One of the hottest reads in the World of Warcraft communityright now is Shawn Holmes's Eight Years in Azeroth. Old-school players chuckle along with details that today's players wouldn't recognize as coming from WoW. Guild leaders nod in agreement at scenarios that replay over and over in guilds throughout WoW. New players gawk at raiding conventions and gameplay that feels entirely different from the game we know today.
"It was 'slaying internet dragons' mixed liberally with a crash course in leadership and team management," Holmes told WoW Insider. "I went from a player who barely understood the necessity of officer-only forums and a guild bank to dealing with the complexities of interpersonal conflict, player politics, the psychological effects of the social ladder, and keeping players both motivated and loyal in the constantly changing landscape of WoW."
As Holmes blogs his way through his eight years of blood, sweat, and tears in Azeroth, has he come to any realizations along the way?
"Staying true to a moral compass is one thing; keeping an entire guild aligned with those ideals is hard work," he observes. "It's a battle I both won and lost, repeatedly."
Knights in shining armor or divisive zealots? The roleplay opportunities for a group of paladins in Azeroth are fierce, either way you look at it. The catch is how they are perceived and manage to interact with their fellow players. Are they protectors of the faith and guardians of fellow citizens, or a fearsome hammer of intolerance to be brought down upon anything that deviates?
Amelas Langston of Caelestis Templares, a guild of paladins on Silver Hand (US-RP), walks that line regularly with a guild of roleplayers who've become known for their devotion to eradicating any opposition to the Light. Has its hardline approach made pariahs of its players? Or has its stalwart stand against the forces of evil made heroes and saviors of its characters?
WoW Insider: Most readers will probably assume that a guild of paladins is portraying a knightly, noble mission, but in fact, your roleplay focus is quite different. A recent recruiting post on the realm forums noted that many of your members roleplay "gruff, jackass characters," and the words "zealotry" and "intolerance" have been used to described the group's approach to its roleplay. Does your mission cast guild members in danger of becoming pariahs among the Silver Hand RP community?
Amelas: It's a fair thing to assume. I've found that the majority of people that role play as paladins have that sort of a character. The Caelestis Templares, however, are dedicated to a goal, that goal being the eradication of all that stands in opposition to the Light. Intolerance and zeal are actually key virtues of our guild, so to describe us as zealots would be pretty accurate.
If our characters encounter something that the Order dictates is heretical, then they are obligated to take action against it. It becomes a bit of a drag when the actions of our characters make people think that the player behind them are as hard and unfriendly as they are.
Since the typical WoW Insider reader has been around the block in Azeroth more than a few times, when we hear about a guild that's been going strong for many years, we tend to intuitively grok the associated ramifications. We understand the strength and adaptability it takes to weather entire gaming eras of personalities, patches, and expansions. It's the strength of the willow that bends in the wind yet does not break -- or, say, the steady strength and focus of the night elves as they traverse the centuries in harmony with their environment.
Gazing into the legacy of Nature's Grasp, a kaldorei-exclusive guild on Defias Brotherhood (EU-RP-PvP), we see a guild that has seen many different shapes and leaders over the years. "On our server there have been a number of night elf guilds that have been established," notes GM Arkil, "but all have been absorbed into Nature's Grasp at some point, making us the go-to guild for any night elf involvement in events, and we're frequently considered as 'the' guild that represents Darnassus."
As we've seen from our interviews with race- and class-specific guilds such as wry blood elves, adventurous rogues, and fiercely opinionated orcs, the personalities of specialized guilds can become quite narrowly focused. One has to wonder if the players behind Nature's Grasp might be as reclusive as the kaldorei they play. Apparently not. "We've been active a lot during Mists, we have a hefty constant playerbase, and we have weekly events most weeknights and retro raid runs during the weekends," Arkil says. "There's a great sense of community in the guild with a number of artists and musicians who share their work on our forums at natures-grasp.net, and we have an annual RL guild meet in some European location, which is a lot of fun."
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.
One might expect a machinimist to be come at you with a rather snarky, biting personality, especially a creator who's known for poking fun at WoW player stereotypes. Not so Wowcrendor. Wowcrednor's a nice guy in the true sense of the word. He also happens to be funny -- funny enough, in fact, that the list of posts of his WoW machinima here at WoW Insider goes on for pages and pages.
So how does a nice guy who has fun making video game machinima end up making a living at it? We wondered, too, so we asked -– and nice guy that he is, Wowcrendor spilled all the beans.
WoW Insider: So you're living the dream, making a living making WoW videos. Congrats! How has that changed the way you play the game? Things must be quite different now.
Wowcrendor: It is really a dream come true. One day you're sitting in a college math class writing scripts about Mankrik's wife, and the next you're making a living off it. I don't think I ever saw it growing to the point it's grown to, but I'm thankful for it nonetheless.
As for how it's changed the way I play the game, I think it's actually impacted me negatively, as odd as that sounds. Before I made videos about the game, my sole focus was just having fun or getting involved in the virtual world of Azeroth. Now that I do this as a living, it really shifts your mindset. If I'm playing the game, I'm constantly thinking if something could be made into a video instead of actually focusing on enjoying the game. For example, before I started making videos, I raided in every expansion. I enjoyed raiding and even got to raid with the guy who inspired me to start making WoW videos, a surreal experience at the time.
When it finally comes time for your ship to make a final departure from the shores of Azeroth, the lands you're leaving behind will almost certainly not be what your heart aches for the most -– it's the people. Skittering about atop superficial friendships with guildmates and situational acquaintances is easier than ever in the age of LFD and LFR, but we're sure it's unnecessary to remind you that lifelong friendships and marriages are forged and strengthened in Azeroth, as well. The people we meet here are most assuredly part of our lives – and stepping away from WoW (whether for a temporary sabbatical or on a permanent basis) doesn't inevitably mean losing touch.
We never recommend sticking with the game solely to stay in touch with or please other players. It's no fun to play if your heart's not in it, and nobody has any fun if you're obviously slogging along with little real enthusiasm. If you need to take a break from World of Warcraft but you don't want to lose touch with the people here who've brightened your life, you can keep in touch so many other ways.
Leave it to a player who attacks WoW with the ferocity and passion of his orcish character to rationally and objectively dissect the pros and cons of making a guild home in a racially exclusive guild.
"Pros of a one-race clan, tribe or house: Focus, intensity, and real sense of being dedicated and set apart, as well as shared lore that becomes a motivating force in itself," enumerates Stonzgrinda, the GM of what might be the game's only orc-exclusive guild on an RP-PvP realm. "The immersion is much more credible and intense for roleplaying purposes. Cons of a one-race clan, tribe or house: Some classes are unavailable for specific purposes -- for instance, a stealthing druid healer for a team of rogues. Some achievements are not obtainable. The narrow niche makes recruiting difficult. ... Players have to know some lore and be able to present it to a standard."
So what makes it worthwhile for the Bloodfury Clan of orcs? "Our sense of camaraderie, shared culture and purpose gives our roleplayers something that no general RP guild could ever attain," Stonzgrinda answers without hesitation. "When we say 'Strength and honor,' it means something. When we mourn the passing of a player who has quit the game, we truly mourn them and remember their contributions and the unique light they brought to our warband."
Ready for some industrial, orc-strength opinions of Garrosh Hellscream, Thrall, and more? Read on.
Whew, we got the snark over with right up front in the headline -- because now it's time to get down to business. Sin'dorei-exclusive guild Selama Ashalanore spins Azerothian lore as tautly as any of the most stringent of the racial guilds we've profiled in recent weeks. "Out of character, Selama Ashalanore is a 'safe place' for lore-compliant blood elf roleplay," notes GM Tholmai Lightbreaker. "In many, many roleplay communities, blood elves are traditionally seen in a very negative light. In our guild, we are working hard to undo that image."
In character, members act out the lives of a group of like-minded blood elves devoted to the restoration of their people since their near extinction during the Third War. "Following the Third War, the blood elves have been caught up in Horde affairs in Outland, the Northrend campaign, the cataclysm, and, most recently, the events in Pandaria," Tholmai explains. "They've barely had a chance to recover. Our group acknowledges this and works round the clock for the Horde agenda, as well as to restore glory to their ancient people."
Can Selama Ashalanore members manage to maintain a sense of levity about the notorious reputation of their race while remaining focused on their compelling racial lore? Oh yes, they can -- and then some.
A fantasy game like World of Warcraft doesn't have to stick too closely (or even at all) to the laws of science -- but oh, when the two worlds collide, players who love both can discover a true thing of beauty. That's how it came to pass that a zookeeper from Florida has created a taxinomical website outlining the biology of the wildlife of Azeroth. WoW Biology 101 offers curious players a scientifically grounded look at the creatures of WoW, both fantastical and based on reality.
"I think when we see these connections, it brings these worlds a little closer together and, for me at least, increases my enjoyment of both," notes Banya, a beast master hunter (because you knew that's what she'd play, right?) on Drenden (US). "My site is truly just flavor and a potentially different way to look at the game. When you're running around and see one of the awesome animals in game, my site would let you know how closely it is based off of a real-life animal. "
Of all the cities in Azeroth, the one that seems to me most like a living, breathing city is coincidentally the one that's undead. The Undercity huddles beneath the ruins of Lordaeron, drenched in atmospheric detail: its hidden underground tunnel, an oft-confusing pinwheel layout and dangerous elevators that confound new visitors, the eerie ruins above with their invisible ghosts, the throne room with all its power struggles and heart-wrenching beauty -- and the Royal Apothecary Society. Who hasn't spent time cautiously exploring the Apothecarium, with its cages of groaning test subjects and burbling vats of green plague?
Many players haven't given much thought to the cadre of Forsaken apothecaries in an expansion or more, but you'd be a fool if you assumed they hadn't been busy. Their story has captured the imaginations of a group of players on Moon Guard (US), the all-Forsaken guild The Legion of Vengeance (formerly Hand of Vengeance). Named for the Forsaken forces sent to Northrend by Sylvanas Windrunner to wreak plague and vengeance upon the Lich King, this roleplaying group functions within the context of the Royal Apothecary Society itself, continuing its evil work in a fascinating adventure that's captivated its all-undead player roster.
Deep in the heart of steamy Stranglethorn Vale, within the golden city of Zul'Gurub, gathers a savage band of Zandalari trolls. Loyal to neither the Horde nor the Alliance, these players embrace a fierce roleplaying ethic that can be both fascinating and intimidating to newcomers. Yet Atal Zanza Aka is esteemed by other guilds on Argent Dawn (RP-EU) and has become a vital (if quantitatively small) ingredient in the roleplaying community.
We visited with guild leader Zazajin to explore this niche of WoW roleplaying and find out how this guild manages to thrive in as antagonistic role that sweeps it away from the well-traveled paths and populated city centers of Azeroth.
WoW Insider: It would appear that making a troll character for Atal Zanza Aka is full-throttle roleplaying not for the faint of heart, would you agree?
Zazajin: Our guild is indeed first and foremost a roleplaying guild. We formed as a breakaway from the Loa Atal Ai (a Darkspear-based trollish guild which serves the Horde but includes different troll tribes) during the occupation of the Echo Isles, and abandoned the Horde to serve the Zandalari and preserve trollish culture, which our characters felt was threatened under the Horde's regime and thus moved to Zul'Gurub to try to preserve that culture. We're made up of various troll tribes, much like the Zandalari themselves. We've members from the Amani (forest trolls), Drakkari (frost trolls), farraki (sand trolls), Gurubashi (jungle trolls), and Zandalari (those trolls that stand up straight, haha).
It was a massive multiplayer success for this massively multiplayer game: On March 20, the Thundering Hammer Clan of Feathermoon (US-Horde) successfully brought together more than 120 players from multiple roleplay realms in what might have been WoW's first large-scale, player-run cross-realm event. In bringing together three full raid groups from half a dozen realms, the Kosh'harg roleplay gathering of Horde clans helped demonstrate how to pull off a major cross-realm event and explore the possibilities and limitations of CRZ (cross-realm zone) mechanics.
What can other players learn from the Kosh'harg about organizing a CRZ event? We went behind the scenes with Kosh'harg organizer Thorgrun (GM of the Thundering Hammer Clan).
WoW Insider: It sounds like the event was a smash success. Congratulations!
Thorgrun: The Kosh'harg was an amazing success. At the peak of the event we had three full raid groups and a number of ungrouped local attendees, bringing us up over 120 players from a dozen different realms who joined us in Nagrand for the festivities.
How much did you and other organizers know beforehand about realm and zone loads with regard to cross-realm mechanics?
We only knew what has been published and widely publicized, namely that the CRZ mechanic is designed to populate low-pop zones with players from associated realms and when population grows to a certain point to split those players off into separate zones. We also knew that players from any North American realm could be brought into any zone on a host realm just by being grouped with a majority of members from that realm – i.e., two Feathermoon players can host a third player from say, Farstriders, in their version of the zone, or alternatively a 5-man group of Feathermoon players could host an entire raid of CRZ players, provided no more than four of them were from the same realm in that particular raid. This is the mechanic that we used to "anchor" our event firmly on one server's seed of the Nagrand zone.
It's a fairly safe assumption that a guild composed exclusively of members of one Azerothian race will be a roleplaying guild. If you made that assumption about The Venture Co.'s Thunderhoof Clan -- and yes, the guild is exclusively tauren -- you'd be missing most of what this guild is all about. Of course they roleplay; one glance at the guild Tumblr or website makes their love of the shu'halo life abundantly clear. But as a self-described casual guild, TC also enjoys light raiding and organized and world PvP as well as light RP. It's a fairly unique approach among race-specific groups, which usually core into racial lore and rarely engage in organized raiding or PvP.
We interviewed GM Ravkha to find out how such a specialized guild swings easily with such a wide-ranging approach to the game. For the herd!
Hey baby, what are you doing this Friday night? Let's party at Club Trix in Gadgetzan (Wyrmrest Accord-RP-US). They've got a real DJ, a goblin named Trixxiz, and his crew spinning goblin-engineered techno on Radio Trix. There's a featured drink menu (Hordeside, at least), regular special events, and a chill crowd enjoying the goblin groove. Originally from Bilgewater in Azshara, Club Trix has moved through Dalaran and now runs out of Gadgetzan, where the underground vibe is hot and there's plenty of room outside for enterprising goblins to get their profit on.
WoW Insider interviewed DJ Trixxiz to find out more about the hottest new club on Azeroth's scene.
WoW Insider: Trixxiz, you're a DJ out in the real world, aren't you?
DJ Trixxiz: I am and have been a DJ since around 2004, I think. I had a few gigs over the years but not many, because within the already limited audience of electronic dance music, I was playing one of the lesser-popular genres of trance in an area dominated by house and techno. (I live halfway between Chicago and Detroit, the birthplaces of each, respectively.) However, the past couple years, trance has been exploding in popularity and I'm looking to break back into the scene this summer. Otherwise, I've mostly been an online presence throughout the years with shows on online radio stations, generally pulling in around 300 listeners, and several labels send me tracks to promote before they're released to the public.
Even though I've got these other radio shows that pull in way more listeners, Club Trix is by far my favorite. With most internet radio shows -- even local radio antenna FM shows which I've also done in the past -- the amount of community feedback and interaction is very minimal. It airs, you hope that someone enjoyed it, and that's that.
With Club Trix, there's this whole level of interaction with the listeners happening in real time through the IRC chat and the game, and they make it all come alive -- which makes it probably the most rewarding radio show on the internet save for a few run by the giants in the industry who can make that happen without the aid of roleplay environment.