One might assume that a priest is a benevolent servant of the Light, or Elune, or An'she, or whatever deity they happen to follow. Consumed with the Light's grace, a priest seeks to heal, drawn to the task by an innate need to heal and mend. For a priest, the world is a place full of lost, suffering souls waiting to be mended and healed, the gratitude of those mended being all that a priest needs. Humble, polite, quiet, the priest is a creature of benevolence and purity, an example for all those lost souls to follow.
One would be quite wrong in that assumption.
Priests are just as complex, perhaps even more so than every other class on Azeroth. While some are drawn to healing like a moth to a flame, there are others drawn to the darker side. A priest can harm just as well as heal -- in fact, they may be more deadly than even those dark practitioners of fel magics. For what makes for suffering more than a creature who knows quite intimately, inside and out, the inner workings of organs and mind?
Priests are terribly interesting creatures, and make for even more interesting roleplay.
Who you are
Your priest's background depends on his race, when it comes to the priesthood. Humans began the priesthood on the Eastern Kingdoms with the Church of the Holy Light, and taught these practices to the dwarves and high elves -- later blood elves -- that called the continent home. Much like the paladins, human priests tend to follow the same tenets of the Holy Light that their plate-wearing cousins do. But there are many other races that practice the art of the priest. In fact, orcs are the only race on Azeroth that can't.
For the draenei, their origins extend back in time to their lessons with the naaru upon escaping Argus. For the night elves, priests are devotees of the goddess Elune. For the tauren, who have only recently begun experimenting with the ways of both paladin and priest, An'she lights the way. For gnomes, the tenets of the Light are something meant to be studied and researched, combined with technology in delightful, if sometimes confusing, ways. And for goblins, the Light is just another bargaining chip on the table, for the most part.
It's the Forsaken that have the most bizarre relationship to the Light. As former humans, they were followers of the Church of the Holy Light just like any other human on Azeroth. But when they died, when they came back, that connection was gone. To many Forsaken, the Light has abandoned them. Only the most dedicated and persevering Forsaken can really master the ways of the Light, and for good reason -- the use of the Light hurts.
Without spoiling too much, we can tell you that wielding the Light is a matter of having willpower or faith in one's own ability to do it. For the undead (and Forsaken), this requires such a great deal of willpower that it is exceedingly rare, especially since it is self-destructive. When undead channel the Light, it feels as if their entire bodies are being consumed in righteous fire. Forsaken healed by the Light are effectively cauterized by the effect: sure, the wound is healed, but the healing effect is cripplingly painful. Thus, Forsaken priests are beings of unwavering willpower. -- Ask a CDev, Round 1So what brings a priest to the priesthood? That's the question that you need to ask in regards to your character. Was he part of a long line of priests, simply following his expected path? Did he feel the Light call him to the priesthood -- and if so, what was he before he followed that path? If your character is a Forsaken, what is that spark that keeps him clinging to the Light, even though the Light is doing its best to burn him away? If your character is a gnome, what drew him to study the Light over any other number of fascinating paths of study out there in the world?
What defines you, and why you fight
It's the answer to that question that will tell you a lot about the character you've created. Is he a benevolent person, bent on good will and kindness to others, or is there something else that keeps him getting out of bed in the morning? What drives him to heal?
Yet there is a dual-nature to the priest that is unlike any other class out there. A priest can be dedicated to healing, or dedicated to damage in the form of shadow magic. Not to be confused with the fel magic of warlocks, the magic of shadow is a completely different thing. Most of what we know about shadow magic originates from the WoW RPG books, so keep in mind this information may not be canon, and is open to interpretation.
The concept of shadow is one of balance -- where there is light, there is always shadow. Hold your hand up to a light source, and you'll see it -- the shadow your hand creates. In a way, the priest is the hand standing between the two, and can draw from either side. The only known organization of shadow magic is the Cult of Forgotten Shadow, established by Forsaken priests as an alternative to the Church of the Holy Light. And just as the Church has its set of tenets to follow, so does the Cult, in a complete juxtaposition of what the Light teaches.
Where the Church of the Holy Light teaches the three virtues of Respect, Tenacity, and Compassion, the Cult of Forgotten Shadow teaches the three virtues of Respect, Tenacity and Power. Where the Light brings about positive emotions like hope, courage and comfort, the shadow does just the opposite, warping the mind and bringing about feelings of fear, doubt and despair. You can read more about the Cult of Forgotten Shadow and the teachings of that order on Wowpedia -- although the information is taken from the RPG guides and may not necessarily be canon, it offers all kinds of food for thought for a roleplayer.
Interaction with others
A priest is a character with a dual nature unlike any other in Warcraft. But priests by and large are some of the most trusted members of society -- those that heal tend to inspire both confidence and trust in others. A priest isn't likely to have any problems being social around other characters, especially if it means that they can continue to spread the message of hope and comfort that the Light brings.
Keep in mind that a shadow priest isn't necessarily an evil creature. Unlike warlocks, who tend to follow the path out of a keen desire for power, shadow priests are fulfilling a role that calls for balance in the world. If there is Light, there must be shadow -- if there are holy priests, there must be shadow as well. A priest that practices the art of shadow is not automatically doing so for the sake of power or greed, the reasons are often far more complex. A shadow priest is just as likely to be social as a priest of the Light.
For night elves and tauren, the story differs slightly, just because of origin. A night elf priest is a follower of Elune, and while the teachings of Elune and the tenets of the Holy Light are similar, they are not exactly the same. Elune and An'she are deities. While the Light is something to be respected and followed by the other races, it does not have a representation like Elune or An'she. The closest other thing to a deity might be the naaru for the draenei -- but the naaru are not really gods to the draenei, merely beings of higher power.
Troll priests also follow a more direct representation of the Light, but it's more polytheistic in nature than monotheistic like the tauren or night elves. The priests of the trolls are more witch doctor than practitioner of the Light, drawing upon the spirits of the Loa or the beings around them to heal or harm. The Loa are the spirits of powerful beings, either troll or animal, that have transcended death and remain to help or harm those that are still among the living.
Whether to heal or harm, the priests of the world live in a precarious balance that acknowledges not so much the balance of the world around us, but the balance that exists within ourselves, and how that balance is reflected in the rest of the world. Priests can be good or evil, right or wrong, social or introspective -- the possibilities are endless. And while playing a spiritual character may not seem appealing to all, the priests of Azeroth offer some incredibly compelling roleplay.
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