From a few flyers handed out to enthusiastic fans and two simple images online came a campaign that has simply exploded. Fans took the two flyers and two images and ran with it, creating an incredibly wide variety of alternate images and theories on what it all means. Follow along after the jump for a look at what we know so far.
Let's start with a quick history review -- the White Mantle and Shining Blade aren't strangers to us. Way back in Prophecies, we encountered the White Mantle upon our entry into Kryta. Remember Justicar Hablion and his frantic race to aggro every undead creature in the swamp at once? After your party saved him from himself, he let us into Lion's Arch. Shortly afterward, we encountered the Shining Blade while leading the Chosen to... well, their death at the behest of the Mantle. The Shining Blade saved the Chosen with only a minor hitch or two along the way in the form of giant spiders (a "miscalculation"), and the race between the two opposing factions was on.
The White Mantle weren't so bad, really, just a bit misguided. Saul D'Alessio was saved and possibly rehabilitated by the Unseen Ones way back when during his wandering in the jungle. He returned to tell others about these wonderful beings, and gained a following. A few years ago, we learned via the Bonus Mission Pack that it was the Mantle that struck a crucial blow to the Charr, so we have them to thank for that. The Mantle mean well, but it is their way or the highway, and they have a nasty habit of sacrificing people on the Bloodstone. We know now that the Unseen Ones turned on Saul and most of the other Mantle after the Charr battle, but that's a minor detail.
The Shining Blade take issue with the absolute rule desired by the Mantle, preferring to work to reinstate the Krytan royal line in the form of Salma. Salma was a priestess in the Temple of Ages when we first encountered her, later taking the Krytan throne as the daughter of the former king. The Shining Blade have done their work using stealth, hiding and striking from the Maguuma Jungle as they fight to save the people of Kryta -- particularly the Chosen -- from what they see as tyrannical rule by an evil faction. The White Mantle certainly weren't willing to hand over control quietly, and the conflict rages to this day.
That brings us to the current campaign. The great thing about this is that while they almost certainly have a long-running plan, all they had to do at this point is light the fuse and stand back -- the fans took it from there with their normal enthusiasm. The main discussion thread on the Guild Wars 2 Guru forums has passed 1200 responses with discussion, speculation, and shared art based on the original campaign posters. A quick scan through forum member avatars and signature lines shows even more of the fantastic creativity and enthusiasm of the community.
The campaign is progressing already. The White Mantle and Shining Blade seem to have discovered one another's propaganda, so let the defacement begin! A visit to the two original sites -- which most of us are making daily at this point -- will show that the Shining Blade poster has been mostly torn down. Amusingly, it now only reads "mantle". An accident? The Shining Blade got a bit of their own back in the form of a Shining Blade symbol tagged on the front of the poster. (Minor side note: how on earth was that applied? The left-hand side indicated brush strokes, but the drips at the bottom suggest a spray can.) As an added bonus, each side now has downloadable wallpaper on the campaign sites, with two options so far. The possibility of more in the future is certainly not far-fetched.
We can continue to speculate all we want as the campaign progresses -- the Guild Wars community is a pretty smart bunch and the right answers may well be in the forums already -- but we can be certain that ArenaNet already knows how this story will end. The majority of Guild Wars fans can agree on a few things pretty consistently: ANet may not do things on our timetable (hey, we love the game and we want more now!), but they know what they're doing. "When it's done" may not give us instant gratification, but it promises a product that will be fantastic. That principal applies here too. This campaign might have us all insanely curious, but we're not going to get the whole story right now -- it will continue to be released gradually.
And it will be well worth the wait.