon.

Talking Skull: The key to lifting the curse of this place rests in the final death of Darkmaster Gandling.  Do it, Riglee, and make him suffer!”  

I didn’t follow a quest chain to get to Scholomance, I just dropped in to see if my Death Knight could complete it by herself.  I’ve got no idea who this NPC is.  I seem to have missed out on his background story. Perhaps I would have gotten that part if I’d, ya know, actually bothered to do the quest chain that leads to Scholomance (assuming there is one).

Riglee had no trouble at all slaying the two Risen Guards that were in front of the gate.  So far, so good!

The gate opens to a room called The Reliquary.  Someone named Instructor Chillheart says: Class is now in session.  The screenshot makes it look like my Death Knight said that, but no.

The Talking Skull has followed Riglee down the hall, and is somewhere behind her “off camera” (for lack of a better phrase).  It says: Here we go. Do try to keep yourselves alive until the end.  

The Talking Skull seems to think Riglee is a group.  I find this little language “quirk” in all of the dungeons that I’ve had Riglee solo so far.  Obviously, the dungeons are intended to be completed by a group of players.  I prefer to solo them, if I can.  Technically, I’m “doing it wrong” (but having fun).

The Talking Skull rushes ahead and yells: We’re coming for you, Chillheart!  Time for payback! I’m thinking that would be a lot more impressive if there was a group of players in here instead of just Riglee.

Here is a closer look at the chandeliers in The Reliquary room.

The mobs that were waiting downstairs were not incredibly difficult for a Level 67 Death Knight.

What’s going on over there?  I decided to go around the room and take out the little mobs before jumping into that.

This is one of the few “zombies” I’ve encountered in Scholomance.  This one is called a Bound Servant and it is a Scholomance Neophyte’s Pet.  At this point, I was starting to think that the room full of “zombies” that I encountered in this dungeon before have been removed.  That is rather disappointing.

I circled the room and took out all the little mobs that were scattered around the edges. Eventually, I came across one of the books I was supposed to find, “In the Shadow of the Light”.  The big mob in the center of the room is ignoring me, and I started to wonder if I could leave this room without even bothering with them.  Three more books to go!

I was able to take out the three Scholomance Neophytes one by one.  All that was left was Instructor Chillheart.

Instructor Chillheart yells: Class Dismissed! Seems the Instructor is unaware that I’ve already slayed everything else in the room except for her.

The Instructor also builds a wall of ice behind her.  Oh, I see where “Chillheart” fits in now!

Keep fighting Instructor Chillheart, and she will eventually yell: I can never die!  Her soul then tries to escape into her phylactery.  (It’s the green bottle thing that is sitting on the floor near her.) The player must now destroy the phylactery.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this whole “the soul leaving the body” thing is a bit of foreshadowing for something that happens later on in this dungeon.

All kinds of chaos breaks out while you try and destroy the phylactery!  Flying books that act as flamethrowers appear.  It’s like a scene from the Harry Potter movies gone wrong!

Just before you kill off Instructor Chillheart, she yells: THIS CANNOT BE!  Off to the side, the Talking Skull “cackles gleefully”.  He’s happy that Instructor Chillheart’s soul has been destroyed.

Follow the Talking Skull as he leads you to the Hall of Illusions.  He “photobombed” my screenshot that showed the name of the room.   Look closely between the letter a and the letter l, and you can see Riglee in there.

The Hall of Illusions is full of skeletons and “zombies”.  It wasn’t exactly a replacement for the room full of “zombies” that I was looking for, but I’ll take it!

One of the things I like about Scholomance is the overall “feel” of the dungeon.  It reminds me of Diablo III.  I spend way more time in that game than in WoW.

My hope was to pick off the skeletons that surround the “big bad” of the room one by one. Instead, I ended up pulling the whole mob.

This did not end up being a problem because I’m at a much higher level than I’m supposed to be for Scholomance.  It also helps that Riglee is a Death Knight.

All that was left was the giant candle thing that they were messing around with.  I’ve absolutely no idea what it is!

Off to the side, sitting next to a skeleton in an open crypt, there is a book.  The title is “Kel’Thuzad’s Deep Knowledge”.  It’s one of the four books you must find.

One more screenshot of the candleholders before Riglee moves on to the next room in Scholomance.

I know I cleared the room, but somehow, this NPC appeared.  Janice Barov seems to have forgotten to put on her pants before coming in here to attack me.  (Although, she did remember her shirt, shoulders and boots.)

Janice Barov: Ooh, it takes some real stones to challenge the Mistress of Illusion.  Well?  Show me what you’ve got!

Seriously, Blizzard, “stones”?  Is this like, a WoW version of “cojones” or “balls”?  It might make a little more sense if I was playing one of my male characters.  But, since I’m not… I’ve ended up with an irate NPC that has mis-gendered my Gnome Death Knight, pink pigtails and all.  This is awkward.

A whole lot of magic gets thrown around the room from this point onward.

Janice Barov: Come try your luck! Ha ha haaa…

Janice Barov: Ugh…death…hurts?  Unreal…

 
Next, the game helpfully points the player in the right direction.  The Talking Skull proceeds into the next chamber without saying a word.

Upon entering the Chamber of Summoning, the Talking Skull decides to start yelling: Die, Gandling!  Kill him!  Gandling?  Oh, right, that’s the “big bad” of Scholomance.  I must be almost done!

The Chamber of Summoning was one of the most difficult rooms for me to get through in Scholomance, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.  It wasn’t because the mobs were too difficult for a Level 67 Death Knight.  Instead, it was because story line in this portion of the quests puts the player in an unnecessarily uncomfortable place.

Dialogue starts the instant a player enters the Chamber of Summoning.   Darkmaster Gandling, the “big bad” of Scholomance is in here.  He says: My dear, it appears we have visitors!  Friends of yours, Voss?

Once again, the NPC thinks that Riglee is a group – because she’s technically supposed to be with one.  When a player starts the Scholomance dungeon, the game makes it very clear that Darkmaster Gandling is not only the “big bad” but that the player(s) are supposed to kill him.

The other NPC is Lilian Voss, a name I only vaguely remembered from a quest chain I did with my Undead Warlock. Sometime after I finished Scholomance, I talked with someone who is very knowledgable about WoW.  She filled in some of Lilian Voss’s backstory for me.

In short, Lilian Voss was a human who got turned into one of the Forsaken.  If I remember correctly, her father was in charge of killing the Undead.  I’m certain I played through a quest where her father locks Lilian, his daughter, in a cage and wants to destroy her because of what she has become.

Now, in the Chamber of Summoning, Lilian Voss is talking to the player.  She says: You there!  Make yourself useful and deal with these summoners!  This makes it clear that I am to go around the room and slay all the summoners and skeletons.  Yes, that sounds like an excellent way for a Death Knight to make herself useful.  So, the game is telling the player what to do next.

The game is also telling the player that Lilian Voss is the “good guy” of the dungeon.  She’s having some sort of problem with Darkmaster Gandling, the “big bad” of the dungeon.  She has now called on you, the player, for assistance.  The message is that you are supposed to be on her side.  The next action you take is to slay the summoners she asked you to “deal with”.  You and she become allies.

And, just in case you missed the subtleties in the dialogue, the game once again reminds you of what you are supposed to do and why you want to do that.  Defeat the Boneweavers to aid Lilian Voss!

I started in the nearest corner of the room and began killing skeletons.  Once I got most of that mob down, I went after the Boneweaver who was summoning them.  One down, maybe five more to go?  This is when the game gives you more dialogue.

Darkmaster Gandling: Their deaths only serve to empower my summoners further!  Behold!

How can the death of his minions empower the rest?  They are now minus one Boneweaver. Lilian Voss responds to Darkmaster Gandling and clarifies things.

Lilian Voss: You feed their souls to their brethren?  You are sick.

Ok, that’s just gross.  He feeds the souls of slain Boneweavers to the ones that are still alive.  He is making his minions into cannibals.  Players just got one more reason to dislike the “big bad”.

The dialogue between Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss continues as the player goes around the room and kills off the skeletons and Boneweavers.  It wasn’t difficult for me to follow.  I just stopped what I was doing and turned around to see what was being said.

Would a group of appropriately leveled players be able to do that?  Or, would the mobs just constantly attack them until they killed them all off?  I cannot help but wonder if the fighting gets in the way of the dialogue (or maybe that’s the other way around).  Which are you supposed to focus on?

This is where things started to get troubling.  It makes sense for the “big bad” and the “good guy” to fight each other.  It makes sense for the game to make it clear to the player not only who the “good guy” is but also that the player should assist them. The problem I had was with how this scenario played out.  If Gandling hit Voss with an axe, and she struck back with a sword, I’d be ok with that.

Instead, Darkmaster Gandling attacks Lilian Voss not only with his minion skeletons, but also with his words.  He obviously knows her backstory and understands that she is extremely emotionally upset about having been turned into an Undead. He might know that this unwanted transformation caused a horrible break in her relationship with her father.  Darkmaster Gandling intentionally starts bringing up Lilian Voss’s past trauma in order to cause her more pain.

Darkmaster Gandling: What’s the matter, Voss, getting tired?

He can see that what he is doing is taking its toll on Lilian Voss and is delighted by it.  He is dragging things out for his own enjoyment.  He could have easily sent the room full of skeletons after Lilian Voss, all at once, and killed her off.  (I hadn’t finished slaying all the skeletons at this point).

Instead, Darkmaster Gandling is having fun tormenting Lilian Voss.  He’s drawing this out.  He wants her to know that he can tell she has been negatively affected by his words.  It is not a coincidence that he’s saying these things while floating in the air, out of reach, and completely untouchable.

In the back of my mind, this scenario reminded me of what happens all too often on Twitter. Anonymous people (usually men) decide to harass someone they don’t like (usually a woman) by sending hateful words, death threats, and rape threats to that person.  The people who do that don’t use their real names, don’t use a photo of themselves as an icon, and probably believe they are completely untouchable.  This is the point where Scholomance started to make me feel a little bit ill.

Lilian Voss: I’ll never stop hunting your kind, necromancer.  NEVER.

To her credit, Lilian Voss fights back.  She’s refusing to be broken by Darkmaster Gandling’s words.

Lilian Voss didn’t simply curl up in a fetal position and start sobbing.  Darkmaster Gandling didn’t get the response he wanted.  So, he finally does something  that actually makes sense in a battle and sends more skeletons to attack Lilian Voss.

I suspect that Lilian Voss knew that he would eventually do that, but not when it would happen. This isn’t just a physical attack, it’s a way for Darkmaster Gandling to inflict more emotional stress on Lilian Voss.  If you have any doubts about that, take a close look at the dialogue that follows.

Darkmaster Gandling: Isn’t it beautiful?  The weaving of flesh and bone and soul.

In the above screenshot, Lilian Voss is surrounded by skeletons that have been sent by Darkmaster Gandling to attack her.

What do his words mean?  One answer is that he’s taunting Lilian Voss by saying that these skeletons (bone) who are attacking her (flesh) is a situation that is beautiful.  

There is a second meaning.  Lilian Voss started out as human (flesh) and got turned into the Undead, which is a “weaving of flesh and bone and soul”.  Here we have Darkmaster Gandling suggesting to Lilian Voss that the most horrific experience of her life, where something happened to her body that she definitely did not want to have happen – was beautiful.

Despite the emotional and physical duress Lilian Voss would likely be under, she manages to respond.

 Lilian Voss: We’ll see if you revel so much in death once I’ve ripped out your throat! 

I know just enough about game mechanics to “get” that the player (or players) have to kill all the summoners, and their skeletons, before the game will move on and let the player engage the NPCs.  It’s awkward.

By this point, I was ready to run in and help Lilian Voss with the skeletons.  But, I suspected that doing so wouldn’t move the gameplay forward.  So… maybe the player is helping the “good guy” by removing the skeletons before they can be used against her?

I slay all the minions, and the summoners, and am now able to go across the room and get near Darkmaster Gandling.  I really don’t like him and am ready for my Death Knight to start hitting him with her axe. That seems like the right thing to do, too, considering the story line.  By this point, the player has been taught that Darkmaster Gandling is the “big bad”.  The player has been given tons of reasons to dislike him.  The player has been instructed to help Lilian Voss.

The problem is that the player can’t attack Darkmaster Gandling.  (Or, at least, not yet).  He comes up as “Invalid Target”.  The player has absolutely no effect on what is happening at this point in the dungeon.

Things actually get worse when Darkmaster Gandling speaks again.

Darkmaster Gandling: You, too, are beautiful, Voss.  Have you looked in a mirror recently?

Now, I ask you, if Lilian Voss were William Voss – would the “big bad” of the dungeon be telling William “You, too, are beautiful?”  I highly doubt it!

The use of the word “beautiful”, in a taunt or attack, is not something that is used against men. There’s a number of things going on here and I don’t like any of them.  First, when a male person suddenly starts telling the woman he is attacking that she is “beautiful” it is not a compliment.  We can safely assume that Darkmaster Gandling has not suddenly developed a “crush” on Lilian Voss. He doesn’t want to apologize for his actions and become her boyfriend.

Instead, he is subtly telling her (and the player) that he is the one with all the power in this situation.  The implication is that if he honestly thought she was beautiful he would have the ability to do whatever he wanted to Lilian Voss and that she (and the player) wouldn’t be able to stop him.  This is a veiled “rape threat”.  Again, I ask you, would the dialogue be the same if Lilian Voss was William Voss?

The other thing going on here is also cruel, but in different ways.  We know that Lilian Voss did not want to become an Undead.  What happened to her body changed her forever.  It cannot be reversed.  One could reasonably assume that a person in that situation would hate their body and be unwilling to look into mirrors. Imagine having to see your face after you have become one of the Forsaken. Gruesome!

Darkmaster Gandling is not only reminding Lilian Voss about the traumatic experience that happened to her, that changed her body forever, but also reminding her that she is no longer beautiful.  This is an attack on her physical aesthetics.

This same pattern happens online, as well as in the real world.  Some horrible person (usually a man) threatens someone he doesn’t happen to like (usually a woman).  If she ignores him, or fights back, the guy typically resorts to making fun of the woman’s physical appearance.

I was not expecting to see this happen in Scholomance.  I came here hoping to find a room full of zombies to kill. Slaying zombies is fun.  What is happening here between Darkmaster Gandling, and Lilian Voss, is disturbing.  The game stopped being fun.  It actually started to become “triggering” for me (although I didn’t consciously realize it while I was still in-game.)   Afterwards, however, I was very shaken up.

What to do now?  There were two options.  One, I could get out of this room, get out of combat, and hearth away from Scholomance.  This is not a satisfying solution, especially since I believed that I was almost at the end of the dungeon.  There, in front of me, is the “big bad” I’m supposed to kill.  If I want the achievement, I have to complete this dungeon.

The only other option left was to play through whatever happened next.  Hopefully, the next thing would involve my Death Knight killing off Darkmaster Gandling.  Now, that would be an extremely satisfying solution!

Despite all of what Darkmaster Gandling has been doing, and saying, to Lilian Voss, she still isn’t backing down. This is one tough woman!

Lilian Voss: You’ll pay for your tongue.  

It is going to take more than this to break her down, and its obvious she’s looking to fight him.

Darkmaster Gandling: My dear, you should embrace this gift that has been bestowed upon you.

THIS IS NOT OK!  He’s saying that being turned into an Undead, against your will, and having to spend the rest of your existence that way is a gift.  He is saying that when Lilian’s father rejected her because she had been turned into a Foresaken, that was a gift.

There are politicians in the United States that use the same kinds of phrases when they talk about rape and the pregnancies that result from it. For example, Richard Mourdock, a Republican from Indiana who ran for the Senate in 2012 actually said “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” He’s not the only politician to say something like this either, not by a long shot!

Of course, pregnancy as a result of rape, and being turned into the Forsaken, are not the same thing.  Nobody has to fear being turned into a Foresaken in real life.  Plenty of people, however, have a rational fear of being raped and becoming pregnant as a result.

Blizzard should have selected a different way to have Darkmaster Gandling to say what he just said.  Or better yet, not have him say it at all – especially after his previous statements.  A line has been crossed, somewhere in this scene, from “two NPCs fighting” to “a vivid example of violence against women” (of both the physical and emotional kind).

Lilian Voss:  I will not let you curse another soul with this nightmare.

Wait… hold on a minute. Does this mean that Darkmaster Gandling has the ability to turn dead humans into Undead?  If Sylvanas had to use a Val’kyr to create more Forsaken… how come Darkmaster Gandling can just do that all by himself?  Something here isn’t working for me.

Darkmaster Gandling has stopped levitating and is now on the ground.

Lilian Voss: Run…necromancer… your life ends once I catch my breath.

Ok…it’s on!  The actual physical battle between these two NPCs is about to begin.  I’m doing my best to rush across the room to get in there so I can hit Darkmaster Gandling with my axe.

Before I can get there… a tornado appears?

Darkmaster Gandling: Come, Voss, your fate awaits you.

Talking Skull: No! Get back here coward!

Both Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss disappear.  The tornado dissipates, and there’s someone new in the room.  Who the hell is this Rattlegore guy?  Where did he come from?  I should be “assisting Lilian Voss” by fighting Darkmaster Gandling with her now.  Instead, random NPC appears?

Rattlegore: RATTLEGORE!

Oh joy, he’s spotted me.  A creature with such limited vocabulary is not going to give me any answers to my questions. Well, except for the one where I wondered who the hell he was.

This battle was actually challenging even though Rattlegore was Level 43 (and elite) and I was Level 67 (and not elite). The game mechanics for this battle require players to grab some of the bones from the bone piles to use as a shield. At the time, I found it confusing. I mean, Riglee is a Death Knight – she already has her own bone shield.

There lies Rattlegore.  He is dead, yet the game is still telling me to “Click on a bone pile to protect yourself from bone spike!”   Off to the side, the Talking Skull starts floating through the room saying: Let’s go!

Ok, so I’m guessing that Rattlegore was a distraction that was used to enable Darkmaster Gandling to get away from me.  The Talking Skull must be taking me to where I can finally fight the “big bad”.

The next room is called Butcher’s Sanctum.   It includes a whole new set of mobs to fight – that are completely unrelated to the scene with Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss.  At this point, I was wondering if I’d somehow managed to do this dungeon in the wrong order.  Why is this the next part?

That awful thing over there is called a “Flesh Horror”.  Apt name.  There is more than one in this room.

There are also some guys called Krastinovian Carvers.

In other words… this room has absolutely nothing to do with the scene between Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss.  Why am I here?  This feels disjointed.  The Scholomance dungeon would flow better if this room came before the Chamber of Summoning.

So far, the things I really like about Scolomance are the candleholders, the parts that look like they would fit into Diablo III, and the overall color scheme that runs through the whole dungeon. Blizzard did a very nice job with the overall theme of this dungeon.

I’m not sure what the skeletons that are sitting in a circle were studying from the books and scrolls that are near them.  Whatever it was, it seems to have killed them.  Exactly zero of the NPCs in this room care.  The circle of skeletons has been completely ignored.

Sitting on a table off to the side of the Butcher’s Sanctum is one of the books that players are supposed to find. This one is called “Forbidden Rites and other Rituals Necromantic”.  It appears that the circle of skeletons serves as a warning about whatever is in this book!  It might also be the source of the “Flesh Horror” creatures that are waddling around this room.

It occurs to me that the reason why I’m in this room right now, instead of fighting Darkmaster Gandling, is so I will locate this book.  There is one more left to find, and I will have finished that quest.

I still think this room should have been before the one where Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss were fighting.  I mean, I had to fight Rattlegore as a distraction so Darkmaster Gandling could escape (and take Lilian Voss) with him.  It makes this room feel “extra” – something to rush through to get to the final battle.  I would have enjoyed it more if it came earlier in the dungeon.

I decided to clear this room before moving forward.  The Talking Skull has floated over to the exit and is ready to send me to the next room.  The NPC is as impatient as I am about getting through this content.  It’s a shame.  This room had some interesting stuff to fight and spooky, detailed, artwork.

It looks like the Talking Skull has led me to the room where the final battle between Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss will take place.  I’m hoping that I will have the ability to interact more this time, instead of standing off to the side and watching the scene.

If you look through the gate, you can see Darkmaster Gandling in there.  He appears to be shooting purple magic somewhere.

Darkmaster Gandling: Did you forget, girl?  I am the Darkmaster! I command the undead!”

So, he’s back to using his words as weapons against Lilian Voss again.  She’s not a “girl”, she’s a grown woman.  Abusers have a tendency to use diminutive language to refer to the person they are harassing.  The purple magic he’s spewing is aimed at her.

Open the gate, and take a few steps into the room.  There’s Lilian Voss, suspended in mid-air, trapped by the purple magic that Darkmaster Gandling is using on her.

Lillan Voss: I…won’t let you…   

The player is already too late to aid Lilian Voss.  There isn’t anything the player could have done differently in order to arrive in time to save her.  All the player can do is stand there and watch whatever happens next.

Lilian Voss won’t let Darkmaster Gandling… do, what, exactly?  This is incredibly uncomfortable. The player walks in on Darkmaster Gandling as he is immobilizing Lilian Voss.  She can’t move.  She’s stuck several feet off the ground.  He’s about to do something to her that she absolutely does not want to have happen.  She is completely powerless to stop whatever Darkmaster Gandling wants to do to her.  This is not a battle anymore.  This is about power and dominance.

Talking Skull: There he is!  Kill him now, Riglee!

The words of the Talking Skull are there to remind the player what they are supposed to be doing.  The player(s) goal is to aid Lilian Voss.

Darkmaster Gandling: Now turn your lovely runeblades on our guests, and fetch me their bones!

Scholomance was designed to require a group to run through it together.  There is supposed to be a group of players here instead of just one, and the entire group would have been instructed to aid Lilian Voss.

So, what’s really happening here is that Darkmaster Gandling is forcing Lilian Voss to fight (and kill) the only people who are on her side and who are willing and able to come to her aid.  He is literally forcing her to do something that would make her friends abandon her.

This is a dynamic that is used in real life by people who want to control a person that they are in some sort of relationship with (dating, friendship, parent/child).  When abusers do this, it is because they want to harm their victim by making it clear that no one will help them and by making them feel that they deserve to be abused because they were the ones who did something that made their friends leave them.  The purpose is to isolate a victim.

Lilian Voss: I can’t… fight him…

Why not?  It is because she is an Undead, and Darkmaster Gandling has the ability to control the Undead.  He’s literally taken control of her body and is forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to do – fight against the player(s) who came to help her.

At this point, it seemed to me that the most logical thing to do would be to sidestep Lilian Voss and attack Darkmaster Gandling directly.  My Death Knight is at a higher level than she needs to be for Scholomance.  Riglee would probably be able to take the damage that Lilian Voss (unwillingly) did to her without dying.  Darkmaster Gandling is a necromancer, therefore, a “squishie”.

To me, it felt like the game was pushing me to take that course of action.  Kill Gandling.  He can’t hurt Voss anymore.  She can go do… whatever she wants.  I kill the “big bad” of Scholomance and finish a quest.  This must  be what I’m supposed to do, right?

It turns out I can’t do that.  Instead, Lilian Voss, controlled by Darkmaster Gandling, starts attacking Riglee and is consistently in the way between her and Darkmaster Gandling.  I can’t get my Death Knight close enough to hit him with her axe.  Riglee can’t throw spells at him either, because the game won’t let the player target him.  

Darkmaster Gandling:  I can feel her will breaking!  Her soul burns so brightly.  

He’s absolutely thrilled that everything he has said, and done, to Lilian Voss is finally breaking her will.  For him, this isn’t about killing an enemy.  Darkmaster Gandling could have taken control of Lilian Voss right at the beginning, made her immobile, and had his skeleton minions kill her off.

Instead, this sick “big bad” is slowly torturing Lilian Voss, both emotionally and physically – because he is enjoying it.  This is about power.

Lilian Voss: It burns…my soul…it burns!!!!  

For the first time, Lilian Voss responds in a way that is not from coming from a place of strength.  She’s a tough woman, but can no longer hide the effects of Darkmaster Gandling’s words and actions.  She is, in fact, breaking down.  Cumulatively, it has become too much for her.  Gandling appears to think he has “won”.  He got the reaction he wanted out of Lilian Voss.

Darkmaster Gandling: Now, Lilian, it is time for your transformation.  

This isn’t the end, though.  Things actually get even worse.  Darkmaster Gandling uses his purple magic to once again immobilize Lilian Voss in mid-air.  He is also using language intended to bring up past trauma.

Lilian Voss has already been through a “transformation”.  She turned into an Forsaken.  This was done to her without her consent, was the worst experience of her life, and ruined her relationship with her father.  Darkmaster Gandling is forcing Lilian Voss to think about that trauma – while she is trapped – to make her that much more distressed by whatever “transformation” he’s about to inflict upon her.

Lillian Voss: END IT NOW! Before he can… 

This is when Lilian Voss starts calling out to the player for help.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, the game won’t let the player “end it now”.  I can target neither Darkmaster Gandling nor Lilian Voss.

Instead, the player is stuck here watching from the sidelines as this sick display of power continues.  I started feeling ill again.  Here we have a woman who has been completely immobilized by a man who is about to do something to her body that she clearly doesn’t want him to do.  She’s begging the player for help… and the game won’t let the player help.

I’m wondering what the hell her “transformation” could possibly be. I mean, she’s already transformed from human to Undead. She’s already been turned into something that she was raised to hate and to view as unworthy of existance. What’s left?

Meanwhile, the player can do nothing except stand there and watch Lilian Voss’s body drop to the floor.

This is not over yet, though.  Darkmaster Gandling seems to be influencing Lilian Voss’s soul to attack the player.  The screen says: Lilian’s Soul fixates on Riglee!

I like the creepy, glaring, eyes that are staring out at me.  That part is cool!  I wish it was used in a different part of the game, though.  I can’t really enjoy the creepiness of it while feeling sick to my stomach about what is taking place.

Darkmaster Gandling: YOUR SOUL IS MINE!

So, now the player has to fight (or dodge) Lilian Voss’s soul after it has been ripped from her body.  Lilian Voss’s body isn’t moving.  I’m not sure if her consciousness is inside the soul, or the body, or both at this point.  In any case, the player still cannot aid Lilian Voss (the very thing the game told the player that he or she was supposed to do).

Lilian’s Soul fades into the spirit realm!  It can no longer be harmed!

I’ve no idea what that means, since Lilian Voss’s soul continues to attack Riglee.  It can’t have “faded” too far, it seems.

Darkmaster Gandling: Why let a perfectly good corpse go to waste?  

He picks up Lilian Voss’s body and brings it over to where her soul is fighting the player.  Think about that for a minute.  I’m still not sure if Lilian Voss’s consciousness is in her soul, or in her body, or both.  Either way, Darkmaster Gandling is forcing her to be very aware of the damage he is doing to her.

Darkmaster Gandling: How intriguing, her spirit will not relinquish its grasp on this world.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to target Darkmaster Gandling and the game continues to prevent me from being able to attack him.  The player cannot do the one, obvious, thing that would stop what is happening to Lilian Voss.  The player cannot kill Darkmaster Gandling, finish the quest, and be done with this whole, awful, scenario.

Darkmaster Gandling: How does it feel, Voss?  To watch them hack your mortal body to pieces?

This is just plain sick.  It’s disgusting.  I hate that there is no way for the player to opt-out of having to watch an immobilized female character take a wide variety of abuse from the “big bad”.  There’s no way to fast-forward through it.  The player is stuck watching it all happen, with no ability to change what is going on – while constantly being reminded that they are supposed to be helping Lilian Voss.

It isn’t fun to be stuck in a video game where you cannot do anything other than stand around and wait for bad things to happen.  It’s even less fun to sit through a scene like that and then have to sit through a second one.

This goes on for a while, and then, somehow, Lilian Voss’s soul returns to her body.  She regains control over herself.  Darkmaster Gandling yells: What?!  Lilian Voss responds: DIE, NECROMANCER! She not only survived this horrific experience, but also is ready to fight.  As I said, Lilian Voss is a tough woman.

This is when Darkmaster Gandling decides to flee the scene, but not before name calling Lilian Voss.

Darkmaster Gandling: The bones!  You wretch!

Darkmaster Gandling flees because he is a big, fat, chicken.  He suddenly realizes that not only can Lilian Voss beat him up, but also that her friend(s) are prepared to help her do that.  He can “dish it out”, but cannot “take it.”  Darkmaster Gandling gets to escape without facing ANY consequences for the horrible things he has done to Lilian Voss.

Lilian Voss: Leave me…to die…alone…please…

Lilian Voss doesn’t chase him.  Instead, she crumbles to the floor and curls up.  She has lost the will to live.  The player, who the game told to “aid Lilian Voss” can do nothing about this.  It is not possible for your character to interact with this NPC anymore.  Meanwhile, in the chat box, the Talking Skull says: Stop him! Forget about her!

Let me break this down:

* Gandling uses words to intentionally torment Lilian. She doesn’t curl up in a ball and start crying.

* Gandling brings up trauma from her past (the whole turning into an Undead thing). Lilian still doesn’t break.

* Gandling starts picking on Lilian’s physical appearance while telling her she’s beautiful in a way that is a veiled rape threat. Lilian doesn’t break.

* Gandling tells Lilian that the horrible thing that happened to her body, against her will, is a gift. Lilian doesn’t back down – she challenges him to a fight.

* Gandling takes Lilian to another room in the dungeon, suspends her in mid-air, and immobilizes her. Lilian is saying “I won’t let you” (or “NO”).

* Gandling takes control over Lilian’s body and and forces her to fight her friends.  Gandling is thrilled because he finally broke Lilian’s will.

* Gandling immobilizes Lilian again as she screams for help.

* Gandling does something incredibly invasive to Lilian’s body – he rips out her soul.  He forces his way into her body without her consent.

* Gandling forces Lilian to be very aware of the damage he is causing to her body and soul.  “How does it feel?”, he asks her.

* Lilian somehow survives and prepares to fight Gandling.  He calls her a “wretch” and flees the scene.

* Lilian no longer wants to live.  She tells you “Leave me here to die”.

Blizzard took Lilian Voss,  a strong and powerful female character, and destroyed her bit by bit before the player’s eyes.  The player can do nothing but watch as Lilian Voss crumbles to the point where she has become suicidal.  Her attacker, Darkmaster Gandling, leaves the scene and is (currently) facing zero consequences for what he has done.

How the fuck did this get into the game?

I know that Blizzard gets a lot of its work done by having teams of people work on portions of it. The dialogue, the visual effects, the game mechanics, the background scenery, used in the scenes that involve Darkmaster Gandling and Lilian Voss had to have been worked on by many people.

In other words, this part of Scholomance didn’t end up here because of one person.  An entire team somehow didn’t see what I see.  How is that possible?  The cynical part of me thinks that the reason this got into the game, as if it were acceptable, is because no one thought to ask any women what they thought of it.

This is not where Scholomance ends, however.  There’s more!  At this point, the player has found three books out of four, and has yet to kill Darkmaster Gandling.  Neither of the two quests that were obtained at the start of Scholomance are complete.  The next room is called The Viewing Room.

It is a lecture hall with students working on something in small groups at separate tables.  Over there is a “Bored Student”.  As a former teacher, this amuses me, because the bored students always stand out as though they have a sign over their heads identifying them.

The Alice Cooper fan club comes over to start a fight with Riglee.  Ok, they’re really just some of the students that were in The Viewing Room.

Instead of clearing this room, I decided to scoot around the edges so I can avoid the mobs.   The “boss” of this room doesn’t rush over to attack me.  I just want to get done with Scholomance and get out of here.  I’ve lost interest in clearing the entire dungeon.

Talking Skull: The four tomes contain secrets that have damned this place and all associated with it to an eternity of suffering.  

They must be destroyed forever!

I enter the next room, which is called Headmaster’s Retreat.  The Talking Skull says: Finally!  The Talking Skull has become annoying.

When I started, I thought it was cool to have a floating, talking, skull showing me where to go next in the dungeon.  But, after his “leave her” comment about Lilian Voss, my view has changed.

I no longer think his goal is really to make sure nobody finds the tomes (and uses them to cause harm to others).  I think this is about ending the curse that has been placed upon him.  He doesn’t seem to care what happens to anyone else in Scholomance.  I’m starting to think I’m being used.

Fireworks?

Below the stairs, someone says: If you haven’t come to study, I’ll use you to teach a lesson.  That must be the “Headmaster”, who has a bad attitude about teaching.

Oh, wait.  It’s Darkmaster Gandling who said that.  Of course.  Will I actually get to fight him this time?  Or will I be standing around and watching things happen, that I have no impact on, again?

When Darkmaster Gandling fled so he could avoid having to fight Lilian Voss, and the player(s) who came to help her – he came to this part of Scholomance.  He spent hours slowly torturing Lilian Voss and then… just went back to his office like nothing unusual had happened.  Chilling.

Talking Skull: PREPARE TO DIE, VILLAIN!

The Talking Skull does a “taunt” on the “big bad”.  So far, the Talking Skull has stood to the side and watched stuff happen, while encouraging me to kill stuff.  I am not impressed by him threatening Darkmaster Gandling knowing that the Talking Skull isn’t going to bother to back up his threat with action.

This time, I finally do get to fight Darkmaster Gandling.  He says: School is in session!  No more purple magic. Instead, he is using a lot of fire spells.

The battle doesn’t take very long.  Darkmaster Gandling’s last words are: Class…dismissed.  

My motivation to kill this NPC was high, but the battle itself was a let-down.  It was short.  That could be due to the fact that my Death Knight is a higher level than a player is supposed to be for this dungeon.  His death was quick and painless, and after what he did to Lilian Voss, he deserved to have a slow and painful death.  This is not the ending I hoped for.

The death of Darkmaster Gandling causes an Achievement to pop up.

Achievement earned: Scholomance.

I should be feeling a sense of accomplishment now, but I don’t.  Instead, I’m emotionally exhausted.  This wasn’t the Scholomance I remembered, I gave it a try anyway, and was completely disturbed by what happened to Lilian Voss.

It was also strange to have the Achievement pop before I completed the quest with the tomes.  I’m not quite done.  I don’t have the energy to continue and am fatigued enough to want to log out and take a nap.

/sigh

Part of this is my fault for skipping through The Viewing Room instead of clearing it before entering the Headmaster’s Retreat.  That was a mistake.  However, the energy drain is mostly due to the scenario with Lilian Voss.  There is no way to avoid that portion of Scholomance.

There is someone new at the top of the stairs.  Who is that guy?

Spirit of Lord Alexei Barov: It’s over. The curse is lifted.  Thank you, Riglee.  Thank you!  

When Riglee killed Darkmaster Gandling, she broke the curse, and the Spirit of Lord Alexei Barov turned back into a man instead of a Beast — I mean a Talking Skull.  I can turn in one quest now.

Spirit of Lord Alexei Barov: My next great adventure is about to begin.  Is that a Light I see?

Turn in the “An End to Suffering” quest, and Spirit of Lord Alexei Barov bows.

Spirit of Lord Alexei Barov: Behold my true form.  I owe you a debt, one which I can never repay.  But, I thank you for lifting the curse off of my family.  

Kel’Thuzad, the Lich King, and now Darkmaster Gandling –all are dead.  Perhaps now I too can find some semblance of peace.

Except, he can’t do that just yet, because I didn’t bother to go find that last tome.

An anguished Lord Alexei Barov says: The four tomes contain secrets that have damed this place and all associated with it to an eternity of suffering.  They must be destroyed!

Ok, fine… fine!  I’ll go back through the room I skipped, slay everything, and find that last damned book you want me to destroy.

Or, at least, that was my intent. On the way out I found two smaller rooms that were absolutely empty: The Coven and The Hall of Secrets.  Why wasn’t there anything inside them?  Either one could have been a good place to put a room full of “zombies”.

 Back to The Viewing Room to slay the remaining the bored students.

In the corner of The Viewing Room there is a small table.  That’s where to find “The Dark Grimoire”.  I’ve now found, and destroyed the final tome!

All that is left to do in here is to kill Professor Slate – Potions Master.

This is a fun fight because he uses some of his potions during the battle.

After killing off the Professor, I make one last trip to Lord Alexi Barov.

Lord Alexi Barov: Thank you, Riglee.  With the destruction of the tomes I’ll go to my final rest knowing that those books will never again haunt a living soul.  

I’m outta here!

Scholomance is no longer the dungeon I remembered it to be.  (I’ll have to go through my old screenshots and see if I have any of the old Scholomance).  I wanted a room full of “zombies” to slay.

Instead, I got a long, drawn out, scene where Lilian Voss got physically and emotionally tortured by the “big bad” of the dungeon – in ways that were completely and utterly inappropriate, and that would not have happened in the same way if Lilian Voss were William Voss.

As such, I’ve got absolutely no desire to return to Scolomance ever again.

That’s really a shame, because Scholomance had such wonderful potential.  I love the way the color palette is used in all of the rooms in this dungeon.  The background artwork – the candleholders, the crypts on the wall, the chandelier – all of those details are fantastic and they bring the mood of the place all the way through it.

The fight with the Professor, and the fight in the Hall of Illusions with the skeletons and “zombies” were fun.  That being said, it doesn’t provide me with enough fun to go through Scholomance again.  The fun doesn’t outweigh the emotional fatigue I felt after the scenes with Lilian Voss.

Scholomance: Defeat Darkmaster Gandling.

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