Know Your Lore: Scarlet Monastery revisited

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|01.22.12

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Know Your Lore: Scarlet Monastery revisited
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.

Number three on the list of Top 10 Lore Developments of 2011 was the subject of progressive instance lore -- the idea that an instance could change over time. We've had a few different examples of this over the past year; Cataclysm launched with heroic versions of both Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep, each with different, new bosses and a full-out story for why these new bosses were present. This was a surprise to those who were simply expecting level 85 versions of the old bosses -- but the new bosses and mechanics were well received.

In addition, 2011 saw the introduction of patch 4.1, in which both Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman were treated to makeovers and presented as 5-man heroics instead of the raids they used to be. Again, these changes were made along with story developments that explained them fully, with a new quest line and a patch cinematic thrown in, to boot. Though the dungeons themselves were incredibly difficult, the story of the rise of the Zandalar Empire and the conflicts with Vol'jin is gripping and still isn't finished being told. But all of this leads to one simple question.

What exactly will we see in heroic Scarlet Monastery?

Now, all lower-level zones got an update with Cataclysm, and this included old instances as well. Scarlet Monastery was the recipient of one of these revamps, and it isn't quite the same as it used to be. But if Blizzard follows the path of progressive lore that it seems to be so fond of, we're going to be looking at an entirely different instance at level 90 -- and I'm not just talking about layout here. We're talking possibly bosses as well, which leads us to wonder what's in store for this old instance and how it can be updated for level 90.

In the case of The Deadmines, Vancleef's daughter took over the operation, and in Shadowfang Keep, the now incredibly dead Arugal is no longer present, having been killed off for good up in Grizzly Hills during Wrath of the Lich King. Both Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman were a result of the Zandalari's sudden grab for power and attempt to reinstate the greatest troll empire ever known. But with Scarlet Monastery, the story is a little less clear, a little more muddled, with no predictable path for Blizzard to follow.

... possibly.
Scarlet Monastery now

Scarlet Monastery in Cataclysm is pretty much the last stronghold that the Scarlet Crusade has left. The Crusade took a heavy hit in Wrath with the loss of the Scarlet Enclave and later took further hits as they lost both Hearthglen and Tyr's Hand. Not only have they lost these areas, but Scarlet Crusaders across the Plaguelands are now their own faction of undead known as the Risen. All Risen are now working in earnest for the Burning Legion, which has manipulated them for years. But the Monastery remains free of corruption, its denizens still alive and well for now.

Players leveling through Scarlet Monastery will find two distinctly different stories depending on which faction they happen to be playing. The Horde story is fairly straightforward -- Sylvanas wants the Scarlet Crusade eradicated, and she's sent troops led by Dark Rangers to take care of this task. Given the bad blood between Sylvanas and the Scarlet Crusade, this storyline is fully expected and should come as no surprise.

The Alliance side, however, is a different story altogether. The Scarlet Rebels are a group of former Scarlet Crusaders who are now working on taking over the monastery. Led by Joseph the Awakened, this group seeks to eradicate the maddened, fanatical members of the Scarlet Crusade and try to restore the organization to some semblance of its former glory. Over the course of clearing out the cathedral, however, it is clear that Joseph, whose title changes from the Awakened to the Crazed and finally to the Insane, is just as fanatical and mad as the rest of the Scarlet Crusade. Alliance players leave him to his mad babblings of turning the Undercity into a "Scarlet paradise."

So what does all of this mean for the future of the Scarlet Monastery?
The future of Scarlet Monastery

There are a few different options available for this content that are easily predictable.
  • The rise of the Rebels Given the fact that Alliance players simply leave Joseph the Insane to wander the cleared monastery, it's entirely possible that the Alliance will encounter a fresh new group of Scarlet Crusaders to fight. These Scarlet Crusaders are the former Scarlet Rebels, who have now retaken their rightful home and have once again descended into madness, just as the prior Crusaders did. We'll have to clear them out, because in the end, there's no such thing as a good Scarlet Crusader. Whatever trickery Balzannar performed under his guise as Grand Crusader Dathrohan has simply stuck with these humans, and they will never really be sane again as a result.
  • The rise of the Forsaken Now here's an interesting thought. We've observed the rise of an almost-mad Sylvanas in Andorhal; we've witnessed her careless use of the plague, regardless of Garrosh's orders. We've helped her take back the Scarlet Monastery on the Horde side. What if this is leading to our having to eventually take Sylvanas down? Not in the monastery, of course -- that would be an inglorious end to a creature such as Sylvanas. But perhaps we'll have to begin that fight somewhere ... and where else but the citadel she reclaimed in Cataclysm?
  • Flip-flop and continue on Or from a pure logistical standpoint, wouldn't it be logical if each faction fought the other faction's boss? In Cataclysm, it's clear that the Horde have the Forsaken taking the monastery, and the Alliance have the Scarlet Rebels claiming it in their name. The Rebels are obviously against the Forsaken and wish to claim the Undercity as their own. It makes perfect sense, then, for level 90 Horde players to have to contend with Joseph and his followers. As for the Alliance, well they certainly don't want yet another stronghold of Forsaken about, so it's entirely likely they'll have to clear out the Forsaken and dark rangers that the Horde led to victory. Simple, elegant ... and pretty boring when you look at it, honestly.
Why don't we look at something a little less predictable?

Well hello there, Lillian. It's been a long time since we've seen you, hasn't it?
  • Lillian the Mad Lillian Voss lost whatever was left of her sanity when her father ordered her execution. A former member of the Scarlet Crusade, Lillian was raised to be a killing machine -- and she excelled at it. As a Forsaken, Lillian has lost everything that was once sacred to her. The Scarlet Crusade wants to kill her, and the Forsaken that she was raised to believe as evil want to use her for their own plans. Lillian stands astride both factions and is allied to neither one ... which makes her an imminently suitable candidate for taking over the Scarlet Monastery. After all, she'd feel most comfortable surrounded by the memories of her childhood, and from there, she could lead the fight against the Forsaken as she was taught was only just. Plus there's the fact that Lillan isn't quite right in the head -- and the odd purple fire she uses to eradicate her enemies could be a pretty interesting heroic boss mechanic to deal with.
Or maybe we could take it one step further removed and really go out there in La La Land for future content:
  • The Mad Whispers of Tirisfal High in the hills above Silverpine, a group of Fey Drunk Darters performs a mysterious ritual on a daily basis. The purpose of this ritual is unknown, but it is rumored that the shores of Tirisfal Glades and perhaps the Glades themselves are riddled with dark power. This darkness has infected the land in a profound way, and it's part of the reason why Sylvanas, the Scarlet Crusade, the Burning Legion, and pretty much anyone who stays in the area too long becomes a little unhinged, a little crazy. This force is possibly an Old God or a remnant of an Old God -- who can say, really? But the Whispering Gardens of the Scarlet Monastery have grown louder, more persistent, evolving from a curious regional trait to a full-out menace that needs to be dealt with. It is rumored that there is something far darker to the Scarlet Monastery than the simple madness of the Scarlet Crusade, and it is up to the adventurers of the world to discover the true story behind Tirisfal.
There are countless other options out there, but regardless of what's chosen, Tirisfal Glades and the Scarlet Crusade have a history that is so involved, so engaging, that it's almost guaranteed whatever we see in the heroic version of Scarlet Monastery is going to be amazing.

Or is it?
Is updating a good thing?

There are fewer and fewer players who remember the days of vanilla WoW, but those who do have very distinct moments of gameplay that are near and dear to their hearts. When the news broke that The Great Masquerade quest chain would be removed, nobody thought much about it until it was gone. It was one of the great moments of vanilla -- the slow, deliberate march through the streets of Stormwind, the unveiling of Onyxia. But player nostalgia isn't limited to just quests; there are bosses that are as near and dear to people's hearts as the heroic NPCs they love.

For many, the iconic scene of Scarlet Commander Mograine falling, only to be resurrected by High Inquisitor Whitemane, is one of these moments. The thought of having that iconic scene removed from the game and replaced with something else is almost heartbreaking to consider. Personally, out of all of the removed characters in game, I'd have to say that Mr. Smite ranks pretty high up on my list of things that I miss -- The Deadmines was the first instance I ever did, and the moment that the door breaks open, the moment that you first caught sight of an entire ship hidden away deep in a mine, and the words Smite bellowed will be forever etched in memory.

So is it better to update or to leave well enough alone? There are certainly more than enough reasons to update old content. In the case of The Deadmines, VanCleef needed to be replaced. As much as I hated the removal of Smite, the instance had simply played out. VanCleef was supposed to be dead, and it wouldn't have made sense to leave him alive when the rest of the world changed around him. And it led to a pretty amazing zone to level through, as well.

The same can be said about Shadowfang Keep -- Arugal met his final end in the Grizzly Hills, and having him suddenly reappear in Shadowfang Keep would have made little sense. And again, the zone lore supported the story in a meaningful way. But that was Cataclysm, and we're talking about Mists here ... so perhaps these heroic revamps will be treated a completely different way. Tirisfal Glades doesn't need another story update; it received one in Cataclysm.

What I'd like to see, and what I'd hope to see, is a combination of Cataclysm and old world. For level 90 players, a new storyline will play out in the Scarlet Monastery, a natural progression of the passage of time between the level ranges of the instance as it stands now and the time spent traveling and leveling after the instance has been left behind. But for players still in the low ranges, the monastery will still stand as it always has, and Mograine and Whitemane will still stand side by side, fighting until the end.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
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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