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Elements, heed my call! Roleplaying the shaman

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.

In the days of vanilla, the different races of Azeroth weren't just split by faction -- there was a class split as well. While the Alliance had paladins aplenty, the Horde equivalent was the shaman. In fact, the Warchief of the Horde itself was one of the most notable shaman on the Horde side of things, although both tauren and troll actively pursued shamanism as well. But as the game evolved, so too did the class split. Now draenei, dwarves, and pandaren have joined the fray on the Alliance side -- and goblins and pandaren are also available to Horde.

But what makes up a shaman? What kind of character follows this particular path? Paladins have several different points of origin depending on race, and the shaman do as well -- although they don't quite have as varied a difference in beliefs. For a paladin, the Light comes from many different sources. For a shaman, there are only the Elements, and how one chooses to interact with them.

After all, everything that is, is alive.

Elements, heed my call! Roleplaying the shaman SAT

Who you are

"If your power is so great, then why do you continue to live in such a harsh place?" Thrall asked. "If what you are saying is true, you could turn this barren mountain-top into a lush garden. Food would never be difficult to come by, your enemies would never find you--"

"And I would violate the primary agreement with the elements, and nothing of nature would ever respond to me again!" bellowed Drek'Thar. "Do you understand nothing? I am granted these things because I ask, with respect in my heart, and I am willing to offer something in return. I request only the barest needs for myself and my people. At times, I ask great things, but only when the cause is good and just and wholesome. In return, I thank these powers, knowing that they are borrowed only, never bought. They come to me because they choose to, not because I demand it! These are not slaves, Thrall. They are powerful entities who come of their own free will, who are companions in my magic, not my servants. Pagh!" He snarled and turned away from Thrall. -- Lord of the Clans

The shaman culture has long been a part of orcish society, as well as troll and tauren -- even the dwarves have practiced shamanism for ages, although it was by and large only the Wildhammer Clan that did so. Each has a basic understanding of the world, the elements, and the way the elements ebb and flow throughout every aspect of life. Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and the mysterious spirit of the Wild all coexist simultaneously where ever there is life to be had.

It is the nature of a shaman to understand and cultivate that balance, while working in harmony with the very elements that make up the world. For the orcs, this was something that they had been practicing for ... well, however long orcs had been around on Draenor back in the day. For the trolls and the tauren, their history stretches back equally long. The Wildhammer clan of dwarves are descendants of the earthen, just like the rest of the dwarfish race. However, they turn away from technology, choosing instead to embrace wild magic and the elements.

Elements, heed my call! Roleplaying the shaman SAT
For the draenei, it's a slightly different story. The draenei observed the shamans of the orcs without really understanding what they were. After the slaughter at Shattrath City, the draenei fled, and some began to devolve due to orcish fel magic. These draenei became what are now called the Broken. Among them was Nobundo, who sought out his own destiny and found it in the unlikely call of the elements themselves. Nobundo's tale is detailed in the short story Unbroken, which can be found on the Blizzard website for free.

Unbroken manages to beautifully break down and explain all that a shaman is, and why they do what they do. Although it explains the origins of draenei shaman, I really recommend that all shaman roleplayers read it just for further understanding into what exactly it means to be a shaman, the give and take involved and the respect one must show. Well, almost all roleplayers. Goblin shaman are cut from a very, very different cloth than any other race.

The practice of being a shaman is akin to making deals with the elements. For the other races of Azeroth, these deals are treated with utmost respect. For a goblin, a deal is a deal is a deal -- and goblins are very, very good at making deals that will get them exactly what they want. If a goblin shaman is making a bargain with the elements, you can be certain he makes sure he always gets the better part of the bargain. Does it make them bad shaman? No, it just makes them incredibly savvy.

Elements, heed my call! Roleplaying the shaman SAT

What defines you, and why you fight

For the orcish race, being a shaman was perfectly natural on Draenor -- until the orcs began dabbling in fel magic. At the height of Kil'jaeden's duplicity and the rise of orcish warlocks, the shaman slowly began to lose their connection to the elements. When the orcs stormed the Dark Portal, few remained that could hear the elements call. It wasn't until years later when Thrall broke free of his imprisonment and sought out the Frostwolf Clan that anyone really began practicing shamanism in earnest.

And that was part of Thrall's plan for the orcs. He wanted to take them back to the days of old, when shamanism was revered, to the days before the Burning Legion. Orc shaman are those that have come back despite all odds and regained the favor of the elements -- or those young and lucky enough to hear the call of the spirits. It's a matter of great pride to be an orc shaman, something that carries great respect.

Elements, heed my call! Roleplaying the shaman SAT
For trolls, tauren, and dwarves, being a shaman is much the same -- although it doesn't carry quite the same weight. They never lost their connection to the elements of Azeroth, it's always been there. For the draenei, it's something that is relatively new to their culture, but no less respected. And for the goblins ... well, for the goblins, it's a job. It's another means to get by and hopefully build a fortune, eventually. Goblins have pretty similar goals across the board, generally speaking.

Why do shaman fight? It's similar to the reason a druid fights -- to uphold the natural balance of the world. But motivations go far deeper than that, of course. How devoted to the call of the elements is your shaman? Was he a shaman from a very young age, or is it something he discovered later in life? If later, who was he prior to hearing the elements' call? Does he look at his heritage with reverence?

Is he a selfish individual who struggles with the elements for control, or does he flow with the natural give and take? Keep in mind that there are shaman out there who do not revere the elements so much as try to dominate them. The taunka are a very good example of this. Originally tauren, the taunka had to adapt to survive in the harsh sprawl of Northrend. In order to do so, their shaman evolved from respecting the elements to dominating them completely.

Elements, heed my call! Roleplaying the shaman SAT

Interaction with others

Unlike a paladin, a shaman isn't really concerned so much with the welfare of others or trying to spread a message like the Light encourages. Because of this, a shaman character could be friendly, chatty, and willing to speak with anyone -- or he could be so entwined with the elements that he speaks to no one but them. What you should look at is your character's back story -- who is he? Where did he come from? What was his family like? What was his childhood like?

Once you answer those questions and fit the story of how he became a shaman into it all, the answer should speak for itself as far as interaction with other characters. That penchant for talking with people doesn't really play into being a shaman so much as how your character was raised, what kind of events he's experienced throughout his life. If he was a chatty, friendly child with not a care in the world, he's likely a fairly chatty, friendly adult. If he experienced traumatic events in his lifetime, those events may have an effect on how he relates with those around him.

Although paladins generally try to spread the message of the Light, be it directly or indirectly, a shaman doesn't really do the same. He may happily answer questions regarding the elements and their place in the world, or he may gently encourage those that seem to have a bent for the natural arts. He may tell tales of how the elements entwine to create everything we know in the world. Or he may keep his shamanism, his rituals, his spells, and his habits to himself whether by virtue of being unwilling to share, or fear that others may upset the order and balance.

The elements are as much a part of a shaman as they are of any living thing. The difference between a shaman and others is that the shaman knows this, recognizes it for what it is, and appreciates the complexities of life all the more for it. Whether he respects them, cuts deals with them, or dominates them, the elements represent a deeper portion of a shaman's life that should be embraced.

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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