My predilection for draenei characters probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise here. Of the Alliance characters I have that are above level twenty, eight out of nine are draenei. I know. But I do have three Horde characters – two Tauren, and a troll. At some point I’d even faction changed my shaman and made her a troll, but I ended up reversing the change and transferring her back to my “home” server. (Blizzard makes a lot of money from people like me). Why did I end up reversing the change? I wasn’t playing her where she was… and I’d started leveling another draenei shaman because it felt strange not to have one.
The fire festival has proven to be a great opportunity to level alts, though, and due to a summer cold I’ve had plenty of time to commit to the mindless grind. I chose to use the time to work at leveling my troll mage, taking her from level 63 to 69 in a few days. The bonus XP was fantastic, and I’ve been leveling through a combination of judicious questing and LFD. The queue times have been a bit longish – I’d say a half hour, on average – which was just enough to break up the monotony.
So having experienced the “pug scene” in Outland recently on both Alliance and Horde characters, what’s the difference? I’d say there really isn’t one. People of either faction are equal parts friendly or business-like or jerkish in approximately equal proportions. It has been refreshing to both revisit my mage roots and relax a bit. There isn’t much pressure on a mage in pugs, apart from “Water please” and “Can I have another stack of water?” I’m absolutely fine with playing vending machine and pumping out some DPS. I’ve been leveling as Frost because it’s a blast.
When I hit level 68 I was so excited – Northrend, finally! Not to mention, this is my first Horde character who has ever “leveled” this far. (Faction transfers don’t count). I remembered that Horde take a Zeppelin to Northrend rather than a boat. Alliance-side, I really enjoy Borean Tundra, so I went to Orgrimmar to catch the Zeppelin that goes there.
My first realization: I didn’t buy a Tome of Cold Weather Flight for this character back when I had an 80 on the same server and could have. Oops – it looks like she’ll be trekking her way across Northrend. But no matter, that was how the game was meant to be experienced, right? Something like that. Within a few minutes I was hopelessly lost in the area around Warsong Hold. Getting lost isn’t really new for me, but it’s something I suffer from particularly when I’m trying to play Horde. I’ve spent long minutes circling in Orgrimmar or traveling around the spokes of the wheel of Undercity… or just plain running into dead ends in Silvermoon. Horde architecture feels so aggressive and alien to me. Warsong Hold is definitely imposing, though, don’t get me wrong. It’s very grand. I don’t recall feeling that way when I went to Valiance Keep. Then again, I didn’t get lost there either!
So I thought, maybe you’re coming at this from the wrong angle. What’s Howling Fjord like from a Horde perspective? A quick portal to Undercity and another Zeppelin trip later and I was about to find out. Here’s where I hit my second stumbling block. Now, I’d had an inkling of this before. My mage was previously resting at level 63, and there’s a reason. I’d been happily questing through Hellfire when I got to Falcon Watch and encountered this quest, Source of the Corruption. Okay, an Apothecary planning something heinous isn’t really news, but the quest text stopped me in my tracks.
Uncorrupted draenei, like this unlucky fellow here, are virtuous champions of the Light. What corruption caused their great race to devolve into the Broken and Lost Ones?
I’ve heard a theory that exposure to fel energies is what caused the mutation. I would like to put that theory to the test.
He’s got a draenei prisoner next to him. Needless to say, it doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to figure out what he’s planning. I didn’t do the quest, although I hear that the draenei dies at the end of it, and I stopped leveling my mage then too. I know it sounds extreme, but the quest and its inevitable outcome really turned me off, and I dropped the mage cold. I know it’s silly, but I felt like a traitor.
It took me a few months before I felt like picking up my mage again. This time through Outland, I was really doing mostly instances. I didn’t do very many quests, and I was a happy troll, killing naga and whathaveyou.
Until Howling Fjord, and this quest: The New Plague. With this one, the Apothecary tells you that he needs you to retrieve samples of the plague that the Alliance had gotten ahold of. Okay, I think, remembering the Wrathgate sequence I’ve seen from the other side – well, you’re going to be using it any way so I may as well help you. That is, until I get to the boats where I can find the plague samples. The place is just swarming with Alliance soldiers, and by some perverse decision I don’t understand – most of them are draenei. You can all stop and have a laugh now at the notion of a Troll mage ducking and weaving her way in-between hostile Alliance mobs in a vain effort not to aggro and have to kill any of them. Lucky for me, the follow-up quest is even better – go and test the plague out by throwing it at their fleet! I kept questing here for a little while, and so I did have to kill them and hear that particular death sound that usually means, “You just let someone in your party die.” And I know that it’s bizarre, but I had a really hard time with it.
In fact, I sort of hated it. Other folks lately have been talking about quest morality, and yes, I know it’s virtual, it’s not real. But you start to identify with the characters, races, and yes, even particular factions. Anea wrote about how she didn’t want to kill Thersa Windsong. Rades responded with a post about why Thersa Windsong must die. (Both really interesting posts, incidentally, I recommend them wholeheartedly). But I’m not talking about the morality of a specific quest here, or metagaming – it’s more a general aversion to many quests because of what is probably by now a deeply rooted Alliance loyalty of my own. I know my troll character doesn’t give a hoot about killing draenei or not killing them. She probably likes it, and probably hates the Alliance. This isn’t about her, it’s about me. I don’t think the Alliance are the “heroes” and above reproach, or that everything they do is good. I just think that they are my people. I loved doing the Mag’har related quests as a troll, and I intend to go back and finish out the chain that has Thrall coming to Garadar. I like Thrall. But I’ll always be only masquerading as Horde, even though I can connect with the people who play it. I think I may be ruined forever.
For the record, my answer would be one of the last ones. I’ll post the results after a week or so, I’m actually quite curious to know the “demographics” of people who stop by. Now for the actual questions we can discuss in comments: Why did you choose the faction you did? Have you changed factions at all throughout your time playing WoW, or would you change if you could (disregarding guild allegiance, if your friends played a different faction, etc.)
And when you play the “other” faction, what do you notice? What’s strange? I still flinch when I see Horde flags and expect guards to come running at me, but I’m getting used to running instances with blood elves and Forsaken. I know that at least one member of our guild has said he wishes we were a Horde guild, and an old friend of mine cautioned me when I first made a Horde character, “You won’t play Alliance again, Horde is a better faction.” What do you think? If you have more to say about this than a comment can hold, feel free to write about it on your own blog and I’ll link any related posts here!
p.s. – Please keep it polite and respectful, since I do expect both Horde and Alliance folks read here. No bashing from either side! I know sometimes these Faction discussions can get heated, and then before you know it you’ve got some kind of Varian Wrynn-Wrathgate situation on your hands, and we don’t want anything like that.