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Know Your Lore: A miscellany of characters

Matthew Rossi

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.

There are a lot of interesting characters in World of Warcraft who deserve some time in the spotlight, but who don't have major, epic, world-changing effects on the storyline of the game. They exist, they put in their appearances and then move back out of the spotlight, these Harry Dean Stantons of the Warcraft universe. Some date back to original WoW, while others debuted in Cataclysm, but all are characters that managed to grab the attention with their time on the stage.

This week I wanted to take a look at these supporting characters. Some no longer exist in the game; others you can still run into. Some have a reoccurring presence; others came and went. Like J.T. Walsh, when you see them you immediately think, "Hey, it's that guy" (or sometimes girl, or even thing). I expect this will be a mini-feature in this column, as there are a lot of supporting characters in the game worthy of a mention. I'd have liked to include Joanna Blueheart this time around, but she really only appears in one quest chain and it doesn't feel like it's time yet. Still, she is really awesome, so she's the header image this week.


Nazgrel is one of my favorite characters even though he's basically just a fairly stereotypical Orc. He hates Humans, hates peace, hates the Alliance and is utterly loyal to his Warchief, Thrall. Nazgrel hasn't really gotten upgraded to the current Cataclysm storylines and is still sitting in Thrallmar leading the Horde's advance into Hellfire Peninsula, stuck in BC content. Quite frankly, I think that's a shame.

Nazgrel was always interesting to me because he personified the dichotomy of the Horde: an aggressive, old-style Orc who believed wholly in the Blood and Thunder approach yet suborned his feelings out of loyalty and respect for the Orc who has led his people out of the internment camps.

Nazgrel featured in the events of Warcraft 3's bonus campaign, the Founding of Durotar. He worked along Rexxar, Vol'jin, and Cairne Bloodhoof to secure the future of Orgrimmar and served as one of Thrall's closest advisors before heading to Thrallmar and his duties there. A strong, stoic, completely focused Orc warrior, Nazgrel served as Thrall's right hand during the Warchief's attempt to reclaim his origins and reconnect with the orcs of Outland. It was Nazgrel who ordered forces under his command to investigate what ended up being a small Mag'har base in Hellfire. Nazgrel who opposed the "true Horde" of Kargath Bladefist and his Fel Orcs. Without Nazgrel, it's unlikely that Garrosh Hellscream would be Warchief today.

Frankly, the big lug's wasted in Thrallmar coddling the masses of heirloom-wearing buttercups. I'd love to see him come back to Orgrimmar and deal with a Warchief who shares many of his ideas about peace and the Alliance yet isn't the one he pledged blood brothership and loyalty to.

Nazgrel is just a really iconic Orc. He is what I think of when I think of the classic Orc warrior serving his Warchief. Saurfang's a little too high in the clouds to be a meat and more meat Orc like Nazgrel.

The Horde has risked much to venture into Outland - resources, manpower - even the tactical defense of our lands is at stake. Despite all else, Thrall believes in the promise of this ravaged land. There is a strange light in his eyes these days - as if he senses some stirring revelation the rest of us do not.

Still, he is my warchief and my blood-brother. I would follow him through the gates of the abyss itself.

I'm gonna light you up, sweet cheeks!

Millhouse Manastorm started off as an innocent victim, and that's how I prefer to think of him even today. We don't really know that much about Millhouse. He's a Gnome, he's a wizard, and he got himself stuck in the Arcatraz at some point between the Naaru departure and the Blood Elf takeover, where he was locked up next to Harbinger Skyriss.

If you've never run Arcatraz, I seriously suggest you go and do so now just to get to experience Millhouse in his original glory. Once he's released, he is almost immediately offended by being referred to as a "lowly Gnome" by the warden of the mystical prison, and he begins casting a suite of power-up spells before engaging in battle alongside you. Not only are the emotes he spews while preparing for combat priceless, he's a potent mage who willingly joins your side in the fight despite having absolutely no idea where he is or who you are. Someone called him a name, and for that, extra large cans of whoop-ass are promised. And delivered.

Sadly, Millhouse's next appearance indicates that spending all that time locked up next to a Harbinger of an Old God wasn't good for his sanity. From the first moment I saw who the Twilight Forgemaster in Deepholm was, I've been sorry to realize that the awesome Gnome I once fought alongside had been corrupted. I still hold out hope that his appearance in the Stonecore is an elaborate charade, a deep cover mission too important to break cover. Millhouse's appearances in World of Warcraft are really all the lore and backstory we need: a powerful wizard who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and was exposed to evil from beyond the stars.

I'm Gryan Stoutmantle, and you took the chausses

You may not know it, but Gryan's been around forever. Many of us remember him from his appearance in the Grizzly Hills leading the Westfall Brigade, and some of us who leveled Alliance before Cataclysm remember him and the People's Militia trying to defeat the Defias in Westfall. More recent players ran into Gryan in Westfall after the War in Northrend trying to put the region back together again while dealing with the legacy of the Defias. But in lore, Gryan goes even further back than that. Gryan was around when Arthas went crazy and starting purging folks in Stratholme, one of the few confirmed survivors of that massacre.

I like Gryan because he effectively personifies the life of a Human in the Warcraft setting. Driven from the Kingdom of Stormwind to the north during the period between the First and Second War and then driven south again by Arthas's actions and the fall of Lordaeron, he spent time fighting to rebuild his home in Westfall, went north to fight the Lich King (the same guy responsible for driving him back south) and then ended up in Westfall again, still fighting. The guy just hasn't seen much peace. He's gruff, no-nonsense, and pragmatic enough to send a group into the Deadmines to take out Van Cleef when his militia couldn't do it.

There's really not much more lore to Gryan than that, really. He was one of the more interesting examples of the NPC evoluton Anne talked about with his branching dialog based on whether or not your character did the original quests in Westfall. He even remembers if you started but didn't finish them. Gryan manages to be a paladin without being irritating about it, a good man who's been buffeted around the same as most of the people of Azeroth, and has chipped in and done his part wherever he could. I like that.

Next week, I'm going to talk about the most influential Orc who has ever lived.

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.

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