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Beginner Roleplay: Choosing sides

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.

A lot of the columns I've been writing lately have been about the ins and outs of character development -- how to create a character that is rooted in the world and has a sense of realism, what that character should be aware of. But those are only the stepping stones to developing a character once you've chosen what to be. How do you go about choosing a character in the first place?

While you could simply flip through the character creation screen and pick whatever looks pleasing to the eye, if you wanted to, you may want to give it a little more thought than that. If you're looking for long-term roleplay, throwing aside a character because it just doesn't feel right once you've gone through all the work to make it viable seems like a gigantic waste of time. So let's break it down to the choices available, and the pros and cons of each, and make it a little simpler to figure out.


The Alliance are the touted heroes of World of Warcraft. When making a comparison between bad guys and good, the Alliance are the good guys. They are the native races of Azeroth -- with the exception of the Draenei -- that defend their world from those that seek to invade. The first Alliance wasn't the Alliance as we see it today; it was an Alliance of Human kingdoms. It wasn't until the Second War that the Alliance brought in outside races, and that's when the Dwarves and Gnomes came into play. And it wasn't until after the Third War that the Night Elves joined the Alliance as well. In The Burning Crusade, the Draenei followed suit, and in Cataclysm, the Worgen were added to the equation.

If you choose to play an Alliance character, be aware that though you are playing the good guys, things aren't so good for them in Cataclysm. Deathwing's arrival rocked the world, creating an all-out land grab from the Horde, and the Alliance has drawn the short end of the stick. Though vengeance has been dealt at long last to the Lich King, the Horde itself poses an immediate threat, one that has the upper hand.

This actually lends itself to some good roleplay situations, whether you want to play up the whole Alliance vs. Horde angle or the hero constantly under pressure. Because one thing is for certain as far as the Alliance is concerned: They have been beaten down, time and time again. And they repeatedly rise up, no matter how hard they've been beaten. Though the Horde holds the upper hand for now, the Alliance possesses the tenacity and sheer strength of will to continue to fight back, day in and day out.

If you are into playing the good guy, the golden hero, Alliance may be a good choice for you. Each Alliance race has its own troubles this expansion:
  • Humans The Humans of the Alliance are fresh from a victory over the Lich King in Northrend -- but that victory came at a cost. Thousands upon thousands lost their lives in the icy peaks of Northrend, both to the Lich King and his forces and to the Horde. In-fighting between Humans, whether from the Defias that still pose a threat in Westfall to the Twilight Cultists promoting the end of days, still plagues the Human realm just as much as the threat of the Horde.
  • Dwarves The Dwarves of the Alliance have their hands full with political intrigue. After the death of their leader, the Council of Three Hammers has risen to take its place -- but not without struggle. The Council represents the three different factions: the Wildhammer that take to the skies on their gryphons, the Bronzebeard that live deep in the heart of Ironforge, and the Dark Iron, a faction that has, until Cataclysm, been an enemy to all.
  • Gnomes The Gnomes of Gnomeregan have removed themselves from Ironforge's great halls, choosing to distance themselves from the political turmoil of their Dwarven friends and instead concentrate on fully reclaiming their capital city.
  • Night Elves The Night Elves are dealing with sorrow on all sides. Darkshore was nearly destroyed in the Cataclysm, and countless lives were lost as a result. In Ashenvale, the Horde continues to push into Night Elf territory; in Stonetalon, the Night Elves are viciously attacked. The life of an Alliance Night Elf, for now, is one of all-out war.
  • Draenei The Draenei are possibly the least developed race of this expansion, having been left largely to their own devices. They are still rebuilding their strength after their crash landing on Azeroth -- and according to Prophet Velen, preparing for a much larger battle that has yet to come, one that will dwarf any squabble between Alliance and Horde.
  • Worgen The Worgen are the newest members of the Alliance. Former Humans from the kingdom of Gilneas, the Worgen now make their home in Darnassus with the Night Elves. For it was the Night Elves who originated the curse brought upon Gilneas, and thus, the Night Elves claim responsibility. The Worgen's admission into the Alliance was not an easy one, and they still deal with potential mistrust from their allies, no matter how earnest their wish to help may be.


After the Second War, the former slave Thrall that guided the Orcs to freedom and took the mantle of Warchief. A vision by a mysterious Prophet sent Thrall and the Orcs across the sea from the Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor. Along the way, he encountered the Trolls of the Darkspear Tribe, and after befriending them, took them into the Horde. After arriving on Kalimdor, Thrall allied with the native Tauren as well. After the Third War and before the start of World of Warcraft, the Warchief took the Forsaken into the fold -- and through the Forsaken, the Blood Elves during The Burning Crusade. The latest addition to the Horde ranks are the Goblins of the Bilgewater Cartel.

The Horde aren't really presented as a group of bad guys. Rather, they are presented as the underdogs, the downtrodden. The Orcs are obviously not native to Azeroth, and the Darkspear tribe of Trolls were cast out from the great Troll tribes of Stranglethorn Vale. The Forsaken are former Humans, no longer able to return to their old lives even if they wished to do so. The Blood Elves, formerly the High Elves, were alienated from the Alliance years before. Only the Tauren are really free from any sort of perceived oppression -- they were simply nomads that joined Thrall's cause.

But Cataclysm saw the Orc that banded them all step down from the mantle of leadership, appointing another in his stead. And where Thrall had a vision of unity, Garrosh Hellscream seems to have anything but. Ruthless and bloodthirsty, Garrosh has made it his goal to conquer the land shattered by Deathwing in the name of the Horde, harkening back to the days of old. And that doesn't sit well with the other races of the Horde.

If you are into playing the underdog or simply in for a lot of tumultuous infighting, the Horde is probably a good fit for you. And the Horde races all have their share of troubles to deal with this expansion as well.
  • Orcs Garrosh Hellscream, who represents a drastic change in thinking, now leads the Orcs of the Horde. Where Thrall was a peacemaker, Garrosh calls for all-out war -- and though some Orcs follow him eagerly, others question whether his path is the right one.
  • Trolls The Trolls of the Darkspear have recently reclaimed their home on the Echo Isles. This is a good thing, because Vol'jin, the leader of the Trolls, has butted heads with Garrosh on more than one occasion. Trolls are not the biggest fans of Hellscream's reign.
  • Tauren The Tauren of Mulgore are dealing with loss, the death of their beloved chieftain, Cairne Bloodhoof. Combine that loss with the uprising of the Grimtotem Tribe, and you have a recipe for chaos.
  • Forsaken The Lich King is dead and vengeance has been dealt. But the Forsaken, led by the Banshee Queen Sylvanas, appear to have a new agenda, though the purpose of that agenda is as yet unclear. Aided by the Val'kyr, the Forsaken seem to care little for the troubles of their Horde brethren, instead intent on something far more wicked -- something involving the Forsaken Plague.
  • Blood Elves The Blood Elves of Silvermoon have their Sunwell restored and whole, but where does that leave them in the eyes of the rest of the Horde? Like the Draenei, the Blood Elves have seen very little development this expansion, instead concentrating on driving the remaining remnants of Scourge from their lands, keeping the Trolls of the Amani off of their doorstep, and avoiding the ire of Garrosh Hellscream.
  • Goblins The Goblins of the Bilgewater Cartel narrowly escaped decimation when a volcano set off by Deathwing's return destroyed their island home of Kezan. An attack by Alliance ships left the Goblins shipwrecked on a desolate island, and they found allies in the Horde that had landed there as well. After rescuing the former Warchief Thrall, the Goblins joined with the Horde in earnest. These days, they work for the Horde ... and profit off of the Horde as well.
Both Alliance and Horde have their pros and cons when it comes to roleplay. The Alliance is currently in a state of desolate turmoil, a perfect scenario for a hero representing justice or a downtrodden character simply trying to get back on his feet. The Horde isn't so much at odds with the Alliance as it seems to be at odds with itself; the alliance between races was thrown into chaos when Hellscream was appointed to lead. Cataclysm is an expansion of dark times, and each side has some pretty dark themes to consider. Whether choosing Alliance or Horde, you're in for a tumultuous ride.

For further plot points, check out these previous articles detailing each individual race:

Alliance Humans / Dwarves / Gnomes / Night Elves / Draenei / Worgen
Horde Orcs / Trolls / Tauren / Forsaken / Blood Elves / Goblin

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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