It's been about a decade now since the crash of the Exodar, and the ageless ways of the draenei are beginning to weave themselves into the fabric Azeroth. Yet of all Azeroth's peoples and despite what must be an ancient history, the draenei remain shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Into that breach steps the draenei guild Kharanei of Wyrmrest Accord (US), working to preserve existing draenei heritage while pushing the culture forward into Azerothian society.
"We're establishing guild canon lore and culture all the time, everything from weddings to holidays to folk tales and language," says Nelua, Kharanei's GM. "We actually invented a week-long holiday to coincide with the Indian Diwali, the Festival of Light (much like Blizzard bases its holidays on existing ones). It commemorates the flight from Argus and the triumph of good over evil while paying respects to those who died fighting the good fight. A large, open-attendance celebration was held in Telaar, and it was very successful -- a very proud moment for the guild."
Kharanei brings more than merely entertaining ideas to the table. A lore-driven council with other Alliance guilds and a storyteller-guided roleplaying framework keep its day-to-day progress feeling fresh and alive, pulling the draenei into an ever-closer relationship with the world they now inhabit.
Main character Nelua, draenei retribution paladin
Guild Kharanei (known conversationally as the Kharanei Order)
Realm Wyrmrest Accord (US-A)
WoW Insider: There aren't too many draenei-focused guilds in World of Warcraft -- you're a rare breed! What do you focus on as a group?
Nelua: The basic premise of our group is to create a community for people who are enthused by the draenei and want draenei-centric roleplay. We preserve and revive draenei history and culture, and OOCly we invent lore and customs for them where Blizzard has left us some gaps.
We also try to base most of our RP in places like the Exodar, Azure Watch, Shattrath, or Telaar, traditional draenei territories, to create an immerse environment where other players can reliably come to interact with us.
I notice your roster includes a scattering of non-draenei members. Are those in-character exceptions, or alts?
Most of them are alts. Members are permitted to have no more than three non-draenei alts in the guild and as many draenei characters as they want. There are two in-character exceptions that act more as attachments to the Order than full members (for instance, one is a pandaren lorewalker there to gather information on draenei history).
Draenei lore seems pretty niche at this point in the game. How unusual do you think your draenei focus actually is? Do you know of any other draenei guilds in the game?
We've had the pleasure to work in cooperation with a couple other draenei guilds, but to my knowledge we're the only ones on WrA. We've had dealings with Elysium and Shadows of Argus, both from Moon Guard, and Heart of the Naaru from Cenarion Circle, some of whom actually have alts in our guild now. We're still pretty few and far between, but I like to think that's just a sign of dedication. Cross-realm zoning has been great in that regard; it gives us a chance to interact with similar guilds and host events that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Let's talk about the guild canon lore and traditions you've established over time.
Oh goodness, where should I start? Well, Kharanei has existed for about two years now. During that time, we've created everything from folklore and mythology to holidays and religious liturgy. Basically when there's a point of speculation, there's sections on the forums where people can go to post their ideas, and we boil them all down until we can get something consistent from there. Everyone is very cooperative and open to negotiation on their ideas. It's a wonderful community.
For instance, some of our characters are very old -- old enough to remember the days of Argus and a time before the worship of the Light. We established that the draenei were probably a pagan sort of culture then, worshiping the natural world and, of course, magic as one of its incredible forces. According to this mythology, the then-Eredar were the favored children of their gods -- "so beloved that we see eternity before us and our blood runs the color of magic."
This ultimately feeds into the ego that led to the downfall of the Eredar and the exile of Velen and his followers. In our guild canon, the old ways of magic and wanton power were largely rejected after the flight from Argus, and there remains a slight pushback against these things in society, with priests and paladins taking the place once held by arcanists.
And you've actually created an annual draenei holiday with all the trimmings, isn't that right?
One of our biggest accomplishments in establishing lore was the invention of a draenei holiday called Sha'raan, which translates as "Light Festival." It's a week-long celebration of the preparation for and eventual flight from Argus and the repeated triumph of good over evil. There is also a day to stop and remember those who have died fighting the good fight, so in this respect, it's very applicable to anyone in the Alliance.
With this in mind, we advertised the event throughout Stormwind and posted on the Blizzard forums inviting the whole server to our celebration in Nagrand. It was a very successful and well-attended event, and we plan to do it again this year. Like most Blizzard-established holidays, it's based on an existing one, Diwali, an Indian celebration, and its timing lines up with that -- usually early November.
Do you find yourself filling in other gaps in the lore and your relationship to the people of Azeroth?
One of the most interesting things in terms of our lore development is working with current content and going "All right, where are the draenei right now? What is their role in all this?" They're not seen much in game, which can be frustrating but also allows us a tremendous amount of creativity.
What we eventually concluded is that the draenei have been here for the better part of a decade. There are human kids who have grown up seeing them. But by the same token, the Exodar is repaired. They could leave at any time, and many people expect (or hope) they will. So they're reaching a very odd point in their history where they've realized that, by the order of the Prophet, this is where they'll stay. This is where they'll make their stand.
For a people who have been running for the past 25,000 years, most of whom have been born and raised in exile, that's monumental. So they're trying to establish themselves as a culture and a thriving people after the devastation on Draenor, but at the same time trying to make themselves accessible to their allies. The draenei are part of Azeroth now, come what may.
And that's just scratching the surface. We have at least two people who work on a draenei language glossary, more stories being invented all the time, ranks and titles being established ... We have lore about how facial tendrils work and even a draenei-specific sport ... I could go on all day and not get tired of it. I've had the tremendous fortune to meet a group of people who share my excitement about the draenei and then the even greater pleasure to be put in charge of that group. Leading this guild, being an actor on the WoW stage, and penning the unwritten history of the draenei is an absolute joy.
But it's not all light-hearted fun. I understand you get players who want to interpret the concept of the Light through the lens of Christianity, bleeding into their attitudes and roleplay. How do you handle that?
That's a complicated question. I don't think the Light is meant to be an in-game representation of Christianity. I think it's an archetypal, non-personified force of good that appears in all cultures and faiths. I think that particularly in the structure of the human clergy there are some similarities, and I occasionally take from Christian liturgy when performing a religious function in-game. Because it sounds cool and it fits the tone.
But there's a line between IC actions and OOC beliefs, and I think it's important to keep those two things separate. The minute that line is crossed, things can become uncomfortable, and it's not fun anymore.
Kharanei actually has a great and accepting community, OOC. Many members in the past have described it as being more like a family or a circle of good friends than your standard guild, which is something we've worked to maintain. Some members are Christians, others are pagan/Wiccan, and some are atheists, but what's important is that we're drawn together by love of the game.
If the Light is comparable to anything we know of, I'd say it's more like the Force from Star Wars than anything. It's the energy that comes from life itself, surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. That power can be tapped by talented individuals and used to heal, as in priests, or to destroy, as used by paladins at war. Rather than being a godlike force with a will of its own, it's a power to be respected, and the religion around it is more like a Jedi code that guides its wielders toward using it responsibly. There have been organizations in-game like the Blood Knights or the Scarlet Crusade that have used the Holy Light for incredible cruelty and evil, much like the Force may be used by "the Dark Side" to further its purposes.
All superb examples and background. That kind of perspective is important, because you set a high bar when it comes to knowledge of the lore, isn't that right? I understand you require a lore quiz for membership.
The lore quiz was enacted a few months after I joined as a way of checking everyone's knowledge before they enter the guild. Because we are so lore-oriented in game, it's important everyone start off on the same page. It's mandatory for all members, but links are provided to sites with the answers, and the quiz is open book. It can look very intimidating, but in action it's supposed to be a fairly straightforward process.
In the event that a person does put in an effort but maybe gets a couple questions not quite right, they'll be asked to just look at them again or, in some cases, pointed directly to accurate information. We're always willing to work with people as long as the end result is that the information on the quiz is understood by the applicant.
I'm curious about the storyteller structure you use to keep storylines developing and on track.
The storyteller system is something that's only been in place slightly longer than I've been GL, so less than a year. All guild members are welcome to submit ideas for plots and have them ST'd by the officers in cooperation with them. This is just to make sure that we don't have multiple large plots running at the same time, to avoid confusion. The officers then get together and delegate roles.
We recently had a fun plot where Azuremyst and Bloodmyst were being terrorized by a necromancer who was trying to create a "perfect" flesh golem that could use all types of magic. One played a slightly dimwitted golem we had taken possession of after his maker abandoned him; a couple others played loyal, more functional golems; and another was the necromancer herself. One officer stays behind to sort of guide the guild through the campaign, D&D style, while the others play NPCs, and the Storyteller DMs.
This system is fun because it allows interaction with NPCs beyond the usual cast of the guild, allowing for the feel of a wider world, and because it can be applied to anything. A storyteller campaign can be as long- or short-term as people want it to be, involve the whole guild or just two or three participants, and there's always something for everyone to do.
Sounds like an incredible way to connect! Speaking of connections, what sort of ongoing relationships and developments are you playing out now with other guilds?
Some months ago, Kharanei was actually asked to join a group of one-race guilds known as the War Council, which is basically an Alliance effort against the Horde that was formed primarily to stop their advance in Ashenvale. In particular, Kharanei has had some great interactions with the Kaldorei Resistance and with the Jadepaw Dynasty. They're trying to keep the peace on the council when some of the factions don't necessarily trust each other, while at the same time trying to prove that they are as much part of Azeroth as any of them. When they do all manage to work together, though, draenei and gnomes and elves and humans all as one, it's a really exciting feeling.
The council has been a little tricky to coordinate just because of its size and scope, but it's a great opportunity for all these separate factions to come together. It just makes the whole WoW experience seem that much more real.
Does your racial composition affect guild members' PvE game? For example, is there content you don't do or that you set other restrictions on based on roleplay lore?
I don't think that our PvE activities are terribly impacted by class restrictions. Draenei can't play warlocks, druids, or rogues. But we have paladins, which are a very flexible class, so really the only thing we're missing is stealth and lock-picking. (Oh, the stacks of lockboxes in the guild bank ...)
We encourage people to do what they want to do outside of RP, whether that's PvP, PvE, or hardcore raiding. If you see us in a dungeon or raid, we're not in character. So placing a limitation on that due to RP lore wouldn't really make sense.
What activities might be included in a typical week for Kharanei?
Oh, lately it's been so busy, too! It's a really active time for the guild right now with the recent start of an overarching guild plot that will have been running for a full year by the time it's done.
We usually have one guild event like that per week. Our founder also pops online once a week for IC lessons on the philosophy and beliefs of the Order. If it's the second week of the month, then on Saturday we have an open story circle where people can come to share stories and songs. The war council also meets once monthly, usually on Sunday nights.
That's some serious territory and activity! Let's loosen up a bit to conclude. Is there a draenei joke or trope that still never fails to amuse?
Exodar Disco is still funny and so very true. And the male dance never gets old.
Draenei joke or trope that you wish would die in a fire?
There are people who are convinced to this day that draenei lay eggs. Stahp!
Find Kharanei on the web.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.