I started this blog not long ago with the basic intent of writing about quests and storylines. Since Northrend is where my druid is questing now, I’ve found myself wrestling with these issues. I play on an RP server, and while I don’t spend as much time formally RPing as I used to, there are definitely differences in how I feel when I’m questing on different characters, because each character has its own personality and viewpoint.
Athorius was sickened by what the Azure Dragonflight is attempting in the Dragonblight and elsewhere. But he was almost more sickened by the inhuman insensitivity of Archmage Modera and by proxy the Kirin Tor. He’s a good-hearted person, and a restoration druid to his core, and even though he’s responsible for his share of death he’s always considered his actions to be unfortunate necessities in the greater cause of healing the world of its old wounds. The events at the Black Dragonshrine provoked a similar reaction. He destested the callousness of the dragons, but realized that necromancers raising yet more undead dragons was a situation worth preventing. He tried his best to close his ears as the cultists begged for their lives, and he would have refused any trinket the dragonflight offered if he could. (As it was, he sold it as soon as he found a vendor.) The whole situation left him with some ugly memories.
My death knight, Mulifein, has a completely different point of view. (I can’t help but recommend another 4 Haelz post here.) He wouldn’t have lost a wink of sleep (if he, y’know, slept) over Emmy’s death, and as a player I wouldn’t have worried about it as much because when I play him I see the world more like he sees it. He would have seen the Black Dragonflight as valuable allies. He doesn’t like what’s been done to him or the things he’s done himself since, and deep inside he probably hates himself more than a little, but outwardly he’s convinced that he owes the world nothing. In Blade’s Edge, to bring up another quest Bell mentioned, Athorius didn’t do the ogre quests after becoming their king, even though most of them were still undone. Betrayal is a sad and dirty thing- and no, I have no idea how I’m going to justify that when I return to that zone. At 66, Mulifein is still in Outland, and probably won’t go through the process of becoming an ogre king, but if he did he’d definitely be more ruthless in his reign.
These kinds of quests also put me in an interesting position as a player. On one hand, I want to be true to my character. This is who he is. If you don’t roleplay, write fiction, act, etc. I’ve found this is a pretty hard experience to explain. Yes, Athorius is my creation, but I can’t take him any direction that works for me at the time. There are things that are right for the character and things that simply don’t work. Some actions are like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole- you might manage to force it in, but it’s never going to look right, and it’s going to do serious damage to both the peg and hole. Once a character is crafted it takes on a life of its own. Often you will find the character telling you things you didn’t plan or know ahead of time as you play them.
On the other hand, Loremaster is an achievement I really want as a player. I want to experience all these storylines, good, bad, and ugly. So I have to stretch to find explanations for why Athorius would do this work. Thus far, the druid angle has worked. Athorius clings to his druidism like a talisman and he’s sacrificed a lot for it before now. He’s serving the greater balance in helping destroy a necromantic cult, regardless of the Black Dragonflight’s hand in it. Emmy’s death was a terrible accident, one that will haunt him, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Azure Dragonflight might just destroy the world if they aren’t stopped- and that the Kirin Tor might be right proper bastards, but they are also capable of opposing the blues.
Maybe that’s why I’ve had such difficulty getting into questing in Grizzly Hills. Athorius is just plain sick at heart after the Dragonblight. He doesn’t have the stomach to listen to people complain that orcs stole their cedar chest, or get their hackles up because he ate some nuts that were left out unmarked for anyone to mistake. He can’t bring himself to help the ZA gang capture trolls for whatever nefarious purpose they have in mind (slavery comes to mine). And after the Wrathgate, he can’t even find the will to fight the Horde, who stood against Arthas side by side with the Alliance and were betrayed even more deeply, by one of their own.
There have always been choices in this game. Northrend, as Bell points out, isn’t the first place to offer quests of questionable morality. And while Northrend may be more obvious about it, what MMOs in general lack compared to single-player games, and what Northrend continues to lack, are consequences for the choices you make. I can kill people in cold blood as they beg for mercy, I can betray my allies, I can help myself before I help people in genuine need, and still be greeted as a hero the next time I come around. (And Northrend is VERY heavy-handed with the “you’re a hero” spiel.) As time goes on, Athorius is less and less certain what that word, “hero”, must mean, and more convinced that whatever the definition, he doesn’t qualify. When people call him a hero, he cringes.
However, Mulifein, who doesn’t even try for good intentions, would accept the accolades with a grin and a swagger as only his due.
And me, their player? This game furthers an opinion I began to formulate when I first started playing RPGs. Heroism has absolutely nothing to do with what people think of you. A villain greeted as a hero is still villain, and that is the definiton of someone who can do evil without flinching. Possibly, it’s also the definition of someone who can always find a way to justify evil in the name of good.