In which Anna makes an analogy to describe WoW Lore.
There’s a lot of information out there about WoW Lore. There’s lore on the Blizzard pages, lore on wowwiki.com (my favorite place to find lore info, btw), lore in books and in the tabletop RPG, lore in old games and in the current game, lore in quests and character dialogue and cutscenes and… well, it’s a wonder any of us can manage all that lore well enough to write our stories.
At its most rudimentary level, lore is the basic framework upon which we build our characters and communities.
The greater story of Azeroth is what gives Azeroth its shape. It’s what lets us all know Gnomes are short (ish) and Tauren are tall (ish) and Elves are old (ish) and so on. But a framework is just that – a starting place, a building block on which to give our characters shape.
The lore says the past has happened in such and such a way. The Orcs came to Azeroth through the Dark Portal, and Grom Hellscream sacrificed himself to rid them of the bloodlust and demonic dependence. But it doesn’t say how an individual Orc would respond to such an event. There is no official “all elves responded by doing such-and-such” explanation for what happened after the world tree. Simply put, the official story gives us all a place to start, and we build our characters from there.
At which point, the lore is like a rubber band.
Rubber bands are stretchy, they hold things together, and if you pull them too hard… they break *poing* and snap someone in the nose. The greater story into which we fit our own stories is the same way. It’s stretchy, it goes around things and holds them together (rather than comprising them, it simply encircles the outside, with lots of room left in the middle), but if you stretch it too far, it breaks *poing* and snaps someone in the nose.
Only maybe without the nose part.
That stretchiness is really the wonder of an RPG.
There are a great many instances in the lore where there isn’t a defined “right or wrong” answer. Roleplay happens in that enclosed space, the “creative inbetween” of the Lore, since we can’t all be Jaina or Arthas or Sylvanas (and if we were forced to all be the same, it’d be pretty boring). Roleplay builds on what’s already there. Our characters have the opportunity to grow – either in response to or in conflict with what happens.
The lore holds us together; it’s what lets one character walk up to another character and have enough common history to be able to understand each other and maybe even have a conversation. But inside that rubber band, there’s still lots of room for creativity and experimentation.
To use myself as an example (aided, of course, by Krizzlybear), there are Gnomes in Stormwind and harvest golems in Westfall. Would it be too far outside the realm of possibility to think that after the second war, when Gnomes helped with the Alliance for the first time, a Gnome and his wife moved to Westfall to help service and repair those harvest golems? What would happen if they had a daughter? (Meet Annie Mae!)
If there was ever something in the official Azeroth story which said no Gnomes ever lived anywhere outside of Dun Morogh, then my little exercise would be stretching the lore too far – it would, in essence, break the rubber band and ping me in the nose. (And it would probably feel like a ping in the nose to anyone who tried to interact with Annie Mae, if there was such a rule about Gnomes. Instead of interesting, her story would be jarring and make people step back – and possibly not really want to RP with her.)
Fortunately, there is grey area in the lore, and inside that grey area – inside the encircled space held together by the greater rubber band – is where the magic happens.
Azeroth is a world rich in history but sparse in details.
There are so many things we will never really know (or just haven’t been told yet), and that’s alright. When we write stories and characters, interact with other players’ characters, or even just sit in the pub and shoot the breeze about the most recent news out of Icecrown, we interact with that greater story, and help to fill in that grey area.
Sometimes our ideas might conflict with how other people see that grey area, and that’s alright too. When there isn’t a right or wrong answer, each community has to answer for itself. If conflict happens, both communities/individuals work out a common ground.
And maybe later on, some people might have to change how they think about certain things, because a new expansion changed the official story, or expanded on a point that had previously not been dealt with. That’s alright too. Blizzard’s official story has never been static; they change their minds all the time. We must be flexible in response. Official lore changes can provide character growth and interesting interaction (I know that Aely will be very upset by some of the changes coming in Cataclysm, for example).
The lore is there for our use as roleplayers. It’s the building blocks that help us start our stories, and it’s the rubber band that holds them all together.
Just, you know, try not to ping each other in the nose, OK?
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