The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how, but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
WARNING: The following post contains small spoilers for Wrath of the Lich King. Players who are still playing through the expansion and wish to avoid spoilers may want to avoid this post. In addition, theories behind the new Cataclysm race/class combinations will be discussed.
Last time on Alliance politics we looked at the night elves, who have had arguably the largest impact on Azeroth of any race currently living, and a lengthy history, as their current leader has been in power for approximately 10,000 years. The night elves have an extensive amount of history to back up their current political stance, but today we're going to look at a race that doesn't really have a lot of history to speak of (or at least they didn't until the launch of Wrath of the Lich King): the gnomes.
The gnomish race has been relatively low profile in World of Warcraft and in the Alliance in general. Friendly to everyone, regardless of faction, the gnomes are quite happy to teach engineering to anyone who will listen. They generally avoid conflict where they can and honestly the main reason they joined the Alliance wasn't due to their beliefs or any strong feelings, it was due to circumstances at the time. Let's take a quick look at the background of the gnomes and how the events in Wrath could potentially affect future political entanglements.
The gnomes of Azeroth were a largely unknown element to most races of Azeroth. The earliest records of gnomish contact involve a gnome named Indus who was a gnomish representative to the Council of Tirisfal approximately 2,600 years before the First War. Indus was a powerful mage and well respected; her penchant for tinkering earning her the nickname "the inventor" in Dalaran. She was among the group of Council members who empowered the very first Guardian of Tirisfal, way back before Aegwynn even existed.
There was another gnome that was mentioned as being involved with the Council of Tirisfal -- Erbag, who was present during the early days of Aegwynn. Yet there is little history surrounding why these few gnomes came to Dalaran and the Kirin Tor in the first place, and little was known about the gnomish people in general until they were "discovered" by the dwarves. There's a story told about a dwarf explorer who came across a small gnomish village and was shocked to discover the sheer level of technology present in the little city, as well as its friendly residents. Contact between the two races grew to a point where they allied with each other, and the dwarves allowed the gnomes to build their capital city near Ironforge.
The dwarves and gnomes were in fact close enough allies that when the dwarves joined the Alliance during the Second War, the gnomes came right along with them. It wasn't a matter of strong beliefs so much as it was a matter of wanting to help out their friends and allies, the dwarves. This pretty well explains why the gnomes aren't really averse to teaching any of the Horde engineering and why Horde can find neutral gnomes here and there across Azeroth -- it's because they don't really hate anyone in particular. They're much more interested in teaching people what they know and inventing new technology to deal with what they don't know.
The gnomes have no real political structure to speak of. Their leader is simply elected by the general public, usually one of the highest officials in their ranks. Gnome leaders are elected for set terms of service, after which point they return to the work force. The current high tinker of the gnomes is Gelbin Mekkatorque, one of the most renowned inventors. This is pretty much how the gnomes choose who goes into office -- it's a matter of who's the most creative, intelligent and skilled, rather than of being born into a monarchy. Gnomish leaders aren't really chosen for being charismatic or diplomatic; it's merely a matter of who's the smartest among them.
This zest bordering on obsession for technology, the lack of historical records and the way in which they chose their leaders may seem a little odd to most people who encounter the gnomish race. They're brilliant, quite possibly the smartest race on the planet, and there's a reason for that -- a reason that wasn't revealed until Wrath of the Lich King. In the quest The Mechagnomes, Alliance players get to listen to the tale of Fizzcrank Fullthrottle, who has discovered something incredibly disturbing near the Fizzcrank Airstrip in Borean Tundra:
Anyway, we needed to pump up lots of sand and oil for the machinery. The nearby pools proved to be perfect for that. Some of the sand even proved to have magical properties ... can you say possibilities!? But that's a different tale.
So, we drained most of the water out and build the pumping station smack dab in the middle. Everything was going swimmingly until one day the main suction pipe got clogged. Mind you, this part I learned later because I wasn't out there at the time. When they ratcheted up the suction on the pump, up came pieces of a robot that looked like a gnome! Of course the fools worked night and day to put it back together without telling us. This is when we lost communication with the pumping station.
After a couple of days of silence, I sent a scouting party out to the platform. They never returned. I sent another group the next day with the same results, and lost a couple of flying machines out on aerial recon. At that point I sent someone south to find help, and we hunkered down to prepare for the worst. We turned all of our attention to making armor, weapons and robots so that we could head out there in full force.
When we did a few days ago, we couldn't believe our eyes! As I was saying, what we saw out there defied explanation.
My people where nowhere to be found, but in their place as a veritable army of robots and androids going about their business! The droids all looked like gnomes and they said that they'd been expecting us. In fact, in their own strange way, they acted like they knew us. We were surrounded and quickly taken to the top of the pumping station. That's where we saw their leader and what he was doing to the surviving gnomes!
He called himself Gearmaster Mechazod. When we arrived he was busy transforming the survivors into mechanical beings! He greeted us warmly and explained that he was one of the first gnomes ever to be created by something he called "The Grand Architect," a Titan keeper from within the halls of fabled Ulduar.
Apparently, he was the blockage that my team had accidentally sucked up from where he'd malfunctioned thousands of years ago. It was just our luck that we'd built the pumping station right above him. The station's mechanics had put him back together, bringing him back to "life."
And now, by way of thanks, he was going to return the favor by curing all of us of what he called the "Curse of the Flesh."
According to Mechazod, it's a condition that eventually befalls all creations of the Titans! In other words, we all supposedly start out as robots of some kind, and, over thousands of years, slowly turn into fleshy beings!
Gnomes were right up there with tauren as the two races with the least amount of recorded history in Warcraft, until Wrath. The explanation of their origins does a lot to shed light on both their attitude towards the Alliance and Horde, and their mysterious lack of any kind of historical records whatsoever. Robots, after all, have no need to document history if they've never been programmed for it. Current gnomes had no memory of their prior existence as mechagnomes, largely because there was no need to document it or the Curse of Flesh that turned them into the gnomes we see and interact with today.
Robots also have very little need for political organization or diplomacy and don't possess the inherent irrational nature that would lead them to anger or the viewpoint that races of differing origins were innately "bad." This is why there's no real animosity between the gnomes and the Horde. The animosity doesn't lie in gnomish opinion; it lies in whether or not the Horde is intent upon harming the friends the gnomes have already made. So long as no animosity is shown, no animosity is given in return, generally speaking.
However, the dwarves were the first real "friends" the gnomish race had and the first real allies their people had encountered, which led to the gnomish bent towards the Alliance. Had the gnomes originally encountered the tauren, for example, it's just as likely we'd be seeing the gnomes as a playable Horde race, rather than an Alliance one. Gnomish politics, as it were, aren't so much dependent upon gnomish beliefs, but more so on those that they happen to be friendly with at the time. They're staunch supporters of their friends and will do everything in their power to help those that they're allied with. The gnomes were a huge help to the Alliance in the Second War, their inventions, flying machines and weaponry tremendously useful to fight back the Horde.
During the Third War, however, the gnomes strangely refused to send any personnel to help their allies with the Burning Legion's invasion. They did send along designs and blueprints for various helpful machines and weaponry; however, no pilots or troops were sent along. The Alliance was somewhat shocked at this refusal of aid from an ally they'd been so close with during the Second War, but as the Burning Legion was a much larger problem, they didn't really look into why the gnomes had suddenly withdrawn.
It wasn't until after the success of the Third War that the Alliance checked back with the gnomes and discovered what had happened. Troggs, a barbaric, cruel race of humanoids, had emerged from the depths of Gnomeregan and invaded the city, slaughtering any gnome that got in their way. Despite the severity of the trogg attacks, the gnomes knew that the Burning Legion took priority over their situation, which is why they didn't send any of their personnel to help with the Third War. During the trogg invasion, High Tinker Mekkatorque was advised by Mekgineer Sicco Thermaplugg to irradiate the city in order to stop the troggs. While it did indeed halt the trogg's advance, it ultimately killed more gnomes than troggs and rendered Gnomeregan unlivable.
The dwarves took the gnomes into Ironforge and offered them shelter, but the losses were devastating. Over 80 percent of the gnomish race was wiped out during the events of Gnomeregan, and the whole of the damage rested on the high tinker's shoulders, something he carries with him to this day. The high tinker therefore has given priority to working on plans to retake Gnomeregan and sends adventurers in regularly to investigate the severity of the damage, carry out the death sentence given to Thermaplugg and kill the trogg survivors of the fallout, enabling those that still remain in the city's walls to make their escape. He's also assigned a few teams of researchers to work on anti-Scourge weaponry, some of which is visible here and there in Northrend.
While gnomish focus has leaned towards the eventual retaking of Gnomeregan, the gnomes still focus much of their energy on helping their allies -- particularly the dwarves that have taken them in and provided a temporary home for them within Ironforge's walls. But with the revelations given to the gnomes in Wrath, they suddenly have a lot more information about themselves as a race than they'd ever had before. It's how this information will affect them that is interesting.