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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: What was the purpose of Uldaman?

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.

We talked last week about the various Titan facilities left behind on Azeroth, and even then, some things really nagged at me.
  1. The three known Titan 'cities' spoken of in the histories the dwarves have access to are Ulduar, Uldum and Uldaman. This doesn't preclude others, but it does imply something about those three cities and their relative importance.
  2. Both Ulduar and Uldum have been shown to be of importance to the Titans and their overall plan for Azeroth. Ulduar is where Yogg-Saron was held and was the facility from which the Prime Designate (Loken) kept his seat of power, where the Algalon protocol would be exercised. Uldum, for its part, was the seat of the massive engines that would power planetary reorigination if Algalon had sent Reply-Code Omega.
  3. With both Ulduar and Uldum revealed to be of such planetary importance, what was Uldaman's purpose? Was it merely to safeguard the Discs of Norgannon, and if so, why did it have such a large contingent of earthen and potentially mecha-gnomes but no vrykul, mogu, tol'vir or other such Titan constructs, and no Titan Watchers like the ones of Ulduar or Uldum's Halls of Origination. True, Ironaya and Archaedus remained, but they were more akin to Auriaya the Archivist than to designated Watchers like Freya, Hodir or Loken. (Indeed, Auriaya even drops items with their names on them, indicating that kinship.)
So what does this all mean? Well, I have some theories. This is a speculative essay, what's been called a Tinfoil Hat edition around here, that takes the knowns we have and connects them into what is hopefully a plausible explanation of the unknowns.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition What was the purpose of Uldaman wed

Subterranean city, your sleep is fitful

Uldaman today is almost entirely subterranean. The facility is so thoroughly buried beneath the mountains of the Badlands that all our current access to the place is from Explorer's League or Reliquary excavations. This is interesting because discoveries within the complex itself (especially the Map Room) indicate that Uldaman was one a massive above-ground city with multiple structures, rivaling Ulduar in size. It seems exceedingly likely that before the Sundering, all of what is now the Badlands and perhaps Loch Modan and the mountains of Khaz Modan were part of the Uldaman complex. The map of Uldaman certainly hints at this. What we experience when we explore the instance is but a small fragment, a few excavated halls.

Furthermore, what little has been exposed of Uldaman includes the Map Chamber, with the construct Ironaya who is found studying plans drafted by Khaz'goroth in an attempt to restore the complex's original purpose. Khaz'goroth was the Shaper of Worlds, the Titan who bestowed the Aspect Neltharion with his powers as Aspect of Earth, the craftsman and shaper of the Pantheon. This implies that all of the Titan facilities on Azeroth were designed by him, which isn't surprising as he is known as the Shaper of Worlds and it's confirmed that he created Un'Goro Crater to serve as a test bed for his designs on Azeroth. This implies that Khaz'goroth's hand is the one that created the basic design for Azeroth itself, alongside Norgannon and Eonar. Eonar due to her power over life, which is clearly what places like Un'Goro and Sholozar were designed to test and design, and Norgannon due to his role as Lorekeeper. It was Norgannon who gave the map of Azeroth's ley lines to Malygos, for instance. Those ley lines, created by Khaz'goroth's earthen, were also part of the design.

Subterranean being matrices and the truth of flesh

Indeed, once we make our way further into the depths of Uldaman, we confront Archaedas. This powerful Titan construct awakens sleeping earthen in an attempt to protect the Discs of Norgannon, which contain details about the earthen, the dwarves and the troggs. The Lore Keeper of Norgannon, unlike Archaedas, is willing to share this information with anyone who reaches it. The full exchange (while fascinating) is too large to reproduce here, but there's some parts of particular interest.

What is a 'subterranean being matrix'?

It is one of the synthesis matrices the Creators use when seeding a world. Each synthesis matrix is used to achieve the Creators' goals. For Azeroth, a subterranean being matrix was modified to create a being with increased durability with an affinity for deep region shaping; the Earthen are the product of this modification.
After the Earthen had been put into service for the Creators, unforeseen anomalies were discovered that affected their synthesis matrix due to high-stress environments.

What are the anomalies you speak of?

Additional background information on the Earthen must be given to you before this question may be answered properly. Processing.
To understand the anomalies of the Earthen, it is first important to understand what the Earthen represent in their design intent. The Earthen represent the Creators' attempt at improving the survivability paradigm of the standard subterranean being matrix. This was done by incorporating a resilient foundation of construction inherent to the world into said matrix.

What is a resilient foundation of construction?

It is the baseline material used in race synthesis. A cross-section of Azeroth's crust was used as the foundation for the Earthen's synthesis rather than the typical biomass construction foundation used by the Creators.
Research on the world's composition led the Creators to theorize that an enhanced being could be synthesized that would epitomize the resiliency of this world's essence. This was accomplished by choosing to use a blend of Azeroth's various stone core compounds as the foundation.

The reason I've chosen to present, out of the whole long and interesting exhange between the Lore Keeper and the adventurers who first defeated Archaedas, this passage is because it directly touches upon what I believe the Uldaman facility was designed for. Take particular note of the passage under "What is a resilient foundation of construction?" and pay very close attention to the way it is phrased. A cross-section of Azeroth's crust was used as the foundation for the Earthen's synthesis rather than the typical biomass construction foundation used by the Creators.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition What was the purpose of Uldaman wed

In other words, the typical 'synthesis matrix' used by the Titans when creating a seed race is biological. The Titan construct races we've encountered - the vrykul, the earthn, the tol'vir, the mogu, the mecha-gnomes - that are constructed of inorganic materials like stone, earth, or metal are modified. They were an attempt by the Titans to create beings that were of higher durability due to the difficulties inherent to the Azeroth project. And this informs what happens once the earthen's subterranean matrix is destabilized by a 'high-stress environment' (which the Lore Keeper notes is not deep earth sculpting, which was not high stress to the earthen) - the Titans don't simply scrap the earthen, but they instead experiment to see in what direction the destablization will develop, and while the troggs are viewed as undesirable the dwarves are apparently considered eminently satisfactory by the Titans and allowed to develop. Why?

We are as we were meant to be

We now go to the Tribunal of Ages for some of the details of this answer. While the Lore Keeper of Norgannon found in Uldaman is either unable or unwilling to discuss what those 'high stress' factors are, the Tribunal shares more information on them. The matrix destablization is designated the Curse of Flesh by the Tribunal. In its presentation, the Tribunal implies that the Curse of Flesh was created by the Old Gods in order to make it easier for them to assimilate the creations of the Titans. When the Prime Designate Loken engineered a war between the various giants of Azeroth, he ultimately used that war as an excuse to create new races of earthen and vrykul which could not be affected by the Curse of Flesh.

This leads me to wonder - if the Curse of Flesh is created by the Old Gods, how did Loken create Titanic constructs immune to it? Furthermore, why did he? Loken was by this time under the control of Yogg-Saron, an Old God imprisoned within the Ulduar complex. If the Curse of Flesh was created by the Old Gods to assimilate Titan constructs, why did Loken make constructs immune to it? How did that benefit the Old God he served? Remember, Loken had access to the Tribunal of Ages. It could have been telling us what he wanted it to. He was, after all, the Prime Designate and could have planted information in it to throw us off. He wouldn't even need to tell it to lie - simply to shade how it presented its data.

Consider this - the Curse of Flesh is originally described by the Lore Keeper of Norgannon as matrix destablization caused by high stress environments. Furthermore, look at every place where the Titans were working to create life on Azeroth, places like Un'goro, Sholozar and the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and what do you find? Biological life. The creatures so carefully created and shaped by the Titans are living beings of flesh and blood and bone, and the Lore Keeper directly states that the Synthesis Matrices used by the Titans typically use biomass. The constructs of Azeroth were made out of modified Subterranean Being Matrices in order to assist in the long-term goals of the Titans in shaping Azeroth. And the details of this were specifically stored at Uldaman because that was Uldaman's entire purpose. When the earthen were destablizied, the Titans weren't upset, because they'd anticipated that it would happen. Indeed, it was part of Azeroth's design that it should happen, which is why Loken subverted their design by creating constructs that wouldn't destabilize.

Seed races, biomass, and the petri dishes of the Titans

Seed races are meant to be biological. The Curse of Flesh is a natural response to the presence of an Old God. The Old Gods didn't design it, didn't unleash it, they simply cause it by their very existence. The presence of an Old God is an inherently high stress environment for a Titanic construct, and it causes these modified Synthetic Matrix beings to revert to an unmodified form that doesn't require a creation forge to maintain its population. The earthen, and all other Titan constructs on Azeroth, were designed for long term work maintaining the creation of Azeroth and then, after said creation was complete, were designed to become biomass - their existence as beings of flesh and blood isn't a defect, but rather their ultimate purpose, to become beings that would integrate fully into Azeroth and live as a part of the same ecology the Titans were so busy creating. Clearly the Titans didn't disdain flesh and blood entities - not only is Eonar herself dedicated to their preservation, but she created an Aspect to shepherd the process of life on Azeroth.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition What was the purpose of Uldaman wed

This also makes sense when we see that Siamat, when he claimed that the Curse of Flesh was a failure of the Titans, was using Deathwing's power to reverse the process on the Neferset tol'vir. Deathwing was given his power by Khaz'goroth, the very same Titan who constructed Uldaman (where the Discs of Norgannon were found) and the Shaper's Terrace in Un'goro that oversaw the development of biological life there. The presence of the Lore-Keeper of Norgannon in Ulduar as well as Uldaman indicates that Loken had access to similar information. Uldaman's entire purpose was to study and perfect the matrix destablization of modified Synthetic Matrixes so that beings like dwarves and humans would come to be, rather than troggs which lacked the usual intelligence of a Titan creation. In other words, the problem wasn't the flesh, but rather the result of an improper destablization that left elemental traces, creating troggs with the brute strength of an earthen instead of a dwarf. One could postulate similar problems for the other Synthetic Matrices.

The biggest problem with the Curse of Flesh is that it accelerates the timetable, and in so doing, can lead to an improper result. This is a process meant to take geological time, and the existence of the Old Gods speeds it up. Considering that we've seen flesh and blood beings balk several Old Gods at this point, that might be part of the Titanic design - in the event of widespread necrophotic corruption, biomass entities seem to do better at resisting and defeating the Old Gods. It's clear that Uldaman served as a test bed for designing the modified, stone and metal Subterranean Being Matrix, and also as a vast storage facility for those beings created using it intended to reverse the process.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition What was the purpose of Uldaman wed

And we've barely scratched the surface of the facility - we've uncovered no beings like Setesh or Thorim, and barely poked our heads into a few chambers of this vast underground city. Furthermore, with destablization being caused by the Old Gods (the 'high stress environments' of the Discs) and clearly, destablization being studied and experimented on at Uldaman (the Discs confirm this) then we're left to ask - is there a High Stress Environment somewhere below Uldaman, in one of the chambers yet to be excavated? Are there Watchers holding it prisoner for use in the experiments, and do the experiments continue? We know that the Eye of the Watchers used to cleanse the Black Dragon egg that became Wrathion was found in the Badlands, near the Uldaman complex. This indicates that there are Titan Watchers somewhere in the Uldaman complex and they learned how to extract Old God essence from biological life - in essence, how to turn a trogg into a dwarf. Since the troggs were the first result of Titan experimentation into matrix destablization, it stands to reason that the failure of that experiment was due to improper removal of the Old God essence and that the dwarves themselves were created by learning how to do so safely.

We have yet to plumb the depths of Uldaman. Is there a torture chamber for an Old God, a labratory for the purification of the Old God taint, and a trove of earthen waiting to be destablizied below the Badlands? Only one way to find out.

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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