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.
Warlords of Draenor launches in a little over a week, with a ton of new story and a cast of characters both new and old -- very, very old. Since the expansion's reveal at last year's BlizzCon, we've been covering the major players of the next expansion -- their history in our universe, as well as their history in this alternate version of Draenor we'll find ourselves wandering upon. Each orc clan on Draenor has its own unique history and is led by a distinctive leader, a major name that in most cases, we've been familiar with for years.
But those big names and major characters aren't the only people we'll be seeing on Draenor, and by all means they aren't the only characters we should be paying attention to. For every Grommash, Gul'dan, Blackhand, Velen, Khadgar -- the list goes on -- there are other players, not quite as loudly promoted, who have their own place in this Draenor's history. Characters you should be watching out for -- because they've got some pretty interesting story hooks of their own.
Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains several spoilers for Warlords of Draenor. If you are avoiding all expansion spoilers, avoiding the article would be advised.
Vindicator Nobundo? Yes -- in this version of Draenor's history, the world was never corrupted by fel magic. Originally, Nobundo was a vindicator who suffered a tragic fate when the orcs attacked Shattrath City. He survived the attacks, but found himself, along with many others, succumbing to the horrifying effects of a red mist released during the assault. The mist eventually resulted in a mutation that left him, and the others, as the first of the Broken -- banished by the healthy draenei for fear of the mutation's further spread.
And it was because of both red mist and mutation that Nobundo found another calling, the elements speaking to him where the Light would not reach. He learned everything he could from the elements themselves, becoming the first draenei shaman and returning to his people with the hopes of teaching them as well. Although shunned at first, Nobundo found the support of the Prophet Velen, and began his teachings in earnest -- and that's why we have draenei shaman today.
But because of the lack of fel corruption on this Draenor, the Broken never came to be. Because of this, there are no draenei shaman on Draenor, at least until we show up. Which leaves us with Nobundo, draenei vindicator and apparent master of the Light, valiant defender of Auchindoun. What makes Nobundo a character to watch? First, the guy is a powerhouse of the Light, second and more importantly, he shows up later in a series of quests that make one wonder just how powerful Nobundo really is -- and which path is really his destiny.
Azuka is first encountered in Nagrand, where a quest chain with another very familiar face to those who have played through Burning Crusade will lead you right to her family -- her brothers and her father. Azuka rises to the challenge and becomes the Warlord of the Burning Blade. Her story is interesting for a few different reasons -- first, she's not just a one-note character, and you'll be seeing her on more than one occasion over the course of the expansion.
Second isn't really Azuka so much as it is the rest of her family. Her father is Warlord Dharl of the Thrice-Bloodied Blade, her brothers Gorn and Sesk. What's notable about these three is that they all appeared in the Warcraft RPG books -- books that are no longer canon. However, this seems to indicate that "no longer canon" means "not canon until we make it so." This has been implied before, but this is really the first time we've seen it come into full effect.
Azuka's explosive introduction is left unresolved, but you'll see her later on. And judging from how well she takes care of business, how fiercely she fights, and her approval ratings within the Iron Horde, she may become a far bigger player further on down the road.
You'd have to be silly not to notice Cho'gall. After all, he was one of the main villains of Cataclysm. But Draenor's Cho'gall is a very different ogre -- no mention is made of the Twlight's Hammer, and he appears to be at least half-sane -- that second head may still be not-quite-all-there. But he definitely doesn't appear to be manipulated by the Old Gods, as he is on Azeroth in Cataclysm. By all appearances, he seems to be fully in control of his senses. And that makes him incredibly dangerous.
Associated with Gul'dan, Cho'gall is one of three Shadow Council members you will meet at the onset of the expansion. You'll continue to see him again and again as you level your way to 100. But it's his actions in Nagrand that are particularly fascinating, because they go against everything we know of Cho'gall from our version of Azeroth's history. It's clear that the ogre has his own agenda, his own motives, and his own goals, even if those goals don't line up with everyone else's plans.
What's unclear at the moment is what kind of role Cho'gall will play later on -- because it's made blatantly clear that we have not seen the last of him in Nagrand. Where he goes and what he does are both still mysteries that will need to wait until the expansion is released to be properly revealed. The implications of Cho'gall's meddling, however, are fascinating, and may spell some deeper plot points later on, whether or not Cho'gall himself is present and accounted for.
Yrel is almost a no-brainer when it comes to characters worth watching. Originally mentioned at last year's BlizzCon as a prominent figure, little has been heard of Yrel since then -- unless you've been watching spoiler cinematics and reading spoiler information from the beta. But Yrel is one of those characters absolutely worth watching, because the journey she takes is so similar to our own. More importantly, she's exactly the kind of hero the Alliance has been missing.
She hasn't been born into greatness. She's not a young heir to a throne, she's not a regent that's been mysteriously kidnapped, she's not the daughter of a dwarven king. She hasn't been just abruptly written in and placed in a position of importance. We get to see her become a hero over the course of this expansion. We see her make her first kill, we see her at her lowest point in her life, and we see her rise above it all. We haven't really had a hero like that in the Alliance -- most of the heroes introduced have been long-standing heroes with long-standing histories that stretch back farther than World of Warcraft.
So yes, you want to watch Yrel if you're an Alliance player. Watch her as she progresses through her story, help her out when she asks you to. Pay attention to what she has to say and what she's doing. And if you like how she's written, if you like how she's portrayed, if you find yourself really liking her, let Blizzard know. Because while Yrel is totally worth watching, it's really unclear what's going to happen to her when this expansion is over. If she doesn't end up following us, it would be cool to see another character handled in the same way.
If you have played through Burning Crusade, if you have set foot in the hallowed crypts of Auchindoun, you'll likely recognize the name above. He was the leader of the Auchenai, driven mad by the void energies emanating from D'ore -- and that madness led him to experiment with necromancy. As the final boss of the Auchenai Crypts, Maladaar is stated to be "the sole living remnant of the glory that once strode the halls," the rest presumably having died when Auchindoun was destroyed.
In this version of Draenor, Maladaar is far from mad -- he may be one of the most sensible draenei around. He's still the leader of the Auchenai, but he's also one of the five Exarchs, leaders of draenei society under Prophet Velen. Whether or not he held this position in our version of history, we don't know. However, just because his place in Burning Crusade was pretty firmly cemented as a villain of sorts, the opposite is the case in Warlords.
Why watch this guy? Because it's incredibly interesting to see the other half of a character we once only knew in that villain role -- and he's part of an evolving mystery that unfolds while players are leveling through Warlords content. He may not be listed as a major player like Velen or Maraad, but Maladaar is every bit as much of a heroic figure. Not to mention he works pretty closely with Lady Liadrin -- another character who should be of particular interest to Horde players.
These are just a handful of the many characters we're going to see in Warlords of Draenor. While all of the characters listed above are fairly influential from a story standpoint, there are multitudes of other characters playing out smaller stories all over Draenor. Maybe those smaller stories aren't as widely-influential, but they help paint the picture of Draenor and its inhabitants as part of a living, breathing, complex world -- which is part of what telling an excellent story is all about.
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.