Remembering Scholomance and Caer Darrow

The Headmaster's room in Scholomance. I think I’m getting on my WoW-years because I’m spending less time reading and looking forward to Mists of Pandaria and today, on the literal day of patch 5.0.4, looking back at the things that have changed. I thought I’d be okay; it wasn’t like Cataclysm where everything was being destroyed. However, I find myself being a little verklempt at even the smallest things. It hit me as I was running in and out of Scholomance five times an hour to try for a Sawbones Shirt.

This place wasn’t going to be the same anymore.

Any time change creeps up on me, I get caught out a bit. Old dungeons that I remember doing fondly in Vanilla are obviously no exception to this. The fact that stuff like the Tabard of the Scarlet Crusade, Whitemane’s Chapeau just vanishing into the air because their bosses are too is weirding me out. The more this stuff fades into the sands of time, the more I feel myself wanting to snatch grains of it out of the air to keep safe.

Scholomance may had not been the quintessential dungeon that Scarlet Monastery has been, but I have fond memories of the place. It was long and unforgiving even after it was taken down from a raid instance to a 5-person dungeon. It had many, many secrets and quests tucked within.

The Secrets Long Past

It is unfortunate that most of the really, truly neat things about Scholo were removed with Cataclysm.

Easily the most interesting part of Scholomance back in Vanilla was the quests associated with the place and the island. The quest to kill the boss Kirtonos the Herald netted you a Spectral Essence, which was necessary to see all of the ghosts that wandered around the island, including vendors that had rare patterns. The vendor is visible now but a lot of NPCs are lost to players because the Spectral Essence is no longer obtainable in the game. The quest that originally rewarded it, “Kirtonos the Herald” no longer gives it as a reward. (It also doesn’t require you to kill a succubus for a vial of Kirtonos’ blood to summon him with the brazier.)

The Spectral Essence was key to a lot of other quests on the island that were only given out or turned in to ghosts in Caer Darrow. One of these ghosts was Magistrate Marduke, who gave you the quest for Ras Frostwhisper. It was a 5-part chain that sent you packing to Arathi to search all over Stromgarde for a book tucked away in a random fireplace. I spent at least 3 or 4 hours looking. I’m not kidding you. It also required you to go into Stratholme with the book to draw out Ras’ soul so you could eventually turn the lich inside the dungeon to a mortal and kill him. Stuff like this was secretive, meandering and full of lore. Definitely not the caliber some quests have today, but definitely not easy to finish.

You also completed one of the quests in the Tirion Fordring quest chain that was in Eastern Plaguelands (before the revamp) from an artist on the island.

The hardest quest associated with Scholomance was definitely the key quest, however. A lot of the end-game dungeons in Vanilla, like UBRS, had key quests so it could further alienate people who didn’t feel like doing them. (My boyfriend when I brought this up to him – “Fuck that key quest, I didn’t do it. You could die and walk through the door that way.”) I dutifully did the Scholomance key quest because I was a level 60 in my guild who came to it late and wasn’t really taken on raids. After proving yourself with some Andorhal quests, you were set to create a skeleton key, literally. After killing skeletons for fragments, you had to travel to Gadgetzan to get a mold made, paying 15G of your hard-earned cash (having 100G back in Vanilla was the same as having 10,000 nowadays). Then you had to take the mold to a volcano. Then you had to gather a GROUP of people to take down the lich Araj the Summoner for his scarab pendant. Then you finally got a key.

Remind people that this is what they look fondly back on when they talk about “vanilla being the best expansion.”

Not everything that was hidden about Scholomance was something on the outside though – many of the secrets lay inside the actual instance. The one that really threw me for a loop was the secret torch. Despite being someone who spent the better part of her level 60 existence crawling through this dungeon, I had no idea about this until this year when a guildmate (or a friend, I cannot remember) pointed it out to me.

There was an executable torch in Jandice Barov’s mortuary room, to the right of her alcove. Turning it unlocked a gate in the Viewing Room, which held a chest.

It only ever really held greens, but the idea that Blizzard stuck something this hidden inside was just fascinating to me, a veteran like me. Who goes around clicking on walls to see if torches work? But it makes sense for the atmosphere of the place. Why wouldn’t a hugely corrupt and rich family keep things tucked away in a hidden locale?

Memories

I think one of my reasons for being so persistent about collecting items from places like this when they change is because, like in real life, sometimes memories and emotions are all you have. In a video game, your experiences someplace are reduced to screenshots and remembrances shared over voice chat. The ability to go and take a “tangible” reminder of what something was like “back in the day” is something you aren’t really afforded in real life, usually. Scholomance was one of the places I remember best from Vanilla and it is sad to see it change.

I remember:

  • Helping at least 6 or 7 paladins from Northrend Commonwealth get their paladin charger in the finale of the quest chain.
  • Doing a run at 3 AM and my bags being full so I left without looting my Magister’s Crown¬†and having to ticket a GM.
  • Accidentally pulling the summoners in the Summoning room because I counterspelled them thinking they were attacking us. Turns out I was just being anachronistic.
  • Being able to climb out of Kirtonos’ room to explore instanced Caer Darrow.
  • Those horrible magic resist skeletons.
  • Being terrible at fighting the monsters that you got locked in a room with during the Gandling fight.
  • Someone being really excited about Robe of the Void pattern dropping.
  • Dark Runes, the ultimate in trickery for RP.
  • Farming for Ichor of Undeath for Greater Water Breathing potions.
  • Seeing the Headmaster’s Charge drop twice (Didn’t win it either time.)
  • Learning how to expertly polymorph mobs in the packs in the middle rooms.
  • Making flasks at the alchemy table in Ras Frostwhisper’s room. (The only other one was inside of Blackwing Lair.)
  • Coming back in later expansions to farm Skins of Shadow for my Insane grind.

I know that nothing is going to take away those things from me, but part of me still tried to race up there and codge a shirt out of Rastinov all the same. New Scholomance, with the hints of the Lilian Voss storyline and smoother redesign will be better for everyone, I know this. But part of me still misses the confusing and punishing complexity of the former dark arts school.