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All the World's a Stage: Orcs and timelines in roleplay

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW. Have questions about roleplaying, or roleplaying issues? Email me -- I'm always open to suggestions!

Last week we discussed the life span of elves -- be they night elves or blood elves, the short answer is that elves life for a very, very long time. Elves are one of the native races of Azeroth, predated only by a few different races. But there are races on Azeroth today that didn't originate there, races that traveled to Azeroth through one means or another. Today we're going to talk about one of those races and how they came to arrive -- the orcs of Draenor.

The life span of an orc is relatively short by Azerothian standards. Though elves can live to be thousands of years old, the orcs are lucky if they even get close to 100 years of age. This makes pinpointing timelines for the orcish race relatively simple, and much like the humans we discussed two weeks ago, there's a limit to how far back in the timeline you need to go in regards to age.


Life span

For the orcish race, the lifespan is fairly similar to that of a human -- it's the history behind the orcs that sets them apart. Once again, we're using the Warcraft RPG source books as guides to age ranges -- your mileage may vary. And as always, in a world full of magic like WoW, it's entirely possible that some strange circumstance may have extended your character's life, whether it be through magical means or otherwise.

For orcs, the age at which they're officially "adult" comes a little later than humans. Orcs reach maturity at about age 18-20. Middle age is around age 40 or so, old age at 65, venerable age at 80, and they rarely live beyond 100 years of age. But beyond that, consider the life of the average orc and the amount of battle they've seen -- between coming through the Dark Portal, the First, Second, and Third wars and the constant conflicts in World of Warcraft, it's not very likely that an orc is going to live to his maximum life span, although it is possible.

As with all life spans recommended by the RPG source guides, there are points of contention -- some orcs that were very much alive prior to Kil'jaeden's arrival on Draenor and subsequent corruption of the orcish race are still alive, though very, very old. Though the RPG source guides state that orcs rarely live over 100, there are exceptions to every rule -- and even though the history of the orcish race is rife with war and conflict, it's possible that an orc may have lived longer.


History and timelines

Once again, as with all races when you're figuring out where your orc was when important events occurred, or what historical events they may have witnessed, all you have to do is determine the age of your character, and then hop backwards in the timeline. Though the orcish race has been present on Draenor for a very, very long time, the lifespan of an orc is short enough that they'd really only remember fairly key events from orcish history, depending on where they were born in the timeline.

0-18 years of age Young orcs just starting out in the world in the wake of Cataclysm would have been born right around year 15. This was smack in the middle of when the orcs were placed in internment camps in Lordaeron after the Second War -- reading the novel Lord of the Clans will give you a good idea what those internment camps were like. An orc just turning 18 wouldn't really remember the internment camps too vividly; Thrall released the orcs around year 18 of the timeline, which means your orc would be roughly 3-4 years old at the point that the trip to Kalimdor was made. The Third War, vanilla WoW, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King would be events your orc has heard about, but not necessarily experienced -- and they know nothing of life on Draenor, other than what stories they may have been told during their childhood.

19-40 Older orcs have lived through far more important historical events than the younger ones have. An orc at 40 years of age would have been born in year -7, just before the opening of the Dark Portal and the beginning of the First War in year 0. Though they would be too young to participate in the First War, the Second War hits at about age 12-13 in a 40-year-old orc's lifetime. While orcs do not technically reach maturity until age 18, it is entirely possible that a young orc would have been ordered to participate in the war efforts, particularly since the Second War was the one the Old Horde would eventually lose.

By 15 or 16 years of age in your orc's life, the Second War would have been lost. Most orcs were rounded up and placed in internment camps, succumbing to the lethargy that plagued most orcs of that time. The next ten years or so would be spent either in internment camps or -- if your orc was lucky to belong to one of those clans that managed to escape -- living in hiding and trying to avoid captivity. At age 25-26, Thrall appeared, freeing the orcs from the internment camps and leading them to safety and, eventually, Kalimdor.

An orc at 40 years of age lived in pretty much the prime of all of recent orc history -- and would also likely be fiercely devoted to Thrall. The memories of the Old Horde would largely involve the Second War and the failure of the orcs, and the larger chunk of their life would have been spent in interment camps, or avoiding capture. It was a rough life, a very rough life until Thrall appeared -- and his appearance was absolute salvation.

41-100 Considerably old, an orc 100 years of age would have been born in year -70 or so, placing them firmly on Draenor before the blood pact with Mannoroth that tied the orcs into a lifetime of servitude and feral bloodlust. It was year -100 that Kil'jaeden came to Ner'zhul and later Gul'dan to form the Shadow Council and began corrupting the orcs from within. In year -46, the various orc clans came together to drink the blood of Mannoroth, and a 100-year-old orc would definitely remember the ceremony.

A 100 year old orc would have been close to 25 or 26 years of age at the time of that ceremony. They may have vague memories of life before Mannoroth, but by the time they were born Kil'jaeden had already set his claws into orc society. They would definitely remember the slaughter of the draenei, and more than likely even have participated in it -- and at roughly 60-61 years of age, the Dark Portal opened.

A 100 year old orc may have participated in the First War and celebrated the victory over Stormwind, but by the time the Second War rolled around, they'd be pushing 70 years of age -- very old by orc standards, and possibly too old for direct combat. They would remember the internment camps, and everything after, far more vividly than most younger orcs would.

Keep in mind that a 100 year old orc is nearing the very end of his life span -- and the amount of orcish history they witnessed in their lifetime is huge. They witnessed the fall of the Old Horde and the rise of the New Horde of today, and how they judge the new Horde, particularly Garrosh's Horde, should be thought about carefully. Did they enjoy the Old Horde's brutal ways? Do they despise the human race for imprisoning the orcish race at a time of weakness? They'd probably like Garrosh. Were they eternally grateful to Thrall for his leadership towards redemption? They might not be so keen on Garrosh.


Wars and participation in orc history

Given the fairly short life span of orcs, how do you determine what age you'd like your character to be? Honestly, the history of the orcish race is so rich in detail, particularly towards year 0, that I would recommend picking an event in recent orc history that you would like your orc character to have participated in -- a moment in history that would be a very powerful memory in your orc's life. From there, figure out how old your orc would have needed to be to participate in those events, and then just add it up to determine your orc's age.

So say, for example, you want to play an orc that participated the First War and the sacking of Stormwind, one that remembers that trip through the Dark Portal. Since those events occurred at Year 0 in the timeline, your orc would have to have been at least 18 years of age to fully participate in that First War -- this would make their birth year -18, placing them at about 48-50 years of age today during Cataclysm. Not old, but definitely past middle age.

If you wanted them to participate as a fully mature adult in the Second War, that event occurred at roughly year 6 or 7 in the timeline. For an 18 year old orc, this would place their birth at year -10 to -11. They would have been about 10 or 11 when traveling through the Dark Portal, and too young to participate in the First War -- but by the time the Second War hit, they'd be raring to participate, given the success of the First War. This would place them at about 42-45 years of age in Cataclysm -- middle aged by orc standards.

If you wanted them to reach maturity in the internment camps, you could safely say they were born in year 1, just after the First War's end -- possibly the result of orcish celebration due to their victory over Stormwind. They would enter the internment camps at age 7 or 8, and reach maturity just when Thrall showed up to free the orcs from the camps and lead them eventually to Kalimdor. This would also ensure their participation in the Third War -- they'd be just the right young and strong age to join the Horde armies at that point. In Cataclysm today, they'd be roughly 31-33 years of age. Not quite middle aged, but not terribly young either.


Sources for orc history

Luckily for orcs, there are a lot of novels out there surrounding orcish history. Lord of the Clans explains the rise of Thrall, but Rise of the Horde explains early orc history and the corruption of the orcish race at the hands of Kil'jaeden. The novel Tides of Darkness covers the Second War, and Beyond the Dark Portal explains events in Draenor following the aftermath of the Second War, including the destruction of Draenor into Outland as we know it today. As always, Wowpedia serves as an excellent resource for orc history, and the Know Your Lore columns have covered several areas of orc history as well as important figures in orc lore.

So what about players that want to play an orc from Draenor -- one that never made it through the Dark Portal? Your orc's life would be affected by the shattering of Draenor, making Beyond the Dark Portal a good choice for reading material. Or, if like Garrosh Hellscream you wish your orc to be Garadar-raised, your life would have been relatively quiet aside from the usual conflicts in Nagrand. Since the Alliance and Horde forces didn't travel through the newly reopened Dark Portal until year 26 in the timeline, you've only been a part of Thrall's Horde for 4-5 years -- and you know nothing of Thrall's way of thinking, but plenty of Garrosh's way.

For an orc living in the current timeline, life has always been about struggle and conflict -- whether conflict with the draenei back on Draenor, conflict with the humans of the First and Second Wars, struggle with living through imprisonment in the internment camps, or simply the struggle to survive in the relatively harsh lands of Durotar, an orc's life in current day Azeroth has never been easy. Whether or not it will continue that way is yet to be seen, but with Cataclysm and the rise of Garrosh Hellscream, there's definitely quite a lot to think about in terms of how your orc views the current Horde situation.

What with all the conflict and strife in orc history, it leaves a lot of room for players to play with -- is your orc bitter and jaded, angry at the human race? Are they tired of the struggle and conflict -- do they dream of a day when they can simply rest peacefully, and live a life that isn't haunted with the memories of war? Do they wish to put an end to the conflict with the other Azerothian races through violence, or through peace? In the end, it's all up to you -- but the orcs of Azeroth present a particularly rich canvas of possibilities to consider.


All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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