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All the World's a Stage: Dwarf and gnome 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!

Continuing on with our series on life spans, timelines, and how the different races of Azeroth relate to the timeline from a historical standpoint, today, we're going to look at two Alliance races with roughly the same life span: gnomes and dwarves. However, unlike every other race on Azeroth, these two races share a unique history that was only recently discovered. Even though most Azerothians don't really consider where their race may have originally come from, the dwarves and the gnomes know, unequivocally, where their races started -- and the discovery was a shock for both races involved.

Unlike their human allies, the dwarves and gnomes have been around just as long, if not longer, than their night elf allies. While life spans guarantee that there isn't a member of this race who remembers the thousands of years between their original creation and today, recent events have uncovered the truth behind that history and given the gnomes and the dwarves a unique outlook into just where they've come from.

Life spans

The average gnome's life span is a bit lengthier than that of their human comrades but nowhere near the length of their night elf allies. According to the Warcraft RPG, a gnome reaches maturity at around age 40 or so. Middle age is 100. An old gnome is one who's reached about 150 or so. A gnome who's 200 years of age is considered venerable. And the maximum lifespan for a gnome is anywhere from 205 to 500 years of age -- a considerable amount of time.

The life span of a dwarf is a little shorter than a gnome, but not by much. Dwarves also reach maturity at age 40, but middle age sets in at about 125. A dwarf of 188 years of age is considered old, 250 is considered venerable, and the maximum life span for a dwarf is around 252 to 450 years of age -- again, a considerable amount of time to exist.

Keep in mind that as with all life spans suggested by the Warcraft RPG, there may be inconsistencies here and there. The numbers aren't set in stone -- no pun intended -- but rather presented as a general guideline for players looking to root their characters a little more solidly in the lore.

History and timelines

Gnomes and dwarves are easily old enough to have seen everything from year 0 onward. Though gnomes and dwarves have both been present on Azeroth for an extraordinary amount of time, the timelines set for interaction between the dwarves and the gnomes are a little wobbly in some places. Let's take a look at the history of the dwarves and the gnomes, taken from the unofficial timeline on Wowpedia.

  • -2,500 This is the year in the Warcraft timeline that the original Ironforge dwarves "awakened" in Uldaman. Shortly after, these dwarves founded Khaz Modan. Obviously, this is way before any dwarf currently living on Azeroth came into existence.
  • -1,200 This is the year that marks the first contact between humans and dwarves, as detailed in the in-game book The Seven Kingdoms. Until this point, the dwarven race had been fairly reclusive; however, the secrets of metalsmithing shared between the dwarves and their newfound friends the humans sealed their relationship as allies.
  • -230 Many, many years later, the dwarves had split into three major clans: the Bronzebeard, the Wildhammer, and the Dark Iron. These three clans fought for supremacy when High King Anvilmar passed away from old age. The end result was the War of the Three Hammers.
  • -170 This is where it gets a little tricky. Remember when I said the timeline was a little wobbly in some places? Supposedly, this is the year the gnomes were first discovered by the dwarves and Gnomeregan was built. However, gnomes have been interacting with the other races of Azeroth for far longer than that. A gnome was one of the first members of the Council of Tirisfal, supposedly some 200 years before the dwarves awoke in Uldaman. While this meeting between gnome and dwarf is touted as the first "widely recorded interaction" between gnomes and dwarves, it is entirely possible the two races were interacting long before this point in time.
  • Year 5 Little is heard of the dwarves again until year 5 in the timeline, when the original Alliance of Lordaeron was formed. Though the orcs of Draenor came through the Dark Portal at year 0, these orcs concentrated their attacks on the kingdom of Stormwind and surrounding areas, which left little for the dwarves of Ironforge to worry about. It wasn't until the verge of the Second War that the dwarves joined with the human kingdoms, as the orcs' plans to travel north put Ironforge and Khaz Modan right in the path of the Old Horde forces.
  • Year 25-30 It isn't until Year 30 (Year 25 by the official timeline, the original launch of World of Warcraft) that life gets decidedly more interesting for the dwarven race. Always obsessed with history and discovering their past, the dwarves uncovered the truth behind their existence -- that they were once Earthen, creations of the Titans. At some point just after the Sundering, 10,000 years ago, the Earthen retreated beneath the earth to sleep, overcome with the pain of the world. During their time asleep, they experienced a "matrix destabilization" that caused their stone bodies to deteriorate into the fleshy creatures we know today.
That's a lot for any dwarf to handle. But the gnomes have just as much going on on their plate. The exact date for the beginning of the gnomish race has never really been pinned down -- but we do have a few dates when gnomes come into play.

  • -2,700 This was the year that the Guardians of Tirisfal were founded and a gnome sat on the Council of Tirisfal. This indicates that gnomish civilization had been interacting with human and high elf civilization for quite some time -- long enough for the kingdom of Dalaran to have taken in gnome mages that achieved enough prestige to be included on the Council. Here's the problem with the dates, however: In the Warcraft manga that tells the story of the Guardian's creation, Dalaran is already established. Yet according to the timeline, Dalaran isn't established until nearly 1,500 years later. This whole area of the timeline is considerably more vague than most. What I would suggest is ignoring the exact dates and just making a note that gnomes were interacting with other races well before the dwarves ever found them.
  • -170 Again, thousands of years later, the dwarves "discovered" the gnomes in the foothills surrounding Khaz Modan. While the dwarves were more concerned with metalwork and smithing, the gnomes displayed an amazing skill in engineering and tinkering, something that fascinated the dwarves. Gnomeregan was founded at the foothills of Ironforge, and the two races grew to become close allies.
  • Year 5 ... close enough allies, in fact, that the gnomes joined the dwarves during the Second War -- not out of any loyalty to the human race or any other, but simply because their good friends the dwarves considered this a cause worth fighting for -- and therefore it was a cause worth fighting for for the gnomes, too.
  • Year 20-25 Somewhere in this time period, while the other races of the Alliance were fighting the Third War, the city of Gnomeregan fell under siege by troggs. In an even bigger disaster, the city itself was irradiated due to the betrayal of Sicco Thermaplugg. Gnomeregan was no longer inhabitable, and the dwarves of Ironforge took in the survivors, giving them a section of Ironforge for their own: Tinker Town.
  • Year 27-32 Year 32 (Year 27 by the official timeline) marked a bizarre moment in gnomish history. Though the gnomes never really shared the dwarvish penchant for archaeology and history, events in Northrend uncovered the origins of the gnomish race. The gnomes were once mechagnomes, robots created by the Titans much the same as the Earthen from which the dwarves originated. Also like the dwarves, the gnomes were created when these mechagnomes experienced a matrix destabilization -- the Curse of Flesh.
Participation in history

As fairly reclusive races, historically dwarves and gnomes haven't really interacted with the rest of the Azerothian races. It isn't until Year 5 that the dwarves and gnomes began their alliance with the humans -- an alliance that was sealed just before World of Warcraft, when both races joined the new Alliance that we know today. Gnomes and dwarves are both a little longer-lived than their human companions, so it's entirely likely that a dwarf would remember the First and Second war. It's also possible that a dwarf may have lived long enough to have seen the War of the Three Hammers (but given the War took place roughly 260 years ago, you'd be looking at a fairly elderly dwarf, at that point).

As for gnomes, it's not so much a matter of history as a matter of gnomish thinking. Gnomes aren't really the sorts to get involved in massive wars or indulge themselves in history; they're far too busy thinking and tinkering with new and innovative ways to improve the quality of life. There isn't a lot out there in the way of recorded gnome history simply because the gnomes didn't feel the need to record it. Why bother documenting past events, when one is intent on improving the future?

The biggest event to impact gnomish life is the fall of Gnomeregan. The betrayal of Thermaplugg and the subsequent irradiation of the former gnomish home resulted in tremendous losses that devastated the gnomish people.

On top of that, they were reduced to living in Ironforge -- something that they didn't mind, as the dwarves were their friends -- but they still yearned to reclaim their lost home. Shortly before Cataclysm, a large step was made in that direction, and while the gnomes may not have reclaimed Gnomeregan, they are considerably closer to doing so than they were when WoW originally launched.

Roleplay potential and resource information

What makes both dwarves and gnomes fascinating individuals to play are the recent events uncovering the origins of each species. Both were originally Titan constructs, and both suffered the Curse of the Flesh, which "weakened" them to the creatures that they are today. A dwarf or gnome player can choose to ignore this information or to play with it -- and playing with it can give your character an added level of depth that most of the other Warcraft races simply can't touch.

Think about it. These races were created by the Titans -- about as godlike a creature as you'll find in Warcraft -- as perfect beings with a purpose in life and the methods to accomplish that purpose. Through no fault of their own, they are now far, far less than what they used to be. How does a dwarf, or a gnome, come to terms with that information? Do they view their evolution as a blessing or a curse? Or do they simply wave it away, preferring not to dwell in the almost supernatural nature of their origins?

It gives roleplayers a lot of food for thought. With Cataclysm, we've seen a resurgence of the Council of the Three Hammers, something that is sure to give dwarf roleplayers something to talk about. We've also got the archaeology profession, something that seems almost tailor-made for dwarf roleplayers who wish to further explore their history.

In addition, we've now got gnome priests to consider -- something that could simply be taken as the gnomish race taking interest in the healing arts, but a roleplayer could also spin it in the direction of a gnome's discovering his place in the nature of the universe and wishing to explore the nature of belief in relation to the Light as a result. This, coupled with an almost-retaken Gnomeregan, gives gnome roleplayers plenty to work with.

Wowpedia, of course, remains an excellent resource for roleplayers looking into dwarven and gnomish history. In addition, the leader short stories available on the Warcraft website include the story The Council of Three Hammers: Fire and Iron, which explores the current political situation in Ironforge now that the Council of Three Hammers has been reinstated. The novel The Shattering covers the fall of Magni Bronzebeard in detail, and as always, Know Your Lore remains a good resource, both for dwarven history and gnomish, as well.

All in all, while the dwarven and gnome timelines may seem fairly short from a historical standpoint, there are plenty of fascinating moments in time, most of which have occurred so closely in recent history that it's nigh impossible for a gnome or dwarven roleplayer not to take them into consideration. From creations of the Titans to simple beings of flesh and blood, dwarves and gnomes have a rich background of evolution teeming with roleplay potential.

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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