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In Defense of Tirion Fordring (Part II)

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell

When I think of a hero, I think of Tirion Fordring.  Really, that’s all I have to say.  Because in the end, that is what sets him apart from every other element in the World of Warcraft.  Warcraft has always been epitomized to me as an exploration in the idea that there is no true good, and no true evil.  A fallen good guy becomes a bad guy, a redeemed bad guy becomes a good guy, and orcs are not the monsters they appear to be and humans can be more monstrous than you would think.  It has always felt to me that the World of Warcraft existed in an honest view that there was no black and white in the world.  Tirion Fordring is one of the exceptions to that.  Tirion always put his values before his life, his family and anything else.  He believed that honor and justice were more important than power and wealth.  He sacrificed everything he had to preserve his honor and save the life of an orc that any other would see put to death before hearing a word it had to say.  In a world of grays, Tirion Fordring is the white.

I struggled to write this post for ages.  Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I wanted to do it right.  I wanted to do my best to show the world why I think Tirion Fordring is one of the greatest characters in Warcraft.  I had originally contemplated writing it like I did part 1, a long and winding narrative that exemplified what was best in the story of Fordring, and showed him for the true hero I feel he is.  Then I remembered that wasn’t what I set out to do months ago when I first decided to write this.  I didn’t want to tell the tale of Tirion, I wanted to defend him.  There have many questions raised about this character, one’s that I think have been a great injustice to what my views were.  So I wanted to stand up and address all this.  Granted, it hardly seems relevant an entire expansion later.  Tirion rests quietly in his home in Hearthglen now, as his Crusade seeks to purify and redeem the fallen lands of Lordaeron from the destruction wrought by the now beaten scourge.  I still want to write this.  I still want people to read it.  So I have settled on finding the biggest arguments I could think of against Tirion, and write my counter argument in favor of the Ashbringer.  I would suggest refreshing yourself on part one, as I will be referring to the events discussed in it.

How did Tirion purify the Ashbringer?

Chronologically, this is the first time we get to see Tirion Fordring following the death of his son, Taelan, and swearing his oath over his child’s lifeless body.  So it seems right to start with this point.  During the Battle of Light’s Hope, Tirion Fordring commits his first act of outrage to the players by purifying the Ashbringer and driving back the Lich King with it.  Why was this an outrage?  Well, that has a lot to do with the history of the Ashbringer.  For the longest time, the Ashbringer was essentially one of WoW’s own urban legends.  There were hints of its existence – it was data mined, the Shendralar seemed to know of its existence as well as the ever unlikely Nat Pagle, developers hinted at it, and with the introduction of Naxxramas the world finally learned what happened to the blade through a strange scene that played out when a player that had pried to blade from Highlord Mograine’s hands and took it to the Scarlet Monastary.  It was there it was hinted that the Highlord had another son, hidden away in Outland, that would be able to forge a new Ashbringer.

The idea was always that the players themselves would be able to purify the blade and wield it.  You would find the lost son of Mograine and build the Ashbringer anew.  But there was no lost son in Outland, despite the multitude of theories about which random NPCs that could be the one to help rebuild this ancient and powerful weapon.  Then, after all that, it gets purified by Tirion Fordring.  A character that a good chunk of people either didn’t remember or never got to meet in the Plaguelands. It was – to quote the forums – a slap in the face.

However, narratively it worked.  Tirion was a man that had a connection to the Holy Light powerful enough to survive excommunication, he was a founding member of the Order of the Silver Hand and one of the first paladins.  To say he was powerful in the ways of the Light would be putting it lightly.  The lost son of Mograine turned out to be Darion, who fulfilled his destiny by breaking away from the Lich King’s chains and threw the cursed blade to Tirion.  So why didn’t the players get to do this?  Perhaps it was for the purpose of story.  A powerful paladin to purify and wield a legendary blade of good, to lead the war against the powerful fallen paladin who wielded a legendary blade of evil.  However it was no ‘out of the blue’ moment.  Tirion’s astonishing connection to the Light was established as early as 2001 with the book ‘Of Blood and Honor’.  In many ways, this was the catalyst for the entirety of the expansion, because without Tirion’s Argent Crusade, it is debatable if the assault on the Northrend would have ended in success at all.

What was the point of the Argent Tournament?

Ah yes, the Tournament.  That point during Wrath of the Lich King when players who weren’t already angry at Tirion for stealing ‘their’ Ashbringer began to despise the man.  After all, what could be dumber than establishing a big fancy jousting tournament in the middle of a war?  It was sheer stupidity! Wasn’t it?  I’d be lying if the introduction of the Tournament didn’t have me scratching my head for a moment.  It seemed like a weird choice, but as I continue to play through it and listen to the NPCs that wandered the tournament grounds, it began to make sense to me.  There were many reasons for the tournament.

The events of the Wrathgate had bitterly divided the war effort.  The Horde and Alliance were at each others throats and it only got worse as the assault on Icecrown began.  The Horde and Alliance forces were almost completely devoted to doing nothing but fighting between each other across the darkened glaciers.  Most of the quests you receive that actually further the goal of reaching the Citadel are given to you by each factions’ ambassador with the Knigths of the Ebon Blade – the epic bro duo of Thassarian and Koltira – where as the quests that the Horde and Alliance captains give are mostly directed at preparing for and attacking the enemy faction’s forces in the region.  Meanwhile, every dead soldier was strengthening the Scourge.  Necromancers would wander the battlefields and resurrect fallen Horde and Alliance fighters so they could defend what once was their enemy.  The Tournament was a neutral ground that both served to unite the two factions and use their aggression against each other to further the Crusade’s goals.  By pitting the Alliance and Horde against each other in non-lethal combat, Tirion and his forces were able to ignite the passions of both sides of the conflict and find some of the best fighters available, they then would induct them into their ranks as a Crusader in their own right.  No longer taking orders from their faction, you would go the Argent Crusade’s tent to pick up your daily assignments (Death Knights would report to their superiors in the Ebon Blade, who had joined up with Crusade back the Light’s Hope.)

The tournament was designed to draw in fighters from every walk of life as well.  Those who wanted to defeat the opposite faction, those who wanted glory, and those who were just trying to fill out their wallets.  No matter what, each person who fought through the tournament were recruited to the cause in some fashion.  Those who wished to prove their worth to join the assault on Icecrown were invited to take the Trial of the Crusader, were you would face the most powerful and dangerous enemies that the Crusade could find.  This is where there are a number of complaints.  People have often asked me if the point was to make sure that no life was wasted and turned to the Scourge, then why have a giant tournament where people get killed constantly in massive raid fights?  This is a distinct division of gameplay and story.  For the sake of engaging gameplay, one must risk death.  You can wipe, you can die, and you can just run back in and try again.  However, in story that doesn’t happen.  It’s assumed for the sake of plot, that you essentially “one shot” the entire raid.  Those who aren’t up to par and drug off the arena floor and healed up by the Crusade’s healers.

However, you might be thinking that using a lavish tournament to try to overcome the bitter rivalry of the factions is a bit naive.  I think Darion Mograine would agree with you.  Tirion is an archetypal paladin through and through, he believes in second chances, that good will prevail over evil, lawful good alignment – all that jazz.  It’s something Darion had been annoyed with since arriving in Icecrown (which may be the reason that while the Ebon Blade is represented at the tournament, Darion himself never shows up.)  Tirion’s devotion to doing things the “right way” and not following Darion’s suggestions to sink to the Lich King’s level and play dirty is a good hint towards the mentality behind the tournament.  It’s part of Tirion’s “right way.”  The forces of Azeroth will unite together and tear down the walls of Icecrown, and good defeat evil.  Naive, no?  Damn inspiring too, if you ask me.

Why build a Tournament at the Lich King’s doorstep in Icecrown?

While outside of the narrative, we know that the Argent Tournament was originally meant to be held in the Crystalsong Forest but due to the immense lag in the area from Dalaran it was moved to Icecrown.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a perfectly good reason for it to be held there.  The most important of which would have to be that the Tournament is a powerful symbol to those who come that the Lich King is not all powerful.  You see, the reason the Horde and the Alliance have been sitting in airships the entire time is not because they like the view.  Neither faction has been able to make a lasting dent in the Lich King’s forces to establish a permanent base in Icecrown.  In fact, only two groups can claim to have made such an accomplishment: The Ebon Blade – who know how to exploit Icecrown’s weaknesses – and the Argent Crusade.  In fact, the Crusade has established two bases on the glacier.  So the fact that the Tournament stands on that unholy ground shows to members of any faction that arrives that, Yes, the Lich King’s power is not absolute.  And despite the attempts by the Cult of the Damned to interfere and sabotage the Tournament, through the unity of those it has drawn in it continued to stand.  Tirion’s “right way” is working.

Why didn’t Tirion interfere when the Lich King crashed the Tournament?

So the Tournament was working, people were coming around the Tirion’s side, and then at the end of it all, the Lich King shows his face.  And what does Tirion do?  He offers him a chance to give up.  Then the Lich King plunges Fordring’s newfound champions into the depths of Azjol-Nerub to face Arthas’ own champion – Anub’Arak.  Why the heck did Tirion not just jump down and kill Arthas?  Why did he offer him a chance to surrender? How the heck could Vry admire such a moron of a human being?!  Well, I’ll tell you.

The most important thing to remember is that Tirion cannot defeat the Lick King.  Not in Icecrown.  Not alone.  His victory at Light’s Hope was only possible due to the fact that they battled on holy ground.  Icecrown is the opposite – unholy ground.  Tirion knew this when he decided to build the Tournament in Icecrown, and it’s the reason he won’t engage Arthas in combat like this.  The Lich King has the upper hand due to terrain, power and the element of surprise.  It would be downright foolish to try to engage him.  As for the offer to surrender?  Well, I did say he was an archetypal paladin.  I can’t fault him for that.

But why did he build the Tournament over Azjol-Nerub?  How stupid was that?  Not very.  Azjol-Nerub runs under a good chunk of Northrend, mostly where you can find a good amount of scourge activity.  I’d wager to say it runs underneath through most of the central part of the continent: the Dragonblight, Crystalsong Forest, and Icecrown.  So unless you had somehow mapped out the entire expanse of both the upper and lower kingdom, I’d think the odds of building over it are pretty good.

How come Tirion gets all the credit?

I killed the Lich King, and yet Tirion gets a statue?  What the heck is up with that?  Well, I always likened it to a famous general.  You always remember the general for what they accomplished, but you don’t remember each and every troop that served under them.  Oh, sure. If you were one of those troops you remember the others like they were your brothers and sisters.  You fought and shed blood together on the battlefield, but in the grand scheme of history?  Well, Washington has a monument, but not his troops.  Tirion Fordring, the last living founding member of the Silver Hand, the Ashbringer, and the leader of the Argent Crusade.  Commander of the forces that united together paladins, death knights, Horde and Alliance to defeat the Lich King, enemy of all of Azeroth.  Tirion, who upon losing everything, devoted his existence to the destruction of evil on the face of Azeroth, purified the Ashbringer and used it to shatter the cursed blade Frostmourne.  He didn’t deserve a statue?  A statue surrounded by statues of orcs and humans – the ‘iconic’ races of both the Horde and Alliance that united under his banner.

I think that after all of the things I’ve written about here, I would hope that some would see some merit in why Tirion was instrumental in the defeat of the Lich King.  This wasn’t something that the Horde would have accomplished, or the Alliance.  They couldn’t even get a base set up in Icecrown, and they spent more time fighting each other than enemy.  Without Tirion’s Argent Crusade, there would have been no victory to be found in the cold recesses of Northrend, only death.  That is why Tirion is at the center of the statue.  Because he was at the center of this victory.  He is surrounded by statues of the Horde and Alliance because through them, victory was won.

Tirion isn’t a glory whore.  He’s a man that devoted his life to seeing Arthas brought to justice.  He rallied people to his cause.  He led them to victory.  And in the end, he had no second thoughts that it would be his fate to take Arthas’ place on the Frozen Throne and become the Jailer of the Damned.  It was only though his old friend Bolvar, that his fate was spared. Tirion Fordring is Wrath of the Lich King’s Aragorn.  He’s the reason I rolled a paladin.  He is a good man, and someone that brings out the good in all of us.

That is why I will defend Tirion Fordring.

(…Oh by the titans, I just made a Tirion speech didn’t I?  Well, I guess that’s fitting.  This post is also dedicated to a batch of burnt cookies.  Their sacrifice towards the cause will not be forgotten.)
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Telling the Tale: Reflecting on Wrath

Running from the Robot

Eat your heart out, Michael Bay.

In case you didn’t know, Loremaster is the end goal for every max level toon I’ve ever had.  To date, I have three toons with the uber-nerd-tasti-fied title, and each time is more enjoyable than the last.  Considering I did it the first time Pre-Cata before there were add ons to tell you what quests you’ve missed, ‘more enjoyable’ is easy to accomplish.  This last trip around the wide world of Azeroth, I decided to finish with Northrend.  I have fond memories of this expansion.  If you asked me a month ago why, I probably would have simply chuckled and said it was pointless nostalgia.  But it isn’t.  There is something different in the cold winds of Northrend.  Something that has helped me close in on the very issue with Cataclysm that has been banging around in the back of my head since I first got to 85.

Wrath of the Lich King excelled in one magnificent thing above all others in my book.  My book of course being the one that says a good story trounces over balance issues, bad design, and buggy gameplay.  I’ve been known the overlook some nasty problems with games in my day for the sake of story.  In this age of “We’ll release the game and patch it later”, it has proven to be a necessary ability.  I’m willing to work around the Silverite Mine bug in Dragon Age that deletes your inventory because I want to see what happens.  I don’t care if every cave in Dragon Age 2 is identical because I’m not there to explore caves, I’m there for the plot… and Merrill.  You get my point.  And if there was one thing that I will defend Wrath of the Lich King it was its story.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Cataclysm’s storylines.  Becoming the Herald of the Ancients and ushering in their return to save the World Tree from the forces of Ragnaros and Twilight’s Hammer.  Aiding the Earthen Ring in repairing the World Pillar and confronting all the various factions that operate in the Plane of Earth.  Though I must say helping throw a dwarven wedding beats out enlisting the Dragonmaw into the Horde.  Cataclysm had well told storylines.  The problem was they really didn’t have anything to do with each other.  Nothing that happens in Hyjal has any significance to the events in Uldum.  No one in the Twilight Highlands seems to care about what occurred in the depths of Vash’jir.  In fact, the only consistent threads through the five zones are strictly thematic in nature: the elements, the end of the world, etc.  That has been my biggest issue in Cataclysm, that the major plot seems thematic instead of narrative.  By which I mean there is no ‘overarching story’ to the expansion, just an ‘overarching theme’.  It’s like the Final Fantasy series.  Each game has its own plot, and each game tends to touch on the same general themes, but aside from the rare occasion (X & X-2, Tactics & XII), there is nothing story-wise connecting the games.

In Wrath of the Lich King however, the story was structured so that some plot threads resolved in the zone, and others built throughout the continent.  For instance, Yogg-Saron is first hinted at in the gorge in the Howling Fjords, it is not given a name until the Grizzly Hills, we are given glimpses of its influence and power in Storm Peaks and Icecrown, and we finally face off with the beast in the Ulduar raid.  Same with Loken and his meddling behind the war behind the giants and the iron dwarves.  There are many more: The development of the New Plague, the plight of the Taunka, the Nexus War, discovering the ancestry of the Gnomes,and  the various misadventures of the Brothers Bronzebeard.  These are on top of the normal zone specific plot lines that are going on.

Everything seems so connected in Northrend.  The same spirit has been extended to many plotlines in the revised 1-60 experience as well (In Ashenvale, you help design and build the bomb you drop on the druids in Stonetalon).  But not in the 80-85 part of Cataclysm.  The strongest narrative tie is probably that the Molten Front serves as a ‘sequel’ to what happened in Hyjal, but that is more or less the same zone.  Burning Crusade had a similar issue, but even then there were a small handful of plotlines that would pop up here and there, like Pathaleon the Calculator’s experiments for his master, the Blood Elf dependence on finding a new power source, etc. But in the end, because of this strong narrative thread, Northrend is much more enjoyable for me to level through than Burning Crusade and Cataclysm.

In summary: Yes, thus far Wrath was my favorite expansion.  No, it didn’t have anything to do with anything being “easy mode”. Yes, Merrill is adorable. No, I am not wearing lederhosen for Brewfest.

The Mystery of the Giant Dragonblight Skeleton

One Hundred Oddities ago I started a little blog for me to tell my silly stories and post my strange little theories so some jolly ‘net wanderer might get a few chuckles from it.  100 Oddities later, I have my own web site, I have regular readers, and I have a twitter!  So for 100 oddities of sheer wacky, demented fun, I say thank you to everyone who has every come across my site, to my regular readers an especially big thank you.  That being said, let’s proceed to my 100th Oddity…

Back when I first started this site, there was one weird thing that I had seen while traversing Northrend that I was determined to save for something special.  It was one unexplained thing that started all of these thoughts and desires to explore all the other unexplained things in Azeroth.  Just off the southern coast of the Dragonblight, along where the Path of the Titans shatters and sinks deep into the ocean floor, there is a massive dragon skeleton.  So big, that you can actually see it on the mini map.  This colossal dragon of unknown origin was the progenitor for all of Oddcraft, so with that said, I’d like to give you my very special 100th Oddity…  video:

Thank you all for 100 great fun posts! Here’s looking forward to the end of the Warchief Election next month, and the next 100 weird things we dig up together! (Speaking of digging up…  Archeology Oddities…  Oh yes…)

Welcome to Drak’Tharon Park

Where? Drak’Tharon Keep, Grizzly Hills

I know probably the most futile thing I keep hoping for in World of Warcraft is continuity.  I can get behind lore that changes as time moves on (What do you mean the World isn’t flat?  Retcon, I say! RETCON!), I can understand discovering something that vastly changes how we previously understood things (Vrykul is human!  Human is vrykul!) and I will even support a radical change in character if it seems legitimately within reason (Screw you, my people. With the demons now. Luvz, Kael’Thas).  What I can’t understand is when something pops up for no reason and with no explanation, and we’re all supposed to run with it simply because it is a neat idea.  Case in point? King Dred.

Most people I’ve pointed this out simply respond with “So? There’s raptors everywhere.”  True.  There are raptors everywhere.  Stranglethorn, Durotar, Blade’s Edge, Zul’Drak.  There isn’t a piece of land that we’ve visited that doesn’t have raptors.  But what about Pterrodaxes?  Where are they found?  What about the Stegodons?  Hmmm?  That’s right.  Only in the Un’Goro Crater.  What else is in the Un’Goro Crater?  Devilsaurs.  Do they have any business being somewhere else?  Well, that depends actually.

We know that there is a direct connection between Sholazar and Un’Goro, we’ve all been through the Waygate (totally different than a Stargate or Fargate) and I don’t find it that unreasonable that the occasional devilsaur could wander through and end up in Sholazar.  However,  Zul’Drak is on the opposite side of Northrend.  How did a bunch of trolls drag one all the way there?  Why are they keeping it in a not-really-fenced off area of Drak’Tharon Keep?  There is no Devilsaur in ANY incarnation of the Troll pantheon that we’ve seen thus far.  Maybe they think it’s just a big raptor and wanted to ride it.

However, devilsaurs seem to have a weird way of showing up in places that they have no place being – like in Netherstorm –  but I’m still able to concoct a better B.S. reasoning for it than King Drek. Why?  Because I can blame the whole thing on the Twisting Nether! It has the power to instantly fill plot holes!  There’s tons of stuff in those domes that have no business being there.  Like lynxes, moths, or crocolisks (there’s also more raptors, but they are the Outland species of Raptor).  Actually my assumption was that they were brought there by either the Blood Elves, or the Ethereals for some unknown purpose (Zoo? But there’s only one devilsaur in Outland, how is it going to breed?) but even if that’s still stretching it…  Twisting! Nether! (Blizz gets to do it, so do I)

The amazingly simplistic reason that Blizz themselves have given for King Drek being stuck in a place that has no explanation for it: “T-Rex’s are Cool”  Yes, sure, whatever, wonderful.  Meanwhile, you explain the origin of the gnomes, the secret revelation that humans are descended from vrykul, and overwhelming amounts of history about another world tree, bear gods, furbolgs, the Titans, and the Old Gods, but you drop a dinosaur in the middle of a dungeon for no other reason than you wanted to put a dinosaur in a dungeon.  YEEEEEAAAARRRGGGHHHHWAAAWAWAAAAAAYYYAAYAA (<– This is the sound of a man tearing his own hair out at the sheer WTF-ness of this situation.  Thank you.)

Give me SOMETHING to work with here, Blizz.  The infinite dragonflight messing with the time stream drops a devilsaur in Northrend, Goblin scientists from Venture Bay have successfully cloned an ancient devilsaur but it got loose and trapped in Drak’Tharon Keep, you are working within the fantasy/sci-fi genres!  You can just say whatever and we will find a way to work it in the continuity!  Hell, Star Wars has been filling in plot holes for years with the thick paste that is the Expanded Universe and the fans buy it.  Don’t just tell us it was NEAT.  That’s Michael Bay territory.

Man, now I’m all depressed.  I need to go write some fan fiction exploring the burning man-crush hidden behind the hate between Garrosh and Varian.

Shut Yer Clam, It’s Harder Than It Looks

Image Courtesy of WoWwiki.

The spear is actually just his backscratcher. (image courtesy of WoWwiki, cause it was better than mine)

Location: Abandoned Reach, Borean Tundra

Faction: Neutral

There’s a lot I could say here about DEHTA.  And I probably will do a whole rant about them one of these days.  But they have some of the best opponents in all of Northrend.  In light of the scourge marching on the doorsteps of both the Alliance and the Horde, many of which consists of Nerubians (Insert appropriate “we don’t save the icky animals” joke here), DEHTA has chosen the true evil of Northrend.  The awkwardly named hunters!

Granted, if you were named Ned the Rhino Hunter, I probably wouldn’t give you any flack.  Yes, you have a funny name – But you hunt rhinos.  I don’t even want to think about what you could do to me.  The same could be said about hunting Mammoths, heck I’ll even give you taking down caribou is more bad ass than what I can usually muster.  But what can you say about a gnome whose specialty is hunting down…  Clams?  Yes folks, today we will be investigating the oddest of Harold Lane’s insidious crew of nasty animal killers: Clam Master K.

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