Remixing The Wibbly-Wobbly Time Mechanisms of WoD

So… what was the initial conceit of Warlords of Draenor as an expansion?

THE ORIGINAL

Kairozdormu, having learned some new ways to manipulate time due to his research on the Timeless Isle, colludes with Wrathion, who is intent on creating a threat on Azeroth that will prepare the mortal races for the impending invasion of the Burning Legion. They plot to free the captive Garrosh Hellscream (under trial for his war crimes) and place him on Draenor in the past, where he’ll use his connections to the Old Horde to build a force that can truly challenge Azeroth in the present. Garrosh, refusing to be controlled, kills Kairozdormu but proceeds with forming the Iron Horde and invading Azeroth through a time-altered Dark Portal. In response, the Alliance and Horde send expeditions back through the Dark Portal to disable it, then begin a campaign to dismantle the Iron Horde on their home turf of the old Draenor.

WHAT WORKED

So… part of what made this whole conceit screwy was the part where despite traveling to Draenor’s past, nothing we did in the past would change the present. This was explained as traveling to an alternate version of Draenor’s past, with notable differences (Rulkan is alive, Garrosh was never born, etc.) being explained as “blades of grass” that were just a result of Kairozdormu finding exactly the right circumstances for the scenario he had planned.

WHAT WAS FUCKY

The explanation held water for the most part, but it got worse when the Legion got involved. Because now we have this scenario where despite us going back to past-Draenor, the present day Legion is communicating with Gul’dan there, giving him tips on how to combat us. Because the Legion now exists outside time.

Which creates a lot of weird headaches about the nature of reality in the setting. For example: part of what we do in the expansion is go back and interact with the past version of Prophet Velen, even knowing that the present-day Velen is sitting in the Exodar on present-Azeroth. So at a single point in time, there are potentially an infinite number of Velens to interact with given all of these alternate versions that exist (and we know they exist, because Kairozdormu scrolled through all of them to find the best one for his plot). Yet the Legion is explained as existing entirely outside the context of that, in the Twisting Nether. There is only ONE Kil’jaeden, ONE Archimonde, and they’re running the Legion. What does that do in alternate timelines where Kil’jaeden and/or Archimonde didn’t bow to Sargeras? Or the ones where Velen DID?

A REMIX IS REQUIRED

The conceit of the expansion requires us to go to Old Draenor, but the relevance to the modern Azeroth means that a present threat needs to exist. That’s why the Burning Legion is that threat (and it’s why Legion as an expansion was predicated off the events of Warlords) but making the Legion exist outside time in order to facilitate that is pretty screwy.

So… how can we remix the conceit to make more sense?


LET’S DROP THE BEAT

Using what he’s learned from his research on the Timeless Isle, Kairozdormu stages a coup in the Caverns of Time, attempting to kill Nozdormu and other leaders of the Bronze Dragonflight in the process. Rifts in time open, with orcs and Infinite dragons appearing to back Kairoz. Chromie and Khadgar join forces with a group of heroes to beat back Kairoz’ forces, then pursue him through one of the rifts.

On the other side of the rift, the heroes discover what Kairoz has done: he’s gone back to the past of Draenor with Garrosh, who has created the Iron Horde, while Kairoz himself has corrupted numerous bronze dragons into Infinites, who together are using their power to secure Kairoz’ hold on this point in time. While Khadgar and the heroes stay to combat the orcs and Kairoz, Chromie returns to the present to aid Nozdormu is securing the present timeline to prevent Kairoz’ interference from destroying reality.

Khadgar and the heroes succeed in destroying the Chronal Portal connecting Old Draenor to the present. Weakened, Kairoz withdraws, leaving Garrosh and his Iron Horde with the task of crushing the invaders from Azeroth so they can renew their assault on the Caverns of Time in the present. Khadgar’s quick thinking (and knowledge of Draenor from his past experience there) allows him to escape with the heroes, along with some newfound allies, to begin a campaign to retake Draenor from the Iron Horde and stop Kairozdormu.

Chromie rejoins the heroes, stating that all of the dragonflights in the present have joined their remaining power together with Nozdormu in order to protect the timeway from being corrupted, but they cannot hold out forever. Time is of the essence.

HERE’S WHY IT WOULD WORK

The core difference is this: we are in Draenor’s past, but the reason why the present isn’t being impacted is because Nozdormu and all of the dragonflights are ACTIVELY WORKING to make sure it doesn’t. The sense of urgency and impact on the present is because if we fail, the present Azeroth is wiped from reality when the timeway adjusts.

The rest of Warlords proceeds mostly as written, with a few tweaks:

  • Zaela’s takeover in UBRS is a last gasp of Garrosh’ MoP-era True Horde instead of part of his Iron Horde gambit. Wrathion is tangentially involved, since he’s trying to gather Nefarian’s research.
  • The end of the Everbloom dungeon doesn’t culminate in an assault on Stormwind, but instead on the player’s garrison.
  • Gul’dan and his Shadow Council were being used as fuel for the time portal, just as they were in the original scenario. However, we release them, setting up a three-way conflict between the Azeroth invasion, the Shadow Council, and the Iron Horde/Infinites.
  • Khadgar’s cat-and-mouse game with Gul’dan is intercut with Chromie’s objective of locating Kairoz’ lair and breaking the connection with Azeroth.
  • There are no blades of grass; the past we’re experiencing is the actual past, and any changes that take place are a result of Kairoz’ direct tampering.
  • The Legion Gul’dan is communicating with is the Burning Legion of that time, not the present day Legion. This is important later.

This allows the launch content and the 6.2 patch content to proceed as written, but then adds a critical third tier of raiding, where having defeated the Iron Horde and secured Draenor, we move against Kairozdormu’s Infinite Lair to break the connection between Old Draenor and present-day Azeroth, while also undoing everything Kairoz did to interfere with Draenor’s past.

When we defeat Kairoz and the Infinites, we’re told that Old Draenor should return to how it was before Kairoz started messing with it. We’re still able to access our garrison and Old Draenor’s content because game mechanics, but the big cinematic after killing Kairoz basically indicates that we go home. This prevents people from asking questions like “why isn’t Yrel/Grommash helping us fight the Legion?” or “why don’t we go to AU-Azeroth?”

WHY THIS WOULD BE DOPE GOING INTO LEGION

However, that doesn’t mean that nothing from the expansion’s events comes forward.

A key part of Khadgar’s feud with Gul’dan is the part where Gul’dan is increasingly converting himself further and further into a demon in order to continue evading capture and maintain his fight against both Khadgar and Kairoz. Khadgar recognizes that if Gul’dan becomes a demon fully, he will be markedly more difficult to kill, and will be a distraction when the Azeroth invasion has to contend with the Infinites. So Khadgar refines his soul-trap into a soulstone that can be used to capture Gul’dan’s demonic essence, but it requires Gul’dan to be on the CUSP of becoming a demon.

Instead of Gul’dan being sucked into a portal during the Archimonde fight in Hellfire Citadel, Archimonde empowers Gul’dan, converting him to that cusp point. Khadgar springs into action, sealing Gul’dan within the soulstone and depriving Archimonde of his backup, allowing the heroes to defeat him.

As part of the events surrounding the raid on Kairoz and the Infinites, Cordana (having been turned to the Legion’s service by Gul’dan) steals the soulstone from Khadgar and flees back through the time portal into the present. Legion’s conceit (of Gul’dan returning to the Broken Shore and using the Tomb of Sargeras to open the rift) can then proceed as written.


WRAP IT UP CROW COFFEE BREAKS AIN’T THAT LONG

This remix would have given us a third tier of content for Warlords, allowed the expansion as a whole to basically act as a Caverns of Time expansion (bookended by the fights with Kairoz), and would have sidestepped the problem of the Legion existing outside the pre-existing concepts of time travel that the franchise had already established. The notion of the Legion infinitely replenishing itself in the Twisting Nether can be preserved without the “outside time” component, since that’s a key element of what we’re doing against the Legion on Argus.

Moreover, making a more forceful point of showing Kairozdormu creating the Infinite Dragonflight puts that on display better than it was done in the short story. And combining that knowledge with an entire expansion where Nozdormu is channeling the remaining power of the dragonflights in order to keep present-day Azeroth preserved seeds the possibility of him eventually corrupting HIMSELF into Murozond. Because while we know that Nozdormu has foreseen his death, and that his death comes at the hands of Azeroth’s heroes after he has driven the Infinites in messing with time in key points, we’ve only seen one iteration of how that death takes place. Again, it’s seeding a future Murozond rematch.

So, that’s the concept. The conceit of Warlords upended a lot of stuff about the mechanics of the world of Warcraft in ways that weaken it structurally. Encapsulating it WITHIN those mechanics would have served to give the devs what they wanted (“let’s bring back all of these badasses from the RTS games for a rematch” + “let’s reimagine Draenor”) while also presenting the opportunity for a present-day threat for Azeroth and laying groundwork for future content (i.e. Nozdormu’s eventual corruption, Wrathion digging into Nefarian’s stuff, past-Gul’dan existing to enact Legion, etc.).

Tell me what you think.

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2 thoughts on “Remixing The Wibbly-Wobbly Time Mechanisms of WoD

  1. I think in practical terms they’re just going to let Warlords languish in its instance servers and rarely touch it again. It represented a real push to return to the franchise’s roots and explores iconic, heroic, and nefarious characters that were near and dear to multiple developers, writers, etc., that have since moved on from the company, and it also stands as a testament to their inability to cohesively follow through on multiple concepts–timeline continuity and metaphysics not being the only ones. I think it’s just going to be left there, an enjoy-it-and-make-of-it-what-you-will kind of thing for players in the future, and they’ll continue to honor the direction they tried to dig it out of in the end without overly returning to its characters, themes, and locations. It feels more like a swan song to stories, and developers lost and an odious eyesore to consistency, too fresh, sacred, or painful to disturb.

    That said, I think the solutions you put up here make a lot of sense and would contain it as an impactful series of events nicely. Specifically, the mortal AU Velen-and-friends consolidation with MU fel Kil’jaeden-and-friends, which has always bothered me. I think if they had gone with the Chronal Spire theme for the expansion over revisiting purely the Dark Portal for nostalgia/marketing, this would have been the case.

    For this approach to be most effective, though, it would have to be comprehensive. There would have to be dungeon streamlining like you mentioned, as well as a major content chunk, probably a raid tier, as you mentioned, as well as retconning of any quest text or online short stories that mention the disruptive mechanics trying to be rewritten. It seems like a lot of detailed, careful work, and it would all have to be relevant to rationalize money/time spent on it. Said tier would have to be overwhelmingly unique in nature.

    • Oh yeah, I’m not thinking “I’d go back and fix WoD like this” but more “if I could have done WoD in a manner that didn’t rely on breaking the franchise’s existing semi-consistent chronomechanics, I would have done it like THIS.”

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