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All the World's a Stage: Humans and timelines in roleplay

Anne Stickney

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW. Have questions about roleplaying, or roleplaying issues? Email me -- I'm always open to suggestions!

We've discussed character creation and placing your character in the lore of the existing Warcraft world, but we haven't discussed the nitty-gritty about timelines and character development -- the little intricacies of characters, like how old is old, where your character could have conceivably been when he was born, what your character may have seen in his lifetime based on his age.

Today we're going to start a short series on timelines and take a little leap into lore on the side, while we're at it. The human race is probably one of the easiest to roleplay for beginners because they aren't all that different from us; the life span of a human in Warcraft is pretty similar to the lifetime of humans out here in the real world. What's fun about looking at human timelines is that they don't just apply to the human race; worgen and undead can also take a glance at human timelines to figure out just where they fit in.

Lifespans for human, worgen and forsaken

All suggested life spans for characters in the Warcraft universe are taken from the Warcraft RPG books -- and of course, these are only guidelines. In a magical world like Warcraft, it's possible for characters to extend their lives by countless years using various spells or rituals. With roleplay, you can stretch the limits of what is defined pretty well as long as you've got a good reason and explanation to back it up.

The RP human race reaches "adulthood" at age 15 or so -- earlier than we do out here in the real world, but we're talking Warcraft here; people grow up fast. Middle age for humans is defined as age 35; old age hits at about age 53; very, very old or "venerable" age would be about 80; and most humans don't live beyond 85-130. That last number seems like a stretch, but again, we're dealing with a magical world here.

For worgen, the same applies -- worgen players are human; they've simply been bitten and inflicted with the worgen curse. The worgen curse, however, doesn't affect life span at all, so the same rules apply. For forsaken players, this is going to be a little different; characters don't age, and they don't really have an "expected" life span. However, the age they were when they died determines how old they look in present day -- minus the rot and decay, of course.

The other reason you want an age for forsaken characters is so that you can flesh out who they were before they were forsaken. Forsaken characters may or may not retain their memories of their former lives; it's entirely up to the player. If you want to ignore your character's past life before he was raised, that's fine -- but if you want to give him memories of his former life, giving him an age when he died gives you something to work with going forward.

The Warcraft timeline

The timeline for Warcraft is a little ... complex, to say the very least. There are different versions of the Warcraft timeline on Wowpedia; the official timeline is the one that was originally posted on Blizzard's website, but it doesn't take into account all the novels and lore, dates and events that have occurred since the timeline was originally posted. There's also an "unofficial" timeline on Wowpedia that takes all that other lore information into consideration -- that's the one I like to use for reference purposes.

However, as far as dates are concerned, looking for exact dates in time for any Warcraft event is an exercise in sheer frustration. So don't get too wrapped up in finding precise, accurate dates, because there aren't any, really -- save one. The official and unofficial timelines both start at Year 0, which is the year that the orcs first came through the Dark Portal and invaded Azeroth, the year King Llane Wrynn was murdered and Stormwind fell. This is the year that the events in the first Warcraft game, Orcs and Humans, took place.

Every game and expansion after that took place a little farther ahead in the timeline. Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness took place in year 6; year 8 saw Beyond the Dark Portal; year 20 was the year of Reign of Chaos and the year that the Third War took place. Year 21 was the year of The Frozen Throne and when the Scourge menace first appeared in earnest.

The current year in which Cataclysm is taking place is a fairly ambiguous 30 to 33 or somewhere in there. Has it been defined and set in stone? Nope -- but we have a general idea, based on events that occurred during each of the games, expansions and novels. The unofficial timeline lists Cataclysm as year 33; the official timeline doesn't take Cataclysm into consideration, but we can assume year 30 or so.

Counting backwards

So what does this mean for your character? How old is your character? Pick an age. Now let's look at the timelines in relation to human characters:

If your character is ...

15 or younger Count backward 15 years in the timeline. Your character was born some time between year 15 to 18 in the existing Warcraft timeline. Year 18 was the year that the orc Thrall released the orcs from the internment camps in Lordaeron, after the end of the Second War. Stormwind was still in the process of being rebuilt, and the Defias hadn't quite formed yet.

Your character could have been born either in Lordaeron or in Stormwind's outlying kingdoms; the Old Horde was no longer a real threat. However, if your character was born in Lordaeron, he had to deal with the emergence of the Scourge before he hit 15 years of age. There are several options your character could have taken -- maybe he fled down south to Stormwind. Maybe he left with Jaina Proudmoore to Kalimdor and finished growing up in Theramore. Maybe he fled with the Silver Hand and was raised by the paladins of the order, eventually joining the Argent Dawn -- or he went the other route and was raised with the Scarlet Crusade.

Your character has experienced everything in the tail end of Warcraft III, and on top of that, he grew up during World of Warcraft, hitting maturity just when Deathwing decided to burst out of Deepholm and shatter the world. So he heard about Outland, he heard about the Northrend war, but he never really experienced it. He knew of the existence of the Lich King, but he never got to fight him hand to hand; he was too young to do so.

15-30 years old A 30-year-old character was born right on the cusp of the First War, when the orcs burst through the Dark Portal and began to raze the lands surrounding Stormwind, eventually toppling Stormwind proper. Your character likely won't remember any of this, seeing as how he was just a baby at the time. Again, your character could have been born either in Stormwind and the surrounding areas or up north in Lordaeron.

If your character was born in Stormwind, chances are he wasn't raised there; when Stormwind fell, everyone fled with Anduin Lothar to Lordaeron. But Lordaeron wasn't the only kingdom up north. At the time, there were seven human nations; Stormwind (also called the Kingdom of Azeroth) and Lordaeron were only two of them. There were also Dalaran, Gilneas, Kul Tiras, Alterac and Arathor (also known as Stromgarde).

Each of these kingdoms came together in year 5 of the timeline; a 30-year-old character would have been roughly 5 or 6 when the nations united to form the first Alliance of Lordaeron and fight back against the orcs in the Second War. Each kingdom had its own struggles through this war, and after the end of the Second War, the following had occurred:
  • Alterac was in a state of martial law just after the Second War, following the betrayal of its leader, Lord Perenolde. Many of the citizens of Alterac eventually banded together to form the Syndicate.
  • Dalaran was still intact after the Second War; however, about 20 years later, during the events of the Third War, Dalaran would fall. In an effort to protect it, the mages surrounded the city with the happy glowing bubble we saw during the days of vanilla. Eventually, Dalaran was upraised and moved to Northrend, where it exists today.
  • Gilneas withdrew from the Alliance of Lordaeron just after the Second War, in general disgusted with the rest of the human population. Soon after, the Greymane Wall was constructed, and nobody in Gilneas was allowed to leave -- and nobody from outside was allowed to enter. While some Gilneans were fine with this, others were not, and the city was embroiled in a rebellion where the two groups clashed horribly. Most Gilnean citizens later became worgen; some may have escaped the worgen curse, however, and simply left Gilneas when the wall fell during the Cataclysm.
  • Kul Tiras remained a staunch supporter of the Alliance after the Second War, but when the Third War began in year 20, Jaina Proudmoore took many of the Kul Tiras fleets and some of its citizens with her, founding the city of Theramore. Humans who traveled with Kul Tiras may have fought in the Third War against the Burning Legion, with night elf and Horde allies at the Battle for Hyjal.
  • Stromgarde/Arathor Citizens of Stromgarde suffered during the Second War at the hands of the Old Horde, and they withdrew from the Alliance of Lordaeron at the end of the war because Lordaeron and the Alliance chose to keep the orcs alive in internment camps, rather than executing them outright. Stromgarde continued to struggle, the Third War saw the Scourge armies raze the lands surrounding Stromgarde, and shortly after the end of the Third War, Stromgarde's leader, Thoras Trollbane, was assassinated. The kingdom crumpled under the attacks of Boulderfist ogres and the Syndicate. Today, the remnants of Stromgarde's citizens have founded Refuge Point, where they continue to struggle to take back their homeland and restore it to its former glory.
Human characters in their 20s and 30s will definitely remember the rise of the Scourge and the Lich King. It was a major event that affected everyone during that time -- if you weren't present for it, you likely had friends and family who were and may even have died. They would probably also remember at least tales of the events of the Third War, even if they weren't directly present for it at Hyjal itself. Worgen characters may remember the building of the Greymane Wall and might have a vague recollection of the Scourge, but beyond that, the outside world was a mystery to them. The rise of the Scourge didn't really affect everyday citizens of Gilneas, as the wall kept the Scourge out, and the Third War is something of a mystery to them.

30 years on up If your character is older than 30, it's simply a matter of going back further in the timeline. Human characters older than 30, however, were present for everything in the existing Warcraft games -- everything from Orcs and Humans all the way up to Cataclysm. If your character is in his mid-40s to 50s, it's likely that he actually fought in the First War. He has lived through the most tumultuous times that the world of Azeroth has to offer -- and what he remembers may change depending on what region he grew up in.

For forsaken players, the timelines stay the same -- but almost all forsaken were humans who died during the Scourge attacks on Lordaeron in year 30 of the timeline. So if you have an approximate age for when your forsaken died, simply go back that many years in the timeline for a general idea of what they grew up with and what they may or may not remember now, as a forsaken.

For more information on the various areas of the human kingdoms and their history, Wowpedia serves as an excellent resource. You may also want to check out the various Warcraft novels -- there's a good Know Your Lore resource guide that lists the Warcraft novels in chronological order. Speaking of Know Your Lore, the column itself has addressed many of the various areas of human history, expanding on how exactly the human race has progressed and the various factions and kingdoms have fared.

Lore may seem intimidating, but getting a look at the timelines and even reading the stories and novels that have been written in Warcraft can give you a much clearer look at how a human growing up in Azeroth feels, having grown up with all this history. You may be a human being in real life, but humans in Azeroth, while physically similar, have a very different outlook on life and what's important. It's a little tedious, but it can also be a lot of fun looking at the story behind Warcraft -- and those stories can often give your characters something new to look at in terms of roleplaying. Sometimes looking at the past lore is all you need as a catalyst to launch new stories of your own.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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