We talked yesterday about how faction leaders in WoW are meant to be the centerpieces of the game’s story, but our faction leaders currently don’t get a lot of play. The Horde is at a bit of an advantage here, because they’ve had more churn in their faction leadership since launch than the Alliance has. That being said, there’s still a lot to be desired.
One reverberating sensibility about Thrall’s Horde was that a number of outcast and otherwise disadvantaged races needed each other in order to survive. The other sensibility that drives the union of the Horde races is the sense of being a race that was once a tool of evil, but has since sought repentance for past sins. Thrall made it his business to adopt a number of races into his care, and made the Horde into a family that also happens to be a devastating military force. But while the Horde had Thrall, it didn’t feel like their other leaders (aside from Sylvanas) got much attention. In MoP that’s changed dramatically for some, but others are left out of the limelight.
- Orgrimmar: Regardless of who becomes Warchief of the Horde, the orcs are going to need a new racial leader. Leaving aside the question of whether it’ll be a Garrosh seeking redemption for his sin of Pride, Thrall recognizing that his people need him, or even an old veteran like Eitrigg or Saurfang, the bottom line is that the orcs have got some soul-searching to do. Solution: Back when the orcs were just scattered occasionally-warring clans on Draenor, they must have had rites where they purified themselves and asked the ancestors for omens about their impending tribal battles. Why not have such a rite take place in Nagrand, where the orcs ask for direction? It’s something that channels the shamanistic origins of the orcs that Thrall aspires to, but also recalls the true history of the orcs instead of Thrall’s idealized version of it. This is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to how to make the orcish racial narrative (and thus the narrative of whoever the new orcish racial leader) interesting again, but I wanted to throw the idea out there.
- The Darkspear: I honestly can’t think of a way to better characterize Vol’jin aside from taking one of the many amazing elements out of Stackpole’s recent novel and making a scenario out of it. The retreat from Zouchin Village feels tailor-made to accomplish this. In the interests of not spoiling the book, though, I’ll recommend you pick it up and see what I mean. Vol’jin is perhaps the character that needs the least fixing because Blizzard has clearly been working on him.
- Thunder Bluff: For as much as Blizzard has been forthright with showing where Vol’jin wants to go, they’ve been confused about what to do with Baine. Cairne was old to start with, and looking only at the council of racial leaders around Thrall back in the day, you could imagine Cairne being the voice of wisdom that would temper Vol’jin’s impetuousness and Sylvanas’ bloodthirst. Killing Cairne made sense because it showed that the Horde was losing its shamanic guidance, between Thrall giving the Warchief job to Garrosh and Cairne subsequently dying because of that choice. This didn’t open up an opportunity for Baine, though. He’s not his father; he’s opposed to the faction war because of his relationship with Anduin, and the circumstances that Cairne joined the Horde under (fear of extinction from the centaur) aren’t relevant any more. So one path for making Baine interesting again is him questioning if the tauren still have a place in the Horde. Solution: Bring the tauren back to Red Cloud Mesa to hold council, with Baine having two competing options levied for the future of his people. Hamuul Runetotem is all about the tauren withdrawing from the Horde, while Sunwalker Dezco feels that the Horde is in need of the wisdom that the tauren bring, and withdrawing would be a disaster for all parties. The council gets interrupted by a quillboar invasion, and the players assist the tauren in fighting them off. This leads Baine to come to the conclusion that if the tauren are strong enough now to face all comers, they are strong enough to continue guiding the Horde. Hamuul and Dezco agree.
- Undercity: Sylvanas has stuck out in the Horde for a long time, because she and the Forsaken are the faction that makes the least sense in the Horde. Thrall’s justification was always that the Forsaken were like the Orcs in that they were trying to overcome their past as evil tools of the Legion, but if anything, Sylvanas has only become progressively more evil and less repentant as time has gone on. There’s a much larger argument to be had about whether or not Sylvanas and the Forsaken still belong in the Horde, but unlike the tauren, that’s not an in-game discussion; it’s a design decision about whether or not having the Forsaken be so across-the-line evil is in the best interest of the heroic-Horde design intent. Solution: There is no solution for advancing the Forsaken narrative that I can outline briefly, so expect a follow-up in the future.
- Silvermoon City: Contrasting the Forsaken, though, Lor’themar and the Blood Elves make a lot more sense in the Horde, since they fit better with the outcast motif that defines almost every other race. Moreover, the work done in 5.1/5.2 to show that Lor’themar has got the Horde’s best interests at heart demonstrates that he’s fully invested in what the family is all about. If Cairne brought wisdom and Vol’jin brought cunning to Thrall’s council, Lor’themar brings refinement along with a brotherly appreciation for the Horde’s never-say-die mentality, a point that was glossed over in Burning Crusade thanks to the emphasis on Kael’thas. But I would argue that this brings us the solution for giving the Blood Elves some more characterization as members of the Horde. Solution: Go back to some the initial encounters between the Blood Elves and the Kalimdor Horde, after Sylvanas arranged the meeting and lobbied to bring the Blood Elves into the fold. Show that while initially there’s some culture shock between the haughty sin’dorei and the dusty savagery of the orcs, tauren, and trolls, demonstrate what brings them together: the connection with the natural world, the survival instinct, and brotherhood in knowing that humanity rejected them. Hell, throw an archery contest. ^_^
- Bilgewater Cartel: What’s interesting about the goblins is that they actually make perfect sense in the context of Thrall’s Horde. They’re a race that’s shunned by humanity, that acted pretty flagrantly and without good purpose in the past, but now owes Thrall a personal debt of gratitude and throws their lot in with him as a function of survival. This method doesn’t apply as well to the Forsaken and the Blood Elves as much as it does to the goblins, but it also doesn’t really need to be emphasized more than it was in the goblin starting experience. Like the gnomes, it’s better to play to the faction’s strengths: greed and comedy releif. Solution: I mentioned the idea of a Destroy Build Destroy contest vs. the gnomes in the Alliance post, and the more I think on it, the more I like it. Again, part of the scenario would involve the teams sabotaging each other, with Gallywix being fully invested in cheating to win. It would go so far to the point that Gallywix would pilot the built mecha against Mekkatorque and then call in the Horde party to help him win when the fight starts going badly for him. By contrast, the Alliance version would have the Alliance party jump in to assist Mekkatorque only after Gallywix loses control of his mecha and it goes on a rampage.
- Huojin Pandaren: Like I mentioned yesterday with the Tushui, I don’t feel like the Huojin need any additional characterization, mostly because it would contradict what Stackpole explained about the philosophical spectrum between the two, and also because the amount of characterization we’ve received about the Pandaren in Pandaria and on the Wandering Isle already does everything it needs to do. All that being said, I always felt like we needed a more discrete scenario that shows Chen and Li Li interacting with Azeroth; however, I haven’t read Pearl of Pandaria yet, so I’m hesitant to suggest what the Stormstout World Tour would look like.
All right, so there’s the Horde side of things. How would you give the Horde faction leaders a more personal story?