World of Warcraft is a great game. It offers an arena in which one can jump right in and enjoy an MMORPG experience as just that – a multi-faceted game that really does offer something for all sorts of gamers. However, every dream house needs a robust foundation, and WoW provides that in a lore crafted through four games, multiple expansions, over a dozen novels and a series of comic books. Familiarizing oneself with that lore makes for a much richer gaming experience, not to mention it tells a pretty cool story.
A very rich cast of characters populates the WoW storyline. Villains like Arthas, the Lich King, Archimonde, the Eredar demon lord, and Kel’Thuzad, the founder of the Cult of the Damned are larger than life, each with a backstory as deep as any major antagonist in modern science-fiction/fantasy fiction. Lining up against these fiends are heroes like Jaina Proudmoore and Uther Lightbringer on the Alliance side, with Sylvanas or Varok Saurfang on the Horde side. These are legends of the World of Warcraft story; these are names that every player should at least be somewhat familiar with.
There are a number of lore resources on the Internet. The Know Your Lore column on WoW Insider or the lore section on WoWWiki are great places to start. However, if you’re not interested in digging around, there is one character every WoW player should know.
[singlepic id=3251 w=308 h=394 float=left]Thrall was born as Go’en, the son of Durotan. He’s the rightful chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan and, until very recently, the Warchief of the Horde. After the slaughter of his parents during an Alliance raid, baby Thrall was taken prisoner by Aedelas Blackmoore, the commander of the nearby Durnholde Keep. Blackmoore, who was, quite bluntly, a drunken jerk, recognized in Thrall a fierce warrior and a tactical prodigy, and trained him as a gladiator. Thrall might’ve lived out a very short life as a bitter, imprisoned gladiator if not for the friendship of a young human woman named Taretha Foxton. Taretha became a sort of surrogate sister for Thrall.
Eventually, Thrall escaped Blackmoore’s prison with the aid of Taretha. He was recaptured, and this time sent to an internment camp where a large group of orcs were imprisoned. Among them, Thrall learned much of his people’s history, and exactly what orc life was like. Again, he escaped, this time seeking out Grom Hellscream of the Warsong Clan.
Thrall’s story takes an unusual path. In addition to being a cunning warrior, he finds in himself a powerful shaman. He leads the orcs across the Great Sea to Kalimdor and establishes the orc capital of Orgrimmar while forging the Horde with the Darkspear Trolls and the Tauren. This is really just scratching the surface of Thrall’s story. To learn more about him, I’d recommend Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden.
Early Warcraft lore is best experienced in the real-time strategy game Warcraft III and its expansions, leading into World of Warcraft and its three expansions. If you’d like to experience the lore in a more direct narrative, the following novels won’t steer you wrong:
Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden: This book tells the story of the relationship between the orcs and the draenei, as well as the origin of the Horde.
Arthas: Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden: Most of this novel takes place during the Third War between the mortal races of Azeroth and the demonic Burning Legion, although it was meant as a prologue to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
[singlepic id=3250 w=305 h=398 float=right]Cycle of Hatred by Keith R.A. DeCandido: This novel takes place one year before the beginning of World of Warcraft. It tells the story of how Thrall and Jaina Proudmoore worked together to keep the tentative peace between the orcs and humans alive after the Third War.
The Shattering by Christie Golden: Far and away my personal favorite, this novel recounts the events that take the World of Warcraft story from Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm. While it’s a fantastic read, the book provides a depth to questing that I’ve never really experienced as a World of Warcraft player. Four months deep into Cataclysm, I’m still reaping the benefits of having read and re-read this book as I quest through our re-shaped world.
The lore doesn’t stop with the novels. A compelling 25 issue Warcraft comic book series detailed exactly what happened to King Varian Wrynn when he disappeared prior to the launch of World of Warcraft and his path back to the throne of Stormwind. It also tells the story of Garona, the half-orc assassin, and her son.
Lore does more than give role-players a framework from which to weave their tapestry. It gives us the “why” behind every quest, instance, raid, personality and locale in World of Warcraft. With so many avenues to immerse oneself in the lore, there’s no reason not to enhance your WoW gaming experience by familiarizing yourself with the backstory of our game.
“Bandu thoribas!” (Prepare to fight!) – Thalassian proverb