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.
Warcraft has a huge story behind it that stretches back over three expansions and an original MMO, three RTS games, and expansions to those RTS games. It covers novels, comics, manga, short stories, and even books, quests, and items currently found in World of Warcraft. The sheer amount of information out there can be a dizzying, massive pile of stuff to keep track of for the average player. Though Cataclysm's done pretty well with incorporating story and lore into gameplay, there are still tons of question out there left to be answered. Cataclysm doesn't cover everything.
That said, this week I decided to mix it up a bit and answer some lore questions from previous posts. To mix it up even more, I also put a call out on Twitter for everyone's burning lore questions. I won't be doing these too terribly often, but if you've got a question that isn't answered in this post, feel free to leave a comment and I'll come back here next time I decide to do a Q&A. Let's get started, shall we?
@ericisgame from Twitter asked:
How many Old Gods are there currently and how many do you think will be eventually revealed?
Currently, we know of four: C'thun down in Silithus, Yogg-Saron up in Northrend, and the mysterious N'zoth that was mentioned by Chris Metzen at last year's BlizzCon lore Q&A. The fourth isn't on Azeroth at all -- it's in Outland. The Sketh'lon Arakkoa are trying to summon it in the lava pits south of the Sketh'lon Base Camp. Whether or not it's a true Old God hasn't been said one way or another, but it's been said before that the Old Gods are not limited to Azeroth.
As for how many we'll see revealed ... I'd assume just as many as Blizzard sees fit to put into the game. I've made theories on the Old Gods before, how many of them existed and their locations, but those are just guesses, not actual lore.
If the NElfs gained their immortality from Nordrassil (after Illy tried making a 2nd Well), what was their lifespan before? Wasn't she already like 10k years old by that point?
The Night Elves already had a fairly lengthy lifespan, but they'd still die of old age. Malfurion, Tyrande, and Illidan were all relatively young at the time of the War of the Ancients. They were still in training for what they wanted to be when they "grew up," as it were. Tyrande definitely wasn't anywhere near 10,000 years old when the war began, but we don't know exactly how old she was, either. We don't really have a source for exactly how long this race lives; the closest we have are the RPG books, which have been classified as non-canonical by Blizzard, so we can't really use them.
I know that the Demon Soul was originally called the Dragon Soul, but when did the name switch? When Deathwing used it during WotA or later?
The name was changed just after Deathwing's betrayal during the War of the Ancients. The Dragon Soul was a proper enough name for the item, seeing as it contained pieces of every dragon on Azeroth, but the name Demon Soul seemed to fit better, considering the way Deathwing decided to use the item.
If the Wyrmrest accord encompased all dragonflights, why werent the nether there? Was the blue dragonflight pissed off at them or did they not care about the BC dragons?
The Netherwing are basically warped children of Deathwing. They aren't a real dragonflight in that sense, because they'd be classified under the Black Dragonflight. Some Netherwing made a trip to Azeroth in the Nexus Point manga, but they met an unfortunate end -- and it's probably for the best that the rest stay hidden away. Besides, they had their own problems in Outland with the Dragonmaw; they didn't have a real reason to come to Azeroth or even to care about Azeroth one way or another.
@orkchop from Twitter asked:
How exactly do Draenei become Broken?
They don't -- at least, not anymore. Back before the Orcs traveled through the Dark Portal into Azeroth, when they were still in the midst of Kil'jaeden's corruption, the Orcs were twisted into thinking that the Draenei were their enemies. It was all Kil'jaeden's doing, sort of a revenge on Velen for his refusal to join the Burning Legion way back when. The Orcs, at Kil'jaeden's urging, began a wholesale slaughter of the Draenei people, including an assault on Shattrath City. During the assault, the Orcs used some sort of bomb filled with fel energy that released a mist over the city. The Draenei who breathed the mist suddenly found themselves abruptly cut off from the Light.
Most perished in the attack, but those who escaped were still cut off from the Light. Due to the fel energies they breathed in, their bodies began to warp and mutate into the Broken we see today. Because these Draenei were unable to use the Light, the untainted Draenei no longer trusted them and politely asked them to leave. Nobundo the shaman trainer is a Broken -- and he's also a shaman because he's a Broken. The Light refused to have anything to do with him, but the spirits of the elements spoke to him, and he learned how to become a shaman from that.
Obviously, Nobundo is now accepted by the Draenei for the most part, and that's Velen's doing. There is a wonderful short story called Unbroken, by Micky Neilson, available on Blizzard's website. I totally recommend reading it, as it tells not only the story of Nobundo but the story of the Broken as well, and it's really well done.
@dewhunter from Twitter asked:
Why is Thrall green?
Awesome question. The Orcs of Draenor turned green as a result of the Blood Curse when they drank the blood of the pit lord Mannoroth and bound themselves to the Burning Legion. That Blood Curse is a contagious thing. Twelve clan chieftains originally drank the blood of Mannoroth, but everyone was affected by the side effects -- including Durotan and his wife Draka, who refused to drink the blood. Even though they weren't really bound to the Burning Legion, they were still green when all was said and done and they were shoved through the Dark Portal.
The Frostwolves were exiled from the rest of the Orcs of the First Horde, but the fel taint that had turned their skin green wasn't something that just faded away. Draka and Durotan were still green when they had Thrall, and Thrall through proximity turned green as well. It never faded, even after Grom Hellscream killed Mannoroth and broke the Blood Curse. It's the reason that Blood Elves still have green eyes, even though the Sunwell has been restored -- the corruption from fel energies take an unknown length of time to wear off.
@shamanrongar from Twitter asked:
Not having read "The Shattering," the sudden emergence of Aggra was quite jarring. Where did she come from? Any big prior roles?
Aggra's first appearance was in The Shattering, and she didn't really have any major roles prior to that. She was simply a shaman in Garadar, a pretty good one by Geyah's standards. In the novel, Thrall was worried about the upset elements of Azeroth. He decided to travel to Garadar in order to speak with the elements there, because they were most likely to understand why the elements of Azeroth were so upset. He also traveled there to hone his abilities as a shaman, something he hadn't done since the days prior to his ascension as Warchief.
When he arrived, Geyah assigned his training to Aggra. Aggra wasn't exactly pleased about this assignment -- Thrall was a stranger from another world, he had the green skin of corrupted Orcs, and he called himself Warchief but used the term "slave" as his name, instead of his proper name. That last part really confused Aggra, and it really began to grate on her nerves when he started getting haughty with her just because he happened to be Warchief on the strange planet that he'd come from. Sparks flew, and they turned from anger to ... well, to what we see today.
@Adynnith from Twitter asked:
I want to know why the Mages moved Dalaran to Northrend when Arthas destroyed them to begin with.
Actually, it wasn't Arthas who destroyed Dalaran. He led the Scourge through the city, yes, and murdered a bunch of people, absolutely -- but he was there to steal the spellbook of Medivh. After he nabbed the book, Kel'Thuzad used it to summon Archimonde to Azeroth. Archimonde, delighted at his newfound freedom, decided to wreck Dalaran as his first act. The mages returned eventually, swept the Scourge from the city and put it in the bubble we saw in vanilla WoW so that they could rebuild.
As for moving the city to Northrend ... well, it wasn't really so much to do with Arthas, as it was Malygos. When Malygos regained his sanity, he decided the mages of the world weren't enlightened enough to use magic as was proper. And then he decided to start dragging all the ley lines of Azeroth up to the Nexus. This affected the mages of the world -- particularly the Kirin Tor. So they traveled to Northrend not only to keep an eye on Arthas but, more importantly, to figure out what the heck was going on with the Blue Aspect.
@AlaskaSkyPilot from Twitter asked:
when is Blizz going to start on WoW lore and stop with Warcraft 2 & 3? WoW is old enough for its own lore, I would think.
It has already, starting as early as The Burning Crusade. The Draenei were created for The Burning Crusade; they didn't exist before they were created for the Burning Crusade expansion. The plight of Kael'thas and his corruption, the addiction to fel magic that tainted the Blood Elves -- that was all introduced in that expansion. The Naaru, the Arrakoa, every town, every event that happened on the shattered world of Outland, that was all the creation of WoW, not prior events. The current events in Karazhan? Those came along with The Burning Crusade, too.
The Burning Crusade represented the first big steps into integrating lore with gameplay. Sure, you saw it a little in vanilla with some truly epic quest chains that took you all over the world, but most of the time, quests weren't really more than reading quest text. They didn't have the interactivity we see today. In The Burning Crusade, we saw storylines that spanned zones with the Horde's introduction to the Mag'thar. We saw an interactive rep grind that had a comprehensive storyline behind with with the Netherwing. And we saw ourselves responsible for the introduction of raid bosses with Teron Gorefiend in Black Temple.
On top of that, we saw our faction leaders suddenly start to take action. Velen traveled from the Exodar all the way into the Sunwell. Thrall made the journey from Orgrimmar to Garadar. Garrosh Hellscream was a character who was entirely introduced in World of Warcraft, as was Saurfang the Younger -- and both would play pivotal roles in Wrath of the Lich King, although we didn't know it just yet.
Varian Wrynn? His entire backstory and disappearance all occurred within the confines of the WoW universe. Arthas may have been the villain of Wrath of the Lich King, but many of the elements introduced in Wrath had nothing to do with anything we'd seen in prior games. Everything having to do with the Titans, with the origins of the Gnomes and Dwarves -- that was all World of Warcraft lore. And it continues in Cataclysm.
The Worgen were first seen in vanilla, and their origins were finally explained in Cataclysm with a comic series that also gave us more of a glimpse into Night Elf history. The Goblins of the Bilgewater Cartel were new characters also created for Cataclysm. Velen talks of a mysterious prophecy -- that prophecy isn't anything we've heard about prior to World of Warcraft. What you see happening in Cataclysm, sure it's because of Deathwing, and Deathwing's been around for a very long time; but the repercussions, the conflict between Horde and Alliance suddenly erupting, Thrall stepping down as Warchief and putting Garrosh in his stead, Vol'jin's upset, Cairne's death, Magni's death, the invasion of the Firelands -- it's all original material.
What you are seeing isn't Blizzard just rehashing lore from Warcraft 2 and 3; you're seeing the evolution of those storylines. When we last saw Arthas in Warcraft 3, he had just ascended to the Frozen Throne. It was only natural that he would pop up again some day; his story wasn't complete. The Dark Portal wasn't destroyed; it was there throughout all of vanilla, simply waiting to be opened again. Kael'thas didn't disappear into Outland never to be seen again; he was doing his own thing -- and it ended up being something very bad. As for Deathwing -- he never died, he simply escaped. So it's only natural he would eventually make a return.
Blizzard has created plenty of lore that is WoW based. You play through it every day. Think of it in terms of a series of novels. The first few books establish the main characters; later novels continue the story in a linear fashion using those characters. Simply ignoring the events of the Warcraft RTS games would be like pretending the first two books in a trilogy just didn't exist at all. And that would make very little sense.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
The Curse of the Worgen and the Scythe of Elune, part 1 and part 2
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.